Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

As we race towards the sharp end of the summer term with the dreaded sports day and activities week safely out of the way, the long summer break looms ahead and my postings are likely to be more erratic than usual. Without the daily routine that term time requires I fear that my time will merge into a summery haze although I have every intention of concentrating on some story writing and editing. beach-scene120412[1]

However, if last summer was anything to go by I managed to fail miserably on both of those counts, so I’m not promising anything or indeed setting a deadline that I will feel obliged to fulfil. I shall keep up with reading as many blogs as I can so won’t have evaporated completely from the stratosphere and I shall hopefully find some interesting places during August that will be worth blogging about later.

Before I go though, I must just share this with you.

The autistic son of an acquaintance of mine was recently banned from his school bus for a few days apparently for causing damage to said vehicle. He sat down next to a sign which clearly stated:

TAKE HAMMER AND BREAK THE GLASS.

So he did.

Enjoy your summers!

 

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“Go west, young man, go west. There is health in the country and room away from our crowds…” Horace Greeley

 “If you ever plan to motor west,
Travel my way, take the highway that is best.” Bobby Troup

After our weather-turbulent Christmas we were pleased to get away for a few days to blow away the cobwebs, taking advice from both the above quotations. We headed to Cornwall, the most south-westerly county of the United Kingdom, where the jaggedly ragged land stretches into the Atlantic, fashioned over time by crashing coastal attrition. Cornwall –  land of Arthurian legend, of piskies and sprites  and of that famous snack once a staple of  Cornish tin miners – the Cornish pasty.

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North Cornish coast

Because the traffic reports were so horrendous we abandoned our favourite route – that of the trusty old A303 (part of the original artery to the west country from London, passing as it does by Stonehenge and so steeped in folklore along its course there is even a book written about it), and plumped for keeping to the longer and infinitely more boring motorway network.

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Narrow entrance to Boscastle Harbour

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Boscastle harbour snapped on my phone – hence the colouring!

However, this paid off and we were in north Cornwall within four and a half hours, driving along its wild coastline, past Boscastle (the site of terrible flooding a few years ago), the salt spray and spume mixing with bracing fresh air as we left the car and battled with the elements to stretch our legs along the cliff path at Port Isaac (now overly popular since the filming of the TV series, Doc Martin).

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Boats in Padstow harbour

We based ourselves in Padstow, a small but lively fishing port, nestling next to the river Camel and home to the burgeoning empire of celebrity chef and travel presenter, Rick Stein, whose seafood restaurant with rooms is a delight if anything sea related tempts your palate. He has several food emporia in the town – a deli, a bistro, a café and a gift shop and while locals may regard it as overkill, his presence has ensured a steady stream of tourists which has helped other businesses to flourish.

As Cornwall is a long and narrow county, it is easy to hop from north to south coast with relative ease when the weather changes suddenly, so altering geographical location can be a distinct advantage.  As things were looking inclement, we drove down to the Eden Project, near St Austell. Opened in 2001 and the brainchild of Tim Smit, the Eden Project is the largest collection of indoor rainforest plants in the world and is billed as a top eco visitor attraction. We’ve been meaning to check it out for years.

Turning up on spec though, is not to be recommended. It wasn’t particularly busy, which from our point of view is a good thing but it cost us a fortune to get in. Apparently our tickets are valid for re-entry for one year but booking online is a much more economic way to have a day out.

The plants are housed in massive ‘biomes’ – huge domes resembling the chrysalis of some enormous science-fiction horror insect. We wended our way through a humid jungle path interspersed with display boards informing us of the various species and their uses around the world. After the jungle biome, there is the Mediterranean biome where a lone flamenco guitarist attempts to create some atmosphere.

Now, taking into account that it was just after Christmas and that everywhere always looks a little like the aftermath of Armageddon, I can’t help having a little moan. I know this is a charity and I know that much of the work here is done by volunteers, but to be honest, it looked a bit tired to me. Considering there is so much in the press these days about students needing to volunteer to get at least a toe in our ever shrinking job market I reckon they could advertise for a few more of them to tidy the place up and repaint the information boards; do a bit of weeding. Although we found it interesting, I can’t see us rushing back to make more use of our very pricey annual ticket.

Back on the north coast again, the weather cleared to that extraordinary light for which Cornwall is famous and we set off for a long trek up the cliff path at Padstow and down onto the wide stretches of golden sand washed clean by the stormy waves of the previous few days.

