The Ribbons Are For Fearlessness. Catrina Davies.

Love. Adventure. Surf. Travel. Music. But above all self discovery.

This is a great read, an easy read, and one you won’t want to put down. If you’re lucky it’ll even get you thinking and maybe breaking from the humdrum.

A few weeks ago Rachel, the owner of the lovely Trevena Cross Barn at Breage, recommended a local girl’s first publication – The Ribbons Are For Fearlessness.

The book arrived on the morning of a train trip to London, followed by a whole load of meetings around town that would mean lots of tube journeys too.

Perfect.

I was gripped from the off, and in my mind I had pictured Ben’s Rosie as the author. Rosie’s knackered van sat up at Tregiffian for a summer and seemed to fit the bill. If only I knew her surname I would have realised that I was close, very close. Cat’s Rosie’s sister.

The Ribbons doesn’t pull punches.

If you have ever convinced yourself that you can perform to a crowd you’ll probably remember the dread before you launched yourself into your show, be that a presentation, song, comedy.

If you have ever slept in a van with ice on the inside you’ll know it’s no dream journey. If you’ve done it with a broken heart then you’ll be closer to the story than most.

This rollercoaster tale is about facing your demons.

Truly having nothing to lose, and going for it, coming out, stronger, wiser. Better.

Read it when you’re happy.

Read it when you’re sad.

Read it when you’re feeling weak.

Read it when your get up and go has got up and gone.

That train journey got me through most of the book. Reading through the night finished it.

As soon as I got up next day I bought eight copies for friends. Each of those friends has bought it as presents for friends of their own.

I loved The Ribbons and I hope you will too.

Follow Cat on social media stuff and once you’ve read The Ribbons you’ll want to buy her EP too. Here’s her site: Catrina Davies.

I ordered eight copies as soon as I'd finished.

I ordered eight copies as soon as I’d finished.

What is value?

What is value?

Why have we come to think that value means cheap?

And why is expensive seen to mean that something costs a lot?

To me expensive means merely that the item costs more than it is worth. And here’s the important part… more than it’s worth to you.

And value? Well surely it’s no coincidence that monetary value and personal values stem from the same noun.

All these thoughts were flooding through my mind as we sat in The Old Dairy last night.

We were toasty warm in front of its huge roaring fire, as Mark cooked our meal on top of the wood burning stove.

The cottage was filled with the smell of the gorgeous dinner to come.

But it wasn’t the smell, the anticipation, or the warmth that had me considering value.

It was the solidity of the place.

This house was built to last.

To last for centuries.

It has already. And it will again.

It’s the mantel stone that most impresses.

It is massive. Utterly massive. Today that single stone would cost as much as the house did when it was built.

I guess that originally there would have been a cast iron Cornish range in the space beneath it. While having one there now would add romance to the place, the wood burner is a whole lot easier to live with.

The proportions of the house make you feel safe.

It was built with true values.

And provided the right people continue to own it, then it’ll stand far longer than any of us lucky people who get to stay there.

Long after we have discarded all of our flat packed furniture, The Old Dairy will be standing.

Long after our unfeasibly cheap linens have shredded and been replaced, its patina will only have improved.

At Tregiffian we’re gradually moving from the mass produced, to favour craft. Quality items, built to last by skilled manufacturers.

I hope many of our guests will appreciate the difference.

The beauty of handling an aged piece, be that a chair, a cooking implement, even a cast iron cooking pot that has fed many guests before.

It may be a cast iron bath that is perhaps a bit scratchy, but that is responsible for the cleanliness of generations.

Tregiffian, and the wonderful properties of The Cornish Way, is a truly special place. Rugged, yet calming. Remote, yet connected.

And it continues to get better as years slip by.

Its value far surpasses any figure denoted by currency.

Come enjoy. Come relax. Come and fall in love.

Take in that mantle - it's huge!

Take in that mantle – it’s huge!

 

The Old Dairy. New Year. 2014.

The Old Dairy. New Year. 2014.

 

Few shots of a fire do justice to the joy that it brings.

Few shots of a fire do justice to the joy that it brings.

 

The Old Dairy - likely to outlive us all.

The Old Dairy – likely to outlive us all.

On Winter, Cycling and Cornwall.

For fifteen months I have cycled to work most days.

No great distance.

10 miles each way, sometimes longer when a fine evening has tempted me to stretch the trip home.

