|I almost look this bad 🙂|
Well this week I faced the joys of a long distance car trip. Is there any other sort when you’re leaving Cornwall but as I was headed for Norfolk it was quite a stretch, 400 miles in fact. Like all journeys it started with lots of familiar landscape that seemed to make it feel as though you weren’t actually getting anywhere, until we get to Exeter the route is identical for any journey that involves leaving Cornwall and familiarity breeds boredom. I know some people bemoan the advent of electronic gizmos and hanker for the days of eye spy but eye spy can only last for about 30 minutes by the most Enid Blyton of families. For the more Simpsons type of family eye spy usually degenerates into accusations of cheating and tortuous rules after 10 minutes. I’m sure I’m not the only person to be amazed by the convoluted rules that siblings will suddenly invent to ensure that their brother fails to win his round. So it is with great joy that I load up their devices with story books, films, music and games and then listen to Radio 4 in peace and quiet as the car steadily chews up the miles.
We did of course play the odd game of fives, car cricket and eye spy. The occasional diversions were supplied by other road users and oddities in the countryside. For a while we were entertained by a stunt plane that was practising loop the loops, dives and backwards flips, he was so impressive that I’m amazed that the M4 wasn’t littered with cars that had all run into each other as the drivers gazed at the skies rather than the tarmac ahead. As we moved onto the M25 we kept an eye out for Windsor Castle, as soon as we spot it we know that we are on the last leg of the journey so it’s always a great moment. The M11 provides two tunnels with which to hold our breath and then we are onto the A11.
Travelling to Norfolk is like Cornwall in many ways. The motorway peters out and suddenly you are welcomed by empty duel carriage ways (I’m not including Saturdays) and the world seems to drop away from you. You pass through Suffolk or Devon and suddenly hit a single lane carriage way, invariably this is crowded and you wonder where all the traffic has come from. The stretch in Suffolk goes on for many, many miles and is long and straight; invariably people crash their cars, tempted by high speed overtaking and so the road network grinds to a halt as it cuts through MOD land and there’s no left or right turn. Thankfully we pass along the stretch unhindered by delays and reach Norfolk with ease. Like Cornwall, Norfolk is not on the way to anywhere, no one passes through Norfolk on their journey to somewhere else and so it has that sleepy not bothered air that Cornwall has. Unlike Cornwall you can actually see Norfolk. Gone are the steep banks on either side of the road, the tree lined tunnels the reinforced hedges, instead the road drifts over to sandy curbs sown with wild poppies that spill onto the huge flat fields that stretch away to the ever present sky laid out in all its glory. I know I’m waxing lyrical but I do miss the sky here in Cornwall.
The return journey had everything that we had missed on the trip up, the fights, the hot weather, the many traffic jams but it also had the sense of excitement as we ticked off the Tavistock turning, Gilbert the Goblins house, the hedgehog bridge and finally our own road and Steve and Harry waiting with huge grins. Journeys are about the travelling, the destination but most importantly about coming home at the end.
I’ve just started on a course run by the Green Foundation at Eden. It’s run over a few weeks and is aimed at local businesses in an effort to make them more aware of climate issues and sustainability. It was quite a change to go back into a more formal business environment and reminded me why I was quite glad to leave it all behind me in the first place. I’m not good with strangers and quite happy to disagree with people so not the best start. In fact when I went into the room two tables were filling up with people chatting to each other and getting to know one and other. I went and sat on the empty table. Gradually my table also began to fill up but funnily enough, it began to fill up with other people who were quite happy to keep their own company. One quiet, polite table two bubbly tables. I think the course organisers must have looked at us with concern. Embarrassment inducing “get to know” you exercises continued and more and more people got into the spirit of things. My table seemed to retreat into itself but we were beginning to share a few raised eyebrows and grimaces with each other. Progress of a sort. Gradually and at our own speed we got to know each other and soon we were as likely to be told off for talking as any other table.
Eden makes for such a wonderful venue to host a course, we were often wandering off into the gardens either to discuss things or just have a coffee. Lectures were varied and interesting and the team work – yes I cringed – wasn’t so dreadful and as I got to scribble loads of doodles I was happy. The structure of the course was to discuss the wider climate change picture and then we began to narrow it down to our own businesses to see if and how we could improve practices. I’m only half way through, a few more sessions at Eden and some site visits to other delegates businesses to compare and contrast but so far it’s proving interesting. The start of the course was a bit shocking, all the facts and figures, the rise of costs, the change in climate, the damage to the environment all of these things were alarming but they’re not new. We know that the world has been getting hotter, that worldwide there has been a greater frequency of extreme weather events, that there is more CO2 in the atmosphere and that there is a finite supply of fuel. All this we know and yet it still seems to be a remote issue. Maybe because the problem is the next step; we don’t scientifically, categorically know what is going to happen next and we don’t know therefore how to fix it.
