December 31st 2019, the last day of a decade. The blog has grown into itself. Pondering has become the driving word for narrative and visual creations. All thanks to a writing course with The Gentle Author of Spitalfields life.

Pondering the past year, I grabbed one picture for each month from my smartphone. There was no theme. No images of dogs or family or friends. In reality I ponder my friends, family and dogs often in the moments of these images. Taking you all into the next decade is the best gift imaginable.

Time to gently close the door on 2019 and lift the latch on the one marked 2020.

@theoldmortuary , pondering 2019 one month at a time.

Portwrinkle, Cornwall. January 2019

Portwrinkle again. Shells on a rusty GPO box. February 2019

Cheese straws. Gail’s Bakery, Dulwich Village. March 2019

Wild Garlic, Port Eliot, St Germans, Cornwall. April 2019

Spring Flowers, Trematon Castle, Saltash. May 2019.

Hong Kong. June 2019

Shadows at the Dior Exhibition. V and A, Kensington July 2019

Rusty watering can rose and geranium. @theoldmortuary.August2019

Quick sketch of a 90 year old theatrical crown. Kelly House, Kelly. September 2019

Spider web, Waterside, Saltash October 2019

Corrugated cardboard rolled. St Ives, Cornwall. November 2019

Scavenged Festive wreath @theoldmortuary December 31st 2019.

See you there …



The shapeshifting days of the festive season when some normality returns, a return to work perhaps or family members returning to their own homes. There is some normalcy but it’s still hard to actually name the day easily or give up on the notion that grazing is regular behaviour.

As a family we have a birthday within the Yuletide. So one day of Betwixtmas is always designated as a birthday gathering for all the available extended family. Including Hugo and Lola. The cast and destination change from year to year but it is always a little oasis of birthday bliss amongst the glitter and twink of the festive season.

Malpas was our destination of choice today. A river village not far from Truro.


Malpas was new to most of us and we had a beautiful walk before we had lunch. It was a grey old day and all my photos were a bit ‘meh’ which is not a good look and somewhat dull for a blog.
We had a late, non festive lunch at the Heron Inn, the food was wonderful. The company was as familiar and convivial as usual, with an age range of 1 to 89, everyone left Malpas happy.


Even on a grey day Malpas was a picturesque spot. Just not so great for blogging photography

And so, back to Betwixtmas after a birthday interlude.

Tomorrow (Monday) sees another incremental edge on the normality scale. Tuesday the normality reading hits a plateau until 5pm when festive recidivism plunges everyone feet first into New Year’s Eve. Regardless of your view on New Years Eve it forces you to actively do something . Either to mark it in a positive way by staying up past midnight or to deliberately snub it by going to bed and ‘ missing all the fuss’

Before that though we have two more days of Betwixtmas to fill.



Despite once appearing in a ‘Style’and ‘Lifestyle’ magazine theoldmortuary is never going to appear in a sophisticated magazine shoot at Christmas.

Our festive decorating taste has a ‘hoarder’ aesthetic. We have no colour theme or mood board planning.. We are a rest home for gaudy, exotic and outrageous baubles . Baubles that might not get chosen in other homes are free to swing on our Nordman.

A subset of the bauble collection is the travel section. Either bought by us or gifted to remind us of a specific time or place.

This gorgeous creature arrived today and despite being a little late to the party she was straight up into the tree and asserting herself as the new Queen of the Tourist/travel bauble coterie. She knows she inspired this blog. Ice Skating Canadian Moose. New to Cornwall.

Seriously no one would mess with this powerful Moose woman . She has blades and she knows how to use them.

We have a few Canadian baubles, nothing quite as lively as Ms Moose.

Inuksuk hanging not so far from her hoped she wouldn’t realise there was a fellow Canadian in the room. He has always seemed a quiet unassuming cultural symbol.

Another other Canadian bauble @theoldmortuary looks innocuous enough but the strips of fabric inside this bauble come from the offcuts of fabric from the costumes of Macbeth, performed at the Shakespear Theatre at Stratford Ontario.

The shadow behind Ms Moose is the Elizabeth Tower, mistakenly known the world over as Big Ben.

Big Ben features on a really subtle bauble slightly reminiscent of the infamous London fog known as a ‘Pea souper’ because if its density. I’m not sure who would ever think of producing a fog themed set of baubles. Festive brightness dialed right down.

The London theme continues with a black cab.

The black cab is the first of the transport baubles. He is my favourite and is unlikely to be joined by a novelty Uber any time soon. Even though it would considerably cheaper.

But just like in real life there is a red bus right behind him.

Then we head East to Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong tram is a little bittersweet . We love the city and everything about it . But we’ve had to bury the cremated remains of two family members in Hong Kong in recent years. The administration office and Cemetery were most easily reached by tram so they both took their final journey in a bright red tram which is so much more fitting and interesting than a black hearse. I think we might struggle to find a home for a hearse bauble even on our eclectic tree. I realise somewhat belatedly that a festive hearse might be entirely appropriate @theoldmortuary. However such is the proximity to the local grave yard the customers of 50 years ago would have been carried over.


