04 February 2013

cyprus well

charles causley's bedroom
"a poem has a secret life; the simpler it is the more is going on underneath, like an unturned stone."

on saturday morning i had the privilege of a visit to cornish poet, charles causley's house. what i'd imagined would be a quick peek turned into my very own personal guided tour. it was a totally wonderful and quite a moving experience. 

stepping in through the door of no. 2 cyprus well in launceston was a magical moment full of anticipation and nervous excitement. talented musicians julie murphy and ceri owen jones were setting up equipment to record in causley's study using his piano, while malcolm from the causely trust showed me around. he is extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about all things causley and it was fascinating to hear the stories whilst seeing and touching the physical objects relating to them.

the cottage is fairly dark and there is a strong smell of must for it has stood empty since causley's death in 2003. but the musty odor doesn't quite mask the smell of the house and it's very evocative - an old person smell and combined with the brown hessian-effect wallpaper in the hallway and other dated decor i feel a powerful sense of stepping back in time. i also have an uneasy feeling - one of being in someone's personal space without their permission and there is a part of me that feels i need to tread lightly and speak quietly. malcolm, on the other hand, has the assured step of someone who's developed a more casual and familiar relationship with it all and doesn't think twice about pulling open drawers, sifting through stacks of papers, piling up paintings to show me a wardrobe shelf crammed with framed pictures. when he wiggles open the top drawer of causley's mother's chest of drawers i gasp, and think 'we can't look in there!' expecting it to reveal her bras and knickers! i particularly like "mother's" room (as she's referred to). all horizontal surfaces are covered with dusty trinkets and china ornaments. there are lots of things that remind me of both my grandmothers. her bed is warmed by a paisley patterned feather eiderdown and on it lies causley's sailor's cap from his navy days. there are colourful crocheted blankets, embroidered linen cushions and an identical partner to a big woven basket i have in my bedroom (in which was discovered a set of metal farm yard animals now in the local museum). 

causley's bedroom in contrast is small, uncluttered and utilitarian. the heavy beige wall paper has become stained and damp and it's incredibly moving to see his suit still hanging on the wardrobe possibly where he last left it. there's a painted wooden trunk by the window and an eclectic mix of paintings and prints. downstairs, julie is playing the piano and her singing is drifting up towards us. malcolm has been telling me tales about "mother" and her strong hold over her son and now we're standing next to causley's single metal bed musing about his seeming lack of relationships (although apparently there were some girlfriends in the early pre-naval days). i feel a bit naughty having this conversation in his bedroom and feel a heightened anxiety that maybe his ghost really is watching ...... and disapproving. so it's a bit of a relief to return downstairs and look in the big dining room cupboard crammed with pots, tupperware and no less than four thermos flasks!  fortunately for the trust causely was a man who threw nothing away and deciding between them all what to keep sounds like a tricky business. 

i really don't want to leave but i'm in a bit of a hurry as it's my sister's 30th birthday and i'm about to attempt a journey from launceston to golant all by kernow's public transport. i find it too difficult to interrupt julie's singing to say goodbye as it sounds so beautiful and i don't want to be the one who makes it stop. so i ask malcolm to do this for me instead. 

as i leave one recording "studio" i'm heading towards another. my sister has hired out the sawmills for the weekend. it's a beautiful old 17th century water mill that was turned into one of the first residential recording studios in the uk in the 70's. an array of big name bands such as oasis, the stone roses and robert plant have recorded there. getting to golant is a bit of an adventure. there's rain and sun and a rainbow. i pass a mysterious black house with a black gate and a black van outside, a neat wood pile and at the sawmills, an abandoned mossy wood pile. i arrive at this fully renovated celebrity hideaway to an air of excitement as apparently reef left just the night before. amongst the party goers there are animated discussions about which members of oasis might have slept in their beds! the image of causley's bed is imprinted strongly on my mind and it feels like i've entered a polar opposite world. 

if i had to sum up my experiences of the weekend in terms of wood piles (and it's not often you get to do this), then the mossy one would be cyrus wells and the neatly arranged angular one would be the sawmills!

wood pile representing my feeling of big name bands and commercial music recording studios

wood pile representing my feeling of diy homemade music recording in a poet's house

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