North Cornwall

My love for Cornwall, in particular North Cornwall is very difficult to express in words. I have been visiting this beautiful part of our country for close on 40 years now, and although time has enforced inevitable changes on this glorious countryside, the pleasure I get with every visit when I meet up with old friends is just the same as it ever was.

One of those long standing friends has written a verse which pretty much reflects my own thoughts, so below I present a verse written by my old friend Denis McCallum entitled North Cornwall.

I remember the soft spring evening we went there for the first time:
After Bodmin we seemed to leave the metalled ways behind:
There was only Birdsong, mist and gathering quiet.
Through Wadebridge, St Issey, Little Petherick we passed,
then climbed a haunted hill to rolling downs St. Peteroc knew.
Then, groping, uncertain of our route, through narrow, hidden lanes we went,
by dripping hedgerows foamed with may.
And were we still in time? Or had we strayed into a new dimension?
I know I had a sense of strangeness, and yet felt comforted, made welcome:
I know I had come home at last.

 

We reached the village, found the pub. I entered with a kind of reverence:
It seemed, somehow, a special place.
The dark-paneled, slate floored bar
was empty then, but one by one they came,
these Cornishmen who’d brought to us their music, songs and laughter
and so become our friends. To me these men were giants, legendary figures,
and had about them something primal, Tribal, rooted:
You sensed behind them the chain of generations,
knew that they were but the latest branch of the same old knarled, sea-blasted tree
that’s flourished here for centuries. We talked and drank, and then we sang
their local songs which even then I’d grown to love. And afterwards,
they led us through the misty night down lanes just wide enough for cars,
Installed us in a van somewhere. Next day we woke to sheer delight-
perched on a headland, with the sunlit, jubilant waves romping round us.

 

Well, that was long ago. And now I know them well – they are of course,
not giants, but just men like me, with all the usual failings.
There homeland too, has lost it’s romance: Awash with visitors each summer,
with all the usual prostitution’s – Gift shops, disco’s, go-cart racing, candy floss,
trips around the bay – it’s just a holiday resort. The little pub has got a juke-box,
space invaders, fruit machines, and if there’s ever any music it’s often played by me
and other strangers. But still, just now and then, on special occasions –
feast day, birthdays, at wakes, and after ringing practice,
they’ll sing the old songs in the old way. At times like these, and when, in winter,
the threadbare trees writhe in the lash of north-west gales and the surf out -booms
Trevose Head foghorn, at times like these I know that under the modern surface
Cornwall is what it has always been.

 

Denis McCallum.

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