February 14, 2004

To My Valentine


I wondered aimlessly around Wadebridge this morning, looking for something for Rachel for Valentine’s Day. It was hard to two reasons. First, there isn’t that much to buy in Wadebridge. And second, I wasn’t feeling particularly romantic. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was wrong. I poked my head into shop after shop, but there was nothing that made me want to stop and touch the merchandise, never mind actually buy anything. Part of what was wrong I suspect is that I’ve never been a big Valentine’s Day person. It’s always seemed like a Hallmark holiday, schmaltzy cards that you’re supposed to give, along with the obligatory chocolates or other candy.

I finally gave up on the merchandise front and decided to look for a card. There were plenty of sappy red and violet cards with canned sayings that felt no more imaginative than buying a can of Spam. I stopped in to a couple of artsy stores, looking for something, anything, interesting. No luck. In desperation I dropped in to Bricknell’s Stationery Store and found a card with a nice photo of Port Isaac. “Well” I thought, “if nothing else we’ve been there.”

I continued wandering up Molesworthy street, hoping against hope that something would catch my eye. Finally near the top of the street I stopped in at a small book store. I spun the card rack dispiritedly, and picked up a few cards. “Hmmm, quite nice actually ” I thought to myself.

And then I stopped. Because right in front of me was the perfect card. On it was a photo of St. Enodoc Church, the church in which we were married.

St. Enodoc Church sits at the foot of Daymer Bay, in the middle of a golf course, and was once buried in sand in the 17th or 18th century. Depending on what version of the story you believe, it was either buried completely and re-found a hundred years later by someone riding a donkey that kicked the tip of the steeple, or it was buried to the middle of the steeple and for a hundred years the local priest had to drop down with a rope in order say a yearly Mass to keep the church consecrated. Either way, it’s a lovely story, and a lovelier old church with bits from the 9th century, and a courtyard that contains the remains of local families such as the Mabyns, shipwrecked seafarers, the well known English poet John Betjeman, and even Rachel’s grandmother and grandfather Belle and Tom Gaunt.

As I looked at the photo on the card I was struck again by how beautiful this area is. And I thought about Rachel, and how she walked across the golf course on that Saturday morning, with rain clouds threatening overhead, in her wedding dress and green wellies. How beautiful she looked coming down the aisle. How many of our friends came from all over England, the States, and as far away as India to wish us well on that day. And how lucky we are to be together and to have two such lovely boys as Nathaniel and Sebastian.

I put my hand in my pocket, pulled out 1 pound 85, paid the woman behind the counter, and walked up the street whistling at my good fortune. And as I reached the top of the street I looked back and smiled and whispered quietly “Thank you Rachel. Thanks for being my always Valentine.”

Posted by: Frank @ 6:49 pm — Filed under: Comments (0)

February 2, 2004

Settling In To Cornwall

I walked out the door this evening at 11:45, and looked up at the sky. There was a high cloud cover, so no stars were visible, but the sense of peace and quiet, and calmness, was palpable. And as I walked our babysitter Marjorie to the car, I thought about how lucky we are to be here.

We have been here since mid-September, and unlike our life in Sausalito, where we had dinner with friends at least two nights a week, we have been invited to dinner exactly twice, and tonight was the second time. It has taken a very long time to meet people and be accepted into even a small part of the community. Part of that is because Nathaniel, our four year old, was only going to school from 1:00 to 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon up until December (he’s now going from 9:00 until 1:00), and so we hadn’t met many other parents.

I say thank gawd he’s in school, because without him as an entree, there really are no other ways to meet people here. None. Because as we’ve learned from going to the doctor’s office in Rock (down the road from where we live), the year round locals tend to be older. Much older. And so we’ve hunkered down, doing the best we can, eating at home every night because it’s either too expensive, or not good enough at the local restaurants to do otherwise.

But tonight we had a night out – dinner at Meredith and Jo’s. He’s a Londoner trying on what it feels like to go Cornwall-native, and she’s an outgoing lass with a quick wit from Belfast who left Ireland at 18 and never looked back. We weren’t sure what time to be there, so after picking up Marjorie at 7:15, I called just in case. And a good thing too, because Jo said “why don’t you come around 8:15.” “Great” I replied. And after I hung up I looked at Rachel and said “Oops".

We were both a little shell-shocked. 45 minutes by ourselves? We weren’t sure what to do. So we decided to go in to Rock and have a beer at the Mariner’s pub, where Rachel used to go as a teenager. It was the first time we’ve been out in so long that we couldn’t remember the last time we were out by ourselves; sad really, isn’t it? I ordered a half-pint of Guiness, and Rachel ordered a mineral water, and she reminisced about coming here as a comely 13 year old, being chatted up by much older guys, sitting on the wall overlooking the harbor, sipping illicit beers, and enjoying the hormones and warm breezes that create those unforgettable memories of summers while coming of age. And as I listened to her stories I was struck by how similar her summer memories are of my memories of spending summers as a boy on Cape Cod (but that will have to wait for a future entry).

When we got to Meredith and Jo’s house, the other couples were already there, and we wondered if maybe no one else had thought to call, because it looked like they were all settled in and working on their second glass of wine. There were two other couples there, Hamish and Nicky, and Mark and Amanda. But the surprise of the night was that the only other time we have been invited to dinner, at Alex and Nicky’s house, Mark and Amanda had been there as well. I thought to myself, either this is an even smaller community than we’d thought, or Mark and Amanda are really great company (after the evening, I would have to say that both things are true).

But back to the night air. After a raucous dinner, good conversation, homemade ice-cream, great coffee, and a comfortable seat around the fireplace, I looked at my watch and realized that 11:35 was very close to the witching hour, and as Marjorie comes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, and tomorrow was Friday, she would probably appreciate getting to bed before midnight. So we bussed cheeks, took our leave, and headed home, the only ones on the road.

And as I walked in the night air, I thought again about why we are here, and whether this is some place we might want to be long term. And while I didn’t come to any conclusions, I could honestly say that I was as satisfied as I have been in a very long time.

Posted by: Frank @ 1:23 am — Filed under: Comments (3)