Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Tintagel: Highlights

Climbing to the top of Tintagel Castle (or the ruins thereof), and realizing that a long held, deeply held wish to visit a place I've dreamt of as a child as finally come true. In the same category as visiting Afghanistan and Mongolia has been the wish to visit Tintagel, the place where King Arthur was said to have been conceived (and perhaps born; but there are many places that claim to be his birthplace - no one knows). I sat at the furthest edge of the furthest cliff that I dared to reach, and swung my feet across the other side. Seagulls were wheeling overhead and in the spaces between each cliffhead, and the waves were pounding at the mouth of the caves below me. The ruins of the castle were covered in wildflowers, and in the distance, there were heavy grey clouds over the town, but shafts of sunlight bathing the ruins. I sat there for ages, feeling the throb and pulse of all the time that has passed since the castle was built, then ruined, then rebuilt and ruined, rebuilt and ruined. All the time since I first read about King Arthur underneath my grandmothers' rain tree. All the time passed since I talked about Arthur and his knights with my father after finishing my school homework and snuggling down in bed, dreaming of a faraway stone castle on foreign shores that at age 5, I never even dreamed of going to. Dreaming of it in Bakhtawar. All those times and spaces, stretching centuries and continents, converging in a single moment and at a single point, right there, inside me. And finding out that actually, it's far more beautiful than I could have imagined. Far more powerful a place, actually mystical, not just marketed. People have written about Tintagel for centuries. I found references in the bookstore from the 10th century. Just over one thousand years of fascination. Utterly justified. I collected tiny bits of rock, and scratched the names of my grandmother, mother and myself, and the date, and put a bunch of tiny yellow, pink and blue wildflowers underneath. A tiny monument to the three of us, all of whom seem to have had a yearning to visit there.

I walked through wide open fields, jumping over tiny wooden fences and low stone walls (and stopping again to take a picture with a rainbow, and scratch names into the rock), through a huge, windswept graveyard, and then through the church, and sat there for a long, long time, and lit a tiny votive candle for each of the people I love. I read the tiny, almost-gone lettering on the stones (one to a soldier killed in the Afghan War in Quetta in 1898!).
I stared at the stained glass and marvelled at how old it is. And then, after finally returning for the night, I sat outside the hostel, watching the sea breathe in and out against the shore and a tiny lighthouse on the far coast glimmering (every six seconds!) faintly against the darkness. And when I shut my eyes, for ages and ages the sights I'd seen all day flashed past me, and seeped deeper and deeper into my bones.

I thought whilst leaving that I must go back. But now I feel I don't need to. The whole place has gone right in. I have it.