This is going to be a rubbish episode, sorry. Fact is I'm watching the WWE Royal Rumble 2018 while I type, so am distracted a little ("Shut up, Saxton!") plus I'm a bit annoyed that it's taken me the best part of 3 hours to get things into a state where I can even start typing. The pictures were chosen and laid out earlier by Helen; now time for me to add the thousands of words.
Falmouth looks nice behind us. There are tons of boats around but barely in of them moving, it's just a big boat park really, apart from us.
The nearby dog is unbearably cute. Before we set off, his owner disappeared around the corner for a bit and there was palpable separation anxiety immediately. On his return, the hound stood right up on its hind legs to greet him back with a hug. NEVER LEAVE AGAIN! NEVER! LEAVE! AGAIN!
Once we've seen the boat off, we wander round the quay taking note of all the closed shops. The Co-Op is open, but the pharmacy is shut; the gallery is shut; the cafe is shut; the other cafe is shut; the "shopping arcade" is shut; the other gallery is shut; and the restaurant is shut. Two pubs are, however, open. That might come in handy later.
There's quaintness. Like, tiny teeny wooden doors for tiny teeny people, and old post boxes. Another waterside pub is so posh it hosts Royal Opera House performances, you what!? And there are many beautiful old and listed houses. It doesn't seem like anyone lives in them, we guess they're just holiday homes for the rich.
By "explore", what I mean is: go and throw stones into the sea. Because I spend so long doing so, Helen gets bored of sitting on the bench and comes to join me. She was wondering why I was taking a photo of my own hand.
Plainly I was skimming stones, like an absolute boss. I have, I estimate, a 40% success rate of making stones skim at all - but when I do, I land some absolute humdingers. Some of them I think, meh, it didn't skim - only to watch a second splash about 15 feet beyond the initial impact. I'm completely addicted to this, it's cracking fun and the beach is fertile ground for flat, round, light stones.
Up, up, up the hill and eventually we arrive at the castle or fort thing. I'll stop calling it that and refer to it by its proper name: St Mawes Castle. It's an English Heritage venue, alas one we can't get into for free with our Art Passes. Instead we must interact with and pay the grumpiest cultural bloke-behind-a-till it has ever been our misfortune to meet. His demeanour says nothing except "I'm disappointed you're here, I'm very disappointed you're not buying English Heritage membership off me, and I hate Londoners". Well, whatever. Take our money and let us in, thanks.
You can go inside and outside, so we start off wandering around the grounds and tunnels and stuff. There's really quite a lot to explore. We walk around the walls and down some steps towards some of the cannons pointing out toward sea.
Back around towards the entrance to the castle, I'm kinda gobsmacked by the sign to the disabled loos. I mean, fair play for providing them but, er, the only way to get there is through a narrow doorway and down 4 uneven rocky steps. Wheelchair, really?
Frankly even if the loo was accessible, what's the point? The gardens aren't, and entering the castle itself is an exercise in minding your head and feet at the same time. Dear St Mawes castle, just admit it: it's not a wheelchair accessible venue. OK?
There's cannons. That's almost entirely what's in this place. I mean, by now I hope it's obvious what this place was for. It, and Pendennis Castle, were two defensive castles to shoot fuck out of any boats that wanted to come in and take Falmouth. Still in use up until the first or second world war, apparently.
The perilous spiral staircases keep going. The place is surprisingly big, there are 4 or 5 floors to check out and we're there for much longer than I'd expected.
Up top, though one floor lower than the final tower which we don't bother with, Helen is startled by the waxwork models immediately by the entrance. So am I tbh.
We exit through the gift shop, buying nothing. Back down the hill, pondering what to do. It's about half an hour to the next boat, but we're both quite hungry and I fancy a pint. Hmm, what to do. Perhaps this gull can advise us?
No, no advice from the gull. The upmarket hotel is open and has a menu; it's hideously expensive. Same is true of the upmarket opera pub. The thing where they were repairing a boat earlier is now closed, meaning we can take photos of the cool old Shell petrol pumps.
Now, let's go get some food. Up to the main drag and now everything's open and there's loads of people. I want a pint too. There's an "alehouse and kitchen" which has good looking and cheap, certainly in comparison to St Mawes, Sunday roasts. Sadly, as we search for a table I hear the bar staff tell some other customers that they've run out of gravy. *klaxon* No sale! We bugger off and carry on our search. One little alleyway promises a couple of venues.
