Sunday, 27 September 2009

A Rant

Cornwall is a beautiful place. It has a rich and varied history that is different to the rest of the UK. Important events in Cornish history are largely unknown outside of Cornwall. To the UK it has always been a far outpost, rural and backward. They like to forget it's history and have long chosen to disregard the social identity, although this has changed to a large extent now.

When I moved here I was ignorant of the different culture and history of the area but I didn't move here with a no-it-all attitude. I came, I listened, I read and I learnt. I still continue to learn about Cornwall and I imagine I always will be. As such I didn't irritate the Cornish and most of them don't suss me out as being non-Cornish. I can feel those who have integrated and those who havn't when I meet them these days. There is a relaxed, easy going sort of an attitude to those that fit here, a sort of what will be will be. many people from up country just can not relax enough to fit here.

The landscape is a small landscape. There is a lack of room and it is full of little valleys and rivers and coves and villages. If you stand on the right hill or headland the landscape can be seen on a different scale, looking at the vistas and not seeing the things hidden below.

We only have one good dual carriageway road and even that isn't dual carriageway all the way. Many of our roads are only wide enough for one car, edged with plant covered granite edges, sharp bends and passing places. This is fine, the locals are laid back enough to just get on with it if they are on a road where they can't overtake the tractor that is going exactly the same way as them. It isn't that we don't get frustrated, we do, it is just life...

People buy second homes here and bump up the housing prices. They don't pay full council tax so don't contribute as much to the services down here, police, fire etc and then they fill their spare house with a stream of people some of whom will have paid a lot of money to be in here in the peak of the summer season. I know people who grew up in villages they will never be able to afford to live in, even though their family lived there as far back as the ark. Some places are so exclusive and so unlikely to have a single local person living there.

Then there are the tourists. They come and fill everywhere up. Drive very slowly. And go to tourist attractions. They pay lots of money to do so but a lot of the time they are disapointed by what they find. Up country there may be grand castles you couldn't explore in a day but down here things are on a smaller scale. It is a place to go and relax and explore. To have the best time you don't want to go anywhere much you have to pay to go, except parking fees. The best places are the beaches, exploring little fishing villages, exploring the landscape. Surely that is why Cornwall has a tourist industry in the first place?

So you have places like Padstow which is very exclusive and dominated by Rick Stein. You have St Ives where you can barely move in the summer and can purchase a wide variety of arts and crafts. You have Newquay where the chances of you seeing a sober person is considerably reduced. These places havn't been made this way by the locals. If you don't like a place you go to, then chances are a lot of the locals won't like it either....

So it really bugs me when people come down here and comment on Cornwall in vast sweeping terms. When they visit tourist places and complain that they are touristy. When they pay a meagre £3 to see something and expect the earth. When they call it claustrophobic and arrogant. arrogant? The cornish are not arrogant as a rule but many of the middle class non-local enclaves are very arrogant indeed.

So why am I so pissed off exactly? An old, old friend I havn't seen in years came to visit and we spent a few hours together. When they went home they commented on Cornwall and their holiday and I found it somewhat offensive....

For years they had wanted to visit Tintagel. A ruined castle on an isolated headland linked to Arthurian legend. We warned them that there were treacherous stairs down the cliff and then back up the other side to the castle. I said that I did not feel fit enough to go myself. We said they were brave going with a baby carrier. We gave them a leaflet on the place which certainly would also have explained the difficult access. They went anyway and then complained a lot about little they enjoyed it. One couldn't carry the baby because of issues with heights. They were too sweaty to relax once they made it there.... We did warn them, they just didn't want to hear and we didn't want to annoy them by being to forceful about it....

I guess what I have to remember is the friends I knew before I moved down here have made very different life choices to the ones I have made. They may travel the world, drive fast cars, have prestigious jobs and generallyhave a fair bit of cash. I may have chosen a less exciting looking path but I am content (mostly) with my lot. I love Cornwall. I love my friends down here. I may not have heaps of money but I have time to appreciate the beauty of the place I live. I have time to be connected....

If ever you visit me here, please, please don't insist on going to all the tourist traps. Take a quieter, softer, more relaxed route. Chances are we will both find some new and beautiful place to explore.


  1. It saddens me too when people clearly miss the point of things, in the case of your old friend, her comments about Cornwall on Facebook were so off the mark she'd have needed GPS to have helped her get anywhere near what Cornwall is all about.

