The Atlantic View Hotel over-looked the sea in the beautiful and mysterious village of Tintagel, Cornwall, home to the legendary King Arthur.
The hotel - 18th century, still retained its character from this period: the white brick exterior, solid oak beeswax-polished furniture and old black and white photos of local Cornish fishermen and their wives – their faces stern and hard.
The proprietors: John and Mary Sadler were Cornish born and bred, they were founder members of the local “Kernow Independence Party” and were avid followers of the legend of King Arthur. Everywhere in the hotel there was some reference to him: books, toy models, paintings and one rather scary life-size statue in the garden, which had become a shrine. It did look rather incongruous among the chrysanthemums and tulips, with its many different coloured ribbons tied to it and a lantern with a solitary candle.
John was the archetypal Cornishman – earthly, opinionated, staunchly Cornish who hated the English, but was happy to accept the English pound. He wore a pony-tail which was turning grey, remnants of his hippy days – he had once lived on a hippy commune on a remote island off of Thailand; the only time he had ever left Cornwall. He was now happy to serve the customers in the bar and tell tales of Cornwall, while knocking back a few pints of good old Cornish ale to fuel his rather large beer gut.
Mary was the complete opposite of John – a quiet and reserved lady, who was happy to leave John to do the talking, but inside her a fiery passion stirred which was handed down from the strong Celtic woman. She was small and stout, the result of good home-grown food – she cooked the food for the guests and was prone to taste it as she went along. She had long dark brown plaited hair down to the small of her back.
Today was a Monday, and, as usual, a new influx of guests descended upon Atlantic View. Mary would always welcome them with a friendly smile and an offer of a pot of tea with some home-made Cornish biscuits. After the guests were replenished from their long journey she would take them to their rooms and leave them with the same words she had been saying to every guest for the last ten years, “Anything you need my loves you just come down and knock on the door.”
One couple: Mike and Samantha Parker were a young couple just married. They adored Cornwall, having come here every year for last three years. This was the first time they had visited Tintagel.
“Isn’t this place beautiful darling we must visit King Arthur’s castle.” Samantha said, her face glowing and displaying the first few months of life growing inside her. She was peering through the window, her nose almost touching the pane, her head moving from side to side like an excited dog that had just heard its owner pull up.
“Yep we must, but we got plenty of time, I wouldn’t mind going to the Eden Project.” Mike said, his face of a serious kind, with a very precise haircut and a side parting that looked like it had been done with a ruler. He was sitting on the bed, sifting through the hotel information pack. “Well dinner is from 7pm. If we get down there for 6.45pm then we can have a quick drink in the bar before our dinner. And breakfast is from 8am, so I will set my alarm on my mobile, we don’t want to miss breakfast.” He said, in an authoritative way.
Meanwhile, back in the bar, John was preparing for the first customers. It was a smallish bar, with three beers on draught – a lager, an ale and a cider, and the usual optics on the wall: whisky, Gin, vodka etc and a wine rack drilled to the wall, packed full with a selection of red and white wine. There were a good collection of books, mainly about King Arthur, but also large reference books: flora and fauna of England, an encyclopaedia and probably every edition of Readers Digest that had ever been published. Cornish paraphernalia and photos were prevalent in the bar: an old fisherman’s net was hanging from one wall and photos of local people going back two hundred years – their eyes appearing soulless and dead as though they had witnessed many bad and dark happenings.
The guests began to trickle through into the bar.
“Welcome, what can I get you?”
“What do you recommend?” The tall, very official-looking man said.
“Well you have to try a pint of Cornish ale, there is no other beer like it, made from hundred percent local spring water.”
“Ok I’ll have a pint, I’ll try anything once, as long as it doesn’t kill me! And with that the man roared with laughter.
“Here you are, I hope you enjoy your stay.” And John passed him a pint full of an amber coloured liquid with an inch of froth on top.
“Cheers! I was just reading your welcome book, you have had some really good comments; I don’t think I read one bad one.”
“We try to please sir.”
“Call me Jeremy and your name?”
“Tell me John, why have quite a lot of the names and addresses been crossed out?”
“Unfortunately, after leaving here at the end of their stay, they had fatal accidents.”
“No! How terrible.”
“Yes I know, I sometimes think we are fated, but we do have a lot of accidents down here, it’s the roads, very unpredictable and if you are not from these parts then you can get in trouble if you’re not careful.”
“And one thing I couldn’t help noticing, all the men that had died all had names beginning with M.”
“Seriously! No one has ever noticed that before, well, I can’t explain it.”
“Oh well, glad my name is Jeremy.” And the man roared with laughter again before making his way through to the dining room.
