Authors: Tessa Hainsworth
Tags: #Biography, #Cornwall, #Humour, #Non-Fiction, #Personal Memoirs, #Travel
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Epub ISBN 9781409051473
Published by Preface Publishing 2010
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Copyright © Tessa Hainsworth 2010
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Still Giddy on Cornwall’s champagne air . . .
To Richard, Tom and Georgie – I count my
Thank you to all my family and friends.
Special thanks to Karen Hayes and Jane Turnbull.
To Uther, Tom, Marley,
and their parents, uncles and aunts,
with love as always.
Up With the Larks
The beach is empty; only I and Jake, my liver and white spaniel, are making footprints in the pure white sand. It’s early spring, just after sunrise, and the sky is the colour of apricots on the horizon. The sea is perfectly still; the tide is nearly full out and the rock pools and formations that disappear when the tide is in have appeared again. I love the way the coves and beaches transform themselves unrecognisably with each tidal event: stones, rocks and tiny inlets come and go, creating a seascape that seems magically elusive.
I stand watching the sea change from a deep indigo to emerald and back to blue, as the sun begins to lighten the day. Tiny waves sparkle like dewdrops and up above me high white clouds are turning amber and gold.
Jake runs along the pristine sand, chasing the delicate waves lapping at my feet. Seagulls soar, greeting the morning with their joyful cries. The smell of salt, the birdsong, the primeval thrumming of the ocean makes me feel at one with the sky and earth.
Every morning now I can do this, tumble out of bed and take an early morning walk with Jake, long before anyone else is awake. The beach is near our house in Cornwall, so near that although I’m a postwoman and have to be at work early, I still have this time to myself to start the day.
I stop walking, take deep breaths. Everything seems to be waking up on this spring morning; even the sea is swelling with promise. On my way here all my senses were buzzing with nature waking up: the scent of rich earth; the singing of robins, blackbirds, skylarks, thrushes; the richness of colour in the dazzling yellow of the wild daffodils and the rich creaminess of the lush magnolia.
The smell of the sea is heady at this hour of the morning and almost intoxicating. Out of sheer exuberance I ruffle Jake’s damp fur then begin to run along the shore, the dog racing alongside me, delighted with our game of tag.
I don’t stop until I’m at the rock pool at the edge of the beach. It’s half hidden by a massive outcrop and behind this and the pool is my secret spot, the place where I find cowrie shells. I love these tiny pinkish shells, no bigger than my little fingernail. They’re lucky shells, the Cornish equivalent to the Irish four-leaf clover. Crouching down and sifting my fingers through the wet sand, I know that today, this incredibly beautiful day, I’ll find one, and within minutes, I do. Not just one but two cowrie shells, pearly and perfect. It’s an omen, I think. Today I’m beginning work on my allotment, starting for the first time to grow vegetables to feed my family, taking the first step towards self-sufficiency. Finding the lucky shells is a fortuitous start to the venture.
Clutching my shells I retrace my steps, watching the light strengthen, making the sea glow. I’m still not used to it, still can’t believe I’m here, even though it’s my second year of delivering the post in Cornwall. Sometimes I look around for the
person I was not so long ago, the high-flying career woman, and I wonder how this barefoot postie making footprints in the untouched white sand, made such a metamorphosis. However it happened, I’m grateful for it.
I take one more look at the sea, inhale another deep breath of the ozone and listen for a few moments more to the evocative cries of the herring gulls as they skim the water looking for fish. Then I call Jake and head for home – to my family, to work, and to the start of another magical Cornish day.
The day is idyllic, perfect for what I plan to do. The March winds at the beginning of the month have died down, as have the squally showers of the last few days. The sun, as I leave the house, is beaming as brightly as I am as I skip down the lane; it’s like summer even though spring only officially begins today. I cross the short distance to the other side of the village, grinning and nodding at the occasional person – or dog or cat or bird – that I pass. What a day to start a garden!
I’ve never grown vegetables before. We hadn’t the land in London, nor the time. I was trying to combine a managerial position with The Body Shop along with giving quality time to Ben, my husband, and our two children, Will and Amy aged eight and six. It didn’t leave much free time for things like growing your own food.
Here in Cornwall, where we’ve lived for over a year now, I still don’t have any land for a vegetable garden, which is why I’m on my way to the other side of the village. There I’ve not
only got an allotment, but a place to keep my six hens. We did keep the chickens in our back garden, but it was really not the right place for them, being much too near the house and attracting vermin of all kinds. The hens, and our allotment are now situated on land belonging to Edna and Hector Humphrey, a couple in their nineties. They both seem remarkably spry and fit despite being rather skinny and slight. The Humphreys have let me use some of their acreage in return for eggs and produce from the allotment, which is enormously kind of them. They live in a wonderfully massive house surrounded by what was once a beautiful garden now gone to rack and ruin. I’m using a plot between their front garden and an ancient apple orchard, a walled area less ramshackle than the rest of their land.
My hens are delighted with the move, made only a few weeks ago. Instead of a basic run they can now grub about in most of the overgrown orchard, which we’ve partitioned off with chicken wire. I have a fabulous hen house for them on a tall stump, three feet off the ground so that no hungry predators can get at them. There is a plank leading up to it, rather like a bridge over a moat, a pitched roof with corrugated iron and a portcullis-type door. Inside are two sweet nesting boxes each with its own little roof.
‘Oh happy hens!’ I cried as I watched them coming out of their new house that first morning. They clucked and clacked back at me, agreeing I’m sure. They are quite used to my chatting to them and always answer back politely.
Now that the mornings are lighter I can let them out of the hen house and feed them on my way to work as a postwoman. Edna and Hector insist on shutting them up in the evenings, saying it will put a spring in their steps, having chickens around the place again.