#325 theoldmortuary ponders

Getting High in Toronto.The CN Tower Toronto, no we did not go up it. Our Toronto visit was brief and we were very much feet on the ground for the 24 hours we were there. More than 40,000 steps, type of feet on the ground , but you can’t get away from the CN tower, it is iconic and features in art work as above and the Cityscape as shot from Ward’s Island. There is a whole other blog to be written about our adventure to the distillery district and even there the CN tower sneaked into view.

We have nothing against the CN Tower but I dont feel we know the city well enough yet to be thrilled seeing it from 342 metres height. Somehow as tourists we get our kicks from seeing the CN tower in context with other landmarks. Travel is a funny old thing, wherever you travel someone will always tell you that you missed the best bits. Or maybe we didn’t miss the recommended best bits but those ‘best bits’ failed to ignite the same passion as something random does. Being up high in the CN Tower was not on our schedule this year but a very different high took us very much by surprise. Unknown to us Canada has legalised the use of cannabis. Our late Friday evening walk was accompanied by the familiar sweet smell of dope. Not so unusual on a Friday evening and not something we thought was particularly worthy of comment. But our early morning Saturday walk had almost the same ratio of fresh air: dope. Now that did suprise us, how can a city that smells like that on waking get any work done? Is it possible to be doubly high in Toronto?

Something to ponder next time we visit.

#324 theoldmortuary ponders

Back to Chicago, in the blog, for a fabulous blast of unexpected Contemporary Art. The Museum of Contemporary Art was showing a major retrospective of Nick Cave an artist completely unknown to me.

Nick Cave is an American sculptor, dancer, performance artist, and professor. He is best known for his Soundsuit series: wearable assemblage fabric sculptures that are bright, whimsical, and other-worldly, often made with found objects.
Born: February 4, 1959 (age 63 years), Fulton, Missouri, United States

His Soundsuits are phenomenal. A garment that disguises everything about a person. Wearing one makes a person larger than life and yet invisible, culturally and ethnically unreadable and genderless.

I need to read loads more about this artist, but a hand luggage holiday does not permit buying the weighty tome that I need to fully digest his work.

The works that really connected with me were his assemblages of domestic objects. My responses were not as complex as his motivations but that is often the point of Contemporary Art. It is made to make you think. I know that once I get home and can give this artist plenty of reading time my reactions will be different but for now I thought I would share my thoughts.

I am not an ornament person, my father was not an ornament person, in consequence my mum chose to moderate her ornament ownership. When they died I kept one ornament as a memento mori. My dad, an entirely liberal person with no special requirements of life could not visit over ornamented homes, they set off something in him which he couldn’t tolerate. I am the same, but living a generation later the problem is not as acute. Nick Cave is the same age as me and creates assemblages of the over ornamentation of his parents generation. My immediate reaction was an almost physical dislike and yet they are things of unsettling beauty.

As an aside one of my recurring dreams is in an ornament shop. Lladro brand. In the dream, I break up everything to virtual powder and feel jolly proud of myself once the ornaments are rendered down. A similar feeling of discomfort settled on me during parts of this exhibition.

Caves other work that hit a nerve with me was his Spinner Forest. Garden Spinners are another personal dislike. Three videos show this form of ornamentation in such vast numbers and out of context. Another form of a nightmare dreamscape.

Beyond his nerve jangling, concsience pricking art there are also some quieter pieces. Still hugely thought provoking.

And that, until I am better read about Nick Cave,is that. Knowing that once I have read deeply I will wish I could walk back and enjoy the whole thing more deeply and with greater understanding.

#323 theoldmortuary ponders

Here we are in Ontario trying to find our place as numbers 14 and 15 in a family we have not seen for over 3 years because of Covid restrictions/ lack of passports and annual leave constraints. Just like marbles in a jar  there has to be a little movement in all directions for us to settle. The walking of many miles on our previous of four days was just a training exercise. Now we are all about the food. You know you have landed in the heart of an Anglo-Indian family when the welcoming meal is a belly bursting curry. Nothing like a curry that is painstakingly recreated from a recipe book or created by a restaurant chef,  but one that has evolved over many years at the hands of an Aunt who knows her recipes inside out and creates intuitively and with love.

#322 theoldmortuary ponders

There are a lot more blogs in the store cupboard from Chicago and there will be an equal number, I’m sure from Toronto. Today we left our days of city visits, we have averaged a little under 20,000 steps a day for four days of city exploration. Thats a lot of walking and a good bit of blogging inspiration too.

Todays blog was inspired by bobbing. Our bobbing friend Gilly suggested Ward’s Island as a fine place to spend an afternoon.

