MOUSEHOLE…people seem only to know that it is not pronounced as it looks. Consequently we get requests for Muzzel, Mosul, Moozle and maybe even Muesli.

For your convenience when stating your destination Mousehole rhymes with ‘arousal’. A twenty minute trip, every twenty minutes easily squeezed into the tightest itinerary.

 

No 6 (A SUMMER BUS JOURNEY TO MOUSEHOLE in 2016)

 

This poem is almost a stream of consciousness account of a summer trip on the No 6 Penzance to Mousehole bus. The poem is a written photograph of journeys taken during the summer of 2016. Already changes are happening as the route is to be renamed the M6 and the “stiff peaked meringues” of the bus station canopy are set to be removed.

If there is one thing that people know about the beautiful fishing village of Mousehole it is that it is not pronounced as it looks. Consequently passengers board the bus and ask for Muzzel (something you put over a dog’s mouth), Mosul (a city in Iraq currently occupied by Islamic State), Moozle (if not already a character on Ceebeebies then he probably soon will be) and maybe even Muesli (something you have for breakfast).

For your convenience when stating your destination; Mousehole rhymes with the word ‘arousal’. A twenty minute trip, every twenty minutes is easily squeezed into the tightest itinerary…a journey on one of the ‘pink ladies’ is not to be missed!

Sadly the “stiff-peaked meringues” are no more as the bus station has been knocked down and is being rebuilt and the No 6 has now been rebranded as the M6 (which for a child of the North has a different meaning altogether).

 

 

No 6 (A summer bus journey to Mousehole)

 

In Penzance bus station all but the sky seems monochrome

On the floor, grey angles proliferate…dust hardens.

The off-white canopy of stiff-peaked meringues

Offers the only shade to the antsy passengers who

Ponder just how pushy or polite they need to be

As they crowd around the drowsy idling open top bus.

Herring gulls whiter than sugar-free mints

Mooch among the detritus of such copious days;

Their sepia chicks attached like long lost souls

Constant in their mewling…‘Are we there yet?’

 

Outside their rest room, hi-vizzed drivers vape

Exotic scents of Bourbon, Root Beer and Crème de Menthe.

One drinks tea from a chipped Portmeirion mug

And watches the buses leave the stands one by one

To reveal the runt of the litter…tiny and pink.

The Mousehole bus. Small and perfectly parked.

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Eager to be off, like a bubble emerging from the sea;

Climbing Market Jew Street, where to our right

The Terrace rises from threshold to rampart.

It is glorious summer in this seaside town

As locals and tourists squint in the discerning light.

Nervous legs, ill-at-ease at venturing out

For the first time, crave the safe refuge of

Trousers they fear they will never see again.

Box fresh holiday trainers bask in new found freedom

And pad the hard granite setts with a louche abandon.

Hawaiian-shirted men posture and vie with

Ladies in elegant thin-strapped floral dresses

For a piece of precious Penzance pavement.

A crumpled and stained XXL Cardin t-shirt

(Which would have Pierre pulling out his hair)

Fails to break Humphry Davy’s party mood

As he dons a seagull-shaped hat for the hundredth time today

And bears the sun beating down on his powdered face.

Behind him, the Italianate dome of the Market House

Heralds our entry into the Georgian quarter.

Built with money made from mining metal

Aspiring to be a copper Sherborne or a tin Bath;

Its very mansions polished and partitioned

Are mined for investment or financial whimsy.

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The bus now full as a shopping bag buzzes

Through the sun-dappled forest of Alverton;

A quarter mile of shade that brings us blinking out

Into The Princess Royal Estate, council as was.

Loved and lived in. No second homes here.

Mowers drone like worker bees either side of

The Ropewalk, where newly-tarred ropes

Were once laid out to be twined and dried.

Now it is the lawns that are drying out;

As pristine and sharply-cut as WI sandwiches.

 

Up and over the prospect of Lidden Hill;

Ladies and gentlemen, I present Mounts Bay,

A feature visible on any map of this isle

Where the open  arms of The Lizard to the south

And the Lands End peninsula to the west offer

An embrace that just might take your breath away.

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And then down between an honour guard of poppies,

Mercifully spared the council’s spray on the grounds

Of aesthetics, perhaps? A killer with a heart, maybe?

They stand erect like long lost traffic light lollipops

Far from the bygone jar they were once kept in.

