Feature written for National Geographic Magazine by Julia Suzuki
The Magical Walls Amongst The Corn
What greater delight for child and adult alike than to live or holiday in the South West point of England. As you arrive into the county of Devon you sense that you are entering into a new Kingdom. Just as Harry Potter did as the train departed into his new world, and Enid Byton’s children did as they reached the land at the top of the Faraway tree.
An aura of enchantment. The air feels moist from the surrounding coast, the greenery is so much greener and the accents that welcome have a rich warmth. Somehow you could not imagine those farmer tones being stressed or shouting. They seem from an outside perspective, far too contained. Despite any impending droughts, or floods from the common Cornish storms, the impression is that they would take it all simply on their broad shoulders. My image of the people of Cornwall is always of them happy , surrounded by straw bales and basking sunlight. Its as though they are all about to burst into chorus at the local barn dance with the feeling that tomorrow is a given. This sentiment that they will find a way to get through contrasts with a city person who rushes on the basis that tomorrow is never promised.
A further hour drive down from Devon, and Cornwall is full of towns simply bursting with quaintness and charm as though completely lost in a time warp.
I visited Cornwall last year after a gap of some twenty years, taking the train following a meeting in London. My son was there taking a three week holiday with my parents, to allow me to work, and I decided to take a short break with them. ‘The First Great Western Mainline’ train services sounds somewhat magical as you say it. As I travelled I recalled the car journey when I was a child (somewhat less comfortable squashed with all our luggage). It always seemed to take forever with the constant nagging of myself and my two older brothers to my Father with, ‘are we there yet?’ A seven hour journey from Birmingham with the dog and cat in tow too. The benefits of caravanning allowing us to act out of the norm, with a cat who had become accustomed to its holiday home and location. We would spend at least three weeks each summer caravanning in a farmer’s field by the small village of Port Looe. Situated in a small field surrounded by the traditional stone built walls that we would climb over and then head out into the wider fields on our adventures.
What I recall most vividly, as we would go for long walks, was not the picking of wild flowers or the explorations down the narrow lanes. It was the cows!. My brothers were always saying to me beware of them incase they would stampede. I am still not sure if they were teasing or truly afraid themselves. But my eyes would be firmly fixed on the cows actions (whilst trying to avoid the stinky cowpats). And Wow! They did stare- in a very interrogating way. Sometimes they would start to move towards us. Though they never bolted I always did- at their slightest movement. Cows don’t stampede? They aren’t like rhinos? Are Cornish cows different? Questions that still remains in my unanswered box today.
My memories of my summer childhood holidays are a long blur of oneness. Long days by the beaches of swimming, surfing, sunbathing, sandcastles and sometimes sulking. Children on holiday were made to misbehave!
I stopped to spend my holidays travelling to further shores at my coming of age- eighteen as though I owed it to myself in my ‘maturity’. But I never felt such magic elsewhere. I have since travelled to most European countries, and to the States, Thailand, Dubai and further- yet never once felt the feeling of home or relaxation there. This was immediately evident as I first walked along the beach where I had spent so many summer weeks and it appeared that nothing had changed. The rocks stood unworn by the battering winter winds. The best rockpools were positioned as I remembered during the hours spent crouching with my net and bucket to snatch up the tiny shrimps, and the fish had the same sparkle. And then there was smell- the pungent salty air bought memories kicking into my soul as the breeze blew across me. I looked into the distance at the cliffs that hung with the same proudness. As I gazed across I recalled the book that I had studied in my ‘A’ levels’ The French Lieutenants Woman’, the tragedy of unrequited love. Of a lover who never returned and there is a romance about Cornwall that touches you gaze out into the far-reaching horizon. It certainly wasn’t the story of my life, but I recall the book and how she had been described gazing across the waters whenever I look at a lonely sea. And you can sense it most strongly from this footing.
The only thing that had changed over the two decade was myself. I was a grown woman with a child in the same place I had last been a child. A mother with a ten year old child enjoying the delights I had experienced, with the same blonde hair as mine had been but had faded over the years. His was getting more sun kissed every day. The health in his cheeks and joy in his face was untarnished by any of life’s baggage, pressure, financial concerns and responsibilities. He played with the friends he naturally made at the beach of Port Holland, close to St Austell as I had done. This small beach is not widely known, accessible by windy road that put most off the visit. Infact if you met another car it was like a dual of beasts as to who would reverse. This could take as long as ten minutes to find a pulling wide enough that two cars could cross. We called it our ‘Secret Beach’, as the journey to get there put off the faint hearted it was thus to us even more special.
We took a lovely late afternoon to Mevagissey, my favourite Cornish fishing town. Here you can you can buy all kinds of seaside junk, trinkets, memorabilia, pretty shell jewellery, buckets and spades. As for the famous delightful Cornish food delights they too are there in abundance. Dreamy clotted cream, fresh seafood and steaming Cornish pasties. We shared some wonderful evenings out to the local pubs for meals too , and as previous the classic ‘in a basket’ was still predominant on the menu. Something about scampi and chips oozing with vinegar and presented in a small basket that is like no other comfort food.
As I left and made the journey back to an urban home it wasn’t sad leaving the walls behind because there is a reassurance knowing that this magical place would always be there for whenever I cared to return, as it is there for all of us. Cornwall is our British treasure.
Julia Suzuki is Author of ‘The Land of Dragor- ‘Yoshiko and the Gift of charms which is available via Amazon and major book chains.