Pandemic Pondering #389

5 days late we were up early to ease ourselves into the slightly relaxed Covid-19 restrictions. An outdoor breakfast on Plymouth Barbican. Lola was not really ready for such gallivanting and had to rest her chin on the table.

Oh the secret joy of being able to overhear someone elses conversations on the next table. Nothing is more delicious than tuning in to a cracker of a tale that is not really any of your business. Less delightful is being held hostage by a group of new parents and their aspirational baby buggies all parked like a fortress. People you dont know are strangely fascinating after 15 months of not being able to mingle. People watching and innocent voyeurism is one of those things we’ve missed without realising. A trip to the loo provided me with an image that could easily be part of an Edward Hopper painting and a world of interior dining that is still denied to us.

Another benefit of the early start was a bakery visit with no queue and a wide range of baked goods to choose from. There were massive queues outside charity shops though so that was a pleasure we denied ourselves, this was after all our first foray into a new more liberal world and too much mingling was not on our to-do list and we headed home.

A day of domestica and dog walks was finished with a very lumpy swim in bright sunshine. The sea temperature remains icy!

On a lovely note a ‘ bobbers’ grandchild was born yesterday. Something lovely for us to natter about, not that we are ever a silent bunch post swim.

Pandemic Pondering #388

This is a funny old meandering blog. Caused in part by a day of domestic admin, zoom meetings and long but rather too familiar dog walks. I was tied to the house awaiting a call that would herald the arrival of a gas engineer to service our boiler and hob. It is entirely possible, close to home, to do a really long dog walk but be able to quickly take a short cut and get home in twenty minutes to keep a Gas Engineer happy. His window of opportunity was 8-6. He arrived at 4:30 and was gone by 5, thats a lot of anticipation and not much action. A fair bit of time to fill. Some of it was spent delving in my picture archive to illustrate this blog.

The picture above appeared in yesterdays blog that required staircases to illustrate the pondering. I’ve tweaked it a little to bring out all the colours.It is one of my favourite images of the last few years. Yesterday I was unsure of the location. If asked I would have confidently said it was from an old refugee hostel in Hong Kong. As I had loads of time yesterday I looked its location up and discovered it came from much closer to home and is in fact a rather smelly old staircase from a disused Plymouth night club.

While looking up the location I discovered another favourite picture that shares some of the same colours on a distressed wall but has a completely different feel. Finding this gave me an idea for todays blog. Loosely it is about colour and texture using four pictures from my archive

This gorgeous wall from a coffee shop in Hoi An in Vietnam is shabby, not through neglect but through over use. The under colour bleeds through the newer paint as the top coat is gently worn off by countless customers leaning against the wall while enjoying a coffee and pastry.

Taking the coffee shop theme forward I found this picture which has no easily discernible colour.

Another coffee shop find. This picture mesmerises me with its blandness and impracticality. There is nothing going on here and yet I am drawn to this image because it is beige and my mind is free to explore the texture and shape of the pillows and hard surfaces. The last picture in this quartet has even less colour but is conundrum. Still a pillow but one that has a feather on the outside.

A journey of vivid to white in four pictures and loads of textures. Today, you may be pleased to know, I will get out more…

Pandemic Pondering #387

L’esprit de l’escalier is a French term used in English for thinking of the perfect reply too late. I think it is mostly considered to be a witty or clever retort that would finish of a conversational or indeed confrontational encounter more perfectly.

Where is the handy french term for when you/ I, have thought of the perfect retort and delivered it leaving the other person stunned and perhaps uncomfortable. A linguistic victory certainly but not always kind.

Kindness at the end of a conversation is another of those moments with no useful term. Hugely important during difficult conversations when serious, possibly hurtful and important points need to be conveyed. If there is love, care, affection or even just integririty that must be built into that conversation the parting words need to be perfectly judged if the conversation is to be effective rather than harmful. A lifetime of harm can be caused without the right conversational ending included. If only these things could be straightforward.

The whole business of ‘stair case wit’ which I have expanded to Staircase Wisdom is chronically complicated and acutely regrettable. I have a huge dusty box in my personal archive of conversations that were not perfect because I got the end wrong.

The trouble is, unlike this collection of staircases, conversation with another is never black and white, and it can be complicated and unpredictable. The conversations in my head always go much better to plan.

The link below takes you to a less personal consideration of L’esprit de l’escalier. I hope that is the perfect ending.

L’esprit de l’escalier

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%27esprit_de_l%27escalier

Here is a less than perfect ending , the steps that I imagine take me to my store of archived badly finished conversations. I don’t imagine I’m ever going to be diplomatic or wise enough not to need to store badly finished conversations in an imagined room beyond these stairs any time soon. These steps will continue to be well worn, a little bit smelly and unloved until I can no longer engage in meaningful conversation.

Pandemic Pondering #386

Last night we needed a decent length dog walk, and luckily our Waterside destination pulled out all the stops for visual pleasure.

