My Dream of Living in Cornwall – A Spiritual Journey
I have heard many stories and met people who feel a connection with Cornwall. Some are attracted through a spiritual connection; others fall in love with the landscape, the wild sea and the historical buildings and sacred sites.
In the following chapters I will tell you about my lifelong connection with Cornwall. It includes my spiritual and magical journey, my move to Cornwall and the life that followed.
My first visit to Cornwall was at five years of age. It was the first time my parents had taken a three hundred mile journey for a vacation. My father owned a car with three wheels, which he called “The Bond” I remember it was cream in colour with a blue roof. I thought my parents rather adventurous to tackle such a long journey in a small car and it was exciting. My mother had emotional problems and maybe the urgency to visit Cornwall could have been linked to some kind of healing she thought it may bring her.
On reflection I wondered how my parents managed to fit everything into this car! My sixteen year old brother, three year old sister and I sat in the back with my parents in front. The family alone was enough to fill the car and the storage compartment contained all our luggage for a fourteen day vacation!
My father travelled overnight. but I was too excited to sleep and also concerned about him becoming tired. I thought conversing with him would help him stay alert. It took twelve hours to travel to Cornwall including breaks during the journey.
We arrived in Fowey at approximately 6am. My father parked the car by the beach at Ready Money Cove. I fell asleep during the last part of the journey and awoke to the wonderful smell of the sea air, the seaweed and cries of the seagulls.
We had arranged to stay in a top floor flat of a guest house. A Spanish woman resided there with her family. My mother is an avid admirer of beautiful women and adored the Spanish attire and their culture. My Aunt would visit Spain every year for her vacation and returned with gifts of postcards picturing women in traditional dress, also dolls, lacy fans and castanets. My mother purchased oil paints and attempted to paint white Spanish villas surrounded by palm trees. Even now when I smell oil paints it will evoke memories of this.
The guest house overlooked Fowey harbour. Polruan was on the other side of the harbour which my mother referred to as “pretty little Polruan” and she adored the scenery.
The steep Cornish hills caused our family car to over-heat and my father and teenage brother pushed it up some of the hills. My parents enjoyed the beaches and loved to sunbathe. I would watch my father swim in the sea while my sister and I played in the shallow sea water and climbed the rocks. I experienced my happiest memories during our Cornwall vacations as it provided an escape into ‘another world’. I was raised within a strict Christian religion that did not offer freedom of expression and limited association with the outside world. I was instructed to stand out as different from my peers when at school. My family did not celebrate birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day and Mayday to name a few. Childhood could be rather unpleasant in this situation.
My family visited Fowey, Par or Mevagissey during their yearly holidays. My father eventually purchased a four berth caravan and a larger car during some of our first vacations we stayed at Penhale Farm campsite near Fowey. I awoke during the early misty mornings to the sound of the farmer’s knock at the door. He sold fresh milk and spoke to my parents with his strong Cornish accent and I found it comforting. Even now when I hear the local residents speak it evokes those memories.
My family attended the local church in Fowey even though we were on vacation they would still attend their weekly meetings. They entered this religion about four years before my birth, just after my brother who had severe autism was taken to a residential home at 6 years of age. My mother was understandably devastated to be separated from her small son and soon after a member of the church called on her and seemed to answer questions she had about life and they reassured her that one day he would be cured.
We attended the church in Fowey where we met two lovely Cornish ladies. They were non identical twin sisters and invited us to their home for tea after the church meeting. They were tall, well built women, one wore green scarves and cardigans with her light brown hair pinned up in a ‘bun’. Her sister wore red scarves and cardigans and had darker hair in the same style. One of the sisters worked as a cook for the residents of Fowey Castle.
She baked delicious cakes and her lemon buns were a favourite of my father. These lively ladies were enthusiastic card players as was my father and they enjoyed regular games of partner whist. The evenings we spent with them were full of fun and laughter. Their home had many interesting objects and ornaments especially in the kitchen/diner. The walls were painted yellow, their cupboards, dining table and chairs were red. On the far wall was a painted illustration in red of a woman cooking upon a stove. The quote above it read “No matter where I serve my guests, it seems they like my kitchen best!”
I purchased an embroidered picture of this just before my move to Cornwall that I found at a bric a brac sale in the nearby village hall in Kent. This picture now hangs in the kitchen of the Cornish cottage where I live and evokes beautiful memories of those wonderful ladies.
