Tuesday, 7 October 2008


Cobblers, it seems, are doing well out of the current credit crunch. This is no bad thing, I think, it being no bad thing generally to exercise a little thrift and learn to live with what you have, inspired by the grace and wisdom (as Aeschylus wrote) to live by what you need.

But it may be bad news, weather-wise, if you are thinking, as I am now, and with increasing urgency, of moving away from the Celtic fringe. I'm a city girl, really. Liverpool spawned me and London formed me. I saw my grandma die in Cornwall, and my good, if batty, neighbour, who was only 63 when she kissed off, to be found, a day later, by me and another neighbour. I don't want to die here, like Rosemary, or like my grandma (who would have been 103 on 5 October), old and alone, after  a lifetime's travelling. 'I don't regret a thing, dear,' grandma would say. 'I've been in every capital in Europe.' What a stoic she was. How I admired her. But she wasn't loved, I think. She was admired, yes, but not loved. Maybe she was too formidable a woman to be truly loved. She was what you'd call a doughty dame.

Anyway, this morning, as I set off for Truro, which is a lovely, lovely city, and I love it to bits,  I ran the gauntlet of that antithesis of doughty dames: those fishwife-Clampetts (Baby and Ma) on the other side of my Japanese cedar. Baby was standing by the open 'conservatory' doors, blowing fag smoke outside. She wore a shocking pink towelling bathrobe, Ma squatting inside in a complementary beige number. Both muttered something at me, possibly because I looked so shocked.  It is breast-cancer awareness month, I know, but I doubt that Baby Clampett's deshabille showed any awareness whatsoever. (Terminal slatternliess is what that showed - and they had the cheek to call me 'a dirty woman' (you!)).  That's one niggling-nagging problem with this place. It's not the place: it's never ever been the place (I love the place). It is a certain mentality, common, perhaps to many rural/insular communities. Insular. Inward-looking, mistrustful of outsiders. And mean-minded - so mean-minded -  to the core. When I lived in London, the only violence I ever saw, in many years, was a 'domestic' argument on a Tube platform one night (at Charing Cross, I think). No one intervened, of course, the convention in the Underground being strictly no eye contact, ever. But then, shortly after landing in St Ives (as many incomers to Cornwall do - even one like me with a grandma in Truro still living at the time), I witnessed horrific, visceral, mean-minded violence, the whole town turning on on one another as soon as the summer visitors ('emmets') went home and the autumn set in.  Why? Were they bored like the Clampetts, terminally dull and shifty? Those days, I was ashamed to be an 'emmet' and flourished my Cornish credentials (thin and only on my late father's side anyway) as often as I could.  But not any more. I'm an emmet and proud of it. I'd rather be a sodding emmet than a Cornish Clampett. I'd rather say I was quarter Welsh (which I am) and quarter Yorkshire. Anyday.

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