Regular readers will be fully aware that I’m not a Summer person. I’m happier in my ‘woman repelling fleece’ quaffing Rouge from a bowl before the embers of a roaring fire while snow smashes the window. However even I would be hard pushed to moan about the Summer of 2018.
Sweating… hourly. Roasting….daily. Sweltering….constantly….
This has been the best weather I can recall as an adult. Outstanding stuff if you ain’t working in it or travelling on the underground in a suit where you can feel the sweat running down your legs and you can smell the other pigs quashed in the carriage with you.
Anyway to counteract the outstanding weather we decided this year to holiday in England which will inevitably mean that I will be locked in a country cottage watching ‘Freeview’ on a blurred Grundig TV in the pissing rain while writing this shit to entertain about 8 people.
Last year we went to Portugal and stayed in a high end resort. As lovely as it was it was ludicrously expensive and essentially dull with the four of us simply frying by a pool drinking and eating. The kids were bored and so were we so a more active holiday was called for.
In keeping with the tradition of recent years this year it was right any proper that we spent our filthy lucre in England and so we headed west to what is essentially Middle Earth… Cornwall.
As a child I regularly went to Cornwall. We never went abroad, I don’t know why as money seemed freely available for the old man to ram down the throat of a number of publican but it just didn’t happen. We seemed to always go to Falmouth or Hayle or somewhere grey near the end of the country.
As an adult I’ve only been here once before. It was grey and a long way away however we dived in as I think it’s important to let the kids see this country and I’m happy to pay to promote it.
The night before the off I’m press ganged into setting off by 0600 to ‘get ahead of the traffic’. As expected I’m the only mug up at 0530 and I spend the next 3 hours waiting for the rest of my mob to sort themselves out. We finally leave with the car crammed with stuff and 4 bikes hanging off the back and we are away…. no one looks back as we all need to be out of London for a bit..
Off we trot on what turns out to be a very benign journey of about 6 hours. The only turd in the water pipe was the mouth breathing monosyllabic acne king at a drive-thru McDonald’s who thinks a Double Sausage McMuffin with Cheese and a white coffee is in fact a single Bacon McMuffin and a black coffee. This lack of care on the customer front is exactly how Nazi Germany started. I won’t forget him… I’ll remember his face forever. This aggression will not stand.
Five hours later when I’ve just about finished moaning about the McMuffin debacle we arrive at our end destination which appears to essentially be Hobbiton.
Manaccan (pronounced Ma-knack-an) is a tiny little village with about 200 residents. It has a village pub and a cafe but fuck all else other than a church which might as well be another house to my heathen eyes. All the houses have names rather than numbers and ours is no exception. No numbers tell me that we are either in the land of the wealthy or the stupid…. judging by the Range Rover’s evident I’m going for the stupidly wealthy.
To describe our accommodation as ‘twee’ would be an understatement. It’s cosy with a capital ‘C’….a bit like staying in your Nan’s house or the old 70’s fair ground favourite ‘The crooked house’.
I walk in and bang my head on the frame of the first door I walk through. I bounce up the stairs and bang my head, when I reach the main bedroom I walk in and bang my head on the frame. I do this again as I leave the room.
I’ve always considered myself to be a fine specimen of manhood but tall I ain’t and so my brain cannot deal with door frames that are 5’8″ high even after several cracks to the head. For the next 2 days I continue to smash my swead on the frames through the house and even do it twice in a 15 second burst when I enter a room to pick up and put on a cap. The Eternal struggle of man versus conditioned brain…
As I’m unloading the car I notice that the local pub is a mere 24 seconds from my front door. I’ve checked this place out online prior to arrival so I knew it was close but this is a welcome surprise as even when it inevitably rains I could be within it with out reaching a state of external moistness.
After sorting ourselves out we head over to the pub or ‘community pub’ (the locals purchased and run it themselves) for some dinner. This boozer is called ‘The New Inn’ but in keeping with its Tolkien-esque surroundings let’s call it ‘The Poncing Pony’.
A ‘Community Pub’. I should have seen it coming right? I stride all London-like into the tiny bar area which is crammed with Jubs to find the loud conversation drop considerably. I care not a jot, I’m a professional. Without saying a word it’s like I’ve pointed at the pentagram on the wall and said ‘What’s that?’ just like in that scene in ‘American Werewolf’. Shifty eyes check me out as I wait my turn and after a couple of minutes I’m served by a buck toothed, lazy eyed young girl clearly in a relationship with her cousin.
