Cells of madness unconfined

Friday, 5 November 2010

George: Ripping Cornwall, hurrah for the hols. I DO hope we have a topping adventure.
Dick:I fancy getting lashed in Rock and pulling a posh tart.
Anne: I wonder if Matalan in Truro is open
Julian: I bloody LOVE the feel of tweed on naked buttocks

Over the summer, Edward rented a mini stately in Cornwall. The owner, Lady Charlotte, had refused to use email or mobile, so several cars’ worth of our guests ended up very confused in the car park of the Jamaica Inn, trying to work out her loopy posh hieroglyphics. It added quite some time to the journey, so the welcoming scones had atrophied in the Aga by the time our covoy rolled up the drive through overgrown rhododendrons.

Lady Charlotte was mad as cheese. Millimetres short of Edward’s 6 foot 5, she was a full-sail galleon of mid-Eighties electric-blue eye make-up, huge stiff crackle of frosted hair and shoulder pads like bungalows. The bots were transfixed. She spoke in a breathy ingenue voice, which, coming from a tight-head prop-sized body swathed in black and fuschia, was completely wonderful. Rather than the traditional "Here’s the airing cupboard, are those children house-trained" traditional spiel, she spied the champagne being unpacked and settled down, sparking up a long More, to share her thoughts on what bastards men are.

Her ire was divided equally between the rental agent and her most recent ex-husbands. The agent had shown remarkable insubordination in asking her to deal with the trailing wires, falling-down beds and mouse-infested pantry. He clearly had no idea how Proper People lived. The two exes had had lucky escapes; one had run off with a trollop from the taxi queue at Paddington and the other had taken the back of his head off via a mouthful of shotgun. I brightly skipped the saucer-eyed bots off for a swim and left my friend Maria to enjoy the show.

The bots were prune-wrinkled by the time we saw her weaving up the hill and I judged it safe to return. The rest of the party were still at the table, shaking with mirth and surrounded by empty bottles of pop. Rather a decent way to start a holiday, I reckon. The house was, au fond, very beautiful, but, like its owner, plastered in decades-old frills and furbellows. The bedrooms were each a trellis-and-tiny-rosebud nighmare of matching Laura Ashley wallpaper, bedspreads, tart-knicker window ruffles and frilly bedside table covers. Even the (empty) tissue boxes and wastepaper bins were covered in matching wallpaper.

Most bonkers of all, though, Lady C had moved into a little caravan for the summer which was parked behind the house up a steep hill. From which vantage point she surveyed her guests from a plastic picnic table surrounded by glass pyramids of empty bottles. Like a Molly Keane heroine via a David Bowie album cover. She popped up from time to time with suggestions for activities. Some were clearly ridiculous (open-air opera?) while some were just fantastic ("I’ll telephone to my great great chums who’ve cleverly opened the most wonderful restaurant in a tiny little bay and they can look after you. They’re from New Zealand. What fun.") They did, and it was. The elusive sun burst suddenly forth to light up the rain-twinkling headland and blind the hardened surfers. We sat on the balcony watching the dog tear up and down the beach, ate plates of seafood tapas, caught up on London gossip and all remembered how special Cornwall can be.


  1. Wonderfully crafted tale. I will be haunted by "tart knicker ruffles" all day.

  2. Lovely James God knows we all have days like that. Huge x to you.

  3. "tart-knicker window ruffles"

    Exactly. She has returned. Thank the gods.

  4. Dear ELS, I have just found your blog thanks to LPC - hi LPC above! This is fab, love it, looking forward to catching up on your previous post once my annoying son boy 1 stops hanging around hoping to use the computer..Blighty

  5. I am sooooo glad you are back. We've missed you and the bots.

  6. Oh, you're back. It's been hell (DO YOU HEAR ME!!! HELL!!) without you.

    Have thought of you so often and missed you. It's miserable being deprived of your wit and talent.

    Hope all is well in all ways in your world. I can see your writing is as brilliant as ever.


  7. Oh! Oh! I clicked on your bookmark, just in case, steeling myself for the inevitable disappointment of no new post. Though I use the word "vulgar" a lot more now. Happy you're back.

  8. "...men are bastards" It comes easily.

    I've read this three times. And I want to read it three times more.

    Lady Charlotte reminds me of Ms Pickle in Bermuda. Her B&B had towels that smelled like Heineken and she had the biggest toe nails I've ever seen. Thanks for taking me back.


Please leave a comment if you can be remotely bothered - anything you have to say is valuable and I absolutely love hearing from you all. Elizabeth