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William Turvill

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Doc Martin's Idealisation of Cornwall

Posted: 02/11/11 18:18

I have a recently moved to London and, as an avid (if not altogether proud) EastEnders follower, I have been surprised by how drama-free my life in the capital has been so far. In two months I have not witnessed any adultery or murder, have not run into Phil Mitchell on a bender, and I haven't even been approached by anyone claiming to be my real mother or father. I feel like I've gone into the wrong cinema screen, and instead of the horror film I paid for, I'm seeing a more light-hearted one.

Following ITV's recent Doc Martin series, set in Cornwall, I feel concerned for those people making the opposite journey to me - away from London, towards the south-west. I don't like horror films anyway, so I'm very pleased with my situation, but I fear that those tempted by a holiday or even - heaven forbid - a move to Cornwall will be sorely disappointed and cheated at the film they are going in to see. As someone who has spent the majority of their life in the county, I feel I should provide the reality check that someone should have given me about London.

Firstly, I'd like to make it clear that I don't want to take anything away from the series - I thought it was fantastic and had just the right level of light-heartedness for a Monday evening. It's only problem for me was that it idealised Cornwall to the extreme. It's not a bad area by any means, and I'm sure it suits some people perfectly, but below are listed the five biggest inaccuracies in Doc Martin's portrayal of the county.

1 - Not every person - not many people at all, in fact - speaks with a Cornish accent. Every person in the fictional village of Port Wenn - bar Dr Ellingham and his aunt - have a west-country accent. In reality, probably about one in 10 people from Cornwall have this accent, and the percentage is shrinking. Those who do possess one would not be living in fashionable seaside villages, but in remote rural areas.

2 - The presence and effect of tourists and seagulls cannot be overstated enough in Cornwall, and yet, in this Monday evening series, it was mostly ignored. Aside from a couple of honeymooners in the last episode and the occasional gull scene, neither were seen enough. In reality, August and September (when the series was set) would see a village like this overrun by tourists in 'Life Guard' hoodies. And the tourists would only encourage the seagulls. These beasts - which, by the way, can live to the age of 40 and grow to the size of the average household cat (or so it seems to me) - plague seaside villages in Cornwall and will eat anything they see. Eating pasties or fish out in the open (by the way, Cornish people shop at Tesco just as much as everyone else, and don't live off these two staples) is not easy.

3 - Cornwall, like the rest of the country, had a summer full of miserable weather. It was a nice touch for the series to be filmed in August and cheer people up in the autumn months with unrelenting sunshine and good weather, but, honestly, if anything, it rained more in Cornwall this summer than anywhere else.

4 - The sea. It really isn't as special as it looks on Doc Martin. "Ooh, you're ungrateful," I hear you say. "You don't know how lucky you were to grow up there!" I was grateful to have grown up near the Cornish sea, actually, but it really isn't the Caribbean/ Mediterranean-like colour which it appears to be on Doc Martin. It's cold - okay, not North Sea-cold, I'll grant you - and usually grey. Also, it's important to note that a lot of Cornish towns and villages are not by the sea.

5 - Lastly, this is not so much an inaccuracy as an understatement of arguably the worst aspect of Cornwall - its remoteness. The dramatic one-hourish (I'm guessing) bus-ride to Bude really would be a big deal for this type of community. And what is there at Bude? Not a great deal - some beaches and a few shops. The nearest 'big city', adding another hour and a half onto the journey, is Plymouth - which is, frankly, not a very pleasant area. Want to go further? The journey to London can take more than four hours on the train.

Doc Martin - great programme, but, it should be pointed out to those not aware, it idealises Cornwall to the absolute extreme.

 

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