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Prevailing Winds

I have long loved the wind, the fiercer the better: the varied pitch of its song, the taste of it on my lips, the sharp sting of it on my face. I love, in the winter months, coming in from the cold, face red and smarting from the wind’s kisses to feel the sting of the warmth on my cold skin.  The indomitable Catherine the Great once remarked,

‘A great wind is blowing and that gives you either imagination or a headache.’ For me the former has always held true.


I grew up in the far west of Cornwall, in a house that commanded a beautiful view across St Ives bay to Godrevy Point, a position, at least in my mind, that came with the added benefit of a front row seat on the frequent north westerly gales. On many a day through winter, autumn and early spring, the sheer force of those north westerlies made opening the old, blue, wooden front door to the house a foolhardy choice according to my parents, so we used the back. The back door led on to a small, sheltered yard, with four well worn granite steps taking you up out in to a narrow lane bordered by a high hedge. A far more sensible choice of exit in a north westerly but far less appealing to me.


Even inside the house, however, there was no escaping the onslaught of the wind as it buffeted the house like a ship at sea. The original, wooden sash windows shook and whistled in their frames and the immense palm tree, that stood as tall as the upper windows of the house, lashed its leggy leaves against the old slates of the porch roof.


The front porch was one of my favourite childhood boltholes. I spent hour after hour in there, shut in between the middle door to the house and the outer door to the garden. When the weather was deemed “too bad” for me to venture outside, I made this tiny four-by-four foot space a place to let my imagination run wild. It was the wheelhouse of my ship, my hermit’s cave on a remote island or the lighthouse I dreamt of living in. Like the rest of the house, the porch was singled glazed and afforded a bird’s eye position not just to watch but to hear and feel the winds whipping the house, wheedling in through the old window frames, creeping under the door and setting my skin tingling. I truly felt I could be in that lighthouse, atop a craggy outcrop, tasked with keeping the light burning and the seafarers safe.


As I write this I am sat listening to the prevailing winds skirling and keening around our hilltop home above the beautiful Kilbrannan Sound. I see the white caps of the waves as they throw themselves on to the shingle shore below the house and watch the long limbs of the mighty fir tree outside bend their knee to the wind’s might. Not the north westerlies of my then but the south westerlies of my now. A different wind but the wonder in the child I was remains in the adult I am now.

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