# 428theoldmortuary ponders

Last week when I was working at the museum someone asked me what I “got’ out of being a gallery guide on a quiet day. Sometimes a lot more than I get on a busy day to be honest. The Museum going public are an easy to manage bunch on the whole. Busy days are spent directing people to toilets. Apologising that their favourite exhibit of fifty years ago is no longer on show. Listening to men, it is always men, who are expert on a very very small part of the museums collection and who wish to batter me with their superior knowledge as if we had mutually agreed on an intellectual battle. There are lovely two way conversations with interesting and interested people from all over the world.  There are days, to be honest, when any museum, even in these more enlightened times, can feel overwhelmingly male. When the museum is quieter I often return to a collection of artifacts that were collected by a woman explorer. Currently she and one other woman, Elizabeth the First, represent women in a gallery that is dedicated to exploration and exploitation. The men depicted in this gallery strike heroic poses with jutting chins and out of proportion genital areas. Some of them did very very bad things others just stole stuff and brought it back to fill their homes and now museums. Some conquered simply for the challenge of conquering. Many dying while on the task. On quiet days I go and rest my mind with a woman called Gertrude whose collection of objects are not blood stained, stolen or ego boosting. But fairly traded or purchased.

Gertrude Benham was an English explorer and mountaineer who was born in London in 1867. She was the youngest of six children and began climbing mountains as a girl. She went on to climb mountains on almost every continent. Benham was also an intrepid hiker and walked from Valparaiso, Chile, to Buenos Aires, Argentina. She went on to hike across Kenya, and traverse Africa on foot.

Benham always traveled alone or with native guides, spending less than 250 British pounds a year. In 1916, she was named a fellow of the Royal Geographic Society. Throughout her life, she climbed more than 300 mountains. Notably, she was the first woman to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Truda Peaks, one of the summits of Mount Rogers in Glacier National Park, in the Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia, Canada, is named in her honour.

  • She was the first woman to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
  • She was also the first woman to climb the Matterhorn.
  • She traveled to over 60 countries and climbed mountains on almost every continent.
  • She was a prolific writer and artist, and her work is still admired today.
  • She was a pioneer in the field of mountaineering and exploration, and her accomplishments are truly inspiring.

I love her because she is unknown, the display could all be carefully folded and stored in a trunk. I realise there is much more in store. She had a good eye. She bought what she liked.

Her textile and craft purchases are inspirational and suggest that her home would have been both eclectic and welcoming. I have friends, mostly artists, whose homes could easily absorb some of Gertrudes collection and it would look contemporary and fabulous.

I love visiting Gertude because she makes me think.

I really won’t bore you all with my Gertrude inspired thoughts but here is one to ponder. The peak that has been named in her honour. In the Selkirk Mountains of Glacier National Park is called Truda Peak. An honour absolutely, but anonymising too. A diminutive firm of her first name. Had she been a man, who had achieved so much, the peak would almost certainly be named Benham Peak. There would be drawings of her standing astride pointy rocks. A steely look in her eye and some artistic licence around the knicker area suggesting a cavernous vulva. Instead and far more interestingly, we have a delightful black and white photograph of a fascinating woman’s face.

For your pleasure. Just give some thought to this.

The Cook Islands become Jim Islands.

United States of America becomes the United States of Rigo

Melbourne becomes Bill.

#527 theoldmortuary ponders

When you were five, what did you want to be when you grew up?

This prompt from the host of my blog made me laugh this morning so it seemed foolish not to use it as my source material. Jetpack, my host, gives a daily prompt which I ignore for the most part.

At age five I was heartily sick of being asked what I wanted to be when I was a grown up so had formulated an answer that made adults slink away.

“A lady, how about you”

My mum always told me off for being rude but I was truly sick of being asked that question.

A better one was, “What sort of house would you like when you are grown up?”

The answer was always the same and could even be an adult dream fulfilment.

“I would like a house where every room has chocolate digestive biscuits available”

Neither of these were the answer that made me chuckle this morning.

In the 60’s and 70’s my mum ran several Contraception and Sexual Health Clinics. The talk in my house was often of a pragmatic sexual nature. Imagine my parents ran a hardware store and talked about nuts and bolts. That level of conversation.

