Pandemic Pondering #135

August 1st 2020.

For a month Pandemic Ponderings will be slightly controlled by the prompt list that my art group, Drawn to the Valley is using to inspire a response from members on Instagram and Facebook during August.

As you know from PP#133, I am slightly churlish about prompts but am choosing to see this as a creative challenge not only for art but my creative writing/social history Ponderings.

#1 Gardens

About two and a bit years ago garden design @theoldmortuary took on a new angle when we had to make it safe for an anticipated grandchild.

At the time that little family were living in Hong Kong so we had time on our side for alterations to the structure of the garden.

Then with great excitement they returned to Cornwall to live and our garden plans were properly tested and found to be pretty exciting for someone under two.

Then the Pandemic hit and she couldn’t visit. Then the Pandemic hit in a different way and they have had to return to Hong Kong.

Here she is inspecting the garden for herself, from above.

Then she required a meeting with the Head Gardener to discuss changes and improvements required for when she is able to visit again.

By embracing prompts I have been able to explain in a gentle way why we’ve been a little sad for a few months.

In the future the little person will know that she was loved and we were sad to see her go in 2020.

I’m looking at prompts in a new way let’s hope I am not a recidivist and return to my grumpy prompt hating ways.

For completeness sake here is the picture I’m going to pop into Instagram for the Garden prompt.

Dead heading into a turquoise bucket.

Pandemic Pondering #134

Making Hay while the sun shines, part 2.

My apologies for the late arrival of today’s blog. After months of insomnia I was able to sleep last night. The usual time for tweaking and posting the next days blog was used for sleeping.

This morning was always going to be busy with good things. An early morning dog walk followed by a swim in the sea. The dog walk gave me this revised blog title.

Our local nature reserve is having a second hay harvest only a couple of weeks since the last.Today was always about making the best of things. We’ve had a sad old week which I’m sure I will touch on in various future blogs. So our is a metaphorical ‘ Making Hay While The Sun Shines’ kind of day. It turns out that is is also an actual Hay Making day.

The early dog walk was planned to facilitate an early swim with some old friends, pre 9am at Cawsand Beach. We found a quiet, almost Mediterranean corner of the beach to swim from.

The access to the sea was easy but very definitely more Cornish than Mediterranean, as was the sea temperature.

We had a fabulous swim, completely life enhancing and happiness creating. Followed by coffee and breakfast in our little cove. Emerging from our quiet spot there was very quickly signs of things to come!

The beach ahead of us was crowded even at 10 am.

Trying to get home involved an almost 10 mile traffic jam or a half hour drive to a ferry with a half hour wait.

Obviously from the picture you can see we chose the ferry.

This was a difficult decision for all @theold mortuary. A much loved family member was killed on the road to Torpoint and we’ve not ever travelled that road since. Some tears were shed.

South East Cornwall is full to the brim with people and traffic. Time to get back to part of today’s original blog.

The only link I can find is friendship.

Apparently government guidelines suggest that gatherings of 30 people are acceptable, with appropriate social distancing. Even with new additions I’m not sure I could gather 30 friends together and certainly not 30 family members. So once again I am unable to comply with new government guidelines. Meeting with a lower number of people suits us just fine. 30 seems giddyingly too many.

Just before lockdown I met two women. One at an art gallery and the other at a gym. Lockdown created a unique time and space to grow new friendships at a distance, we have also rekindled our old friendship with our swimming friends and nurtured existing friendships with the gift of more time. I’m not sure quite why the pandemic promoted the ability to speed up the cementing of really solid and valuable friendships both old and new, it’s a lovely positive in puzzling times.

I suppose that is something to ponder on!

The pictures below are lovely gifts that arrived this week from the Art Gallery friend and the Gym friend.

Lovely bursts of colour from flowers and crocheted bunting.

The pandemic has taught us to value friends and family and everything closer to home. It is a lovely feeling.

Pandemic Pondering #133

Some days, pondering takes place beyond the blog.
This morning I was pondering or puzzling over a conundrum of my own making. Prosecco was involved.
I’m running the social media presence of an art group throughout August.At an informal planning meeting, I may have drunk a little prosseco.
At the meeting we were planning the August social media activity. I am not enlivened by prompts.In the art group world, prompts can be considered- helpful, inspiring, bonding, stimulating. I find them the reverse, Stifling, controlling, enervating .

Prosecco led me to be particularly blunt about prompts. Understandably, after I left, the others ignored me and went on to plan prompts.

Suddenly this morning I realised the prompt hater (me) would be managing a month of prompt related posts.

Not awkward at all.

Luckily I caught a programme on the radio. Serendipity had struck. the dogs are big fans of BBC Radio 4.
I caught them engrossed, listening to a woman talking about being creative.

In half an hour she cured my awkwardness over prompts. She is someone who embraces and creates from uncertainty.

