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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…

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The edge

Take some days …

cornwalltheedge

Often prescribed in wiser times, a retreat, a holy-day. A specific change from routine busyness.

We traveled (back) to a place of contentment and a place where youthful roads diverged, the root of epiphany, the essence of understanding, a dantian land… A place of contrasts, often void of riches but full of richness.

We met old friends from verdant days. Friends unseen for decades, we used to play together, now we have children playing themselves, amongst change, growth and aging perspectives. We find a familiar friendship but with different stories to tell.  Distinct stories from distant friends. We still share worries, hopes, dreams and visions.

Some days… in a place of simple treasures, ancient kingdoms where the torn edge of paradise glows daily. A place where absolution lies buried amongst art, tradition, innovation, entertainment, novelty… as lichens cover granite, we spread, share, exchange, and feed.

We return to looming buzzards drifting on thermals, they will always fly high. Shadows will always stifle our breath. However the light I was fostered with still shines, even if occasionally you need to take a few days out to rekindle it.

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People…

After a week away, new views, and the absence of the routine! (Plus a few cream teas & Otter ales)

I was reading the first book again recently and as I said at the time “Lordy what a tale! What are we to take from such imaginings. #fantasy?”  Blood, guts, murder, death, destruction, deception, theft, slavery, horror, adultery, lentil stew… and creation!  As Keith said, “They knew how to tell a story in them days”.

But one of the things that I took from it was that we are a world of ‘peoples’…

…and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth…

EightFigures-999

Also – “he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, even the stones themselves will cry out’ “

Like the pebbles on a beach, we are all different. Bashed, tarnished, polished and buffed into our own unique selves. But essentially we are very similar, in essence, we are the same. Don’t let the brands fool you into becoming a consumerist individual, commercially branded with their “word”, dressed ‘cos you’re worth it’, identified by the ‘logos’ of commercial gain.  Just be you!  Stop, relax, breath, and smile.

We are a world of people. We have our little worlds of people, but as we often might notice more on holidays, there are many other little worlds just a breath away from our own. There are also worlds a distance a way that essentially came from the same seed. Scattered over the earth. I think our worlds might me richer and more colourful if we try to embrace people whoever they are. Easier said than done I know, but don’t let the Daily Mail get to you, or the BBC come to that!  We are one. Or perhaps as the Cornish say Onen hag oll (and those from Devon!). Humm.

 

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Summer?

Summer2My wife’s computer tells her, that a year ago today, we had a water fight in the back garden with the kids to keep cool!  Ah… summer!

It may not be hot and sticky and Aldi may not be piling up the Pimms alternatives – we may not be waxing the surfboard or de-crusting the barbecue grill – but it is still summer.

Yes, I do love an Andalusian summer, I love a Greek garlicky feta cheese grilled to perfection, and I love the bluest of blue skies; I was brought up with them in Mount’s Bay. But, I am a firm believer that; although our worldview has been enchanted with greener grass in the summer, and the lure of a better life when it’s sunny or sodden with supposed doom of a damp grey sky; life is still good.

Even if clouds obscure the scorching sun from view and a cold breeze is all we feel – we are alive, life can be good, and peace is but a breath away… #perspective #hopes #expectations. Yes, also there is the crap in life – it’s not fair – it truly is hard to understand – disease, injustice and ignorance is real, and there are nasty attitudes out there where people seemingly don’t give a fig for anyone but themselves.

Summer3I left an upbringing in Cornwall in the late 1992 and have always searched for a replacement for the Cornish ‘contentment’, the peace of a flat sea, the endless horizon of Mount’s bay, an alternative to the bluest blue sky that St. Ives nestles under. I have always sought a comforting alternative to the rugged Cornish summer, with hot granite, and fertile bracken, fish, ice-cream, sand, sea, and essential energy…
Since then, I have found similar in places like Cyprus, Nice, Thassos, La Rochelle, Andalucia, and even Tunisia and Lanzarote. But, I have also found this ‘peace’ in Crewe, Wales, Bradford and Leicester.

It’s not easy when so much of our culture points to what we must have, find or master next, to gain satisfaction. It really is not easy, when we have been con-scripted as consumers to at least take part in the game to survive.

Be it summer or not, the energies of life, and the glimpses of peace that we may have been fortunate to feel on our faces should be valued and carried with us. Everywhere you go, take a little weather with you – if you can.

On a different, but not entirely unrelated tack –  I have composed three artworks, fueled by my recent reflections of the ‘natural’, to put forward for a local summer display:

Have a great summer!

