Cornwall: Singing for my supper in the Seventies.

Updated: Jul 31, 2018

A soft swell delivered gentle waves to the beach, each breaking in a whisper, dragging small stones back in the undertow with a gravelly scraping swish. The echo of an autumn moon rose and fell on the bay and a myriad of stars twinkled overhead. Sunrise would not be far away yet the music that was scheduled to stop at eleven o’clock played on. Every seat was filled and many bodies populated vacant areas of floor, spilling outside on to the beach itself, each one clasping a beer or something more exotic. Candles worn down to a stub, and the pub took on the character of a place of worship although a more appropriate term might be a place of comradeship. We had shared five hours together, give or take, and now the wisdom and deep knowledge only alcohol can generate, allowed us to drift into meaningful analysis of lyrics. Songs were no longer songs but held hidden meaning and ‘I can’t get no satisfaction’ was a statement worthy of discussion and considerable debate. Licensing laws held no terror as the local Policeman was flexing his philosophical muscles along with the rest of us. As dawn broke, a John Denver song saw a good number dancing an unsteady waltz and one last, okay one more, definitely the last drink saw us on our way, enriched, nourished and ready to take on the day. I played this gig many times in the 70’s and whilst not the ‘norm’, it was not untypical. The warmth of our monthly gatherings lives forty plus years later.

In the early seventies, Cornwall was a good deal further away that it is now. All we had was the good old Trunk roads, the A30, A303 and A4 to take us west. Chunks of the M4 and M5 were open when you had to leave the ‘motorway’ and zigzag along remnants of the old road then back on to the next stretch of the M4. At that time it was easier to stick with the A roads, the most pleasant of which was the A303, also destined to be upgraded early in the 70’s but my earlier journeys were, largely, uninterrupted. That is apart from by my battered old Wolseley Hornet, that had a knack of cutting out from time to time, requiring me to pull in to the side of the road and twist a small box containing fuses under the bonnet, jamming it with a piece of thick rubber and the car started again with no problem. The padding wore lose with vibration and my glove box was filled with many more sections of rubber, enough to negotiate a considerable journey. Stonehenge was a ‘must do’ stop, and it still evokes the same feeling of the ages as it did then, the big difference in the 70’s being that you could park close by and walk to the stone circle to munch sandwiches whilst sitting on the very monument. Cornwall, magical Cornwall. I think the knife-edge atmosphere cut in as I left Launceston and set off across the wilds of Bodmin Moor, many signposts reminding me of dear Daphne du Maurier whose passion and love for Cornwall resounds across time, her ‘work’ etched into the very fabric of the county forever. Jamaica Inn, Dozemary Pool, Altarnun, Brown Willey, Roughtor. These are places synonymous with her novels, and I met many more references that relate to other books during my journeys over the next few years.

Daphne and I had met when, having written and asked if I may call on her, she invited me to her house, Kilmarth, where we talked for hours about her writing, her love for Cornwall and the joy and pain she experienced when her stories were translated to the screen. ‘Rebecca’ figured a good deal as the bottle of Croft Original slowly emptied, gone completely by the time I weaved an unsteady path to my car. The Jeremy Brett and Joanna David version was due to appear on television at some stage – I enjoyed that but it has never been shown again- but she was adamant that Lawrence Olivier was Maxim to a tee. I still have the postc