#380 theoldmortuary ponders

I love an old sign that time has rendered slightly inappropriate. This one was on the side of a coffee shop and interiors store. Not intruding would be very bad for business. Another sign was just deliciously eccentric.

The coffee hounds have been anxious to get to this coffee shop all summer.

Famed for the homemade cakes and good beverages, it was the least we could do to take them on a sunny weekend, fact-finding excursion.

Reciprocity Cafe and Eco shop are housed in the old stable block of Port Eliot.

A place of fabulous festivals and general good times. For now though it is a coffee destination and the supplier of very fine cake. Gooseberry cake, still warm from the oven. What better way to spend the last day of October. Knee deep in fallen leaves, if you are a dog, and finger deep in cake if you are a human.

#379 theoldmortuary ponders

Not one ever to talk about Halloween, a ghastly reimagining of a perfectly good pagan event ruined by commercialisation and tacky plastic. But were I to buy into it then these mighty mushrooms, that we found this morning, seem pretty scary.

Autumn is such a gorgeous time of year if the weather is good. Last night we found some gorgeous greens on the beach and browns in some woodland.

Greens and browns and autumnal shades are the colours of a piece of costume jewellery that was gifted to me recently. A memento of a friend’s mum who died recently. It really is a most audacious piece of bling.

I am wearing it with pride. But for the end of this blog there is some more fungus.

#378 theoldmortuary ponders.

Only our second plunge into cold seas during October 2022. Since beginning year-round swimming in 2020 we have swum, or bobbed as we call it, at least twice a week. We have gathered a merry band of bobbers around us. October 2022 took us to London for the birth of a grandchild, a fine reason to give up bobbing for a while. In the planning stage we thought we would be taking trips to the Ladies Pond at Hampstead. The reality was that I read a good book about the ponds and stayed as dry as a bone.

Today’s ‘bob’ was fabulous at a water temperature of 14 degrees and bright sunshine. Strangely in 14 degrees there were two incidents of Jellyfish stings, not what anyone expects in chilly waters.

There were many bobbers gathered at Tranquility Bay.

Slightly bittersweet as we start a long goodbye to a bobber who is moving to West Sussex next week, there will be tears and laughter over the next week. There will almost certainly be cake and bubbles too.

At this time of year passers-by always ask us “How do you get into water when it is that cold?”Later in the year they just tell us we are mad. A chance to use my favourite Latin quote.

Not exactly as it is philosophically intended but a pragmatic answer never-the-less.

#377 the old mortuary ponders

Hard on the heels of yesterday’s blog of favourite photos is the last of my little digital haul. I have no idea if more domestic organising will fill our day so it seems a good idea to get the blog out early. The Peacock lived near Cadiz in Spain he roamed a nursery that was set in a derelict old house and garden that also had a cafe in the old greenhouse area. Seeds from our bread bribed him to pose so beautifully. The wonderful staircase below was also taken somewhere near Cadiz. For some reason, I want to use the word Lacuna to describe the negative space created by the spiral.

I think it is the bone-like quality of stonework.

Taking bone-like as the link this next picture is also from near Cadiz and leads us somewhere.

But in true pondering style not to a particularly related photo. Yesterday I had an existential moment, not of the particularly philosophical sort. More of a David Attenborough moment, even that makes it seem very grand. The reality is much more mundane and happened on the tyre of my car on the way to the charity shop. Like many people I often have mixed emotions when I watch wildlife documentaries. In awe of the camera work and yet slightly concerned for the mental well-being of Camera operators who have to sometimes witness sad events unfold without being able to intervene. Yesterday I was that camera person.

Oh the moral conundrum.

” What would David Attenborough do?”

#376 theoldmortuary ponders

@theoldmortuary we are still in some sort of crazy autumnal clear out. Domestically rather satisfying but not exactly blog worthy. One other job today was to find a photograph of my daughter as a four year old artist. Digging around in my digital archive I found some old favourite photographs. The one above was taken at Petersham Nurseries in Surrey. A garden centre that has a wonderful cafe. The next photo is a very superior sheep at The Royal Cornwall Show.

