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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, June 24, 2005
    Under the rope
    I saved my visit to Land's End for the last hours of my holiday. Went yesterday. Waited till that precious time just after most tourists have gone back to their digs to eat, but when the sun is still high and the Cornish air a little cooler.

    I took the B roads right around the Penwith peninsular: St Ives to Penzance via Cripplesease; around the harbour side fairground at the hub of Penzance's Golowan festivities; Newlyn to Land's End stopping for fifteen precious healing minutes alone with the Merry Maidens, a gorgeous, vibrant stone circle; Land's End back to St Ives on the high, bouncing B3306 coast road, as the sun dipped gently into the Atlantic.

    At Land's End there are signs everywhere saying DANGER STEEP CLIFFS, and all the paths are roped off to deter those who would wander to the very edge. So, alongside the most westerly ice-cream kiosk on the British mainland I ducked under the rope and walked to the rocks at the edge, stopping to look out into the blue towards the little nearby islands dancing in the sun: Fillis, Kettle's Bottom, Longships. Just then I could see that I was the most westerly person in Britain. But it didn't make me feel any different.

    Looking down I noticed, wedged in the rocks some way below, a purple-coloured envelope. Evidently thrown from the path by someone who had made the journey intent on casting it to the sea, but perhaps blown back onto the rocks by the wind. I decided to help that person honour their intentions, to get that envelope to the water, and so I scrambled down to reach it.

    Towards the end of the scramble the rocks did get a bit steep, and I realised that one slip would send me tumbling onto the craggy edge fifty feet below. Within reach of the envelope, I stretched for it, held it between two fingers and pulled back to a safe stone to see what it contained.

    A week after Father's Day, the envelope was addressed DAD. It had been gummed, and later carefully opened, and the card inside carried something more profound than a simple greeting. It was filled with a lengthy message from a daughter wanting to make amends for some hard words she'd said 'when you left us', wanting her dad to know how loved and valued he still was, how appreciative she still was of all he'd done for her. Hoping for reconciliation, and a better future.

    I wondered, who came to the very edge of the country to throw this card into the sea? Was it the daughter, who having written those words couldn't face passing them on, perhaps fearful of a negative response? Or was it the father, having received it and read it, throwing it away as an act of rejection maybe, or perhaps making this gesture as a sign of putting past hurts behind and moving on?

    I couldn't know, but as the wind whipped around the rocks I said a little prayer for these two and those close to them, returned the card to its envelope and tossed it to the waves below. It may have been the holiest thing I did all holiday.