Saturday, October 9, 2010

Some autumn pictures from a small part of North Cornwall, all taken between 2.30 and 3.30pm today, Saturday, October 9, 2010

I was chatting to a friend via my Facebook page (and exactly why I got one, I don't know. My sister, something of low-level geek, insisted I start one, but to be honest, my mentality and the Facebook mentality are poles apart). I mentioned that I had to walk down the road to see my stepmother as I do every day when I am home. She — my friend, not my stepmother — lives in the U.S., but loves Cornwall, and she asked me to take some pictures of the autumn leaves.So I have. And here they are, in no particular order. None is as it was taken because I use a cheap digital camera, a Fujifilm Finepix E900. It does me just fine, although the lens will be nothing to write home about, and much can be done these days with digital manipulation. (It is also a reminder of how skilled photographers were before the 'digital revolution'. I put it in quote marks because I am now several months over 60 and that is the kind of thing we are supposed to do.) However, given that most pictures now appear online (with a 72 dpi resolution), a good lens is pretty redundant. And if they appear in print, they are so manipulated as to make the original file, however good or bad it is irrelevant.
I have played around with each pic, just for the hell off it. I have adjusted 'temperature', 'exposure', colour saturation, contrast, brightness, and whatever else I could. They don't look too bad on my laptop screen, but uploaded they are nothing special. But what the hell (a comment which ensures, if nothing else does, that I shall never be 'an artist'.)
Underneath each picture is a brief explanation. (That was written several hours ago. Naturally, each explanation is anything but brief.)

This is a view from the gate leading into one of my brother-in-law's fields, taken leaning on the gate. I took it just yards from my front door on my way to my stepmother's. The field is empty because (I think) it is in its fallow year. My brother-in-law is a beef farmer, although he has now cut back on the number of cattle he keeps because he and his wife also run farm holidays for families with young children. Below is another picture taken from the same spot of a cat which lives next door. I don't know the cat's name. This, and the pic of an abandoned van at the end, are the two pictures I like best.

Next are two rather similar pictures of the arbour opposite The Hollow, where my stepmother lives at the moment. I have included both because they were manipulated in slightly different ways and are thus rather different pictures. The first:

and the second:

There is no accounting for technology, and these two pics (and, to a certain extent, the first two) are rather flatter than I should like, but after several days of some glorious afternoon sunshine, today was dull. One reason why I began manipulating the pictures was to try to get a little life into them. I didn't always succeed. The above two, for example, don't, to my eye, look half as good in this blog as they do on my laptop, on which they are also bigger.

My stepmother's passion in life — and although the word 'passion' is usually horribly overused these days, I shall use it despite that because in her case it is true — was gardening. Then she suffered a stroke and for the past three-and-half-years has been confined to her armchair. Until then, she was a very active, very independent woman. She owned two dogs and these she took for two walks very day whatever the weather. Then she suffered her stroke. And she has not complained once. Not once. She misses her garden and gardening but is determined to make the most of her situation. At some expense — and despite what you might think reading this and looking at the pictures, she is not especially wealthy — she employs a gardener twice a month to keep the gardens in shape, but the truth is he can not do a lot. When, in a practical moment, I suggested a few weeks ago that the bottom garden, the garden belonging to The Hollow, might be abandoned and given over to folk who might like to have an allotment, I was given short shrift. My stepmother is a very generous woman, especially in spirit, but the gardens were her life and, and she said, she could not bear the idea that they might become allotments. In this particular case the word 'passion' is not just anther trendy term. For more than 30 years she did give her life to transforming it. She even got into the Yellow Book, which will mean nothing to non-gardeners (such as me), but gardeners will understand.

Both she and my father worked for the BBC, and that is where they met, and she retired early at the age of 46 when my father retired at 60. Her parents were both Irish, but she was born and brought up in Bodmin where her father ran the mental hospital. With a small legacy, she bought Rose Cottage in the early Seventies, which she and my father then extended. The cottage was small and had almost no land. But just outside the living room was a rough old piece of land which she bought — for far too much — from the diary farmer who lived and worked opposite. This she then laboriously, but very successfully, cultivated into a very handsome garden. This the following pictures are of aspects of that garden.


Then there is this image, in monochrome (the posh word for B&W) of more or less the same view as the first urn. Incidentally, one of the 'manipulations I used was a fearure available on Mac's iPhoto either to sharpen or unsharpen and image. Several of these pics have been unsharpened to try to make them look like some of the images you get in coffee table magazine no one ever reads - Yorkshire Life, Estate & Title, Cornwall & And The Cornish etc, bought, displayed but never, ever read.

Here's a picture of the urn in the first image taken from the other side, with Rose Cottage in the background.

On the other side of the cottage is the washhouse, the coal 'cellar' and outside loo (and shower, though no one ever used it) and, up a flight of steps, the garage which is next to the vegetable garden. Here are the steps with, in the background, some rather lovely autumnal leaves showering over the garage.

My stepmother was lucky enough to come into ownership of the two cottages next to her's. One, Middle Cottage, she bought jointly with my brother, and the other, The Hollow, where she lives at the moment, was bought by her sister which she left to my stepmother when she died. For many years these two cottages were let out as holiday cottages (and, it has to be said, at ridiculously low prices as my stepmother is one of the few people I know who sincerely and honestly doesn't give a stuff about money — she let out the cottages for holidaymakers for, as she would put it, the fun. More importantly with the two cottages came more garden which she was able to transform utterly. I can't remember what the garden for Middle Cottage looked like, but this is what she made of it.

