|Zelah Studio, |
looking out over St Ives Bay
(photo courtesy of
I discovered Cornwall when I was a child on summer holidays. Learning to body surf on Fistral beach, eating gritty cheese sandwiches, drinking soup which was either scalding hot or barely tepid from a wide-necked Thermos: these are some of my earliest memories.
As an adult, I returned to the county – and specifically St Ives – thanks to my closest friend, who so generously shared her lovely house with me and other worn-out London refugees. Zelah Studio, standing above Porthgwidden beach, will be our venue for Fictionfire by the Sea, thanks again to Lynda’s vision of her house as a place of creativity.
|The Merry Maidens|
The layers of Cornwall’s history fascinate me: almost hidden from modern view stand mysterious worked pieces of monumental stone – remnants of its origins as an ancient and sacred place, separate from the rest of the country. Its magical quality hooked me early on. It was very easy to imagine piskies and other spirit creatures darting in and out of the great stones of Men an Tol or dancing among the Merry Maidens. It’s still easy for me to narrow my eyes and see mermaids swimming round St Piran’s rock, luring unwary fishermen into their underwater secrets.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Cornwall’s copper and tin mining industries overlaid the landscape. Now the ruins of mine chimneys, engine houses and lichen-coloured iron workings are visible on the skyline.
And today the far west has another life: as a sought-after destination for artists, writers and holidaymakers who come to enjoy the wonderful light, clean sweeps of pale sand and a turquoise sea that looks as though it belongs in the Caribbean.
In January 2014 we found ourselves able to invest in a small stone-built cottage just outside St Ives. At first sight, things weren’t too good. The house hadn’t been touched for about thirty years, and it definitely needed some TLC. But we knew it could be so different.
After just two months, An Dyji was reborn as a cosy two-bedroom cottage, ready for visitors. The name means ‘the small house’ in Cornish, which was its nickname throughout the works. We love being there: it’s tucked away in a hundred acres of woodland, but is only six minutes from the sea.
It’s the perfect place if you want to relax, recharge and rediscover your creativity. There’s something about being away from home that helps you to leave stuff behind and free your mind. Sighing: this is what happens to us the day after arriving. The combined effects of clean air, sparkling light and an ever-changing seascape cause muscles to unclench and jaws to unlock. The place gets in your bones and before long, you’re thinking about a new project or looking at your existing work with fresh eyes.
So, why not join us for a weekend exploring spirit of place, the spirit that the far west of Cornwall gives us? The programme is a unique blend of inspirational taught workshops and quiet writing time. We’ll be working with a group of like-minded people, and I’m looking forward to meeting Ann Kelley, an award-winning author who’s based locally. It’s going to be a fruitful two days, but for me the most important aspect is precious space and time.
Who knows what might happen?
You can find out more about An Dyji and book accommodation there, whether you're attending Fictionfire by the Sea or not, at www.stivesretreat.co.uk
Fictionfire by the Sea Writers' Workshop and Retreat, 17-19 October 2014 in St Ives - details here. Bookings close on 15 October.
If you can't make it to Cornwall, Fictionfire Focus Workshops in Oxford, Oct - Dec 2014 are here.
Guest-speaker at Fictionfire by the Sea is Ann Kelley - see my post here.
(All photographs, except where noted, copyright Lorna Fergusson)