We love an island hop, and this one turned out to be a little piece of paradise. It was so paradisiacal that We got lost in the moment and forgot to take many pictures, blogging fail but sometimes being lost in gorgeousness is overwhelming.

A cute cafe moments from the ferry, and a glorious beach to swim from.

With a very picturesque boat. Ward’s Island was suggested by Gilly because her old school friend lives there. When we wondered the few street of Ward’s we saw somone sitting in the garden of the house where Gilly had last met her friend almost 20 years ago.

It was with such pleasure that we had found the right person, who also is an “Essex Girl”. Immediate Whatsapp messages were shared with Gilly and then we had to hasten off to catch the ferry ready for our next adventure in rural Ontario. The views from the island are spectacular.

#321 theoldmortuary ponders

I love this quote from Vietnamese/American poet, Ocean Vuong.

We were taking a trip to an eponymously named Chicago Diner. Famed for its vegan and vegetarian cuisine. The church was at an intersection close by and it was such a boost. We had been caught in a huge downpour earlier in the day and perhaps not feeling as gorgeous as we might but this simple quote was a real perker upper. Just by being,we are gorgeous. Have a gorgeous Saturday. More on this tomorrow. We are moving cities and countries today.

©Callen Schaub

#320 theoldmortuary ponders

Wordle reminded me of the irony of my travel plans. Long haul travel is one of my great undisturbed reading moments. Prior to this North American adventure I had a physical book planned and three on Kindle . My physical book is of the heavy duty variety.

The Kindles are more recreational. Crossing the Atlantic I made a good enough start on it. Then I watched a film, Belfast by Kenneth Branagh, leaving me three hours or so to doze or crack on with history. My fingers however had different plans and took me to the TV section of the entertainment screen. Heading for Chicago my eyes were immediately drawn to a series based in Chicago. Hmmm well, Chicago Meds is about as medically accurate as a childs play set, the actors are super easy on the eye and the storylines delightfully improbable. Livers were transplanted with barely a wash down between donor and recipient. Doctors pondered over how they could possibly have missed Coronary Artery disease on a chest X-ray. Confidential data was shared and improbable blood tests were performed with instant results that cured patients of racism. Three hours was not enough, I was hooked.

What I had hoped for was some location filming of iconic Chicago architecture. Each episode featured the same 10 seconds of the Loop. The overhead railway. I know this because I watched all of the five episodes available, American History got the brush off. I was seduced by attractive actors and something intangible. I laughed, hugely inappropriately, in moments of high drama and was completely hooked half way though episode one. As I write this I am hopping across the border to Canada, there is no in flight entertainment. Belatedly I am returning to American history just as I leave the country. With some intellectual integrity left I have to admit that the first thing I do when I get home is check the TV listings for Chicago Meds, some comedies are less amusing.

#319 theoldmortuary ponders

A funny thing happened on our way for a bob. I have never written a blog from a significantly distanced holiday before. I didn’t truly imagine I would become an instant travel writer but I thought there may be a slight change of flavour to my daily ponderings. Instead I find that the ponderings continue on in much the same way with different stimuli.

We are in Chicago because Hannah worked here 25 years ago and had never been back. Her time here formed part of a misspent youth with bars, friends and adventures but her working life was not a particularly happy one as an au pair to a wealthy Anglo/American family.

The men of the family, a husband and ex-husband were kind but the woman who was her de facto employer was quite a dreadful person.

The family and Hannah lived in a large apartment on Lakeshore Drive overlooking the beach, looking towards the Drake Hotel.

25 years on Hannah thought it would be a fine idea to book into the Drake Hotel and cleanse the memory of an unkind person from her memories of a spectacular location. I suppose that is the core of our travel plans here and within hours Chicago has put new memories in place, but as is the way with ponderings, not exactly as we planned.

Coming out of our room for a swim/bob in Lake Michigan we spotted some comfy sofas

They looked like the perfect spot for weary travelers to spend an evening reading books. The view was great even if the windows were a little mucky.

We wandered about a bit and were overwhelmed and surprised by the decor of the space and facilities that were available. It was only when we stumbled on an unmade bed that we realised we were not in a palatial lounge area .

The area next to our room was a massive suite, with double doors so huge that when they were left wide open they just looked like an area of paneled corridor. The mirror picture at the top of the blog was snapped as we left.

When we returned, after our bob, the door was firmly shut and our room was once again at the end of an unremarkable corridor. Just a label on the door suggesting why we thought the sofas looked especially comfy.

In other ponderings, the baby seagulls here are epic and unbothered by being close to humans.

