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Postcard from Cornwall

The first time back in St. Mawes since the beginning of the pandemic. A magical place. It has been wonderful to look out over the harbour even on wetter, greyer days: a delight from early morning to the very end of the day. And we have walked and walked hereabouts. Cobwebs blown away. For a couple of weeks, the dire mess of the wider world seems particularly far away.

Soon, it‘s back to Cambridge, to category theory (I’m promising a much better chapter on equalizers/co-equalizers), some musings on a philosophical view from Terence Tao, some potshots at a recent rather dreadful intro book on formal logic. But just for now, logic can look after itself. The sun is going down over Roseland. Calm sea. Peace.

Postcard from Cornwall

Evening sun at St Mawes in Cornwall, where we have been again for a while. So no logic matters for the last fortnight (the book has not been nagging away insistently enough to the break the spell). And we’ve been trying to ignore Brexit too (which all looks even madder than ever). So a lot of walking along coastal paths, visits to some great gardens, and more walking. Or just sitting in the apartment watching the quiet comings and goings in the harbour below. All balm to the soul.

Back to real life and builders, not to mention IFL2, in a couple of days …

Postcard from Cornwall

Another year, another (logic-free!) fortnight in St Mawes, in Cornwall. It is good to go at this time, as it is mostly still very quiet and the walking is at its best. The weather, though, can often be very changeable. But this time, we were particularly lucky, and there were a lot of very good days; and for once we got to see, for example, the charming Elizabethan house and garden at Trerice in the sun. Sheer delight.

I mostly tried to avoid the news for the two weeks. It is no surprise to now find that Brexit still continues to be a train-wreck. (Cornwall, away from the tourist trade, is one of the poorest areas of Europe; it will lose a great deal of EU support funding. You can put it down to the fundamental mendaciousness of the referendum campaign that there was a local majority for leaving …)

You can easily drive from Cambridge to Cornwall in a day, but it is much more enjoyable to break the journey. This year, in one direction, we stopped over at edge of Gloucester, wanting to see the cathedral which we had never visited. It is quite wonderful. But oh, the surrounding city centre seems so shabby and run-down (to the point that we felt quite uncomfortable about venturing back to eat in the city in the evening). It is indeed depressing how many of the old county towns of England have become hollowed-out, undignified, wrecks.

Postcard from Cornwall


In Cornwall again, back in St Mawes. As lovely as before. The photo was taken walking along another little bit of the South West Coastal Path this morning, this time along the cliff-tops between Portloe and Pendower. On the whole, kind weather. Too kind, at any rate, to be sitting indoors, reading much serious stuff: that, and logical blogposts, can wait until I return to Cambridge, far too soon.

Postcard from Cornwall



We have been in Cornwall for a fortnight. Saint Mawes, since you asked. Much to be recommended for riposo totale. We have already booked to return to the same place next year.

Now I’m back, this blog will splutter into life again. Though I’ve just been deleting a little rather than adding. I had been posting initial discussions of the opening chapters of John Burgess’s Rigor and Structure. I was, however, beginning to find the book surprisingly thin and unhelpful, and didn’t have anything useful to say: so rather than continue carping I’ve decided to remove those posts. I did read on further, to get to what were advertised as the main novel claims. But I must be missing the point as what I found seemed banal. I seem to be too out of sympathy with Burgess style and approach. Your mileage may, of course, very well vary.

For a sharply contrasting book, at least in the level of depth and care, can I instead recommend (well, I’m only a couple of chapters in, but it is going terrifically) Ian Rumfitt’s The Boundary Stones of Thought (OUP). This is a predictably serious discussion of the nature of logic in which Rumfitt defends classical logic against a variety of broadly anti-realist attacks. Exemplary and inspiring stuff.

From a small corner of Cambridge, 6

We have at last ventured from our small corner of the city into centro storico on our morning walk: it was almost deserted. Here is a glimpse of Trinity and its Newtonian apple tree — without the dozens of tourists who are usually to be seen sitting along that low wall. Cambridge gets about eight million visitors a year, mostly on day trips (which is pretty absurd as there is really so little to see apart from King’s College Chapel, as most of the older colleges are closed to visitors most of the time). I imagine that very many residents would be pretty happy if that level of mass tourism doesn’t return here for years, if ever. But that’s just one more unknown about the post-virus world.

Meanwhile, no visit this week to Wigmore Hall on Tuesday to see the Pavel Haas, no driving off  today down to St. Mawes in Cornwall for the planned fortnight. Drat. But those are small things in the overall scheme; we are daily reckoning up our good fortune compared with so very many, and just keeping ourselves safe. And the preternaturally good spring weather has been mighty cheering and made those morning walks a delight. So on we go, into this new normal, whatever it turns out to be.

We can, of course, get books delivered here by post. But where’s the fun in that? One small everyday pleasure we really miss is getting to second-hand charity bookshops; we much enjoy the serendipity, the chance discoveries. The wonderfully well-run and well-stocked Oxfam bookshop in Walden is a particular favourite, and in normal times we drop in there perhaps twice a month. And when in Cornwall, there is a terrific bookshop at the National Trust house at Trelissick near St. Mawes. A couple of years ago, we happened to be there when someone came in to donate a paperback set of Helen Dunmore’s first ten novels (obviously brand new); I snapped them up within a minute, having by chance just finished and much admired one of her later novels, Exposure. I have been reading those earlier novels with great pleasure over the intervening months. And I’ve just finished Counting the Stars, Dunmore’s imagining of Catullus and his obsession with Clodia. I’m not sure that this is her most successful novel; and arguably her Catullus — for all his obsession — seems a mite too tame, lacking some of the fury and satiric energy that drives the poetry. But I can still recommend it for a spring evening read, far from Rome!

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