from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Thursday, 21 March 2013

back home in west penwith

Near Tol Pedn ('holed headland')
It would be enough to sit and simply watch the sea, hour by hour. On the coast everything shifts, is in a process of continual flux and change.

The first morning the sea and sky are a brilliant blue, but my phone camera's too full for more photos (later I sacrifice some of my French photos to free up memory).

The second day is soft and gentle but the blue is compromised, troubled and unclear, and light is thrown on that far field, that one gull's wings, that single rock.

Then everything's smoothed and calmed, the sea utterly unrippled, the light opalescent, mother-of-pearl. The sky is clear.

I watch the little trawlers hike out of Newlyn harbour into a gentle still dusk. I register my own ambivalence: how pleased I am that fishing can still happen here, at the very tip of Britain, as it has for millennia, and with small individually-owned trawlers, not by factory ships.

My great-grandfather was a Newlyn fisherman, and manned the famous Newlyn Lifeboat (and on the paternal side my great-grandfather sailed the last tea-clipper out of Falmouth; another was Mayor of St Ives, and yet another the official dowser for Cornwall County Council. One great-grandmother was a midwife, farmer and village white witch – and so it goes on. History shaping our stories.)

It's a tough and dangerous way to make a living, fishing, but down here in Cornwall almost all the indigenous livelihoods – farming, fishing, tin-mining – have gone, and the tourist trade is what brings the income now. Mine-workers' cottages, farmworkers' cottages, fishermen's cottages are holiday homes or second homes, and villages are deserted out of season. So there's a pleasure in seeing the boats go out on the tide.

But as an environmentalist and a vegan I also know how low our fish stocks are, and I know, too, that it's probably a pretty grim death for the fish, suffocating in an element not their own.

As someone coming back home, spiritually, I register all this and still watch with joy the pristine red trawler, the smaller orange one, the little blue and white not-much-more-than-an-inshore-fishing-boat head out to the horizon, lit up as if festive. And, when your ancestors have lived so close to the sea, their lives and livelihoods entwined with her, there's always a hint of the knowing that the sea's her own mistress and her moods can turn in a moment.

So when the gale hits at midnight, hammering on the windows and shaking the eaves, and the sea's deep roar has replaced yesterday's murmur, my first thought is the little trawlers, who've been coming back the last two mornings at first light, pitching and rolling in the heavy seas; and they haven't yet made it back. Let's hope they've taken shelter somewhere in the lee of it all.

And for me, it's the wild drive back over the inhospitable Bodmin Moor.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive