Pandemic Pondering #413

My ‘ bonus track’ day. My parents both died at the same age that I am now. Yesterday I outlived them both by one day. So from now on every day will be something more than they were able to experience.

My mum had a long terminal illness and spent her last day on this earth ” Taking a turn for the worst” By contrast my dads terminal illness was brief and he spent his last day deliberately enjoying one of his favourite meals with family and friends before snuggling into bed never to wake up again. Obviously I always hoped to reach this milestone day and mark it in some way. I imagined a gathering of my nearest and dearest enjoying communal eating and celebrating my good fortune. As has been the habit of the last 16 months the pandemic has obliterated long term plans and made even short term plans unpredictable. Better perhaps to have no plans and live life as it is rather than as we hoped it might be. So no gathering today.

The eve of my new ‘bonus track era’ was spent charging up my life batteries with a swim in fabulous waves.

And finding new paths on the ancient byways of Cornwall.

My actual Bonus Track Day will be spent very much living life as it is, with domestic admin, dogs, lovely companions and an evening swim with the Bobbers.

Tranquility Bay was in quite a lively mood when we arrived. A quick dip for some and a longer challenging swim for others gave the day a sparkly, fizzing finale.

Pandemic Pondering #412

Life on a beach and on a ramble. Same beach different weather today set us up for a swim in conditions that were more appropriate for surfing, but we were not going to be stopped two days in a row.

We found a secret path and a hidden river. But mostly we just found big, crashing, exciting waves.

And beautiful spume. The swim was exhilarating.

The morning swim and the bacon bap that followed were the fuel for an afternoon of footpath rambling in Feock.

Spring Flowers were the main feature of our walk but these stepping stones were the stand out image of the day, caught, as they were in a brief moment of sunshine.

Perambulating and pondering the plants and the pandemic with friends filled a lovely afternoon of delicious earthy smells.

And a surprising, little known, fact. Kissing gates are not for romance.

Kissing Gate near @theoldmortuary

On the footpaths that follow the ancient paths around Feock there are many ‘Kissing’ style gates. Primarily this style of gate enables easy access and egress to a heavily laden human using only one hand while keeping livestock safely enclosed. The word Kissing could simply be a descriptive of the mechanics and structure of the gate where moving the gate allows the movable part to touch, or kiss, either side of the boundary. Almost certainly the name is not historically used for the meeting of lips. More prosaically the name is most likely derived from Kisting, an old word for casket. Kissing gates were originally designed to allow coffins to respectfully be moved across boundaries without the need to place the deceased on the ground. Old kissing gates are found on footpaths near to old grave yards, in all directions, which makes the original purpose a much more plausible one than a chaste place to lock lips.

The funny things we talk about.

Pandemic Pondering #411

Saturday was not a day for swimming, so great were the winds and the rain that it was not a day for beach huts either. Which is why I managed to get this shot of beach huts uncluttered by the human form.

All started well enough.

But the weather was just not going to permit safe sea swimming so dog walking on the South West Coastal path was our substitute activity. We explored the area around Swanpool in Falmouth and ate picnics in the car while the weather swirled around us. The photography owes a lot to filters and this delightful seaweed which has been ripped from the sea floor by the storm.The seaweed provides the colour which is picked up in some of the shots.

I used the silky water filter and saturation filters to put some colour into a very grey day. I also accidentally created this double exposure which has quite a retro feel.

So off we go into a Sunday Celebration of the Silky Water feature as applied to a raging sea.

The good news is that the sea is less raging today so swimming is back on the Sunday agenda.

Have a restful Sunday.

Pandemic Pondering #410

Its a campervan kind of weekend , our first for at least 6 months. The van has been switched around for sleeping rather than day trips. Our night was the best sensory experience Cornwall could offer, 45 mile an hour winds and torrential rain. We’ve swapped the River Tamar for the Carnon River. We also woke up this morning to our granddaughter singing Moon River to us which was charming if not entirely accurate.

We walked to Devoran yesterday and flowers were the highlight of the walk.

