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FoulMouth Ferry good

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.

So, a January Sunday in Cornwall. The weather was better than the Saturday - it could hardly be worse. Not exactly beautiful, but the sun was poking through the lighter clouds and it didn't seem to have rained much overnight. Our 45 second walk to the platform got us there in plenty of time for the two carriage bone-rattler service to Truro, a disappointment after the comfy intercity train of the previous day. But it was empty enough, being 9.30am. The hour was spent:

  • regretting my failure to mention how often Helen had compared Looe to Whitby in my Saturday write-up
  • being amused by there being a golf course in Par
  • wishing I could take a portrait mode photo of a hyacinth in order to use the title "hyacinth bokeh"
  • eating beef and spreadable cheese rolls

Furthermore we had plans to make. The tickets Helen had booked for us to get home had the benefit of being cheap, but numerous disadvantages had come to light, so we compiled a detailed plan to present at a ticket office later in the day. But first, hey, here's Truro. Let's get the scenic branch line to Falmouth.

Hey! Unlike Liskeard to Looe, this line really is scenic. How exciting. Sadly we had no real scope for taking photos due once again to the filthy windows, and made worse by sitting on the wrong side of the train. Anyway, no point in fretting, let's get a wiggle on to the pier. Misreading the map, I thought we were a very short distance away but in fact the nearest sign told us it was a 15 minute walk or so. A bit concerning considering we only had 15 minutes, and the boat we want to catch only goes once an hour.

Wiggle wiggle wiggle. Falmouth looks nice - a bit like Whitby, apparently - but most things are shut. I'm reasonably sure that's not because it's completely dead, but because it's Sunday 11am. But whatever, we wouldn't have time anyway. Where's this bloody pier? Why are we going uphill when water is not going to be up here? Oh, right, here's a downhill. Where's this bloody pier? OK, here's the pier. There's our boat. Quick, get on!

Whew. Made it, at the nick of 1115. A couple more people got on behind us, and then ... we went nowhere. Why aren't we going anywhere? Ah, because the skipper was in the hut boiling himself a flask of tea. Good stuff. Anyway, we're on a boat! And the sky is blue-ish! Hello!

We've totally timed this well. The forecast was not as good as the weather has turned out to be, and Falmouth harbour looks really pretty and stuff. We've got a seat outside at the back and are very much looking forward to this trip.

C'mon skip, we hurried for this.

Apparently, I cut some kind of "rugged sailor" look. Don't see it myself. Is it the unkempt beard?

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!

After a while, there's a castle or fort or something. That'll be the castle or fort or something that's on the opposite headland to Pendennis Castle, now a mile or so behind us. We might have visited the latter had it not been so predictably shut.

After 15 minutes or so, St Mawes looms large. Probably because the boat we're on is the St Mawes ferry. Helen is very pleased by how the morning has turned out.

In fact, we both are. That was an excellent boat ride, next to an excellent dog, and the vaguely hurried nature of the morning translated into excitement rather than hassle. And with the weather still behaving itself we can now go for a wander around this supposedly idyllic picture postcard seaside village.

First thing we do is just hang around watching the boat make its return trip. Unlike most services up, down and across the river Fal this one runs 364 days a year 'cos it ain't just for tourists. It would make a nice commute most days.

At the pier is copious evidence of the fishing that gets done round here. Quite fancy some lobster tbh.

The village curves around this little harbour and along the coast, back towards the castle or fort thing.

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.

A quick comfort break and we take a couple of back streets 'cos the town looks nice. The streets are very steep and our calves wake up. At the top of the first hill is a hairdresser.

Rodney is state registered. Who registers hairdressers, and why?

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.

Thatched cottages line the coast road up another hill, and next to Tavern Beach. There's another hotel at the top end with its own private terrace looking out over the water. Later in the afternoon we look up how much it costs to stay there; it's £355 a night for the cheapest room. Yeah, er, no thanks.

Tavern Beach looks perilous to descend to at the near end, but the slope at the far end is palatable, at least for me. It's still very steep. Helen takes a break on a bench while I go down and explore.

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.

I keep insisting "this is my last stone, so watch" and obviously what happens is: if I throw a good 'un, Helen's attention is distracted, but when she watches attentively I fuck up and just plop one into the surf. Finally, I skim a badass stone while she's watching, and I'm satisfied we can now move on. Also my right arm, shoulder and wrist are now bloody killing me. Let's take a break on a bench halfway back up, look at some flowers, and Helen can tell me about the history of smuggling in Falmouth.

