Well, you guessed it it was another totally glorious morning on the hill overlooking the bay, and we were up at half-7. I showered while Tim packed up (sniff); and we both headed down the hill for a farewell breakfast at the cafe. (The other two understandably chose the sleep-in-languourously-in-cosy-B&B option versus the drag-their-arses-up-and-see-Tim-off option.)
One of the Yellow Canary counter girls (the one I fancied, I think the bookish one, naturally) brought me a soya mocha with foam in the shape of a heart. Both Tim and I figured that settled what I'd be doing tonight after they left. (*)
Anyway, other than that pleasant note, I don't recall specifically what Tim and I talked about but I think major themes were 'Really great trip' and 'Really glad you came along/asked me along' and 'Seriously, I'd travel with you anytime' and a bit of bittersweet that this time of our lives was now over. Endings, any kind of endings, are always at least a little sad.
After seeing Tim off in the direction of the station, I ambled around the dockside a bit, and sat on the water in the brilliant, early, slanting sunlight and read, rather distractedly, my volume of Betjeman.
I was lounging on some sun-splashed dockside pilings when I got a call from Charles they were presently sitting on the upstairs balcony of a waterside cafe, actually within sight of (and overlooking) my spot. As I levered myself up, I thought how such small towns are so absurdly manageable. And as they had a couple of hours before their train, we decided to do a bit of a tour of some of the smaller art galleries.
We began (and nearly ended) at the Robin Pickering Gallery. There was some great stuff on view; and we had what I thought was rather a literate discussion amongst ourselves, and with the gallery attendent person about influences we saw, what he was doing with light, locations, departures in style from one wall to another. Etc. When we had just wrapped up, the artist himself came in. He was very nice, and very unassuming.
I think either he had a painting of St. Michael's Mount, or he just found out I was carrying on around the coast to St. Michael's Mount, because he mentioned he had been there. I asked when. He said: the day Diana died. He remembered that he had to drive from Cornwall to Kent; on the upside, the motorways were completely empty on the downside, so were the petrol stations. All closed; he was obliged to make it on a single tank. I mentioned that I run in Kensington Gardens a lot, and I always know twice a year, when it's Diana's birthday, and the anniverary of her death the front gate of Kensington Palace is covered with flowers. ("Oh, is it August already?") Charles tried this one on: "What's the difference between a Mercedes and a Skoda? Diana wouldn't have been seen dead in a Skoda."
Finally we ambled toward a taxi stand Charles and Meeyoung laden with the eight head-sized pasties they'd picked up to take home, plus fudge, plus marmalade and into a taxi, and off to the station at the next town over, and onto their train, and back to London, and back to their lives, and our time together over. "Go well, friends," we said.
And so I was alone for the moment. I decided to amble around town, checking out some of the bits I hadn't seen specifically the northern-most bit, behind the old town. I managed quickly to get surprisingly and frustratingly lost. It was just then that Paul and Nicole rang they were just outside of town. Yip. While trying quickly to unlose myself so I could meet them, I passed this strange outdoor play-like thing, where the pictured gentleman, I swear, told an entire long story where every single word (not every vowel, or big word every single word) began with 'A'. By the time I left, he had segued into B, but I couldn't say how long this went on . . .
After a small bit of comedy-of-errors-style mobile-phone-based telemetry around the waterfront, we hooked up and, just like that, the third shift had come smoothly on. I thought how very well indeed this was all working out. Paul and Nicole being Paul and, particularly, Nicole, they were ready for food after the long drive, so I took them without delay to the dedicated pasty joint, and we grabbed head-sized pasties, and repaired to the self-same piling where my late companions and I had lunched after yesterday's walk. I then walked them by their B&B the location of which I knew well, as it had also been Charles and Son's B&B got them checked in, and then we naturally repaired to the beachside patio for tea. (Or was it beer? I forget. In any case, I was really starting to feel like a local.)
We all sensibly agreed to take siesta from 4-6 (they were a bit knackered from the journey). My first thought was to hit the tent but then I thought: Why do the trek all the way up to the camp site, when I've got a perfectly good beach to nap on? While I was drifting in out, these two horse-riders raced up and down the beach.
We met back up at the Queen's Head to get on with the serious business of drinking, not to mention playing pool. After surrendering the table to those more qualified, we took a seat and, I guess, started chatting about things we were going to do when we got back. (Or, most likely, I was starting to wax rhapsodic about what I was going to do when I got back.)
Nicole: "Sometimes pubs have board games, actually."
[that second, my eye flashes across the room to the fireplace mantel; my finger stabs out]
From there, it was to dinner at you guessed it the same seafood joint. I had the same stuffed peppers they'd made me the night before, and they were even better the second time. It was a lovely evening, I think, and very good fun. Paul and Nicole make for awfully congenial company.
And then I stumbled home: through the cobbled streets of the old town, down the waterfront, past the closed-but-prettily-lit Tate Gallery and, finally, up the long hill. And then I slept alone in the tent for the first time. Lots of elbow room. But lonely. And, also, just a little bit spooky.