Since a small artist inspired this blog it would be an error to not include some actual art in this random trip through my photographs.

Yayoi Kusama at Victoria Miro Gallery London. These silver balls we’re floating in a pond and were an unexpected surprise. We were actually there to see the work of Grayson Perry.

Another London picture taken whilst I was doing Jury Service in Southwark,this image ticks all the boxes. London bricks and a message that all the miscreants in court would have done well to pay attention to.

And then on to some Spanish bricks and a pigeon posing perfectly.

I think my little cache of favourite pictures could run for two days if we are still in domestic mode tomorrow, but here is the photograph I searched for. A small artist in Montana, 26 years ago.

And her niece in Hong Kong this week.

#375 theoldmortuary ponders

Today is another cupboard tidying day. Writing a daily blog can be a little like waiting for paint to dry, and between cupboard tidying there has been a little paint drying @theoldmortuary. I had rewarded myself with some new watercolours and inks following good artwork sales at a recent exhibition. One of my procrastination tactics is always to create a colour chart of new paints to the collection.

I have not actually bought 19 new colours. My order was lost in the post and the vendor very kindly added quite a few extra pans by way of an apology. Not colours I would have chosen but very lovely additions. The inks were a slightly different proposition. The trouble with artistic procrastination is the sincerity with which it is included in the creative process. I realised I did not have the correct dilution fluid for the inks but persisted with making a colourchart. Substituting gin to extend the flow of the ink.

Gin may make creativity flow, in moderation,but it does nothing for ink, in moderation or excess. Despite urgently needing to get down to some real art,my colour charts amply filled my available free time.

Procrastination 1- Creativity 0

Procrastination does not only apply to creativity, as I write, this largely non-essential blog, another cupboard lays empty. Stuff taken out, but not yet sorted into keep or charity shop piles. Blog and colour charts the enemies of productivity!

Procrastination 1- Domestic Admin O

#374 theoldmortuary ponders

Autumn morning, Wimbledon

Early mornings have a special quality in October. Not so early as summer early mornings and not as late as winter mornings. Obvious really. Polls suggest that most people in the Northern hemisphere love May the best; for me, October comes a close second as my favourite month of the year. It is something about the quality of light, the sharper shadows formed by a more steeply angled sun. There is also a sense of preparing for a hibernation of sorts. Warmer clothes that have been hiding away in cupboards and drawers start sneaking out. Boots replace sandals.

Soup becomes a food choice and coffee cups start to be hugged.

In a habit formed during the Covid years our herb and spice collection got a freshen up yesterday and was relocated. Not a ‘Spring’ clean, obviously but maybe an ‘ ‘Autumnal’ Den prep. Prior to Covid lockdowns our spice cupboard was a mausoleum of out-of-date products cleared out only during house moves and always containing something long dead. The tedium of living through lockdowns made us much better curators of all things domestic.

After nearly three weeks from home there was another more urgent sort-out. The indoor plants have suffered from neglect. There have been casualties, two fatalities and some remarkable tales of plants that survived near-death experiences.

Everyone in the plant family has had 24 hours of proper care and been moved about a bit to show them the love they so visibly need.

If it is true that plants talk to each other I suspect there is nothing good being said about us currently.

#373 theoldmortuary ponders

©Angela Moritz-Smith

On reflection, I should not have been so worried about the repurposing of Battersea Power Station. It has been transformed very sympathetically into a shopping and entertainment hub. A really lovely new destination for our shopping alter egos. My beloved vision of it as a monolithic structure on my daily commute has been altered forever, but that commute has not been mine for quite a while either. My friend Angela was at Battersea the day before me and got the lovely shot that is the header for this blog. Like her, we also went in broad sunlight but the wind ravaged any chances of a reflection.

My reflection shot was taken on the backside of an Airstream food truck.

