Saturday, 12 September 2009

What I did on my holiday, by T.J. Stephenson, aged 58.

A friend of ours has just lent us their house in Cornwall for a week, situated in a field on top of a cliff near St Ives, with spectacular views of the best part of the Atlantic ocean. There was every type of weather conditions over the seven days, except snow. The one constant was a continuous, 30 MPH chilly wind blowing from the South West as - according to the local farmer - it has been throughout all of the summer. None of it mattered though, it was all good.

All the traditional Celtic homelands seem to have one thing in common (or two things, if you include an ongoing, 300 year-old battle with English customs and Excise officers) - lousy builders. The builders of Cornwall, the Scottish Highlands and Northern France have a love-affair with Ordinary Portland Cement which has been going on ever since it was invented about 150 years ago, and they use it for everything, either troweled on plain, or livened up by chucking a load of pebbles at it when still wet. If it cracks up through being laid on too thick or too thin - which it usually does - then they just fill the cracks with more cement. Down the road from us, there was a builder who spent all week applying it to an entire bungalow, and he hadn't finished when we left. The steps leading up to our front door which - for some reason - was about four feet from ground-level, had a set of steps rising up to it which were made entirely of cement render. It's not as if the Cornish are masters at the art of applying wet cement, though they ought to be by this time. The standard of plumbing is appalling as well, but I really don't mind because it all goes toward the feeling of being in a different country when you're there, and if some Cornish nationalists get their way, we might well be.

Our host lent us a wonderfully good, spotting telescope to take down with us. If you know anything about telescopes, you will know that resolution is more important than magnification, though this one magnified pretty well without too much loss of resolution. I was looking through it one morning, and found myself observing a bearded coast guard who - I noticed - had one gold ear ring, and I toyed with the idea of trying to read the hall-mark from about a quarter of a mile away. Then I wondered what he was up to, as other coast guards and police came into view. They all began wandering about with maps, wading knee-deep in gorse and bracken. Later in the afternoon, I came across a young copper peering over our garden wall, and he told me that they were searching for an old man (of 68) who was confused. He was last seen walking past our house. I met the bearded coast guard that evening, and he said the man had 'lost his marbles'. I thought at the time that the missing man was only 10 years older than me, and I wondered how much more confused he was than me - probably not much in it either way.

At one point, there were 2 coppers, both dressed up like SAS, with an absolutely jet-black German Shepherd dog on a 15 foot lead. I helpfully suggested that if they sprayed a load of white chequers in a band around it's waist, they may get more respect from the British public. Luckily, I'm old enough for such a joke to be ignored by the police, otherwise I might be making my way down the A30 today, rather than yesterday.

One field opposite us was the home to quite a lot of lamas. I have never realised how agile lamas are until a couple of males had a fight one day, and chased each other about, leaping over high walls with ease whilst making loud (very loud) noises like pigs. It seems they only stayed in their field from choice. The cattle farmer told me that the lamas' owner had plans to do lama-trekking with them, but had to catch them first. We both laughed. That farmer had the only true Cornish accent I heard when there. Everyone else seems to come from either the North Midlands or Australia.

Of course, her indoors could not let the holiday go without some sort of personal drama, and at 5.30 AM, on the last night before the epic journey back, the light came on waking me up, as she came down the spiral staircase which separated our separate quarters (posh poeple don't sleep in the same bed). I asked what was wrong, and she said she had the shits. 'Bang goes my night's sleep', I thought, and I was right.

As she came down the staircase for the 2nd time, having turned the lights off, then straight on again, I hatched a cunning plot to keep myself amused during the waking hours that I knew I would have to endure. I felt a fart coming on, and I hung onto it for as long as I could, until she came back from the bog again, exhausted.

Lifting my duvet cover slightly to expose my bare arse, I said to her, "I bet you wish you could do this", then let rip with as much energy as I could muster, in order to produce an extremely loud fart.

Yes, you guessed it, I had the same condition as her, and within 3 seconds, I had pebble-dashed the white walls of our wonderful room with about 4 pints of stinking ordure. She said that it was exactly what she had been trying to avoid doing, and went back to her bed.

Rising at 6.00, I spent some hours cleaning the walls with Dettol, before setting off on what turned out to be a 5 hour trip back to Bath.

Memories are made of this.


  1. Oh my God, it started so well Tom (the blog that is).

    I bet you managed to train the telescope on bouncy chested ladies as well as old codgers wearing gold earrings....!!

  2. Actually, I made the last bit up. It was a scenario that was going through my head whilst awake at 5.30, and it actually made me laugh out loud, despite my hangover, so I thought I'd try it out on you.

    There were surprisingly few good-looking knockers on St Ives beach actually. Maybe because it was so cold.

  3. Funnier in your mind than it would have been in reality!

  4. Too right, Am, though it was loosely based (literally) on a few previous experiences, the last one of which taught me (so far) never to try and pull a stunt like that if there is the slightest chance of it all going wrong - especially in public.

    I sometimes think that there are a lot of things that will only remain funny if they stay within the confines of my own head, but that doesn't stop me from letting them out on a regular basis.

    The one thing that I know from previous experience to be universally funny when let out is - like a fart - usually hidden in my trousers. Why women will laugh at that but not farts is a mystery to me. All men know that farts are funny, but you try and convince a woman that they are and see how you get on.

    My mate from years ago recently sent me this quote:
    "Farts and erections should never be wasted."

    Later he changed it to:
    "Farts and erections should never be trusted."

    The last version is truer the older you get.