An Alternative Guide to Driving Aimlessly in Cornwall with a Hangover and Broken Running Shoes

Last week our editor tried to get to grips with being 27 and still having no clue about anything. To do this he drove south to Cornwall and nobody heard from him for three days.  

I meet her outside where she works and get my sunglasses back. I can’t wait to get away. Not from her but this place, where kids are raised and only the rain changes.

The drive down to Cornwall is long and aimless. For five hours the radio cuts in and out. For some reason I just let the noise burn whatever. Nobody else can drive and I shout into the windscreen like a kid at seaworld smashed on pepsi and skittles.

‘Moooovveeeee you massive twat.”

This is three days of drinking and laughing coming back out the other side.

In the garage, just outside St Austell, a cute fat man and his evening wife talk about the weather. ‘Gunna rain a storm tomorrow,’ he says, as if I’ve done something wrong. Sorry fat man, I’ll try harder next time. I’m wearing tropical swimming trunks and smell like yesterday.  The door chimes forever on the way out.  A campsite somewhere on the way.  I pull in and fall asleep in my van.

St Austell and Open Mouth Kissing

In the morning I listen to northern people fade out to hammering rain. Thumping, smashing, five pence pieces thrown at the tin roof precip. I lie in bed until 12 because sitting up hurts and the flashbacks had started. What a friend calls ‘open mouth kissing.’

It went full school disco. Something it should never do. Not unless you are actually at a school disco. The only thing missing was the holding hands and Westlife, which translates as all of the heart and emotion and innocence, the key elements that forgive the sin.

Why do I keep acting younger and getting older? No wonder so many people just blow their brains out at 27. Ca va mal.

“Stop whistling Marie!” The northerners jolt me back. “It messes with me bloody hearing aids!”

For anyone that doesn’t already know, the mutants have taken St Austell.

They arrived around the same time as Poundland and Iceland, opening Cash Converters, closing anything remotely human. The cars sit around rusting in the salt air and everyone just stares at the floor hoping it’ll swallow them up.  Welcome to Newquay’s smackhead brother that doesn’t get invited to christenings.  Twinned with Auschwitz.

In the coffee shop a traditionally ugly girl with full teeth walks around like she’s hurdling milk crates at the dairy world cup. High knees and low jinx. Considering what a horrible mood I’m in the food is exceptional for the price.

At £3.99 the cooked breakfast had no right to taste how it did. Perfect chipolatas and crispy bacon like the kind you find at posh American Diners. On the table next to me 100 old people are sat moaning about what a bellend Rick Stein is. Never a truer word spoken.  I could get used to this place after all.

Hallucinations on Halzephron Cliff 

Anyway I didn’t. The whole point of Cornwall is for me to run and get my head straight. I pull into a Navy Base to turn around and ignore the bent penis telling me I can’t go right. I’d just seen a friendlier sign telling me about Church Cove. It looked promising despite the rain and gloom falling in.

A small verge that dog walkers seemed to like would be home, so I parked up and took a walk. On one of the stark ridges falling into smuggler sea an old women with a dog turned out to be a National Trust flagstone, a sentry, looking out to the thick blue Atlantic where wrecks have come to be.

The sea’s mist washes a manor house into a silhouette. Then, on a cliff on the other side of the cove, I saw another figure, this time in red, leaning over towards the bicepped waves punching against the rocks. Probably just another hallucination, I thought. Pretty common for struggling wrecks in the mist.  With the sand in my toes I looked up again and he started moving, lurching, stopping, and lurching again towards the edge. I looked away, to the building next to me, with its small blue sign over a graveyard. ‘The Church of Storms.’

The building in the distance had gone now, the mist enclosing me and the church and the red figure inside the cove. I called up but the noise just came back in the wind. Then, as I moved closer, squinting and sweating and gasping and feeling how tight my lungs had become, the red figure whipped a fishing rod into the depths again. I turned back shouting at myself. My heart still thumping.

The dead night

The van can’t help catching the wind and I can’t help hearing everything. A whining noise starts haunting me and people keep coming to my window before I get a chance to see them. Under the covers music keeps playing in my ears from the festival at the weekend. I catch it, finding silence filled with seagulls and everyone I’ve let go. The van creaks in the wind and the whining sound drills and drills and drills. Maybe it’s the navy base. Remember that Navy guy that was followed home and killed? Wasn’t that in Cornwall? They’re probably out for revenge. To murder a civilian, watched by their watchman on the cliff below the church of storms.  Fucking open mouth kissing.

I get up and open the back door. Darkness swims in. A seagull’s wing beats back a lone yellow light from somewhere. I saw that in Chicago once, a white bird flying through pitch darkness, reflecting blue and red siren lights as it followed the coast of North Beach. Another time. Another one let go. I find the noise in my head, temporary tinnitus still ringing from Pendulum on Saturday night.  I sit and wait for it to get light but it doesn’t until I wake up.

My first run is past jealous crows eating horse shit outside a farmhouse sunken into the ground. I power up the cliff where I saw the fisherman and find a red lifejacket wooden post with ‘save a life’ written on it.  I kick a gin and tonic ready mix can on my way down.

Ryan is on Instagram.