Pandemic Pondering #262

Friday Night in Union Street 1948.

A couple of days ago a Local History group on Facebook published some photographs of a mural that was discovered under layers of wallpaper in a Union Street bar. If you have any interest in Plymouth history this is a great page to follow.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/879731115783323/?ref=share

Local History is one of the great strengths of Facebook. Local History Facebook pages are hubs of knowledge that become magnets for new information or insights into a local area. They are the modern version of the Local History shelf at Libraries.

I already had some photographs from the mural , taken during one of Plymouths Art Weekender Festivals. Gloria Dixon who is the administrator of the Facebook page Old Plymouth Society has a much better range of images.

She has written a very good account of the mural on the Old Plymouth Society FB Page, I urge you to visit the page.

The artist, who created the mural, Vincent Bennett took the well- worn path, familiar to many creative Plymothians and moved to London at the age of 20, where he not only painted commercially, but also boxed, to earn a living. It was the boxing that caused him to return to Plymouth just two years later. A head injury forced him to return to his home city in 1932 and he added teaching and drumming to his portfolio of money earning skills. Eighteen years later he painted the mural at what was then called the Sydenham Arms.

The story of Vincent Bennett seems so much more tangible and intriguing than the Plymouth to London story of Joshua Reynolds, another Plymouth man, nearly 200 years earlier. For me it is not only that much of the city he occupied still exists but that his subject matter is much closer to my own life experiences.

A drink in the Clipper, as the Sydenham Arms became, was always an experience, even if I was never as glamourous as the woman in the red dress. My grandfather, a sailor, far from his Essex home would almost certainly have known The Sydenham Arms and enjoyed all that Union Street had to offer.

The mural can be seen in its original location 63, Union Street, Plymouth. Currently the property is a Community Cafe.

Home

https://www.jmlondon.com/product-category/vincent-bennett/

The link above is to a gallery website.

Pandemic Pondering #261

The weather has been a little wetter this week than at any time during Ponderings. It means that daily dog walks require a little more planning, or in fact less, if the serendipity of a dry spell is to be utilised . Two dogs with a good proportion of poodle in them equates to eight little paws that act as sponges in wet and muddy conditions. Any walk is best finished with a bit of pavement walking to stamp off the worst of the weather before entering the house. Our walk yesterday produced these three lovely pictures of autumn leaves all within a few yards of each other.

I took these three pictures and then promptly forgot about looking for the beauty that was laying at my feet. I realised that I have already missed the glossy perfection that is conkers emerging from their velvety beds within spiky shells. Also cobnuts and hazelnuts have been and gone. Just a little research in the picture archive gave me this painting of cobnuts, figs and blackberries from two years ago.

I need to start paying a bit more attention to things before the colours of autumn are lost for another year.

Pandemic Pondering #260

https://www.thegardenhouse.org.uk/

You would be forgiven for thinking that my visit to The Garden House was all about hot reds and tangy yellow colours but there were also some subtle shades that were equally compelling.

These beautiful lichens were hiding in a damp outdoor stairwell. The colours are a bit similar to one of my ‘Aloneliness’ sketches.

Part of the reason for seeking some less vivid colours at The Garden House was to find some subtle colour pairings that appear in nature to incorporate into my current project.

The silver birches provide some lovely colour combinations that I’ve not yet used in watercolour sketch notes. They may make for a more gently forlorn image.

Just for completeness I’m including the steps to the original damp turret. All the colours here are softer, bathed in sunlight that has bounced off a few walls before landing on these lower steps.

These more subtle colours will be explored very soon in watercolour. I’m still working on my early sketches and really very unsure exactly where these androgynous characters and their colour fields are going. I wonder if I might call them Pandemic Ponderings…

Pandemic Pondering #259

Monday finds me pondering a word . Inspired by one of those internet vocabulary tests. Luckily I can illustrate my feelings on the word with some glorious Dahlias from The Garden House.

https://www.thegardenhouse.org.uk/

The word is loathe. Most dictionaries suggest that it is in many ways a stronger feeling than hate.

Loathe means to hate or detest something. Loathe is much stronger than hate. It implies deep-seated, simmering hatred. … If you loathe someone or something, you hate them very much.

I’ve talked it over with friends this weekend and opinion is divided. Full disclosure means that I must tell you that we discussed the word using various humans we knew in common to illustrate our thoughts. Thankfully glorious Dahlias help me to illustrate my opinion in a far kinder way.

