Photo by Darren Welsh on Unsplash
It was a beautiful Spring day. The last of the golden daffodils danced along hedgerows in the warming air. Primroses burst in yellow and green clumps, forcing attention upon themselves like debutantes at a ball. Little fluffy clouds in small groups of little puffs wandered across the blue. Chaffinches cleared their throats. Robins puffed out their red breasts to patrol their boundaries while great tits, long tailed tits and blue tits skipped around the branches of hazel, blackthorn and holly searching for insectivorous titbits. A kestrel hovered, and then ripped the heart out of a collared dove. All things were bright and beautiful for all creatures great and small. Except for the dove, for whom the day had suddenly taken a turn for the worse.
In the main street of the little Cornish village, the cafes were humming, the butchers’ shop was bustling and the greengrocer’s produce was paraded in front of the shop providing a rainbow of colours shining in the light. The red peppers, stacked next to the oranges, next to the yellow bananas, the green beans, the blue grapes and the violet aubergines. Wafts of coffee and fresh bread meandered downwind to tempt. Not one shop was empty. Not one store front was boarded up. The hardware store was owned and run by Mr. Williams who still wore a brown dust coat and sold nails in any number you’d like, wrapped in little paper bags. Mr Richards still mended shoes and a tapping of nail into sole could be heard as you passed his door. Mrs Thomas, the Florist, sold roses of gold medal winning quality at the County show.
All of this prosperity and richness of small business abundance would continue to be possible because a small band of Cornish Nationalists had decided to support local Cornish businesses, who they thought would face difficult economic times when faced with the coming of corporate retail giants. They did this mainly by first protesting against ‘progress’ outside County Hall, and when that failed to stop it being built, by setting fire to the out of town shopping mall. As the embers were still glowing, they had stolen a double decker bus from Camborne bus station, then packed it full of petrol and guided it remotely (using an app they found on YouTube) into the burning rubble just to make sure. They planned this as a night attack so as not to kill the locals, but they forgot about the pet shop on the third floor. Roger the rabbit had a terrible fright, but not for too long as his brain was quickly ejected from what remained of his protective skull in a microsecond of flash burning hell. It was tragic for Roger of course, and ruined the surprise birthday party for little six year old Rupert who just loved bunnies and had pestered his mum for one all year.
Mr Williams, although appreciating ‘An Gof’s’ effort, thought it was a little over the top. He’d suggested a stern letter to the Editor of the West Briton, which he thought in his humble and peace loving, bunny friendly, manner, would have done.
So, with a glad heart and plenty of local shops to visit, Denzil Penberthy ambled down the street singing a little song to the tune of Going Up Camborne Hill:
“I’m off to the pub called The Crown,
I’m off to the pub called The Crown,
My missus took queer,
So I’m off for a beer,
And I’ll drink till me trousers fall down.”
Life was certainly good, everything in the world was right, barring the smell of charred shopping mall when the breeze was in a certain direction.
The Landlord of The Crown Inn, Stan Fuggles, was just opening the pub’s old smoke stained blackened oak door when Denzil appeared, like magic, out of nowhere.
“I’ll be with you drekly, Denzil, after I’ve wiped these last few tables”.
Denzil took his usual stool and perused the Pub’s offerings of ales.
“Right on then, Denzil?”
From left to right there was first a Pale Ale called ‘Fool’s Gold’. “Fool’s piss more like”, thought Denzil. The risqué label on the pump featured a Joker holding a gold bar shaped like a penis. Then another IPA called ‘Indian Mutiny’. The label featured the temple at Amritsar but happily before British troops stormed it massacring the rebellious incumbents. “Bit insensitive I would have thought”. The ubiquitous pump of Guinness then stood guard. “There’s more Irish authenticity in O’Malley’s in Penzance, and more Irish taste in Paddy’s post rugby jockstrap than in a gallon of that excuse for a stout”. The lager ‘pump’ was not even worth a glance. Three taps on one stem covered in ice with names redolent of cold European tourist spots. There was ‘Ersatz Pils’, ‘Schadenfreude’ and ‘Magensäure’ which had a strange very feint green tinge to it. “Ah, now thats more like it” Denzil spied the proper cask ales. The first was a local brew, a 6.6% called ‘Lanyon Quoit’ so called because after two pints you’d feel like a granite capstone had fallen on your head. Then a Yorkshire brew called ‘Ecky-Thump’, which when poured was as flat as a ‘witch’s tit’ and as dark as a bat’s armpit. Its name harked back to simpler times when disputes were settled not by paying expensive lawyers to air dirty laundry in the public courts, but by a duel involving the wielding of a blood and guts filled intestine to beat the unholy shit out of one’s enemy. This was followed by the roasting of said intestines, haggis, neeps and tatties style, and the drinking of enough ale to sink the old North Sea Fleet at Scapa Flow. Finally Denzils’ eye rested upon the porter. As black as sin, as black as treacle, spicy, chocolaty and dominated by a distinctive dark malt or roasted grain flavour, and just as it slips down it delivers a slight sweetness. This was another local brew, called ‘Zawn Dhu’. If you drank enough of it indeed you would feel like you have slipped over into the deep steep sided sea inlet on the Penwith cliffs it is named after.
