Friday 23 June 2023

A Cornish Adventure Part Two.

 Welcome to part two of our Cornish adventure.


I shall pick up where I left off. 

The next day was Tuesday and again the weather was meant to be rainy, though the forecast hadn't explained quite HOW rainy! Like Monday it quickly went from drizzle to torrential as the morning passed. 

The plan had been to mooch the shops in St Ives before Himself settled on the beach with a book and I went to a book signing. Here again, it seemed the holiday gods were smiling on us because prior to setting off on holiday I had spotted a tweet about a talk and book signing taking place in St Ives for a book I was planning to buy anyway. It turned out to be not only on a day when we were in St Ives, but also when we didn’t have other plans, so I bought myself a ticket. Sadly the weather gods were most definitely not smiling on us this day!

We looked in a few shops but the rain just kept getting heavier and heavier, again even with waterproofs and umbrellas we were soaked, particularly my poor boots that had not quite dried out from the day before. So, we tried to find a pub or café to shelter in but everywhere was packed, clearly everyone had the same idea.

We finally decamped to a pub and stood until we managed to snag a table. I left Himself there and battled the elements once again to head to the St Ives Arts Club where the talk was due to be. It was a very cosy affair with only about 40 people, and thankfully warm and dry.

The book The Dress Diary of Mrs Anne Sykes by Kate Strasdin, a fashion historian and lecturer from Falmouth University. 

The talk was absolutely fascinating and took the form of a Q&A session, it was based around Kate being gifted a notebook by an elderly friend who had worked in costume design in London in the 60’s. The book was purchased at a flea market there by one of her apprentices who thought it might make good source material. It was a Victorian era diary filled with squares of fabrics each with an annotation in teeny tiny handwriting stating the name of the person the fabric had belonged to and the garment or piece of furnishing it was from. This started her off on a research journey with no way of knowing who had written it until one tiny entry “Mrs Anne Sykes – The dress I wore when we arrived in Singapore.” This was the one and only time Anne spoke in the first person, and it unlocked the whole book!  I share the publisher’s blurb below; 

In 1838, a young woman was given a diary on her wedding day. Collecting snippets of fabric from a range of garments she carefully annotated each one, creating a unique record of her life and times. Her name was Mrs Anne Sykes.

Nearly two hundred years later, the diary fell into the hands of Kate Strasdin, a fashion historian and museum curator. Strasdin spent the next six years unravelling the secrets contained within the album's pages.

Piece by piece, she charts Anne's journey from the mills of Lancashire to the port of Singapore before tracing her return to England in later years. Fragments of cloth become windows into Victorian life: pirates in Borneo, the complicated etiquette of mourning, poisonous dyes, the British Empire in full swing, rioting over working conditions and the terrible human cost of Britain's cotton industry.

This is life writing that celebrates ordinary people: the hidden figures, the participants in everyday life. Through the evidence of waistcoats, ball gowns and mourning outfits, Strasdin lays bare the whole of human experience in the most intimate of mediums: the clothes we choose to wear.

 Once the talk finished I texted Himself to arrange to meet before joining the queue to get my book signed. I met Himself outside and thankfully the rain had finally started to ease up, as we were deciding whether to go to the pub for something to eat or not when we got caught by another seaside occupational hazard. Yup a passing seagull did a massive dump right over us. Luckily for me I only got slightly caught, but Himself took a direct hit! Anyone who has been in that situation will know not only is it plentiful, it also absolutely stinks!! 

I dived into Boots and bought some tissues and anti-bacterial wipes to clean off the most urgent mess before we hotfooted it back to the apartment which thankfully has a washing machine. We took it in turns to have a hot shower before I rinsed the clothes then loaded the machine. That was definitely something we could have done without and to make matters worse I did crack up laughing which I don’t think went down very well. 

Anyway we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening lounging around in our pjs.

