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I have a great appetite for old photos of Cornwall – particularly of parts I know and love. Charming as they undoubtedly are, we’ve all seen the classic black and white photos of Penzance in the Frith series around and about, so it’s exciting that Penlee House has recently acquired a collection of long-buried pictures of Penzance and Newlyn.

A choice selection from the archive is currently on display at Penlee House Gallery and this week is the last chance to see it. I just loved the ladies Read the rest of this entry »

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hardys exotics, cornwall

It’s an exotic life we live in west Cornwall, isn’t it? If you look around at people’s gardens, you’d think it were the Canaries – no Penwith garden or yard is complete without a few succulents making themselves at home, a banana tree, or at the very least a palm.

The reality of the Cornish climate is a more mizzly and damp affair – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But what’s crucial plant-wise is our lack of frost and the year-round mild temperatures, which allow people to grow all sorts of exotic plants with great success. I’m determined to be one of them.

With that in mind I went over to the Hardy Exotics Nursery on the A30 at the weekend, and left quite overwhelmed with inspiration. I could have spent hundreds of pounds buying into the dream of creating a mini Eden in my diminutive Penzance yard, but my affections settled in the Echeveria section. These permanently flower-like succulents are impossible to resist with their pale pinky, green shades, and intricate patterns. I bought two (£6.50 each – the two pots pictured below) and left thrilled.

It’s the owners, though, that really make the experience – both are wonderfully generous and enthusiastic with their advice in a gentle, totally non-pushy way. They also responded well to my request for plants that are ‘very difficult to kill’.

Hardy Exotics Nursery, Gilly Lane, Whitecross, Penzance, Cornwall, TR20 8BZ. www.hardyexotics.co.uk Read the rest of this entry »

Have a crush on this ‘Sicily Top’ from Seasalt’s just-out Artists & Potters collection. No surprise there really – lime green and stripes combined are basically a short cut to my heart.

Seasalt hardly needs an introduction round here. It is one of Cornwall’s great success stories – it was the small, extremely friendly (never a sighing shop assistant in its boutiques) organic clothing company that could. From its beginnings in Penzance, it has just launched its first range in John Lewis on Oxford Street, can you believe?

www.seasaltcornwall.com

More pics from the collection: Read the rest of this entry »

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Here’s a pictorial taster for an article I have out in Coast magazine this month (Feb issue) about the excellent new Newlyn School of Art, the brainchild of local artist Henry Garfit.

I attended the Landscape Painting course with local artist Mark Spray back in September and it was a most eye-opening, exhilarating experience. Beginners, have no fear – Mark’s unorthodox style, which includes the use of earth, paintbrushes strapped on to sticks and speed drawing, had even the experienced painters in my group flummoxed. Having not picked up a paintbrush since GCSE art, at least I was expecting it to be hard.

The school occupies a converted granite school at the top of Paul hill (the Board School) in Newlyn, paces away from the original, famed Forbes-led Newlyn School of painters in the late 19th and early 20th century. Other tempting courses include print-making, stone carving and Cornish gardens.

It is no mean feat to open a not-for-profit arts institution (with some Arts Council funding) in grim times such as these, so congrats. With our local arty institutions looking poorly – Acorn open but website looking unwell, Penzance Arts Club closed, Golowan funding cut – it’s brilliant to find something as fresh and new as this.

More info at www.newlynartschool.co.uk; £175 three-day Landscape Painting course.

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Alert! Alert! I just discovered a perfect little place out on the Lizard, on a wind-beaten cliff above Gunwalloe. For the past year, word has been reaching me of Barefoot Kitchen being ‘right up my street’ and when I finally made it over to this remote area of Cornwall, so indeed it was. Right up my muddy, single-vehicle-access Cornish lane, in any case.

Occupying Helzephron House (previously home to the Helzephron Herb Farm), this cafe/shop has the kind of pared down intuitive design that makes me think a Swede MUST have been involved at some stage. The shop has a small selection of products, some their own, others carefully chosen, for example gorse-scented candles, the Ghillie kettle, retro wooden bodyboards, earring studs made of softened seaglass, seaweed design aprons… I wanted to bring it all home. The coffee was great, the fish soup fragrant.