Inside was a brick-lovers dream. The architecture more fitting for a modern Cathedral than a Power Station.

There was even some carefully preserved flaking paint.

Our trip to Battersea trip was brief bit informative. Definitely somewhere to be revisited. I even managed to buy a favourite brand of coffee. The one that used to keep me going on long on- call shifts in the City of London. All I stay awake for now is small grandchildren, Black Sheep works for that too!

Serendipity and Facebook gave me a lovely coincidence. 10 years ago exactly I was finishing two paintings in my garden in London.

Two pictures that represent either end of my journey today. Nana and Nona duties completed in London we are heading home to the West Country. Not that this is the last blog inspired by our visit to London and the South East. Some retrospective pondering will happen next week I’m sure. For now I will leave you with a turbine room, full of shops and some glass bricks. Another of my mid century passions.

#372 theoldmortuary ponders

Tallow Pot

A great day out yesterday with a few more blogs to come but this is the tale of a tallow pot. Our travels took us to Weald and Downland Museum at Singleton in West Sussex. I was last there more than 30 years ago with my parents and small son. The Museum preserves ancient buildings and the crafts and skills that are needed for their continuous care.

My dad was an engineer but his great love was carpentry. Despite living in Essex the museum, briefly, became one of his favourite places to visit.

I had forgotten that, but the smells and tools of the Carpentry work shop brought decades old memories and grief sharply to mind. How strange that it would be a stinky old tallow pot that would be my trigger.

With apologies to anyone unfamiliar with a really popular TV programme, this blog goes off on a tangent now. I suppose the link is the curious importance we give to things that are linked to people we have loved and lost. FYI I do not treasure my dads old tallow pot, that really would be a tribute too far. A quick sniff yesterday was a fabulous treat though.

The repair shop is filmed at Weald and Downland Museum. I believe the programme can be seen around the world. The premise of the programme is that an ensemble of very talented craftspeople have the skills to fix almost anything the public can bring to the picturesque barn.One of the original buildings in the museum grounds, the ban has been set up as a multi- functional work-shop studio. Inevitably for good T.V the objects chosen for refurbishment are often associated with someone who has died or that have a good back story. It is a rather gentle, slow programme and the talents of the craftspeople are genuinely impressive. Coincidentally they were filming yesterday so we could not visit the barn too closely.

But we got a very cheery wave from the main presenter, Jay, just moments before we took this photo.

Harpooned a bit by decades old grief, we had the most glorious day out, grief really is a part of normal life for many people, it is not always unwelcome. Happy memories are life affirming.

#371 theoldmortuary ponders

We are big fans of Thomas Heatherwick Designs. His Double Decker buses ran on our route from Crystal Palace into Oxford Street. As we are staying near Littlehampton, it seemed a good idea to visit another of his designs on the promenade at East beach. An easy decision as the sun was shining and the dog’s love a day at the seaside and the design in question is a cafe.

We arrived just before closing time and sat outside in bright sunshine just enjoying the views.

This tranquil picture is missing one vital and invisible element. Which the dogs rather elegantly demonstrate.

Happy, windy dogs and a kite surfer

Because I gave you the back of a bus, here is the back of the cafe.


Which gives me the chance to ponder one of my mother’s pithy comments. She used to describe some people as having a face like the back end of a bus. Not necessarily kind but accurate in some cases. I wish I was as beautiful as the back end of Mr Heatherwicks bus or even his cafe. A bus that changes perceptions. The rest of East beach also features some modern and classic design features.

The Worlds longest beach bench, 1,000 metres of seating, some traditional and simple and at other times twirling in complicated shapes, offering high up view points and places to lay back and take in the vibe, sheltered against inclement weather. Local people can buy a slat to celebrate life events or to create a memorial message for loved ones who have died. Further on, classic beach huts standing firm for decades.

We had a long overdue post-covid catch-up with some old friends after our beach walk. There is still something wonderful about a good long hug with special people. A little bit of digital magic and I found a chubby Buddha in the sky. A day well spent.