Living The Cream In Cornwall

Go adventuring with Lily in Cornwall.

My feet were getting itchy. Maybe it’s the nature of my job, always being on the move, living out of a suitcase, in and out of various theatres and auditions, but I can’t go too long in the same place. Now I know that opportunity to travel is a privilege, especially during a global pandemic but there are so many ways we can feel like we’re on vacay without, you know, actually leaving the country. A couple of years ago my boyfriend and I took a spontaneous trip to the Cornish coast for a long weekend after I had been working in Devon and it was one of my favourite places we’ve ever visited. If this year has taught me anything it’s that there’s so much for us to see and love right here in Blighty.

Exploring Padstow

We drove down via South Wales, as we decided to drop in on my Nanny for a socially-distanced dinner date. This split our six hour journey into two more manageable chunks. Podcasts on – Up and Vanished is our current obsession – we cruised down to the edge of the country to our chocolate box Airbnb in Ruthvoes.

Cornish Coastline

This pretty little hamlet is perfectly situated for easy access to both sides of the Cornish coast. We decided to spend our first day exploring, on foot and with a pub or two en route. The rain was torrential but with brollies up and wellies on, it was joyous to be out and about exploring somewhere unfamiliar.

Now I mean this with every fibre of my being, Cornwall is the Paris of the UK. You will not have a bad meal out. So much of the produce is farm fresh and – bonus time – the portions are generous. Seriously, the best Chinese food we’ve ever tasted we stumbled upon in Saint Columb!

Saint Austell

Day Two and the weather decided to warm up. We visited a local owl sanctuary, aptly named Screech. We had it on very good authority that this was an excellent day out, getting to see these magical creatures in their natural environment really brought out my inner Ravenclaw. And you can get a cream tea in the cafe for £5. It’s a hard yes from me.

It was only a twenty minute drive to reach our next destination, the gorgeous hidden treasure of Saint Austell. I’ve never been before and I wish we’d spent more time here. Less busy than Padstow or Newquay but just as Instagram-able. All the local businesses had Covid-safe procedures in place, allowing everyone to really relax and possibly, just for a moment, forget all the turbulence of the last six months. I could’ve quite happily have stayed in Saint Austell, drinking Aperols all evening and falling asleep under the stars.

The following morning we wanted to check out our old haunts from our last holiday. The last time I was in Tintagel I desperately wanted to buy a ceramic piece from the local potter but I was worried it wouldn’t survive the car journey home, especially if I was driving. This time though, my mind was made up. I selected a beautiful cornflower-blue coloured bowl that I’m sure E would covet; she LOVES her ceramics.

A quick sidebar about driving in Cornwall: sometimes you are better off following the signs and not your SatNav. James Nesbit – our SatNav has a Northern Irish accent – sent us down an impossibly long twisty road that we then had to reverse back up when we almost hit a truck coming the other way.

We eventually made it to Padstow or PadSTEIN as the locals call it, thanks to their local celebrity. On our previous trip to Cornwall our day in Padstow was totally overshadowed by a downpour, being attacked by wasps in a tearoom and very, very bad hangovers. We felt the town needed another chance. I’m sorry to report dear reader, it didn’t fair much better this time. The harbour is adorable but far too crowded, not ideal, even pre-pandemic. Beyond the crowds it has it charms which is why, of course, it is so very popular. Rather selfishly, I just wish there had been fewer tourists on the day we visited!

For our final couple of days we moved to a hotel in Newquay. The town has changed a lot since the post A-Levels surf and clubbing days of the early noughties. It is busy with families now, taking advantage of the water sports and beach front bars. We managed to catch the tail end of storm Francis for our last two days but this didn’t dampen our spirits. In fact, it gave me an excuse to buy a new raincoat, so happy days.

You could fill a lifetime of summers with trips down to the Cornish coast. There really is magic around every cove. Even with a dose of unseasonably poor weather, that Turner-esque sea breeze was a tonic in a strange, Covid-compliant summer. I can’t recommend a Cornish adventure highly enough.

I am the daughter of Earth and Water

Percy Shelley

If you want to see more from my Cornish staycation, check out my Instagram and let me know where you’re off to next.~L.

