Posted by Laura
In the 1980s, before budget airlines, before the birth of the gap-year generation, and before the world became a lot smaller, the prospect of exploring Britain was an immense, exciting adventure. Holidays abroad involved the military-precision rigmarole of painting car lights yellow, affixing a GB sticker to the bumper and a roof-rack to the top, and embarking on an epic mission by motorway, ferry, and then the perilous French autoroutes. With the added burden of seasick children, left-hand side driving (in a right-hand-drive vehicle), and car boredom that no amount of eye-spy rounds and replays of Now That’s What I Call Music (vol 1) can ever appease, it’s no wonder holidays in Britain were considered the most family-friendly option.
And for those seeking a little bit of other-worldliness, good weather and sublime beaches, the destination of choice was obvious: Cornwall. Set apart from the rest of the country on its own dragon’s tail peninsula, it was far enough away from the urban sprawl to be considered ‘foreign’ (some of the children in my class at school thought Cornwall was abroad up until they were more than old enough to have been told otherwise), it had good weather (except when Hurricane Charley whirled in in 1986) and it had a charm that was all its own.
Fast forward two decades, throw in a couple of celebrity chefs and hordes of second-home city interlopers, and the county has been a victim of its own beauty. Many of the native Cornish folk are now getting a little tired of the regular gastronomic pilgrimages to Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant in Padstow. They are also, understandably, worried that their heritage and quaint towns are being eroded by city folk greedily snapping up their houses as their London escape retreats, which in turn is pushng up property prices.
Whereas it is difficult to determine the actual severity or purpose of threats against celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein by the group calling itself Cornish National Liberation Army, one can sympathise with the sentiments of the Cornish people. They are fiercely proud of their identity and their fears over the cost of living rise are not without foundation.
So what is the answer? The more militant of the Cornish campaigners believe the county should declare its independence. It has a history of rebellion, with the region’s hero Michael An Gof being one of a group to be hung, drawn and quartered in the 15th century for marching in London to protest against taxes. Elements of this fighting spirit still remain, and the native quest for a free Cornwall lives on, albeit in a more diluted form.
Cornwall already has its own language, which, though minor, is supported by its county council, and an enigmatic character like no other place. Why, then, shouldn’t it be a state in its own right? Would Britain’s south-westerly ‘foreign’ oasis be better left to its own devices, or would it just be the beginning of devolution that knows no bounds?
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