From Tranquility Base…

Posted from St Ives,Cornwall, UK

I am sitting in an alcove with huge windows overlooking the Atlantic Ocean below. Our hotel is a Victorian built in 18 0r 19 something and I see why people seek respite here. It is early morning and I can espy small craft bobbing on their tethers and the plaintiff cry of the gulls provides a gentle wake up to the day.

We have been visiting my son and his family in Wimbledon which beyond grass courts is a suburb of London so to speak. They have made quite a transition since moving there nine months ago. Scott has business trips to Amsterdam and Copenhagen this week and the boys speak of the Czech Republic, Germany and France as if they were neighboring states and not sovereign nations. Dionne is trying to figure out how to make the sun shine more than a few days a week. All is well.

As they say about fish and family they begin to smell after three days so we made a side trip to Cornwall. We survived my driving from the right side and found our way out of London. We made a wrong turn right out of the rental agency and after wandering about we passed the same enterprise we had just pulled out of. Kathy told me she hated me and let out a raft of expletives as I begged for directions. I told her if it suited here she could reside in the trunk for the duration. The view wouldn’t be quite so expansive but she could be spared my driving idiosyncrasies. After 44 years of marriage we have been through worse.

Driving along the A3 you want to compare the terrain to ones you know better. We noted at various points we could have been in New Hampshire, Long Island, Ireland and France. We made our way through dual carriageways, roundabouts and narrow country lanes to reach our haven. It really is a little bit of heaven. We had travelled about 250 miles and you can see why people make the trek.

Dinner was lovely as they say but the couple next to us found solace in their cell phones rather than each other’s company. It was quite startling form both a technological as well as personal view. Has it really come to this? Kathy and I talked for who knows how long in front of the fire after dinner. About kids, us, life et al. Nice way to spend a day especially since she was talking to me once again.

I was up early as is my want. French pressed coffee was served by a wonderful chap named Mark. I finally found somebody else I the world who was as wound up at 6:00 AM as yours truly. He spoke and as he tested the waters with each sentence he unraveled more and more of his life. A bit of a vagabond he loved the hotel business. He knew it was low pay and long hours but it was his calling.

He was divorced with a six year old son who lived with his mum just across the bay. He had decent relationship with his former spouse and he got his son every other weekend. They camped on the beach and fell asleep in arctic sleeping bags listening to the rolling surf. He said he had found tranquility in the simple life by the sea and you knew he was speaking from the heart. It was the way he should be and I wished I could bottle what he had and give it to the world.

We signed up for a walking tour of this seaside hamlet and Tony Farrell appeared in front of the Guild Hall at 11:00 AM sharp.
A retired professor of archaeology, his family had settled here over 150 years ago. He was a wealth of knowledge as well as perspective. It was just Kathy and I and he quickly departed from script and went into far more detail than the average excursion. This was not only his home but his heritage. We went to a fish lodge with aged and curling photographs that showed the tranquil bay in all its fury. As we passed the volunteer lifeboat rescue group he told of friends who had been lost trying to save a drowning sailor. They had sung in the choir next to him and now they were gone. It wasn’t a sadness but an acceptance of life as it is. Wow.

We drifted to politics which was appropriate in that the Brits are electing a new Parliament in ten days. He was as liberal as can be but not because of academia. For centuries this area had been a center for mining tin and fishing. These were people who worked with their hands and not necessarily their heads. They had given their lives to support family in a basic way in their small homes by the sea. Everyone supported each other and it was community in every sense of the word. He was a Labourite.

As time marched on, the trip from London took a few hours and not the several days of old. The wealthy had come and seen a chance for profit in the land. They bought up the structures that housed the help and made them grand. Prices shot up and the next generation of miners and seafarers were locked out. He rued the fact that his kids couldn’t afford to live here. He was put out that the mining and fishing had long gone and hospitality with its low wages was all that was left. He seemed to bristle at the fact these second homes were inhabited only three or four weeks of the year. He dreamed of a new Cornwall that could attract R and D or technology but he and I knew that probably could never be.

Now I do not deny my capitalist roots but it does give one pause. I am sitting here peering out at the land across the bay which is verdant and simple. I know someday it will be dotted with condos of all sorts of modernistic interpretation. Perhaps the wonderful Victorians that occupy the palisade behind me will be too dated for salvation. It cost a lot less to scrape and build anew you know. For now I will revel in finding this wonderful place and meeting the Marks and Tony’s of the world. I need that grounding. I hope they can stay.

As always
Ted The Great.

Factoids:

Wimbeldon started in the late 1800’s as a croquet club. There are 375 full time members and the only way you get in is to be invited. Of course someone has to die to move up on the list.

You get a ticket by lottery. All tickets cost the same and you could get a courtside seat or one up in nose bleed country. It is the luck of the draw. The winner of the Gentlemen’s singles at The Championships receives a gold trophy inscribed with the words: “The All England Lawn Tennis Club Single Handed Champion of the World”.

Off the Cornwall coast there are some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. During WWII, U Boat#48 sank over forty ships in these waters. Incredibly it was sunk by its own designs. After torpedoing a freighter there were steam engines being transported on the deck of the prey. One blew into the air and landing on the conning tower sending the sub to the bottom of the sea with all hands aboard being lost. At least that is how the story goes according to local lore.

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