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August, 2015

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My spur of the moment intention last month, August, was to have a few days in Cornwall before travelling on to a pre-arranged painting holiday, also in Cornwall. I set off one bright shiny morning, content in the knowledge that it would take me about 6 hours, plus extra for coffee breaks, to drive from Manchester to Penzance which would make my arrival time at about 6:30pm’ish. I came off the A34 outside of Plymouth at about 5:00pm from where I rang my husband who was in our house in Florida with the children and grandchildren. In due course I set off again and was quite contentedly travelling along when suddenly I saw a sign for Exeter. Oh well, all roads lead to Rome. This was followed by a sign for Plymouth and then suddenly I was horrified to be faced with an directions for an exit sign for just the same place I had been at THREE HOURS EARLIER!!!!! I pulled up as soon as I could and checked my driving atlas and realised that having driven over one moor and around another (or maybe it was the other way round – who cares?) I had turned left instead of right and without realising it, had driven back exactly the way I had just come. So – I just found a turn around place, turned around and set off back to Penzance. Why, oh why had I not set my sat nav first? Oh yes, now I remember. I had the box but my husband, in Florida, had taken the cable with him, by mistake, so I had no power for the sat nav. Eventually, I finally reached Penzance. The time then was about 10:00pm and guess what? Because it had been a spur of the moment decision, and because I had anticipated arriving at tea time, I hadn’t bothered pre-booking a B&B. I enquired at the largest hotel I could find but, sadly, no room at the inn. I parked up at and spent the night in Tesco’s car park. The following morning, with ablutions courtesy of Tesco and breakfast courtesy of Costa Coffee, I set off to find an hotel or B&B somewhere between Penzance and St Ives. I did find one, just outside Sennen Cove. It was an old staging post which had been converted to a B&B. It was set on a rise in the road which provided me with wonderful views over the moors and the sea. Absolutely just what I needed. At a cost of £75 per night for 3 nights, I slept peacefully and comfortably in the somewhat small but exceptionally pretty and clean box room, having decided that I would forgo breakfast the next day in lieu of a long lie in. No such luck! At 8:00 the next morning, there was a hammering on my bedroom door. I fell out of bed and opened the door to be met by a panic stricken chap who insisted that I come out and help the landlady who was having a heart attack and was asking for me. Clad in an hotel dressing gown, two sizes too small, hair standing on end, dog’s breath from not having stopped to clean my teeth I was then faced with a collapsed landlady who was surrounded by 6 pairs of dads n lads who’d come down for a surfing weekend. They had already sent for the ambulance so I got the landlady into a semi sit up position, knees up to her chin and gave one chap a glass of water for her to sip from, whilst I went to get dressed. I just pulled on yesterday’s white T-shirt and black trousers. BIG mistake. The ambulance arrived and the landlady was taken off. Then one chap tapped me on the arm and said “Excuse me miss. We haven’t had our breakfast yet”. If I’d worn a red dress I’d have been OK. As it was, wearing black and white, they clearly took me for a member of staff. Well, what was I to do? Pitch in, of course. I found out later that the husband was away on business, the chambermaid was on a day off and I was the only other female in the hotel which is why she wanted me. I fumbled around in the kitchen and gave out tea, toast and cereal whilst I rounded up the bacon and eggs etc, during which time a girl came through the back door into the kitchen. She was the gardener, come to do some work there. I told her what had happened and she helped with the remaining cooking, etc. The chaps got fed and then disappeared. She and I were enjoying a cuppa when the chaps appeared and said “Please can we pay the bill cos we’re leaving now”. I took their word for it when I asked how much they had been quoted, they paid up and I put the money in a used envelope in my bedroom. The Gardener and I cleared up, washed up, dried up and re-set the tables. Then she said she’d been looking at the bookings and noticed that new guests were arriving later that day so would I be OK to receive them? I asked if that meant I had to strip and clean the just vacated rooms and ready them for the newcomers. She said she supposed it did but she would not be able to help because she had another garden to deal with that same afternoon and she was now going to have to leave me to it. Eventually, I got the beds stripped and re-made, the sinks, loos and showers cleaned and the rooms prepped for the incoming guests. I’m quite satisfied that I didn’t put the right bed linen in the corresponding rooms, but, by then, I really wasn’t overly concerned about such trifling details. In due course, the in-comers arrived, I received them and settled them in and eventually the landlady returned. It seems she had had an angina attack and the likelihood was that she needed stents but she had to go back to the hospital the next day to the cardiology department for a further review. I told her what I’d been up to during the day and asked if she needed me to help out again the following morning. No, she said, the chambermaid would be back on duty. Did she thank me, you might ask. Oh no! Not she! She did much, much more. I was upgraded to a suite which contained two king sized beds, toilet suite AND shower suite and a living room about 5 times the size of my original bedroom and at a reduced cost of £50 per night AND 3 bottles of wine, one for each of my nights there. The following morning, I got up and had a peaceful breakfast served by the chambermaid and then set off to drive around and see what was at hand. I saw a sign for Botallack Mine and decided to head off to the Mine and do some sketching. I wish I hadn’t. I wish I’d stayed at the B&B, in my bed, with my head under the covers. The road to the Mine was a normal looking two lane road, easily wide enough to accommodate one vehicle in each direction – or so I thought. Gradually, the road became a lane with passing places and then a rough track with vegetation growing through the middle with no passing places and finally became so narrowed that, if I had needed to, I would not have been able to open any of the car’s doors to get out. In fact, it was so narrow, that I’ve damaged the sills on the bottom of the doors on the driver’s side of my car. Fortunately, where the sills are, my car curves outwards, ever so slightly, otherwise I’d have needed two new doors. The lane had bends in it every 10 yards or so and I don’t think I have ever before been so frightened as I was driving along that road (?road?). I drove at about 5 miles an hour and was absolutely terrified of meeting walkers head on. Had I done so, they would have had to scramble up the straight sided bramble and thistle laden bankings to allow each of us to pass the other and if I had met a vehicle coming towards me, well, I think firstly I would have been sick and then I would have had a nervous breakdown. Fortunately, my a Guardian Angel was on duty that day because eventually I met a T-junction onto a B road. I drove up it as quickly as I dared and finally came out onto an A road leading one way to St Ives and the other way back to my B&B. I went back to the B&B and spent the rest of the day in its garden, sketching bees and flowers and stone walls. The rest of my Cornwall adventure was positively stupefying in its ordinariness, for which I was, and will remain, eternally thankful. Thank you for reading my story and, hand on heart and swearing on the heads of my children and grandchildren, I assure you that every word is true. Kate Bonser. 10.09.2015


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