Pandemic Ponderings #227

Golden September, this time of year we are usually starting to raid the holiday box for clothes appropriate to September in Greece. This year of curiousness found us delving into the box earlier and for hometown pleasures.

We’ve been regularly sea swimming for the last 6 weeks. The recent good weather has expanded swimming time right up until the last moments of daylight.

Last night we realised that we are swimming far later into the day than we ever would on a holiday. It was nearly high tide when we swam last night and the promenade above the rocky coves of Devils Point was crowded with people who had taken, or were about to take, a sunset dip.

One local resident was puzzled by the large amount of humans.

He didn’t have too long to wait before the sunset chased us all out of the water.

Pandemic Pondering #226

As a non-Plymothian my interaction with Union Street in its prime was very limited. Visits to friends in the city nearly always took in a trip to the famous Plymouth Street, but it wasn’t until the eighties when I moved to the area that it became the location of work nights out.

There was a film made in 1982 set on Union Street that was part of the early output of Channel 4 . Remembrance must have done the rounds at Arthouse cinemas because although I’ve seen it I’m fairly certain there was no Channel 4 coverage in Brighton, where I was living at the time. It was filmed only a couple of years after I had last visited the street as a tourist and before I lived locally. It is the story of a last night out for naval ratings prior to a six month deployment in the U.S. It does not end well.

Last run ashore is also the subject of the lyrics of Union Street ( Last Post) by West Country Folk band, Show of Hands. The playing of the Last Post, in this song, is a chilling reminder that Union Street would have been the ‘Last Run’ not only ashore but also in any earthly Pleasure Dome for many serving servicemen.

Union Street was not always a street famous for night clubs and evening shenanigan’s although that is what defines it. When the street was first built in 1815 to link three waterfront towns it housed prosperous families. Later when the Theatres were built the area began to attract other venues and providers of after hours entertainment. Union Street become known for drunkenness and libidinous behaviour long before Plymouth, formed of the three towns of Plymouth, Devonport and East Stonehouse, became a city in 1928.

The area was heavily bombed in the second world war but Union Street as a destination for a night out thrived and grew out of the rubble. Nightlife always creates a heady mix of pleasure and excitement but there is usually a side order of lawlessness and aggression that is not so comfortable. In the ‘good’ times both regular and military police patrolled the area. Nearby residents were uncomfortable in their streets and many stayed safe indoors on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

It was the hedonism of 90’s club culture that tipped the balance for Union Street. Clubs and bars started to close as the drug culture changed the way things had always been. Lifestyle changes and technology around dating combined with massive cuts in the numbers of people employed by the Navy also fueled the slow burn demise of Union Street as a party place.

The residents are still there though amid the shadowy and decaying grand buildings, awaiting a master plan, people still go about their daily lives . For the last few years people rather than partygoers are shaping the area. Local residents held their annual street party last weekend.

Coronovirus restrictions made it less vibrant than the last few years but it always brings a smile . It is the most multicultural part of Plymouth and the smells wafting from the street food stalls demonstrate this better than anything. The weather was kind and people were happy. Union Street is waiting…

Pandemic Pondering #223

September 13th often gives us the gift of sunshine. It was Hannah’s mums birthday and we were always able to plan a birthday picnic for her, safe in the knowledge that the sun would shine.

This morning we started the day with a sunshine yellow breakfast. Sweetcorn fritters, bacon and egg.

A morning spent doing Sunday stuff, including clearing up fragile, ageing, yellow roses.

Then a trip to Union Street for a Street Party, more about that later in the week.

Sunflowers bought on Union Street replaced the discarded roses.

Then an evening spent swimming at Devils Point!

Dog bottoms in the Sunset…

Pandemic Pondering #220

Thinking outside the Box.

Today was filled with training at The Box. Internal photos are top secret until the new gallery/museum/cultural centre opens properly to the public. Where once there was a building site there is now a nearly ready gallery, museum and archive.

Now the building is all fitted out the room plans and layout make much more sense than they did in the days of hard hat tours, and wearing comfy shoes was so much more pleasant today than steel toe capped wellies of my previous visits.

What is The Box?

