PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1985 - SEPTEMBER
Sunday 1 September
We are prisoners of a sort on a raft, but after a while it is clear that our guards are lax. I make a run for it, jumping into the turbulent sea clutching my travelling leather pouch close to my side. I find myself just a few strokes from stone steps and climb out of the water. I enter a large deserted mansion looking for a place to hide, sure that I will be pursued. There are many stairways, one in particular can only be negotiated by using a climber on the wall. I lose my pouch somewhere but am unable to find it when retracing my steps. Meanwhile, the mansion is slowly filling up with hundreds of military youths and children arriving in small canoes and rowing boats. From the battlements an organiser is getting ready to launch rowing boats and some bench-like boats (as though this were a big ship and the boats had to be lowered into the sea). Also, for some reason I don't understand, the idea is to get across the water to the other side. The organiser tells me to inform control at the back of the battlements that I'm taking bench boat number . . . out. I walk back hesitantly but I am scared to go out in a boat, it seems so much safer in the mansion/castle. Rock and stone missiles are hurled onto the battlements by the approaching attackers. A girl who intends to come with me is braver and runs to control to inform them of our movements. Later, I see that we have more or less wiped them out. For some reason I am talking to some person on the telephone and am explaining that after mopping them all up with a rag I found the most exquisite pattern on a cloth made up of dead ants - like an intricate lace doily.
Monday 2 September
I didn't know it could rain so much. For more than two days now it has poured and poured. The opposite side of the bay has been barely visible because of low cloud. The passing cars swish through puddles lying across the tarmac. The sombra tree, my neighbour, is thinned drastically of its leaves, long after all the others in the street have sprouted new ones. The change of colour from green to bright orange and the falling away takes but a week. It is a shame about the rain. I was hoping to 'pegar' a bit more 'sol' before returning to England, now in just two days.
The first time in many days, the sky is clear and blue and the crisp morning light pre-empts a hot day's weather. Yesterday, several times I heard comment on the street about whether the rain would be stopping or had stopped for good. I'm not hanging words well together this morning, one caiparinha the night before, a late night, a thick head.
I've kept myself busy the last two nights deliberately trying to bypass the excitement (of returning home) that makes the slow passing of time difficult to bear. Monday, I went to see 'Ladyhawk', and let myself be entranced by the charming story, and last night a stream of engagements occupied me. First and foremost, Elaine came to visit. She has rung almost every day this week with some excuse or other, and kept a brave face in the face of my coolness. Before she came last night, I knew words would be said. She manoeuvred me into the bedroom, but I pretended innocence and found little things to do there. And then, when I had to go out, she said she'd wait, so I had to tell her that I preferred her not to. And rightly, she understood, plainly accepted the situation with a dignity more worthy than my own behaviour warranted. But I felt it was right and proper to be clear about breaking the sexual relationship. After such a strong one, she said, we couldn't just be friends' and asked me not to write. Then Pat listened to me for a couple of hours accepting the chastisement I metred out for not having heard of Anais Nin or having read Angela Carter. She approved of my behaviour towards Elaine (at least my biased account of same). Then later still I went out with Cynthia and Leila (and some guy named Ivan).
9 September, London
It's the evening after the wedding in my lovely house listening to 'Turn of the Screw'. I should sleep now so as to be fit to leave in the night for our drive down to Cornwall. So many people and how embarrassing to forget so much: I forgot my uncle David's wife's name - Lou. I forgot George Marlow's name. I didn't recognise the Schneiders or the Sampsons (although I did recognise the Luxembourgs). I barely recognised John Todd with his beard, failing teeth and sunglasses. George Marlow was a pest, latching onto me. He's to New York next weekend and will probably see Frederic. Uncle Fieja's wife Eva was briefly scathing about Harvey - if I had seen her again, I might have found out more - and his relationship with Judith.
11 September 1985 - Ludgvan
A dull smokey pub somewhere in Cornwall. It's called the Old Inn, although there is little inside to encourage confidence in the name. Two walls are painted with a mural that could have come from a Janet and John reader: an impression of Ludgvan 1883 by Margaret Ryan 1983.
Sunday: misty arrival at Higher Amalwhidden; shopping in Penzance; salad in pub; walking round Penzance; fire and sleep and evening meal; St Ives and 'Insignificance'.
Monday: early morning walk; spiders' webs; Penzance and more shopping; Prussia Cove through Marazian; lunch in garden; slugs on cheese (stilton); local walk, chimneys and tin mine ruin; no supper
Tuesday: making sandwiches; to near Porthwarro; hitching to Mousehole; coastal path walk - Lamorna Cove, Penberth Cove, foghorn, Logan Rock, Porthcurra; drink in Mousehole.
