CORNWALL, ENGLAND: July. One of the most important trips of my life. A chance to give mum some happy memories before she died.
My mum and sister flew down from Newcastle last Tuesday. A fun evening indoors then croissants and coffee for breakfast. A slow, lazy start. Then pile everything into car and head further South and further West. Through Devon and into Cornwall. Roads shrink to tracks barely wide-enough to squeeze a car through with tall hedgerows either side and dense overhanging tree limbs increasing the sense of being caught in some tunnel. Here’s some highlights.
Arrive hotel around 4pm. It was just beyond a small village ominously enough called Helland, right on the edge of the Moors. Before we got there I was thinking, Oh God, please don’t be like the Leviathan hotel in New Zealand… a real horror show, but, no, my slight fears were totally unfounded. As soon as we finished the 20% incline, twisting round and round the tight curves of a hill, we pulled off the narrow road through twin stone gateposts onto a vast gravel drive and caught sight of the wonderful stone structure sitting astride a level area with lawn and forested grounds sloping away. I thought of Corso, in the 9th Gate, arriving at the Chateau St. Martin. We parked up and wandered across to the front door. No sight of any reception. It didn’t seem like a hotel at all. Did we have the right place? The door was locked. A sign said, “Between Noon and 4pm please ring bell”. So we did. Then a very attractive Italian woman comes down, greets us, welcomes us, and guides us upstairs… through amazing high-ceilinged rooms, up a gargantuan oak staircase, around a passageway and up smaller stairs into the roof area. There were only two rooms up here, both massive, with en-suite shower/bathroom, and a comfortable lounge attached to each. The windows overlooked the grounds, the forest descending the hill and climbing up the other side of the close valley… hills.. forest.. sky… clouds. Beautiful. Perfect. We were here for the next four nights.
The hotel is called Tredethy Country House, postcode, PL30 4QS
Google it and you’ll get images and a map view of the surrounding terrain.
It’s owned and run by Marco and his wife.
It’s not a glossy corporate brochure. It’s a well-appointed house with crumpled edges: and it’s these things that give it so much character.
Marco isn’t a servile English gent. He’s a proud man who works his arse off to run the place very well with a small crew. He can come across as blunt but he’s just being direct and very much left-field. He’s a character that slots into the vibe of the place. I spent a lot of time downstairs in one of the lounges chatting with him, often late into the night and I was genuinely sad to say goodbye at the end of the trip.
When I wasn’t chatting with Marco, or out bouncing around Cornwall with Jo, Mum and Sis, I spent every morning and every evening camped in a big armchair by a tall narrow window overlooking the grounds, with a supply of coffee and my paper notepad and print outs in my lap. I’ve been working on the next phase for Yellow Dawn, which is the idea of the Age of Hastur actually beginning: the past 10 years, since Yellow Dawn actually happened, was a lull before the storm. A lot of good ideas but it means pushing back starting Dog Eat Dog (again!) until I can get all the concepts down in black and white. Not a bad thing though, as it means I’ll be able to weave these fleshed out ideas into the book.So a lot of good memories:
Walking down to Helland along the narrow, sharply winding, 20% descent, road, where the overarching tree canopy became so dense at times, it was like walking into night-like gloom… occasionally pierced by beams of golden sunlight. A bit hairy when a car came whizzing along.
Taking mum to Padstow and seeing the delight glowing within her eyes, beaming from the smile curving her lips. All her life she’s wanted to see Cornwall, and now she’s here. Mum flung her arms wide and walked along with a joyous swagger in her hips. It was a brilliant moment. I even took a photo. :o)
1st night in hotel, getting a double-whisky from the small, very cosy bar (a serving hatch in a wall), settling down in an armchair with the alcohol hitting my system. Bliss.
Going to Tintadgel Castle. Clambering around the ruins perched on the edges of some fabulous cliffs. Descending steps that dropped almost vertically for a 100 metres or so.
2nd afternoon at the hotel. Glorious sunshine. My sister and I playing with a Frisbee on the manicured lawns in front of the country house. Then Marco’s family dog appeared on the scene… a small speed demon with a great human intelligence and a hunger for playing games. The dog had me running ragged to the point where I thought my heart and lungs were going to explode. I looked up at one point and saw lots of faces in different windows, all watching us, all smiling. Later in the afternoon I lay back in the grass and watched big fluffy clouds skimming the forested horizon, listening to La Roux and loving the whole 80s vibe.
Driving to Mevigissy in the rain. Impossibly narrow roads, cars and vans trying to squeeze between ancient stone buildings, BOTH WAYS?!!?, and climbing an impossibly steep cliff with houses either side… just an insane drive. Parking up and wandering through the old fishing village; pungent smell of seaweed by the harbour. Mum, Sis and Jo finding a café whilst I clipped in my headphones and went striding. I found myself at the end of a stone pier, standing in the rain, with nothing but the Atlantic Ocean around me. Fantastic. Thoughtful.
Stopping off at Restormel Castle on the way back from Mevigissy, simply because I’d seen it in a brochure in a cafe there and thought, cool, I’d like to see that. And was able to plot a route back that took us by it.
Going to a port further West from Newquay, on the north coast of Cornwall. More rain which didn’t even dent our high spirits. Mum bought a bright red plastic mac. She called it a Kagoogull, rather than a kagool. Laughter all around and the name stuck. All of us found a place with a ton of delicious looking pasties piled up in the window. We took our hot wares back out into the rain and huddled in a doorway, munching with smiles on our rain-soaked faces. I’d grabbed a sausage roll. It was the best sausage roll…ever. The gang split up. I clipped in headphones and went striding across vast beach. Surfers everywhere. Rain came down harder. I waded through a stream of water, shin deep but not caring. Jagged cliffs, gaping holes carved by the sea. Click click click goes my camera.
Back to Padstow one afternoon. More rain. Buying fish and chips from Rick Stein’s. I was cynical but they turned out to be the best fish and chips I’d ever had. We sat in the car, facing the sea, windows steaming up, smell of vinegar… we were all grinning.
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