Yes, that is a real name for a real place, a parish in Cornwall. My thread of humanity last dwelt there more than a hundred years ago, but even unto my generation it holds a sense of home. Its name arose out of the dark ages, when an Irish saint, Piran, came across the sea and established his hermitage/ministry there among the pagans of an isolated land. It is said that the Oratory of St Piran is the oldest structural remnant of Christian worship on the isle of Great Britain.
The more I learn about it, the more amazed I am at the desperation – starvation really – that drove my forefathers out of their own land to seek a means to live in the 19th century. Vast numbers of Cornishmen, and sometimes women, had few options but to sail out into the world and hope for the best. All they had was their reputation as deep earth miners. I have cousins in South America, Canada and Australia, that I know a bit about. Certainly still some in the UK, and there’s even a chance for some in South Africa, but nothing documented. How striking to think that generations hence have found their identity within birthplaces so pragmatically, yet arbitrarily, chosen by people long dead.
My Perranzabuloe family, the Nicholls, had sons who journeyed to Chile and Peru and Bolivia to the mines, and at least one married there and had at least one son. Sooner or later, they all died there as well. Their sister, my 2x-great grandmother, married and followed a Cornishman to California and Nevada, where two of her three sons were born. It could have been elsewhere, but it wasn’t. So here I am. My personal geography rested on a decision made generations back, when it could easily have been any among very different places.
Tonight I sit in my shelter from the winter storm, in Mendocino County, aware of my Cornishness (and Danishness, and …) considering the world of possibilities, Dark Age migrations, Dickensian migrations, and the prospect of my own migration, at some point.
And how they do stink. An interesting interview in The New Republic with Ian McEwan revealed a good take on the concept:
Do you read any online reviews?
I don’t read the blogs much. I don’t like the tone-the rather in-your-face road-rage quality of a lot of exchange on the Internet. I don’t like the threads that come out of any given piece of journalism. It seems that when people know they can’t be held accountable, when they don’t have eye contact, it seems to bring out a rather nasty, truculent, aggressive edge that I think slightly doesn’t belong in the world of book reviewing.
Could these be normal people when engaging others in meat space? It seems hard to believe, but just like perps of road-rage, there is a dark side to humans, above and beyond the actual sociopathically disordered ones sprinkled around. And Wikipedia has an entire fauna system to describe types of participants in its project. There is also a good discussion of virtual communities, and similar ideas to be found there. It helps to be conscious of how the characters operate, and to recognize when they are baiting the good souls. But it is a burden on all the good and honorable participants.