What’s a duchy?

REVIVE US AGAIN Sunday 15 January 2017 On Saturday, Marty looked up from the Victorian mystery she was reading and asked, “What’s the definition of a duchy?” Collins English Dictionary Mini Edition came to the rescue: “territory of a duke or duchess.” Duh.

The book, The Inheritance, by Charles Finch (Minotaur Books, 2016) is set in Cornwall, one of two duchies in England. The other is the Duchy of Lancaster. The French associate in a detectives’ office reports on sleuthing he has done that has eliminated one of the suspects in a murder. He refers to the county of Cornwall. Detective Lenox says, “Duchy. It’s a duchy, not a county.” To which Pointilleux replies, “What is the differentiation?” Lenox starts to speak then stops, “I say, I’m not sure I actually know.”

The book is o.k., but not recommended as a cozy mystery. In a quick skim I found this interesting tid bit. Lenox attends an event at the Royal Society where his client, Leigh, opens his speech with an explanation of the English custom of driving on the left side of the road. “It started in medieval days, when genuine knights had traveled the high way between villages. A knight kept his sword to his right as he rode, in order to have his strong hand toward the middle of the road in the event that he should cross paths with thieves or other highwaymen. . ” Thus he could fight with his stronger arm.

How did that change in America? Driving a team of horses required the use of a long whip, Leigh goes on, “By riding on the right, the drovers could keep it to the outside of the road, so that if they passed another team they would never cross whips or inadvertently strike a fellow driver.”

I’ll have to research that. Years ago I read that when the Canadian province of New Brunswick switched from driving on the left to the right one gentleman refused to make the switch. He simply drove down the middle of the road.

Before we find ourselves deep in England and other parts, let’s get a glimpse of the duchy of Cornwall.

Cornwall is governed by Cornwall County Council, with the duchy an overlay. The duke of Cornwall is Prince Charles. Farm, residential, and commercial properties, as well as an investment portfolio, serve the duke’s income and philanthropic interests. For the fiscal year ending 31 March 2013, the duchy was valued at Pounds Sterling 763 million.

The duchy was created in 1337, so you can expect loads of history and traditions to impact its contemporary function in Cornwall. From Wikipedia I quote: “In 1995, the duchy granted a 99-year lease of the uninhabited islets of the Isles of Scilly, plus the untenanted land on the five inhabited islands, to the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust for an annual payment of a single daffodil.” Love it!

Such is the roundabout way a question can drive one in several directions. Which brings me to a few observations on the USA.

The country on this side of the pond

Since the 17th century Britain has been a representative democracy. Since 1776 the USA has been a republic with three branches–Executive, Legislative (Senate and House of Representatives), and Supreme Court.

Given the inauguration on Friday, January 20 of a new government in the USA, I’d beg for a closer look at the purpose and function of government. I don’t see it happening.

I simply do not see good times happening. I take heart in what my pastor said this morning to respect and pray for Donald Trump and all the others who are taking office. My main hesitation is that I do not find Mr Trump’s statements and actions aligning with Gospel values.

The “shake it up” tenor of the country echoes with shrill sounds of negativity. We’re subjected to tweets that are oppositional rants to statements, questions and  differing points of view to those held by president-elect Trump. I would expect the reality of the times and demands of the office to make political discourse more tempered. It’s as though the political and social   advances, corrections and learnings of the last 241years, much less the last eight, are simply to be trodden underfoot.

I still do not have a good answer to why Mr. Trump wanted to be president, other than to prove he could do it. Get elected, that is. Fill the office with good–cull, prune, improve, tear down walls. I’m almost afraid that our president-elect, to make an obverse point to reality, would call a woodpecker a carpenter–not to treat his statement as a fact that has meaning but as a display of fighting attitude over real substance.

Instead of misguidance, is there not a will to govern that reconciles the best interests of all the people? Surely thoughtful attention to these words from 1776 would tame the rhetoric: “We the people of the Untied States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.” Again, I’m not hopeful it will happen soon.

