I’m just sitting here at my desk listening to the seagulls and watching the sun beginning to set and pondering on the day.
Our county of Cornwall is so beautiful, so rich in heritage and the source of inspiration and dreams for so many, a place of memories and a place so many aspire to come back to. And yet, it is also a place where inequalities are really stark, where poverty is experienced and lived in a way that perhaps isn’t quite as evident “up-country”.
When I first moved to Cornwall twelve years ago, I was completely naive. (And apologies, that I’m writing as very much an incomer!) I knew we were moving to one of the poorest regions in Europe, but if I’m very honest, I never truly believed how it could be…where was all that tourism money going after all? And can poverty really be so harsh when set against such a beautiful backdrop?
I was in for a shock when talking to some local children near my home one day…….when I asked them what they like doing and which beaches they go to, I was met with blank looks and the response that they never went to the beach……after all, how could they? There was no transport and no money for transport anyway.
So how could this be? Young people surrounded by the most beautiful places in the world and yet their world was very small. Not for them the shiny surfboards and bodyboards in the shops, the expensive wet-suits and the promise of picnics and pasties. Their world is a world away from the perception of Cornwall from the other side of the Tamar.
And yet…….what they have and what I have experienced, through living here, is the most wonderful sense of community. I think it is more than just a natural response to poverty, I think it goes deeper than that. I think it comes from a shared heritage, a pride in a strong Celtic identity, an independence and strength of spirit borne out of hardwork and hardship. A real sense of social responsibility.
Anyway, the point of writing was really to say that I am privileged to witness everyday people going above and beyond to help and serve others. What is humbling is that the volunteers who keep Cornwall ticking, ask for no recognition or glory for themselves, they do it because of their love for their neighbours and they do it tirelessly.
I witnessed that again today at a coffee morning at Falmouth Methodist Church. It was co-ordinated by the charity, Transformation Cornwall, with the aim of encouraging people to meet and reduce a sense of loneliness and social isolation. More than forty people came and it was a wonderful chance to chat and eat cake. I made a raspberry and mascarpone cake, which was a bit adventurous for me (I only ever make one cake a year…for my son’s birthday), but it was quite nice and it was all eaten! And I heard so many stories of how little acts of kindness, even just taking a few moments to listen to somebody, can make all the difference to a person’s life. I realised how we really are all connected, dependent upon one another. And how, despite the inequalities in income and life chances, there is so much heart because of a love for one another.
I know it sounds silly and simplistic, but it really is the simple things that enrich our lives.
Thank you for reading this…….here’s a picture from this morning!