Community life in a Cornish village

Some days you find an adventure around every blind curve in the narrow road. At least if you’re 144, as Wild Thing and I cumulatively are (I think; don’t trust me with numbers), it’s enough to pass for adventure.

We drove to a garden center on Sunday to buy a dwarf hydrangea. Doesn’t that sound like the kind of thing you do when you’re cumulatively 144 years old?

Irrelevant photo: St. John's wort, or rose of sharon

Irrelevant photo: St. John’s wort, or rose of sharon

We weren’t yet at the main road when we saw a ewe and two lambs on the road. I slowed to a crawl and thought I’d edge past them, but they weren’t having it. The ewe led her lambs straight ahead, so that I was either driving them back toward their field or further from it, only I had no idea which.  Either way, I was adding stress to their day.

City kids that we are, we’ve lived in the country long enough to know we needed to stop at the nearest permanently occupied house (this is second-home country, and vacation-rental country, so not just any house would do). But we weren’t near the nearest house—we were near fields, none of which had sheep in them.

Wild Thing got out of the car, thinking she could edge them to the side of the road, but they treated her the same way they treated the car: They kept going down the road.

Eventually we—me in the car and Wild Thing on foot—came to a field gate and they plastered themselves against it. I drove past and got out of the car while we talked about what to do. It was tempting to open the gate and let them in, but it was a recently mown, sheepless field. Wherever they came from, this wasn’t it. (If it had had sheep, we’d have had no way of knowing if it was the right flock, but never mind, it didn’t.)

We drove on and stopped at the next house, which turned out to belong to people we know slightly. They narrowed the possibilities down to two farmers and promised to call them both. In the meantime, a litter of six springer spaniel puppies swarmed us in that charming, brainless way that puppies have and they—that’s the people, not the dogs—said they had two left, did we want any?

I dragged Wild Thing away before she could claim them both and we got back in the car feeling very much like part of the community. Which is something, I suspect, that only people who aren’t quite part of the community bother to feel, but never mind, it felt wonderful.

We drove on and about a mile on the other side of the main road picked up two hitchhikers carrying skateboards. They were, at a wild guess, somewhere in their late teens and facing a long, long walk if they didn’t get a ride.

Wild Thing’s part of a group of people trying to create a skateboard park in the village. The group was kicked off by a couple of fathers whose kids—well, one of them is just walking and the other hasn’t gotten that far. So you can think of this as a long-term project. The village is a great place for young kids but not so great for older ones, and a skate board park wouldn’t solve the problem but it would help a bit. And it might keep the kids from skating on a stretch of road between two blind curves, where sooner or later somebody’s going to get smooshed.

So Wild Thing talked with them about skateboard parks and they loved the idea that someone wanted to build one. The three of them happily traded information for a few miles. They talked about how adults tend to treat skaters like a threat to the fabric of society—I’m paraphrasing here; I can’t remember their exact words—and I talked about how generation after generation adults are convinced that whatever kids are into is a threat to the fabric of society. The only thing that changes is the activity. When Wild Thing and I were kids it was hanging out on the street corner.

We dropped them in Launceston and left feeling like—you got it—part of a community. Then we bought a blue dwarf hydrangea and some pansies. I’d told Wild Thing just the day before that I wasn’t going to grow pansies anymore because the slugs and snails love them (yumm, salad) but they were so cheery that I bought them anyway. And I’ve been out slaughtering slugs and snails pretty consistently in recent weeks, so I might be able to get away with it.

From there, we drove home and walked to a village tea that was raising money for the Air Ambulance. We shared a table with two women from a nearby town and Wild Thing got a conversation going, which isn’t always easy but she has a gift. As they were leaving, Wild Thing said we’d stop by on Monday to help them eat the cake they were buying. They said we’d be most welcome. It was gracious thing to say, and since we don’t know their address(es), a safe one.

Then some people from the village joined us and J. wanted the recipe for a chocolate cake I brought to a party last week. Actually, she’d asked the day before and I hadn’t gotten around to sending it, but she explained that she needed it that day because she wanted to make it on Monday.

