#93 theoldmortuary ponders

This time last year our Christmas decorations had been packed away extra carefully in preparation for a house move. Not a single one was broken. The job this year is much easier. They are just stored away in shoe boxes and then kept in a large Sandalwood Chest which in itself a tough old thing that survived the Indian Uprising of 1857-59. A series of mutinies and rebellions against the British East India Company that functioned as a sovereign power on behalf of the British Crown. The uprising is more properly known as the First War of Independence. 900, 000 people, mostly Indians lost their lives in a series of violent and cruel events where civilians were the largest group of victims. Truly dreadful things were done to innocent people. All of the usual cruel and demeaning acts of war and domination plus a torture that is readily relatable to everyone who cooks. A paste of mashed chillies and peppers was applied to the eyes, genitals and rectums of victims.

Our Sandalwood box arrived in Britain after the Partition of India in 1947 and has lived with me since the death of my parents. It has lived a peaceful life for the last 30 years protecting Christmas decorations.

A somewhat grim meandering for a ponder about Christmas decorations , but not without reason.

With a nod to history, our Christmas tree always has a few peacoocks, an unintended but direct nod to the Victorian domination and rule of India. Only the tail is visible in the picture above. This may just be family folklore but it does make some sense.

It would have been rather dull to remove our Christmas tree without some form of celebration. The tree has been part of our lives for a month and has provided light for the darkest of days and a focal point for our festive gatherings. Mince pies and Baileys was the perfect accompaniment to a prickly end of the Festive Season.

#79 theoldmortuary ponders

Christmas in a new home is always a voyage of discovery. Past Christmases have sometimes involved up to 24 family members and friends joining us in previous homes. Our last Christmas 2020 drew our lowest numbers ever with just the two of us @theoldmortuary , due to Covid restrictions. This first year in our new home has hardly ramped the numbers up. We are 3.5 rising to 5.5 people this year. Curiously our new house is just a tiny bit older than Christmas reinvented. Reinvented meaning the Victorian mass introduction of imported or invented Festive Tradition . The new house has made a welcome and comfortable refuge for us all from the norma, not normal life of 2021. Time to just hang out together after a highly unusual couple of years. We are very comfortable here.

The award for the most useful room, at Christmas, in the new house goes to the utility room pictured above. This picture has been published in a blog before and inspired the most unusual and unexpected Christmas gift of 2021.

3 boxes of Thompsons Tea arrived from a blog reader who noticed we favoured Yorkshire Tea. She reccomended Thompsons as a good alternative to our favourite brew. We had never heard of Thompsons and thought no more about it until Christmas morning when we unwrapped a parcel from her. Suddenly the uncertain future of 2021 has a purpose! 3 new flavours of tea to try while we wait for Covid to pass. Contemplating boxes of tea on Boxing Day.


#21 theoldmortuary ponders

Ten pin bowling after two years of lockdowns and avoiding crowded spaces was an Alice in Wonderland kind of experience. The noise, the colours and the nightclub style lighting made it a hyperreal experience. No magic potions were imbibed , although liberal amounts of alcohol were used to clean our hands because bowling balls are still communal. Even though we bowled out of a large perspex box and wore our own shoes. I can’t say I was ever a huge fan of wearing those communal shoes. Putting on shoes damp with my own sweat is always a bit grim, let alone the sweat of a random stranger who just happens to have feet the same size. The thing about ten pin bowling for fun is the absolute joy it beings to everyone involved. With each pod of bowlers contained in a perspex box there is less interaction but the air is constantly punctured by happiness in the form of cheers at success and woeful groans as the ball fails to do what the bowler intended. Alas my bowling skills have diminished during Covid but my ability to laugh at how hopeless I am seems almost to have improved. This morning as I woke up I discovered muscles in my fingers that have been tuned overnight to be ready for unusual action. Too bad that a handshakes are no longer popular I could do a nasty crush with just with my freshly sporty fingers.

