The end of Yule and the end of theoldmortuary Advent. Starting on the first day of a chocolate advent calendar and ending on the last day of Pagan Yule. Fittingly, as with much of the festive season, today’s blog is about something Pagan that is enmeshed in the secular and sacred traditions of a Christian Christmas. Christmas is for everyone… Lights are not just for Christmas…

Christmas Lights

The custom was borrowed from Pagan Yule rituals that celebrate the slow returning of light and lengthening days after the Winter Solstice.

©Kate DuPlessis

For Christians, lights symbolise the birth of Christ, the bringer of light to the World.

William Holman Hunt

©William Holman

Light was created for Pagans with the burning of the Yule Log, early tapers and braziers.

Early Christians had much the same. Candles,gas lights and then electricity. In the mid twentieth century, it became popular not only to decorate the tree with lights but also to decorate homes and commercial buildings with strings of lights. Cities have year round light shows that are only marginally ramped up for the festive season

©theoldmortuary Hong Kong

More recently, landscapes and country parks have realised the commercial value of having Festive Season illuminations.

Ginter Garden lights. ©Bob Kovacs

In many countries festive lights go up at the beginning of Advent and come down at Twefth Night or Candlemas.

But there is a new thinking out there…Psychologists suggest that putting Christmas decorations and lights up early makes people happier and the happiness spreads to friends and neighbours.

It doesn’t stop there, keeping them up beyond Twelfth Night is also a good thing.

Shared from Inspiralist –

theoldmortuary adopted year round Festive lights long ago. Although we are often quite late to decorate for the festive season.

Both of us have a background of medical imaging. In the pre-digital age that required a lot of time in an actual dark room but even in the digital age it requires working life in a darkened room. Domestically our interior design is inclined towards the dark side. A little bit of twinkle is good for us.

The Cornish Range is somewhat aged and thankfully we don’t rely on it to feed us or heat the house. A little bit of Festive illumination gives it the look of fabulous domestic productivity.

So from the glowing heart of theoldmortuary, it’s farewell to Advent until December 1st 2020.

Tomorrow is another day.


De-rig day. The cables of Christmas. The trees are down and currently the fairy lights are orderly, boxed away ready for next year.

December 2020, in theory, will see them brought out of their boxes ready to be unwound onto the trees of the next decade effortlessly. In my dreams. In truth inside their boxes squirming will occur, serpiginous and tricksy they will weave knots of such complexity that several hours of sorting out will be required. There will be swearing.

Baubles on the other hand are well behaved. Boxed up and away in the cupboard nothing changes over the next eleven months.

Meanwhile the dogs adopted their favourite pose of disinterest. Chasing baubles is exhilarating but the hoovering of the resulting damage is dull, better to sleep and pretend nothing happened.


Counting down to the end of Yuletide 2020 on the 3rd of January. I’ve enjoyed writing daily on something vaguely festive.

Christmas, New Year and Yuletide has introduced or deepened our knowledge of new- to- us family members. Every one of them is a fabulous addition to our lives.

The sleeping black Labrador is Mr Murphy, who we met for the first time in the Cotswolds. Black pets are notoriously difficult to photograph, so I’m pleased with this shot. His serenity was short lived but he was also really keen to help with the domestica of festivus.

Mr Murphy was our canine companion, one of four, for New Years Eve. New Year 2020 was improvised at the last minute caused by a change of plans. We had supper and then took the four, four legged people for a late evening walk. The Swan Inn Lechlade was our hoped for destination as one of our friends had lived in a tiny barn conversion just behind it and knew it was a welcoming place.

Finding space for four adults and four dogs is a big enough ask on a normal evening so we were not hopeful. Serendipity was with us, a table and live music pulled us in. Curiously the Swan felt like a time warp, the price of a round was very reasonable , the music was eclectic and the public bar was comfy and authentic. We could have been awaiting any change of decade from the last fifty years. We’ve all been through more bereavements than any group of friends wants to . Being in the Swan would have really suited all of our deceased and beloved . I did some artyfarty shots of Shadows for absent friends.

