Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Flickagram #11

My favourite bus stop in Cornwall, somewhere on the road to Helston. We thought it was part of a boat, but maybe it isn't. One of my favourite photography books is Soviet Bus Stops. There's even a Volume II. And now, I've just noticed, Soviet Metro Stations. Want!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, Exeter

I've probably mentioned before how I love quirky and obscure museums, like The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology and Grant Museum of Zoology, both located in London's UCL (University College London). Also located in a university is the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, to be found on Exeter University's Streatham campus.

Bill Douglas (1984-1991) was a Scottish filmmaker no one has heard of, but his autobiographical trilogy of films made in the 1970s are extraordinary and harrowing – and like Satyajit Ray's Apu trilogy, filled with enough poetry and beauty to make the poverty bearable.

The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum contains the moving image memorabilia collected by Douglas and his friend Peter Jewell. It is one of the largest collections in Europe, consisting of about 50,000 items collected over 30 years, a vast cinematic array from a Lumiere cinematographe to a Marilyn Monroe soap dish. The museum also consists of Douglas's papers and is a place for research and study. A little gem well worth seeking out if you've got an hour or two to wait at Exeter St David's (about a ten minute walk from the train station).

Previously on Barnflakes
Top ten museums/galleries
H is for Horrific
My childhood just flew by 
Top ten greatest film trilogies

Monday, November 11, 2019


A post-Brexit Cornish story.

There are food shortages – mackerel and pilchard stocks are low, of course. Worst of all – Andrew Rowe, a.k.a. The Kernow King, is King of Cornwall, literally, ruling over the underground bakeries – Warrens, Rowe's, Philps – with an iron fist. He builds a wall of frozen pasties on the Cornish side of the Tamar to keep the Cornish in and the English out. What with climate change, it soon melts. When the pound becomes worthless, Cornish pasties become the official Cornish currency, and society reverts to a form of feudal system, like a collective or commune, with pasties forming the basis of bartering: two small Warrens are worth one large Rowe's or I'll fix your fence for two lamb and mint Philps pasties. The system works so well that over time, Cornish people are actually born in pasty-shaped wombs, and stamped with the creator's logo – Warrens, Rowe's or Philps – when they emerge from the pastry. The stamp determines the bearers social class. An uprising occurs when a baby is born, the protagonist of the story, not quite fitting in as others do. His name is Gregg...

I can't claim full authorship. I just had a pen and paper handy as the words flowed from my colleague 'Wing Man' (not real name).

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Cornwall’s master and slave shared gravestone

St Wendron’s churchyard in Wendron, a village near Helston, Cornwall, contains an unusual gravestone: a former slave and his master share the same grave. Miner Thomas Johns, originally from Wendron, moved to Brazil, where he bought a seven-year-old slave named Evaristo Muchovela who was originally from Mozambique. Years later Johns returned home due to ill health, but offered his slave a choice: return to Cornwall with him as a servant, or remain in Brazil as a free man. Muchovela choose the former. However, Johns died soon after returning home. Muchovela stayed in Cornwall and became an apprentice cabinet-maker. When Muchovela died seven years later, he was buried in the same grave as his former master.

The inscription reads:
Sacred to the memory of Thomas Johns of Porkellis who departed this life January 28th 1861 aged 61 Years.

God my redeemer lives
And ever from the skies
Looks down and watches my dust
Till he shall bid it rise

born in Mosambique, South Africa,
died at Redruth February 19th 1868,
Aged 38 years.
Here lie the master and the slave
side by side within one grave
distinctions lost and caste is o’er
the slave is now a slave no more

Previously on Barnflakes
Wiltshire barmaid eaten by tiger

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Kresen Kernow now open

Cornwall’s new archive research centre, Kresen Kernow, is home to the world’s largest collection of documents, books, maps and photos relating to Cornish history, holding over one million items.

The site of the derelict Redruth brewery, which had partially burnt down twice, was chosen at the location for the centre in 2012. After eventually receiving £11.7 million in funding, building and renovating started in 2016. It opened in September this year. It’s a marvellous space and a beautiful building, a perfect mix of the original structure with modern additions, sympathetically done.

If you can’t make it there, the website has an amazing amount of material, including documents, photos and books, all searchable by their various collections.

Previously on Barnflakes
Reviving Redruth (and envirions)

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Abandoned Halloween pumpkins

I’m really not sure most Britons realise that pumpkins can actually be eaten; according to The Guardian, some eight million (or 18,000 tonnes) squashes per year are binned after being carved out for Halloween.