The tram, however, brings me nicely to the Chilli’s. A good place to stop as they bring good fortune to all.


Bubble, friends, terrorists and artists.

“Bubble” spoken or shouted in a broad, loud, East London/Essex accent.

Bubble and Squeak is a staple of our festive season. It was always part of our childhoods, made as a way of using up Christmas leftovers. Our abiding love of “Bubble” currently involves an early festive meeting in London, with friends. “Bubble” happens regularly at Maria’s Cafe in Borough Market. We’ve settled very happily into an annual December breakfast at Maria’s after searching for Christmas breakfast perfection high up in London’s Skyscrapers with extravagant prices for many years. Height does not necessarily dictate breakfast good quality or satisfaction. Closer to the ground, and reality, Maria’s has become our regular pre Christmas breakfast haunt, they do the best breakfast we’ve ever had in the area. Any breakfast comestible with their bubble and squeak is festive perfection on a plate.

Fortified by calories, laughter and cups of tea we set off to sample, taste and shop.

Coffee from Monmouth is always enjoyed with a chocolate truffle, we drink our coffee and nibble our truffles, overlooked by the Market Porter. A flat-capped sturdy chap depicted in Street Art painted on the wall of The Market.

Illustrations by Josie Jammet


Art at Borough is not only about the working life of the market.

London Bridge and Borough Market have been the location of two seperate terrorist attacks. The second only weeks a go. The first in June 2017 has been commemorated by a mural by James Cochran or Jimmy C. on a railway arch in Stoney Street, part of the perimeter of the market. Jimmy’s work is a joyous multicoloured commemoration of the lives lost and the lives forever marked by the event. It also reflects the vivid and resilliant nature of London which will rise above the harm and wickedness of terror attacks. A series of hearts float like bubbles on a background of blue. The code 44A is the identification number of the railway arch.

Following this sad but resilient image, this blog about bubble shifts location from Borough Market and heads for home.

Bubble is a traditional left-overs treat in our house. Formed from the remains of the Christmas day roast it has a domestic ritual of its own.

Bubble is prepared during the evening after the big roast has been served. Portions of bubble rest in the fridge overnight, awaiting frying in butter the next morning.

Reminiscent of Jimmy C’s bubble-like hearts on the Borough Memorial a heart shaped knob of butter softens in the pan.

An edible landscape of buttery fjords and pillowy potato mounds form in the pan.

Once the outer surfaces are crispy, dark and caramelised it’s time to serve up the bubble and share.

Bubble, 💕 on a plate.


Extending my Advent to include Yule has brought such pleasure. During my ponderings I discovered the Yuletide Goat. This thrills me because I have a fascination for goats . They are the highlight of Greek holidays, and a recurring source of pleasure.

Before today my knowledge of all things Yule extended to logs, both the chocolate and massively woody sort. Yuletide , the time around Christmas, originally of Pagan origin.

The Yule Goat is a revelation. He is a Christmas tradition of Northern Europe with Pagan origins. He was in some traditions the giver of gifts , a precursor to Father Christmas . As traditions have matured and altered he has become the creature that Father Christmas rides to deliver gifts or even the animal that pulls the sleigh. This is all hugely confusing in Britain where our traditions are either created or improved by first the Victorians and secondly the USA. Goats do not play a part .

Imagine the complexity of the Santa App if it had to cope with Reindeers being taken out of harness over Scandinavia to be replaced by goats or even Santa going Solo and just casually swinging a leg over a solitary goat to hit the hard to reach places.

The Goat is significant in Poland. Particularly vexatious for me as I’m writing this on Boxing Day and I spent the day with Polish relations who could have explained Goatish things to me.

As an aside I spent yesterday with American relations and had to explain Boxing Day.

Trust me Advent 2020 will be much more Goaty. I will research goats, I will photograph goats . I will find more utterly gorgeous Goat illustrations like this one from Buccifolio.

I remembered a festive goat from Hong Kong a couple of years ago at PMQ. Created for the Chinese New Year. Not exactly a Yule Goat but certainly proof that theoldmortuary loves a Goaty photo.


Seaton Beach Christmas 2019

Christmas Day 2019 and the weather was very kind to us. It took extremely creative photography to make the beach seem as quiet and tranquil as this. There were hundreds of people and dogs taking in the sunshine .

The pre- turkey sandwich beach walking team.

Going back to Advent#24

Two strangers who discovered they were siblings, walking on a beach.


A Christmas Crime

No more chocolates in the Advent calender. Off into the uncharted waters of Advent beyond 24. Chocolate is part of this story.

The tin of Quality Street has slipped it’s lid and chocolates stare lewdly as people pass. ” Take me ” they purr, “You know you want to”

Enrobed in jewel bright colours , crinkle wrapping catches the eye. The fall from grace is quick and furtive.

