Saturday, 28 March 2015

Surfing bays, the ravages of nature, Jill, and the YHA

Sated with Padstow, I drove westwards a few miles to the surf-battered coast that faces the Atlantic. Two bays in particular, both first seen fifty years ago in 1965: Treyarnon Bay and Constantine Bay. Places I could speak about con amore at indefinite length. I'll try to keep it short and sweet. (But will fail miserably!)

Treyarnon Bay was the location of my family's first tenting holiday in the UK, in August 1965. It wasn't the very first holiday under canvas. In June 1965, after only a couple of practice sessions in the back garden, we went down to the south of France with another family - a long, three-week tour beginning at Le Havre, then proceeding via Le Mans and Clermont-Ferrand to a place called Le Grau du Roi, south-east of Montpellier, genuinely on the Mediterranean shore. From there, we had returned to Le Havre via Toulouse, Royan, and the Normandy beaches near Caen. The husband of the other family, Les Hinton, had been at the 1944 D-Day landing on one of the 'British' beaches, and wanted to take a look.

I think it was very brave to take cars with a 1965 standard of reliability all the way to the Med and back, with little trailers for the camping equipment in tow. I'm not sure I'd personally be so debonair about not breaking down catastrophically, so distant from Blighty. But we got away with it. I was frustrated not having a camera of my own. But Dad had his box Brownie, and Les Hinton had his 'proper' camera, with colour transparency film loaded, and took at least two shots of everything (a recommended practice in pre-digital days, when you didn't get an instant peek at what you had just taken, and had to wait for the film to be developed before detecting any errors). Afterwards Mr Hinton kindly gave us a set of duplicate slides, which I still have.

But as usual I'm digressing! Back to Treyarnon Bay. I've been coming here whenever possible at intervals since the last family holiday here in the early 1970s. It draws me. It's partly nostalgia for a lost part of my later childhood, partly a pilgrimage, a place where I can be - in a sense - with the spirits of Mum and Dad and my brother Wayne, all dead and gone. Of course, lacking any faith or belief, I don't literally mean that I 'feel' their spirits. It's more a vivid summoning-up of memories that stay forever fresh and keen, and never seem to fade. The sounds of the waves, and the cry of the gulls: these both help as well. Nowadays I commune with an easy mind, enjoying the Bay as much as the memories. But back in 2010 I came here and howled in pain for the loss of all my closest family - see Grief at Treyarnon Bay, published on 14 November 2010. But I cheered up, and resolved to forge ahead and make the most of life, and forget that I had been the sole and possibly undeserving survivor. So what if I had lived on, while they were no longer around? Chance had spared me. Don't knock it. Just be glad to be alive.

And on this visit, in March 2015, I was indeed glad to be alive and kicking! There was a stiff breeze, but the sun was still shining on the waves, and it was impossible not to feel exhilarated. I remained thoughtful however. How relentlessly destructive nature is... It scoured the beach of sand, even if it did put it back. It eroded the cliff top, already worn from holidaymakers' footfalls. Substantial iron seats, solidly set on a concrete base, were getting rusty and undermined by storms. This one, for instance.

My goodness. A quite modern seat, but in a terrible state.


A memorial only twenty-one years old, but corroding badly, and liable to slide onto the rocks one winter soon, if not saved. Who was she? She died aged only forty-four. She might have been at Treyarnon on several of the summers that I was there too. And I'd survived her. (I'm beginning to regard longevity as a really big achievement in itself!)

Had her seat always been so rusty? As it happens, I have some past pictures of it. Here it is in 2012, three years back, with two holidaymakers on it:

And here it is in 2010, on that day of grief for my dead family, looking distinctly under attack from salt-laden gales:

I'm guessing that originally it was thickly painted, but it all flaked off within a few years. A lesson, then, to use ocean-grade stainless steel, and not to place the seat so close to the cliff edge! It makes you think deeply about the impermanence of everything man-made.

There were other memorials scattered about in the turf, all facing the sea, and all providing a place to sit down and watch the waves come in. This one was fashioned from the trunk of an old tree in a Treyarnon resident's garden:

7.7.1940 -29.9.2013

Although made of wood, two years in the Cornish wind and rain hadn't yet done much to this seat. I hoped it would last many years. Two other memorial seats caught my eye, both made of stone, and both rather quirky:

The not-very-visible inscription says:


Clearly they both liked to raise a toast to the Bay! Cheers, then!

This elaborate seat-and-table arrangement must have cost a packet. The flowers bear witness that the person commemorated was indeed loved. What a view! All the way over to Trevose Head. What a pity that the inscription wasn't very clear. 

In Loving Memory Of
23.6.73 [carving of a motorbike, seen sideways on] 2.9.00

In the stone oval set in the back of the seat was a celtic serpent. Presumably this was the twenty-seven year old victim of a tragic road accident? A reminder that death snatches away without warning, and sometimes violently. My brother died from head injuries in a car accident not caused by himself.

Just a little further on, and I reached the sweeping sands and dunes of Constantine Bay. But they were repairing the clifftop track, so I didn't linger. Besides, I wanted some tea. I'd bumped into a lady called Jill while slowly walking the turf at Treyarnon. We spoke. She asked me my name, then gave me hers. She seemed very nice. She had lived at Constantine Bay all her life. She was slightly older than me, sixty-five to my sixty-two. She could recommend the fare at the YHA hostel that overlooked Treyarnon Bay, and would normally have been delighted to share afternoon tea with me, but had a Parish Council meeting or something similar to get to. I watched her depart:

I hope I encounter her again on a future visit. Odd to think that when I was a very awkward teenager at Treyarnon back in the 1960s, she might have been there on the sand too, a bit older and probably a lot less awkward. What brings people together, and what keeps them apart, despite repeated proximity?

The YHA occupies this distinctive building, up on a rise:

The glass doors at the front are where the café is, and the public are encouraged to pop in. It's not just for YHA members. I popped. It was lovely inside, because the café faced in just the right direction to catch all the sunshine. It also had a wonderful view of the Bay. An American girl greeted me - her 2015 job abroad? - and cheerfully served me with tea and a scone, although she could have rustled up a variety of yummy cooked things, had I wanted it. I relaxed, and enjoyed this welcoming place out of the wind.

I was quite a way from my base, the caravan at Great Torrington in Devon! I soon had to depart, first using the YHA female toilet - some friendly students showed me where to go. Then it was cross-country to the A39, and an exciting dash north-eastwards in Fiona. I wanted to get back before dark. She did not let me down.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Padstow 3 - Lucy goes to Hollywood

Lucy goes to Hollywood? I'm exaggerating, of course. It's just a way of linking 'Lucy' with 'Hollywood' - something that will probably never actually happen! And yet I'm not completely messing about. The film world did feature in my recent visit to Padstow in Cornwall.

The first hint of Something Going On was seeing this in the town's main car park as I arrived:

A third of the car park was being occupied by big white trailers, presumably hired, with MOVIE MAKERS written on them. Just as well it was March, and before all this car park space would be needed for holidaymakers! Each trailer had side-pieces that extended out, making for a generous amount of accommodation inside. Each trailer sported a couple of orange propane gas cylinders, suggesting that they really were for the cast, the production team, and the technicians to sleep in, keep warm in, and use as costume-changing and make-up-application facilities. In any case, if you are shooting at strange times of the day or night, or waiting for the right weather, or the right light, you want everyone on standby in one convenient spot.

I saw a chap in a Volvo who seemed to have something to do with all of this. So, having parked Fiona, I walked over to him and asked him about the filming. He was happy to explain, but what he said conveyed nothing to me. It was the film of a BBC3 TV comedy series starring Jack Whitehall, a rising comedian completely unknown to me, and the name of the film (at least at this stage) was Bad Education Movie. It was being filmed at the local manor house, Prideaux Place, which was open to the public in the summer. I thanked him, feeling none the wiser. However, I gradually learned more, and saw more, as the day proceeded. Naturally the arrival of the production company and its equipment, and all that was being done, was the talk of the town. All the locals were agog to see what next might happen.

Well, for the next couple of hours I was posh-noshing at Rick Stein's Café, and then studying those seats with plaques on them. After finding George Thomas's former home, I saw that the three people who had told me about him were making their way up Fentonluna Lane towards Prideaux Place. A man carrying some item of electrical equipment was as well. I followed them all, curious to see whatever might be seen.

