In company


I was lonely so I drove to Mullion. I’d seen a picture of its harbour arms in a guidebook: they seemed like polished clamps that once served a purpose. The name ‘Mullion’ promised me that it was special: it had substance, made the tongue straighten to touch the lower palate, created space inside the mouth. I had wanted to go for some time.

On my way down to the cove from where I’d parked my car, a coal black horse in a field whose mane had been plaited and tousled like a human’s. It shone like graphite. There was something in its eyes that made me sense that it was wiser than I would ever be.

Along the sides of the road, wildflowers different to those at home. Despite living only twenty miles away from it, the Lizard Peninsula is a different land, toes a different climate. I take my phone out of my pocket, still awkward with how to work its camera. It soon comes naturally. When I get home, I learn that I have met Bird’s-Foot Trefoil, Sea Campion, Red Campion and gangs of Sea Carrot. The Alexanders, Bluebells and Thrift I knew from before, but they seem to grow differently here, fearlessly, perhaps.  The Foxgloves sit up on the cliffs, backs straightened to look over the long grass. The Thrift grows in great numbers, gathering together and threatening to enact city-like sprawls.

At quiet, sheltered Mullion, the black cliffs absorbed light from the afternoon sun, brightening the sea, grass and wildflowers around them. The cove is still a working harbour, the arms still protect fishing boats that bring in mainly shellfish these days. Once, tons of pilchards would have been transported between them. An unmanned sign advertised seal trips and three boats lined obediently up at the harbour mouth. Beyond the harbour arm, a great rock with grassy shoulders and scalp where gulls made their nests; beyond that, some mile distant, another island. Mullion Island was uninhabited, a National Trust sign read.

I couldn’t stay there: all the best spots were taken by earlier risers, who stretched their legs from benches or rested their backs in grassy cliff seats. It was too small a place to idle and linger alone without being watched. So I walked along the coast path, from Mullion to Poldhu Cove two miles to the north, the path carefully gravelled and stepped. The wind a flood that sought to sear through me; it was at last balmy, and so insistent that I unzipped my top as I walked. I had waited months for the wind to warm like this.

I soon forgot my sadness.

And on my return, just as I was beginning to pay less attention to the flora I documented the first time round, the fauna came up to meet me: three baby stoats, gabbling and waddling along the path as if late for school. I thought they were going to bound into my shoes, but with two metres to go, six black beads stared up at me. Half a second was all I had to look into their strange eyes before I lost them to the long cliff grass. As I walked away I heard them for some time, yikkering near the cliffs, playing with their echoes.