Poetry West Cornwall (and local history)

The Seasons being Out of Joint

Three ladies settle in front of the Portugese Coffee House
in Market Jew Street.
I'm glad in a way,they are only taking drinks.
A teapot heralds a certain degree of bourgeois comfort, whilst the lady on the left sips her milkshake like a teenager.
They seem oblivious to the marauding prospect of seagulls.
The effect this sunshine spell on older skin doesn't bother them.
Above pound-stretcher a gull stretches his wings.
The black and yellow pennants flutter wildly in the in the incipient breeze.
A single-decker spreads a cascade of pollutants.
The outspread Guardian announces Johnson to be referred to the police by his own lawyers.
To me it feels like a temporary delicate interregnum.
Art and Photographic History Penwith politics West Cornwall (and local history)

Cornwall Reconstructs?

Many years ago my French Master, somewhat radically inclined, offered to teach me Chinese. The condition was that I had first to ensure my French was up to scratch. Unfortunately I was scarcely up to the mark with the language but have in recent years got as far as reading a very easy version of Flaubert with an immense amount of pleasure. I did however have at least one lesson of Chinese and can still recall one or two phrases about writing a character on a blackboard. I also recall seeing on my schoolmasters desk a few copies of a magazine called “China Reconstructs”.

In a very different study overlooking St Ives harbour and bay, I saw a copy of the same journal. This was the study of a friend’s father who had been a brave member of the Chinese Inland Mission. One of the achievements of this famous organisation was to encourage the unbinding of women’s feet. A task interrupted by the Japanese invasion. There was a magnificent cat wandering around the house called “La Fu” and meals at my friends were frequently taken using chop sticks.

Large parts of Cornwall have unfortunately been subject to neglect and decline. A situation which appears to have got still worse under the Tories and due to Brexit. Much reconstruction of public services is urgently needed to avoid further poverty, ill-health and decline. The view below shows another side to Cornwall but unfortunately is all too common.

Book Reviews Literature Poetry St Ives West Cornwall (and local history)

Two New Poetry Collections

In both of these collections the sea and its various moods features. It is not just this that endears me in each case but it is that element that prompts me to write about them today. It is raining once again here in Cornwall and it is as the mists mizzle gather over the bay that I find myself in somewhat melancholy mood to respond to these collections.

Derek Mahon

Essentially this is a collection of essays by different writers together with Mahon’s poems. Here is one example- the poem-“The Sea in Winter” which was written for Desmond O’Grady. There are so many lovely passages in this poem which is fast becoming a favourite.-

Portstewart, Portrush, Portballintrae-

Un beau pays mal habité,

policed by rednecks in dark cloth

and roving gangs of tartan youth.

No place for a gentleman like you.

The good, the beautiful and the true

have a tough time of it; and yet

there is that Hebridean sunset,

The coast in winter, something familiar here in West Cornwall evokes feelings as in these engaging couplets:-

The sea in winter, where she walks,

vents its displeasure on the rocks.

The human factor appears too beside these images or pathetic fallacies-

………………………….; the spite

mankind has brought to this infernal

backwater destroys the soul;

it sneaks into the daily life,

sunders the husband from the wife.

Sunder seems a significant word here, perhaps evoking “thunder” and reminiscent of the biblical separation of “asunder”. ( The chariot and horses of fire “parted asunder” Elijah and Elisha (2 Kings 2:11). So we are situated on the bleak edge of the sea. Though not quite in the same mood state as T.S.Eliot-On Margate Sands./I can connect/Nothing with nothing./The broken fingernails of dirty hands./My people humble people who expect/Nothing.

There is an interesting piece on Mahon as the poet of place at

In his comments on this poem, John Fitzgerald says;

I grew to love the poem’s complicit sense of ennui,bordering on but never quite reaching desolation, ‘living on the edge of space’; the memorable turns of phrase and allusive colour, both classical and contemporary; the sense of redemption just out of reach; the agonizing, trapped uncertainty of the writing life; all balanced against the consolation of confident, impeccable poetry.”

Evelyn Holloway

Evelyn’s book is published in English and German by Edition Sonnberg which is based in Vienna, where Evelyn was born in 1955. Perhaps the most interesting poem, it is for me, is Meeting which tells of Evelyn encountering Samuel Beckett in Oxford where she was a student in October 1973. I find that even with my poor German having the text in both languages somehow broadens the comprehension of the text.

Suddenly I see his face

stepped down from book covers,

a furrowed face, a landscape of thought

I waited for Godot,

saw people stuck in bins,

so many figures of his universe,

Now to return to the sea, a sea of memories- some perhaps repressed…….


Ich kam hier um das Wrack zu sehen,

musste tiefer tauchen, tiefer.

Farben sind dort begraben,

Stimmen von der Zeit verschluckt.

Irgendwo in diesem Chaos,

ich bin irgendwo

verlassen,gefunden, und wieder verlassen

Atmen fällt schwer hier unten

Kunstweke hinter Mauern versteckt

Errinerung ist ein Ozean ohne Salz.

So that the memory can appear like a sea too, but one without salt. Memory and dreams have perhaps links to Vienna but the salty sea is close by in St Ives.

