Heading East along the North Cornish coastline,Alfie traversed on foot ,the footpath from Porth beach to his future destination,Bude.By his own ambitious standards,it was a walk not for the faint hearted,but for the hardy outdoor type.He gathered his kit,his Heinz 57 dog,Tricksy,and sallied forth.Weather conditions for that Sunday morning were far from ideal,and his kit ,carried on his back,might have seemed excessive.As Alfie had incorporated meticulous planning in this mini expedition,he knew that it would involve a couple of nights in a tent.Although this coastline had been his childhood friend,he knew that returning to it after decades of estrangement from it would mean challenges.
So, with kit ,duly packed,ordinance survey maps at the ready,he set off.Oh how he wished for a tail wind,but no such luck for him today.Not many people ventured out on the coast path in November,no,not many at all.As Alfie was a solitary chap to be honest,and with Tricksy to talk to,he didn’t let that deter him,and quite besides,the vistas to Watergate bay were just stupendous.His cadence was bold,almost carefree,as his strides mimicked a younger man and his progress in the initial hours walking reaped tangible results.Watergate bay was greeted with the same awe as he had always found it as a child,with the overview from the West drawing his eyes around the panoramic idyll and ,like a magnet forcing him to look East towards the gateway to the North coast and the treasures that awaited.His walking kept his mind concentrated,with all the preparations being a positive companion to his progress.As Watergate bay became a memory from his morning,and the early morning surfers receding into the mists of time,he walked on to his next destination,the village of Mawgan Porth.
Mawgan Porth nestled in the North coast ,cradling a beautiful lush golden sandy beach.As a child,it would be the place that his sisters,brother and extended family would make their haunt on a Sunday afternoon,come rain or shine.This term that the Cornish would utter ;”Wanna go Beach boy”,punctuated is thought lines as he traversed some extremely Hilly terrain to reach Mawgan Porth.Those Sunday afternoon gatherings,those pre-seat belt times,with packed Ford Anglia with children squeezed into every space ,why,it was like as if he was transported there all over again.Now,to give this a little co text,those Sunday beach excursions took place in the pre 1966 period of his life.As he was the youngest,he remembers playing sand castles on the beach,but although he had so many family members,he remembers Shiela as being his gauardian as such even then.She would make sure that he was safe,she would ask if he could hear the sound of the sea in a shell that she had found on the foreshore,even though,although he might had been only 5 or so,he knew that the sound came from the actual sea of the Atlantic coast,but he didn’t want to disabuse her,he didn’t want to spoil her story.
Having reached the Summit of that area of the coastline where Mawgan Porth was in view,he felt his gait grow tense.He didn’t quite understand why.Perhaps the initial excitement of the memory of that over ladened Ford Anglia then gave way to the reality of the suffocating cigarette smoke of the interior,that sheer lack of space,that atmosphere,that sense of reality .That he could be walking in some of the most beautiful scenery that he had ever witnessed,but still feel a deep dread,a profound tradegy for the future.All his wants to dwell at Mawgan Porth were,in that time,smashed by an overwhelming need to get away,and instead of remaining on the coast path,Alfie took a detour,a detour to survive to past,that darkness.
He took decisive action,heading towards St Coloumb Major,then he would later head towards St Mirren,rejoining the coastline at Constantine bay.He hadn’t regretted bombing from Mawgan Porth,he knew himself now,he knew that as a 65 year man,he knew enough about the past not to let it define him.Yes,his goal of walking along the Atlantic coast path from Porth to Bude had taken him along a detour ,but he was happy with the strength that he showed to know himself,to know his limitations,and to not let the past spoil his life.
As he walked on towards the town of St Columb,where that great saint had traversed in antiquity,memories of music performances in that town as a younger man lifted Alfie,made him alive in the sounds.As he knew that it would be a stay at one of the local pubs for the night,he realised that another change of plan was in order,but Alfie knew enough about me,oriels,and he had coping mechanisms in check,and he knew that a warm bed in a simple Cornish Inn would serve him well,very well.
He arrived at the Queen and Railway in the later part of the afternoon,having taken a slight detour to soak up the local Cornish Hamlets along the way.Yes,a few sporadic houses had changed the landscape but not dramatically altered it,and Trevarren still charmed him with its Cornish rustic walls,and the Delabole slate roofs,the envy of many a home owner.That,in itself,bought back good memories,and with it,Alfie started to replenish his mind with the extolling value of the good that was his early life in Cornwall,as that would be where the roots of co tinted life would be,and where he would take things forward in the twilight part of his life.
He hadn’t factored in wether the pub would oblige a rather odd looking man with his mute,but Tricksy was cute,very cute,and he still had that gift of the gab that he had learnt from Shiela,his sister ,who ,as a teenager,told him stories,and taught him to listen to sounds,to love watching dancing,and to always look on the bright side of life.
With that memory he entered the Queen and Railway enquired as to the possibility of a room for the night,with cute mute,and lied about the “well behaved dog bit”,but let’s face it,who,in their right mind,would ever admit to having a “badly behaved dog”.Alfie settled down in the public bar with Alfie at his side,ready to field the inevitable questions from the locals.He knew that to Cornish people inforamation-no matter how incredulity us,was their currency-so he provided it,or what they thought was what they wanted.He also knew that it was early,and if he could field the inquiries that meant they were sizing you up as to who you had known,where you are now,,but,but,but!!!!What your doing here now,then he would be up on the deal.He settled on his old adage;”Im a bad penny from Cornish,and you know that would turn up in the end”.Yes,he felt that he could still get by with the locals,he knew their ways,and maybe,they thought that they knew his.Just as long as they were happy,then all would be fine.
As Wendy the local Cornish folk singer rendered up “Trelawny”,he seized his chance to accompany her on the beast of the pub’s old “Joanna”,and they were more than impressed that I knew the song from memory,and all the words.I was sort of home,but not really,as I had moved away to further my love and obsession for music decades ago.Yes,I was Alfie Craddock,from Queens,but not really ther’s just pretending.Maybe I belonged to the whole of human kind.My knowledge of the Cornish Folk songbook impressed them,and they though that I was a wayward son come back to live among the “Tribube ale,the Cornish Pasty,but I was more Padstein than Rick Stein himself really,but I had to play my cards close to my chest.
Well,after having a number of pints bought for me,and wishing that it could have been Prosecco,I retired with tricksy to my in bed,with music in my heart and a rye smile .
Alfie will write again tomorrow about his Cornish return 30 years after he left.