We visited the sisters each year. One was widowed and spoke about her son and granddaughter. She had a natural rapport with children and would recite amusing stories and Cornish rhymes. A riddle I remember was: “Long legs, crooked thighs, little head and no eyes!” The lady recited it with hunched shoulders and tightly closed eyes which amused us. She promised to reveal the answer on our return the following year and we then discovered that the answer to the riddle was fire tongs! The other twin sister was single and had no children and therefore could not relate to us as well as her sister and had strict views. She thought little children were well behaved, but I am sure my sister and I changed her opinion! We were not as close to her but enjoyed her company. Each year as we left then to travel home the sisters stood in the lane leading out of Fowey as they bid us farewell waving both arms until the car was out of sight. We loved them and I begged my parents to move to Cornwall, but even though they considered it, it would mean moving away from their relatives and other commitments.
My mother created a ‘Cornish shrine’ at home. She attached a large postcard of Polperro harbour to the wall with adhesive and created a small ‘window’ with a windowsill and small curtains attached to it. Even though it was a simple rustic creation, I understood her interpretation. I sat at the table in our kitchen/ diner and imagined I could see the real Cornish harbour through the ‘window’. Another part of the shrine had a ship’s wheel barometer on the wall with black fishing net draped around it. I remembered the smell of tar when she first purchased the net. Other small picture postcards of Cornish scenery were also attached to the wall and the surface of our dining room sideboard displayed ornaments and shells we collected each year. My father was concerned about the car carrying extra weight as my mother filled her bags with stones and shells! She would not purchase ornamental Piskies and we were instructed not to look at them as they were evil spirits. This aroused my curiosity, but I respected her wishes.
My favourite place was White House Beach in Fowey. Ready Money Cove was the first beach I explored, but the experience of being swept off a rock by a huge wave and stung by a wasp; caused me to avoid it for a while. The sea spirits there had a wicked sense of humour! My father attempted to teach us to swim and my sister was lost under the water for a few minutes after she wriggled out of my father’s arms! A diving board at Whitehouse beach protruded over the rocks and was an ideal spot to lie face down and gaze into the clear water. At low tide I climbed the rocks hunting for interesting stones and shells within the rock pools. I favoured the shells that were coated with mother of pearl and was fascinated by the tiny creatures that inhabited them. My yearly family holidays were wonderful times that included many amusing experiences with family members, friends and childhood sweethearts.
My maternal grandmother and uncle accompanied us on one of our holidays when I was thirteen years of age. My grandmother was concerned about leaving her elderly tabby cat. They had not been apart before and had a very close relationship. The cat slept upon her bed and when I stayed there overnight my grandmother loved to listen to the cat sing as she purred. My aunts recommended a kennel and assured my grandmother her cat would be well cared for.
We stayed at a guest house in Fowey during this holiday. My grandmother was mischievous and it amused her to read the risqué cartoon postcards in the shops. We were instructed to avoid looking at those and my father scolded my grandmother who took no note. She entered the male public lavatories by mistake too but thought it amusing. My sister and I shared a room with my grandmother in the guest house. At night she would recite naughty rhymes and we spent the first few hours of each night laughing loudly. It was wonderful to have a mischievous grandmother especially when my parents were strict. She danced for us in the bedroom and raised her feet higher than her head. We were impressed she could accomplish this at seventy three years of age. My uncle lived with my grandmother, but would have loved a wife and family of his own. He could not leave her and treated me as a daughter which meant we were very close.
Half way through our holiday, my grandmother asked my father to contact her daughters for news of her cat. We waited outside the telephone kiosk and then my father spoke quietly with my uncle. He visited the nearby public house and purchased a miniature bottle of brandy. I discovered that her cat had passed away and there was a family discussion on whether or not my grandmother should be told as this news would spoil the holiday for her. They decided to postpone the news until we had returned home. The homeward journey was difficult for all concerned, as all she could talk about was her reunion with her cat.
My grandmother did not approve of my father at first, but after her holiday she praised him and declared he was her best son in law! The news of her cat devastated her, but days later she seemed to recover and move on with her life. Two weeks after our holiday, my grandmother woke early in the morning and dutifully carried out her chores. My uncle entered the room later that morning and thought at first she was sleeping, but my grandmother had died, as her heart had stopped beating. Some thought the cat was the cause as they were inseparable. The positive aspect of this was that my grandmother had recently enjoyed a wonderful vacation and it was the only one she had.
My piano teacher and her daughter accompanied us on two of our vacations to Cornwall. The journeys included songs from musicals as the daughter knew many of them. My piano teacher had a wicked sense of humor and our nights together in a large static caravan provided many hilarious experiences I will never forget!