Cornwall Tour - Maggie's Report
Piskies, Pasties and the Beast of Bodmin – CPB on an intrepid adventure in Cornwall!
Friday 25th August
Bright and early on a Friday morning, players, guests and groupies of Crystal Palace Band gathered outside St. John’s Church in Penge for the 2006 band trip. For a change, we were not leaving at midnight for an overnight drive, but setting off at the very civilized (ha!) time of 5.30am for the drive to the most south-westerly corner of mainland Britain – the Cornish were about to see what London Lads (and Lasses) could do …
With instruments, suitcases, yawning players and caffeine loaded onto the coach, driven as always by our very own Pappy and Ray, we set off through the early morning mist towards the M4 and the west. Some took the opportunity to catch up on the sleep that had been rudely interrupted by the early start, but some found entertainment in staying awake and listening to Radio Paul – the wonderful world of the army and the police brought to life by the dulcet tones of Paul Smith.
A coffee stop or two later, we found ourselves on the outskirts of Bodmin having made fantastic time – too good time in fact, and sadly we had to kill an hour at the world famous Jamaica Inn, which provided an opportunity for most of us to have the first beer of the trip! A lovely pint (hopefully not smuggled by the inn’s most famous regulars!) washed down sandwiches and crisps, and we were ready for the final leg of the journey.
Ten minutes later we were at the hotel, watching the beast of Bodmin skulk across the car park. Once the staff managed to get over their confusion of having a full brass band in their reception and had allocated us to our rooms, we were able to unpack, unwind and get settled. For some this was lying down and having a snooze, others went to the restaurant and found some sustenance … food for some, beer for others! For nearly everyone however, this time involved the first trip of many to the building very handily next door to our hotel … Asda! Perfect for loading up on all those things we would need for the trip.
By 6pm those who had travelled down on the bus had refreshed themselves, and we’d met up with some of those who were joining us for the weekend, but hadn’t come down on the coach: old players, current players, and a couple of “tuba tarts” from Yorkshire – two players who shall remain nameless but were clocking up yet another trip with a band that wasn’t technically their own! And as everyone was starting to get a little hungry, it was time to head out from the hotel and hit the surfing town of Newquay.
On arrival in Newquay, most of the band headed for fish and chips, when it became clear that the bank holiday tourists had already filled the town’s limited restaurants. After defending our food from persistent seagulls everyone settled down to enjoying the evening. A large group of Crystal Palace was found drinking St. Austell Ales in The Fort, but a small group of members went out to sample the delights of Newquay on a bank holiday Friday evening. We’re not sure whether this (click here) was a stag party, a hen party, or a swingers’ party, and we don’t know whether Basil and Roger were part of the party … and we don’t know if we want to know either! But it looks like it was an interesting night!
On the other side of town, more clean-cut fun was taking place. A trip to the seaside is never complete without a visit to the arcades, and the Bleach twins dragged a couple of willing volunteers away to the dance off machines. Soon a number of the band were cheering as the dancing went on … until money and time ran out and we had to head back to the coach. With the final stragglers finally on board we could head back to the hotel to get the beauty sleep we would need for the next day’s activities.
Saturday 26th August
A long drive greeted us after breakfast the following morning, as we set off from Bodmin towards the most southern point of the British Isles. The bank holiday traffic tried to conspire against us, but we didn’t mind having a longer journey than planned as Clare had come prepared with quizzes, and we were soon trying to remember which 70s cop show had that theme tune … and who had starred in it to try and get those extra points! A number of tunes later, we had our winners and were gazing at the enormous satellite dishes at Goonhilly Earth Space Station. We then had the opportunity to visit the visitor centre, including a tour of the site and the opportunity to see some of the dishes up close and personal, and learn about how they work and what they do. We also got the opportunity to make a free international phone call, and our sadly absent principal cornet James Gordon had the dubious pleasure of having half the band talk to him while he was trying to work in Chicago!