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.

There's a few other people here, none of whom are talking to each other because they're all glued to their audio guides. We eschewed that option as well, yet another reason for Mr Grumpy to hate us.

Flying the English Heritage flag.

Further around the side, it's more garden than fort but there's still a bunch of heavy weaponry. Very little has changed about this place since it was built by Henry VIII. Not him personally, I assume.

There's nothing to aim at except Pendennis Castle.

"Pose! Pose like you're going to fire it!", she says. I have no bloody idea how to fire a cannon do I, yet apparently I look like I know precisely what I'm doing when I stand behind one. Take that, Falmouth harbour!

There's lots of these weird cross openings in all the walls. No idea what they're for. If only we'd had access to some device providing commentary.

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?

Anyway, inside we go. The rooms are ... well they're kinda empty, and there's no plaques explaining what we're seeing. They should provide a way of hearing some information about the place, really.

These crosses are all over the place.

There are fireplaces, and perilous spiral staircases. I hate spiral staircases, but we've no choice but to take them if we want to see the other floors. Good luck on your wheelchair.

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.

There's a bit of inside-outside, or outside-inside, if you get my drift. Like a courtyard, basically some outdoorsy bit inside the walls. We have a bit of a wander, and I take the narrow stairs to go wander past the ramparts.

There's a lighthouse over there. Hey, hang on, the light's actually on! Never seen that before.

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.

From the top we're treated to, um, the same views as we've already had, just from an increased elevation. I don't think this is a surprise. The masses of seagulls that have been making a nuisance of themselves over to the right keep doing so.

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.

«quick break while I laugh out loud at what's going on in the Royal Rumble match»

Round the corner we look at another upmarket restaurant/bar, which is also hideously expensive. The two more normal looking pubs are more to our taste, but are crowded and the menus are boring. Ah fuck it, let's go get the boat back to "the mainland", I say, momentarily forgetting we're not on an island. Apart from Great Britain. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.

I buy a Diet Coke in the Co-Op then we go wait. Same boat, same crew, obviously. Doing well for being built in 1937, eh. The boat, that is.

So long, St Mawes. We really enjoyed our couple of hours there, but that was probably enough tbh. And we've chosen our timing well for heading back out on the water, because the present's so bright I gotta wear shades.

The weather's a mix to be honest. The bright sunshine is poking a hole through gloomy foreboding clouds. We sit at the front, watching another passenger's dog dish out high fives to anyone that wants to pay it some attention.

This sign is an excellent example to children.

Is the sky grey-y blue-y white? White-y blue-y grey? Blue-y grey-y white? It's all so confusing. Hey, hello again St Mawes castle.

After not very long, Helen has had enough of sitting out front. It is much colder than when we came over, even with the sun shining; it also feels like we're moving faster. So we retreat to the back, downstairs, where there's only 2 other people and we're completely out of the wind.

Approaching Falmouth, Helen poses for a photo where she tries to convey a mixture of "I've enjoyed this a great deal" and "I am absolutely fucking starving".

There's loads of boats being worked on in the big working shipyards. Or ships being worked on in the boatyards. Something like that. One of them is called the Bibby Sapphire, and it looks like the back half is missing.

A few sailing boats 'n all, though no-one's sailing.

Our ride comes to an end under white-y blue-y grey-y skies, just as the Flushing Ferry is arriving. Shall we get that? No, we shall not. Looks cute though.

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.

They are shut. But there is a weird statue at least. After too long a walk we eventually stumble out onto Custom House Quay, which is where all the pubs that serve food are and, coincidentally, one of the two pubs I most want to visit on account of its reputation for good beer. That one is called Front but, sadly, has a sign saying "we bring the pub, you bring the grub": they don't do food. OK never mind, we go upstairs in the Quayside Inn and are treated to this view.

The prices are very reasonable and it's nice and empty. The young lad serving us finishes every sentence he says in Helen's direction with the word "lovely", and a few minutes later our food arrives. It's quite obviously all supermarket bought frozen ingredients knocked together in a hurry, but it tastes nice enough and is excellent value for money. The beer is pretty good too, though I'm suspicious of Budweiser appearing on the "craft beer" list.

Right. OK. We've had a pint and some food. What next? So far as we're aware, we've got ages to kill because the next train from Falmouth that gets us back to St Germans is not until about 6.30pm. That said, some of the cultural stuff shuts earlier. How about that maritime museum? Fuck it, go on then.