Despite working mostly from an office, for fifteen months I have been wonderfully aware of the weather.

And so this morning, for the first time since January, I was aware of winter.

Bitterly cold. Beautiful.

I felt so alive.

In a car, bus, train, or even walking, you can avoid the cold.

Not on a bike.

With a constant 15 – 20 mph wind all weather is exaggerated, none more so than the cold.

Good gloves, hilarious overshoes, and merino base layers all do their bit to keep your core warm. Your face though takes it all in.

And it’s an amazing feeling I wouldn’t ever want to avoid.

Lying in my super comfortable Travelodge bed I can tell if a morning is frosty, or even snowy, by the amount of light creeping around the curtains when it should be dark.

This morning it was so bright I expected snow, but it was just a heavy frost.

The roads were slick, slippery in places, and on the lanes I was treated to any number of tiny birds frantically flying from cover in search of breakfast.

A stoat crossed my path, undulating as if he were a rollercoaster. But then again he could have been a weasel.

And all the way into work I dreamt of Cornwall.

Sennen. Jan 2014.

Sennen. Jan 2014.

Of the beautiful and dramatic changes that winter brings.

It’s an exciting time of such extremes.

Rarely does it freeze, but we do have wild storms.

The beaches are empty, and only the hardy venture into the waters.

Polly on Gwenver. December.

Polly on Gwenver. December.

The Christmas Day Swim at Sennen is a must, even if you only watch. The excitement is palpable, the anticipation of the cold water on naked skin, the screams of shock, and for the mad ones, joy.

Then, after that bracing walk, or even swim, heading back inside is all the more rewarding.

The log burners roaring and pumping glorious dry heat into our well insulated rooms.

The Old Dairy. New Year. 2014.

The Old Dairy. New Year. 2014.

Ideally some slow cooked stew, chilli or curry has scented the house and will soon fill our bellies.

Dawn. New Forge. December.

Dawn. New Forge. December.

Heavy red wines.

Whiskey.

Steaming cups of tea.

The sofa is more comfortable, the blankets more inviting, and bed, oh let me lie in bed the whole night through – if only there were a fire place in the bedroom!

Polly. Dressed for winter.

Polly. Dressed for winter.

Even friends and family seem closer, more lovely. Precious.

Bring me winter, let it fill me with joy.

At least until the excitement of the first buds of spring.

Leaves. Hanging in there.

Leaves. Hanging in there.

Major Garden Works at Myn Tea

It was way back in 2006 that we stripped Myn Tea back to the stone and converted the two flat back into the house that it is now.

We didn’t do much other than plant the shelter belt of bushes, meaning to come back to finish the gardens, but until now that hasn’t happened.

Each year we have re-invested what the houses have brought in to gradually improved and update them. Last year Myn Tea’s investment was the gorgeous little fire that is a joy as soon as the temperatures start dropping.

You'll want to come in winter and snuggle up.

This year we have finally attacked the gardens – and attack is the appropriate term.

We wanted to create seating options that would offer guests somewhere to catch the sun at different times of the day, as well as an area to gather around a fire in the evenings.

The fire circle - in progress

The fire circle – in progress

 

IMG_2697

The soil at Tregiffian has tons of rab (ground up mine waste that’s mainly a granite gravel). This gives us good drainage, but it’s blinking hard to dig. John Murray and his team weren’t messing and got some heavy kit in to tackle the job, but even the mini diggers weren’t enough to shift one hearing great granite rock.

IMG_2698

While the big rocks are a challenge to get out, they’re things of beauty once on the surface, this fellow will just get better when there’s some planting around him.

The rock, as yet unnamed

It’s work in progress still, but we’re hugely excited about the potential. Look out for another post soon.

A perfect (early) morning. Gwenver.

I’m sitting at the table in Myn Tea.

It’s midnight and then some.

We’re just in from the garden where a few friends have been sitting out, watching the waxing moon, listening to the sea, and discussing the madness of the Lafrowda Oscars which took place at Cape School in St Just tonight.

It could only happen here.

And I talked about last night.

Waking at 4.00am, and knowing that there would be no more sleep for a long time, and so I’d best make the most of my time.

I got up and gently raised Polly, the dog.

We walked off to the beach in the silvery moonlight.

Sitting on Gwenver at 04.30 in the morning, catching glimpses of the moon off the water, the air still warm, mid-October. No one to be seen.

