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Polurrian Bay

On Bank Holiday Monday, the plan was that Cousin David and his brother Ben would meet his cousins and some of Stephanie’s friends at the Polurrian Bay Hotel, and then scatter her ashes on the beach below. The hotel is in a beautiful clifftop spot, just outside the village of Mullion which is about 20 miles from Penzance, down on the Lizard peninsular.

Twelve of us met there for afternoon tea, and then we all walked down the cliff path to Polurrian Bay, which apparently was a favourite place for Stephanie. Her parents had owned a house on top of the cliffs above the bay, and I could see why the whole family loved it there so much. I remember Christopher talking about holidaying there as a child, and I think I’ve even seen some photos of him and his sister there.

Polurrian Bay

The weather just about stayed dry for us, though it was overcast and quite windy. It must be an absolutely gorgeous spot on a fine day.

St Michael’s Mount

I had a free day in Penzance last Sunday, before meeting Christopher’s family on the Bank Holiday Monday. I hadn’t realised quite how close St Michael’s Mount is to Penzance – a walk along the coast of only about three miles. The first mile or so is a bit industrial, as the coastal path is directly between the sea wall and the railway line. But once the railway heads inland, it’s a pleasant stroll along sand dunes (and a less salubrious walk through some car parks) to the small village of Marazion. The locals there seem to have perfected the art of separating grockles from their money, and it’s little more than a very pretty tourist trap. I had a tasty but over-priced sandwich there for lunch, before heading over to St Michael’s Mount. I’d checked the tide times beforehand, and was able to walk over the causeway to the island, which was quite fun.

St Michael’s Mount from Marazion beach

The island is run by the National Trust, who sting you for a substantial entrance fee. However, the gardens and the castle perched on the top of the rock are well worth a visit. I think my favourite bit was a model of the island, made by a butler to the family in the early 20th Century, entirely constructed out of champagne corks!

The pathway up to the castle is very rough – lots of uneven granite steps, and it must get very slippery when it rains. There is an underground tramway leading from the harbour up to the castle which is still functional, and used to haul supplies up to the top of the rock. But Health and Safety considerations mean that the NT won’t allow it to be used for passengers. My knees were killing me by the time I got back down to sea level, and I really didn’t relish the three mile walk back to Penzance!

Back down to Cornwall

Yes, I know that I’ve only recently been on holiday to Cornwall, but after I’d booked the trip to St Austell over Easter, it became clear that I’d be going back just a few weeks later. This wasn’t such a happy occasion – it was for a family funeral. Cousin Stephanie was Christopher’s mother’s cousin, but due to the fact that his mother died before we got married, Stephanie was pretty much a surrogate mother-in-law to me. Christopher was absolutely determined that she should attend our wedding, but she lived in the USA at the time. So we took the show on the road, and actually got married from her house in upstate New York.

Several years later, Stephanie retired back to the UK, and stayed with us for a bit while she house-hunted for somewhere to buy down in Cornwall. Her parents had owned a house there for many years, which all the extended family including Christopher and his sister used to go to on holiday. Christopher used to reminisce about piling into the family’s clapped-out car (a mini I think) and driving all the way from Kent to near Penzance, before the motorways were built.

Even after Christopher died, Stephanie always kept in contact. Over the last few years, she got increasingly ill with Parkinson’s Disease. She and her two sons (who I reckon would be Christopher’s second cousins) came to stay here about two years ago, and it was apparent then that she was seriously ill. So it wasn’t at all surprising when I got a phone call at work saying that she’d died. There was a very small private cremation service, but the sons wanted to gather her family and closest friends together to scatter the ashes. That was easier said than done, as the cousins are scattered all around the globe – USA, UK, Australia and Singapore – and I don’t think they’ve ever all been in the same place at the same time before! But it was decided that they would all meet up on May Bank Holiday in Mullion on the Lizard peninsula, which is where the family home had been. I was invited, and felt that I most definitely owed it both to Stephanie and to Christopher to attend. 

I made a long weekend of it, with short stays in Penzance on the way down, Mullion itself, and then Exeter on the way home. The countryside was gorgeous,  and I can quite see why the entire family had such good memories of their holidays there. Photos will follow when I’ve had time to look at them myself. For now, I’ve got tons of laundry to do before I go back to work tomorrow!

Abigail’s Party

The play on at Malvern Theatres last week was a new production of Abigail’s Party, the Mike Leigh classic. I’ve heard a lot about it, but had never seen it. It is famous for being largely improvised, with the original cast making it up in a series of workshops with the director. So I booked myself a standby seat for the matinee performance, and went along to see what all the fuss was about.

First impressions were good – the “curtain” was in the form of the front of a 70’s house, with a big picture window into the living room. As the audience filed in to their seats, we could see the main character, Beverly, getting ready for her party – setting out the cheesy-pineapple sticks and plumping up the cushions.

I found the play itself to be a bit of a slow-burner. Beverly was hosting the Drinks Do from Hell, whilst next door her neighbour’s daughter, Abigail, was holding her first grown-up party which was rapidly getting out of hand. Beverly was a monstrous character – shallow, bullying, selfish, and oblivious to the effect she had on her guests. I did think about leaving at the interval, but decided I ought to stick it out. I was glad I did – the second half was better than the first, with the tension being ratcheted up to breaking point. Class prejudices were laid bare, the parlous state of the guests’ marriages were hinted at, and as the characters got more and more drunk, their behaviour towards each other got more unpleasant, with devastating consequences.