Me Old China

E talks ceramics…

Is there a special word for the love of ceramics? If there isn’t, I think there should be. I take great pleasure in the beauty of everyday objects. I enjoy fine art too, but unless I win big on the National Lottery – which would be highly unlikely even if I did buy a ticket regularly – or I come into a sizeable inheritance – probably more unlikely than that Lottery win – I’m only going to be able to enjoy fine art in a gallery or museum. Everyday art, with its functional beauty, really appeals to me and I think that’s why I love ceramics.

In the interests of full disclosure, although I am a card-carrying member of the V&A, I am no expert on ceramics, nor am I anything as committed or organised as a collector. I don’t know my earthenware, from my stoneware or porcelain, and I suspect bone china is a category all of its own, and does it contain real bone? What I do know is that I enjoy looking at, handling and owning affordable and beautiful pieces of china and ceramics; crockery (“flatware”), a few vases, trinkets and jugs tend to catch my eye most often, jugs especially (as my Mum announced on Saturday, with an absolutely straight face: “our Em’s got a thing about jugs”).

I can date my interest in ceramics to 1986 and the half a dozen years that followed. For my 19th birthday, a university friend bought me a tiny ceramic piggy-bank in a silk pouch made by a local ceramicist in Bath. I adored this little curiosity and, although the silk pouch is long gone, I still have the piggy.

As a gift to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, my maternal grandparents (the ones of Mr and Mrs fame) asked for a new dinner service. The design they chose – which was very en vogue in the late 1980s – was the Johnson Brothers Eternal Beau originally designed by Sarina Mascheroni, a pretty ribbon and bow motif on octagonal-shaped pieces. At the tender age of 20, I was quite taken with it and thought it very stylish. I don’t recall having thought about plates and cups and saucers before Eternal Beau. I wonder where my grandparents’ dinner service ended up? A couple of years later, moving into our first home as a young family, I was smitten with Portmeiron’s Botanic Garden range and enjoyed using it every day. I’ve held on to a few pieces: a side plate decorated with a lily and one decorated with Sweet Williams (of course); a formidably heavy bowl which I use as a mixing bowl and a vase (also decorated with lilies). My lovely Mum also gave me a large jug from her Botanic Garden collection last year which is in near-permanent use as a vase.

In the late 1980s, my paternal grandmother died and I was asked if there was anything of hers I’d like as a momento. I asked if I could have the pink ceramic coffee pot which had sat in a cabinet in the corridor of her flat. I must have walked passed this small cabinet displaying her bits of china dozens of times over the years and the pink coffee pot always caught my eye. I still adore it and today it sits on a table, at the head of my stairs, and I get to enjoy it every time I cross the landing. I researched it a few years ago and discovered that it is, in fact, a tea pot from the Arthur Wood Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent. To me it’ll always be the pink coffee pot.

My tastes have changed over the years and I much prefer unpatterned, or certainly minimally patterned, crockery these days. I’ve also come to learn that I don’t particularly desire matching crockery – I think there’s something wonderfully pleasing about mismatched plates and bowls. I also don’t hold with the notion of keeping things for “best”: I like to see, touch and use my best china and ceramics every day. I still enjoy buying pieces that appeal to me and current favourites include Van Verre cabbage bowls, Lene Bjerre pink crackle-glazed dishes, a cute Bombay Duck jug and a gorgeous pot handmade by Studio Arhoj which Lily bought as a gift for me when she visited Copenhagen last year (and which she massively covets and, I think, rather wishes she’d kept for herself).

So if you stumble across a word for a love of ceramics, do let me know. And if you find pretty pieces you fall in love with, share and tag us in. ~E.

Ask Me Another

Round two of our interviews. This time Lily is in the hot seat.

Regulars will remember that a couple of weeks ago we published Lily’s interview of Emma and promised that we’d turn the tables in a future post. That day has arrived, and in what follows you have Emma interviewing Lily, covering some of the same questions, but with a few new ones thrown in for variety. Having spent the best part of 30 years together, it shouldn’t surprise us that we have so much in common and share similar tastes in many areas; what’s most intriguing is where our preferences and opinion differ…

E: Your turn in the hot seat, Lily! What did you want to be growing up and why?