And feeling that I was the luckiest man in the world.

The air is rarely still here, but it was this morning. Making it all the greater as a gift.

A moment in time.

And only Polly to share it with.

Polly who bravely chased away the foes who existed in her imagination.

Such a shame her chase was sometimes so vocal.

Now I’d best seek that sleep that eluded me last night.

Good night.

Weddings at Tregiffian

It’s always encouraging when guests book to come back to one of the cottages again. It’s the best recommendation we could hope for.

But then when people get as emotionally connected to the cottages as we are then it’s better still.

Back at the end of the summer we were delighted when a lovely couple, Dave and Louise, chose Myn Tea for their wedding party, a lovely gathering of friends and family, pulled from around the country, to a beautiful day at Tregiffian.

Dave and Louise - party at Myn Tea

Dave and Louise – party at Myn Tea

Another lovely couple who stay in New Forge in deepest darkest winter chose to get engaged there in January this year – hurrah, and congratulations Bill and Louise (is there a Louise theme starting here?). The romance of the far west is even stronger in winter, and I’m looking forward to our stays in the dark months this year.

Thank you all our lovely friends.

Thank you all our lovely friends.

Coming up in March another treasured guest is having her wedding party at Myn Tea too.

Perfect end to Dave and Louise's perfect day.

Perfect end to Dave and Louise’s perfect day.

If I were to list all of the honeymoons we’ve hosted this post would get long indeed.

So just to close this off on the wedding theme, Amanda and I aways get to Tregiffian to celebrate our own wedding, which we held on the cliffs at Bosigran, Portheras Beach, and Penzance Arts Club.

Who’s next? I imagine the gardens at Trevena Barn would be completely ideal for a wedding.

Why go to Mont St Michel when you can go to St Michael’s Mount? (after Mark Jones)

The modesty!

We’re a quiet bunch in Cornwall. You need to pass Hayle (Hell?) before you get a hint of what might grace the next bay.

 

The Mount through the mist.

The Mount through the mist.

You know about Mont St Michel from miles away – the brown signs start at least 50 miles before you get a peep of its spires, that’s like having signs for the Cornish jewel out on Bodmin Moor, that would just be showing off wouldn’t it?

Le Mont.

Le Mont.

Now I’m not denying that the French have something to shout about. After all the archangel Michel himself instructed its construction in 708. The saint (St Aubert) he addressed wasn’t too keen on the effort it would have involved, and he chose to ignore the instruction for ages. Old Michel got well fed up about that and burned a hole in the poor saint’s skull with his finger. Can you imagine the HR case if you did that to a subordinate today (even in France?).

Having said that though, Archangel Michael had his burning finger in the legend of the Cornish mount too, instructing a fisherman to build it in the 5th century.

The two were linked as monastic houses for a fair old while, and here our ancient history / legend lessons must end.

As we know, the French get all shouty about their mount. Organisation is serious and impressive. As the most visited single attraction outside of Paris is has to be. There’s regimented parking behind well planted polders that hide the thousands of cars from photos – cunning! Then there’s the quite beautiful new boardwalk that snakes the 45 minute walk from the parking to the Mount.

The boardwalk.

The boardwalk.

We visited this week – already September, and the rest of France seems empty yet still it was heaving. During the season a trip here must be hell. Three million plus peeps climb its narrow streets every year.

The Abbey

The Abbey

The Mont is huge.

Our hotel the night before was a funny place with a cheap room, yet we had a Mont view when the fog lifted.

44 people live on the Mont full time, about the same as on the Mount, but while the National Trust has a shop, a cafe, restaurant, the French have a whole thriving town.

So why should we go to St Michael’s Mount?

As I started, its modesty is charming. The crowds rare. The gardens stunning (no room for many plants on Le Mont). But moreover, you’re in Cornwall, and why would you want to be anywhere else?

The case for Le Mont? Well, I guess there’s the crêpes, the cider, the wine, the accent, but beyond that, what is there? Enjoy a pasty from Philps, a pint of Doom Bar and a choppy boat ride and get over to St Michael’s when you get the chance.

(to be updated, I haven’t been to St Michael’s in ages and need to remind myself why I love it so.)

En route to Mont St Michel

Tonight we can see Mont St Michel from our room – hopefully we’ll get there tomorrow and I’ll be inspired to write “Why go to Mont St Michel when you can go to St Michaels’s Mount.”