 The next day was Himself’s birthday so I made him breakfast in bed and gave him his card. Our plan had been to finally walk the St Michael’s way but yet again it was not to be. The torrential rain over the last two days had made parts of the walk waterlogged and we neither fancied a repeat of the mudfest hike we had last year in Swanage. 

                                         The heavy rain created a mini waterfall on the beach

Instead we decided to just wander around the edge of St Ives so to speak, we started on Porthmeor beach before going up and around island and across all the beaches and headlands. The weather sunny but very windy which made for some impressive waves. 

We headed back to the apartment for lunch as we really needed to get through the food we had bought. After lunch Himself showed me the alternative way to get to and fro the station he had figured out on google maps

It was definitely less hilly, though there were a couple of bits with no pavement so it might not be ideal pulling cases along as it was fairy busy with cars.  

That night we had a table booked in the best Italian restaurant in town. We went out for a drink first before a delicious and leisurely dinner. We walked back to the sun setting over the sea but sadly it was too cloudy to see the moon.

Thursday, Fisherman’s Friends day, dawned a lovely sunny day, thank goodness. 

We had breakfast, made sandwiches then headed out to catch the bus to Porthcurno. It turned out to be one of those open topped tourist buses so we sat upstairs at the front to enjoy the view. Quite frankly it was a white knuckle ride, I take my hat off to the bus drivers who do that route every day.  Parts of the route were single traffic only so if anything came the other way it meant screeching to a halt and one or other backing up. Some parts were a combination of narrow and steep, not always helped by crazy tourist parking! We arrived in one piece if slightly shaken. The buses were quite limited with the last bus back just before 7pm, so it was a good job we did get tickets for the matinee. 

We walked straight down to the beach at Porthcurno and it was clear why it has such a reputation for being beautiful. I gather it gets incredibly busy in the tourist season and I must admit it was busier than I expected for a Thursday in early May. 

We found a spot to have our lunch before mooching slowly back up to the road to walk up the hill to The Minack. We had thought about climbing the steps carved out of the rocks but we weren’t sure you could get in that way so didn’t want to go all the way up only to find we had to go back down and round.

 The road was in chaos as traffic was starting to build up for the show but there was a huge lorry trying to come down the hill so the road was blocked. One poor man was trying to get everyone to back up to the car park at Porthcurno so the lorry could get through but it was clear not everyone was prepared to do so. For once we were very grateful to be on foot, we squeezed between cars and had a bit of banter with the lorry driver as we passed him, he seemed to be finding it all very amusing anyway. 

We joined a surprisingly large queue and were soon filing down to find seats. You can’t book specific seats you just book into an area and then it’s first come first served. We were further back from the stage than I would have liked, but kind of in the middle and with a fab view.


 We got out our cushions, slathered on sunblock and  I whisked out the chilled bottle of prosecco I had popped into my bag before we left. We cracked that open and get comfortable.

The show was absolutely incredible. The band were so good, but add the open air venue and views, well,  it just made it magical. Apparently there had been a pod of dolphins in the area that as you can imagine had detracted completely from the shows by swimming past and drawing all attention. They didn’t make an appearance for us though. I glanced sideways and saw Himself beaming, so I count that as a birthday treat win.

Once the show was over we filed out only to realise we had missed a bus and the next one wasn’t for the best part of 2 hours.  

We walked a bit of the cliff top path before heading back down to Porthcurno beach. 

The glorious sun had been covered by clouds which got thicker and darker and sure enough it started to rain. We ambled slowly back to the bus stop and just had to pray the last bus was actually running. It felt better when a few other people joined us. Finally the bus did appear and we got to do that mad journey again only the other way round. 

When we got back to the apartment we ate as much of the food that was left in the fridge as we could, before starting to pack our cases and head to bed before the final part of our adventure.

My St Ives purchases, an elephant brooch to match the necklace I bought the last time we visited, which I wear constantly. I was thrilled to find the artist who made it was still there. I also couldn't resist the shark earrings so treated myself.