I purchase a round of drinks for a ludicrously cheap price (I’ll never be charged the same price for any drink again in this place) and I book a table for dinner.
We have an adequate meal and all seems well, the bar area is busy and the service was alright even if she did try to add the drinks I purchased in cash to the food bill. I explained to the waitress that this was incorrect with slow London malevolence and she realises her error and backs away from the table returning with the correct bill. This place will do for now…. or so I thought. (As you can imagine Dear Reader, this venue will feature prominently throughout this effort).
I’ve always preferred Cornwall over Devon. To me, Devon is pretty in a manufactured way whereas Cornwall is naturally beautiful. Manaccan epitomizes Cornwall as it is all original and the age is visible. Age oozes out of every building as my sore head will testify.
To start the week we travel to a place I spent a lot of holidays in as a child. Falmouth.
Falmouth is perfectly acceptable as a port town. Lots of shops and boats to look at, a few pubs and all the locals are wearing Musto sailing clothing. I get it. These are people of the ocean… it’s Atlantis before the disaster. My issues are all based on childhood memories.
As a kid we were constantly taken to Falmouth as the old man liked the British Legion there. We would trot up in the pissing rain and Dad would enter the Legion leaving us in the street with Mum looking over his shoulder in a ‘see you later’ kinda way. It was then down to Mum to entertain us in a town a long way from what it is today. Hard times.
It was also the place where my parents had a full blown barney in a shop over my father’s insistence on purchasing a hot plate so Mum could cook burgers from a beach hut. As expected my Mum gave him the ‘fuck off’ tablet which was taken badly by the nutjob as he saw it as a challenge to his authority. Falmouth although decent enough in this century ain’t for me as it brings on the sweats.
Then there was Penzance.
We breeze towards Penzance without a care in the world. It appears to be ‘Anytown UK ‘ from a distance but when you reach the centre it turns like a lame dog gagging on a rancid bone…. it’s rotten to its core.
We do a circuit of the area and end up in a car park to the back of what it ludicrously described as a ‘shopping centre’. The kids are hungry so we decide to stop for some form of food no doubt deep fried or made of meat blastings surrounded in pastry as I’ve seen some of the limpy residents shuffling about and fruit and veg doesn’t seem to be a priority.
I brief the kids and Jen on the raid we are about to undertake, we ‘lock and load’ and tentatively leave the safety of the car and head directly to the shopping hub like Rick Grimes in ‘The Walking Dead’ escaping from another failed utopian safehouse.
As expected there are no decent shops but a series of cut price efforts where Haribo buckets, cheap biscuits and Carling black label are prominent and at discount prizes.
Also prolific within the local female community is the forearm tattoo. There’s nothing wrong with tattoed ladies in fact it’s quite alluring but the forearm tattoo generally smacks of Holloway Prison strongarm…. particularly when paired with smoking, no teeth and a can of Stella. It’s a popular look here along with the limp, the wheelchair Goth and the bandaged arm… the lame control Penzance.
We bowl into a tourist version of Greggs for the first pasty of the holiday. It’s hard as a dog’s head and has a smattering of ‘meet’ randomly scattered within its molten innards. The Cornish spend eons telling us, the stupid non Cornish speaking masses, what constitutes a Cornish pasty and when you have one you realise that they are fairly dull heart stoppingly stodgy affairs that whether eaten in Greggs, Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s or even in a Ginsters wrapper it matters not one jot…. it is merely meant to cover your heart like a boiler blanket. They are shit.
The proper kick in the plums though was that after our purchase the toothless Rothmans experiment behind the ramp sold everything else for half price…. the London accent curse has taken hold. No matter…. we’re minted, pasties for everyone!!
As we head back to the car I realise we are walking with some locals and it strikes me that anyone passing through will see me as part of this mess…. I am one of them, I am a Penzancian to the eyes of those sharp enough to accelerate through the town rather than stop within it.
For every Penzance and Helston (meh) there is a Helford, Cadgwith, Coverack and Kyance Cove. These places are outstandingly beautiful and deserve a visit. Kyance Cove must be one of the most impressive places I’ve ever visited and Helford is so peaceful you could see yourself living there in your final year. These villages are the Cornwall you should expect.
