Monday, 31 December 2012


The weather has been so awful over Christmas that we have not been able to go for any walks.  We have had one trip out, though.  We went to Heartlands, which is a new heritage centre at Pool near Redruth.  It was established because Cornish tin mining has World Heritage status which brought funding with it.  At the moment it is a slightly strange place and I gather this is because the original 'vision' was of a new town with lots of housing surrounding a heritage centre.  Of course, when the housing market collapsed the developers lost interest and the result is that there is a large site with acres of space but not much on it.

Good use has been made of the existing buildings and there is an interesting museum inside but you do need to have an interest in tin mining, or at least mining in general, to appreciate it.  It is a great place for children as there are plenty of activities for them and on the day we went, which was of course very wet, there were a lot of families keeping out of the rain.

I did not like to take photos inside although there was nothing to say you couldn't.  The cafe is situated in the former timber shed with the tables divided by large lathes and other pieces of machinery.  This photo is of the boiler for the electric compressor house which was built in 1909 and operated from 1909 until the 1970s.  I also found one or two interesting details but I really think this is a place to take a sketchbook rather than a camera.

This is rust on the boiler above and the one below is the side of a mine chimney that still stands in the middle of the site.

There are also a number of what I suppose you call units.  The idea is that they should be occupied by artists so we were a bit surprised to find that one of them is the Camborne Registry office!  Only about half of them are currently occupied but one person has their marketing well worked out.

Heartlands is situated in a large area of mining history.  I thought I had written about the Great Flat Lode trail when we walked there a couple of years ago but I could not find a posting.  However, I have found my file of photos and think I will do a separate post on that as it is a very interesting area.  I was glad I had been there when I was studying the diagrams of mine shafts in the Heartlands museum.

So is a trip to Heartlands worth it?  Yes, if you are interested in mining or are trying to entertain young children.  There is a great adventure playground and we reckon that the place will look much more 'lived-in' when the tree has grown up.  If you are holidaying in Cornwall and it rains there is not much to do that is indoors so this could be a good choice.  And it is very accessible from the A30.

Crane scissors

I was given a pair of Crane scissors for Christmas.

This set me thinking about their origins.  As the crane is a symbolic bird in northern and eastern Europe I wonder if there is some connection there.  I tried Googling and found several sites selling antique versions, some of which were in places like Germany.  But neither Google nor Wikipaedia had anything on their history.  So if any reader out there knows, put a comment on this posting.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas greetings

This blog may have been a bit sparse this year but Happy Christmas.  I hope to get back into gear in the New Year but in the meantime here are a couple of Christmassy things.

Christmas past.

Everyone has mementoes of past Christmases and this one goes back to my early childhood.  My parents bought this wooden Father Christmas from a refugee wood turner in Havelock North in about 1950.  I well remember going to his shop and choosing it.  My parents brought it to England in 1974 and passed it on to me because I am the eldest.  They bought two similar ornaments for my sisters.  It comes out every year and sits on the sideboard but goes on the table when we eat Christmas Dinner.

In the past I have made Christmas hangings and a set of Christmas tablemats which this year I decided have come to the end of their natural life.  I see from the label on the back of this hanging that I made it in 1997.  It is foundation pieced and I remember the pattern came from Australian Patchwork and Quilting magazine.  I have another one of two cats, done in Christmas colours but could not find anywhere to photograph it. It is about the same age.

Christmas Present

We are having a very quiet Christmas this year.  As you may have read, Cornwall has been badly affected by the floods and this area has not escaped.  Although we live in a built-up area, we are at the bottom of a slope (Reens is Cornish for 'slope') and in a valley, complete with a stream which runs down behind the row of cottages opposite us.  In the late November floods, this stream burst its banks and ran down the road narrowly missing our gate.  Two of the cottages and the fish and chip shop at the other end of the block had water inside.  Last Friday there was a repeat performance although people were better prepared this time.
Here is the stream that caused all the trouble.  It rises on the moors a mile or two away, runs down a valley into the village and then through this bed behind the houses.

It looks quite innocuous here but it can be very noisy when it is in full flow and when it rains for hours non-stop it diverts itself from this route and runs down the street instead.  As the road is normally very parked up and there is quite a bit of debris, the water is dammed up by the cars and then gets into the front of the cottages.  The owners have a variety of sandbags, some more effective than others.  This morning I thought I should photograph the sandbags and the gates as they make quite an interesting sight.  So here is a selection.

This one has been very carefully constructed although I believe you are supposed to build the wall like a brick wall so that the water can't get through the cracks.

Not very substantial but the Council no longer provides the sandbags so it is difficult to get them if you are old or infirm.

