Poldark is a wonderful thing. So is crazy adventure. You know the sort – when you’re sharing your idea for your adventure and you’re looked at as if you’re on drugs. The sort that are a bit embarrassing to share at all before you’ve done them.
Except my Poldark adventure to live in Cornwall didn’t start that way. There was a job lead, a really great job lead. I’d visited twice to research the coastal village I liked and all signs were positive. For years I’d said I’d live by the sea.
But I hadn’t watched Poldark. Not even an episode.
Yet the idea of living by the Cornish coast and writing was a pull I couldn’t resist any longer. In truth, I’d thought it would be a move I’d make in my retirement years not my middle age. But I’d heard Dawn French had done it, and become a writer no less, with no sign of a grey hair on her head yet.
So at the start of summer 2017 I sold my little lake house, pocketed the cash and rented a beach front apartment in Cornwall. By beach front I mean it was 103 steps before my feet were on sand. Yes, one of the first things I tested. The main window overlooked a craggy beach complete with castle ruins and a lighthouse. Beach bingo ‘house!’.
‘This rain must stop at some point!‘ I joked on my viewing.
It was pouring.
The agent nodded, non-committal.
I moved in early May. It was still raining. It didn’t stop until August, or so it seemed, and then only fleetingly. Yes, there were some standout sunny days to enjoy in early September. That’s a long time to wait to get your legs out. Maybe ten days of kicking about half naked in the beach coves were nothing compared to the Californian climate I’d heard was legendary.
This was not California. Or it was California in the middle of winter.
Some days it rained so much that I wondered where the sea had gone. The view from my window turned into a mass of mist that began on the ledge and stretched to where I guessed the horizon might be.
What bad luck! Maybe it was a one-off, a duff summer I hear you wondering. Or maybe it wasn’t. Because the evidence of damp that started to bloom on my bedroom walls dropped a major hint that I’d rented a problem. One corner grew an outline of Russia. I developed a nose drip, a midnight cough, a fungal rash. The landlord and agent reacted with dramatic shock. The contractors who came to look at it said they’d been several times before.
Ventures can sometimes feel like a very wrong step indeed.
Perhaps I should have bothered to watch Poldark.
But hang on in there – it is worth it. Because it is on this venture that I gained as much – if not more – than on any venture I’ve ever taken to far more glam and glossy travel mag locations.
Because as my venturing spirit was being drained out of my socks (yes, I was wearing socks in summer) I decided to grab it by the fingertips before it slipped off a cliff… and fight for it.
I have to stress, my experience is not a reflection on the whole of Cornwall. It is not even a reflection on that particular coastal town. It was (on reflection) a weird mash up of elements that were particular to me at that particular time. It was the hardest venture I’ve been on to date, but it’s also the most enriching by far.
Without it I would NOT have:
- found the reassurance that when it all crashes or you don’t get what you want, you don’t just get something else, you can get something much richer
- finally addressed my health so that now I am healing a body that freaked out around damp (because it was a red flag of a much deeper auto-immune funk)
- now rented a place I would never have considered as right for me, but forced by budget and need I’ve ended up here and it is proving a sanctuary
In my darkest points, when I felt I’d made a monumental mistake that would finish me off in one way or another, I found a spark.
The glimmer of hope was: if you can face this alone (and that was important) you can face ANYTHING.
And this hope, I learnt (after binge-watching the boxset on rainy summer evenings) is VERY Poldark indeed.
This, for me, is one of the most uplifting aspects of the Poldark novels. There is always that glimmer of hope and a resilience in the human spirit that is capable of fighting back – against all the odds that life can throw at us.
The reality of a venture may not be what you had dreamed it would be. However, this doesn’t mean that those ventures are mistakes. Resist the natural instinct to be deflated or discouraged by them if you can.
They may be the best ventures, albeit the most crazy ones.
Yes, and here’s the really crazy bit:
On days when I could, I walked that stretch of the Cornish coast. It was a long stretch of headland, beaches and coastal paths. I dragged myself in all weathers, at all paces, mostly to breathe freely. I learnt the creases and coves of rock pools like the landscape of my own face.
It was on one of those walks that I had a moment that was worth all the expense, all the sense of failure, all the house move hassle. No lie. I’m writing about it separately in detail. But enough to say here that it was a game changer.
It was an incidental merging of the memory of a recurring dream I’d had in my thirties in my corporate days with a split second in real life on one of those walks. It was a forceful segway, like a shaft of light shot across decades from the brain of an earlier me to the one coughing her way across the edge of Cornwall in her forties.
I had not made a mistake.
I had, repeatedly, dreamed walking a remarkably similar landscape for years. Back then I taking cheap flights to get to pinstriped meetings in airport lounges to discuss how to sell pet food. Yep, my life was that glam. And that exhausting.
So I’d quietened my soul so much that its only place to play was in my dreams. The recurring beach dream was of a headland with crashing breath-taking turquoise waves, then a calm quiet cove I’d sit on alone before walking to a kid squealing beach, all candy floss and fishing nets.
It was the dream version of the walk I was taking. Right there, in reality. Ridiculous details collided: the three concrete steps, the beach huts, the palm trees, the spectacular blue of the sea, the soundtrack of each place.
That penny drop moment stopped my feet in their tracks.
What a crazy venture.
Knowing that your dreams can become reality.
Cue the Poldark theme tune…