Starting on Wherrytown Beach where the railway line once lay and walking past the statue of the fisherman, past The Tolcarne, The Mission and Mr. Barron’s shop. Past The Swordy, The Dolphin and onto Jack Lane, the place my granddad’s life was taken. Ascending Chywoone Hill and beyond Uplong, the tumbling cottages all stacked on top of each other falling away with each step, a steep climb that takes me to the old school and round to Gloucester Road and number 10, our childhood home, a cramped, semi-detached, pebble-dashed house high up on the hill. We played football in the street from dawn til dusk; trampled Mr. Corin’s plants as he drunkenly staggered after us, shinned to the top of lampposts to impress our parents and hosted our very own Olympics here every summer. We staged epic battles with the girls from the New Estate. They trashed our dens with shovels and sticks. We exacted revenge when Kian Martin took a shit in theirs. Their mum insisted she would be calling social services.
Above us lay the identikit assembled council houses of Gwavas, the kid who chased me with an axe when I was six, Mad Old Margaret and her wee Jack Russell. Beyond that: the winding, empty country roads leading to Sheffield, Lamorna, St. Buryan and Porthcurno. Beyond there: the marshes, the long grass, the quarry and the secret route to Graham and Jo’s, where we would hunt for beasts and sleep in sawdust and hay bales. Onwards to Paul, near where the stranger told me to get in their car. The endless fields that roll on forever and the mound where the magic mushrooms can be found.
Past Trungle Parc, headers and volleys, training drills and attack v defence. Into the village with the looming church tower that rattles with the ringing of a bell, the chiming of time ticking by. I sang hymns dressed in a cloak and cardboard crown here at Christmas. I was a king bearing gold for nervous classmates and proud parents. I can still taste the dust. The stale scent of lives lived and long gone, ancient stone, granite coins and wood wormed pughs. The magic of this place in the winter. The row upon row of lit candles reflected in the stained-glass windows. The feverish excitement. The hushed whispering. The anticipation.
And to the pub. The place where my mother grew up. Where she watched her own mother die.
Down the road to Mousehole via the old playing field where I scored a last minute winner against Trythall, and where each year I would fall over in the sack race, watch egg plummet from spoon and stare open-mouthed and aghast as an easy catch slipped through my fingers in rounders. Past the school that shaped the child I became. From early beginnings in Mrs. Worrall’s class through to swimming lessons with Miss Buckingham, kiss chase in the playground, disgusting school dinners where I was forced to eat meat by Ms. Brown, trips to Geevor, Chysauster and The Pilchard Press. We re-enacted the invasion of the Spanish Armada, built lanterns out of withies and tissue paper and paraded the narrow streets in hoards for Tom Bawcock’s Eve, singing the songs of our ancestors… I knew these hidden passages like the back of my hand. Hours lost at Cherrygarden Street devouring books on Ancient Egypt with my childhood sweetheart. The same sweetheart who once tore up the Valentine’s card I made her in front of the entire class. The same sweetheart I would spend my entire adolescence falling in and out of love with… And to the harbour, and long afternoons spilling into late nights, bombing emmets off the pier. Running, jumping, skimming, swimming. Ice creams garnished with sand. Saint Clement’s Isle and Shag Rock in the distance. Tumble Tyn behind me.
Through the village and out onto the rocks, sidestepping Tavis Vor bathing pool where we would compete with crabs for ownership and meticulously study the rock pools. Past Penlee Point and the ghosts of the Solomon Browne, beyond Low Lee and Skilly and along to Sandy Cove. Where industry meets nature. Golden sands and decaying wasteland. Graffiti on the walls, dog shit on the footpath, broken bottles, crisp packets dancing in the wind and crushed cans left by pissed-up teens. Round to The Old Quay, my favourite spot in the world, to sit by the red lamp and watch the boats bobbing on the inky black water as the sun dips behind St. Michael’s Mount far out on the horizon. Following the railings round to the slipway and along the wall behind the Lifeboat House and the car park and onto the Mary Williams Pier. Past the men in their oilers and overalls, the fuzzy hiss of Radio One escaping from the warehouses, mixing with the stench of fresh fish that lingers thick with the salty spray of the surf. Round to the North Pier, walking right out to its tip, taking in the old sheds and shacks that have been there forever. Anchors, nets, crates, lobster pots and ropes piled up against the walls. Looking out across Gwavas Lake to the Lizard, I breathe it all in. I used to pretend I was a king and this was my land. It still is. It always will be.