Posts Tagged ‘Cornwall’

1 March 2023

I had been feeling rather alone in my obsession for the Minack Chronicles. There are multiple Facebook pages, although some seem to mostly have posts from a few years ago. And then, while searching for a quotation about what a dream the books are, I found this, a record album based on the series! I have to figure out how to order it, not being familiar with acquiring digital music. It was released in November 2022, proving to me that the series is still winning hearts.

My next book had arrived.

It has a pleasing cover featuring the donkeys, first introduced in the earlier book, The Donkey in the Meadow.

The passages from the book that drive me most to want to talk to you about them tend to be the ones about more personal aspects of the books and don’t give the best idea of the joy of reading about the donkeys, the foxes and badgers, the many birds, and or course the cats that share the Minack with him and Jeannie.

For example, I am drawn again to how Derek knows how lucky he and Jeannie were to have found the place back when it was still affordable. A young woman had come walking up the lane, one of many pilgrims who visited because of the books, and asked the rather strange question, “Have you lost what you achieved? Have you lost the first vision?”

Just a few days ago from when this post will publish, I had a birthday. Feeling very non-peopley because of the recent work frustration about a certain job, I didn’t want much of anything to do with birthday greetings so I reset my Facebook so no one could post a greeting (only those who already knew about it, as I had my birthday itself hidden). Derek was a bit of a birthday curmudgeon himself.

As for curmudgeonliness, Derek complained again about strikes, but had gained insight into why they happen, because of bad bosses. Toward the end of this passage, he bothered me with his thoughts against equality. One runs into difficulties sometimes in reading old books.

Fortunately, I can tell you that in a much later book, his idea of equality has transformed into the realisation that not everyone is born with the same advantages. I think Jeannie may have talked to him about that. I hope I have saved that bit so I can share it when the time comes. Moments like these I just wish I could have had a good talk with him.

I think he was beginning to understand, since he talks about missed opportunities in his own life and then segues to words that explain for me why it is good to take a break from blogging in the winter.

They were still living with no telephone. (Sometimes I might as well not have one, since I don’t turn the volume on, but I wouldn’t like to have to go a mile to a phone booth to make an emergency call.)

Ah, frogs in the big Orlyt greenhouse, where Jeannie had propagated a host of geraniums that she would not sell:

I have a new name for the back patio! Must make a sign!

How very much I relate to Derek’s stories of daffodil thieves! Ive had 100 buds in the boatyard garden (a garden now lost to me) and had them all picked overnight before they could bloom. Derek was a supporter of the Coast Path, which opened in 1973 and made public the little paths that he and Jeannie used to maintain for walking the donkeys, and they were friendly to the ramblers, unless…


And Derek took them!

In years past, when I would catch someone with a big stolen bouquet in Long Beach, I took the flowers away (at least twice) and took them into city hall to put in a vase for more than one person to enjoy. I wouldn’t dare to that now; someone would Yelp about how a crazy gardener ruined their vacation.

As it happened, I had gotten a hardback copy of the next book, which I started immediately after finishing The Winding Lane.

It was like living two lives at the same time, one day to day real life and, in my mind and my dreams, the life of Minack Cottage.

Again, Derek wrote of how their life on the flower farm did not come easily, was not entirely idyllic.

This is one reason that I am so obsessed with this series. Their experience echoes mine of moving here, at just the same age as Derek was when he moved, and becoming jobbing gardeners. Robert and I were indeed so poor that postage could be a challenge.

The flower and produce farm was impressively hard work.

Once again, I got to vicariously enjoy a visit from another favourite writer of mine.

I also very much relate to the personality revelations that Derek shared.

I always had the suspicion that the reason people hired us was because we were cheaper, usually $20 an hour cheaper (the two of us) than other local gardening businesses. This theory seems to be proven correct from a recent work situation that has, I think, made the Minack Chronicles an even more wonderful escapist read for me.

I also love the descriptions of living in a seaside tourist area; Minack Cottage was near to the towns of Penzance and Mousehole.

We often hear the same thing from locals when the weather is bad: Oh dear, this is very bad weather for the people on spring break, or clamming, or a festival.

Good, windy summer weather brings Oh good, some wind for the kite flyers!