#19 theoldmortuary ponders

A sluggish start to the morning. A late supper with generous portions washed down by rum and ginger beer was great for a solid night of sleep but not so good for a perky rise. Today I am helping to set up an art exhibition in Tavistock. Thankfully this afternoon, so I should be at peak performance by then . The word ‘peak’ may be an exaggeration. My performance levels, at best, are only usually at hillock level.

Hillock= small hill or mound.

We’ve just had a fabulous two days with DFL friends and family. Two days of talking all things London and perhaps eating too much. They are crossing the Tamar into Cornwall now for more eating and drinking and I need to drive up the Tamar Valley and start being useful.

DFL= Down From London.

#9 theoldmortuary ponders

I’m not a huge fan of halloween but am aware that without halloween a lot less pumpkins would be grown. Pumpkins bring colour and eccentricity into the back quarter of the year.

Turks Head pumpkins are my favourites. Warty, imperfect and lumpy. They need no embellishment from carving to be interesting,unlike their rotund relations the Orange Pumpkin.

Pumpkin carving and me have history. There is an expectation that because I am ‘artistic’ the whittling of a face or something more into a pumpkin will come as second nature. Whittling Pumpkins doesn’t interest me and on the occasions I have tried it I have found it to be hard/dangerous. The effort put in is far greater than the end result. Of course my attitude was a source of huge disappointment to my children. Not for them dressing up in ghastly outfits and begging/ frightening neighbours/strangers in order to get sweets. They were not totally deprived at the end of October, we often had parties for some of their friends there was just less sugar, plastic and tat, and no intimidation of the local population. I’ve always wished Britain had adopted Mexican Day of the Dead as our end of Autumnal event. More authentic, joyous and less threatening.

Though related, the two annual events differ greatly in traditions and tone. Whereas Halloween is a dark night of terror and mischief, Day of the Dead festivities unfold over two days in an explosion of color and life-affirming joy. Sure, the theme is death, but the point is to demonstrate love and respect for deceased family members. In towns and cities throughout Mexico, revelers don funky makeup and costumes, hold parades and parties, sing and dance, and make offerings to lost loved ones.

Far better, in my opinion, to remember fondly and celebrate our deceased loved ones communally and with positivity. Maybe its time to do a DNA test and see if any part of me is Mexican.

For now I just have dancing carrots!

Pandemic Pondering #560

Yesterday was a proper English holiday day. It rained all day but we still managed a ‘bob’ on a grey beach. After a hot shower and breakfast we set off on foot to explore the cold wet beauty of the North Devon coast.

I will spare you the monotony of grey seascapes but we did manage to find some local and not so local colour.

Rock formations and tidal pools

Sometimes holidays in England definately need the right clothes because the right weather does not always blow our way. We have the right clothes!

We brought colour and interest to people walking the coastal path by bobbing in the sea when no-one else bothered. I also thoughtfully used my fluorescent bouy so they didnt incorrectly assume I was a seal at play. My natural grace in the water is easily confused with the movements of a marine mammal and it would be cruel to trick people,on the 630 mile hike of the South West Coastal Path, into believing that they had seen Martine the Coombe Martin Seal frolicking with a mackerel.

Although I do sometimes tinker with them.

We located rain forest plants. Although locating a good coffee after 4pm takes an intrepidness we do not possess.

Dicksonia Antarctica

Perhaps most significantly in these Covid times of restricted travel we found a cute Japanese Tea Set in a charity shop. Which helps me to spice up this blog with quite a lot of foreign influence.

And at least an illustration of foreign travel.

Pandemic Pondering #548

Despite all the talk of too much talking over the weekend, the back yard is looking more stylish with Hannahs diligence with a paintbrush and a pot of black paint. The outside toilet has also been rehabilitated as a usable space instead of somewhere where stuff was dumped.