I completely reccomend sitting down and listening,

30 minutes of down time listening to someone so much better than me at expressing a love of serendipity, or uncertainty and how it can be a positive thing

More importantly, while listening to Caoilinn a lovely way of coping with prompts has revealed itself. I will embrace my awkward and consider the unwanted structure of daily prompts as my uncertainty and some days even use the prompt to inform and structure the blog.

These two morning events and the bees on the Artichokes are a fine example of a blog falling, unexpectedly into my head and then into the blog world.

Pandemic Pondering #132

Another English Soft Fruit Drizzle Cake.

Today’s experiment Blackcurrant Drizzle Cake.

Once again using the trusty Lemon Drizzle Cake recipe.

I double the recipe and replace the lemon components with whichever fruit experiment I happen to be trying. Increase cooking time to an hour for the bigger version.

Todays cake is the most bodacious looking . Puce pink icing and deep blacky purple drizzle. It would be wonderful, but the small amount of blackcurrant juice added to the cake mixture has changed the colour of the cake just slightly bluey green. Useful for a sea monster but not so lovely for afternoon tea style cake.

I haven’t bored you with all the English Soft Fruit Drizzle experiments. The Jury is out on this one but the current favourite is Rhubarb Drizzle Cake. It was gorgeous, rather like a slice of jam doughnut which makes no sense. Next week might be Raspberry…

Pandemic Pondering #131

The boots have left the building.

For the past year we’ve been hands- on grandparents @theoldmortuary. The period of the pandemic has changed the way we can be grandparents, just as it has disrupted aspects of many peoples lives. As of today we have become Zoomgrandparents. Google has many sites suggesting different ways to be gramdparents when the physical distance and an ongoing pandemic make actual contact impossible.

Eliminating the miles has always been a grandparent thing.

Distance is entirely relative, my dad didn’t get to see his grandparents often. It required my great grandparents to travel the ten miles between Braintree and Great Bardfield with a pony and trap. That’s 20 miles per visit and about 4 hours travelling time at a walking trot. Beyond rare visits the only other method of communication would have been a letter.

I lived closer to one set of my grandparents, a walk by road of maybe 2-3 miles. I was only about 6 when it was entirely acceptable for me to take a short cut, alone, though two dairy farms divided by a river. The other set of granparents lived 12 miles away. Unusually they both had cars. My grandad drove an Austin A40 and being picked up by him often meant sharing the inside of the car with barrels of beer for his pub.

In contrast his wife, my Nan, drove a Zephyr 6. She ran a private taxi company, lifts and visits to them were entirely dictated by their business needs. It was always a surprise as to which of these,now classic, cars would pick me up.

In contrast my children lived 100’s of miles from their grandparents. Visits were often long weekends the journeys to and fro in fairly dull cars on motorways. Contact in between visits would be by phone.

Zooming and googling, Different, but hopefully effective. A talking head.

Pandemic Pondering #130

Pondering on a Sunday is not always relaxing. This picture was taken when the day was very fresh. Ripe you might say , but as I write this the rain splatters regularly on the roof and the day is blowing out grey and grumpy. I never quite know how I feel about summer rain especially on a day that showed such early promise.Today I’m pondering the ineffectual way the English language has for describing the actual lived experience of summer rain. On the whole it has whimsicle or romantic descriptives.Soft, Shower, Precipitation.For a start there is the disappointment that it’s happening at all, no summer activity ever was enhanced by rain and yet there is no negative word for its arrival or its effect on life.Storms, Gales, Tempests, Hurricanes are all words for rainy weather in the three other seasons. But they don’t work in the summer. Squalls sort of fit the summer rain brief but there is no energy in that word to reflect my anymosity to the wet stuff in summer.It’s a limp word that gets no sympathy.” How was the summer fete?”” A complete wash out, there were squally showers”There is no dynamism in that statement.” How was the summer fete?”” A complete wash out, there was a tempest!”So much more impactful but who would ever say that.So there we are a blog without end. A feeling of frustration that no English word quite sums up the annoyance of summer rain.

Pandemic Pondering #129

Accidental Christmas in July.

Today we hosted a family gathering and at one point the impromptu junk band started playing a Christmas tune.

I joked that it was like Christmas in July in the U.S, which we had experienced once . TV channels playing Christmas films, large family gatherings in parks. At the time it was explained to me that sometimes families who are widespread across the U.S have trouble getting together for actual Christmas because of extreme wintry weather. It all seemed pretty sensible to me.

Discovering that Saturday was actually the 25th of July and that we were having a family gathering with too much food and the obligatory walk prompted some pondering and research.

The internet gifted me the above article that didn’t list the weather as a factor in the U.S but did baffle me with the information that Christmas in July is actually a thing in the U.K.

Not anywhere near me at any time ever!

I completely get the Southern Hemisphere thing. The need to celebrate/perk up the midwinter season was understood by primitive man and just hijacked by Christianity with some judicial juggling of dates.