Our 23 year old cat, George, made a one way trip to the vets yesterday. She had had a remarkable life. Early years in a Naval town were followed by rural bliss with special responsibilities for laying in the sun , extravagantly posed on a War Memorial when not hunting mice and rats. On one occasion she failed to completely kill a rat but dragged it indoors through the cat flap spurting arterial blood from its ravaged neck. 10 years as an urban cat in South London sharing her patch with urban foxes gave her an attitude on top of her already well formed personality. Returning to her rural home when she was twenty she opted for a quiet life and spent her days chasing patches of sunlight around the garden. She was in that process yesterday before her appointment for a tooth extraction. George always had robustly good physical health, her mental health was more precarious. She had periods of very precise over grooming taking the fur off exactly a quarter of her body, other periods when she would live under a bed for months at a time. All of her life she was the cat version of Eeyore. She loved only one woman and it wasnt someone she lived with, but our friend Steph for whom she always turned on the charm.

Part of the responsibility of loving and caring for pets can be making the difficult decisions. Her poorly tooth turned out to also be a tumour, her life would never again been one of sunbeam hunting and casual grumpiness. Sometimes death is not the worst option.

A good long walk on a sad evening was exactly what we needed to put things into perspective.

Pandemic Pondering #385

Yesterday England took a partial step out of Covid Lockdown. Among other changes non essential shops opened and food and drink suppliers could serve customers in outdoor seated areas. The media this morning are reporting a Monday like no other, ever, with people queueing to enjoy retail therapy and socialising, after a very long period of restrictions.

Not much changed @theoldmortuary. Our lockdown routine will probably only change with small incremental adaptations. Our swimming, ‘ bobbing’ life changed immediately though . The scone and landscape picture at the top of the blog represents absent friends, who were unable to swim last night because they were free to travel and stay away. Or had work commitments that were no longer screen based or as flexible as they have been during lockdown.

A campsite over looking Plymouth Sound
©Kevin Lindsey

Not only were there less ‘ Bobbers’ last night, there were less swimmers in general. The Firestone Bay seal had huge portions of the sea to himself. He/she is the small dot in line diagonal with the two bouys.

The second scone picture of the day sums this transitional period up. There is some certainty and clarity in the immediate foreground but we can’t clearly see the outline of the future.

Pandemic Pondering #384

Sometimes you have to get up early for the twinkliest of moments. We got double twinkle yesterday. -1 degree and a frosty car as we set off very twinkly. Then a twinkly sea to swim in.

We only exchanged christmas gifts last week, during Easter. This weekend we got to use some of them. Swimming lessons and a silk shirt, neither particularly suited to the day but we are living in unusual times .

I got the easier option of wearing a new orange silk shirt while walking the dogs.

Hannah opted for orange accessories for her swimming lesson. Accidentally orange became the colour of the moment as an orange noodle was thrown to her during the early part of the lesson.

https://www.aceswimming.co.uk/

Me and the dogs watching on the beach.

Just a tiny tweak on the saturation of this photo shows up the orange of the tow floats as the lesson continues. It also gives the shine on the sea a pale purple hue which matched the weed I was leaning near to get these photos

Then as the lesson concluded I got a lovely splash of the complimentary colour to orange. Turquoise. This was not a cunning plan to introduce colour theory into the Monday blog!

Just luck, but serendipity does play a large part in these blogs. Because as luck/serendipity would have it we have a red flask for post swim warming up. Another portion of colour theory is that a small dash of red can improves the overall look of a picture. The same could be said for this blog.

For the story about a dot of red read this.

https://www.cassart.co.uk/blog/colour-speaks-volumes.htm

An accidental lesson in colour theory during a deliberate swimming lesson. Pandemic Pondering in a nutshell.

Pandemic Pondering #383

Today is an unusual pondering, not because it comes a day after the death of Prince Phillip, The Duke of Edinburgh. Although that fact is in some ways central to this blog. It is unusual because I can mention the great diarist Samuel Pepys for reasons other than his diary.

We did one of our usual dog walks near the coastal part of Plymouth Sound. Plymouth, being a naval city, was one of the locations of the 41 gun salute to mark the passing of the Queens husband. There is always something intriguing about witnessing something that has happened in the same location for many centuries, to mark significant events.

Gun Salutes started in the late Middle ages. Fixed odd number salutes of 21 and 41 were formalised as an economy measure by Samuel Pepys when he was a Naval adminstrator .

Another thing that was different today was that when HMS Westminster sailed out of Plymouth just after the Gun Salute the flag on her Jack Mast, the one at the back, was flying at half-mast.

Gun salutes are a complex old business. The link below will take you to a website with more information should you require it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/21-gun_salute

On a brighter note a couple fresh from their teeny tiny Covid Regulation wedding had their photographs taken at the tidal pool in Firestone Bay.

Coffee and tea was, of course, essential to a day of lots of walking, talking and listening to 41 Gun Salutes. Hugo and Lola do not get left out during comestible breaks.

Sun setting on another day of action in Plymouth Sound.