#318 theoldmortuary ponders

Today we, @theoldmortuary are playing the Summer 2022 game of airport roulette. The wheel spun and awarded us with a cancelled flight and a rebooked one four hours later.

Apple juice and a plum feeling all arty at stupid ‘O’ Clock when we started this endeavour. Now we are hiding out in the comfy seats of an airport cinema long before any films will be shown. This will be a fine way to while away the extra hours as long as no-one decides to show any films. All being well tomorrows blog should be a feast of Jazz Age Architecture and bobbers bobbing in Lake Michigan.

Today however we are in the Oceanic Terminal as Terminal 3 at Heathrow was formerly known. Opened on my 3rd Birthday I feel I have weathered the decades better but, of course, I have had nothing like the footfall and also not so many facelifts. None so far! I can’t comment on the architecture but the cinema is a quiet spot with comfy seats and that is all good. For a visual end piece I offer a rather dusty BOAC flight bag.

#317 theoldmortuary ponders.

Surprises are lovely things and I have had or witnessed a few in the last few days. The first was a gift of speciality soughdough over the weekend. What a loaf, full of flavour, and full of flavour sensation and memories. Asian Street Food and Brixton market sprang to mind. Partnered with cured meats, smoked  fish and cheese, all tasted wonderful paired with this bread but the real magic happened when the bread got old enough to enter the toast zone. Fusion fabulousness happened when Gochujang sourdough met Marmite with Truffle. Quite the Surprise!

Surprise 2 was a gift from a neighbour.

How unbelievably kind, pertinent because he knows how often I pass his house on my way to the sea for a bob. Pertinent also because we have both washed up on the shores of Stonehouse via a life in London where swimming at the ponds was once a part of life. And so, with this book,as so often happens, we are back to bobbing which has also been full of surprises in the last 24 hours.

There was a rather grumpy impatient swimmer who barged past the bobbers last night before throwing himself into the sea with no fuss or preparation.

Moments later another unusual event occured. A small wedding celebration on the beach.

The colours behind the happy couple lead to another surprise. After the bob I was thrilled to see Stage drapes, created from one of my seascapes, set up in my studio. Nothing could quite prepare me for seeing my watercolour, sumptuously replicated on a huge scale on draping silk.

I could have endlessly played with the flowing fabric but it has serious work to do and the next time I see this fabric it will be at a distance on a stage. With a mind full of flowing blues and greens I go off to make a cup of tea and just when my head and heart are full of lovely surprises one of my sunflowers decides to get into the surprise game. Behind her large beaming head she has grown a little sister, what a surprise!

#316 theoldmortuary ponders

We’ve had a fab weekend of doing lovely stuff, all ultra local and within walking or swimming distance of home.

I was reading a review of a travel programme over the weekend and realised that with a few alterations the sentence above more or less describes this blog. I’m aware that my thoughts and feelings are not always lovely but I do try to extract the positive out of anything that I put on the blog. My inner bitch kept firmly out of blogland.

The same newspaper also ran an interview with the actress Angela Griffiths and two of her answers could have come straight out of my own ponderings.

I do try to always be kind and although the word ‘nice’ has been devalued over the years, the sentiment is what I strive for. My personal mantra, though, when people try to take advantage is, I fear, delightfully passive aggressive.

” Don’t mistake my tolerance for indifference”

I rarely need to say it but have perfected a look which should leave the erring person to rethink their strategy towards me. I found it really refreshing to see my thoughts so eloquently expressed by someone else. A look I definately used during one those awful annual appraisals that the NHS does so badly.

My line manager at the time said I used kindness and niceness to manipulate people for my own purposes.

Words failed me then , but really, what a twat!

The words Ultra-local and slow burn in the first newspaper cutting so accurately reflect this blog I felt another little grain of comfort. If BBC4 think that ultra local and slow burn is OK then all is well.

Here is a giddy thought, ultra local in the blog tends to mean what is ultra local to my geographical location, which for three years now has definitely been confined to England. Mostly confined to South West England with very rare forays to London and usually set in a ten square mile radius of my home. Later this week my ultra local is crossing the Atlantic. Travel may broaden the mind but you will be treated to the same old ponderings just stimulated by North American coffee shops, beaches and museums. No dog bottoms though, they and their bottoms will stay here. I’m sure there will be some dogs bottoms but no guarantees.

Which brings me to another pondering pondering and explains the two photographs in this blog. Our daily walks always take in a bit of The Royal William Yard and I often mention it in passing but have never actually blogged about it. After the transatlantic adventure I will give you a proper tour. This amazing image came up on an Estate Agents website. I thought it was good enough to share. The back of our house is even in this shot.


If you cant wait for my return there is a website with information.