Living in Cornwall, Part 2

If you want a job, look no further than seasonal work in one of a thousand hotels.You have higher ambitions? Better results might come if you were an entrepreneur with your own cash to back you. Are you entitled to work in the United Kingdom? I used one route to a work visa: my grandparents were born in England. All you have to do is obtain copies of the necessary birth and marriage certificates to apply for an Ancestry Permit. Three hundred dollars (U.S.) later, the British High Commission may stamp your passport accordingly and it is valid for four years.

You have heard about the class system. You’ve heard that it is a thing of the past. Don’t believe it. Where you were born, your family’s fortunes, the type of education you have had, all conspire to influence your ‘acceptance’, if acceptance and a place in the community are your goals.

This region is known as the Duchy of Cornwall, officially under the auspices of the Prince of Wales as Duke of Cornwall, though you’d be hard pressed to hear many endearing words for the Royals from the common folk. It has been designated one of the poorest places in the United Kingdom and as such is currently receiving large grants of cash from European Union funding agencies to promote development of all kinds. Wages are consistently lower than in the rest of England; taxes are just as high. Perhaps fifty percent of the prime real estate is owned by out-of-towners who choose Cornwall as a place for second homes or vacation get-aways.

A four-bedroom splash of a place on the coast may be listed at 350,000 pounds sterling. And a modest two-bedroom town house in a village might be found for L 80,000 (some refurbishment required). Be warned: the realities of England’s real estate business are fraught with stalemate, cutthroat bargaining and disappointed hopes. Your dream of a cottage in the Roseland Peninsula, that quiet cul-de-sac of privilege in south Cornwall, may never be anything other than a dream.

The sun, when it appears, brings maximum ultraviolet damage with it, contributing to high incidences of skin cancers and glaucoma. Given the current state of emergency vehicle availability, you may find distance and time against you if an emergency occurs. The climate is damp, often windy, with moderate temperatures. Barbeques and picnics are always on a ‘stand-by’ basis: a situation that should appeal to those who appreciate spontaneity but drive the planners among us mad. I’ve wondered if this situation contributes to the way the Cornish regard the passage of time. Things get done “d’rectly”, if not next month or next year.

It would take a lifetime to explore, taste and experience the pleasures of this place but such an undertaking is best done in stages – a month or two now and then, with a pocketful of cash not dependent on local employment. A constant diet of Cornwall’s riches tends to lead to complacency and this is the last place on earth that anyone should take for granted.

Excerpted and adapted from “Letter from Cornwall” by C.D. York in Escape From America Magazine, Issue 14