This week has been very busy, I have officially become a Graduate and it was a beautiful day. An experience I will never forget, a wholesome and gracious day of thanks to friends and family who have become a sturdy support system over the past three years and beyond.
I was returning to my university town from a different perspective, one of knowingly not returning for a while, one where I wouldn’t be a habitant or a temporary resident. Falmouth in Cornwall became my home for the majority of the year during my studies, I had an alternating relationship with my university town. I would start my first semester in Autumn and slowly as the days were growing shorter and the winds off the shore were quickening, it became cold and dark and constricted what we could do with our time after college. It was a lonely time for the town. Daphne Du Maurier writes about Cornwall and the harsh winters in many of her books,In Jamacia Inn her description of the Bodmin moors and their destructive winters poigniantly portray the realities that the season brings with it and you can’t help but feel isolated and cold.
Falmouth was hit hard by its winters. The number of tourists rapidly decreased as the distant location meant that the flow of tourists didn’t make their way down to Falmouth peninsula. It was noticeable, the winds were damaging in more ways than one, their economy must have taken a hit, apart from the influx of students keeping it a float I wonder how small tourist towns can survive and whether locally, the town find these quiet months intolerable or whether they find solace in the hushed atmosphere of their home town, a time for the town to relax as it waits in apprehension for the summer foreigner. I found that I was seasonally affected by the winter, my friends and I were confined to our houses, not a lot of activities were orientated around the cold except an expensive cinema showing older releases and lots of restaurants and bars which required pennies in our pockets. There is plenty of land to be discovered and shore lines to admire but in these winter months it is a struggle to find anything that will amuse and keep you warm.
As the clocks are adjusted forward and the sun begins to heat the coasts, spring arrives and moves swiftly to summer. The image of the sea side town becomes more desirable and I blessed my inhabitance in Cornwall. Summer offers so much in comparison to Winter. It literally transforms in every aspect, regular markets bringing in food locally sourced and seasonally selected, tourists flock in abundance and make walking through the narrow streets a struggle, certain shops re-opens and the sea becomes a bright, bright blue. A postcard vision.
I was never a tourist to Falmouth, I knew it to well, I had seen the worst side of it and had been lucky enough to see it at its best. To a tourist it has to be one of the most idyllic scenes in Britain. Sometimes I wonder if I had only seen Falmouth as a tourist, if my perception of it would be greater. But having lived there it has more depth, I understand its personality as it changes with the seasons. My closest example where I felt that perhaps I was seeing my town from the tourist point of view was during graduation. I was only there for two days so I lapped up the mini holiday and relished in the views of the beautiful Cornish coasts. I was staying in luxury compared to my previous student accommodation and drinking champagne in celebration so it’s no wonder why I found the whole town incredibly appreciated. I was grateful to see my town this way, I remembered the tough winters and the emptiness, I empathised with sea-side towns hibernating for winters to be contrasted with business and over whelming summer numbers. From seeing this perspective it made me wonder about my relationship to place. Does familiarity hinder what we see? Is it reducing our interpretation of place and space? If we could put on the tourist gaze would we, or is it better to see the good times and bad times, so we as inhabitants can build relationships rather than a passing impression?