Yesterday Hub and I decided to take a break from our multifarious activities, and headed into the uplands of Dartmoor, with map in hand, determined to track down two ancient clapper bridges.
A ‘clapper’ is a large flat slab of stone which is laid on posts to create the bridge. Postbridge on Dartmoor boasts the oldest intact clapper bridge in the country. ‘Its slabs are over four metres (13 ft) long, two metres (6 ft 6 in) wide and weigh over eight tons each, making the bridge passable to a small cart. It was first recorded in 1380 and was built to facilitate the transportation of Dartmoor tin by pack horses to the stannary town of Tavistock.’ (Thanks, Wikipedia.)
We decided to fortify ourselves with lunch against the cold wind and grey day. The pub we chose was empty apart from a young person of indeterminate gender who greeted us very warmly and suggested we sit near the fire – but mind the dog, he said – as we nearly fell over a huge hairy hound asleep near the next table. The lad took our orders for homemade soup and crusty bread, and then Hub headed to the Gents.
While he was out my host became very chatty, and before long I had learned that he had suffered from depression at different periods of his life. I would say he was barely in his 20s. We talked about the different ways people dealt with depression. He said he was over his, and that he had not needed counselling because he had taken refuge in his art studies.
He then revealed that he suffered from body dysmorphia, and we agreed that it was much healthier to talk about it rather than pretend it didn’t exist, and that people didn’t like talking about it because it made them feel uncomfortable. He was clearly making real efforts to come to terms with the sort of person he feels he is, and a huge challenge it is.
At the end I told him it was lovely meeting him (tho’ Hub wasn’t too keen on having a running commentary on somebody else’s mental health problems whilst eating soup …) and asked his name.
For some reason, he has found his way into my heart and on to my mind. He reminds me of a chrysalis, where the inner person is struggling to free himself of other peoples’ preconceptions – and maybe some of his own, too. He has been trying to face up to himself, tackling issues as they emerge and learning about himself in the process. He struck me as very vulnerable.
It occurred to me that he, and others like him, need people and events to be like bridges for them to cross over the wilds of life and reach the other side safely.
I hope he makes it.
The clapper bridge at Postbridge on Dartmoor