I Can’t Believe We Were There

Monday 20th October 2014

The Gay Mother and I drove to Cornwall on Saturday 10th October and lunched in the glassed-in veranda of the hotel. When we came back from our walk down to the Helford River, where we saw a curlew clucking in the mud, and all over the golf course of the hotel (us, not curlew), an elderly couple were still reading the Daily Mail in their corner, possibly on the same page. ‘Have they been there all this time?’ the Gay Mother, 90, enquired.

You wouldn’t believe the hotel. How could such a hotel be possible? It wasn’t so much the decor as the configuration, the terrible jamming together of extensions, the awful crippled rooms and chronic corridors resulting. Oh for a ball and chain to demolish and start again. Staff were down-trodden youth, some of them stroppy and inclined to violence with the furniture. In the dining room, one didn’t like to get on the wrong side of the manageress. With the Express and Mail-reading guests she gossiped in corridors. What about? This hotel was £180 a night each, including dinner which was good. Parts were refurbished – but not the whole. So you veered from swirly carpet and caramel moquette to ice-blue with clattery bare wood floor, no pictures and bare bulb lightning. Our rooms were the latter – perfectly nice but not cosy.

Sunday we drove along the Helford River, a secretive wooded ravine, close and tight – no wonder so many stories of pirates and smugglers. Frenchman’s Creek actually exists. There are other creeks. Of course Menabilly – the Rashleighs have got it back now from Daphne du Maurier. I, Adrian Edge, was at Prep with the Rashleigh in question and his sister is married to one of our lawyers. As always connected.

But our object was the Lizard and a church where the sister of one who became wife to an Edge ancestor was married to the Vicar. A descendent of that Vicar is an old friend of the Gay Mother’s. So it is arranged. We emerged from the wooded fastness of the Helford River into the wild hysterical barrenness of the Lizard peninsular. Oh the horrid rokes blak at England’s most southernly point. The Gay Mother insisted on walking along the coastal path quite a way. Some kind of mesambyanthemum is becoming invasive there. The native one has yellow flowers but an intruder from abroad has occurred with pink flowers.

Then we rooted out the church at Grade where the sister married to the Vicar had been. It’s one of those churches all on its own, tiny little bastion of Faith in a wild place. Powerful from the outside, we worked out that the Vicar in question must have been the one who ruined the church inside – awful pine beams in the restored roof of 1870 approx. After 30 years on the Lizard the Vicar and the sister went to Stanmore where they were witnesses to the scandalous marriage of the sister’s niece, an Edge ancestor.

Earlier in the day, we’d visited Glendurvan. It’s a famous Cornish garden, rather similar to Collaton Fishacre although not in Devon – a vale going down to water. Glendurvan was the Fox family. Of course the Gay Mother knew some of their outer branches, also gardening, with many gardens in fact. At Glendurvan, my interest in conifers took deeper root. There was another  swamp cypress there. Also eucryphia I long for, one of the greatest of the flowering trees, flowering in August. Harry Rollo’s mother has one. They are rarely seen.

But where was Goonhilly? It was on stamps when I was at Prep. I’m sure I had the 1st Day Cover. Goonhilly was somewhere nearby, north of the Lizard according to the map. We had to find it. It’s two white spheres, one bigger than the other, possibly making nuclear power or beaming to outer space – a satellite – or perhaps both. It was massively famous in the 60s. How I craved Goonhilly. All through Glendurvan and lunch there (I left the coleslaw) and the Helford River and the Lizard and Grade church, it was Goonhilly that throbbed below. I described Goonhilly to the Gay Mother. ‘That’s not Goonhilly; that’s Dounreay,’ she said. ‘Where’s Dounreay? Can we go there?’ ‘Northernmost Scotland,’ she said. Still, Goonhilly was not diminished for me. Would not all roads lead to it? Well, one did. At last we were in view of Goonhilly – see graph below.

Our Hotel in 1925

Our Hotel in 2014

Our Hotel in Its Loveliness

The Icy Refurb of the Hotel

My Refurb Room in the Hotel

A Corridor in the Hotel:Pre-Refurb

The Horrid Rokkes Blak at the Lizard, England’s Most Southernly Point

Helford River – Very Secret

At Last! Goonhilly

Posted Monday, October 20, 2014 under Adrian Edge day by day.

2 comments

  1. Laura Malcolm says:

    I’m surprised at your eccentric choice of hotel. One click on the bleak photos would surely have revealed its unsuitability for the founding PLRG and his Gay Mother.

  2. Adrian Edge says:

    Yes, but I hadn’t taken the photos until I got there! The Gay Mother’s old friend, whose ancestor’s sister married one of the Edges, had stayed in it recently. At least the dinners were good – and the afternoon tea. The trouble is in Cornwall there’s nothing between this UKIP hotel and the fearful arse and horror (and expense) of the designer hotels clustered at St Mawes.

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