I see it’s the Oyster Festival in the optimistically-named Events Square in Falmouth today. A chilly venue at the best of times with the wind funneling in off the harbour between Pizza Express and the Maritime Museum and I just hope the weather’s better there than it is here.
And I can’t help remembering all those events (although pre- the square) I’ve attended, growing up and later, under grey Cornish skies and, frequently, torrential Cornish rain.
The Water Sports at the Customs House Quay, for example, where I remember several damp and chilly afternoons spent watching brawny young men in boats battering each other with sacks of flour until one or (usually) both boat-loads overturned into the water, whilst other young men tottered out along the greasy pole before, inevitably, ending up in the same place. (We girls, as far as I can remember, restricted ourselves to cheering and shivering on the quayside, which was better, although perhaps not much.)
Carnival Day was always fun, with a long procession of floats decorated in dracaena fronds and hydrangea heads (both readily available in Falmouth’s streets and garden) winding its way through the streets and out onto the sea front, where the gauze-clad fairies and princesses would throw the flowers into the cheering crowds. A delightful custom when the sun shone and I loved gathering up the gorgeous blue and purple blooms to take home with me. Not so good, however, in the rain. You try being hit in the face by a drenched hydrangea head flung by a disgruntled fairy in damp netting. It’s not a good experience I can assure you.
My peak, wet-Cornwall experience, however, has to be the year of the World Surfing Championships, held in Newquay for the first time, I think, sometime in the late seventies.
It was a foul day to end all foul days but my friend and I had five small children to entertain and her dog to exercise and it was, in any case a great event – and a great scoop for Newquay.
Except that the sea mist was so thick you couldn’t actually see the surfers . You could actually hardly see the sea and the poor chap commentating for – I think – Radio Cornwall – was having a terrible day. “World Champion, xxx xxx (I can’t remember the name) is out there somewhere. I think,” we heard him say, his words broadcast out over the wide empty spaces of Fistral Beach. And, a few minutes later, in desperation. “I can see a dog on the sands. He’s running very fast and looks very wet.”
Dear Chester. It was his moment of fame – although he wasn’t to know it. And we, like the rest of the sparse and miserable crowd, withdrew -dog, children and all- to the damp and dubious comfort of the Fosters beer tent.
I hope the Oyster Festival’s doing better. I’m sure it is.
PS This was written a while back – don’t go rushing to Falmouth for the Oyster Festival now. Not that you’d be able to get there, the weather having intervened more drastically than normal.