Pandemic Pondering #97

What is a village?

@theoldmortuary is in a village that, like many, has been consumed by a larger conerbation to the point that it barely considers itself to have a separate identity.

St Stephens was quite separate from the local town until ribbon development and housing estates attached it. It remains separate from the next village , divided by a steep hill and a river. Land that would have been difficult to cheaply develop. Although an easier gentle slope closest to St Stephens has had two housing estates built into it.

As a village it was well set up prior to the attachment to a town . It had the unholy trinity of a pub, a church and a village shop. Plus,the added luxury of an undertakers based in what is now our home.

Pandemic restrictions brought the sense of a village back to St Stephens. Without a pub or church there was nothing to draw outsiders into the area. The people we met in the street, as we walked the dogs, were people who actually live here. A different sense of community also revealed itself. I’m probably going to be wrong but there are less than 10 areas of housing development or estates around the original hub of St Stephens village. Many of the current inhabitants of these houses bought their house off plan from the developers 40 or 50 years ago. These people have a village community based not only on geography but also 40+ years of living and ageing in the same space and experiencing similar lifestyle milestones.

The old village hub no longer exists, only the church and pub have survived, neither would be effective communities if their net for customers was not spread much wider than either the original or expanded village. Only one farm has been saved from development and Churchtown Farm Nature Reserve, as it is now known, is as big a draw to the area as both the church and pub to people beyond the blurred boundaries of St Stephens.

In London, and maybe other places, the word’ Village’ is increasingly popular as an add-on to properly define a local identity within the urban sprawl.

Before the pandemic I had not really given this sense of identity too much attention. I grew up in a village that had a strong sense of its own identity and clear 360 degrees of obvious boundaries between it and it’s nearest neighbours. In London I lived in a high density suburb in Zone 3 , Gipsy Hill, a place that has a strong seperate identity just North of Crystal Palace and south of central London. Somewhere that wants to adopt the word Village into its identity. Yet without even 1 degree of seperation from its neighbours.

I’m not even sure where this pondering is going beyond my own realisation that it can be really enjoyable to have a loose connection with the people who physically occupy the same geographic area and walk their dogs or families in the same spaces.

Village is not only a word but a feeling.

Pandemic Ponderings is taking a leap for Pandemic Pondering #100. A guest writer for the first time, whose words will be illustrated by @theoldmortuary. I hope it’s the beginning of an interesting collaboration.

The writer and I grew up in the same village. We live on opposite sides of the world.

Pandemic Pondering # 89

What do you do on the day non- essential shops open in England.

For once I agree wholeheartedly with the government. They are non- essential shops. Obviously we avoided them. Three months without a non-essential shop has become a self fulfilling prophecy.

Actually what I do miss is mooching in a charity shop. The day they open will be something to celebrate.

The morning was all about dog walking and coffee. Inadvertantly a doughnut and a croissant also slipped onto the counter while I was ordering coffee. Some anonymous steps near The Mayflower Steps was our suntrap location of choice.

A great location to see swans flying under the lift- up bridge and out into Plymouth Sound.

But a moment’s inattention to photograph swans was almost the end of my doughnut breakfast.

This gorgeous orb of bakery loveliness and its accompanying coffee came from Jacka. Britain’s oldest working bakery.

Oat milk flat white , a doughnut and sunshine on these steps was everything that a visit to non- essential shops would not have been.

There was even time to bask before post breakfast exercise.

A morning well spent.

Pandemic Pondering #74

Saturday at Elvira’s

Saturdays in Lockdown got a whole lot better once we could get our favourite coffee fix at The Lord High Admiral provided by the lovely Hutong Crew.
https://m.facebook.com/thelhaplymouth/
https://m.facebook.com/TheHutongCafe/

Either before or after good coffee we go for breakfast at Elvira’s.
https://m.facebook.com/ElvirasCafePlymouth/

We’ve developed an unusual socially distance friendship with people we met on the first day in the Hutong queue. We meet for coffee and breakfast.

Breakfast at Elvira’s is immense, normally I go for a bacon buttie. For some unknown reason after four weeks on a super healthy diet I opted for the Farmhouse Breakfast.

As an aside this cafe in normal times is the favoured haunt of Commandos based at Stonehouse Barracks.

