Featured image: Window in St Mary’s Hall, a hotel and restaurant in Hugh Town, Isles of Scilly.
Cogitation 18 Saturday 5 May 2018 Ever felt you were in two places at once? That keen sense of deja vu, feeling something you’ve experienced before actually happening now.
That’s where I was this week.
Biking to the Cassel General Store, 1950s: It’s the 1950s and I’m in the rural community in Canada where I grew up. I’m at a country crossroads general store, complete with a pot belly stove. Jawbreaker candies are three for a penny. I got there with my grandfather or biked there with my brothers.
Verlie Kauffman, behind the counter, pumps you for any gossipy news that’s sure to appear in a social column she writes for a weekly newspaper. Verlie sometimes lets me dip my own ice cream cone.
Sailing across the Atlantic, 1964: It’s August 1964. I’m on a passenger ship crossing from New York City to Le Havre, France, eventual destination Germany. First time ever I’ve used a passport. We’ve been at sea for six days, if I remember correctly.
A disembodied voice on the ship’s loudspeaker announces the sighting of land. We’re passing the Isles of Scilly. I think we stop in Southampton on mainland England. Next stop France. A year in Europe lies ahead. The sea voyage has been a fine buffer between continents.
Tripping off mainland England, 2018: It’s near the end of April. Marty and I, with Emilie and Bob Walson, glory be, despite rough sea, are on the Scillonian III heading to the Isles of Scilly for a four-day walking holiday.
I survived the 2-hour-45-minute voyage from Penzance, Cornwall to Hugh Town, St Mary’s Island. The roughest part was from Land’s End where the converging ocean currents can be fearsome. I slept most of the way (aided by a tiny travel sickness pill called Kwells).
Finally on the storied Isles of Scilly
Vickie, our B&B hostess, is on the Scillonian III, too. She finds us among the 166 disembarking passengers. She’s bringing back a new-used car from the mainland and tells us to go ahead while she waits for her car. Sun and high clouds greet us as we walk through Hugh Town to Nancherrow B&B.
Maybe it’s what islands do to me, but I pinch myself that here on Scilly the clock is turning back to the Fifties and Sixties. I have a sense of wonder and feel a slower pace of life as I set foot on these ancient granite isles.
Vickie’s extended family owns Mumford’s, a newsagents’ shop of newspapers, books, paper and art supplies, postcards, candy, and other sundries. It has been in the family since 1904. At Mumford’s I catch a sense and whiff of the long-departed Cassel General Store of my youth, nontheless minus the potbelly stove.
New York lies 3,238 nautical miles west across the Atlantic Ocean. My childhood home in Ontario, Canada, lies 3,421 miles or 5,506 nautical km from Hugh Town.
No matter the distance, I’m at home. I’m smiling as two centuries coalesce into one. I buy a newspaper, licorice, and a book, The life of a Scilly Sergeant: Adventures of high tide and low crime, by Colin Taylor, (Arrow Books, 2016).
I haven’t laughed so much in reading a book in ages. Sergeant Taylor gives policing a two-thumbs up in his self-deprecating yet straightforward professional approach to directing a small force serving the 2,000 year-round residents and the hoards of summer visitors.
Back on the Cornish mainland I’m still absorbing Scilly. At Mumford’s I read this on a fridge magnet: “Stay calm and be Scilly.” And on May 3 I read that Clive Mumfort, the Scilly reporter for The Cornishman weekly for 30 years, this week filed his final reports; he’s retiring. “Deja vu all over again,” the late Yogi Berra would have said.
Four too-short days on the Isles of Scilly
Peninnis Head walk on St Mary’s
Sub-tropical Abbey Garden on Tresco Island
A walk on the west coast of St Mary’s
Time to leave
The pace picks up on Scilly
Scilly does call one to return, in spirit if not in body. This weekend I’m happy to give place to the thousands who will visit the island for the annual world competition of 158 pilot-gig rowing teams converging in Hugh Town. I’ll watch them on the evening telly.
A full week, including the field path walk to Zennor
Our niece Jan Lauver arrived on Tuesday. We’ve done various walks, visited historic Bodmin Jail, billed as “Cornwall’s spookiest all-weather attraction,” and attended a Barn Dance birthday party/fundraiser for St Julia’s Hospice.
Warm thoughts from one of Britain’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.