Thursday, 27 August 2009

44: The demise of farming, Granny Pengelly beating me at whist and seeing moryonenns

Issue 44, winter 2005

When people talk to me about community as in community ventures or community initiatives, I always wonder what communities they are really referring to.

When I was younger, and that was not that so long ago (well, maybe), I lived in a farming community.

When I say community, I mean just that. In our ‘block’ there were four farms and three cottages. All belonged to the same estate and all those properties were lived in by Cornish farmers or farm workers.

Everyone knew each other and liked each other, or at least tried to like each other; you know what Cornish farmers can be like.

All year round, especially at harvest time and Christmas, all the farmers and their workers helped each other out and there was a real feeling of camaraderie among us.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

43: Getting a clip round the ear for spying on God

Issue 43, autumn 2005

Someone called me at the Cornish World office the other day to complain.

We get a few phone calls like that here, not many, but a few.

Most are from very observational people who pick out the smallest irregularities.

Like when Cornish World had a picture of a wave breaking over a pier with a caption saying Storms at Looe when it was really Padstow. A lot of people picked up on that. Still, I don’t mind. It keeps us on our toes and at least you know people are paying attention to what you’re writing.

Anyway, this person had called in to say that she thought Cornish World was getting too Cornish and that she might not take it anymore.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

42: Why there's no cure for Cornish and getting ill in India

Issue 42, summer 2005

Whenever I venture abroad, and I don’t mean just over the Tamar to England, I always consider myself as a Cornish national and, as a consequence, an ambassador for Cornwall.

I’ve been to every continent in the world and a fair few countries on those continents.

Many of the people I have met on my travels have been courteous and hospitable. There have been times when unsavory incidents have arose but these moments you have put down to the experience of life, and you have to learn from these experiences.

Sometimes on my travels people ask me where I am from because of my accent. Occasionally, when others come across my name I am asked if I am Italian. Italian? Pengelly? Do I look or sound Italian?

When I travel, I try to set an example and respect the cultures of other people and generally keep out of trouble.

41: Cornish generosity, talking gravestones and Granny Curnow

Issue 41, spring 2005

They say that those who have the least give the most.

Well, Cornwall may not be the richest part of the world financially but its people are rich in generosity.

More than £2 million was raised by people in Cornwall to help victims of the recent tsunami disaster in Asia and the total is still rising.

Although the Cornish call themselves cousins to each other, we all are cousins in relation to humanity, so we help our cousins whatever their race or creed when in times of need.
I have lots of cousins, most of whom I don’t know or ever will know.

Each year I live I come across a few more.
The lady in St Buryan village store recently told me we were cousins, a man called Bill Curnow from Florida emailed me to say we were cousins.

The Cornish like to know who their cousins are and take a great deal of time and care in tracking them down. When newly found Cornish cousins meet, there are always lots to say and the friendships borne of these meetings never fade.
There are three places where I can go where I can find lots of cousins; Zennor Churchyard, St Buryan Churchyard and Sithney Churchyard.

Obviously these cousins are not of this mortal coil and I put my knowledge of them down to my grandmothers.
Both my grandfathers died when I was quite young and so I never really knew either of them.

My only living grandmother is now 95 and has been a widow longer than what she has been married.
Every year on special occasions, Easter, Christmas, anniversaries, birthdays and the like, I used to accompany my grandmothers to the churchyards to clean up the graves of my deceased grandfathers and other relatives.

As I got older and stronger, my grandmothers became weaker and I had to do more of the cleaning and trimming. I had so many graves to clean I tried to demand extra pocket money. I was quickly turned down and told that I should compete the task of out of love and respect otherwise no one would tend to my grave when my time came.

The reason why I knew where all my cousins lay in the graveyards, and this was the most interesting bit of these trips, is because my grandmothers would stop at certain headstones as we crossed the cemetery and tell me tales of those people laid to rest and their relation to me.

