Cornwall Part 2 – Ales and fishermen

Thursday 14 September (2006)

Well my friends, as promised here is part two of my memoir of my holiday in Cornwall. We pick the story up exactly where we left it – my quest to find some Doom Bar.

My biggest hurdle was Sally’s parents. Don’t get me wrong, I really like them – they’re great people, very hospitable, friendly and easy to get along with, all of that stuff. But they don’t really drink. I don’t mean that to sound like I’m saying it’s a negative, and besides, Sally’s dad enjoys a pint if he goes for a pub lunch as much as the next guy, it’s just different to what I’m used to. If they go for a day out to a town in the countryside, it wouldn’t occur to them to stop at a pub for a drink – and that’s fine! But my parents probably would do. It is this crucial difference which stood in my way. At all times I must be aware, ‘be on your best behaivour in front of the ‘in-laws’ – do nothing to make them think I’m anything other than the perfect and flawless gentleman.’ The image that is conjured when the four of us arrive in a seaside town like Looe at midday and I sprint towards the nearest pub is not good. I’d look like a raging alcoholic, and then they would forever disapprove of me, however subliminally.

Sally would tell you that I’m overreacting, of course. They would understand – and besides, we’re on holiday. Regardless, I waited until the first moment that the two of us were alone before dragging the poor girl kicking and screaming (haha, yeah right) into the best looking pub in town.

This was my kind of place – it was small inside, and dark despite the hot noon sun beating down outside. Everything was wooden, and the bar had an entire row of locally brewed ale logos on the taps. Immediately it was clear that this wasn’t a Sharp’s pub, so there would be no Doom Bar today, but the selection of St. Austell ales looked inviting, and the prominent place they took on the bar was promising. I studied the beers carefully for a minute before letting my well honed instinct select which pint I wanted. Having settled on HSD, I turned to the barmaid. Before I could order, she asked me if I knew anything about their ales. I replied in the negative, and she proceeded to explain the complex details of each of the five. It was slightly over my head, but then she told me I could sample any of them I liked. Now we were in business! This really was my kind of pub.

I hate to come across in situations like these like the kind of person who will abuse this generous offer, and go for a free sample of all of them, and drink it like an actual drink instead of just tasting it. This in mind, I asked for a taste of one of the beers which sounded like one of the blonde English ales that are almost like lagers (it was a hot day) which was nice, and to see what my instincts were like, the HSD. It was an obvious choice, and Sally agreed so I ordered two pints of the HSD and we found ourselves a table in a part of the pub that had been done up to look like a ship. Well, it was called the Ship Inn after all.

If I had some more of this HSD I would write a review of it for the I need a drink! section of the site, because rest assured it is getting added to that list of fine drinks. This was one of the finest ales I’ve ever tasted bar none, but as is the way with these things I don’t remember what it tasted like, just that I liked it. Cornwall, it seems, is a great county for ale. Perhaps it’s the climate – they can surely grow some decent hops down there. Either way, the two Cornish breweries that I’ve conscientiously sampled have both been absolutely outstanding, and I’m going to take my time to find somewhere this far outside of Cornwall that stocks some of these fine beers.

Anyway after the beer we headed back to meet Sally’s parents again, where we quickly confessed to our crime to (as Sally would have told me) a very appreciative response. After some fish and chips on the harbour, we got in the car and drove to Polperro.

Polperro is one of those places which has at the same time benefitted and suffered from tourism. Here is a tiny village, built on a hill leading down to the coast, with an absolutely beautiful harbour and cove, and there’s an enormous car park as soon as you enter the place. There’s so many people shuffling down the old streets that vehicles aren’t even allowed down there, and enterprising locals have come up with all kinds of alternate methods of transportation to take visitors up and down the hill to the car park – from a ‘horse bus’ to trams, it’s crazy. I hate this kind of commercialisation – I mean we were there just out of season (the school holidays were over) and in the evening but it was still absolutely packed. It must be great for the citizens who can rake in the money selling fudge and the like, but it kind of spoils the ambience of the place, which is part of the reason why it became a tourist destination in the first place.

Anyway we walked down the hill and went to the cove, which is simply fantastic. I didn’t have my camera so I can’t show you exactly what it was like, but look at this picture I found on another site:

polperro Click here to see a larger image

What you can’t see is that to the right of the picture, behind the building in the foreground, is the harbour wall. You can walk right along it with the harbour behind you and the ocean in front of you, and it’s marvellous.

But all this beauty and all those tourists just made me melancholy. Yeah, this was an incredible place, but it was just another attraction. Drive there, park up, go and have a look, throw your rubbish into the sea then drive home. What must it have been like to have lived in a place like this two hundred years ago? I’ve always had a great passion for the ocean, and as such I find myself often thinking things like ‘I’d love to be a Mediterranean fisherman… my own little wooden boat, going out every day in the sunshine to catch fish in paradise’ – that’s a life I could happily lead. It’s not something I could even really do now, I’m too old – I’d want to be born into it; my father was a fisherman, his father was a fisherman before him, and so on. Just another dream floating past on the breeze.

But to be in Looe and Polperro in such a mood makes those dreams almost tangible. I wanted to travel back in time, to the age where at fourteen a boy is a man, and he goes out to become an apprentice in some trade. What would I have done? I’d be a cabin boy somewhere, learning the art of sailing. My life would live and breathe on the sea, and I’d be a happy man.

Sally caught my eye and I told her this. She told me how silly I was, and I put my arm around her and we walked up the hill towards the car park. On the way I saw a little shop, and poked my head in to see what they were selling. I walked out with a bottle of Doom Bar in my hand, and I looked at Sally, and I thought back to my dream.

There I would be, out on the open ocean… dreaming of beer and a girl like her. We went back to the car and I thought, ‘really, I already am a happy man.’

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2 Responses to “Cornwall Part 2 – Ales and fishermen”

  1. Sally Says:

    I love you 🙂 x

  2. stan Says:

    Awww. Now this is a big schmaltzo fest.

    (I love you too)


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