Driving back, for the umpteenth time, along the A30, and then the A39 – I’ve been doing this with monotonous frequency if not regularity in the quest for i. a house and then ii. work done on it – I passed, yet again, something that never fails to lift my spirits. Just a mile or so from Winnard’s Perch (although the sign has dropped its final ‘h’ becoming ‘Winnards Perc ’) – which, as I’m sure all you students of language and dialect know, derives its name from the Redwing, a bird only seen so far South-west in exceptionally harsh winters, when it seems barely able to survive, hence the Cornish simile for anyone poorly, sick, or failing ‘wisht as a winnard’ – just a mile or so, as I say, I saw once more this phenomenon that never fails to lift my spirits, sometimes even bringing an involuntary smile to my cynical and time-worn countenance (not quite yet ‘wisht as a winnard’). The road dips and winds quite sharply, and if you’ve got to ‘Halfway House’, pondering yet again, ‘…but between where and where?’, you’ll have missed this jeu d’esprit.
But what is this ‘something’, you ask, that continues to bring me such joy? Is it a Dolmen, a Cromlech, or a Fougou, a stone-circle? Something, perhaps as talismanic as ‘the great vision of the guarded Mount, which pace Milton, ‘looks towards Namancos and Bayona’s hold’? No, no, others of you impatiently cry, it is – it must be! -a Logan Rock, but one that actually still rocks, no impious Naval hand having dared dislodge it!
Alas, dear, clamant readers, you vaunt and flaunt your archaeological and topographical learning in vain: it is, of all things… I very nearly said ‘a mere gate’. Now, you and I, dear, intrigued readers, know full well that, in the English countryside there are gates, gates which even the acutest minds of post-war Socialists proved unable to ration – or rationalise out of existence; and even in the Cornish countryside – patronise and belittle it and us as much as you will – you cannot deny that there are gates, many of them, possibly ‘mere gates’. No ‘mere gate’ this – far from it! This is an unnecessary gate, a gate the superfluity of which would have offended the rationality of those post-war planners, who would have abolished it before you could stutter ‘Sir Stafford Cripps’ or mumble ‘Emmanuel Shinwell’; furthermore – as I shall shew shortly – this gate, as well as being surplus to requirements, is actually offensive, over and above its offensiveness in merely existing as a relic of a bygone era, a fossil, a useless monument to the inefficiency of anti-progressive modes of thinking, this gate, I so nearly deemed a ‘mere gate’ (‘though, if there is a Mere on which ‘the wailing died away’, it is, perhaps a little further off), is doubly offensive, because it is provocative.
‘Gates are, brothers (and sisters) as you know means of exclusion: the landed classes, in league with the peasants – the Kulaks – put them up in a vain attempt to deny us access to The Land, to exercise our immemorial right to trample their crops, infuriate their calf-minding cattle, and let our dogs worry their pregnant ewes or their lambs to death’… but, like them, I Ramble.
For this by-no-means-mere, more-than-five-barred gate is doubly offensive to the hive-mind not just because it seems to rejoice in its Contingency, as much as, I suppose, the A39 (‘Atlantic Way’) rejoices in its Necessity, but also because it vaunts and flaunts it – more even than I accused you earlier with your misplaced archaeological and topographical learning. Approaching it from the English side, you are almost completely unaware of its existence: from the Cornish side – there it is, almost facing you for just a few seconds. For those few seconds, you see a gate, whose bars have been painted in red, white, and blue, in a very presentable version of our Country’s Flag.
Until The Campaign began, each return-journey was made less wearisome at the prospect of this unnecessary gate, and I smiled to myself at the thought of how someone of absolutely no account to ‘the metropolitan elite’ (such as the unforgivable ‘Conservative’ M.P. who welcomed the disappearance of ‘boring fields’ – ‘Let them eat concrete’ Mr. Boles?), probably a farmer’s son, had dared to paint the Union flag on a gate, potentially inviting swoops from E.U. quislings, demanding the paint be removed, then quietly surprised and delighted that no such stern edicts were issued; as The Campaign got into full swing, and even I had occasional twinges of doubt, the vision of this red-white-and-blue gate became symbolic, talismanic: ‘There is hope yet’ it whispered; “Are we down-hearted?” it asked (a ‘num’ question, in Latin?).
One day, on my weary return trip, I’ll stop, when safe, step out, and photograph it lest you should think my tale is one with the Zennor mermaid, and, as you all know, ‘the camera never lies’: I thought…
… but today, as I got there at just before half-past eight, on my way down, at some peril to my life, I pulled into a lay-by, walked the half-mile back, and took some photographs – like this one: