Strangles

Getting down to the beach was never easy and the last stretch was always a slight concern with three children in tow.  Thirty years later the direct route has been closed off due to erosion and the last 15 feet requires the use of ropes, the gentler drop to the beach having been washed away by the sea.  It is worth making the effort.

Padstow, Boscastle, Tintagel and Port Isaac, respectively made famous by food, flood, legend and soap opera, are overwhelmed with day trippers.  Strangles is empty.

And yet, some 100 feet above the beach I catch the faint smell of wood burning and, as we drop onto the beach, to the south, there is the cackle of a minor rock fall.  I sense we are being watched.

Well, the-
The ocean doesn’t want me today
But I’ll be back tomorrow to play
And the strangles will take me
Down deep in their brine
The mischievous brain jewels
Down into the endless blue wine
I’ll open my head and let out all of my time
I’d love to go drowning
And to stay and to stay
But the ocean doesn’t want me today
I’ll go in up to here
It can’t possibly hurt
All they will find is my beer and my shirt
A rip tide is ragin’
And the life guard’s away
But the ocean doesn’t want me today
But the ocean doesn’t want me today
The ocean doesn’t want me today

Tom Waits

With thanks to gavinclinch on Blip for making the connection between the place, the images and this Tom Waits track.

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St Enodoc

In previous years I have approached St Enodoc Church from Daymer Bay but this time we parked at Rock and ended up walking down the tenth in the company of a local four-ball.  At stroke index 1 (i.e. ranked the hardest hole on the course), it looks a real stinker with thick trees and bushes all the way down the left, steeply banked rough to the right and the narrowest of fairways in between.  The pin remains out of sight to the last.

Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman  was buried in St Enodoc churchyard in 1984.  His coffin was carried down the tenth in the heaviest of weather, perfect conditions for a bleak Cornish funeral.  As a middling golfer I doubt he looked forward to playing this hole.  His poem, Seaside Golf, was inspired by the 13th:

I played an iron sure and strong
And clipp’d it out of sight,
And spite of grassy banks between
I knew I’d find it on the green.

And so I did. It lay content
Two paces from the pin;
A steady putt and then it went
Oh, most securely in.
The very turf rejoiced to see
That quite unprecedented three.

The parody, written by fellow member Sir Robin Butler, must surely have been inspired by the tenth:

I played an iron sure and strong,
A fraction to the right
I knew that when I reached my ball
I’d find it underneath the wall.

And so I did. I chipped it low
And thinned it past the pin
And to and fro, and to and fro
I tried to get it in;
Until, intoning oaths obscene
I holed it out in seventeen

This well known view from the St Enodoc churchyard captures all that Sir John loved about this place – the ancient church rooted to the landscape, the wild Atlantic Cornish coast and the links course in between:

We caught up with the same four-ball as we crossed the fairway to Daymer Bay:
Golfer: ‘Been to seek forgiveness?’
Me: ‘Nope, to pray for a better a golf swing’
Golfer: ‘I’ve tried that – it doesn’t work’.

Despite the prospect of the tenth, St Enodoc remains on my golfing bucket list – the game is fundamentally a masochistic endeavour.

The background to St Enodoc on Wiki is so good, I thought it worth repeating here:

The church is situated in sand dunes east of Daymer Bay and Brea Hill on the River Camel estuary. Wind-driven sand has formed banks that are almost level with the roof on two sides. From the 16th century to the middle of the 19th century, the church was virtually buried by the dunes and was known locally as “Sinking Neddy” or “Sinkininny Church”. To maintain the tithes required by the church, it had to host services at least once a year, so the vicar and parishioners descended into the sanctuary through a hole in the roof. By 1864 it was unearthed and the dunes were stabilised. The church is surrounded by the course of the St Enodoc Golf Club.

Boscastle Regatta

Skippers and mates and rowing club eights
All messin’ about on the river
Capstans and quays where you tie up with ease
All messin’ about on the river
Outboards and inboards and dinghys you sail
The first thing you learn is the right way to bale
In a one man canoe you’re both skipper and crew
Messin’ about on the river

As easy it was …

… to tell black from white
It was all that easy to tell wrong from right
And our choices they were few and the thought never hit
That the one road we traveled would ever shatter and split.

Bob Dylan’s Dream – 1963

I was first brought to the north coast of Cornwall in the 1950s.  I returned in the 1980s when the children were young and now I am back again.  The difference between the first and second visits was a lifetime, the difference between the second and third, no time at all.  Between the 1950s and 1980s I changed utterly, between the 1980s and 2017, the world around me changed while I stayed much the same. Almost everyone is gone.

A life can be wasted trying to go back.  Is it the people, the place or moments in time that always remain just out of reach, like the punishment of Tantalus.

