It was the end of April. I was tacked down, cats in truck and ready for the off. John came down on his motorcycle and escorted me to the chapel in Porthleven in which John lived. Mark, his landlord, had offered to allow me to pitch up in the chapel’s sizeable car park.
We crawled out of the car park and climbed up out of Helston. The truck pulled the caravan fine. The caravan behaved itself, too. I had not towed my caravan for three and a half years, and never with the truck. The train length is longer than it was with the Land Rover at around 35’, which makes tight corners more challenging. Still, it all handled really well.
As we came over the hill to descend the steep road into Porthleven, John went ahead to make sure the narrow road along a ridge to the chapel was clear. The road along the ridge appears on the right. Due to the awkward angle of the junction, I determined to cut across at a shallow angle. Just as I was preparing to turn into the road, a car coming up the hill appeared. Unfortunately, the driver appeared completely oblivious to the size of my vehicle and the big caravan I was towing. Instead of stopping to allow me to complete the manoeuvre, he continued alongside me until he could go no further, now blocking the road completely. I was then forced to move forward and take the turn at a much steeper angle. The result of which was the caravan grounding on one corner.
I crawled along the road until we reached the chapel. It was then, as I was preparing to reverse into the chapel’s car park, that the damage was spotted. John had parked his bike and was waiting on the road. He went to the rear of the caravan to help with the blind spot. He called for me. I went to have a look. The corner that had grounded had ripped open. The wooden lightboard had come away from that side and had been dragged all the way along the ridge road. It was still attached on the opposite side. All the electrics were still working. It looked worse than it actually was. John held on to the lightboard as I manoeuvred the caravan into the car park. It was not easy, especially given the narrowness of the road. The neighbour opposite the chapel came out and kindly moved their car giving me a few extra feet to work with.
I parked the truck up along the road a bit so as to not take up the entire car park. It was fine, out the way and safe. Then it was time for a cup of tea while the cats explored their new territory.
The view across the harbour from the chapel is terrific. Just a few yards back along the road are a set of steps that take one straight into the heart of the village and harbour in just two minutes.
The next day I started work on repairing the damage. I removed the lightboard completely, strengthened the rear end, before refitting the lightboard. As I had opened up the rear end completely, I decided to use the opportunity to create more storage space. As you may remember, Luke had made a drawer that fits under my bed.* The drawer takes up about one-third of the available space across the width of the central area under my bed. By opening the sides from the outside, I would gain use of the space that was originally under-seat storage and the remaining two-thirds behind the drawer. So, I measured and marked out where I was going to cut holes into both sides of the caravan. I then framed the holes, inside and out. Framing the interior was not easy. I only had the height of the space under my bed to work in; no more than a foot. I couldn’t dismantle the bed as it had been built as a permanent fixture, including headboard with cubbyhole and shelf. Using some checker plate and the wood available and kindly donated by Mark, I made doors to fit. I painted the checker green and stained the wood in Redwood. I then sourced some wrought iron latches, handles and butterfly hinges to finish.
We had a glorious hot Summer there. The garden is something of a sun trap. The cats loved it. In the evenings, the cats and I would join John indoors. As we had back at the ‘round,’** we pulled resources and ate together. John was always spoiling the cats. We would watch a film, documentary or listen to music. As before, I enjoyed the peace of watching John paint and the cats chilled. At night, when I got up to leave for home, the cats would stir and follow me. They would never stay, though they had the choice.
One evening, whilst watching a documentary, I noticed Rowan sat behind John. John then became aware of her, turned to fuss and exclaimed something as he also saw the huge rat that she had brought in for supper. I laughed at his reaction. I eventually stopped laughing enough to grab the rat and took it outside for her to eat.
One morning, I was lazing about. I became aware of an arm coming through the catflap and a woman’s voice calling for Rowan to get out of the caravan. I startled the woman unintentionally as I said, “She lives here.” I opened the door. The woman was a neighbour from across the road. She had mistaken Rowan for ‘her’ cat. I’d almost made that mistake myself a few days prior when I spotted a black cat in a garden across the road. I had to look twice as the garden was a little distance off. She apologised and we became quite friendly. In fact, I got on well with a number of the neighbours.
