Tuesday, 25 August 2009

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, editor@cornishworldmagazine.co.uk
Pictured: Tony Piper leading the Cornish procession at Lowender Peran.


Post a Comment