There were Nicholls, Thomases, Carlyons, Curnows the list goes on.
Two headstones that still I sometimes ponder over are a pair of short rustic granite posts in a corner by Zennor Church. They were the headstones of two cousins who died in infancy in the late 1890s.

My grandmother said the family was too poor to afford proper headstones and she could remember the names of the infants.
One afternoon, my mother, sister, gran and I was at Zennor Churchyard cleaning and putting flowers on the graves when I wondered what it would be like to converse with my dead relatives.

They would be able to tell me so much.
I thought that maybe if I really thought about what I was saying and stared at the gravestone I might hear a voice speaking back to me (look, I was young at the time).

So I walked up to a Curnow headstone and whispered: “Hello, is there anything you would like to say to me? Is there anything I should know?”

To my shock and horror a shrill voice whispered: “Yes, mummy wants you to stop wandering around and start on Auntie Rachel’s headstone.”

My young sister had been stalking me, and hidden behind the gravestone to give me one of the shocks of my life.
Have a good spring and look out for your cousins.

Nigel Pengelly, Editor
Pictured: A ghostly apparition as captured by a Cornish World reporter at Jamaica Inn.

40: On going to an AA meeting by mistake and not being a farmer anymore

Issue 40, winter 2004/2005

So here we are my friends, 40 issues and 10 years down the line.

Actually it’s a little more than ten years as Cornish World first came off the press in June 1994, and took a six month halt around four years ago when the future of the publication was in the balance.

Now Cornish World is stronger than ever.
The magazine is bigger than ever, the circulation is at its highest ever with subscribers at record levels. What started off as a 40 page publication has now swollen to the current size of 80 pages. Cornish World remains the same; presenting strong and interesting features from Cornwall about Cornwall.

I have never felt better about Cornish World or about journalism as a whole. I used to milk cows and cut turnips for a living and so it was quite a change from sitting behind a tractor steering wheel to sitting behind a computer. Father was hellish when I told him first but he understands now; farming idn’t like it used to be.
When I first gave up my wellies for writing, I worked as reporter for a local newspaper. As a new recruit to the newsroom, my job was to cover meetings; councils, Women’s Institutes, committees, anywhere where more than five people sat down for a chat.

One Christmas I was sent to cover a meeting of the Newlyn Association – an organisation concerned with the welfare of the port and its inhabitants. I was, naturally, late and so when I arrived at the Newlyn Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen I was a little flustered and dreading the thought at having to walk to the front of a meeting that had already started, perch myself on the press bench and explain my lateness.

I entered the building and not knowing where exactly to go, stumbled into the first room with an open door. There around ten men were sitting in a circle. It all seemed very informal for a meeting but, I thought, some meetings are like that. There was a smell of beer and wine in the air, but it was Christmas and people like an early drink in the season of good will.

A man came in with a file, sat in the circle and I got my notepad out ready to take down stories.

He looked at me and said: “You’re new and you’re very welcome here.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“Would you like to start?” he added.

“Yes,” I said somewhat bewildered “Hello, my name is Nigel Pengelly and I am a reporter for The Cornishman.”

“Hmm,” said the man with the file and nodded to man next to me prompting him to speak.

The man next to me, who I recognised from somewhere, looked shamefully down at his feet and said: “I’ve relapsed this week and it has not been as good as it could have been.”

I wrote down his quote word for word.

“My name is Andy and I am still an alcoholic,” he added.

I looked at my notes and it suddenly dawned. I was sitting in on a meeting of the local Alcoholics Anonymous.

I stuttered something about being in the wrong room and made to leave but the meeting organiser bid me to sit down, be brave and tell my story.

My plea that I was here to write stories took a while to get through to the group who were encouragingly supportive to my apparent shyness.

Eventually, I left the room and wished them well and found the Newlyn Association meeting, now halfway through the agenda, on the top floor.

