Advent and the run up to Christmas is not all about the ‘front-of-house’ stuff. Some prep is definitely more mundane. A new loo seat and a consignment of loo rolls were part of this week’s plans.
As it turns out some nice soft tissue was exactly what we needed. Christmas is bittersweet for many people. There is the excitement of gathering with family and friends tinged with sadness remembering the people it is no longer possible to mingle with on the earthly realm. With this in mind we took ourselves off to see the Stephen Spielberg, West Side Story.
Having both grown up with this vinyl recording of the soundtrack in our homes, we thought it was a good way to remember our mums. Obviously @theoldmortuary blog is not normally a film reviewing blog.
We loved it, a fabulous way to spend three hours in a reclining seat. Spoiler alert. You may need tissues.
Sunrise over Plymouth Sound on Armistice Day. Both my great uncle and grandfather sailed to war several times from Devonport Naval Dockyard. My great uncle as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in World War 1 and my grandfather in a submarine in World War II. It is funny to think of them as young men spending their last nights ashore on Union Street. A nearby street famed world-wide for night life. Certainly a world away from their rural upbringings in Essex and Cambridgeshire or in the case of my recently migrated Great Uncle, rural Ontario. I hope their heads were not too sore as they sailed past Drakes Island.
Both days of this weekend were always going to be colourful, tinged with a little bit of anxiety.
Getting the anxiety out of the way. This glorious blue building is the tower at The Royal London Hospital that is the home to the London Air Ambulance Helipad. One of the little ants clinging to a wire is my daughter, doing a sponsored abseil to raise money for the Air Ambulance Service. A charity forever in the hearts and minds of our family.
Less stressful colour was provided by a food festival.
We ate spectacularly well for women with abseiling loved ones on our minds.
The lost blog in The Lost Gardens of Heligan. This mornings blog was lost in the herds of tourists that have arrived in Cornwall for their holidays now no-one can travel abroad. Then it was further lost in an uncharged phone.
A trip to the Lost Gardens of Heligan is a regular treat for us and one that normally we dont plan too formally. But in these busy times we had to book and the only time slot available was really early. Not too tricksy I thought I can blog before I go. Unfortunately due to fashion and stupidity I needed to quickly collect some blister plasters before we even set off. I plugged my phone in to charge on the drive down and was surprised to arrive with only 10% battery. Three pictures later that was it.
One dead battery and many photo opportunities missed.
So apologies for the late arrival of this blog some days the moments in life just dont quite stack up for 600 words before 8 am.
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.
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.
The Theft of the Family Baubles Yesterday saw the gathering of three friends for breakfast @theoldmortuary table. For those of you who have read the ‘about’ page of this blog will know the table is where many Ponderings start.
All three of us had rather sad tales involving the theft of our familial collections of Christmas decorations. I suspect it is unusual to have such sorry tales involving something as trivial as Christmas decorations but the triviality underlines the unkindness of people.
Memories for all three of us are triggered by Christmas decorations. As a collective group of women we have been robbed of Christmas decorations that we knew and loved as children. Between the three of us they represented memories from Woolworths, Hong Kong, Poland, Harrods and many unremembered locations and events , in age they possibly stretched back almost 100 years. The theft of them says so much about the character of the people who took them as their only true value is within the loving memories of family members. Sadly, they are likely to all be in landfill somewhere now, as detached from their memories they do become worthless tat.
I think, encouraged by this sad talk, we decided to mark 2020 with some new decorations. We were aiming for gaudy colours with maybe a hint of retro and perhaps a little bit tastelessness. These new additions illustrate this blog.
Several things revealed themselves to us.
Gaudy and tasteless is not a thing in 2020.
Woolworths has gone.
The first week of December is way too late to get peak choice in Christmas Bauble World.
Some stars look a little like a Covid-19 Virus.
And to those Bauble thieves in three different locations – we know where you live.
Beach day after Storm Aidan. Last night was very stormy @theoldmortuary. It was a blustery walk at Seaton Beach this lunchtime.
As it happens it was good that we got out for a blow through on the beach, soon after we got home there was the promise of an evening briefing from the Prime Minister. This really can mean only one thing. A further Lockdown in Britain.
There was a little stone heart caught up in a pile of tidal detritus as we got onto the beach. Maybe a metaphor for the next few weeks. Some days beach days are also about the people who are not there with us.
This weekend was also the second birthday of our darling VV. This was her first birthday in Crystal Palace Park
This year she is living in more exotic places with different sartorial needs. Beach walks are not the same without her. These little feet are in Hong Kong now.
Meanwhile after the walk it is Saturday evening and time for Strictly Come Dancing. Even the Guinea Pig, Ginny and Hugo are ready.
Here we go headlong into another Lockdown, thank goodness this weekend was about a bit of mingling.