Pengelly is your typical Cornish man. He has short legs, a round red face and an ambivalent attitude to the Methodist temperance he was been raised to. His mother believes that his love for the sin of drink is a consequence of him choosing a wife who attends high church and uses the fine, bone china. His wife believes his penchant for a tipple is caused by being raised by the sort of woman who locks away the best china and tramps on Sundays to the bleak Wesleyan hall.
If asked, which he rarely is, Pengelly himself, thinks he drinks because he enjoys it.
Anyways, it’s not as if he’s a drunkard. In a mood that teeters dangerously close to psychological insight, Pengelly will decide he drinks because he is your typical Cornish man. Someone who works hard all week and should be allowed a restorative Wednesday night pint at darts, a friendly warmer for cribbage on Thursday, followed by the regulation skin-full on Friday night, followed by the more or less compulsory hair of the dog on Saturday afternoon. Then home in time for supper. And well, what sort of rogue wouldn’t escort his wife to the lounge bar for a pleasant evening in the company of friends and neighbours?
People from above the Tamar can be quick to assume that a red-faced man, with the sort of legs you’d see on a bulldog and the sort of belly you’d find bound in steel rings and kept in a brewery cellar would be slow. Look for instance at Pengelly cleaning his ear with the nail of his little finger. First left ear with his left hand, then right with the right. Look at the concentration and vigour that goes in to the task. With the features that are planted in the centre of his big red face all scrunched up with the concentration, surely, these foreigners all reason, this man is an idiot. Your normal tourist would pinch his monocle firmly into place, raise a well-educated eyebrow and say in the high falutin’ tones of your posh Devoner, something along the lines of “I say Margaret, look at that fellow. Is it not the most extraordinary thing, he simply must be an imbecile.” And then pay £6.50 for half a dozen eggs that have cost Pengelly, quite literally, chicken feed to get hold of.
“Free range, you say?” and the educated eyebrows wriggle around on the upcountry forehead, like two condescending worms at a maggot party.
Pengelly examines the small blob of yellowy gunge he has excavated from his right ear. He glowers at it, as if he’d been expecting rubies at the very least this time. Then surreptitiously (which is to say, not surreptitiously at all), he wipes it on the seat of his corduroy trousers.
“It means”, he explains “I let ’em run round.” He places a jar of home made jam (RRP £4.50) in the superior couples’ jute bag. Simultaneously he pockets the ten pound note that the couple have proffered: “You owe me anuvver pound, me dears.”
Later, the couple will tell a story about how they met the most charming local “thick as two short planks. Really, simple as Simon, but he sold the most fabulous fresh eggs and the most adorable jam.”
Meanwhile, Pengelly in the public bar says nothing and concentrates on hitting the double eighteen. After all, what can you tell people who are too daft to realise that fruit grows free in the hedgerows and jam is only £1.20 a pound.