"Five more, we've only got five more, so go on BRAPA tick, not including the Isles of Sic (sic)".
There have been better football chants written, let's face it, it is Isles of Sil anyway. But this was my early morning mantra as I find myself within touching distance of (mainland) Cornwall conclusion.
The chattiest bus driver to date drops me at Sheviock church with plenty of time to kill before noon pub opening, and I wanted to explore the local church but couldn't fathom the gate on the churchyard, a couple of locals twitched curtains, so I gave up and headed down a country lane in a Crafhole direction.
|Upsetting church gate
|Someone shouts "fore!" so I call back ... "five actually"
|Down on the gorgeous southern tip once more
It was a humid sort of morning, and when I wasn't evading golf balls to the skull, midges were biting my earlobes. I felt safer lurking in the pub carpark, despite the ghostly tales. But where was the flippin' entrance door? I circled the pub twice, but no clue.
A few staff turn up in cars and wave to a chef in the kitchen slicing a mountain of potatoes. I try not to look impatient.
11:58am, right I'm going for it!
I crash through some large double doors by the kitchen, they don't open or close properly, I'm in a sort of reception / kitchen area so the bar takes some finding. When I do, the trio of staff are very effervescent. My opening gambit "Where on earth is the main entrance to this place? I'm sure I came in through a weird kitchen way!" seems to resonate with them, especially my favourite of the trio who reminds me of a Thicker Necked Megan (TNM) who I used to work with. Turns out the pub doesn't really have a way in! Finnygook Inn, Crafthole (2276 / 3839) might sound like a made up pub name but having gone to the likes of Gweek, Vogue, Piece and Mannacan over the years, expect the unexpected from Cornwall. It is a dullish dining set up, but the guest St Austell is drinking superbly and the fact that the staff are practical jokers is a leveller. The older lady especially. She leaves in three days time so obviously has given up caring. When the third barmaid goes down to the cellar for supplies, she follows her, hides behind a door, and jumps out on her, scaring the poor lass senseless. "It is an addiction I think, I even do it at home now ... I was waiting 20 minutes for my boyfriend to walk past the other day, and when he did, he didn't flinch" she later confesses ruefully. They are playing on the local pub legend, Silas Finny, a smuggler who was chucked down the well here for bad behaviour and supposedly haunts the place. When I remark that this is the kind of free entertainment I come to pubs for, TNM admits that when the place is busier, they have to be more professional. "Yes, I suppose when you've got serious middle aged couples eating £30 plates of lobster, they might not appreciate barmaids jumping out on each other pretending to be ghosts" I reply, and with that, it is time I pushed on back towards the bus stop.
|Random Arsenal sticker in the gents. Former landlord? Silas reincarnated? Who knows.
From south coast to north coast I travel, via Liskeard and Bodmin Parkway.
I think God/Jimmy Case was finally taking pity on me, as the buses & trains were perfectly timed for once.
Of all the inhospitable parts of Cornwall, I find that Bodmin-Wadebridge-Padstow/Port Issac/ Rock/Tintagel/Trebarwith Strand area amongst the hardest to get yourself around.
But at least we had a bit of steam train interest, cutting through the outer Bodmin countryside. Seriously, is there a more obscurely positioned station, miles from anything useful, than Bodmin Parkway?
A bus finally shows its face and takes me to Wadebridge, which is considered something of a transport interchange and cultural hub around here, creating an illusion of 'perfect place for an ice cream and a little mosey around' but you'd really be safer in Doncaster.
I find it a decidedly miserable and overrated town, less grey n' gloomy than Bodmin but that's not saying much as that resembles war torn Ukraine on an off day. Just as on my last visit, Wadebridge bus station is full of bored teenagers shooting each other in the arse with pellet guns, whilst cars circle the forecourt and quite brazenly sell drugs out of the window to the older kids. Whenever I glance up from my phone, I'm given a warning stare like 'keep yer eyes to yourself!'
Relief when the Padstow bus arrives, and being a sunny Saturday afternoon, it is packed to the gills with tourists over the age of seventy. I blame that bald bloke off the TV who hangs out with fish for making it overly popular.
I hop off a couple of stops early to avoid the narrowest and most chocka bloc part of town, and descend a steep street towards the pub .....