 A sea horse brooch from one of the little junk shops in an arcade.

More in part 3. We end our visit to Kernow with crows, crabs, castles and Eurovision. 

Friday 9 June 2023

A Cornish Adventure Part One.

 This year marked Himself’s 50th birthday, I knew he wouldn’t want a party but wasn’t sure what he would want to do instead. So in January we had the following conversation;

Me: “ What do you want to do for your birthday?”

Him: “Not be here”

Me: “Where would you like to be? Cornwall?”

Him: “Yes”

Me: “St Ives?”

Him: “Yes”

This led to me trawling through various options before settling on renting a holiday apartment with a company called Aspect. They are an independent company based in Cornwall, I liked their ethos, and their customer service was excellent. I narrowed down a couple of places and was going to surprise Him.... but then remembered what he is like, so I showed him. 

He declared he would like to be able to lie in bed and look at a sea view if possible. The lovely Atlantic Heights B&B had spoiled him in that respect! 

 So I went back to the drawing board, then I found an option that was on the Porthmeor side of St Ives that we love, and once he approved, I booked it.

                                                       A sea view from the bedroom = tick.

 A friend suggested visiting The Minack Theatre so I checked out what was on and it seemed the gods were smiling on us because Fisherman’s Friends were playing towards the end of our stay.

 Very randomly given his life long love of loud rock/metal, Himself loves Fisherman’s Friends (as do I) so it was a no brainer. I logged on to buy tickets only to find they weren’t going on sale for a few weeks. I stuck a note in my work calendar for the date and when that popped up at 9am logged onto their website again. The tickets didn’t go on sale until 10am, so at 10am I logged in again. 

Lordy, it was like getting tickets for Glastonbury or something similar! It was literally seconds past 10am and I couldn't get on, when I did manage to connect I was 64th in the queue, by the time I was 1st the evening performance had sold out on the day we wanted. Thankfully, I managed to snag two tickets for the matinee, which we decided was actually a better option given that the weather and travel arrangements were uncertain.       

 This was all before Dad died so as it turned out the time away was very much needed by both of us when the beginning of May finally arrived.

 The Thursday before we were due to leave, I was at my pilates class and one of the other ladies was talking about going on holiday the next week. She said she was having to get her son to drive them because of the train strikes. Eek. I checked when I got home, and sure enough there was a strike for the day we were due to travel home. Bollocks. 

We couldn’t leave a day early because that was when we have our Minack tickets, so instead we decided to book an extra day but in Penzance and leave from there, as it’s where the trains begin. The Premier Inn by the station was full, so after some hunting I managed to find a lovely B&B for 1 night.

 They then announced additional strikes. SIGH.

I rang the B&B to see if we could do an extra night, but they were fully booked. They very kindly suggested somewhere else, and thankfully I managed to snag their last room for both nights. Whilst I will say I support the strikes wholeheartedly; I could have done without them right at this particular time.

 Our journey down was painless, the hill up to our apartment was not! 

It being every bit as tough as I remembered from previous visits to St Ives, but well worth it for the sea views. 

We unpacked, had a drink, and headed out to stretch our legs and reacquaint ourselves with the town. We bought chips for dinner which we ate sat on a wall watching the sea, before calling in at the Co-op for a few provisions towards breakfast and a bottle of wine for that night. They were reducing stock so we also ended up with an apple pie and tub of custard for less than £2 for both!

I have to say it was lovely to not have to wake up early for a hotel breakfast. It was the Coronation that day, so after waking up late we ate breakfast in bed watching some of it on TV.

We then took the opportunity to walk to the Tesco on the outskirts of town and do a food shop for the week whilst it was quiet. It was a glorious morning; they had set up a big screen on the seawall and people were watching from the beach, all set for the day with picnics and deckchairs. 

what a view, you can't help but feel your cares lift.

We did a leisurely food shop and caught a taxi back, as neither of us could face that hill laden with heavy bags!

