End of the road at Port Elliot

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The sun goes down on the Port Elliot Festival

Every July, the Port Elliot Festival occurs just down the road from the chalet and for the last three years I’ve mentioned in posts, [check out the category cloud to the right and click on Port Elliot festival] but this year, around two weeks before the celebrations were due to kick off, the festival released a press release saying this years would be the last one. Not giving away too much they went with the ‘come along and make it a great last blow out’ message rather than the depressing reasons why it was closing. Friends sent messages saying ‘have you heard?’ and there were shocked responses both personally and all over social media. So it felt that I should get along within the convenient window between finishing my own performance and heading to Copenhagen with, no longer teenage, son. We have been promising we would do this for three years so it has been a great feat to have done it, at last.

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a mass dance off down by the river with the Mud Flappers

After two very soggy years at Port Elliot, which is not the best when you forget wellies, the sun remained out and not a drop was squeezed out of the sky. As usual there was too much to timetable so we prioritised but resolutely decided not to worry if some highlights didn’t come about, which did indeed happen with new poet laureate, Simon Armitage. We were the actual cut off point in the snake like queue but even then, when we got into the venue, we were so far from the door entrance to hear, never mind see said poet laureate we just thought ‘life is too short’ and left. Fortuitously we then bumped into friends on their way to their tent and we tagged along and opened a bottle of wine.

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So it looks like it’s the end, even though many people are trying to keep it alive because they had such a good time but, like many holiday romances, that may all fizzle out once September comes around.

Cabin Envy

I took some days off before my new performance [on the pretext I needed to be somewhere to learn my lines] so we went to see friends in France, deep in the countryside without a phone signal, bliss. On one of our walks we came across a run down cabin, way too late to help it but would make a perfect cabin envy if you did.

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Flower Power

 

Over the last week we have enjoyed the longer days and taken evening walks around the cliff and its been great to see all the flowers; from the camomile which has taken over the daffodil fields, the ox eyed daisies and wild flowers in the fields around the chalet and my neighbours incredible show of poppies. It seems like poppies have had a good season all round, I am seeing them all over the place and not just because they’re prolific self seeders but they’ve really flowered well this year.

camomile taking over the daffodil field

Just over a week ago on midsummers day him indoors and I went along to the Cornish vineyard Camel Valley, it’s only fifty minutes away from us and we’ve said for ages we wanted to go, when we drive past we always say ‘we should visit one day’. So, someone had a birthday and it felt like a perfect thing to do to celebrate. The weather was touch and go, as the days leading up had been wet and the vineyard tours happen whatever the weather. You want it to be fine though, especially when you’re sipping your ‘after tour’ glass of wine on the terrace overlooking the vines and these wines are awarding winning, the first English wines with a Royal warrant. We’ve bought the sparkling rose before,[clears her throat] when it was on special offer [usual ploy] so it was great to see where, and how, it is produced. I am not going to go through the ins and outs of the wine production now – you can take the tour yourselves, it takes place every day and Duncan is far better at doing it than I ever could be, plus …I may need a brief reminder to remember the finer points!!!

Plymouth Performance

Later next month on the 24/25th July I will be performing my new show in the Lab at the Theatre Royal Plymouth. It is a black box of a space and very intimate, which is perfect for the show. The Secret Listener looks at the hidden work of voluntary interceptors during WW2 and in particular a woman called Olive Myler who lived in North Devon and was one of 1,500 voluntary interceptors during the war. She would listen in to specific German radio frequencies for coded messages and other sounds.  She was a mysterious character and it is this aspect that the performance dwells on. The stories of Olive have been passed down aurally, so there’s a Chinese whisper effect in the telling, creating potential for drama. I have been developing a sound design to accompany the text with Ed Jobling from Forkbeard Fantasy and Derek Frood, my Plymouth based collaborator.

The Secret Listener Wednesday 24th & Thursday 25th at 8pm Theatre Royal Plymouth

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Country Diary

 

IMG_3360Sometimes when I read back over the posts I’ve written and as I look out over the fields it feels like I am in the middle of a Guardian Country Diary post, my day to day chalet life seems to be fixated on the comings and goings of rural life. This month the house sparrows have suddenly been chirping away…they nest in the overhang of our roof and do so every year. They flit between the nest and our neighbour’s bird feeder and have lookouts on every available post. So as soon as I go into the garden a sparrow always appears on the fence, sometimes on the neighbour’s fence and always on the apex of the chalet roof; there they have vantage points to spy for various predators. When our cat ambles onto the deck outside, full of cat food, the sparrows chirping increases tenfold, but they are unaware that the cat, as much as he enjoys watching them coming and going, can’t be bothered to attempt anything that amounts to stalking and pouncing because that would require effort!!!

Mad friend came over for a dog walk and as we headed down the cliff we spied masses of Lackey moth caterpillar webs on the Blackthorn – lots of tiny webs, not the huge blanket like ones that have been shared online.

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I have to say the blackthorn was pretty spectacular this Spring, here it is, below, on one of the paths down to the beach where we stop at a bench and look over to check the state of the tides.

