The Minack Theatre: a worthy bucket list addition

Two photographs caught my eye when I was flicking through a very old copy of the National Geographic magazine.

The first was a photograph of the Minack Theatre (a famous open-air theatre in Britain):

Photo of Minack Theatre
The Minack Theatre, courtesy of the Minack Theatre
Photo of Rowena Cade relaxing in a wheelbarrrow
Rowena Cade relaxing in a wheelbarrow, courtesy of the Minack Theatre

The second photograph in the same article was of an elderly woman, Rowena Cade, sitting in an upright wheelbarrow. I’d never thought of using a wheelbarrow as a seat, but it looks pretty comfy!!

Between 1931 and 1983 (when she died) Rowena Cade planned, built and financed the Minack (in Cornish this means ‘a rocky place’) Theatre. This stunning theatre is carved into the granite rocks of Porthcurno in Cornwall.

An extract from the Minack Theatre’s website describes how this was built by Rowena Cade and two men:

“During that first winter of 1931-32, she laboured as apprentice to her gardener Billy Rawlings and his mate Charles Thomas Angove. Using the skills of the two men, granite was cut by hand from a pile of tumbled boulders. Stones were inched into place. The terraces were in-filled with earth, small stones and pebbles shovelled down from the higher ledges. All this work took place on the slope above a sheer drop into the Atlantic.”

Rowena had a superb mix of qualities including creativity, foresight, ingenuity, and sheer determination. She overcame so many obstacles: a challenging location; physical constraints; a world war where resources, money and materials were scarce; and age (she worked on the theatre until her mid-eighties!).

What an inspiring woman and what a remarkable achievement! Just the sort of inspiration many of us in Christchurch like to hear about now that we are faced with a long rebuild journey ahead of us.

The Minack Theatre has been added to my bucket list. If you have included an inspirational addition to your bucket list lately I’d love to hear about it.

Logo of the National Geographic Virtual LibraryAside from the National Geographic magazines that you can find in our libraries, library members can also access the digital archive of the National Geographic magazine. Coverage is from 1888 onwards up until the most recent issues and includes articles, maps and photos. The National Geographic Virtual Library is a fantastic resource to browse through.

Thank you to Phil Jackson, Theatre Manager of the Minack Theatre, for providing permission to use the images contained in this blog post.

Have you planted your garlic yet?

Cover: Garlic, The Mighty BulbI’m hoping that maybe you haven’t planted your garlic yet… We were getting ready to do this, and then luckily saw the weather forecast before we made firm plans. I think if we had gone ahead, our garlic might have been washed out to sea in the deluge and may have decided to swim to Australia to seek some warmer weather!

Everyone seems to have a different idea about when the best time to plant garlic is. The first time we planted it was on the 21st of June several years ago. It is an easy date to remember, being the shortest day, and because we had good results we’ve always aimed for that date (weather permitting).

I love planting garlic, mainly because there’s not really that much that you can do wrong. It just seems to need a sunny spot, a bit of moisture, and away it goes. It is usually ready in about 6-7 months, which is conveniently just in time for the barbecue season, and there’s just something so satisfying about growing your own. It looks great when it is braided too, although I seem to end up with more of a knotty mess myself.

Anyway, this got me thinking that I must check and see what else I should get ready to plant over the next few months. We always seem to plant the same things, so I really need to branch out (pardon the pun!).The Good Life

There’s always the Yates Garden Guide of course, which is great for practical gardening advice, but I decided to check our catalogue for inspiration, and The Good Life caught my eye. Having watched the Good Life TV series when I was growing up, the title evoked some great memories and it just sounded too good to miss!

It is hot off the press, published earlier this year, and a quick flick through it suggests that it’s just the ticket. It is divided up into seasons and I’ve instantly spotted a couple of recipes that I’ll be keen to try, including pickled garlic, and pickled nasturtium seeds (otherwise known as poor man’s capers).  There look to be some good tips in there which I’ll soak up – gardening just seems to be one of those areas where you are continually learning. Maybe that is part of what makes it so much fun!

The only downside to this book is that every time I pick it up and see the title I hear the theme song for the Good Life TV series in my head!  Just in case you want a dose of nostalgia, you’ll be glad to know that we have the Good Life TV series available at our libraries on DVD.

If you have any experiences about planting garlic or about your own good life that you would like to share then we would love to hear your comments.

Life after Death

Life after death: the shocking true story of an innocent man on death row is probably not a book that I would have chosen to read, but a customer told me about it (one of the perks of my job!) and an interest was sparked.  I was also curious about the New Zealand connection with this – Peter Jackson produced a film about it called West of Memphis, which the library has on DVD.

Life After Death by Damien EcholsDamien Echols was one of three teenagers arrested and charged with the murders of three eight-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. Echols was fingered as the ring leader and was sentenced to death. All three men were eventually released in August 2011.