And this, so true, We used to love working at the homey and personable garden of Klipsan Beach Cottages, before Mary and Denny retired. Now I think a good, personal touch place to stay would be at our friend Wendy’s cottage, which used to be her father’s and for which she has great sentiment, Pacific Alder Cottage. She likes to spend time there herself. And I still love the Sou’wester Lodge, because I like vintage trailers; it also has four cute cabins. (I sent a friend there who, it turned out, is claustrophobic in trailers, oops!)

Our area of seaside towns has the same problem as Cornwall did when Derek wrote this in about 1979:

The vacation rental problem is a great dilemma here, where workers cannot find affordable places to rent.

He mentioned the Merry Maidens again…

…and again, I mourned that when I was there in 1975, I did not walk down the winding lane, just a little over a mile to Minack Cottage. I must share this again: upper right circle is Merry Maidens, lower middle circle is Minack Cottage with its view of the Barn Barges rocks. (The other circle is where their helper Jane lived years before.)

When I finished Where the Winds Blow, I faced at least five days wait for the next book, the only one I didn’t have. When it arrived, I would be able to read them all. In one sense, the wait was a reprieve, leaving me four books still to read before Jeannie’s death, a loss (albeit though it was over a quarter century ago) that I dreaded. I had some other good books lined up, so at least the predicted perfect reading weather would not be wasted.

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late February 2023

While waiting for the next book in the Minack Chronicles, I read Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. Wonderful, and my head got floaty when I suddenly figured out the whole premise of the book (after feeling confused). A reviewer correctly said that within the book is the best Blitz novel ever written.

And then the next Derek Tangye book arrived.

I loved every bit and will share my favourite parts. As always, he recaps the story of how he was won over to liking cats.

Derek and Jeannie left city life to be flower farmers on a Cornish cliff.

By the time he left college, he had “come to…

Of course, I identify with his awkwardness in groups. I have been hopeful at times but never succeeded.

The year in which he wrote A Cat Affair seems to be when pilgrims began to arrive at Minack Cottage, and it was the year when I was only a bit over a mile away one day at the Merry Maidens stone circle but didn’t know anything about the Tangyes.

I love the fondness for frogs, as the story of the tadpole in the tea is shared again and expanded.

Derek wrote again of his liberal grandfather…

…and in one of the books around the middle of the series, I found out why Derek would often surprise me by being adamantly anti-strikers: He and Jeannie relied on the early spring crop of daffodils to get them through the year, and often when they got to the nearby train station to ship them, there would be a strike which meant the daffodils would wilt unsold.

Based on what I have read of English history at the time, Derek would have understood, I think, if he knew more about working conditions that weren’t anything like what his grandfather provided.

If only David Kynaston would finish his next book in his history series, Tales of a New Jerusalem, which may travel into the 70s. I have been waiting…and waiting…and hope I (and he) live long enough to see it. Then I will know much more in scrupulous and personal detail (he often quotes the average citizen) about the strikes of that era.

Derek mentioned another local author, Marion Spring, and I have managed to order a book by her called Garden Memories (on its way). He describes giving her a sprig from the “verbena bush”, oft mentioned. I finally found out that it was a large hebe!

At the cottage, as Lama becomes elderly and is protected by Derek from being usurped, a young cat named Oliver is hanging around and Jeannie feeds him outdoors. Derek builds him a comfy outdoor home.

I was always pleased when Beverley Nichols came to visit (and I hope to be rereading his memoirs next winter.)

Lama was too dignified to accept such blandishments from visitors, much as Beverley tried.

In a later retelling of that story, Beverley says at the bedroom doorway, “We have had words.” (It occurs to me that when I read his memoirs years ago, I had the same sentimental tears as I do over Minack.)

Looking backward, Derek reminisces about the rocky start of the daffodil farm, and how when he and Jeannie were invited to Claridges in London to celebrate its 25th anniversary as special guests (because of Jeannie’s starlike former employment at the Savoy Hotel), “we were unable to accept. We had too many debts. We hadn’t the money to pay our fare to London and back.” So fie on snide amateur reviewers who have assumed that they were able to move to Cornwall because of wealth.

The following page and a bit about what noisy people fail to appreciate, reminds me of the horrible fireworks week or more here on the peninsula every July, and what it would be like without them.

About little black cat Lama, and their first cat, Monty, just one of the passages that makes me tear up so I cannot see the page, and, like Derek, I value that depth of emotion, even now when I read it again to share:

Due to rainy weather and the brevity of the Minack books being under 200 pages, I could sometimes read two a day. I took a brief moment to look out the door.

I could not make myself go out into the cold but potentially productive sunshine. I had to read on.

This next book tells more of the peaceful daily life at Minack with no greater suspense than whether or not Derek will keep his New Year resolutions. (He does part of the domestic work of the household but resolved, among other things, to do some cooking, which was Jeannie’s domain. As the years passed, he did more of it although…well, read and see if he succeeds on this particular year.)

He also tells Jeannie that he has resolved to sort out his “oceans of notes and letters and papers” that are kept in a big cupboard. “Jeannie was laughing.” I suspected he would have about as much success as I have had with my to do list item called “filing cabinet”.

He continued to resist the kind of sophisticated humour that makes fun of people and that ridicules the sentimentality that he treasured. It reminded me of in-person groups in my past and even of reading things nowadays among Facebook friends and wondering why people I like are spending their time making fun of what people wear or scoffing at mistakes celebrities have made.

When a close friend who is a deputy leader in the Labour Party visits, Derek has a discussion with him about Cornwall:

So true, and, since Derek was far from retired at that time, I appreciate that he as a middle-aged person had sympathy for older folk.

When Derek and Jeannie were struggling in the early years of the flower and produce farm, his mother helped them out. I would like to give credit to my mother for doing the same at one particularly critical juncture when Robert’s and my van broke down (on the way home from visiting her two hours away) and we had a huge towing bill and then a huge repair bill.

Again, thank you, mom.

Here is an astute description of cat behaviour:

They, and especially Jeannie, grew all sorts of flowers in their cottage garden…

…although by that time, they were, I think, no longer growing many flowers other than daffodils for the flower trade. In summer, they grew and shipped tomatoes. When they used to grow flowers, before larger farms with huge greenhouses started to compete with the cliff farms, among them were:

Beauty of Nice stock, Persian carpet wallflowers, Bournemouth gem and Governor Herrick (little scent)  and Princess of Wales (good scent) violets, Ascania, the original Cornish violet, and Wedgwood Iris. 

They grew and sold Pilot and Homeguard potatoes, also May Queen, Sharpe’s Express, and Duke of York Cornish new potatoes, but gave up the potato trade after several years of being blighted by storms.

They had purchased three greenhouses and grew and shipped Maascross tomatoes with a label extolling that they were “grown for flavour.”

Having been farming veg and flowers for twenty plus years, they were friends with the old timers.

I share with Derek this labelling problem.

I loved the art on the paperback versions that I was buying used. The hardbacks had photographs, and I particularly enjoyed this one of the book I had just finished, the view from Minack Cottage with Derek and Jeannie in the garden.

Reading weather was set to continue for another week or more. I had received a book that I was so eager to read that next, I was going to emerge from the world of Minack into the 1980s London life of a jobbing gardener.

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late February, 2023

I continued with the next of the Minack Chronicles, reentering the Cornish cliffside world of Minack Cottage, with its flower farm, cats, donkeys, and wildlife. If you would like to see an old television show that was made about Derek and Jeannie’s world, broadcast in 1971 around the time when these books took place, here is a video that I was thrilled to find.

I own all of Beveley Nichols’ books and must reread them to see if he ever mentions his visits to Derek and Jeannie Tangye. (Note the praise under the title, above.)

Meanwhile, I was googling and google-earthing place names and found out about the Friends of Minack and that they were having their final annual get together on the very weekend when I was reading about Minack, the end of February, in Penzance. If I had discovered the books last autumn, I truly might have finally gotten my passport renewed and Allan and I just might have taken the risk and gone. I like to think so anyway. [Later, I think I might have read this last gathering would be at the end of March. But I still do not have a current passport.)

I wonder if some of the early daffodils would have been out on the cliffs. In A Cornish Summer, written in 1968-9, Derek wrote of the ones they were harvesting, starting with ‘Magnificence’.

As I read through the series, I noted down the daffodils which they grew. I put a star next to the ones that I have in my gardens.

