Beaches in the off-season have a mystical appeal, especially the one with a medieval castle, St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall. Like a fairy tale, it perches on a tidal island in Mount’s Bay, which, during high tide can only be reached by boat or over a long stone causeway. While returning to our car rental from our trek out to St. Michael’s Mount we passed a smattering of off-season day-trippers. Slack tide allowed for a long stretch of damp sand which was carved in the familiar organic patterns of tidal ridges. We veered towards the dunes and passed swing sets. Boys were hurtling themselves off the dune edges in flips to land on the sand below.
Hundreds of Gothic novels were likely inspired by places like this, as well as the steamier pirate romance books that have informed our textile designs. The Naked Now is one part St. Michael’s Mount, one part Pirate Romance book covers and a large dollop of tongue-in-cheek.
Driving on the wrong side of the road in lanes meant for a horse and cart was part of the brain-twisting thrill that brought us to Land’s End in Cornwall. The large tourist center on the island’s most western peninsula is a perfect example of a tacky entertainment venue plunked down on a naturally beautiful setting. If the top of mountains were easy to build on we would have arcades and amusement parks there as well. Nevertheless, it is a spectacular place with crashing waves below steep rocky cliffs in three directions. We were awestruck and spent a good 2 hours staring out towards the north, west and south. It is the kind of travel experience that moves one’s soul.
And to commemorate the soulful experience we developed Desert Island Toile. In our typical melodramatic way, it tells the story of a storm at sea, a shipwreck and the two surviving lovers who are ecstatic to find each other on a desert island.
Before we headed off to Cornwall in search of pirate romance novel settings, we took a trip to Brighton, where a former king built a bodacious anomaly of a palace. Perhaps because of the sea-side resort environment, he took the proverbial decorative ball and ran with it. The Royal Pavilion is an early 18th Century Chinoiserie wonderland.
Not far away is the quintessential boardwalk built high and far into the ocean. Like homing pigeons we zeroed in on the off-season arcades and reveled in the flimflam environment which we have come to embrace as manna for inspiration.
This is an entirely different kind of boardwalk than the one at Hampton Beach. We were humbled by the very sturdy, wrought iron railings and antique gingerbread details of the stands. This was a British version of a raised beach-side heaven. Nevertheless, acclimating came easily. We knew somewhere there were mechanical fortune tellers and spin-art stands. In a couple of months there would be the heady scent of salt air and fried dough.