Still feeling fragile, having returned from a weekend in Cornwall, where I attended the stag party of an old school friend. I'd become rather bored of the usual uninspired stag cliches of go-karting, paintballing and despoiling eastern european cities, so it was a pleasant change to go coasteering. I spent the summers of my adolescence throwing myself off cornish cliffs for free, but apparently now it has a name they can charge you for the privilege.

Anyway it was actually great fun and I would recommend it to anyone who is struggling for an idea of something to do for a stag weekend.
We spent the day exploring the cliffs around Polzeath, and leaping into the murky green water - even though I've been doing it for years, there's still something edgy about the cliffs and the deep green water and grasping bladderwrack that lurks in my primordial cortex. I love the sea, yet also fear it. Betjeman, the local sage, captured that very same feeling of fear and wonder in this poem about Polzeath:


I know so well this turfy mile,
These clumps of sea-pink withered brown,

The breezy cliff, the awkward stile,

The sandy path that takes me down.

To crackling layers of broken slate
Where black and flat sea-woodlice crawl
And isolated rock pools wait

Wash from the highest tides of all.

I know the roughly blasted track

That skirts a small and smelly bay

And over squelching bladderwrack
Leads to the beach at Greenaway.

Down on the shingle safe at last
I hear the slowly dragging roar
As mighty rollers mount to cast
Small coal and seaweed on the shore,

And spurting far as it can reach

The shooting surf comes hissing round

To heave a line along the beach

Of cowries waiting to be found.

Tide after tide by night and day
The breakers battle with the land
And rounded smooth along the bay
The faithful rocks protecting stand.

But in a dream the other night

I saw this coastline from the sea

And felt the breakers plunging white

Their weight of waters over me.

There were the stile, the turf, the shore,

The safety line of shingle beach

With every stroke I struck the more

The backwash sucked me out of reach.

Back into what a water-world

Of waving weed and waiting claws?
Of writhing tentacles uncurled
To drag me to what dreadful jaws?


Gaw said...

Lovely poem. Do you know Hardy's 'Poems 1912-13'?

That activity is way too scary for me.

zmkc said...

Yay, we used to spend our summers at Trebetherick. To get to Greenaway you had to go down steps in the cliff (never thought of jumping, how terrifying). On the beach, if you searched very hard, you could find very tiny cowrie shells, which were ridged and mostly white to pale pink, slightly flesh coloured, the size of your little fingernail or smaller, much prized. I gather Rock has been taken over by awful people and young spoilt drunks gather on Polzeath beach in summer - but that part of the country used to be wonderful. Daymer Bay, races up Bray Hill, St Enadoc (where Betjeman is buried), even Padstow pre Stein, absolutely lovely

worm said...

Gaw, I haven't heard of them, which is why I'm off to google them forthwith! many thanks for the recommendation! And as an ex-rugby player of some reknown, I can't imagine you being scared of much!

zmkc - wow, lucky you! Most of the families that holiday in Trebetherick keep them same house in their family for years. Because I was bought up in Wadebridge I was often invited to stay with school friends who had holiday homes there. I too used to look for the little cowrie shells! And the rockpools on Greenaway are some of the best I've ever seen. I can't wait to have some kids of my own to take there!!!

zmkc said...

My cousin sold her house there a couple of years ago for an incredible sum (absolutely astonishing - even she is still rather amazed). Another cousin - of my parents' generation - lived there with her children during WWII, after her husband was killed. I find the idea of being down there while London was being bombed, et cetera, very intriguing. That family has kept their house and I don't think they will ever sell it.

Gadjo Dilo said...

I gotta take the wife to see Cornwall some time - if only so as she can get revenge on the Eastern European city despoilers! Betjeman was rather good on English places, wasn't he.... makes one proud.

worm said...

Zmkc - yes it must have been odd being in such a quiet and untouched backwater whilst all around europe battle was raging!

Gadjo - may I suggest that your wife might like to get revenge by vomiting on Truro Cathedral

cornwall is a nice place - as long as the sun is shining!

Gadjo Dilo said...

Consider it done. We'll tank her up on vindaloo and lager and hire a helicopter!

Susan said...

This sort of pursuit is utterly terrifying to me so I'm rather impressed, though not sure if you're brave or curiously crazy to jump of a cliff into the sea.