At the top of Fentonluna Lane was The Dower House, a stone building of personal significance to me. Here it is:

Back in February 1983 it was called The Nook Hotel, and this was where I spent my honeymoon in the week or so after the wedding ceremony on St Valentine's Day. Externally the place didn't seem much changed. The Hotel had eventually been sold and had become a private house. Then it was The Dower Guest House. The present owner now wanted to change it back to being a private house. Posted up outside was a Planning Application dated May 2014. It looked as if the local council weren't entirely agreeable to whatever structural alternations he had in mind.

Turning right now into the road that led past Prideaux Place (and then onwards to Tregirls Farm and eventually Stepper Point) there was a big lorry, from which cables ran.

Of course: the film sets would have to be lit up, and there would be all kinds of electrical equipment to keep powered. There was more than one lorry. At the entrance to a field opposite the entrance to Prideaux Place was an impressive switchboard, and some portable lighting. Its positioning looked a bit dodgy, however, because a gutter filled with running water ran at the base of all this:

Out in the field was a film set contrived to look like part of a garden, with shrubs and other things plonked into position. Clearly for some scene in the film. Men were carrying things to and fro. I wasn't sure whether they were dismantling the set, or just changing it.

The manor house - which I have never yet visited on its open days - had a bit of character. Its gateway was open. I sashayed up to it, and looked inside. I could see a fairground set at one end of the house, with a merry-go-round and a helter-skelter.

A youngish security man strode towards me. He was pleasant but firm. I couldn't come in.

My apologies for intruding. I quite understood. But what could he tell me about what was going on in the field? Well, he'd come onto shift only at breakfast that morning, and knew nothing first-hand, but apparently they'd filmed a long garden-party scene out in the field very late on the previous night. In fact, they were doing it at 3.00am! The entire area had been brilliantly lit up for the cameras. It was meant to be an evening party at the height of summer, but of course it had actually been filmed in the small hours of a very chilly - in fact frosty - March night. The male actors had mostly been wearing jackets or at least jumpers, but the actresses had been very lightly clad in skimpy summer dresses (or less) and must have really suffered! All the town would have seen and heard the filming. He didn't know what the fairground items signified. Never mind: I'd got some information, and demonstrated to myself once again that asking questions gets results.

I joined a growing band of curious locals, and we swapped what little we knew. One couple had actually seen the filming from their house. They had been very sorry for those poor actresses! Then a taxi arrived, and Someone got out. He might have been a Star, so I took this shot:

That's him, on the far right. The driver gave me a warning look, which reinforced my opinion that this was, at the very least, a Big Cheese on the production team. After this, some lorry had to get out into the lane, and could we all move along? So we all drifted off. I now noticed some location signs like this, attached to walls and posts:

That was really all there was to see. Two weeks later, once home, I looked up the TV series on the Internet, and studied the information at these links:

Bad Education seems to be a 2015 take on what it's like to be a teacher of a challenging set of teenage kids. Except that in this version, and unlike the late 1960s TV series Please Sir! (!) or the one-term-only1993 TV series Bonjour La Classe (which M---, herself a teacher at one time, liked very much - see the teacher in Bad Education - Jack Whitehall - is totally incompetent. Which presumably must be funny.

I'm not into comedies, in particular school comedies, and this new film really doesn't look like my cup of tea. But I have been touched by the tinsel, and I am now fated to give it some time once it is released. I draw the line at paying good money to see it at a cinema. I will defer the pleasure until it turns up on some TV channel, having done the cinema circuit. I want to spot the Cornish locations, and perhaps especially watch that chilly garden party scene!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Padstow 2 - Seats for dreamers

If you take the path that rises northward from the harbour at Padstow, you emerge onto a wide greensward. This triangular expanse of grass is bounded by a low cliff on your right hand, and, converging from your left, is a high path running by a wall, with seats set in a long line against it.

Ahead, at the crest of the rise, is the tall cross of Padstow's War Memorial.

