We’ve been travelling around England for a bit lately, still waiting for a decent spell of sunshine, but there are compensations. We’ve met some interesting, by which I mean odd, people, some fab cars, a lot of dogs, even some llamas and overheard some very odd comments.
G asked me the other day if I preferred Devon or Cornwall. We were in Totnes, which we both love, at the time. I said I prefer Cornish seaside but inland Devon is prettier, but it's not an easy question, is it?
We were in Cornwall, wandering around Truro and stopped to look at a stall selling fish on the farmers’ market. Well, the stall wasn't selling fish, some people were but you know what I mean! Anyway, there were two women talking and I couldn't help overhearing. G said I was standing on the same paving slab as the women, but I wasn't, I was at least three feet away!
One woman said, ‘are those fish for eating or just for decoration?’ I peeped over her shoulder to see what she was looking at and it was just a basket of fish. They were brightly coloured fish, but it said ‘for fish stew’ on the sign next to it.
‘I don't think I could eat them, could you?’
Ooh, the strange woman was talking again.
‘Oh, I could,’ her friend said, ‘as long as I didn't look at what I was eating.’
‘Yes, but, no but,’ (yes, she really did say that) I think it's a shame they pick on those pretty fish. Why can't fishermen catch some, you know, uglier fish and leave the nice ones swimming in the sea?’
‘They should put them back in the water,’ her friend agreed. ‘I won't be buying any more fish from here.’
‘Nor me and I really like fish even though it's very cruel to take them out of the water, away from their families and let them die like they do. We should go to Marks and Sparks and get a ready meal. Their fish pie is lovely.’
‘Yes and none of that faffing about. Come on,Hazel, let's go.’
Off they went, still chuntering about fish. G was talking to the fisherman about living in a desert for some reason.
‘How can he find fish in a desert?’ I asked when we were walking away.
‘He’s had an interesting life,’ G said. ‘He’s a fisherman who spent twenty odd years living in the middle of nowhere in a desert, meditating.’
‘Oh. He looks like an old hippie.’
G nodded. ‘Could have been me, if I’d hung on to my long hair. Except for the fishing.’
‘Because fishing is cruel,’ we said, together, laughing.
We stayed in a B and B recently where there were llamas. Not in the room, in a field. We asked the man if we could feed them and he took us to see the llamas. They were a lot bigger than I thought and very frisky. One in particular. The man said they wouldn't come to be stroked as they didn't really like strangers, but just after he said it the frisky one came straight up to G to say hello.
This is very annoying. We see people who say things like ‘don't mind the cat, dog, or whatever, he’s very shy,’ and straight away the cat, dog or whatever goes up to G and hops on his knee. Why not me? Anyway, I can now add llamas to the list of animals who seem to think G is their best mate.
I finally got to stroke the llamas but had to hide behind G as the frisky Llama kept trying to head butt me. The man said, ‘he’s just playing,’ but I didn't want to play ‘let's play knocking people over and laughing at them sitting in the mud on their bum.’ When I got a bit braver I stroked the llama which G was distracting and it was lovely, like stroking a very thick bundle of wool.
Our room in the B and B was very, very twee. I loved the animals made out of llama wool and the knitted toilet roll cover so much G had to tell me off. I made allowances for his grumpiness as the llama had trodden on his foot and he claimed to be in agony.
To be fair, he has an ingrowing toe nail which turns at right angles and has grown at least ten inches into the side of his toe. May not be quite ten inches, but it is pretty gruesome. Has grew some more while I have been writing this! Yes, old joke but still made me giggle Anyway, it is still playing up and not helped by a llama treading on it.
He has a hospital appointment to have it yanked out whilst he is held down by 6 men without anaesthetic, due to cutbacks in the NHS. Also, they do not provide bandages anymore and Boots will only sell them if you are registered on their DNA database, give a blood sample and register your iris print which we haven’t done. As have no bandages, have saved some old underpants with an enlarged gusset. Will of course wash them. If I remember. It's only one toe.
Over to G to say something sensible about Cornwall and Devon.
Cornwall, or Kernow, is one of the seven historic Celtic Nations – the other six being Alba (Scotland), Eire (Ireland), Breizh (Brittany), Mann (Isle of Mann) Cymru (Wales) and Gallaeciea (Galicia, in Spain). We've been to all of them and if there are traits/characteristics in common I didn't notice any. Bloodymindedness, perhaps? Whatever, they're all worth a visit, or revisit.
Just now we're in Cornwall. The weather is typically ‘Cornish’: rain, wind, sunshine, sometimes a fair mix of all on the same day. The influx of visitors is well under way. People love to come and stay here, about five million of them every year, mainly drawn by the beaches.
