I’m on the Lizard in Cornwall, miles from anywhere and almost as far down as you can get on this ancient island of ours. It’s a Celtic place, a place of history, legend and strangeness and for me it’s a place of Long John Silver and pieces of eight. I’ve told myself that I’ve come looking for the inner pirate in me. But really I know that the pirate in me is long gone. Being a pirate needs energy and fire and I no longer have either.
I don’t know where all the pirates have gone. I’m sure that the last time I was here - over thirty years ago - that that there was a pirate or buccaneer on every corner and you couldn’t go to the beach without stumbling across a smuggler or an excise man. Wrecks and wreckers were almost a daily occurrence and under the hill, any hill, all the hills, King Arthur and his army were sleeping waiting to rise and save Kernow and the rest of the land if they could be bothered.
I expect that the dragons are still there in the caves on the beach. But I wouldn’t know. My knees won’t take the walk down the steps to get to them. There are still serving wenches in the Inns and the cider and beer is still good though – well It’s a sitting down opportunity - but I no longer expect to come across a black dog or Will o’the Wisp on Bodmin Moor at midnight. Anyway, by the time midnight comes I’ve been asleep snoring in my chair for at least a couple of hours.
I’m not the only one to have changed. Cornwall has changed too.
At a glance Cornwall looks just the same. Big skies, big sea and a myriad of tiny lanes to get lost in. But somehow it seems more manicured and all the old tumbledown cottages are now old and tumbledown in the most perfect of ways. Everything seems to be a marketing opportunity, whereas before it was just there and you stumbled across it without a tourist information leaflet to tell you it was there but not how much it costs to get in.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still having a good time. But the satnav stops you getting too lost so you never find that old lady selling cream teas for a shilling in the garden of her country cottage or meet that fisherman who sells you fresh mackerel on the beach and chucks in a bottle of grog for free just because he can.
Oh well, I still have a few more days to find my inner pirate.