The Green Foundation makes the point that even if we don’t know what comes next we can make a pretty good guess that globally it’s going to get hotter which isn’t good news for billions of people. Even if things got no worse than today, Bangladesh would still suffer country wide flooding, Australia would still be on a permanent drought footing, America would be more prone to massive tornados to name but three very large countries. Maybe we will cool down again but the link between CO2 emissions and global temperature rises is pretty clear for the last few millennia. So if we want to cool down we have to reduce CO2 emissions. Which are amongst other things fossil fuels. Hard to imagine a world without fossil fuels though.
Saw my first feathered swallows this week and it was wonderful. Given the great weather we’ve been having I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve been around longer but if they have I’ve not been observant enough. In Tenerife, when the summer ends and the winter tourists and holidaymakers arrive they call them “swallows” in common with the birds they are leaving the cold northern shores for warmer climes. It’s said with fondness and not a little bit of smugness, those on the island revel in the fact that their island is so loved that people flock to it all year around supporting their economy long into the winter months.
How much nicer a description than “emmet.” It’s said that when the Tamar Bridge first opened someone quipped that as the line of traffic crawled across they looked like emmets – the Cornish word for ants. I can’t find anything to back this up though; the other suggestion is that as the holiday makers swarm around on the beaches getting redder and redder again like ants. Still I suppose “ants” does make sense, what I think doesn’t make sense is the snide, sneery way that it is said. Maybe some say the word with kindness but I’ve never heard it used nicely. Now I’ll put my hands up here and confess that I am not Cornish – and as I’ve only been here 12 years I’m still classed as an “incomer” another friendly welcoming term but my children are born here so maybe they’ll be hope for us in a century or two.
I like Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby, be nice to people and most of them will be nice back, call them names, belittle them and sneer at them and they may well do the same back. Now I’m back off out to enjoy this glorious weather, I hope when you read this it’s still good.
So that’s the spring term over. It’s always funny in the car park on the last day of term when the school secretary wishes me a good holiday. Holiday! With the children home, a business to run and the season underway? Her grin always seems to be bordering on the evil side as she drives away to 3 weeks without the constant clamour of a hundred little voices. It’s fair to say though that my grin is equally evil at the start of term when I drop the children off and get back to my work or “my holiday” as I like to think of term time.
With the onset of Easter it also means that the Rugby season is finally coming to an end. This was the boys first season as I had stuck my heels in for years. My children were far too precious to come home looking like Gordian knots, broken and bleeding and covered in mud. Mostly everyone looked on at me in amazement, what precious children? Those two boys that spent most of their lives throwing themselves off piers, climbing up trees, fighting each other at the drop of a hat and competing about anything and generally covered in blood, bruises and mud. Were those the two precious angels that mummy wanted to protect? Well, there’s nowt so blind as a mother’s love and I finally relented to years of pressure and let them go. My mistake? Not to have let them go sooner! They have had a fabulous time, made new friends and have learnt great discipline and team skills. They have two wonderful coaches Paul and Richard amongst others that helped them settle in, played to their strengths and worked on their weaknesses. At the beginning my eldest was a bit concerned about the mauls (well who could blame him) and would run forward and then as he got to about a meter of the maul he would hit an invisible force field that seemed to repel him. He would bounce around on the edges, hopping forward, jumping back every time the throng of arms and legs seemed to get too close. Obviously working on a kill or cure ethos Richard made him a second row and now he’s there in the thick of it.
Lankelly Fowey is a great little club and always has room for more children, they train on Saturday mornings and play matches on Sunday mornings and have a lovely attitude toward rugby.
Of course I won’t get my weekend back because as soon as the rugby ends the windsurfing and sailing start up. We do this over at Polkerris, who have really set up a great water sports school in a very short space of time. Bob and Ann have performed miracles over the last three years and have even won awards for their efforts. Again, here are more people that love what they do and really want to pass on their enthusiasm to anyone that will listen.
If there’s a point to this rambling column I suppose it’s twofold; the first is that there are always things for kids to do, scouts and guides, team sports, par athletics track, sailing and so on. The second is that these things are available because there are people out there that give up their time just to help, support and encourage. Some do it because it’s their business, others because it’s their job and others because it’s their passion. So thanks to all of you; not just because it’s brilliant to have my children taken off my hands (although that’s fairly major) but also because you’re helping to give my children and other children, a great childhood.
Well after a month of sunshine the rain has started which can only mean one thing, the Easter holidays are upon us. Whilst I’m sorry the rain has arrived I’m very glad that the holidays are here because it means that the season is back underway and here in Mevagissey it couldn’t come soon enough.
Following the floods last December trade has been pretty dire. So many shops had to be gutted out that the place looked like a ghost town, people stayed away and when they returned there were closed shops all over the place and they left again. Understandable of course but for those of us who hadn’t closed it’s been grim, actually it’s been grim for all of us but now that’s all behind us. Like the daffodils happily waving in the breeze and the birds singing their hearts out, spring is here and Mevagissey is up and running.
