# 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 days, to be honest, when museums, even in these more enlightened times, 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. In 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.

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.

#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.

#217 theoldmortuary ponders

This should be the high flying version of a blog. Over this last weekend Zip Wire Flying should have happened at the Eden Project but Covid afflicted one of our friends and the group activity has been postponed. Instead a weekend in coastal towns and on the High Sea has filled our days and indeed led to this late blog, colour and not location is the flavour of this late blog. Sunday Cornwall thought it was in Greece. We stayed in the village of Golant just two miles up the river from our family favourite Fowey, more of that later in the week. Fowey River Class Dinghies created the first kick of colour.

We had over an hour to wait for the ferry to Mevagissy but being at the turning buoy kept us entertained and the sunshine was very welcome on our faces.

The slipway for the Fowey to Mevagissy Ferry couldn’t have been more Greek.

The ride was a little more lively than the average ferry.

We landed in yet more Hellenic vistas.

Meva harbour also joined in the colour project.

Two days with virtually no signal and no wifi does not a daily blog make. Normal service will resume tomorrow.

#200 theoldmortuary ponders

200 days since Pandemic Ponderings shifted without fanfare into theoldmortuary ponders. In much the same way that the actual pandemic has become without fanfare ‘ endemic’.

Always anxious to throw numbers about to illustrate the depth of the situation, news channels have been throwing the figure 15 million around this week as a total for worldwide Covid Deaths. Of course nobody actually knows, since around  40 % of the world do not accurately record either births or deaths. I know this because I’ve been doing a good bit of driving around this week. We all love numbers, ( I actually only love numbers if they are not anywhere near the word mathematics) Numbers give us scale to lifes failures, tedium and success. Round numbers are particularly satisfying and easier to cling to for some reason. My little number of 200 is well within everyone’s imagination as is 201 but 200 just feels more comfortable. But what does 15 million actually look like, and yet 15 million sits more easily in a sentence in a way that 15.33 million does not. In the same way #201 theoldmortuary ponders, will shrink into the shadows tomorrow.

When I haven’t been driving around this week I’ve been doing domestic admin and some fun stuff, very little sketching. In fact just one very quick sketch all week but I can relate it to this blog. I have been trying to sum up the discomfort of the Pandemic years with one image. Something I can expand for an exhibition later in the year. Playing with the truism about numbers that statistics are of no value to the individual. The header picture of this blog is a digitally altered version of my sketch, reimagined to be chaotic. The original sketch is the simple version.

Who could not understand two round figures/ numbers hugging.

P.s You can tell a lot about a person by the way they hug.

#151 theoldmortuary ponders

©Debs Bobber

There has been a curious circularity to the week which has been radled by a virus. Mostly exhausted, I have also had some lovely, in person face to face but masked up and at a distance conversations and some zoom or Video meetings. Lovely Ralph wearing his daffodil was part of the Video gang, he didn’t really play an active part in the commitee meeting but he clearly is aiming to be Chairman with this fabulous pose of authority. After yesterdays blog with my photo of the resting bee, Ralphs’ mum sent me this picture with a rescued bee which she popped into a daffodil to recover his equilibrium.

©Debs Bobber

The stand out theme of the week has been the non- Covid virus and its debilitating symptoms. It is on the wane now leaving me a bit bunged up and still without any taste or smell. My amnosmia and phantosmia are on going. I’ve given up cooking from scratch unless under supervision. Early in the week before I realised that I was more than just a little taste and smell impaired, a chilli dish that I produced caused quite a response in other people but for me the only response was the stinging of my gums. I am quite lucky that the phantosmia for me is not too negative. At its worst most foods taste slightly mildewy or just stale, but for the most part I taste nothing. It has been a great week for drinking all those unusual teas that seemed like a good idea in the supermarket, that then languish in the cupboard because they have all the allure of fresh urine. Last nights curried chicken was not strong enough to register anything, my gums remained un tingly and I thoroughly enjoyed what I thought I was eating which was fresh Mango.

My drink of choice has become ginger beer, the more gingery the better. Normally I can be a right lightweight with ginger beer but this weekend I will be heading to the Afro- Caribbean shops to buy virtual firewater. This is the hottest I managed to get in the west country. Depicted as a colour doodle.

Not a scintilla of heat in that! Talking of heat, I kept my phantosmia of burning wood and tar to myself whilst working at the museum, it really was better for everyone that way.

One more Ralph to send you on your way this Friday. I’ve not really been taking many pictures or been quite so out and about but whatsapp is a wonderful resource of other peoples pictures

©Debs Bobber

#133 theoldmortuary ponders

©BBC News

Colour is forcing itself to be a returning theme this week. Storm Eunice is whipping up a storm as I write. Eunice is said to be the worst Storm in more than 30 years. And has, unusually for the UK been given a red warning status. The last time I experienced a storm of this magnitude I was living in Brighton. As it happens, serendipitously, yesterday, I was painting some more colour cards for some of the places I have worked. Last weekends homework on the colour course I am doing. Hastily, I might add before this weekends homework arrives in my inbox.

I put three places together yesterday as they share some colours.