California aka Pentewan

Obvallaris *

Joseph McLeod (their favorite)

Magnificence first to bloom 

King Alfred *





Carbineer (It may be that Jane grew these in her own garden; she won a flower show prize with them, one of Derek’s favourite and oft repeated stories)

Golden Harvest

Whites :

Early Bride


Barrett Browning *

White Lion*


Ones that didn’t sell, now in hedgerows, joining ones that were thrown into hedgerows in WWII when the cliff meadow gardens were turned to vegetables: 







Coverack Glory 

Scilly Whites


Soleil d’Or (this one perhaps only grown on the Isles of Scilly; here, we grow them on a windowsill as they are tender)

Another called Sunrise grew byDerek’s writing hut.

Of course, I want to have all of them and will be on a quest.

Derek’s problems with worrying are ones I strongly share.

These philosophizings are a recurrent theme throughout the more than thirty years of the chronicles. I have to say (a phrase which pops up in a lot of the British gardening shows I watch…Do I “have to say”? Maybe not but I will) that I share a lot of his feelings even though I am not sure they are correct; many people thrive in social groups. We will get to more of Derek’s thoughts on this topic in later books, including the feeling that I share about thinking later that one has talked in a group too much, too loudly, too downright ridiculously. At this point, he seemed to be writing from the point of view of feeling that loners were better than more social people.

I am a terrible failure at group dynamics, whether it be a coffee klatsch or work group. I’ve given up trying but I do not feel superior about being a loner.

Here is when I first got a strong glimpse that Derek and I would have had political disagreements.

Oh, dear. I was surprised, because many of his friends from the city were Labour politicians. When I was in feminist political groups in the mid 70s, there was much discussion about whether those who moved to the country were escaping their political responsibilities. (I didn’t think so, even though at the time I liked city life just fine.). Before long, as talk of feminism entered the media, Derek’s writings in future books revealed he didn’t like feminists, either. Oh dear, oh dear. I think Jeannie would have liked me, but I am not sure he would have.

I was further surprised when I read in the next book about his admiration for his grandfather’s labor relations with his employees. Below: From Cottage On a Cliff, and Derek often repeats this story in later books. Yet he also repeats his disapproval of strikers who were surely striking to have working conditions of the kind his grandfather provided. I could not understand but figured out some of why later on, when he wrote about how there would often be a train strike at the time when he delivered their precious daffodils to the “flower train” and the daffodils, undelivered, could mean a season of no income.

Did Derek’s possible conservative streak, if that’s what it was, stop my Minack obsession in its tracks? Most decidedly not. The cliffs, the flower farm, the reading, the thinking, the walks with the donkeys and the cats, the love of nature and books, and the passion for the preservation of nature, still held me there in my heart. As did the delightful relationship between Derek and Jeannie. (She was also a writer, of Meet Me at the Savoy, a memoir of her employment at the Savoy Hotel, followed by a trilogy of novels about a hotel, all of which I have not yet tracked down to buy. But I will. When she worked at the Savoy, guests were smitten, including Danny Kaye.)

Both Derek and Jeannie were staunch environmentalists.

By now, they had electricity and running water and a chicken coop turned guest room, but Derek did not have a telephone till the very last years of his life.

I identify with their work struggles, similar to what I went through as a gardener. We would just get ahead when another crisis would take us back to poverty (a vehicle breakdown, a broken sewer line, and worst of all, Robert’s heart attack in 2002).

Some who have commented on the books have said that Derek and Jeannie were privileged to have moved to the coast. They were well aware that they were lucky to have moved at a time when it was affordable to get a longterm lease (they never actually owned the Minack Cottage property!).

I found a photo of them in their small cottage, about the same size as the fishing shack that I lived in from 1994-2010.

I am sure that their books, before they were gifted a room dehydrator, had the same slightly damp smell that mine collected during my tiny house years.

Meanwhile, in Penzance, on the very weekend I was reading this book, the annual meeting of the Friends of Minack was in session. The group was ending its annual convention because most of the members had gotten quite old and they couldn’t find younger folks to run the group. I found some photos of a previous convention. I would have loved to be there.

Ohhh…,they were looking through the Minack archives. How I yearned to join them. Now, surely there is a group I could have fitted in with…I like to think so.

When one reads quite old books, it can be hard to even find someone to talk with about them.

