#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.

#516 theoldmortuary ponders

We had an accidental weekend of nostalgia. The high point of yesterday was going to see the recently released film Rye Lane. Just about every location had been part of our South London home life. From the very first London Park, Brockwell, where Hugo took his first small, off-the-lead puppy steps in, to Brixton Market where we bought the most amazing fruit and veg, and ate Street Food from around the world. The film cleverly never fully crossed the Thames to the better known and more Iconic north shores. The film was both a rom-com and a love letter to a part of London that, only infrequently, gets a joyful spotlight on its many different faces. I will admit that my eyes stung with a little moistness of the eyes when the film went to places that I had spent time with my family and friends from all over the world. We are now dispersed but South London was where the good times rolled.

Nostalgia of a different sort on Saturday when we caught up with the first race of the Gig Rowing season in Saltash. 85 wooden boats, crewed by 6 rowers and a cox, took part in The Three Rivers Race. I was always on the heavy side for a rower but that is exactly what is needed to keep the back of the gig in the water.

The nostalgia on this occasion took the shape of appreciating that rowing was the only team sport I ever actually loved and thrived in. My eyes stung a little with the memory of fracturing and dislocating my jaw at the back end of this gig when my paddle hit a buoy that was, unusually, made of concrete and did not move in the way that plastic ones do. Unsurprisingly the buoy came out of the encounter better than I did.

These paddles are 13 feet long and weigh just under 6 kg. A quick bang on my chops when paddle and buoy collided silenced me, a bit,for a few days but the race was both continued and lost. The true nature of the injury not realized until the swelling went down many days later.

Sometimes revisiting past pleasures is absolutely the best way to spend a weekend.

#447 theoldmortuary ponders

December and the build up to Christmas has a smooth-curve build up to the festive season. I have no time or interest in creating jeopardy into the mix. We don’t go in for ‘perfect’, our tradition has flexibility built -in, to allow the joy of serendipity to play a part. I really dislike it when someone enquires if I am ready for Christmas. I know that that question only requires an answer that suggests I am in a state of anxiety or stress. The answer ” Everything is at the stage it should be at this point of the month” is usually truthful, not smug, just reassuring. That answer,or a version of it, seems to disappoint somewhat and sometimes gets a response like “Oh well you are a well organised woman”. This sounds complimentary but often has so many hidden little barbs in it, I am in no doubt that it is a weaponised statement punishing me for not having enough festive drama in my life.

The build up to a ‘good enough’ Christmas is like that, no drama, no unrealistic expectation, just friends and family gathering together in the darkest part of the year ( Northern Hemisphere) to bring happiness to one another.

The decorations are put away in the Sandalwood Chest and our tree is off on an adventure as a beach stabiliser. Another ‘ Good Enough’* Festive season tidied away.

* Good Enough,was, of course, fabulous. Who really needs drama or perfection in the darkest month of the year.

#363 theoldmortuary ponders.

On Reflection. One single sentence brought me up with a jolt yesterday. I was settling down for a quiet hour with the leftovers of the weekends newspapers. The sun was streaming in through the windows and I had just returned from a satisfying walk on the common. I had gathered cushions and was feeling pretty comfortable.

” This makes me feel like the Queen”

A sentence that is no longer relatable. Unless of course I was cosied up in a lead box. Just like the rest of the world, feeling rather special should, now, correctly be ” Feeling like a Queen”

A friends mum, who married in the same year as the Queen, died last week at the age of 96 having been pre deceased by a beloved husband. Achieving a rather unusual imitation of a life imitating a life.

I have been lucky enough to rehome some of my friends parents collection of coloured glass. Such a practical way to reflect and remember lovely people, as we use these glasses nearly every day.

#357 theoldmortuary ponders

Currently we are working with a fine ratio of grown ups to new baby. 3:1. Even with that ratio things get a little blurry. Gentle pink roses are a fabulous illustration to a dark tale of gender neutral toilets in a maternity unit.

Gender neutral toilets in a maternity unit reception certainly save space but the reality of sharing such a facility with men who are faced with imminent fatherhood is hardly a fragrant pleasure. The dark miasma of many male anxiety poos is as good a reason as any for some locations having gender specific facilities.

Just saying……..

#263 theoldmortuary ponders

Quite the red letter day in the yard today. Firstly the bees were going crazy for the poppies in the early morning sun.

Then a small under gardener arrived from Hong Kong via London and Sennen Cove. Never has the 10:15 from Penzance brought such a precious person.

She quickly set about the watering tasks. Then it was time to find the play park and walk the dogs.

Dog walking is a serious business when you are 3 years old. But for us all wildlife spotting became very serious when we spotted a Smooth Hound Shark at Freemans Wharf, not far from home. That is setting the bar very high for the rest of her visit. We will do our best, but I fear we may have peaked too soon!

