Monday, 1 October 2012

COTTAGE ON A CLIFF – Derek Tangye, 1972

Lovely, lovely Cornwall. Understood perfectly by Derek Tangye.

Tangye, ex MI5 and his wife Jeannie who worked at the Savoy, relocated to Minack in Cornwall. They lived in a cottage with no running water and relied upon growing daffodils to make a living. They knew, however, that they had gained much, much, more than they left behind.
Derek Tangye wrote many books about their life. Each one recounts aspects of their new existence; the good and the bad; the successes and the failures. It is wonderful how they make friends with the animals. They buy a donkey from a local pub which is in danger of being put down and then keep her (Penny) and her son (Fred) in their field. They bring Monty, their cat, with them from London and after his death, don’t think they will ever take to another one. But then Lama appears and makes her feline way into their hearts. There are foxes and pigeons and more.
I also love the cooking. The way Jeannie makes natural, wholesome meals from the produce they grow is an inspiration.
But most of all, I love the way they love Cornwall.  I have visited the area where they lived many times. I went there before I knew of Derek Tangye or his books. One of the coastal walks I have always loved takes you through a nature reserve which was bought by the Tangyes to help preserve the wildlife they loved. My Mum, who loves Cornwall as much as I do, has uncovered a mine of information on the writing and life of Derek Tangye over the years. She had two copies of this one so I took it home and read it. It will be the first of many of his books that I devour, I am sure.

This one in particular, recounts the way they try to make friends with Daisy, the wild cat who is probably Lama’s mother (but she values her independence too much, even at the end of her life). They also try to understand Nellie, the lost racing pigeon – she will allow them to feed her but always flies off at night. It is to the Tangye’s credit that they try to solve the mysteries of where their animal friends disappear to, without attempting to encroach upon their lives or change their behaviour.
This is also the book where he recounts the time he heard a seal sing. 

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