Of course my previous two blogs didn’t lie, there was a lot of nattering. Yesterdays nattering was with a woman we had never met before, although during the 18 months we have exchanged baking and crochet with her. Ruth is a friend of a friend. Our friend in common became a vital go between delivering bakes from us to Ruth. Ruth in turn made vital crochet for us. I can already feel you thinking what is ‘ vital’ about crochet. @theoldmortuary crochet became a conduit of love. During lockdown our toddler granddaughter moved to Hong Kong with her parents. I’m not sure such an occurrence is ever easy to bare but with the complextities of a pandemic and other worries it caused hard to manage grief. Ruth crocheted super hero clothes for our grandchild’s plush pig and the pig also flew off to Hong Kong with a crocheted and enchanted cape for safe travel and a happy return. In sad situations it is sometimes the little things that give comfort.

Recently, after our house move, we were in need of crochet again. Hannah’s mum had made beautiful crochet when she was alive and we have a few pieces of her work. An old house really needs some little touches to link the everyday contemporary world to the past. Once again Ruths nimble brain and fingers created two beautiful runners for us in a similar style to the one Hannahs mum had made. Another meaningful link to love and loss in a way that something mass produced could never be.

And out of all of this we have gained another friend.

Pandemic Pondering #547

Saturday night

Yesterday and today have been days of nattering around the table. In the evolution story of @theoldmortuary , chattering around the table was the original source of the daily blogging three months before the pandemic gripped and nattering around a table with friends or family was banned as an unacceptable infection risk.The daily blogging became lone pondering and almost 18 months later we have only just returned to the habit of nattering with friends around the table over a cup of tea or coffee and baked goods.

We seem to have nattered all weekend with very little actual work occuring!

The top picture represents the main topic of conversation this September and actually most Septembers. The sudden realisation that evenings are getting darker. It happens every September and yet every September it is a surprise. Baked goods from a bakery fuelled this weekends natterings, this mornings trip for baking perfection took me past Smeatons Tower, I managed to grab this shot while the streets were still quiet.

Sunday morning

Pandemic Pondering #439

Yesterdays ‘bob’ was a little different. A nearly 10 mile walk, enlivened by lemon cake and tea in the clifftop village of Mortehoe before we descended to Barricane beach for a dip.

Fresh Foxgloves and lots of mud was the reward of walking after a day of heavy rain.

After serious refreshment in the village of Mortehoe, made prosperous by farming, smuggling/wrecking and tourism we descended down to the coast. Farming and smuggling created beautiful architecture, tourism less so. But what humans can make ugly nature can improve, and the views on the way down were spectacular.

Nature and cultivation pulled out the stops too.

Barricane Beach, a small rocky cove was hugely enhanced by sunshine and the fragrance of curry being prepared. Sri Lankan Curries are the evening speciality of this amazing location, prepared by the Barricane Beach Cafe. Please go to their website below for photographs of the actual beach . I managed not to take a single picture!


An hour or so of resting in the sun, was followed by some wonderful swimming/ bobbing as the tide came in and a first time ever experience of freshly served curry to warm us up as soon as we emerged from the waves.

Not a bad day at all!

Pandemic Pondering #437

Goodness it has been a busy couple of weeks. In reality what I’m probably saying, in the context of 16 months of living through a World Pandemic. Is that I’ve had a couple of almost normal weeks. It is not my body that has noticed, particularly, but my mind. I constantly worry that I have forgotten something but actually haven’t, so far.

Yesterday I introduced a Tamar Valley friend to Tranquility bay. Tranquility Bay is just to the east of the perilously swirling waters of Devils Point where the River Tamar enters Plymouth Sound. She lives with her family,near the river, in the Historically Industrial and Horticultural areas about 10 miles upstream. It is surprising how little known these beautiful and unspoilt beaches are, even to people who live fairly close by. Seeing somewhere familiar through new eyes is always enlightening . Also because I was not swimming the dogs got to walk there too so it was a double bonus visit.

Visits for bobbing at Tranquility Bay have been quite social events this week. Family members coming along to bask in the sun and see the location of our year round swimming ( bobbing) adventures. Today was a red letter day, visitors and a full turnout of the new hoodies.

Tranquility Bay and Devils Point did not allow us to be the only vibrant attractions.

Even a flower was out being vivid  while clinging to the wall.

All this activity fueled by a Hutong Bagel!

The same bagel is attempting camouflage on the header image.