There were a few characters about. Johnny, John’s flatmate and foster child of Mark is a liability. Incredibly, he is ex French Foreign Legion! He is the most unreliable, untrustworthy, thieving, scamming waste of space anyone could ever wish to meet. He takes Mark for a ride constantly, never pays his way, tidies up or does anything for anyone. He has the most cavalier attitude to all and everything, including legislation and the law. Yet, he always seems to get away with everything, regardless.
Then there is Mad Helen. A woman with serious psychological problems. I had known Helen for a few years, as she was a frequent visitor to Crasken Farm. She was often included in whatever was going on, etc. in a bid to help her integrate. She had the annoying habit of buying her weed, then sharing it out to all and sundry, leaving herself in the situation of scrounging weed constantly. We couldn’t make her understand that she should not keep following this cycle and should stop handing her weed out.
Clare is a dreamer. She will never achieve anything. It amazes me how she gets by at all. She rebelled against her parents by getting involved in porn, having made a couple of films in her late teens/early twenties. She apparently made a life on a Greek island for a while, where she had a son. The son at this point was in his early teens. One evening, John and I were invited for dinner, which was very nice. Unfortunately, Helen was not invited, but turned up, anyway. She then commandeered the computer that was being used to play music. Despite the pleas of all present, Helen became loud and difficult. Finally, Clare’s son was moved to confronting Helen, telling her in no uncertain terms, to leave, which though not ideal, had the desired outcome. The rest of the evening continued without incident.
On the next day or possibly two, a couple of women police constables called round. I had met them before at the boating lake. They were friendly and had even laughed and joked about their idiot colleague.*** I was asked how well we knew Clare. I said that we had not known her a great deal of time, but well enough. I was asked about the evening we had there, so without going into too much detail, said that we’d had a pleasant evening. I was then asked if Clare’s son had been interfered with in any way. I was aghast and exclaimed, “What the hell sort of question is that!? No!” They apologised and explained that Mad Helen had contacted them saying that he had had his trousers pulled down. I asked them if they knew Helen. They did. They apologised again and explained that they were duty-bound to investigate. I said that I understood and reassured them of the truth, explaining exactly what had transpired between Clare’s son and Helen.
Those WPCs were lovely ladies, often stopping by for a chat. Helen eventually became so ill that she had to return to the nutty hospital for a short stay. I had left before she was allowed out again.
All the repairs had been completed by mid July and I was itching to get on the road. I had made one last bad deal, losing over £300 worth of T-shirts to a junkie who had taken them and not paid for them. Johnny had had some. He never paid, either.
I am a slow-moving vehicle and therefore thought it would be prudent to paint warning chevrons on the back. Then I had a brainwave; Chevrons are clinical, straight lines. What would be similar? Tiger stripes! Similar colours. Do the same job. So John painted the tiger stripes on the back of my caravan. Brilliant! And they certainly get noticed!
There was one more thing to do. A lovely, beautiful young hippy lass called Dylan visited so that I could give her an LP; an album I had long promised her, to remind her of me and the times we had had back in Falmouth, particularly one night when I had played that album during a wonderful acid trip we shared. The album is called, In the Land of the Grey and Pink.
Finally, the day came that was the beginning of my journey out of Cornwall. Mark came over to help manhandle my caravan to the opposite side of the car park so that I could leave the way I came in. I had long since checked the other direction. That was a definite “no chance!” In lieu of the money Johnny owed me, he gave me a bundle of copper wire which I thanked him for and chucked onto the back of the truck. When I brought the truck to the chapel to hitch up the caravan, Mark spotted the copper wire. He asked, “Who gave you that?” I told him that Johnny had given it to me in lieu of money owed. Mark was not happy, saying that it was not Johnny’s to give. I gave it back to Mark saying that I was intending to pay him something by way of a thank you, anyway, “So, shall we call it quits?” Johnny moaned at me and complained that Mark had had a go at him. I just said, “Not my problem. I’m not going to lie for you. Mark has been brilliant and patient.”
The cats were loaded and the caravan hitched up. We all said our farewells and I was off, back on the road that I had missed so much.
# I managed to get John to send me some photographs of his art:
The three gilded paintings are miniatures. They are exact copies of paintings by John Constable.
*see entry A new journey, part 6 ...
**see entry Crasken hell, part 1 ...
***see entry Sanctuary, part 2 ...
j Photographs (inc. header) courtesy of John Edginton
w Wikipedia stock image