Author of the best selling, The Humans, Matt Haig has been nominated for the Carnegie Medal three times. On 27th April, he begins a two-week residency at Falmouth University. That’s wonderful, but there’s just one problem. The position is taken.

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Matt Haig Source: WMN

Well OK, it’s not but it is. I guess you’d have to say, if he’s the writer in residence, I am the semi-resident writer. It all started with the food in the canteen…

It was the depths of winter, a little less than three years ago, when someone passed on a rumour that the canteen at Falmouth University had started serving food in the evenings. At the time, I was – and still am – living in a 12 foot caravan in a field near Penryn.

 

I have no electric, and no shower, so you can imagine how excited I was at the prospect of a warm place to sit and eat food not prepared by candle light. Heaven. And it was warm. Oh the shear illicit joy of tucking into cottage pie under electric light. I nearly wept.

Then there’s the shower outside the library. You, with your mod cons might not realise this, but a shower is an outing. Oh yes it is.

And there’s a library – yes I know – filled with books. I began to dwell, and to continue to work on what I started when I was even more home free – living in my van at the side of the road – my book. I became semi-resident.

Discovery

I was always scared my muddy wellies might give me away, so I would drop hints to the dinner ladies implying I might be a member of staff: “Ho hum, another long day…” “Gosh I can’t wait for the holidays…”

Filled with hot grub and pricked by a slight sense of guilt at the enormity of my deception, I wrote and wrote.

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Home sweet semi-home

There have been other writers in residence. Owen Shears was one, Lionel Shriver spoke here, and now of course Dawn French is in on the action – it’s been nice to see them. But through it all, I’ve been here, scribbling on, hoping to one day be someone’s discovery.

They no longer do grub in the evenings, but it doesn’t matter so much now because I’ve gone legit. I work here.

Fulmar is the book – a coming of age story from Cornwall. It’s finished and I’m plugging away promoting it. The reviews have been excellent so far. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll swap places with Matt. In the meantime, from one resident to another, I say, welcome to Falmouth, I look forward to the pleasure of your company. But let’s get one thing straight. I’m the one who lives here.

 

Poldark, it’s a posh stick of rock! It says Cornwall all the way through, it’s kitch as you like and it’s sickly sweet. No doubt the series will prove a hit and the Cornish tourist industry will get a boost, blah, blah, blah.

I get that plenty of people love a good costume drama – and who am I to deny them? I just wish for once we could have a portrayal of Cornwall that’s not either set in the 18th century or fronted by Caroline Quentin.

But I have a solution…

Read my book!

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It’s the Poldark antidote and it’s about a 15 year old Cornish kid from the rough end of town. Jacob Penhallow – you’ll love him. Here’s his pitch:

I’m flat on my face, chewing the tarmac when this bloke nearly runs me over. But instead of giving me a hard time, he gives me a surfboard, a Fulmar. Smiles like he knows something good’s gonna happen, drives off.

But I got the law on my case, and Dad’s dead. Plus there’s Mum: addicted to daytime TV, smokes so many Lambert and Butlers even the dog’s got a cough.

On the up side there’s Karl, surf lifeguard and legend who stops me drowning in more ways than one. There’s surfing and new mates, big waves. Lifeguard training.

And Jade; brainy, scary in a good way – hot.

If only Aiden never wanted to kill me it might be happy ever after, but he does and it ain’t…

Jacob Penhallow, fifteen, gnarly North Cornwall.

Realism
Set amid the surfing and surf lifesaving scene in North Cornwall, Fulmar is gritty and funny, realistic and authentic. It’s Cornwall as it is, the stunning, no frills, community minded place I love. Here’s what one reader said about Fulmar- and I don’t even know him:

A BRILLIANT READ. I have just finished reading this book, from page one I was hooked, such a brilliant read. This was Robin Falveys first book and I am looking forward to reading his next one. Well done Robin.

Maybe someone will turn it into a TV series! Click here to download your copy

First things first, when they say 4 – 5 foot and clean, this is what they mean!

Cleansurf

Second, if you’re feeling stressed, or even if you’re not, you can’t beat a walk along the cliff path from Porthtowan to St Agnes. When the weather is nice, sitting on the cliff edge taking in the view is a fine way to spend a few minutes. If you’re city-bound, desk-bound or any other kind of bound, I hope you’ll enjoy this little treat.

