Jennie Osborne and her beautiful collection, How to be Naked, published by Oversteps, is the new Featured Writer. Jennie is an accomplished performer and reads in many local venues. She has been always been an inspiration to me over the years. I think what Roselle Angwin wrote about these poems sums them up perfectly, ‘ … each poem delivers a little firecracker that ignites on opening. Often there is humour, almost always the subtext is the importance of emotional honesty.’
Cornwall this August was like a large beast, chewing the cud, swallows pinging around its flicking ears, the distinctive smell of different states of the tides in the air – that snoozey feeling of late summer. Everywhere there was rose-bay willow herb, meadowsweet and honeysuckle ramping along the top of the gorse and the old walls. In marshy areas there was loosestrife and fleabane. Kestrels hovered along the cliffs, dropped like a stone to catch a mouse or vole they’d spotted. Others sat on rocks and seemed unperturbed by us walkers.
(shame my hand wobbled in that one!)
Even the seals seemed slow and relaxed, popping out their shiny heads to catch a breath before vanishing beneath for long minutes. The sea was a Mediterranean blue, only occasionally hitting a rock with force enough to send up one jet of spume and then sighing in the heat. And the sea and river birds as always responding like clockwork as the tide came up to gather insects that take flight from the sand or the mud, or waiting for the feeding fish to come up with the returning waters, or picking over the surface, as it becomes exposed, for shellfish and small crabs that the ebb has left behind.
Somehow I find there is nothing more rewarding than finding my own food: stumbling across the white shine of early mushrooms in the meadows for instance, picking the first of the blackberries which are always huge and juicy. Dulse came in on the tide.
Marsh Samphire is another plant to look for if you don’t mind standing in estuary mud; sea birds crying across the estuary; the smell of salt, weed and slightly brackish water making your nose zing; bending over till your back aches; stepping carefully not to sink in deep and to avoid treading on the food you want to gather. At this time of the year it can be plentiful in muddy creeks. It’s like eating freshly picked sea. I was careful to snip only one branchlet off each plant so it can grow on without being injured, taking enough for myself and my family. (I have seen others gathering large quantities to sell on at high prices to posh restaurants presumably.)
Edward Thomas walked the length and breadth of Cornwall by the sound of it in the only chapter devoted to the county in The South Country. In 1908 he wrote …. ‘In their (the barrows) sight the great headlands run out to sea and sinking seem to rise again a few miles out in a sheer island, so that they resemble couchant beasts with backs under water but heads and haunches upreared.’ At least, that hasn’t changed …. apart from the sight of GCHQ on the horizon.