Pandemic Pondering #382

©Debs Bobber

Another Friday swim day with the Bobbers. A tiny Whats app group of 5 people has expanded to 12 regular swimmers and one land based Andy who keeps an eye on everything on land and in the sea. The swimming is the primary function of Bobbers but also loud natterings on any subject. Some of the natterings would make a nun blush, especially as we base ourselves below the perimeter wall of a convent.

There was a fine show of tugs today.

Tug Spotting

This one sailed out just before we plunged into the somewhat chilly sea. Sometimes if the conditions are right you can feel the resonant thrum of moving tugs when you are in the water. Not the case today. This busy tug sailed out before we got in and then back in again pulling a Royal Navy Survey vessel after we got out.


The reward for swimming yesterday was a tiny chocolate biscuit shaped like a penguin. Another unexpected treat is a visit to the same beach today at extreme low tide to hunt for goggles which were lost during the talking phase of the swim. Not a phase usually shown in swimming events but one in which the ‘ Bobbers’ excel.

Later, on a regular dog walk we chanced upon a new import being brought into Plymouth Fish Market.

If only I had known you could buy this stuff. I’ve had many unavoidable colleagues and huge numbers of equally unavoidable patients who could have done with a big dose of this stuff. Humans with no discernible traces of charisma are all over the place. As soon as this product becomes available on the retail market, I’m getting a pocket spray , the use of which the pandemic has made entirely acceptable. I am assuming it has a similar transmission but without the fatality of Novichok. When I meet those all too frequent people who have no manners or any measurable social graces, a quick squirt, will sort them out, probably only briefly, but for as long as I am forced to endure them.

Once the pandemic is over we could even repurpose all the sanitizer dispensers and make all our lives a little easier when interacting with increasing numbers of other humans. Charisma dispensers would really make emerging into the post pandemic world a little easier.

Pandemic Pondering #381

Hugo and Lola went for a walk yesterday with their friend Grace. I tagged along to natter to her mum and drink coffee. Facebook Timehop gave me evidence of a curious coincidence.

Yesterday we walked in Victoria Park , Plymouth. Previously on the same day a few years ago Hannah and I had been walking and drinking coffee in Victoria Park in Hong Kong. A coincidence I am happily exploiting to inject an image of coffee, in a china cup, in a coffee shop, abroad!

Not that Victoria Park in Plymouth needs embellishing with interesting stuff from elsewhere. It has quite a lot of interest of its own.

JMW Turner painted there when the area was still a tidal pool at the head of Stonehouse Creek. At the time it was known as the Dead Pool.

Sometime, not long after Queen Victorias death it was drained and turned into a park. Not always known as the most salubrious of places at night it is the perfect place to walk dogs and coincidentally enjoy art.

©Plymouth Evening Herald

At the far end of the park ‘ Moor’ by Richard Deacon is both obvious and easily missed.

Luckily for me and for different reasons Hugo and Lola, Grace knew the exact location of some new Street art so we took a very sniffy walk up some steps towards North Road West. Goodness knows what creatures scamper up and down those magnificent stairways at night. Hugo and Lola took forever to fully investigate the odours. Sometimes they give me a very dissapointedly specific look as I try to move them on. Particularly in areas of historical interest. Yesterdays ‘ look’ said. ” We don’t need wall plaques to tell us historic facts. Turners dog did a wee here 250 years ago and she had just had sausages and ale for breakfast”

Regardless of their investigative sniffing we eventually moved on to the Street Art. There was so much I am only sharing one location and one artist in this blog.

©https://www.facebook.com/groups/310503822375100/?ref=share

https://www.facebook.com/groups/310503822375100/?ref=share

Isn’t it great to have Street Art and contemporary sculpture all within a few minutes walk of a favourite location of a Royal Academician ‘ Romantic’ painter.

Just to give even more texture to the walk Grace met her swimming coach and I met a fellow ‘Drawn to the Valley’ artist.

A walk worth pondering!

Pandemic Pondering #380

On reflection, moments like this are very rare. A still tide and no river traffic causing movement or ripples in the water. I do this walk almost every day but rarely catch moments like this. The proper business of dog walking is the purpose of the visit, but yesterday I just took a moment to capture these two pictures. I could already hear the sound of outboard motors approaching to ruin the perfect reflection.

Moments after this picture was taken the tide direction switched and the river started to flow again and I was able to concentrate on walking the dogs.

The road bridge in the front of this picture was completed in 1960 and the rail bridge behind 100 years earlier. Together they carry passengers and goods in and out of Cornwall, a hundred feet or so above the heads of humans standing on the riverbank. I never give it much thought on my daily walks but for the people living on the banks of the river in 1859 the first trains crossing the rail bridge must have been an extraordinary moment. I’ve only recently discovered that, less than two weeks after the railway service into Cornwall started,a train fell off a bridge just a couple of miles from here. That cant have made living under the bridge feel very safe at all. A future ponder will emerge from this new information once I can freely visit the local museum and research the story. Rail and road safety being what it is I happily walk beneath these bridges never anticipating a train or motor vehicle landing on my head. I may give it more consideration now!