Friday 29 August 2008

Carwinion Walk

This is in the current issue of Cornwall Today. To see the accompanying wonderful pictures, buy the September issue, but also have a look at Cornish Dreamer

A circular walk encompassing woods, fields and coastal footpath; popular with dogwalkers.


Summer finally decided to make an entrance on the day I set off with a friend and my Jack Russell, Mollie, to drive along the road from Falmouth through Swanpool and Maenporth towards Mawnan Smith. Passing a sign saying Woodlands on the left, we continued round the corner and parked next to Carwinion Playing Fields, opposite Carwinion Garden, famous for its bamboos and cream teas.

To the right of the garden a public footpath sign marked the start of our walk, and we went down a rocky lane that led into dense woods by the side of Carwinion Garden. The going was rough here and in wet weather can be slippery, but as we walked further the path became well trodden earth and kinder to the feet. Huge ferns towered over us, providing a cool canopy after the overheated car, and sunlight slanted through the trees.

At a fork in the steep path through this wooded valley we took the left hand turning over a small slate bridge, past an unexpected burst of orange montbretia, and further down into the woods where the incline levelled out. A stream splashed beside us and overhead was the cry of a buzzard and the tapping of a woodpecker. We chatted to several passing dogwalkers and marvelled at how different most people are with dogs. They provide an excuse to be friendly.

The path finally levelled and opened into a field of long grass; the day turned sultry under pale blue skies streaked with mare’s tail clouds. We continued through another gate and down to a pebbled cove especially popular with dog walkers, as this private beach is dog friendly all year round. According to the map it is Porth Saxon, but the locals I spoke to call it Porth Sawsen. We were intending to swim here, but the brisk easterly wind dismissed that idea, so we threw sticks into the sea for Mollie who thoroughly enjoyed her swim.

We continued along the path to the left of the beach, steering Mollie away from tempting picnics and barbecues, and headed up the hill, past a boathouse and over a stile into another field, through a kissing gate that is often waterlogged in winter and down to Porthallack Cove – otherwise known as Cow Beach or Church Cove.

Sitting on the beach we relaxed in the unaccustomed sun, sipped water and listened to the steady thrum of a boat engine, waves lapping the shore, and the overexcited bark of a Collie chasing pebbles up and down the beach.

Jumping over a stream edged with wild bamboos, we came to an overgrown gate on the left with a sign saying ‘Mawnan Old Church ½ mile, Mawnan Smith 1 ½ miles’. If you wish to take the slightly shorter, inland route, go through this gate which will take you through several fields to Mawnan Church and then back to Carwinion. But note that there are often cattle in this field so keep dogs on a lead.

We chose to continue along the path through a gate and up an incredibly steep field that led to the coastal footpath. Panting at the top of the field we looked back to stunning views of the Helford river, of Trebah Gardens and Durgan beach. Sailors in small boats were enjoying a good sail, while some moored off coves only approachable by water, Swallows and Amazons style.

We passed through a new gate which led us to the coastal footpath which was steep and hot out of the wind. Around were signs of summer confusingly mixed with autumn: the heady sweet smell of honeysuckle; the first sloes, small and green, and unripe blackberries with a hint of red and black. Far below a sleek black cormorant dived neatly into the sea, surfaced and took flight, wings skimming the surface of the water.

On the opposite shore lay St Anthony’s, Denis Head, and the far peninsula of Nare Point shimmered in the sunshine. The footpath ended in another stile leading to a field where there are often cattle. On this day there were none, and we headed across the field into dense woods with a carpet of crunchy leaves, where the sea glinted through slender trunks dappled with sunlight. Taking the path to the left we scrambled over another stile and reached Mawnan Parish Church, which is well worth a visit.

The church is a navigational aid to boats entering the river and it seems that a cruciform building was erected in the 13th century, though there are 14th century windows and the north and part of the south aisle were added in the 15th century.

It is a beautiful building, popular for weddings, and on our visit the arch above the church door was decorated with garlands of orange and white flowers, white ribbons and white roses.

Whenever I visit Mawnan churchyard I am struck by its historic beauty. The ground was soft and mossy, the grass mown lovingly. Ancient gravestones leaned, smothered in beards of grey lichen, entwined with the occasional bramble. The sea was visible through the trees, and there was a quiet stillness here, a sense of peace. A perfect resting place.

We walked through the car park and took the only road out for a hot walk along the quiet country lane back towards Mawnan Smith. Along the way we passed noisy sparrows darting above a bank of wild pink roses sprawling in and around a tree. Opposite I was particularly struck by an inventive bit of gardening: a red gumboot filled with flowers.

We walked on, past the Catholic church where the road forks, and took the left turning back towards Carwinion and the car. As we passed the playing fields, the tempting smell of barbecue drifted towards us and my nose twitched like Mollie’s and our mouths watered. But we turned our backs and headed for Carwinion Garden and a well earned cream tea.


