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Winding Down Haslemere

I should have known better than to complain about the weather in July! We are now in the midst of a full-fledged heatwave, with temperatures higher than Los Angeles! Another reminder to be careful what you wish for.

At least the flowers are gorgeous and colorful.

These next two weeks will be momentus: we are departing Haslemere early next week, followed by a wild itinerary prior to our upcoming sit, all intended to celebrate “someone’s” birthday! Squeeee!

But I won’t ruin the surprise—you’ll just have to stay tuned in order to see what shenanigans we’re up to.

This past week was eventful. We piled Ivy and Rocket in the car and took a trip to visit the English Martyrs Catholic Church in Goring-by-Sea.

We were tipped off to the existence of this church when we were visiting Blackheath, and our curiosity was piqued. I can’t say it’s a showstopper, but it’s definitely eccentric. See for yourself!

In 1987, a sign-writer parishioner named Gary Bevans took a parish pilgrimage trip to Rome to attend the Beatification of 85 English martyrs. A natural artist who had no formal training, he got it into his head that he wanted to copy the Sistine Chapel ceiling onto the roof of his church back home.

And so it came about!

Working for free, Bevans hand painted the ceiling over a five-and-a-half year period—and at 2/3 scale of the original, it is the only known reproduction of the Sistine Chapel Ceiling in the entire world.

When Robin and I visited Rome back in 2012 while on a shore excursion from a cruise ship on the Mediterranean, we were dismayed to learn that the Sistine was closed on Sundays (the day we were there). But it keeps showing up in myriad ways: for instance, a few years ago a shopping mall in Los Angeles hosted an exhibition of panels featuring copies of the different Sistine ceiling images.

Lighted from behind, the panels glowed, and I felt like I really came into direct relationship with them. It was magickal. (In an L.A. shopping mall no less!)

Seeing the Bevans’ copy simply had me feel as though I were catching up with old friends.

One of these days I hope we can land a house-sit near Rome that allows us to take another shot at seeing the Sistine. (Along with soo many other locations we lacked the time to visit in a single day.)

If you’re interested, you can view a 50-minute film about Gary Bevans and the painting of the ceiling at this link: https://youtu.be/RKQ0ZJ6yAvQ

Robin and I are missing little Bullitt. His parents returned home from Canada (the parents of our current homeowners), and they swooped by to retrieve Bullitt from us and take him home.

Bullitt is 13 years old, but he lit up like a Christmas tree and practically wagged his tail off when he saw his mommy and daddy—he was that happy. His behavior also let his parents know he had been treated well and was quite content.

In fact, he enjoyed our company so much that he sent us flowers! Nearly two dozen yellow roses appeared one day delivered by a florist, along with a card that read:

Thank you so much Robin & Vicky Jo for looking after me so well for the last three weeks—I will miss you lots. Love, Bullitt (& Frances and John [his parents]).

Oh that made my heart melt! I can’t say that I’ve ever gotten flowers from a dog before (a previous boyfriend or two aside that is).

On Friday we took a guided hike just under 2 miles around a National Trust property known as “The Devil’s Punchbowl.” We saw some amazing views, a few intriguing places of historical significance, and learned little-known stories of its past.

The legend says the Devil lived at the “Devil's Jumps,” near the village of Churt. He would torment Thor, God of Thunder, who lived at Thor's Lie (Thursley village), by jumping from hill to hill. Thor would try to strike the Devil with thunder and lightning, and once he even scooped up a handful of earth and hurled it at the Devil. The depression that remained is called the “Devil's Punch Bowl.”

Several sites where movies had been made were pointed out to us from afar, as well as the sites of a few significant plane crashes. We climbed up a short path to Gibbet Hill, featuring a memorial of a Celtic cross.

The gruesome story goes that a sailor was brutally murdered in 1786 by three men he had befriended in a pub on his way to Portsmouth. They erected a stone at the site of the murder to memorialize the sailor, and the three culprits were hung on Gibbet Hill, on a rise above where the murder took place. As a warning to other criminals, they left the bodies hanging there for a gruesome three years. (Three years!!! Yikes!)

Not surprisingly, fears and superstitions arose around the hanging site, and in 1851 the Celtic cross was erected to banish fears and restore tranquility.

Ivy enjoyed the walk and the guide’s stories very much … except for a few moments when she managed to dive into some undergrowth. While pulling on her leash to drag her out, she slid out of her harness! Thank heavens she came when we called her, so disaster was averted. (Those are the moments that make a pet-sitter’s heart stop!)

We learned a lot about notables who lived in the area—I mentioned the poet Alfred Tennyson in a previous post; during this jaunt we also learned about Arthur Conan Doyle, George Bernard Shaw, and Aldous Huxley.