Upon returning from Penzance Jen decided that we needed to go on a walk. Great. These ‘walks’ are infamous within the small confines of this family as Jen tends to insist they happen with no actual plan. Off you go in a flip-of-a-coin direction where you could end up lost or miles away. The kids and I do a lot of general walking but Jen doesn’t so she sees it as a necessity even though the other three of us don’t require it.
We set off from our base and immediately hit a long road heading downwards. Down at the beginning indicates a massive climb on the return normally but not in the head of my missus. She seems to think that this drop will result in a flat lovely walk. I get this a lot.
To be fair it’s a lovely first part of a walk as we discover a road which runs the length of Gweek Creek. It’s a fairly flat trot adjacent to a river with some marvellous views. This road reaches a tiny hamlet where you can dock your boat but there’s little else there bar the road out which is almost vertically up. I plead with any local I can find to see if they can find a helicopter or a sherpa but they simply laugh and point to the cemetery. We are on our own. Us and the north face of what is known to me now as ‘that fucking road’.
We start the ascent and the clouds gather.
About half way up we get light drizzle but this is just a sample of what is to come. The climb out of this village is far greater than the intrepid Jennifer had envisaged so we are spread out like an army platoon along the road when the proper rain, the Irish double penetration wetness sideways rain hits.
As you may know I’m a sucker for outdoor clothing. I’m the Gore Tex and Hyvent king. I am rarely seen without my women repellent fleece so this weather should cause no significant problems. This would be true if I were wearing the North Face tri-climate breathable waterproof/windproof jacket retailing at £170 from all good outdoor clothing retailers but that monster is hanging on a coat hook in a twee cottage three miles away. I’m currently wearing a Berghaus fleece with the absorbancy of a high quality sponge. I run to the base of a large oak tree in a country road for some low level shelter.
I am sodden. There is no hat so my freshly shorn hair makes me look bald. My glasses are steamed up and the fleece is heavy with rain so the sleeves appear to be hanging loose past my hands making me look like an escaped mental patient with a loosened straight jacket.
I wait under the tree for my lost tribe and they appear over the top of the ascent. They came more prepared than me and all three are wearing sub quality waterproof jackets with those two small, skin tight hoods completely done up revealing only the eyes and nose. They look like 3 bowling pins in human form. They meet me under the tree. We look a right mess. We stand there for 10 minutes shivering and a few cars pass by delivering the ‘Cornwall wave’ that you must reciprocate or cause some kind of local incident. A wave of this kind in London would be seen as a challenge or the opening gambit in some kind of knuckle or simply ‘taking the piss’ but here it means ‘friend’ or ‘look at those sad sodden bastards under that tree…poor fuckers’.
We return to the house in blistering sunshine. I’m so wet that I’m literally steaming from the fleece… truly horrible. I shower and change and head to The Poncing Pony for a low level pint to gather my thoughts.
I arrive to a fanfare in my head. The place is empty bar the barman and one other individual who clearly thinks he’s in charge of this village. This is it. This is the moment I start to plan the takeover. This bloke is my Balrog but I ain’t no wizard…. I’m Stryder…. the watcher…the future King.
I rock up at the bar and confidently order a flat lager as I’m all about consistency and that was the shit they slopped up previously. I then sit away from the Balrog and listen…. always listening…
He’s a big man but he’s out of shape. He oozes Tory wealth in retirement and he’s supping on a Pinot Grigio…no wait can’t be Pinot as this titan would see that as ‘too modern….too Blairite’. I’m going Chardonay and due to too many nights in the South of France he’s whacked a couple of ice cubes in it.
He’s mid 60’s with a fine head of white hair. He’s well spoken but he literally has a big mouth, almost a flip top head, and appears to be directing his conversation to some other bloke in a different village such is the gravitas of his baritone.
I eye him up. Could be ex-military. I’ve come across his type before. I was once searching a house in Bray where the owner went all ex Sandhurst authoritarian and got slaughtered on the spot by an irate Scotsman holding a search warrant (“you might think this is your house but this piece of paper says it’s mine until we leave so shut your noise”…. one of the great lines). This geezer is the sort of bloke who has his family tree on the wall with the military medals from Grandpapa in a case. Nothing wrong with that I suppose if you are a ponce.
