A week spent 275 miles (or so) from home in London clears the head marvellously. For a start it makes all this blogging lark seem irrelevant. So Malcolm needs a while and some grief to get back up to speed.
That 275 miles (or so) takes one down the M3, the A30, the A303, the A390 and the A3078 to the Roseland peninsula in Cornwall. On the way we pass the builder’s rubble they call Stonehenge, all the sheep that made the monasteries of the Middle Ages so wealthy (and are still looking up), swing past Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor, catch a glimpse of the St Austell Alps, and finally sniff the ozone.
The London papers celebrated the end of the silly season (this year so conveniently filled by murder, mayhem and mystery in Africa Proconsularis) with the traditional lamentations about the English weather. To total bestaggerment of the newsrooms, this moist maritime island, in direct line of the south-westerlies coming a couple of thousand miles across the North Atlantic, once again experienced a damp summer. Well, last week for Malcolm’s benefit, they turned off the taps except for a couple of convenient night-time wettings, and the Roseland experience was at its best.
So it was all hunkey-dory in the magnificent Eden Project, at the elegant, evocative and unpolished film-set that is Charlestown (right), through all those small fishing harbours turned mini-resorts from the Pentewan Valley to the Fal Estuary. It came with added zing! from frequent samplings of the local brews — Sharp’s Special @ 5% a.b.v., St Austell Proper Job @ 4.5% for evening wear and Skinner’s Betty Stogs @ 4.0% for daytime use (doubtless more of that later).
For a London resident there are three quite devastating experiences:
- winding minor roads between high hedges and banks, through which the locals drive at hair-raising speeds. It must keep the manufacturers of brake-linings and the body-work shops in full employment.
- night-time silence with the absence of traffic noise;
- reconnecting with starry, starry nights. Yes, it’s not a myth: there is a milky Way up there; and it is crushingly devastating of the ego — and hard on an elderly neck.
And people live here. All the year round.
Far too much of the built environment (that’s planner-ese for “houses”) is either second-homes or holiday apartments. Equally, far too much of the economy is tourism-based — which means that, come the end of the school summer holidays, much shuts down for a long, long winter. Housing is expensive, and well out of the reach of folk dependent on service and seasonal employments.
There are pluses to all that. Here are three thoughts:
- Since Malcolm first came to these parts the provision of services has improved out of all proportion. All the chain stores and supermarkets have populated the old market towns.
- Then there are the conveniences and amenities. The shower unit in the cottage Malcolm & co had rented for the week was superb — matched in power and effectiveness, though not in elegance and arty-fartiness, only by one encountered in (of all places) Lucca.
- A small but notable moment: one evening the Lady in his Life and Malcolm went to collect the Pert Young Piece from the evening train, arriving in Truro around 10:30. While waiting they indulged in a common-or-garden pizza. It wasn’t one of your mass-produced pre-frozen jobs. It was authentic and cam with a distinct Neapolitan accent — one that didn’t come solely from the muzak.
Still, life can be hard, and in all kinds of unforeseen ways. That was evident from a conversation with a young man, about to go up to university. He had walked two miles along a farm track to and from the bus pick-up for his junior school years, then twice as far to catch the service to his secondary school. His chosen degree was in philosophy, and truly philosophic he needed to be.
Yet, what can be better than sunny days under cloudless skies? What can be more exciting than a storm so thunderous that the rocks beneath one’s feel tremble?
Now it’s back to real London life. A lawn to be mown. Books to be read. Clutter to be tidied. Back, too, to the aggravations of the ConDem coalition staggering from crisis to crisis. And back to fantasies of escape and the property porn on the various web-sites.
So, until the keyboard gets another bashing, for the time being: