Cornwall is famed for its stunning coastline, beautiful sandy and surfing beaches and charming fishing villages. But when we mention our upcoming visit to anyone in England the reaction is always the same: “Why Cornwall? It should be avoided at all costs”.
At some considerable cost! We are going there for a week.
The problem it seems is that the Cornish are N.O.C.D., a charming English acronym, which stands for Not Our Class Darling. That seems a little harsh, or did until we got there
Of course, you can see tattoos anywhere in the world,
We were told by various friends and acquaintances that we would see discarded and rusty washing machines, dishwashers and cars in people’s gardens, that we should be on the lookout for people with 6 fingers, a direct result of too much inbreeding, and that if inbreeding didn’t work the locals would turn their attention to the sheep. I have to say we saw none of the above, although there were plenty of sheep, they did seem to keep together in pairs for safety, and they kept a wary eye on us if we went too close.
What we did see was a beautiful county where people struggle to make a living. The main industries are farming, fishing and tourism, none of which offers a secure or prosperous living. Jobs are scarce, money more so. The locals do whatever they can to get by, which often means trying to sell anything they grow in their gardens. It is not uncommon to see little unmanned stalls like this by the road side that work on the honour system.
There is a price list and a cash box to leave the money. If that happened in America, the produce would be nicked, the money stolen and the homemade display shelves thrown into the back of a passing truck.
Actually it seems it is the tourists who are N.O.C.D (obviously there are exceptions and you are reading the blog of one of them and he is traveling with the other!). But the week we are there just happens to be half term – a week when all children in England have a week off school. It brings out the bucket and spade brigade in full force. We are seeing English tourists at their worst, and at their worst they give Australians a run for their money. Large men in small shorts, stomachs hanging free unencumbered by a waistband. Bald heads covered with silly hats or worse yet, a handkerchief knotted at the corners. Women of all shapes and sizes in bikinis that are completely inadequate for the job, assuming their job is to contain parts of the female body.
And then there are the children, excited, screaming and running wild, while their parents struggle with push chairs, windbreakers, umbrellas, folding chairs, beach balls, buckets and spades, towels and beach bags full of snacks. And everywhere acres of bright red sunburnt skin.
One other thing our concerned friends warned us about was the fact that if you left your car for too long moss would grow on it. It sounds ridiculous, but it is a good line, and we discover that it may just be true. The beaches may be wonderful but the weather in Cornwall is not. Thick sea mists are common and we find ourselves driving the narrow lanes often unable to see more than a foot or two in front of the car. Worse still are the grey days which England is famous for. Three days in Penzance pass in a monochrome blur, like something out of an early black and white movie
This is Cornwall at its worse. It is not a place for two gay men looking for a nice relaxing holiday. But here we are, looking for fun and sun in all the wrong places.
Needing something to cheer us up, we head for the north coast of Cornwall where the TV series Poldark was filmed. The grey gives way to mist and finally to sun. The disused tin mines dot the clifftops, and one of them is the actual setting for the TV series. We look for Poldark lookalikes, handsome men stripped to the waist with rippling muscles glistening with sweat, and carrying a huge implement ( I believe it is called a scythe). But men like that only exist on the big screen.
The mines often stretch out under the sea with miles of tunnels at different depths, linked by lifts, and before that by rope and pulleys. Horses lived underground with stables and stable boys, hundreds of men spent their days down these tunnels while young boys operated fans to keep the air moving. Today the tunnels are not safe and even if they were I have no desire to go down one. All there is to see are the the few buildings above ground which house an office and the pulley system.
It does not make for an exciting day out, but thanks to Poldark, we are charged an exorbitant fee to look around. For an even more exorbitant fee we are offered a guide to show us round and tell us the history of the mine. The tour takes an hour and a half which seems to us to be about 85 minutes too long, so we decline. The main attraction may well be the dramatic coastline.
This particular mine has an exhibition on the role of women in the mines. It consists of a few grey photos and a small plaque describing the daily life of such a woman. It might be a small exhibition but it once again makes me wonder why women are called the fairer sex. There is nothing fair about this schedule.
Later in the day we discover that we were only one tin mine away from the actual Poldark mine.
Still looking in all the wrong places.