Sure enough, almost as soon as I crossed the county line near Launceston, it began to rain. And as I drove down the A30 across Bodmin Moor, the mist came rolling in settling over Rough Tor and Brown Willy like heavy clouds fallen to Earth. I drove to my brother Simon’s house wearing a suitably gloomy frown. ‘Brought the weather with you as usual I see’, he said as he welcomed me inside the house. I wanted to point out that if you counted how many days per year it rains in Cornwall, my humble contribution amounted to a tiny percentage. However, I drank a nice hot tea instead and planned what I would do for the next few days – bearing in mind that wet weather gear would be most likely needed. The day ended with a walk around the wet but incredibly imposing old mine workings of the Great Flat Lode. You can never fail to be impressed by these cathedral-sized buildings, imagining what they were like 100 years ago when the site boasted some of the richest tin and copper mines in the world.
The following day began with thunderously heavy rain and more mist and fog so I decided on a drive about. Feeling somewhat nostalgic, I firstly drove to Helston where I filled up with petrol at the very filling station I used to work at in my teens. Of course, it looked very different then; there was no roof and only two pumps that were manually operated by me when I started there. Later, they upgraded to self-service pumps and I got the be the lad who sat behind the counter taking the money. I was only 16 at the time. They’d never allow it these days because of the cigarettes, over 18 magazines etc. but, back then, all we sold was petrol. We doled out Green Shield Stamps back then too and I was supposed to ask every driver if they wanted them. I didn’t. And I certainly didn’t ask the hundreds of foreign tourists as they had no idea what they were. That meant that I kept the stamps. I can’t tell you how much I bought with them, but it included my first electric guitar and a giant black ‘ghetto blaster’ cassette radio thing. As I filled the car up, I looked across the nearby road junction and could see the house I lived in for five years. It didn’t look any different except that it now has PVC double glazing and is a gold-top creamy colour rather than white. Oh, and the trees Mum and Dad planted are a lot taller.
I took a slow drive through the town, past my old school, past Tenderah Road and my first home in Helston, past the houses lived in by old school mates, past the newsagents – now a nail parlour – where I did my paper round from and down through Coinagehall Street and past the famous thatched Blue Anchor pub where I spent most evening from the age of about 16, drinking their home brewed Spingo and playing folk music.
Next stop was another town I grew up in; Penzance. That's Penzance harbour above and a wet fishing smack coming sensibly in to hide. By now the rain was appallingly drizzly and horrid but that didn’t stop me having a short and very damp walk on Marazion beach. Amazingly, the mist was so thick that St Michael’s Mount, usually just a short 1/4 mile walk from the shore was completely invisible. That morning there had been a feature on the BBC Breakfast Tv show about the dangers of ‘tombstoning’; jumping off high rocks, piers and breakwaters into the sea. It was something we did all the time as kids off the Porthleven harbour walls, and here in Penzance, off the steps that led down to Harvey’s Dry Dock. Despite the name, the dry dock was full of water most of the time. It was only drained when work needed doing on the lower part of a vessel’s hull. A steep set of granite steps led down to the dry dock from Morrab Road above and we would dare each other to climb one more step with every jump, getting higher and higher before each cannonball plunge into the often oily water. Just opposite is the main harbour itself where I would often dally on my way to school to watch the fishing boats off-loading their catches bound for Newlyn fish market. I was trusted to walk to school in those days and I was no older than eight or nine. Here's part of the prom in all its sodden glory.
Next, it was on to Hayle to visit mum, drink tea and hear all the latest gossip about people I don’t know. That’s the thing about time and distance; my mum has moved house five times since I left home in 1980. And I’ve lived in six different houses. We have no common shared points of interest any more other than the family. She doesn’t know anyone I know and vice versa. Still, a pleasant evening and I may have picked up an amazing story to turn into a book. More on that anon … here's the Hayle estuary taken from Lelant saltings.
Wednesday it was much brighter with gloriously warm sunshine. My Rain God status appeared to have been rescinded. I decided to make the most of the unusually clement weather and took the park and ride train from Lelant Saltings into St Ives. It has to be one of the prettiest short train routes in the UK. The little train shuttles between St Erth and St Ives several times daily and the route goes along the cliffs above Hayle, Carbis Bay and into St Ives itself. You get wonderful views of the sweep of St Ives Bay, right up to and beyond Godrevy lighthouse. It’s wonderful. I’m amazed they haven’t stuck a steam train on the route and turned it into a tourist attraction yet. Amazed but quite pleased. This is one commuter route I'd love to do every day. Just look at these views, taken from the train.