Wednesday: Porthleven harbour; curved terrace; B hobbling on pebbles; tide threatening; our very own cove; the Loe reservoir; Penrose; boring Mullian; St Ives; Cornish riviera; Hayle; late drink and bad pub
Friday - Combe Martin
In a peaceful garden above the the Combe Martin village valley. Abundant colour, bright sun, brilliant blue sky, brilliant green fields, the buzz of bees profiting from the petunias, begonias and geraniums.
15 September - London
How dull it would be to try and record chronologically a week full of Cornwall and Devon with Bel and how difficult now that the week has passed and gone. I have been undisciplined and not stopped for even half an hour to pull my thoughts and impressions together. Indeed, the whole week was spent utterly in the company of Bel, we both indulging to the nth degree our attention on the other. Only once, for half an hour, did we separate while B looked around a garden and I took some photographs. I imagine we were together because we've been not together for half a year - though within hours it was as though I had never been away. Comparisons with our week in Ireland are inevitable. That holiday was more complete with beginning and end, more looked forward to, more special, more unusual, more of a change, but even with all those disadvantages this time in Cornwall still held up well. Emotionally, I think, we were both older, stabler, more jaded, more resigned to our roles.
I have sunk back into this city of mine. Most unexpected of the attentions given me by friends has been a phone call from Maja. Is it just a coincidence that I am here in London when she rings and that I have just been to Minehead - where she and I met!
Yes, we went to Minehead too. Actually it is a very unattractive town - the tide washes out for what seems a mile leaving behind it mud flats. We went to a couple of jumble sales. B bought two interesting skirts and I bought two plates and two champagne glasses for our picnic later on. After we drove on in search of the perfect picnic place. A lake shown on the map looked attractive but was all organised with authentic wood carved signs pointing to 'The Perfect Picnic Place'. Besides it, the lake, was without any charm whatsoever - so on we rode. And the drizzle drizzled on ever threatening to turn into rain. Eventually, we found a gate that gave onto a field which curved down giving a view across the valley beyond. Bel made herself comfortable both on and yet under her giant waterproof cape, while I, fed by her administrations of bread and cheese, danced in the ever strengthening downpour. This was the moment for the champagne I had brought. Driz and fizzle. Really it was a sight, she hunched under the mac manipulating the butter, the bread, the tomatoes and mayonnaise with artificial gutters of water flow forming around her, and I, the eccentric-to-be, madly cavorting about believing that the more I moved the less I'd get wet. I can still see where the glasses lay after they'd been drunk from and thrown to ground. Side by side they lie, awaiting the grass to grow around them.
Tearing through the city on my bicycle - the stereo shops, the book shops, the photographic shops, the auction houses even. The weather cool and miserable, the people mostly ugly, like everywhere, dress continues to be high punk among the young with make-up, black clothes, sticky-pointed hair. I don't find the sheet music I was looking for for Elaine, but I do track the possibility of getting a copy of 'Rebellion in the Backlands' by Euclides de Cunha. Not from Foyles though, they couldn't have been more obstructive in an ignorant sort of way if they'd tried. I must have spent over half an hour there trying to find which department it might be in, without any help. I was finally advised to try Dillons who told me instantly it was out of stock, but they also managed to order it for me within the week.
But to return to the West Country. There was one moment when I cried. We had left Ilfracombe for the second time and dashed towards Exmoor. The B3358 led us into the heart of the national park but the light was leaving cunningly. We had passed Challacombe, I think, and were making for Simonsbath - simply because of its central location in the middle of the Exmoor brown patch. The sky behind us looked dramatic, the scenery on the right of us was empty of man and inviting in a back-to-the-earth kind of way. It reminded me, without a doubt, of the valley on the west side of the M4 (driving out of Newport heading for the Severn Bridge) - it was a scene that I always saw from inside some car (when hitching to and from Cardiff), and which always tempted me to give up my current life, and instead step bravely across the fields of the valley into the oblivion of pastures and forests. I'd never actually indulged this oft-felt need to melt into the landscape . . . just enjoyed the feelings.
