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U3A Writing: The Cornish Smugglers

Mike Eastwood tells of a fabulous boyhood adventure while on holiday in Cornwall.

The sun shone down on the nearly deserted beach. The sea looked cool and dark and had white crests on the top of most of the waves. My mother and father were dozing in deckchairs with my little sister playing happily in the sand behind them and I was bored; totally and devastatingly bored. All my friends had gone to exotic places, like France, Spain and Turkey. Two of them had even gone on safari in Africa. And here was I, all alone in Cornwall, waiting for something to happen.

Eventually I noticed another boy of about my age wandering about kicking sand into piles and looking just as bored as I felt. I kicked my ball in his direction and soon we were playing quite happily and swapping stories of our respective families. His name was Paul and he was nearly a year older than me and had come with his parents for one week only, during the Summer holidays, just as we had.

After a while we got fed up with football and decided to go for a walk up the beach towards some rock pools around the base of the cliff on the corner of the bay. Paul had a shrimp net and a small bucket and said that he had caught all sorts of interesting things there on the previous day.

We were so interested in what we were doing that we failed to notice the tide coming in, and it seemed that we just escaped in time to avoid being caught. As we sat drying our feet and congratulating ourselves on our good fortune, Paul noticed a small boat heading in our direction. We pretended that the men in the boat were smugglers and hid behind the rocks to watch the small but sturdy craft approach the cliffs. It seemed to sail on and on until it was almost certain to founder on the sharp rocks, that only half an hour ago had provided so much fun for us both. As we watched and worried that the boat may wreck itself on the rocks, we noticed some large packing cases strapped on the deck of the boat. This confirmed our suspicions and it was now certain that we were watching some of the famous Cornish smugglers at work.

Suddenly the boat turned into a narrow inlet and seemed to sail straight into the cliff face, where it disappeared from view. What to do next? Should we tell the Police? Would they believe us? Should we try to follow the boat and see what was happening?

We decided to do both. Because I was the youngest I would go and fetch the police. Paul would follow the smugglers into the cave in the cliffs.

I raced back down the beach and told my Dad what had happened and insisted that we must tell the police immediately. He laughed and suggested that I had been out in the sun too much and should rest under the large umbrella until it was time to go back to the hotel. Despite all my arguments I could not persuade him.

As soon as he had dozed off again I jumped up and ran to tell Paulís Mum and Dad. They were of course more worried because their son was missing and might be in danger. Paulís father asked me to take him back to where we had left Paul and having explained things further to my Dad he agreed to come with us.

We clambered round the rocks and went into the dark cave set in the cliff side, getting thoroughly wet in the process as the tide was now fully up and most of the rocks were covered with water. Although it was very dark in the cave we could just see some steps at the back leading up to a trap door which had been propped open. We climbed the steps and peered through the trapdoor.

We emerged into the Crusty Crab restaurant and there, sitting at a table eating one of the largest ice cream sundaes you have ever seen, was Paul.

ďHello there,'' boomed a deep throaty voice. "You had better come in and get dry, I have been expecting you.''

A large jolly looking man with a long white apron tied round his waist helped us all out of the cave and into the restaurant. It appeared that he was Mr Jumbelow the restaurant owner and he had just been with his son to stock up with wine and food for the weekend when he found Paul stuck on the rocks inside the cave, not sure whether it was safer to go forwards or to return via the sea.

Mr. Jumbelow explained that it was quicker to collect his weekly order from Newquay in his sonís fishing boat than to risk getting stuck in the traffic on the roads. He said that we were both brave and clever to have taken the action we did. After all he might have been a smuggler.

My very dull holiday turned into an exciting one in the end and we met with Paul and his family every day after that. Our final outing together was to the Crusty Crab for a farewell meal, where I got a chance to have one the ice cream sundaes as a special treat from Mr. Jumbelow.

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