We’ll call this bloke ‘Jerry’. It’s probably ‘Sir Jeremy St John Haverstock Arbuthnot VC’ but we’ll go with Jerry for now to keep it flowing. He’s clearly the big cheese in this small town as the barman is all reverential in his company. Jerry spouts on about boats he owns and community stuff that I couldn’t care less for but I listen as a weakness is imminent….a chink in the armour which will mean I can run this place before I leave, then we’ll see how much a flat lager will cost Jez….then we’ll only serve Pinot and Hock with no ice cubes, we’ll wipe you out son…
At Jerry’s feet lies a big black Labrador called ‘Biggles’… he’s clearly RAF without any combat. The dog has seen better days. It drools and limps about much like Jerry’s wife who has appeared in the bar for a pre dinner drink with the old fucker. She’s all pearls and a secret Gin stash in the downstairs toilet cistern. It helps with coping with the poncitude of Jerry.
Punters start to dribble in for the early session in the company of ‘The Guv’nor’.
First up we have an old bloke in cut off denims and camouflage gaiters. He’s late 50’s and is clearly a man of the soil. He orders a flat bitter and engages in some back slapping, cock measuring guffawing with Jerry about how they have probably bought this pub two times over since gaining control of it. It’s all jolly good stuff presumably for my benefit as I’m the only non local Jub in the room. The whip out pictures of boats and start some bawdy chat with a young barmaid who’s appeared from the cellar.
A couple of younger blokes turn up. These boys ooze David Essex boatmen, a ‘a girl in every lock, if it’s got a backbone I’ll do it’ types. Long hair, working vests, rugged men of the river with a twinkle in the eye. One of them is so fucking cool that he leans against the bar at a bizarre angle while gazing into the young barmaids eyes. He must have 20 years on her but this means nothing as once he’s done his dirty business she will be cast aside quicker than it takes to add the notch to the headboard of the bed on his barge. She’ll just be a rating then… nothing more, nothing less but she will be staring out along the river for the next 30 years wondering when he will return…’My pirate’ the last words uttered from the lonely spinsters lodge….tragic.
The boatmen start knocking back the flat ale like pros and Jerry ain’t liking it. You can see the officers mess disgust in his flip top head.
Boatman number one pops outside for a ‘burn’ (prison parlance I believe) and Jerry eyes him suspiciously. The smell of cigarette smoke wafts into the bar which doesn’t particularly bother me as I’ve drunk in some right shitholes back in the days when ashtrays were on tables. Jerry ain’t having it though. He forcefully demands a glass of tap water from the spinster in waiting as ‘the cigarette smoke is over powering’ and is ‘destroying’ his throat. Calm down son. He takes the water and heads out to confront the Boatman.
It then all becomes apparent to me. These Cornwall based Tory Brexiteers don’t actually want me here or anyone here. They only want locals. They don’t want the transient Boatmen, they want the village to be self sufficient. This probably was a nice local boozer but like so many in these small villages a small trigger made the locals gang up on it to get it shut. It could have been a change in owner, a change in bitter or even a change to the recipe of the Sunday roast Yorkshire pudding but as they hold the aces in the form of constant local punditry they can end it for anyone by slowly not attending. Its why it’s a low level community pub and not a proper pub.
To reinforce my theory a proper local local walks in.
She has the forearms of someone fully capable of snapping a crippled lambs neck and she’s wearing a homemade poncho which smells of hay. She must be well known as no one has told her that her teeth look like a burnt down fence and if you are going into a pub you need to buy a drink and not just turn up for a chat.
She has a right mouth on her and the locals flock to her dulcet tones. She asks the assembled punters if they have used the new Chinese restaurant in the next town. One on the gathered says he likes it and mouth talks him down with a tale of a 10 minute wait for a table resulting in her letting the owner know that if he didn’t sort it out:
‘word would get out and we could end it for you’.
These were the actual words. A microcosm of the current state of the country. Do what we want or we’ll royally fuck you and ourselves.
I nearly said something but thought I’d bide my time….5 days left to take control of this place. Either that or I’m striding toward a wicker effigy shouting ‘Jesus Christ NO!!!’
Next time I’ll be ranting about the worlds biggest garden centre and recounting the advice for ‘Steve’ from a salty sea dog.