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February 22, 2005

Cornish mis-adventures

Men-an-Tol - mysteries of Cornwall

When I left Australia in December I had 3 novels with me. I had chosen Penmaric because it was obviously, from its title, set in Cornwall, but the other two books, Charles de Lint's Little Country and Sara Douglas' Hade's Daughter had been chosen because I like the author of the former and the subject of the later. Imagine my surprise when I found that both these books also were closely related to my travels.

Hade's Daughter is a science fantasy novel - the first in a series called The Troy Game - which weaves history and mythology into a battle for London. It begins in the Mediterranean after the fall of Troy. It very quickly moves to a settlement on the edge of the River Teign in southern Devon, near where we stayed.

Little Country was even closer to 'home'. It is set in Mousehole, on the edge of Mounts Bay in Cornwall. Some of the crucial scenes in the novel involve megalithic sites around this area of west Cornwall and specifically Men-an-Tol. Some of these sites had also been written about in Penmaric.

These conjuctions set me on a quest to visit as many of the prehistoric sites as I could fit into two days. This led to some wonderful moments and also some adventure. At the end of the first day I tried to see Chun Castle, which is the remains of an iron age hill fort. It was getting late and it had been raining for some days previously but the day had been beautiful.

I followed a tiny sign down a narrow lane. The lane eventually crossed a farmer's yard and became a dirt track. Our little Ford Focus began to spin it's wheels and lost traction. Unable to go forward or turn around, I was forced to go backwards. Unfortunately I didn't realise that the track had been quite narrow. I dropped off the edge into the mud. I couldn't go back and I couldn't go forward. We were stuck.

I trudged back along the track in the gathering gloom to the farmhouse. My knock was answered by a man who looked like the archetypal Cornish farmer. After listening to my story he said that he was only visiting the farmer, who was in bed with a broken foot and that he was unable to drive the tractor. He disappeared into the house for what seemed like a lifetime. Eventually he came back with a phone number and the suggestion that I use my mobile phone to contact another farmer - thank goodness there was a signal.

The lady at the other end of the line was very sympathetic. She said that if she couldn't get her brother-in-law, she would come herself since her husband was away from home. "Just wait" she said ... we did.

Down the lane came a great big yellow and green tractor with a great big farmer and two boys who had the good graces not to laugh. The great big farmer even backed the car up the lane for me without too much derision.

I never did see Chun Castle.

Posted by robynls at February 22, 2005 5:17 PM

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It's a beautiful photograph. I envy you (but not your getting into the ditch!).

Posted by: Nancy at February 22, 2005 7:02 PM

To be honest, Nancy, I envy the me of 6 weeks ago. I would love to be back in Cornwall, exploring the countryside and enjoying the hospitality. There is something about this part of the world that feels just right to me, despite the muddy ditches.

Posted by: Robyn at February 22, 2005 8:47 PM

Robyn, I am thoroughly enjoying all of your posts...and with the added pictures of England I can travel with you. Thanks for the giggle. Kelley :O)EM group

Posted by: Kelley at February 22, 2005 10:34 PM

Thanks you for inviting us along and giving us a glimpse of Cornwall. ;~) Sharon

Posted by: sharon at February 23, 2005 12:27 AM

Robyn, Thanks for the good belly-laugh...it just reminded me of "us" whilst driving around North Yorkshire in the mist and "sea fret" - down tiny country lane, hardly wide enough for our rental car...scratching the sides of the car on the hedgerows! It was such great fun!

Posted by: Bex at February 23, 2005 2:16 AM

Robyn, what sort of car do you normally drive? I'll stay well clear if I see you...lol. Your story reminds of me of my own tale, when I went fishing and let's say the return journey resulted in a rolled and written off car in the backlots of nowhere....I now drive a yellow beetle - so stay clear.

Posted by: Detlef at February 23, 2005 6:57 AM

My zippy little silver Subaru behaves very nicely on Sydney suburban streets, thank you :-). I just get into trouble on narrow, unsealed, boggy farm tracks so, unless you are going to meet me in Cornwall, I think you can be assured that you are quite safe, Detlef. I will, however, be on the alert for the beetle the next time I am down your way.

Posted by: Robyn at February 23, 2005 8:30 AM

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