Life’s too short for matching socks

Today was Denise Day. It was full of things she really wanted to do in Cornwall. There was the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Boscastle, the Pixie Shop in Boscastle and Tintagel Castle. She also wanted to see King Arthur but she had to do with parking in his car park because he is just too far around the cliff top.

As it turned out, she didn’t get to see the Pixie Shop because it’s not there any more. I think it was washed away in the Great Flood of 2004. By the way, I thought the name of the village was pronounced Bo’castle but, I was reliably informed by a very helpful, horse riding waitress* in the café where Denise had her very first Cornish cream tea, that it is pronounced Boss-castle.

It’s hard to believe the place was ever flooded. Today it shone in the sun and looked an absolute and crowded delight. There were also lots of dogs.

Fortunately we arrived just on 10am when the car park still had spaces. It soon filled up and, when we left, cars were circling like vultures above a sickening cow.

We were going to visit the Museum of Witchcraft but first, Denise wanted to try a Cornish cream tea. We tried a couple of tea shops but, strangely, they were closed. We finally headed into The Riverside (Guest Accommodation and Coastal Restaurant). And what an excellent idea that was. Obviously, Denise thoroughly enjoyed her cream tea but my bacon sandwich took some beating. Excellent stuff. Very fresh bread and heaps of bacon. Couldn’t fault it.

But food was quickly forgotten when we hit the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic. I had no idea how much I was going to enjoy it. So glad I went.

Cecil Williamson (1909-1999) created the first museum back in 1948 along with Gerald Gardner. It was on the Isle of Man. However, things soured between the two and, in 1952, Cecil sold the place to Gerald and returned to the mainland.

Cecil, taking his own artefacts from the original museum, opened another one in Windsor. It was quite successful for a year but then local opposition forced him to move. And so he next tried Bourton-on-the-water in the Cotswolds. The locals weren’t that keen on him there either. In fact, they tried to burn the museum down. He once more upped sticks.

Finally, in 1960, he ended up in Boscastle and here the museum has remained ever since.

The collection is amazing. From paintings to figurines, from a mummified head to Alistair Crowley. It’s all there. In fact, the mummified head was called Harry until the museum had it tested only to discover it was actually a woman’s head from Egypt. It has since had a name change to Harriet.

Something quite interesting about the museum was the pair in front of us. Now I tend to look at most things in museums but there comes a point where you just skim a bit. Not this pair. They read every single word on every single card. They were causing a right old logjam in the narrow corridors downstairs. It was only when we emerged into the open space on the second floor, that people could get by them.

Those two aside, it was an amazing place. I particularly liked the fact that witches used to use eggshells for boats, so people would crush their eggshells to prevent it. This painting shows the dangers of not crushing them.

Witches in Eggshells (1979) by Jos A Smith (b 1936)

I guess the witches can shrink because most eggshells are pretty small. Even a hefty ostrich egg would be too small for a human sized witch. I’m thinking there’s some magic at work here. I’ll have to remember to crush them now.

And, oddly, there was a Joan. I guess it wasn’t so odd given the English tried and burned her. There were suggestions that she was working for the devil which, maybe could be equated with witchcraft. Personally, I think it’s a bit of a stretch. Still, it’s always nice to find a bit of Joan and very unusual finding her in Britain.

I have to refute the charge made by Erica Jong on the card regarding Joan’s refusal to ‘say the Paternoster’. This was explained at the time of her trial. She refused because her judges would not allow her to make her confession. Also, she was NOT burned as a witch. She was burned as a heretic, because the court decided she was delusional rather than someone sent by god.

Of course, the actual truth was that the English tried, starved, and deprived her of sleep before burning her alive, simply because she was a force more powerful than them. It has happened so many times in history when the old white men fear the young strong woman and, rather than sit down and talk to her, they kill her in as much pain as possible. Cowards, the lot of them.

It was also because the English hate the French. Some things never change.

But, enough of my favourite French maid.

After spending some time in the museum, we headed down the harbour and back. I then left Denise to buy some stuff while I had a beer in the Cobweb Inn. A lovely establishment, directly opposite the car park of the same name.

Yes, there were a lot of beer bottles hanging from the ceiling.

As soon as I finished my pint, Denise turned up and we headed back to Freddy in order for Denise to pack away her 15 bags of things she’d just bought. It was then time to head for our second destination on Denise Day.

The last time we visited Tintagel was in 2013. We were with Bob, and the three of us had to climb the ridiculously steep steps up and down. It was arduous. Then, in 2019, they built a bridge. And what a brilliant bridge it is. And lucky for her it is there because Denise said that if it had been the stairs, she’d have not gone. She would have stood on the land side and just waved.

The bridge was completed in August 2019 following a competition in 2015 for the design. The winners of the competition were Ney & Partners Civil Engineers and William Matthews Associates. The bridge is paved with Cornish Delabole slate, with stainless steel balustrades fitted along its length. The balustrades have been designed to be so fine that, when viewed from a distance, they disappear against the sky. There is a 40mm gap in the middle which is supposed to represent a shift from present to past. Denise wasn’t keen on the gap.

I think it’s a wonderful bit of engineering. Who knows what the original looked like, but I reckon those engineers would have loved the new one. It is truly a thing of beauty. Still, I’m rather glad I also experienced walking up and down the steep steps.

We wandered around the ruins – I read the plaques for Denise – then rested on a short wall before heading back.

Ye Olde Malthouse Inn was calling. It had a sea bass with my name on it alongside a pint of beer just waiting for my mouth. Of course, I didn’t know that until we went in. Denise had the filo pastry with 146 potato wedges and a glass of lemonade.

Having filled our tummies with food, beer and I may have had a small rum, we headed out in order for Denise to buy more stuff to fill Freddy with. It was while I was waiting for her to emerge from one of the countless gift shops that a woman, walking a dog, stopped and said, “Life is too short for matching socks.” She was referring to my unmatching socks.

Her husband, who was walking in front of her, turned and asked what she’d said. She pointed at my socks then asked him if he was wearing matching socks. He lifted his trousers to reveal that he was not. I felt like hugging him. Instead, I gave him a thumbs up and called him brother.

It was a great moment of clarity. And comradeship. I felt warm in the glow of a fraternity I didn’t know existed.

We then drove back to the cottage.

It was an excellent day which we both enjoyed immensely.

* She wasn’t riding a horse while being a waitress. It wasn’t some weird sort of reverse ride through café. We were discussing the weather yesterday and she mentioned she’d been for her morning ride just before the rain started.

This entry was posted in Cornwall 2022, English Heritage visits, Gary's Posts. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Life’s too short for matching socks

  1. Mirinda says:

    Adore the painting with witches in eggshells. And the bridge looks rather beautiful.

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