By the time we had packed it away and had some lunch, the weather had made one of the sudden and dramatic changes Cornwall is known for. A thick sea fog was rolling in blanketing everything in its path. 

We had planned to go for a walk along the clifftop towards Zennor and decided to still go. I’m so glad we did. It was incredibly atmospheric, feeling at times like you were literally on the edge of the world.

We cut back inland and came into St Ives via a route we had never been before.

 We awoke the following day to glorious sunshine and clear skies, so we decided to walk the cliffs in the other direction to Lelant. The previous time we did this route I was not only just getting back into walking but also tackled the walk with a mammoth hangover to boot. I managed the 4 miles there, but had to catch the bus back. This time we walked both ways. 

We called into the same pub as we had then, The Badger Inn in Lelant. Only this time I enjoyed a pint of local cider rather than nursing a diet coke and wondering if I might throw up. 

They were doing a roaring trade in Sunday lunches but thankfully we managed to find a table. Whilst coming back from the ladies I spotted one of those racks of leaflets for local attractions and picked one up called ‘Pirates’. Long term readers of this blog may remember I am a bit of a fan of a pirate, so it looked right up my street. The exhibition was at the Maritime Museum in Falmouth.

 We knew the weather the next day was forecast to be wet so had been thinking about catching the bus or train to somewhere, that somewhere quickly turned out to be Falmouth and the Maritime Museum! With me saying I know this is your holiday, but… I REALLY want to do this. 

When we got back to the apartment, google showed us that you can catch a train to Falmouth, there are a couple of changes but it still was quite a short journey, so tickets were purchased and I was a happy bunny. 

Monday indeed dawned cold and grey. We walked to the station and by the time we made it to Falmouth it was drizzling. 

The museum is smallish but absolutely fascinating. We mooched until it was out allotted time for Pirates. 
The exhibition started with famous depictions of pirates from TV and film , followed by depictions in book, which was fine, but I did find myself hoping that wasn’t all there was. 
It was also pretty full of children ( I had forgotten it was a bank holiday!) Thankfully the second half of the exhibition was all about real life pirates, this was more like it and I was quickly engrossed. 
With hindsight it made sense to seize the attention of and entertain the kids in the first section.

                                                    Because I always find an elephant!

I particularly loved the different flags and the history of how they came about. I came out wanting to sew my own! 

I‘m thinking a teacup with crossed teaspoons for one option. 

 We mooched the rest of the museum. I found the Tattoo gallery particularly interesting, they had run an exhibition in 2015 that was so popular they had created a smaller permanent gallery. 

The sculpture of an Easter Island head made from particles of plastic beach pollution was particularly sobering.

Once we had had our fill and both made a purchase in the gift shop, we decided to have a look in the town, get a drink and maybe something to eat. 

Once we got outside it was clear the weather had got dramatically worse. The rain was coming down in biblical fashion. It didn't ease up it didn't stop. We looked in a few shops and ended up diving into Costa for a hot drink, absolutely soaked within about 20 minutes despite umbrellas.

It was so miserable we decided to just head home for hot showers and dry clothes. 

In fact the rain was so bad it caused areas of severe flooding in Devon and Cornwall and made the national news! When we got to Penzance the owners of the B&B we stayed in said the water was like a river running down their road and in all the years they had lived there they had never seen it like that, climate change is real people.

 Anyway we were very grateful to get in, get changed and chill with a glass of wine, our clothes and boots steaming in front of the radiator.    

My purchase from the museum was this pilchard on wheels. It just made me laugh and every time I look at it I can't help smiling. In my book that is a keeper when it comes to an ornament. 

My other purchase was this hanging seahorse. Love at first sight, I just need to find the right spot for it....

More to follow, including a book signing, epic walks and Fisherman's  Friends. 


Wednesday 7 June 2023

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue.

Well, this is not the blog post I had planned to write.