#nofilter

Ooh, we can get in here for free with the Art Passes, saving us 25 quid or so. Excellent. And it's pretty much empty, also excellent. This is a companion museum to the big one in London, specialising in small boats. First up is a room full of small boats.

Racing boats and lifeboats and fishing boats and dinghys and kayaks and stuff. At least two of Ben Ainslie's boats are here.

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.

There's an open workshop where the local volunteers build, restore, and repair boats. A long handwritten whiteboard gives out a bunch of information and ends with "please do not feed the workers".

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.

Back inside, we can now look down upon the small boats we previously could only look up to.

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 was a bit disappointed the room all about fishing didn't stink of fish, and that the ship's cat wasn't a real cat. Neither of us were disappointed, though, by the radio controlled boat race downstairs.

There's wind and everything! You have to control the sail as well as rudder!

Lastly, a perturbing scuba diver. Or is it that guy who does the London Marathon in about 12 days?

OK, we're done here. Seriously we've seen it all, and it was excellent, but can we please go get a(nother) beer? Yes, yes we can. Back outside we dodge the marauding youths doing all that BMX bike and scooter shenanigans what marauding youths do, and go back to The Front. It's crowded, unlike basically anything else we've seen except for a couple of trains, and full of yer bohemian hippy/metal/smoker/grebo sorts. Very good. They do indeed have a bunch of good ale on and I buy the darkest one they've got, while Helen has a mango lime and ginger cider. Disgusting.

It's permanently crowded except for this 10 second break where suddenly it's empty.

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.

Well, you can shove your Whitby fish and chips up your arse. After the moderate danger of missing our train because everything's freshly cooked to order, but the luck of turning up when there's next to no queue - unlike when we leave and there's 10-12 people spilling out onto the street, and more waiting for the restaurant to open - we tuck into the cod and chips and Helen declares it the nicest piece of fish she's had in her entire life. The chips are bloody good too.

We're at the station in plenty of time for the ride back to Truro, in the end.

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!

No beer. What do do? Hangman, that's what. It's a memory test, we play Hangman for most of the journey to test one another on stuff we've done over the past couple of days. 20 games and an hour later, via everywhere except the request stop, we're back at the van. There's some beer left in the fridge and we eat the remaining beefy cheesy rolls. Photos are shared but for some inexplicable reason I absolutely cannot keep my eyes open, let alone start writing a blog, so I go to bed ridiculously early. What gives?

Monday

I'm tacking Monday and our journey home on here as a small coda rather than a post in its own right, mostly because very little of note happened. Not that it'll stop me writing a bit about it.

First, we said goodbye to the van and the proprietors.

Will kinda miss this living room. It was very cosy.

There is panic for a couple of hours, because Helen's cat-sitter - on his debut assignment - didn't send her a message or photo last night or overnight. What's happened? Has he stolen the cat? Has the cat killed him?

First leg is a big train to Exeter St Davids. Having found no shops yesterday we've no breakfast and no diet coke, we're thankful for a train with a cafe... except as soon as we sit down they announce that it's shut because they're doing a stock take and will change staff in a couple of stations time. For fucks sake!

A WhatsApp message of the cat's face arrives. Past Plymouth and the cafe opens. Helen buys bacon rolls with barely any bacon in, and caffeine. It helps. News reaches us that there's train fail at both Woking and Waterloo which might fuck us up later. At Exeter St David's we pop outside so Helen can vape and I can go into a thoroughly disappointing off-licence. With a bit more time to spare I could've gone to the brewery up the way, but alas, not today.

The station claims our train will still go to Waterloo, but the National Rail app says it's terminating at Basingstoke. We get seats, sadly with no USB power nearby, and start making plans for what to do during a forthcoming holiday in May (no spoilers, such a tease). We stop at every station in Devon and the train fills up. Eventually there's a trolley with salty and sugary goods, to fuel Helen as she composes the photo portion of this post. We're told that yes, this train is now kicking us off at Basingstoke. Fucking hell, really? Quarter of an hour later is a train to Woking, where Helen almost misses our connection by vaping at the precise time the guy manning the barriers decides to bugger off so as to not be around to let her back in.

Eventually, a sudden 5 hours after we left Cornwall, we're back in Surbiton - a good 3.5 hours earlier than we would've been on our original tickets, and with no rush hour London to contend with. It's time to do a bunch of washing, get a pizza, watch some wrestling, and be happy that I've got to start work at 6am tomorrow. Bleurgh.

Created By
Darren Foreman
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