Whenever my sister comes to stay with her array of sharp camera lenses, I demand immediate possession of the memory stick so I can use the pictures on pasties & cream, hence an artier than usual selection – and several more photography-based posts on their way.

Oh and Barefoot is opening a surf school in coming months AND does pop-up restaurants in conjunction with Lime Tree. AND there are sea views, when the rain’s not slashing against the window.

www.barefootkitchen.com

I nearly died of surprise when I got to the cinema last night to find the Penwith Film Society‘s screening of ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ had sold out, and a cluster of people waiting for some unlikely tickets to become available. It’s not often the Saveloy sells out.

Other than the brilliant Penwith Film Society’s weekly screenings, there’s an awful lot of mainstream fare, so the second cinema-related surprise of the week is that there’s also a one-off screening of a locally shot art-house film taking place on Thursday evening.

Local film director Mark Jenkin’s second feature-length film, Happy Christmas, is the film in question – ‘an interwoven seaside hymn to gift-wrapped promises and unwanted presence’. It is filmed in Penzance and around West Cornwall – I am hoping from the photo stills to see some gritty after-dark shots of the prom. Drinkies & nibbles in the bar upstairs afterwards.

Book in advance. www.merlincinemas.net

www.penwithfilmsociety.co.uk

It is sad but universally true that you only really appreciate a) your health and b) your local health services when they are in peril. Having had a crash course in the past few years in the immense value of both those things, I went along to the Hands Off Our Hospital protest yesterday against cuts to services at West Cornwall Hospital.

With the increasing centralisation of services to Truro, people living in West Penwith are having to undertake a 40-mile round-trip, sometimes for routine appointments (even, once, in my case a 5-second MRSA swab).

One area for protest is the lack of a 24-hour doctor-led casualty in west Cornwall (nurses only at night-time) – again, I’m sure that particular outrage only really comes into focus at 2am when you badly need a doctor.

Thousands of people turned up, the Golowan band and Penzamba were there (of course), there was a little chanting, and then the crowds joined hands in a huge circle around the hospital. The main thing is that Spotlight were there – hope WCH got its close-up.

The daffs might be out at Eden, but make no mistake – things have turned pretty dark in the west. As predicted, squally showers and raging seas this morning, here taken at Long Rock carpark, which has the advantage of allowing you to be ten metres from the sea while cranking the car heater up.

a new dawn for pz seafront?

There’s been a bit of an atmosphere of ‘don’t mention the harbour’ ever since the potent and divisive controversy surrounding the proposed Option A development for Penzance Harbour.

The Council’s plan, known as Option A, was to seriously compromise an area of historic beauty and build a coach park in one of the most scenic parts of town – which they tried to push through at all costs without adequately consulting members of the local community. Thanks in part to protest but in reality mainly due to the recession, this pricey project was overturned.

The aim now, though, isn’t to rake up old bitterness (though if you want to read my feelings about it at the time, you can here) but rather to celebrate a promising new forum for development along the seafront, planning close consultation with local people. It goes by the name of the Penzance Seafront Forum, and it is organising its first public meeting for next Thursday, 17th November at 7.30pm in St John’s Hall. Spread the word.

If you can’t attend, but have thoughts to air, you are encouraged to email ideas@pzharbourfutures.org. http://penzanceseafront.com

Newlyn Harbour like a pane of glass this morning, and a very large pile of seaweed dumped on Wherrytown Beach by the considerable ‘weather’ that rolled in last week…

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This photo blog post has come in today from Mexico care of p&c hermana Jen. Far away in the Mexican province of Hidalgo, there is a little corner of Kernow called Real del Monte, twinned with Redruth. It’s a community steeped in Cornish culture, thanks to the pasty-munching influence of some 350 Cornish miners who ran the local mines in the early to mid 19th century.

