Its been a funny old festive season @theoldmortuary . We have a smallish family circle and a larger circle of friends. We are very lucky. One Christmas lost to being decent citizens, who stuck to the rules, is not actually a ‘ lost’ Christmas just a diminished one without all our treasured people around us.
Today it is 360 days until Christmas 2021. Our strange distorted world will look very different.
And while it can never turn the full 360 degrees to return us to our pre-pandemic normal. ( We can’t ever turn back the clocks.) Things will look and feel very different 360 days from now.
Merry Christmas, who needs a big blog on Christmas morning, probably no one . What we all need is our friends and family around us. The hurly burly of traditions all bound up with over crowded homes and too much food. What we have this year @theoldmortuary is the time to go and look at Christmas lights after last minute shopping.
And the chance to make home made cranberry sauce.
While watching Christmas Carols from Kings College, Cambridge.
Very peaceful and lovely, but not normal. We love and miss our festive season regulars, the irregulars and those in other realms. Love to our families and friends far and wide. You light up our lives.
Christmas Eve 2020, what to say! Facebook reminded me yesterday that the day before Christmas Eve is usually Christmas Jumper Day, if it is a work day. Not @theoldmortuary we usually rock a festive t-shirt, you can hide it under scrubs and flash when appropriate.
Which is very fortunate for this meandering blog . Facebook also shared a video with me this morning. It seems only right to share it on here too.
My favourite Christmas tune of all time.
It’s very strange looking into a fridge on Christmas Eve and still see spare capacity. It’s also odd to feel able to crack open the festive treats, Cheese Footballs, without a pang of guilt that I am depriving my children of a heritage, festive, comestible. No family for us this year, just an empty table where sometimes there have been over twenty. Not this actual table obviously.
Back to Cheese footballs.The more retro cheese footballs become the more significant it is to hunt them down early in the festive shopping season. I’ve had these little chaps since September. I have even supplied other families with them. I am obsessed!
In these Covid times where even trivial things have disappeared I thought I would share my personal timeline of cheese footballs
My grandparents owned a country pub for most of their lives. A substantial meal in their establishment was a pickled egg and a bag of crisps.
High days and holidays were marked by bar snacks. This was long before the health hazards of such things was common knowledge. Christmas was marked by swapping out the dry peanut and raisin combo for Huntley and Partners Cheese Footballs. The tin below is the retail version. Pubs could get a substantial size catering pack in the same design. Nobody ever knew that my greedy hands helped themselves to the Christmas stock long before it got to the bar, which for reasons explained below is a good thing!
Time moved on and pubs like The Red Cow have disappeared. The illustration of the building above is an image I found earlier today on the internet.
Bar snacks have been tested and declared a bad idea because, pre- Covid, the words man, pub toilet and hand washing rarely appeared in sentences or real life. High levels of transferred urine and faecal matter could be detected in free bar snacks within half an hour of being placed on the counter. Women may also have been guilty of the non hand washing crime.
Cheese footballs not unlike the England football team are a long way from their golden years of the sixties. Every September they can be spotted in the Seasonal aisles of a few supermarkets. Dressed up in a fancier tub and sold by KP.
At this point pondering took a curious path. I googled the Red Cow to see if the internet had an image. It did and a whole lot more.
I can share with you an article from the Daily Mail discussing the conversion of the Red Cow to a dwelling. The toilets get a mention. Fascinating too that the new owner was a microbiologist.
Somewhat stranger is an image of my grandfather’s grave in Wethersfield Cemetery that appears on the same Google. Something I have never seen before. My family did mild dysfunction long before it was a ‘thing’. My grandmother , Gladys, is buried in Melbourne, Australia.
As it turns out this is exactly the right blog for Christmas Eve 2020. A curious mixture of festive, reflective, emotional and pragmatic. I urge you to view the video, it is gorgeously poignant.
Merry Christmas, thankyou for being here.
P.S Following the publication of this blog a local history group sent me two photographs of The Red Cow.
I’m not certain visiting a new part of the coast is entirely sensible at dusk and low tide, particularly in late November. Despite being fairly close to home, Hannafore Beach is completely unknown to me. After a walk towards Talland Bay and back I thought I would give the dogs a low tide rock pool scamper. They loved it.
I’m just not quite so sure myself. Apologies to the many people I know who really love this place and find it restorative. Alone on an incongruous concrete pathway leading out to sea at sunset I felt a sense of foreboding and menace. There was a sense of dead seafarers souls winding round my ankles like silken slippery manacles.
Having thoroughly spooked myself, with fanciful imaginings and uncertainty about how the tide would come in, we called it a day. Two exhausted dogs and an overactive imagination. Time to research shipwrecks in Looe Bay and put my mind at rest , or not.
P.S. I found this dog centric page on line. A much more positive vibe! I’m clearly just inventing my own ghost stories for these dark days around the winter solstice.
The shortest day has lost daylight and quite frankly the few hours of daylight were of pretty poor quality in our part of the world.
Hugo and Lola tolerated another day of dog walks planned around the rejigging of Festive Logistics @theoldmortuary . Nothing on our walks was inspirational enough to illustrate this blog so the Christmas tree has stepped in, rather camply, to shine a light in the darkness. Apart from fog and rain it was a successful day, the last of the Christmas gifts were wrapped and sorted for collection. All the gifts for our family, marooned so suddenly in London and the South East, have gone off in the post or with a kind friend who was driving up to the city today.
The shortest day is always a day of optimism that from here days start to lengthen and we can begin to look forward to Spring. This year the feelings have extra significance given the mental and physical load that everyone is carrying during the Pandemic.
So now concentration must turn to creating a festive season for two people and two dogs. This could be tricksy, we have never catered for such low numbers over Christmas.
I wonder if a quiet year will give us the chance to think about all the amazing people we have shared the festivus with in past years . There is also a chance that for once the TV might actually be turned on but if the weather is good that is unlikely.
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…
The custom was borrowed from Pagan Yule rituals that celebrate the slow returning of light and lengthening days after the Winter Solstice.
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 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 fireplace has year round fairy lights. Two years ago a star stayed up on the fridge accidentally. It’s still there.
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.
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. http://swaninnlechlade.co.uk/
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.
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. https://www.cornishcheese.co.uk
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. https://www.kernowchocolate.co.uk/
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. http://www.strongadolfos.com/
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.