Pandemic Pondering #104

Desolate is a word that it is tough to love, but, love it, I do.

Boardwalk at Dungeness

Growing up I knew it as a descriptive word for geographic or meteorological phenomena. There is no coincidence that the flat lands of East Anglia and the sea mists that roll in off the North Sea are as much a memory of my early summers as sun drenched bucket and spade days on beaches.

When people enquired after a day out on the Essex coast my parents would describe a mist- harmed, beach day as ” all a bit desolate ” but I had had a great time so I never realised the negative connotation. My excuse for finding a sad word, not sad.

Battersea Power Station

I’ve jogged through life not really associating desolate with bleakness. The French word désolée = sorry, has also been a victim of my false up- beatedness about this family of words.

It is only with adulthood and an understanding of mental ill health or depression that the gravity of the word desolate has anchored itself in my mind . A person who is missing and possibly at risk of suicide is described as ‘ desolate’,when being discussed.

Looking towards Devon, River Tamar, Cornwall

In Pandemic Pondering #101. I described the desolate story of a World War One, casualty.

I used the word deliberately and advisedly because of the circumstance of his death.

Have I rehabilitated the word in my mind. Is it now properly recalibrated to the sad end of my word spectrum.

Pill Creek, Saltash

If I’m honest, not entirely. I still find pleasure in places that could well be described as desolate or bleak and more curiously they make me happy.

Condensation in a sweaty gym, St Mellion

Pandemic Pondering #103

This weekend is normally one to enjoy the pleasures of live music on the TV. An oxymoron if ever there was one. In 2020 Glastonbury was cancelled because of Coronovirus restrictions so anyone with a love of contemporary music festivals was obliged to get their Glasto fix via the BBC. I’ve not managed to get tickets ever in the modern iteration of Glastonbury so this is my normal level of attendance.

The benefit of this curated trawl through the archives is that, so far, I’ve not experienced a set that hasn’t brought pleasure.

David Bowie’s 2000 set is a current stand out , for all the expected reasons and also because it was never before broadcast in full. It also features an Under Pressure duet with Gail Ann Dorsey his bassist for more than 20 years.

A woman who is every level of cool that I am not.

Because much of Glastonbury is filmed on very familiar stages, that change little over the years, it is easy to forget that these are archived performances not fresh recordings from this year. It’s only when performers light up a cigarette on stage that there is a sudden realisation that time has passed and that even rock and roll must abide by some rules.

Glastonbury will be available on iPlayer in the UK for the next month. I may have to do an awful lot of jobs, and blogging, in front of the TV.

Pandemic Pondering #102

A rope bridge, currently closed, so no irritating people on it to ruin the image.

Saturdays newspaper devoted the magazine to many sports personalities and other types of celebrities talking about their ‘Lost Summer’.

Mr Bronze Turkey, grateful to see a few visitors after 3 months with no-one looking at him.

I realise I have not been prepping myself towards something momentous, that Covid -19 has taken away from me, and of course I’m not in any way famous but I don’t see mine or anyone elses missed moments as Lost

Quiet contemplation for a small person with a pathway to herself.

Life has just taken it’s own path as it always does, regardless of Pandemics. The next three months in the Northern hemisphere are Summer 2020 and obviously Winter 2020 in the Southern hemisphere. Not what anyone anticipated but valuable just the same.

Dicksonia Antarctica , more than 120 summers, many of them ‘different” to expectation.

The pictures illustrating this blog are definitely a gain. Covid-19 and its restrictions have given us many reasons to ‘ Seize the Day’ not too far from home. Summer Gains 2020. All pictures taken at The Lost Gardens of Heligan, during its Social Distancing phase. Calmer, quieter, a little wilder and still lovely.

Restricted opening to comply with social distancing but gorgeous in its own way.

Pandemic Pondering #101

@theoldmortuary had a bit of a Sunday snooze .Having a guest author for PP#100 was a great chance to step back and have a think. As many parts of the world ease out of Lockdown it could have been a good place to stop but the virus is still out there with no sign of a vaccine. The pandemic is not over so neither is the pondering.

Better later than never this little blog is about a sailor from World War 1. The sea being a bit of a theme on the cusp of PP#100
I found a plaque recording his story at the Lost Gardens of Heligan today. Charles Dyer was one of twenty gardeners who had worked at Heligan before WW1 who ultimately lost their lives as a consequence of that conflict.

Charles’ story is a little more complicated than many. This plaque tells his story.