Lichen dried orange by the searing heat, peppers

The baking roof tiles like a dusting of paprika.

White walls and palm trees pervade in soft focus

Like tired old shop-bought slides of The Lebanon;

More Hockneyed than hackneyed as swimming pool blue

The presumptuous sea comes forward to meet us

As full as an egg and brimming with sparkle.

Fuchsias bright with promise and hydrangeas,

(like those pink and blue liquorice allsorts, which

you either like or you don’t), frame Newlyn’s green.

Look, look to the right where the town’s houses

Stack up like a centenarian’s birthday cards

On a myriad of granite mantelshelves.

Turn your face left to the rebuilt promenade;

A victim of the sea’s great white bite

(The taste of land a temptation too far),

Now finds itself recovered and beloved by

‘Life-coached’ Lowry folk walking matchstalk dogs,

Their silhouettes blue-screened against the railing

Provide a musical score for this summer time.

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Into Newlyn town where the chip shop vinegar smell

Hits you to encourage salivation as you pass.

The Seaman’s Mission, now sold off, re-invented

As a place where salvation is no longer on the menu.

See the old fisherman who clings to the rail

And sways as if he was still back out there.

He trawls now for gossip or companionship

Comforted by the smell of fish, freshly slit,

Slabbed and sold on the cold marble.

The fish market, whose grey breeze-block frieze

Acts as a cold cataract on your eye until

Its removal allows you to see once more

As you rise with the slip like a child being

Hoisted and held over a sweet shop’s penny tray;

Your eyes keen to pick and choose from the vivid boats.

Below you, the old quay waits like the old man

Eager for new tales but left only with those

Of long ago, like that day back in 1620 when

The Mayflower made its last call on this land.

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On past the granite bastions of the old quarry which

Hold back a high unseen lake, metres from the sea.

Buddleias point perfumed fingers at the lovely ladies

Whose quest for fitness and good health still

Allows them to smile and palm the air as we pass

To where lovingly-tended flowers embrace the sadness

That lingers over the deserted lifeboat station.

Its inside remains as it was left in 1981

When the Solomon Browne’s bravest of the brave

Answered a shout but never called back themselves.

Adrift, St Clement’s Island made skeletal by the high tide

Resembles some waking kraken full of hideous intent

To plunder Mousehole’s harbour wall and coil

A tentacle or two around an unsuspecting tourist.

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Then down we go into the granite labyrinth;

Matched only by the driver’s practised chicanery.

A sharp judged left turn past a cannonball lodged

Amid the foundations of a cottage – a memento

Of the Spanish invasion of 1595.

Then a tight right onto the harbour where

The pushy tide reclaims the beach forcing

People to cats-cradle across the taut ropes

That seem to radiate from the harbour’s entrance;

Where wet-suited children leap and laugh like seals

And dayglo kayaks, pressed like plastic pilchards,

Rest against the shadowed wall of the tiny beach.

A black cat, nervy as a witch’s familiar flees the bus,

Which halts alongside the people-magnet railing

From which they hang like living lifebelts.

The bus bifurcates those reds of the dead and alive;

The perpetually-poppied cenotaph mirrored by

Those preserved boxes of living communication.

Yes, my chick, we are there now. Look, look…

A glance up ahead and there stands Dylan’s hill.

“Raginnis is good for you!” he said and was right.

It was the whisky that was the death of him.

 

The three-point return when it’s time to go;

Reverse hazard warnings break the reverie

(Their purpose when all is said and done)

Of those who gawp and squint in the sunshine.

The necessary exit on the wrong side of the road

As if the Spanish had never been repelled.

Skimming so close to the wall that we push

Doorway browsers into The Mousehole shop

Whether they want to or not (alas for no commission).

The resilient rose that endures forty lashes a day

From the exiting bus as punishment for daring

To encroach into that jigsaw-tight space

That only just allows the bus to leave.

Up and out and once more gazing at the flat blue

Which picks out the orange of a resting tanker

Or maybe the scalloping show of a pod of dolphins;*

A yellow trawler heading home, pinpointed by its wake.

The breath in me expelled, a large liberating bubble

That rises from the sea will then return like me

Because I am content to travel this road forever.

A grand tour in concentrate. Just add water.

 

This poem is to be enjoyed whilst travelling on the No 6 bus

If anything is missing, then blame a) chance b) the government or c) the fact that you are sat on the wrong side of the bus.

*If you want dolphins you may have to pay extra