Summer1

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Cornish Woodlands…

We took some ‘time out’ recently (what with the wheels wobbling and such), to reconnect with what ‘matter’s

Matter:
The substance/s of which any physical object is composed – of what we are made.
A situation, state, affair, or business: a trivial matter.
Something of consequencematter for serious thought.

Matter is the ‘everything’ around you. Atoms and molecules are all composed of matter; anything that has mass and takes up space.
In Middle English mater, and Old Frenchmat materie and Latin māteria: woody part of a tree, material, substance, derivative of māter: mother

 

And so a ‘walk in the woods’, as prescribed by the ever friendsome Brian Draper.

Brian reminds us of Caroline Leaf‘s ideas; that we’re wired for growth, but alas toxicity around us can hinder, mutate love into a right tangled mess.


Taking every thought captive …
Looking for green shoots …
Whatever praiseworthy … and whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, pure, admirable … excellent …
Think about such things… plant those thoughts, and ‘do‘ …

Life, in all its fullness, can be found in the essence, the heart, the roots of the minutiae.

The big picture might seem tangled and rife with confusion, hewn with a dearth of purpose – the reality is that one is breathing, one can feel, one can smile and one can grow. Simple interaction … fecundity.

You and I can, with a little help from our friends, ‘do’!

Incidentally: Photos from our walks on the banks of the River Cober and the River Fal in Cornwall.
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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.

image

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!

Enjoy.

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

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It shouldn’t be a struggle…

Struggle, is that the right word? probably not…

Being brought up with the idea that a supreme being escorts our world has always been a hard thing for me to accommodate. However, the culture that accompanies the belief has been a hard thing for me to dismiss.

I was NOT brought up with the bells and smells of Anglicanism or the rituals and tradition of Catholicism. It’s not religion that I am talking about. I am far from religious. Religion has it’s own issues.

I was brought up surrounded by a culture and tradition of 1970’s Cornish Methodism. I think the regional character is significant. I experienced communities displaying a very social faith. Families and individuals demonstrative in their beliefs and customs. The Cornish ‘contented’ spirit added to the personal and social faith. A very happy place! I have never been able to forget or negate it’s role.

Times move on and of course we found that the world is bigger than Cornwall. Ironically, Cornwall knows that. Cornwall is surrounded by big sky, big seas and has a big rocky heart. Memory of the ground that nurtured me remains at the root of my being.

As Tom Hanks entertainingly demonstrated, we all might have our ‘Wilson!’ moments when left without focus or reason. Yes I’ve skirted evangelical christian subcultures and the warmth of their community served a purpose at the time but some strong closed opinions couldn’t stand up to close inspection. It’s a volleyball after all.

Yes, Mssr. Lyotard, theoretically there is no more meta-narrative only paralogy, but in practice there is rarely space for paralogy only… us… enchantment, hurt, charisma, loss, joy and fear.

! But does it all matter, can’t we all just go an have a beer? Yes we can. But what then? What about injustice, the broken, the lost, the frail, the lonely…

We are all ultimately answerable for our actions. We are privileged to be alive.

What might we do with this privilege? How might we share the energy we have?

Are we in a position to help, better, support and enliven our community?

How on earth can we play an effective part?

What I always return to consider is the reality of a bigger power that can be shared, celebrated, and exercised. To bring healing, growth, cleansing and ‘love’ – generally creating good where there’s bad; nurturing life where there’s no life. Jesus of Nazareth (designated Christ) said something like “I have come that you might have life in all it’s fullness”. Jesus was no volleyball. The essential truths that Jesus taught were challenging and beautiful. Alas, the dated stories are all we have to go by. Some have twisted ideas to their own ends. Others have built on his teachings. Few can top the selfless truths shared by this (sadly, over rendered) Jewish rabbi.

 

What are the effects of our choices and actions?

What do we feed ourselves, how do we entertain ourselves, what do we build…

What do we teach and leave for our children…

 

How do we work together to be part of a better community/world…

How can we develop and maintain life simply, naturally and ethically…

How can we combat negativity, fear, hate, greed, pride…

Where can we embrace love, joy, peace, tolerance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…

 

Can we really do this alone or is it wise to acknowledge something bigger than our meagre breath.

 

It shouldn’t be a struggle…

Corn1100881

 

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Colourful spirit…

PICT4574The colour of things… The spirit of things…

My life, and I assume yours, is coloured and recoloured daily…

Sometimes the colours and pigments that stir and dawb the surface of our lives make a confused mess.  Sometimes the views can be kept in-check, geometry maintained, balance and harmony constructed.  More often for me an abstraction and uncrafted disjunctive perspective dominates.

