Cornwall : Land of Pasties, Poldark & VW Campervans …

We had breakfast at JAMAICA INN on our way back from a week’s camping in Cornwall recently. The world famous hostilary, immortalised by Daphne du Maurier in her novel of smugglers and wreckers, filmed by Hitchcock and more recently a TV series most notable for the fact everyone mumbled so badly that viewers could hardly understand a single word… It sits up on top of Bodmin Moor and overlooks the A30 dual carriageway (which is very close and does rather spoil the impression of remoteness) and aside from a restaurant and a bar it has a gift shop. It’s naturally wall to wall with editions of du Maurier’s torrid Cornish adventures and romances and well as the usual ‘giftware’ that you find in such places. This being 2018, the rest of the shop is crammed with all things POLDARK related. You can buy every book in the series (12, I think) and postcards with the hero , Ross (played by Aiden Turner)  in his tricorn hat, various moody poses. If you have a mind you can also buy a tea towell and use his scared face to dry the dishes, pillows to rest your weary head upon, calendars, mouse mats and so on and so forth. Curiously this is all very Ross-centric. I know the ladies of the land seem to be besotted with his dark touseled visage and we won’t even go into the matter of his shirt (or lack of), but where is his better-half in all of this? Where is the beautiful, fiesty flame-haired Demelza (played by Eleanor Tomlinson) ? Come on souvinir people… you are missing a trick, this is the 21st century. You seem to be leaving half your potential market !

Anyway thats by the by. I just thought I would vent my view on this blantant bit of blinkered sexism before moving onto the other aspects of Cornwall.

Pasties:  Yum yum! Love em! And they are taken very seriously in this part of the country. Rightly so.  But that’s enough about them.

VW Camper vans: Now you are talking.  My goodness at least 50% of the national population of these aircooled , tilting roofed, surfboard-transporters seem to be located west of the river Tamar. They were everywhere. In every street, in every car park, in every colour and in every condition too. We were in Porthleven , eating a pastie, as you do,  and a very very smart one parked up on the edge of the harbour nearby all gleaming chrome and shiny wheels. It must have cost a fortune to get one to this shining state. The seats were prefect the tyres were actually black, as if they had been dusted and I doubt you would have found a more gleaming example at the 1965 Camping and Caravan show on VW’s own stand.  Curiuously, amid all this manicured perfection, hanging from one of  it’s open wndows (there seem to be a lot of windows you can open on a VW) hung a shrunken head…. hmm.. well it takes all sorts.  This all contrasted wonderfully with a very early looking example was saw a day later in the car park at nearby Praa sands. This had the designer-rust look about it. It was the ‘rat rod’ of the Campervans , splendid in it’s lack of manicuring, of any kind, let alone perfection. In fact it looked positivly scabby and the roof appeared to be solid rust (if thats not a misnomer) which was emerging through a light but original coat of green paint like a fallen surfer rising up through the waves.  I loved it!  The roof rack was piled high with all manner of baggage and it could as easily have been off on the hippie trail to India or going coast to coast across Australia It had that functional look .

Of course it wasn’t , it was there for the surf and the wet suits hanging offf the win mirrors attested to that.

I was never really a VW-man. Not like my late Dad who had two brand new Beetles when he was young in the early 60s, then inflicted on us …sorry must try and remember I have changed tack on this subject… bought  us, a  VW”Varient” (like the one seen below right, even that colour)  in the eary 80s. That was the more modern bodied version of the Beetle, but was still spartan and possessed of a wheezing engine where the boot should have been. Same shoes, new box. He loved it. My mum said “You never see these around” at the time, then we saw lots of them…now you genuinely never see one!  We were less than terribly excited with out latest car but I can see now from 30 years distance that actually it wasn’t half as bad as I often told him it was. Later still he had as a  company car, a VW Golf which was a rip-roaring 1300cc base model that had less BHP than our old Mini and weighed twice as much . He loved that too. It was ” well engineered”, he said, and in fairness he was member of the Inst.Road Transpors Eng.  much to his then-boss’s chagrin…he was a mere associate member.  When he and Mum got a dog , they had a sucession of Passat estates , although the old dog hated going in the car and so these never served their primary purpose but were usefull workhorses for trips to builders yards and rubbish dumps. Finally he had a camper van….but not an aircooled one, it was an LT which he and Mum used for only a year or two before his sudden death. All the time I used to wind him up about VWs and how boring they were and his reply was always “a third class ride is better than a first class walk” which didn’t exactly sell them to me. Some years ago I owned the only VW Golf that has apparantly ever rusted out (it had been a vet’s car, living it’s life in farm yards, up to it’s arches in animal dung…) so my own experience isn’t entirely positive. But here in pastie-land I think I finally ‘got’ VWs , in much the same way I ‘got’ Citroen DSs a few years ago after decades of resistence and ribbing my friend Ian who is a Citroen fan par excellence. Sorry Dad, sorry Ian.  I’m a stubborn devil ! 

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