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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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