Everyone seems to make for that, stopping to rest and let the wide view sink in. In fact it's a spectacular panorama of the entire Camel Estuary, both inland and out to sea, never finer than on a sunny afternoon. And it is totally reliable, never changing with the years. These 2003 shots of mine could have been taken in any summer:

From here you can see the community called Rock, across the River Camel. Rock is linked to Padstow by a frequent ferry service, and it's pleasant to watch the ferry boat ply its way between the quay wall at Padstow and the landing stage at Rock, sometimes (especially at low tide) taking a very indirect passage - because the curse of Padstow, the sands that reveal themselves when the water is low, make a direct line impossible. You might say, of course, that at such times you get full value for money, the fare taking you double the distance! Here is Rock in 2015, as seen from the greensward:

If you thought Padstow had become a touch upmarket, then you'll be made to feel very plebian by Rock - or at least that bit of it by the shoreline. It's a place where grown men with huge incomes mess about in boats. Posh accents abound, and everyone looks well-off and quite unconcerned by the realities of ordinary life. There's a Yacht Club. There are a couple of expensive and exclusive shops and eating places that even I would feel awkward to enter. There are many stylish new builds that no ordinary mortal could possibly afford. Rock is Cornwall's answer to Sandbanks. (I allude to the spit of land at the mouth of Poole Harbour in Dorset where millionaires are two a penny) In the past, Rock has gained a reputation for out-of-control teenage drinking and noisiness at holiday times. Not the football lout kind. The rich kid kind.

And yet not far off is Trebetherick, and, in the dunes close by, peaceful St Enodoc's Church, within whose sacred half-acre, protected by walls and high hedges against the wind, is buried the famous poet John Betjeman. Some shots from 2003 and 2008:

But back to my March 2015 holiday. Having admired the Camel Estuary view, and chatted with some ramblers who were following the Coastal Path southwards towards Newquay, I made my way slowly along the upper path by the wall, wanting to look yet again at the seats there. Or, more particularly, the plaques on each one. I was especially looking for the only plaque that had a photo of the deceased person engraved on it. Here he is, George Thomas:

Aberdare, Cardiff, Malvern,
Parkstone and Padstow

He looks a cheerful sort, doesn't he? If I'm not mistaken, he's wearing a bowling club tie. I wonder what T.I.T.V. stands for? He moved around a bit: South Wales, West Midlands, a suburb of Bournemouth on the South Coast, and then finally Padstow in Cornwall. Born just before the First World War started. Bound to have been a serviceman during the Second World War. Died when aged 73, twenty six years ago.

And yet, because of the picture, he seemed still around, still a Padstow resident, still admiring the view every day. I was understandably curious about him.

But at first I couldn't find his plaque. Three people were sitting where I thought his seat might be. An older man, a person who could be his forty-something son, and a woman who might be that son's wife. Plus a dog. I went up to them, explained that I was here for the day only, was eager to find George Thomas's seat, and were they perhaps sitting on it? I didn't say 'Please get up for me' but they all got to their feet. And it wasn't the right seat after all. I felt rather apologetic, but persevered. Did they know which was his seat? Yes, they did - it was further along than I'd thought. Ah! I asked the older man if he'd known George. Well, he'd seen him around, but no, he hadn't been a friend of his, and had no specific information. But the son said he'd known George rather better, and told me that, when resident in Padstow, George had lived alone - presumably a widower by then. He'd been well-regarded by the town. He'd often seen him walking to his favourite seat and back. No, he didn't own a dog. His house had been opposite the end of St Saviour's Lane, the cottage with a red letterbox set into the wall.

Well, this was more information than I had any right to expect! I thanked them very sincerely, and began to stroll from seat to seat, because all the plaques were worth a look. They followed me, and overtook me. Here they are, by the greensward, and then in St Saviour's Lane itself:

And (jumping ahead) this was George Thomas's house, now a holiday let:

I caught up with them at Prideaux Place - but that's for another post. Back to the seats, and those fascinating plaques. I won't show all of them, just the ones that caught my eye most, in the order you come to them.

In Memory Of

You couldn't invent a name like that, could you?

