‘Poached eggs!’ bellowed our host. Let’s call him Bob. It was midnight and my father and I were standing, drunk and uncomfortable, in the front room of Bob’s bungalow, the cheapest B&B in the village of Pendeen and first stop on our infamously slow and episodic walk from Lands End ‘to John O’Groats’. We were back from a decent session at the North Inn, still dazed following the encounter with a mad Cornishman which forms the best anecdote in my armoury but which alas, due to the Profanity Policy, I cannot relate here.
The bungalow’s layout required us to tiptoe through the middle of Bob’s lounge to access our bedroom. Our hearts sank as we entered. Bob and his wife were waiting up for us, in twinned armchairs and matching grins. We were the only guests and, it appeared, Company. Somehow, terrible lights came on. Here and there bits of floor and furniture could be glimpsed through the knickknacks. ‘A ha!’, said Bob firmly, to signal that we would not be allowed to escape. ‘The great walkers return.’ We hem hemmed appropriately as Bob hauled himself to his feet. He had the girth and much of the look of Michael Winner; as, indeed, did his wife. ‘I suppose you’ll be wanting the Full English tomorrow?’
We concurred with as much enthusiasm as we could muster; the kitchen could be seen, it was full of knickknacks. “Oh what a surprise, I thought you’d go for poached eggs….” Thus Bob manoeuvred to his anecdote. “Poached eggs!” he bellowed. “I’ll tell you a funny story about poached eggs.” Here he began to chop the air, Tommy Cooper-style. “We had a guest here a few years ago, middle-aged chap, well-to-do. Had two poached eggs on toast for breakfast. So I gives him his plate, and he looks at it…And he looks at me…And he looks back at the plate…” (here I became acutely aware of the fullness of my bladder). “And he says, you know what, these poached eggs remind me of something…..See I’m a plastic surgeon and I do breast implants that look ju-” Bob’s punchline was interrupted by his wife’s roar of laughter. Bob roared louder. I roared as best as I could. My father roared as best he could. Bob’s wife roared even louder still; I noticed that she had the eyes of a frightened calf. All things must pass. In time we made a bolt for it, to the temporary sanctuary of our Spartan, spider-infested twin cell, to dream of infinite winding coastal paths, porcelain flamingos and the condemned man’s hearty breakfast.