Monday, 8 February 2016

The View From Lauras Tower, and other stories of the past week

I've recently enjoyed a surprise week off work. My deputy manager simply told me that I hadn't used up all of my annual leave, so here's a week off. That's quite nice, I think. My job does have its flaws but when it does have its perks, they're usually awesome. And this week has been packed with awesomeness! More so than I was expecting! I mean, one of the drawbacks to a surprise week off, is having nothing planned. So there was no holiday. No random blog post about some place that isn't Shropshire, although I might have one coming up, sadly on the same upcoming day the Shropshire Bloggers are having a walk around Ironbridge. But for this there is no other option. It's now or never for this subject matter. But I don't want to get anyones hopes up, so let's just say I'm going somewhere for something, and leave it at that until I update you.

Meanwhile, my week off has not been eventless. I can pull an adventure out of anything. I don't often write about the ones that are anticlimactic, but for consistency as it's a recurring topic here, I did have a stroll into the Shropshire countryside to find yet another ROC post. For those of you who don't know, a ROC post is a fifteen foot ladder hidden beneath an innocent looking trap door, that leads down into a small bunker-like installation used to monitor nuclear usage during the cold war. At least, in theory. They communicated with the main HQ (For Shropshire that's the vets in Abbey Forgate) via telegraph pole, which would have been wiped out in the event of a nuclear strike. The ventilation meant that the people stationed there weren't safe from a nuclear strike, and the technology used to monitor nuclear strikes were crude and barely worked

But you know, the government had to look like it was doing something in a time when the world was panicking and the government didn't really know what to do. So thanks for dotting the countryside with candy for the happy-go-lucky adventurer.

More than a thousand of these things exist in the UK, some in plain sight, some out in the countryside. Some are as immaculate as the day they were decommissioned in the late 1960s, and some are trashed beyond recognition. Some are still open since closure, and some are padlocked, welded shut or even demolished.

This one was padlocked. Dammit.

You see, I don't force entry.  
 Nor do I vandalize, steal, or disclose locations or means of access to other people.
Trespass without forced entry is a civil offence, not a criminal one, which isn't worth acting on unless one causes damage, steals, has ill intent, etc. I simply photograph and leave everything as I find it.  I do not commit or condone any acts of breaking and entering, and I do not condone what I do either as it's very dangerous and I'm a danger to myself and a terrible role model. Anybody seeking to use the photos from this blog, must do so with permission.

In this case, I'm overwhelmed with curiosity. The ROC posts that are locked up tend to be the ones that are immaculate. The ones open to the public often look like there actually was nuclear war. A fantastic example is the one in Church Stretton. Below this innocent patch of land are desks, chairs, bunk beds, a toilet, possibly some primitive nuclear radiation detecting equipment, telecommunications equipment, a few rats maybe, and the public probably stroll by on a regular basis without ever knowing.
I returned to Shrewsbury. My ROC post score now is five visited, three actually entered.

Meanwhile in Shrewsbury, people were getting irate. Another human named Roosh V (implying that he's the fifth Roosh and hopefully the last), said by the Daily Mail to be a blogger in his mothers basement, had infuriated the world with talk of legalising rape and reinstating men as the dominant gender, claiming that equality of the sexes has resulted in feminine, weaker men. He's also said that he and his followers should move to third world countries where women are easier to manipulate, which is ironic given that he's allegedly a "pick-up artist." He was organising meetings around the world for his followers, who are also presumably pro-rape. Only masculine, straight men were allowed at these meetings, and one happened to be organised in Shrewsbury. The people of Shrewsbury, well aware that it's the 21st Century in spite of our architecture suggesting otherwise, were naturally outraged, and decided to have a peaceful protest on the bridge where Team Roosh were meant to be meeting. It was a protest that I attended and got to enjoy a rare but very warm feeling of unity. About two hundred people congregated, myself among them, to show that the human race is simply not going to stand for this persons outrageous views. And it was a great thing to see. I mean obviously, most people in the 21st Century know that rape is wrong, but it's very awesome to actually see a good, unified congregation of complete strangers unite to stop the spread of evil ideology.

In the end, Rooshie cancelled his meeting anyway, out of fear that his followers would get hurt.
Yes, that's right, the people who are pro-rape, and consider themselves all-things-masculine are playing the victim card. It was a sweet, sweet victory for Shrewsbury, and the human race in general.

