Friday, May 31, 2019

A Last Morning

It would be their last morning, and we were quite-a-bit sad to see it end. Last days are always like that. Maybe if we woke up early enough, we could squeeze in a final walk and see it all one more time. Alarms were set. Bags organized. Out the door we stepped, into a clear blue sky and absolutely empty streets. It's always the best time to see St Ives.

"Let's go up!" we said, knowing this would be no burden because we are used to climbing hills, now. Well, almost no burden...a walk to Knill's Monument is unique, and about as steep as they come. But up we climbed above everything and everyone else, until it was just us and the wildlife. We saw lush fields and dark green hedgerows; well-kept horses nourishing themselves and pausing to glance at the humans; blue skies with startling white clouds; and the sea, graced by Godrevy Lighthouse. To our left sat St Ives, and we stared down there at it, liking its shining presence in the bright sun. Its streets were still empty, and tranquil.

We went on. Knill's Monument was ahead of us, with its triune view and insightful etchings. On one side we saw the word "Resurgam", Latin for "I shall rise again". On another side of the monument are the words I know that my Redeemer liveth". Another win! Whatever else we might say about John Knill and his monument, at least he chose his words well. 

But we mustn't gaze too much and possibly make them miss their train! There was The Digey to visit as well, as they'd not had that privilege yet. We'd better make tracks. 

The experience of the Cream Tea was a highlight for the SconeLady, who had been hoping it would come through again. It isn't every day she has her son and his wife sharing it with her. And it did come through! The Digey remains the place where you will always find the scone of your dreams, wherever else you may go. 

Only one thing more needs to be said about this sad but happy day. I nearly made them miss their train! Details of this near miss are not important, but may I say that grace is alive and well on this earth? May many others experience it, and spread it on. 

So my sojourn is coming near to its end, dear Readers.  But in almost no time I will be back, ready to share with you again what it is like to be an American, in Cornwall, in pursuit of the perfect scone. 

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

 At The Digey Food Room

Thursday, May 30, 2019

The SconeLady Goes Pasty

She is very good at this sort of thing, my daughter-in-law. With a trip to Cornwall on her horizon, she thought creatively ahead, and considered: how great would it be to learn Cornish pasty-making from the people who brought the world pasties? A great question! She searched for, and found, a Cornish bakery with a Cornish baker willing to teach. This woman's name is Marion, and her shop is called Portreath Bakery, where people come learn to make pasties each Wednesday. She signed us up!

Our taxi driver was great and had a friendly Cockney accent we recognized, but did not always understand. He wanted to know about California (which is always a good middle-ground thing to talk about), and American politics (which isn't). But we're getting used to it.

We three weren't the only people interested in learning Cornish pasty-making. A bus load of Rick Steves travelers from all over the US joined us in Marion's back kitchens where we learned of her history, her shops, her discovery of Gluten Free baking, and her decision to welcome the public in. Then, we baked. 

We each received protective gloves and a rubber apron, and learned that this would be a contest, rather like the British Bake Off program. Whoever made the best looking pasty would receive a tall box of chocolates! Everyone became instantly more keen.

She then gave us each an oval of raw pastry dough to gently stretch out, just a bit. We learned to pile the ingredients up so they would not squish themselves out and into the hot oven, smoking and burning. "Crimping" the dough properly is a real science: you "Pull, Tuck, and Pinch. Pull, Tuck, and Pinch". If we wanted to have the winning pasty and receive a tall box of chocolates, we would need to "Pull, Tuck, and Pinch". 

Each pasty contained:

*beef (skirt)
*salt and pepper (lots!)

It was really quite funny to watch everyone going at their pasty. There were about the same number of men there as women, and you could tell which side of the divide was struggling the most. But they shouldered on, ending up with pretty nice-looking Cornish pasties in the end. You could see it was going to be a hard bunch to judge (I'm sure it was the chocolate).

When it came time for Marion to judge, a hush fell over the group. Marion's assistant brought out the steaming hot specimens, and we watched as she examined each with solemnity, struggling to come to a decision. And - can you believe this? - the SconeLady and another lady from the Rick Steves group both won! The reasons for this are complicated, but it was such a surprise that I could not quite take it in. Marion directed me to her shelves to pick out a 'cake' to take with me as a prize. You don't have to say 'pick out a cake' twice, to the SconeLady.

It was a terrific success. We lingered, but finally said goodbye and carried our hot Cornish pasties out to meet our worthy cab driver.

"We would like to catch the 12:53, if we can..." I ventured, as the aroma of hot pasty filled his car.

There are no 'if's' to a Cockney-Cornish cab driver, who became amazingly adept at talking and driving at speed. Although there were moments of doubt, we did, in the end, make it.

