Day 1 Lands End- St. Colomb: 70 miles
We wake up to a grey day and begin what will become the ritual of morning porridge. We sneak out of the campsite and to our starting place. Land's end. It's not an impressive place. A tourist information centre with a cluster of shops seemingly arbitrarily plopped on a coastline that is the same for miles in any direction. There is a signpost for posing at, but as there is a professional photographer who charges per photograph, the sign is taken down during closing hours. We only see a white post.
The only people here are related to the same journey. A giant of a man taking our picture almost crushes our disposable cameras as he tells us that he's done the end to end five times in different modes of transport. He walked it once in five weeks. I imagine he stuck his jaw to the ground and ate the land in between until he got to the end of his UK sandwich. Other cyclists turn up in cars. Their bikes have very thin wheels and are pink.
Pink is an intimidating colour in a bike.
Its early on in the day, in the journey and we already seem to have ticked a whole lot of the boxes from the list whose completion is a surefire formula for a memorable cycle ride. Getting lost? Check. Fording a river as a consequence of getting lost? Check. Barking dogs? Check. Short cuts? Check. Rain? Check. Speed records check. Then sun, then rain and sun again then taking off and putting on and taking off and putting on waterproofs? Check. Indecision? Check with someone else.
At one of our imagined traffic light pauses, I, fairly cluelessly and only following the lead of Dave who I assumed knew about these things, adjusted the height of my seat. In retightening the bolt I broke the thread and rendered the clamp useless. Luckily, this stop happened outside a bike shop. Unluckily, the bike shop had every other size, but the one I needed. Luckily there was a harware shop next door. Dave, being an architect, a builder and pretty damned practical dude, managed to engineer a temporary solution.
Hardware shops, seem like places where fragments of an industrial age mind, ancient memories, and suppressed laughs might hide in corners, or in the myriad of little drawers behind the counter. But while I am equipped to encounter and engage with the mazes of more festive minds, the hardware shop is strictly beyond me. As I walk in, the grey man in a checkered shirt with rolled up sleeves and glasses with chewed ends, barely notices me. Dave walks in, holding the broken piece of equipment and asks for an 40 mil M5 and a nylock nut. The glasses get set down on the table, the wrinkles aoround his neck disappear, the flaps overhanging his eyes lift and seem to begin to fly, the milky clouds that were sneaking into his blue sky eyes are burned away by an inner sun . Despite his obvious excitement he casually remarks that what Dave has in his hand is not a 40 mil M5 but a diamond cut imperial measured bolt, but that it is indeed very similar. Dave and the man begin to talk in tongues. I don’t feel the need to nod nor to appear to know what they talking about, they know I am entirely irrelevant to this conversation. I scratch my arm and look around. I see another poor soul scrambling around blind through the world of dusty shelf racks looking for something she doesn't know the name of and can't describe. I grin, I have a guide. Dave's should come standard with life, just for these moments. I've just learned the difference between a screw and a bolt. I must be about five evolutions beyond that mole. Indeed as we leave she tentatively approaches the re-grayed man. "I need a screw", without looking up, he asks "wood or concrete", she is flummoxed. I know what she wanted was a bolt. He does too.
Not another hill!
Our map shows the end is in sight. Just need to get through this little town of St. Colomb. There seemed to be a lot of people on the streets suddenly. Church? On a Saturday night? The density increases until cycling is no longer the fastest means of transport. Our route has been hijacked by the local carnival. We slot in just behind the carnival queen, a little girl in a white lace outfit and tiara, perching in the open boot of a red 1980's hatchback waving her gloved hand tentatively at the cooing throngs. As a megaphone announces the need to donate via throwing coins through the air, and into the back of a pick up truck, we march on, our high visibility jackets flaring up at every flash photograph. Our plan is to find a quiet pub for dinner somewhere in the quaint quiet towns of Cornwall. There is no room in the pub parking lots. We pass two utterly unsuitable pubs. One doesn't serve food, the other requires a snow plow and water cannon to enter. If we claimed to have the plague, we might be believed, but no body would get out of our way, compared with loosing ones place, the plague is the lesser of two evils, so we decide not to spoil our fluorescent image. The crowds get thicker and the carnival queens driver decides enough is enough. Clearly used to such circumstances, this is her fifth carnival queening this week, she does a three point turn and whips out back in the direction we came from, all in the time it takes me to get past the first person on the pavement on my way to inspect the third pub. It does food, and has room.
Our bikes would have added to the congestion, but luckily a tiny covered sidestreet leads to the pub garden. I stuck the front wheel in but quickly retreated as a trombone slide glided past my face. A marching brass band with representatives of all ages chose this time to appear on the streets. I stood back, and let the shiny brass instruments, red outfits and black hats through. The spit valves whistled and spluttered in preparation. It would be a shame to miss the big moment trumpets added to the din because your throat was engorged with saliva and slide grease. One by one the tubas, trombones, flugelhorns and their beat providers, the bass drums snares and cymbals popped out of the tunnel, like rabbits from a hat connected via underground mirrored passages to a petting zoo which had forgotten to keep males and females separate. Eventually I wondered whether the band had simply done a loop of the block and was coming back around. As we waited two women, naked but for the plastic bikinis shaped to look like their breasts and pubic hair gunned down three oompa -loompas with bubbles. The town crier, complete with admiring acolyte hoping to kick out the walking stick and take over the bell, announced that the band would now make their entrance. Apparently the previous few had only been the mascots. The sweat retained in my cotton water-aid t-shirt was cold, and beginning to cling. I had let myself believe, too early, that warmth and food were within reach. A brief pause in the flow of brass and I dared nose back into the tunnel. Some late comers, old equivalents of schoolgirls, late for no reason other than their mild rebellion, managed to huddle and march at the same time, swirling around eachother, ensuring that any consequences for their tardiness would be scattered amongst all of them, unable to stick to such a fast spinning vortex. As their instruments hit the old stone of the walls, sparks flew, illuminating an empty passage behind. I fell through. Once inside the warmth, the maelstrom outside seemed an adventure into a subconscious far more exiting than I ever imagined existed. I was sure that if I searched hard enough I'd find remains of mind bouncing on the spring and leather seat of the oldest tractor in town letting off a gas horn and swallowing flying coppers.