“A small sherry please, Stan”.
“Gisson, a pint of Zawn please, Stan”. As he took his first sip he could hear kittiwake, gull and pippet, he could smell the salt air of an Atlantic breeze and glimpse the dancing heads of the sea pinks at the cliff edge of the Zawn.
“Tha’ss some pint, mind”.
He sat at the bar thinking about. Nothing. Just watching the dust settle in the sunbeams coming through the window. Twenty minutes passed in just about total silence. Until Stan interrupted private reveries.
“Wasson today then Denzil? Busy are ‘ee?”
“Well, ‘ere’s the thing. I was goyn get a new ‘amster for me grandaughter, but I hear the pet shop’s closed.”
“So, as I have an hour to spare, I think, I’ll ‘ave another”.
It was going up to lunch time, the clock behind the bar was ticking inexorably, slowly, towards its inevitable reckoning of hours, minutes and seconds. With each tick, Denzil’s innards began to growl a little. The Crown served pork scratchings, made from fresh pig (dead by now), assorted peanuts and those fancy crisps cut and cooked by some poncy artisan baker in a barn high on Bodmin Moor. He flavours them not with ‘cheese and onion’ but with Kern and Shallots, or Chilli and Chipotle or with ‘Jamón Ibérico’. They don’t break easily with a pleasing snap, like a proper old fashioned crisp, as they are thick cut and sometimes waffled in shape. The salt on them is shipped in from the Dead Sea. It used to be enough to name a packet of crisps after the maker, such as Mr Smith or Mr Walker. But, poncy artisan baker was called Tarquin de Dunstantville Smacksbollocks and so paid for a marketing consultant to ‘brand’ the crisps as an aspirational lifestyle product no doubt with the hipsters in Shoreditch in mind as his ideal customer, you know the type: all beards, braces and pretension.
Denzil considered buying a packet of ‘Pomme de Coupe Froissée’ as the brand was agreed to be called. A more stupid way to burn £5,000 could not be found this side of the Tamar. Tarquin and his ‘brand consultant’ had come up with name after a heavy session on the Margeaux in a fancy French restaurant in London’s Soho. It seemed rather de rigueur at the time, but the pair of poncy twats forgot that the crisps would have to sold in places like the Swordfish in Newlyn where fisherman fought and the ale flowed more quickly than the bilge pumps of the nearby trawlers, or the Oxford Bar in Redruth whose clientele competed for the title ‘Tattooed Toothless Wonder’ and Wetherspoons (anywhere). Denzil thought of either ‘L’escargot de Bodmin’ or ‘Andouillette Anglais’ flavour, but then thought he’d rather cut his tongue out and flash fry it with garlic, onions and dash of Jerez.
The Crown did not serve food at lunchtime. However, Stan always had pasties.
Always. You could be sure of it. As the sun rises, as a politician lies, as the next door cat dumps on your roses, there would be pasties. The absence of a pasty in The Crown was as unthinkable as being caught knuckle deep picking your nose when being introduced to the Queen.
But today was different. You see, in their haste to liberate Cornwall and to support the local village economy, Boy Trevaskis and Daft Jago, the Cornish Nationalists, had not really thought things through. Daft Jago (“Call me An Gof”) was so called because he was…well, daft. Boy Trevaskis was not much brighter, but he did know how to find an ‘app’ and knew his way around a double decker bus, barrels of petrol and a lighted match. They both shared one functioning brain cell as well as a hatred for “incomers buildin’ bleddy gert shops”. What they had failed to take into consideration when engaged in arson and fitting out a bus as a petrol bomb, was that their intended target not only housed a pet shop (RIP Roger) but also the best pasty shop for miles around. It was run by an excellent pasty maker, called ‘Fatty Bosanko’ due to him being stick thin. Bosanko’s pasties were world famous, having been taken by great grandfather Billy Bosanko to the mining areas of Mexico, and his brother Bertie Bosanko to South Australia. Ironically both were fat bastards because they actually ate the pasties they cooked. They were never called ‘Fat Billy’ or ‘Fat Bertie’, well not to their faces. The current Fatty Bosanko was blessed with a metabolism so fast that he could eat a pasty, drink a cup of sugary tea and still be wanting “cakey tea bit drekly”.
The smell of a Bosanko pasty straight out of the oven, would crush the will of any weight watcher three weeks into their diet of cabbage water and mung bean salad, resulting in not only putting the weight back on in an instant but to break forever the willpower to ever go on a diet ever again. The pastry, steak and potato infused steam would waft itself up out of the kitchen and towards an open window whereupon the molecules would scatter to the four winds looking for the noses of hungry builders, van drivers, scaffolders and Gerald the lace maker on the high street. The call of the pasty was irresistible. Temptation was easy, and the giving in was universal to the hot gravy bound parcel of unbounded short crust comfort. The crimping was a work of art resembling the cables of a fisherman’s cable knit sweater. It took 5 years of practice before ‘Fatty Bosanko’ would let an apprentice crimper carry out the work on their own without oversight and quality control. One of the best was ‘Fast Alice’ whose fingers were so nimble and quick she could crimp a ‘large traditional’ before you could say ‘Kernow Kensa’. Her fingers were so quick, nimble and strong in grip that ‘Fatty Bosanko’ used to let her have access to his own ‘large traditional’ behind the potato sacks in the storeroom.
The business had been going for decades, making one wise decision after another to get to the point where the family were prosperous and their pasties often winners of World Pasty Championships. They rarely had put a foot wrong. Except for the day they decided to move the shop to the brand new unit in the shopping mall out of town. Ironically, Daft Jago was one of their most loyal customers.
“Pasty, Stan, I’m bleddy starvin’. Not only could I eat an ‘orse, I could clear out the stable, start on the donkeys and finish off a mule washed down with a decent Muscadet”.
“Well, tiz like this, Denzil”.
The slight hesitation on Stan’s voice started a teeny tiny alarm somewhere deep in Denzil’s limbic system, except he did not know what that was, so instead he felt a slight queasiness in his already famished and acid gurgling stomach.
“ You know Daft Jago and Boy Trevaskis?”
“What they two tusses? The two man idiot squad on a perpetual search for a functioning brain cell, wot ‘ovvun?”.
“Well, word is…they’ve only gone an’ burned down Bosanko’s”
This was not the whole truth of course, but for a Cornishman it was the only relevant piece of information. The fact that other retail stores also suffered the same fate, causing massive unemployment and huge insurance claims, not to mention at least one dead rabbit in the pet shop.
“There’s ‘ell up. I’ve got no pasty delivery this morning”.
For Denzil, it was no longer a beautiful spring day. The birds stopped singing, the primroses curled up, a black shower cloud hovered, the kestrel felt a rain drop on its head.
‘I’ve got no pasty delivery this morning’ Stan had said…but Denzil had not got past ‘no pasty’.
The news of the death of Nelson was treated with less gloom. Denzil had never heard such tragic information about the state of the world. He merely shrugged at 9/11… “probably trainee pilots”, the Great Financial Crash of 2008, “eh, wassat ?”, or the great flu pandemic of 2020 which left half the country dead and the other half in shock, according to The Sun. The Express reported it as ‘Princess Diana Escapes Coronavirus!’. The Daily Mail had shouted “Migrant flu kills thousands of Loyal Brits!’.
Denzil’s first reaction was Denial.
“Gisson…no. Ken’t be true. Bosanko’s have been making pasties for years,. Tiz only a rumour surely. I’m sure the van is just late for a flat tyre or something”.
“Tiz true..have you not smelt the burning smell of ‘amster and pasty meat?”
“What! They bleddy buggers…what a stupid pair of tusses, if get hold of them I’ll bite their heads off and shit down their necks…how could they!!”
“Oh, ‘ell what am I goyn do know, thass awful…I can’t bear the thought…thass ruined everything. I might as well sit here and die.”
“Tell, ‘ee what, if could go back in time I could stop they bastards. If God in his wisdom bestows ‘pon me good grace and favour, I’ll ensure Bosanko’s is up and running in no time”.
There was no Acceptance however.
There never can be at the loss of an excellent pasty shop. Something has been lost from the universe, something so precious that it can never ever be replaced. Gravity shifts, there is a tear in the spacetime continuum; economic, social and political stability has been irrevocably shaken; the world is a different sadder less noble place; the affairs of mice and men are forever undermined. God has gone AWOL.
So now, it was suddenly a dreadful winter’s morning. The hedgerows were bare in the cold air. A few brambles scathed together in clumps, forcing a warning to the unwary like Neo-Nazi skinheads at a racist rally. Dark, looming, foreboding clouds lay like a blanket across the firmament. Chaffinches huddled in holes. Robins sat quite still braving themselves. Great tits, long tailed tits and blue tits scratched around in the branches of hazel, blackthorn and holly searching for non existent insectivorous titbits. A kestrel still hovered, and then ripped the heart out of another collared dove. All things were dark and ugly for all creatures great and small. So, the dove had misery for company.
‘I have of late—but wherefore I know not—lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises, and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air—look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire—why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors’. (Hamlet A2 S2)
That’s what happens when you can’t get a decent pasty.