So when setting out anywhere always make sure you know where you are going and be respectful to those you meet on the way. You never know when you’ll see them again.

Wishing you all the best for the new year and the next ten years.

Nigel Pengelly, Editor.
Pictured: Nigel Pengelly happy at the office of Cornish World.

39: Getting stinky at Dozmary and being chased by demons

Issue 39, autumn 2004

Cornish World is Cornwall’s best magazine – official.
The Gorseth at their annual Holyer An Gof awards ceremony awarded a certificate to Cornish World for its contribution to Cornish publishing, being the only magazine to win such an award.

A panel of Cornish academics stated that Cornish World brought people together from all over the world and was ‘bright, colourful, well-presented and full of information’.
So I’d like to thank the contributors, subscribers, the editorial and administrative team and the readers for making Cornish World the success it is.

The front cover shot – pretty realistic, I’d say. However, there’s a tale behind that. As we believe in keeping things authentic at Cornish World, rather than reconstruct an image of a sword in a lake with some computer trickery, we thought we’d go to Dozmary Pool on Bodmin Moor, throw a sword into the waters and see what would happen.

Well, we didn’t quite go that far but we did have a wetsuit and a pair of goggles in the car.

Dozmary Pool isn’t bottomless as legend suggests. It’s quite shallow and stinky with sludgy mud. So we went to nearby Colliford Lake and set up the cameras. It was horrible. The water was murky and foul. It was bitterly cold, sheep kept trying to get in the picture and I was scared in case something grabbed me from the depths.
I lay under the water for as long as I could waving a heavy sword around in the air. The knee-deep sludge had been stirred up and the water looked like strong black tea. It certainly didn’t taste like tea. The shoot finished when I spied two sheep at the water’s edge urinating.

Although I said I scared in case something grabbed me, I wasn’t that aprehensive as I don’t believe in lake monsters anymore. However, I’ll tell you of a time when something big from the dark did get me.

I lived on a farm about a mile and half from Helston. When I was in my early 20s, I used to walk to The Blue Anchor in Helston, have a couple of jars of Spingo and stroll home.
The best way to walk back is up Gypsy Lane and through a couple of our fields. One winter night, blowing a gale, I was stanking home to roost when I suddenly got the fear. I can’t say why, just felt very nervous all of a sudden. I’d come out of Gypsy Lane (that’s meant to be haunted by the Squire) and had just clambered over the stile into Gypsy Field. I thought I could hear someone following me. I had once had an extremely frightful experience here previously (another story, that one) and so fright was shaking me from between the legs.

I started to walk faster and, in the wind, I could unmistakably hear heavy plodding footsteps behind me. I walked faster again and I heard the footsteps get quicker and start to gain on me. I told myself not to run but it was too late, I had already started to trot and the sound of the pounding steps multiplied.

“My Christ,” I thought. “There’s a army of demons after me now. I best run for the gate.”

I was halfway across the five acre field and could see the gap where the closed gate was.

I started to sprint for the gate and the sound of footsteps started to beat on the soft turf.

The beating turning to galloping and, against all mental advice, I looked behind me to see what a headless horsemen brandishing swords looked like. All I saw was eyes and then; thump.

I hit something huge, warm, hard and wet. I went down in the muddy grass, winded, and nervously glanced up to see my pursuer. Cows. Father’s herd of Guernseys. I had been followed by the cows and run straight into one in my panic. It took a few minutes for me to calm down, and the cows had a good sniff in the meantime. I got back safetly, albeit exhausted, bruised and muddy.

So the lesson. Never look back, always look forward but always remember what field you left the cows in.

Nigel Pengelly, Editor. Pictured: Nigel Pengelly in Dozmary Pool holding a sword.

38: Electric pastyland, the magic acorn and why we Cornish like sharing

Issue 38, summer 2004

I was at Trevithick Day munching a pasty as it was well past croust time and I hadn’t eaten yet, when a man walked up to me.

