When I phoned the Golden Lion in Padstow at the start of May, it sounded as though the World Cup final had already started and was being played in the bar.
“Sorry,” a voice on the other end of the line shouted above the din. “Can you phone back when we’re not as busy? And the credit card machine’s gone missing. It’s bedlam in here.”
It was nine o’clock in the morning – a little early for uncontrollable merriment, even in Cornwall. And then it struck me. It was 1 May – ’Obby ’Oss Day.
The ’Obby ’Oss, a large, decorated figure that leads the crowds through the streets of the town in Britain’s most famous May Day celebration, lives in the Golden Lion.
The other thing Padstow is famous for is the Rick Stein seafood empire. The TV chef has a number of outlets in the town, ranging from arm-and-a-leg expensive to almost affordable. I head for what might be termed the Rick Stein Chippy.
One thing it doesn’t have is a Uruguayan restaurant. A Montevideo Bar and Grill on the Quayside would have solved my World Cup viewing issues at a stroke.
I had been through several towns and cities where finding a screen would have been no problem. After England versus Italy in Ludlow, my itinerary took me through Hereford, which for me denotes the Mappa Mundi – no bus routes marked – and Ronnie Radford’s strike against Newcastle in the mud at Edgar Street, arguably the most famous FA Cup goal of all time. Not such uplifting times for the Bulls these days, with the club just kicked out of the Conference for not paying its bills.
From there, south-west through Gloucester (with a side trip to Cirencester, where the first pub proudly displayed a sign reading “No TV, No Football”), Bristol and Taunton – where I subsisted on cider but there was regrettably no cricket at that rare asset, a town-centre county ground.
Someone was playing at the County Ground. Unfortunately it was Rod Stewart.
After the delights of Barnstaple and Bideford, there was a mixture of locals and visitors making their way through the door in Padstow marked ’Obby ’Oss Stable.
“Suarez, you’re a toss-pot,” they shouted, along with the more tactical “Don’t give it to he!”
Like every bar in the world, there were two old blokes agreeing with each other that they wouldn’t have rolled around like that if they’d been shot by a sniper.
When Wayne Rooney equalised, however, one of them threw himself bodily at the screen – no small feat when it was on a bracket above the dartboard.
But don’t expect general pandemonium in Padstow, a place where international sport denotes surfing down the coast at Newquay and where the walls in the public bar that might hold pictures of footballers instead feature photos of a man dressed as a horse. As for this, it was pretty exciting, but not quite ’Obby ’Oss Day.
Dave Hadfield’s account of his journey, “Route 63: Around England on a Free Bus Pass”, will be published by Scratching Shed early in 2015. scratchingshedpublishing.com