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In this most dead of seasons in the far west, it’s a struggle to find somewhere open for any sort of refreshment, let alone somewhere cosy or chic. All the more fun, then, to discover not one but two interesting new cafes in the space of a few weeks. First up, the Dog & Rabbit in St Just. As befits a cafe in this most herbal and tight-knit of towns, it’s mellow and hand-knitted, with recycled cardboard for clipboards, vintage furniture, and a table selling home-made jam and properly free-range eggs.

(Marks deducted for being about to close in February!)

18 Bank Square, St Just, TR19 7HJ Penzance, Cornwall. T 01736 449811.\

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With Penzance town centre perennially under attack from the faceless threats of supermarkets, parking charges and high business rates, it’s a joy to watch how Chapel Street is turning into a real little vintage and design enclave.

It is an atmospheric street at the worst of times but now it has the likes of Lost & Found cafe (my new cafe favourite with vintage shop attached), one-week-old No.56 (a touch of London’s Labour & Wait plus hand-crocheted cushions), newly relocated Daisy Laing – as well as oldies like Newlyn Books, Fishboy, Steckfensters and the cigar shop – it can genuinely call itself a shopping ‘enclave’.

I also like the way the businesses – all independents – are coming up with shopping extras. See above a poster for a vintage fair at Lost & Found next weekend. Also hark that shops on Chapel Street are opening late on Thursdsays up till Christmas (until 7pm! And yes, if you are reading from afar, that is most definitely ‘late’ & very useful for Cornwall).

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Hurrah, the little vintage caravan on the prom lives on, this year with new owners (one of which is none other than knitted freak lady Katie Lennon of Heyday) and under a cute new name, Little Wonder.

As well as the arrival of Starry-Gazy Cupcakes on the menu, the other news is that it’s not waiting till the official ‘season’ to trundle on to the prom – it’s open weekends from now. Yes, that’s correct, it is February and there is no cover – just how I like it. A hot cup of tea and a chill in the air… makes me feel like I’m camping.

Views across Mount’s Bay, yours for £1.50 for a cuppa, £3 with cupcake. Naturally, I dream about them serving wine… We so badly need somewhere nice outdoors for a sundowner* in this town.

*amongst other things

It also sells cards by the wonderful local design & print studio Pirrip Press.

Visit the website or follow Little Wonder on FB or Twitter for opening dates & times, events etc.

More pics here Read the rest of this entry »

I went to these guys’ Christmas Mart at Chapel Street’s Trevelyan House and emerged happily with several ‘knitted freaks‘ (see second row above & pic below – they make the world a better place), silkscreen-printed wrapping paper and cards by Studio No.6, and a few fine slabs of brownie. They (that’s Heyday Presents) are holding a May Mart on Friday and Saturday in Penzance – see poster below for full detailage.

Being a bit of a tin geek, I approve of this vintage-chic new tin of Cornish Fairings care of Furniss (official makers of the Cornish Fairing – they nabbed a trademark a few years back), which has been designed to celebrate their 125th anniversary in business.

The requisite embossing and retro styling is in place, as well as a motif of a pan-Cornish lighthouse, all brought up to date with some nice pastel colours and tactile matt gold.

Cornish people don’t tend to eat Fairings in great quantities, other than when they have just gifted someone a tin of them, under which circumstances Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

These pics are my favourites from a v neat exhibition in the Vintage Storeroom in St Ives until tomorrow called Instant Exposure by talented downalong-dweller Emily Fishpool – designer, illustrator and most importantly creator of the super-cute Teddy Pasty, ‘the cuddliest teddy in all Cornwall’!

All the pics are taken on the iPhone. Framed prints are £30. Why don’t mine look like that?

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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 »

vintage storeroom cornwall vintage storeroom cornwall

I made it through the sheets of rain to the opening of a rather charming new studio-cum-shop up some old granite steps off the front in St Ives called the Vintage Storeroom, brainchild of freelance knitwear designer Rosie Savidge.

