Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Nightflight To Venus. Penmere, actually.

Hmmm! An electric conversation going on there! What's the story? (It's not one of my pictures, by the way)

But first, a pub-quiz question. Which very popular late 1970s pop group had a big hit with a song that begins with a chorus of

Sex! Sex! Sex! Sex!
Sex! Sex! Sex! Sex!

Is it a poser? Or are you so knowledgeable that you can blurt forth the answer without thinking? OK, a quick gratification. It was the opening to Rasputin, the 1978 hit by Boney M. It got to number 2 in the UK charts, number 1 in Australia. A lively number, and no mistake, featuring a balalaika riff, a potted history of what the Mad Monk did, what the besotted 'Moscow chicks' thought of him, and how he met his end at the hands of desperate noblemen who thought he had bewitched the Tsar and his family, and was ruining the country.

As you may know, Rasputin was very hard to kill, the suggestion being that he was in league with the Arch Fiend himself. But I think he was just full of life, and the indomitable will to live. And such a fiery will to survive surely had its foundations in the robust physicality of the man. Those 'Moscow chicks' in the song must have thrilled to his sensual vitality, and swooned to his touch.

I sound like an admirer, but his brutality would have put me off. Not every woman wants a bit of rough, and he was super-rough. And I dare say he smelled. Whether I would have been able to withstand those hypnotic eyes of his is another matter, of course.

Back to that picture on a train above. Here it is again:

It's the everyday work of an advertising firm, using four hired actors, arranged just so in the picture, with suitable expressions on their faces. But somehow it strikes me as having something extra about it. Possibly something unintended.

The two foreground characters, the woman and the man, seem to be enjoying rather more than a mere casual chat of the kind strangers fall into - indeed the kind that I have had myself from time to time, when on a train. This is the real thing. They have established a connection. They are seriously interested in each other. And getting on jolly well. So much so, that two other girls nearby are watching them avidly, to see what develops. I say 'watching them' but actually their eyes are on him; and it appears that they are fascinated by him just as much as the girl in the foreground.

And yet there's nothing remarkable about his appearance. He looks fiftyish, and seems to shop at Debenhams. But the ad is clearly suggesting that despite his greying hair and brown jacket, he has sex appeal in spades. I think the ad is suggesting more: that the most ordinary of us acquire a certain mystique on a train. We become alluring strangers that other passengers will speculate about, and want to talk to. And if the initiative is taken, by accident or design, well, look what can happen! Strangers can find themselves having a delicious conversation! And it might lead to love. Or, if not love itself - and a marriage proposal - then at least an irrepressible urge to get off at the next stop and have sex without delay. With fellow-passengers included.

And am I being all that fanciful? Look again at their eyes, and their expressions. He's scored. He knows he has. And they want him to do something about it.

And, since this is a railway-platform poster, it's a cunning enticement to buy a ticket and enjoy some adventure. Targeting people like that chap. But really anybody with spare time and a frustrated libido. What are you waiting for, the poster says!

Here it is, in all its glory:

I saw this when at Penmere station, one of the three Falmouth stations on what is now marketed as the Maritime Line. The line runs between Falmouth Docks and Truro, and enjoys a frequent service. I'd say that £4.40 for a cheap day return to nearby Truro is no great bargain, but £10.40 to go all the way to Plymouth (a big city to be sure, and definitely a good place for brand-new lovers wanting an an intimate lunch) is more like it. And Senior Railcard holders like myself would get a third off those prices! Wow! Better make sure I've cleaned my teeth, and my underwear looks great for that kit-off moment that's bound to come.

At this point I have to confess that the post hasn't so far achieved what I wanted, which was to link the good time being enjoyed by Debenhams Man on the train with Rasputin's magnetic allure and licentious ways. But that now seems a bit far-fetched and over the top, and the wrong thing to attempt.

Still, in a vague sort of way, I think there is a point to be made. The ad does seem to be encouraging people to regard a train journey from Penmere to Truro - or Plymouth - or indeed anywhere else on First Great Western's system, such as Bodmin Parkway, or Exeter St David's, or Severn Tunnel Junction - as a Sexual Odyssey they must not miss.

Was that intended? Well, yes or no, the poster caught my eye, and that was the message I drew from it. And if I hadn't, you wouldn't have had this post. So QED.

Let's now go off on another tangent.

I mentioned that Falmouth had three stations. It's one of Cornwall's largest towns. All the stations are different, and all cater for a different type of townie. Falmouth Docks, the terminus, is the station for those dwelling in the yachty marina flats and apartments. Falmouth Town is for town centre residents, of the better-off sort. Penmere (where this aspirational poster was) is for another kind of resident, with pockets slightly less deep. Further up the line towards Truro is Penryn, which is used by a lot of students living on the nearby University campus. Then there's Perranwell, which is a longish step away from the village of that name, and used only by piskies.

For most of the day, and on into the evening, there's a half-hourly train service on the Maritime Line. That's as good as the distinctly more suburban-feeling line between Exeter St David's and Exmouth. And almost as good as you'd expect in Sussex - between Lewes and Seaford for example. But this is Cornwall! Train services didn't used to be so frequent. I can only suppose it's a symptom of modern life: there are more people around, and everyone needs to make more journeys, and that justifies better railway services.

It also justifies improving station facilities. And the beautifying of run-down halts covered in weeds and litter, which is what Penmere was at one time. But a local volunteer group took it in hand, and have turned this little station into an absolute gem. It's gorgeously well-planted in a semi-tropical way, and a lovely place to wait for a train. Look at these pictures:

When it was just a run-down wayside halt, the station was called Penmere Platform. The volunteers have unashamedly pressed the nostalgia button, and recreated the old Great Western Railway brown-and-cream signage.

The modern facilities don't go too well with the traditional ones, but it's nice to have them there.

Considering that all that vegetation must grow at a rate of knots in the mild but damp Cornish weather, the volunteer group do very well to keep it all fairly immaculate. They have information boards up, to explain their formation, their subsequent achievements, and their accolades:

And while there I had a photographic bonus! A train came along!

It was slightly embarrassing. The driver thought I wanted to get on the train, and of course I was merely checking out the station, and shooting some pix, before driving off in Fiona. I got the impression that he wrote me off as a mad foreign tourist who had somehow wandered too far from her coach. Hey ho; it's the way I speak, and my funny hard-to-pin-down accent.

Perhaps I ought to have got on board for the hell of it, and travelled onwards to Falmouth Town, and beyond that, to Falmouth Docks. It really wouldn't have been all that far to walk back and collect Fiona. Look at this map:

Who knows, I might have got into amazing conversation with a seductive stranger!

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