The code of law set out by the constitution means that those with power cannot make up all their own rules. In 2017, in such an advanced nation as the USA, I’d long for every form of government to distill 241 years of liberty, equality and justice for an even greater balance of order and freedom. I’m troubled that the current mood is to scrap efforts that have been improving the human condition in favor of so-called individual liberty and freedom. I’m troubled that uncharted trouble lies ahead. I’m encouraged by the reality that “The strength of nations is but breath.” God have mercy, that truth and righteousness may reign.

Memorial service

On Wednesday we attended a memorial service for LaMar Fletcher, a member of our church. LaMar was a plumber at Miles during his employment years. I was heartened to learn more of his grumpy and sweetheart nature from his extended family and friends. LaMar’s handshake, honest and direct retorts, and generosity in helping many people and causes are to be treasured. He was 90 years old at his passing. Our condolences to Donnabelle, his wife of 66 years.

Shred it

On Friday I took 122 pounds of paper to our local shredder. Good riddance. There are still more files to be sorted, though the task is progressing well. I’ve assumed a more “wholesale.” that is deep pruning, approach to pitching things. Does the heart good.

Walk it

Our regular path often includes the walk through Lundquist Bicentennial Park past the old YMCA. the Y and other structures are being razed to make way for a new aquatics center.

Book it


Well, no need to run out to get it, but the book I’m reading, Wasting Time on the Internet by Kenneth Goldsmith (Harper Perennial, 2016), does get the juices going. I get tweety-types of insight from a technical, though engaging, language to which I’m not accustomed. As I get deeper into the book I get more benefit from skimming than from deciphering all that’s there. Maybe the conclusion will give me an aha! moment.

When we’re wasting time on the internet we’re actually creating a new culture of collaboration, Goldsmith maintains. In the Introduction he said, “I think it’s time to drop the simplistic guilt about wasting time on the Internet and instead begin to explore–and perhaps even celebrate–the complex possibilities that lay before us.”

“The fear of outsourcing our memory to the web–know as ‘digital amnesia’–has ancient echoes. Plato was apprehensive about the transition from spoken language to the written word. he was fearful that those who write would stop exercising their memory and become forgetful; they rely on externalized graphical notation instead of these innate capacity to remember things. . . . As a result of writing, he feared knowledge would become information. Since there was no individual there  to speak it–and speak for it–writing would literally dehumanize wisdom.”

That’s a slice of Goldsmith’s provocative insights. He is a conceptual artist and the first poet laureate of the Museum of Modern Art. He lives in New York and teaches at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Walk it

On Saturday we walked to the Wellfield Botanic Gardens. Dormant plants, bare trees, ponds iced over, water coursing along Christiana Creek. There’s good progress on building additional restrooms and creating children’s gardens.

The time is coming when we’ll see the blossoms of Spring. Stay tuned. Daffodils.

Bloom on. -John . . .


A prayer for rulers and leaders

As I pray this week for rulers and leaders I include this prayer from the late Anglican theologian, writer and pastor, the Revd. Jim Cotter (1942-2014) whom we met in his home in Aberdaron, north west Wales, on a Celtic spirituality pilgrimage in 2013.

“Blessed be the God of all the earth, / who alone is all wisdom and justice, / who alone does great wonders. / Blessed be the glorious name of God: / may the universe be filled with God’s glory. / Let the Amen echo with praise.” (based on Psalm 72)






3 thoughts on “What’s a duchy?

  1. I feel informed and educated by your writing and pic’s, John. Thanks for including me. Could I forward your words & prayers for Pres. Elect for Mr. Donald Trump to our son Dennis? He agrees with you. MKM


  2. Hello John,

    Thanks for the enlightenment about all things duchy! Tomorrow we leave on our road trip to Florida. My knee gets a little better every week and that progress will continue for several more months. Enjoy your time in Cornwall this winter. We hope to see you in the spring or summer.

    Monty & Ginger

    PS: We just started watching “Victoria” on PBS.



  3. On Sun, Jan 15, 2017 at 7:47 PM, It’s About Now wrote:

    > John Bender posted: “REVIVE US AGAIN Sunday 15 January 2017 On Saturday, > Marty looked up from the Victorian mystery she was reading and asked, > “What’s the definition of a duchy?” Collins English Dictionary Mini Edition > came to the rescue: “territory of a duke or duchess.” Duh” >


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