East of the Celtic Sea and West of the County of Devon – stands an imposing double-fronted house made from local Granite. It’s home to a salty sea dog called Peter; Uncle Peter – my Father’s wonderful brother.
At my father’s funeral an impromptu plan was hatched between Peter’s daughter Sharon and I – for me to visit her father at home – because he was not well enough to attend the funeral in person.
Tuesday – 24th January 2017 – I journeyed back to the Celtic land of my birth – to Cornwall. There was something very full circle about our trip; Pensilva near Bodmin Moor was where my Father helped bring me into the World.
With Archie at the helm – and Tom as first mate – we set sail together on our voyage of discovery – via the rolling A30!
Peter and I – share a special bond founded through our love of a Victorian painting called ‘The Light of the World’ by William Holman Hunt.
Like the painting – Uncle Peter exudes light and love – he is both worldly and otherworldly in one. He lives with his wonderful daughter Sharon, my cousin – and her family – and his adorable cuddly Pekingese – Sir Winston. On the day of our visit – Peter’s three year old Great-Grandson was filling the house with his play and laughter; it’s open door to several generations.
Sir Winston is the living embodiment of James Herriot’s character ‘Tricki-Woo’ – he sits on a huge throne of cushions – and is hand fed the choicest nibbles of home-cooked meat; Sharon is a marvelous cook who caters for everyone’s needs. On our arrival she served up a delicious piping hot plateful of homemade macaroni cheese – cor it hit the spot!
Together – with Sharon’s sister Linda and her family – they all look after Doris – Peter’s wife. She has suffered from Alzheimer’s for more than a decade. Because of their strong family bond – Doris lives between their houses – and was at Peter’s and Sharon’s home on the day of our visit. Unable to communicate or do anything for herself anymore – Doris was sat in her special chair facing the large window in Peter’s extraordinary room of imagination and colour.
The house is full of art and creativity – on Sharon’s sitting room wall there are four intricate tapestries – that Doris had done before she was robbed of herself.
Entering Peter’s room was like seeing a reflection of my own parlour room – neither of us decorate our rooms in the traditional style – instead our rooms are covered in wall-to-wall art. Peter is a prolific artist – he paints from the heart. He is also a terrific story teller – a writer. One needs to pay multiple visits to Peter’s room in order to take it all in – it’s like sitting inside a kaleidoscope! If one scans around too quickly one is apt to feel giddy! His love of life and the sea – flows out of his hands onto canvas – and covers all four walls.
Flashes of vivid blue are everywhere around his magical room.
During our visit we were treated to a delicious homemade cream tea – followed by a catch-up with our Great Ancestors via the magic of Ancestry UK. It was fascinating to learn that in 1875 a female relative of ours was born in the same Devon village that my youngest sister was born in some ninety-one years later. My sister was born in October 1966 – and our ancestor died in February 1966 the other side of the World – in Wellington New Zealand. My father was born in West Norwood in Lambeth and spent his early life in Sussex. He was married there and his first three children are Sussex born – yet he always held a dream to move ‘back’ to the West Country. I was born in Cornwall and my youngest sister was born in Devon – he realised his dream. Who knows why any of us have a feel for a certain place – or time in History – perhaps genetic – or inherited memory guides us unwittingly towards our fate. Connecting with my Great Ancestors made me feel better about Dad’s passing – it’s like everything isn’t by chance at all – we go on in some shape or form – or other. They gave me a strange feeling of confused elation – I didn’t know whether I was looking forward to the past or looking back to the future – it’s mind-blowing stuff!
After spending a golden afternoon together – it was time for the long drive home – back across the border into Devon.
Before leaving – Peter gave me a parting gift taken down from his bedroom wall that afternoon…
Peter and I – are soul-mates through and true – forever. X
Rolling home in the darkness along the A30 – I remembered a song by Kate Rusby – called ‘Sweet Bride’. The words to this song make me think of Peter and Doris – and the sounds of the Sea; I’m holding that shell to my ear again – enjoy and sing along.
A lady was walking on a midsummer’s day
The birds they were whistling so merrily and gay
When along came a white steed in the finest array
And it carried a young man these words he did say
Come live by the great moon
That rules the strong tide
Climb up on my horse love
And be my sweet bride
I bid you good morning, this young man did say
And where might you be going on such a nice day
I’m walking to view sir the bonny blue sea
For it’s all I have left now that means much to me
If that’s all you love now, come riding with me
You’ll live in my castle deep under the sea
You’ll sleep in my gold bed, my fine silken sheets
And have gifts of great beauty from all that you meet
She’s up in the saddle and away they did ride
The horse skipped and danced over waves on the tide
Now she’s only remembered by this story I tell
From an old man on horseback who once knew her well