Saturday, 12 April 2008

From East to West and Back Again

We had a great time in Cornwall. It’s one of those places that I always think I have visited quite regularly, although we both realised with a shock that it’s been 9 years since we last went, almost to the day. The last time I was a very new mother, and we’d gone to a tiny cottage on the north coast for a few days to take stock of how much our lives had changed since the arrival, four months previously, of our tiny, squalling son. I remember carrying him in a sling on windswept headlands, his cries competing with the roaring surf. That tiny baby is now a strapping nine year old, obviously with no memories of his earlier trip.

I have no family connections with Cornwall at all, and only holidayed there a couple of times in my childhood, yet I felt as though I were accompanied by my ten year old self throughout the week. We’d spent the long hot summer of ’76 on the north coast, and my memories are vivid. This time we went further west than I’d ever been before, right down by Penzance, and we spent our time hopping from coast to coast across the narrow county. I think I sill love the north coast best, but we loved exploring the Lizard – Kynance won the family vote for beauty – and I loved the rugged, misty, history soaked atmosphere of the far west. We visited stone circle after stone circle, and I loved the sense you get of the land slipping away into the Atlantic; at times I felt like I could have been in the west or Ireland or even Portugal. I got quite carried away with tales of mermaids in Zennor, and I think both me and my daughter half expected to see a few mer-people swimming by the cliffs. And the sea is such a stunning colour; I spent my childhood mainly on north sea beaches and love the east coast, yet to see such a blue-green sea, even in early spring, raises the spirits in a way that the gun-metal chill of the north sea doesn’t normally do.

I love places that have a strong regional identity and culture, even if they are alien to my own experience and roots, and Cornwall, out of season at least, still gives you that. (I guess it must be different in peak season, and in places like Rock I expect the braying must drown the sound of the waves). R always complains that it’s pointless going anywhere in Britain with me, however much I like a place I always make endless comparisons with Northumberland ( to the detriment of the new place, naturally). But apparently I did it less in Cornwall than usual. Of course, Cornwall is all about the sea, and it feels like there’s a sea to suit your every mood. Inland I’m not quite so smitten; apart from the famous high-banked lanes with their colourful hedgerows, there’s nothing that pulls on my heart the way the hills and moors of the north do. But those coasts take some beating. Interestingly we both commented on how much busier it was than we remembered, even in late March, and how much more built up the towns seemed. Then we realised that we hadn’t been since we’d moved to Suffolk, and I think that has a lot to do with it. Our sleepy corner of Suffolk is so quiet, so undisturbed, that I can’t cope with busy traffic and crowds any more.

We arrived in winter and left in spring. The weather got better and better, until by the last day the children were splashing about in the sea on the beach at Porthcurno (spectacularly beautiful) and we were all sweltering. The last day was special for another reason too – we spent the morning with Pipany and two of her daughters, and simply had the best time. She took us to a fabulous garden at Trengwainton, and, much as I love gardens, I felt like I hardly took in a thing, I was so busy talking. Yet now the images of the garden are very clear in my mind, so I must have taken in more than I thought, even while I was leaping around like a puppy who has made a new friend, it was so great to meet her. My children were smitten by her children, too, which added to the perfection of the morning.

The only problem with the whole week was my appetite. It seemed to take on a life of its own and became a beast that I couldn’t control. Most days started with a cooked breakfast, followed by a ‘small snack’ (i.e. a plate-sized pasty or pub lunch), a cream tea and then something light and nutritious such as fish and chips, eaten sitting on a harbour wall. I’d taken banana bread down with us, and R had come up with the brilliant and novel (to us) idea of toasting it and spreading it thickly with butter. We realised things had got a bit out of hand when we found ourselves seriously discussing what it might be like spread with clotted cream. So I waddled back across the country to Suffolk, newly possessed of a few extra rolls and thickened arteries. I blame the sea air.

26 comments:

lampworkbeader said...

Lovely blog. You were very unlucky not to see a mermaid 'cos I'm sure they are there.

KittyB said...

I think it's the Law in Cornwall to eat a cream tea every day, and a portion of fish and chips overlooking the sea (or in a steamed up car in the rain) and also as many pasties as it is possible to fit in.
Sounds like a lovely holiday, one of my favourite places.

Quilting Cat said...

I spent last Christmas in Cornwall, beachcombing and walking, then ice skating at Eden on Boxing Day, a magical county, glad you enjoyed it.

Faith said...

Agree with Lampie that you should have looked more closely for the mermaids! Cornwall's gorgeous - reading your blog has made me miss it now, and I read your blog to try and cheer me up! I will go and look at the links now and see if those turquoise green sea photos act like a tonic.

Inthemud said...

I love Cornwall, I first went when i was about 8yrs old, stayed near St Michaels Mount.
Been back several times as an adult and still love it.

Enjoyed your blog

Milla said...

Perhaps you're pregnant???
Lovely blog, I just adore Cornwall, there is most certainly something very "special" about it. We go most years because friends have a house - near the reviled Rock, but set in an acre of wind torn grass (hesitate to say garden), a load of us pile down for a weekend and it is just the best thing ever. Feel awash with privilege. Love it. Yes, Kitty, fish and chip (Rick Stein's I'm afraid) while perching on a shorts-ripping rock. Ahh, it's all coming back (aided by the sound of rain currently lashing the window which seems to be part of it).

