Whenever I get blase (snooty even) about Cornwall and the Cornish, a short sweet visit to dear Redruth puts me straight again. I know that Redruth was chosen as the place to try out curfews on under sixteens (presumably because a significant number of under-sixteens in the town were being a bloody nuisance all over the place). I know the town is in terminal decline and has been so throughout the boom-years of the last decade (now, of course, we are all in terminal decline). But for all of that, for all its faults, it's a friendly, honest, direct kind of place, with hearts of gold. A poor-looking woman in Jim's Cash and Carry pitying those 'up-country' who are worse off than she, or about to be in the coming recession. ( 'About to lose their homes and all.') Kind, unfailingly patient ticket clerk (or should that now be Customer Service Rep?) at the railway station, determined to get me the best price deals on tickets to London, Newton Abbott, Crewe - to the moon, maybe, if I'd asked her. The best fish and chips ANYWHERE at Morrish's (better, even, than in the North - yes, BETTER!). The carpark that is more than 100% cheaper per hour than in upmarket Truro (which might as well be the moon as far as Redruth is concerned). The charity shops turning over some very good, pure wool coats for under a fiver.
I think it's because I feel close to my father there. He went to school in Redruth, when it still had a grammar school whose headmaster felt it his God-given duty to plead with parents to keep their boys out of the mines by letting them stay into the Sixth Form, after which 'there were many scholarships available to bright boys to study at the University' (my father got one to Imperial College, London). In those days, after the War, the town was probably far less grim than it is now, because it would still, then, have been a town with hope. The tin mines were open still, after all. There was still a kind of (if limited) future in farming and fishing.
And there were no signs in Cornish anywhere (I have that on my father's authority - although, since he's been dead these last ten years, he can't corroborate it). They didn't need signs in Cornish, no more, really, than they do now. Redruth people have that air of always knowing who they are - and were.