The link below really takes Christmas in July seriously.

After reading this I realised our accidental gathering was pretty amateurish. We do have solar powered lights for the summer season so I’m including these in the blog to give us a little more authenticity.

Also accidentally some sunflowers were bought which is a great way to end both this blog and retrospectively enhance yesterdays.

Time to start getting Christmas in July Boxing Day organised…

Pandemic Pondering #128

Pondering on Sunflowers and wondering if I peaked in Cuba.I took this photo in 2016 in a Catholic Church in Havana, Cuba.Unusually for sunflowers I find this image melancholy and I love it all the more because it subverts the usual feelings evoked by sunflowers. I’m pretty certain I will never take a better photo of sunflowers. I should probably stop trying.This is another favourite, a sunflower next to a table light , artfully abstract, I like it but I don’t love it.Adoration, loyalty and longevity are the symbolic meanings attached to sunflowers in Western culture and in China good luck and lasting happiness .In Cuba, where my favourite picture was taken, the sunflower has a unique cultural significance. The sunflower is offered to the Virgin of Charity or Cachita as the mother of Jesus is informally known. Digging a little deeper the offering of sunflowers is a fascinating blend of worshipping girl power. In the Afro- Cuban belief system that is part of the Yoruba based religions, sunflowers are offered to Oshun who is an Orisha or spirit. She is a river goddess associated with divinity,feminity, fertility,beauty, freshwater, wealth and intimacy.The Virgin Mary in Cuba is habitually wearing a dress of sunflower yellow.Who knows why these flowers were left in a church, one of the many reasons I love this picture is the unpretentiousness of the bunch of flowers and that the imprint of the person who left them is still seen in the crumple of the newspaper used to wrap them.The blend of Christianity and Yoruba are held together in this simple bunch of flowers.The same theme can also be glanced in this Cuban dance.

Pandemic Pondering #127

Moons- a step by step guide to making moon Sandwiches in a Pandemic.Some time ago we had a socially distanced picnic planned with VV our granddaughter and her mum and dad.Picnics when you are under two need to be exciting so we decided to make moon Sandwiches.For moon purists we make both waxing and waning crescents depending how you hold them and both waxing and waning gibbous moons.Full moons and quarter moons could be made, but they don’t have intriguing shapes for small hands.

Because this catering masterpiece was created during the pandemic there is a twist.We didn’t have a cookie cutter so had to make one out of a good quality tomato paste tin.Kyknos Tomato Paste is our favourite tomato cooking ingredient and the tin is very high quality, so robust enough to make a very fine cookie cutter in times of Pandemic resticted shopping.simply by removing both the top and bottom with a can opener. cheapest possible white sliced bread.ButterGood quality white cheese spread.’t be tempted to upgrade the bread , posh bread gives tatty edges.MethodButter 3 slices of bread.Spread cream cheese on 3 further slices of bread.Sandwich one buttered and one cheesed piece of bread together giving you 3 cheese sandwiches that are uncut.Stage one cut a circle or full moon out of one of the sandwiches, repeat as necessary with the other sandwiches……………………………Stage two, cut out two more crescents out of the remaining sandwich………………………..Stage three cut two more smaller crescents out of the full moon/ circle shape. This miraculously will leave you with a waxing or waning Gibbous…………………………………Pack moons into a sandwich box.Lunar loveliness for adventurous picnics.

© Wikipedia

These moons are made of cream cheese, nothing fanciful at all.For those with an interest in the real m🌒🌒n. Today is a waxing crescent kind of day.

Pandemic Pondering #126

We met a friend this evening whose words of welcome reflect the subject of this blog.” I saw some really blousy flowers the other day and thought of you”It’s hard to know how to respond to that but as luck would have it I have some bold flower pictures to share, as the same friend has some expertise in identifying bee bottoms so I forgive her for the blousy comment.Today is the day in our corner of South East Cornwall. The Artichokes have burst forth their pollen coated flowers and bees are all over the place, apparently this is a buff bottomed bee. There were many bees of buff bottom fame.Wikipedia suggests they are called White Tailed Beewhich is far less exciting.What is exciting is that we also had a Cornish Black Bee.The Artichokes are a gorgeous blaze of hot summer pink at the moment. They will get bluer in a day or two, some summers they deepen to a Klein or Majorelle Blue.When the Artichokes get bluer they tend to attract red-tailed bees. Something to look forward to later in the week.Meanwhile back to Blousy. I’m not sure Artichokes quite fit the bill.But they do have an essence of blousy. If an artichoke walked into a bar it would expect to be noticed. Not because of the unusualness of a walking artichoke obviously, but because it has a provocative way about it, it looks like a good- time plant, the plant that knows where the after party is and is confident it will brazen its way passed the bouncers into the VIP area.Very Impressive Plant.