Dispatch from the Razor's Edge, the Blog of Michael Stephen Fuchs
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2006.09.13 : To The Lighthouse
To Include Very Witty Dialogue
Plus Charles Pissing Off A Cliff


Another absolutely enormous breakfast – a pleasingly recurring theme – and then we walked out into a cool, slightly overcast, and windy day. Lovely walking weather. You may recall that we'd trekked about a million miles (all uphill) from the coast to get to this B&B; happily a shortcut allowed us to get back quickly, without retracing our path. We had only to turn left when we hit the ocean again.

In fact, because the light was a little grey today, many of the photos ended up looking a little, erm, washed out. I compensated (in post-production) by bringing down the brightness, upping the contrast a bit, and – mainly – pouring on the colour saturation. I may have overdone it a bit in my enthusiasm. Apologies for any garishness.

So another advantage of technology: I could hang back and still position my figures just where I wanted them. Here you see both the stage direction and the result.

Apropos that, we had a very amusing discussion about other, possibly inevitable, technological enhancements to this kind of trip. You might, or might not, recall how, previously, Tim cycled the End-to-End (i.e. Land's End to John O'Groats, i.e. one corner of Britain to the opposite corner, i.e. about 1000 miles). He not only did it solo, he not only did it in 9 days (if I recall correctly), but he photo-blogged the whole adventure with only his phone – sending photos and comments in real-time from his mobile, with mobile-blogging software he'd written himself.

Anyway, we were wondering what some logical extensions of this all might be. For instance, bluetooth cameras – you'd never have to go through exchanging photos after the trip, if every shot everyone took landed on everyone else's camera automatically. And speaking of storing shots: with ubiquitous wireless broadband, cameras won't store the photos you take on your memory card – they'll store them on your server, beaming them off as quickly as you take them.

Add video to that full-time connectivity action – and you could have real-time video feeds of your trip, so people could just jump in and out of your trip when they felt like it. (A natural – if unholy – confluence of Tim's mobile blogging, and bedroom webcams.) Essentially, you could take all your friends' trips, and they all yours. I suggested a commenting function, so all the people going along remotely can interact – with you on the trip, and with the others. Tim suggested full interactivity, where the viewers can make suggestions as to whether you go left or right. Charles wisely punctured the whole ill-advised balloon:

Charles: "Great, you're just ready for the pub and your punters decide you should carry on a few more miles."

"For most of these three miles," notes the guidebook, "you are walking along a high military fence, which unfortunately detracts from this nice section of coastline. However, it's better than not being allowed through at all." For some reason, the excessive up-and-down climbing wasn't mentioned.

And of course hot sweaty climbing makes for shirtless men at the top. ↓ Perhaps in revenge, perhaps from sheer perversity, I did this. ↓

Get the Flash Player to see this movie.

Me: "Great, a new lighthouse appears just when we finally shake the last one."
Tim: "Yeah."
Me: "I don't suppose that's a coincidence."
Tim: "No."


    The first leg of today's walk was only 3 miles into Portreath. Good timing for tea. As we hit the outskirts of the village, and began to descend, we walked directly beneath a very large telecom tower. We all immediately reached for our phones to check signal strength.
Tim: "Can you go completely off the bar chart?"
Me: "I think my phone's actually throbbing."
Charles: "I'm one bar short."
Tim: "How can your phone be one bar short? Send it back!"


Once in town, Meeyoung starts showing the strain: "Bus, bus, bus, bus…" Earlier, she'd flirted with hitchhiking; and a bit later, she'd be reduced to whistling for passing horses. Nonetheless, for now, we had a lovely tea by the beach, and then sat quietly skipping stones.

Soon enough, it was back to traversing dramatic (and occasionally terrifying) cliff edges and trudging up and down from and to pebbly but pretty beaches. Enough of my yapping for awhile. Cue montage theme music


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And, yes, afraid that ↓ is just what it looks like. Sorry, Chas, old man. All part of the Dispatch game. Damn nice spot for it, though, and by the bye.



So you might previously have noticed how Charles has been carrying a very large bag, and Meeyoung a very small one. Somewhere along here she tired and Charles took both bags (the little one's on his front). → Then he took her camera. The last English gentleman.

Also somewhere along here we chanced on a Cornish ice cream truck (serving day-trippers who had driven up to the overlook parking lot, but heigh ho.) Sensibly, we indulged ourselves. The others got Cornish ice cream, and at the last second I broke down and got an ice lolly. That was a nice stop (though I haven't any pictures).


So, Tim's previous piss-taking of me notwithstanding, we did see these kestrels who would kind of amazingly hover in place in the breeze, scanning the water for fishy prey, and then dive-bomb straight down into the water and I thought it would have been fab to get a dive on film but of course I was lucky even to get these hovering shots.
Charles: "Well, that's enough birding."
Tim: "Michael and I prefer a different type of bird-watching. But they need a certain climate."
Me: "Warm enough that they've shed their natural plumage."
Charles: "You like to catch them when they're molting… Now that I've spotted the birds, let's see if I can tag one."
Charles hefts rock and hurls it.
Meeyoung: "Oh, no, Charles… you've killed two birds with one stone."