In fact, as they say, it’s an ill wind that blows no good. It’s as though Meva has had a massive spring clean. Some businesses have changed hands, some have moved premises others decided that that was enough and they’ve closed making way for new ventures.
Brocante has expanded into the Holistic Mermaid so now there’s even more gorgeous things to drool over. The Holistic Mermaid has moved into one of the empty galleries and will now be offering l5 minute holistic pick me ups in their treatment room. Expansion is clearly in the air because Portmellon Trading are opening up in Jason’s old place. It’s going to be called Issey, after our saint and will stock a line called Braintree – sort of like Seasalt. So now that’s four great clothes shops we have in the village.
Curio Corner and Avellana look fabulous following their refit and we’re spoilt for choice for a good place to sit down and have a coffee now that Market Square Cafe have re-opened to join Cofro, Bon Appetit and others offering great drinks and snacks. If you want something more substantial, Salamanda’s and Alvorada’s continue to receive great reviews for their evening menus.
Of course Mevagissey is more than great shops and pubs, we have a fabulous museum and aquarium and the Mevagissey Model Railway celebrates its 40th birthday this year. Our harbour continues to thrive, nothing stops those fishermen, although our blackboard puzzles outside Hurley Books does make them pause for a second, then they work it out and wander off laughing at us for making them too easy, or cursing us for making them too tricky.
I know most of us arrive in Mevagissey by car but the walk from Portmellon or Pentewan along the coast path is wonderful, admittedly it is a bit up and down but at least it helps burn off the ice creams! Another great way to approach Meva is down the valley from Heligan, wandering down through the woods and fields is so relaxing, with only birdsong and streams to listen to and bluebells to look at. Well, I imagine it can be like that I normally have two noisy boys and one destructive dog but I like to think that serenity could be achieved on this walk. Probably the best way to arrive in Mevagissey is the one that avoids all hills and that’s by sea. I am aware that some people don’t have their own private yachts but that’s OK you can always use the Mevagissey – Fowey Ferry and try to spot basking sharks and dolphins joining you on your crossing.
However you do decide to come Mevagissey I hope that when you get here you like all the changes and make the most of the village whilst we all still relatively quiet before the summer rush. See you soon.
So Eden marks its tenth birthday and has brought billions into the SW economy over that decade. I guess I’ve got laid back about it that’s an incredible achievement! I’m so used to it being on my doorstep but it really is a global building and it’s here in Cornwall, just down the road. I see that Tim Smit’s next project is also going to be in the St Austell area and is going to be a water therapy park. I can’t wait to see what he does; will we be swimming in the gravel pits? Slides down the pyramids? Lots of seaweed wraps scooped up from Par beach? Given Heligan and Eden whatever it will be it will be a success and another total asset for Cornwall. Great things can happen when one person has a vision and has a team backing them up. Where things tend to go wrong is when they hit committees. “If Columbus had an advisory committee he would probably still be at the dock”. Let’s hope that Smit manages to get his next project past planning without too many hiccoughs, after all his track record speaks for itself.
I was really disappointed to see the article in last week’s West Briton about the rejection of Prince Charles’s design for a new housing estate. One of the main problems was that of the centre piece construction, a Georgian style crescent building. This building would have provided many of the 97 homes, 35% of which will be affordable, either for rent or first time purchase. Some of the reasons for the rejection were because the building would have been “overly ornate” and “too grand”. A new, scaled down more subdued building has now been put forward. How incredibly depressing is this, too grand for Cornwall eh? Should we all know our place and keep looking down. What’s wrong with aspiration? Talk about paucity of expectation. Are scrolls and columns not for the likes of us then? Let’s keep things plain and quiet, let’s not rock the boat by doing something that might attract attention.
Can you imagine how wonderful it would be for someone going into their new council home and discover it was a place of beauty. People live up to their environment , time after time it has been shown that if you give someone somewhere nice to live they stand taller (I’m excluding teenager’s bedrooms from this you understand). I’ve driven through Poundbury many times (HRH’s development outside Dorchester) and it’s wonderful – everything looks good, traffic moves slowly as pedestrians have right of way and there are little corner shops everywhere selling all sorts of things, it thrives and buzzes and loads of it is affordable housing, that’s a council estate that I’d give my eye teeth to live on.
I’m not saying that the new designs for Truro aren’t nice, it’s just frustrating to hear that something is too grand. This is a stunning county, with incredible people who have shaped this nation through their endeavours and inventions, nothing is too grand for Cornwall, Cornwall deserves nothing but the very best. I know we are a poor county, disadvantaged and overlooked by central government but for someone in Cornwall to say something is too grand is terribly sad. It’s like being stabbed in the back by your own side.
(The image above shows the rejected design, the image below shows the more acceptable version for the crescent block.)