Mike and Samantha entered the bar – Samantha looked radiant, she had a pretty polka dot dress on which emphasised her little rounded bump which was protruding from her tummy. Mike was dressed in navy pinstripe trousers, a white shirt and a blazer – he would have fitted in perfectly in Kensington or Wimbledon, but in Cornwall he looked rather out of place.
“Hello you two, well don’t you look smart, you look like your meeting the Queen of England at one of her garden parties! What would you both like?”
“I’ll have a pint of lager please, what would you like love?” Mike said.
“I’ll just have an apple juice please.”
“Ok coming up, so where you two young`uns heading for tomorrow then?”
“We would like to visit King Arthur’s castle.” Samantha said.
“Well you can’t come to Tintagel and not visit the castle. You know King Arthur still walks the path up to the castle. Legend has it that during one bad winter down here you could see man’s footprints in the snow leading up to the castle and it could not have been tourists because during the winter it is all locked up because it is too dangerous to walk up there.”
“You don’t believe in that nonsense do you, King Arthur was just a fictional character.” Mike said.
“Oh he was true my lad, if it wasn’t for him we would all be sour-faced Anglo-Saxon like you! I’m only joking, hey, you two have a lovely stay down here.”
Thanks, we will, well I’m really hungry now, shall we go and eat my darling.” Samantha said, and with that they both walked through to the dining room.
After their dinner, Mike and Samantha decided to explore the garden and walk off their excellent four-course meal. The garden was surrounded by a high wall covered in moss and in the middle was a huge wooden door with a rusty old iron handle that released a large lever. The garden was wild and quite over-grown, it resembled something out of a Lewis Carroll book and was quite mysterious. They both walked hand in hand around the narrow windy path when eventually they came to the statue of King Arthur in all his glory – with Excalibur pointing to the sky.
“Who is that Mike?” Samantha asked, staring at the life-size statue.
“That is King Arthur.” John replied, stealthily appearing behind them.
“Oh! You made me jump!” Samantha said.
“Sorry I didn’t mean to make you jump, I was watering the flowers when I heard you both.”
“That is so real, he is almost alive, I feel he is looking at me, where did you get it?” Samantha said.
“It was here when we took over managing the house.”
“I don’t feel very comfortable around that.” Mike said.
“What do you mean, it’s only a statue darling, it won’t hurt you!”
“I’m sorry I’m going to have to go in, goodnight, I’ll see you back in the hotel Sam.”
“Well I better finish this watering, good night my love.” And with that John disappeared back into the heart of the garden.
“Yes goodnight.” Samantha stood there mesmerised by King Arthur, it was as though she had known him in another life. As she stared at his eyes, they appeared to be become a piercing bright blue; she felt an unbelievable connection with him and an immense power that seemed to be pulling her towards him. Samantha snapped out of it and hurried back to the hotel.
On entering the room, Samantha was surprised to see Mike was laying on the bed with his eyes closed.
“Mike darling, are you ok?”
“I’m fine now, but something really strange came over me when I was out there, a feeling I should not be here and I needed to leave straight away.”
“You’re just tired love, it has been a long day; you’ll feel better tomorrow.”
The next few days went very quick but Mike and Samantha had a wonderful time at the Atlantic View hotel. They walked the coastal path to King Arthur’s castle, taking in the rugged and unspoilt land which had not changed since Dumnonii warriors rode and ran to battle with invading tribes. They lost themselves in the Eden Project, imagining they were deep in the Amazonian rain forest or the arid plains of Africa.
They were very much in love and vowed to come back with their newly born baby and baptise it in true Cornish spirit. The couple loved Mary’s food and adored John’s tales of the ghosts of Cornish fisherman that still walked the coastal path.
There final morning came and they were both a little sad that they had to leave.
“Well you two lovers, time to go.” Mary said, her mouth full of pastry.
“I know, we don’t want to leave Cornwall.” Samantha forlornly said.
“Your spirit will always be in Cornwall my love.”
“Well come on you, we have a long drive back to London.” Mike said and with that they both walked out.
“Oh! I nearly forgot, I must write something in the welcome book!” Samantha said.
The next day, John and Mary were watching the local news on the television, when a report came on of a young couple who were involved in a head-on collision with a tractor near Bodmin and the young man was killed instantly but the pregnant young woman miraculously walked away unscathed. The report gave their names as Samantha and Michael Parker, both aged twenty six from London.
“That’s a shame, I quite liked him in a funny sort of way.” Mary said.
“You know the score Mary, King Arthur will not rest until he has revenged the traitor Mordred by killing all males with the name beginning with M. Go and cross off his name but leave hers in the welcome book my love.” And with that, John went outside to the shrine to hang another ribbon and to light the candle. He looked up at the statue of King Arthur.
“She’ll be back my Lord.”