Guest Blog: Festivals, Cliff Tops & Whiskey
There are many fantastic festivals in Cornwall but, as a writer, the Daphne du Maurier Festival, now named the Fowey Festival of Words & Music, provided an inevitable lure. To explore the event we stayed at the Mullion Cove Hotel to take advantage of what turned out to be a most enjoyable hotel break in Cornwall.
Du Maurier spent a large part of her life around Fowey, and other beautiful spots in Cornwall from which she drew inspiration. To celebrate her legacy, Fowey Festival holds literary themed events over eleven days which includes author talks, book reviews and debates, celebrity appearances, workshops, guided walks, river cruises and a programme of music.
However, we wanted to see one talk in particular which I’m going to share with you.
The Fifties Mystique
Jessica Mann with one of her children in the 1960s
In her book The Fifties Mystique, Jessica Mann sets out to demolish preconceptions that emerged in a 2012 survey of thirty-something young women who “long[ed] to put the clock back to the post-war years when life seemed prettier and nicer.” Determined to set the record straight, Jessica, put pen to paper to reveal the realities of 1950’s Britain, from her own perspective.
I am thirty-something and do not share the sentiments of these young women. Nevertheless, I was intrigued to find out more about my grandmothers’ era having never spoken with either of them about such things – now sadly they are long gone.
Ignorance and innocence
Jessica sat in a wind-blown marquee to talk passionately about the “period’s very different attitudes to sex, childbirth, motherhood and work [ ... ] and taking hard-won rights for granted”.
She spoke of girls possessing an innocent ignorance about their bodies, sex and childbirth which seemed normal– it wasn’t taught at schools. My memory of sex education at school is extremely sketchy (at best) – despite this, I don’t have a brood the size of a football team. And we certainly weren’t taught anything about childbirth in the 1980s, which in retrospect is alarming.
There were teacher’s strikes around that time in my schooling so perhaps this was one of the many lessons that got cancelled . . .
Hypocrisy and the pill
Image from Prudence and the Pill (Twentieth Century Fox)
Hypocrisy was also a predominant feature of the times, said Jessica, people slept with one another before marriage; though, abortion was illegal and women bearing children before marriage were ostracised. Even in the early 1960s, when the pill first became available my mother recalls much superstition circulating about its dangers and only married women could take it with their husband’s consent.
Heralded as a key factor that helped liberate women, fifty-two years on, I’m grateful that activists such as, Margaret Sanger, and Katherine McCormick, amongst many others strove hard for the contraceptive pill’s introduction and use, and that medical research is continually underway to decrease side effects that affect some women.
Jessica went onto say that right up until the 1980s, women followed their “husband’s careers” around the country as it was expected women would marry and have children. My mother adds that child care for some was too expensive (nothing much has changed here!) and that women often relied on family and friends or worked in the evenings.
Limited careers talks
Mum’s careers talk at school involved discussions about nursing or secretarial work. I remember being taught health and safety signs for dangerous workplaces – this was during the times of the miners’ strikes (I still appreciate the importance of ear defenders in noisy workplaces). When asked, I said I wanted to be a journalist but I was neither encouraged to go to college nor to take A Levels or a degree course.
I left the festival thinking how many ways my life might be easier or harder compared with the experiences of women decades before me, and I wrestle with Jessica’s final thought: that the challenges women face now are very different – granted. Conversely she believed young women now had more of a raw deal due to higher expectations of life, an ideal of “having it all”.
I hate that phrase, but as an educated thirty-something voter who has no children yet, I’m doing alright. After a thoroughly enjoyable day we drove back to the hotel with reflection. It will be interesting to see how future generations raise their families, particularly girls – will past women’s struggles be forgotten? It’s up to us to make sure this doesn’t happen.
Mullion Cove Hotel
The premier sea view room had a stunning view across the Atlantic Ocean in which we ruminated about the festival. The spring weather was also kind to us and we managed walks along the cliff tops before dinner. The truly amazing aspect of our jaunts was the wild, untouched feel of Cornwall. There were many other guests staying at the hotel and others taking a stroll yet it still felt like we had the place to ourselves.
Our Cornish Festival Break included a three-course dinner each evening in the Atlantic View Restaurant; favourites included, scallops with black pudding, ray wings with dill and cream tagliatelle, and a lemon posset dessert with mint topping and tuiled brandy basket. Our nightcaps included twelve-year-old Oben single malt which followed our espressos with coconut and chocolate hand-made truffles. The restaurant is highly recommended.
Festivals of Cornwall Hotel Break round-up
The varied literary festivals held annually make me love this county, and this hotel break in Cornwall provided an opportunity to explore my passion. For this, and the stunning views, good food and great service I give it a huge thumbs-up! Thanks to all at the hotel for making our stay so special.
Jakki and Laurie Magowan
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