Packet Review of the Year 2020 – Covid free (almost!)

In what has been one of the strangest years in living memory, one topic has dominated the news in 2020. But what else has been hitting the headlines this year?

Our review of the year rounds up some of the biggest and most unusual stories in the Packet this year – and because it’s Christmas and we’ve all heard enough of the other big ‘C’ word this year, there’s barely a mention of coronavirus. (Although if you do really want to be reminded, we’ll be doing a review of exactly how it all unfolded next week.)

January

A FIGHTING fit builder and retained firefighter on the Lizard Peninsula was left needing open heart surgery after a piece of popcorn got stuck in his tooth.

Coverack resident and St Keverne fireman Adam Martin spent his 41st birthday in hospital while he recovered from having two major surgeries in one week – the second of which was open heart surgery to replace his aortic valve, repair his mitral valve and patch up an abscess.

It was after he developed infective endocarditis – an infection of the membrane that lines the inside of the chambers of the heart – which according to his surgeon left his aortic valve “flapping like a stunned octopus”.

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Just a few weeks earlier the father-of-three had got a small piece of popcorn husk stuck in his gums. It resulted in toothache for a few days, but he ignored it and it went away.

What appeared to be a cold turned into ‘flu’, then a blood blister on his toe – later found out to be a an external indication of infective endocarditis – and a splintered capillary on his thumbnail.

That night he got cramp in his leg – which turned out to be an infected clot, wedged in his femoral artery.

What was meant to be two to three hours of surgery ended up taking nearer five hours, as surgeons had to remove a whole section of artery because it was breaking up faster than it could be stitched.

This was followed by three days of waiting for a bed and surgery, when his infection levels were at 340 – the normal being between zero and five.

Thankfully, following surgery Adam made quick progress at recovering and was back at home in Coverack after a few weeks.

His wife Helen said afterwards: “Any sign of toothache, bleeding gums, abscess – get it checked out!

“Your gums are a bacterial highway to your heart.”

February

A YOUNG father and his brother ended up in a terrifying situation after they were cut off by the rising tide at Falmouth.

James Johnson and his brother Zack, 18, had enjoyed a Sunday stroll across Gyllyngvase Beach, but after chatting for an hour on a rocky outcrop, their route back to the beach had gone.

“We didn’t call the Coastguard at first because we were worried we’d make idiots of ourselves and it’s a pride thing,” said James, aged 24.

“There were only two options really – to drop down into the water or to go even higher up the cliff – but both would have been risking our lives.

“The tide came in so fast and if we’d jumped into the water we would have been swept away.

“I started to get chest pains and my brother’s phone battery was dying and didn’t have any credit.”

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They decided to ring O2, the network provider for Zack’s phone, which granted them some “goodwill” free minutes to ring Alice Tiffin, James’ partner – who in turn rang Falmouth Coastguard.

When Falmouth inshore lifeboat arrived to take them on board, crew members considered it too dangerous to land them on the beach, instead opting to take them back to the station.

James added: “We’re not stupid lads looking to take risks, we were just caught out.

“We definitely won’t do anything like that again.”

March

CELEBRITY chef Michael Caines opened his new restaurant in Falmouth at the start of March, taking over The Cove at Maenporth.

He launched an entirely new menu, featuring breakfasts, lunches and afternoon tea, along with an à la carte menu and a six-course tasting menu for £75 during evening service.

The Cove, which sits directly opposite Maenporth Beach, had been closed for refurbishment for the previous few months and during that time the existing restaurant staff trained at Lympstone Manor for a new style of service and food on offer.

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Michael, who held two Michelin stars for 18 consecutive years and appears regularly on television including BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen, MasterChef and Sunday Brunch, said: “I am really excited to be reopening The Cove as my first Cornish venture.

“It’s a very special and beautiful place here at Maenporth Beach with an incredible outlook over the Cornish coast and I am excited about the journey ahead of us, showcasing great produce and introducing myself to the local community.”

Michael was backed at The Cove by Cornish entrepreneurs Roger Edwards, who was HSBC’s leading independent financial advisor area manager, and his wife Helen, who previously worked as a private banking assistant for Barclays for many years.

However, he was to open for only a week, before the national lockdown was introduced and the restaurant temporarily shut again until July.

April

FALMOUTH was in mourning after popular ice cream seller Alan Hitchens died after catching coronavirus.

Born and bred in Falmouth, Alan was widely known in the area, and throughout Cornwall, for his family’s ice cream business Falmouth Dairy and its famous ‘Jazzer’ ice cream comprising a cone filled with marshmallow, topped with three scoops of ice cream, whipped cream and a choice of sprinkles.

His vans were a daily fixture at Falmouth seafront, Falmouth Docks, ‘Daisy Park’ on Castle Drive and Pendennis Point, where a van could be found 364 days of the year, taking only Christmas Day off. At one stage there were 13 out selling.

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Richard Pacy, who looked on Alan as a father figure after he began working for him aged 12 and subsequently went on to live with Alan when his parents moved away, drove one of the ice cream vans behind the hearse on the way to today’s funeral.

The van proudly displayed Alan’s trademark AH04 PAP number plate.

Alan went into hospital to have his pacemaker looked at and went on to develop coronavirus, dying on Monday, April 13 just seven months before his 70th birthday.

Alan’s grandfather started the ice cream business before his parents, Bernard and Sylvia, took it over and for many years also had an ice cream shop and bakery in Falmouth’s Killigrew Street. It subsequently passed over to Alan.

May

POLICE launched a murder investigation in Falmouth after a man died in suspicious circumstances.

Emergency services taped off Tresawle Road and police refused initially to confirm the exact nature of the incident, but later revealed detectives from the Major Crime Team were leading an investigation and treating the death of a man in his 20s as suspicious.

The victim was later identified as Aaron Pill and a candlelit vigil was held in his memory the following day, with people asked to light a candle in their homes.

Three days later, on May 9, police announced that they had charged Kane Coggin, aged 27, of Meadowbank, Mylor Bridge and Liam Bastow, aged 24, of Avalon Close, Mylor Bridge, with murder.

June

WELL-KNOWN Falmouth Big Issue seller Eric Cullen, known as ‘Eggsy’ to his regular customers, passed away in his sleep at the static caravan he shared with fellow vendor ‘Buddha’ in Penryn at the start of the month. He was 54 years old.

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The pair had also shared a pitch, selling the magazine for eight years outside Boots in Falmouth.

Buddha paid a touching tribute to his late friend, saying: “Eric was one of us – a nice bloke, a happy, cheerful Big Issue seller.

“He passed away peacefully in his sleep. Another one of our good guys gone again from Falmouth.”

That same month in Porthleven, a fisherman from Porthleven had to glance twice when he looked into the sea and spotted one of the most unusual sights of his career – a baby deer being followed by a large seal.

Jeremy Richards, a member of Porthleven Fishermen and Boat Owners’ Association, had been sailing around the coast from Gunwalloe when he made the discovery.

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The roe deer was way out to sea, with Jeremy telling the Packet: “I’m guessing it fell off the cliff at Pegnwinian Head, Gunwalloe.

“It’s a sheer cliff for it to get back up.”

Unable to release the creature back onto the beach, as there were too many people, Jeremy took it back in his boat to Porthleven and called the RSPCA.

He and friend Ben Warden then kept it covered with a blanket, to help it remain calm, while they waited several hours for an officer to arrive and take it away.

Read part two of the Packet’s Review of the Year 2020 tomorrow evening, Boxing Day.

Falmouth Packet | Truro