Where am I?

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).

We spent most of our time on St Mary’s, with half a day on Tresco, home of Tresco Abbey Garden.

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

Mumford’s, in Hugh Town, has been in the family for more than 100 years. I could have been stepping into the long-gone country crossroads Cassel General Store of my rural youth.
We’re on our way to catch the Scillonian III for the return trip to the mainland. Otherwise I’d have been tempted to take an open top 1929 Riley tour on the eight miles of paved road around St Mary’s Island.

Peninnis Head walk on St Mary’s

A footpath runs through Peninnis Farm on St Mary’s.
An ancient dry stone wall separated us from this bull and other cattle on Peninnis Farm.
White Three-cornered Leeks, bisected by Bluebells, carpet the view to the sea. I’m in walker heaven.
Pulpit Rock on Peninnis Head, an area of spectacular granite formations.
This granite lizard-like form stopped me momentarily in my tracks.

 

Sub-tropical Abbey Garden on Tresco Island

Tresco Garden covers 17 acres, many of the plants originating from the Southern Hemisphere.
It is believed Benedictine monks settled here between 1042 and 1066.
One of the garden sculptures: The Tresco Children.

Echium x scillioniensis is one of the colourful exotica crowding together with Watsonia, Arctotis, Gazania, Agaveand Paya and Passiflora. They “all fight for position in what is the most sheltered and most exuberant part of the Garden,” notes The Garden Guide.

 

A walk on the west coast of St Mary’s

Blooms cover a dry stone hedge at the entrance to Juliet’s Café, a place of delectable delights with views over Porthloo Beach and farther on to Hugh Town. Had lunch there on the tiered terrace. Stopped for ice cream after the walk.

I’m in Halangy Down Prehistoric Village. Visible is the foundation of a round house.
This small room could have been a family shrine, containing figures of deities and family mementos.
View over Halangy Down.
Bants Carn Burial Chamber, a tomb built 4000 years ago, before the Halangy villagers established their home there.

 

 

Time to leave

The Scillonian III arriving at the quay in Hugh Town. We’ll soon be off back to the mainland.
Somebody is taking their car off-island.
The rugged coast of south west Cornwall on the English Channel.
Smooth return journey, 2 hours 45 minutes. Fairly calm sea. All smiles from Marty, Emilie, Bob, and me.
Docked in Penzance. Bus home to Carbis Bay/St Ives.

 

Scilly Recap

The Song Thrush, other thrushes, blackbirds and sparrows are unusually tame on Scilly. This one just looked at us as it stood for a minute and then scurried past down the path.
The male Blackbird on Scilly has a deeper orange bill.
The robin is a rare visitor to Scilly, a naturalist told a record crowd at a slideshow Saturday night. This one hopped around Tresco Garden.
Red squirrels thrive at Tresco Garden, not bothered by the gray variety.

 

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 gig rowing team coming in from a practice run. One team from the USA is entered in the competition.
“All ‘row-ds’ lead to Scilly as islands get set for world championship gif races,” was the headline in The Cornishman. Visit http://www.worldgigs.co.uk

 

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.

-John

 

4 thoughts on “Where am I?

  1. I enjoyed learning about that enchanted island and going back and forward in time. Is that what you call time travel? So many places to discover in this world………

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    1. The MooMaid ice cream from Zennor is a treat indeed. The name is a play on words referring to the legend where a mermaid was enchanted by the singing of one of the members of the choir at St Senara Church and lured him to life in the sea. There’s a mermaid carved in an old bench end in the church.

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