It’s a pot pourri of vintage pieces, illustrated cards, textile designs (lavender mice, above, and soon to include the pasty teddy – the prototype by Emily Fishpool looked like a proper job), and also – in a random but useful twist – a selection of Asian and Italian specialist foodstuffs like fish sauce, coconut milk, and good spaghetti.

Follow their progress at!/thevintagesroom

vintage storeroom cornwall

vintage storeroom cornwall vintage storeroom cornwall vintage storeroom cornwall vintage storeroom cornwall

I was touched to receive an old, red Ward-Lock Guide to Penzance as a get-well present from my friend Sarah while recovering from surgery (I’ve started walking btw… like a duck, but you’ve got to start somewhere).

It’s hard to know exactly what date it was published as Ward-Locks apparently routinely omitted a date from all pages in order to look current but I’m guessing first half of 20th century… One can, should one not have a job, go on online forums where people endlessly discuss the possible publication dates of these old guides with impressive anality.

At the risk of romanticising my convalescence, which hasn’t been a walk in the park (literally no walks in the park!), I did indulge in several enjoyable afternoons of reading in the company of this book while watching the boats potter in and out of Newlyn harbour from my bedroom window and a) pondering how little Penzance had changed in the years that had passed since that book was written, and b) amusing myself with the things that had.

My top 10 highlights from the book:

1/ ‘Penzance is the metropolis of the toe of England – a town that has prospered amazingly considering its isolation for hundreds of years’.
Come on, I don’t think the use of the M-word has ever been appropriate.

2/ ‘Penzance shops close at 1pm on Fridays. On other days between 5pm and 6pm. On market days, some shops remain open later.’ Well, lucky old people of olden times. Can’t remember the last time I found a shop open a minute past 5.30pm.

3/ ‘To many the charm of the place, and the justification of a journey of some hundreds of miles, is simply that Penzance is–just Penzance.’

4/ ‘Mid-way along the seafront is the Pavilion Theatre, with a café and roof garden’
–ER, HELLO – PENZANCE HAD A SEAFRONT ROOF GARDEN? Who got rid of that and replaced with an amusement arcade?

5/ ‘Mousehole has no claim other than it is to-day as it was yesterday–an unsophisticated Cornish fishing village unreformed by artists and unspoiled by vandals.’
Thankfully still unvandalised though I think a few artists might be ‘reforming’ it.

6/ ‘After reading the effusive descriptions of the beauty of Lamorna Cove, handed down from writers of the past, many visitors express disappointment when they reach this pretty but over-publicised spot–particularly when they have seen more beautiful coves. Nevertheless, Lamorna is… very fine in its own wild, untidy way but is unfortunate in possessing a beach consisting entirely of granite boulders’
Ouch! Touch harsh on Lamorna.

7/ ‘What natural beauty Land’s End does possess is usually imperilled by the disgraceful amount of paper, cardboard and other debris of picnics cast aside by careless visitors’.
Oh well, better that than the unmovable debris of a sizeable theme park, no?

8/ ‘One arrives at Porthmeor Beach, a fine sandy bay, splendid for surf-bathing’

9/ ‘This peninsula combines the soft charms of a genial winter – and is, in fact, an invalid’s paradise, with a summer season of unvarying equability’.
Looking forward to its soft charms again as winter draws in… is he talking about mizzle?

10/ ‘A century ago, the journey from London to West Cornwall occupied something like forty hours… The world-famous Cornish Riviera Limited now runs from London to Penzance in about 7 hours’
Nice to see the coming of the 21st century has reduced the travel time by a whole hour. Maybe we’ll get it down to 4.5 hours by 2110.

jubilee pool penzance cornwall

The 1930s deco lido in Penzance is a great source of inspiration to local photographers and artists – the cool curves, cubist steps, and triangular shapes pointing out into the sea are a pretty extraordinary sight.

To celebrate my first ever swim in the Jubilee Pool – so overdue, it was getting quite embarrassing – I thought I’d post my humble interpretation of this iconic monument. This was the view from my towel as I lay sunbathing at the weekend (before, that is, I was told to stop photographing the architecture due to ‘child protection’).