Four dogs at midnight in a confined space on New Year’s Eve might have been hazardously daft so we headed home about 11:30 and did what millions do and watched the BBC for Jools Holland with London Fireworks for midnight.


Happy New Year and a delightful new decade.


Kings, candles, cheese, chocolates and a flood.

I have a very dear friend who wears the cloak of eccentricity throughout life. In the summer it’s gauzy, flimsy and scuds gently behind her like a cloud. In winter, it’s a different thing, cumbersome and dank, it holds her back and can be overwhelming. Over the years, we have developed little strategies to lighten its load.

The Christmas shopping adventure is one such thing. It involves shopping not exactly locally but within the confines of Cornwall. There are rules… We only buy from businesses that are on farms or that started on farms.

As individuals, we navigate on completely different systems, hers is innate, puzzling and mostly effective. She leans forward on the steering wheel her nose twitching like a wise matriarchal badger, sensing the direction we should travel. Mine is Google based but impaired by too much talking and the erratic nature of mapping in Cornwall. What could possibly go wrong?

Spoiler Alert- There was a lot of rain.

Cheese first up. Google gets us to within a mile and then the badger takes over, ignoring me completely she takes a road. “This road doesn’t even bloody exist” I protest. We press on.

Blue cheese of two sorts, goat and cow are loaded into the car. Beautiful round ‘wheels’ of cheese, festively wrapped in tin foil and bundled into a carrier bag.

The next part of the journey brings the unexpected. Google aided we head off to St Eval.

Behold a King! That’s a fine festive sentence. In this case however, the last ever cornish King whose death is marked on a quiet Cornish road at the site of an ancient crossroad. The poor chap met a watery end and drowned. More than that is not explained but on this very wet day on Bodmin moor it is not inconceivable that you might drown by simply wandering off to commune with nature. I take a very wet photograph of his spot, King Donierts Stone and the information board and jump back into the car.

This is what we learnt…

King Dungarth (Doniert) of Cerniu ( Cornwall) drowned in the River Fowey in 875. His death is marked by these remnants of carved stone crosses on Bodmin Moor. The river Fowey runs near to this site.

Google got us to St Eval first stop Kernow Chocolate. Admittedly no longer on the family farm but that’s where it started. Chocolate Stollen and a cup of tea warmed us up for the serious business of choosing chocolate. The Stollen was moist if anyone is interested. Gifts occured.

Then off to St Eval Candle Company, courtesy of Google, still based on a farm. Fabulous smells and many candles, we learnt that to reset our noses we just needed to sink our noses into a pot of coffee beans. Gifts occured.

This had all been achieved a little quicker than planned. The excellent coffee and cake at Strong Adolphos called us and if we got a wiggle on we could get there before the 4pm closing time.

Google planned us a route that got us there with 15 minutes to spare. The badger twitched a bit at the quality of the grass running up the middle of the roads we were using , the depth of the first puddle shocked us both. Unwittingly we had entered the Bermuda Triangle of Cornwall. The next puddle was bigger and the Googler ( me) offered to test the water with my Welly depth . The water won. The next puddle was the same, no rec alibration of the wellie gauge was needed , water flooded in. It was both impassable and impossible to go in either direction. Of the three roads we could use all had deep ponds of chocolate coloured water. Strong Adolfo’s was not going to happen. The badger decided to drive back through the puddle we had safely conquered twenty minutes ago . She was right , we created an impressive wave and headed for the hills. Happy to have survived the Cornish water in better shape than King Doniert.


Nearly Home Trees- watercolour by Juliet Cornell

The Nearly Home Trees.

