At a little before 7 a.m., as the first dance nears the centre of Helston, its arrival heralded by the brass and drums of the town band, we see our first pints of Spingo Middle.
They’re in plastic glasses and the man and woman drinking them look like they need strong coffee rather than beer, but that’s not what today is all about.
We hit the Blue Anchor at not much after 8:30 a.m. and find it busy already. Breakfasts are being served to the small army of temporary staff and to tourists. Some lads from up country make macho noises but slyly nurse their pints, not wanting to fall by the wayside too early in the day. Some older local men, experienced drinkers, aren’t being remotely cautious. This is, after all, Helston’s great debauch — bigger than Christmas and New Year put together. We don’t, in all honesty, enjoy our pints. Our mouths taste of coffee and toothpaste and we end up feeling slightly queasy.
Back outside, with the seemingly never-ending children’s dance underway, we notice the crowd parting, not for a top-hatted local VIP, but for a pin of Spingo — a blue-striped metal cask — being wheeled from the Blue Anchor to a private party somewhere in the back streets by two grinning men who look like they’ve won the lottery.
It’s not all Spingo. Youngsters sitting on walls and first-floor windowsills neck Budweiser, Corona and Magner’s cider. Before long, every alleyway we cut down is scattered with empty bottles and cans. Wedges of lime squish under our feet. Through back garden gates, we catch glimpses of parties where everyone is holding a glass of wine or a small green bottle of French supermarket lager.
By the evening, as we return to the Blue Anchor for a last pint before the bus ride home, we find a huge bouncer in attendance. Physically intimidating, yes, but his manners are impeccable, and he shows great diplomacy in steering one drunk after another out of the pub and pointing them back towards their houses to sleep it off.
They keep coming, the happy inebriates, walking imaginary tightropes, chuckling to themselves, hands on the walls for support. A glass smashes and we tense momentarily, but there are apologies and laughter, and the guv’nor, whose pub has been heaving for twelve hours, clears it up with a huge smile on his face.
This last pint of Spingo is not the best we’ve ever had — it’s a little warm and rather buttery; an inevitable result of upping production for the Big Day, perhaps — but it’s a pleasure just to be there amid the warm glow of a community at play.