The web page of the Albion Beatnik Bookstore in Oxford, now closed (as usual) for business: muses and misspills on books, jazz, poetry, stuff like false flags and smoke screen: was randomly decrepit and proven to be more than neo-bankrupt: it was so analogue it was anal and now deceased.
I have a feeling that wherever I go, whatever I do, the same questions will be asked of me: ‘Are you open?’, ‘Do you have a loo?’, ‘Do you have Wi-Fi?”, ‘Is this a tidal island with a Priory Church dating back to the late 1300s that suffered earthquake in 1275 and tsunami in 1755, or a cafe?’
St Michael’s Mount revealed itself like a spectre, and as I approached, as the sands revealed themselves with the tide in retreat, so did its magic carpet entrance that stood proud of the sand and seaweed either side. And as the day awoke, as the mound’s wings unfolded, shaped and backlit by the sun that shone high in the sky, it revealed itself as an aged Batman, crouched on the sea, brooding and resting on its causeway entrance, which, from a distance, appeared to be its walking stick.
Settled in Penzance, arrived fresh and breezy from the invigorating sleeper train, the faded glory of this small town was overwhelming. It is lost in time with its boutique shops, wooden window frames and its heartfelt, if schizophrenic, attempts at culture. Organic life and natural product have set their rearguard actions against an army of thrifty Poundland and charity shops. But for all its naff, Penzance is charming and inviting, its Mousehole antidotal postcard film set but a stone’s throw away (if you use a sling).
The next day was a trip to Land’s End, a place I hadn’t been to for over forty years. It almost doesn’t exist, just a bus stop and a ghastly minuscule theme park nestled above its wooden sign which now is set in a concrete footprint. Otherwise Land’s End is a notch on the imagination. I was surprised that it had a postcode – TR19 7AA – an alphanumeric identikit or a measurement of existence.
It took ages to get to Land’s End by bus (a return from Penzance costs £7.80), much longer am sure than if by a horse-drawn carriage a century ago (and more expensive): to my mind is proof that progress serves little purpose. The burial mounds on its cliffs were sold as Bronze Age timeshares with great views, each a single ticket journey (in fact only one return ticket has ever been issued on that route). The views were much more wholesome than from the grubby hotels nearby. Here, with the cliffs below, the birds above, the sea ahead (unclear at times where it ended and the sky began), all was living blue and flashing white.