I lay there for at least an hour thinking that if I could just absorb enough rays, it would defend me against the famously cold temperature of the water. I noted with some concern that over half the people in the pool had some sort of expensive-looking swimming protection, including swimming caps made of wetsuit material.

But I have to say the water really was lovely – fresh but manageable, and considerably warmer than the sea proper (I know this because I swam off Battery Rocks on Friday evening sans suit and it was… challenging). The feeling of swimming in a pool of that size (100 metres long at its longest point!) was invigorating – and the unconventional triangular shape liberates you from boring old up-and-down lengths, and makes it feel more like a wild swim.

This year is the 75th anniversary of Jubilee Pool, and there are celebratory flags flying (below) and historic Read the rest of this entry »

Cornwall railway Poster

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I’ve always been a huge fan of those old railway posters advertising trips to Cornwall – they are beautifully designed and just bursting with the pride and aspiration that once surrounded rail travel. Many of the Cornish ones are famous to the point of cliché but thanks to Jaunted today I discovered a new one, dating back to 1907 and boldly comparing the Cornish riviera to Italy.

‘There is,’ it claims, ‘a great similarity between Cornwall and Italy in… climate.’ Even on a scorching summer’s day such as today with the sea shining on Mount’s Bay and the sky a deep blue, you can’t help but laugh at this barefaced advertising lie.

I’d love to own one of these vintage rail posters but every time I come close to buying one I think: isn’t that a bit like wearing an ‘I heart NYC’ t-shirt when you live there? Totally uncool. Similarly my Alfred Wallis harbour print came straight out of the frame as soon as I moved to Cornwall – I still love it, but it made me feel like a tourist.

Here’s another goodun:

rail poster cornwall

steckfensters penzance

With the casualties of the recession still very visible in Penzance – every third shopfront seems to be empty at the moment ­– it was particularly nice to walk down Chapel Street on Friday and spot something new. A rummager’s dream world, Steckfensters has moved from its smaller Bread Street premises into a plum property – in the old Hilton Young gallery.

I had a browse and the stock is pure Penzance: you can expect anything from a handsome ladies’ pale blue Raleigh bike to rails of leather jackets, plants, curios, floral print garden chairs and, most importantly, a pink tutu.

10 Chapel Street, Penzance – open Thur-Sat

steckfensters penzance

As I am wont to where spotty mugs and wild flower arrangements are involved, I went a bit crazy with the zoom the other weekend at the Westcroft. It’s a gorgeous boutique b&b and gallery in the soothing village of Kingsand on the Rame Peninsula, aka ‘Cornwall’s Forgotten Corner’. As you can see, it’s a haven of all-round loveliness…  what you can’t see here is that it’s right on the beach.

Westcroft Guesthouse & Gallery, seafront, Kingsand, Cornwall – From £90 a night for a double. Btw, it’s a short drive from Antony House, of Alice in Wonderland fame.

westcroft guesthouse rame cornwallwestcroft guesthouse rame cornwall Read the rest of this entry »

I got totally carried away after a visit to St Ives’ new vintage-styled sweetshop Beau Bonbon at the weekend. Before I knew it, one aniseed ball had led to ten milk bottles, five fried eggs, a black jack and a trillion zingy cola bottles. All that before someone cracked open the edible necklaces…

At month-old Beau Bonbon, a nostalgically chic shop on the harbour with lovely antique dressers, coloured bunting and pink stripy paper bags, no sweet has been overlooked. There were sugar mice and parma violets, love hearts and flying saucers (oh yes), sherbet dips, black jacks, fruit salads, drumsticks, foam bananas, jelly babies, refreshers, fizz wiz, dolly mixture…

As you can see, Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve been looking for a reason to air my pictures of a particularly quirky weekend last ‘summer’ that I spent in a classic 1950s caravan on an iron age fort on the Lizard. And I think I’ve found one: Lovelane Caravans, the hosts in question, are imminently opening (post-Easter) their own little Love Lane Campsite in a field over at Roskilly’s, near St Keverne on the Lizard.

Lovelane lady Anna, an ex lingerie designer, Read the rest of this entry »

p&c january header: artist’s studio Newlyn

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