The flowers on Shelagh’s grave (she died of a heart attack at age 20) brought tears. (Photos from the Friends of Minack Society Facebook page)

And I must share the photo of this cake (I hope the friends wouldn’t mind; they do ask that readers share their love of the books so that the series might be revived and reissued, as most of it has been out of print for years).

Jeannie died at my age, 67 (maybe 68), a tragic event which I am already dreading in the memoir series. She loved her life so much.

After my envious perusing of past Minack gatherings, I returned to the book, where I found this passage rings true of the coastal tourist area where I and many retirees live.

By this time, Jane had moved away and they had a new helper, Geoffrey. Six books had been published over the course of 12 years and folks were showing up at the door to meet Derek and Jeannie and the cats and donkeys. This was years before Google Earth, and these fans had found their way through the countryside and down an unmarked lane, or along the cliffs before the Coast Path was opened.

I love Derek and Jeannie for being kind and welcoming and deeply interested in their guests even when they were busy.

Later, Derek wrote several times about how when he needed help, the kindness would be reciprocated when a plumber, a carpenter, or a lawyer who loved the books showed up and offered help at the perfect moment.

I immediately turned to the next book.

More about living in a tourism economy…so familiar to me.

I spent more time with Google Earth looking up various landmarks mentioned in the book and trying to figure out just where Jane’s cottage had been.

A much later book revealed that Derek’s friend John Le Carrè had purchased those three cottages and made them into one. As “The John le Carré house”, it shows up very readily on Google Earth.

As for the Merry Maidens, I had been there in 1975, not knowing about the chronicles, and I figured out I had been only a little over a mile walk down “the winding lane” to Minack Cottage, where I could have joined other pilgrims who visited there. My heart yearns… Perhaps it’s time to say that for some reason, I spent a lot of time weeping sentimentally while reading this series.

The circle at upper left is the Merry Maidens, where I stood in 1975, the blue line follows the winding lane to Minack Cottage, and the arrow points to its view of the Carn Barges rocks, and Janie’s cottage, later the John le Carré house, is to the lower left.

Friends and relations visiting were a different story from the comparatively quick visits of polite pilgrims.

Let me just say, houseguests of a working gardener in summer (not a problem for us because we no longer have to work as hard as we used to….and we don’t have a guest room!), must let their hosts get on with their work.

This amused me about taking walks…

I have quite a few elderberries of varying sorts in the back garden. Now I think I will put one in the front of the house.

Now I had finished Cottage on a Cliff and was in a terrible state because the next book in the series had not arrived, and was not due to arrive for several days. I was loathe to break the spell but would have to read something else, as reading weather continued.

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from a retrospective series about a trip to the UK when I was 20, recreated from travel journals, letters home, and photos

Monday, 7 July 1975

Caught the 7:15 train from Fishguard.  Now waiting, stopped over in Caermarthen.  Feel sad because I hated leaving the Pembrokeshire coast.  I think it was the most beautiful place I’ve seen in Wales, and I did not even see 1/8 of it.  A tourist pamphlet described a village on the Gower Peninsula, set in a deep glen, with a little harbour and white washed cottages.  I want to go there, and also St David’s and Haverford West and Poppit Sands but haven’t time.  I will be sure to have five days for the Gower Peninsula in the itinerary of my next tour, and five days back in Skye.  I say five days for places that I would like to live in for fifty years. It’s tragic!

I arrived in Falmouth, Cornwall, at about 4:30.  Asked a taxi driver where I could find a bank open.  He kept calling me “my love” and finally told me the banks had closed at 3:30!  Walked up to Pendennis Castle on the grounds of which the youth hostel, an old barracks, is located.  I waited 15 minutes for it to open, along with a group of other hostelers.  Seeing a lot of schoolchildren, I was afraid the hostel would be full, but they had room.  The hostel is “superior” grade, thus the most expensive, but seemed less pleasant than others, even though the wardens were nice.  The common room was full of cigarette smokers.  I was in a room with only three beds, though!

From a letter to my friend Bird:

Cornwall east with Falmouth

What a night! I was walking around a path by the castle I am staying in, Pendennis Castle Youth Hostel in Falmouth, Cornwall.  [The hostel is actually in barracks at the end of the castle grounds.] It is on a high hill overlooking the sea. Around the side is a sort of dry, deep moat, parts of the sides of which were covered with blackberries and nettles.

