Road trip, Cornwall on the box and book review…

Has the world of TV gone overboard in its extensive coverage of all things Devon and Cornwall?

Wearing my television production hat, I’ll come back to that question – but first a bit of news about our recent Motor Home road trip, the first long journey away since March 2020.

Although we love living in West Cornwall, it is still good to get a change of scene, especially after these recent extended lockdowns.

The MoHo was in real need of a decent road trip after months sitting on our driveway, while we were keen to see friends and family face-to-face rather than speaking on the phone or chat rooms.

First stop was Porlock in Somerset, followed by trips to the Cotswolds, Warwickshire, Whitby, Keswick and then into Wales – Llanberis, Aberaeron and Cardiff. The whole journey took 15 days and we covered over 1,200 miles. Gulp.

Our favourite stop off? We stayed at some great sites (most of them Club run or affiliated) but the five star one was the Derwentwater site in Keswick.

Derwentwater site Keswick

You could stroll into Keswick town and Derwentwater was just a short walk the other way. The site staff were great, the pitches roomy and the facilities including the shower area, were first class. We couldn’t fault it and the only regret was that we didn’t book for a longer.

As Arnie says, we’ll be back!

Most of the places we visited on the tour were dog friendly with great walks and eating places happy to accomodate pooches. Again, Keswick was right up there for dog friendliness.

Our best meals? Fantastic fishcakes from the Bulls Head pub in Meriden where we met up with a foodie friend. Then a rare takeway, a pizza from Mama Mia in Keswick, delivered to the site piping hot and delicious. It was the night of the Euro Cup Final – we all know how that went! – and it was ironic that so many people were ordering pizzas for the England v Italy big match. But hey ho, it is a food that just lends itself to watching sporting events and easier to share than fish and chips!.

At the time of writing our home town of Marazion – in the far West of Cornwall for those not in the know – is rammed with visitors. It always gets busy in the summer months but this year is something else. With few people venturing abroad, staycationers have flocked to this part of the world in their thousands with camp sites and holiday lets full.

Meantime our telly has been awash with programmes about Cornwall with everyone from Rick Stein, Julia Bradbury, Susan Calman, Fern Britton (and more) telling us about their love of the county and showcasing its scenic delights. Next up is Coastal Devon & Cornwall with Michael Portillo on Channel 5. Then there was the G7 Summit back in June with broadcast crews from all over the globe. Although it is great to see Cornwall featured – some of my friends have even made guest appearances! – there is a limit to what can be covered with lots of subject overlaps.

Fishing — tick.

Former tin mines – tick.

Landscape artists and writers. Tick again.

Oh and those great sweeping majestic shots of beaches, villages and craggy hillside walks. A mega tick here.

Not forgetting the celebrity chefs and artisan products.

To be fair, Simon Reeves did a brilliant programme looking at the other side of Cornwall – including the the foodbanks and poverty – but it is the scenic, touristy, escapist Cornwall that ticks all those television boxes.

As I know only too well from my experience as a television producer, commissioning editors are often risk averse. Stick a celebrity in a beautiful location with lots of artful drone shots and what can go wrong?

Overkilling a subject, that’s what.

Yes, you can have too much of a good thing and my guess is that the crews will head further afield next year – let’s face it, the viewers have already had more their their fill of the same visuals and the inevitable ‘jam or cream first?’ debate.

Having said this, my recommended book. ‘A View From A Cab’ is one that does feature Cornwall – from the point of view of writer and recently retired Cornish bus driver, Gray Lightfoot.

Squeezing through Mousehole village!

He grew up in Lancashire but his ancestors are from Cornwall – in fact he is the first of his family to be born outside the county in over 350 years. After training as a teacher, (as well as working as a postman), Gray and his wife moved to the far west when the time felt right. As a child he used to holiday in Cornwall with his grandmother and once stayed for a full 6 weeks with an aunt while his mother was recovering from an operation. It was during this extended stay that he had fantasies of becoming a Cornish bus driver – a dream that became a reality several decades down the line.

‘A View From A Cab’ is a mix of prose and poetry with lots of anecdotes, both funny and poignant, about being a bus driver in this part of the world. There are the challenges – reversing down narrow lanes in a double decker open top bus – along with the stunning views from his ‘cab’ and the chance to eavesdrop on those passenger conversations.

Far from getting in the way of his writing, Gray says that bus driving has helped – there is time to think on the less challenging and more familiar routes – and he has now decided to give up the day job to spend more time on those written projects.

I read the book while preparing to interview Gray for a radio programme. It is delightful, well written and observed, showing his love for this remote part of the country and its people.

When we recorded the radio chat, it occurred to me that following some Cornish bus drivers at the height of the summer season would make a great documentary or drama. A sort of Cornish ‘On The Buses’! (If you don’t know that old 1970s sit-com, just Google it).

Oh Lordy – and after everything I’ve just written about this part of the country being everywhere on the box?

Perhaps a few years further down the line then..

Details of ‘A View From A Cab’ book available on Amazon.

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