A Journey to Kernow

KernowHead

Journeys down memory lane part one:

I never really did get my head around long distance air travel. Being in a car you can see places, there is time to adjust; the nuances of changing scenery and the architecture give the journey meaning. The anticipation as one nears one’s destination provides some sort of perspective, at least to my mind. Being strapped in a supersonic cigar tube, even with the advantages of on demand entertainment on the headrest in front of you, just doesn’t allow my brain to assimilate anything. It is like going to the cinema at the V&A Waterfront only to emerge hours later after a triple feature filmfest and find that you are now in New York or Anchorage or something. It is all a little disconcerting. In this particular case the cinema opened out into the (currently being refurbished) hubbub of Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam and I followed makeshift signage to find my connecting flight, my mind still expecting to see fishing boats or seals in the harbour. As I said, I find it all just a little unnerving.

Cape Town to SchipolTwelve hours of pain, three movies, stiff legs, crap food and almost home.

Anyway connections were made, a swift draught stout in the faux Irish pub (one of the few remaining smoking areas in the airport, God forgive me my addictions) and I was seated in yet another, albeit smaller and less entertainment orientated, cigar tube aimed at the white cliffs of Dover, approximately at least.

As the plane left Schiphol and climbed up over the channel for the final leg of my journey back to the land of my birth I could already sense the colours and smells of the English countryside. Living in Africa, albeit the southernmost tip, it is rare to see such greenery as presented itself out of the starboard windows.. Even from thousands of feet up the verdant growth below stood out, a patchwork quilt exuberantly celebrating the agricultural benefits of near endless rain.

Schiphol to BristolOne more “cigar tube hop”..

More so there were indications, even at altitude, of the variety of cultures below. Over Holland the fields had been regimented rows, logical geometric shapes filled with bright artworks of red and yellow, tulips in their millions adding giant swathes of primary colour to the landscape. Obsessive Compulsive Farming at its best,

TulipsThe rich pattern of European “OCD Farming”..

 

Over England, one imagines as a result of endless disputes and ancient rights the fields appear to be completely random. A hotchpotch of shapes, the world’s first thousand piece jigsaw puzzle, not two fields the same shape or size and all bursting with lush summer growth. I couldn’t help but think that were it indeed a jigsaw it would be tricky to sort out the pieces. I also knew all too well that those self-same and higgledy- piggledy fields meant that there would be little space for straight roads and that my journey onwards was going to contain more than its fair share of winding country lanes. The Romans never managed to conquer the far south and as a result roads without endless hairpins and chicanes remain a foreign concept even today. Apparently straight roads are for foreigners and sissies, real men drive around corners down here in the South.

GreenEnglandThe English Countryside, unruly, asymmetric, verdant and quaint as hell.

I landed at Bristol International Airport, the location makes for the simplest entry into the South West, avoiding the hustle and bustle of London and passage facilitated by modern facial recognition software meant that I was in the car park and ready to tackle the lanes in my newly acquired hire car in a matter of minutes.

I wended my way along narrow roads, high hedges blocking most of the view as I repeatedly braked for sharp corners or flashing warning signs to slow down through one or other of the endless small villages along the way. I well recall from my youth that some wag has seen fit to modify one of the numerous “Please drive slowly through village” signs with the spray painted corollary “or else you’ll miss it”. That about sums it up; a couple of stone houses, a pub, perhaps in days gone by, a Post Office, and you had a veritable metropolis ,throw in a church for good measure and your hamlet would become a “regional centre”. In these parts pubs and churches seem to dominate, such that one might imagine rural life divided along lines of piety or alcoholism.

All that said there was a sense of comforting familiarity, I grew up in rural Cornwall, indeed far enough South that inhabitants of Bristol are still considered to be untrustworthy “Northerners” and even those a few miles up the road but on the wrong side of the River Tamar would be unlikely to win the hand of a Cornish Maiden without a fight.

I was bound for the land of Trelawny, the home of the “Tiddy Oggy”, of “Stargazy Pie”a place that in years past spawned generations of wreckers and smugglers- I was headed home.

PastyThe Cornish Pasty (Tiddy Oggy)


Stargazy Pie a traditional dish but I have to confess, Cornish Nationalism aside, I find it hard to consider consuming something that is looking back at me.

There was a brief spell of modernity when I joined the M5, and sped along in auto cruise for an hour, it is a rapid but starkly impersonal way to travel, those quaint villages en-route little more than road signs to be whizzed past. All that history but a flash of white lettering in the rear-view mirror as one speeds on one’s way.

Eventually I was back in the countryside, and now, having remastered having a clutch and gearstick (I have been driving an automatic truck for the past year)was merrily whacking the car down through the box as I sped along the country lanes once more. Negotiating the twists and turns of my youth , transported back to the days when I commuted to and from Exeter on a weekly basis. Perhaps a misspent youth at that, I seemed to recall the pubs more than the villages, Turn left after Golden Inn at High Hampton, (I seem to recall it was The Golden Fleece in the past, but can’t be sure) past the turn off for Shebbear and The Devils Stone Inn and then on skirting the Bickford Arms at Brandis Corner, almost in Cornwall now. Just Holsworthy to negotiate and then the sign of 15 gold bezants and the Chough to let me know that I had crossed the Tamar and was back in the land of my birth.

Cornish Coat of Arms

 

Note: The chough, appears on the Cornish Coat of Arms sitting atop the shield of the Dutchy of Cornwall and framed by images of a fisherman and a miner. The last Cornish chough patrolled the cliff tops in 1973 before vanishing. Since then the choughs have made a comeback to the cliffs of Cornwall with the first successful nesting recorded in 2001 and since 2002 88 chicks have fledged from Cornish nests. Ref: RSPB

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One Response to “A Journey to Kernow”

  1. Marianne Says:

    Looking forward to the next chapter.

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