In the States, pumpkin pie has long been a post-Halloween tradition (usually on Thanksgiving at the end of November), but the concept hasn't taken off here. Seeing as I'd stolen one from the Eden Project (I will explain), risking arrest and sore shoulders (it weighed a ton in my backpack), H said the least she could do was make a pumpkin pie with it. I've always loved the concept of pumpkin pie (probably from American movies), despise not being sure I'd ever tasted one (but somehow knowing exactly how it should taste). Anyway, two hours later, as if by magic, H produced the most gorgeous-looking pie. And it tasted it too, the added honey and cinnamon bringing out the subtle taste of the pumpkin. We had it with single cream.

So, stealing a pumpkin from the Eden Project: we visited recently and noticed hundreds of pumpkins, squashes and gourds on display for autumn and Halloween. I innocently asked a Team Member standing nearby what they were all for. For the Halloween carving, he replied. Okay, I said, what happens to them afterwards. They go in the compost, he told me. You know they can be eaten, I retorted. Yes, he said, a few are given to staff, the rest are composted.

A bit later in the rainforest biome, we saw bunches of bananas fallen on the ground from the banana trees. They'd obviously been there a while, some were going soft with ants all over them; others looked fine. I picked one off the bunch and shared it around; tasted yum.

Later still, outside and up the meandering slope a bit is a lovely-looking vegetable garden, pretty substantial, with aforementioned squashes as well as many other vegetables including tomatoes, aubergines and chard. But on closer inspection I noticed a lot of the vegetables looked rotten. Again, there was a handy Team Member walking past, and I asked him about the fruit and veg. He wasn't aware of anyone ever picking them and said they would just all rot. I was stunned. But what about everything the Eden Project stands for? He shrugged his shoulders. But what about the cafes and restaurants? They're run by different companies who source their food from outside. Surely something can be done – the vegetables sold to visitors or given to charity? Yeah, you're probably right. What if I took some now? If no one's looking, go ahead. So I did – a pumpkin and some tomatoes.

I was appalled by the waste of food (when there's Zero Waste slogans plastered on their website) – but remembered previously seeing staff binning leftover sandwiches at the end of the day. I always go into the Eden Project quite excited but leave feeling depressed, like it's all for appearances, all a sham, all for profit.

Anyway, in case you're wondering about the above photo of abandoned pumpkins spotted in the local woods post-Halloween (there were lots of others too), do not fret for it's all for a good cause – squirrels love eating them, as do birds, hedgehogs, badgers and foxes. No waste.

Previously on Barnflakes
Success and failures of the Eden Project
Notes on dog poop bags
Top ten breakfasts
Five a day?
Blackberry season

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Top ten Cornish place names

1. Greensplat
2. London Apprentice
3. Sticker
4. No Man's Land
5. Come to Good
6. Indian Queens
7. Gweek
8. Minions
9. Praze-an-Beeble
10. Ventongimps 

(If I was being really immature, I could just about manage a top five of Cornish cheeky body part places. Oh, okay then:
1. Brown Willy
2. Booby's Bay
3. Cocks
4. Jolly's Bottom
5. Green Bottom

Previously on Barnflakes:
Cornwall Loves and Hates
Cock, Fany, Shag

Monday, July 29, 2019

Abandoned plane graveyard at Predannack Airfield, Cornwall

We ignored large signs saying M.O.D. DO NOT ENTER (what would we say if caught? Foreign? Dyslexic? Lost?) and, well, not exactly high tech security – we opened a farm gate and walked onto Predannack Airfield.

I’d actually tried the front entrance from a main road before and been refused entry. This time we had a beautiful walk along the coast from Mullion, on the Lizard, taking in a coffee at the cafe on the stunning Kynance Cove, already over-run with tourists – bizarrely, they all stick to the same beach, the one next to the cafe. There’s another one, far more enticing, thirty seconds away around the corner... and completely empty. As we say, often: tourists love cafes and car parks.

From the cove it’s quite a strenuous yet stunning walk along the coast until we cut inland and headed towards the airfield, seen some way away once you get on flat land. If you didn’t know it, though, you probably wouldn’t believe your eyes: those can’t be huge, rusty aeroplanes in the distance. Well, they sure are.