Overall, I wouldn’t say that I particularly enjoyed the play. But it’s one of those that sticks in your mind afterwards, which I suppose is a measure of how powerful a piece it is. Certainly worth the price of standby ticket….

Scattering the ashes

Charlestown beach

Christopher used to holiday in Cornwall as a child, and had very happy memories of the county. So I thought it was only right to scatter some of his ashes whilst I was down there. The spot I chose was very peaceful – a stream coming out of the small cave you can see just above the sea-wall to the right of the photo. The stream led straight down to the beach and out to sea. I think he would have approved.

Easter in Charlestown

After the end-of-year mayhem at work, I really needed a break over Easter – somewhere where I could just relax and do very little whilst recharging my batteries. So I booked a long weekend’s break in Cornwall, in a self-catering apartment just outside St Austell. I don’t know Cornwall at all well, but I rather lucked out with the place I settled on. Charlestown is a very scenic, unspoiled village, with a very sheltered harbour that is home to some tall ships.

Charlestown harbour

It is also the place where Poldark was filmed, and the locals aren’t going to let you forget that in a hurry, with photos of a topless Aiden Turner all over the place. I had an “authentic Cornish clotted cream tea” on Monday, and even the tea came in a Poldark mug!

There’s also a Shipwreck Museum, just above the harbour, that is surprisingly interesting. It has a very eclectic mixture of exhibits – just about anything with a tenuous link to a shipwreck. There’s stunning views from the cliff-top paths, plenty of restaurants, and several very pleasant little beaches. Even the weather was good – it was a bit chilly, but generally sunny.

Overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable break – and I’ve come back feeling much more rested and ready to face the fray.

Bird Bath

I heard a distinctly odd scrabbling sound this afternoon, which sounded as if it was coming from the bathroom. Odd. On further investigation, it was definitely coming from under the bath. Even odder. My first thought was that somehow a mouse had got in there. The main stop-tap is under the bath, so there’s a small access hatch in the panelling to allow access. I opened it to see what was going on, and a little beaked head poked itself out. It wasn’t a mouse at all, but a blue-tit!

It didn’t seem at all scared, but flew up onto the shower-rail and watched with interest while the window was opened. The bathroom window is one I’ve not yet got around to replacing, so it still has secondary double glazing. I think that confused the bird, as it tried to escape as soon as the inner pane was slid open, only to fly slap bang into the outer pane. It looked a bit dazed, but pulled itself together and perched on top of the cold tap, watching carefully while the outer casement was unlocked. As soon as it was open, the bird flew straight out, so it clearly knew what was going on.

What is worrying me is how on earth it got under the bath in the first place! And if a bird can get there, then so could a mouse or worse! I’ve taped up the access-panel, so that if something does get in, then it won’t be able to get into the main house. But I’ve had a really good look around outside for a hole, and can’t see anything. I suppose another possibility is that there’s a way through from the roof space, maybe down behind the boxing that hides the pipework. I know the loft isn’t mouse-proof, so small birds could presumably also get in. Hmmm. Not happy!

Lidded Pots

Lidded pots

I went back to Eastnor Pottery again last Sunday to do some more throwing. While I was there, I picked up the lidded pots that I threw and decorated during my last two sessions there. The pots are all quite small – no more than 3″ tall – and therefore were very fiddly to throw. Nevertheless, I’m pleased with how well I’ve managed to get the lids to fit. I’m not a skilled enough potter to make a set of absolutely identical pots, but these are clearly all “variations on a theme”, which is what I was aiming for.┬áThe splatter decoration is achieved using an old toothbrush, dipped in a contrasting colour of slip. It’s dead easy to do, and surprisingly effective.

Exploding Cistern

The water pressure was low most of Monday, and then went off entirely for a couple of hours. Apparently it was a problem with a valve on the water mains, and they had to dig up the road yet again to try to fix it. However, the water did eventually come back on later that evening, but of course there were airlocks in the pipes, leading to lots of gushing, hiccoughing and stuttering when I turned the taps on. That wasn’t so bad. But I wasn’t prepared for the Exploding Cistern. This is apparently what happens if you have a BlooLoo cleaning block in the cistern! It made a right mess…..

Exploding BlooLoo in the cistern

Daffodil Sunday

The local stately home, Madresfield Court, has once again opened its gardens to the Great Unwashed on Daffodil Sunday. They didn’t hold it for a few years, which must have put quite a hole in the budgets of the local school and church, who together benefit from the admission fees. But tradition has been restored, and the event is now firmly back on Malvern’s social calendar.

They picked a good week this year, when the daffodils were at their peak. Since the date is fixed some time in advance, it can be a bit touch and go. I remember one year when Christopher and I went, there had been a harsh winter and the daffodils had barely started to emerge. Instead, the woods were carpeted with crocus, which was equally spectacular. Other years, it’s been a bit late and the daffodils have started to droop. This year however, they were spectacular.

A carpet of daffodils

What you can’t see in this carefully-framed picture are the thousands of people who were there! According to the local paper, there were over 2000 people who visited that afternoon, and it certainly felt like half of Malvern was there. However, when you have 67 acres of woodland, it’s easy enough to lose even a few thousand people!