Not surprisingly my mums colleagues did not have a lot of children so when they held a monthly planning meeting at our house, there was usually only one other girl, Briony, brought over to play while our mothers plotted to limit the worlds population, starting in rural Essex.

One particular summers day myself and Briony were having the best time dressing up as Hippies and planning our careers at age 8. I had at that point moved on from the thoughts of being ‘a lady ‘ .

We both almost certainly knew what might irritate our mothers. Briony’s family were Quakers and if anything the conversations in her home were even more liberal and free thinking than in mine.

Eventually our mothers clip clopped into the garden to see what we were up to. I say, clip clopped, because all of my mothers friends wore Dr Scholl wooden sandals.

Our mothers and their friends were eager to hear what two such vibrant and enegetic little hippies were planning to be.

The answer, when it came, was not what anyone expected.

” We are going to travel the world as sex addicts”

The wooden sandals were silenced.

While researching for this blog I went to the website for Scholl. I may well get a pair for old time sake and to commiserate with myself with never reaching my ambitious goal in life.

#526 theoldmortuary ponders

This morning dawned bright so I allowed the dogs to choose their walk of the day. I read somewhere that it is good for dogs to choose their destinations, it allows them to follow the smells that intrigue them the most and that feeds their love of life and intellect. It gives me the chance to ponder off-blog because walking is always good for a good old think. Beyond the blog I am pondering the role of Social Media. For many years I have managed the Social Media accounts of different organisations. I have recently joined a new organisation. In many respects an unusual choice for me, as it is a Tennis Club with two wonderful grass courts and a beautiful garden, surrounded by the sea. I am interested in how people who read my blog view Social Media and how useful it is.

Currently I am actively involved with my own oldmortuary sites. Drawn to the Valley and Stonehouse Lawn Tennis Club. If you have the time I would appreciate your feedback. All are on Facebook or Instagram.

If you are happy to share I would love to see your Social Media Pages. Please leave a comment or link wherever you usually read this.

Thank you.

#525 theoldmortuary ponders

As predicted we have been plunged into a period of greige weather. Coincidentally I have created a landscape with no colour. Greige is many things. Initiated by weather it can also be a state of mind or a physical feeling. Outdoors the colour has been rinsed out of everything, much like a landscape in fog. Greige is possibly the love child of fog and mist. Not as dangerous as one or as whimsical as the other. Colour can only be found close to hand, or foot.

Evergreen Clematis
Wet flagstone in a local pavement.

But beyond about ten feet, things fade to greige.

Pastel colours are not normally my thing but as I am likely to be surrounded by them for a few days I had a little play around with unusually subtle colours for me.

Evergreen Clematis overlayed on a flagstone.
Evergreen Clematis overlayed on papier mache and a mount.

The funny thing is that I can’t quite bring myself to paint on the papier mache. I love the simplicity of the torn paper edges. Clearly greige is getting to me.

#524 theoldmortuary ponders

Bobbing has not had many mentions in March. Today was my third dip of the month and the most photogenic by a very long way. The sea temperature has risen a bit to 9.4 after last week’s 8 degrees. Just a brisk there and back in the bay this morning followed by some excellent quality chatting and a Tim Hortons coffee to warm me up. I think I have cracked swimming year-round without a wet suit. Last year I gave up my wetsuit in April and made myself feel very poorly. I then went back to wearing the wet suit and didn’t get out of it until late May. Anxious not to go down a similar path again, I have cut down on my time in the water but stayed just in a swimsuit since last May. There have been two dippings without the swimsuit and I decided a skinny dip a month is the new target for 2023. These events may not make it into the blog.

The sunshine today is gorgeous, as demonstrated by the plant convalescence corner in our dining room.

I’m not sure these plants will ever move to other places in the house. They exude happiness from every leaf and frond.

Happiness also exuded from the dogs when their afternoon adventure took them to just the other side of the water from home, for a walk, and they got Mount Wise park to themselves and could do chasing and wild running on a grassy hillside, unbothered or interrupted by any other dogs or humans.

