Monday, 27 September 2010

Another Cornishman into the fold

Issue 50: February/March 2008

We had another addition to our family the other week.
Jago Pengelly was born up at Treliske on January 21, and was 8lbs 10ozs at birth.
He was a bit late was Jago (Jago, by the way, is Cornish for Jacob). 
It was a waiting time like no other. Father would ring up each day and say: “Is that boy come yet?”
“No, sign yet,” I’d say.
“You should try eating more pasties in front of ’un,” he’d add. “Try and tempt him out.”
“Never mind,” Father would sagely nod. “Be ’ere dreckly, I expect.”
Dreckly, I thought, now there’s a word.
When I try to explain ‘dreckly’ to people I often find myself in a quandary as to a definition.
Dreckly kind of means happening soon but not that soon, something that is coming soon but one should go and do something else in the meantime rather than wait. It is an event that is due to take place at the right time.
The new urban dictionary translates dreckly as an unspecified amount of time and as a uniquely Cornish phrase.
The closest thing to dreckly in meaning, as far as I can make out, is manana. Manana is Spanish or Latin for early tomorrow but is used more often to denote an undetermined amount of time.
What is obvious is that it’s a laid-back modus operandi best suited to Cornish and Mediterranean people, people who evidently like taking their time to do things when there’s no obvious rush on.
However, many people don’t understand ‘dreckly’. When some people ask you to do things, or ask when something will happen, and you say ‘dreckly’, they will instantly ask when. 
Then when you say ‘well, dreckly’ and they get a bit teasy (another Cornish word).
We used to have this joke in our house that instead of Captain Kirk’s ‘to boldy go where no man has gone before’, we’d have ‘to dreckly go where no Cornishman has gone before’ noting the time it sometimes took things to get done. This is especially true of DIY-type things that needed doing around the house.
I think the whole dreckly phenomenon is quite in step with the Cornish way of life. Cornwall has a pace of life all to its own brought about by the landscape, its heritage and the culture of its people. This pace of life, interestingly enough, has been carried around the world by Cornish people. I’ve met Cornish people in Canada who have used the term dreckly with great accuracy, but with a Canadian accent obviously.
Anyway, Jago did come out dreckly. He was a fortnight later than what we expected, but he made a grand entrance nevertheless.
Nigel Pengelly

Friday, 13 November 2009

On saying 'yew' around Christmas time...

Issue 49: December/January 2007

I was out walking the cliffs with my family the other day.

It was one of those sunny, yet cold and blustery, afternoons where walking is such a pleasure especially the more if there’s a pint of real ale at the end of it.

Anyway, it was a busy afternoon for walking and the cliffs were full of Sunday walkers, many I suspected taking a stroll after a good roast. The fierce Atlantic breakers set the whole sea in motion with an exhilarating swell and the crashing of the waves on the rocks far below added a fresh excitement to the occasion.

It’s a very British thing to greet everyone who you pass when out walking.

Strangers pass pleasantries on the cliff tops in way that would never happen in a town. If you walked down Camden High Street in London on a Sunday afternoon wishing everyone a ‘good day’, I wonder what sort of trouble you would end up in.

Now, my walking companions always say ‘Afternoon’ or ‘Good Day’ as a formal walking greeting; terms that I gladly avoid. Of course it is the afternoon, I don’t need to remind people and just because I say ‘good day’ it might not mean the person coming the other way has the same feeling about the day so far.

Someone once said to me ‘like Russia isn’t it?’ I looked around Rinsey Head where I was walking at the time and thought ‘it might be cold but this is Cornwall and it looks nothing like Russia, what on earth are you talking about?’

I always say ‘yew’ (when you pronounce it, it rhymes with shrew). It’s a Cornish expression and I’m not sure if it translates into English. What I take ‘yew’ to mean is ‘how is it going? I’m not having a bad day, how about you?’.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

On meeting the beast of Tregonning Hill, twice in one day...

48: October/November 2006

I once saw a one of those big cats that everyone keeps going on about.

I was up on Tregonning Hill, on the Wheal Vor side, one autumn evening, looking for the air filter box that had fallen off my scrambler motor bike the previous day.
We used to ride our bashed up, off road bikes up on the hill; I don’t think you’d be allowed to do this kind of thing today. I was looking along the track when I saw something dart out from behind a gorse bush.

It was a large black cat. It wasn’t the size that made my hair stand on end, but the way it prowled and stalked as it moved across the hill. After a few minutes watching, I moved nearer. The cat became aware of my presence and froze, glaring at me for intruding its space. Then it was gone, bounding off quickly down the hill and leaping over a granite hedge.

I walked down to see if there were any paw prints when, from behind a bush, a big, red-haired man leapt out at me.

“Yew, Pengelly,” he said. “See that cat, did ‘ee?”

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Playing the Good Samaritan and selling some rabbits

47: August/September 2006

Cornish World is a magazine for people with Cornish interests and in essence belongs to those people. If anyone has any suggestions, criticisms, stories or pictures then please do not hesitate to contact me. I’m not going to go on about the new style Cornish World, I’ll let you read it and judge for yourself.

I went down to the An Gof Celebrations the other week and it was some ’ansome night. Plenty of people there all enjoying the speeches and the entertainment in the village hall later. It was a real community event and lots of people from the village joined in to put on a real show.

Cornish communities are good when it comes to putting on shows for others. It’s often when paid officials get involved to run events that things fall short of expectations.

I used to like our Methodist Sunday school harvest festival where we’d practice for what seemed like months to stage a little play based on a parable. I once had the part of playing the man who was robbed on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho in The Good Samaritan. I spent most of the time lying on the floor and my only lines were ‘help me’ and ‘thank you, kind sir’.