Sunday, 23 September 2012

Land's End

Certain geographical points have symbolic significance. The East/West/North/Southern-most point, the highest or lowest, boundary between continents, tropic circles, zero meridian. I've been to some of these, including the highest point in Denmark (173 m above sea level), the Southern point of Africa, which against common knowledge is not the Cape of Good Hope, and the Southern point of Crimea, Death Valley and Dead Sea, and the End of the World in Norway. Somehow being in Cornwall and not going to Land's End felt wrong, although looking back I must admit that it wasn't worth much more than the symbolic value. Once again I discovered that my geography is extremely poor – or somebody had stretched out Cornwall when we weren't looking. It is a very, very long way from where we are to Land's End, and I couldn't help thinking about all the classic novels in which the characters go to Penzance for holidays, and it takes them days and days of travel, and once they are there, they stay for months.

We skipped Penzance and everything else on the way because I wanted to take another walk. Land's End visitor centre is just as tacky as guidebooks say. It should be forbidden to build vulgar theme parks on beautiful nature sites. Yet there we were, and Staffan planted himself in the bar while I went on my walk. I have huge problems with coastal walks because there is always another cove and another head beyond whatever point you have reached so the walk can never be completed. The beauty was exceptional, with bizarre rock formations and vast fields of heather. I didn't climb down to the beach because it would have taken at least another hour and I felt bad about Staffan waiting. But I could have walked for hours, because the light changes, the tide comes in, and the coastline is never the same. I took about an hour and a half, stopping at some places to meditate. I can imagine crowds during the season, but today there were very few people, some serious hikers, some slow walkers like myself. It was easy to pretend that I had the whole world for myself.

We had lunch and drove straight back. Five hours driving for an hour-and-a-half walk – I am not sure it makes sense, but at least we have been to a place of symbolic significance. As we were driving and reading road signs and maps I couldn't help recalling our summers in Brittany, many years ago. There, as here, half of the place names began with “Tre” and the other half with “Pol” or “Plou”.

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