In 1918 Charles was hospitalised at Chatham Naval Dockyard. One day he put on his uniform and walked out of the Dockyard never to be seen again. He was listed as a deserter and his family were shamed and deprived of a pension.

2 years later a body was found in a wood close to the dockyard. It was identified as Charles by his wedding ring. He was taken off the deserters list, his family granted a pension and his body was returned to Mevagissy Cemetery and given a Commonwealth War Grave headstone.

I’ve aged some photographs I took today to illustrate this desolate tale.

Pandemic Pondering#100

Given Cornwall’s grand seafaring tradition and your nerdish love of words I thought you might enjoy this collection of phrases all derived from maritime/nautical origins. A topic for your next blog perhaps?

© theoldmortuary

© @theoldmortuary
When I got this message in an email it seemed obvious that #100 could be special by having a guest author.@theoldmortuary welcomes Dai Pullen as our first guest author.

To be on Strike

Naturally the first thought that comes to mind when we think of seafarers and the waterfront are long and bitter campaigns of industrial action.
But this term has its roots in the 18th century when life at sea was lonely and cruel (for example, though it seems hard to believe today on some vessels the supply of chocolate biscuits would be exhausted before the ship had even lost sight of land).and harsh punishments were handed out to offenders. But seamen sometimes got together to fight their bad conditions. They would then strike the sails of their ships – which means to lower them – so preventing the ship from leaving port until their grievance was settled.
Swinging the lead
A person who pretends to be working when he is doing nothing, or claims to be ill when there’s nothing wrong with him, is said to be ‘swinging the lead’.
Before today’s sophisticated navigational equipment, seamen used to find out the depth of water by dropping a lead weight, attached to a tins, marked rope, to the bottom of a waterway.
Some lazy sailor, would take as long as possible about it. They would swing the lead to and fro several times instead of just dropping it straight into the water. Behaviour unheard of in the VPCM but quite common in certain sections of the POMC.

On Your Beam Ends
When you are absolutely out of luck, out of money and out of much else besides, you are said did to be ‘on your beam ends.’
It’s a phrase borrowed from old nautical times. A wooden ship depended for stability on its beams- the timbers that ran across the vessel, holding the sides in place and supporting the deck. A ship that was wrecked or so badly damaged that it was lying on its side, was ‘on its beam ends’.

Not enough room to swing a cat
When an estate agent describes a house as ‘ compact’ what she probably means is that – there is ‘not enough room to swing a cat’.
The ‘cat’ in this centuries -old -saying is not a furry tabby but the dreaded ‘nine-thronged whip, known as the ‘cat o’ nine tails’ that was used to punish sailors. The punishment always took place on the open deck because below in the cramped living quarters there was ‘not enough room to swing a cat.’
For those keen students of history this explanation will evoke a memory of Winston Churchill’s famous observation, ” Don’t talk to me about the Royal Navy, it’s all Rum , sodomy and the lash.” Fortunately for those us from the Merchant Navy, the experience of the seafaring life wasn’t quite as traumatic as there was no lash and even the rum was rationed.. as for the other pastimes we mainly did jigsaws and painted water colours.
Between the devil and the deep blue sea.
Somebody who is in a very difficult situation and is liable to be in real trouble whichever course action. he chooses is said to be ‘between the devil and the deep blue sea.’ The devil in this case is not ‘Old Nick’ but the heavy wooden beam which used to be fixed to the sides of ships as a supporter the big guns. It was called the gunwhale and was a very difficult place to get to, calling for great agility on the part of the luckless sailor ordered to that position. One slip and … splash He was literally between the devil and the deep blue sea.
Ship-shape and Bristol fashion
In the fifteenth century, Bristol was one of England’s most important ports, its biggest sea-faring claims to fame is that John Cabot and his three sons set off from Bristol in the reign of Henry VII to discover Newfoundland.
Survival on such perilous journeys in those days meant that the ships and equipment had to be in perfect working order. The men spent many hours making sure this was so. Anything that was well prepared neat tidy, and efficient therefore came to be known as ship-shape and Bristol fashion.