THIS OFT FELT NEED TO MELT INTO THE LANDSCAPE
THIS OFT FELT NEED TO MELT INTO THE LANDSCAPE
This time, though, I indulged as never before. Taking Bel's hand I ran down through a field of bright yellow rape towards the thickly wooded ravine of the stream. Across the other side was a curved pasture, a curved landscape just ripe for melting into. With difficulty we crossed the stream, scrambling through the bush and sliding down muddy banks, then up through the ferns and out into the open field we ran again, climbing upwards towards the horizon ridge, where we found a grassy bank just perfect for sitting and resting. B sat and I lay down with my head on her lap facing the west and the proudly lit cloud-scape above the magnificent green landscape. I screwed my eyes tight and tried to melt; I opened my eyes so wide, the birds flew in and out, and tried to melt. I so wanted to melt and never wake up again. Just perfect, here and now, let me melt and become a part of all this. A dark and profound peacefulness came upon me, a feeling that I would rise no more. I told Bel, though she didn't believe. But laying there watching the clouds form and un-form, and the sky darken leaving but a midnight blue in the east, I could not help but let a tear or two trickle out.
Every Exmoor village has its ivy covered AA inn but we couldn't find a B+B. We tried Simonsbath, Exford, Withypool and Winsford, before discovering the best B+B in Britain at Wheddon's Cross. Our room was huge with space for a 3ft diameter round table and a giant wardrobe with an enormous speckled mirror; there was rich-coloured wood panelling on all the walls, and pictures of a kind I might choose, and the bed was of the type that two people can comfortably sink into forever.
Pause for a Cornish legend: The legend of Tamara. The lovely nymph Tamara was born in a cavern. Although her parents were spirits of the earth, the child loved the light of day. Often, they had chided her for yielding to her desires and visiting the upper world. The giants of the moor were to be feared; and it was from these that the earth spirits desired to protect their child. But Tamara - beautiful, young, heedless - never lost an opportunity of looking on the glorious sun. Two sons of Dartmoor giants - Tavy and Tawrage - saw the fair maid, and longed to possess her. Long was their toil as the wild maiden often led them over mountain and moor in playful chase. One day, they caught up with her, under a bush in Morewinstow. They resolved then to compel her to declare upon which of them her choice should fall. The young men used every persuasion, and called her by every endearing name. Meanwhile, her parents, who were missing Tamara, went looking for her and found her seated between the sons of the giants, whom they hated. The father caused a deep sleep to fall on the eyes of Tavy and Tawrage, and then he endeavoured to persuade his daughter to return to their subterranean cell. Tamara would not leave her lovers. In his rage, the gnome cursed his daughter, and, by the might of his curse, changed her into a river. Thus the lovely Tamara dissolved in tears, and, thereafter, as a crystal stream of exceeding beauty, the waters glided onward to the ocean. At length Tavy awoke. His Tamara was gone. He fled to his father in the hills who knew of Tamara's metamorphosis. To ease his son's anguish, he transformed him into a stream. Rushing over rocks, running through morasses, gliding along valleys, and murmuring amidst the groves, Tavy today runs by her side, and after their waters mingle, they glide together to the eternal sea. Tawrage also awakened after a long sleep. He divined what had taken place, and fled to the hills to an enchanter who changed him a stream; but he mistook the road along which Tamara had gone, and onward, ever sorrowfully, he flows - away - away - away from his Tamara for ever. Thus originated the Tamara, the Tavy and the Taw. This tale, badly written in a small pamphlet - under the Tor Mark Press, Truro - by Roger Hunt.
Plucking up courage to ring a few contacts. It surprises me how keen they are, even the 'New Scientist', who I shall visit this afternoon. But it is a real effort. I forget how much of the momentum has to be provided by me, me myself.
But back to Cornwall, and the romance of B&I. The second day, at Amalwhidden, was the finest of the summer, or so people told us. It was a Monday. We were obliged to go into Penzance to stock up with supplies. Then we drove on to a place called Prussia Cove which looked inviting on the Ordnance Survey map. There were only a few houses scattered among the trees and a tiny harbour built by the tiny beach. Behind both, 50ft banks of earth (earthy cliffs really) were covered in foliage and several people were bathing - one or two individuals were also sunbathing on the rocks further round the headland towards Praa Sands. The sun was so fine and the place so beautiful we stayed for some hours. But even on this, the best day of the summer, the water was cooler than in Rio.
After Prussia Cove, we went back to Amalwhidden where we prepared a beautiful lunch full of goodies, and laid it out on the grass in the garden behind the house. It was idyllic. Afterwards, we made love with the sun beating down on our tame skins. But it was a perfect afternoon - quite perfect. Indeed the whole day was not far off perfect. In the early morning, we had gone for a walk through the fields, through a multitude of spiders' webs, clinging tightly to all the hedgerows, highlit by miniscule dewdrops hanging on each thread like pearls on a necklace. Then, later in afternoon, we trekked off in search of a chimney and a tower we could see in the distance. It was a lovely walk too. Both the chimney and tower were connected to old tin mine workings - the tower being part of an engine room. An old man who had come to dump some rubbish told us that the pit shaft was only covered with beams and the filling and could easily give way. One walker, he said, had just spent three days trying to get out of a disused tin mine. Back at the house, we fell asleep without thought of supper. Oh, but I forget the most important discovery of the day: when we woke from our love-making slumber in the garden in the early afternoon, three slugs had crawled onto the Stilton but completely ignored the German brie and cheddar.
