Still outside, it’s been some time…

Sometime around 1997, I wrote the piece below.  

‘We’re going outside and we may be some time’

I reflected back on it eight years ago. I wrote about trying to understand the idea of seeking pilgrimage, finding something significant, central to or ‘at the heart of’ a person’s worldview. A seeking to discover, understand, or be healed? A ‘quest’ for counsel or understanding.

But as I say in the writing, for all the ghosts, memories alone do not hold what I’m looking for. What am I looking for? I said to a Cornish friend recently “I miss the sea”, but do I? Yes, the sea can be a tonic “Coasts are liminal places – the edge of the known, opportunity… routes to somewhere…”  But what really are we all seeking? As we know, everything you ever want, everything you ever need is right in front of you. The greatest show is right here right now.


Taking me back to my Cornish roots again… I recently watched the much-acclaimed film ‘Bait’, created and directed by Cornishman Mark Jenkin. I was apprehensive as it’s had a lot of film-world applause. It’s not mainstream. It’s arguably art more than entertainment. But personally, I loved it. Not just the film itself, but the form and nature of the creation is resonant and leaves a lot of energy in the air. All good. 

Mark Jenkin said in an interview with Mark Kermode “…they’d become Cornish by being away {outside?}…” 

The film triggered ghosts and memories to come alive, but what to do with ghosts and memories?

I don’t know. Any ideas?


‘We’re going outside and we may be some time’
Twenty-five years I grew, nurtured on Cornwall and the Cornish manner, the Cornishness that is now part of me. I still day-dream, of a ‘T’ shirt that announces “I’m Cornish and proud of it…” …is that all I have to cling to? (I haven’t even got this day-dream of mine).
I spent a childhood full of Cornwall’s riches: pebbles a sand, fIzzypop in cans, wind and rain, tunnels, holes, alleys & bunkers, vast sun-scorched gorse torched views, I could see both coasts from our bathroom window.
Spirits of the sea always whisper to me, the loudest whispers I’ve ever heard. I’ve heard it in Leicestershire, Crewe and Nice, I saw a little red boat barely afloat.
I cried at the beauty surrounding me as the holidayers screamed and sizzled and I laughed. I sat alone at the end of the phone, I ran with the gang, at low tide, across St Ives Bay, on new years day. We drank and we sang and played in the band. Gran bought saffron buns at Sunday-school treat, and pasties and pasties and pasties. Slept in the snow on the rocks on Carn Brea, laughed at what nan a grandad would say (that’s not the grandad that died in the fishing boat accident). Ate winkles with pins and vinegar picked from Porthleven harbour, got filthy. Held on tight as the storm wind rips so hard it bites. Sat in a haystack in the sun and got covered in mites. I’ve lay for hours and been soaked up by the whole of Mounts Bay, on the clearest ever, hottest ever, hottest ever day. Walked home at midnight from to Camborne from Hayle, met a girl in Redruth and another in St Just, got drunk in Crantock, earnt a wage in St Ives ‘ saw a dream in St Austell, learnt some verbs in Fowey… grew towards man from boy in Cornwall… 
…only, they’re all memories.
I return and see the most rugged of faces smile and share the day like children returning to play, waves so worn from years of scorn, skies so blue they seem brand new. A scarred town refuses to frown, yet sings and raises its glasses, everywhere I look I see me and I see pasty smiles, rugby miles, unique Cornwall style saying this is us but we do say we.
I’ve moved away now, don’t know why, but I know I can’t go back. Jane’s not there, Craig’s gone, David’s moved off, So has Jon. Matthew’s in Manchester, Lisa’s in Suffolk, Richard’s in Cardiff, Kay’s in Bath, Lee is in Luton and Mark is in Crewe, and I’m in Leicester for something to do. Cornwall, in essence, has everything, God and the Devil are surely within. but it hasn’t got what I’m looking for. . . . what am I looking for?
I’m going outside and I may be some time…


Cornish Hevva Cake

Jan. 2018, update to the below: Stick in mixed spice and chopped up crystallised ginger for n extra punch!

