Marazion – at St Michael’s Mount

“One of my most vivid images from childhood is of the six Pullman camping coaches silhouetted against the sea at dawn, seen through the window of the night–sleeper from Paddington to Penzance.”

The only camping coaches between Penzance and Marazion today are high–sided motor homes. Roger’s Pullman train carriages are long gone, no longer simply ‘shockingly dilapidated’, but taken away to the great breakers’ yard in the sky.

Instead, skin singing after a long soak down the coast at Porthcurno, Molly and I have to content ourselves with a needlessly big lunch and a sit down in her new 1970s vintage deck chairs. These, not creaking train coaches, will have to make as our throwbacks to the halcyon days of summers past.

Settling in for a late Sunday afternoon beach session, the tide in and St Michael’s Mount towering half a mile distant, I pour myself a tea and close my eyes to the still high sun. I know Roger would be hugely disappointed to see his beloved cars are gone. He bemoaned the ‘poverty of imagination’ that had allowed them to rot to almost nothing some twenty years ago. Now such lack of forethought means no one will ever get to clamber through them and sleep in their compartments ever again.

All I can do to follow him is to get into the water and strike out as far as I can to the extinct monastery that looms to my left. Without a wetsuit, getting there and back without extreme bodily shock is a risk not worth taking, even if my skinny frame has got somewhat used to salty Cornish sea.

Still, Molly and I tip toe in, boots affording us modest protection from shells, seaweed and the initial iciness of the Atlantic in September. Paddle surfers and kayakers are everywhere in this protected bay, Penzance shimmering in the distance and the prospect of watery exploration all around.

We both manage a few hundred metres out into deep water before our arms tell us that perhaps now is the time to turn back. Either that or go for it. Somewhat pathetically, I let my anxiety get the better of me. I imagine staggering out on the mount’s shore, shivering and facing the prospect of a cold boat ride back, or even worse, another swim.

While Molly turns and swims back to the comfort of the deck chairs, I wade out by the Marazion car park and splash through shallows, the sun drying my shorts, my hair falling in thick clumps across my forehead. I find myself apologising to Roger once again for not living up to his impressive stamina. First the Medway, then Fowey, now this.

Still, I’m here at least. And the view from my deck chair, wrapped up in a huge bath sheet and grinning inanely, is hard to better on all of these islands. Guilt somewhat assuaged and the day coming to an end, my thoughts turn to the Scillies and tomorrow’s boat trips to Bryher. The Cornish leg of my watery pilgrimage is coming to an end. Edging on sun burnt and glowing with a post water high, I open Waterlog and allow myself to get lost in a daydream of white sandy beaches, crackling seaweed and the purest of coves.

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