NIght Riviera to Penzance….our anniversary

27 years we’ve been married…..we always like an anniversary treat. Last year it was Sorrento.
     We set off from Hastings last Wednesday. When we arrived in London we visited the Laura Knight exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery to get us into the mood for Cornwall. She painted many pictures of

Laura Knight – above Sennen Cove

the areas we visit. A few years ago we stayed in a damp studio she had supposedly used in Sennen Cove
     Next, the theatre: ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket.  We went out of curiosity as much as anything – it has been running so long with a reputation of being so totally, knicker-wettingly  hilarious that we didn’t want to miss out….. ‘The evening generates the kind of uproarious laughter of which our theatre has lately been starved’, wrote Michael Billington…..
     Well, my knickers stayed totally dry, and so did Philosopher’s. We both found it mildly entertaining but decidedly unfunny, wooden and laboured. Some of the actors seemed plain uncomfortable in their parts, including the guy playing  the James Corden role. It has a lot of ‘spontaneous’ asides to the audience, and supposed ‘audience’ participation, which is actually all scripted with planted people. According to the programme, the play references a Commedia dell’Arte piece.  Leave it to rest in peace in eighteenth century Venice, I say.
     Still, for us shabby provincials, going to the West End theatre is always a treat, and it was a nice evening. We headed for Paddington in good heart.  Decided to take a taxi – the sleeper train didn’t leave until 11.45 but the Left Luggage place closed at 11.
     All went well until Edgware Road, when the traffic ground to a halt.  We had plenty of time … The meter was ticking upwards, but we were calm…. for a bit.  The driver took another route which involved driving further away from the station, and then ….. his exhaust pipe fell off.
     ‘I don’ fuckin’ believe this,’ he cried, pulling into the side.
     ‘Just drive us there,’ we shrieked.  He set off at a crawl with his undercarriage dragging noisily on the road, effin’ and blinding all the while.
    ‘Drive faster!’
    ‘Dis is a fuckin’ nightmare!’
    ‘Hurry up! Just get on with it!’ This carried on until we arrived somewhere near the back of the station and scrambled frantically out.
     Needless to say, all was well, and there was the sleeper train, waiting. It is optimistically called ‘The Night Riviera’ – redolent of romance and the grand days of travel…we read an article about it in the Guardian not long ago, and were seduced.


     The only times I’ve been on sleeper trains were in India and Egypt.  English train sleeping compartments are….well, small. Very small. Both of us could scarcely stand in there at once, and there were big bags to cram in as well (no, you fools, the cases).  We weren’t too pleased with the service, either.  Instead of a discreet white jacketed steward with a silver tray, there was a noisy, harassed woman in a navy polyester First Great Western pants suit, moaning about how she had two carriages instead of one to look after.
     The train took eight hours to get to Penzance – it must have stopped somewhere for ages, because the journey only takes five. That shows that I must have slept, because I don’t remember.  The bunks were very comfortable, and the movement of the train was soothing. As we travelled down into Cornwall the train stopped more and more often, so we gave up sleep, and watched the dawn break.
    Arrived at Penzance at eight after no silver service breakfast, but instead, an unromantic microwaved bacon roll. Weather was sunny and bright.
    Our B and B, Camilla House, was excellent. Even though it says ‘Accommodation for the Discerning Traveller’ on the noticeboard outside, and had a few too many cushions and tassels, Battleaxe would totally recommend it. We had a really lovely big room on the top floor, with a great view across the bay.  After a brief outing to the nearby Penlee Gallery for lunch (one of our favourite places) and a walk to Newlyn, we went to sleep for the rest of the day.

Camilla House

     For the next three days we had a really good time. Weather was dry, and sunny much of the time. Lowest point was when Philosopher tripped over a bollard in Mousehole harbour, dropped his camera and the display screen broke.

We went to St Ives for the day, and even did the classic thing of eating a pasty sitting in the sun on the harbourside. The infamous pasty-robbing St Ives seagulls turned away at the sight of two steely-eyed Hastingas.

Mousehole harbour

          Visited the Tate for the first time in years – we went with our friends Sue and Alex when it first opened. We specialise in getting through galleries and museums in record time, and I think on that occasion we were

in and out before the others had finished the first room.   There didn’t seem to be anything in it. Maybe we have got more used to modern galleries with acres of white wall and the odd picture or incomprehensible installation now and again, but this time it seemed better. It was an exhibition about the sea.
       Also went to Marazion – very pretty as ever.


     Did lots of walking and lots of eating. For our anniversary, on Friday, we went to a nice little place in Penzance, the Bakehouse. We also ate in Wetherspoons a couple of times. Say what you like about that, but the beer is good, food
is OK, it is astonishingly cheap, and it comes in five seconds.
     I like Penzance – the back streets with all the old houses are really attractive, the views across Mounts Bay are stunning, and it has all sorts of quirky shops, galleries and eateries if you know where to look.
     Back on the train on Monday – took 5.5 hours to Paddington, then across London and another train to Hastings. I must be getting a bit old. Dragging heavy cases on the Underground is no longer fun.
     I had the Writers’ Group AGM that night, so had to go straight to the White Rock Hotel. Sunset was incredible……

Hastings welcomes us home…..

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