Wednesday, 3 February 2016

BURIED ALIVE - by Sharon Tregenza

When I saw a news article about a man in Florida who was buried alive in a sink hole - it resurrected a childhood fear.

Florida, sink hole.

I was born and raised in West Cornwall, where talk of collapsing mine shafts was commonplace. For a time my ten-year old self was haunted by the possibility of the earth opening up beneath me. I would lie awake imagining the ground under our house was honeycombed with caves and tunnels - a rocky swiss cheese waiting to crumble and swallow me alive. On walks I'd cast nervous glances at my feet.
Cornwall, mine collapse.

Cornwall, mine collapse.

When the tin mines closed, in most cases, they were simply capped with timbers from the mine. These timbers eventually rot, so the shafts collapse. It's estimated that there are more than 15,000 mine shafts in Cornwall some 200 years old and many not shown on any map.

Only last year my daughter and I were prevented from visiting my father in Truro Hospital when a hole opened up on the A30 at Scorrier. For a while the whole area was cordoned off. 

A30 - Mine shaft collapses January 2015

The local newspapers had fun with this one though. The headlines the next day read: "Police look into A30 hole on National Pothole Day" and it didn't take long for the comedians to come up with this solution and post it on social media:

I put this childhood fear into a book. It begins with a catastrophic mine collapse. After my editor's comment that the mother's horrible death was perhaps "a little much" for the age group, I rescued her and placed her in a coma for the rest of the story.

Two children are trapped underground in a labyrinth of tunnels and old mine workings. I added an Aztec sacrificial knife with a blood lust, an adorable rat, a holy well and called it "The Jewelled Jaguar".  That's what I call using your fears to advantage.


Penny Dolan said...

Love that pasty pic! And your story sounds most interesting, Sharon. Sink holes are a worrying thought, especially with the power of the rains and rivers rushing through old mining areas this winter.

"Annie" said...

Oh, I cannot imagine how scary it must have been to grow up near sink holes. Your book sounds great.

I write for young children 4-6, and an editor told me that a little dog struggling to climb out of a creek was a little too much. It makes me wonder what some editors would have responded to those wonderful English nursery rhymes.

Anyway, good luck with your book, it's sounds like a good one.

Ann, A Nice Place In The Sun