Space School Cornwall Eclipse trip: Part 1

Link to: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four: Deconstructing 'C'est la vie' | Part Five: Our man from Japan | Part Six: A Rogue Train Traveller's Guide to the UK rail system

The background

I'll start from the very beginning. I first heard about this Cornwal Eclipse trip when I was checking out the Space School website, several months ago. I'd already been wanting to go and see the eclipse, maybe in France, but I didn't particularly want to go on my own.

Surely some of my well-educated, intelligent and informed friends would jump at the chance to witness the astronomical event of the century? I'll let you judge for yourself from some of their comments.

"Who cares? I'll just watch it on TV."

"Hey Adrian, here's what you can do. You could sit inside, turn off the lights, close the curtains, then you can have an eclipse any time you want."

Needless to say, I didn't press the point with my friends who are now evidently cultural philistines.

Okay, that's not completely true. Many of them probably wouldn't have been able to go anyway, and some went with their families. Still, some of them (you know who you are) mocked the millions going to see the eclipse. Fools, the lot of them.

The price for the eclipse seemed a little steep at £140 for a week, excluding food, but I'd been informed that there'd be several people my age going, so I figured, why not?

Only days before leaving for the eclipse on Saturday 7th of August, I was informed that the price had been slashed to £60. Much better. I thought.

Trains, the bane of my life

It's an undisputable fact, in my mind, that the British rail system is the worst in the entire world. No exceptions. It is terrible.

Now, I'll take you through my notes. The notes that I wrote directly down during the week will be in green (with a bit of padding), and everything else is just commentary.

At Liverpool Lime Street, there's a leaky roof. Lifts my spirits, that does. Even better is the fact that no-one seems to know what platform the train to Crewe is no, since all the TV departure thingies aren't working, and the Virgin Trains reps plead ignorance. Luckily, I get on fine, and the journey to Crewe is OK.

At this point, I wrote "Nice totty @ Crewe." I have no recollection of there being 'totty' of any kind at Crewe, much less what they looked like.

The train to St. Austell in Cornwall was nasty. All the seats were booked up. First, I sat in an eardrum-shattering seat in between carriages, but after an hour or so I was evicted, and had to nick someone's reserved seat (c.f. Guide to surviving on trains without a reservation). Every ten minutes in my nicked seat, I'd think 'Aha, that's an extra £10 I've saved off a taxi journey to St. Austell.'

Why is it that whenever it doesn't matter, people always think I've over 18? Take, for example, this conversation I had with someone on the train.

'So what do you do?'

'I'm a student.'

'What're you studying?'

'Um, nothing.' (you see, she thought I was in university)

My notes don't describe what happened next. I get to the campsite after a shockingly expensive <10 minute taxi ride for £8.00 (during which time the taxi driver, bless his soul, would regale me with stories of how much other taxi drivers would rip tourists off). No-one was there, apart from a Chinese woman I knew. I looked around the campsite, admiring the roughly 8m diameter 'swimming pool' that was filling with screaming kids. There was a trampoline, which was a redeeming feature.

Soon enough, John and Sally Hodges (the organisers), along with the Chinese delegation, their daughter Nettie and Richard (previous Space School-er from Milton Keynes) arrived in what would later be dubbed the 'A-Team van'. Also present was Tasha (another Space School-er), her boyfriend James and her mother Rachel.

Everyone except for the Chinese delegation piled out of the van. The Chinese people were more than happy with slowly being cooked to death inside it. There was talk of going to the local pub for dinner, at which my spirits lifted.

About an hour later, they promptly dropped. 'Local', you see, is a relative term. The 'local' galaxy, relative to the Milky Way, is Andromeda. France is a 'local' country, relative to England. This pub, 45 minutes walk away, was 'local' to the campsite. In a manner of speaking.

Not only was it 45 minutes walk away (something I'm only used to from cross-country 'runs'), but it also took complete disregard of the contours of the land, blithely going up and down the 'beautiful' undulating and hilly terrain of Cornwall.

As I wrote:

There was a nice 45 minute walk to the 'local' pub, during which I burned off most of the calories I consumed at the pub, and managed to squidge my Wispa Gold (which I never ended up eating). It was not a nice start to my first day in Cornwall.

However, at the time of writing (about 10 PM Saturday night) I have high hopes of things looking up, despite the fact that I was told we're going to a flower display and horse show in Tregony (a town nearby) - which was of course the exact thing I came down to Cornwall to see.

Apparently Takemoto (more about that later), the funny Japanese guy, and some girl called Frances are coming along. Things'll probably get more fun.

I also wrote a brief review of the book 'Cassini Division' by Ken Macleod (it'll be online soon), something I'd taken with me on the train to read. Typically, while I was listening to some music, the woman sitting next to me spilt her beer on the book. Great.

Hot press: 'Tak' has just arrived, clutching a foam box with sausages and chips, which he got for FREE! Shocking, especially in light of me walking for 45 minutes for essentially the same. All he did was knock on the door of the take-away at the campsite, say he'd just arrived, and got given the food for free. I'm going to try that tomorrow. (I wrote this bit just as Tak walked into the tent I was in)


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