I was once stuck in a traffic jam and, stuck for something to do; I began reading the names of a row of cottages that were by the side of the road. One of them, right in the middle of the row was called Riverside Cottage. As we were at almost the highest point of the road, I had my doubts that there was a river anywhere near for the cottage to actually be beside. Later perusal of an Ordnance Survey map told that the nearest flowing water was a stream (unnamed), some quarter of a mile away, at the bottom of the hill.
Now you can see where I’m going here. Not only was that cottage nowhere near the side of a river, there were a few other cottages in the row could claim to be nearer to the river…not to mention the twenty or so houses further down the hill…let’s face it there are probably Bedouin tents in the Sahara with a better claim to be called Riverside Cottage.
It seemed a bit like when Coronation Street’s Vera Duckworth, in an attempt to outshine her neighbours, re-imagined her little Victorian terrace No 9 Coronation Street as The Old Rectory because it sounded ‘classy’.
Anyhow I hope that particular Riverside Cottage doesn’t belong to any of you…I wouldn’t want there to be any repercussions…in case you decide you want revenge on me…did I say that I live beside a river as well (that should buy me some valuable time…they’ll never find me.).
THE PEDANT’S PURSUIT OF VAINGLORY
Part One – ON THE NAMING OF CORNISH COTTAGES
There is a house in Newlyn…
That I used to call my home.
It was called Pendennis…
Named after the castle I suspect.
Pendennis…a fine Cornish name
That means castle on the headland.
This Pendennis was at sea level;
Not really authentic, I felt
But then having lived in one of four
Modern semi-detached houses called…
Buccaneer Cottages…it could be worse.
Its name was marked out
And hammered into the granite door frame
In those little black lead letters
That you see on Cornish gravestones.
Those letters that sometimes fall off…
I was always worried that some of the letters
Of Pendennis would fall off
And me, not being skilled enough to replace them
(despite calling myself a wordsmith),
I would have to live in a house no longer called Pendennis…
Then I remembered in Mousehole…
There’s a cottage that is called Nigel…
Just Nigel…and I got to thinking
That maybe Nigel meant something
Something I didn’t know…Latin perhaps
But no…it is just a male name, Gaelic in origin
Isn’t that what we do now…
Who calls their dog Rover or Gyp these days?
It’s more likely to be Rosie and Jim.
Who calls their cat Fluffy or Tiddles now?
It’s more likely to be Florence and Tim.
So why not with a cottage?
Imagine calling your home…
But in Carbis Bay, there is a house
Maybe it’s Tre-Vor. Maybe it’s Cornish
And means something else entirely.
But it looks like Trevor…and I sort of like that.
Giving your home a Cornish name
Lends it an air of authenticity…
A feeling of establishment.
New House becomes Chy Newydd
Sea View becomes Gwel-an-Mor
As a rule Cornish house names are a good thing
You’re in Cornwall…embrace it.
Unlike those people
Who like to stake a claim for their homeland
Conquerors taking up the conqueror’s position
Or missionaries…taking up the mission…
Well maybe not missionaries.
Whether it’s Surbiton Cottage or Goodison Park,
Their home is a circle of covered wagons
Holding fast against the natives.
A little piece of Cornwall
That is forever England
…Or maybe Spain
Why move to Cornwall…
And call your house Torremolinos?
© gray lightfoot
Hear Gray read the poem at…