Most of the photos in this slideshow were taken in the local cemetery, which contains hundreds of Cornishmen, many of whom died at alarming ages. My Mexican correspondent tells me that Read the rest of this entry »

grumpies of cornwall

I’m digging the branding for this new line of Cornish pies from Lanson – it is the brainchild of two self-proclaimed grumpy old men, and it’s pronounced GrumPIES.

Clever jokes and hand-drawn illustrations aside, the product is great. I tried the all-Cornish pork, apple and cider pie for lunch today and it was uncompromisingly meaty and flaky of crust. It’s also really nice to see someone using local, premium ingredients without taking themselves too seriously. I love the food revolution in Cornwall, and writing about it, but sometimes it can all get a bit ‘we hand-knit our own freerange cows’.

Mr Grumpie, who is actually very friendly, tells me Read the rest of this entry »

The Cornish sardines stacked on counters in Newlyn fish shops at the moment are a spectacular bargain: five for £1. Fresh, meaty, good for you, supplies not about to expire. Pan-fried, slice of lemon, sprig of parsley – delicious.

That is all.

Bon weekend!

www.cornishsardines.org.uk

venton vean penzance cornwall

It’s always a pleasure when I get an email from a pasties & cream reader, even if it’s just to complain about my lack of captioning (full-time job alert). But it’s particularly nice when I get an email about something as eye-opening as this beautiful new boutique b&b in Penzance – opened this week.

The modern-classic chairs, blue accents, amazing garden, period detailing, rainforest showers… you don’t find all of that for under £100 a room very often. I know this because I drove round the whole of Cornwall a few years ago seeking out special places to stay for the Time Out Guide to Devon & Cornwall – and gems are few in this price bracket.

It is also on one of my favourite streets, leafy Trewithen Road, next to Penlee Park. Best of luck, Venton Vean – if your website is anything to go by, you’re going to storm it. Oh and can you open a little tea shop in your garden too, please? That would be most handy.

www.ventonvean.co.uk

Get an eyeful of this!

venton vean, penzance, cornwallventon vean, penzance, cornwall

Anyone who went to Cornwall Design Fair at Trereife House at the weekend will know what I mean when I say that the wallet-emptying perils of this event are grave. It was my first time at the fair, and the jewellery temptation levels – always my weak spot – were vertiginously high. Short of time this week, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking – but for once I’m going to treat you to captions ;)

PS My only gripe was the £6 per person admission fee (not allowing you to come back the next day without paying more again). This did include entry to the wonderful house but on the whole I’m not so keen on paying to go shopping. Don’t mind me, though, I’m just a grumpy old woman!

georgia stoneman; ever-gorgeous jewellery taking on organic forms (www.georgiastoneman.co.uk); these rings are beautiful stacked together

little fruit earrings by irreverent foundlings jewellery (www.foundlingsjewellery.co.uk), also responsible for surreal baby necklace above, which by rights shouldn't work but does!

the scene at trereife, with outsized pebble seat sculptures by ben barrel (www.benbarrell.co.uk); also pictured above. saving up...

love, love, love this girl's blue and white ceramics and salt servers - bugger, lost her card. she of the blueberry-scented pen, please tell me your name so i can link to you!

satisfying, strokeable felt pebbles

Well, it might not be lovely in the strictest sense of the word but it’s as lovely as it’s going to get.

I walked past the poster for the annual Yacht Inn Swim this morning and thought I’d post the details. It takes place this evening – if you’re spectating then be sure to get there for the main race at 7.30pm, as the fastest swimmers reach Battery Rocks  in 16 minutes.

If you’re participating, well, what can say? As you become achy of arm and leaden of leg about 100 metres in, take comfort in the fact that ‘wild swimming’ (er, otherwise known as ‘swimming‘) is totally on trend right now.

I took some pics and video last year, click here to take a look.

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A few ale-addled snaps from Mazey Day in Penzance last week. It was my first and I loved it – the chaotic anything everything goes atmosphere is pure Penzance. One couple had dressed up as hippies – which is akin to dressing in camouflage.