Unrelated to this photo, my favourite thing in the main hall is the story of the Robertson family who set off in the 70s on a round the world trip which went a bit wrong, and they ended up drifting for, like 30-odd days or so cooped up in a tiny lifeboat with only rainwater to drink and fish they could catch to eat. I should read more about them.
It's a five or six storey museum. We head all the way up to the top and look out from the balconies towards the shipyard and town. There's one bit which points at a private wharf and some very fancy houses, with a sign that implores visitors not to intrude upon the privacy of the rich. Aww, those poor rich people with their amazing properties and yachts.
Some bits are interactive, and probably meant for kids, but there's no kids around so we'll have to do. I can't direct a wind-up boat towards the beach; Helen crashes a boat into an underwater sandbank on the "navigation by Mark" machine. I think "navigation by Mark" sounds like scent.
It's a martime museum, not just boats themselves but also weather, navigation, and the various uses we've made of the sea.
«goosebumps during the Rumble»
In the section about shipping as leisure, there's some cracking old-school posters advertising wintertime jaunts by P&O. Anyone fancy spending New Year in Syria and Palestine these days? No...?
There's a whole chunk of stuff specifically about Falmouth too. It's a seriously important port throughout history. Packet ships - basically the Amazon of its day - would stop here last on the way out of the UK, or first on the way back in, rather than weave through the choppy seas of the channel. Getting instructions was called "Falmouth for Orders".
I'm consulting my phone for train times. We've a decision to make. I'd quite like to wander back to the wrong end of town and visit HAND for another beer, but Helen isn't up for that. So I get another half here, and we're going to get the earlier train even though it doesn't get us back to St Germans any quicker. But anyway, before all that we want some award winning fish and chips from Harbour Lights. Y'know, like every shop in Whitby sells, so I'm told.
And the method to our madness is exposed. There's no train back to St Germans for over an hour, we could have got the next train back - but we wanted to go to the ticket office and that shuts very soon. So, kind sir, could you help us out: we'd like to go from St Germans to Surbiton, tomorrow morning, on the 0927 to Exeter connecting to the Woking train. Can you help?
Shit, yes this man could help. Probably the best customer service from anyone in any industry ever. He takes a look at our existing tickets to see if there's a way he can refund or use as part payment, but no, sorry. Anyway, he's found us the tickets we found ourselves but - hang on - let me see if I can do a better deal. He then spends a few minutes trying out various hand-made connections to see if split ticketing will make things cheaper for us. In the end it doesn't, so we're better off just buying the through ticket - but success isn't the metric for how good he was.
There's a reason he was so good, of course. He revealed during the conversation that he's originally from Wimbledon, and Helen had noticed his name badge said he was a Darren whose surname started with F. Darren F from Wimbledon? Good lad.
Anyway. We're in Truro with 90 minutes to kill. Shall we go get a pint in that brewery pub with free monkey nuts? Y'know, the one that plays dodgy power ballads interspersed with classic rock, like every other bloody pub in this county. Oh, but also Wu-Tang Clan? Huh.
It's basically the only thing open in Truro anyway, and certainly the only place we walk past that's got more than 3 or 4 people in it. I get a lovely stout, Helen has some new viciously awful cider. We spend 10 minutes searching Google for Spar, or a Co-Op, or any off-licence, or anywhere at all in Truro that we might be able to get some sauce for the train home, all to no avail. As we leave there are some kids on bikes who apologise to us for getting in the way of our photo, which is totally not appropriate behaviour. Why aren't you trying to nick the phones from our hands? Kids today, pfft.
15 minutes of nothing later, we're back at the station with another 15 minutes to kill. The Railway Tavern is open and apparently everyone is welcome, but, uh, ... nah, you're fine.
No vending machines. No nothing. There's about 8 other people around. The sign says the train only has 2 or 3 carriages, which means it'll be another bone-rattler. This feels like a very inauspicious ride to end our Cornwall weekend, though when the train arrives I'm delighted that a) it's much newer than the other local services, with comfy seats and stuff, and b) there are plug sockets AND USB SOCKETS. On a train! This is revelatory!