Friday, 21 October 2011

Angel Hunting in North Cornwall

It must have been about three years ago now when Marcia was feeling pretty desperate because we just couldn’t find the location for The Christmas Angel (or, as she titled the book ‛Unpacking the Angel’). The one ‛known’ was that it would be in Cornwall because there was to be a connection with surfing – although a very tenuous one. We had tried the south coast all the way down to the Lizard Peninsula but with no success and the various parts of the north coast had seemed no better until we visited St Endellion for a completely different reason.

Actually it is quite odd how often this happens: when you find what you want it is because you are looking for something completely different. I was talking to a friend of mine who is a retired scientist and he was saying something similar. ‟When we find a cure for cancer, if we ever do, it won’t be the people in cancer research who find it. No, it will be someone else: someone looking for something like, oh, I don’t know, something like finding a new strain of wheat which offers greater yields. Something like that which is in a different field altogether.″

Well, it was something like that. We were in St Endellion because a great friend of ours is buried there. His widow now lives in Bath and she and Marcia communicate by telephone at least once week. So, having visited the grave and put some fresh wild flowers on it, we had lunch in the farm shop just up the road.

Suddenly Marcia realised that this was where two of her characters had met for coffee. It was not quite the centre of things but at least we had a rough idea of where everything would take place.

A few days later we – well I – drove down and, for no really good reason, carried on down the A39 (which more or less follows the coast from Bridgewater in Somerset all the way down to the west of Cornwall) through Wadebridge not knowing where I was going to end up. I was getting a little tired of the main road as we approached to turning off to Padstow so I turned right there and carried on until I was nearly in the village. For some reason that thought didn’t appeal so when the road swung round to the right I veered left onto a lane and then right onto an even narrower one.

Where are we going?’ asked Marcia. There was only one honest reply.

No idea but we can’t get lost down here. Sooner or later we shall see somewhere we know.’

It was, in fact, much later for we found ourselves driving down a steep and narrow lane into Trevone having passed a place at the top where we could have stopped.
This was the first glimpse we had of the area that was to dominate our lives for the next few months. The rooks are foraging in a field recently sown with barley.
We were to watch the barley grow and to see it harvested.
We must go back,’ Marcia had that look so I turned round and back we went. She jumped out of our old camper van and set off down a path towards the cliffs leaving me to prepare coffee. She returned with a big grin on her face and I knew we had struck gold.

What both of us found fascinating about this part of the coastline was all the tiny things that we found – tiny things that we could not remember seeing in other places. I will let the pictures explain what I mean.
Hundreds - and I mean hundreds - of snails lurking in crevases in walls.
More snails clinging to the stalks of various plants.
The air in this part of the country is so purse that lichens and mosses are commonpalce.
Not quite so welcome was the swarm of these little fellows that we encountered one day towards the end of April although I spent an interesting half hour trying to get a picture.
Meanwhile Marcia was on the cliffs brooding...
... and listening to the gulls nesting on the cliff below and they do make a surprising amount of noise
This 'doorway' through one of the walls on the coastal footpath was to play a part in the book.
This is the Roundhole. Technically this is a collapsed sea cave. You can see where the sea flows in and out with the tides. The collapsed debris is gradually swept out to sea leaving a round hole that drops from the field above Harlyn Bay down to sea level, a drop of a couple of hundred feet. This, too, plays its part in this novel.
A real surprise was to find these mallows scattered about.
They were in flower for only a week or two and so would have been very easy to miss.
There are many wild flowers on these cliffs as this posy that Marcia pickled demonstrates.
It seems such a long time ago but, as I am sure you all realise, from the time when Marcia starts brooding about a book to the time it finds itself on a bookshelf waiting to be bought is usually over two years. Anyway, publication day will have come and gone before I post my next Friday blog. I think you are all in for a real treat.