post-blog blog

July 22

Well, A was right – post holes are two feet deep, so says my iron-age daughter Kate !

This poem came unsolicited or expected, to me today. Perhaps Zennor has granted me the muse which had forsaken me.

HOLIDAY

 

You –

In that whiplash wind

Balanced on a wall

Of piled Cornish granite

Edging the rough path

Towards Zennor Head.

 

You –

Sitting, one leg bent casually

Beneath the other –

A grin as wide as the horizon

Beamed toward me –

Hands put together as if

Caught joyfully applauding

This wild place.

 

You –

In salt spray

Eyes narrowed against sunlight,

Errant strands of hair flying,

Flicking your cheek.

One booted foot

Resting on tangled gorse and heather;

Behind your head

The peacock sea.

 

Now –

It is necessary to get close,

Focus the image,

Rescue this moment

From oblivion

Now, while purple foxgloves

Are still fluting open,

Welcoming summer bees

 

Before

The scent of decay.

Today frilly clouds

Are lightly wind-drawn and the sea

Unravels white lace upon pale sand.

The rock pool is translucent:

Water, light, trembling seawrack

And your shadow –

All are gathered there.

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Farewell to Lyonesse

July 21

On my first blog, June 21, I posed a question: is this what journeys and holidays are all about?

To lose the boundaries of self,

to know the mystery.

rock pool at PendeenTo answer my own question, certainly I found the boundaries of self melt and become absorbed into this wild land and seascape. A lifting of that metaphorical burden for a while. For me, Zennor has this magic power

And did A or I, as I suggested may happen, metamorphose (meaning change form by natural or supernatural means)?

Well, not exactly! I still recognise A, as I remember her sitting on Zennor Head or beneath her huge umbrella in the rain. And physically I look the same too. But I have no doubt we were both changed in ways we may not easily identify. But, happily, it happens.

On our last morning we walked on Pendeen Watch, a heathery headland south of Zennor. Black shining rocks, skylarks and a pale sandy beach. Not as beautiful, of course!heath

Now for home. And as I close the last blog I believe I have discovered a little more of that bright day, the mystery. Hope everything, expect nothing was our motto. We were given a rich slice of everything !!

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SUN-DAY

July 19th

P1020156Woke to see the sun throwing shadows on my white door. We decide to go the headland again and take a footpath over the heather, which gives a view of the coast towards St Ives. The sea’s in lively mood, teasing the shore, not roaring in.

Ann sets off alone. We plan to meet on the main coastal footpath. Soon, I see the silhouette of her umbrella on the headland.

Ann has captured the essence of this place: granite, slate, sea and sky. P1020166Collection of roofs at the Coastguard Station

Towards Wicca Pool

In the afternoon, off to the Iron Age Village of Chysauster. ChysausterA site from which can see two coasts. In the village, we look at the foundation stones of the houses, then speculate and argue:

J: ‘That’s a post-hole’

A: ‘No it isn’t. It’s too small. It might be a foundation pad for a post’. Or a scour-hole.Post-hole or early Hepworth?

J (thinks): ‘Why can’t she agree with me? I’m always right’

Up here, there are fluttering of small brown butterflies (possibly Meadow Browns) among what A thinks are celandines but I know are dandelions. I love Robert Graves’s poem:

The butterfly, a cabbage-white,

(His honest idiocy of flight)

Will never now, it is too late,

Master the art of flying straight,

Yet has – who knows so well as I?-

A just sense of how not to fly:

He lurches here and here by guess

And God and hope and hopelessness.

Even the acrobatic swift

Has not his flying-crooked gift.

Back at the Tinners’ Arms, Anne and Daniel come to join us. We sit chatting in the sunshine and I give Anne her birthday present – a cast-iron cow, to add to her ‘herd’.

NB: Sadly, Ann’s swine-flu coughing has abated today. I resent this, because I always knew where she was, even though, due to my poor eyesight I couldn’t always see her.

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‘Woman in Love’ with Zennor

Saturday, 18th July

P1020103It’s 5am and a bright chunk of dawn has streaked between my bedroom window frame and the wall of the church tower. In my head, I repeat

Awake! For mornng in the bowl of night

Has flung the stone that sets the stars to flight.

And lo! The hunter in the east has caught

The Sultan’s turret in a noose of light

However, the tower of St Senara’s Church is not quite a Sultan’s turret – you don’t get many sultans in Zennor.

Later. 8am. I hear Ann. Really impressive coughing – none such  heard within these walls since DH Lawrence. Or a victim of swine flu. I value Ann. She can move a queue in moments. I say ‘I think you do need a swab Ann. It may well be …’ They just melt away…

P1020105We set out later to walk to Zennor Head, in Cornish mizzle. Ann goes on ahead and I follow — KNOWING — that this is the most beautiful place in the world. Absolutely. A wild and beautiful landscape, better than chocolate, better than sex (well, that may be stretching a point). Today the sea is pewter-grey and lazily washing over the shoreline rocks, as though tired out by yesterday’s ferocity. Growing down the valley, in the granite hedges and among the rough grass are foxgloves, campion, vetch, heather, gorse and tiny sky-blue scabious.

I rest my back against the granite and see an umbrella winding its way towards me. She is underneath it. Ann and I sit and I dare her to say it’s not the loveliest place on earth. She deftly fields this statement.

