Enough of Trump! There is far more interesting news from Cornwall in these lazy dog days of August.
Cornwall, in case your geography is as poor as mine, is the westernmost county of England, a place of rocky shores and rolling heathland and in olden days a place of tin mines, and clay pits, and the haunt of smugglers. Very few news stories come out of Cornwall in the course of a year. In fact, very few have emerged over the course of a decade. Cornwall is not a county where exciting events occur, other than the television series Poldark, which is why most of the people who live there choose to live there.
But today, not one, but two items appeared in the papers, and it is hard to decide which of them is the more enthralling.
The first concerns a lion. It has been sighted roaming the countryside – a female lion going by the description of the lorry driver who spotted it, he being a man who presumably knows a boy-lion from a girl-lion by the mane or absence of one. This one was mane-less. Police were understandably sceptical at first but became more convinced of the lorry driver’s story when they came upon “mysterious white paw prints where the creature was said to have crossed the road” although they hastened to add that “no live traces of the animal” had been found (whatever that means).
Some days later another lorry driver (one can’t help wondering whether they might have been at the same function and eaten some dodgy clotted cream, a local delicacy) reported to the police that he had found a headless deer in a local quarry. This led the authorities to conclude that there might well indeed be a lion on the loose.
Two aspects of the story catch the attention. One is where the lion, if indeed it exists, could have come from (yes, I know, Africa). An escape from a zoo or a circus would seem the most plausible explanation. Except that no one has reported losing a lion. Or, to put it another way, no one has so far come forward to admit losing a lion, a careless act that most people would be reluctant to own up to.
The people of Cornwall are no doubt terribly concerned that a savage beast may be wandering over the countryside in search of prey, or perhaps in the hope of finding a fellow-lion, but these are resilient outdoor folk, and so presumably not easily frightened. A spokesman for the local police force nonetheless felt moved to issue what he must have believed was a reassuring statement. Its principal fault was that it fell into two sentences, both open to interpretation, according to a reader’s level of fear or susceptibility. “There was no sighting of the animal by officers. It is not thought to be a danger to members of the public or workers.”
So, what exactly what message was he trying to convey? The first sentence seems to dismiss the sighting as a figment of someone’s imagination, but if so why the mention of the paw-tracks? The meaning of the second sentence is more puzzling. He refers to ‘it’. What is ‘it’? If there is no lion, then there is indeed no danger to members of the public or the ‘workers’ he mysteriously mentioned, but if ‘it’ turns out to be a lion, then the danger is obviously very real.
The nation, or at least Cornwall, breathlessly awaits developments. Or clarification.
The second news item relates to an archaeological dig on the Cornish coastline near a place called Tintagel. What has been unearthed, say the diggers, is a building large enough to ‘imply’ that it might have been a ‘major royal centre’. In other words, they seem to be suggesting that it could be the site of Camelot, legendary home of King Arthur, and Guinevere, and Merlin, and the famed Knights of the Round Table. No table has yet been found, apparently, but then being made of wood it would by now have decomposed. But they did find amphora and other fragments of pottery dating back to the 5th or 6th centuries, which they said could have been used to store wine and olive oil imported from the Mediterranean.
Geoffrey of Monmouth, a 12th century historian, referred in a book called History of the Kings of Britain – no doubt a best-seller in its day – to Arthur being born in Cornwall, in a place called Tintagel. Ergo, this could finally, breathtakingly, wondrously be the evidence of the famed Camelot that historians have been seeking for so many centuries. To quote the (ungrammatical) American lyricist Alan Jay Lerner: “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot.”
This could be that very spot. A local historian, a 93-year-old conveniently named Geoffrey Ashe, claims that the discovery could show that his earlier namesake perhaps “knew what he was talking about”.
Now, could it be that these two events – the sighting of a lion and the archaeological site – are somehow connected? Speculation is rife. Surely it is no coincidence that a lion, a common emblem in heraldry, has been sighted within days of the discovery at Tintagel? I for one think not. It is, I’m convinced, A SIGN.
A lion and Camelot in one week; the Cornish Tourist Board must be hoping, praying even, for further confirmation of both.
I might just get down there myself to check things out. There ain’t nothing much else to write about in August, especially once the Trump vein has been thoroughly mined.