Echols’s early life was one of poverty and despair, living in miserable circumstances in an unhappy family setting. He mentions that he spent hours in the West Memphis Public Library, as he was a keen reader, and wanted to educate himself. He continued reading through his time on death row.

He describes the long build-up to his arrest, where he started to get attention from the police and the events leading up to the arrest. The most harrowing part of the book is obviously his time on death row, where he gives insights into the inmates’ daily lives, the abuse suffered from prison guards, and so on. It takes you through his journey of swinging emotions triggered by hope one minute and despair the next, his search for spirituality, and his interactions with the people he met (including Peter Jackson) who helped him in his fight for freedom. What really shines through is his courage and determination, and his amazing ability to remain sane in insane circumstances.

Have you read Life after death or seen West of Memphis? If so, what did you think of them?

And is there a title that you wouldn’t ordinarily have chosen to read, but which was recommended to you and which you ended up really enjoying? Why not pay it forward in the comments below?

NZ IceFest – dust off your ice skates!

NZ IceFest is a celebration of New Zealand’s relationship with Antarctica and of Christchurch’s history as a gateway to the Antarctic. This festival includes many events, as well as interesting speakers, documentaries, and exhibitions.

Cover: Still LifeThe ‘Still Life: Inside the Antarctic huts of Scott and Shackleton’ exhibition (based on the book of the same name), is a series of Jane Ussher’s photos (accompanied by a soundtrack) of objects inside and around the huts. It provides an interesting glimpse into what life may have been like for these explorers.

If you are keen to find out more about Scott and Shackleton we have a lot of books (including ebooks and audiobooks) detailing their remarkable lives. I am currently reading about Shackleton’s amazing survival story surrounding his ship Endurance. It became trapped in the ice and he managed to lead his men to safety through several incredible journeys over land and sea. At IceFest there’s a replica of the James Caird, the lifeboat used by Shackleton and some of his men in their efforts to be rescued, and it was seeing this and the accompanying notes alongside it that prompted me to get reading.

Photo: Statue of Robert Falcon ScottAlso on display at the IceFest is the magnificent marble statue of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, sculpted by Scott’s widow, Lady Kathleen Scott. It was sad to see it in several pieces (it sustained earthquake damage); I do hope that it can be restored. It is an eerie reminder of the earthquakes, and seems very symbolic, shattered but hopefully restorable.

Onto cheerier thoughts… If you’re hungry, I can recommend a West Coast whitebait fritter, and there are also some other great food options available from the stalls at the Icefest. If it is a chilly night and you need some warming up,  then that wintery treat, mulled wine, is available.

The ice skating rink at IceFest looks like fun (if you are more coordinated than I am!), and was getting a lot of use the night we visited. See the IceFest website for pricing and special offers.

NZ IceFest runs from 14 September to 14 October in Christchurch’s Hagley Park (next to the tennis courts that are close to Victoria Lake), and is definitely worth a visit, especially at night when you’ll see the twinkling lights surrounding the ice rink and lighting up the trees. Some activities within the Ice Station have an associated cost, but entry is free and there is plenty to see and do free of charge. For more details, visit the IceFest website.

You’ve still got time to make some edible Christmas presents!

Cover of "4 ingredients"Christmas day is less than 10 days away, but you’ve still got time to make some delicious edible presents…

If you are running short of time and you want some simple recipes with a short list of ingredients, try 4 ingredients. This handy little book contains a wide range of recipes for treats like chocolate or rum balls, fudge (the lime and macadamia fudge sounds particularly enticing), and biscuits, along with many other mouth watering goodies, so it is definitely a must read!

Homemade jams make a great present, but if you think that jam-making sounds too time consuming and messy, why not try making it in your microwave? ‘Bird of Paradise Pineapple Jam’ from Quick & easy one pot of jam from your microwave sounds absolutely divine with ingredients like pineapple, persimmon, apple, and lime. It is described as being deep orangey-pink in colour with a delicious taste, and apparently makes for ‘a lively addition to a cheese board…’ I haven’t made this myself yet, but it is on my (growing by the day) ‘to do’ list.

Cover of "Preserved"For those of you that have an abundant veggie or fruit garden you may be thinking of ways to turn your homegrown goodness into presents. If you’ve got oodles of lemons, for example, there are lots of options like: lemon cordial, lemon honey (an old favourite of mine), preserved lemons, or lemon oil.

Recipe books like Preserved will help you to turn your lemons into edible presents, but beware, it is easy to become quite distracted when you start leafing through the glossy pages of close-up photos of fig jam and oranges in brandy!

Using herbs from your garden to make a jar of pesto is another option you could try. If you have a large supply of parsley at the moment (like I do), just use a standard basil pesto recipe and replace the basil with parsley. Delicious!

So in the lead up to Christmas, why not put a few minutes aside and crank up your creative side?