Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sennen Cove

One of the places we visited during our Cornwall trip in June was a tiny village called Sennen Cove, tucked into a rocky concavity on the coast of Southwest Britain. When we were there it was overcast and breezy, though we were in shorts and long-sleeve shirts, and we scuffed along the cool sand and wondered about sunburn through the clouds.

Today's weather report (I love the Internet) for Sennen Cove is 70 degrees, mostly cloudy, a gentle onshore breeze. And when I do an image search I find beautiful shots of turquoise water, corkscrew narrow roads, rocks at low tide. Postcard stuff.

But Sennen cove is also the handwritten "Open" sign on an empty snack stand, staffed by solicitous matronly types who cluck happily at American tourists who haven't yet had a cream tea. The tables are faded plastic, and you go up four steps to the restroom, past a mural of a larger-than-life mermaid.

Or the ancient tavern you have to duck your head to enter, warm and cheery on a cool day, with uneven tables and a surprisingly large menu of sandwiches and good beer.

Or the old man, striding along the beach in galoshes as if he could walk over or through anything, led by a bounding dog that leaps over the rocks as if he were a mountain goat. Sure enough, you blink and in what seems like seconds both man and dog have scaled a small cliff and are cruising through a slope of gorse twenty-five feet above the beach.

Or the surf shop with a whiteboard listing water conditions. Or the complicated bus schedule. Or the round souvenir shop, still full of chest-height spokes. Or the surprising taste of cold Coke on a cold day. Or clutching a paper bag of postcards or maps or books or vases, the brown paper wrinkled and folded and now beginning to tear through at the corners. Or the bright purple seats on the bus, where you huddle below because going up to the open "upstairs" would be unpleasantly cold and rainy.

On and on. Even a few hours can result in such a rich bouillabaisse of images, smells, and sounds, that if you're in the right frame of mind, or the right place, they come flooding back almost unbidden.

There is so much to tell.


missalister said...

My big treat has been going street level on Google, tracing my old routes to work, to downtown Dallas, to the vet, to the Granada Theater...sighing, wondering what in the devil I’m doing up north. Can you believe your Sennen Cove treat rivaled that? Yes, and especially the magic galoshes paragraph, because that’s how I feel in galoshes.

Peter S said...

Without you saying it, I have built up more of an image of the beach--the color of the wet stones, the clumps of seaweed, the hush-swish of receding foam on foot-massaging pebbles. Good writing provides a structure on which readers can build what's already in their heads. Good job!

S R Wood said...

Thanks guys! When we were in Sennen Cove it seemed -- and this is embarrassing -- like any other quaint, postcard-perfect little town. But now, with some distance, I can remember it as truly magical.

Missalister: Yes, Google maps is really something, isn't it? Great for nostalgic trips.

David said...

Sennen Cove is my favourite place on the planet - St. Lucia runs it a close second! I have been going there since 1969 and it never loses its magic, albeit rain anywhere is a pain. It has a sunset to rival Key West and a beach that is unrivalled in the UK.
Loved your description.