Friday, 12 February 2010

Peace Off

Yesterday I visited Poltesco, a cove on the eastern side of Cornwall's Lizard peninsula. During the nineteenth century, the tiny bay had been home to a factory processing serpentine.

Serpentine is a beautiful rock found almost uniquely on the Lizard. Dark green or grey, with blue and red veins, it polishes like marble to a wonderful deep sheen. The Victorians loved serpentine and used it widely for architectural features, monumental masonry, and ornaments; the Lizard became famous for its serpentine production. Though the wider uses of the rock died out, today Lizard Village still has several serpentine turners, producing decorative objects keenly sought-after by the summer visitors.

Here's a feature to be written, I thought. So I went to take some photographs of the old site, where the factory's remains still stand. The sun shone from an azure sky, a sprinkling of puffy white clouds overhead. Placid twinkly sea, a warm wind, gentle walking down to the shore. Peacefully, I took my photos.

As I prepared to leave, a man appeared at the other side of the bay, a large camera at the ready. He stopped and stood motionless, staring. Then the camera swung up. As I watched him, my foot slipped on loose pebbles; I went skittering over, cried out, and clattered down a little gradient.

The man hurried toward me. Good job he's around, I thought; if I'd hurt myself, I might have been in trouble. The bay is gorgeous, but isolated.

'You've frightened it off, thanks very fucking much', he shouted.

I think he meant a bird. As best I could, I tried to tell him I hadn't meant to fling myself across the shale or disturb his labours, that I was OK thanks. But to no effect. I wasn't sufficiently injured to foster any sympathy; I'm not sure death would have done it. As he continued to rail, it occurred to me that he was a spindly little weed.

For a moment I considered following the man for the rest of the day; whenever he tried taking any more photos, I'd yell things out. But instead I exchanged a few pleasantries, and left.

At the top of the cove, in the car park were two cars. Mine and his. And - oh joy - beside my Focus was parked, at the correct distance and relative attitude, a Smart Car. A vehicle for somebody with only one friend. I'd say that was pushing it.

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