The sun shone for the last walk around Sutton Harbour and the Barbican of 2020. It also snowed a little.
Our evening went to plan . This is the photograph for our family and friends distance, thousands of miles and many time zones, social media party.
Television watching for two, oh the dizzy heights!
The plan had actually been to go to bed early and show 2020 the disdain it deserves and sleep through its passing but actually it feels only responsible to not only see the year leave but also to make sure it has actually gone and shut the door behind it. For such a responsible observation a far less frivolous drink is required.
A fine cup of decaffeinated Yorkshire Tea and a Cornish Shortbread. Far less giddy than that party pleasing Snowball. Also guarantees a good nights sleep, essential after a year like 2020!
I can confirm 2020 left the building and the door slammed shut behind it.
The last day of the old year and the last day of Merryneum. Tomorrow we will have the freshness and promise of a New Year. But first a dissapointment of the Merryneum. Not many gifts found their way to @theoldmortuary this year. Many have been held in a secure location until ‘ Fake Christmas’ being held sometime in the New Year. New Pyjamas though did reveal themselves on Christmas morning.Their patterns are the illustrations of this blog.
You would expect with all the free time created by not entertaining family and friends during the festive season we would have been able to have a designated Pyjama Day.
It has not happened! Dog walking and inclement weather have restricted the ability to have a day not wearing clothes. Dark mornings and afternoons permit pyjama dog walks but only if the weather is not wet and a substantial coat can cover up the evidence.
So to top off any lingering dissapointments that we may all have with 2020 , we need to add general disappointment with the weather over Christmas. A very British way to sign out.
Its been a funny old festive season @theoldmortuary . We have a smallish family circle and a larger circle of friends. We are very lucky. One Christmas lost to being decent citizens, who stuck to the rules, is not actually a ‘ lost’ Christmas just a diminished one without all our treasured people around us.
Today it is 360 days until Christmas 2021. Our strange distorted world will look very different.
And while it can never turn the full 360 degrees to return us to our pre-pandemic normal. ( We can’t ever turn back the clocks.) Things will look and feel very different 360 days from now.
Merryneum continues, as do the leftovers. Turkey Pie, fresh sausage rolls and smoked salmon quiches were created @theoldmortuary baking session yesterday.
Under normal circumstances the above plate of food would have been hoovered up in half a day. Not so this year, on a positive note that is all the left overs gone from Christmas day food. I’m not sure how many calories Zoom meetings consume but that was our peak activity yesterday. Books were also consumed in large amounts. An activity not usually listed as a fat burner.
Dog walking in abysmal weather was also a feature of the day. Not satisfying to the body and soul of human or dog. The dogs now have thermal coats to pop on when we stop for coffee, so they can warm up. There are unlikely to ever be cute photos of them walking in their thermals. Because they refuse to walk in them but stationary dogs in thermal jackets might appear.
Like so much, our doggy thermals were made in Shenzhen an industrial town just north of the border between Hong Kong and China. The pollution from Shenzhen was dreadful for our granddaughter yesterday, she lives on the Hong Kong side of the border.
She was stuck indoors to avoid the pollution caused by the manufacturing industry starting up after the Christmas break. Inadvertantly, in a virtual world, we also got stuck indoors there too. Our Zoom chats took place inside her play tent and when she got a little bored of screen time she finished the call by leaving us and the phone inside the tent. The next day we were, again, talked to only in the tent while she busied about. Being stuck in a pale green teepee is our punishment for not shopping local. Although I think it will take more than us shopping local to cut pollution from the monumental manufacturing sites in Shenzhen.
Today’s blog was always going to be about leftover food and words. It still will be but my theme was slightly overtaken by this witty Twitter post by a cunning linguist , Suzy Dent.
