Wednesday, 11 May 2011

St Ives memories

I've recently found my way to Carolyn Saxby's blog, Love Stitching Red. Carolyn lives in St Ives in Cornwall and reading her posts has made me feel terribly nostalgic for the place. My mum and I went on at least three holidays in St Ives, in the Eighties, when I was in my early twenties. I was still in the habit of holidaying with my mum then and we used to absolutely love St Ives. We alternated between Cornwall and St Davids in West Wales for a while -- St Davids is also a marvellous place -- but my heart will always belong to St Ives.
All the photos in this post are scanned from printed photos I took at the time -- most of them rather scuffed now, I'm afraid.
     We arrived by train, catching the branch line service from St Erth which runs along right next to the sea. It was stunning. But I seem to remember that the first time we went to St Ives, it was pouring down as we stepped off the train and we stood in the station car park wondering whether we'd done the right thing to come all this way to the far toe-end of the country. If I remember rightly, we were staying at the Chy Carne hotel which doesn't seem to be there any more. Another time we stayed at the much larger Tregenna Castle Hotel, which was supposed to be a treat but which was rather gloomy, and the third time we rented a grim 1960s house above the wonderful Barnoon cemetery.
What I haven't yet mentioned is that we used to come for Christmas, leaving my dad at home because he hated Christmas and hated holidays. We had almost always gone on holiday without him so it didn't seem strange and having Christmas away from home seemed exotic and quite indulgent, even in a damp rented house or a somewhat unglamorous hotel. It was so warm and mild in Cornwall in December that we felt as though we'd gone abroad.
I think this is the Seamen's mission and I always assumed the old chap was a seaman
We fell completely in love with the place. It's nearly three decades since I first went there and I can't remember every detail -- for example I can hardly remember eating any meals there -- but some things are stronger than memories: when I think about them, it's as if I'm actually there. We walked the streets endlessly, up, back and Downalong. We evolved catchphrases which amused us enormously, to do with the 'Digey' and Pedn-Olva, a hotel right down by the sea's edge which we fancied much more than the one we were in. We marched along the coastal path, past Eagle's Nest, the house where the artist Patrick Heron lived. We went in every single gallery -- and there were dozens -- buying nothing more than postcards and discovering Alfred Wallis, Bryan Pearce, Roy Ray, Tony O'Malley, Terry Frost. We used to fantasise about having a studio in one of the fishing lofts on Porthmeor Beach.
Basically we would just rake around the town all day long, not really doing anything but completely happy. We didn't buy very much, didn't eat very elaborately, we just tried to get under the skin of the place as much as we could. And now I have an enduring love of the place. If I ever imagine running away, it's always to St Ives -- probably shouldn't reveal that!
I don't suppose the seal that lived in the harbour is still there -- did they say he only had one eye?

4 comments:

Joanna said...

Happy memories, Jane, and wonderful photographs. Those old photos have such a lovely tone to them.

I love Carolyn's beautiful blog too!

Joanna said...

I thought I'd commented on this post - I'm sure I did, maybe it was when Blogger was going crazy. Anyway, I love the tone of these photos, they have such a retro, happy childish memories feel to them. The colours are superb and I love the composition of the first one.

Kitsch and Curious Elsie said...

How nice and quirky that your memories of such a 'summer holiday' place are all from Christmas. Must be so different from the usual crowded tourist experience.

Although we used to have family holidays in Cornwall when I was young, I don't think we ever went to St Ives. I went to see the Tate there about 10 years ago, maybe, and that's the only time I've been.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful photos,thanks for putting them up. The old man in picture 4 is standing to the side of the Harbourmaster's Office, you can see the front of it in picture 2. My Grandad spent a lot of time here....me too!