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Travels: Past, Present and Future

Archive for September, 2009

And Home

Posted by Leanne on September 25, 2009

It was strange to be finishing a holiday, a mere 4 days after arriving in a place –  I’ve been accustomed to mega 4 week travel extravaganzas for so long now that I’d forgotten what it was like to a) stay in England and b) have a relaxing kind of time.

With the car back in full working order, we packed up our belongings and left the hobbit hole behind with nothing more than a few words of thanks in the guestbook as evidence of our stay there.

We parked up in Bude and perused the tourist tack in the tourist shops, picking up bits of fudge and biscuits to take back to friends and colleagues up north, made a giraffe on the beach and set of for the long drive home.

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Boscastle and Crackington Haven

Posted by Leanne on September 24, 2009

I managed to sleep in to a respectable 9am this morning and, after failing to come to any kind of conclusion about what to do that day, the phone conveniently rang.

Alison from Fastlane motors at Brandis Corner told me that I’d better sit down… I owed her £304 for the repairs to the car, but the good news was that it was ready to be picked up from car-hospital. I then dialed a mobile telephone number I found attached to the Hobbit-Hole’s notice board and a woman (who had just got out of the shower) promised to be round in 10 minutes to pick us up and take us to Devon to collect the car.  It’s somehow refreshing to know that there are still some places in the world where taxi companies consist of just one person with a mobile phone and a car, and they probably only receive about 2 calls a week…

Disappointly, we didn’t have the presence of mind to take a photograph when the mechanic showed us the clutch, complete with pressure plate, broken cleanly into 3 pieces (with a few bits chipped off around the side). “Even I can tell you that that’s broken,” Paul commented.

On a whim, we drove to Boscastle and spent 15 minutes circling the only car park in the tiny harbour village for a space. “Should have just got the bus.” I grumbled. Once I was parked up in a space that wasn’t really meant to be a parking space but ‘other people were parking there, so it must be alright…’ we let ourselves out into the sunshine and climbed a cliff.

Since yesterday’s atmosperic castle experience translated directly into very wet feet, my trainers were still drying out, so I tackled the steep, slippy, uneven surfaces with entirely unsuitable shoes with great success and sat on the top of a cliff for 10 minutes reading my book while Paul took photos of whatever for an inordinately long time…

Unsuitable Shoes

Unsuitable Shoes

Today was our last full day in Cornwall – and I still had a few things to achieve whilst I was there – the first one was to be a Cornish Pasty which provided the energy to walk up another cliff in unsuitable shoes to the watchtower where I sat reading my book whilst Paul took an inordinately long time taking photos….

Then it was back down to the village for some Cornish ice-cream and away. Since we were yet to come across a beach for the giraffe of the day, we stopped in Crackington Haven for an hour so that I could achieve two more holiday tasks: go into the sea and make a giraffe.

The sea at Crackington Haven

The sea at Crackington Haven

Today’s giraffe was  made from pebbles. A small boy called Matthew brought me a few pebbles to use, but then ran away when I asked him if he wanted to help. Paul stood around watching for a bit, refusing to help, but then I think he got bored and started collecting pebbles to make a detailed eye, complete with girly eyelashes.

That done, it was back into Bude for sunset and dinner, to achieve my final goal for the week – fish and chips. I did briefly wonder why, since I instisted on consuming so much fatty and unhealthy food during the week, I had left most of it until the last day and consequently had to try it all in one day but I was on holiday so didn’t dwell on it too much.

Sunset in Bude

Sunset in Bude

With great effort, (and a trip to the pub) I managed to stay up really late (11pm).

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Tintagel

Posted by Leanne on September 23, 2009

Wednesday: the day they said they might get round to fixing the car, but knowing that the job would take ‘the best part of a day’, and not wanting to waste the best part of the day (whichever part that is) we walked into Bude in the descending mists in order to get the bus to Tintagel. Along the canal there was group after group of school children chasing ducks from their kayaks or canoeing along raucously, leading Paul to muse whether any of the school children actually ever did any reading, riting or ‘rithmatic in Bude, or whether they just spent their school days learning to surf and terrorising the canal wildlife from plastic boats…

Spider Web by the Canal

Spider Web by the Canal

According to the bus timetable, we needed to get a bus to Boscastle, and then another onto Tintagel. In actual fact all we needed to do was get on a bus from Bude, wait for the driver to change the bus number at Boscastle and then get driven, in the same bus to Tintagel. Easy.

As the bus which was, in my opinion far to big to negotiate the steep, winding and narrow roads along the coast, but contained just enough magic to squeeze past the thankfully sparse oncoming traffic meandered its way towards our final destination, the mist descended lower, promising to make us very damp by the end of the day.

In Tintagel, we wandered along the scenic route, over sodden grass and up steep and slippery tarmac, through an ordinary graveyard which appeared, on this day, to be extraordinarily spooky and atmospheric since it was obscured by fog.