This next picture is included only because I like it. It is of a scene just outside the back door of The Hollow. On the left is the 'wood shed'. In the winter that is filled with logs.

All three cottages — Rose Cottage, Middle Cottage and The Hollow — are one building and, I should think, about around 200 years old. The Hollow underwent 'conversion' in the Fifties and the inside was hideous. When my stepmother's sister bought it, it was restored to something a little more in character. Its garden, the largest of all three cottage gardens was a wilderness. And in the full knowledge that the word 'literally' is also horribly overused and abused, I shall use it to say it was literally a wasteland: full of six foot high bracken, nettles and whatever else finds its way into a wilderness in North Cornwall if it remains unattended. You have to know that because what my stepmother did with it over the years is quite astounding. This picture (below) is a rather poor picture and doesn't really do the garden justice. But it is the only one I took and it might give you some idea of her achievement.

The cottages are about 200 years old, perhaps older, perhaps not quite as old, but Guy's House dates from the late 16th-century. When I first saw it, it was a tumbledown granite wreck, but my father and my stepmother renovated it so that downstairs is a small shower and lavatory, and a 'wine cellar', and upstairs is a study/library/guest bedroom. For most of his life, my father was 'writing his book', and I'm pleased to say he finished it (almost. It was - is - a history if the Germans and the IRA and how, along the lines of my enemy's enemy is my friend, the Germans, both in the Great War and in World War II, tried to woo the IRA as allies. It never really came off). However, within just a year or two of Guy's House being renovated, my father died of cancer, so it was never really used. It could be, but when and by whom, who knows.
At the far end of Guy's House is shady area where you can watch the sun set while eating or just enjoying a drink. Many is the time I have had one too many gin and tonics sitting there.

Given the build-up I have submitted, this picture dooesn't do the spot justice. For one thing, you can't see the shaded area, but at least it gives you an idea of the view to be enjoyed while you'revgetting slaughtered on gin.
Here are the final two pictures. The first is also of Rose Cottage from the lane leading down to The Hollow from the road. I call it 'The Blue Gate', but you might like to call it 'The Green Gate'. I shan't object.

Then, on the way home, I spotted this fine example of a scene of rustic life in post-modern, not to say post-ironic, Britain. Actually, I spotted it on my way to my stempmother's but took the picture on the way back. On the way there, I didn't think it would be much of a picture. On the way home, I thought otherwise. Pictured is an abandoned truck in Jeff Hollister's field. Jeff Hollister is the son of Jim Hollister, the dairy farmer from whom my stepmother bought the unused, unwanted and derelict piece of scrubland slanting down from the road from which she created her first garden.

I say the van is 'abandoned', but truthfully I don't know for sure whether it is or not. It has been there for quite a few years now, but might at some point be resurrected. It is, after atll, a T reg vehicle which would make it no more than 12 years old and thus still of some use to a local farmer. Perhaps Jeff will sell it. Perhaps he won't. Who knows? Who cares? Does Jeff? I really cannot tell you.

I add this image because I should like to provide a counterbalance to the other images of choccy-box Britain to show that it is not all sweetness and light down here in the shires. You think you city folk are the only kind who suffer from abandoned vehicles? But being the thoughtful sort, I have, of course, tried to make sure that my sobering image is still presented tastefully. It is intended to salve one's conscience without unduly upsetting one's sensibilities. It is, if you like, a Liberal Democratic kind of picture, the pictorial equivalent of reminding the family just before we enjoy our rich Christmas lunch that we should be mindful of our great good fortune and that we should not - we must not! - forget the millions living in less salubrious corners of the world who go hungry every night and probably don't even have democracy. Right then, now that's out of the way, tuck in!

Dedicated to Kate who misses Cornwall.


  1. Sorry, its not that i don't appriciate the effort you went to take all the photos, just no time right now to respond. I will make a try when I return home from work tonight.

  2. Patrick,
    Thanks for all the wonderful photos of Cornwall and you little corner of the world. Each photo is so beautiful and from the Rose Cottage, (can't I live there?) to the Kitty, sad day for me, the Urn the Arbor, I would go on and on, but I my feelings of Cornwall are so deep, That is way I couldn't just rush off an quick email. This last year had been a time for reflextion for me. Still not quit figuring out what to do other than to live day by day, which it totally not me. I always plan, I always have a plan, to go forward and the future, not sure at all now what that is. Cornwall is very two fold for me. One when i came the England in the 80's I felt as if I came home for the first time, as a teen ,I never
    seemed to fit in, not socially but, I felt I came from another time, (1800's) I was too old for the time I was in, my parents were quiet uncommunitive people, (both English) my teen yrs were not good, anyway, my first trip to England I felt home and real for the first time
    ever . Then yrs later, coming to Cornwall with
    Steve (ex british fiance of 3 yrs) we spent months in cornwall every yrs, as we stayed at his mum for the entire month we were here and rent a car, we lived what i would consider british (cornish) I loved my life more than anyother time of my life. I loved everything,
    the food, the lifestyle, the gardens, the sea, the roads, now with the idea I may never go again, it saddens me. But thanks again, because I love the photos, and I love to see it all,and remember, the Moors, the horses, the pheasants, the pubs, the people, cream tea, all the things we don't have here.....I just tell myself that I had it, and most people in the U.S. never would never had the experience that I had. Best to you....Kate

  3. very nice pictures, patrick! :)