After our educational stop, we found that the traffic on the way down to Goonhilly had conspired against us, and we would not have time to go to the beach after all. However the revised plans included a stop for lunch at Roskilly’s farmhouse, where we got to eat home-made sandwiches and salads and follow it up with wonderful ice cream made at the farm from their own Jersey cows – which visitors could see being milked while coo-ing over the calves in the cow shed. But we eventually had to drag ourselves away, to our own disappointment and that of the staff who had quite enjoyed Basil’s impromptu piano playing, and head to St. Keverne, a village close to the Lizard Point whose band were hosting a joint concert that evening in their amazing bandroom, which proudly sported ample parking, sea views, and a substantial bar – perfect for any self respecting brass band! We were fed with amazing Cornish pasties, and the audience started turning up for a concert of two halves – literally! Crystal Palace played first, and most of us were then able to relax and enjoy St. Keverne’s second half programme, although our very own Clare and Andrew Lipscombe faced a sightreading challenge as they helped out our hosts on Euphonium and Eb Bass! We then joined forces and played the last four pieces of the concert as a massed band, before heading to the bar to continue mingling with our new found Cornish friends.
As with many CPB trips where beer and bars were involved, it wasn’t long before Basil’s accordion made an appearance, and the bar at the bandroom bore all the signs of starting to turn into an east end boozer. With various members of both bands being dragged up to play the cornet, and raucous singing from certain members of the party we certainly gave St. Keverne a stereotypical view of “Sauf Landon” Life! Unfortunately we had to leave at some point, but there was plenty of opportunity for some members of the band to continue drinking on the bus, and back at the hotel, while others caught up on sleep for another strenuous day to follow …
Sunday 27th August
For most the morning dawned bright and cheerful, but for some there was a little bit of suffering from the night before … ? … ! A leisurely morning was had by many at the hotel before we set off for Falmouth for the afternoon’s concert. We loaded the coach at midday and set off in a southerly direction again, entertained by another quiz from Clare – this time we had to guess the intro from bicycle bells, scratchy records and raspberry noises … very funny, but you probably had to be there!
When we arrived in Falmouth we needed to find the main square – and this proved to be a test for Pappy’s driving skills! Faced by a very low bridge, Pappy executed a perfect three point turn in the road, and soon afterwards a reverse around a corner, for which he was rewarded later! We then got back onto the right road, and parked up at the Event Square, with a couple of hours to enjoy Falmouth.
For some of us who had been looking forward to the beach the previous day, this was our opportunity for a paddle. We headed over to the beach, and there was an invasion up to the knees for most, but one intrepid explorer decided to take things a step further, past the point of no return! Photographic evidence is available on request to prove that feet left the floor and swimming did in fact take place! (Author’s note: It was cold, but worth it to prove my northerness!)
All too soon we had to head back to the Events Square, and set up for the afternoon’s concert. In the balmy afternoon sunshine we entertained a small but happy crowd with pieces such as West Side Story, Finlandia, Floral Dance and the old favourite Hootenanny! And after the rousing finale we packed up quickly and the entire band headed across the square for Tapas at the Shed, a restaurant that was recommended to us and that we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend either – fantastic food, great wine, an all round fabulous evening! We eventually dragged ourselves back to the coach and back to the hotel for the Infamous CPB Trip Awards, presented in the hotel lounge, to the amusement … or perhaps more accurately the bemusement of the staff and other guests still in the bar! Details of who won what, including the all important drinker of the trip award can be found by clicking here.
After the award ceremony had finished and we had been kicked out of the bar by the impatient staff, it was clear that many of the band wanted to carry on the party, and so a sizeable contingent retired to one of the hotel bedrooms and continued chatting and socialising over a few bottles and cans that had thoughtfully been procured from Asda earlier in the day! Gossip continued to the wee small hours, with international links with our still absent principal cornet again being forged, though quietly as someone in the room had dropped off (Author: I had a lovely snooze and thanks for not waking me up!) …
Monday 28th August
The morning came around too quickly for some, and indeed some of the awards the previous night might have been awarded differently had some of the hangovers been known about beforehand. Following a final trip to Asda for refreshments a slightly depleted group got onto the coach, and after saying our goodbyes to those who were not coaching it back to London, and the beasts of Bodmin (aka Marmite and Marmalade!) we headed back to the relative north of London.
Driving through the bank holiday traffic, we took in the last remaining Cornish views, excited by what we had done and proud to have played our parts in it. And as we trundled up the M5 and the M4, heading back to that part of civilisation we know so well, all thoughts started to turn to next year, and what unsuspecting cultures we could inflict ourselves on next time … tune in to find out!