Monday, June 5, 2017

Drama in Cornwall

Today was totally drama. It was raining when we set out for St Ives at about 9, and although the rain was expected, we had no idea how dramatic it would be. The Tate St Ives is an extension of the large Tate museum in London. It sits on the coast overlooking a beautiful sandy beach in the town of St Ives.  The town is a magnet for artists as well as tourists,  as the two go well together. The exhibits are drawn from the larger Tate collection. 

It took us a while to find parking and ended up in the largest lot, which was farthest from the town. We walked down several flights of stairs as we made our way along the pedestrian path to town. The rain was light but fortunately we wore our raincoats. The brisk sea breeze easily convinced us that we needed an extra layer. 

In town we started with the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture  garden. Hepworth had worked in St Ives, so this part of the museum is a permanent collection.
The rain was a mere drizzle as we walked around the garden. The stark, abstract lines of her sculptures contrasted with the lush flowers, shiny and dripping with raindrops. 

The Tate was a short walk downhill, but by the time we arrived the rain was coming down again. We hung our wet coats and dripping umbrellas and climbed the stairs to the cafe. I've observed that wet weather gives you a powerful urge for hot drinks.  We sipped tea and coffee on the fourth floor, which overlooks the beach. Many tough surfers were on the beach or in the water where breakers roared down to the beach. The wind had risen, and the sea was getting angry. 

In the first gallery we saw a number of pieces of pottery by Bernard Leach and his students.  The other work did not hold my attention long, and I went back to one of the windows to watch he surfers and the waves. 

Saint Bill had left the Tate first, walked up the many stairs to the parking lot and driven down to the museum to pick us up. By the time we met him the rain was coming down hard, and the wind was strong. 

Our destination was the Levant Mine to the northwest. It took a while to get there, and the road wound through some moonscape countryside, where mines had flourished, but plant life had not. When we arrived at the Levant mine, on a cliff high above the water, the wind was so strong we could hardly walk. The rain was falling horizontally, and our clothing, hair, and shoes were no longer dry. It turned out that we'd have to wait at least 45 minutes for a tour, and the only eating option was a picnic on the cliff. No one could even stand, much less picnic in that storm, so we took the advice of the attendant and decided to drive a coupe miles to the next mine over (not in the National Trust, so our membership was not valid), where we could get a hot lunch. It seemed like a really good idea, so Saint Bill again offered to go up the hill to get he car. It nearly did him in. At least it brought him to the limits of sainthood. When he brought the car to pick us up his hair was soaked and his glasses were foggy. 

The little cafe was a good idea.  It was warm and crowded. We got pots of tea, sandwiches, pasties, quiche and salads, and our clothes began to dry off. Our moods lifted and we headed back to the Levant mine. Instead of parking in the upper lot we boldly chose a spot in the handicapped section, and Lillian offered to limp if questions were asked.  Bill's sainthood was fading. 

We arrived to join a tour with two wonderful guides. The first guide was from a mining family, and with the help of a bag of rocks, an assortment of tools, and some charts and photos, he brought the hard life of he Cornish copper miners to life. He led us to the steam engine which for 90 years had brought copper ore to the surface from mines thousands of feet deep and reaching up to a mile under the ocean.  He told the story of he great accident in 1919 which had killed 31 miners and blocked the main shaft, which had closed the mine, and devastated the mining families of the region. 

Then his friend took over.  The second guide was a member of the team who had restored the engine after it had laid dormant for over 50 years. With evident pride he explained the workings of the engine and then turned it on so we could watch the giant pistons move up and down as they did when the mine was in operation. 

As we left the wind was still strong, but the rain had stopped enough for me to take some photos.  The sea here was much wilder than at St. Ives. We were thankful to head back to The Barn for dinner. I made Chicken Piccata, and afterwards Lillian made soup for tomorrow, and put in a load of laundry. We were all peacefully reading and writing when all of a sudden the electricity cut out. It was black and still. Bill went outside and found out that the whole village was dark. Evidently the wind had downed a power line somewhere. 

I think that is enough drama for today. It's time for bed. 

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