The idea behind the blog

Hello and welcome. Return of a Native is me, Jo. I was born in London and raised in Sydney. At the end of 2014 I returned to England with Peter, my partner of twenty years, on a two-year sabbatical. We lived in a tiny cottage, metres from the Cornish sea, where we planned to work on our creative projects and travel. About six months in, Peter was diagnosed with a terminal illness. He died one year later.

The last few years have been a difficult time of adjustment but along with sadness I’ve been surprised by joy. This project gave me respite from my grief, allowing me to burrow like a rabbit into other worlds and then return to my own, feeling stronger and refreshed.

The idea for the blog had begun when I first arrived in Cornwall, which was a relatively blank canvas to me. Curious about the unknown voices and footprints of the past, I turned to the novels and biographies I have always loved to trace the lives of creative people in this beautiful part of England. Like Elizabeth Gaskell, I wanted to know the ‘little, leetle particular’ in a way that most history books and travel guides do not satisfy. What anchored these people to the landscape? What were their creative struggles and what sustained them day to day?

Authors predominate, but there are also artists and musicians. Their lives are seen in the context of place – be it a home; a landscape, village or town, or the setting for a pivotal scene in literature. Music has been added for atmosphere and extra resonance. You might like to listen along while looking at the photographs. And I have searched out connections between artists or places because nothing is created in a vacuum. In the notes you will find my personal responses to the places I have visited along the way.

Initially my focus was on Cornwall but circumstances turned me into a gypsy, and so I have taken the idea and my camera with me everywhere I go. What began as a mild interest has become an absorbing literary pilgrimage that unites many of my interests and has led to quite a few adventures.

This project would not have been possible without the unstinting emotional and editorial support of my sister and travel buddy, who I love so very much. Thank you Chris. And of course it’s thanks too to Peter, the love of my life, who helped get me to Cornwall in the first place, who taught me photography, and never failed in his championing of me.

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