The coastline of Cornwall is massive, extending 433 miles in all, so it's not really surprising there's the odd decent beach dotted about. We've travelled a lot and the beaches of Cornwall compare favourably with just about anywhere.
Last week we were in Devon. We like Devon very much. Less rugged than Cornwall and some would say prettier, certainly there's any amount of chocolate box cottages scattered about.
Like many neighbours, they don't really get on very well, Devon and Cornwall. Perhaps speaking a different language is part of it. Every time we come to Cornwall we take a stab at the road signs. Like Welsh, Gaelic and Irishroad signs, they're not easy. The Cornish language, Kernowek is apparently undergoing a bit of a revival and at the last count 557 people listed it as their main language. Very precise number, 557.
We met a couple of them the other day. Our conversation was pretty short as they both insisted on conversing solely in Cornish, very frustrating for Marigold! Nice people and only messing about, but even so…
When they got tired of annoying us, we switched to ‘English,’ their second language and learnt a lot about the Cornish language which they take really, really seriously.
“Fatla gena whye?” means “How are you? and “Me na vadna cowz a Sowznack!” means “I will not speak English!” Disclaimer: I’m trusting my ‘interpreter’ for the spellings which I wrote down when prompted. If they turn out to be swear words, I apologise, but unless you speak Cornish...
We bought, ate on a bench and throughly enjoyed a pasty. Award winning pasty, obviously. Just try and buy one that isn't ‘award winning,’ it's impossible. Same goes for Cornish ice cream.The Cornish Pasty is worth £150 million pounds a year to the Cornish economy and holidaymakers eat more than five million of them - or 13,500 a day, according to the local paper.
Cornish folk are also proud of the Stargazy Pie, made from pilchards eggs and potatoes in a pastry crust.....with the fish heads poking out and apparently gazing skyward.
It originated in the village of Mousehole and is traditionally eaten during the festival of Tom Bawcock's Eve to celebrate his heroic catch during a very stormy winter when the village was at starvation point. Not sure about this, but three people in Mousehole (lovely place, Mousehole, pronounced Mowzoll) told us the same story so must be true.
They make pasties in Devon too. Very good they are as well, but they can't call them Cornish Pasties as they're not made in Cornwall and in 2011 the traditional Cornish pasty was given ‘Protected Geographical Indication’ status by the EU.. Very strict rules.
Same goes for clotted cream. Lots of green fields, lots of cows, so lots of cream. Clotted cream is a smooth, thick cream traditionally made in both Devon and Cornwall by heating unpasteurised cow’s milk that is left in a shallow pan for many hours causing the cream to rise to the surface and ‘clot’. Once again, Cornish clotted cream has been awarded ‘Protected Designation of Origin’ status by the EU, in the same way that champagne and Parma ham are kept ‘special.’ You aren't allowed to produce sparkling wine and call it Champagne unless it's produced in a very specific area of France. Same with Cornish pasties and Cornish clotted cream. Most of the world’s clotted cream comes from Cornwall, the biggest producer being Roddas'who have been making and selling clotted cream on their farm for over 120 years.
Clotted cream is part of an essential ingredient of an English holiday in the West Country: the cream tea. We do love a cream tea and have enjoyed them in both Devon and Cornwall, and also further afield as well. A scone, a blob of clotted cream and a spoonful of jam – how complicated could that be? Well, it depends.
In Devon, cream teas are served with jam on top of the clotted cream, whilst in Cornwall the cream goes on top. They get quite agitated about this.
Typically, Marigold will adopt the Devonian system while I invariably follow the Cornish model. Does it make any difference? Well, my contention is that placing the clotted cream on top of the jam makes it more secure as the adhesive properties of strawberry jam are considerable. Marigold does not concern herself with scientific theory and piles the jam on top of the cream. This means one of us will offend the delicate sensibilities of the locals wherever we are.
Both counties are famed for their fishing. We ‘almost’ bought a house in Brixham a couple of years ago where Mitch Tonks has a wonderful restaurant on the quay and another in Dartmouth where we recently ate the best fish and chips either of us had ever tasted. Cornwall is best known for the Rick Stein empire which has now spread out from Padstow and we’ve dined in a ‘Stein’ in both Newquay and Falmouth. Both counties will tell you their fish is the best.
So, that's fish, pasties, cream teas, what else is there to prompt rivalry? Well, there's ice cream, fudge, beer, cider, wine, honey and cheese for starters. We've tried them all, in both Devon and Cornwall. Which is best? Who knows. Who cares? They're all wonderful.