Official – Indians love Cornwall

August 21, 2010

Take a look at this picture.

Notice anything odd about the little boy on the right?

I didn’t.

I was driving from Pondicherry to Bangalore with my girlfriend, Gargi.

We were deep in the Indian countryside: bullock carts, vibrant green paddy fields, the fragrant smell of rice in the air, old men wobbling on even older bikes.

We stopped the car and got out. We wanted to take it all in.

Then these two kids came up to us.

I took their picture, then we all did a bit of grinning (they didn’t speak English, we speak no Tamil).

Gargi and I got back in the car and carried on to Bangalore.

Cornwall For Ever. But only if regional pride is inclusive and doesn't take on any bigoted overtones, innit, my handsome?

Several days passed before we looked at the photos and noticed what was written on the T-shirt.

(For anyone not familiar with Cornish culture, Kernow Bys Vyken means Cornwall For Ever in the Kernewek language.)


One Big Echo – an award winner

July 28, 2010

One Big Echo of a Much Nicer Place recently won first place for fiction and short stories, at the 2010 Holyer an Gof awards ceremony held in Waterstone’s, Truro.

Sometimes dubbed ‘The Cornish Bookers’, the event is an annual competition to celebrate local publishing.

You can find out more about the award from this report from the This is Cornwall website.


Latest review

June 12, 2010

REVIEW FROM WESTERN MORNING NEWS,  1 JUNE 2010

BY MIKE SAGAR FENTON

AUTHOR GETS UNDER THE SKIN OF PORT TOWN

Humphry Davy stood at the top of Market Jew Street, his hand on his hip, and a look of haughty condescension that said: “It’s about time you dreadful people pulled yourselves together and made something of your lives.”

I owe this vivid and accurate picture of my home town of Penzance on a winter afternoon to a man from the other side of the world – Hayle.

And if Penzance is so dreadful, my townsmen might say, what about that post-industrial wilderness through which we trailed unwillingly for so many years until it was, thankfully, bypassed and, therefore, forgotten?

But the words are by author Martin Philp, a name synonymous with Hayle for decades.

//

One Big Echo of a Much Nicer Place is a collection of short stories which has already been reviewed in these pages, and I’ve just finished reading it. I can’t remember which author said that “it’s not enough to be successful – others must fail” but generosity is rare between most creative artists and that’s how we like it.

However, this little blue book, published by Scryfa, is one that any Cornish writer must stand up and salute. He has got Cornwall right, as only an insider can.

And even more of a revelation is that he has celebrated Hayle itself, which is as much a character as any of the complex, sad, funny, utterly humane people whose lives he delicately brings to life. It’s a love/hate relationship.

“Hayle’s a dump and always will be,” says one resident, while another revels in its “faded glory … like an overlong youth, frayed and worn in places (most places)…” awaiting the line of would-be developers who have threatened to make it grow up like other towns.

The author’s ear for dialogue in real Cornish – as opposed to “proper Cornish” – style is marvellous and his satires are as gentle as they are true.

We share the frustration of a conventional local artist bewailing modern art’s money and praise while he looks around his studio at Bosigran And The Heavens, Carn Galver In Autumn, Morvah At Dusk, Last Rays At Zennor Head and other doomed works.

Meanwhile, the art critics do what art critics do: “bludgeon a work with words and concepts until they are quite sure it has stopped breathing.”

No contemporary portrait of Cornwall could work unless it dug beneath the gloss and the pseudo-romance, down to the well of Cornish identity – the mixed sadness of defeat coupled with deep pride of ownership, the sense of abiding values, the willingness to let the world go on its mad way without wanting to jump aboard, and — making it all bearable — the humour, love and humanity which keep our societies together under the harshest circumstances.

It’s truly beautiful stuff, and you should go out and buy a copy.

One Big Echo Of A Much Nicer Place by Martin Philp is published by Scryfa and is available for £7.50 (inc, p&p) from Scryfa, Halwinnick Cottage, Linkinhorne, Callington, Cornwall PL17 7NS.


One Big Echo – in Uys Gallery, St Ives

February 11, 2010

‘I’ll have a big ceramic pot, please, and a copy of One Big Echo of a Much Nicer Place.’

Those are the exact words you can hear now* in one of the artiest and craftiest corners of the county, because One Big Echo of a Much Nicer Place is now available in Uys Gallery, St Ives*

Roloef Uys makes beautiful stoneware pots and displays them in this gallery, run by his partner Melanie. I’ve been looking at them myself and they really are things of great beauty.

Visit www.uysgallery.co.uk to find out more about Roloef’s pots, or visit the shop at 8 Tregenna Hill, up near the bus station.