I’ve always considered loathing to be a more nuanced dislike than hate. Hate can happen in an instant but loathing takes time and consideration. My problem with ranking loathing over hatred is that I think they can have equal value strength wise. They can also be used in the same sentence correctly , be of equal value and illustrate feelings beautifully. This is where the dahlias have their moment.

I hate what snails do to dahlias, I loathe them for ruining such beautiful blooms.

I’m not bitter about snails constantly, or their sluggy friends. I do have perspective, but if they put a slimy foot anywhere near my dahlias, or a mouth near my ‘ ray floret’ (petals) then loathing will simmer.

I’m done. Have a marvelous Monday.

P.S Just as I published this blog Facebook reminded me exactly why I feel snails are loathsome. In 2019 @theoldmortuary had a glorious year, our first, of cultivating Dahlias. 2020, a landmark year in so many ways produced dahlias that had been pre nibbled before they even bloomed, already identified as snacks they attracted snails from all over the place to feast and party on our blooms.

2019

Pandemic Pondering #258

Leaf Peeping is a North American term for tourism in Autumn. Visiting outdoor locations to view the spectacular colour changes of tree foliage. 

Tourism is pretty much off everyones agenda as Covid-19 intensifies its grip around the world. Time to peep at leaves locally. These pictures were mostly taken at The Garden House near Tavistock. It helps massively that on the day I visited there was also very bright sunshine.

The original idea behind the visit to The Garden House was a sketching day with my art group. Most of us had only seen each other on Zoom since February so not a lot of sketching got done, there was a lot of socially distanced nattering and a good bit of photography.

I spent plenty of time researching my latest project of depicting isolation and annonymity. That’s a pretty arty farty way of saying I engineered some ‘ Aloneliness’ time. See Pandemic Pondering #256. I’m at the sketching and ideas stage so not a huge amount to show for my research yet.

©theoldmortuary

On a lighter note I found some of the stars of the Leaf Peeping day taking a break on a bench or just lying down in the sunshine.

Unaware that just around the corner devices were to hand to clear them up and consign them to an entirely different world.

© Kevin Lyndsey

I’m not sure I have ever felt quite so threatened by a wheelbarrow and I’m not even a leaf! Have a good Sunday.

©theoldmortuary

Pandemic Pondering #257

Today’s planned blog was knocked off the agenda by a day of glorious weather. I’m a big fan of autumn sunshine, my dad called periods of good weather in autumn “Indian Summers” I never really questioned this title , I’ve just googled and this is the answer and it’s not what I thought at all.

” Although the exact origins of the term are uncertain, it was perhaps so-called because it was first noted in regions inhabited by American Indians, or because the Indians first described it to Europeans, or it had been based on the warm and hazy conditions in autumn when American Indians hunted.”

Plymouth Hoe, was gorgeous today which is an interesting coincidence given the links between Plymouth and the First Nations people of North America. Our walk did visit a significant Mayflower 400 site. More of that later.

Lola basking in sunshine and hiding a lighthouse

We stopped for a while near the official but not genuine Mayflower Steps. There was a momentary rainbow on the water.

Our next stop was a genuine Mayflower heritage location. Jacka Bakery, Britain’s oldest working bakery, supplied the Mayflower with baked goods. Today we pondered on how history could have been changed.

Would anyone have set off for the New World, 66 days of a tricksy voyage to an uncertain future if the alternative was staying in Plymouth and enjoying such plumpscious doughnuts. Ships biscuits v Jam Doughnuts, no contest. No New Worlds

Pandemic Pondering #256

The positivity of aloneliness, a very different thing from loneliness. A love of aloneliness does not protect from loneliness. Like many things my love of aloneliness is an accident of birth. Not mine exactly, more the non birth of any subsequent siblings. My mother was an ardent provider of contraception to the women of Essex in the sixties, seventies and beyond. “To make a mistake once is acceptable, twice is a mistake; three times is stupidity” was her mantra. Her child bearing stopped at acceptable and I was set on a path of embracing aloneliness.

Before life started dealing me tough stuff I would glibly have said that I didn’t suffer from loneliness. In truth I think I had just adapted and learned to enjoy aloneliness. Which is a very different creature from the bone grinding, mind numbing loneliness that can appear in anyone’s life.

The Pandemic of 2020 has given everyone a little more time to think and evaluate all sorts of stuff. Sadly it has also created far more loneliness.