It is a museum, gallery, and archive in the centre of Plymouth, and is the biggest cultural initiative in the U.K to be opened in this memorable year of 2020. Covid-19 restrictions have caused the opening to be delayed and guest numbers will be restricted for the foreseeable future.

The original City Museum and Art Gallery has been extended and now it hi incorporates the old City Library. Both of these historic Plymouth buildings have a shining ‘ Box’ behind and above them. The eponymous box houses the Archives and gracefully imposes itself on the city skyline above the new main entrance. Outside the main entrance there is a new car-free, paved Plaza that will be the location of outdoor events in the future but also links the new Contemporary Art space that was formerly St Luke’s Church.

While we are only able to think outside of the box, I wonder what my fellow ‘word nerds’ think about this foundation stone?

Proper job or not proper job? *

* ‘Proper job’ in this part of the country is a term of praise, sometimes extended to ” Proper job, ‘ansome’

Pandemic Pondering #219


Speedwell is a light installation located on Mount Batten Breakwater.

It can be seen from many parts of Plymouth but is perhaps best seen from near the Citadel west of The Barbican.

Speedwell: Largescale artwork transforms Plymouth coastline to explore legacy of The Mayflower

Follow the link above to read about the thoughts behind the Artwork.

Briefly Speedwell was a ship destined to make the journey to the New World but was considered not to be seaworthy. The Mayflower was used to sail the settlers to the New World and grabbed the headlines.

Three words are illuminated in a random sequence and are there to provoke thoughts about many things both historical and contemporary.

The installation will be in situ for 3 months. The words do make you think, particularly on a day when Britain tightens controls on public freedom as part of the Covid-19 restrictions.

Thought provoking enough whenever this artwork was commissioned , unexpectedly pertinent currently.

Pandemic Pondering #218

No New Worlds is a new art installation in Plymouth it has a profound message which deserves its own blog. Contrarily @theoldmortuary has discovered new worlds while the installation was being constructed. We first encountered it when we went on the Dockyards and Warships boat trip. A New World, or an old world rediscovered for us. The installation was being constructed on the Mountbatten Break Water, we saw it as we sailed out of Plymouth Sound, at the time we didn’t know it was a significant commissioned Art Work.

Another New World for us is open water or Wild Swimming. We can see the sign from many of our new found bathing spots.

As an aside I had a very strange swim today which was also a bit of a new world. Maybe a little Queen World.

While swimming at Devils Point I was suddenly surprised by HMS Albion steaming towards me, towed by two powerful tugs. It is not every day that I am saluted by an entire ships company as I bob along in the sea. Obviously they were doing the salutations just for me. I so enjoyed the moment I couldn’t take a photo until the ship had passed by. A ship’s backside is an interesting change from the usual dog bottom in this blog.

Apparently this ship is the Swiss Army Knife of the Royal Navy. That’s quite a claim, I wonder where the corkscrew is?

I can say that not only did I experience a moment of Queenliness with the delightfully polite young persons saluting me. I also experienced a bit of Dolphinliness, the ship created quite a vibration in the water and some waves.

Another New World for @theoldmortuary was visiting the Mount Batten Breakwater, a place we had never visited before. We went to be up close to the Artwork to research and photograph for the proper blog tomorrow.

The installation is called Speedwell.

Pandemic Pondering #218

Insomnia and vivid dreaming are known side effects of the Covid-19 restrictions. I need to add an odd one to these but first a little about my blog writing. Most days, the next days blog is ready to publish by five past midnight. Occasionally I leave writing the blog until the morning, sometime before 8 am. Both methods work equally well. This weekend vivid dreaming affected the early morning writing of blog Pandemic Pondering #216. I already knew that it would be a brief blog with blue as the theme. A reason for confidently leaving the writing to the early morning. Imagine my horror when the pictures I planned to put in the blog did not exist in my phone. They had been part of a vivid dream!

PP#216 was about Wild Swimming and a much needed coffee afterwards. In my vivid dream, there was a beach just around the corner from Stonehouse where we buy our weekend coffees. I’ve managed to find pictures from my archive to augment reality.

This beach was tolerably pebbly but the best thing about the beach in the vivid dream was the option of renting a Beach hut by the day.

