#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.

#518 theoldmortuary ponders

Today would have been my Dads 92nd Birthday. For many people, including myself, he was the easier person in my parents marriage to get along with. His genetic gifts to me have been reliable, useful and enabled me to see the world and my place in it easily. My mothers character, skills and temperament was more skittish and impulsive. She divided a room, he could bring a room together.Their combined talents have given me a skittish core with a practical, sensible overcoat Sometimes I bore myself, other times I wonder what an earth I am going to get up to next. As their only child I was a puzzlement to them both. Neither could see their characteristics reflected in me because their two strong personalities masked any obvious inherited characteristics reflected in me.I was their conundrum. My skittishness was measured and my steadiness unreliable.

Marmalade is the perfect illustration. My Dad loved it and my mother hated it. There were often five or more varieties in our larder at home, experimental flavours tried once and then left to gather a dome of mould, a source of constant irritation to my mother who, once the mould level threatened good housekeeping, would throw them away with a flourish of delighted satisfaction or sometimes more fiercely, the mouldy marmalade standing in for someone or something that had really pissed her off. If my dad pissed her off she would throw away his absolute favourite, Rose’s Lime Marmalade, whether it had mould or not.

In a perfect reflection of my genetic make-up, I love marmalade. Until recently there was only ever one Marmalade for me. Frank Coopers, Thick Cut, Oxford Marmalade. From shared student homes to home ownership and settled domestic home maker, Frank Cooper has been my bitter preserve companion. More recently one of the Bobbers, Gill, has been sharing, with me,her short season Seville Orange, home -made marmalade. Gill is up there with Frank. A mass produced God and a small batch Goddess. They share the marmalade shelf now, Frank there all year, reliable. Gill fleetingly, only in season, both bitter to their core, both adored.

Wherever my parents are, and they may not have chosen,or been sent to the same other realm destination, both would be satisfied over my adult marmalade development.

My dad , thrilled that I love marmalade. My mother, grateful that it is only ever one flavour, at worst, two jars- no mould.

#507 theoldmortuary ponders

What is your middle name? Does it carry any special meaning/significance?

Here is another Jetpack ( My blogging platform) suggestion, that did actually spark a ponder. My middle name is Anne. To the best of my knowledge it has no special significance. However coupled with a first name of Juliet it creates a spelling minefield, perhaps less so in the digital age, but certainly as child and young adult I would say that at least 75% of the time I would have to correct peoples spelling of my names. Constantly removing an additional T and E from my first name and donating the E back to my middle name. Juliette Ann felt as alien as being called Geoffrey or indeed Jeffery.

A proper first world problem that I have only ever discussed with my friend Marianne ( Marion) until this week when I met a fellow artist called Norah (Nora) who expressed the problem in a different way to me. Marianne and I would agree that the wrong spelling feels uncomfortable, itchy even, just not right. Marianne has lived her life with a curious sentence. ” Marianne with any” meaning with N and E.

Norah went further , she said without her H she felt lopsided, and again the word, uncomfortable. Without her H, she said she cannot function effectively.

What’s in a name?

If I were an actor or musician I would likely have to have a stage name and that would be just fine, I could be comfortable with that. A completely different personna who did glamorous things in exotic places. While Juliet Anne returned home to do the prosaic things of Normal Life. I do not have an imagined stage name to hand.

Had I been a boy I was to have been named Noel after a much loved uncle who killed himself during my mothers pregnancy. Thank goodness that didn’t happen. If I had been a boy I would like to have been called Barzilian after my paternal great grandfather, with a middle name of  Zebediah. I would be known as Zeb. Heaping bad name spelling on my male self by the bucket load. The idea of introducing myself as Zeb is actually quite thrilling. Oh to actually be part of the boy gang with all the privilege that brings.

Names are prescient this week. We welcomed our third granddaughter into our tiny family on Wednesday.

Cecily Bea is one of  a trio of small girls who make up our next generation. Surely some spelling confusions there, especially as Bea is pronounced Be-ah.

She already has a small confusion she was born quickly on Tuesday evening, no time for any worries or concerns, but she was actually born in the early morning of Thursday in Hong Kong. The time difference making a date difference. Whenever, wherever and whoever she is most welcome.


#469 theoldmortuary ponders

Britain is in the grip of industrial action. Yesterday it was the turn of teaching staff to protest about their pay and conditions. This meant that many schools in Plymouth were closed and families had to find care for their children in school hours. This hugely changed the weekday demographic of the visitors to the museum where I work. The galleries were buzzing with children and their grandparents filling their impromptu day of care. One grandad in his mid- sixties also had his elderly mum with him. As the grandchildren skipped about from gallery to gallery. The man and his mum held hands as they slowly made their way around the older areas of the building. Clearly reminiscing about visits they had made 60 years ago, when the act of holding hands between a mum and her child happened more often and for different reasons.

#376 theoldmortuary ponders

@theoldmortuary we are still in some sort of crazy autumnal clear out. Domestically rather satisfying but not exactly blog worthy. One other job today was to find a photograph of my daughter as a four year old artist. Digging around in my digital archive I found some old favourite photographs. The one above was taken at Petersham Nurseries in Surrey. A garden centre that has a wonderful cafe. The next photo is a very superior sheep at The Royal Cornwall Show.

Since a small artist inspired this blog it would be an error to not include some actual art in this random trip through my photographs.

Yayoi Kusama at Victoria Miro Gallery London. These silver balls we’re floating in a pond and were an unexpected surprise. We were actually there to see the work of Grayson Perry.

Another London picture taken whilst I was doing Jury Service in Southwark,this image ticks all the boxes. London bricks and a message that all the miscreants in court would have done well to pay attention to.