Two deft actions and the sweet is naked . A moment on the lips and into the bucal space. The tongue guides the sweet silky coating onward, probing for flavour with a nip of teeth.

Meanwhile the wrapper is deftly hidden within the tin.

The first crime of Christmas committed.


Christmas Eve, normally the last chocolate in the advent calender, however this blogs advent is going to stretch just into January to cover the whole of Yule, an all encompassing Advent.


Like many families we have a few empty chairs at Christmas . Grief and sadness is part of the festive season for many people.
But replenishment happens too. Sometimes in unexpected ways. Two years ago we bought an AncestryDNA kit for our brother/ brother-in-law.


The story is not ours to tell but here is a link to a radio programme that tells the tale, make a cup of tea it’s a good listen.

A consequence of the DNA kit is that we all have a whole new chunk of family in the USA.

Today these two lovely people arrived to spend Christmas with us

Also joining us for the first time is our adorable VV.

Families have a way of filling empty chairs.



Is Tinsel ‘ camper’ than Christmas. Is it set to return to Christmas in the next decade?

Tinsel was invented in 1610 in Nuremberg. It is a twinkly metal garland invented to reflect the flicker of candle light on Christmas trees, it is intended to mimic icicles. When the shiny strips are not tethered to a central thread it is known as lametta. Tinsel has been adopted around the world as a festival decoration. It is Tinsels role as a garment or prop in the theatre that has raised its ‘camp’ credentials and given it year round legitimacy. In particular, Drag acts and Pantomime are never knowingly underdressed. Tinsel and lametta are a staple accessory to bring a pop of sparkle to an outfit or even provide a stage name.

9E9639F4-4A74-4513-BA94-656C6D8DD750 New Hope

Tinsel was hugely popular in the fifties, sixties and seventies. I remember the skinny cheap stuff that came from Woolworths, however by the seventies trips to London exposed us, as a family, to lush, dense, luxurious garlands, from Liberty or Harrods. Tinsel in our house was used year after year , being stored between each Christmas in the loft . It developed a musty dusty smell that became a familiar fragrance of December. As tinsel fell out of favour it stayed in the loft, gathering more dust instead of draping the tree.The skinny Woolworths stuff became stiff and brittle but the luxury version , supple and glossy rested in the roof waiting for it’s retro return.

My parents died in the nineties, the dreadful job of clearing their house was an absolute nadir of life. In the context of Tinsel it was also tinsels lowest point of popularity, without a second thought it went on the discard pile.

Rumour of Tinsels resurgence started on-line in about 2010. 400 years after it was first invented. I realise some people never abandoned it. However it seems to have taken another 10 years to see Tinsel stepping back into the limelight on domestic Christmas trees rather than magazine illustrations or commercially decorated corporate trees. Shops have started offering wide selections of tinsel and I bitterly regret binning my inherited luxury swags.

Coincident with my Saturday ponderings on Tinsel a post appeared on Instagram from an Editor I used to write for. . #nakedforchristmas on Instagram shows Tinsel at its resurgent best.

#nakedatchristmas Instagram


Suburban Winter Solstice

Waking up on the morning after the shortest day is always a little bit perkier than waking up on the shortest day. We could have bust a gut to be at Glastonbury but the reality is that the solstice has been happening here in Gipsy Hill just as long as it has been just north of the A303.

This area of London was countryside until 1856 when the railway station opened. The abstract photograph above is of the sky above the council estate which was built on the original coal yard and sidings for steam trains. They brought prosperity to the area and crowds to the nearby Crystal Palace. The posh houses that were built on this part of Alexandra Drive would have been directly in line of the steam and soot of shunting steam trains starting and ending their working days. The corrosive effect explains why some of them have been rendered.

As a sideline Alexandra Drive was named for Princess Alexandra, the long suffering wife of Edward The Caresser. Edward VII, 10 years on the throne, a lifetime of sexual incontinence.

Before the railways not much is written about this location. Part of the Great North Wood, this particular area is where Gipsies lived and worked. Samuel Pepys mentions in his diary that his wife, Elizabeth came here to visit them.

Another sideline, Samuel also suffered from sexual incontinence and married Elizabeth when she was 14.

Street Art on The Paxton

There was a plague pit in the triangular park opposite the Paxton pub at the bottom of Gipsy Hill, also the location, occasionally of contemporary short-term Gipsy encampments.

Post Victorian development of Gipsy Hill has expanded as a South London suburb. It was substantially bombed during WW2 and had a nuclear bunker built in the Cold War.

Most importantly, Gipsy Hill has Fanny, the Gipsy Hill Cat. Often on duty at the train station and always available on her Twitter account. Fanny unites this suburb with her cuddles and affection on Platform 1.

Residents crowd funded when she had a mishap. The Friends of Gipsy Hill are building her a workplace garden. She also has a loving home and family when not on-duty.

Today she is the face of Suburban Solstice.

Last sideline, Fanny keeps herself nice.