Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Cornwall Inspiration

The Men an Tol
Cornwall. In the early days of our relationship, my husband would often rave about holidays he'd had there and tell me how much I'd like the place. Loyalty to my own Scottish cliff-and-sea-and-fishing-village heritage made me baulk at this: nothing could be more beautiful than the Moray Firth and the sunsets and the wild white horses in the bay. Nothing.

Pendeen coastline
Ten years ago, though, we had our first Cornish holiday, staying at Hayle on St Ives Bay. I was hooked, I was smitten, I was entranced - and have been ever since. And this is no disloyalty to Scotland, because on every subsequent visit to West Cornwall, I've been struck by the similarities in the landscapes and seascapes, the seafaring heritage and the mindsets of the people who in times gone by had to struggle for their living in a place of wild and often hostile beauty.

The Longships Lighthouse at sunset

Sunrise over Hayle
There are differences of course: the temperature, for a start! The old engine houses of tin mines dotting the landscape. The extraordinary proliferation of ancient monuments. The granite outcrops studding hillsides clad in gorse and bracken. But the beaches of St Ives and Carbis Bay, Porthkidney and Hayle Towans are like those of Cullen and Sandend and Lossiemouth: palest gold and silky. There is the same sense of being under a big sky and at the end of things - it's a pioneer feeling, somehow. It's more accentuated, though, when you stand at Cape Cornwall or Sennen and know that nothing will get in the way if you start sailing for America. That's an extraordinary sensation. There's the fluctuation between grey and gurly seas and Mediterranean waters in rich tints of jade and aquamarine. There's mizzle and mist that come down in an instant to soak and bewilder you. There's the disappearance of the everyday world - this is so precious - because once you cross into West Penwith or motor down the Lizard, you've put yourself out onto a limb of the world and you've entered a place which takes you out of your quotidian routine. It puts you in touch with the timeless.

I certainly don't want to come across as all New-Agey because I'm not that sort of person - but at the same time there's the temptation, to which so many incomers have succumbed, to chuck aside all normality and practicality, to up sticks and take refuge in this magical location. So far my rational self has  prevailed: I have the sense to know that I couldn't make life work for me here, not really - and I would miss Oxford terribly.

The Merry Maidens in a mist

I'm posting a very tiny selection of the many photos I took, some of which have great significance for my current writing. I also include the Merry Maidens circle looking very spooky in the mist and an offering of a potato and some corn in a hollow at the centre of that circle, deposited by those who are indeed New Agey. In St Ives I very much enjoyed meeting up with writers Marion Whybrow and Sarah Duncan. At the Penzance literary festival we attended an evening at the Admiral Benbow in Penzance to enjoy Cornish tales, readings from an old miner's diary and the marvellous singing of traditional songs by Boilerhouse, a quartet of male singers.
We had coffee in the lovely airy white cafe of the Tate Gallery in St Ives and we had pub lunches at the Tinners' Arms in Zennor (where D.H. Lawrence once drank) and at the Old Inn in Mullion. We walked the cliff paths and we breathed in the air as if to aerate polluted alveoli and cleanse them for the city winter.

We revisited old haunts and explored some new ones - and all the time inspiration and ideas rose like a silent stream within me. Cornwall does that to me, every time.

St Ives and Godrevy from the Tate Gallery

1 comment:

trump said...

Id like to invite you folks to come to Amish Stories for a recipe for "Famous Pennsylvania Dutch Sticky Cinnamon Buns" along with a book signing schedule for Amish fiction writer Wanda Brunstetter for Pennsylvania and Ohio as well as a contest to meet her. I hope everyone so far is having a great weekend. Thanks everyone. Richard from Amish Stories.