Tuesday was a grey day but the sun came out as we were setting off for the station very early in view of one of our party's mistrust of trains, which are late or don't bother to turn up when you absolutely need to catch them, in her experience.
Lots of remarks along the lines of: "better have a good look at the sun as that's the last we'll be seeing of it until we get back". The weather forecasters give a 10% chance of seeing the eclipse from Cornwall. Similar sun-comments on the train while testing the eclipse viewers just before sunset, when the sun was shining in through the carriage windows.
We saw three hot-air balloons off to the east on the way down on the stretch between Crewe and Coventry one on its own and and two within sight of each other. Red sky at night lots of clouds in sight, on Tuesday.
The train certainly batted along when it got the chance and it seemed to be going even faster after darkness fell, which happened pretty early and pretty quickly, too. We had a grand tour of a lot of England. The train started from Preston and visited Manchester, Crewe, Birmingham, Reading, Slouth, Ealing Broadway and Bristol on the way to Penzance although not necessarily in that order.
There was a weather front packed with clouds heading down over Ireland to the same destination as the one to which we were travelling and the weather forecasters seemed agreed that the clouds wouldn't stick to Ireland and they'd been timed to arrive to spoil the eclipse.
Exeter, 2:30 a.m. The bloke behind me was snoring and some idiot bloke and some idiot woman started talking. Complaints from one of our party about people not having more sense than to start chunnering in the middle of the night. Considered telling the snorer and the chunnerers to "Shut the ***k up!" But didn't.
Sunrise, 6 a.m. on Wednesday Bright red sky, more or less picking up from where last night left off. Some clear patches but they're all to the north. But looks kinda bright to the south, doesn't it?
At Penzance station, a good view of the sun from the end of the platform and also from the car park outside, which has the advantage of no street lights to spoil things. A cheerful Cockney selling eclipse viewers at only a pound a time outside the Information Centre was guaranteeing that the sun would shine come eclipse time.
The sun went into hiding at about a quarter to nine and didn't reappear until ten to twelve. And it started to rain. The lady in the shop where we bought Penzance rock and a tin of Eclipse Biscuits said the previous day, Tuesday, had been just like this but the sky had cleared suddenly. Polite scepticism from the tourists. Our wanderings brought us back to the region of the station car park and the Information Centre. Looked for the Cockney to kill him but he'd done a bunk.
We viewed the Great Event from the balcony of a shopping centre beside a Littlewoods store. All the lights weren't going to make any difference if the sun wasn't coming out to do a disappearing act.
At the time of the eclipse, the sky went from gloomy day to full night in a matter of a couple of minutes apart from a long, white bar on the southern horizon, presumably due to light leaking in from beyond the Moon's shadow. The seagull went mad, and so did the humans. There were photographic flashes popping off all over the place, including the side of the bay beyond St. Michael's Mount. Much speculation in our party as to what they hoped to capture on film. There was champagne for the staff of Littlewoods and a couple of rockets with lots of stars went up at the sea front ahead of us.
All sorts of street and car park lights went on and off again. The night went away again over a couple of minutes, leaving Penzance to the rest of a gloomy, rainy Wednesday morning.
All of the museums and other attractions in Penzance were closed for the day, and the shops had notices saying they'd be closed for between half an hour and two hours around the time of the eclipse. Sat on the front and read the papers between showers.
Back at the station, armed with pasties to eat on the train, we found that the punters weren't allowed on the station. No, they were expected to queue in the rain in the car park. Rebelliously, sought shelter under the awning of the Information Centre. Joined the queue for the train as loading time approached.
The next thing you know, we were being told that the Wales and West railway company had screwed up the stacking order of the trains, which had been parked out of Penzance's tiny station for lack of room. First, we were told that the train would be an hour late and we could wander off for an hour if we wanted to. Much doom and gloom. Then a young lady came rushing round to tell us the train would leave on time. Deep joy! Tempered by wondering what would happen about people who had wandered off for the hour.
But as three oclock and the official time of departure approached, it became clear that we had been lied to. The crowds began to get restless and crowds there were because people were in queues for three other trains beside ours. We even had the Penzance constabulary, both of them, there to back up the railway company's petty officials in fluorescent jackets, who were telling the punters that they were not allowed on to their precious station.
All of them, aided by the station announcer, tried to persuade the punters to move away from the station entrance, but they had no luck at all. The punters were there and there they were staying until someone produced a train. Luckily, the rain kept off.
Finally departed soggy Penzance at four minutes to four and not all that sorry to see the back of the place. The cause of the delay, according to the guard on our train, was a breakdown of the locomotive on the train ahead of ours in the parking area, which meant that ours had been blocked in until they had fixed the defective loco.
Luckily, there was a lot of slack built in to the return journey. Stopping for five minutes instead of forty-one at Plymouth for a crew change put us right back on schedule again "to the minute, to the second" to quote the guard. Which is strange as we didn't leave exactly on the minute by the station's digital clocks. More like 23 seconds past. Same irregular departure after the next crew change at Exeter St. David's.
It's always encouraging when trains run parallel to a stretch of motorway and steadily overtake everything. It provides proof that the crew is getting on with delivering you to your destination in an efficient and effective manner. The reverse side of that particular coin came along soon enough afterwards when the train creaked to a stop in the middle of nowhere for no apparent reason.
Afterthought: the seagulls in Penzance were extremely loud, usually for no apparent reason. They were also candidates for being told to shut the ***k up. There were notices along the sea front telling people not to feed the seagulls as they were becoming a nuisance. I would have thought have become would be more accurate, but one is supposed to trust local knowledge.
The guard came on the communication system again to tell us that our latest delay was due to sabotage. Some idiot had hung a piece of pipe from a bridge and it had cracked the windscreen of a High-Speed Train two ahead of us. That train had limped to somewhere where it could get out of the way and following trains had to go slowly to make sure it was safe to proceed. Taunton reached four hours into the journey home. The West Country must be bloody huge! You can get from Manchester to London, a couple of hundred miles, in two and a half hours.
Saw a red Zeppelin on the way home some sort of miniature barrage-balloon type object tethered in a field.
Back in Manchester twenty minutes behind our original e.t.a. of 3:15 a.m. on Thursday morning. Home for 4:00 after a high-speed taxi ride, which cost a modest £15. To bed. Interesting excursion. Pity about the eclipse.