Church in Tintagel

Church in Tintagel

Then it was  up some more hills until the ominous sight of the Tintagel Castle ruins loomed through the opaque air.

Church in Tintagel

Tintagel Castle, Cornwall

It’s always fun to wander around castle ruins, imagining what kind of people might have lived there; what they wore; what they would eat as they dined in the great hall and what jokes the court jester might have told to amuse the noblemen of the day.  Tintagel castle brings the added bonus of trying to imagine what kind of lunatic would ever decide to build a castle at the top of a cliff, and what kind of genius could actually make it happen (ignoring the fact that most of it eventually fell into the sea.)

The white mists swirling around only served to highlight the tragedy of a, once brilliant (if a little bit crazy) structure broken beyond repair and deserted by all but the seagulls, and now tourists.

Seagull on Tintagel Castle Grounds

Seagull on Tintagel Castle Grounds

At the sight of the bay below, I skipped down the precarious steps, and haphazard pebbles onto the sand and ran over to briefly explore the caves before setting about gathering seaweed for the giraffe of the day.  On completion, I ran back up to the overlooking cliff to observe my seaweed monster giraffe and take a snap or two.  “Can you tell what it is?” I asked Paul as I looked down at my creation.  Turning to my left I realised that Paul wasn’t there and a stranger answered “I’m told it’s a giraffe.”  I wondered who had told him, and if he knew it was me who had created it, but feeling a bit surprised about accidentally and enthusiastically speaking to a stranger, didn’t pursue the matter.  I walked away as he took a photo of the seaweed giraffe for his records, maybe just to humour me.

By this time my energy was ebbing, everything was wet and the cafe just below the castle started to beckon invitingly.  I had promised myself warm  jam and cream scones with a pot of tea and that is what I got:

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea

Feeling sick, from clotted cream we climbed the hill back to the village and got on the bus back to Bude, regretabbly deciding against buying any Granny Wobbly’s Crumbly Fudge on the way to the bus stop.

In spite of the busy day I managed to stay up late tonight – 10pm!

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Coastal Walks and Wide Mouths

Posted by Leanne on September 22, 2009

When you fall asleep at 9:30pm, awaking only breifly to remove yourself from the sofa and get into bed, it’s not really surprising if you are wide awake at 6:30am the next morning.

I got up at about 7, had a shower and pottered around a bit before deciding that I needed to work up a proper appetite if I was to eat bacon, eggs, beans and toast for breakfast, so I went for a walk to explore the village. I was only a few paces away from the hobbit hole when I saw an interesting looking alleyway, so turned off down the steep dirt track, as any true explorer might do. Before long I was strolling by the canal, watching sheep graze in the nearby fields, cows paddle in the shallow water, snacking on wild blackberries and (presumably) heading towards Bude. I had read in the Hobbit Hole’s guest book that there was a non-life-threatening walk into Bude along the canal and so kept walking until I could confirm that this was it.

Sheep by Bude Canal

Sheep by Bude Canal

On the way, I passed a signpost to a cafe which immediately conjured up pictures of sitting in a seafront cafe, with a steaming pot of tea and warm scones, smothered with jam and clotted cream. I resolved to make sure I found somewhere to enjoy afternoon tea before I left Cornwall. And to have some Cornish ice-cream. And a Cornish pasty. And of course some fish and chips. Not that I was getting hungry or anything…

During the entire 2.5 mile walk into Bude I passed 4 dogwalkers – all of whom said ‘hello’ to me as they walked on by. Being out and about before breakfast, in the beautiful Cornish countryside, around friendly and welcoming people (and a dog in a pushchair) filled me with a sense of freedom and joy, especially when the sun almost came out.

It was 9am by the time I arrived back at the Hobbit Hole and got the frying pan out, realising that it was probably the first time I’ve ever walked for 5 miles before breakfast.

Hobbit Hole Entrance

Hobbit Hole Entrance

An hour later, we were back by the canal-side walking towards Bude, but since I’d already done that once today, we took a turning through some community woodland and out onto the coastal path where we sat for a moment on the clifftop’s springy matress of grass admiring the seaside view, and comparing the sound of the sea to that of a busy A-Road.

Walking on, we stopped at a sign for Widemouth Bay to take some pictures of us with wide mouths (much to the amusement of a passing walker) and again on the beach to carve a wide mouthed giraffe into the sand.

Wide Mouthed Paul

Wide Mouthed Paul

After lunch, we retraced out steps into Bude, along the blustery coastal path and witnessed a cyclist admirably zig-zagging up a grassy cliff against the wind, and then we struggled to climb that same slope on foot. We emerged onto Summerleaze Beach in Bude and made our way back to Marhamchurch along the canal, this time greeted by joggers as well as dog walkers as they passed.

