A slice of Cornish life
When postie Gary Martin of Falmouth Delivery Office received an invitation to the Big Lunch at the Eden Project in Cornwall, he knew there was going to be a special guest there. He just didn’t realise quite how special, writes Zoe Walker.
Gary, a postie for 30 years, and a Royal Marine before that, is a delivery driver in the beautiful coastal village of Flushing in west Cornwall.
‘I finish my round at a little shop in the village,’ says Gary.
When he finishes that round, Gary’s van is empty.
However, the shop is full.
Gary put two and two together – and given that during lockdowns, getting out and about for shopping was a problem for so many people, he started to load groceries and medicines from the shop into his empty Royal Mail van and deliver them to his housebound customers.
What he didn’t realise was that this public-spirited gesture was going to end up taking him on the journey of a lifetime.
‘Since the start of the pandemic, I have taken groceries and medicines to people who could not get out at all,’ says Gary. ‘It’s nice to be able to help.
‘Obviously on my days off, my colleagues would do it as well – Dean McGuinness, Buddy Mercedes and Chris Earl. They have been absolutely brilliant – I haven’t done it all on my own.
‘Mr Nicholas Trefusis - who owns a lot of the land around here - put my name forward and I got an invite to “The Big Lunch”. With a VIP. But it didn’t say who the VIP was that was that was coming.’
The Big Lunch is a community project run by the Eden Project. Intriguing - and a nice day out, all at once, Gary thought.
‘We all met at St Austell – in one of the Cornish wine making places,’ he says. ‘Then we were taken to the Eden Project and went through security – 16 or so of us representing the Cornish people who have been working through the pandemic.'
After that, the group of guests found themselves at lunch at the Eden Project - which was, at the time, hosting world leaders for the G7 summit. With The Duchesses of Cambridge and Cornwall.
And The Queen.
So how did Gary feel about what must have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience?
‘I felt very honoured and very humbled. And a bit as though I was punching above my weight, if you like! I never imagined that Kate and Camilla… and The Queen would be there!
‘You are told beforehand not to ask questions – I was terrified in case I said the wrong thing. You have to say ‘mam’ as in ‘jam.’ I just said it had been hard for everybody during the pandemic, really. She was with us for a few minutes.’
The event ended with The Queen cutting her Royal birthday cake with a ceremonial sword as part of her official birthday celebrations – a video of which went viral and has received almost 2 million views on the Royal Family’s Youtube Channel since it was posted a little more than a month ago.
Gary says: ‘It was amazing! I had a piece of that cake. I asked for an extra slice of cake for my mum. She nearly took the roof off – because it was The Queen’s cake!’
So how did Gary’s fellow posties back at Falmouth DO take the news when they heard?
‘Well the guys at work are all obviously curtseying now when they see me,’ he laughs.
Gary’s still delivering to Flushing residents in his van – although to fewer and fewer people.
‘There are one or two people half afraid of going into shops. I am happy to keep on going,' he says.