#258 theoldmortuary ponders

©Lauren Webb

Yesterday was all about watching family members doing sporty things. The weather was kind to everyone. Hannah and friends Emily and Becky swam to Drakes Island and back.

Just once a year swimmers are allowed to swim across the deep water channel entrance to Devonport Dockyard between Devils Point and Drakes Island. The swim was sponsored to raise money for the Chestnut Appeal, an organisation that raises money for research into Prostate Cancer. A disease that is close to our hearts and minds as far too many men have lives blighted by this disease. When I say close to our hearts the comment is emotional not anatomical. The prostate gland actually lives just below a mans bladder and surrounds the urethra just after it leaves the bladder. Clearly nowhere near a woman’s actual heart! It is the size of a walnut or chestnut. The prostate is a busy thing making the juice that sperm swim in, but in engineering terms it is badly designed for longevity. My dad described it as having ‘built in obsolescence’ . As men age it swells and becomes thickened, which is benign disease, and makes men wee a lot at night, sadly it is also the site of a very common cancer.

The swim was a little delayed because a big ship needed to pass.

But soon enough the swimmers were off.

And 30 minutes later back again.

Rewarded by coffee provided by their very attentive support team.

My second stint of watching involved the TV, our family had tickets for Wimbledon and while on an outside court had front row seats. Unfortunately the BBC overlayed the exact spot they were sitting with a score checker.

When they were in court 1 they were just tiny dots of pink and blue.

Never in the history of @theoldmortuary has a blog had so many people in it! The dogs were there, at swimming, not Wimbledon, too.

So after a day of watching other people do stuff I felt duty bound to take a little dip in the sea. The crowds were smaller and reaching the island positively not allowed.

#251 theoldmortuary ponders

3 years since the last Glastonbury Festival and,coincidentally, 3 years since we have seen two sets of friends, who we met up with this weekend. The TV coverage of Glasto has been the soundtrack of our weekend and on Sunday Glastonbury defined where we could meet our friends without either set of people getting caught up in festival traffic.

West Bay became our destination of choice and the sun came out with a side serving of cold blustery wind.

The day started with marmalade for breakfast. Traditional enough you might think but for us the day started with marmalade ice cream. A very fine toilet on our route can be found at an Ice Cream Farm. Despite the earliness of our arrival it seemed rude not to partake in their titular product.

Gooseberry and Marmalade Ice cream at Otter Valley Farm. https://g.co/kgs/Bmh7fB

The next stop was Bridport, it seemed fitting on this occasion to have cake as this comfort break was at a bakery.

Glorious Baked Goods at Rise Bakery Bridport https://g.co/kgs/t1nLJC

These were way to fancy for our tastes and we decided to buy something a little simpler, and save it for the return journey.

And so the three year reunion occured. We hugged and laughed and walked a lot and drank coffee.

West Bay did not disappoint it even gave me two of my favourite things. A glitterball and an old weathered door.

Three years has been a long time, the gentle trickle to normality is gathering pace . I’ve loved seeing great crowds of people enjoying themselves at Glastonbury and at a different level it is just so good to give friends a good old hug and a squeeze when we meet. Ice cream for breakfast; not an everyday occurrence for sure but definately an opportunity to be taken occasionally. Random opportunities are assets waiting to be realised. It may have taken a world pandemic for me to fully realise their value.


Link above to happy news article.

#235 theoldmortuary ponders

Blogging about pondering is an almost inexhaustible subject. There are often a few potential blogs bubbling away in the background waiting for a denouement or an illustrative image. Todays blog is a little different as it only really has one image and no denouement in sight. I ping these words out into the ether never knowing where or with whom they will land. The daily stats on any blog tells me how many humans and in some cases bots have looked at the blog on any given day. People are also kind enough to comment on various platforms. This week has been a week of real world interaction and talk of blogs when I have been out and about. I’ve had some fabulous chats about how motherhood impacted the career trajectories of women who created families in the eighties and nineties and about the power of lateral chatting. The thing is with these lovely gems of blog induced natterings, they are never long enough and I always think of something useful to add ten minutes after I have walked away.

The gentle art of lateral conversations.

The picture above and the link below illustrates lateral conversations in a far better way than I can. Thanks to Jack for the real life conversation that inspired this particular train of thought.


Talking is the thread of this blog, this next conversation may not be so easy to have, laterally or otherwise, but maybe the women who held on to careers and some who couldn’t, need to talk about being a working mother in the eighties and nineties. Being a working mother was not about banging our heads on a glass ceiling, at least there was a chance of breaking through that. The bondage of being labelled a ‘Working Mother’ by society was the most disempowering title ever applied to me and a whole generation of women. Thanks Clare for our chat that made me realise what we all achieved against the odds.

©Matt Holmes.

And so back to my original illustration which nicely shows how life, and blogs, is a series of interconecting shapes all created by the line we walk and that even computers can’t make it perfect. Life like this image is made more attractive by its imperfections. The imperfections are what make great conversations.