It has also been very bad at the far end of our lane.  Yesterday I walked down to see what it was like and found the people there had built a wall of sandbags to divert the stream away from a terrace of newly converted cottages.  Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me and did not think to take a photo on my phone.  None of us have ever seen anything like this down here before so it may be an interesting Christmas.  I hope yours is a bit drier.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Childhood sweets

I have just been reading the Twelve by Twelve blog.  The theme of their latest challenge was 'sweet' and this prompted Brenda Gael Smith to write Sweet Memories about sweets in her New Zealand childhood.  When she asked her readers what they remembered, my memories included many that were similar to hers because I also grew up in New Zealand although I am somewhat older.  A second thing that tempted me to write on this topic was that on Saturday I went to a Christmas Open Studio where I bought as a present a dish and spoon from Samme Charlesworth who is a local ceramicist.

The dish is made of five separate pieces, each like a shell.  The underside looks like this.

It is crying out to be given with some sweets in it and then the whole thing wrapped in coloured cellophane.  Of course in this part of the world I could simply buy some Cornish fudge but the idea of making sweets quite appeals.  So what shall I make?

Sweets were forbidden in my family when I was small and as we did not get pocket money we could not go out and buy our own.  At the same time, I do not remember New Zealand having sweet rationing in the way that the UK did.  Sweets were very much part of the culture and home made ones seemed to be in a slightly different category from the ones you bought in shops.  It may have been something to do with the Celtic heritage as I know this is the basis of the extensive New Zealand repertoire of cakes and biscuits, many of which can be traced back to Scotland.

So what are my childhood memories of sweets?  Bazaars, bring and buys and other fairs happened all the time and there was always a sweet stall.  These sold delicious things such as fudge, toffee, coconut ice, hokey pokey and peppermint creams.  They were sold in small handmade boxes made from coloured card (I did know how to make these once and am asking myself if I can still remember how to do it) complete with a handle that was stapled on.  Girls, and possibly some boys, learnt to make sweets from about the age of eight and it was a popular activity when you went to play with someone.  My forte was peppermint creams.  Very easy as they did not require cooking.  My sister made coconut ice and we both made a lot of hokey pokey with the exciting volcanic effect when you added the baking soda.  Both my parents were very partial to that.  A bit later I mastered fudge but I shied away from toffee because it was so tricky getting the setting point.  At school 'sweet stalls' were a major form of fund-raising.  A year group or a House would have a stall to raise money for charity.  Of course all this was very bad for our teeth and we have the dentists' bills to prove it.

But we did get some manufactured sweets.  We were allowed them at the pictures or theatre and when travelling.  Adults gave them to us and I remember Quality Street toffees and a lot of mint flavoured things.  Barley sugar is the first sweet I remember but I was given it after pills that I was allergic to and in a very Pavlovian form of conditioning I grew to hate it and have never eaten it since.   My grandmothers were of the generation that ate a lot of sweets, or maybe it was just because they were older.  They both usually had a packet of Minties or Humbugs or liquorice allsorts around and one of them was very fond of fruit pastilles.  Like Brenda Gael we knew what we didn't like: anything aniseed flavoured such as the liquorice allsort that was covered in hundreds and thousands just got spat out in our household.  My maternal grandparents used to treat themselves to a very small peppermint filled chocolate bar a bit like an After eight but bigger, each Saturday evening while my grandfather read 'The Sports Post' and they listened to the radio.   (TV only reached New Zealand when I was fifteen.)  When I went to stay with them the chocolate was very carefully cut so that it went round three people rather than two.

Another feature of New Zealand at that time was the lolly scramble.  I well remember this at my father's office family picnic.  Handfuls of boiled sweets, the sort that came wrapped in cellophane, would be thrown into a crowd of children who were on an area of lawn or grass and you fought to get them.  The smaller you were and the more politely brought up, the less likely you were to be successful!  I guess it was good training for rugby scrums.

As we got older we seemed to be able to have sweets but I think perhaps it was thought not so bad once you had your adult teeth.  I remember 'cigarettes' made of some tasteless sugar, toadstools with tops that were dipped in coconut and stalks of a different colour, liquorice straps, favours with writing on them and many of the things that Brenda Gael mentions.  I also agree with her about 'foreign' sweets.  A lot of the sweets mentioned in children's books were completely unknown in our part of the world.  I don't remember any American ones apart from bubble gum and I was a student before I got 'into' Mars bars and Bountie bars.  By that time I was in control of my own purse and these were popular items to add to our packed lunches in the student canteen.  The problem with so many of these sweets is that if you try to eat them as an adult they taste disgusting.

And finally, we had a special family story about the power of toffee.  My maternal grandmother seems to have spent the First World War baking fruit cakes and making Russian toffee to send to her brothers and fiancĂ© who were fighting in France.  The story goes that one of my grandmother's brothers survived a direct hit on his trench because he had just put a piece of her toffee in his mouth.  I assume it deflected the shock waves.  I think the story is probably true, not least because this brother was invalided home with shell shock.