It was 1982; I was 18 years old and heading to Cornwall for my first holiday with Martin; my then boyfriend. I had romantic notions of sunshine and beaches and long days punctuated with ice cream and beer.
Having packed all our gear there was just enough room for me on the back of the bike (a much-loved Yamaha SR500) so I squeezed on between Martin and panniers and top box and tent and we set off. And as we did, the rain began.
Now I learned an important thing about Martin on this trip: I learned that, for him a journey is simply a means to an end. It is not to be prolonged, stretched out or enjoyed and tea breaks are to be avoided at all costs. For him, riding the bike is pleasure enough. For me, to be cold and wet and hungry with restricted movement for 7 hours does not quite make it into the “pleasure” category. We did stop once for fuel and I managed to relieve the misery briefly by learning how to eat Quavers through a full face helmet at 70 mph.
By the time we arrived at the campsite, and despite the fact that I was dressed head to toe in Leather and Gortex, I was so wet that water was running out of the top of my boots. Before I could even think of getting warm and dry we had a tent to put up.
I am normally a cheerful, positive sort of person but by this stage I hated Martin, I hated bikes and I hated Cornwall. This relationship was clearly doomed.
We put up the tent and I have to admit I was grateful for Martin’s earlier membership of the Scouts and by the time the last peg went in a weak and watery sun was trying to break through the clouds. My brave boyfriend suggested a walk into the village: I sulked all the way but twenty minutes later we found ourselves at Trevaunance Cove peering in through the steamy windows of The Frying Dutchman and drooling over the incredible aromas.
We both ordered Smugglers’ Pancakes, fat, crispy pancakes topped with cheese, tomato and paprika. We ordered them with chips to which we got the incredulous response “With chips? Are you sure? … You haven’t been here before have you?” They were, of course, right – these were very filling pancakes; but it had been a long day and we were incredibly hungry…
I can still remember the spicy softness of those pancakes and how, with every mouthful I was a little warmer, a little dryer and a little happier. And they truly transformed my life turning hatred into love – without them, who knows what would have happened because 30 years later I live in Cornwall – within walking distance, in fact, of Trevaunance Cove.
As for Martin – we have now been married for over 27 years and yes we still have a motorbike but we also have a car for rainy days and we have sorted out that little problem about stopping so tea breaks are now a feature of every journey.
The only casualty of this encounter is The Frying Dutchman which, sadly, no longer exists.
I have included here a recipe for Smugglers’ Pancakes – it’s my own version and it changes every year so it is hopelessly lacking in authenticity. In 1982 I was a vegetarian but now I’m not so I have added bacon to the mix. Sometimes I add onion and garlic and I have tried chorizo instead of bacon – or brie instead of cheddar but they will always be called Smugglers’ Pancakes in our house in tribute to the beginning of my love affair with Cornwall.