L: Originally, I wanted to be a dentist but only because I watched the film “Toothless”, starring Kirstie Alley, who [spoiler alert] plays a dentist who gets hit by a car, dies, goes to Limbo and has to earn her way into Heaven by becoming the tooth fairy. Next, I wanted to be an Egyptologist because I watched the film “The Mummy”, starring Rachel Weisz. I thought that being an archaeologist would involve riding through the desert on a camel with Brendan Fraser, wearing beautiful 1930s clothing, fighting mummies who’d come back from the dead. I think it was you, Mum, who explained to me what being an archaeologist actually involves. Then I thought that perhaps the running theme was that I like films, and I like pretending, so maybe I should just be an actress. That way I can be a dentist one week and an egyptologist the next.

E: Characterful female leads in both those films. And sorry for inadvertently crushing your archaeology dreams! List five things that make you happy and cause you to smile.

L: True crime trivia…

E: That can’t possibly make you smile! What sort of freakish person are you?

Tyler curled up on the grass.

L: Alright, things that make me smile… Cats: I love cats and have a magical familiar called Tyler. There are three cats who live on my road, and they jump through a hole in the fence to see me when I pass. I’ve named them all.

Music makes me happy and having grown up in a household where music was always playing, I enjoy all genres. My Dad is obsessed with music and has his own man-cave – though truly it’s more like a palace – dedicated to his vinyl, cassette and CD collections. Cooking also makes me smile. I learned from you that there are few things more relaxing than pottering around in the kitchen.

Being organised makes me happy: lists, getting all of my thoughts out on to paper and logged, being prepared for the day. And finally, travelling makes me happy. I like the preparation for travel, getting my passport and documents ready and deciding what I’m going to pack. My Nanny Val likes to do a “practice pack” and so do I. I get happiness from planning my outfits, making Pinterest boards of the sights I want to see, collages of photographs I’d like to capture when I get there. It’s all part of adventure. Anything can happen when you step outside your front door.

E: Given the choice, which time period – past, present or future – would you like to live in, and why?

L: I’m trying hard to be more present but, if I had a choice, I don’t think 2020 would be top of my list. I think the time period I’d most like to experience, because of the music I love to listen to and the excitement of being somewhere that felt like the centre of the universe, is London in the 1960s.

E: List three films that have had a profound impact on you and explain why.

L: I love horror films – they are a guilty pleasure, like junk food! I always know I’m going to be entertained and enjoy them. The best of these, for me, is “The Shining” because it is such an unnerving watch and I come back to it again and again. I have to select an animated film as that’s what led me into singing; I’d put one on and I’d sing along and learn all the words. My favourite was “Anastasia”. I recently re-watched “Fairytale”, about the case of the Cottingley Fairies, and was struck by how beautifully it is shot and how well it stood up to being watched as an adult. I first watched “Fairytale” shortly after we moved house from the outskirts of South East London to a village in the Surrey countryside. The film helped me settle into my new, rural lifestyle and showed me the magic of gardens and playing outside.

E: It is a wonderful film and a story that intrigues people all these years later. Next one? Where in the world do you long to travel, and why?

L: The answer to this one changes all the time. I have a list on my phone and I’m always updating it, swapping out places I have visited. India is a prime destination: I have never been and I’m desperate to go for the colours, the cuisine, the hustle and bustle, the downward-facing dogs, the spirituality, the heat. Closer to home, a visit to Berlin and a driving tour of Italy are high on my list. For 2020 though, it’ll be a week in Cornwall.

E: How about this one: assuming your life is a story and you are the author, what does your happy ending look like?

L: It would be the ending of the film “Titanic”: I’d be an old lady…

E: …on your own?

L: An old lady, with a big diamond necklace, who dies in her sleep! Like her, I would have lived a full life, having achieved everything I wanted to. And when she died her soul went back to the Titanic to be with Jack, her true love. That sounds like a good ending to me.

E: Well, when you put it like that, it does sound rather appealing. And it is also the perfect happy ending for this little interview. You’ve got me thinking about the Cottingley Fairies and I’m off to find the book about the two cousins; it’s on the bookshelves somewhere. You did so love the story about having fairies at the bottom of the garden when you were young. You’ve conjured up for me some delightful memories of little you – thank you. ~E.