I’m unsure where aloneliness bleeds into selfishness. For the purposes of this blog my own definition is this. I can be quite content on my own and I often enjoy the experience ( Who wouldn’t enjoy having a swimming pool to themselves)

I do manipulate circumstances to create aloneliness. This morning, for example, I chose to walk on a beach after the before-work walkers/swimmers and before the regular every day walkers/swimmers. The images in this blog of Wembury Beach are an illustration of fabulous aloneliness. Nothing about this is selfish because I didn’t chose to deliberately exclude other people, I just gave myself the best chance of being alone. Having a private beach would be outrageous selfishness.

Even writing this has made me realise that the familiar trope that ‘only’ children are selfish is more utter nonsense than I already thought it was. I’m sure some are, but it is more likely that they have just adapted positively to a situation way beyond their own control.

Having the beach to myself allowed this blog to be written. The dogs are away having their regular wash and brush up, which is why these pictures do not feature dog bottoms. Just to prove I really do love other people, here is the beach as it was just one hour later. This too makes me very happy.

Finally, every artist loves a bit of red in a seascape, thanks Mr Turner and thanks to the man in a red jacket.

Pandemic Pondering #255

https://www.thegardenhouse.org.uk/

Goodness me, pondering is never predictable. Today was about a bit of outdoor sketching and some social nattering with other artists. The location was always going to be spectacular at The Garden House perched, as it is, on the edge of Dartmoor. The weather was very kind , a brilliant sort of day, bright with sunshine and dark with marvelous shadows.

10 acres of arboreal beauty makes it very easy to lose your fellow artists, not that that was the plan. I was lucky enough to find the heart of the garden.

There were so many pictures to capture and many stories to tell in future blogs but this lovely heart image deserves a blog of its own. It was really comforting to be able to gently natter to people I haven’t seen in reality for 8 months but it was also comforting to be alone but amongst friends in a beautiful place. Our conversations were blissfully honest, when they happened, so many shared stories of Coronovirus hardships and disappointments, but also the sharing of creativity and optimism in a beautiful place.

Pandemic Pondering #254

Warping Sunset. Sunset at Rame Head , on Sunday, was beautiful. It needed nothing to enhance it. So PP#252 presented sunset just as nature intended but the picture below, taken by Hannah on our return to the van, exploits nature and the benefits of having a clean bottom.

Warped Sunset.

The clean bottom in question is our beloved VW Camper. It takes us to some amazing places.

Hugo and Lola love it because the chances of being in bed are greatly enhanced.

And they get to snuffle within spectacular scenery.

And when the day is done, exhausted by fresh air and long walks.

They can snuggle up together without the usual bickering.

Pandemic Pondering#253

Two sentences, part of a poem by Amy Rafferty stopped me in my tracks yesterday.

http://www.inksweatandtears.co.uk/

Here is the whole poem.

Here Come the Crows

I drew a sudden dark line under it all.
Emphatically,
and with the fulsome flourish of a full stop dot.
Knowing that this was not what I wanted:
the rows of chimney pots, red-rouged and boring
in the dreich, mossed and encroaching in sombre lines.
The antennae and the satellite dish,
mournful and grey faced,
desperate to spill the beans of bad news and scandal.

I ignored it all, and ploughed on regardless,
watching the neighbours’ windows for inspiration,
waiting for the curtains to rise or the blinds to roll,
a patchwork of frosted tiles diminishing as sun rises behind buildings,
the shadow of the cloistered tower sliding slowly down the roof.

And with these words you now have the tools to orient yourself within the poem,
to settle down with a cup of tea,
and wait for the tropes to arrive, uninvited and well worn;
here come the magpies,
here come the crows,
that speak of dead fathers and family heroes
The seagulls, who glide and circle through the ghost smoke,
heralding rain,
the offspring of the offspring of the offspring
of those before them, who bore witness to my childhood days
and my insomnia, staring into the endless grey window of mornings.

Amy Rafferty is a writer, photographer and musician based in Glasgow. Her writing has been published in Magma, Envoi, the Interpreter’s House and From Glasgow to Saturn.

She is currently working towards finalising her two collections, Tenement and All Songs in Order

Amy is friend in the digital sense, I’m sure we would also be friends in the real sense too. Facebook tells me we have three friends in common. Amy owns one of my paintings and I love her poetry. It is as simple as that.

Inksweatandtears describe her as “Enigmatic, unnerving and rather wonderful”

http://www.inksweatandtears.co.uk/

I can’t better that, I don’t have the words. Those first two sentences exactly describe my current feelings towards 2020. It is a year, just like any other, that needs to be lived through, experienced, recognised for what it is, both good and bad. History will underline it. Individuals will be able to give it the fulsome flourish full stop dot. And then we will move on.