Length: 2 ¼ miles returning the inland route

2 ½ miles returning via the coastal footpath

Time – Approximately 1 ½ hours

Grade: moderate, steep in places

Maps: OS Landranger 204 (Truro and Falmouth Roseland Peninsula) and OS Explorer 103 The Lizard (Falmouth and Helston)

Refreshments: Carwinion Garden, Open 10-5.30 daily

Tuesday 26 August 2008

White Van Man

Having thought we’d have a quiet bank holiday weekend painting the outside of the flats, visiting our elderly friend James who is in hospital – that sort of thing – on Thursday night we got a phone call that changed everything.

Our motoring contact in Devon rang to say he’d been to a car auction and found us a van that he thought would suit us fine. It sounded like it would – right price, mileage, side loading door – etc.

In case you’re wondering, we’ve been looking for one for a while. Partly so that Himself can do the necessary maintenance jobs and take stuff to the dump, and also so that we can camp in it a bit. So it needed to be something long enough for a six foot plus fella to sleep in but small enough so as not to be expensive to run and small enough for me to drive.

It sounded like this van was what we wanted, so I advertised our car on Friday and on Friday afternoon, a couple came to see it, agreed to buy it and gave a deposit; said they’d come back on Saturday with the rest of the money.

So Friday evening was a flurry of organising insurance, trips to Devon, lift to the train etc. And how would Mollie get on in a train? She’s never been in one before. As you can imagine, my head was spinning on Friday night and not much sleep, but Saturday saw us clean the car out of all doggie things, replace the parcel shelf, do the shopping, go to the library and bank , walk the dog and so on before the couple arrived with the money.

By Saturday evening I was shattered, and Sunday morning found us on the train to Totnes with Moll sitting first on Himself’s lap looking out of the window, then on mine fast asleep for the entire journey. I was really worried how she’d get on and had gone armed with poo bags, kitchen roll, water, biscuits etc Just In Case. As it was, it was as if she’d been travelling by train all her life.

Sunday afternoon found us the proud owners of a Van. Himself was dying to get it back so he could start Tinkering. Sorry, working on it. It was an old water van so it had a large sign saying WATER on the top. I rather liked that but no, it had to come off. Since then, at every available opportunity, Himself has been rushing out to Do Things to it. And guess where he is now?

When I told a friend about the van she grinned and said, "What colour is it?"
"White," replied HImself. "Why?"
"You'd better start reading the Sun," she replied.

The van is currently named Doxie Three because we have had vans before. But Himself suggested painting a large Flowerpot on the side. In which case it will be the Flowerpotmobile. Bit of a mouthful that. Any suggestions for other names?

Friday 22 August 2008

The Feel Good Factor

First of all a huge WELL DONE to my two oldest nieces who have done brilliantly in their As and GCSEs. Well done girls! We're so proud of you!

But to other matters. On Wednesday night I organised a Girls Night Out to see Mamma Mia. Eight of us, ranging in age from late twenties to late sixties. When we got to the pub to meet up, we found yet more women – all enjoying a glass of wine and getting In The Mood. This was sisterhood at its best.

Having had a hectic day I was exhausted and felt most unlike going out – a glass of wine, a collapse and an early night was more what I felt like. But I had something to eat, picked up a friend and we walked into town together. It’s her 60th birthday next week so we were talking about her celebrations and got down to the pub where we met more friends, and by the time I’d had a few glasses of wine – well, I was raring.

The film is just terrific. I had expected it to be good but it was even better than I’d imagined. The location is fabulous – the Greek island of Skopelos, the cast is terrific – Meryl Streep excelled herself, as did Julie Walters and oh, the lovely Colin Firth. (A nice twist at the end there, with the lovely Colin.) Piers Brosnan was – well, Piers Brosnan, but he looks good in close up and the entire two hours went by in a flash.

At one point, as I dashed down to the loo, desperate to miss as little as possible, I thought, “I don’t want this to stop. I want this film to go on and on.”

The audience – mostly female – were a great lot. We sang, laughed, cried, clapped and I was dancing as well as you can sitting down. (Try it, it’s fun.) We emerged into the dark August night and grinned at each other, exchanged our favourite bits of the film. We all agreed that we wanted to go straight back and watch it all over again. But as it was late, we walked up the hill with smiles in our hearts, dancing in our feet and music in our heads.

I didn’t sleep much – I had too much music roaring round inside me. If you haven’t seen this film – GO! It will remind you that life can be terrific, that mothers and daughters are special, that friends and laughter are so important, and that love really does make the world go round.

And you know the best bit? That wonderful warm feeling stayed with me for the whole of the following day. It’s still with me now. Forget Prozac – go and see Mamma Mia. I'm hot footing off to get the DVD as soon as it hits the shops, so I can have a top up whenever I need it.

