Saturday, October 13, 2007

What to do with an exhausted china-clay pit

Malcolm has a thing about those quality bits of writing that turn up in unexpected places: on the travel pages, filling out the display advertising, in the star columnist he loves to hate.

To that list he would like to add one more: Rick Stein "introducing" the Eden Project in The Guardian's "Great Modern Buildings".

Now, like most civilised folk, Malcolm discards the fillers and supplements of little worth directly into the WPB. He has made an exception with this effort. He ascribes this to two factors: a continuing love of the cut-away diagram (acquired at an early age from the centre spread of the Eagle), and a frustrated wish to have his time again and build something. Both these penchants are what drive sane men to erect and retire to garden sheds.

One of the particular reasons why Malcolm took to Rick Stein's piece was it retraced his own growing perceptions of the project: from amused interest at the outset to respectful admiration at completion to astonished marvelling at the experience. Here's how Stein starts:
At the beginning of the new millennium I was invited to look over a large number of plastic tented hothouses, which were stuffed full of tropical plants, near St Austell in Cornwall. Nearby in a disused china clay pit, they were moving tonnes of earth around, there was mud and deep puddles everywhere. They were going to get lots of money, build great big domes, fill them full of all those plants and persuade people to pay to come and look at them...

There was a rather manic enthusiasm about everyone I met that day. Most of them had given up good jobs in London and much further afield. It wasn't going to work, of course, but my gosh, they seemed to be enjoying themselves.
He then reminds us of what was there before, and what still spoils much of the locality:
... all the china clay pits around St Austell. It looks rather scary, white mountains of clay, milky slurry pits, dangerous looking truck paths snaking up and down and emerald lakes which you imagine to be immensely deep. You also see the domes nestling against the wall of one of the pits like some fragile life structure. The sort of thing you see blowing across a beach that once contained the eggs of cuttlefish or squid; indeed the physics of the domes are based on the structure of an insect's eye. The geodesic dome first proposed by the visionary poet and inventor Buckminster Fuller. He coined the phrase "spaceship earth" and that's the feeling you get at Eden, our fragile spaceship.
In celebrating the structure, he also emphasises the consequences: the continuing fun of the thing, the contribution to the local economy of all those visitors, the employment of over 400 local people.

Stein does himself, the Eden Project, the Guardian and the reader well with this piece.

Malcolm was at the Eden Project a summer back. He found wonder in how it transmogrifies a mundane greenhouse into a science-fictitious moon-dome. Dan Dare would recognise it instantly.

Then there is the -- well -- quirkiness.

Malcolm found a chortle for the school-party, wandering the outdoors path ahead of him, chattering and bored to distraction by yet more flowers. Then, suddenly, silenced and still, transfixed in a cartoon double-take. They had been confronted by a half-acre of growing (and instantly recognisable) hemp plants: "They can't do that! Can they?"

It was a good day had by all. Malcolm brought back a hardy palm, a tree fern and a saxifrage. To his amazement all have survived, nay thrived, in the hostile clime of a Norf Lunnun deck.

Better than the average souvenir, Boo Boo.

Better than the average tourist resort, Yogi. Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Eden Project Arms Trade Trustees:

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