I have asked permission to use this photo, and while they've not yet gotten back to me, I'm a person who often works with the logic that unless someones getting hurt by my antics, it's better to be told off than told no. If I wasn't like that, lets face it, this blog would be boring. But credit where credits due, this photo of the protest was taken by someone called Mark Salmon.

Earlier that day, I was participating in my photographer friend Giselles project that was somewhat fitting for the vibe of the day, in the sense that Rooshie baby would most certainly not approve. This time I'm one of the models, and it's a very interesting project that I'm super enthusiastic about. Basically it's challenging gender roles, or percieved views on gender. It's avoiding topics like crossdressing though, and instead shows the model in a way that their anatomical gender isn't clear, and also provokes a double take as the observer may instantly place the model into a box, only to realise that there's something there that's making them wonder. It's definitely a project that has my support, purely because when it comes to the topic of gender, the world does need to grow up. A lot. One time a photo of me got leaked at my workplace. It was an innocent head shot a few years old, but in the photo I wearing make up, with my hair done, good camera angle, contouring and everything else required to make me look like an attractive lady, and I was treated worse than Hitler for it. Although this doesn't speak for all of my colleagues, but it certainly spoke for enough to make work very uncomfortable. So yes, this project is something that has my support.

In a perfect world, I think we'd see the abolition of boxes and categories. This might sound mad to some but at the very least what we're starting to see is a remarkable and inspiring case of people not being villainised for non-conformity anymore. Regarding sexuality, refering to someone as a homosexual has gone from being a taboo or an insult to "I don't care" territory, all within my own lifetime, and gender identity is following.

The photoshoot itself will be viewable at some point in the future, further along in the projects lifetime, and I'll put a link to it when it is. Meantime, the recent shoot took place at the awesome "Laura's Tower" up at Shrewsbury Castle, which results in the project corresponding well with this blog, since the interior of Laura's Tower is closed to the general public but very much loved by the people of Shrewsbury. So naturally I brought my own camera along to snap the place up.

I also have an older photo of Laura's Tower, what with being friends with a time traveler, that shows it in a much more floral state.

And rumour has it that another photo exists of a former incarnation of Laura's Tower at a time when it had a chimney. I haven't seen this photo but the top floor does have a fireplace, and the lower floor does have the imprint of where one used to be, on the opposite wall. So it's gone through quite a few changes over the years.

The lower floor is currently being used for storage, whereas the upper floor has a much greater display of refinery. The tower itself was built by Thomas Telford in 1790 for Laura Pulteney (born Henrietta Laura Johnstone), the daughter of Sir William Pulteney. In this case, the Johnstones changed their name to Pulteney as it was Williams wifes maiden name, and she inherited the Pulteney estate. Laura herself was 24 when the tower in Shrewsbury was built, and had inherited the Pulteney estate following her mothers death in 1782. This tower was to serve as a summer house, although she frequented Sudborough in Northamptonshire and also Clewer in Berkshire. I'm not entirely sure how often she visited Shrewsbury or for how long. It would be logical that maybe there would be a means of going between the top and bottom floor internally, unlike today when the floors are unconnected and have two exterior doors. Given the refined interior, I imagine this place would have looked great fully furnished.
Laura first became Baroness Bath in 1792, she married in 1794, and was elevated to Countess of Bath in 1803. Her father died in 1805, and she inherited two thirds of his property, the rest going to his second wife. Laura herself died of consumption in 1808. A painting of her can be found at The Holburne Museum on Great Pulteney Street in Bath.

What became of the tower after she died is not known to me. Since she had no children, Laura's personal estate was inherited by her cousin, Elizabeth Fawcett, but since her landed estates were passed to the 3rd Earl of Darlington, William Vane, it is likely that the tower was inherited by him, but I'm not certain. It's undergone modifications over the years, but inside is very much a time capsule to an earlier era.

For the shoot, we moved the chair to the area with peeling paint, to work with a more derelict looking backdrop. Originally it was across from the fireplace, next to a plug socket, which is why it varies locations between shots. Next to the door is a lightswitch. However, in spite of these features, the tower doesn't have electricity, and the castle staff cannot find the means to turn it on.

