Pretty As A Picture


A friend of mine introduced me to Vernazza the other day, pictured above. Fantastic looking place and definitely going to be on one of my random trips to Europe one day for some nice photographs, hiking and sticky buns.

I wonder about the folk living there and if they get fed up with all the tourists, in times past it was (and probably still is) the only port for miles around and that’s how everyone made their living but now the major industry is tourism and no wonder because it’s so pretty.

One of my friends lives in the New Forest in Hampshire (nice video) and he hates the tourist season because the roads are full of cars all driving well under the speed limit and admiring the views and New Forest ponies. This irritates him as he’s nearly always late for work. The people who live there in the New Forest have a name for tourists, they call them Grockles (or in Tony’s case Bloody Grockles!) and I wonder if the residents of Vernazza have their own words for all the Grockles that descend on them in droves.

My mother Doris spent the first eighty years of her life living in somewhere equally beautiful, Cranfield, Killkeel. She was ‘out in the sticks’ as we say, the nearest neighbour was quite some distance away. She lived in a cottage that generations had been born/raised in, had walls hand built, whitewashed and about four foot thick. The first thing I noticed when I first found her (at age 18) was not that she had no gas, electricity, water, sewerage, television (but an outside loo and a well by the back door) but that she had stunning views of fields, meadows and in the distance views of the Mourne Mountains, all from her kitchen window. She too lived in somewhere simply stunning but one year I went down to Kilkeel to visit her and was aghast to see a garage had been built in front of her kitchen window. I said to her why on earth would she want a garage built just there in front of the window and she said it was the most convenient place. I said but what about the fantastic view of the fields, the cows, the meadows and the mountains, and she looked at me puzzled and said what view? I pointed in the direction of the Mourne Mountains and sighed..

And I think this is probably what it’s like for the residents of Vernazza, stunningly pretty place but if you live there day-in, day-out then you probably stop noticing it and get annoyed with the tourist – unless of course you run the one and only decent café in the whole town.

I went driving around the Mourne Mountains in the late 80’s with a friend, Jen. It was eerily quiet and spooky but quite special. Deep into the mountains I had to stop the car as the road lead up a steep hill and then just disappeared into a cloud. This wasn’t hundreds of yards away but just a few dozen yards away. We got out of the car and looked up, it was eerily silent, not a sound, no birds, no wind, silence, the air was incredibly still and a cloud hovered just inches from our out-stretched arms, I could almost touch it, it was incredibly well defined, like someone had drawn a line in the air and said ‘below here there be air’ and ‘above here there be cloud’. It was spooky, made me think of Twin Peaks or John Carpenters ‘The Fog’.  Jen suggested we didn’t go any further into the Mourne Mountains version of the Bermuda Triangle and for once I didn’t argue..