We walked cautiously for a minute and soon saw helicopters, planes and jets strewn across a runway. It was like we'd entered a dystopian film set or an abandoned aviation theme park. They were rusted, burnt, broken, missing bits, on their sides. Some date from the Second World War, others are more recent. Planes include an English Electric Canberra and an SA Jetstream; there are two Westland Lynxes and a Sea King helicopter. The aerodrome is still used for fire and rescue training.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Abandoned gunpowder works at Kennall Vale, Ponsanooth, Cornwall
Sound mirrors
Straight Outta Imber
Putting the War in Warminster
Tyneham ghost village

Notes on Hedluv + Passman

It seems everyone in Cornwall – even if they haven’t heard of Aphex Twin – has heard of the Redruth “Casio rap” duo Hedluv and Passman, though most are unsure if they are a proper band or a comedy act. Most agree they are crap. Me, I love them, and though an Aphex Twin tune or Fisherman’s Friend song would probably be a more appropriate national anthem for the county, I agree with Cornwall Live that M.I.C. (Made in Cornwall) is the only real contender. All together now:

From the engine houses
To the lighthouses
We've got it made in Cornwall
Like the lighthouses
Forged in serpentine
Where they work the mines
And the dress code is informal
We've got it made in Cornwall.

Like with Ant and Dec, I am unsure who is who, but one of them came into Oxfam the other week; I lugged downstairs a load of classical music LPs for him to browse through – he bought two. The manager was quite excited; it was like having someone famous come into the shop.

Flickagram #10

Notes on cars and dogs in Cornwall

Presumably there are more dogs and cars in, say, London than Cornwall, though it never feels that way. In Cornwall, being sans voiture, I can often be seen enjoying myself cycling or walking along country paths or roads. The only thing to disturb my bucolic bliss is... yup: dogs and cars. They're both everywhere. If I'm walking on a country path, I hear dogs everywhere, I see Beware of Dog signs* on walls and fences, where guard dogs suddenly jump up and bark excessively loud at me, and finally, dog owners on a walk with their canines happily running free, usually use that freedom to run after me, bark at me and jump up on me. Finally there is the curse of the dog poop bag tied up and left on beautiful country paths all over Cornwall (and other places too, presumably, to be fair).  Let it be known: I don't like dogs.

It's the same with cars. I'll be happily cycling (or walking: I'll actually probably start off on a pavement which will completely and suddenly vanish as soon as I leave any town or village) along a quiet country road and though there might not be that much traffic, it's the sudden roaring of a car going past me – far too close – at 80mph that is somewhat terrifying. Let it be known I don't like cars either.

So, dogs and cars. As I said, there are probably plenty more in big cities, but per capita, people own more cars and dogs in Cornwall than London. And they're just so much more noticeable, perhaps because they both spoil the so-called tranquility of the countryside.

* I ignored one such sign recently on a farm, figuring just because they have a Beware of Dog sign doesn't mean they actually have a dog. There was an abandoned engine house in the corner of an overgrown field. I climbed over a fence and walked across the field. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed a large animal shape nearby and thought – okay, this is it, I am going to get attacked, no way around it. I faced my fear – it turned out to be a wild deer; we were both just as scared of each other.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Notes on dog poop bags
Top ten worst inventions
Top ten dislikes

Friday, July 19, 2019

Random Netflix review: Stranger Things 3

There was much excited anticipation for the new season of Stranger Things. But the only question on my lips was not what new characters or plot developments would emerge but what pop cultural references would be pillaged from the 1980s. Well, it's two years since the last season, and the kids have progressed to John Hughes movies and shopping malls. We are in 1985, year of The Breakfast Club and Back to the Future; the guys have discovered girls and the girls have discovered shopping.

With three separate plots running parallel with the inevitability that they will all join together in the end, it's a rather predictable and soulless if fun series (a sort of paint it by numbers; compare it, if you want, with the third season of Twin Peaks, which took the viewer places they had no idea they wanted to go, building from the first two seasons and creating something wonderfully original), again wallowing in 1980s blockbusters and bad music (the first series had far better tunes).

However, what's even more shocking than the tacky '80s music or fashions is the strong anti-commie stance and the pro-capitalist message of its numerous product placements – Coke, Burger King, Gap, Adidas and Casio are just a handful of brands seen so repeatedly in the show that it comes across just like in The Truman Show, where products are awkwardly woven into the storyline. But whereas The Truman Show uses product placement for satirical means, there is no such irony or comment on society (or movies) in Stranger Things. It really does want you to Enjoy Coke, It's The Real Thing. As more than one website has quipped, it's now Sponsored Things.

Netflix insist they receive no money for product placements, though these free placements have been valued at $15 million. The Duffer brothers have also said the products are there as part of the narrative, but more than once the products actually interfere with the narrative flow.