Filling up every day with lunch and evening appointments, slotting work meetings in between friends. Today for example, I leave soon to meet Luke for lunch, then on to the FT newsletters, then to meet Annie at 5:30, then to the Bush Theatre, then maybe to Rosie's house. Also I want to buy tickets for a Stockhausen opera at the Royal Opera House, then take some photos to be developed at the Sky. Now, I am taping 'Death in Venice', having already taped 'Rape of Lucretia' this morning.
It has been a very speedy week - do some people live like this constantly? Lunch and dinner dates every day. I fear all is slipping into history - in under a week I will be back on the plane to Rio, leaving all these good and caring friends behind.
Friday 27 September, Urca, Rio
I had thought I might finish this book back in London, but here I am in apartment 41, Avenida Portugal 502, in a mindless state often associated with the aftermath of a long voyage. I have made the market calls I needed to and phoned the results through to London. I have opened the pile of mail. I have showered and cleansed my travelled body. I have drunk tea and eaten some chocolate plums Mum bought me. I have unpacked a few things. John has rung. Outside the window, the sombra tree has shed all its crimson leaves and replaced them with an already dense foliage of young green. The sky beyond is unusually grey, the water reflecting the dullness, the yachts and motorboats appearing lifeless, redundant, as though they had only been built for sunshine. The mountains appear nearer and larger than I remember because the photos I took distort the proportions. Raoul, the sweetie, has rung from London.
Back to more about Cornwall. On the Sunday, we arrived slowly into the heart of Cornwall, the heavy mist made it difficult to find Amalwhidden but eventually a gleaming white sign pointed us to it along a tarmac track. There were many astonishing things about the cottage, not least that K (Bel's friend) and her husband had bought such a place so far from London, but even more intriguing was why they had furnished the garage with garden equipment and fully decorated the bathroom before even adding a scrap of furniture to the other rooms - not a chair, cushion, or table anywhere. How impractical. It was also cold and we had forgotten to bring a fire. Yet, the fireplace looked recently used in one room, so we raced off to find coal.
After the perfect Monday, we planned a coastal walk on Tuesday. First we drove to the end of the projected walk and left the car - was the village name Muckness or is that my fantasy because the last 50 metres of the day were so difficult, traversing as we had to, a mucky flooded track with tall hedges on either side. Then we hitched to the beginning of the projected walk. This took longer than we anticipated but well before midday we were on our way, away from all cars, most houses and, well, not exactly all tourists, 'cos there were lots of well-booted German youths 'doing' the Cornwall coast. Bel's fast pace, however, soon left them behind. The way was well worn and fairly easy often through bushy brush, occasionally through forest or across rockier landscapes but always very close to and usually above the sea. The first cove we arrived at was a disappointment thanks to an ugly carpark built right down to the beach, and an unattractive cafe. We were, though, grateful for refreshments at Lamorna, and idly watched a large group of divers divest themselves of endless and expensive apparel. I ate a huge cornish pasty which was over-salty and over-peppered, so much so that all Bel remembers about the next stretch is me moaning for a drink. An hour or two brought us to Penberth Cove, an altogether more interesting place. I found water to drink in some toilets and we then sat about on the pebble beach watching fishermen return from their day's labour. Each one has a small boat, not much longer than a rowing boat, and seem to do good business out of setting and retrieving lobster and crab pots. The boats arrived at about 15 minute intervals, that being the time it took for the boatman to guide his boat to land on the slipway in the middle of the tiny beach, jump out, wade through the water, hitch the stern to a wirerope, and winch it up the slipway. Clearly, some had done better than others, their boats boasting hundreds of grey crabs and lobsters, still living but only just, all spikes and claws feeling and waving about in the air in slow motion. Parked on the narrow road that comes to a head by the toilets was a van - fresh sea fish distributors. A few locals or visitors gathered on the pebbles to buy the shellfish straight from the fishermen, either for economic reasons or just out of sheer pleasure - from sea to stomach by way of pot and pot. The next stage of the walk - the last and longest - was accompanied by the sound of a lighthouse's foghorn, two loud high-pitched emissions a minute. Also somewhere on this stretch we crossed land owned by Le Carre (Le Carre, by the way, carried me magnificently through the most difficult parts of my flights to and from London - I finished 'Smiley's People' only minutes before landing at Rio). I recall little else of the walk, all the details have diminished with time. Not far off our destination, Porthgwarn, we took a diversion to see the famous Logan Rock.
