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In the land of artists

Post Date: July 7, 2017 by josiemounsey

As I look out over the island beach in St. Ives, Cornwall, my thoughts go back to those idyllic childhood summers which seemed to stretch into eternity as my two sisters and I ran around on the sand, splashing in and out of the water. My parents’ summers weren’t so carefree. After making tea and cooking breakfast on the primus stove outside our tent, my father would head off to work. My mother’s early morning would invariably be spent doing laundry before taking the three of us off to the local shops to gather provisions. The smell of newly baked bread was irresistible, as were the scones and cakes which sometimes found their way into her basket. It was all I could do to stop from pulling lumps of crust off the still warm loaf as we walked back to the camp site, pausing to peer at the many works-in-progress on artists’ easels dotted here and there. At the end of August, we would reluctantly pack-up the camping equipment for the long drive back to our home in London. On the first day of the new school term, the sparkling sea and fine sand were just a memory.





Now, on this warm June day some 60 years later, I look around at this place I used to know. Gone are the artists’ easels set on the side of the harbour. The narrow cobbled streets, known as the ‘Downalong,’ lined with fishermen’s cottages, are still here, but the cottages now sport the names of holiday letting agencies.










My husband, Joe, poses for a photograph in these fabled streets from my long-ago childhood. It is his first visit here, so he will have his own memories, unsullied by thoughts of how the place used to be. St. Ives has attracted artists for decades, but now artists work from sometimes cramped studios, mostly hidden from the public gaze. Tate St. Ives is one of only four Tate Galleries in the world, and holds hundreds of works by the St. Ives School dating back to the late 1800s.







Miraculously, the harbour is still a working harbour. I would like to think that the crab for my delicious lunchtime crab and saffron quiche at The Sea Room, spent a happy life living in the local waters.








My memory fails me as I look at the plethora of fancy meringues in the window of the St. Ives Bakery. Is this the cozy shop where my mother, sisters, and I, drooled over cakes and bread? Opposite, at the Cornish Cream Shop, there is no getting away from the Poldark saga!







We pause on our way back to the railway station to take one more picture above the island beach, the place of so many memories for me. Just below the station, another scenic view comes into focus. No time to linger, as our train back to Lelant Saltings awaits. As the train rattles along the scenic tracks, I sit back and think of new memories made here – later life memories, which mingle comfortably with childish memories of long ago.

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