I had something all set for the end of January but unfortunately my Dad’s health took a turn for the worst and he ended up in hospital. He was in for a week, and other than on the day he went in, we weren't allowed to visit. They couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong and were worried he was infectious, so he was in isolation.

It turned out to be sepsis and to add insult to injury, literally, the ambulance crew managed to get the trolley stuck trying to load it into the lift at the care home and accidentally broke his shoulder whilst they were freeing it. Not good.

Protocol meant Social Services were informed and procedures had to be gone through, but finally they let Mum visit and eventually Dad was out of hospital. 

He was doing well, eating and refusing to wear his sling (so the care home had to come up with ingenious ways to keep it on!) but all this on top of relentless work deadlines meant blogging was low on the list of my priorities during February. 

By the beginning of March Dad’s health unexpectedly went dramatically down hill again. My Brother and Sister-in-Law were due to go on their lockdown postponed, 30th anniversary cruise, and I was due to be in Munich for work immediately followed by a trip to Durham for a 50th birthday party.In the end I decided I couldn’t be away at the same time as them just in case, and cancelled Munich and Durham.

 So instead of talking to prospective students I sat next to my Dad’s bedside for the day whilst Mum read him Harry Potter. The next day I decided I was in need of some space and some air to breathe. I went for a walk to clear my head and as I was heading home Mum called to say Dad was gone. 

My Brother was in the middle of the ocean unreachable, Himself was isolating having tested positive for covid, and my Mum was in no fit state. Which left me to head home with my Mum and begin all that hard life admin. For someone who will always shy away from things, or put them off for as long as possible it was a hell of a baptism.

I have to say Nephew Number One was an absolute star and helped with some things like clearing Dad’s room at the care home but otherwise it was an awful week. 

There was a 5-week delay until we could have the funeral, so we were in a bit of limbo really. Other than wanting a cremation and saying he wanted the service to be a short, sweet celebration and choosing 3 pieces of music Dad hadn’t left any instructions. He had always been a keen advocate of recycling and sustainability, so we went with a wicker coffin and just one floral display. Asking instead for donations to the local air ambulance, a charity he had always supported. 

Dad had chosen Beethoven’s 6th symphony, music from Harry Potter and Red, Red Wine by Neil Diamond. After much discussion, my brother and I added Endeavour’s Theme. Dad always loved Morse and Endeavour, and independently to each other it seems we are both reminded of him when we hear the theme music. We finished with Barwick Green, or The Archer’s theme tune, another thing Dad enjoyed listening to and a joyous piece of music that summed him up to a tee. 

On the way to the crematorium a single spitfire suddenly appeared and looped the loop in the glorious blue, sun filled sky above us. It felt like a sign. 

My Dad joined the R.A.F at 15 and it was his life. My Nan told the story of taking Dad as a baby with her when she went hop picking during the war. As the Battle of Britain raged in the sky above him, my Dad toddled out and stood open mouthed with wonder watching the dog fights overhead, apparently completely oblivious as shrapnel rained down around him until someone dashed out from where they were sheltering and snatched him back to safety. 

                                                      As a teenage apprentice engine fitter 

He joined up as soon as he could and only left when he had to retire, going straight back to the same job the next day as a civil servant until he was 65. He started out as an engine fitter before training as a navigator, then further training as special air crew, finishing 'flying a desk' organising flypasts and airshows.  

          On his retirement he was given a flight in the last airworthy Lancaster, the smile says it all.

It was a beautiful funeral, but I have to say the day broke me. I think the long wait until the day was part of it, but also I was a self confessed Daddy’s girl as a child. As an adult we stayed extremely close, he was my sounding board, my rock and I miss him dreadfully.  

So yes, since then I have had good days and bad days. 

Work has been relentlessly shit this year too, but at the moment I don’t seem to have the energy to do anything about that other than plod on through that. One thing at atime.

Anyway, I have been feeling like getting back to blogging, so normal service will be resumed, it might still be sporadic but then to be fair that has been the case for a while now.

                                                My favourite pictures of Dad as a young man.