Pendennis Castle moat

Falmouth from the castle hill

I had just walked to a lookout point over the sea, after having stumbled upon a couple in a compromising position in a WWII ruin, with a baby nearby crying miserably.  So embarrassing! I rushed by them to get out of their way and found that there was only one exit so I rushed back again!

All of a sudden I realized that up there on that hill, the sound that I had been hearing that I thought was cannons (there is a naval base nearby) was thunder!  I was up on a high point, so I started hurrying, but the path kept going higher! It was getting dark! Lightning began to strike.  First there had just been sheet lighting, but then chain lightning, and it was striking all around the castle and moving closer to me.  I turned back.  The only way down was nearer to the lightning.  I crouched down each time the thunder roared, waited till the lightning struck and then ran for it.  The thunder sounded, and again I dropped till the lightning struck.  I saw two girls and two boys from a hostelling school party in the moat, and regardless of blackberries and with an agility born of terror, I scrambled down to them.  The rain had begun.  We reached a spot that looked scalable as it was slanted, but after one boy reached the top and a girl got halfway up, the deluge began and the hill became so slick that she slid back down again.  Gallantly, the lad came back down, too.  We ran around the castle and finally found the way in.  The big gate had a human sized door in it, which was open.  Of all the times to not be wearing my rain poncho.  My blue down jacket was soaked through.  Fortunately, the hostel has a hot drying room, so it should be all right by morning.

[Here is a good photo of the main entrance to the castle.  And here you can see a photo of how high on the hill I was during the memorably terrifying storm. I remember it well.]

Lightning is still striking all about and the power is out.  I am writing by candle light.

I love traveling alone. I am almost becoming confident. I hitch hiked  and discouraged an ardent, kissy Irishman near Fishguard. I walked 20 miles without getting stiff.  But the bakeries keep me fat and I am still afraid of heights.

Tuesday, 8 July 1975

from my travel journal

When I asked for my hostel job this morning [everyone has to do a chore before checking out], the warden’s assistant, a fuzzy young man, said I looked like I needed to rest in the sun so I didn’t have to do any job!  The thunder and lightning had kept up for hours overnight.  It caused fires, a human injury, and killed 16 cows.

I went down into Falmouth and found a bank (having used my last 5 1/2p for breakfast) and cashed a $40 travelers cheque (got £18) and found a bus to Helston.  Arrived there about 12:30, found a public library, and looked up “Ang”, which was all I could read of the handwriting in my American relative’s letter. [My father had told me I possibly had Cornish cousins, and he had written to and gotten a reply from an Arizona relative of his with some information about who they might be.]  I was looking for William and Cora Ang-something, distant cousins on my father’s side.  I found a William Angove!  Called the number, and a man’s cheerful voice answered.  I said I was a distant relative of theirs from America and had they gotten my postcard?  They had, but the return address had been damaged.  He asked if I was coming to see them and said yes, I would like to.  He asked if I had a big Lincoln, and I said no, I’d walk and hitch (they lived in a suburb five miles out).  He said he would pick me up at the traffic lights (only one part of town has them).  I found the lights in the small village of tiny streets, sat down on the steps of a courthouse, and waited.  Awhile later, a ruddy-faced man with curly grey hair came up to me and asked, “Are you an American?”  “Yes,” I said.  He said, “What part of America?” and I said, “Seattle, Washington.  Do you know a William Angove?” and he said “I’m he!” and shook my hand.  We walked down the hill to the car park and got in his car and he drove me to their home in Nancegollan and we had tea and his brother came over and the butcher came over and they were all very amusing.

William and Cora Angove

They lived on this street in Nancegollan.

William and Cora Angove’s house. I have the location noted as both Nancegollan and Trevarrian, which is “on the coastal road between Mawgan Porth and Watergate Bay.”

Angove’s back garden

William’s hobby is photography, and he showed me many good photos and 3 fine cameras.

Cora and William drove me to Lands End and Penzance and Mousehole and St Just…

Cornwall west, Google 2018

Lands End

Lands End

Lands End

Lands End


Penzance Harbour, low tide

Penzance Harbour

St. Michael’s Mount; you can walk to it at low tide.