It is very early, long before Maria arrives. John and Mat woke me about 9. They had brought all the 'Gazeta Mercantil's and 'Jornal do Brasil's for the three weeks I was away. Mat met Pat at the PUC Portuguese class, he's a Bristol University student doing the sandwich bit of a Spanish and Portuguese course. They dragged me along to the Garota . . . The beer then made me even more tired. I came home about 11 (3am London time) and vaguely heard the telephone ring. It may have been Leila, who had phoned earlier. I think she said she would come round later that evening. See how caught up in events here in Rio I am already yet I must still to Cornwall and Devon.
Back in Cornwall. The third full day - the Wednesday - was less than perfect, even though it began with promise. We drove to Porthleven which was the next place north of Prussia Cove and Praa Sands, so that we could be 'doing' the coast without gaps. Porthleven is charming. Big enough to be a town but small enough to be sleepy. The sun was shining brilliantly exposing the painted house colours and enriching the sea to a deep deep blue, and a solitary fishing vessel out of the harbour in brilliant crimson. We had planned to just walk a circular route - along the beach and then by the side of a lake (supposedly a bird sanctuary) and back through the back of Porthleven. But the sun was so strong, we stopped to sunbathe in a private rocky alcove. The cold water froze our bones, the sun lit up our skins, and soon we were finding pleasure in each other. Despite Bel's reticence and timidity, we have always enjoyed ourselves outside - even from the beginning of our relationship when we rollicked in a haystack.
The walk along the lakeside made a refreshing change from sea, sand and rock; alone we stepped hand-in-hand along the twig-floored track, our eyes ever alert for birds - but only common ducks floated on the water in strange isolation from each other, more like unattended yacht buoys in a harbour bay. The walk brought us back through the Penrose estate, now a National Trust property. Bel stood on my shoulders to see into the magnificent walled garden (reminiscent of French country houses) but it disappointed her - and then, a few metres further on, a door in the wall was open so we need not have performed such elaborate acrobatics.
After Porthleven, it was all downhill. We lunched badly in Mullion and then drove to two or three coves, only accessible from Mullion. One was a packed beach, the other a wilder rockier harbour but also over-peopled and troubled by a surfeit of signage. By this time it was almost late afternoon and neither of us wanted to go to Lizard Point so instead we raced across to the north coast to drive back to Amalwhidden via St Ives. This took us by the Cornish riviera - a huge expanse of sandy beach with lots of car parks and pubs and families with kids with buckets and spade. B encouraged me to swim again thinking it would refresh me from the tiredness of too much driving and getting bored round Mullion, but I had to run several hundred yards splashing through one inch deep water to arrive at the sea's edge and immerse myself in cold waves. St Ives was busy with its tourists, fish and chips, sea shells, sweet shops, postcards etc. - we dallied not long.
At Hayle I took a picture of green and red swings by an empty park lawn. In the background, a row of terraced houses provided perfect counterpoint. I took two photographs, both worked well. The first used the two lines, houses and swings, as diagonals leading into each other, and the second used the swings as a line framework through which to see the houses - again the line of the top of the houses ran parallel to the line of the top of the swings. Once printed and framed up, the two could make a good set.
Thursday morning we cleaned and tidied the cottage and set off for Devon around midday. We drove straight through St Austell - modern and unattractive - and through the distinctive China Clay district where white cone hills are almost a natural part of the landscape. Apparently China Clay is now used mostly in the paint industry and not for porcelain. Earlier we stopped for a while at Probus for B to visit some gardens and for me to take some photos. Bodmin Moor is not large and there is effectively only one road through it. However, right in the centre is a track leading off to the tiny village of Temple, once said to have Knights Templar associations. Well, we blinked and the village was passed without any sign of a church. We picnicked on a grassy edge, even though it was spitting with rain. Bel insisted on a walk after, so we ran down the fields to a fast flowing stream with beautiful grasses formed by the movement of the water. And then, a few hundred yards downstream, we looked up to see the church we had missed. B was fairly enamoured of the church, although I preferred an outhouse with queer carved stones and no recognisable purpose. After Temple, there was the coast again, the windy beach at Widemouth that reminded me of Waterville in Ireland, and tea and cakes in Bude.
The trouble with writing this travelogue is that the small gestures, the half-taken pictures, the mysterious moments, and all the nuances are lost.
Paul K Lyons
Copyright © PiKLe PuBLiSHiNG