Sunday, January 23, 2011

Part VII - 1st Time European Travel - Impressions (Cornwall Part IV)

Yeah I know...longest vacation telling ever! Truth is I did this mainly for me, though I've got at least one nagging lurker who won't be happy until I finish the darn thing. It's oddly comical really because she was there the whole time and probably has a better memory of it than I do. :)

Ah well, the trials and troubles of having a wildly popular blog....So on to Mousehole!

First I have to explain, the whole point of my wanting to see Mousehole was due solely in part to the Charles de Lint novel "The Little Country". I absolutely love this author, his characters and settings just always appeal to me. Here's a quick teaser... 

When folk musician Janey Little finds a mysterious manuscript in an old trunk in her grandfather's cottage, she is swept into a dangerous realm both strange and familiar. But true magic lurks within the pages of The Little Country, drawing genuine danger from across the oceans into Janey's life, impelling her—armed only with her music—toward a terrifying confrontation.Come walk the mist-draped hills of Cornwall, come walk among the ancient standing stones. Listen to the fiddles, the wind, and the sea.

If your a de Lint fan and you've missed this gem, your in for a treat. If you've never read any of his stories and your a fan of mythology, fantasy and just a really good read, check him out.

Anyhow enough worship, all I can tell you is that once I'd read the book, I pretty much knew I had to go there someday. Oh! It's important to note that it was this book that first brought scones and clotted cream to my consciousness.

So the day began with breakfast at the Warwick House, this day it was eggs Benedict, and it was delicious! I seem to recall I was finished first, so I let the ladies take their time with their meal and I took a quick walk across the street to say good morning to the Atlantic.

With breakfast out of the way we made the call for our trusty cabbie Stuart, to let him know we were ready for our last day of adventure in Cornwall.

While there are many things that make a day trip like this fun, there's nothing better than having someone who's lived in the area their entire life chauffeur, all the while regaling you with histories both native and personal.

Stuart seemed to just know instinctively what we wanted, we started first with a fantastic roundabout drive out towards Lands End.

While our host's at the Warwick House, poo-pooed the idea of involving it in our short lived exploration of all things Cornwall, we really enjoyed ourselves. Mainly we enjoyed the ride out and the storytelling of our driver.

Lands End, is well... the south-western tip of England. It is very much a tourist trap, and not so much a true representation of Cornwall. Wikipedia says...In 1987 Peter de Savarytheme purchased Land’s End. He had two new buildings erected and much of the present theme park development was instigated by him. He sold both Land's End and John o' Groats for an undisclosed sum to businessman Graham Ferguson Lacey in 1991. The current owners purchased Land’s End in 1996 and formed a company named Heritage Attractions Limited. Attractions at the theme park include children's playgrounds and recorded music. Twice a week in August there are firework displays. Nearby is the Land's End Hotel.

It was OK, we spent some coin to look through the telescope, and took some pictures. With the common touristy crud out of the way, we were back in the car heading to Stuart and his wife's favorite strip of sand, Porthcurno  Beach. So, more great scenery...
It was of course a beautiful drive, everywhere you looked it was rolling countryside with the occasional glimpse of the Atlantic sparkling at the edge of the horizon.

Much of fields were being prepared for planting. I seem to recall our chauffeur explaining that much of what was planted was potatoes and cauliflower. There were dairy farms too, after all we had to have a readily available source for making our clotted cream! :)

Historical warmonger that I am, I was greatly intrigued by Stuarts explanation of the large white building cross from the tennis courts to our left and the very unusual building to the left of it. This was the home of the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum

Aside from the obvious camouflage paint job, this was actually the communication hub for Great Britain. This is where the Atlantic Cable came ashore, and was the main communications artery connecting the British Empire with its expanding frontiers between 1870 and 1918.

Though no longer the soul source of communication, it was still a valuable means of communication during WWII and the German military was keenly aware of it's location. Stuarts father had been involved with helping to reinforce the place with the excavation and fitting of deep tunnels to protect from bombing and possible invasion. The Luftwaffe made more than a few attempts at knocking it out but always seemed to miss the mark.

All right, enough mongering...our drive finally led us to a spectacular view of Porthcurno Beach.
Now granted, on this day it was a bit rough, but anyone could tell that this would be a fantastic beach during the up an coming summer season. I didn't really take much of a look, but what this area is also known for is the Minack Theater.

I borrowed this lovely image from the website, it's web cam image, and a very nice one too.
OK, enough dallying...off to the main event, but first Stuart entertained us with a story about his father, and how when ever they drove past this fairy tale thatched cottage he'd always declare his curiosity about who'd lived there...
I seem to recall his father was not all to forthcoming with details, something mumbled along the lines of, "That old dump...no one's lived there for years..."

Apparently the day after his fathers funeral service, Stuart and his aunt were driving past and was shocked to hear her say that the two of them had sort of grown up there. Needless to say our taxi driver was more than a bit flummoxed about this revelation, and said he nearly drove back to the cemetery to dig his old da' back up and give him a right piece of his mind!

OK, now on to Mousehole...., whoops just one last stop. We had to see the Merry Maidens...right?!
It reputedly dates from the Bronze Age, probably used in pagan ceremonies. It is one of the locations where the Cornish Gorsedd is held. The local Cornish name for the circle is the Dans Maen meaning dancing stones. Folklore associated with the site is that 19 maidens did not attend church on Sunday. Instead they went to this area and broke the Sabbath by dancing to music provided by two pipers.