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The cliff paths are really changing now, the wild honeysuckle is starting to flower, which will scent the way down in the next coming weeks and the mint that was planted by a chalet owner beside the path has spread over a whole area and we’ve already had some amazing pots of mint tea from it.

Cabin Envy Old Settlers Hut

Since the weather got warmer there’s been a lot of DIY going on and rebuilds on the cliff and as much as I appreciate people re-building or adding on and generally trying to create a more modern way of living within a cabin, I always love seeing images of the more shabby chic ones or ones that have just been left alone. This image by Elise Hassey for Australian Traveller  is of an old settlers hut in Australia and I know it wouldn’t work in our climate with all the rain on the corrugated roof but there’s something rather wonderful about not having the mod cons and living a more ‘natural’ existence. It always makes me smile when folk who hire out their chalets tell me that when people book onto the cliff they tend to be looking for bedrooms that have that boutique hotel vibe. You know the ones, with the crispest white sheets and the fluffiest of white towels and maybe a bottle of something sparkling waiting on the mega tog duvet, with the French windows open to reveal a sea of the bluest blue beyond a hot tub to drink the said sparkling wine in…  and I think why don’t they just go to a boutique hotel and leave these chalets to be what they are…one of the most basic and therefore one of the most eco friendly ways to live.

Australian traveller Old Settlers hut photo by Elise Hassey

Hope you are all having a great Bank Holiday weekend or Half term, or even if it was a weekend, whatever you are having  – have a good one!

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In like a lion, out like a lamb

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There’s an old saying that March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb, and here in Cornwall that was absolutely right, we had terrible storms at the beginning of the month and halfway through they passed over and left us with sun and warmth. I said in my last post that the sheep returned to the field and the lambs started appearing, as if on cue. On the last day of March, in the sunshine, the 50+ sheep started to move, as a group, towards one end of the field; the farmer had opened up the gate onto an adjacent field and they were all heading into pastures new. Except for one ewe, who watched the rest go but stood her ground, then she looked around as if she was scanning the field and I knew she was looking for her lamb. I could see indecision in that ewe, should I stay or should I follow the flock, she looked around again and then, having made her decision, she ran after the rest. Moments later the farmer’s land rover came into view and stopped, he got out and picked up the lifeless carcass of a lamb and put it into the back of the truck. I thought about that on and off for the rest of the day, not the lifeless lamb but the mother having to make the decision to leave her dead offspring and carry on, it was the 31st March, Mother’s Day here in the U.K.

April too has also been a mixture of weathers blowing hot and cold like a non committal lover. The daffodils have gone over [apart from one field which is mind blowingly full of creamy daffs] and made way for the bluebells.

 

Come Easter the weather was positively mediterranean and we were barbecuing on the beach yet a week later we are waiting for another named storm to land with an extra layer of clothing on.

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a stone cairn on Rocky beach Trevone on Easter Sunday

 

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts about Shepherds Huts recently and so I thought I would return to one for Cabin Envy. Way back when I started this site I created a post about Shepherds Huts and it outdid all other posts for a number of years, so I make an assumption that many people have a soft spot for them. Most only have room for a double bed so it’s all about the outside here, this one is on it’s own little island!! Inspired by the Arthur Ransome books its called The Nancy Blackett and gives you a bed with a wood burner and when you want to cook something up you have to head over the bridge to the ‘mainland’ to a separate cabin. You can make use of the lake and fish or go out on a boat and re-create the Swallows and Amazons adventures if so inclined.

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canopyandstars.co.uk

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Spring Awakening

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Sorry about the theatrical title but after the first half of the month being days and days of relentless rain and driving wind we have ended with warmth and sunshine so there is very much an awakening. Last weekend, a few days after the Spring equinox, we went down to the beach and were amazed to see the tide further out than we had seen for some time, in fact my neighbour tells us it was the lowest tide in thirty years. What this meant was you could walk the length of Whitsand Bay and back again which, normally, is difficult without getting your feet wet somewhere along the route.

On the cliff the flowers are waking up in the sun including the patch of mint that we normally grab a bunch of for a cuppa.

Half way though the month the sheep arrived back in the field and within 24 hours the first lambs were with us and again this all coincided with the official arrival of Spring. If you’re a procrastinator believe me there is nothing better than watching new lambs.

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A big shout out the local school Fourlanesend in Cawsand where children decided to ban the single use plastic red noses for Comic Relief UK and made their own instead. Each nose cost £1.25 but only a percentage of that goes to the charity so, after a school project entitled ‘Do we need plastic’, the children decided to donate the price of a nose, of which 100% would go to Comic Relief, and make their own. You can see their video here https://www.fourlanesendprimary.co.uk/website/home/79018

It will be interesting to see how Comic Relief play it next year, the school got national coverage and a letter from Sir David Attenborough, so it was hard not to take notice.

Cabin Envy

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Photo credits George Fielding

This is the Danish cabin in Kudhva, Cornwall, you can rent it through Canopy and Stars; it has folding walls so you can open up the cabin and let the outside in, and look at that outside! You are in a forest with waterfalls but there are other amenities as its part of a glamping experience including a hot tub with views to the sea, yet you can just hide away on the deck with a beer [supplied] and listen to the birds, come on you know you want to.

