Having uploaded my photos I realise they're all full of children, so, sorry folks, most of them won't make it here. I also need to apologise to Trina for driving past Launceston Castle several times without once managing to catch a picture. Not terribly wheelchair accessible though.
We stayed here
Our front view looked like this
And our rear view like this (aren't these riveting photos and well worth my week's absence to obtain?)
Let me tell you about one day in our otherwise peacefully uneventful trip. New Year's Eve. A day in which, I believe, I visited Hell on earth.
The day started far too early with a pair of obnoxious children. Yes, newsflash, my children are not perfect. Mog was just being grotty - a little uncomfortable I think and definitely not in the mood for sitting around waiting for things to happen. And Little Fish was in full-on destructo-queen mode. Doing the rounds in her chair - opening and emptying all the drawers in the kitchen, moving on to scattering all the toys in the sitting room, trying to spread toiletries around the bathroom, unmaking the beds, etcetera. Too many late nights for both of them. So when it came to a choice of
We headed for Launceston, to pick up petrol and then hopefully to have a potter around. Not the most accessible of towns, but then Cornwall isn't really the most wheelchair accessible of counties. Too many hilly bits. Our plan for stopping in Launceston other than at the petrol stration was neatly obstructed by the inability to find anywhere to park the van. Too high for height-controlled carparks, too much need for rear access to park on crowded streets, and too big for cowardly me to force it through tiny narrow alleyways full of shoppers. Still, Launceston looked pretty from a slow moving vehicle.
On to Bude. Pootling around the countryside I decided we would stop when we saw something promising. We saw several promising things, but generally whilst driving past them at reasonable speed, with no stopping space or turning point. Little Fish began to demand dinner. Eventually we made it the 16 miles to Bude (only took the best part of an hour), and called in quickly at a small supermarket to stock up with supplies for the evening meal (we were holidaying with friends, and New Year's Eve happens to be the birthday of one of them - happy 13th birthday, Teenager!) and to find Little Fish some lunch.
No cafe. No problem, we'll do a quick shop and feed her in the bus. First problem - the shopping trolleys are the evil kind which require feeding with a £1 coin in order to be liberated from the long line of tethered trolleys. No way of testing them to ensure you pick a tame one with four wheels all running in the same direction, you pays your money and you takes your chance. This is theoretically a relatively simple operation (insert coin into slot, reverse trolley out of queue, enter shop). However attempting this procedure with my girls brings a whole new layer of complexities to the procedings. Since Little Fish is small enough to fit into the trolley child seat we don't bother with her wheelchair. This means that once in the shop I only have to juggle Mog in her chair and LF in the trolley. However, until the trolley has been liberated from the line, it means I have LF tucked under my arm, and one foot hooked around Mog's chair trying to stop her from rolling back into the carpark whilst I tuck my handbag under my neck and use a combination of teeth and fingernails to extract a coin from the purse, which is itself somewhere buried in the depths of my bag, under nappies, wipes, teaspoons, book tokens, and the other general handbag detritus. Classy. LF does not help matters by objecting to being upside down and wriggling like a live eel. Eventually I locate and extract the requisite £1 coin, and wonder of wonders, manage to avoid immediately dropping it down a drain. I insert it into the trolley waving graciously at the large crowd of
Ah the joys of post-Christmas shopping. Reduced items, fallen from the shelves and stacked high on the floor, narrowing the aisles until there is barely space for one carefully pushed trolley - no chance at all of doing the push-one-pull-one shuffle with any degree of elegance whatsoever. Not that I had much chance of that any way, to be fair. The mad frenzy of shoppers armed with the knowledge that the following day, January 1st, most shops will be shut or have greatly reduced opening hours; the panic this causes - "quick, I must instantly go out and buy twelve loaves of bread, just in case" "Oh no, the shops won't be open tomorrow; I must immediately purchase six chickens, twenty-seven packets of soup and three bags of rice", "Ah woe is me, the shops are closing, I must buy a three month supply of nappies, one each of every item on the delicatessen counter and at the same time stock up on all my Christmas cards for next year", "Hmmm, this shop seems even more crowded than usual, I think I'll just abandon my trolley crosswise in the middle of the aisle whilst I consider carefully my choice of fresh fruit", and so on.
We weave our way around the shop, collecting as we go the ingredients for a Malteser Mousse, a present for the newest teenager in town, and most importantly of all, as far as Little Fish is concerned, a nice luxury full fat beautifully thick and smooth yoghurt which will do her very nicely as an emergency luncheon. We also somehow manage to gather a large box of microwave popcorn *opens eyes in innocent abandon and whistles unconvincingly* and a bag of chocolate (Little Fish has octopus arms once in a shopping trolley).
It takes us one hour to achieve this, at the end of which we are hot, frazzled, and in my case embarrassed, in Little Fish's case ravenous, and in Mog's case, finally in a good mood (for she is the shopping queen). We queue at the till. We watch as our foodstuffs are scanned through. Slowly, slowly, the cashier examines each article, until I am on edge, waiting for him to inform me that maltesers are rationed and I will have to leave one bag behind, or that 15 bags of maltesers and one yoghurt are a weird combination. Or something. But instead he eventually reaches the final item, scans it, and asks me for my card.
My card, which in Launceston paid for the petrol without quibbling, decides this time to play up. It is scanned through the machine a dozen times, each time it gets to a different part in the process before abruptly informing the cashier that it refuses to accept my transaction. I wish I knew why it did this. My old card did this too - at random times and places, usually calculated for maximum embarrassment or awkwardness. Like the time it allowed me to buy tickets to Florida, but refused to pay for the airport taxi. Or the time it allowed me to buy a holiday, a month's worth of groceries, a full petrol tank, then refused to allow me the sandwich and packet of crisps. It is, apparently, a security measure designed for my convenience. I'd like to have words with the designer of this particular convenience. It is only two weeks since I had my card replaced for doing this. And it is definitely not a problem with my bank balance. Until Bob finishes work my balance is far too healthy! This is naturally of no interest whatsoever to the cashier, who assumes I have simply overspent. Humph.
So I pay by cash instead. And exit, pursued by a glare.
Into the van and I thicken Little Fish's yoghurt for her. She takes two mouthfuls and then hands me the pot, at which point I discover the thickener has turned her luxury yoghurt into playdough. I could model villages with this, but alas, Little Fish can no longer eat it. So instead she lunches on two small bars of chocolate, and I console myself with the knowledge that there was some milk in the chocolate, somewhere, a long time ago. And eat a large pork pie.
On we drive. By this point the girls are no longer in bad moods, and I could quite happily drive back to our cottage and see what the others are doing. But we are now only a mile out of Bude, and it seems a shame to drive all that way without seeing it. So we drive through Bude, come to the parking spaces, where I get far too hot and flustered to actually park (too many people and too small spaces). Instead we turn around, discover we are now facing the wrong way around a one way system, turn around again, and drive out of Bude as fast as ever we possibly can.
We do stop at Widemouth Bay.
Far too windy for the girls to get out, but we park up and enjoy the view for a few minutes, before driving home via Holsworthy. I entertain thoughts of stopping and exploring Holsworthy too, but common sense prevails and instead we return to the cottages. And to silence; everyone else has gone out for the day. No matter; I have coffee, the girls have chocolate, we've had a good drive (and a trip through Hell, and how many people can say that?), and now we can rest before spending the evening with friends.
When the others return I ask them if they've had a good day. They have. They went to Bude.