Like an ongoing painting, our spirits are momentarily and daily reworked in various ways…

As I sat earlier eating my Thai Sweet Chicken McCoys and my Shippam’s crab paste ‘n’ salad sandwiches (with the kids home-grown cress), I was reminded of the above: we are a product of our senses.  Our spirit is a product and reaction to our encounters.  We make decisions and assumptions based on a cumulative effect of our experiences, but essentially it’s down to our reception of our world.

Back to my sandwich;  Shippam’s in Newlyn closed in 1980s – my crab sandwich reminds me of Newlyn in Cornwall.  Despite now living as far from the sea as is possible in the UK, I regularly see birds, or the sky, and truthfully imagine that the Cornish ‘North Cliffs’ and Godreavy are but a mile away.  I would die if I couldn’t recall this ‘spirit’ from Cornwall.  Despite knowing we are essentially alone in this world, among other things ‘the spirits of life’ are one thing that keeps me from unraveling.

All things come to an end but spirit can be strong.

Simple strong base layers…

My Cornish childhood spent a stone’s throw from the vast ocean will never leave me and is always present. I guess we all have things that we cherish that are essential parts of our make up.

Recent news about the RNMDSF building in Newlyn Cornwall ‘up for sale’ reminded me of times when, as a small lad, we would go to a Sunday evening ‘service’ at the said Fishermen’s Mission and one song amongst others springs to mind.
I recall a large smoky room, fishermen’s shadows in corners, a snooker table taller than me and plaques, awards and a sense of refuge. I recall songs about anchors, safe-return, loss, toil and light. The sound of my grandmother and the colour and spirit of this song, might fade but will always be present:

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one…

Yes, there are many other tunes that have coloured my outlook, by The Jam, Tchaikovsky, The Hothouse Flowers and Nina Simone etc.  They all lie under the surface of my life’s painting, under the colours that are mixed up daily.

I value greatly the underlying colours that underpin my perspectives.

I value foundational spirits in a picture that’s made up of many levels of encounter.

I am pleased that it’s still being creatively worked on daily.

Yes, the colours often blur and run…

But I think the colours we live with, the spirit/s that keep us truly alive, should be shared.

Here’s to the reality of spirit; to flavours, colours, images, sounds, thoughts and feelings…

Less fabrication, polish, and plastic. Less catalogued lifestyle, less click and collect culture.

Were you there when the sun refused to shine? (Were you there?)
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
O-o-o-oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble! tremble! tremble!…

Here’s to more recognition of our “spirit” ?

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Syston – “there is a complete lack of places for young people in the evenings”

The act of riding a bike sometimes brings back vivid memories of childhood. Perhaps a bike was part of your earliest times venturing out seemingly alone.

As a teenager, as many others did, I earned my Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, and part of this saw a summer cycling and recording loops around Carn Brea in Cornwall to gain a ‘physical’ element of the award. No GPS, fancy gadgets or even cycle helmets in those days – it was all recorded on paper perhaps with the help of a 1980’s Casio f91.

I was recently again reminded of teenaged years when some kind soul posted a picture of me at that embarrassing age.

We were fortunate in Camborne to have a local youth club attached the local Methodist Church. At this point I have to applaud the patience and dedication of Angela and Bill Herring and Cheryl Wills among others. Also in Lanner our musical offerings and teenaged queries were entertained by members of the local Church; thank you to the Langfords, the Halls, the Pearces and others.

The experiences in and around those youth groups added elements to my worldview at the time. Biology and chemistry aside, the ideas and ‘stuff’ experienced in my teenaged years have challenged, informed and been a comfort in later years. OK it was only part of the rich experiment that is growing up, but there’s wisdom in SOME of them-there old truths.
I have to say the human ‘being there’, the kindness and the giving is one of the enduring memories!

Which brings me to what’s there for the current young people on our community.

In syston, it’s been reported that there is a complete lack of places for young people in the evenings”.

Syston Methodist Church is working, alongside others, for transformed lives & community in Syston. This Pilgrimage is to raise money to turn part of our buildings into a Community Hub, the first goal for the Community Hub is to be used as a Youth Cafe. The need in Syston is huge as there is a complete lack of places for young people in the evenings. They have some grants and are looking for more. However, they are still short of quite a few thousand pounds. Every donation will take it closer to their goal of providing a fantastic new resource for our community.

If you’ve ever valued any element of support from a group such as the above I wonder could you spare £1 or 2? I’m not as young as I was and 160+ miles is a long way to pedal a bike!

I’m hoping all of the past members of Camborne Wesley MAYC and Lanner ‘New Life’ might look back in fondness and send me a £1 – right guys?

Happy daze!

Make a donation using Virgin Money Giving

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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.