I want to get more into top-five lists on pasties & cream, so I’ll kick off with my top five Golowan festival highlights:

1) The DJ in the Arts Club garden dropping Black Box ‘Ride on Time’ at 3 in the afternoon. Not only did he get away with it – people went crazy.

2) Singer Dom Youngman at the busk-off at Zero Lounge’s alfresco bar on Mock Mayor Wednesday (incidentally, was anyone else confused by the brisk trade they were doing all week in Veuve Clicquot??! Do these people know of a secretly booming industry in Cornwall that I don’t?).

3) Pondlife ska at the Dock (listen here) – young and old dancing in the streets and things starting to get messy.

4) Mr B’s new vintage ice-cream van’s first outing.

5) Of course, Pirates on the Prom – 8,734 pirates and a real pirate ship. Rad.

Till next year…

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In case you can’t wait for the splash in the Cornishman on Thursday, here’s a quick post to bring you news of our great victory: Penzance now holds the world record for the most amount of pirates in one place. The title is in its rightful home! We beat Hastings by several thousand, with a total of 8734 Cornish pirates, most armed with cutlasses, lined up on the prom.

It was a truly uplifting event, with communal ‘oooo-arrrrrrrghs’ encouraged on the sound system – and, of course, the mother of all ‘oggy, oggy, oggies’ when the winning result was announced.

Some people looked like they had hardly needed to dress up – what with the prevalence of beards and unruly, salty hair. And one pirate had a real parrot on his shoulder, which was causing mass piratical hysteria.

Unless you actually are a pirate, and therefore a bit off-radar, you will probably have heard about Penzance’s forthcoming attempt to beat the world record, currently held by Hastings, for the number of pirates in one place.

Hastings managed just over 6K but surely, Cornwall, we can pound that – we are in a piratical class of our own. Many people do actually wear kerchiefs in their daily life, after all, not just on pirates Sunday.

Read the rules on costumes here. £1 to enter. 1pm. Sunday, June 26th, 2011. Penzance promenade. Be there or be, well, a massive spoil-sport.

Bandanas are de rigeur for the event – pantaloons also welcomed with open arms.

Pirates on the Prom (www.golowan.org)

Or rather to be born again. Thankfully, I have a gorgeous dusty pink bathroom suite all of my own so I had that particular area covered.

This ceramic installation comes care of Shiver Me Timbers reclamation yard at Long Rock, near Penzance: west Cornwall’s answer to IKEA. Good browsing. More pics.. Read the rest of this entry »

newlyn art gallery

These are pics of a specially commissioned installation at the Newlyn Gallery at the moment by Phoebe Cummings (recently artist in residence at the V&A) in response to the Cornish landscape.

People (myself included) tend to bang on about the colours of Cornwall, don’t they, so there was something interesting and different in her intricate, clay-grey mini Cornwall.

I attended a workshop on Saturday morning with Phoebe, in which Read the rest of this entry »

I am photo-rich (cheers, Jen) and time-poor this week, so without further ado here are a few picturarios of the reopened and tweaked Exchange gallery. I am a fan of the cafe (in particular, the strawberry in salad policy, which I hope still stands!) so I approve of the expanded space and more bar-like feel.

Ahem, not forgetting the art amid the lattes, the opening show of the season is an exploration of printmaking – check it out here.

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Like any girl, I swoon at the sight of vintage crockery, bunting, wild flowers and cakes (in pretty much any combination), so imagine my excitement at this pop-up tea shop called Tea by the Sea, which pitched up in the old shipping container that is currently on Penzance prom as part of Cornwall Design Season.

Despite being the only seaside prom in Cornwall – with twinkling views – Penzance prom is quite a bare kind of place. Occasionally, and seemingly randomly, a few potted palms appear, but then they disappear as mysteriously as Read the rest of this entry »

What can I say? This pasty speaks for itself. It is a standard ‘large’ pasty from Lavender‘s, which measures in at 30cm long. Twice the length of my hand. Look no further for a recession-busting family meal.