All you have to do is plug in your earphones and click on this link: Seascape then scoot back to this tab and click on the picture below – I recorded the sound as I sat there – so now you can enjoy the view too.view

 

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Thought I might as well add my two pennyworth to the mountain of opinion about the Scottish referendum. Cornwall is about as far removed from Scotland as it’s possible to get, but what the heck, we’re all celts, and besides, I did go to Stirling University.

When I left home (Devon) for Scotland, it was 1990 and I was 18 years old. All I knew about Stirling University was that, a) it was a long way from home and b) it wasn’t in a city. For me at the time, that made it the obvious choice. Here’s what I discovered on arrival:

I didn’t have a clue what anyone was saying.

Later, once I’d acclimatised, I found myself in a place radically different from the one I’d left. I had thought sectarianism was something that happened only in Northern Ireland, and I had thought Scotland was kind of like England but with tartan, haggis and the bagpipes.

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What I discovered was that I qualified, albeit among only very small minority, as a “Fucking English Bastard; among others I was a rare exception, being “alright” and from a race of Fucking English Bastards; mostly, I was what I was – a clueless kid from Devon who regularly drank far too much Tartan Special, only to vomit it all into my wastepaper basket later on.

People had Scottish flags on their walls, “Remember Bannockburn”, was a popular slogan. I didn’t even know where Bannockburn was. I remember heated debates about Scottish independence, the chippy comments about the oil ‘stolen’ by England. It was unexpected, and it made me think, which is what University is (or should be) for.

Scotland was and still is a different country, which doesn’t mean I’m keen to see the break up of the United Kingdom, but I can see the the case for it. And we all know how in touch Westminster is with the 99% of us.

English invasion

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However, if the Scots think they’ll get shot of their colonial overlords by voting YES tomorrow, they should think again. As much as we may be fed up with politicians, they are actually elected, which means they’re not overlords but representatives. No. The feudal overlords are the 432 members of the Scottish aristocracy who own half of all the privately owned land in Scotland. They are the colonial overlords, with the Queen at their head. In this, Scotland has much in common with Cornwall where Prince Charles and Lord Falmouth own great tracts of land.

If it’s the English the Scots are worried about, well, they should be. That’s because if they do vote for independence, lots of us English (including the Cornish) will want to migrate there. If they vote no, but get all the extra powers promised, well then watch out Scotland, because once again, the English will want to move there. If you become the country you promise to be, you’ll need your own version of UKIP to try to keep us out.

When it comes down to it, it’s not just you lot who are sick and tired of the same old bollocks from the same old vested interests, we all are. So tomorrow, when you vote, you “Fucking Scottish Bastards”, whether you vote Yes, or NO, vote for all of us. Vote for change.

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John Wesley: The Cornish often used to run him out of town!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I switched on the radio this morning and was treated to a nice documentary by Quentin Letts on the subject of Methodism.

Bloody hell, I thought, it’s been done already – by me!

Methodism documentary

Here’s the piece I made in 2010 about the state of Cornish Methodism. Have a listen and compare. I think Quentin asked the better question, but he passed over the significance of Methodism to the mining communities of Wales and Cornwall. Still, you can’t do it all in half an hour…

I hardly dare say it but it seems as though the battering is over. And although I’d have liked to have shared my best storm pics with you sooner, to be honest, I didn’t have the heart to post them up.

There’s only so much storm rattling a caravan dweller can take before his brain gets scrambled and his insides go mushy. That level was reached probably sometime in December. But that said, I did get out to some weather-beaten spots and took some snaps on my phone.

If you want to use any of them for any reason – please make sure you attribute them to me ;-)

This first one, I took on my way down to Lizard point. The storm was brewing – I kind of like this picture.

The Lizard

Hercules 2 makes landfall the Lizard Cornwall

Hercules II makes landfall the Lizard, Cornwall 1st Feb 2014

Here’s the old lifeboat station from above.

Old Lizard lifeboat station

Old Lizard lifeboat station

And here’s one from closer to the action:

Stormy waters, the Lizard

Stormy waters, the Lizard

Porthtowan

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At its peak…

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…and on a calmer day

Chapelporth

Chapelporth

Chapelporth

Fed up with hearing about greedy bankers, faceless corporations, useless politicians?

Here’s the antidote!

I’ve been busy making a video to promote my cards. What with Christmas coming up, I thought surely there’d be plenty of people out there searching for that perfect gift – not too expensive but very nice – and here it is!

Here’s the video:

I hope you like it!

Now I’m all plugged into the mains, I’m having to pay more for my electric. In fact, the electric switch on represents a 16% increase in my household bills. But on the bright side, it’s 16% of not a lot. The ‘not a lot’ being the chief advantage of living in a 12 ft caravan.

