Residents of Cornwall, England were shocked to see their county turned into a military fortress with missile launchers, militarised police, no go zones and people fenced off in their own houses.
With just three days until the G7 Summit starts in Carbis Bay the heart of the West Cornwall coastal haven is surprisingly quiet.
But reach the Tregenna Castle end of the village and … woah! The G7 has well and truly arrived. The contrast is startling.
There are armed police at the entrance to the hotel which the leaders of America, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada will call home this weekend; whole streets are encased in a ring of steel; lorry loads of metal fencing is being delivered en masse; police officers and security guards are positioned every 10ft on the road to St Ives.
Throw in a massive frigate in St Ives Bay, huge security bollards blocking off lanes to the coastal path (which is also manned by security and police every few hundred metres), parking barriers at the end of residential streets and to quote a police officer I spoke to: “We don’t usually see this in Cornwall, do we?”
Months in the planning, much has been written and discussed about what the G7 will look like in Cornwall and how it will affect this narrow part of the peninsula. Well, we’re now getting the first taste of it.
Expecting Carbis Bay to already be in the grip of lockdown, I was pleasantly surprised to be able to park easily in a side street and stroll along the main road without a sighting of the much-mooted armed police who have been training for the global event – just a trio of coppers having a chat with shoppers in the resort’s Tesco store.
The only signs that some of the most powerful leaders in the world were about to descend were the posters in gardens and on fences that will line their brief motorcade from the Tregenna Castle to the Carbis Bay Hotel.
They run the gamut from the genteel ‘To Be Heard’ outside someone’s house to the stark ‘Food poverty has quadrupled even in this area’ thanks to St Ives Foodbank in the grounds of Chy an Gweal Methodist Chapel. Here’s hoping Joe Biden cranes his neck at that one.
As for security though, fuss about nothing I thought. Then I rounded the corner by the Cornish Arms pub.
Huge concrete barriers run the length of the fenced off Tregenna Castle as armed police guard the entrance. Police officers line the pavement into St Ives, alternating with security staff, every 10ft or so.
There’s no denying it’s intimidating at first, but walk past and they’re a chatty bunch, happy to talk to passing motorists and share a joke with locals and the growing number of tourists in the area.
It’s as if Inspector Wycliffe had a fever dream while overdosing on Doombar and a quiet Cornish idyll became a five-day police state. Except it doesn’t feel at all oppressive – in fact, there is a shared atmospheric sense of expectation.
Round the corner and whole streets are dwarfed by security fencing, again overseen by police and security teams. It’s all rather unbelievable and bizarre.
With 5,500 police staff from across England and Wales’ 43 Forces as well as ‘mutual aid’ from Police Scotland, it was typical that the two officers I spoke to were based in Truro and East Cornwall.
However, walk around and the accents change – at night, police from Merseyside take over the shift in the streets around the hotel while the Scottish officers probably couldn’t believe their luck when they were stationed on the coast path overlooking the beach on a sunny day.
It appears the majority of Carbis Bay’s residents are taking all of this weirdness in their stride.
David Upton, landlord of the Cornish Arms – which is right in the heart of the action – said: “All of my locals are reasonably chilled about it – pedestrians will still be able to get to the pub while the summit is taking place, so I’m not too worried.
“In my dreams, BoJo and Biden will come in for a pint – stranger things have happened.”
Mr Upton, who bought the historic pub with his two brothers last year, added: “We’ve got a nice new road out of it – the pluses outweigh the little bit of hassle. I was on television last night, in The Times today and will now be on Cornwall Live – that’s great coverage for the pub.”
This is just the start, of course. As the week continues and the leaders, their political entourages and own security units arrive what we’re seeing today will ramp up even more.
One thing’s for sure, this slice of West Cornwall is going to be a lot less evil this time next week.