On this first day of meteorological autumn, I allow myself the luxury of squinting into a bright setting sun and imagine everyone is here again, heading for the shoreline.  Safe, certain and watched over, what could possibly go wrong.

LPs and fag breaks

Christmas 1972 and I bought her Joni Mitchell’s Blue and she bought me Santana’s Caravanserai.  Seven days previously I had offered a cigarette and we took it from there.  What do the young do now, buy an iTunes voucher; where is the history, where is love’s audit trail.

I worked shifts at UMRCC on Oxford Road, Manchester.  The route to work was by train from Altrincham and then a short walk from Station Approach to the University’s computer centre, passing an array of guitar shops, the discreet family planning outlet next to the railway arch and the Regal Cinema rebranded as Studio 1 to 5 which, that summer, was prophetically screening Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show; all of this is gone.

Thanks to the endless trivia available on the Internet, I know this to be true.  On Tuesday 19th June 1973, I was working late shift and when The Old Grey Whistle Test was broadcast that evening, I was having a fag break in the rest lounge. I don’t know what struck me first – the music or the video, a black and white montage of formation skiers in descent which, as one online reference claims, is Nazi propaganda. I was hooked and the next day went in search of the LP.  Released on 25th May by Virgin, the record was Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells.

Fags and LPs were the passport to many things – a life without them would have been unthinkable.

Odd that this uplifting masterpiece should be the product of such a tortured young individual.

Some grief, some joy …

… memories are made of this.

The joy comes from the company, the startling landscape and the occasionally well struck golf ball.  The grief comes from the sliced drive into a rising westerly, the ball never to be seen again.  Sconser and Traigh are the distilled essence of Golf in the Wild – when the going gets tough, the tough don’t get going, they stand and stare.

It has become an annual ritual – drive part way into Scotland on Thursday night; head for Skye on Friday morning and meet up with David C of ScottishGolfbyTrain; play Sconser on Friday afternoon; catch the Ferry to Mallaig from Armadale on Friday evening; play in the Traigh Open on Saturday.  People might question the sanity of driving such distances (760 miles) for golf but that’s life, some will get it, some won’t.  It’s like riding a motorcycle at high speed or throwing an Elise into a long sweeping corner – until you have done it, there is no understanding.

I cannot get enough of Traigh so when the golf is done, I head for the ridge across the top of the course to watch the setting sun – there is nowhere else that provides such a magnificent panorama of the long day closing:

… Skye Golf Club, Sconser – more #GolfintheWild http://www.golfinthewild.co.uk

… the most spectacular places to play golf on the planet. The 2017 Traigh Open – more #GolfintheWild http://www.golfinthewild.co.uk

… below the golf course at Traigh.

… the clubhouse from the beach at Traigh

… the third green at Traigh.

… the view from the second tee at Traigh.

… below the golf course at Traigh.

… the ninth green at Traigh

On an entirely different topic, music has become a too cheap commodity. As a full subscriber to Amazon Music, I have access to a vast library way beyond my teenage imaginings. New releases are immediately available, listened to and then largely forgotten as I move on to grab the next handful of free sweets. I have lost touch with the cherished LP, the carefully considered purchase and the endless plays until every track was imprinted. I mention this because I hooked up my phone to the hire car’s sound system to find that only three albums were accessible, all by The Boxer Rebellion. After twelve hours behind the wheel, all the tracks are now reassuringly familiar:

Relics

Everything passes, everything changes.  The objects I idolised as a boy are now museum pieces and the heroes I worshipped are gone but, the obsessions remain.  I am old enough to look at these machines and remember their day of revolution; the days they rolled off the transporter ramps into a world aghast at their modernity.  I am old enough to remember the consequences of their frailties.

Relic
noun
plural noun: relics
– an object surviving from an earlier time, especially one of historical interest.
– a part of a deceased holy person’s body or belongings kept as an object of reverence.

Both definitions apply.  All of these machines have personal significance beyond their histories: the first time I saw them in the pages of Autosport; the first time I saw them in the ‘flesh’; the first time I saw them in flight; the still moment I heard of the tragedies.  All of them represent remembrance of things past and none more so than those that carry the green and yellow badge:

Maybe in some distant place, everything is already, quietly, lost.  Or at least there exists a silent place where everything can disappear, melding together in a single, overlapping figure.  And as we live our lives we discover – drawing towards us the thin threads attached to each – what has been lost.
Sputnik Sweetheart – Haruki Murakami

Jim Clark’s 1967 Dutch GP winning Lotus 49 – Classic Team Lotus, Hethel.

Rindt’s Lotus 72 – the Donington Collection

Lotus 25 – Classic Team Lotus, Hethel.

Lotus 25 – Classic Team Lotus, Hethel

Clive Chapman