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Fear and Loathing in Zennor

Dazed, stunned, and suffering from denial that the course was over and we'd all gone off to our separate lives, my flight touched down in the hazy sunshine of Almeria early on Sunday morning after yet another night of just two hours sleep. The previous week on a writing and photography course in the depths of darkest Cornwall now seemed like it had all been a dream.

On the first evening in the village of Zennor, the group divided into those who wanted to sleep, and those who would rather sit up all night honing their drinking skills like dedicated journalists. Obviously, fitting into the latter group, we started off in the Tinners Arms, one of Cornwall's prettiest and unfriendliest pubs, before soon being kicked out and moving back to the hostel to continue drinking wine in half-pint glasses. By 3am everyone else had collapsed into bed except Nick, Faye and myself. Obviously, the three of us were not only destined to spend lots of time together, but being the same age, were deep in mid-life crisis.

The following morning at breakfast we discovered that the warm, amicable feeling throughout the whole group on the course had dissolved overnight and now everyone else hated us. Something to do with talking, laughing hysterically all night, and keeping everyone awake, but people were obviously just pissed off as we'd been having such a good time.

Those hard hitting words, "We could hear every word you were saying", were uttered. Unfortunately, due to the alcohol, I couldn't remember anything I'd been saying the night before, but inexplicably several people didn't speak to me again for the rest of the week.

The course itself was intense in a way that only the Foreign Legion could match. This wasn't helped at all by sharing a room with five other people, several of whom would get up at 6am, showing no respect for the more sociable participants who had just made it to bed. On many nights we'd still be working on some aspect of the course at 11pm, painfully sacrificing last orders in the pub. There was, however, lots of wine, with the bill being settled for whatever you drank at the end of the course, so naturally, this smelt of a challenge. By mid-week the wine stocks had run out and they had to order more.

It was strange spending all day in a classroom for the first time since leaving school, and several of us regressed instantly into our former school behaviour. Haunting images of old report cards loomed in my mind, "Bronek's head is full of nonsense", as we kicked and scribbled notes to each other during the writing classes. Obviously, I'd matured a lot since my school days.

Nick, who seems to travel everywhere with his own caffetiere and very special blend of Colombian, ensured we had a healthy amount of caffeine in the morning, allowing us to focus through our sleep-deprived hangovers. Whilst everyone else was drinking Nescafe during the lectures and complaining yet again of being tired, we would be enjoying fine coffee and truffles (or were they Kit-Kats?); which probably did nothing to improve our popularity.

As the week progressed and we found ourselves more and more ostracised from the rest of the group, Faye, an ex-BBC employee in denial, began to slip ever more regularly into her own lucid, imaginary world. Over-stimulated by the huge intake of caffeine and alcohol, she would suddenly go off into a soliloquy about dolphins molesting people, or have a flashback that she was in the jungle, like something from a Vietnam film. The late night drinking sessions on the uncomfortable sofa were gradually turning into therapy sessions between the three of us, while everyone upstairs listened in bed.

My birthday coincided with the course, and at midnight Nick and Faye sang happy birthday to me on a damp bench outside under the stars. In the morning I came down to breakfast, nursing the prerequisite hangover to find a stack of presents on the table from them. A model boat, a model plane, water-wings, a copy of my new favourite magazine, Cornwall Today, and a can of McEwans Export. Basically, everything I'd ever dreamed of, and I was very touched.

That night we dodged out of the last of the class activities to hit the pub. Being the last full day of the course, it had been a tough slog of rushing off our assignments and making presentations, but between classes we'd been nipping into the pub for a quick shot to keep us going. The partying carried on late into the night, and the early risers came down to find us still deeply engrossed on the sofa, drinking wine. Forcing myself to bring the superb night to an end, I went to bed at 7am. After grabbing a couple of hours sleep, I staggered out late, wearing sunglasses into the bright, painful sunshine, to join the class for the wrap-up session of, "What we learnt". I'd learned I could survive a week, drinking every night with virtually no sleep, but I decided against sharing this with everyone.

Faye and I were awarded joint first place in the wine drinking charts, the most wine ever drunk on any course run by Travellers Tales, and a bar bill that could have purchased a small vineyard in Bordeaux. We would have made a speech if we'd been able to.


Cornwall just as it should be !
Apart from the unfriendly pub ofcourse. Hi to Nick if you are out there.


Wasn't the Tinners the Pub that featured in that comedy film "Straw Dogs"?

Good call about that Straw Dogs pub. We'd been calling the Tinners Arms the Slaughtered Lamb all week, mindlessly giving it that old standby name from American Werewolf. But Straw Dogs - genius. American and his flirty wife move to deepest yokel Cornwall, only to be set upon by murderous natives. It was shot in a village called St Buryan, roughly five miles from Zennor. To get the right expression of suspicious astonishment from the locals when the lead character walked into the local pub, director Sam Peckinpah had him go in without his trousers. Bronek got the same looks in the Tinners fully clothed.

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