The recipe’s based on one in The Joy of Cooking, and I’m in love with it at the moment. British pie crusts are richer than the ones we make in the U.S., but their cakes tend to be drier. And I’m on a mission to mess with British baking anyway. Not because I don’t like it–some of it’s wonderful, and I’ve learned how to make a mean ginger cake. But what culture’s national cuisine couldn’t be improved by peach cobbler and New York cheesecake?

Anyway, being asked for the recipe left me with that same feeling of being part of a community, and we waddled home, happy and full of cake and scones.

84 thoughts on “Community life in a Cornish village

  1. I rarely bake British cakes any more and if I do I tend to add an extra egg to combat the dryness :-)
    when I was in the states I bought a plethora of baking books including a Juniors Cheesecake book and I am now widely regarded as the baker of the best cheesecake in the world :-) Admittedly this is a sheltered British audience who were only vaguely aware that baked cheesecake existed…
    My other favourites are chocolate pound cake and red velvet anything!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cake. What a tease at the end. One can never eat enough cake. I’m not much of a dry cake kind of person, preferring my cake moist and fluffy. Too often I’ve had cakes that just fall flat because of the moisture. Either that or they come with too much cream…yes, I’m very fussy with my cakes :D

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  3. What a lovely full day! can’t help hoping sheep found their way home. Thumbs up on skateboard friends and project: the generation thing is an opportunity for … non-skateboarders to have conversations that move us ahead with our times! Also loved mention of peach cobbler and cheesecake: I’m having a discussion with my Italian restaurant-guidebook publisher (I do the English texts) about the relative merits of USA and Italian pastries (latter way too sweet & creamy for my taste) and having a hard time as most really good US cakes don’t make it acroos the Pond. No, I don’t bake.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m with you on Italian pastries–at least the ones I had when I lived in New York. (I’ve only been in Italy once and don’t remember eating pastries. That is so not like me. I don’t know how to explain it–to you or myself.) Canolli? Way too sweet. Italian (as opposed to New York) cheesecake? Too sweet and not as–oh, hell, I don’t know, I grew up with the other variety and my mouth wasn’t willing to negotiate. I wish I were closer: I’d offer to show up with something baked and prove your point. And I say that without being quite sure what your point is.

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      • My point is our “comfort food” tastebuds are among our most change-resistant cells – educated when we were children. The Brits like their drier desserts, Italians go for super-sweet. I was a child in NY, so I’m with you!

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        • I read somewhere that food is one of the last changes immigrants make, and breakfast is the last of the food preferences to change.

          What part of New York are you from? I grew up in what was then Yorkville and is now the gentrified Upper East Side. Although I might as well admit that we moved to Yonkers when I was eleven. It sounded like a great idea until I discovered that Yonkers was in Yonkers, not Manhattan.

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          • I lived in mid-Manhattan from ages 6 to 9. First to third grade: US history & ideals & foods branded me for life! Went back a few summers starting when I was 16. My bedroom looked down on the Whitney (long story, complicated family)

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            • Complicated family I think I understand. As well as the way New York seeps into your pores. I do miss the place, even though in a lot of ways it’s not the city I grew up in anymore.

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            • I think it happened to me earlier, as the old neighborhoods were gentrified and the people who used to live there replaced with people who tried to outdo each other with where you could get the best whatever–bagel, Chinese food, takeout coffee, it didn’t matter what as long as they knew where the best of it was and the other person didn’t.

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            • the “best” thing sounds obnoxious, but American take-out coffee is like gold in this my present espresso crazy country!

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            • I don’t drink coffee at all anymore, but even when I did I could never get myself to taste espresso. It was just so dark and thick looking that I lost my nerve. I could only manage it with a lot of milk.

              British coffee, I’m told, is pretty bad. Ask for it at a village event and you’ll end up with instant. Cafes make a big deal out of espresso machines and fancy coffees, and my British friends tend to love the stuff but my American coffee-drinking friends aren’t impressed. Me? I drink tea.