It’s been a while since we posted a recipe, and we can’t believe we haven’t posted this one before. A staple food while growing up in West Cornwall, Heavy Cake is still loved by my ‘East Midlands’ kids today.


AJ said “can we bake something?” Hummm… “No eggs”…
“Heavy Cake?”
“Ohhhh yus!” She said.
So here’s the recipe…

1lb of Self Raising Flour
1/2 lb Butter
6 oz Caster Sugar
3/4 lb Currents
Grated rind of a Lemon
A pinch of Salt – 1/2 tsp
Enough Milk to mix to a stiff dough. About 1/4 pint.

Roughly mix by hand the flour, salt, sugar and chopped up butter. Don’t rub in the butter too much. Add the fruit and mix to a stiff dough adding a little milk.
Don’t make it too wet. It should be a stiff (heavy) dough.
Purist mess around with rolling and resting and stuff but hey, life’a too short.
Put it in a greased parchment lined baking tray, with mixture about 3/4 inch deep and fork the top to a rough finish. Sprinkle the top with regular sugar and bake at 200 for 30-40mins.
When baked add a little caster sugar to finish .

OK I am not a purist and no doubt some Cornish cousins will want to correct me but, hey that’s the way we do it.

And of course we always do it our way; mushrooms in pasties; we put cherrys in our heavy cake!


Oh yes, the Cornish call it “Hevva Cake”, pilchards and all that. See here: Hevva


Pasties from the homeland.

A Cornishman cannot survive on bread alone. An occasional supply of pasties from Kernow is needed to keep him sane.
OK ideally we make ‘um ourselves but even the Cornish buy ‘um from shops. Most buy tiddy oggies weekly.
I used to get batches sent up from in Penzance and to be honest I enjoyed them but for some reason we stopped getting them.
Last year we started getting a supply from – Philps in Hayley is the pasty of choice for many a West-Cornishman or indeed Cornish Maid.
We have now been introduced to in Scorrier. OK ‘prima’ sounds like a cheap end of any market and does not ring of anything Cornish, but a closer look and all seems relatively ‘proper’.
Pleasantly surprised!

Philps’ pasty on the left, Prima on the right.

With some of each in the freezer it was time for a direct comparison.
Ok it’s a subjective opinion but I do like a peppery pasty and Prima has a nice peppery buzz. Philps’ rarely have enough pepper.
(I like the pepper in the pasties from ‘Cornish Oven’ in Camborne)
The pastry on both is nice; Philps’ seems less flaky than Prima. Prima’s slightly more glazed than Philps’.
My one gripe I do have with the Hayle pasties is the meat is rarely spread evenly. It’s often in a clump, meaning you often end up eating a veggie pasty half way through. You can see this above.

Both are ansom but I have to say the new kids on the block are producing a fine pasty.
Additional comment: 20th April
After a visit this week to Philps’ of Hayle, (350 miles is a long way to go) it seems my pastys by post experience above is not replicated by hot-from-the-shop pastys from their quayside bakery! Just the right amount of seasoning! AND meat spread evenly over the pasty! Bleady ansom! Well done – Philps!


Sweet Nightingale

It’s St. Piran’s Day on Wednesday, as well as the start of a period of reflection for many people before the festival of Easter and various celebrations of Spring.

I recently found myself transfixed by some birdsong, which caused me to recall this Cornish ditty from my childhood. I can’t place from specifically where I remember this – I guess music is like that, it’s absorbed…

Sweet Nightingale:

Coincidentally, I proposed to my wife on St Piran’s Day in 2003 at Low Bar near Porthleven (my father’s home-town).

We recorded the birdsong on this track in May 2013 at Cribbs Meadow in Rutland

Here are some more Cornish dittys:

Happy St Piran’s day to all Cousin Jacks!