For their sins the maidens were turned to stone, hence the nineteen stones. There are two other standing stones of 12 feet plus, nearby to the circle i.e. the pipers of this taboo event.

Yeah I know...what about Mousehole! Alright already....
MOUSEHOLE!  I HOPE YOUR HAPPY! :)
I loved this little seaside village, it was exactly as I imagined, with help from Charles de Lint's description of course! So with a hearty handshake and a promise to call the next morning for our drive to the bus depot, we said goodbye to our driver and set off to explore...

The village was post card cute, and it was easy to see how this would be a place many would want to visit in the summer. Mousehole is a fantastic example of quintessential Cornish charm, from it's narrow roads, stone work buildings, and it's cobbled stone harbor walls.
  Everything about the place screamed quaint...

Of course with a name like Mousehole, your bound to see a neighborhood cat, this one was reluctantly gracious and allowed us to take pictures and say hello with gentle pats and under the chin rubs...
"What? A picture too, oh bother and darn! Tourists...typical..."



One of the things I really loved were the narrow lanes, oddly while I dislike the modern and densely packed suburbs of the states, here I found it very charming.

Here was a very nice, very personable advertisement for one of the larger more commercial hotel chains...

Even in mid March it's hard to find a Vacancy...ho hum...
I really loved the personalized touches that private residences took the time and care to add to the villages character.

Course you cant forget the harbor and the images that it provides...


After a bit of walking about you get kinda hungry, how about a nice meal at Pam's Pantry?

Well what better way to end the visit than with more clotted cream and scones. Yum!

Next part of the trip, and the last entry...Bruges Belgium.

A Pause to Reflect, Resume & Change...

Mary in York 2010
With a close friends passing, one does think about the importance of life, and the living of it.

The loss of my friend has truly forced me to consider my own life, what I have accomplished, the friends and family I have made and kept, the places I've been, the things that I have seen, and my attitude towards everything.

With this pause to reflect, I have decided that I want more, more connection to friends, more places and experiences, but more importantly more from me. I have lived my life too much in auto-pilot, and with my 44th birthday swiftly approaching, I'm switching the damn thing off (the auto-pilot part).

It's time to start being serious, time to start living, time to start finishing old projects and starting new ones.

I think my friend would have told me this, actually I think she just did.

Thanks Mary

Friday, January 14, 2011

For Whom Do I Cry?

Years ago my father past away from Pancreatic cancer, and though I did not have the luxury of having him as a real father figure in my life, I always thought of him as Dad. So when he passed away, I wept long and hard, until reason asked, "For whom do you cry?"

What a silly question I thought, but then the truth of it hit me. I was crying for myself, and what the heck for? I wasn't his wife, I wasn't a child who'd grown directly under his care, I wasn't even a real good friend. My loss was no where near to the degree of my brothers and sister, or his friends. But still I wept.

I wept for hours and then days, and always I did so with the selfish realization that I did it for my own loss, and not for those who'd had lost so much more. After a while, and with gentle care, reason did help me to regain my bearing.

Yesterday I lost a sister, and it hurts. It hurts because she adopted me into her life at a time when I needed it most, and with a measure of selflessness and honesty that I have shared with few others. So once again I weep, and again reason gently asks, "For whom do you cry?"

I cry for Mary, I cry for her mother, and I cry for her family and friends, those I know very little and those I call my own. But mainly, and with selfish grace, I cry for my loss. The space that she leaves in my heart is immeasurable.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Thoughts On The Tragedy in Tuscon...

I wasn't going to write about the events in Tuscon over the weekend, but how do you suffer through the usual bullshit that the mainstream media continues to feed us, and stay quiet?

Over the last few years I've studied everything that's "Reported" with a fairly critical eye, mainly  because I'm looking for a glimmer of hope. I'm looking for someone who isn't just going to rehash the "EVENT", over and over again, but someone who's going to start asking the important questions, you know...the why's?

I have friends and family who'll be satisfied with the the simple answer, just one or two people responsible, they've been caught and will be punished - end of story. But folks, if we've lost the skill to dissect the events that led up to and resulted in this Saturdays tragedy, then this country is truly lost.

There's no way that I can look at an event like this and ignore all the threads that lead up to six dead, and twelve wounded. The thing we keep forgetting, is that it wasn't a gun that loaded itself and caught a ride to the local grocery store with the intent to kill a senator. The right of every citizen to bear arms is not why this happened, and while I laugh at the typical declaration given by proponents of firearms in every handbag, it's impossible to ignore the efficiency of a handgun to deliver death to the unprepared.

Lets dig deeper though, what sort of environment exists that might actually help to generate this sort of tragedy?

We live in a society that relishes all things violent, from the movies we see, the games we play, and the sporting events we watch. We have church groups who should be providing support and comfort to the needy, picketing the funerals of gay soldiers, aids patients, and a nine year old girl struck down by the bullets of a madman in Tuscon.

We are a country that refuses to see the truth behind the continued hemorrhaging of our youth and our economy, all for the supposed sake of enforcing our political values in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We have politicians, supposed stewards of the constitution and the voice of the people, using hate filled rhetoric to generate divisive opposition against their opponents. We have corporately owned media existing only to consume such tragedies, and feed them back to us in a foul regurgitated gruel that only serves to inflate their ratings.

I'm not sure what the hell is wrong with us, it must be something in the very nature of humanity to find violence so appealing. I understand that it's who we are and that we'll never be able to rid ourselves of it, but we should be able to recognize it for what it is, and strive to reduce some of it. Shouldn't we be able to do that?

Joe