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

It is the sea air that sends the appetite a galloping.

Lovely blog - I have been to Cornwall, but so long ago now I can't remember when it was.

How lovely that not only did you and our Pipany get on, but your children did as well.

elizabethm said...

I love Cornwall. We used to go camping near Hale and the beaches and lighthouses and rock pools were like beaches ought to be. Lovely blog and so glad you had the chance to meet Pipany (if a bit jealous of you both as I would love to meet both of you).

Elizabethd said...

Lovely to read about my 'home county'. There is no where like it.

Fennie said...

You describe it so well. I don't really know Cornwall at all, though once has a small consultancy assignment at the old Geevor* tin mine at St Just. Such a shame all the mines closed and now the price of tin is shooting through the roof. So glad you got on so well with Pipany. You both seem to have had a great time.

*actually mer-goats - that was the Geevor emblem - a goat's head on a fish's tail.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

Havent been to Cornwall for twenty plonk years ....think I will have to put it on the list....

CAMILLA said...

Hi SM, lovely blog.

I have always wanted to go to Cornwall, have never been, HL says it is gorgeous, he went there with his family years ago.

My Mother was evacuated to Cornwall during the second world war. She used to tell me stories of those famous Pasties and clotted Creams.

I am so pleased you had a lovely holiday and was able to meet Pipany and her family, and how great that all children got on well too.

Camilla.xx

Suffolkmum said...

Definitely not pregnant Milla - just greedy.

lady thinker said...

I just popped in to say there is a chatty bloggers award if you would care to collect it from:
http://sidmouth-town.blogspot.com/2008/04/chatty-bloggers-award.html

Exmoorjane said...

Yup, another Cornwall fan here (but yes, it IS getting way more busy) - can u nderstand why it would compare favourably with Northumberland as the beaches are nearly as stunning (though I think Northumberland has it on the moors - I often find Cornwall just that bit too bleak in winter - all the granite).
Don't talk about food, just don't!

Pipany said...

How did I miss this!!! What can I say - I love Cornwall with every bit of my being, even though it gets far too busy and there are grotty bits as well. But those seas - I couldn't live without them and how well you put the part about a sea for every mood. Perfect.

As for the food - I have a theory that the body adjusts to copious quantities of fat!!!! Loved meeting up and we shall definitely do so again (only not in a threatening way as that implied!) xxx

Her on the Hill said...

Like Milla, wondered if you were pregnant! (obviously not!). Like elizabethm am widely jealous of you and Pipany meeting as I would love to meet you both as well!

I think you and I were probably on the same beach in 1976. I went every year in the seventies to Constantine Bay where my mother's relations had a holiday house. We used to go to Harlyn Bay and Bedruthan as well. My memories are HUGE of this time in my life. Padstow then was so much less busy than today (albeit still very popular, just less, well, SWAMPED and lovely for not being as 'in' as it is now with all the RIck STein hangers-on). Rock, yes, it was reviled even then - Polzeath and all that - but I still love it. A friend got married at the little church on the headland there. For me, going to Cornwall, heading west (I don't go east very well!) was always like going home. It's my celtic roots - father welsh origins, mother cornish. I grew up with Grandma's stories of Cornwall - and Kynance cove was one of her favourite holiday places. She lived in Praze and Truro and went to Crediton High School. She was a real live version of Mallory Towers, I can tell you! When I needed to run away and make a big decision in January 2006, there was only one place I wanted to go - back to north Cornwall. I expect I'll bung some of all this on a blog one day.
xx

Her on the Hill said...

ps, I think I meant 'wildly jealous', rather than 'widely jealous'. Too much white wine, hic!

LittleBrownDog said...

A beautiful reminder of Cornwall - I realise to my horror that I, too, haven't seen it for about 10 years, despite it being one of my favourite places in the world. And you just have to eat the pasties, the fish and chips and the cream teas - possibly all in one sitting - to get the real feel of the place.

The Country Craft Angel said...

What a lovely blog-I haven't been since I was a child. I'm going to Glastonbury in couple of weeks and Northumberland and East Coast in summer but will have to put Cornwall in plans for another hol, sounds like you had a great time.

warm wises
xx

Edward said...

I know what you mean about increased appetite in Cornwall - something to do with all that lovely ozone.

DevonLife said...

Fabulous blog Mrs Mum. I've just nipped over the border to the chipshop for lunch. Ate salty chips and crunchy battered fish on the cliff overlooking the beach. And yes I did think that I must be the luckiest woman alive. Then back to work...

Rob Clack said...

Great to finally get back to reading your blog. Been away too long!

Sally's Chateau said...

Isn't Kynance cove divine ? we used to live not too far away in Dorset and if we got up early enough be down there with our surf boards and flasks of tea before anyone else. Bliss. I've gone homesick now for Cornwall ....

Jude said...

I know, this is a very late comment on a post you wrote last year. But,,, I left Cornwall 5 years ago to sail to Crete and settle here. Miss it so much sometimes, especially when I read people writing about their escapades there.
Thank you, I love Porthcurno and Zennor, those wonderful lanes winding across windswept fields... love it!

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