Monthly musings of the naughtily nice kind

Excuse me if I lie on the sofa shaking for half an hour: I’ve just driven back from Cornwall. I know loads of people whizz up and down the M5 all the time bringing us fish and pixies and taking back Stinking Bishop and Tewkesbury Mustard, and they regard motorway travel as a breeze, singing Cornish anthems and knocking back crab sandwiches, but to me it’s a terrifying ordeal, a bit like the most bloodthirsty battles in Lord of the Rings.

Why must I go to Cornwall, anyway? Well, there’s one thing missing from the Cotswolds, and it’s massive and blue. No, not the Cookie Monster. How adorable Stroud would be with fishing boats bobbing along a harbour. And Cirencester is crying out for gaming arcades and shops selling kiss-me-quick hats.

Yes, Cornwall beckons with its with its crashing surf, crouching trees and strange names: Indian Queens, Goonhavern, Feock. My favourite is Ventongimps. It’s like a character from Dickens. ‘Mr Ventongimps unfurled his umbrella, clipped the ear of a passing urchin, and set forth along the Strand.’

The 200-mile journey home is the price you have to pay. First, we climbed the deep, steep Cornish lanes, almost tunnel-like with their overhanging branches, and barely three feet wide. I half expected to emerge in a magic land where spriggans dance in rings. But instead I burst out onto the A390.

And now a torrential rainstorm exploded overhead. I turned the windscreen wipers to that manic thrashing maximum which always makes my heart lurch in tune. Huge lorries loomed up in my rear-view mirror, like some frightful army of monsters intent of devouring us whole.

I have to admit I’m the sort of little old lady who likes to drive at 15 mph down quiet country roads, and when I see a 30mph sign I think, ‘Oh, dearie me! However, am I going to manage to get up to thirty?’ I am all too aware, when driving on dual carriageways at terrifying speed in the rain, that one false move could be fatal. After ten minutes I was revving up for a panic attack. When this happens, I feel the top of my head has flown off and been replaced with candy floss and spiders.

‘Maybe you’re short of protein,’ suggested my daughter as another huge lorry thundered past, shaking every tooth in my head. I realised that, indeed, 16 hours had passed since a delicious plate of fish and chips in St Mawes. We pulled into a service station (and how I longed to spend the rest of my life there) and I administered a tuna and sweetcorn sandwich.

It was like Popeye with spinach. Almost immediately the top of my head was magically restored. I remembered Henry V’s speech at Agincourt. I remembered Elizabeth I’s speech at Tilbury. I was ready to do battle with the Juggernauts. I would Boldly Go. We rejoined the A30, eventually merged with the M5, and made it back to our land of golden walls and Range Rovers.

It’s the feeling, on these big fast terrifying roads, of being trapped. You can’t just pull over. Give me a road where friendly old people are selling strawberries on the verge. Give me a dusty road where boys in breeches are bowling hoops while birds sing nearby. Or, even better, give me a path only accessible by donkeys, where I could pick primroses as I ambled along, and take four days to get there, not four hours. And, above all, give me a massive cheese sandwich before I set off.

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