Their human companions were not so lively. Our morning swim was fabulous but sometimes swimming in these cold temperatures produces severe lethargy a few hours later. Even caffeine in the afternoon didn’t give us the required fizz to do anything more than a circuit of the park with a few stops to admire the view. It was important to make the most of the day though, the weather forecast for the rest of the week is dire.These blue skies and blue seas are unlikely to be back until April.

©Debs Bobber

#523 theoldmortuary ponders

The secret of happiness? Embrace the boring, lay claim to the mundane and rejoice in repetition.

I am not someone who loves winter. The clothes are great but the weather that dictates the clothes and the short days wear me down. Mid January and February are the dullest. Simple things like left-over Christmas cake and some family birthdays pull me to mid- January but then I have a mental lethargy that requires buffing with little treats and activities to keep me twinkling until Spring reliably kicks in.

Writing this daily blog for a few years has taught me that within the mundane and the repetitive, there is nearly always a pearl of something that can be weaved into a story and once the story is created the day has a gem. Yesterday was a day of repetition but within the repetition there were pearls.

The day may also have had actual Pearls too. After very high tides, large Oysters were washed up onto the dogs favourite beach. It is a flight of imagination that pearls would ever be found in Tamar Valley Oysters. The secret to not being disappointed is to leave the Oyster alive and intact returning it and its potential, but unlikely, pearl to the sea. Treasure imagined but not realised.

Our morning was spent breakfasting with friends. We have done many breakfasts with these friends over many years. There is much that is repetitive, the usual suspect is always late and we do talk some mundane shit. We pretty much know each others views on things but there is no pressure to be anything other than ourselves and within that relaxed framework the subject of conversation could be anything.

Our great act of the day can be described as mundane, boring and repetitive. Watching the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race. A two horse (boat) race on the same course every year.

As a child I watched it in the bosom of my family, some of them genetically from the city of Cambridge. We watched it on the television about 5 miles west of Cambridge, everybody supporting the light blues of Cambridge. As soon as I could think I decided to support Oxford, it gave the family gathering a little grit, some pushback and singled me out as different.

As soon as I left home I reverted to Cambridge and have never wavered. T.V is my preferred method of watching. During the London years it was entirely possible to jump on a bus and watch the event live on the banks of the Thames but I realised then that my pattern was set in my formative years. For me this is an indoor event with cups of tea and chocolate digestive biscuits.

Just like daffodils this event is a proper marker of Spring. So significant in my mind as a marker of time passing, that when Covid restrictions cancelled the event I didn’t really feel that Spring had happened at all.

Boring, repetitive and mundane, the building blocks of normal life.

#522 theoldmortuary ponders

First Ice Cream of the season. Soft whip with clotted cream and a chocolate flake.

A late in the day pondering, possibly not hugely interesting but worth pondering, I feel.

I recently read a very bitter editorial by a woman journalist who was bemoaning that the craft of good journalism was being diluted by people like myself who blog.

She claimed we were “flooding the world of the written word, with bad grammar and poor punctuation.”

Maybe she was having a bad day but that comment seems counter intuitive to a profession that holds on tight to the right of free speech.

There are some professions whose job of work is quite rightly protected by law. So that amateurs, people without formal training and qualifications cannot do the thing in question.

Writing is not one of those occupations. But her pithy article made me think, ponder if you will. I am all too aware that my punctuation and grammar can be hit and miss at times. I am comfortable with this, I realise. For the most part nobody has paid me to write so I have only rarely stolen work from ‘real’ journalists. My cranky punctuation and grammar are my written voice. Just as my actual voice is not perfect, neither is my written one.

I am comfortable with my writing peculiarities, not necessarily proud of them, could do better, of course.Thank you, anonymous journalist for pricking my conscience on a Sunday. It was a brief and productive ponder.

Last muddy boots of the season ?

#521 theoldmortuary ponders

Daffodils were yesterday, today is tulips.

Plymouth is a city like any other with suburbs. Many of those suburbs are unknown to us in any real sense. Sometimes they are just corridors from one familiar place to another, often these journeys are taken by just one of us. Yesterday we did one of those journeys together with the dogs. On this particular journey there is an odd little car park, often full with no obvious purpose.