Sans Day Carol

The Sans Day Carol or St Day Carol is a traditional Cornish carol from the village of St Day in the mining area near Redruth.
I’m a Camborne boy but as many Camborne boys did (those that didn’t aim as high as Truro) spent a deal of teenaged time in the Redruth area. Ah… happy daze.  Never did a Christmas pass without hearing this tune, among other Cornish chestnuts, being sung somewhere.
Not that I know much about it, but the original Cornish words for this song fell from use. A renewed interest in the Cornish language has seen the cornish words somewhat revived.

Rather like the Holly ‘something’ lives on…
Going through the annual stages of the berry’s colours? Birth “white as the milk”, energetically vibrantly “green as the grass”, humanly physically “blood-red” and deeply deadly “black as the coal”…

What is ‘it’ I wonder, much more than a jingly crimbly festive cheer…

Long live the holly!

Now the holly bears a berry as white as the milk, And Mary bore Jesus all wrapped up in silk.

And Mary bore Jesus, a saviour for to be,  And the first tree in the greenwood it was the holly
Holly, holly,  And the first tree in the greenwood it was the holly

Now the holly bears a berry as green as the grass, And Mary she bore Jesus who died on a cross.

Now the holly bears a berry as blood it is red, And Mary bore Jesus who rose? from the dead.

Now the holly bears a berry as black as the coal, And Mary bore Jesus who died for us all.

Cornish chorus: forgive my ignorance but it’s sumt’ like this  

Ha Mam o an Maghteth, Marya Mam Dew,  Ha gwedhen an gwella, an gelynen yu
Kelyn, Kelyn,  Ha gwedhen an gwella an gelynen yu.


Bad Weather and Glorious Views – (some foughts)

PICT2126I’ve always had cause to reconsider my experience of growing up in Cornwall – you can take the boy out of the county but not the county out of the boy etc… yadda yadda.

I have always failed to summarise this essential attitude that seems to pervade much of the Cornish being – previously, the best I could come up with is a curious ‘contentedness’ with their meagre lot. A brash humility, not necessarily humble contentment, but a brackish contentedness… a rough softness… a sugary saffron bun on a salty sea wall.

The steam engine and 3000 foot shafts were Cornish…
At sea, the most dangerous civilian job in the UK was Cornish…
The lichen and moss (soft silky) that coats many a granite outcrop is “Cornish”…
Causley’s Tim Winters was/is essentially Cornish…

Cornwall is the the second poorest place in the UK. It’s a place of contrasts: with expensive yachts and luxury second homes for Tarquin and Jessica’s summer sojourn, a place of union-jack shorts, Carlsberg nites, plastic buckets and chicken nuggets for Vince and Pat. It’s a place of community eating and religious feasting. It’s a place of craft and art as well as back-of-a-lorry markets. It was a place of place of warm chapels and cold pews. It was my home. It has a deep rich if damp past and an unknown future. Fantastic weather and a harsh climate.

Moving on from ‘contentedness’, I have recently reconsidered the notion of ‘reverence’.

In her book “An Altar in the World”, Barbara Brown Taylor, quotes Paul Woofruff “To forget that you are only human… to think you can act like a god – this is the opposite of reverence” Reverence – a virtue that keeps people from trying to act like gods. Barbara says “While most of us live in a culture that reveres money, reveres power, reveres education and religion, Woodruff argues that true reverence cannot be for anything that human beings can make or manage by ourselves. By definition, he says, reverence is the recognition of something greater than the self – something that is beyond human creation or control, that transcends full human understanding.”

My recollection of the Cornish world-scape recalls a sustaining reverence. The land sea and sky are so much bigger, the engineering and raw-material trades are harsh, the summer sun burns harder and brighter than man’s endeavour.

