The pace of rural life ……

So you have been drumming your fingers on the desk and wondering what exactly was missing …  and then you realised … you hadn’t had your email from the practical hedgehog! And why.. because she’s had one busy weekend – where her fingers have not had time to hit the keys.

Rural life can be exceedingly busy if you throw yourself into local events and organisations. Take this weekend when we had the culmination of the Great Parish History Quiz.

No use just hitting the internet on this quiz –  all answers could be found without a computer – though only some were available online, and then only if you looked hard enough. The questions referred to our parish only, making it very specific. You needed your two weeks to visit places in the parish, to hunt out the interesting bits of information.. like ‘Who has a black memorial slab near the priest’s door in the church, and what is the symbol on it?  answer: Reverend Nicolas Sharsell and the symbol – skull and crossbones. (My boys always thought he must have been a pirate – where in truth he was a solemn minded man of the puritan cloth)

Final answers could be posted in the box up to 11am at the History coffee morning, for which I had spent the whole of Friday baking cakes and putting flowers in vases for the tables, to say nothing of the other times I had spent helping to create the quiz, making and distributing posters, road-side signs and quiz sheets. Not that I was alone, on the day a whole team of wonderful people turned out with cakes, raffle prizes and help to run the event!

And that’s part of what living in a rural village is all about – being part of the community, joining in, helping out, supporting events.  It brings people together and heightens the feeling of belonging. I have lived in a city and belonged to organisations there, but there each remained separate; living in a village is different. When you join in with things in a village you become linked to the whole village.

At eleven the answers were given out and, at the end, I took away the entries to mark. Which I could not do that day, as I had other errands to run, my car to load for a craft-stall the next day and a 60th birthday to attend in the evening.

Cards from prints of Jo Totterdell's botanical paintings (click to view)

Next morning, bright and early, with feet still a little sore from dancing to great 60s hits in high heeled shoes, I set off for an open garden event in aid of Hospice SW. I took with me my annmade slate-ware, local botanical artist Jo Totterdell’s card selection, to sell on her behalf, and the quiz sheets to mark.  I am pleased to take Jo’s work along as I think it is exquisite and so I’m also giving you a chance to look at some more of her lovely paintings here. You won’t find these on the internet anywhere either.

A weekend when different things I am involved in collide and make me over busy is a fairly frequent occurrence… I am told it is my own fault for trying to do too much.  There – that’s my excuses for a late blog – the pace of rural life 🙂

Is your life full of different clubs, groups and societies or do you go for the peaceful life?

Why are some of us, seemingly, programmed to ‘get involved’ while others are happy not to?

And do you feel more relaxed now that you’ve heard from me? 🙂

Do share your thoughts – you know I love to hear from you!



In a ‘Mary Portas pilot town’ market

As you will know, if a regular reader of this blog, I make and retail Slate ware – mainly from my website – but also through Callington Country market and a few shops locally.  My usual outlet in Liskeard had been one of those shops that had closed in the past year, so when I was approached to have a stall at this new market I was both pleased and apprehensive. Apprehensive because I usually only do a few craft markets a year and this was a commitment of twice a month and because it was the first out-door market I have ever done! So what has this to do with Mary Portas, I hear you ask.

Well, as you can’t have failed to notice if you watch TV, Mary Portas is on a mission – to revitalise some of the country’s failing town centres – and after stiff competition from towns all round the country, Liskeard (a lovely old Cornish market-town, struggling in the economic climate, in a region of low wages, high house prices and with a record number of empty shops on the high street), is one of  her first twelve pilot towns.

For this market I teamed up with a friend who has worked outdoor markets for many years, Christine, of Cornish Creams who makes and sells fine skin care products made using all natural products, and rain-forest friendly ones at that!   Our products are so totally different that they make a nice contrast and the arrangement also covers me not being able to attend all day every time the market is to be run, due to other family commitments.

We arrived very early! Well, Christine said we needed to be there early, especially for the first one. She was right, but anyone who knows me will know that my natural wake-up time is eight o’clock, so struggling out of bed and into the shower at 5.45 was a trial!  And what a day I woke to. The forecast had been ‘overcast’ clearing later. Overcast turned out to be mist and drizzle as I drove to pick up my friend.

By the time we arrived at Liskeard the drizzle was  –  RAIN.

Now, the town council had been trying to get a market up and running again in the town for a while – but the opening co-incides with the Mary Portas initiatives and so her Channel 4 team were there to film some of the day as it unfolded.  As we were one of the first there they asked if they could film us setting up so our hands were filmed as we spread out our cloths to cover the tables – no products out, none of our banners or signs to show what we sell .. ah well – fame for our hands maybe but not for our products 🙁

Christine (Cornish Creams) and Ann (annmade - Slate ware) all set up

And the rain came down, as we arranged our stand and tried to hang our signs.  In a moment, when the rain paused, a neighbouring stall holder took a snap of us all set up.

