Thursday, March 19, 2009

Penzance to Mousehole

Braving my mother's wrath, I got up at 6 this morning to go out for one more run before leaving Penzance on the 10 a.m. train to London. My mother is of the belief that everyone should be packed and ready to go hours before departure time, and preferably spend the remainder of those hours sitting quietly with the luggage. Any activities that would take one away from that luggage are frowned upon. I was at least a double violator, venturing out at 6:15, leaving behind my only partially packed bags, and intentionally taking myself three miles away from the hotel, on foot, risking any kind of theoretical mishap that could delay me and jeopardize our ability to be fully ready to leave by at least 8 a.m. (as our taxi was booked for 9:15).

My destination was Mousehole (pronounced “Mowzzle”), about three miles from Penzance. And three miles back, of course.

The first thing I noticed as I walked out of the hotel into the gentle pre-dawn light, was that it was going to be another lovely, sunny day. The second thing I noticed was that my hips and legs did not ache as they had on Tuesday morning Apparently the healing from the half marathon had begun.

I started out in the same direction as Tuesday morning, although today I found my way down to the Promenade more easily, being a little more familiar with the street layouts. I headed west on the Promenade in the direction of Newlyn.

I know the direction was west because after almost a mile, as I approached Newlyn, I looked back toward Penzance and saw pink sunrise sky near St. Michael's Mount. As I was snapping pictures, a hint of fire appeared on the horizon as the sun prepared to emerge. Although I continued on, I stopped again a few minutes later for more pictures, capturing the sun as it morphed from a sliver to a full firey orb. It is rare that I have the opportunity to photograph a scenic sunrise. I've seen a few colorful ones running at home in the morning, but the eastern backdrop of housetops and freeway do not make for a successful composition. I know—I've whipped out my camera phone on several occasions trying to get a decent picture. Once, when I was in my car driving home from the Y, I wasted several precious getting-ready minutes driving around town looking for a good vantage point. There was none.

After the picture taking was temporarily finished, I ran on through Newlyn, now familiar with the streets and sidewalks of the village, easily making my way to the other side of town. There I was beguiled into another stop above Newlyn Harbor, taking at least a dozen pictures of the colourful boats, plus a quirky warehouse proclaiming “Save Our Fish” traced out in bulbs that must light up at night, and more views of St. Michael's Mount, this time with the Newlyn lighthouse in the frame as well.

About half a mile out of Newlyn I came to the sign where I had stopped on Tuesday, proclaiming that I was two miles from Penzance and one mile from Mousehole. To my chagrin, my Garmin didn't reflect the same distance, as I had forgotten to restart it after one of my picture stops and it remained frozen at 1.6 miles for quite some time. Thanks to the landmark sign, though, I could tell that I had only lost about half a mile, and I could add that distance to my total at the end (or any time, for that matter).

Except for when I was actually in town in Penzance and Newlyn, and forced to jump from side to side of the streets to stay on the sidewalks, I was able to stay on either a walking/biking path or a wide sidewalk for most of the distance. As I was starting out on the Promenade in Penzance I saw a few other people running, including an order woman dressed in black who was coming into Penzance as I was going away. When I stopped on the outskirts of Newlyn to photograph the harbor, she passed me coming back in my direction, and for a while afterward I saw her ahead of me. She wasn't going particularly fast, but she was clearly faster than me, as the distance between us continued to increase even after I put the camera away and started running again. I saw her for a final time near Mousehole, on a return trip once again. I wondered where she had started and where she was going to end, and how many miles she would rack up on her journeys between Penzance and Mousehole.

I came to a sign saying “Mousehole” well before I covered the mile to town. It did occur to me at that point that I could take a picture, call it good, and still log a five-mile run if I headed back to Penzance right then. But I hated to cut my plans short, and really, it wasn't so late that I still couldn't make it back at a reasonable time, without jeopardizing our departure in any real way (as opposed to the theoretical way that was undoubtedly in my mother's mind).

I got to Mousehole proper at a few minutes past 7:00, and as villages go, it wasn't much. Though I didn't want to take the time to look around the bend or anything. The most interesting thing I saw in Mousehole was a bus going to Penzance. Oh, it crossed my mind. That would certainly solve any time problems I had created by my picture-taking delays. But I just couldn't do it.

Cutting the run from six to five miles would have been fine, but cutting it in half altogether? Only in the case of great emergency, and this wasn't one. Plus, I didn't know if I had enough change in my pocket for the fare, and I wasn't sure whether they would make change for a fiver.* So I let the bus go, and headed back on my own feet. About ten minutes later I saw it again on its return trip to Mousehole.