The Cornish love of music is another essential quality that I have always lived with.
Moving ‘up to England’ and losing touch with a ‘contented reverence’, I similarly found that a love of real music can be lost in the manufactured world that we find ourselves consumed by.
Bjork and David Attenborough recently discussed that essentially “singing is more fundamental to us than speaking”, and notions of the sublime, symmetry, transcendence, simplicity.
Musical expression is essential to human life? Live music, sound, reverberates, resounds, emotion… Song and rhythm agitate energy that can lift and stir…
Can I posit that feeling is more fundamental than thinking?…

The combination of emotional expression and an essential reverence, now there’s a thought.

Bad Weather and Glorious Views (just some foughts)


’tis Trevithick Day today me ansom!

’tis Trevithick Day today and these songs sprang to mind after a good few years in my little black book:

I am no musician but the sentiment’s there I hope.

“Shining down on Sennen” Song written by Mike O’Connor

“Cornish lads” Song written by Roger Bryant




Piskies! (Autumnal Equinox)

And so from now on the nights are longer than the days. Thank you farmers, most of the summer crops are in – what would we do without them?
So we ventured off to a local wood and indeed stuff’s shrivelling! Indeed The raggedness belongs!

If you go down to the woods today watch out for the cornish piskies!


Cornish Pasties – on a budget?

Being 300+ miles from the homeland can cause a fading Cornishman to suffer from Pasty Withdrawal, and this is not a good thing.

We have been known to send for emergency supplies from Warrrens, which I have to say are good. Even ‘ansome’ when the withdrawal is severe.

But this time, with budgets an issue more than ever, I was forced to think how much our usual homemade pasties cost?
It’s easy to click click from the smartphone and order 10 Medium Steaks for £26, that’s what it was on the last time we weakened. But now 10MSP from Warrens is £31!

16 Homemade Pasties

1.15kg Cubed Beef – 6.95/kg  Gamble & Hollis Syston: £8.00
Pastry – OK, I could make it myself, yeah yeah, but I’ve 2 kids pulling at my trouser legs so this is easier!
So, 4 packs of Jus Rol Pastry (I re-bash Puff cos I like Puff!), that’s 8 rolls: £8.00
8 potatoes, half per pasty: 50p
5 Onions: 40p
One Swede (which the Cornish call Turnips): £1
’bout 20 Mushrooms, 1/3 Kg: £1 (Oh yes! Mushrooms!)
Eggs: we occasionally get ours fresh from the friendly hen lovers up the road. (Thanks A&K)
Pepper and Salt

So, that’s £18.90 for 16 Pasties: £1.18 each
Warrens by Post £31 for 10 Pastes: £3 each

So here’s our simple Cornish*Pasty Recipe again:

A JusRol ‘roll’ will do 2 medium pasties, cut the roll in half, screw the bugger up and roll it out to a circle and put on:

A handful of chopped potato,
A handful of chopped onion,
A handful of chopped swede,
A handful of chopped mushroom,
A handful of cubed beef (1cm sqs),
Shake a pinch of salt,
Shake a good dash of pepper,
Eggwash around the edge.

Fold the top edge forward to the bottom edge and crimp.

Make the other one. One is never enough!

In a greased baking tin, eggwash (or milk, or egg & milk) the pasties.

Cook on high 220° for 30mins and then lower to medium 170° for 30mins.

If it’s burning (cover with tinfoil).


And don’t let any northerners mention gravy!

(*I’m Cornish, I was brought up on these things, so I’m calling ‘um Cornish – even with the personal touch of mushrooms!)

Me, groan! What have 40 years done?

This is me at 3 and a half years and 43 and a half  years of age… groan!  What have 40 years done?

At 3 the family lived in Hayle in Cornwall and shortly moved to Fowey where we lived for about 5 years.

At 18 I left education and after a few ‘first jobs’ eventually started apprenticeship in a design and print studio in St Ives.

At 24 I left Kernow and studied a degree in the Creative Arts in Cheshire.

At 43 I live in Leicestershire and have done for about 15 years.