Saturday, May 23, 2009

Cornwall: the verdict

Executive summary

Not at all like Lancashire. Well, maybe a little bit.

Full report

  • Fish. I first "got" fish in 1992. My Significant Ex and I were staying on Kovalam Beach in Kerala, which in those days wasn't much more than a bunch of £1 a night huts and some bars playing Santana. The boats would come in, the sun would go down, we would have a little fishy (from the tandoor) on a little dishy (made of banana leaf), and it would blow our tiny minds. I have been few places since that have had the same effect but Cornwall is one of them. It's turbot-charged.
  • Cliffs. Where I come from, we don't have cliffs. We have epic stretches of sand that move almost seamlessly (give or take a few sand dunes full of shagging teenagers) into market garden-friendly terminal moraine. The whole of the Fylde coast is one long ribbon development, where the streets are wide and the bungalows are many. Cornwall has tiny steep sea apertures, where the gradients are perilous and the cottages are miniscule. 
  • Industry. Well, ex-industry. I heartily recommend the Charlestown Shipwreck & Heritage Centre. It gives some wild insights into life in a china clay exporting tiny steep sea aperture (by way of mannequins eating pasties with big boots on) while also and fairly unrelatedly packing thousands of shipwreck, rescue and salvage-related facts and artifacts into old clay tunnels. It's passion-led preservation at its best. Go see it. 
  • Enviro-art. You know about the Eden Project. It has its critics but I was charmed. I particularly liked the WEEE Man (though would have preferred a WEEE Woman, naturally) and the rainforest biome. It was getting hot in there. We took off some of our clothes. 
  • Horticultural Victoriana. The ancient rhododendrons and gunnera in the Lost Gardens of Heligan (warning: shit website - why do people still use Flash like that?) will stay with me for a long time. The whole place seems to be decaying gently even as it is restored, but if you narrow your eyes you can just about imagine what it must have been like at the height of the Empire. 
  • Beer. They do lovely milds (I am getting quite into mild, in my old age), and they do it all over the place. Pretty much every pub is excellent, in a real ale real fire dog-friendly stylee.  In winter I imagine you may find yourself stranded in one for several weeks, but I could also imagine many worse places to be stranded. 
  • Petrol consumption. It's kind of a nightmare to drive around, as the roads are miniscule and the parking impossible, but the geography means there's not a lot of alternative. And this was May - I would not like to get stuck on the main street in Mevagissey in August, you'd still be there in September. We saw the occasional intrepid cyclist, and some impressive bus driving, so maybe you could do it without a car if you were organised about it. There are lots of pubs to stop in, after all. 
  • Time warp. It has a sort of stuck in the 1970s feel to it, and a lot about the 1970s was well worth leaving behind. Where there is money it is flashed around, where there is not it is all a bit bleak. Our hotel had something of the Grace Brothers about it, plus a disco on the Friday night that I seriously thought was ironic (I sat in the bar with my dad for an hour and didn't hear a single song recorded after 1985), but wasn't. I approved of the kippers for breakfast and original Armitage Shanks bathroom suites with matching tiles, however, and once you accept you're living in a world where chintz has never gone out of fashion and golfing clothes are normal, it ain't so bad. 
  • Politics. You have to order the Guardian in specially. I think it comes by helicopter. 

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