Charlestown Boogie

Shell Pensioners Association Devon and Cornwall Branch – 2014 Spring Lunch

This was my first SPA event. Although I became an SPA member in 2010, I hadn’t been to a regional association lunch before. It hadn’t seemed worth joining the West Surrey branch, where I was living when I retired, since our plans were to move to Cornwall almost immediately. “Almost immediately” turned out to be three years … [coughs in embarrassment].

Anyway, having finally moved, I joined the Devon and Cornwall branch and accepted the invitation for my wife Diana and I to attend the Spring Lunch. Thus it was that on a rainy Tuesday morning, 20th May, we set out for the Pier House Hotel in Charlestown, near St Austell on the south coast of Cornwall.

We parked some way short of the Pier House, in the bumpiest cobbled car park I have ever seen, or felt, and walked down to it alongside the harbour which nowadays is home to two or three tall ships; disappointingly on this particular day they were all out at sea, earning a living, no doubt.

In the hotel lounge were a number of smartly dressed, mostly grey-haired men and women, which to be honest was the sort of group I was expecting to see, but first we headed for the bar. There I spotted a man with pectens on his tie. “You must be here for the Shell lunch,” I said, and he confessed that he was and that his name was Peter. So that was our introduction. Being first timers, we hadn’t expected to see anyone we knew, and we didn’t (though with Shell, it is never to wise to discount the possibility).

In the lounge we talked with a number of friendly and welcoming people, though it wasn’t possible to meet everyone. We found out that we had to place our name cards on a table in the dining room. Being newbies, we were almost the last, but found two places together on a table of eight. Whilst doing this, we met Chair David Watters and Treasurer Ian Paterson.

The lunch was extremely good. David had been a bit worried, since the branch had not used this hotel before, but the Pier House did not let him – or us – down. Melon or chicken liver pâté were followed by main courses of pork, chicken, salmon or vegetarian lasagne, with too many vegetables and delightfully crisp roast potatoes. Well, they brought out all this delicious food; it would have been rude not to eat it. Desserts of apple pie and Cornish clotted cream or lemon and lime cheesecake were forced down.

The raffle seemed to have been fixed when the first person to draw out a ticket picked her own and the second prize went to the Treasurer, but coincidences do happen and the remaining prizes were more widely spread. The AGM was over in the blink of an eye, with no one attempting a coup to oust David and Ian.

Devon & Cornwall branch is not the biggest in area, but only Scotland and Yorkshire are longer from end to end. It also lacks rapid transport – very few rail lines and motorways. Some people had travelled for over two hours through torrential rain from east Devon, and had booked rooms to stay over for a couple of days. At least the weather cheered up for them on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday.

After lunch and goodbyes, Diana and I spent an hour or two walking round the harbour and through the town, calling in on art and craft shops. We hadn’t been to Charlestown before and were delighted with the opportunity to extend our knowledge of the Cornish coastline. We are firmly minded to attend the next event, even if it means “crossing the border” into Devon.

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