Friday, January 27, 2012

peripatetics - St Austell, Cornwall

I've documented some of this trip to St Austell on my painting blog (2 November 2010 and 14 December 2010), but I thought I'd wax on more about it here.  St Austell was my first real "literary-themed" trip, and part of my first time in Europe.  It was at the end of a youth-hosteling trek with college friends; I set out on my own while they remained in London.  I traveled to St Austell in search of what turned out to be a fictional place described in two of the books in Susan Cooper's Dark Is Rising Sequence (Over Sea, Under Stone and Greenwitch).

I wrote then that The Dark Is Rising Sequence was one of my "favorite book series as a child."  That's actually an understatement; I was pretty obsessed with her books.  Once I finished them (the first time) I went through what can only be described as a mourning process.  All other books I tried to read afterward paled in comparison, so I just ended up re-reading hers.  I've lost track how many times I read them.  They also were the first books I bought with allowance and gift money I'd saved up.  I imagined spin-off stories involving the characters, with me involved, of course, joining in the eternal battle between the Light and the Dark (the series incorporates Arthurian and related myths and legends in a contemporary setting, in a cosmological battle between the forces of Dark and Light.  The Dark seeks to control humankind.  Spoiler - the Light wins.)

I did eventually move on... mostly.  I tried reading them recently, and found that, rather sadly, perhaps, I've finally outgrown them.

I hadn't at the time I made my pilgrimage to Cornwall.

Since the fishing village of Trewissick didn't exist (the village named in the books), I stayed in St Austell, where BritRail dropped me off.  It was where the Drew children got off, too, picked up by their mysterious Great-Uncle Merry, in Over Sea, Under Stone.  Only there was a huge, jostling crowd when they got off; I think I was the only one.

I stayed in a charming bed-and-breakfast.  I recall the bed I slept in had a bright orange coverlet.  I sampled "Cornish ice cream" and some grocery store scones.  I made my way to the sea and sat on a boardwalk looking out at families playing sedately on the sand and, beyond, the calm waters stretching out to the horizon.  It was nothing like the restless, shifting sea I imagined in the books, with waves crashing dangerously against the rocks.  There were no pillar-like stones rising up above me on the headland, below which was hidden the golden chalice, an artifact that would become important in defeating the looming forces of the Dark, for the Dark, the Dark is Rising...

Needless-to-say, I enjoyed my visit, my own little adventure.
View from the boardwalk, looking out at one of the headlands.  Notice there are no pillar-like stones on the top of the headland.

More of the calm sea.

St Austell train station.  No one else around.

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