The disadvantages are the damp, the cold, the lingering winter chest infections and all that. But perhaps not anymore…more of that in a sec.

Another bonus of the caravan thing is that bills are payable to a trustworthy person. The tariff is transparent. No one is ripping me off. It’s a good feeling. Anyway – enough. I’m not going to waste your time with a slating of the big six energy companies and their labyrinthine charging systems – except to say…

Playground bullies

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Were you ever roughed up at school by a kid taking advantage of early onset puberty? Did you ever have your dinner money nicked off you by a pimpled lad with muscles and the rank smell of unwashed armpits? Well I haven’t. When I was 12, I would have reacted with extreme violence to such an affront – so I never had to suffer.

However, a few weeks back I got a final reminder from n-power. They reckoned I owed them thirty odd quid for power to a property I left two and a half years ago. I was taken aback by the threat of bailiffs so rang to ask why they thought I owed them money. Perplexing since I’d been sure to give them final meter readings at the time.

It turned out I didn’t in fact owe them anything. They couldn’t work out why the system had suddenly generated a threatening letter. Great. My question is – what about all the other people who get threatening letters demanding money they don’t even owe. How many of them pay up? How much money is n-power making by however inadvertently, metaphorically flushing ex-customers heads down the toilet???

Central heating

Please take a moment to marvel at my new central heating system.

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If you’re wondering where it is, it’s the brick on top of the wood burner. Not just any old brick but one of the ones from an old night storage heater. You see it on ‘level one’. If it gets very cold, it has a second setting, known as ‘level two’, whereupon I get a second night storage heater block and plonk it on top. When the fire dies down in the middle of the night, rather than wake up feeling for my hat and extra blanket, I simply sleep on, heated to perfection by my central heating. Well that’s the theory. I’ll let you know how it goes.

The big six (or seven if you count Cameron and his cronies) can get stuffed.

 

I defy anyone in a position of skintness, disablement, unemployment or some other form of misery, not to feel sympathy for the rantings of Russell Brand. If you were too busy slaving for a feudal overlord to read his article in the New Statesman, or if you’re a member of the ‘comfortable classes’ more interested in Strictly than social diseases, here’s the Paxman interview on Newsnight:

I don’t see why Brand’s decision not to vote has caused such outrage among members of the establishment and the public. It makes sense to me. Why participate in a political system that puts the interests of big business and the elite ahead of the needs of people and the planet?

And anyway, this isn’t a new view. Good old Henry Thoreau was saying pretty much the same thing back in the 19th Century. The issue was slavery then, just as it’s economic slavery now. His advice then was to refuse to acknowledge the authority of the government. For him, this meant not paying his taxes. For Russell Brand it means ranting and raving on TV. For Thoreau it meant living in a shack in the woods. For Brand it means jetting off to his home in California. Hmm.

Anyway. My two pennyworth is this – dissatisfied with the status quo, depressed by more or less everything you read in the paper, cheesed off that in 2013, Prince Charles is absolved corporation tax on his 53,000 hectare estate?

Make cider

Ingredients: Friends. Apples.

Step one

Friends gather around an apple tree, laugh quite a bit, pickup wind falls, put them in a container. Give organic, tax free apples that owe nothin’ to nobody a rinse under the tap.

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Step 2

Distribute tasks equally between friends. Tasks are: cutting up apples, putting them through a juicer, putting the pulp in a tea towel and squeezing out the juice, getting more apples ready, emptying the tea towel of spent pulp.

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When it starts to pour with rain head indoors, keep juicing.

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Step 3 

Put juice in a large container. Put container under Lisa’s bed (I’m told this is the magic part of the process). Sorry but if you don’t have a Lisa, or if you have a Lisa but no bed, you’re a bit screwed. After two weeks under the bed, put the juice in a demijohn with an air-lock and ferment until fermented. Then bottle and wait until spring.

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Step 4

Drink cider made by free people of their own free will, made in their own free time, made possible by neighbourly cooperation in the noble cause of community drunkenness.

It’s not ideal living in a field – sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s not – but it could be worse. Barring a radical reversal of fortunes nothing is likely to change. It seems to me there’s no point bothering bemoaning the politicians, the authorities, the elite, the corporations. They have no interest in the needs of the likes of us, nor frankly have I in them. So what can we do?

Turn our backs on all of it, and walk away? If Russell Brand is right, this is taking power, not giving it up.