If Cornwall didn’t exist then someone would have to invent it. God maybe. It is a place of ineffable beauty, a land of savage seascape, cleaving rivers, cumulus forest, rolling hills, buried churches and horizontal weather. It has some of the most glorious empty beaches you will ever see, assuming a local tells you how to find them. There are seam like paths stitching patchwork pasture to gloaming wood. Sodden dells where pale light falls silent and black trees rise to a brilliance of unheralded shoreline. It has cliff-side towns that cling as kittiwake nests whilst ancient harbour walls push out into cresting seas like the bows of stone galleon. There is the lazy turn of hypnotic turbine juxtaposed with the diligent death of glorious industry, flashes of silver on captured quarry, pyramids of spoil turned to grass, tin-mine shafts just off vertical so that if a man fell off the ladder he wouldn’t hit the man below. Victorian health and safety. This startling mysterious land is real and believe it or not is actually connected to England, you can drive there, in a car. It is just down the road. In the back of the wardrobe. I once went to a butcher’s shop in a Cornish field and got mugged by a peacock, for goodness sake.
I have just spent six days in this wondrous place with my picturesque wife and three charming sons. It wasn’t by accident as my wife’s family hail from a small village just outside Truro called St Clement so we have been going there for years. Despite its loveliness I had always felt this was largely for the sake of convenience and as such I didn’t engage as much as I might. Holidays with young children are never easy, in truth I often find them more exacting than the work they replace. I have always envied the holiday dads, the ones who can simply shake their work off as if they have been turtle waxed. My work worries are like Manuka honey, but without the alleged health benefits. This time though was different, I went with my eyes and heart open and sort of fell in love.
It can be difficult having a relationship with Cornwall, the roads can be a nightmare, the town centres rammed and the weather is famously weathery, every type of weather known to man crammed into a few hours. Libby and I got married in St Clement and the whole morning before the ceremony it rained, biblically. Drops as large as crystal decanters. I stood in the deluge, soaked to the skin and cursed the falling sky. But then an hour before kick off the rain stopped and the hot sun broke through and we walked to the church with the whole village washed clean, smelling of life and gently steaming.
I think I may have always secretly loved the place but this time sitting on the warm sand, slowly developing a singlet shaped tan, watching my boys tangle with a Teflon boogie board I felt the stress that always dogs me on holiday melt away to be replaced by a longing fulfilled. Cornwall loved me back.