“They’re selling electric pasties down Commercial Square,” he said “Uh?” I said, splattering Trelowarren Street with bits of turnip and ’tatty. “Well,” he said dryly. “I found a piece a meat in my pasty and got a shock.”
So I pondered as to what made real Cornish produce?
Is a pasty with not much meat worthy of being called a Cornish pasty?
I’m always proud to say that Cornish World is proper Cornish. Every penny we earn and spend at Cornish World we try to keep in Cornwall.
There are some who are quite happy to take things out of Cornwall but put little back in return.
There seems to be a lot of this going on as of recent. Not eating pasties, that always happens the world over, but this notion of not wanting to share anything. This is something that the Cornish are good at; sharing.
We don’t mind sharing Cornwall, those of us who live here or used to live here (contrary to those who think we want to make the Tamar two miles longer and two miles wider). It’s a great place to share and we are happy to do this with all who move down.
When people start to tell us how, when and what we should share and don’t share anything themselves, then that’s when we can get a bit teasey. I learned about sharing in a rather odd way. I hope it was a dream but I think it was true; the way it happened seemed real.
My father used to race greyhounds and whippets and on Thursday evenings in the summer, we’d have dog racing in one of our fields on the farm.
These meets attracted around 40 people and as many dogs, and were jovial affairs. I was young, around six or seven and always got bored watching packs of dogs chasing after one of father’s dirty old vests down a field on a bit of binder twine. So I would wander around the field hedges just looking at things.
One evening I was just looking at things at the bottom of a field called Jakes, when I found an oak tree with doors and windows. It was just like one of those fairy treehouses I saw in my nursery rhyme book.
I blinked as I knew it couldn’t be true, but the doors and windows remained; there were even curtains.
As I looked closer, a voice that told me he was going to give me a magic acorn but I had to share it with my sister or he would take it back.
Then at my feet was an acorn, well quite a few acorns actually. I took the biggest one as it was the one that I thought was most likely to be magic.
I raced back to show my sister but thought that would be unwise as she was too young and wouldn’t understand. I decided I would hide the magic acorn instead. So I hid the acorn in the ashtray of my father’s Morris Minor pickup and went off to see if the magic was working yet.
When I came back some time later, after the dogs had finished chasing things, I discovered the magic acorn had gone. The little man had taken it back, because I didn’t share it and now I would never know how magic it was.

I ran and told my parents and their friends but they didn’t seem to understand. That’s the problem with having things and not sharing them, I deducted. If you don’t share things, they will soon disappear.
Have a good summer, share the good times.

Nigel Pengelly, Editor.
Pictured: Kingsley Rickard and the replica of Trevithick's Puffing Devil at Dehwelans.

37: On finding the centre of the world and father being hellish

Issue 37, spring 2004

I once thought had discovered the centre of the world.

It wasn’t something I’d planned to do; I was experimenting with corners and string in the round field on my our farm.

The round field was an ancient burial ground. To me it was a mystical place where something magical was always about to happen. I had a dream once that one of the granite slabs in the hedge was door to somewhere; it never opened for me.

A group of us local farmer’s sons camped there a couple of times hoping to see something. I don’t know what we hoped to see, or what we would have done if we did see something. When father came up late and shook the tent, we panicked so much we almost had accidents. We were only 11.

The day I found the centre of the world was around the same time. The field wasn’t quite round but had seven sides including a gateway and a stile. I figured that if you drew a line from corner to opposite corner, and from the spare corner to the stile where the old people used to carry the dead, at the point where the lines crossed I might find something interesting.

So with lots of binder twine and fencing stakes, one Sunday afternoon, I made an elaborate cat’s cradle of string across the round.

Where the lines crossed I stood in expectation, but witnessed nothing. Then, I looked down and saw a large, smooth round stone with fossil-like markings in it.
This must be it, I thought, the sign. It must be the simple sign that says this the centre of the world, the belly button of planet earth.