And then on to some Spanish bricks and a pigeon posing perfectly.

I think my little cache of favourite pictures could run for two days if we are still in domestic mode tomorrow, but here is the photograph I searched for. A small artist in Montana, 26 years ago.

And her niece in Hong Kong this week.

#373 theoldmortuary ponders

©Angela Moritz-Smith

On reflection, I should not have been so worried about the repurposing of Battersea Power Station. It has been transformed very sympathetically into a shopping and entertainment hub. A really lovely new destination for our shopping alter egos. My beloved vision of it as a monolithic structure on my daily commute has been altered forever, but that commute has not been mine for quite a while either. My friend Angela was at Battersea the day before me and got the lovely shot that is the header for this blog. Like her, we also went in broad sunlight but the wind ravaged any chances of a reflection.

My reflection shot was taken on the backside of an Airstream food truck.

Inside was a brick-lovers dream. The architecture more fitting for a modern Cathedral than a Power Station.

There was even some carefully preserved flaking paint.

Our trip to Battersea trip was brief bit informative. Definitely somewhere to be revisited. I even managed to buy a favourite brand of coffee. The one that used to keep me going on long on- call shifts in the City of London. All I stay awake for now is small grandchildren, Black Sheep works for that too!

Serendipity and Facebook gave me a lovely coincidence. 10 years ago exactly I was finishing two paintings in my garden in London.

Two pictures that represent either end of my journey today. Nana and Nona duties completed in London we are heading home to the West Country. Not that this is the last blog inspired by our visit to London and the South East. Some retrospective pondering will happen next week I’m sure. For now I will leave you with a turbine room, full of shops and some glass bricks. Another of my mid century passions.

#369 theoldmortuary ponders

Yesterday was our swan song as live- in helpful Nana and Nona to our new granddaughter. For now we have absented ourselves so another set of grandparents can enjoy cuddles and snuggles and disturbed sleep. We flew south to Arundel for a few days so a whole new location for pondering. Somewhere for us to reflect on a whirlwind past two weeks.

Arundel is going to be a fabulous spot to blog from, the dogs have done a preliminary walk round.

Hoping that this is not our actual swan song…

#368 theoldmortuary ponders

Re-use, re-imagine, recycle. A succulent use for your old, soft balls.

This was a lovely surprise today. We did a street walk with the dogs around Southfields this morning. Coffee at a coffee shop called Drop Shot…

Hard to avoid the tennis connections of this bustling High Street.

More charity shop bargains and some healthy food shopping all before lunchtime. To be honest we are at our grand-parenting best in the mornings. Up before the lark or even the sun with not much to do but admire these small feet while her parents sleep and catch up with box sets on the T. V.

#364 theoldmortuary ponders

I love the buttery grubbiness of a London Clay brick. I could bore you all with my love of these things. Of course, this beautiful autumn weather makes everything look glorious.

My second week of new baby care has slightly wider horizons. Not that Wimbledon Common has exactly been restrictive. Yesterday there were many firsts.

A trip to Gails on Northcote Rd for daytime snacking to do a first breastfeeding in public session and the inevitable first nappy change in a cafe toilet. Then it was off to Battersea for Miss B and her mum to visit work colleagues. I had a few moments alone to enjoy Battersea Art Centre. Link below for you to do the same. The many pleasures of Battersea were all basking in the sharp, warm sunlight.


There were also some repeated experiences. Cannazaro Park with the curvaceous, hospitable, sculptured, water fountain turned on.

This autumn appears to be a vintage acorn season, there are hundreds of them littering pavements and parks. Lola is mostly on squirrel tracking duties. We have tried letting her run free but she almost seems overwhelmed by the richness of nature in her London walks out. She is torn by her hunting urge and her need to be very near us. She almost looks grateful when her lead goes back on. Not so for a whippet called Tommy, whose owner we met yesterday. We never actually met Tommy. He was just the flash of an accelerating dark shape in the autumn undergrowth. His owners plaintiff calling getting more and more desperate as fifteen minutes passed and we and Tommy got further and further away.

#361 theoldmortuary ponders

There are many different ways of marking time with a new baby. The traditional ones of time, meals or sleep, slip their responsibilities and shape-shift into tiny fragments of moments or infinitely extended versions of themselves. From the generosity of others there are new markers like flower arranging or cake eating and tea making. Gifts to be unpacked and WhatsApp groups to be kept informed, photographs to be taken and shared. The familiar world takes on a temporary and unusual shape. Bewilderingly everything looks the same and yet feels very different.

We do still have one unchanged routine; dog walking, which was done yesterday in Canizzaro Park where this sculpture is the centrepiece of a fountain, commissioned to mark the millennium. I’m not aware of the brief for the sculptor when this was commissioned, but in our break-out from the baby bubble, it seemed like a great metaphor for our days. The soft shape and multi handled, multi spouted form really resonates with our current daily routine. Punctuated as they are by the need to rehydrate, welcome, comfort or recover with a cup of tea (other drinks are available )

As luck would have it a fresh cup of coffee is just being served to me, and I am in no position to do anything useful.

I can research the sculptors motivation and vision for his Millennial Fountain. For me though it is about these, current, shape shifting sensations of newborn baby days. Welcoming, homely and slightly surreal.

There will be a PS later in the day…

Here is the somewhat disappointing PS. It seems impossible to find the original brief for the Richard Hope sculpture in Canizzaro Park. Costing £50,000 pounds in 2001 it attracted mixed reviews, of course it did!

What it had failed to do on Google is attract any half decent photos of it with the water turned on that isn’t copyrighted. I will go back on a sunny day and do one myself. Below is one from the Guardian and some links for further reading.

©The Guardian