The texture of our beach hut was charmingly distressed.

It was two pictures like this that I searched for in the archive when I woke up to write the blog.

This is not the first time a morning written blog has been thwarted by my brain doing overtime at night.

I have a lifelong obsession with beach huts, starting with Frinton-on- Sea on the Essex Coast, followed by the South Coast between Brighton and Worthing, then the Kent coast at Whitstable. Interspersed by the beach huts of the Norfolk and Suffolk coast which are the ones I’ve substituted for the non-existent, in the real world, Plymouth ones. Plymouth does have beach/ coastal cabins which are built into the cliffs around Plymouth Sound and fabricated from concrete with sturdy doors, nothing like my fantasy but I’m sure gorgeous in their own way. The vivid dream even gave me a texture to its imagined doors. Knowing full well that I love a bit of distressed and weathered wood.

I’m not sure if these blog related dreams are in fact my subconscious berating me for not having the blog written before sleep. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could rent beach huts by the day. Even better if they were in Plymouth just round the corner from Stonehouse.

In real life I’ve probably not spent more than four hours in a beach hut, my obsession is built on pure imagination, gleaned from novels and looking into other people’s tiny coastal dream spaces with envy.

Pandemic Pondering #211

August 2020 slips effortlessly into September 2020. No more Art Group prompts,back to more freestyle pondering. Todays pondering reflects back on the last day of August, a Bank Holiday in Britain, the last before Christmas. We started the day early for a sea swim. The tranquility of these pictures was captured just moments before masses of people descended on the pebble beaches of Devils Point.

Plymouth has had a fabulous Bank holiday weekend. We have been tourists, seeing our city from new perspectives. Enjoying the Mediterranean vibe of the Ocean city.

Love where you live.

Pandemic Pondering #210

Todays prompt word for the art group is ‘paint’ slightly tricksy for an art group that encompasses 3D and Makers for whom paint is not a part of their creative process.

I chose to illustrate how paint brightens our lived environment.

Plymouth was in fine form today, the sun was out and the sea and sky were blue.

There were three stand out paint jobs.

The carousel on the Barbican

The Lighthouse on the Hoe.

The fishing boats in the Harbour.

Pandemic Pondering #202

The Art Group prompt word is Collage today.

Collage is a popular activity in art classes at all levels. It has never particularly interested me.

I love Palimpsest though, The layering and changing art form so often seen on urban streets.

Palimpsest in its serendipitous form has inspired me to create collage more often and, rather belatedly, I am beginning to enjoy making them just for pleasure, there are many ways to make a collage, some of them without glue.

Mental collage or Palimpsest has started to fascinate me during the pandemic. As our horizons were abruptly limited with lockdown the way I think about certain things has changed. I’ve realised that experiences at home or locally can be as interesting and thought provoking as those moments we rave about when we are away from our domestic location. Extra thinking time and the inability to leave the familiar has made it more interesting.

The month of August and in particular yesterday are two ways I can illustrate this statement.

I’ve always rushed headlong through August in eager anticipation of a holiday or break in September. With no such treat in store, this is the first August I have given due diligence and attention to. Many of my previous thoughts are entirely true , the weather is unreliable, roads and places are too busy, gardens and parks are slightly tired and not as vibrant as earlier in the summer. All true but not as bigger deal as I have previously thought. Adaptation and a little more time makes all these things more interesting this year.

I’ve started forming local holiday type memories and experiences a month earlier than normal simply because I’m paying August more attention.

Holidays @theoldmortuary require



Good Books

Some culture



So far August has delivered all of that and more without us leaving a 10 mile radius of our home.

Yesterday was a day of the most tedious shopping; cleaning product stock up time.

Serendipity delivered us a holiday moment on one of our regular dog walks. Mental collage made us notice it, in part I think because the colours reminded us of Greece.

We ordered a fishy tapas at a local restaurant, enjoyed classical music and talked to the owner.

Mental collage around a plate.

If we had been on holiday it would have been a precious nugget of the holiday. What it actually was was a precious nugget of life.

Researchers in the future will look back to this time of Pandemic. There will be many positive findings amongst the sea of bleakness.

Our positive nugget of life happened here.