Sunday, 17 May 2015

What's Up Doc?


Most people know my daughter is an aspiring actress, so nobody was too surprised when we set off to Cornwall to do a bit of filming on Doc Martin.  Neither Eleanor nor I have ever been to Cornwall, so we were doubly excited to make the journey.
          ‘How long will it take?’ asked Eleanor as I programmed the sat-nav.
          ‘It says here…four hours and thirty minutes.’
          ‘Okay.’  Eleanor looked thoughtful as she leant back in her seat.  ‘So, allowing for fourteen million wee stops combined with your driving speed, we’re looking at…what?  Six hours?’
          ‘Probably.’
          In fact it took six-and-a-half hours.  We were distracted by bladders that refused to synchronise and mesmerising constantly shifting scenery.  It was so good to leave behind a town and soak up a landscape of greens and yellows.  Like a vast tablecloth, huge swathes of fields embroidered with miles of hedgerow were spread before us.  Flowering rapeseed swayed next to freshly tilled acres.  Herds of cows grazed in fields adjacent to sheep nursing tiny lambs.  Not a towering office block or electric pylon blotted the landscape.  Oh, tell a lie, there was the odd field full of wind turbines.  Can’t have it all I suppose.
          ‘Just look at all this.’ I took one hand off the steering wheel and gestured at God’s countryside.  ‘I can almost feel the energy coming off the land.’
          ‘I can certainly smell it,’ said Eleanor, nodding at a pig farm to our left.
          ‘Oooh, look at all those lovely fat piggies rootling around in the bare earth and wagging their curly tails.  How can anybody bear to eat animals?’  Sorry, but every now and again the vegetarian in me rears up.
          ‘They are cute,’ Eleanor admitted. ‘But they do taste rather scrumptious slapped between two slices of bread.’  Every now and again the carnivore in my daughter rears up.
          When we came across a sign saying Exeter 165 miles I began to fidget in anticipation.
          ‘We’ve broken the back of this journey,’ I declared.
          Watching the sign for Exeter slowly reduce every twenty minutes became a fixation.  Well there’s not much else to do when you’re staring endlessly at a road.  By the time we sped past Welcome to Cornwall, I was in my element.
          ‘What a place!’
          ‘Isn’t it pretty!’
          We were enthralled.  Not so thrilling, were the roads.  They went up hill and down dale and twisted like a writhing snake.  Incredulously all the roads seemed to be set at the National Speed Limit.  A glance in my rearview mirror revealed a stream of traffic unimpressed with me driving at fifty miles per hour.  It was at this point that the journey became something of a white-knuckle ride.  I dared to edge up to sixty miles per hour (I’m no Lewis Hamilton) and hunched over the wheel.  Eleanor gripped the sides of her seat.  Together we leant into bends and willed my car to do the same.  It didn’t.
          ‘Mum, I can’t take any more of this.  Slow down.’
          ‘You’re right,’ I said, zipping into a handy layby ahead.
          ‘What are you doing?’ asked Eleanor.
          ‘Letting this lot pass.’
          ‘And now what are you doing?’
          ‘Chasing the buggers,’ I declared, accelerating after them.  Oh yes.  If you can’t beat them, join them.
          ‘Are you sure about this?’
          As the speedometer reached seventy miles per hour and the car wallowed around yet another sharp bend, I had to admit defeat.
          ‘I can’t keep up with them.’
          ‘Thank the Lord for that,’ sighed Eleanor.
          ‘The drivers down here are lunatics,’ I declared.
          ‘OH MY GOD!’ Eleanor shrieked.
          ‘What is it?’ I gasped, anxiously scouring the road for mad Cornish drivers and wild animals (we’d already passed a small deer with all four feet up in the air).
          ‘I HAVEN’T PACKED MY EYEBROW PENCIL.’
          Before I go any further with this story, I’d just like to point out that Eleanor is seventeen.  Eyebrow pencils at this tender age are a matter of life and death.
          ‘Do you want to borrow mine?’
          ‘But you don’t possess an eyebrow pencil!’
          ‘Well, no, it’s an eyeliner crayon.  But can’t that double up?’
          ‘Of course not! No offence, Mum, but you and make-up are, well, a bit slap dash.  And I’m not.’
          Tell me about it.  My make-up routine is ten minutes max, whereas my daughter’s is, at best, half an hour on a ‘looking natural’ day.  After all, this is a young woman who follows Zoella, the holy grail of make-up blogs, and never misses a new product being demonstrated.
          ‘I must buy an eyebrow pencil before tomorrow morning,’ said Eleanor.
          ‘Okay.’
          We were heading towards Port Isaac now, rocking along country lanes no wider than the car, surrounded by umpteen mooing cows, hundreds of bleating sheep and a very occasional outbuilding.  As the sat-nav led us into the grounds of our remote hotel, we both gasped with delight.  Fields continued to gently fold out either side of us but, straight ahead was a turquoise sea.  It curled around the coastline glittering with a million diamonds under the early evening sun.
          Eleanor was the first to recover from this glorious spectacle.  ‘Do you think there’s a Boots around here?’
          I would have blinked at her in surprise, but by this point I’d been staring at the road for so long and hard, my eyes had lost the ability to do anything other than remain wide open.
          We took our suitcases and trudged into the hotel.  And what a hotel!  Old elegance mixed with lashings of contemporary modernisation.  Dinner was superb.  We ate in the conservatory overlooking the same twinkling sea.  A low sun hovered on the horizon displaying colours of burnt orange and streaks of peach melba.
          Our bedroom was in a huge attic room with a picture window framing the coastline.  From this viewpoint we could also see the farm where the Doc Martin production team kicked off every morning.
          Suffice to say the filming was very interesting and the people absolutely lovely, including Martin Clunes who (not being a telly watcher) I could only remember from Men Behaving Badly.  What a lovely, lovely guy.  So patient and obliging, letting anybody and everybody be photographed with him.
          Two days later we had to drive to pretty Falmouth where Eleanor did a day’s filming with a German crew.  Oh how different they were from the Brits.  Aloof, unfriendly and egos the size of a house.  At least the scenery was lovely to make up for it.  The filming took place by the harbour with hundreds of boats bobbing in the background of the camera lens.  And action! A sixty-year-old woman with three facelifts and playing the part of a thirty-year-old berated her thirty-year-old lover for cheating on her with an older woman.  Cue older woman, who was all of twenty-five, rushing over to thirty-year-old lover and doing the sort of cheesy clinch that was all too reminiscent of Dallas.
          ‘And cut,’ said the director.  Or words to that effect.  They were German after all.  Whereupon the leading man and his ‘lover’ continued to snog.  Ooh-er.  Chemistry or what.
          I felt sad to leave Cornwall.  I’d talked to so many people – holidaymakers, film crew, actors, extras – and patted and cuddled so many dogs too, that departure was comparable to saying good-bye to a huge group of extended family.  It’s a magical place.  Go there and see for yourself.  Which reminds me.
          What is the Cornish seaside’s favourite brand of laundry detergent?  Tide… 

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