…and then we went for fish and chips and then they drove me to the hostel at Hayle and kissed me goodbye.  I walked up the dark road to the hostel alone. [I have to admit that I had wished they had invited me to stay with them, not to save me money but because I liked them so much and wanted to be part of family.  My family back home was so tiny with just my parents, my grandma (who is in a convalescent home now), and an aunt and uncle and two cousins.]

Wednesday, 9 July 1975

I woke up tired after a night in a dorm with noisy school girls, all about 15-16 years old and very loud till very late, screaming about a small yellow moth and comparing bra sizes. I got up at 5 AM to use the loo. They got up at 7, half an hour before the rising bell (after making noise till hours past curfew) and talked about how “that girl woke us up!”.  I had hoped to sign in for another night, but the hostel was full.  So off I went to look for a bed and breakfast.  I found that I could only catch a bus to London from Penzance, so I hitched there and got a ride with a sleazy looking man in a scrap heap car who runs a free hostel in Truro for people busted for dope.  This unsavoury but obliging character dropped me right at the bus station.  [My train pass had run out, and there wasn’t much train service in Cornwall anyway, as I recall.] I asked about the bus to London; it leaves at 8:05 Friday.

Briefly because I am so tired: I went up to the town centre, had some bad pizza, found a B&B, St Mary’s Terrace, 95 Regent Terrace, £2.25 for a night, went to St Ives and Castle Gate, pouring rain, walked 7 miles, and found the Chysauster Ancient Village.

a modern Google street view of the street the B&B was on

[I have memories of this day that I did not write down. Taking the buses, I saw old abandoned tin mines, and from my photos it seems I found more  than just the Chysauster village. I was smitten with Cornwall, as well I should have been since I now knew I was a little bit Cornish.  I wish I had photographed the tin mines.  You can see some photos of them here.  They dotted the landscape at the time I was there.}

on the bus to St Ives

St Ives

St. Ives

St. Ives

quite possibly in St Ives

Chysauster Ancient Village


Castle Gate Farm, near Penzance

Railway car homes near Marizion, which is near Penzance

Newlyn Harbour, next to Penzance


Back in Penzance, bought a purse for Bird in the Barbican craft shop, walked some more, found the roads narrow and dangerous.  Ate more bad pizza.

[Can you believe I was in Cornwall for days and never tried clotted cream teas? I saw many signs advertising it. It sounded weird to me…clotted cream…Little did I know it was a thick rich  yellow cream, served in place of butter, with jam on scones.]

Inside the Barbican

Captain’s Gallery in the Barbican

More rain! Used my poncho, decided to go to London Thursday, easier to get a room then.  Bought a ticket, cannot see much around here anyway because the rain is so heavy.

view from my room in Penzance


Thursday, 10 July 1975

I left Penzance and spent all day, from 8 in the morning till 18:30, on the bus to London.  I was not well prepared and had to buy food at a horribly expensive bus stop place.  The bus was rather warm, but had comfortable seats.  Passed through other cities, Exeter for one, stopping to pick up and set down people.  A little girl sitting behind me yelled “Tigers!” every time she saw cows.  She and her aunt made interesting conversation.  They said “ool” for “all”.  In front of me sat a gorgeous man and a woman with long brown hair and thick glasses.  They took turn sleeping in each other’s laps, practicing Swedish and Greek, and kissing and snuggling.  The countryside was lovely even though brown with the drought.

[If I could ever go back, one of my main destinations would be the Lost Gardens of Heligan, which was not restored back then.  It is located here, so the bus trip might have taken me near there.

[Could we possibly do a house trade in Cornwall for some months after we retire, and I mean in our 70s?  Would anyone even want to trade for a stay in our old double wide? Could Allan manage to drive us on the “wrong side” of the road?  It is something I pondered as I wrote this entry, although the strong desire faded as days passed.

Having relived the whole trip now except for the last visit to London, I think the place I would most want to revisit is Cornwall, and the place I am sorriest to have missed, due to the unplanned side trip to the Forest of Dean, is the Gower Peninsula in Wales.  If I could do it over, I’d have spent two days on the Gower Peninsula and less time in London at the end.  I just unexpectedly read the most tantalizing description of the Gower Peninsula in a gardening book (Natural Selection) by Dan Pearson.]

Next: my trip’s  last days in London.

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