Friday, April 18, 2008


Famished, dehydrated and fatigued after my walk (see previous post), I registered little of the double-decker bus ride back from Land’s End to Penzance. I collapsed onto a seat on the upper deck and sat there drinking from a bottle of water I’d bought while waiting for the bus.

The names of two little towns we passed through remain in my mind: Newlyn and Mousehole (charmingly pronounced “Mouz’l”). In one of these, the streets were so narrow I could have reached out and touched buildings as the bus crept along. But that’s all I remember. Back at my B&B, I took a long, hot bath, ate an early supper at the nearest pub, and fell into bed.

The next day, Sunday, I spent a few hours exploring Penzance before catching the train back to London. I’d made the decision to spend the weekend in Cornwall almost overnight so I hadn’t had time to educate myself about what there was to see in the area. My minuscule budget argued against buying a guidebook for a town I would be leaving that afternoon, so I just wandered, absorbing the sights.

To my surprise, those sights included subtropical flora, including many palm trees. I learned later that the presence of this unusual vegetation is due to the town’s location on a peninsula where it basks in a flow of air warmed by the Gulf Stream. Ignorant of this at the time, I found the sight of parks and gardens full of lush, vivid flowers and palm trees quite mind-bending. Was I in the British Isles or the West Indies?

But my mind was already bent anyway. Just before leaving London for my Cornwall adventure, I’d had a call from a film director who wanted to talk with me about the same script I was already at work on with the other director and his producers. And, oh, music to my naive ears, she said wanted to keep my story just as it was. We’d made a date to meet on Monday. My agent had told me that since there was no contract with the first group yet, and no option money paid, I was morally and legally free to make such a move; in fact she encouraged me to do so.

My mind was awash in hard choices. Stay with the people I’d been working with, who’d excited my imagination by mentioning some wonderful actors they hoped to cast? Change horses and go with the second director who seemed to want to remain true to the story as I’d originally envisioned it? Which was more likely to result in the longed-for “green light” and seeing my idea turned into a movie?

Even knowing what I do now about the movie business, I still don’t know if I made the right choice; I transferred my script and all my hopes to the new director. The script never did get made into a movie, though I earned enough in option money to keep going for a while.

In any case, I can’t help feeling the decision was colored by my experience of walking along those Cornwall cliffs. My life, my future, was in my own hands. Why not take a chance, take the road that looked more promising. In fact, I’d been taking chances since writing the first line of my first screenplay almost exactly two years before this trip. So my solitary walk on Saturday was actually as much an affirmation as it was inspirational.

As a result of all this brain work on top of my exhilaration from the day before, I was ravenous by lunchtime. It was another fine, warm day so I found a fish and chips “take away” shop and took my lunch to a wooden bench on the long promenade that skirted the harbor. There were very few people around, despite the glorious weather, and I thought it would be a peaceful place to eat, watch seagulls, and gaze at the sea.

As I sat there gobbling my food, I heard the unmistakable sound of someone tapping a microphone, checking to see if it was live. Then someone introduced the Mayor of Penzance, who in turn introduced the Cober Valley Accordion Band.

Now that I was paying attention, I saw the band assembled on folding chairs about fifty feet away. They opened their program with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Happily, they were just far enough away that it wasn’t unpleasantly loud, so instead of relocating I gave up on the idea of a tranquil lunch and accepted the novelty of it all.

Suddenly I was joined on the bench by large, late middle-aged woman I hadn’t seen coming. She was armed with an enormous sausage wrapped in paper, and a cardboard container overflowing with chips. She didn’t say a word; didn’t even give me a glance. She lowered herself heavily onto the bench and began to eat.

A little later, while the band played “I’m Tired and I Want to Go Home,” my bench mate, having finished her sausage and chips, dug around in her capacious purse and took out a banana which she ate slowly and thoughtfully, pausing between bites to hum “Amazing Grace.”

Then a pair of teenagers on roller blades appeared, skating in slow circles on the promenade between my bench and the accordionists. They held hands, every now and then drawing together to embrace and kiss with hormone–charged abandon; as if they were alone on the planet. At this, the sausage lady heaved herself to her feet and wandered off somewhere, leaving me alone with the gulls, the circling kids, and the sea.

It amuses me now (with a dry chuckle) to note how this series of odd events on the promenade of this pretty Cornish town, each more unexpected than the last, foretokened much of what lay ahead for me in connection with my foray into the movie biz, where nothing is quite what it appears to be.

My train trip back to London later that afternoon was uneventful.

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