The only voluntary haircut which I endured throughout my early teenage life was administered by a cheerfully stoic and reassuringly direct boy called Peter Prior. It took place in the kitchen at Foage Farm, in the lee of Eagle’s Nest, back of Zennor. His Grandma Clara’s voice loudly directed operations, the promise of thin crunchy hevva cake cooling under cloths, a dark slate floor and the music of a small milking herd awaiting relief in the yard.
A very different, a very Cornish and now very lost world. Today Foage is a National Trust ‘property’; green doors, conserved outbuildings and a landscape ‘to die for’ (as they say in National Trust circles!).
A friendship was forged at Foage.
Through the 1970s Pedyr developed his views about ‘property’ and principle, and I, having bought his cousin’s old Tatra Classic, set off singing and playing and making loads of noise. Somehow, those ‘landscapes to die for’ became ‘our land, our nation, to live for’ – Cornwall and Cornish culture emerged to shape Pedyr’s socialism as much as it shaped my songwriting and poetry.
Occasional articles by the Socialist who, with others, ‘politicised’ Mebyon Kernow, came my way I think he saw instinctively that a principled commitment applied in a small arena, such as St Ives, could achieve more than grafting away in search of world domination and stardom. He also saw that reason must triumph over passion if peace, inner and outer, is ever to be achieved and perpetuated.
Pedyr dreamed, but he also lived a simple and brave life in a small town which was un-used to the socialist view, even though it was, and gladly remains, a stalwart centre of Methody and non-conformity, un-cowed by privilege, tolerant but sure of itself. Pedyr and St Ives fitted like hand and glove; he stood up and stood out, leading and fitting-in – ‘as you do!’.
His innate cheerfulness and stoicism enabled him to embrace electoral defeat with the same glint of the eye which I’d seen in his Grandpa Harold as we discussed his part in the Home Guard’s discouragements of DH Lawrence in wartime Zennor.
It’s odd that Lawrence, who offended Zennor so deeply, should have left behind, in ‘Samson & Delilah’, his letters and ‘Kangaroo’, a picture of that village and culture of which Harold and Clara were part, and which Pedyr and I, that haircutting afternoon, briefly but enduringly touched. It was the bond between us.
I have returned, as has he, to wander Eagle’s Nest, to commune with the stones and wind, to think and to surrender thought. Always I think I hear Clara calling out ‘Time for tea!’
Pedyr came to the first meeting of the new Cornish Constitutional Convention. He became an immediate member of its Steering Group and, together with Stephen Horscroft (another St Ives ‘free thinker’), Andrew George and Julian German, served until his most untimely death.
When I was Chair, Pedyr was my counsellor – a constantly alert, insightful, fair-minded but guileful presence who occasionally whispered ‘Shut up and let them talk themselves out!’ or ‘Careful now!’ or just simply ‘Shut up!’. For a talkative chairman Pedyr was the best of friends and supporters, constant and calm, eye simultaneously on the objective and ‘in the moment’, always in the sense of the argument and outside it, navigating!
His last act as the current Chairman was to deliver an upbeat report to the AGM in which he mapped out a pragmatic, principled and profoundly achievable future for the place which moved him, like me, beyond the everyday – Cornwall – our nation, our land – her cycles, her history and most of all, that wonderful tough, loving amused, worldly and innocent kitchen at Foage.
Of course, I never told my dearest pal how dear he was. After each meeting he’d give me a lift from Lys Kernow (‘county’ hall) down to the town. Those little journeys and the talk of shared magic, of anxieties and delights, of families and futures, were never sentimental or regretful, but always calm, deep and full of compassionate principle and wit.