We ended up staying two nights at La Bristellerie. When you find something that good you need to make the most of it. Today though we need to get at least a bit closer to Brittany.

First stop Carteret, from where you can get a ferry to Guernsey, but for us it was just a walk around the Cap.

Stout shoes for bouldering, Carteret.

Stout shoes for bouldering, Carteret.

On south to the quite lovely Coutances, where the soaring cathedral dominates the view from miles around. Most of the town was closed – except a good little crêperie where we lunched on galettes and cider.

There’s a stunning park/gardens, somewhat unimaginatively called Jardin des Plantes, entered through an arch under one of the more grand houses.

Coutances, Cathedral

Coutances, Cathedral

 

A. Minty. Collins.

A. Minty. Collins.

 

Yellow

Yellow

Now, having looked in on Granville and thought it was a bit like Newquay en France, we’re in our room in a funny little hotel, but overlooking Mont St Michel and just above the strangely named St John Le Thomas.

The Cornish Way in France.

We love learning, and when it’s combined with drinking fine wines, calvados and cider, and eating the best imaginable foods then the whole experience is better still.

View from our room to the gardens

View from our room to the gardens

Yesterday we caught the ferry to Cherbourg from Portsmouth and woke up after a rough crossing in La France.

A short drive to our first mason d’hôtes, La Bristellerie, in the hamlet of Hardinvast, and a wonderful welcome from Jan and Marie. A quick bag drop and we’re back downstairs in their huge and comfortable converted barn sharing stories and excellent wines.

So many places to sit

So many places to sit

Dinner at Jan’s friend’s restaurant in nearby Les Pieux was excellent, washed down with local cider. It’s called Le Petite Bourg.

Later, back to the house for a superb sleep in our room that’s a similar size to the flat we rent in Manchester. Slipping between the sheets and breathing in the wonderful smell of French linen before a sweet oblivion descended.

The house is in there somewhere

The house is in there somewhere

It was hard to find the house for a photo from the calming gardens – but here’s a try.

Pussycat on tour - again

Pussycat on tour – again

Saturday’s weather wasn’t amazing, but hey, we were tired, and doing little was ideal.

A short drive around La Hague, Port Racine for photos.

Port Racine

Port Racine

 

The girl - Port Racine

The girl – Port Racine

 

Port Racine

Port Racine

Back to the house for dinner in the garden, simple – cider, great red, cheese, saucisson, great bread. Perfect.

 

Dinner chez La Bristellerie

Dinner chez La Bristellerie

Now it’s Sunday morning, the sun’s shining, and we can’t wait to get out there. But just a couple more photos from La Bristellerie…

Gourds - La Bristellerie

 

So many places to sit

So many places to sit

Levant, its working beam engine, and rugged coast.

We’re delighted to be back in the far west after too long away working.

There’s an old Sunday school for sale in Trewellard, and I flirted with the idea of a big project. I dragged Amanda to see it earlier. We concluded that my madcap schemes would be too much to layer on top of everything else right now, but it’s always exciting to look at a plot, or dilapidated building, and let the creative juices flow.

The Sunday School also meant that we stopped off in Trewellard instead of just driving through, and that’s well worthwhile.

It might not seem that there’s a lot to Trewellard, but at night there’s the attraction of the Meadery and the pub with its huge collection of whiskeys, and of course the coast. There was no drinking to be done today though, not yet at least.

Trewellard Sunday School

Trewellard Sunday School

After staring in awe at the stonework of the Sunday school, and dreaming of the plot’s potential, we walked down to the cliffs, stopping off at Old Bal engine house, and then taking a few quick phone shots of Levant mine, before lying in a sheltered spot and loving the sounds and smells of the sea.

Higher Bal, Levant

Higher Bal, Levant

Levant was worked from 1820 to 1930 and is perched right on the cliff edge, with its workings going out a couple of kilometres under the sea. Back in the early 1990s a gang of dedicated engineers restored the beam engine to working order and it now steams regularly. Amanda wasn’t likely to want to spend time with a smelly old steam engine, but I made a note to return soon (Mr Orton?).

The Oldest steaming beam engine is here at Levant.

The Oldest steaming beam engine is here at Levant.

The cliffs here are not the highest, but it’s certainly a rugged stretch and interesting with its mining heritage from hundreds of years ago, right up to 1990 when Geevor finally stopped extracting ore.