Never underestimate the adaptability of a Corvid — this gang of rooks cooperate to exploit the opportunities at the beer garden at the Ship Inn, Pentewan, Cornwall, ousting the traditional scavengers.
Our friend Glyn is drowsy with counting sheep, coming up the valley every day, after a day’s work, to be jostled by our impatient flock because this is the time of year that we go gallivanting.
In the last ten days we’ve travelled 1300 miles (that’s not far –I hear you New World readers say). It’s far enough in this overcrowded island!
We picked our way over the mountain pass to South Wales at walking pace, avoiding the hundreds of road-runners who were jogging up on the hottest day of the year. We gave them wide berth to allow for heat-exhaustion-wobble, weave and collapse while also avoiding the pulses of road racers on two wheels coming the other way (only two lanes – this is Wales) – pelotons of cyclists, who had just crested the summit, had heads down and were hurtling in squadrons, turbocharged with huge potential energy and suicidal intent, lemming like, towards Brecon.
We glanced at the stunning scenery and at the idyllic path on the other side of the valley, made for walkers and wondered what it is that draws humans in such numbers to tarmac. Our musing was ended abruptly by the thud of a discarded plastic bottle flung, elite-runner like, against our windscreen by a mature but plucky lady with exceptional BMI and poor aim, probably due to chaffing.
As we eventually sped away from the last — or rather, the first of the runners and the last of the cyclists, the bikers started to overtake us, flashing past at every opportunity, like when one slows down to turn right! I have a horror of killing a biker and they come to Wales in huge migrations at holiday times: Hell’s Angels – 1950’s re-enactors on vintage Nortons with side-cars – even an intrepid band of ladies, several with L-plates, on Honda ‘50’s almost grinding to wobbly halts on the hills (though that was on the A30 high-speed dual carriageway in Cornwall!)
We made it to Cornwall without fatality, and back.
Just when we thought we were out of danger, we had to set off again for a family funeral in Scunthorpe – more of that later.
Turmoil comes in waves and these times of upheaval are our most creative — this is what I tell the children (it is no comfort to them).
It is Christmas and our five grown-up children (now that’s a strange concept) and their partners all seem to be facing new challenges. Four now have various commitments in the West Country — work, homes, other family and friends, so to make it easier to all be together this year — Mum and Dad (and Pedro) go West.
We entrust our pregnant ewes to a responsible friend — a rare thing! Then we buy Tupperware and fill up the old camper van with plastic containers of Christmas, glance at the long term weather forecast and set off to The Gables — a rented house in Tywardreath, Cornwall.
But first, as Responsible Friend has noticed a hazard in the field in which we feed the aforementioned precious ewes, we have to fill in the seventy meter trench that we dug for the solar panel cable. I use the word trench appropriately as torrential rain renders it a living memorial to life on the Somme in World War One. The week before we leave for the West we slither and shiver, often up to our knees in mud. Alan’s relationship with Digger is tested almost to destruction (not a bad thing, they were getting far too close) as her solenoid trouble makes her very temperamental and unreliable so that she often refuses to work at all and sits facing the prevailing storm with her windshield broken, getting her seat wet — but then we all have wet seats.
Cornwall is dry and comfortable, camellias bloom in gardens and ragged robins in the hedgerows. As shop assistants glower at befuddled shoppers and cars queue to enter and leave the supermarket car parks of the peninsula, sensible folk walk their wet dogs on nearby Par Sands where the China Clay factory breaths steam into the clear chilly air.
Carols are sung at the Pub.
The Sun comes out on Christmas Morning.
The silvery sun makes it imperative to get out and make the most of the short days.
Festive meals are served for various permutations of family and friends.
The wind changes, coming in from the North West, we pack up the left overs and drive home avoiding the Black Mountains, but not the traffic, to arrive home as the cold freezes the first dusting of snow into a crisp sugar coating over everything.
Not just dog friendly — pig friendly — horse friendly — duck friendly — goose friendly — and, yes, human friendly!
We stayed in a place once, recommended by the Cornish Tourist Office as dog-friendly, where Pedro had to sleep in the car and the landlady sniffed at the gap under our bedroom door. When we surprised her in the act, she accused my husband of smoking which he had not been doing (although he might have smelled of tobacco!)
Thus we are sceptical about such claims of tolerance and frienship.
Not so at the Crooked Inn, Trematon, near Saltash, Cornwall, England (for far-away friends).
Here we were welcomed by the host, a large, elderly, golden Labrador who met us in the car park and led us into the bar, explaining the rules to Pedro on the way under his breath. Inside was a heaving Friday night bar where unseen wagging tails flagellated our passing legs.
Food was being served and dogs lolled under tables. One of the locals was tired and emotional and obviously disliked tourists, he growled at Pedro and was bundled away by his friends several of whom then came over and introduced themselves.
In the dinning room, Pedro was calmed by under-floor heating and ate fat from excellent sirloin steak.
No one woofed in the night, not even when someone fell over a goose and set of the alarm.
Breakfast was generous smoked haddock with a perfect poached egg, garnished with lemon and fresh lime. Outside the huge pig wandered free, unmolested by the running dogs and ignored by the over-coated horse. The puddle-ducks dabbled and the geese gaggled and Pedro prepared for the serious business of the day