Arthur Conan Doyle moved to the area for health reasons. He was catering to the medical needs of his wife Louise, who suffered from tuberculosis. Apparently this area was once nicknamed the “English Switzerland” due to its landscape and the health benefits that were derived from living here.

Conan Doyle wrote some of his most famous works while in residence, including The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Return of Sherlock Holmes, as well as entertaining the likes of Bram Stoker [Dracula], J M Barrie [Peter Pan], and Virginia Wolfe [A Room of One’s Own]. (Wolfe likewise lived in Sussex.) Conan Doyle lauded how the area featured “some of the most splendid walks and scenery that could be possibly conceived."

A couple of days later we took a relaxed stroll through the village of Haslemere. Robin volunteered to sit things out at the husband daycare center, but his request was denied. (I needed a photographer.)

Remember how last week I described the cow parades? I said I had seen cows, buffalo, angels, dolphins, elephants, Pegasus? Well… I had never seen chickens.

Guess what! Haslemere is having a chicken parade:

They were awfully cute—we saw them in several of the shops and pubs as we wandered around the village.

And speaking of famous people, I learned that a highly controversial figure, Sir Francis Galton, died here in Haslemere. Knighted in 1909, he was an English Victorian era polymath: a statistician, sociologist, anthropologist, tropical explorer, geographer, inventor, meteorologist, proto-geneticist, psychologist, psychometrician, and a proponent of social Darwinism, eugenics, and scientific racism. Seriously!

Galton happened to be Charles Darwin's half-cousin, and he produced over 340 papers and books. He created the statistical concept of correlation, and widely promoted regression toward the mean. Galton devised a method for classifying fingerprints that proved useful in forensic science, initiated the study of scientific meteorology, and devised the first weather map.

Approaching my own field of interest, he was first to apply statistical methods to the study of human differences and the inheritance of intelligence. He coined the well-known term “nature versus nurture.” He founded the field of psychometrics (the science of measuring mental faculties) and differential psychology, as well as the lexical hypothesis of personality (which informs the currently popular “Big Five” measure of personality). Galton conducted interesting work with heredity, superimposing images of family members one atop another, creating composite photographs that Jung referred to as “Galtonesque portraits.”

He also invented the Word Association Test, which C.G. Jung experimented with and then became famous for discovering complexes via this means.

I became interested in Galton’s contributions whilst researching my dissertation, and I learned how the beginnings of the study of mental imagery can be traced to Galton’s research in the 1800s. In our current zeitgeist where “guided visualizations” are common practice, we don’t realize how people once thought only crazy people experienced vivid images in their “mind’s eye.”

Galton noticed how men would declare themselves incapable of seeing mental pictures, but would “nevertheless give lifelike descriptions of what they have seen and can otherwise express themselves as if they were gifted with a vivid visual imagination.” This puzzle stimulated his research, which informed an extremely influential theory of mental images that later impacted the work of Alfred Binet, William James, and Théodule Ribot.

Someday I’ll tell you more fully about what my research turned up, but it's important to mention the grave and permanent stain on Galton's reputation, which is that he was a pioneer of eugenics, even coining the term itself in 1883. A historian described how "Galton's racism was deep and robust."

Surprisingly, it has taken a while for the stigma of racism to catch up with him—not even the atrocities of World War Two (where he is reputed to have influenced the Nazi’s anti-Semitism) condemned him to obscurity. Only in 2020 did University College London announce it would remove the Galton name from its buildings. Galton had endowed UCL with his personal collection and archive, and shockingly provided a bequest for the country’s first professorial Chair of Eugenics. It’s rather horrifying to think about, particularly in light of the Black Lives Matter movement.

On that cheerful note, I shall abruptly change gears and mention how I spent virtually all day Saturday attending a hybrid conference organized by the Association for Person Centred Creative Arts (APCCA). This is where art therapy meets Carl Rogers’ person-centered approach, and I was really taken by some of the research that had been conducted by some of the presenters. I am contemplating how to weave a few of these exercises into my coaching practice, so stay tuned to see what I come up with!

Dogs are so smart. Ivy has been sticking to me like glue.

She might be sensing that I won’t be around much longer.

Either that, or she just likes hanging out with me!

(I like hanging out with her too.)

Something I'm really going to miss from this sit is the electronic curtains. Every evening, around 9pm, the curtains close automatically by an electric device.... and are automatically re-opened in the morning.

It seems silly, but I've gotten very fond of them. It's like having an invisible servant come in and perform this chore, and it adds greatly to the ambient comfort of this house. I had no idea how quickly I would come to enjoy this little feature, just as I quickly grew to like my Echo Dot (that I now carry with me). It simply demonstrates how "it's the little things that matter" sometimes. I hope you’re having a gorgeous weekend… The next time I write—who knows where I’ll be!

Until then, -Dr. Vicky Jo

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