These days of late December are indeed a blurry space between Christmas and the New Year. Awkward to navigate in normal years, 2020 blurrs the blurr even blurrier. A less Merry , Merryneum with the near future uncertain by the double anxiety of Brexit and Covid
Left overs were the theme of the day. Long before the notion of Merryneum landed on my Twitter feed. I suspect Leftovers will last just about as long as the Merryneum.
Things started with ‘Bubble’
And moved on to Samosas
But in, what is becoming a habit, we didn’t have the need or enthusiasm for the evening Turkey Pie.
Beyond cooking up the uneaten sprouts and other festive veg we walked the dogs. Or did they walk us?It is entirely possible that we might have stepped into a coffee shop. Thankfully the decor lent itself to the colours of Merryneum.
And Hugo and Lola posed for small portions of cake.
It was a huge surprise to wake up hungry on Boxing Day morning. We had accidentally avoided doing anything too traditional, for us, on Christmas Day and were lucky enough to avoid any lachrymose moments. Avoidance worked to the point that we were too exhausted to even cook a proper festive roast.
Boxing Day has a tradition in our home of no traditions . It always has an organic free flowing style. Decisions are largely predicated by weather and participant enthusiasm and availability. Today despite the greige and the cold a walk on the Hoe was our chosen activity. Unusually for Plymouth we found some profound graffiti.
For us today it is about learning Tier 2 rules and working out a life pathway up to the next Covid based government decision. Basically we need to throw on the thermal underwear and do anything that involves other humans outside. What we have not considered is the dogs temperatures while socialising outside. As this is likely to go on for a couple of months we’ve just ordered doggy thermals. Meanwhile Lola loved a hat
Sell-by dates also inform our current lifestyle. Our festive season attendance @theoldmortuary was abruptly cut by 2/3 so there is an element of cooking food for 6 in a way that 2 can come out of the non festive season not looking like overstuffed Turkeys.
An actual roast is occuring today , purely to provide us with traditional left overs. One of the best meals of the festive season is Bubble and Squeak. Cooking it at home is one thing but eating it at Borough Market crafted by the wonderful cooks at Marias, takes Bubble to new levels.
In our house it never has its full title the dish is just known as ‘ Bubble’ the word is traditionally shouted with a South London accent.
@theoldmortuary has adopted the ‘love’ logo to share some love over the festive period because there is so much about the festive season and in fact the whole year that we love to share with friends and family, we’ve really missed you all . A little logo of love lets you know we are thinking of you.
And finally Christmas dinner was cooked and consumed.
Christmas 2020 it wasn’t Christmas but it was Christmas because that’s what it was.
The day started early with some ‘Bobbing’ admin.
Mulled cider and mince pies were the actual admin that was required today.
Then it was a swift drive home and festive sandwiches made ready for beach #2 Harlyn Bay.
Don’t be fooled by golden sands, if Tranquility Bay looked like madness, Harlyn was madness+. A great walk in freezing temperatures followed by a convivial two van picnic observing all current regulations for Covid-19 control.
The dogs, of course, moved vans due to the superior picnic being served next door.
To be honest the idea of returning home and then cooking a traditional turkey roast began to feel less desirable the colder we got. A cup of hot tea was about as far as we could stretch when we got home.
Much later a mushroom Wellington made an appearance.
In between walking and talking we zoomed and whatsapped with people near and far.
Christmas Day in a Nutshell with not a cracker in sight.
Our last day with the relative freedoms of Tier 1. Today Cornwall is downgraded , that’s a whole new set of rules to remember! In
Merry Christmas, who needs a big blog on Christmas morning, probably no one . What we all need is our friends and family around us. The hurly burly of traditions all bound up with over crowded homes and too much food. What we have this year @theoldmortuary is the time to go and look at Christmas lights after last minute shopping.
And the chance to make home made cranberry sauce.
While watching Christmas Carols from Kings College, Cambridge.
Very peaceful and lovely, but not normal. We love and miss our festive season regulars, the irregulars and those in other realms. Love to our families and friends far and wide. You light up our lives.
Christmas Eve 2020, what to say! Facebook reminded me yesterday that the day before Christmas Eve is usually Christmas Jumper Day, if it is a work day. Not @theoldmortuary we usually rock a festive t-shirt, you can hide it under scrubs and flash when appropriate.
Which is very fortunate for this meandering blog . Facebook also shared a video with me this morning. It seems only right to share it on here too.
My favourite Christmas tune of all time.
It’s very strange looking into a fridge on Christmas Eve and still see spare capacity. It’s also odd to feel able to crack open the festive treats, Cheese Footballs, without a pang of guilt that I am depriving my children of a heritage, festive, comestible. No family for us this year, just an empty table where sometimes there have been over twenty. Not this actual table obviously.
Back to Cheese footballs.The more retro cheese footballs become the more significant it is to hunt them down early in the festive shopping season. I’ve had these little chaps since September. I have even supplied other families with them. I am obsessed!
In these Covid times where even trivial things have disappeared I thought I would share my personal timeline of cheese footballs
My grandparents owned a country pub for most of their lives. A substantial meal in their establishment was a pickled egg and a bag of crisps.
High days and holidays were marked by bar snacks. This was long before the health hazards of such things was common knowledge. Christmas was marked by swapping out the dry peanut and raisin combo for Huntley and Partners Cheese Footballs. The tin below is the retail version. Pubs could get a substantial size catering pack in the same design. Nobody ever knew that my greedy hands helped themselves to the Christmas stock long before it got to the bar, which for reasons explained below is a good thing!
Time moved on and pubs like The Red Cow have disappeared. The illustration of the building above is an image I found earlier today on the internet.
Bar snacks have been tested and declared a bad idea because, pre- Covid, the words man, pub toilet and hand washing rarely appeared in sentences or real life. High levels of transferred urine and faecal matter could be detected in free bar snacks within half an hour of being placed on the counter. Women may also have been guilty of the non hand washing crime.
Cheese footballs not unlike the England football team are a long way from their golden years of the sixties. Every September they can be spotted in the Seasonal aisles of a few supermarkets. Dressed up in a fancier tub and sold by KP.
At this point pondering took a curious path. I googled the Red Cow to see if the internet had an image. It did and a whole lot more.
I can share with you an article from the Daily Mail discussing the conversion of the Red Cow to a dwelling. The toilets get a mention. Fascinating too that the new owner was a microbiologist.
Somewhat stranger is an image of my grandfather’s grave in Wethersfield Cemetery that appears on the same Google. Something I have never seen before. My family did mild dysfunction long before it was a ‘thing’. My grandmother , Gladys, is buried in Melbourne, Australia.
As it turns out this is exactly the right blog for Christmas Eve 2020. A curious mixture of festive, reflective, emotional and pragmatic. I urge you to view the video, it is gorgeously poignant.
Merry Christmas, thankyou for being here.
P.S Following the publication of this blog a local history group sent me two photographs of The Red Cow.
I’m not certain visiting a new part of the coast is entirely sensible at dusk and low tide, particularly in late November. Despite being fairly close to home, Hannafore Beach is completely unknown to me. After a walk towards Talland Bay and back I thought I would give the dogs a low tide rock pool scamper. They loved it.
I’m just not quite so sure myself. Apologies to the many people I know who really love this place and find it restorative. Alone on an incongruous concrete pathway leading out to sea at sunset I felt a sense of foreboding and menace. There was a sense of dead seafarers souls winding round my ankles like silken slippery manacles.
Having thoroughly spooked myself, with fanciful imaginings and uncertainty about how the tide would come in, we called it a day. Two exhausted dogs and an overactive imagination. Time to research shipwrecks in Looe Bay and put my mind at rest , or not.
P.S. I found this dog centric page on line. A much more positive vibe! I’m clearly just inventing my own ghost stories for these dark days around the winter solstice.