Also somewhere along here, we rambled onto some pasture, over a stile in a fence, and I saw something I'd never seen in Britain before: a "No Right To Roam" sign.

Me: "'No right to roam'? Bastards!"
Charles: "Unlike in Italy, or I think Sweden, in this country there's – ."
Me: "A notion of private property?"
Charles: "Yes."
Me: "Yeah, well, in the U.S. you can go wherever you want, too – as long as you don't mind a shotgun blast to the legs."
Charles: "Even here, it's incredibly hard to get done for trespassing, unless you damage something."
Me: "Can they shoot you?"
Charles: "No."
Me: "Not even a light peppering of birdshot to the shins?"
Charles: "That would work much to your advantage – as a future source of income."

Soon after that we began approaching, in earnest, Godrevy Point – just off the tip of which is the little island with the little lighthouse that was the inspiration for Virginia Woolf's book the title of which was our instruction for the afternoon.


Get the Flash Player to see this movie.
    So there's also this network of "triangulation pillars" (or "trigpoints") scattered around the coast of Britain. They are basically small-ish concrete pillars, generally set in the highest bit of local ground, so you can always see from one to the next one, and with a grooved plate on top for mounting a theodolite (an accurate compass built into a telescope). These were planted by the Ordinance Survey (the national mapping agency) between 1936 and 1962 in a comprehensive effort to remap the entire country (and which resulted in the excellent OS Survey maps upon which most ramblers rely). (*) This video was taken while I was using one, basically, as a playground.

We took a lovely long break here, despite threatening weather and a smattering of rain, overlooking the lighthouse. By and by, Charles started kitting up again.

Charles: "Nice lighthouse, but…"
Me: "We've got walking to do."
Charles: "And I don't think it's going to suck itself."
Tim: "It's quite funny when you say that."
Me: "Yes!"

From here, the lighthouse shrinking reassuringly, though probably deceptively, behind us, it was just a bit of slog down the path into "town".

    While Charles and Meeyoung went 50 yards down the road to check into what looked like a lovely B&B, Tim and I made camp in what was decidedly a lovely – and pleasingly empty – camping field. We also conducted what was, if I do say, a masterful tent set-up. I decided I was back into camping again. I was enjoying it. Good weather is probably key.

We met up shortly at the one pub, which, briefly confusingly, had an all-new name. But it was just across the one street – nothing in Gwithian can be far from anything else in Gwithian. They also had a leopard-skin couch, which – continuing our faux-homo theme – there was immediate and universal enthusiasm for photographing me and Tim upon. Don't know if I mentioned, but you can see from the photographs, that I'd mainly been wearing a sleeveless top (American: tank-top; English: vest) in the evenings, because it was comfy and clean. Lamentably, there's a certain association of this type of garment with gay fashion. You probably haven't failed to notice Tim's frosted hair, which, ditto. Anyway, I think it was here, on the leopard-skin couch, that Tim made a suggestion for our next trip together.

Tim: "Next time, you frost your hair, and I'll get a vest."
Me: "What, switch?"
Tim: "No, we both have frosted hair and vests."
Me: "Jesus."

Over an enormously yummy dinner at a big table in a comfy room, we made ourselves a lot smarter than we might have been, and came to a really good logistical decision as regard's the next day's walk. I'll detail this in tomorrow's dispatch, but suffice it to say for now that it involved a cab. I think we all slept really well after that.

Route Follower Alongerer :

Actually 12 days - average 85 miles a day, gutted about the aforementioned server left in a corner of a room incident!        (hide)

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about
close photo of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Fuchs is the author of the novels The Manuscript and Pandora's Sisters, both published worldwide by Macmillan in hardback, paperback and all e-book formats (and in translation); the D-Boys series of high-tech, high-concept, spec-ops military adventure novels – D-Boys, Counter-Assault, and Close Quarters Battle (coming in 2016); and is co-author, with Glynn James, of the bestselling Arisen series of special-operations military ZA novels. The second nicest thing anyone has ever said about his work was: "Fuchs seems to operate on the narrative principle of 'when in doubt put in a firefight'." (Kirkus Reviews, more here.)

Fuchs was born in New York; schooled in Virginia (UVa); and later emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived through the dot-com boom. Subsequently he decamped for an extended period of tramping before finally rocking up in London, where he now makes his home. He does a lot of travel blogging, most recently of some very  long  walks around the British Isles. He's been writing and developing for the web since 1994 and shows no particularly hopeful signs of stopping.

You can reach him on .

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ARISEN : Odyseey, by Michael Stephen Fuchs
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