To Cut and run
Formerly anchor cables on sailing vessels are made of hemp. If a naval warships at anchor are in danger of enemy attack and needed to make a speedy departure, the crew would not take the time to wind in the anchor as this could take several hours but would simply cut through the cable and then let the ship run before the wind.
In the doldrums
depressed, low in spirits
Early in the 19th century in the doldrums was used as a synonym for ‘in the dumps’, depressed. Later sailors borrowed the phrase to describe the region of sultry calms and baffling winds within a few degrees of the Equator, where the north-east and south-east trade winds converge. Here the progress of sailing ships would be greatly delayed for many days, their crews becoming frustrated and demoralised . Hence their feelings provided the name for the area.
In itself. Lassie is not a nautical term, but the name of this famous Collie has an interesting connection with maritime history.
The first British battleship to be torpedoed by a German submarine was HMS Formidable, sunk just off Portland Bill in the English Channel in 1915. A few hours after the sinking, some fishermen found the body of a seaman that had been washed ashore in Lyme Bay; they carried it to West Bay and laid it out on the floor of the Pilot Boat Inn, and out of decency covered it with a tarpaulin.
However, the dog belonging to the landlord of the inn kept pulling aside the tarpaulin and licking the face of the dead seaman. Despite every discouragement, the dog persisted until the landlord was forced to see for him self what the dog had apparently known all along, that the seaman was not yet dead. The man was revived, and that is the end of his part in this story. Eventually, though, the incident inspired the famous film featuring the collie who won the hearts of millions of children the world over for her bravery, loyalty and intelligence.
The point of this anecdote is that the dog was named after the survivor of the sinking of HMS Formidable, John Lassie.
These are just a few examples of the thousands of words and expressions that were coined by our gallant seafarers

Pandemic Pondering #99

Cornwall is a surfing county. The mythical seventh wave exists in the hearts and minds of many who visit here. The seventh wave is supposed to be the best and strongest wave of the sequence. The science behind the 7th wave is pretty conclusive that it doesn’t exist, even accepting that sometimes it does, because wave strength is affected by wind, tide and the profile of the underlying beach. Randomly that sometimes is the 7 th wave but not predictably so.

Cornwall has done pretty well during the Coronovirus , reporting far lower levels of patients and deaths than the rest of the country. However Science and virus spread modelling suggests that the region might be worse hit by the Second Wave.

But just like the science behind the non existence of a 7 th wave phenomena ,The science behind the existence of a 2nd Wave of Coronovirus is also ignored as people flock to beaches ignoring social distancing advice and the fact that Covid-19 is still out there.

With this in mind I too am abandoning science to explore with gay abandon the world of another wave word. Confident that I am not risking anything by doing so.

An earlier blog mentioned my favourite word in Greek.

Flisvos- the sound of lapping waves.

English has something almost as gorgeous.

Susurration- a whispering sound.

It is also an onomatopoeic word. It sounds as relaxing as the action it describes.

The gentle susurration of the tide.

I’m gifting you the above link of waves on pebbles , firstly as an apology for yesterday’s musical earworm and secondly to gently introduce you to the nautical theme of Pandemic Pondering #100.

Pandemic Pondering #98

Seasons in the Sun.

Rarely in England is Spring considered a season in the sun. Spring 2020 was an exception and along with Lockdown I think I’m going to miss it.

I stole the title from a 1973 song Seasons in the Sun which is a pretty melancholic song. In the 1973 iteration by Terry Jacks it is sung from the perspective of a man who knows he is about to die, he says goodbye to those close to him.

The original version by Jaques Brel was also melancholic, but told from the perspective of a man whose heart is broken by his best friend having an affair with his wife . The man with the broken heart believes he will die of it.

For those of you with an interest in Cardiology there is a broken heart condition called Takotsubo Syndrome.

Anecdotally people do present with all the symptoms of a heart attack and are seen in a Cath Lab days after someone they love has passed away. On rare occasions after their loved one has attended the same Cath Lab.

The link below is to the original song.

The 1973 version of the song became anthemic in my small Essex town during the seventies, when two teenage boys were killed in a road accident. The link below is the Terry Jacks version, should you care to share my earworm.

Today I was earwormed as I cut down and disposed of the poppies and alliums that lit up the days of spring. The poppies in particular became a local landmark. Which is in part why they have had to go. They were looking pretty shabby this morning.

They will live on in other gardens next year.

So much pondering from clearing a rough area of its faded poppies.

The alliums also took a one way trip to the compost bin.

Both can show off one last time to finish off this blog.

We had joy,

We had fun,

We had seasons in the sun.

But the hills that we climbed,

Were just seasons out of time.

Pandemic Pondering #97

What is a village?

@theoldmortuary is in a village that, like many, has been consumed by a larger conerbation to the point that it barely considers itself to have a separate identity.