I race inside, ahead of a group of young yuppies contemplating a visit, who sound like the types who go punting in Cambridge or destroying Bristol statues. What a delight the Golden Lion Hotel, Padstow (2277 / 3840) is , an oasis of serenity. Although a few discerning tourists have infiltrated, it is surprisingly locals who dominate. Horse racing on TV, and everyone has bets on. A gentle thrum of Saturday afternoon hubbub pervades , so much so that the barmaid looks like she's on the verge of falling asleep. She could do with a couple of colleagues to jump out at her pretending to be a ghostly smuggler, that'd wake her up. The Tintagel is on form. A very tall family walk in and take it in turns to bump their heads on the ceiling. This is the oldest pub in town so you can hardly look up accusingly at an ancient beam which has been here centuries, but they do. Cracking pub, and if I wasn't extremely nervous about my next tick, I'd really have relaxed into it.
I couldn't relax because I was really drinking at the 'last chance saloon' with regards this next tick, my last of the day. It doesn't open on Sunday, doesn't open daytime, even on a Saturday it is 5:30pm. There are a handful of buses each day, taking some elaborate route which originates in Truro, you change at St Columb Major, and connect to another bus. It takes forever.
With no bus forthcoming, and Wadebridge easily the closest town to it, plus £100 of BRAPA Emergency Taxi Money burning a hole in my wallet (cos Launceston taxis are useless), I'm just hoping I can find a Wadebridge taxi.
I told you fate was turning in my favour in these latter stages of the holiday. Immediately in front of the bus stop, I see a taxi rank with taxi in it and a jovial guy who loves life ferries me across.
"Pub looks closed mate!" he says as we pull up but I say don't panic, I was expecting this. 5:15pm.
I 'entertain' myself by going to the Spa garage for a widdle, a twiddle on the fidget spinners, eye up a couple of potential new mascots, and then try and fathom out where the bus back (due about 18:15) was going to stop.
Contradictory information as per usual, Google said main road, the actual stop suggested it was going to pull into the little side road and do a turning circle. A local appears from his house, joined by wife and a grandson bouncing a football. I tell him my predicament. He says it varies depending on bus driver, time of day and air temperature. "I can drive you back into Wadebridge now if you loikes!" he says, but I tell him I have to do the pub first but thanks anyway. Nice man.
I'm delighted to see the door spring open at 17:26, 4 whole mins early, how generous!
|Looks more like a unicorn to me
I just manage to beat a local lad and his highly agitated mutt to the front door, and the poor bloke looks astonished, I've broken his 34 year record of being the first customer in. Welcome to the Red Lion. St Kew Highway (2278 / 3841) and early signs are good, a nicely worn eighties carpet, and a young gent called Jack who might be some sort of bar manager says 'hello' before I've even made it to the bar. I confess I'm not dining with them tonight, and take my pint (can't remember what but the quality was a tad iffy) to a corner where I can see all. I can't warm to the place after that, it seems caught half way between restaurant and old locals boozer, hanging in a sort of purgatory / identity crisis. Folk are quite watchful, and the early staff promise evaporates too. Yet the locals are treated like royalty. The badly behaved dog is called Jack too, and anyone who gives it too much attention is disapproved of. But how the hell do you get to the loo without at least acknowledging the creature? An old lady with terrible hair tries to remember the name of her favourite Cornish beach. A New Zealand Sally Phillips who I think works here but seems pissed off throughout tries to assist with beach names, but ends up declaring her hatred of celery, which doesn't bode well for my new mascot. A jolly chap called Terry with green cords declares his love for James Bond, and as I warm to him most, it is he who I tell "I'll be back soon if this bus doesn't stop for me".
I decide to stand on the main road, because if this holiday has taught me one thing, it is that Google is the most trustworthy source when it comes to buses.
Such a fast scary road. I have to be alert. My bus races around the corner, bang on time, I hold out a long left arm and am relieved to see he screeches to a halt.
"Point of order young Simon ...." he says when I board, sounding like a hybrid of John Depeche Modem and Clag Monster which is a bloody lethal cocktail, ".... I'd ordinarily turn into the village and pick you up from there".
I say "oh ok" and sit down, just glad to be aboard. But what a load of betty swollocks this must be, he showed no sign of slowing down for the village slip road turning, and that is IF he could've even seen anyone waiting at the stop from his vantage point which is a bloody massive IF, I tell thee.
St Kew Highway - PLEASE NEVER OPEN A MICROPUB.
Back at Bodmin Parkway, the heavens open and I took a video but because Blogger is shite, I can't post nice videos without a major effort so you'll have to trust me it was all leafy and cascading wonderfulness. Is it too late to transfer blogging operations to Wix, a much better platform? Wordpress, well I leave that for the commoners ;)
Right, it was straight back to Plymouth from here. I'd had it up to 'here' with this holiday by now and was getting grumpy BUT only TWO pubs to tackle on my final day. The end was in sight, and for that reason, I could still smile, as long as tomorrow was hitch free.