*Only likely to be heard if someone is simultaneously buying a book and a pot


One Big Echo – in a good ice-cream shop near you

February 9, 2010

You know how it is.

You go to an ice-cream shop and buy a rum and raisin. And you feel strangely dissatisfied. And then you say to yourself:

‘You know what would make this a complete and fully satisfactory retail experience?’

‘What?’ you say.

‘If I could buy a book alongside my ice-cream.’

‘Exactly!’ you say.

Well now you can. Because Mr B’s Ice Cream Parlour in Hayle have bowed to heavy authorial pressure (nagging) and decided to mix retail genres by selling One Big Echo of a Much Nicer Place alongside its glorious ice-cream.

Early trials revealed much confusion, with punters licking books and reading ice-cream, but they soon got the hang of it.

I’ve got ice cream in my book

Interestingly, One Big Echo features a story called Love and Ice Cream, about a man who falls in love with a fellow ice-cream seller. (Well, I thought it was interesting.)

Find out more about Mr B’s Ice Cream Parlour at www.mrbsicecream.co.uk/ and then visit them to try the creamiest Tiramisu, richest Black Forest Gateau or one of the many other mouthwatering flavours.

And to pick up a copy of my new book.


Meet the Characters (Part 2)

January 28, 2010

Florence Bray
Apparently growing older is best done gracefully, but no one told that to Florence Bray. With her barely tolerated husband recently in his grave, she rages against the wasted years, casts off acquaintances and finds solace, and adventure, at last in the company of the demonic Mr Drew, a man with an appetite for love, drink and offending the elderly.

Henry Caldwell
Meet an ice cream salesman with a mind as cold and icy as his frosty confections. Henry is the scourge of hot, sweaty optimistic youth, and seems bent on bringing the knowledge of life’s disappointments to the young as quickly as is inhumanely possible. What will save the youth of Hayle from Henry? Love, of course, in the shapely shape of fellow ice cream vendor Sarah.

Ronnie Honeychurch
What is art? No idea, and neither has Ronnie by the looks of it. Until one day this anxious little painter of twee Cornish landscapes accidentally smears one of his tired paintings and begins a journey through impressionism, expressionism, and finally a deadly abstraction. Or something like that. Like I say, I know nothing about art. Like everyone else, I just look at the price tag.

Bill Downder
Bill keeps a diary. Every day he writes what he has for dinner, and what the weather’s like. Then his wife dies. And Bill embarks on a furious spree of writing (well, about 1,000 words)  looking back at the years with humour, regret and an admission that he knew exactly what his wife did with Fish Pie Matthews at the dinner and dance.  I’m sorry, I can’t write any more. I’m welling up.

PC George Thomas
He’s fat, he’s indolent, he wouldn’t know a clue if he saw a great big sign saying ‘Clue!’, and therefore, naturally – and really it goes without saying – he’s absolutely nothing like any policeman in Cornwall or adjacent counties. PC George Thomas is, however, quite the connoisseur of quality biscuits. Join him on a courtesy call to the recently robbed Mrs Grace Pellow, and on a high-tea adventure through Hob Nobs, Chocolate Fingers and beyond.


Meet the Characters (Part 1)

January 18, 2010

Here’s a few of the character’s that appear in One Big Echo of a Much Nicer Place. (And, incidentally, are popping up frequently in the next collection of stories I’m writing now.)

Dandy Allcock – Take a gameshow host from the Seventies (preferably one from an unbroadcast pilot) mix in a little auctioneer and finish with a sprinkling of horse-racing commentator and you have Dandy: a man who just wants to be loved and that no one in Hayle can stomach for more than a few minutes.

Barbara Morethek – Morethek means something like sadness in Cornish, I forget exactly what now, and Barbara is the epitome of the person who sees all the world through a veil of sepia-tinted nostalgia. Her life is a crackling Cine film, with a soundtrack made up of sighs and water dripping from guttering on a Sunday afternoon.

Jack Tremenyans – When some people swear it’s ugly, when others do it’s an art form. Jack belongs to the latter group – never does ‘fucking’ sound so vital and alive than when falling, mid mishap, from his cursing Cornish lips.

Archie – Otherwise known as Old Broken Window Bachelor. Living a life of purity can be a pretty dirty business. Ragged old Archie drinks and smokes his way through his autumn years like the young poet of his youth. Wise people salute him; commonplace people sneer.

Tommy Wakfer – The uber Cornish male. Suspicious of change one moment, Quixotic the next, a profanity or a poetic utterance never far from his lips. He’s never had a full story proper to himself yet, just an anecdote, though he pops up in a lot of other character’s stories when the raging spirit of Cornishness need to rear its beautiful/ugly head.