Today was my last day in Cornwall and, as it was sunny, I delayed driving home and spent the morning in Porthleven on the South coast and about 30 minutes drive from where I’ve been staying.
I went to find a cafe to have breakfast and stumbled across a small place, with wooden tables and pretty tablecloths – that was the one! I almost never have a cooked breakfast (I usually can’t eat that much first thing) but today I really fancied it. I ordered a pot of tea and a small cooked breakfast and settled into the warmth of the cafe. The warmth was causing condensation on the inside of the windows and I idly gazed out the window as I mentally flicked through fond memories of two big family holidays in Porthleven.
The waitresses in the cafe were so welcoming, the warmth of the cafe so inviting and the steaming tea just what I needed. I even picked up a discarded copy of the West Briton newspaper and had a read. Despite often thinking this would be a nice thing to do, I NEVER go out to a cafe for breakfast, much less have a cup of tea and read the paper while I’m there. It felt like a real luxury and I was hungry (having not eaten much the evening before) so I really enjoyed it.
The whole experience really summed up what this holiday has been about: time and space to do things that I enjoy but wouldn’t usually manage. Time and space to do things without the expectation that there has to be a tangible and outwardly visible payoff for the time spent doing them. Like having a late breakfast in a lovely cafe with the harbour only a stone’s throw away.
*Ansum or ansome is a word from the Cornish dialect that is used either as a term of endearment (“all right me ansum?” or as approval (“an ansum pasty”). I also overhead the cafe proprietress use the word in conversation to a colleague today – in reponse to something she exlaimed “Ansum, ansum!” so it must have been something good …
See this forum post for examples of use of the word ansum in full context.
Yesterday’s adventuring in Tintagel left me so shattered when I got myself back to the cottage I’m staying in that I could honestly barely move. My head was deep into thoughts of mythology and magic, of which more in another blog post.
Yesterday’s small thing that made a big impact, however, was part of a conversation with someone I’ve been having remotely while in Cornwall. I get very excited about the chance to read fiction when I am away on holiday and often agonise over which books to take to ensure I have something I enjoy reading while I’m away.
Having recently met a writer, whose company for a coffee I found charming and very welcome while I was in Rome, I was interested to read his work. I love to read the writing of people I know or I’ve met. When I wrote about writing as part of my MA I went to great length to illustrate my understanding of writing and reading as creating a dialogue over time and distance. A remote dialogue, if you like, which introduces the possibility to leave gaps in the dialogue that are entirely different to those found in a one to one conversation. Gaps which the reader must fill for themselves without recourse to the usual personal context that accompanies a conversation.
Charles Lambert’s Little Monsters has captivated me during my holiday and unusually for me, I’ve read the whole novel in less than a week. As we’ve met and follow each other on twitter I wanted to let him know how much I enjoyed the book.
Reading writing by someone I’ve met doesn’t erode that space between reader and writing, but it does introduce the writer as a very real entity which I find adds another layer of interest and possibly defines more clearly the boundaries of that space. It mattered to me to share my love of his book because I was fairly certain it would mean a lot to Charles to hear it. And indeed, his delight at recieving my thoughts was palpable even through the restricted medium of 140 characters! 😉
I treasure this: being able to make a connection with another human being through their somewhat abstracted one to many statement to the world and also through a more immediate, ephemeral and one to one dialogue.
It’s been a day of snshine, wide bright blue skies and, in more sheltered spots, hazy nearly warmth. I took myself to the Lost Gardens of Heligan and revelled in the sunshine, finally feeling like I’d found some Spring. I took a quiet path at the Eastern edge of the estate and ambled happily, even pausing to take my coat off and enjoy the freedom of not having to wear it.
The path was out of the wind and it was seductively warm so I lay down on one of the benches to sunbath a bit, which was glorious. There was no one else around and all I could hear was the rustling of some birds in the hedgerow next to me. I drifted in and out of different threads of thought for a bit with the warmth of the sun on my face and with no more effort required than to be still and quiet, drifted off into a doze.
Everything stopped, quietly and gently, in the middle of the day which so rarely happens for me any more. I wasn’t even disturbed by any other walkers, which made me feel like it was a bubble of time, space and sunshine just for me.
I’ve spent another day exploring the Cornish coastline, this time focusing on west Cornwall from St Ives through to Mousehole. I elected not to drive from St Ives round to Land’s end and instead crossed country more directly from North to South to get to Porthcurno. Here are 3 cheering observations from today 🙂
#1 Daffs! Nearly all the inland minor roads seem to be flanked with daffodils, which was a lovely sight as I drove around today. Also matches the bright yellow scarf I bought from the Lizard Point gift shop that I wore today (you can probably see that in one of the pics below). Nothing like a flash of yellow to brighten your day 🙂
#2 The colour of the sea in the west never fails to take my breath away. On a sunny day it is a rich, deep greeney turquoise that I’ve yet to see anywhere else. Even on a grey day, the colour of the sea against the churned up sand is just fabulous and makes me glad to be alive and able to take in the view.
#3 The Kernowek people are a very friendly bunch, by and large, but I recieved a welcome that went even beyond the usual bounds of Cornish hospitality in Mousehole today. I have no idea what my new friend’s name is, but apparently we were on familiar enough terms for her to jump onto my shoulder as I leant down to say hello. What a pretty little puss-cat, the softness of her fur I can verify by virtue of feeling it right up against my cheek and ear. I was sad to say goodbye …
My adventurings today took me to Lizard Point. Today I stood somewhere, knowing that all of England was behind me (i.e. to the North). Not only that, but I took myself on a 7ish mile hike to get there, walking a small segment of the South West Coast Path (which may just be my favourite foothpath in the whole country).
There were many, many wonderful things about today but keeping with the emergent theme lately of my blog I will write about something small in my day that had a big impact. At Lizard Point I stopped to read all the National Trust signs (as I always do) and found myself reading about theh RNLI.
I’m fascinated by the RNLI and deeply in awe of the commitment of this charity and its members to preserving life under conditions that are utterly abominable and distinctly life threatening to the volunteers. Reading the sign giving information about the biggest rescue ever for the RNLI brought me to the point of tears.
A small, but important point about this was the mention of RNLI lifeboats from four different places, including Porthleven, were involved in the rescue. Part of my family hails from Porthleven and this part of my history is not lost on me when I am down in this bit of the world.
My Cornish ancestors have nautical links, though I know no more about it than that, and I found myself wondering if anyone I am related to was involved in the rescue that night. Suddenly, just like that, I felt a (more) profound sense of connection to these events. Not that I have any idea if I have any blood tie with anyone involved in that event and neither does it actually matter, but the act of thinking about it from that perspective made the story about saving the SS Suevic manifest in a wholly new way for me.
The other thing that smacked me in the face about this is that sometimes people just do whatever is required to keep on going (for example, enduring 12 hours of sea rescue in horrific weather conditions) in service of the greater good and sometimes this involves acts of grand and also quiet heroism. I don’t intend to join the RNLI (!) but part of my mission in life is to seek my own way to make a difference and seek ways to be an amazing human being because I know we have it in every one of us to lead an amazing life and there is no way I’m giving up on that opportunity.
I have the sense that I’ve spent my day roaming the Cornish coastline and my cheeks bear testimony to it by virtue of feeling somewhat wind burned this evening. Hours spent on the coast of Marizion, clambering atop St Michael’s Mount and wandering along a beautifully bleak promenade in nearby Penzance have left me relaxed, happily tired and glad to get home into the warm.
My favourite part of today was a random encounter with a stranger in Penzance. I was standing on the promenade at the top of some steps going down into the sea patiently trying with my camera to a capture a shot that had formed in my mind’s eye. I can easily while away hours on such pursuits, even when my hands are becoming painfully cold. So absorbed in my project was I that when I finally looked up and took a side step away, intending to check back through the 10 or so photos already taken, I nearly walked into the path of a cyclist.
Before I could even apologise he called out “don’t jump!”, with a distinctly mischevious tone of voice. I considered how I must have looked from behind – intently staring down a flight of steps leading to turbulent water, my camera hidden by my body. Being teased by someone I don’t even know made my day and I laughed. I couldn’t think of anything witty to say on the spot, but I definitely got the giggles. He rode on, but looked back several times. We waved to each other, and I’m pretty sure I was still giggling to myself as he rode out of sight.
I hope my evident mirth created a bright spot in his day, as his banter did for mine. Of course, perhaps he was looking back just to check I wasn’t diving into the water …
Oh and incase you were wondering, I did realise my shot in the end:
It is day two of my Cornwall adventure and I hit upon what I was going to blog about today when one tiny little thing brightened my day beyond measure and in completely unexpected fashion.
I’m enjoying the luxury of doing a lot of driving on quiet country roads while I’m staying here. I don’t drive much when I’m at home and I find it relaxing to take myself off places at my own pace. As I was driving this afternoon I joined a short queue of cars behind a slow moving tractor. After a couple of minutes the queue of cars started to file past. When it came to my turn I waited as there was a car coming the other way and no room for us both to pass.
When the oncoming traffic had gone the driver of the tractor pulled over and stopped, poked his head out the window then turned back and gave me a huge, broad smile. He waved me to go past, still with this incredibly infectious smile on his face.
It made such an impression on me, this tiny little thing that I was smiling to myself for a good few miles down that road. It never ceases to amaze me how much of an impact we can have on others with actions like a smile that can, at first glance, seem so small.
I’ve had a rather lovely day for all sorts of reasons, but this particular thing struck me and reminded me of a TED talk I watched recently on the power of smiling. I am resolved to make a conscious effort to smile more, both for my own well being and to brighten the lives of the lovely people around me.
*Sonrisa is Spanish for smile – I find it a beautifully evocative word even though I find in it none of the history and connotations of the English word.