Dinner at the Buller’s Arms made me grumpy, since they didn’t have any lasagne which was the only thing I wanted from the menu. I settled for a bowl of soup and made myself cheerful again with sticky toffee pudding and clotted cream before heading back to the Hobbit Hole to fall asleep on the sofa – this time at 9:45pm…

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The 4th Emergency Service

Posted by Leanne on September 21, 2009

“Good Afternoon, you’re through to the AA Emergency Helpline, how can I help you?”

“Hi,” I replied “I’m not a member, but I’ve just broken down and would like to pay a large fee to join / get rescued please.”

“Certainly … do you have a method of payment with you…?”

Actually, they started out by checking I was pulled up in a safe place, asked whether someone was in the car with me and took my telephone number in case we got cut off. Then they asked for the credit card details.

The driving had been going well. We were 4.5 hours into the journey and only 20ish miles away from Bude when we hit some hills. Some 16% gradient hills. As we attempted the climb the slope, the car started losing power. I tried to change into a lower gear but the car had other ideas. I pushed the accelerator to the floor and we slowed more. The car behind me grew larger in the rear view mirror and eventually my car died and I reached for the hazard lights.

“I think it’s broken.” I said obviously.
“Are you sure you haven’t just stalled?” asked Paul who doesn’t know anything about cars, or about driving.
“Pretty sure.” I replied.
“I started it up again, making an unpleasant grinding noise in the process and tried to no avail to get it into gear.
“Can you smell burning?” I asked.
“Yep.”
“Can you get out and have a look?”
“I don’t know what to look for.” he protested.
I sighed heavily and got out and had a look myself. “Stupid bloody boys who know nothing about cars…you just have a look to see if anything is on fire and/or has smoke pouring out of it.” I muttered exasperatedly under my breath.

We were parked in the middle of the road on a steep hill. I worked out that it would go into gear when the engine was off so started her up in second and managed to get over the hill, onto the side of the road. Then called the AA who estimated that it would be just over an hour before any sign of rescue. There was only one thing for it…

“I spy with my little eye, something beginning with B.”
“Broken Car!”
“Yes!”
“I smell with my little nose, something beginning with B.”
“Burning!” I reponded almost immediately
“I hear with my little ears something beginning with H”
“Hazard lights…”

Next out came Paul’s iphone and, with a little help from the internet, I diagnosed that something was wrong with the clutch (which was a pretty obvious anyway).

An RAC van drove past and I almost got a bit excited until I realised that I’d just joined the AA, so the RAC were unlikely to be the ones coming to the rescue.

The AA hero/man turned up 10 minutes after that and confirmed that the clutch was broken (and would cost about £300 to replace) and towed us to a nearby garage at Brandis Corner (which is in Devon, not Cornwall, because all of the garages in or near Bude couldn’t repair it before the weekend.)

It was about 3:30pm by the time the AA man dropped us off outside our Hobbit Hole (cottage) in Marhamchurch which is a small village, where it is safe to leave the hobbit-hole key under a stone in the front yard,  and the pub shuts between 3pm and 5pm, so there was no chance of food and no bus until 5:30pm.

We walked into Bude down steep, narrow and winding country lanes, picking at wild blackberries on the way which did nothing to help the no-lunch-hunger pangs and only fearing a tiny bit for our lives as cars came racing around the corners.

On the way to Bude

On the way to Bude

After a quick wander down to Crooklets Beach, and a quick giraffe in the sand while we waited for pubs to start serving food we found our way to the bustling Brendon Arms where joined an older Canadian couple at their table. They had been driving around country lanes in a giant car (compared to the width of the roads) which beeped every time it sensed they were too close to something – which is all the time when you’re driving down country lanes, and occasionally stopping to lean out of the window to pick some blackberries to nibble on the way. Amazingly, they’d been in the country since 2nd September and had still to experience any rain.

Blackberries

Blackberries

By the end of the meal they had offered us a lift back to Marhamchurch which we politely declined due to the fact that we needed to go to the supermarket to stock up first. Instead, I phoned a random mobile telephone number which was scribbled on a piece of paper by the man in Sainsbury’s and a man in a minibus turned up less than a minute later to take us back to the Hobbit Hole. After telling him our tale of woe, he knocked 40p off the taxi fare at the other end since he “didn’t want to add to our troubles.”

By 9:30pm I was full of food and beer and fast asleep on the sofa…

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Oh Yes…

Posted by Leanne on September 20, 2009

It was sunday night and I’d driven down to Lichfield in preparation for a trip to Cornwall the next day. On TV, possibly the funniest episode of Come Dine With Me I’ve seen yet; in my hand, a glass of wine, in the seat next to me, Paul.

The adverts came on. “Have you noticed more adverts for car insurance since we got the car?” Paul asked me as the Churchill Dog ‘oh yessed’ his way across the screen.

“Oh yes,” I replied nodding.  My thoughts turned to the long drive to Cornwall the following day… “Do you think we should join the AA?” I asked.

“Probably.” said Paul – and then we turned back to the TV to watch (with no small hint of disgust) Big Mo from Eastenders licking cream of Bobby Davro’s chest.

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