    Sadly some folk just have ridiculously high and unfounded expectations of the simple things in life. They miss the fact that are what they are and should be enjoyed just so.

    And they wonder why we call tourists "emmets". Case closed...*chuckle*

  2. Well, you already know I don't like people OR touristy places...*grin*

    That's just the trouble with tourists....the stereotype has evolved for a good reason...

    I think I would go mad, living in a place that attracted tourists.....and heave large sighs of relief once they left..


  3. Hello Rose, I am sorry to hear about the comments the people made. They were warned and missed the point of why they were going there. Don't even start me with the baby beng there. Any way, I love finding hidden gems that seem relevant and not worthy of a toursit label. I like it that way. No crowds! Adventures are my favourite thing to do! Here's to a better day!

  4. I've been thinking about this post for the past few hours. I agree with you Rose, I would have been annoyed as well (coming from a small place that has unique wonders). My village is extremely small and the people there are laid back- slow, chill.
    I used to work as a bartender for a local pub that often was filled with American tourists as they took the catamarang (sp?) over. I quickly lost my tolerance for annoying comments about the fog, lack of things 'to do', smallness of the town, how we didn't have 'real' money (as if we'd have currency from another COUNTRY in Canada.... ). It got old.

    I'm sorry you had some 'moments' with an old friend. hopefully writing about it helped!

  5. A woman after my own heart! I am not the least interested in tourist places and would rather live the way you live than get caught up in the rat race. That is why I am not a city person. You really understand the meaning of life! What a shame about the property prices going up because of ungrateful people who do not even appreciate it. They go there and then try to make it like the place they have left. Property in Vancouver is completely unaffordable for ordinary working people. I grew up at the end of the depression, during the second world war and after and everyone I knew owned their own homes. Not any more, so I totally understand where you are coming from.

  6. oh lord.. I have no idea where I wish to go when I get over to Cornwall. I hope I haven't too much of a romantic notion in my head about the place. But I am lucky, i have a cousin over there who is hoping to show me the ropes.. otherwise, we will just plunder along stumbling as we go :)

  7. Thank you everyone for your kind understanding!

    I do think the pace of life change is one so many city dwellers have trouble making. They come here to relax but they don't actually know how. They are so used to be drip fed entertainment in various ways that where there is very little of this, they are stuck.

    Miss*R when you do come over I am sure you will just let Cornwall be what it is. I can't imagine you would make negative public declarations on what the Cornish are and Cornwall is. you know how to live life and see the beauty in the small things - I am sure Cornwall will be beautiful to you! XXX (oh and I am hoping we will meet up too?)

  8. Rose! of course I will try to get to meet up with you :) - oh and I know that I am of 'good Cornish stock'.. so I will be like a local anyhow. well I hope the Cornish people will welcome me with open arms.

    I live in a tourist area (we call them terrorists here).. and every day, bus loads of people come up to see the rock formations.. not quite getting the whole point of this ancient land. they get out of the bus, take a bloody photo of themselves in front of the bus, head for the tourist shops where they can buy spoons, salt shakers and all manner of crap that tourists buy(mostly made in China).. then get back onto the bus - to go on to the next destination. I get fuming mad.. I have seen them come up here to the World Heritage Area, which it is and drop rubbish. grrrr
    and I hate the city people who move up here to escape Sydney, then try to bring it with them.. with their fancy cardigans tied around their waists.. oh lord, now you have me started!!(not sure if this posted twice)

  9. Don't worry miss*R, Cornwall is lovely and romantic and you'll love it!!

    Oh, I think Rose was a little caught up in her rant, ignore the bit about all roads being sigle lane etc, that's just some of the countryside...*chuckle*...we are a bit more cosmopolitan than that...only last year we got electricity too...hehe...just joking about the electricity...*grins sheepishly*

  10. oh you sound like me! i live in the heart of the new forest and from april to the start of october we are flooded. i imagine most people are repectful but the minority are the ones we remember from year to year~leaving their rubbish, driving too fast, annoying the ponies and donkeys (even trying to sit their children on them)shouting and crowding the shops...i hate it. oh and second-home people...i moved away from the forest ten years ago and it took me 4 to be able to get back and i could never afford to buy here when ex-council houses are selling for 300,000.