When we first arrived, it was as though we hadn’t left Califonia. Hot and warm, with hardly a cloud in the sky. But as Fall approaches, that is changing. The days are mostly cloudy now with patches of sun peeking through. It rarely pours, more like a slight mist all of the time.
After twenty five years in California, the change is nice. Instead of being drawn to the outdoors all the time as we were in Marin, we are more liable to be inside, building a fire, playing games, baking cookies, reading, and writing.
We went to Port Isaac today for lunch. The streets up and down are just barely wide enough for one car, which means that if you meet another car it can be quite a trick to get by. When you get to the bottom of the hill you are at the port, and if the tide is high, there is nowhere to park. Today the tide was low, and the sign said to be off the sand by 4:00pm (or, I imagine, you’d be waiting for the next tide to be towed out).
We walked up the narrow streets, and I popped my head into a pasty shop. I asked where a good place to have fish and chips was. She pointed across the street, and so we went to the Golden Lion for lunch. As you walk in it’s easy to imagine that this pub hasn’t changed in several hundred years, and you can almost feel the ghosts of mariners from days gone by. If you drop anything on the floor it rolls quickly away from your seat, not from the mariners ghosts, but from the noticeable tilt to most everything inside.
Nathaniel is very much into pirates these days, and so he and I went around the inside pretending that the various lanterns and objects on the walls had belonged to pirates. Several of the paintings and pictures on the walls are of rescues by the lifeboat service, and they are pictures full of danger and tension, showing men in oil slickers, wearing life vests made of cork, rowing out to sea to save a ship in distress. The bravery of those men is hard to imagine, but it isn’t hard to imagine that many of those who survived stood in this very pub telling tales of their experiences.
The man behind the bar, barely older than a boy really, was from Port Isaac. He had been recently to New Zealand for six months, and I could overhear him telling the locals who came in for a pint that he wasn’t sure where he was going next, but it probably wasn’t going to be Port Isaac.
This reminded me that I had seen an article in a local weekly about how the town of Port Isaac was slowly imploding (my word, not theirs). So many of the houses around here have been snapped up as second summer homes that housing prices are rising beyond the locals’ means. It also means that fewer and fewer people are actually living in town year round, and so shops like the butcher and fish monger and post office don’t have as much year round business, and they’re starting to find it hard to stay open.
No one seems to know how to stop this downward cycle, but if they don’t, all these lovely coastal towns, which are currently full of real working people, will find it harder and harder to stay real towns, and they will become more like the cutesy towns of Sausalito and Tiburon that we left behind in Marin.
By the way, the fish and chips were some of the best I’ve ever had – the plate came with a whole half of a freshly caught cod, dipped in batter, and fried to perfection. So if you’re in Port Isaac, do stop in at the Golden Lion and try the fish and chips. And as you walk around the streets, imagine what it will be like when the fishing boats are gone, and the shops are full of nothing but espresso bars, clothing shops, and artist galleries. It will be a sad day when that happens, because a little slice of Cornwall will be gone forever.
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