St Stephens was quite separate from the local town until ribbon development and housing estates attached it. It remains separate from the next village , divided by a steep hill and a river. Land that would have been difficult to cheaply develop. Although an easier gentle slope closest to St Stephens has had two housing estates built into it.

As a village it was well set up prior to the attachment to a town . It had the unholy trinity of a pub, a church and a village shop. Plus,the added luxury of an undertakers based in what is now our home.

Pandemic restrictions brought the sense of a village back to St Stephens. Without a pub or church there was nothing to draw outsiders into the area. The people we met in the street, as we walked the dogs, were people who actually live here. A different sense of community also revealed itself. I’m probably going to be wrong but there are less than 10 areas of housing development or estates around the original hub of St Stephens village. Many of the current inhabitants of these houses bought their house off plan from the developers 40 or 50 years ago. These people have a village community based not only on geography but also 40+ years of living and ageing in the same space and experiencing similar lifestyle milestones.

The old village hub no longer exists, only the church and pub have survived, neither would be effective communities if their net for customers was not spread much wider than either the original or expanded village. Only one farm has been saved from development and Churchtown Farm Nature Reserve, as it is now known, is as big a draw to the area as both the church and pub to people beyond the blurred boundaries of St Stephens.

In London, and maybe other places, the word’ Village’ is increasingly popular as an add-on to properly define a local identity within the urban sprawl.

Before the pandemic I had not really given this sense of identity too much attention. I grew up in a village that had a strong sense of its own identity and clear 360 degrees of obvious boundaries between it and it’s nearest neighbours. In London I lived in a high density suburb in Zone 3 , Gipsy Hill, a place that has a strong seperate identity just North of Crystal Palace and south of central London. Somewhere that wants to adopt the word Village into its identity. Yet without even 1 degree of seperation from its neighbours.

I’m not even sure where this pondering is going beyond my own realisation that it can be really enjoyable to have a loose connection with the people who physically occupy the same geographic area and walk their dogs or families in the same spaces.

Village is not only a word but a feeling.

Pandemic Ponderings is taking a leap for Pandemic Pondering #100. A guest writer for the first time, whose words will be illustrated by @theoldmortuary. I hope it’s the beginning of an interesting collaboration.

The writer and I grew up in the same village. We live on opposite sides of the world.

Pandemic Pondering #96

Pods , Bubbles and Raindrops and a metaphor.

Rain did not stop play this weekend, but it did rain in Cornwall, this weekend. Our schedule had enough flexibility built into it to avoid a drenching. Thank goodness. We formed a government approved Bubble with my daughter and then socially distanced with some other familial bubbles.

If I know anything significant about bubbles it is that they pop in the rain. I would have felt safer if the government had used the word ‘pod’

Podding with someone feels robust and resilient. There is a protective element to the word.

Bubbling with someone seems frivolous and fanciful, flimsy.

A sensible mother would protect her child in a pod, we were only offered a bubble. People go into space in a pod not a bubble.

Without becoming over political this reflects the whole sorry state of Pandemic Precautions in England. Run by a government that chooses the flimsy alternative to the more robust one, every time.

We had a good weekend skitting about in our bubble avoiding rainshowers. Raindrops posed boastfully on flowers everywhere, calling attention to themselves and providing a visual metaphor for the virus that could at any moment pop our ‘ bubble’ of a slowly easing Lockdown.

Other flowers though had shrugged off the rain and were ready to get on with life as normal. A happy state that we humans are not quite at.

Hugo , being a dog flitted wilfully between bubbles and at other times posed in flower beds. Having completely misunderstood which restrictions have been relaxed.

Pandemic Pondering #95

Father’s Day

@theoldmortuary we don’t have any fathers. Definitely a cause of sadness but within our micro family we have two Father’s, my ex-husband and my son. Today was a socially distanced family gathering to celebrate at a distance those father’s both with us and those no longer with us.

Celebrate takes on a whole new way of being when the only alcohol is in the hand sanitizer and everyone has prepared their own picnic.

Our destination was the Eden Project as previous visits, since the relaxation of lockdown, have been very easy. It is never busy and has plenty of space for a family to social distance.

Our progress is always slow around Eden.

Today, patterns was my photographic project , beyond the family of course.

This first image is a pierced stained glass design and it’s projected image stitched together and then tiled.

The rest are just pierced metal and bright sunlight.

Finally we have the three people,all in the same log, that celebrated Father’s Day with their Dads today.