Cookworthy Knapp. 140 Beech trees, planted 120 years ago near Lifton on the border of Devon and Cornwall. Clearly seen from the A30. They have become a sign to many returners and travellers that they are ‘nearly home’ or ‘ nearly there’

This coming weekend will see the highest volume of road traffic, of the year, on the A30 and A38 . Those who travel on the A30 in daylight hours will see the familiar mound of trees on the hill and feel a whole kalaidoscope of emotions . Love being the most significant in all its nuances, textures and intensities.


Christmas comestibles.

Today the long walk in the sunshine took us back to the location of Advent #1

Our visit to Jacka today was enhanced by festive baking. We weren’t exactly early birds, but were lucky enough to get there in time to get the last available slice of Stolen and one of their lusciously deep mince pies. Coffee drinking at Jacka this morning was hugely sociable . The coffee hounds Hugo and Lola were treated to snippets of delicious bacon from a generous benefactor while everyone at the various tables were talking to one another.

As this is a second Advent visit to Jacka I thought I would share some of the bakeries history . Gleaned from a 1985 published article displayed on the café wall .

Dated currently back to 1597, Jacka is the oldest working Bakery in Britain. It is said that it supplied Ships Biscuits to the Mayflower in 1620. Ships biscuits from this bakery were still famous worldwide well into the twentieth century.

Todays festive bakes were tastier than any Ships biscuit. Time to roll out the the word ‘ moist’ . The festive season is known for its traditional foods. In Britain moistness is demanded of Christmas cakes and Turkey. Today we added a third moist festive eating experience.

Bakery made Stollen , as far removed from the supermarket stuff as it is possible to be. A generous core of deep yellow marzipan surrounded by jewel fruited,doughy loveliness , gently dusted with icing sugar. The mince pie, no less lovely, had a deep, golden pastry case filled with dried fruits, quenched to plumpness and topped with a pastry star.

The coffee, as is usual at Jacka was made with great beans by a skillful barrista.

This may not be our last Advent visit.


Last year I was gifted a beautiful Christmas wreath. It lasted more than a month and when I came to throw it away I noticed it was formed on a very substantial frame. The frame went into the garden shed along with all the other really useful things we archive for an undisclosed moment in the future. Today, our morning dog walk was also a foraging trip for winter greenery. We didn’t particularly plan to break any rules or trespass but secateurs on a dog walk do give a scintilla of being up to no good. It’s a good thing we hadn’t planned anything bad as we met some friends, Mike and Shirley, as we set off. They were dressed as proper walkers, it would never do to implicate bona fide walkers in sculdugery.

The nature reserve where we walk is beautiful, so we just talked and walked for a while.

Soon enough though, a lovely bag of greenery had been harvested and as luck would have it, on our return journey, we also found some thrown away bits and pieces from old flower arrangements that had become virtually dried. It was all gathered together in the kitchen and something festive was created, fueled by tea, naturally.

I’m not sure how much this resembles a traditional Christmas wreath but it cost nothing and will brighten up our home for the last seven days until the Winter Solstice.


Baubles and Fish. Today was all about catching up with bauble chores, after yesterday’s bauble debacle. There was also a painting commission to be completed .

The commission has to be based on fish, painted, printed and divided into three separate canvases that will look abstract. I’m struggling a bit .

Here’s the first image.

Then I desaturated it but picked out the eye.

Finally I selected portions for abstraction.

I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this, but I’ve got another week to work it out.


The Myth of Dionysus sculpture at the Eden project. by Tim Shaw

Illuminated during the Winter Festival the sculpture looks all the more like late career Dionysus. Less the God of vegetation and more party boy drinking the fermented juices of the fruits of the vine. Appropriate really for Christmas when work parties frequently turn into Bacchanalian feasts

The Dionysian myths explore the truth of human nature that beneath the veneer of everyday life there lies dark and powerful forces of unpredictable magnitude. Also not dissimilar to the Christmas ‘work do’ .

Many of the plants at Eden also have nightclub glamour during the Winter festival, leaning together like tipsy colleagues in the spotlight.

The Winter Festival runs until 30th December. It’s safer than the work Christmas party.