Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Country Graveyards

The title of this post was going to be Surfer Dudes; the reason for the the actual title will become clear in time.  As for the Surfer Dudes, Cornwall became besotted with surfing when neophene wetsuits became available in the 1980s.  Any faint suggestion of sand is now ringed with surf shops selling all the usual equipment, parking lots filled with wanna-be woodies with board racks on the roof, and so forth. 

Alas, for even an East Coast American, the actual waves seem to be pretty minimal, and the surfers more occupied with milling about in the water than actually surfing.  Maybe it was an off-day for this picture, taken in Polzeath.

As a passing aside, for readers like me who were lucky enough to spend days on windy American beaches in the 1970's, and who have been puzzled by the disappearance of those canvas windshields that were used then to -- unsuccessfully -- protect us from blowing sand and chill breezes, the answer is apparently that they are all being exported to England so that families with young children there can go to the beach and be miserable in the same way we were in the 1970's.

After this tour of Cornish surfing and family beaches, I moved on to more cultural pursuits.  The attraction advertised by my guidebooks was the Sunken Church, specifically the 13th Century Church of St. Enodoc.  The story is that the church has gradually sunk into the sand, leaving it still in service but half-disappeared.  The only approach to the church from my surfing beach, and indeed from any other direction as far as I could tell, appears to be across the fairways of the St. Enodoc Golf Club, which aside from exposing the walker to the ire of club members out for a quick 18 holes on a workday -- golfers, especially country club golfers, are a territorial lot -- requires a sharp eye for incoming golf balls (the club, presumably only for the benefit of legitimate members, helpfully provides discreet small signs saying "Golf balls being driven from the left," etc.). 

But I went on and safely reached the church.  It was okay, but a bit of a disappointment.  Sunken, yes, but you had to look closely to see that it wasn't just built in a dip.  Not nearly as evocative as the Buried Church in Denmark (see www., Scenics, Buried Church).

One of the  great advantages of traveling afoot, however, is the heightened opportunity for serendipitous discovery.  In this case, note the white tombstone at the right of my dutiful picture of St. Enodoc's Church.  It records the death of Lcdr. C.G. Gynn, H.M.S. Charybdis on 23d October 1943.  "Greater love hath no man."  Beneath that, the tombstone notes that his "Beloved Wife Kathleen Helena" is also buried here. 

She died a full 50 years later, in December 1993.  It helps you realize that for many people World War II didn't end in 1945.  Kathleen Gwynn experienced a half-century of widowhood after her husband's cruiser was torpedoed in 1943 with a loss of 494 men.  How many other widows were still alive in 1993 to remember that loss?  How many children?