And the pasties? Delicious! We ate them once they had cooled a bit (having heard that we would steam ourselves to death if we jumped in too soon). I do think they were the best pasties I have had. The crust was perfectly flaky and tasty, and the filling superb. It really does pay in this world to have a beautiful, funny, and smarter-than-average daughter-in-law.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Where Coffins Once Roamed

We walked early beneath an unpredictable sky, the clouds and sun playing chase. "Maybe it will end up sunny!" I said, as we ran toward the bus stop. 

Our tour guide was there ahead of us and sat under the shelter, rather windblown from his own walk down. I'd happily walked the Coffin Trail, and my son was eager to carry on the tradition. It is such an astonishing walk that you would think the people of Cornwall would know about it too. But I think they don't. At least, we didn't see any so that must mean the word hasn't gotten out. Even the lady at the Tourist office did not know what I was talking about. 

After taking the double decker bus to Zennor, the ancient Church of St Senara was our starting point. We learned there has been a church there since 600 AD, although it was rebuilt in the 12th century. The inside is stunning, as is every single ancient church we have stepped foot in. We saw the famous Mermaid Chair, and I even took my turn and sat down upon it. The Mermaid Chair is made from two ancient pew ends, and has a story attached to it. A lovely woman made many visits to the church, having become interested in a young man in the choir who sang beautifully. She would sit at the back of the church, watching and listening. Sometimes she sang along in a voice both sweet and haunting. 

In time, the boy, whose name was Mathey Trewalla, missed a church service, and then another, until one day, he stopped coming altogether. Neither of them was seen again, but some pointed to a trail of water from where the two were last seen. More of the story can be found here, if you would like to read it. But suffice it to say that many parents used the story to warn their children to run whenever a mermaid (however well disguised) turns up to hear you sing.

We began the 5 miles back to St Ives amidst the most gorgeously sweet landscape. Tony gave out bits of information as we walked, answering our questions and making subtle Cornish jokes. He directed us toward a little copse I'd not seen before, and  showed us an old church where John and Charles Wesley used to preach. I loved this! Wherever you go in this part of the world, there is sure to be a Methodist Chapel, and more than a few Methodists inside it. There were none inside this one because it was wrecked and no longer in use. But just knowing they'd been in there preaching the Gospel, was a thrill.

Frequently we saw cows. This was lovely and not at all scary, since there were the three of us and nothing to fear. They seemed to be mooing an awful lot that day and we surmised it must be feeding time. Sometimes they, and some of the horses we have seen, approach us as if they think we have hay, or sugar cubes, or maybe an apple. We don't, and so they lose interest and go away.

Presently we came over a hill and saw the Godrevy Light House, a sure sign we were nearing St Ives. It had been an amazing walk, with no one becoming lost (as had happened last week when I was the tour guide!). The saddest thing, the thing that keeps coming back to my mind and heart, is that my two traveling companions have taken out their suitcases and opened them! Things are being placed inside. Clothing is being washed! A railway station awaits...

Must drag feet.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Tony at the Zennor town pump

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Church Where You Get A Pasty

I'd never seen a Cornish pasty at a church service. Not like these ones, huge and tasty and from the terrific Pengenna. 

Church bells rang as we hovered in the entryway, and were handed the hymnal. We noticed two men coming in behind us, dressed all in white and carrying great bins filled with baked, but frozen Cornish pasties. This caused a stir in the back of the church, everyone staring at these splendid things and trying to get a good look at them. 

"What is this?" someone asked the Church Warden (I knew he was the church warden because he had told me so last year).

"Pasties! They're yours, if you want them. At the end of the service..."

I was amazed. Always, they have tea and biscuits at the end, but they haven't had what I would call 'real food' yet. You can't get any more real than Cornish pasties.

We took our place in the pew to listen to the prelude, and then rose for the processional. All culinary thoughts evaporated as the great cross floated down the aisle, followed by the candles, the choir, the incense, and the Vicar. The service had begun.

The entire service was exciting and interactive. I don't believe anyone felt like sleeping, not even with jet lag. And not even during the sermon. The sermon! Continuing last week's theme, the Vicar said that Heaven is filled with Light, not from the sun, or from electricity, but from the glory of God. He encouraged us to think about being ready for that kind of Light. It will be quite a contrast to the darkness of our fallen planet. 

At the end, we were approached by some very nice people who wanted to welcome us and share a cup of tea. It's fun when they ask which part of the country we are from, because the mention of California always elicits a reaction - mostly about how warm they imagine it to be. "Oh, I would love to live there," they say. or, "What is Hollywood like?" Somebody once asked me about the Kardashians, as if I might actually know them. I took it as a compliment at first, and then reconsidered.

As we went back down the aisle toward the door, we snagged a couple of the pasties. They were astonishingly heavy, maybe heavy enough to last a month of Sundays. We came away smiling, and thought going to a Church of England service in St Ives Cornwall was a fine thing, a very fine thing indeed. It's all part of being ready for the kind of light you get without electricity.

See you along the Way!
the SconeLady

Monday, May 27, 2019

Walk the Line

"I'm going to jump it," said my son.

"You're what?" said I.

