Pandemic Pondering #394

We are going to hear a lot of the word languishing in the next few months. It is a descriptive word for a sort of midpoint of mental health and is apparently where many of us have ended up after over a year of Pandemic anxiety. It is precisely described as failure to make progress or be succesful.

The sketch in the image above is one that I did for a project that never came to fruition. It might even be described as a project that languished.

I’ve always been quite attracted to a bit of languishing. The leather deck chair in the picture would be an ideal place to do some languishing.

A fine location for mass languishing.

Obviously I’m being a bit flippant, the consequences of a whole world where many people are caught in a mental fog where progress and success feel unachievable is dreadful. But many of us will return to our old habits of chasing success, over-commiting and celebrating progress soon enough.

Languishing lives at the mid point between depression and flourishing. It will certainly be used with negative connotations in its association with our post pandemic recovery.

But I would argue that sometimes languishing is a positive choice. It is precisely why benches like the one above are positioned near a beautiful view. To allow passers by to just languish, to do nothing, to just be.

Languishing in our house is a full time occupation for some.

I’m sure Hugo does not see Languishing as a negative thing. He quite properly knows it is what he does between achieving and sleep and probably the thing that gives his fluffy life equilibrium and purpose.

A bench in the sun, a lovely spot for a languish.

Pandemic Pondering #393

The Artists Companion- dog slobber is an essential part of sketching and painting. ©Drawn to the Valley

Tuesday was a proper out day. Not just out, but out out. Out with other artists talking, painting and sketching in the grounds of Pentillie Castle. Such a beautiful place and so many options, so little time to opt.

© Clare Law

15 members and their guests gathered in the car park before setting off to find a cosy space to get creative.

Pentillie Castle ©Alison Freshnay

@theoldmortuary wandered down to the Bathing Hut at the riverside but other artists found lovely places of inspiration.

Texture ©Mrs Marvelous – Jo Shepherd
© Clare Law

As usual I was a complete sucker for an empty bench.

Meanwhile at the Bathing Hut I had a huge amount of help with my sketching.

I had taken my Christmas and Birthday ,art material, presents with me to experiment. But the biggest discovery of all was how these materials worked when mixed with an enormous amount of dog slobber.

©theoldmortuary The Bathing Hut, Pentillie Castle

Dog slobber as it turns out works very well with water colour and acrylic pens. Apparently I can also paint while nattering- on like a person who has only recently been released from a Pandemic Lock down.

©Kathy Lovell

Luckily my lovely dog companion was very intent on ball throwing and retrievals as well as adding slobber to the painting. This little fellow landed about a metre behind Stephanie, my fellow painter.

©Stephanie Yates

Painting and bat watching ended when I needed to find a loo, nearby I found these two circular things. I have no idea what they are but they make a great photo.

They look like the most amazing biscuits.

Thanks to Anne Crozier for organising our Drawing Days and thanks to to Pentillie Castle for making us so welcome. The link below takes you to their website .

Pandemic Pondering #392

Budgie smugglers and body oil is not exactly what you would expect on a beach in Devon in April but that is what we got on our unfamiliar beach this morning. We also got a good swim and warm sun to heat us up after. We struggled into our usual post swim layers and drank hot drinks, deciding that a drizzle of oil and scanty whisps of Lycra were not appropriate beach wear for bobbers, we will leave that level of hardiness to others. There was something quite eccentric about our swim this morning, the change of location gave me a little inspiration for some micro land art. Making a little tree while the bay echoed with chain saws doing unspeakable things to our familiar trees on the raised path.

And there was a naturally occuring heart.

Other Bobbers were not too far from water either. Although not a budgie smuggler in sight in Oxfordshire.

©Marianne Bobber

Pandemic Pondering #391

Oh! The drama of a Monday morning. The footpath to our usual swimming beach is closed for three days for ‘ Tree Work’. Seems it is not just humans who need a bit of a trim after another long lockdown. This is going to discombobulate the ‘ bobbers’. We have become creatures or indeed Merthings of habit. The pesky and ever changing currents of Firestone Bay are best observed from the high level footpath that runs 12 feet or so above the beach. We ponder them from above, then decide on the route for the day and then return to the footpath afterwards to change and cogitate over the swim and life events while warming up. The raised footpath gives the perfect vantage point to view the whole of Firestone Bay and Plymouth Sound beyond. It can also provide interesting images.

Today we will be swimming and chattering from the beach next to the tidal pool.

Have a good week.

Pandemic Pondering #390

As the sun sets on a sad old week we are struck today by a coincidence. In Britain Prince Phillips coffin and his funeral will fill hours of television broadcasts and give the Sunday Newspapers plenty to report and speculate on. Exactly 4 years ago we were sharing a ferry journey with an unknown Hong Konger who was being returned to their home island for burial.

Just as at Windsor Castle there was only a small amount of family accompanying this person on their final journey.

Death is just a sad old business whoever you are.

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

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.