A day of difficulties, caused by 48 solid hours of frantic hurry ending abruptly at a train. The tickets are Apexes therefore the train must be caught, and there’s only one sleeper a night. So anything not done by 10.30pm, when we have to go to the station, must remain undone.
And maybe a little of the shine is coming off the sleeper. It’s a bit more than dozing but a bit less than full sleep and a constant awareness of how far you’ve got. I think we may have been over the wheels this time. Anyway, I wake at about 6am to feel the train slow right down and start to make a distinctive clanking noise – we are crossing the Tamar Bridge into Cornwall. The next-door neighbours are getting off at Truro in the small hours and there is a harsh German or possibly Swedish accent audible through the connecting door.
Arrival in Penzance is nothing but rush, stress, hurry and conflict. A fried breakfast at a favourite café (“See you in a few months, with any luck…”) pours some balm on troubled waters but the real surprise comes at the bus station. The bus to Sennen, ‘England’s first and last village’, is a standard double-decker, but with the lid sawn off. It is open-topped. We manhandle our rucksacks up the stairs and make our way to the back. The seats are covered in leaves and greenfly. Andy is doubtful but we do not take the warning.
The ride out of Penzance is hair-raising. A double-decker bus without a roof smacks into as many trees as one with a roof. Passengers do up their coats and turn up their collars. One wise old couple have sat at the sheltered front out of harm’s way. Insects and leaves rain down on the rest of us. Out of Penzance and into the open country of west Penwith. This will get better now. Wrong. The driver is free of town restrictions and can drive at the trees at an even greater pace. The temptation to lean away from the sides is irresistible – those branches could have someone’s eye out.
But the trees thin out as we head for the coast and views open up over the Penwith farmland towards Land’s End. Fresh air, sunshine, clear skies, and the occasional alarming encounter with an overhanging building, as well as many stolen glimpses into people’s upper storeys.
All too soon we spot our destination – last year’s backpackers’ hostel where we have a double room booked – and, with not quite enough notice, ring the bell. The bus screeches to a halt. We haul ourselves and our rucksacks off and crouch on the verge until it pulls away. Who thought to run an open-top bus between Penzance and Land’s End in late September? It raises the first smiles of a bruising day.
And so to Whitesands Lodge. As ever, it is wonderful and irritating in about equal measure. Which leads us to the moral of today’s tale. If you rush right up to the moment you go on holiday, you are unlikely to enjoy the first day. A simple change of location on its own is not enough – even if the location is west Penwith.