While I was in Mousehole at just past 7, I tried to call my mother's cell phone because on Tuesday she claimed she had expected me to wake her up as I had been doing in London. But the phone rang and rang** and finally just went to voicemail. (I didn't leave a message.)

The return trip was uneventful, and I stopped again on the Penzance side of Newlyn—by the Newlyn lost fishermen memorial statue—to try to call again. This time she did answer, although her voice was cold.*** I remained cheerful and told her I was about a mile from Penzance, and I'd be back within 15 minutes (I didn't want to set up any scenario where I could be proclaimed any more “late” than I already was). In fact, I think, I was less than a mile away. She said okay. Really, what else could she say? Run faster?

Back on the Promenade I picked up the pace and booked, faster than I had run in any portion of the half marathon. Apparently fear of my mother is a more powerful stimulator than any kind of race adrenaline. I had to slow down to pick my way up the narrow Penzance streets, but still I walked through the hotel room door by 7:45. Fifteen minutes later than my original plan, but I had left fifteen minutes late as well, so I considered myself even.

I pride myself on my ability to shower and get ready quickly. Probably because of my lack of any effort with my hair and makeup. This morning I had myself showered, dressed, hair mostly dried, and the remainder of my packing finished in time to appear for breakfast by 8:15.****

My mother, now friendly, had already ordered kippers for me, as I had said I wanted to have them before we left.***** I split them with her—I got two good-sized filets—and she gave me some of her scrambled eggs. I felt like I needed eggs to counteract the saltiness of the fish, but strangely the hotel serves them solo. (The first time I had kippers was in Penzance in 1986, and I was told then that kippers are usually served with eggs.) I also got a bit of her sauteed mushrooms—big, juicy black mushrooms—and a taste of black pudding.***** (It was surprisingly tasty.)

I went back to the room at 9:00 to get the bags ready for the taxi's arrival, and found a minor crisis in progress.******* My father could not find his passport, or in fact the pouch he carries it in. Although he insisted he hadn't put it in his suitcase, he agreed to look. And in fact that's where it was, neatly packed away. Everyone was very relieved. So, no emergency trips to the U.S. Embassy needed.

From there we filled up a taxi with our bags and were deposited at the railway station by 9:30. The train was already at the platform and we loaded ourselves on (almost using up the entire luggage rack with our belongings) and claimed our seats. There was even enough time leftover from me to zip back to the station cafe and buy pasties for our lunch later on.

At 3:41 we are still on the train, which is running about an hour late due to delays caused by a disabled freight train blocking the route and requiring a diversion. The harried train manager was forced to make the announcements explaining and apologizing for the delays, at one point saying she thought we were about half an hour off schedule (this was early on), but “it's hard to know when you're in the middle of nowhere.” Now, though, we've just left Reading, so London is not far away!

Thursday night addendum—despite arriving in London an hour late, we got to the hotel, claimed our room (we are all sharing for this one last night) and still managed to take a final jaunt to Harrods. Tomorrow we head to Heathrow and home.

To see more pictures of the sun rising, moment by moment, and other pictures from today, click here.

*A £5 note.
**Our cell phones are funny in England. My mother's apparently becomes English while mine stays American. For me to call her I just dial 1 plus the number, but to call my phone with hers you have to dial 001, which is the long distance code for America. However, I was able to use her phone to direct dial an English number, without any international codes at all. Also when I am listening on the line to her phone ringing, it rings with an English accent—”ring ring” just like traditional English phones.

***Undoubtedly I would have to take the "z" out of Penzance for my sins.
****However my mother commented that I looked rather “wild.” I have no idea what she meant. Was it the hair, flyaway in the front and damp and spiky in back? My face, still flushed from running and the shower, unadorned even by a lick of tinted moisturizer and mascara? Or was it the look of fear in my eyes, hoping that I wouldn't be chastised for some transgression that I had committed (like running on a departure day)?
*****As part of my four-day extravaganza of smoked fish. Smoked mackerel for dinner on Monday, smoked haddock and poached egg for breakfast on Tuesday, lox and scrambled egg for breakfast on Wednesday, and today the kippers.
******AKA black sausage, or, you know, something Edward in Twilight would enjoy.
*******A minor crisis because it ended well. Otherwise it would have been major.


GinaOgle said...

Oh Kristin, you had me rolling with this post!! The plight of the mother daughter relationship. And yes, the gag reflex kicked in when I got to the black pudding part - having lived there, I knew exactly what you mean!! Have you tried the spotted dick? It is very good - never got up the nerve for the black pudding though!! ROFL

Marie said...

Hilarious!! Your mum is so scary!! :) Between your fear of your father and the panic about the lost passport, combined with the "wild" comment...I was laughing too!!!