Brighton, Marylebone and the City of London.

It would be all too easy to depict Brighton with the colours of the rainbow. It is one of the beating hearts of the British lgbqt+community.


Like a lot of places, Brighton, when you live there, feels many different things not just the one bold stereotype. At the outset it might seem strange that these three places are linked in my mind by their colour memory palate. They are all places where I worked for a long time and although work can dominate everyone’s thinking at times. The antidote to work is what we seek to refresh our minds and spirits to enable us to do the best job possible.

All three of these colour cards have a nod to my working life by having the predominant colour of my working clothes, scrubs. After that despite being strikingly different in real life, the colour palates are remarkably similar because I always seek the same sort of things to provide mental recovery. I love architecture, parks and walking when I need to clear my head. For me these colour charts are an instant return to a time and place. The only major difference is that Brighton has the sea while the other two are deeply urban, most importantly they are all a happy place.

Time now to enter Eunice and walk the dogs…

#125 theoldmortuary ponders

Not a muddy puddle, yet. Tasked by my on-line art course to take 3-4 hours creating a medatitive painting. Using only red, yellow and blue watercolour with colour mixing and just painting shapes. With the washing machine and dishwasher taking the load I set up the radio. Set to talk shows so my synesthesia was shut out of the process. My synesthesia bends and blends music and colours together and often informs my art, but not today. Watercolours are tricksy things and quickly turn to mud even when you least expect it. Who knew 3 hours could pass so fast.

Then just a minute on digital manipulation and something lively appeared.

Time to return to to the domestic machines and do some meditative domestic. No amount of digital tweaking makes that any more thrilling.

#89 theoldmortuary ponders

Lola is struggling with the concept of the festive season being over. Her first full day of normality was mostly spent as I de-rigged 3/4 of the Christmas decorations, snuggled in a blanket. The tree remains and it is the red lights from the tree that give her the warm glow to her face. Our local council is not offering a Christmas tree collection service this year. Without a front garden the tree must stay up and indoors until we can wrestle it into an old quilt cover and take it to the local tip. It is a completely different beast from the slender,fragrant and sheathed tree we brought home in mid December. Remarkably it is not yet dropping its needles but I know the minute we start its decommission we will be ankle deep in spiky needles. To be honest I have little truck with the bad luck concept of leaving a tree up beyond 12th Night, and a great deal of truck, maybe the M2 after Brexit, with the concept of keeping this dark time of year illuminated with twinkling lights. So for now snuggling in a cosy blanket illuminated by small red lights is still a thing in our house.

The tree has also gained its own festive coloured bag of Tea Bags. Thank you, again,Brenda Bennett. We may now have enough tea to see us through to the unpredictable end of this pandemic and possibly to next Christmas!

Pandemic Pondering #486

Spring colours on a summers day.

©Debs Bobber

Yesterday was on the cusp, caught somewhere between a summer heatwave and the inevitable summer storm. In some ways a perfect day for capturing bright colours that are bleached out by harsh sunlight and that struggle to shine in a storm. These ice-cream coloured houses are on the way to our regular swimming bay. They exactly match a chrysanthemum that is currently living in our kitchen.

I want to become Lilliputian in size and stretch out in the centre of this gorgeous flower and then take a dip in this tiny emerald rockpool that also twinkled in the softer sun of yesterday.

©Debs Bobber

In reality, of course I am far from Lilliputian. The chrysanthemum may well contain an earwig who would gobble me up for a snack if I were so small.

Yesterdays changeling weather also brought new swimming companions to the bay. Not the sort that make us gasp with excitement, more a tingle of anticipation, and certainly not something Lilliputian me would like to meet in a rockpool.

©Elle White Devon Wild Swimming

The Compass Jellyfish was basking in the shallows yesterday. The stinging nettles of the sea. Our photograph was rather drear but this lovely green one from a local Wild Swimming site captures yesterdays colours perfectly. Have a lovely Saturday.

Pandemic Pondering #213

Leaf Peeping is a North American term for tourism in Autumn. Visiting outdoor locations to view the spectacular colour changes of tree foliage. 

Tourism is pretty much off everyones agenda as Covid-19 intensifies its grip around the world. Time to peep at leaves locally. These pictures were mostly taken at The Garden House near Tavistock. It helps massively that on the day I visited there was also very bright sunshine.

The original idea behind the visit to The Garden House was a sketching day with my art group. Most of us had only seen each other on Zoom since February so not a lot of sketching got done, there was a lot of socially distanced nattering and a good bit of photography.

I spent plenty of time researching my latest project of depicting isolation and annonymity. That’s a pretty arty farty way of saying I engineered some ‘ Aloneliness’ time. See Pandemic Pondering #256. I’m at the sketching and ideas stage so not a huge amount to show for my research yet.


On a lighter note I found some of the stars of the Leaf Peeping day taking a break on a bench or just lying down in the sunshine.

Unaware that just around the corner devices were to hand to clear them up and consign them to an entirely different world.

© Kevin Lyndsey

I’m not sure I have ever felt quite so threatened by a wheelbarrow and I’m not even a leaf! Have a good Sunday.