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Mousehole: a very real love affair

I’d like to think Dylan Thomas and I have a bit of common ground. Thomas, the prolific writer, a charming bon viveur, prone to exaggeration about his drinking prowess, infamous for his ‘enthusiastic thirst’ and passionate nature; I’d love to say my mirror image, but that would be horribly dishonest of me.

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I’m nothing if not straight with you, dear reader. Dylan Thomas and I share an impassioned fondness for a seriously special spot; a tiny fishing village he infamously described as “quite the prettiest village in England” and that, from a welshman, is a mighty call. Where? Two miles to the right of Penzance, through Newlyn you’ll find her, Mousehole, my first and truest love.

Dylan met Caitlin Macnamara in 1936, a passionate, utterly uninhibited daughter of a poet. In 1936, the wildly promiscuous Caitlin and Dylan’s paths collided; unequivocally they both believed they’d found their soul mates. Whilst visiting friends in Cornwall they decided to get married. They married on 11 July 1937 at Penzance Registry Office having postponed the wedding twice as they had drunk the money set aside for that purpose. Thomas wrote: “With no money, no prospect of money, no attendant friends or relatives and in complete happiness.” Meltingly tender. Spending their honeymoon at The Lobster Pot (sadly no longer a restaurant)  The Ship Inn however was a favorite watering hole for Dylan and Caitlin. Apparently there is still a corner of the bar that belongs to him.

I was six years old when I declared to my most cherished father I would live in Mousehole. I remember, quite clearly, holding his hand, looking out through the harbour walls across St Clements Isle to Mounts Bay. Wham. It happened, right then, only just on the wrong side of being five and I knew, Mousehole and I were meant to be together. Soulmates.

A girl true to my word, my love affair with Mousehole has spanned two and half decades. The early days of lusting over the lichened covered rooftops, winding aimlessly through the tiny streets by the light of a harvest moon on a spring tide, those days, that honeymoon period, sweet as it was, couldn’t last forever. We, the ‘Mouse’ and me, have had our ups as we’ve had our downs. True love rarely runs smoothly. ‘The Mouse and me’ are two inextricable souls, yet I can confirm our extraordinary relationship is far from monogamous. Dylan Thomas and I are only two of very many in this passionately polygamous marriage to the marvelous Mousehole.

Reasons to fall, head-over-heels in love with Mousehole:

• Unlike other fishing villages in Cornwall, Mousehole has furiously retained and maintained its real-life community. The school thrives; the children you’ll see on skateboards and jumping from the harbour walls at high tides live in the village. That being said, the local children happily share their Mousehole with those on holiday. You can spot the children on holiday as they tend to wear a pallid  ‘Wii or Xbox’ tan, paler than their Mousehole peers (who all  boast white blonde sun kissed locks and a very healthy glow).

• There is a really good, proper old fashioned watering hole in The Ship. Gastro pubs have their place yep, Notting Hill and not-in-Mousehole. That being said the fish pie is really rather good and the views are spectacular.

• The winding streets are picture postcard perfect, without having that ‘freshly manicured, clipped, tweezed and waxed’ feel of, say, The Cotswolds’. There is a real authenticity in Mousehole. Yes there’s a lot of Farrow and Ball, but its not everywhere.

• The black and white cat that sits at the bottom of Wesley Square. She’s very old but she’s not THE Mousehole Cat. The Mousehole Cat, a story based on the legend of Tom Bawcock, is a heavenly tale we (well everyone who has ever believed in Father Christmas at some stage) all want to believe to be true. The story dates back to the 16th Century so Mowzer (the cat) would have to be very, very old indeed. It’s a joy to watch children find the black and white puss down by the harbour and think they’ve located Mowzer….

• You can get lost. Mousehole is teeny-tiny but it took me a good year to find Duck Street.

• There is an array of fabulous art galleries scattered about.

• The locals are an eclectic bunch of second and third generations or equally, out-of-towners that, like me, have fallen hard enough to relocate and set up home.

• Christmas in the village is very special. It is a yearlong business with the putting up and the taking down of the lights. A village affair and a fairly political one at that. Keeping Christmas as properly uncommercial as it can be today.

• Mousehole seems to have its own microclimate. Banana trees, figs and exotic plants from the south pacific thrive here. Odd but true.

• It is quite the prettiest village in the world ever. I can say that, this is my review.

• There are excellent eateries right on your doorstep.

• It has the only efficient bus route in Cornwall (Mousehole being one end of the route, Penzance the other).

• You could spend a week without a car and it wouldn’t be a problem.

• You can often spot seals on St Clements Isle.

• The waves twinkle on a sunny day and in the depths of winter you can smell the wood smoke as it curls from the chimneys in the village.

• There is nothing more exciting than watching the wave’s crash over the harbour wall, especially if you’ve forgotten to move your car (there is normally a warning of big seas up on the blackboard).

• Mousehole holds your hand when the wind whips round the village, wrapping you up in the warmest of embraces when you need to feel her. She laughs at the same jokes, she makes you smile with her inordinate beauty, she is fiercely independent, she is just that little bit unobtainable. You know, however much you fall in love with Mousehole, she will never belong to you, and you alone.

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Mousehole: a very real love affair

Top Quote:“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars” – Oscar Wilde

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    I first visited mousehole as a 3 year old with my mother in 1923 . and eventually came to live here in 1960 .my late wife Dorothy and her friend made the very first starry gazey pies in 1960 for the then landlord of the ship inn mr tom Mitchell .I have photographs by the thousand on facebook and 385 video clips of mousehole and the area on youtube covering right up to the current date . .jack msle

    Jul 31, 2013 @ 1:20 pm

  2. Eric Lutz

    I was fortunate enough to have stumbled onto Mousehole for an afternoon this past June (2014). We were motoring around the coastal roads near Land’s End when we found ourselves there.
    A retired American school principal (headmaster), it was my first trip to the U.K. where we (my wife, my cousin and I) enjoyed a week in North Wales, a few days in Bath, a few in Oxford and London and a few in St. Ives. We had a wonderful trip with beautiful weather and no complications.
    Our itinerary was full with many memorable experiences, but none struck me like our afternoon in Mousehole. We did nothing special, had a couple of pints, walked on the sea wall and walked around and peeked into shops and admired homes and gardens. So, I’m not sure of the cause of my attraction, but I can’t stop thinking about the little town.
    I hope to return to Mousehole and spend a week there some summer and visit again for the Christmas lights. While I’m not sure if we will ever have the opportunity again, living on the fixed income of a couple of retired teachers, I know that I will always keep the little harbor town of Mousehole in my heart.

    Aug 25, 2014 @ 3:00 pm