” I’ve always wondered why people park there.”

” Me too.”

“Let’s park there”

And so began a lovely early Spring walk with bright green moss and foliage surrounded by Elizabethan ruins.

We had stumbled on the site of Radford House.


Plymouth was a very significant city in Elizabethan times and this was a very significant house in those times. Many of the illustrious names who visited here are viewed somewhat differently in recent times, as Colonisation and Acquisition are considered at a more granular level.

The Harris family who owned the property were very wealthy and the house has been linked with many myths and legends of lost treasure and hidden assets.

One substantiated story is about the Armada Service. Crafted between 1581 and 1602 from Silver and Gold captured,most likely,from Spanish ships that were raided in the New World. 22 plates, bowls and cups made from plundered precious metals

The family held onto their silver until the English Civil War. 1642-46. At that time the family had a cunning plan to hide their wealth by burying it underground on nearby Dartmoor. Unfortunately not such a cunning plan as after the war nobody could remember the location .

The silver was found in a potato store in 1827 by an agricultural labourer, and after changing hands a few times it is now held in the British Museum. Some other items from this collection have been identified by United States auction houses but the whereabouts of these items are unknown. U.S readers might like to check their basement store rooms. Link below to identify.

The Armada Service https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/the-armada-service/PQH1iUIHlXHh1w

So this is what happens near a car park with no obvious purpose. A lovely walk and a few minutes of googling. Some exercise, a story and some moss covered logs. Blogging perfection.

#520 theoldmortuary ponders

This blog is 3 years late and could have been another year in the Procrastination Pile. I had arranged to attend a Daffodil Festival with a friend in 2020. The festival was cancelled in the early weeks of Covid Restrictions and this is the first time it has been held since. The extra year of procrastination could easily have been added to, by my poor choice of clothes yesterday.

As you can see from the header picture things were a bit wet! I had had a perfectly tolerable dog walk without a coat and in Birkenstocks while at home in the morning. The further I drove into the Tamar Valley the wetter it got.

The lanes were running with brown rainwater pouring off the fields. I phoned my friend and suggested a different outing. A snug pub with warm food and no drips.

Her response was to bring me warm socks and wellies and feed me a scone and a cup of coffee.

And with that we were off! Some daffodil varieties were being shown indoors. Definitely an easier environment to appreciate them, were it not for steamed up glasses and rivulets of cold water tracking down my neck.

Daffodils and Pewter in the Great Hall.

I started recording the names of the Daffodils but honestly I think I am going to get into a pickle with that, so these beauties are enigmatically anonymous.

Outside nothing had improved despite making the absolute most of sitting with a scone and coffee. We hadn’t even managed to put the world right.

The outside locations were not overrun with visitors, the cafe on the other hand was heaving with wet humans. There is a point in every adventure when enough is enough, even for a woman in borrowed, vivid, socks and wellies. I love these socks!

Below is an experiment, I don’t know if this QR code will work,but if you can,give it a try.

Readers, it works! The audio clip Seagulls and Sunrise is lovely and tells the history of Daffodils and the Tamar Valley.

#519 theoldmortuary ponders

The End of the Day, Tinside Lido © theoldmortuary.

There is a magical moment, on Summer evenings when the swimming public have been ushered out of Plymouths Iconic Tinside Lido.The fountain is still turned on, but there are no swimmers in the water,no bystanders sat on the walls. All the staff are out of view, stacking sun loungers and deck chairs against walls far below us. For a moment the fountains sounds are not masked by squealing swimmers and all you can hear is splashing water . Then, just like that, an unseen hand flicks a switch and the splashing water of the fountain is silenced. A funny pocket of silence occurs before all the normal,environmental, sounds of a busy seafront road take over as the sun sets on another day. Why does splashing water sound so good?

I listened to a radio programme the other day about a charity that makes requested soundscape tapes for prisoners on death row in the United States. Even in completely land locked States the requests often included some sort of watery sounds. I’m still pondering what my sounds would be, were I to find myself in that somewhat niche environment.