Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Art Of Cornwall

Every time I've been to Cornwall I've spent some time in St Ives. Each time I go back thinking, "I'm going to like it this time." And each time I come away depressed.

Our travel bible, the Reader's Digest Touring Guide To Britain, says about St Ives, "Stone cottages tumble over each other in a maze of narrow streets. Old-world charm lured artists to the town and famous names include painter Ben Nicholson, sculptress Dame Barbara Hepworth, and potter Bernard Leach."

Famous? Not really. Van Gogh is famous.

It's the maze of narrow streets that probably get me. I like space, I hate walking in a procession of people. I don't like Brighton's lanes for the same reason.

The beaches at St Ives are pretty and the setting is lovely, but the people are on top of you.

This time we went to St Ives because it was raining on The Lizard and the Tate St Ives seemed a good place to get out of the rain. Of course it was warm and sunny in St Ives, but I'd driven there to experience the Tate for the very first time.

It was filled with several Brian Wilson themed exhibits. Excerpts from his songs were written on the walls by the paintings. There were a couple of reasonable Bridget Rileys and an ordinary Peter Blake. Nothing to write home about, just a down feeling. They weren't even playing any Beach Boys songs. Nothing for the ears, little for the eyes.

So that was my final visit to St Ives. Topped off nicely by a vicious seagull taking a chunk out of Betty's panini and an ageing hippy artist wearing a t-shirt with the words, "If it's the tourist season, why can't we shoot them?" So you were born and bred in St Ives were you, you twat?

I brought my mum home some clotted cream. The only place we could find it was Tesco's. She reminisced about her youth in Cornwall. Did I go to her old home village? No, we drove through it as we did last time as there's nothing there but a pub and some houses on a main road.

Apparently my grandparents left Cornwall for the kids' sake. Post-WW2, there just weren't the opportunities there. My mum's future would have been marrying a farmer. And she wouldn't have coped with all that farm muck.

As we left Cornwall, we drove over two chalked words on the road.


We went home.


  1. I like to see St Ives from the very top of the town; ocean, rooftops and air to breathe. The only place I ever relaxed was in the garden of Hepworth's house/museum.
    "Go Home". Britain at it's best, eh?

  2. Yes, that's the best experience of St Ives, just leaving the £4.20 car park. I was given a ticket for free by a leaving motorist but I felt guilty and bought a ticket anyway. Maybe we'll go back one day to Hepworth's house.

    I wonder just how Cornish all the people with Kernow flags stuck on their cars are. How many generations do they go back? I only really heard a traditional Cornish accent in a cafe at The Lizard. Even there they had skinny lattes as well as cream teas. That's a hell of a lot of people need to go "home".

  3. I'm with Arabella on the Hepworth garden. We were there in sheeting rain and it was deserted and fabulous. The rest of St Ives left me indifferent. And I don't like space much.

    I REALLY abhor all that 'fuck off tourists' attitude. I originate from a 'tourist' area, and from an early age it was blindingly obvious how important the tourist cash was to the place I love. And it wasn't just the money - I used to get a warm glow from the fact that other people loved the place too!

  4. Tourists are the best. So much better than "travellers".

  5. I like the streets of St. Ives and the Lanes of Brighton for the same reason you don't. Twisty turny coolness. Different strokes, blah, blah.

    I saw a sign the other day that said 'Second Home Owners Go Home'. Sadly, no irony was intended. This rant continues here.

  6. Welcome, Oli.

    I always feel at home in Cornwall.