Cinematically, again the Duffer brothers wear their references on their sleeves – no, make that their foreheads. Alongside Back to the Future and The Breakfast Club, other films mentioned or referenced range from Dawn of the Dead, Red Dawn and Invasion of the Body Snatchers to The Terminator, The Evil Dead, Christine, Rambo, The Thing, Alien and The Karate Kid. There's even a scene where one of the characters, Robin, names three old, black and white films as her favourites in an interview for a job in a video shop (Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress, Carné's Children of Paradise – I’ve literally never heard it by that title and didn’t know what the hell it was until I realised it was Les Enfants du Paradis – and Wilder's The Apartment. All extremely unlikely, but hey, if any films mentioned in the series – all of which are more rewarding than Stranger Things – actually get watched by viewers, then it's a success).

To be fair, it's impossible to be original nowadays, though some do it with more...erm, originality. Horror director Jordan Peele* also wears his pop culture references tattooed on his forehead, citing such influences as The Shining, The Goonies, The Lost Boys and Hitchcock for his latest film, Us. I also saw Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Lady from Shanghai and Big, and noticed it was handy for actress Elisabeth Moss to go seamlessly from acting in The Handmaid's Tale to Us without having to change her red costume. Nevertheless, what comes across is an original, thoughtful and terrifying journey into the night (I've mentioned this before with the horror film It Follows, which transcends its John Carpenter-influenced origins).

But most stuff, especially if it comes out of Netflix, tends to be derivative. I saw I Am Your Mother recently, a Netflix sci-fi film, and virtually every scene reminded me of other, better, films (it's a curse having watched so much cinema): 2001: A Space Odyssey, Moon, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Retreat, Ex Machina, Aliens and Jurassic Park were just the obvious ones. Likewise, Spanish road movie 4L is Little Miss Sunshine meets Road Trip. Extinction is a bad and cliché-ridden District 9. The Perfect Date is sub-John Hughes garabage. You get the idea.

Earlier in the year Netflix were accused of plagiarising A Quiet Place, the hugely successful horror film, with their own version, The Silence. The plots are virtually identical – except A Quiet Place is good, and The Silence is terrible.

Netflix used to get accused a lot of showing 'mockbusters', low-budget films with similar titles or stories to proper blockbusters. They were usually made by film company The Asylum, who produce films such as Triassic World (based on: Juraissac World) and Tomb Invader (based on: Tomb Raider). Anyway, nothing wrong with a rip-off B-movie. All I have a problem with is every Netflix release calling itself A Netflix Original. Surely this should be A Netflix Unoriginal.

– 2.5 / 5

*It feels like Peele can do no wrong, but I have mixed feelings about his upcoming remake of Bernard Rose's classic horror Candyman. It reminds me slightly of the Italian director, Luca Guadagnino, who, after directing A Bigger Splash and Call Me By My Name, seemed like he could also do no wrong, until he remade the classic horror film Susperia (I was actually one of the few who enjoyed it as an intepretation rather than a remake – he tones down the original's colour palette and gives it some depth).

Previously on Barnflakes:
Random Netflix TV reviews

Friday, July 12, 2019

Boycotting buffoons

Hot on the heels of Kim Kardashian – Who Thankfully Looked Stunning On A Night Out with Kanye 17 Hours Ago – insulting an entire culture with her Kimono range, rapper-husband Kanye – who makes most of his money from sneakers, his first love – is hoping to cause similar offence with his low-cost homeless accommodation “inspired by the Star Wars slave architecture on Tatooine”.

If there was a media boycott on Kim Kardashian, Kayne West, Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, they would annoy me a lot less. If you took the four buffoons, stupid at best, dangerous and offensive at worst, and banished them to an island with no form of communication to the outside world for the rest of their lives, you know what, it might even make me happy. They can all live happily ever after in Kanye's Star Wars huts.

Notes on aptronyms

It was whilst sorting through some books at Oxfam that I noticed the title Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm, was written by one Isabelle Tree, and then a book called Full Moon was by someone called Michael Light. An aptronym (or aptonym or euonym) is used to describe someone whose surname is linked to their profession, in a usually humorous way. Although the concept was initially suggested by Carl Jung, the word was apparently coined by American columnist Franklin P. Adams (featured in Alan Ruldolph's movie Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle) who simply made an anagram of the word patronym (which pertains to the part of a personal name based on the given name of one’s father or other male ancestor – such as Johnson, as in son of John), to emphasise the 'apt' part.

The term Nominative Determinism was first used in New Scientist magazine in 1994, and takes aptronyms a step further by looking at cause and effect; mostly, it figures, people are vain and obsessed with themselves. This is known as implicit egotism.

There are numerous examples of aptronyms, many of which we come into contact with everyday (on TV – usually the news – and in real life), from doctors and lawyers to meteorologists and sports personalities (which all seem to be the most popular aptronym occupations).