Today, Thomas Telford is considered more a vandal than an architect. He is the one who had the castles interior largely altered and he also had the majority of Shrewsbury Abbey demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass the A5 road. But Laura's Tower is proof that he did do some good for the town. The domed ceiling is a great example of his work.

From the tower windows there's also a view of Shrewsbury, in all directions. Looking out over the river, one can see the Abbey. It's interesting to compare Shrewsbury now to the Shrewsbury that Laura would have seen. Since the Abbey wasn't demolished to make way for a road until 1836, Laura would have been able to see it in its entirety in the distance.

The English Bridge that crosses the river wasn't built in its current incarnation until 1926, although a bridge has stood there as early in history as Norman times, the original records of it refering to it as Stone Bridge. Stone Bridge had a tower on the east side which connected to a gate and drawbridge. The bridge also had houses and shops along it. Laura would not have seen that version. In her time, the bridge was in its second incarnation, which consisted of a much wider central arch to allow boats safer passage beneath it. This version was built in 1769, but its central arch actually made it quite steep for those crossing it, and so it was made into its current version. It was also only half as wide as it is today.

The Parade Shopping Centre is visible but it wasn't there until 1826. The churches, however, have been there for much longer.

So that was Laura's Tower. I'd like to give a big, huge thank you to the staff at Shrewsbury Castle for letting us shoot here. The building is amazing, and perhaps one of my favourite places in Shrewsbury, and brilliant for photography projects. This particular photography project is also something I support.

Sexuality and gender tend to be things I avoid writing about here on the blog. It's difficult to talk about the difficulties these areas of society face without looking heterophobic. For the record, I'm not heterophobic. Some of my friends are straight. I just don't want it shoved in my face with you holding hands and making out right where I can see. Don't you know that's how you catch babies?

When someone from the 1600s like Roosh V decides to flaunt his outtdated fascist ideology, it is an honour to not only stand against him among a legion of good people, but also be part of a creative project that challenges outdated ways of thinking. Because all the Roosh V's of the world ARE the minority. They just happen to speak really loud, which is why good people get victimised, and bullied, and end up with low self esteem, depression, anxiety and the lot. If good people stop being silent when Roosh V's get mouthy, and we all stand together, the world can become an even more amazing place, and people who do feel shy and isolated and bullied, regardless of the quality thats making them a bully magnet, can finally be themselves and let their freaky colours out. Just being around open minded, accepting people can make a lot of difference.
As mentioned, some of my work colleagues aren't the most open minded.  I genuinely fear for any people who come to my workplace who don't conform to their societal comfort zones. But these people simply have yet to join us in the 21st Century.

And I think that's the main thing to remember if you are different, or considered a weirdo by those around you, whether you're of a different gender or sexual orientation or if you're just odd compared to the people around you. Get into the habit of replacing negative thoughts such as "I'm weird" or "I'm unlikable" or "they're twats" with "They just haven't reached the 21st Century yet." Because that's actually a lot more positive. It reassures that there is actually nothing wrong with what you're doing, and relieves the emotional pain without simply turning it into anger against the attacker, because they themselves are simply behind the times, and could still catch up. And best of all, it reinforces the fact that the 21st Century is still young, and will only continue to improve, if we make it improve by being the awesome people I know we all are. As a final look at Roosh V, his views were considered societal norms hundreds of years ago and now in 2016 they merely exist in the minds of a few thousand people in internet chatrooms, so while people like this do exist, we're still making loads of progress as a species.

So this blog post was slightly different. But thanks for reading. As always, follow me on Instagram and Twitter, to make sure you stay updated. And be nice to each other, because we're all in the same boat. Or at least, on the same gas-coated ball of dirt and water hurtling round a giant nuclear fireball. Is existence really for taking seriously? I don't think so.

Stay awesome.

1 comment:

  1. You were are the Roosh V thing (I wasn't able to attend but I helped a little in organising), you go to the Tower that shares its name with me, you geek out about underground tunnels (ohmydeities so totally my jam) and finally, you got a Hitchhiker's reference in too.

    I wish I'd found you sooner, this is fabulous.

    Good luck for the future. Thank you for treating the places you go with respect, and I look forward to reading more.