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  4. The village is a great place for young kids but not so great for older ones, and a skate board park wouldn’t solve the problem but it would help a bit. And it might keep the kids from skating on a stretch of road between two blind curves, where sooner or later somebody’s going to get smooshed.

    When I worked for the MPD, we used to get a lot of complaints about skateboarders. Generally, they are good kids and rarely cause an actual problem – but they don’t mix well with window shoppers. So we needed to find a passive solution. And we did.

    The next time you find yourself near a lot shop – stop and listen. Chances are the city will piping in classical music. The shoppers either like it or rarely notice but it acts like bug repellent on the kids.

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  5. Such an adventure all in the name of a dwarf hydrangea….Sheep, puppies, skateboard parks, hitchhikers, a village tea, cake, and a birthday. I’d hate to see what happened if you two were younger than 144 and still had destinations a bit racier than dwarf hydrangeas!

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  6. Happy Birthday to Wild Thing! Funny thing that… belonging to a community. I’ve moved around so much in my life it’s become a bit of a joke. Whenever I start running into people I know at the grocery store, I say it’s time to move on. Then we moved to an area where folks were distrustful of strangers. We’d get reactions one might call sullen when trying to make any conversation. Then it turned out that hubby’s maternal bunch had settled here back in 1906 and gradually we learned we were related to half that town. Funny how quickly that changed the receptions we got. Same thing happened in Utah. I was suspect until they learned hubby was a Mormon (I’m not at all religious). Suddenly I was not only welcomed, but seen as a target for conversion. Sigh. I almost prefer sullen.

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  7. Ha ha – you and Wild Thing make a gross couple – did you know that?
    Also, if ever you feel your life lacks for adventure, you definitely need to adopt an English springer spaniel. It’ll be one merry (hah) romp from that day forward.
    On the subject of pets … ducks are darling, and they are DEATH to slugs and snails. They do poop rather a lot, but if I’m sliding down the garden path I’d rather do so on organic duck poop than on a snail.

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    • Gross? How so?

      Wild Thing keeps threatening to get a duck, not because of the slugs (although that would be a plus) but because she wants to enter it in the duck races villages hold here. They dump a bunch of numbered rubber ducks in the river and if the one you picked wins, you win. She wants to show up with her (live) duck under her arm and say, “I’ll thank you to let my duck enter.”

      After that little scene (or before it), she doesn’t really have a plan.

      Liked by 1 person

      • 144 = 12 dozen, aka 1 gross. Now you’ve learned a new British word!

        Well, if you get a duck, you really need more than one – and if you have a drake, you need at least 4 total. Ducks are RANDY – but they are great with snails!

        Lots of ducks means Wild Thing’s plan to disrupt the duck race could become a neighborhood affair…

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oh. I knew that word, but not in any useful way.

          Half the neighborhood showing up with a flotilla of ducks–I like the idea. I know some people who raise particularly handsome blackish-green ducks. Hmmm.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. What a great post! Part of the community, eh?
    As for the cake… when fiddling with the recipe, just remember, if it turns out ugly but still edible, it can always be made into a trifle! (The Scot in me, though I am Canadian born and bred and never even thought of living abroad…)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: On being an incomer in Cornwall | Notes from the U.K.

  10. My old Joy of Cooking disintegrated so I bought a new one. My son is very disappointed that they have removed the recipe for groundhog. The ones in the backyard destroyed the parking spot he created for his vintage Beetle and he thinks it would be a good use for them. Perhaps one of your neighbors has such a recipe?

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      • No, I live in a small community. Been here for 3yrs & still treated as an outsider. I wasn’t born, breed, or raised here & that makes me a foreigner. Plus the community is way more conservative than I am. I’m try to move back to the liberal big city I use to live in. I miss all the diversity & more things to do.

        Liked by 1 person

        • My theory bows to your experience and dissolves in a puff of smoke.

          I’m fairly sure one reason we’ve been accepted here is that the community’s a mix of long-time Cornish families and incomers, so it’s not as closed as–well, as the one you describe.

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  11. Pingback: Village life and chickens | Notes from the U.K.

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