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July 21, 2014

Above my bed there now hangs a painting of Trebarwith. My hubby bought it for me the last time we stayed at Michael House. I wanted it for my 60th birthday because it was painted by my friend Vanessa and was hanging on the wall in the dining room at the guest house she runs ,with a price tag upon it. She tells me it is done in pastels and that she hasn’t painted anything in a long while. She really should start again, she has talent. Her picture captures very well the spirit of the place and the swell of the water; when I look at it, I am there. 

It makes me smile every time I gaze upon this painting. It reminds me of her, and the Michael House family – Simon and the dogs, Berri and Velvet, and the cats, the aristocratic Sheba, the feline wizard, Merlin, with his quixotic expression and distinctive stump of tail (testament to past adventures) and the motherly little Pickle with her enchanting brood of surprises, all growing fast as young animals do.

I am taken, in imagination, to the several times that we have stood on the rocks at Trebarwith Strand, mesmerised by the movement of the waves rolling in. It is a spectacular rocky coastline. I can hear the gulls, smell the air, feel the breeze -and the sand  and cold water on the feet I have bared to the elements, as my thoughts wing their way there. It has become one of my favourite places in the world, full of pleasant associations and bestowing on me a deep sense of inner peace.

Trebarwith is only a short walk across fields, and steeply downwards, from Michael House. We have often walked  there after dinner, in the dark, especially on the evenings we arrive, keen to have a sight and sound and smell of the sea before bed, after hours in the car on the road and a delicious dinner. When it’s dark we avoid the field and rough path and go by the road, less pleasant but easier to see where you are putting your feet. We carry a torch at those times, as the quality of darkness there  is one which we don’t experience in the London suburbs, No street lamps, just silky darkness and the night sky.

Before becoming vegan, I hadn’t visited this part of Cornwall. I came initially simply to stay at Michael House, so that I could be assured of good, vegan food for breakfast and dinner and as part of my wish to support vegan businesses  – to help make it easier for others to adopt an ethical lifestyle in the future. You can visit their facebook page by clicking on this link:-

and their website here:

Michael House is in a tiny village called Treknow, about a mile from Tintagel, seat of the Arthurian legends. We have now been to stay 4 times in the past year,each visit only a couple of days, but all of them, despite some inclement weather at times,  the pure, concentrated pleasure of good food and spectacular countryside and coastline.

Our first visit was in June 2013. My non vegan hubby was very happy to take me on a short trip, especially as I don’t particularly like going away much, anywhere, as a rule. As long as the food is good, he is happy to eat vegan, and the meals at Michael House are excellent. I knew it would be,and we were not disappointed,on that first visit. Alan’s favourite is Vanessa’s risotto, especially when it is asparagus. Cooked to perfection, he says, a rival to anything Raymond Blanc can create at his flagship, swanky restaurant (where, incidentally, we stayed for our silver wedding anniversary -NOT a place for vegans, sadly, but this was before my enlightenment).

Our first sight of Trebarwith Strand was in the dark, after dinner our first evening. I took in huge lungfuls of the delicious sea air and went to sleep that night to the remembered and cherished sound of the ocean slapping the rocks in the bay.

I have fallen in love with Trebarwith. Bewitched by it, even. If Vanessa’s painting were a portal and I could enter it and go there as soon as wishing, I’d be popping along daily, but the real world doesn’t have wardrobes to another dimension and paintings that can whisk you, on a whim,  into the scenes they depict. Such a world would, of course, be impossible to live in. Think about it – if magic were commonplace, you could rely on nothing, ever, staying where it was or even being there at all.. Not even the ground beneath your feet – someone’s ‘magic’ would always be altering reality. Many would use it purely for mischief and mayhem and even evil, so I’m grateful for the real, solid, dependable world with its natural laws, even if, within that, suffering is inevitable.

The journey to Treknow and Trebarwith takes us through Wiltshire, and past a large pig farm. I am glad to see the animals  out in the open air, not confined as so many are on the worst of the factory farms throughout the world. These piggies are on grass (and mud, of course) and have little metal huts for shelter. I imagine there is straw inside, for them to lie in; I hope I’m right. I regret there are no trees for shade and interest – pigs do enjoy a good root about in the leaf litter, and they would be delighted to find some berries or acorns that had dropped from the boughs.

As pig farms go, I suppose this one is not so bad, but I am troubled by its existence at all. I like to see the pigs, but I don’t like why they exist there, in this field in the Wiltshire countryside. Perhaps parts of them will end up in the ready meals from Wiltshire Foods. It is not a happy thought. I think of my mother’s freezer, full of animal parts – butchered limbs, wings, slices of someone’s chest or thigh or loin – and my heart sinks within me. Dear, sweet, kind, harmless old ladies happily eating chunks of someone’s murdered body – the image is quite gross. These cat and dog and donkey loving folk who are soft as the butter they can’t see is cruelty in a greasy slab  – where their favoured animals are concerned – cannot feel the slightest twinge of empathy for pig and cow and sheep and chicken persons. These sentient creatures, the  ‘absent referents’ of the animal chunks on their plates cannot be heard by these kind, inoffensive people. What damage we do to children raising them to ingest all this violence and not turn a hair. Could it be that our turbulent, troubled world is partly due to this? It is my belief that it is so.

I wish, as we sail past  the farm at speed, catching fleeting glimpses of pigs doomed to become bacon and sausages, that the farmer would decide to plant some trees to shade them and enrich their environment. I wish that he or she would begin to think of these pigs as beings, not simply some way to make a living from the land. I wish for this thought to take the farmer onwards into a troubled conscience over what is done to these, and all animals in the farming sector, and to begin a change.  I dream of one farmer at a time, altering the way his land is used, diversifying, thinking outside the Countryfile box and being a part of a brave, new, kinder world.

Trebarwith, here we come, I think. Somerset, Devon and finally, Cornwall; the sea beckons and the hospitality of Michael House. We are nearly at  Journey’s End, the place I think of as my second home. A large part of my heart is there. It is never far from my thoughts. My spirits continue to lift, and finally Treknow appears on the signposts and scenes as familiar and dear to me now as any I have ever known. Nothing will dampen my joy to be here, not even cold wind and driving rain .It is all beautiful. It is all  the most tremendous blessing.

We are soon to visit again, for 6 days this time,our longest stay there yet. I don’t care what the weather is like, it will be balm and refreshment for my soul, just to be there, in all that peace and beauty, and with vegan friends. I have been vegan now for almost two and a half years. I love Michael House and everything about being vegan – except the fact that most people in the world still aren’t vegan, and that means 2000 animals a second are being killed for them to eat, every day. That is a sickening thought which my short stays in this part of Cornwall help me to cope with. By supporting a vegan business, I am helping the cause of veganism.

Trebarwith and Michael House – here we come, soon, soon.

One Comment
  1. What a lovely, evocative piece. It makes me all the more determined that someday I would love to visit this place! And I relate also to your feelings as you pass the pig farm. Living in an agricultural area close to a chicken ‘processing plant’ I know what it feels like when every journey, no matter how pleasant or hopeful, is tainted by my awareness of those whose entire bleak lives are spent queueing to die.

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