….new bar-restaurant Untitled – the work of chef Robert Wright of Gurnard’s Head fame – is surely the most exciting thing that has opened in west Cornwall for ages.

In the interests of hype limitation, I hadn’t dared to get too excited about it beforehand but I went last night and it was all pretty fabulous. Saloon-bar chic downstairs (the sort of low-lit ambiance that makes you involuntarily order a Disaronno on the rocks – ok maybe that was just me). Terry Frosts and fresh white linen upstairs. Prices feasible. Steak gorgeous. Full of locals. The stuff of PZ dreams!

More, and better, pics here.

www.untitledbyrobertwright.com

Sorry for the long radio silence. I’ve just been in for another round of hip impingement surgery, this time involving some gruesome bone-cutting and slicing (gross). The list of post-operative restrictions is five pages long – and has a scary bullet-point heirarchy – but nowhere in there does it say ‘thou shall not blog’, so expect special attention to west Cornwall venues furnished with comfortable chairs standing at exactly 19 inches in height.

There’s a charming photography exhibition on at the moment at Penlee House Gallery called ‘The Marvellous Everyday’ – a celebration of Penzance’s long-standing quirkiness. Read the rest of this entry »

pop up lime tree cornwallpop up lime tree cornwall

Restaurants have been ‘popping up’ for a while in London and other metropolitan centres but I believe I attended Cornwall’s very first pop-up restaurant at the weekend – a collaboration between Gallery Latitude 50 on the Penwith moors near Cripplesease and Lime Tree catering, the people behind the much-loved Lime Tree restaurant that once occupied Trevelyan House on Chapel Street in Penzance.

In my (female) party there was a flurry of excitement on arrival: our prettily dressed table Read the rest of this entry »

newlyn cornwall

Like hundreds of thousands of others, judging by the rocketing sales of sustainable fish species this week, I found the points made in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Fish Fight programme very compelling.

So compelling, in fact, that I didn’t even mind him repeating them a billion times in the space of half an hour (sign of bloody good point)! In the notoriously complicated territory of fish and seafood – where ‘the right thing to do’ is an elusive concept to anyone who isn’t personally monitoring fish stocks – keeping it clear, simple and repetitive seems crucial to the campaign’s success.

So for this cause, I didn’t mind being a cliche and trotting off to sunny Newlyn this morning in search of an ‘alternative’ species of fish for dinner. I came home with a fillet of coley for £2 – an alternative to the over-fished cod to which the Brits are so attached.

(Oh and if you’re looking for Read the rest of this entry »

men an tol penwith cornwallmen an tol cornwall penwith

Sunday was a surreally calm and sunny winter’s day in west Cornwall, so ideal for my first outing to Men-an-Tol – the iconic stone monument half a mile off the drop-dead-gorgeous Madron to Morvah road.

In the presqu’île of West Penwith, we tend to all get a bit blase about prehistoric sites – they are everywhere, in the shape of quoits, remains of Iron Age villages, standing stones and stone circles. Save for a few – like Chycauster village, which is National Heritage – they form a natural, integral part of the landscape. There’s no entrance fee or brochure or fence and sometimes not even a sign, which is just the way I like them!

Among these granite antiquities, Men an Tol is unique for its polo-like circular form with a hole in the middle (beloved of many an artist, including Barbara Hepworth, as James Fox was telling us in his recent docu).

Historians don’t seem to have an especially firm grip Read the rest of this entry »

I know this is old news now but: Happy New Year all!

I have only just emerged from the self-inflicted carnage of a St Ives New Year, which I spent dressed in some high-waisted snakeskin trousers and a blond wig – and in the company of a womble, Big Bird, two shepherds, Dr Zoidberg, a carrot, a robot and a crocodile.

We spent most of the evening in the throng outside the Sloop and then, as is traditional, Read the rest of this entry »

p&c january header: artist’s studio Newlyn

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