No country walk is complete without a ramble in the churchyard where we found some bluebells.

We brought our wetsuits with us to swim but the wind might not make that very sensible. Coffee shops and Charity shops might well be a suitable alternative. Although Lola may not consider getting out of bed for that.

But Hugo is already up and exercising.

Pandemic Pondering #409

Things are warming up on the creative side of @theoldmortuary . This cunning device is squeezing the air out of greetings cards that I packed yesterday , ready for the Spring Exhibition of Drawn to the Valley. Who could have guessed that a fan annual from the seventies would create the perfect size to support a heavy weight to exclude air in the wrapping envelope. In the interest of honesty and with respect to Mr David Essex this annual has not been under my pillow for ever. That would just be very strange.

An old friend sends me gems like this from time to time. I could also have used a David Cassidy Annual from the same era and source but yesterday I chose David Essex to spread the load.

Added to my current domestic admin, of which there is lots, I now have Exhibition Admin, which is much more pleasurable.


The closing date for the exhibition has passed and now myself and the rest of the organising team have the pleasure of sifting through the entries. Some of which are featured on the #mayinthevalley Instagram posts above from the artists_of_the_tamar_valley Instagram page.

All this activity and business is an exact replica of the work we did last year only to have to cancel the exhibition at two weeks notice.

This years exhibition will be unimaginably different . 50 artists who have lived through a pandemic. 50 diverse experiences of love, loss, isolation and change. There is an amazing energy exuding from the works we are unwrapping ( currently in the digital sense )

The Spring Exhibition is always about new beginnings but the Spring Exhibition of 2021 is promising to be an altogether more zingy new beginning than usual. On a more self interested level I still haven’t got the gold leaf on my little pictures or even started the large one. It is a theoretical picture right now.

New beginnings are one thing, just getting started is the current problem!

Pandemic Pondering #408

I’ve spent the day immersed in Tranquility Bay. Not actually, of course, but it has filled my mind a lot. The next exhibition I am taking part in is called Resurgam.

The work we offer for selection should reflect new beginnings after the last year of Pandemic restrictions and lockdowns. I am planning a series of paintings to reflect the sense of calm that sea swimming has created while the world has been a little crazy.

4 mini pictures are on the go at the moment.

They feature the rocks at Tranquility Bay at High Tide. They are resting overnight to be finished later in the week. The best way to clean painty fingers is to take a dip in the actual Tranquility Bay. The sunset was bright and I was feeling bold so I took the phone into the water to catch some waves.

A touch of increased saturation in the camera settings makes the photography quite painterly. Really cold fingers meant that this camera moment couldn’t last long .

The one above has an abstract sparkly heart. The paintings are also waiting for some sparkle, I’m waiting for some gold leaf to put in Drakes Island.

Pandemic Pondering #407

May the 4th be with you. Except, of course this is the 5th. May the 4th always brings rich pickings of Star Wars quotes.  I’m unsure if just loving the original 1977 film, correctly and simply known as Star Wars makes me a Star Wars luddite. The surrounding films and obsessive fandom makes me feel saddened that the one original film can’t be enjoyed as one unique moment of great creative, cinematic collaboration.

But without the hullabaloo, that irritates me so much, I would not have found a lovely quote from the actress Carrie Fisher who played Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise. She was open and honest about her, nearly life- long, struggles with drink, drugs and bi-polar disorder. She was also a wise and clever woman.

Discussing her difficult life patches she wrote.

” Going through challenging things can teach you quite a lot, and they also make you appreciate the times that aren’t so challenging”

A simple sentence that works under normal circumstances and especially as we emerge from beneath the pressures and sadnesses of the Pandemic.

Pandemic Pondering #406

Our second Mayday weekend of the Pandemic has passed. In many ways that seems more something to reflect on than Easter weekend. Mayday is associated with joyous events in our corner of the world. @theoldmortuary there is no particular pattern or traditional behaviours. Locally we have a May Fair, a rare event in our locality to wander the main street and bump into people that we know. In comparison to other May Day events it is no great shakes so we are not always faithful to it. The picture above is of a local gentleman who is always there and always dresses up in a meticulous costume to bring a smile to peoples faces.