I sat and thought about it for a while and ran indoors to fetch father. He wouldn’t come but mother had a look and said father would be hellish if I didn’t put back all the string and stakes. However, the centre of the earth marker stone was now gone.

We couldn’t find it.

I was devastated that someone else might get credit for discovering my miraculous find.

I was, from that moment, enlightened in what I perceived to be the centre of the world. It is the place you feel most at home with, the place you feel you belong.
Years later, I still wonder about that centre of the world stone.

Cornwall is the centre of my world. There is no other place I’d rather be. The world, for what I believe, may well have started in a field near Porthleven.

For many others Cornwall is also the centre of their world. They needn’t travel very far from it or of they do venture away, it’s always there when they get back.

Many people have been celebrating their world as of recent. The show of people at the various celebrations for St Piran on his feast day is testament to that.

Many more people will be coming to celebrate their Cornish world at Dehwelans as well.

I’ll be at the Cornish World stand so I’ll hopefully see you there.

The weather; it’ll be sunny from now until October.

Bright days ahead for one and all.

Nigel Pengelly, Editor
Pictured: storms on a spring tide, Penzance.

36: Why the Cornish love a debate and you have to know Cornwall to talk about Cornwall.

Issue 36, winter 2003/2004

I find this time of year is always such a grand occasion for greetings and meetings.

Over the past month or so, I have had the pleasure of greeting several large audiences of Cornish people.

The Homecomer’s Association and the Bournemouth Cornish Association were two engagements I was honoured to attend. Members of associations such as these are as passionate about Cornwall as anyone I am ever likely to meet, and their meetings are lively affairs boosted by good company and topical conversation.

I also attended The Cornwall Lecture, an event that often promises interesting insights on a Cornish issue, followed by a lively question and answer session. It the past The Cornwall Lecture has been a highlight of the Cornish calendar and one that has introduced some radical proposals.

This year’s topic Cornish Tourism: Return to Eden or Paradise Lost? hoped to address the issue of the growth of the Cornish tourist industry and its sustainability.

However, the speaker Tom Wright, chief executive of Visit Britain, failed to approach the issue and told the invited audience how nice Cornwall was to visit and then promptly ended his speech. If only some of the members of the numerous worldwide Cornish associations could have been present, I’m sure they could have painted a better picture of Cornwall and fielded some pertinent questions.

There are so many areas of Cornish life open for debate.

Debating is one thing the Cornish love dearly; to hear an opinion and then voice one’s own is a fine way to spend an evening. There’s never any grudges held and everything is right as rain afterwards.

That’s why visiting the Cornish associations is so enjoyable where one encounters people of Cornwall talking about the place they love best. In contrast, at The Cornwall Lecture I heard a man with nothing to do with Cornwall, knew nothing of Cornwall and as a result the event was somewhat jaded.

There are many New Year traditions in Cornwall. Swimming in the sea on New Year’s Day is one of them; although I’m that is one indulgence I may pass on this year.

Another is guise (pronounced geeze) dancing. This was popular in the 1700s and 1800s when bands of people attired in strange and grotesque costumes danced in the streets. Often the men dressed as ladies and the girls dressed as boys frolicking as if beneath a midsummer sky – not so different from our current New Year celebrations then…

One last tradition is the telling of the yarn. This time of year is a time when families get together and tell yarns – or stories. These tales often delight young and old alike and bring laughter around the open fire. If you have any good yarns, stories or things you would like to see in Cornish World then please pass them on.

I won’t talk about food and drink over the festive season or the weather (it’s raining now and will be until March), but just wish you all a very Cornish Christmas and a jolly New Year.

God bless you all…
Nigel Pengelly,
Pictured: Tony Piper leading the Cornish procession at Lowender Peran.

35: My trip to visit the Canadian and why the Cornish argue so much.

