I began this post with the intention of writing about seagulls and their ever-present swooping, squabbling and squawking. Cross, demanding sandwich-snatching beach seagulls; transformed into beautiful wraiths with plumage lit rose-gold, by ocean sunsets, wheeling and corkscrewing in the last of daylight. Huddled, hunch-backed on the green grass of an inland field; harbingers of a wicked storm beyond the shore. Seagulls have been the background singers in many of the memories of my life.
Peter Warlock writes "I am living now in a little wooden house on the highest part of the moor that separates the two seas, north and south, between Zennor and Penzance. All around, on all sides, nothing but open moorland and rock-strewn hills, mostly crowned with marvelous Druidic temples. Without leaving the house I can see the sun rise at five in the morning, and watch it sink at night into the sea. The sky never grows dark; the darkness seems rather to come welling out of the earth like a dye, oozing into every shape and form, every twig and every stone, keen, intense blackness..."
The quote above is from a book called "From Cornwall with Love". It is a collection of evocative photos by Bob Croxford, and is accompanied by an anthology of writings about the part of the world I call home, even though I don't get home very often. It is the kind of coffee-table book that is a great gift to bring back from vacation to give to the friend who watered your garden or fed your cats whilst you were away. This copy was my gift to me. I can glimpse the little villages and safe harbours of the rocky Cornish coast and smile in agreement at some of the things that people have written.
I went to school in Penzance, of Pirate fame. The local rugby team are called The Pirates. I rode sure-footed ponies of my youth up across these granite-strewn, treeless hills; and, more recently, walked these moors with my sister and "Danny the Disappearing Fucking Greyhound"; as she likes to call him. Top of Zennor moor, with a view of Mounts Bay on the one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other, is where my ashes will one day be scattered to the blustery winds, or dumped down a rabbit hole; I know my sister!
"And talking of seagulls, I was about to enter Seagull City, otherwise known as Mevagissy. Here the birds swooped down the alleyways in squadrons like something Barnes Wallis had designed, dropping their bombs with a white splat on the pavement. Fortunately, these didn't bounce, but in a place like this, it was only a matter of time before one was hit". - Mark Wallington
And here I came upon another descriptive paragraph; this one serving as a sign post; "Turn Here", "New Direction" it said, as it reminded me of a movie about bouncing bombs; a true story of innovation, persistence, courage and well-spoken leadership. The Dam Busters.
I remember watching this black and white movie several times over the years, with my Father. It was and still is a good story, with many compelling characters. It exemplifies the indomitable spirit of wartime Britain, and the theme music is stirring and triumphant; so much so that we chose this as the final tune to accompany our Father's coffin as it swept through the curtains and away to the crematorium.
If you have played this video you must realize that this is a spoof of the original, very serious, film. It was turned into an advertisement for Carling Black Label Beer. My Dad would have loved this humour too. He raised us with a firm hand and a lot of Monty Python and Benny Hill. Quirky by nature and quirky by nurture, that's us. He died in August a few years ago. I'd have to look up the exact date and year. I am not diminishing the importance of his death, I just don't believe that revering the date changes anything. I don't want my warm, seagull filled memories sullied by the Alzheimer ghost vultures that pursued him at the end of his life. I prefer to imagine him laughing and telling me I have a school-girl sense of humour.