South to the Lizard

By Ellie Broughton:

It wasn’t my idea to come down to Lizard in November. But here I am, next door to Britain’s most southerly gift shop and Britain’s most southerly lattes and staying in Britain’s most southerly mainland lighthouse.  My bedroom for the week sits under the great beam of a hundred-year-old Faraday lens, which every night spins a steady 60rpm from 5.30pm to dawn. 

There's nothing like going on holiday to a giant literary trope to get you writing. You have something to agree with, and more importantly something to fight against, because there it is shining in your window at 4 o'clock in the morning when your hangover arrives. There it is sleeping like a dragon in the day time. There it is in the twilight, waiting for you to come home like a dog at the door. And there it is stretching out its rays to you like arms when you stumble home from the pub at midnight.

There it is calling like a dinosaur through time and space, even though everyone had GPS nowadays and doesn't need lighthouses any more.  And there it is like a crocodile at the end of a Werner Herzog film, defying the progress of time. Even though all ships have GPS, still we sometimes set it wrong. And what you need then is a whacking great lamp. 

I can’t take credit for this epic holiday brag. Jen, who booked the 12-person rental, is doing a PhD in fog horns, and there’s one at Lizard Lighthouse. The rest of us just tagged along.  Most of us started the trip on the other side of the country, leaving London or Essex for a six-hour drive to the far edge of the country.  The sun came out while we rolled down the A303, rubbernecking at Stonehenge. By the time we arrived at the coast we were faced with a pink sunset too Instagram to Instagram. 

Low season has its consolations. November, though bleak, has bigger seas than summer. The waves leap higher, the surf crashes louder and the foam sits thicker than a stoner comedy. Pasties taste as good eaten in in the wind and rain as they would do on a sandy picnic blanket in the sun. And it’s dead quiet. We had Barbara Hepworth’s studio garden to ourselves. In the fair weather we invented games like Catch The Spume and Run In, Run Out. We even had a quick “swim” in the grey sea at St Michael’s Mount. 

But despite the amazing scenery, the pub was still my favourite bit. On the first night we went up to the pub in Lizard village. After a couple of pints of Proper Job and Cornish Chough, we set off back down the lane for home at a tame 10pm. It was coming on to rain. I cleared the last bend in the road to see our two white towers on the clifftop.

The lighthouse was broadcasting a mile-long butter-coloured beam through the drizzle. It swang over the black Atlantic and stroked the black fields like a finger. We left the light on, someone joked.  That first night I fell asleep on my own in a single bed, watching the white lintel light up and fade with the glow of the lamp. At 6am, I woke to the high pulse of the foghorn, more reassuring than a bedmate's snores. 

Ellie Broughton is a writer from London. On Twitter she's @___ellie