"Jump it! I'm going to jump from here (indicating the giant granite boulder he stood upon) "to there," indicating another giant granite boulder which had odd angles to it, none of which were at all jumpable.

I flashed back, as mothers often do, to earlier years and jumps. 

"Well then," I said, "we're going to need a helicopter." It was our first full day together in St Ives, and I did not think I could face broken legs or necks.

There is a helicopter somewhere in the vicinity, for I have seen it rescuing other daredevils and well-meaning jumping beans. They also have a rescue boat, splendid and massive, and part of the RNLI. But as much as I like and admire the RNLI, I did not want to MEET them. So my son kindly descended his boulder, and landed on the safe path. 

We three have had some grand walks! The cliff path, including a left turn that took us high above the town and then down into the back way; the path to Carbis Bay, an up-down adventure filled with a Mediterranean-like sea, and darling doggies to add their own welcome; the walk up behind Tregenna Castle through the softened countryside, and a left turn into the grounds of Tregenna. Descending from that, one comes upon a forest of unimaginable beauty - soft, lush, quiet, divine. We've walked the Lelant trail all the way to Rosamunde Pilcher's former home, with its lovely garden and grounds and its tiny railway house and slipway, where she once waded and took the tiny boat on the way to Hayle. Enchanting, all of it.

They two are now on a walk to the Barnoon Cemetery, a cemetery you have seen here, and something nobody can ever forget. Overlooking the sea, its quiet presence serves as a reminder from those who would tell me, if they could, to make the most of my chance to love God now, as a foretaste of then. It's hard to ignore such a message.

And there are more walks to come! The Coffin Trail is tomorrow, with a real tour guide to show the way. St Michael's Mount hovers as a 'maybe', with the clock ticking and no one entirely certain how long all of this will take. But however long or short, it is all good and my sweet traveling companions delightful. I haven't figured out yet how to drag my feet to slow time down, just a little; but I'd like to. The clock is now my adversary.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Watermelon by the Sea

I can't begin to tell you the fun of sharing Cornwall with two bright and eager travelers. You should just hear the exclamations:

"Look at that CHURCH! It's amazing!"

"Look at that ANCIENT WALL!"

"Those flowers!" (video camera whirs). "And that ocean! Nothing like it."

"Mom. Mom! We're in ST IVES TOGETHER!!"

Indeed we were, and I began seeing it all again through their eyes, which brightened my own. Someone suggested a Cornish pasty and wanted to hear whose are the best. It was a toss-up answer, for our hands-down favorites come from the St Ives Bakery and Pengenna Pasties. Locals tend to like them both, and consider each bite a tasty morsel. We chose the St Ives Bakery.

The men in the St Ives Bakery are splendid examples of Cornish men, quite muscular and rugged, their voices deep and resonant. We thought women might like visiting the bakery rather a lot.

In no time we were back out on the street again with our lunch, and went off to find a seagull-free spot to eat it. A gaggle of the wretches made us abandon the harbor for clearer skies. Above a beach where swimmers splashed and dogs bit the waves, we sat down to open our pasties.

his Darling Girl meets Blacky
A respectful silence fell upon us as we munched. No wonder the Cornish miners survived so heartily, with food such as this to sustain them.

Suddenly someone shouted, "Beach ball!"

We looked up, and saw a gigantic inflatable ball (the color and design of a watermelon) being played with by two children. A breeze came suddenly up - quite a stiff breeze - and the ball escaped, bounding away on the water. "Daddy!" a child cried. Then things began happening in quick succession:

*hero-dad grabbed an inflatable motor boat and pulled the string

*nothing happened!

*after many pulls, the engine finally caught!

*the crowd cheered and yelled as the little boat rushed toward the ball

*it was a mad chase but the boat finally reached it

*the family grabbed it but failed

*the breeze grabbed it, and it GOT AWAY!!

*THE MOTOR QUIT! (that poor father)

*hero-dad oared them all back to safety and a cheering crowd (well, mostly us)

So the story had a happy ending - except for the watermelon beach ball. And we'd really like to meet that dad. It isn't every day you get to watch the making of a brand new Superhero.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady


Saturday, May 25, 2019

Rather Stunning

You may remember him, the surfing, laughing, hard working and newly-wedded husband in a perpetual prime of life: the Rather Stunning Son! Next to him sits his Darling Girl, partner in life, traveling companion, and gentle-but-clever wife. In the brief moment that I have access, this is what St Ives is all about today. 

There have been chocolate twists, long walks, Cornish pasties eaten in the fresh air of rugged cliffs (being massively careful of the wheeling gulls above us), a free Cream Tea at the Bedford Road Methodist Church while discussing the ifs and why's of Calvinism, and viewings of two lovely St Ives Cottages. A terrific beginning!

In between all of this were long sessions on the phone with British Telecom as they try to fix wifi, which seems to be astonishingly unreliable. So I shall send this while I can, and come back to you soon, when all is well once more.

See you along the way!
the SconeLay