I’m a Du Maurier fan, and I’ve just finished reading a memoir covering (the clue is in the title!) her early life – from her earliest childhood memories (often quite sad and moving) up until the time when she got married. I already knew a fair bit about her life so I wasn’t expecting much from this book – but as usual with Daphne, the writing sparkles and it’s a wonderful read.
When I first discovered Polruan and Fowey in Cornwall I had no idea about Daphne Du Maurier’s connection with it, and on reading the book I was struck by how similar our initial reactions were to the area and how deep those feelings were to go. This first of three extracts records her very first impressions, illustrated with pictures mostly taken on my own visits over the last few years:
The hired car deposited mother and ourselves at the foot of the hill by the ferry. We could either cross the ferry to Fowey or lunch at the Ferry Inn here in Bodinnick…and we chose the latter course.
Before climbing the hill to lunch, our eyes were caught by a board saying “For Sale” on a gate just above the ferry. Beyond the gate was a rough piece of ground and a house by the water’s edge, a strange looking house, built like a Swiss chalet…
I went and stood beneath the chalet, the water immediately below me, and looked towards the harbour mouth. There were small boats everywhere and yachts at anchor, but more stirring still a big ship was drawing near, with two attendant tugs, to moor a few cables’ length from the house itself.
There was a smell of tar and rope and rusted chain, a smell of tidal water.
Down harbour, round the point, was the open sea.
Here was the freedom I desired, long sought-for, not yet known. Freedom to write…
to walk, to wander…
I remembered a line from a forgotten book, where a lover looks for the first time upon his chosen one – “I for this, and this for me.”