Actors mix with shoppers in the rain

We were already thinking to ourselves ‘who in their right mind will come out to shop at this new outdoor market in the pouring rain?’.  Well we were amazed and pleased that the Liskeard people took no heed to the rain and turned out in force, in fact, not only from Liskeard but I met up with loads of people from all round the area that I knew from the various other groups I am, or have been, involved with, Poetry, Wreckers Border Morris, Bellydance, WI and other  markets so it was a lovely social time too.

UNintended entertainment

The rain kept coming, even past eleven when it had promised to clear from ‘overcast’ and the awnings were filling with water. Our intrepid town councilors went from stall to stall tipping out the water (all over themselves) and tightening up the sheets. It provided great unintended entertainment with cheers going up from the crowd .

Intended entertainment came later as the sun tried to shine though the now fine rain, in the form of a medieval enactment of a ‘court’ where ‘Mr Bun’ baker number one, accused ‘Mr Pasty’ baker number two, of  selling inferior bread.

The charges are read by the Town Crier


Dressed appropriately in medieval garb and addressing the crowd the plaintiffs made their case then samples of bread were distributed for the crowd to taste and judge. The Mayor  took the results by count of hands and the defeated Mr Pasty was led to the stocks to be pelted with wet sponges for selling his inferior bread, much to the amusement of the small children throwing them

Liskeard - on the Parade

Eventually the sun did shine and everything looked much better in the sun – and I ventured out to take this lovely snap of the border just behind our stand – looking positively Mediterranean with its flowers and palm tree!

The town council have taken up an empty supermarket right on the Parade (where this market was held) and it is in there that the New Pannier Market will be sited from September on – so we are saved the trials of the rain next time and hope the fun atmosphere continues as we  do this market every second and fourth Saturday from September to Christmas.

Lastly – an urgent message for DeborahKennedy2@….  please contact me back before 10/9/12 after which I must deem that you have refused the prize offered and make a re-draw.  And for my FWT? cheerleaders – the results on last Sunday were – same weight – but half inch down on both waist measurements!

New events are always exciting but also exhausting – have you ever run a market stall? Or even a stall for a local fete or charity – how did it make you feel to be the vendor rather than the buyer? I am always interested to hear other people’s experiences! Do tell..



One Hedgehog, two hedgehogs, three hedgehogs, four ….

I don’t really collect hedgehogs … they seem to have gravitated  towards me. Ok, so I did buy one once and I will admit to having bought some sticky-backed op-art style pictures once (One of which, at least, was stuck to the door of my room at teacher training college).

The one I bought was purchased at the Ideal Home exhibition, Earls Court when I visited it with school and aged 15.  This first hedgehog was, seemingly, carved from a light grey stone and sat nice and coolly in the palm of your hand. It was a paper weight.  Yet I did not keep it – I gave it to my boyfriend of the time, Ricky.  He lent it back to me when I was taking my exams as a good luck token (and it was great if I got cramp from writing as holding its cool surface eased my fingers and I could then write on). I can’t show you a picture of this one as I gave it back to Ricky after the exams, but here are a small selection of the ones that have arrived to take its place and that I do have standing around (many, many more are packed away)

Ever since then I became associated with hedgehogs – in their ornamental state. People started giving me hedgehogs. They came as souvenirs, gadgets and gizmos, in all sorts of materials and as mass produced or hand made items, in wood, clay and even brass, some made especially for me. These handcrafted ones are the best! From ‘thank you’ carved wooden ones (second from back – left)  to the  one made by one of my boys when quite young (front right)

To be honest, the brass ones are quite sentimental. My – at the time boyfriend, now husband – made these as part of his teacher training course (in Craft and Design Technology) and they represent – us. They were made using polystyrene which was cut and ‘picked’ into the shapes. This was then buried in casting sand and the molten brass poured in. The hot metal would then dissolve the polystyrene and take its place in the mold (letting off pretty obnoxious fumes – don’t think you are allowed to do this now-a-days) The resulting castings were then cleaned up with a file and buffed up on a buffing machine.  Guess which one is me? 

Sometimes I feel as if the hedgehogs collected me, however, I now identify with them as a symbol. The practical hedgehog for my blog – three hedgehogs in a row for my business logo.

In my novel Divining the Line, Liz has a collection of small animal ornaments made from different minerals – a tweak on the idea of my own collection – and Perran, a water diviner by profession and with a geology degree,  is able to identify the minerals for her – creating a link between them.

My sister in law has the same problem with frogs. She collected a few – but then more arrived.

Have you ever had this happen, you take an interest in a design or collection and suddenly everyone gives you them? Or do you happily collect an unusual animal ornament? I love to hear from you folks – do tell!


Lastly – an urgent message for DeborahKennedy2@….  please contact me back before 10/9/12 after which I must deem that you have refused the prize offered and make a re-draw.  And for my FWT? cheerleaders – the results on last Sunday was another half pound down – with which I am well pleased 🙂


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