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Padstow beach alongside the river Camel estuary

There is nothing like a breath of sea air to restore wellbeing  after festive over indulgence and we left Cornwall feeling refreshed and ready to tackle anything that the New Year celebrations might bring. We returned on the A303 and stopped off to see the new visitor’s centre at Stonehenge. It was packed; there were queues. We didn’t wait, having been fortunate in our youth to see the stones close up. Nowadays you have to take a shuttle bus and view the stones from behind a fence on a tarmac path; but that’s progress, I guess.

As we drove homeward memories of that Cornish light kept re-entering my mind and I thought back to previous trips westward, during summer months, to St Ives, an artist’s colony where we discovered something truly magical.

But I‘ll leave that till my next post – Barbara’s Hidden Studio.

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There’s been much in the media this week about a certain 50 year anniversary – the one that everyone over a certain age professes to know exactly where they were when the event occurred. You know the one I mean – it instantly shocked and rocked the world in a way that Mahatma Ghandi’s assassination didn’t, news not travelling quite so fast or as globally fifteen years earlier.

I was convinced I knew where I was the day the news came through about JFK. My mother disagreed – she said that I couldn’t possibly remember – I would have been far too young. (From where I am on the age scale now, I find that rather comforting). Of course, she was right (mothers always are); it wasn’t JFK’s assassination I remember – it was that of his brother, Robert, some five years later.

I have a vivid memory of standing on a moor somewhere in the West Country while my father listened to the news on his car radio that Kennedy had been shot. I know I was wearing shorts and a navy sweater; the weather was chilly and I remember goose pimples on my legs.

A moor somewhere in the West Country

A moor somewhere in the West Country

To corroborate my memorable tableau of times past, I consulted our holiday diaries, recently passed on to me by Mum during one of her sorting-out fests.

As a family, we kept a holiday diary, the writing of which fell to me from about the age of ten. These diaries have proved invaluable over the years in settling petty family disputes about when and where we may have done something or other while on vacation. So, to prove to myself that the car radio scenario was not a figment of my imagination, I checked to see if our holiday date and venue corresponded with the shooting of Bobby Kennedy in June 1968. No doubt about it. In early June of that year we were indeed on holiday in North Cornwall, as described by my own fair hand in beautiful pre-exam italic style.

While the news item was not mentioned in dispatches exactly, other vaguer memories that I have associated with Robert Kennedy’s death were established. The speedboat ride around Padstow harbour in grey and windy weather bears out the chilliness I experienced on that remembered moor, (must have been Bodmin); followed by knickerbocker-glories in a café.  I am pleased to report that the weather for the rest of our week was hot and sunny and we apparently spent a lot of time on the beach – but of that I have no true memory.

Isn’t it odd how our mind play tricks, selecting what is remembered in crystal clear vision while other things remain lost forever? Reading through some of the old diaries again jogged my memories into believing I had retrieved something from my past – but had I really? Does imagination help in recreating scenes that have slipped away?

Other, more recent world events will always stay with me, just like the memory of JFK does for people slightly older than me. I know exactly where I was when I heard about the twin towers and I know exactly how I felt the morning I woke to the news that John Lennon died, but although our London 7/7 bombings were a recent tragic loss of life – I have no recollection of what I was doing on that day.

As far as earliest memories go, I have a fleeting ghost of a picture in my head of walking along a low brick wall holding Nanna’s hand. It is sunny, there are leafy trees above and to my right is a big white house. I think I am waiting for Dad to drive up in a car. I am convinced it is where we lived briefly before moving to the country – but I would have been less than two years old and the year would definitely be pre-1963. Is this real thought or an imagined picture of my past that I have created because I have since seen that building?

And more to the point – can I ever prove Mum wrong?

Do you have a memory connected to a world event – or I wonder what your earliest memory is? I’d love to know.

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Oh, and just one more thing…

The thought occurred to me that sharp-eyed car connoisseurs will be wondering what make of swanky car my family must have been driving in those days for it to have been fitted with a car radio. Well, let me tell you. It wasn’t.

This was our car:

1968 Morris Traveller

1968 Morris Traveller

And this was Dad’s radio:

or one very similar

or one very similar

And the reason I was standing on chilly Bodmin Moor was because we would have had to drive for miles to high ground so that Dad could get a signal. He was obsessed with the news. Every evening at home he would demand absolute silence while he watched the news on television which was, as I recall, often followed by something called ‘All Our Yesterdays,’ which for my sister and me at that time was just plain dull.

(We were both ace at current affairs though).

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