One Mayday we hired Mr Blue Sky as a belated birthday gift, we all have birthday s around Christmas so belated gifts are not unusual. Mr Blue Sky took us to the Gower Peninsular, for happy, but chilly, camping.

Last May Day the world was reeling from the realised impact of the Pandemic and @theoldmortuary we were reeling from various life changing events that were landing on us to add to the burden of Pandemic angst. Life felt a bit like this safety sign for the quiet lanes nearby, where horse riding and cars share the space.

The sadness and difficulty of this time last year have given us all a push in new and unexpected directions. We have to see the world through the lens of our communal and personal losses and experiences of the last year.

In my experience all things tend to follow Newtons 3rd Law of Physics.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

The things that made last May Day and the surrounding period of life quite shitty have altered the world and each persons perception and lived experience of this May Day, and all days.

A year ago @theoldmortuary would not have considered sea swimming to be a natural part of life and yet this year it couldn’t be more natural than to take a dip in the sea and feel utterly captivated and joyous about it.

We’ve bonded with some lovely people over the last 6 months in chill sea and the socially distanced warm up after.

Also last year or any previous year a trip to Ikea would not have been on our acceptable activities list. But yesterday we made a small list and joined a Disney length queue to get into our local, Exeter, store.

Because of Covid restrictions the store was not packed with people but it was packed with texture and colours and smells. The stand out smell was the carpet department, just delicious!

Sadly no meatball lunch as indoor eating is still not permitted. But looking through our altered lens the trip to Ikea on a Bank Holiday weekend was an absolute pleasure not a chore.

It unexpectedly lit up our life.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Sometimes you just have to look for it.

Pandemic Pondering #405

Today starts with an early swim. Swimming in cold water feels slightly less daunting than the other event of the day, a trip to Ikea! Needs must though and domestic reorganisation started last year during lockdown is coming to a conclusion. I can’t say Ikea is the final piece of the jigsaw but close to it. This will be our first time in a furniture store for over two years and our first time so far from home for 6 months. What a strange patch of life we’ve lived through. I’m looking forward to the colours and textures of the fabric department. No meatballs today though!

Just to finish up a very brief and somewhat dull blog. One last picture from Totnes. Cherry Ice Cream with a wafer.

Pandemic Pondering #404

Today we took a trip to Totnes. The last time we took a trip deeper into Devon it was 6 months ago when we also went to Totnes to do Christmas shopping for the Christmas that never was.

By coincidence we recieved this traditional May Day gift of Lily of the valley from a friend who lives in France this morning, she and I have worked, danced and laughed together in Totnes and Brighton long before real life and children tamed us.

Totnes is an alternative type of place with a firm sense of the importance of traditional and Pagan festivals. Ordinarily a trip to Totnes on Beltane/Mayday would be a whirling,  psychedelic , Maypole dancing festival of alternative experiences. Only partially out of Lockdown, today was never going to be as vibrant as normal but our visit today was still vivid in a low key way. Just to celebrate Beltane in its Phallic/ Fertility glory I captured an appropriate shadow.

Accidental because the reason for the photograph was this lost earring, preserved, for its owner to find on top of a bollard that has been many different colours in the past.

Other bollards dressed up for the occasion.

Totnes is a rich source of Street Art. Some featuring Tom of Finland . Quite appropriate for a festival kind of day.

And some just near some spiral stairs which is about as close to a Maypole as we got in 2021.

The smells from Street food and Coffee from the many independent cafes can’t be reproduced with words. Neither can the sounds of music in the streets,  layered together , sometimes with a fusion no one would ever plan ( Prog Rock and Church bells) and other times with a mellifluence that was hard to walk away from ( Harp and Violin). Totnes made us smile today.

Beltane wouldn’t be Beltane without the leafy face of the Green Man.

Awaiting the arrival and union with a Goddess.

Accompanied by Mythic men.

And chariot driving , wise women.

The brightest of Beltane wishes to all.