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Repairs and daffs

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What a month, him indoors reckons that the only way to get through January and February is to have daffodils inside the house and as you can see we have them inside and out at the moment. The indoor ones came from the local fields at 69p a bunch and they have brought some welcome colour to the drab days, although for the last week we have had record breaking days of warm sun. I’ve also got a small group of snowdrops, I planted them quite a few years ago and thought they had decided not to appear, they were my grandmother’s favourite flower, she always used to see if she could find some to put in a vase for her birthday which was today, the 28th of February. Some years it would prove difficult and she would get violets instead and yet, the snowdrops this year have been blooming since the beginning of the month, or maybe earlier and the violets have only just appeared. I am still going through boxes since our move and found some of my grandmother’s handkerchiefs and a lavender bag that she must have made, at the very least, in the 1970s, the lavender was still going strong!

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snowdrops growing in the field by us

I’ve had a couple of trips to Bodmin this month, a place I normally drive through to get to the north coast of Cornwall and it’s easy to bypass the centre. Driving in past four different supermarkets gives the impression of a large place to warrant so much choice, yet it feels like a small market town. Historically it’s had some fine moments and the buildings suggest a thriving past, including the old jail. One of these has just been turned into a new arts centre [I’ve mentioned this in passing before] by a company called intoBodmin and the old library, as it once was, will now host music, theatre, poetry and other community events. Normally when a venue is new it takes time to build up an audience where the community wait to see what kind of options you give them but it seems that the people of Bodmin are hungry for culture, when I went and performed one of my shows at the beginning of February we had a 94% capacity turn out. Incredibly exciting!

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I returned a week later for a Repair Cafe, where people will look at whatever you bring in and try to make it work. There was a joiner to repair furniture; an electrician; a wireless geek and a wonder with a sewing machine who turned out to have been a wardrobe mistress in a theatre in her past life. As I had worked for the same company we had a great conversation.  An antique musical box [above] got its tune back, radios worked again and many people had their coat linings sewn up. I am definitely going back because it’s just lovely to see what things come in and, you can also learn something whilst you watch the repairs.

 

Cabin Envy

Photo Kristian Septimius Krogh

Photographer: Kristin Septimus Krogh

A Scandinavian black and white cabin, what’s not to like. The garden looks very private with plenty of places to hang out, to eat or lie in the sun [or shade].

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weather, moons and root veg

 

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There have been some amazing January days, with warm sun and wonderful pinky sunsets but also torrential rain [that blotted out the view across the bay] and then the month finished with a smattering a snow. I say a smattering because it stayed for an evening but had pretty much gone by morning, not like last year’s Beast from the East yet inland, out on the moors that cross Cornwall and Devon, the snow was thick and in some places impassable.

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Our view has been a patchwork of green and brown fields, the farmers have trimmed the hedges and the council have cleared the verges and gutters so the said torrential rain wouldn’t flood or leave surface water and everywhere looks tidy and clean. The sheep have not been in their usual field nor grazing on grass but on, what looks like from our outlook, soil, a couple of fields away; on closer inspection they are actually grazing on root vegetable crops or ‘catch crops’. This is a feeding strategy farmers use for over wintering livestock and apparently this option is also happening more and more as farmers stop using pesticides.

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The sheep graze part of the field and then move down as they finish the crop – see the uneaten crop to the left of the sheep.

Talking of root crops these posters have been appearing around the area since before Christmas showing that local produce is being grown for the county’s favourite food, the pastie. Ginsters are a local Cornish pasty manufacturer with a national product based in Callington which is half an hour away and their ingredients are all Cornish, as the posters tell us. Stop at any service station and you will find a Ginsters pie or pasty, it even made it into Coronation Street dialogue last week [ the UK’s longest running television soap]. Mind you we have a pasty maker even closer to us – two minute drive or a 15 minute walk to Cornish Pod, bringing pasties and pies and other hot snacks to events and festivals in their trailer. That 15 minute walk takes us to their kitchens, so straight out of the HQ ovens for us…and they are good!

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Earlier in the month, on the 21st, we set the alarm for 4am to witness the lunar eclipse. We were really lucky to have a clear sky here in Cornwall and we wrapped up and watched for the last few moments before the total eclipse and then as the pinky glow started to cover the moon from the bottom – totally mesmerising! I took photos but they were, hazy, blurry and bloody awful, I decided to stop trying and just watch.

Next month there’s another super moon, the Snow Moon, the closest it gets to the earth so will appear huge, also no need to set an alarm for this one as you will see it from sunset on February 19th.

Cabin envy

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photo by Marta Xochilt Perez

The flag gives it away but without the flag the picket fence would be a good indicator of where this cabin is. It’s on Fire Island, an ocean barrier off the south coast of Long Island, USA. I’m on the fence about the fence but I love the black and white windows and the jetty/boardwalk path to the front door. If you want to peep inside the cabin look here

That’s my new blog post for January life on a Cornish cliff,  if you prefer regular updates which are mainly pictorial I have succumbed to Instagram – check me out and follow me here  yes, as always, late to the party.

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