Here are just a few lines from WE ARE DANCING ROCKS (WIR SIND TANZENDE FELSEN)

We will outlast you.

Our salty eternity does not count the years.

We do not mourn the sand swallowed by the sea.

We are dancing rocks.

Her collection Words through Walls is published by Wieser Verlag ISBN 978-3-9504320-8-4

Art and Photographic History Penwith West Cornwall (and local history)

Doctors, Preachers and Arty Types

I am staring through an orange film. It’s the coloured layer around the Lucozade bottle which attends my high temperature. For reasons no longer clear to me I am in my parent’s bed listening to seagulls overhead. My mother is anxiously awaiting Dr M’s arrival on the ground floor where she has been making up Brussel sprout bags. Dr M is the son of the even more highly regarded “old Doctor M” and the chief G.P. of the practice in the Market Place just around the corner from my Grandfather’s shoe mender’s shop- opposite the church in St Ives. The downstairs in the practice there is crowded in the summer with lobster coloured visitors suffering from painful sunburn.

Then there was dear Doc B. Gentle by nature and with a reassuring voice. He was the preferred doctor from my mother’s viewpoint and mine too. In those days the result of the home visit always seemed to be the deep red sugary liquid or lobelline. In more severe cases with itchy rashes and high temperatures it was likely to be M and B. Dear DrB was one of two doctors who had served in the Navy during the War. Thus should the maroon go off and the Lifeboat go out, there would usually be one of these ex-navy doctors on board.

There was a general feeling that any illness was due to the moral failure of the afflicted. It was expressed though as “I told you not to go out in that wind with your duffle coat not properly done up”. In adolescence after overindulgence it would be expressed as- “I told ee you can’t afford to play ducks and drakes with your health”. Or even – “No wonder you have ended up like that and I haven’t seen you take out one of your books to study properly since Christmas”.

Unfortunately I cannot tell you more about the admirable Doctor B as I got to become close friends of his son and his family. They all intrigue me still and their love of sailing, their faith and their company on New Year’s Eve and forbearance for my attempts at Scottish Dancing. I am touched when I recall Dr B insisting in paying me in guineas for helping tutor his son with his A-level Physics. The memory now reminds me of the early parts of “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis”- the tennis and the sunshine.

Then there was DrS – a very different kettle of fish. Seemingly rather austere , quite tall with a head of curly hair that resembled the that of the distant Shakespeare academic Frank Halliday, he tootled through the already numerous crowds on his home visits. Rather taciturn, whilst not greatly welcomed to my childhood bedside visits was of greater support during adolesence. I remember seeing him in bookshops reading advanced ideas of art and French Existentialism. Indeed he was fascinated by living amongst a community of writers and artists.

Those younger doctors were at that time, the only persons in the community to afford cine cameras. These were used to record everything from the incident where the crew of HMS Wave were rescued by breeches buoy to family outings past Seal Island. DrS spent time both conducting audio recordings of important historical events and producing high quality photographs of members of the various art societies in that productive post-war period.

I shall discuss a little more of my personal impressions of preachers and artists in forthcoming posts

More interviews can be found at

Penwith Psychoanalysis West Cornwall (and local history)

Battered Britain- confused Cornwall

Very likely it is the mood I find myself in at the moment. Arriving in town just a few minutes earlier than expected. The bus driver must be keen or perhaps a manic denial of boredom. Then the bus is blue -quite unusual and reminiscent of a bus service locally that years ago was renowned for unreliable and battered buses. The service now appears to have hired a range of peculiar vehicles – this one has shiny black leather seats somehow suggestive of the aspirations of another era.

Need to top up with a little cash but a scrawled notice- and I mean a scrawled notice says “Out of order” and you almost expect it to add….” this is Penzance boy….carry on waiting for Godot”. Thank goodness for the Co-op.

As I stroll on I think of the latest large Tory leaflet that has been pushed through the door. Green naturally. Telling me “together we are successful” or words to that effect. What at precisely? Schools where there are very few fully qualified teachers and pupils marched before the moronic inducing banks of second rate computers or various mad pods and pads. Successful with 12 hour waiting times in A and E. Bleak visions of rooms that would be like Scutari drawn by Daumier. No Florence- instead the only visible care comes from the worried looking young Security Staff in front of lengthening lines of ambulances. Successful for the Mme Defay who made a fortune out of her Government Grant for pathetic PPE.

Everywhere recently my eye has been captured by curious clumps of electrical apparatus. These somehow have a certain lyrical attraction even or especially when accompanied by patches of viridian lichen or intriguing pipework, transformers and untidy wiring. In other countries with technological competence they might be safely enclosed.

Art and Photographic History Art Exhibition Reviews German Matters West Cornwall (and local history)

Capturing Images of Apple Harvest

Fruit crop – Ludwig von Hofmann

I have been contemplating this painting from the mythical world of this not well known German painter who lived (17 August 1861 – 23 August 1945) As Wikipedia informs us “In 1889, he attended the Académie Julian in Paris, where he came under the influence of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and Paul-Albert Besnard.” Certainly the Art Nouveau and Symbolist styles are present but the general impression of this work is one of tranquil gathering from fruitful nature. After a summer of disturbingly high temperatures and draught it seems a pleasant reminder of what seems a different age. End of summer and Arcadia can exist and as I have recently discovered in the rich orchards of Trengwainton still in existence.

