Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Gool Peran Lowen, One and All!

Happy St Pirans day! That's in Gool Peran Lowen, in Cornish. I think. St Piran is the national saint of Cornwall. Yes, that's the sticky-outy bit stuck to the South-West corner of Britain. I thought it was a good excuse for me to have a pint of Tribute and tell you, in a slightly drunken way, just how much I love Cornwall. I love the food and the landscape and the history and the slightly insane saints. Oh and the beer.

St Piran was an early Irish Christian missionary. The Irish being then heathens, they threw him out. Since he had pissed them off considerably, they tied him to a millstone and set him out to sea. It's what, in modern parlance, is known as an evidence-based approach to testing the veracity of miracles. Well, good old Piran surfed that millstone all the way to Cornwall and rode it in on Perranporth beach. All of which goes to prove that he was one mean surfer since the waves at perranporth are, like, sizably gnarly, and there is also a massive rip-tide. Last time I tried, I got sand-burn up my knees. Also, it is at least one mile up the beach to the pub, and that is one long way to drag a board, let alone a millstone. So, like, respect to the dude, OK?

St Piran Cross. 6th Century.
Anyway, once he had had a few beers to get over his epic cross-sea ride, Piran built a church in the sand-dunes. It's still there, and you can go and see it. Jeez, you don't think I'm making this shit up, do you?

One of the reasons I love Cornwall is that despite all the lovely touristyness of it, it is in fact rock hard (yes, I know, granite, actually). And also slightly insane. You wouldn't know this if you only ever visit in August and just look at the shops selling Kath Kidston tat.

Once it's got over August, Cornwall is a totally different place. For a start, the weather will kill you as soon as look at you. There are bogs and cliffs and ditches full of water, and strange, surging tides. The roads swim with water, and disappear, into fields.

It is poor as hell in parts. I once overheard a bunch of locals discussing local job prospects. This job and that job were dismissed as low paid. Finally they all agreed that they had heard of one well-paid job that was going locally. The salary of this magnificence? Fourteen thousand pounds. I have seen ex-council houses for sale, £350k. One woman I met, an educated, well-paid person who had been made redundant, had found a way to stay in the area with her family, and work for a local wage. She'd bought a shed, and done it up, and lived in the end of her sister's garden. It was quite a nice shed, she was at pains to tell me.

I think Cornwall is unlikely to roll over and die under this hardship. It has the longest, oldest history of any part of the British isles. Near Zennor, field systems that were built by neolithic farmers are still in use, by modern ones. It survived a brutal pre-industrial tin trade, in which men dragged ore, by hand, from mines which sometimes opened straight into cliff-faces. It survived the Romans, a Tsunami, and being on the wrong side in the English Civil War. If you go there right now, you will find that half of its ancient villages are empty, having been bought up by bankers who have nothing to do with their bonuses but buy a house for four weeks of the year. It'll probably outlast them, too.

So here's to Cornwall. And thanks for the beer. I would take a photo, but I've already drunk it.

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