Families can be strange.
Friends, it has been said, are the family that you choose for yourself.
Families can be strange.
There are tracts of my family, both near and distant, that I never see and in many ways I’m quite pleased for it to be that way. On the other hand, there are family who are emotionally close though frequently geographical miles keep us far apart. Mrs Dookes and I are lucky to have a wonderful collection of nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews who fall into that latter category. The one thing we really treasure is that some of them choose to keep in touch and show that they care about us; sometimes it’s a phone call, maybe a text message or something via social media, but best of all is when they drop in to see us or arrange to meet up. They do it because they want to and because they want to know us for who we are, not who others tell them that we are and that’s pretty special.
Take for example our nephew Chris.
Now, it’s fair to say that in many ways Chris has had it fairly rough in life, with a range of medical issues and with what some White-Coat once labelled him “learning difficulties.” I prefer to say that Chris just processes things in a different way to the rest of us, but because of this he can be restricted in what he is allowed to do. These days he works as a car and motorcycle mechanic, has his own chalet in the grounds of his parents home and generally rubs along ok in his own routine. For a number of years he has been taking part in motorcycle trials and has built two of his own bikes to use (and win trophies) in competitions, so much for “learning difficulties!”
Because of his success with the trials bikes, the Driving Standards Authority have given Chris special permission to hold a provisional licence that allows him to ride motorcycles of up to 125cc on public roads, obviously he has had to pass the Compulsory Basic Training test as well. Riding with him, I have been able to see that he is a safe and careful rider with good bike handling skills.
I’ve been promising him for a long time that we would go for a nice long ride together, but for various reasons it hasn’t happened which has made me feel pretty bad. Fortunately, Chris doesn’t really bother too much about such things; he doesn’t worry about the level in the glass, because he’ll just get you to buy him another drink anyway!
Which leads me to today, when I finally got to rectify the situation and go for a ride with him.
Chris lives about fifty miles West of us, not far from Redruth in deepest Cornish Cornwall, the heartland of the old Tin mining region and one of the cradles of the industrial revolution. In the landscape here today frequent reminders of that industrial past are often to be seen, most notable being the monumental stone engine houses.
This morning was a bit dull and certainly cool, a gentle reminder that Autumn is progressing and what a good idea heated jackets and gloves are! On board my big Harley I was quite snug behind the faring as we munched the miles West to meet up with my nephew. His 125cc machine was parked on the drive all ready to go when I arrived and he fussed around with last-minute checks. Chris didn’t offer a cup of tea, he’s not that kind of chap and he reasons that if he doesn’t want one, why should anyone else? You get used to things like that with Chris!
It’s fair to say that we looked a pretty miss-matched pair, Chris on his Yamaha XT125 and me on my big Ultra Limited, Baby. That’s the great thing about motorbikes though, you can have fun on them whatever they are or however big they are, for once in life size really doesn’t matter!
I had chosen a nice gentle loop around the quieter roads of North West Cornwall, partly so that we could relax without too much traffic, but also because I hadn’t been that way for a few years.
First off we headed for Porthtowan which today is one of Cornwall’s main centres for surfing. The village is a bit dull, but it’s a place where the big Atlantic rollers sweep in from the Ocean to crash on the sandy shore in a maelstrom of boiling white water. Powerful hollow waves are frequent here, allowing for that wonderful surfing experience of “riding the tube,” it’s definitely not for beginners! At the height of summer this place is rammed full of visitors and their surfboards, but on a chilly day in October only the dedicated surfers brave the elements, mind you there wasn’t much surf either!
Just down the road is Portreath, once a busy industrial port, integral to the Cornish mining industry. Raw materials such as coal and timber were brought in, while thousands of tons of tin, copper, lead and arsenic moved out; all efficiently moved to and from the mines by an extensive tramway system that radiated from the port. Today only a few leisure vessels and the odd local fisher make use of the crumbling facilities.
Further West we paused at Godrevy Point where a lighthouse stands about 100 metres out to sea and marvelled at the three-mile stretch of golden sand that leads to Hayle.
It’s another paradise for surfers and generally fairly safe for bathers, so long as they follow the lifeguards instructions. This is one of my favourite beaches anywhere and not just in Cornwall, I love these sands and the dunes that lie between the beach and land. It’s another world on a stormy day!
The estuary at Hayle is noted as an important spot for migratory and water birds, whilst the town itself is another former mining based harbour whose port is today largely inactive. At its peak the immediate area saw a number of foundry and smelting businesses boom, bringing great wealth to the town. The last foundry closed in 1903 and the harbour has been allowed to gradually choke with sand, quite sad really.
On a plus point, today Hayle is the home to possibly the best Cornish Pasties in the world! The local family firm of Philps have been making the local delicacy here for well over sixty years and as we were passing it would have been rude not to grab a couple for lunch. As they say in these parts, “Booty!”
Trundling homewards we passed through the quirkily named village of Praze-an-Beeble, which is actually Cornish for ” the meadow on the River Beeble.” The river in question is really little more than a muddy stream, but hey if it’s all you’ve got…!
I delivered Chris home at around three in the afternoon – still no cup of tea! If his smile was anything to go by, then I think he had a good day. He doesn’t greatly enthuse about things does our Chris, I think he just assumes that you get it whatever mood he is in.
Time to mount up and ride home, with the chance of a bit more speed than I had been pegged back to for most of the day!
Regular blogonaughts will have spotted that I do a lot of musing on the way home from a ride and today was no exception, It’s sort of my “Me” space/time.
I really enjoyed the day spent with my nephew and I hope he did with me, I made a mental note to do it again soon. It’s great to share my hobby with him and I think that he gets that as well.
Yes friends are the family that you choose, but…..
With some family you choose to be friends as well… and maybe that is more important.
Catch you soon.
PS When I got home I found that Chris had posted a Facebook message thanking me for the day. I can’t tell you how much that means to me.