Tuesday 19 August 2008

A Change of Plan

For all of you wanting to hear about Matthew Bourne’s latest production, I regret to say there was a change of plan.

On Friday evening Mum rang me and said, “I thought I’d better warn you, apparently you need to be very strong to see it.”

My spirits sank. I’d had the week from hell and while I had emerged finally feeling like myself again, for the past few days my entire self had been overtaken by some crazy, hormonally challenged monster. Strong was NOT how I’d been feeling.

“I read your blog and realised you were probably not feeling too good,” continued my mother. “So what do you think? Do you still want to see it?”

I sat there, torn. If you understood how much I adore Matthew Bourne’s work, this was one of the toughest decisions ever. It’s three years since the last one. He’s too busy choreographing Oliver for Cameron Mackintosh, and supervising his endless other ballets in China, the States and Japan.

On one hand there was this ballet which I’d been looking forward to for months. A one off opportunity. On the other hand, Dorian Gray is not exactly an uplifting topic. But he always brings his own humour to it.

“There must be witty bits,” I said hopefully.

“Apparently not. It’s all very dark and quite a lot of people walked out. A friend said that the end is really harrowing.” Mum paused. “I can see if anyone else would have your ticket.”

“I’ll ring you back in a few minutes.” I put down the phone and told Himself.

“You can’t be a wimp,” he said. “It’s only a ballet.” He then looked at me, evidently remembering the emotional ravages of the past week that had disturbed his sleep as well as mine. “Well, perhaps not,” he said.

I finished my cuppa and weighed it up. An incredible experience versus sanity. Sitting through two hours of what was going to be a Very Black look into someone’s tortured soul. I’d had a week of that and was desperate for a break. If I did see it, I would love the dancing – but at what cost? Would I feel hellish and weepy all weekend? Probably. And if I did, so would my poor husband and mother.

The voice of reason surfaced, so finally I said no. Mum rang back later and said she’d asked the box office to sell the tickets. She’d talked to several other people who’d seen it and decided she didn’t want to be depressed either. She’d rather spend the afternoon with us.

And so we didn’t go. Wimp I may be but at least we enjoyed the weekend – rain permitting. I think it’s important to know how far you can push yourself. Especially when hormonally challenged.

I’ve been scouring the internet for reviews of the ballet and found plenty of interviews with MB prior to the first performances, but no actual reviews. If you find any, please let me know.

Friday 15 August 2008

Dorian Gray

I've had a very strange week this week - out of routine which has had its good and bad bits. Tomorrow is further out of routine as I am going to see Matthew Bourne's latest ballet, 'Dorian Gray' in Plymouth with my mum. We are both Matthew Bourne groupies.

In case you don't know his work, he is a choreographer, most famous for his male Swan Lake. But he's also done choreography for a lot of West End musicals including Mary Poppins and, I think, The Sound of Music. In addition he has created countless other ballets - all contemporary dance - which have me spellbound. His last, two years ago, was Edward Scissorhands, and had me weeping copiously all the way through. His portrayal of the poor outsider, desperate for love, and hurting anyone he tried to love because of his hands, was heart rending but beautifully acted and danced.

Being gay and ultra sensitive, Matthew Bourne is excellent at portraying those who feel outsiders. You can tell he has experienced it himself. But it's clever mix of wit, humour, idiosyncratic gestures and breathtaking choreography that make his ballets so great. Even if you don't like ballet, try his work. It's not like classical ballet at all, but he aims to make ballet accessible. Judging by the audience last time, which ranged from 6 to 80 year olds of both sexes, I guess he's succeeding.

His version of Oscar Wilde is of a male model and the current obsession with looks and glamour. Knowing MB, it will be beautifully done. So think of me, weeping my eyes out tomorrow afternoon. All in the cause of art.

Tuesday 12 August 2008

Octopi and carnivals

For the last two weeks we’ve had a visitor in our garage. He’s six foot in circumference, covered in gold paper and has eight legs made of those wobbly leads used for connecting washing machines. Meet Oz the octopus. (Sorry no pics.)

The reason for our guest was Falmouth carnival which took place on Saturday early evening. For most of the day it rained, then poured, and from 5-6pm it deluged. I mean stair rods. Then the god of carnivals relented, and the rain stopped, literally from 6.30 – 7.30 so the carnival was able to take place. As all the participants were on foot, it would have been very wet otherwise.

As always, it was led by the Falmouth Marine Band who are a great tradition in Falmouth, renowned for much bawdy music, drinking and general enjoyment. They also raise a huge amount of money for local charities. The one eligibility for joining is that you aren’t musical, which excluded my dear husband. Each year they work on a different costume and lead the carnival down from the park through the town, collecting money along the way.