As I have been reading recently about Stanley Spencer and the aftermath of the First World War, I came across the following painting as a comparison. Von Hoffmann’s painting is dated 1906, and according to Boyd Hacock’s “A Crisis of Brilliance“, Spencer’s Apple Gatherers is dated 1912.

To anyone familiar with Spencer, the chunky figures have a certain primitive attractiveness- a robust Bob the Builder robust quality. The abundance and timelessness is achieved by the composition. The sketches upon which it is based shows the time and thought which went into the work. The plenitude of fruit and the couple linking arms around the apple suggest some kind of Eden restored.

In this part of Cornwall we have a special feast referred to as Allan Appletide

St Ives West Cornwall (and local history)

Some Cornish History Sound Links

Michael Bird is an engaging and perceptive writer and broadcaster and his work deserves attention. Here are some impressive sound programmes-

This programme on the Solomon Browne Lifeboat Tragedy is at

Penwith Poetry Uncategorized West Cornwall (and local history)

Schools out!

Schools out and all that entails.

Sun shines on mountains of tomatoes, avocados and oranges.

Tourists looking for something shuffle up Causewayhead.

Locals mostly look a bit lost- some injured or otherwise afflicted.

Seems that about a quarter of shops are closed;

no carpets, no papers and no haircuts.

Pigeons warble and peck under

regimented baskets of scarlet petunias

adding a patina of civic cheer.

In here, a voluble teenager

pronounces and pontificates on

the unlikely history of India,

seemingly annoyed that the food

has not turned up in time.

Lost in the gap between fantasy

and the arrival of the fatty sausage sandwich.

September, results and Speech Day await.

Art and Photographic History Penwith St Ives West Cornwall (and local history)

Day 3. Land’s End, Porthcurno & St. Ives, Cornwall — Love Travelling Blog

It was a bright and sunny morning as we pulled back the curtains in our hotel room and after tucking into some tasty bacon sandwiches we were back in the car for another day of sightseeing.  Our starting point was to be Land’s End, the headland that sits at the most westerly point of England […]

Day 3. Land’s End, Porthcurno & St. Ives, Cornwall — Love Travelling Blog
Art and Photographic History Poetry West Cornwall (and local history)

Some thoughts on “resilience”

The splendid Penzance Literary Festival has chosen this topic as the inspiration for this year’s event. I have taken out my larger dictionaries and looked a little at its usage and etymology. The latter is not difficult as it derives directly from Latin and basically means something like the capacity to jump back.

The term resilience was introduced into the English language in the early 17th Century from the Latin verb resilire, meaning to rebound or recoil (Concise Oxford Dictionary, Tenth Edition).

resilience (n.) … 1620s, “act of rebounding or springing back,” often of immaterial things, from Latin resiliens, present participle of resilire “to rebound, 

From Ovid we read  “saepein gelidos resilire lacus, sed nunc quoque turpes” which Loeb gives as  meaning in Metamorphoses Book VI as Often they sit upon the sedgy bank and often leap back into the cool lake. This comes from a rather beautifully poetic passage at

We get the English expressions ‘Salient’ and ‘To sally forth’ from the Latin verb Salio -to jump. In Cassell’s Latin Dictionary we learn of the Salii who were apparently a college of priests who jumped and leapt about worshipping Mars in a procession accompanied by singers and armed dancers. Instituted bt Numa Pompilius apparently.

Returning to the concept of Resilience we can distinguish its meaning from something like Endurance or Durability; it is more springy, elastic and perhaps energetic. Principally, of course, the concern around the concept relates to the inner resources for coping with Covid and the restrictions consequent upon it. It is the psychology of resilience which makes it a concept current in the zeitgeist. Without much prompting Google asks –

What are the 5 skills of resilience?

Five Key Stress Resilience Skills

  • Self-awareness.
  • Attention – flexibility & stability of focus.
  • Letting go (1) – physical.
  • Letting go (2) – mental.
  • Accessing & sustaining positive emotion.

Additionally it further questions-

What are the 7 C’s of resilience?

Dr Ginsburg, child paediatrician and human development expert, proposes that there are 7 integral and interrelated components that make up being resilient – competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping and control.

Also from the Mayo Clinic-

Whilst thinking about this topic, I came across these lines from a poem entitled Women Running, based upon Picasso’s painting entitled Deux femmes courant sur la plage which seem apposite and uplifting-

That arm laid across the horizon,

the racing legs, an unstoppable quartet, pull

me from my skin and I become one of them,

believe I’m agile enough to run a mile,

believe I’m young again, believe age

has been stamped out. No wonder, I worship

at the altar of energy, not the energy

huge with hate which revels in tearing apart,

in crushing to dust but the momentum

which carries blood to the brain, these women

across the plage, lovers as they couple

and tugs at the future till it breaks into bloom.
Myra Schneider