William Wordsworth, poet
Rem Koolhaus, architect
Russell Brain, neurologist
Usain Bolt, runner
Mark Avery, RSPB Conservation Director
Margaret Court, tennis player
Mark De Man, footballer
Igor Judge, judge
Bob Flowerdew, gardener
David Limb, doctor
Les McBurney, fireman
Sara Blizzard, TV weather presenter 

(An inaptronym is an ironic or inappropriate form of an aptronym, such as Don Black, white supremacist, and Jaime Sin, who became a cardinal in 1976, and hence known as Cardinal Sin.)

Traditionally, though, and certainly by the end of the fourteenth century, as populations increased, surnames had come into general use and people were named after either where they lived (John Woods), their patronym (Johnson, son of John) or by occupation: Carpenter, Smith, Baker, Butcher, Potter, Parker, Weaver, Mercer and Miller are all job examples. This trend eventually died out when children (usually sons) stopped following their father's trade.

There's something worryingly fatalistic about people – consciously or not – taking jobs because of their surnames, rather than named after their occupations, so it's probably time some new surnames were created to reflect current jobs. This would also mean having more than one surname in a lifetime as we rarely stick to the same job throughout our working life.

So Sarah Admin Assistant becomes Sarah Marketing Assistant and eventually moves onto Sarah Marketing Manager. When she marries she becomes Sarah UX Designer-Marketing Manager. You have to feel sorry for their unborn children.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Name that name

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Recent barngains

Western Stars, Bruce Springsteen's best album – and album cover – for years (his last four studio albums have been terrible).

As mentioned previously, barngains have been thin on the ground in these parts – with the recent exception of the new Bruce Springsteen album, Western Stars, an impulse buy in Tesco's. I was at the till with the CD, along with some other items, and when the guy serving me came to scan it, it came up as 1p. He tried it again, and again. Still 1p. He buzzed to call someone over. No one came. He let me have it for 1p.

But it was a recent trip to London where the barngains really started flowing. In my first charity shop visit, on the way out of the shop, after clumsily looking at some records in the window, my eye caught a drawing on the cover of a large book. I picked it up and it was the rather plush catalogue to the latest Bob Dylan exhibition, Mondo Scripto, which ran late in 2018 at the Halcyon Gallery in London.

I had not seen the exhibition, but agreed with most critics about it at the time, that while his songs are full of surrealism, mystery and beauty, this new series of drawings illustrating his songs were rather too prosaic and literal: a farm for Maggie's Farm, a bed for Lay Lady Lay, a hand knocking on a door for Knockin' on Heaven's Door – you get the idea.

However, the book – £45 from the gallery shop, £3 in the charity shop – is gorgeous. The drawings are amateurish but charming. Each one has a page of hand-written lyrics next to it (often re-imagined and different from the original songs, something Dylan has done all his career). The book is large and luxurious (with apparently many different drawings to the ones in the show). I was pretty happy.

I might also have got some CDs over the next few days. In fact, there was one charity shop where I bought a lot. They must have all come from the same donator as they jumped out at me amongst the usual Robbie Williams and Adelle albums:

Flower Dance: Japanese Folk Melodies (Nonesuch Recording)
Lyle Lovett and His Large Band
Elton John – Honky Chateau (I loved the film Rocketman)
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away
The Bonzo Dog Band – Cornology Vol.2 – The Outro
Bill Frisell - Have a Little Faith
Eminem – Kamikaze (for the cover)
The Cinematic Orchestra – Ma Fleur Live at the Barbican
Tom Waits – Alice
Classic Bluegrass (from Smithsonian Folkways) 
Jack DeJohnette – Made in Chicago (ECM Recording)
The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (Deluxe Edition)
The Zombies – The Singles As & Bs
Mike Oldfield – Hergest Ridge (Deluxe Edition)
Roscoe Holcomb – The High Lonesome Sound 
Crosby, Stills & Nash – Crosby, Stills & Nash

All 50p-£1 each. There were lots of other good ones: Dylan, early Ry Cooder, Neil Young, Frank Zappa and King Crimson among them, but I either had them or didn’t want them. I got a bunch of other things too, in other charity shops, including a set of three Portmeirion storage jars for H in the relatively new Shooting Star Children's Hospices Charity Shop in Northcote Road, where the woman serving me, from Malibu, L.A., wrapped them up nicer and with more care than I wrap up birthday and Christmas presents.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Two leaks (in a week)
London through its charity shops #8: 'round Clapham Junction

Elsewhere on Barnflakes:
BARNGAINS is a select list of rated barngains from 2007 to the present day.