Despite not having as good a turnout as normal, owing to the weather, there were the stalwarts, like us, who shot into the pub, grabbed a drink and rushed outside as we got the word that the marine band were due to arrive. There’s a great sense of community spirit as we laughed and cheered, waved at those we knew, and applauded various husbands who were ‘guillotined’ by Marie Pastyoinette and her reckless wenches.

Having seen all the carnival entrants go past, we adjourned to the pub where we met many friends, including Nick the cartoonist, and could have stayed all evening in the snug warmth of the pub.

Unfortunately little Moll, although a lot better, hadn’t quite recovered so we went home to babysit.

But the evening gave me a warm glow. Friends, a good laugh and a sense of belonging. It’s what we all need to banish the wintry summer blues.

I might not be around much this week as I’m not feeling too brilliant. Probably got Moll’s bug! She is fine again, I hasten to add, so that's the main thing. See you all again soon.

Friday 8 August 2008

My poorly girly

Above picture courtesy of Rebecca Taunton.
My poor Moll is having a bad week. First of all she has another allergy, only weeks after the last one, which means she was itching like mad over the weekend, so that meant another trip to the vet and more steroids. I don’t like the idea of her having them but there isn’t an alternative – or rather, there is, but a) it’s very expensive and b) she has to have been off steroids for 6 weeks which she hasn’t been. Still, at least she’s stopped itching.

This morning I heard her being – er – not very well. The poor little thing was sick five times all over the flat, including outside, and managed to throw up again on the mat by the back door while we were having breakfast. (Apologies to those who are or have just eaten. I didn’t enjoy my breakfast much either.)

However, having done that she went out for a walk and bounced along chasing sparrows as if nothing was the matter. Having said that, she’s just crawled in here and is lying down at my feet which she doesn’t usually do. Fingers crossed. Otherwise it’s a taxi to the vet as Himself has gone off to try and finish doing up the car.

The idea behind this is that we get a van so that we can go away for the night (in lieu of holidays). This is as long as we can sell the car which, some of you might remember, was badly vandalised some months ago. Because the insurance doesn’t cover it being repaired, Himself has been doing it over weeks because the weather conditions have to be right and of course it’s rained solidly for the past few weeks.

Hopefully tomorrow we can take it to a friend who’s a mechanic, he can give us some idea of what we’ll get for the car and then we can see if we can sell it and get a van.

More fingers crossed.

The good news is I had a call from one of the magazines that I work for, asking me to call in to the office. There I saw of mock up of the piece plus photographs done by my friend RT, who has done a wonderful job.

What touched me particularly was that she took a lovely picture of Moll swimming. The editor is a great dog fan, so next month, Moll will be famous! Get September’s issue of Cornwall Today and see…..

Monday 4 August 2008

The Importance of Family

We watched an old video of The Darling Buds of May the other night which is like comfort food to me. The perfick life of a mad but loving family, always getting into scrapes that Pa Larkin usually manages to get them out of.

For those of us who don’t have children, and live far from our siblings (Sussex and Surrey are both a significant distance from Cornwall), it is possible to forget the importance of family. We don’t have children on hand to remind us.

So it was all the more special yesterday to see my older brother and his family who are staying in Cornwall. The children are 17, 16 and 13 and the youngest has recently been singing in a choir in Venice and playing soccer in Denmark. A far cry from trips to the beach when I was a child. But I adore all the children in different ways, for they are very different people, growing up to be very intelligent, well mannered beings with a rich interest in life.

I used to be very close to my brother and his wife, before the girls were born, and even when they were little. Then I met Himself and moved to Cornwall and they had another child and were caught up in that - and work and – well, now we only get to meet once a year. If that.

It’s difficult finding the right time to ring them and usually they leave the answerphone on anyway. My brother tends to ring when he’s stuck in a traffic jam. But I’ve found that I am more sensitive to their sensitivities, which means that quite often I don’t say what’s bothering me. Like, knowing that they’ve had a hard time workwise (ie financially) over the years has made me shut up about our own money worries. We have a lot less money but we don’t have a big mortgage or three children to bring up. My sleeping problems have been mirrored in theirs. But at least I work at home and don’t have to get into a car and drive miles to get to work. I can write in my nightie if I want. Our worries don’t equate.

Our work is very different, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s another difference. And sometimes, when we haven’t met for a while, I wonder if we have anything in common - other than shared blood?

Yesterday that answer came back loud and clear. YES! Despite the rain (it’s rained all week, poor things) and the fact that they were all suffering from a lousy cold, we had a wonderful two hours. There wasn’t enough time to talk to them all as much as I wanted to, but we had a flavour of them which made me long for more. It made me understand once more the importance of family, (and made me wish, oh wish that we’d had children, but we won’t go there). I wished also that we lived nearer, that we could be more involved in their lives.

But that’s life. Perhaps when the children are a bit older we can all get together more. That would be Perfick.