In Memory of HERB and HETTY
Memories are the loveliest things,
They last from day to day,
They can't get lost, they don't wear out,
And can't get given away.
Arthur Herbert Baker 1911-2002
Hetty Baker 1913-2014

This was quite a recent addition, then!

George Thomas's seat next. I sat on it, as if keeping him company. I admired the view he enjoyed so much. REMEMBER ME, he asked. I would. Yes, I would do so always. I promised.

There were many seats yet. I took my time. I do hope you can see and understand what I found so interesting about them - and so moving too.

In memory of
Alfred and Vere Rothery
of London and Newquay
Died 18 May 1992
- Our lovely view -
Please share it with us

It was of course a general theme, the celebration of love for a parent or partner; but also the celebration of this wonderful place, so yearned for by the loved one; and more than that, a generous wish to share its beauty with all that might pass by. In the end, perhaps, life comes down to a narrow focus on one or two beloved things that can still be enjoyed, like a view. But here it was not possessively 'My view' - it was 'My view and yours too' - so that even strangers from distant posterity, like myself, were included in this love for something that had been so dear, so important in the final years before darkness claimed dominion. I was being let into the dream too.

In memory of
my dear husband
Arthur Delf
who walked here with 
his beloved dogs


In loving memory of Daddy
John Edward Clark
who loved Padstow dearly
Happy memories
You will always be missed


Presumably he was once a well-known local character. Just a memory now. But not forgotten.

With fond memories of 
His guitar is silent
His fingers no longer work
Those days have slipped away
All the hours that he played
Just a man who played his guitar


!! BOOKIE !!

This brief epitaph with no dates is actually my favourite. Who was Bookie? It seems that, for a while at least, his or her dream came true. And the family still dream. I'm thinking that he or she was a very special person indeed. 

In ever loving memory of my darling husband
He loved Padstow and its views, serving as
a police officer in this area in the 1950's
Born in Lincoln in 1925. Died 24.12.93 aged 68

Our thoughts and love are always with you
Your loving wife Maraki and family

BORN IN SYROS, GREECE 1926 DIED 01/03/2012



What can I say? These heartfelt messages to the dead give me both hope and desolation. Am I right - no matter what the advantages are for running what is left of my life successfully - am I really right and prudent to forswear all possibility of finding love again, for better or worse? Who will be moved, when I die, to buy a seat and place a plaque like one of these on it? What reason will they have? I'm seriously thinking of adding a clause to my next Will, requiring my executrix to do just that. Perhaps a seat with a plaque among this very row of seats in Padstow. Or somewhere nearby that means as much to me as Padstow does. Even if it costs a thousand pounds.

If it can be done, then something of myself will linger on for a couple of decades - my name Lucy Melford and a date, and perhaps a line that says 'She loved this place, and found happiness here'. My little memorial, my little conversation with the generations to come. An engraved photo as well, perhaps. I will be in very good company. 

Remember me...remember me...remember me...

One day I will be very old, perhaps very ill, with only dreams for company. Let me dream in a sunny spot with Bookie and the rest!

And there's something lovely to add. I'm now writing on 11th May 2016. There was a seat with two plaques side by side, commemorating the lives of Kenneth Whillock and his wife Maraki, whose name had been Maraki Grimshaw before. Her son Nick got in touch to supply further information - and a picture, which I feel might have been taken around 1990. Here is that picture:

And this is what Nick has said about the seat:

My late parents who loved Padstow, the views and seats that you so eloquently describe in your blog wanted to contribute to the area on their demise. Thankfully Padstow Council allowed my family to have their bench install and many family and friends have travel from all over the UK to sit on it since their parting.

I have selected an image that I think best shows them enjoying the Padstow's views and we do hope that you find it suitable for your blog.

I think the picture has been very well-chosen indeed, and reveals much about the couple and their shared love of Padstow.

It isn't often that a total stranger contributes so much to a post of mine. My warm thanks to him and his family.

Footnote on George Thomas' seat (made on 19th February 2020)
The plaque has the initials T.I.T.V. under his name. I discovered that they could well mean 'Thunder in the Valley', although what that refers to is a further mystery! There is an annual truck festival called this in the USA, but that doesn't seem to fit. Or does it? Or could the 'Valley' be the Welsh one that Aberdare lies in?