Wednesday, July 26, 2006

all quiet on the south western front

Current level of conviction in own genius: 8
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 1.5
Hair day: super-conditioned to compensate for recent extreme sun-exposure

Back from much-deserved mini-sojourn with Andy down in the south westerly depths of the country, having completed a year of full-on teaching of both tiny things and preternaturally talented teenagers. We camped for three nights in the cutesome village of Gwithian then B'n'B-ed it in Totnes. Highlights were:

1) Breakfasting every morning on a pot of tea in a cheery flowered mug and piping hot sausage butties served by white-blonde teenage surfers at the Jam Pot, the only café for many miles around, perched high on Gwithian Towans (dunes for the un-Cornish amongst you). With cheek-pinking breezes and a view over the beach, it was the perfect way to shake off the night before's wine and whisky and crack on with the day…

2) The 3-mile stretch of curving beach from Gwithian to Hayle, as white-blonde as those surfers and a third of a mile wide. So smooth and uncluttered it wouldn't know what to do with flotsam and jetsam. Mind-sweeping, broad blue bliss. We had fun walking the length of it, into the wind and with the sand lashing our legs, filming contemporary yoga-infused shadow dances and writing poetry in the sand as is my wont, but also, in most unprecedented fashion (my coastal visits normally being accompanied by vicious gales and snow), enjoying quality beach-lounging time in very skimpy brown bikini.

3) Tate St. Ives, a bone-white art deco slab of perfection. One room showed cherry-picked St. Ives modernists; seeing Pelagos, a Barbara Hepworth sculpture - all wood, wave and strings, like an instrument plucked from the sea - in the flesh was a joy. But this was eclipsed by the John Hoyland exhibition: I don't think I've ever entered a gallery room and gasped with echoey audibility at a work, but we did at several of his large-scale, colour-splattered, explosive abstracts. Sherbert bursts for the eyes.

4) A phenomenal meal at the Porthminster Beach Café right on the talcum powder sands in St. Ives. A ludicrously multi-sensory feast where we sighed over things like beetroot and vanilla cured gravalax of salmon with a shot glass of crème fraiche and pickled fennel. And that was just the starter.

5) We were in Totnes to grace the world premiere of my Sundial Songs, commissioned by Eilidh Fraser to commemorate her mother and written for the counter-tenor Nick Clapton. Having written it 18 months ago, it seemed strange to hear it finally realised at Dartington Hall, but Nick gave an excellent, emotion-laden performance, and it went down beautifully. Amusing to know that they decided to use £60,000 worth of antique Steinway grand for my prepared piano part. Tee hee. Andy and I were treated to a most diverting lunch the next day by Eilidh and Nick, who entertained us over prawn and crab salad and local wine with anecdotes that showed off their incredibly creative, much-travelled lives. Eilidh, a designer and goldsmith who resides in the South of France, recently accompanied her weaver husband to Boston Fashion Week where they co-represented Britain alongside Paul Smith; she mentioned in passing the time when she met one of the original dancers in the Rite of Spring, as one does. Nick threw in very amusing vignettes about his various travels including having to take a castrating device through Hungarian customs for BBC4 and advised us to grace a tea shop up the road where you could get served by the 'most delightfully chunky waiters.' Felt very young and flighty indeed….

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