Later again. Ann has gone to the Barbara Hepworth Museum in St Ives. P1020122

I visit the 12th century church built on the site of a 6th century predecessor. The church has a barrel-vaulted roof, in the manner of a ship’s keel. There’s a good Norman font, rescued from the vicarage rockery some years ago. St Senara’s provenance seems vague: myth, magic and Celtic twilight. I sit in the church porch, watching the drifting rain and think of Christopher at home painting my hall.

I take out Between Extremes and continue reading, even though Keenan describes DH Lawrence’s writing as ‘egotistical ramblings’ – here, at Zennor where Lawrence wrote his masterpiece, Women in Love! – Irish bogtrotter – but I forgive him. Keenan favours the Chilean Nobel Prize-winning poet, Pablo Neruda. But then, I might have developed an odd taste in literature if I’d been chained to a radiator for four years.

The mermaid of Zennor, a bench-end in St Senara's Church

The mermaid of Zennor, a bench-end in St Senara's Church

Some places release the imagination. For me, this is that place.

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‘Hope for everything and expect nothing’

(Brian Keenan, Between Extremes)

Friday July 17th

Chapelporth BeachWe drove in torrential rain until we entered the county of Cornwall, then the clouds began to part and although racing and ragged, allowed some shafts of sun.

 On Chapelporth Beach, the sea, driven by force 8 to 20 gales boiled up across the beach and we fought our way, with egg sandwiches, to huddle beside the cliffs – complete insanity but absolutely wonderful! Two seagulls, the lifeguard (in his car) and us. Even the National Trust stalwarts clustered beside the cafe, eating their excellent gingerbread (we bought some). The wind whisked away our watercress and the seagulls eagerly pounced.Chapelporth Beach 2

By the time we reached the Cornish Cliff Path near St Agnes, the sky had cleared and we set off – still in gale force winds – to walk the half a mile to Wheel Coates Engine House. The heather is just coming into bloom and with the remains of sea pinks and yellow gorse, rolls down towards the sea through chunks of dark granite.Path to Wheel Coates

The ruins of Wheel Coates stand hard against the soft mounds of flowers. Built from the dark Cornish granite, they are silent reminders of the hard life of miners everywhere. I had time to look and wonder at the pale blue sea as I walked along – they left all that behind for twelve hours every day.Engine House, Wheel Coates

Drove on to Godreevy Beach– Virginia Woolf’s ‘To the lighthouse ‘ beach , which has just been sold for £80,000 but remains open to the public. Every little dent in the soft cliffs sheltered a huddling family bravely playing beach cricket or flying kites.Godreeevy Beach and Lighthouse

So, on to Zennor – the road between St Ives and Zennor was recently declared by BBC4 to be one of ‘the most beautiful stretches of road in England’. The sky was cloudless. The Tinners Arms is delightful. A 13thcentury pub, hard by the equally old church, which our rooms look upon. Tomorrow we hope to walk to Zennor Head.

Weather-wise – hope everything but expect nothing!

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Holiday eve

Ann and I intend to be off to Zennor tomorrow at 8.30am; well, that’s the plan. If this lashing rain continues, I expect we will make for the National Trust Industrial Heritage Discovery Centre at Redruth. Here, two great beam engines sit preserved in their towering engine houses. One can be seen in action, powered by electricity, the great beam rising and falling.

During the Middle Ages the Cornish tin industry flourished. Two and half thousand years ago, the Phoenicians came to trade for it and the Romans certainly knew about Cornish tin. The mining communities are known as ‘stanneries’ (from the Latin stannum, meaning tin). These communities had extensive rights and privileges. Mining for tin in Cornwall reached its peak in the nineteenth century – it was said then that wherever in the world there was a hole, at the bottom of it you’d find a Cornishman!

At the museum we can walk through a flue tunnel, with dizzying views inside the 36m chimney stack. How have I lived so long without this experience!? There is also a seating area (new this year) for picnics – and baby changing facilities. Can’t think we can use that one – 55 years too late for me! So I must now think about the picnic and packing my rainwear.

I bought some small binoculars today – to see the coast line and up the dizzying chimney….Maybe a poem will come from all this More later….

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DH Lawrence

Extract from a letter written by Lawrence to JM Murray and Katherine Mansfield

24 Feb 1916

We went looking for a house and I think we have found one that is good… Zennor is the nearest village: high pale hills, all moor-like and beautiful, very wild… primroses and violets are out and the gorse is lovely. At Zennor one sees infinite Atlantic, all peacock mingled colours…for the moment our address is The Tinner’s Arms, Zennor…

When I first came to Zennor, many years ago, it was in search of Lawrence. I was under the spell of his writing: travel books, letters and novels. And it is in the letters that one sees the charm of Lawrence – his acute observation, his humour, his delight in beauty and the pleasure he gained from letter-writing. I like to think he would have enjoyed e-mail and blogs and made an art form of them. Whilst at Zennor, Lawrence wrote Women in Love, although from the text I can see no link with the Cornish countryside. Plan to take it on holiday.

Lawrence and Frieda moved into Lower Tregerthen Farm where they lived happily until October 1917, when they were ordered to leave Cornwall, considered possible traitors because Frieda was a German. It was a cruel blow to Lawrence, who was very bitter about the injustice. He had tried to enlist in the army but was turned down on medical grounds – all his life he lived with death at his shoulder which perhaps heightened his acute sensibilities. Or maybe it was just genius !

So it is no wonder Ann and I are staying at The Tinner’s Arms.

Whenever we go to a place that is not our home – a spot on a map

Cannot be the full measure of it. The cartographer’s blueprint

Of the place is within ourselves. It is there that we hear heartsongs. That is why we go.

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