Issue 35, autumn 2003

Cornishmen (and women) from across the world, unite…

Such was the cry of the diaspora from Canada when North American cousins of Cornish descent came together to celebrate a bond deeper than blood. It is that very bond that makes us all wonder what is it about Cornwall or the Cornish people that we hold so dear?

Americans and Canadians by birth swear an allegiance to The Duchy as much as they would to their current home and from this I can only deduct that Cornish is a way of being, an understanding if you like without sounding too contrived. I came back from Canada after hearing many talks, speeches, memoirs and musings enthused by the passion and compassion of lovers of Cornwall and Cornish culture at home and abroad.

I would like to thank the readers and supporters of Cornish World for your kind remarks in receiving me as editor and being open to the vision I have for the magazine. In this issue I believe I have taken the publication one step closer to being the true magazine of Cornwall.

Once more, I would like to state that that the magazine belongs to Cornwall and its people and so any notions, viewpoints and submissions are gratefully received.

We do try to keep all of you happy, which is difficult task considering the sometimes belligerent nature of the Cornish which brings me to a little musing I heard recently.

A Cornishman was washed up on a desert island and after some months without sight nor sound of salvation, started to unwillingly settle into his new home. After several years a ship passed and, upon seeing ragged hairy man leaping and waving his arms on the foreshore, came to the rescue.

“My,” said the captain of the vessel after landing on the island. “You’ve done a great job here. You’ve built a farm, a mill, outhouses for the goats, a barn, a shed even a pigsty. I surprised you want to come back.”

“Well, I were getting a bit lonely and ‘e indn’t much fun sharing a pasty by ‘eself,” replied the Cornishman.

“But, prey tell me,” enquired the captain. “Why have you built two chapels?”

“Well,” said the Cornishman. “That one over there by Trelowarren Street is the one I do go to, and the chapel over there is the one I don’t!”

However, genuine that tale is the Cornish do get on when they meet up and I trust that the Cornish will keep meeting up – at home and abroad – to rejoice in what they love most dearly.

Before I end, it seems to be a tradition that editors in their letters talk about the weather.

It’s sunny here. Has been for weeks, probably will be for weeks to come.

Thank you for your time…

Nigel Pengelly,
Pictured: former Grand Bard John Bolitho and the Lady of the Flowers at the Bardic procession, 12th Cornish Gathering, Bowmanville, Canada.

Monday, 24 August 2009

34: On becoming editor and not talking about the weather

Issue 34, summer 2003

I won’t start off by saying how nice the weather is or how Cornwall is a myriad of lush greens teeming with wildlife – I’ve been spending most days of late tapping away at a keyboard trying to get the latest Cornish World out onto the shelves.

I’m new here you see, at the magazine that is and not Cornwall, and since taking over from Scott some six weeks ago, I’ve had a lot to catch up on.

I was born in Penzance, and my father – a Pengelly – is from St Buryan. Mother is a Curnow from Zennor and they were farmers. I was a farmer as well until ten years ago when I decided that the economic forces were not on our side, so I left and became a newspaper reporter. So that’s me.

Oh, and I just got married and my wife Serena is expecting our first baby.

Enough of me and more of the magazine. I intend to make Cornish World more Cornish with a louder voice – the kind of holler that the Cornish know so well. I don’t want to change things too much as I must add that Cornish World is your magazine more than it is mine and so all ideas, criticisms and contributions are greatly appreciated.

I’d like to focus more on what is happening in Cornwall as well as with the Cornish around the globe which is why I’ll be attending the 12th Gathering of Cornish Cousins in Toronto in July (my thanks to Cornwall Council for helping me with the trip) to report on our North American cousins.

I hope you like this issue, I hope you understand some of the changes I have made. I am to help preserve the heritage and secure the future of Cornwall with these very pages, as well as provide an enjoyable magazine.

Thank you for your time. Nigel Pengelly, Editor,
Pictured: lifeguard at Sennen flying the flag for Cornwall.