The eighth wonder of Southwest England

To call any holiday truly great, a visit to Porlock should sit at its very heart.

This small Somerset town is probably unfairly judged for its execrable place in English literature. While just down the road, the rolling hills of gorse and bracken serve as the backdrop to RD Blackmore’s Lorna Doone, Porlock is most famous for having people barge in on romantic poets, making them forget what they were doing.

This is of course what happened to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, as he was most of the way through writing Kubla Khan. Having woken from his laudanum laced dream with the poem fully formed, he was interrupted by a ‘person from Porlock’.

While the resident of the town has become literary shorthand for an unwanted intrusion on creativity, anyone who has traversed Porlock Hill will know that, whatever that person wanted to tell Coleridge, it must have been damn important to trek all the way up the incline.

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The politics of soup

How the posh ruined eating for everyone

There are two ways to eat soup: correctly or properly.

A good example of the first is a Victorian explorer. See him tumbling out of the tundra and into the tent, where a billy can of soup simmers on the stove. He hunkers over the hot soup, gripping the spoon in his fist and slurps the thin liquid into his mouth, a fast as possible. In his other hand he grasps a heel of bread, which he uses to sop up more of his meal.

The correct way to eat soup is with gusto. After all, everyone loves soup.

For the second, remember any Jane Austen adaptation you’ve ever watched. Behind the gaiety and splendour lies a world of pinched, paranoid social frenzy. One’s behaviour is monitored for evidence of deviance. Not like today, where perhaps bringing a motorbike to the table would be seen as a step too far. Jane Austen novels make it plain: an ill-timed giggle or grabbing the wrong fork means instant opprobrium.

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I never would have married him if I’d have known…

Elephants don’t make good husbands.

The crockery was the first thing to go. His massive rump, one would think it almost comically matronly – the way it swung and jostled behind him. A pompous arse and one that sent the welsh dresser crashing over, along with mother’s two Wedgewood spaniels.

And then the carpets.

Ghastly. He never apologised once the whole time we were married. And all he ever wanted to eat was buns and peanuts.

In the end I took him to the zoo and left him there. I visit sometimes, just to see his fat, useless arse behind bars.


Pengelly is your typical Cornish man. He has short legs, a round red face and an ambivalent attitude to the Methodist temperance he was been raised to. His mother believes that his love for the sin of drink is a consequence of him choosing a wife who attends high church and uses the fine, bone china. His wife believes his penchant for a tipple is caused by being raised by the sort of woman who locks away the best china and tramps on Sundays to the bleak Wesleyan hall.

If asked, which he rarely is, Pengelly himself, thinks he drinks because he enjoys it.

Anyways, it’s not as if he’s a drunkard. In a mood that teeters dangerously close to psychological insight, Pengelly will decide he drinks because he is your typical Cornish man. Someone who works hard all week and should be allowed a restorative Wednesday night pint at darts, a friendly warmer for cribbage on Thursday, followed by the regulation skin-full on Friday night, followed by the more or less compulsory hair of the dog on Saturday afternoon. Then home in time for supper. And well, what sort of rogue wouldn’t escort his wife to the lounge bar for a pleasant evening in the company of friends and neighbours?

People from above the Tamar can be quick to assume that a red-faced man, with the sort of legs you’d see on a bulldog and the sort of belly you’d find bound in steel rings and kept in a brewery cellar would be slow. Look for instance at Pengelly cleaning his ear with the nail of his little finger. First left ear with his left hand, then right with the right. Look at the concentration and vigour that goes in to the task. With the features that are planted in the centre of his big red face all scrunched up with the concentration, surely, these foreigners all reason, this man is an idiot. Your normal tourist would pinch his monocle firmly into place, raise a well-educated eyebrow and say in the high falutin’ tones of your posh Devoner, something along the lines of “I say Margaret, look at that fellow. Is it not the most extraordinary thing, he simply must be an imbecile.” And then pay £6.50 for half a dozen eggs that have cost Pengelly, quite literally, chicken feed to get hold of.

“Free range, you say?” and the educated eyebrows wriggle around on the upcountry forehead, like two condescending worms at a maggot party.

Pengelly examines the small blob of yellowy gunge he has excavated from his right ear. He glowers at it, as if he’d been expecting rubies at the very least this time. Then surreptitiously (which is to say, not surreptitiously at all), he wipes it on the seat of his corduroy trousers.

“It means”, he explains “I let ’em run round.” He places a jar of home made jam (RRP £4.50) in the superior couples’ jute bag. Simultaneously he pockets the ten pound note that the couple have proffered: “You owe me anuvver pound, me dears.”

Later, the couple will tell a story about how they met the most charming local “thick as two short planks. Really, simple as Simon, but he sold the most fabulous fresh eggs and the most adorable jam.”

Meanwhile, Pengelly in the public bar says nothing and concentrates on hitting the double eighteen. After all, what can you tell people who are too daft to realise that fruit grows free in the hedgerows and jam is only £1.20 a pound.