The Farmhouse Breakfast is exactly what a commando would deserve after a hard nights soldiering on night exercises

This breakfast was a thing of beauty and despite only doing a Joe Wicks work out I was determined to enjoy every mouthful. It was wonderful .

Elvira’s is very close to the Plymouth side of the Cremyll ferry. A boat ferry has crossed the Hamoaze, a stretch of the River Tamar, here, since the 11th Century.
https://www.plymouthboattrips.co.uk/ferries/cremyll-ferry/

Whilst waiting for my take away breakfast I discovered a combination of two of my favourite things . Rust and a Ghost Sign.
http://www.ghostsigns.co.uk/

A ghost sign is a faded sign, often seen on the walls of city buildings.

This one was set into the ground where passenger alight from the Cremyll foot ferry.

There wasn’t an easy way to capture the words in the bright sunlight.

The text reads.

WELCOME to Plymouth, now wipe your feet.

It is a matter of great pride that salmon have come back to the Tamar . A gentlemen was fly fishing on the slipway near where the ferry comes in. He was not a picturesque fisherman but he was standing in a picturesque place. I was anxious that he leave so I could get a nice photograph. I was very happy when his breakfast was delivered and he moved out of shot.

After a couple of long dog walks and no Hutong coffee, I had declined earlier, I was pretty sleepy after all that breakfast. An afternoon of reading turned into something much more relaxing.

Zzzzzzzzzzz

Pandemic Pondering #73

The Love Tree in Spring. My last visit to this intriguing tree was in early February when a pandemic was brewing far away. A little over a month after my first visit to the tree,despite the government’s inactivity @theoldmortuary we were already limiting our contact with other humans. Better to be safe than sorry.

I had read about the tree in a local publication and was interested in using it as an image
https://issuu.com/cornerstonevision/docs/issuu_love_saltash_february_20

The February photograph I used to create a print. The first of a series of works, I hope.

Love tree , wearing Spring green. Taken from the opposite side of the tree.

The Love Tree is also known as the Family Tree. People have carved their initials on the trunk for centuries. It is said that there was a leper colony nearby and that some of the early carvings date back to that period. The tree is also known as the Family tree with people hiding small fetish objects associated with their children in the nooks and crannies of the tree and it’s roots.

This gnome was an engaging chap with his apple harvest in his basket. Who put him here and what is his significance , hidden in this tree, on a remote Cornish lane. The same question hangs over each little object.

Some of the objects are placed in hard to reach places.

High up among the carved initials.

The Love or Family tree also has a new pandemic message.

Something we are all trying to do.

Pandemic Pondering #72

Spring in Cornwall is often beautiful but it is always tempered with a lot of rain. This year, in Lockdown, Spring in Cornwall has been magnificent. The beautiful show of wild flowers on Cornish hedges are more perfect than ever, almost Chelsea Flower Show perfect, because they haven’t been subjected to the bad weather of most years. Today I got up early to catch them in the rising sun. The bees were busy and the tiny lanes were a symphony of bird song, buzzy bees and pollinators whose names I do not know.

The pictures start at home and end with the Love Tree. I wrote a blog on 13th February called Love Tree/Jelly Shoe.
https://theoldmortuary.design/2020/02/13/

Tomorrow it will get another whole blog to itself .

@theoldmortuary poppies.

Beautiful seed heads on some grasses that have just turned up in our front garden planters

The perimeter wall of Trematon Castle swells with vibrant colour every May and June.

I painted one of the more formal walls of the castle,in Spring, a couple of years ago.

The next few images are an homage to perfect Foxgloves. These are the hardy perennial show stoppers of the Cornish hedges around here. Their strong architectural shape is indicative of Spring in Cornish hedgerows. Usually on closer inspection that are a little battered and bruised by traditional West Country weather. In Cornwall the day Lockdown was announced the weather became sunny and for the most part predictable . The next images are a celebration of Foxgloves in their prime, untarnished by the elements.

All Foxgloves were papped on the way to the Love Tree. I will start off with a couple nearest to the castle, after that the blog gets unashamedly pink.

I came across the cutest road sign on my travels. Steady On. Such a great statement to gently urge caution.

And it’s partner sign , politely thanking drivers for due diligence.

And finally, the Love Tree, tomorrow’s blog subject.

Pandemic Pondering #58

Deja vu.

©Wikipedia

Hours, days, weeks and now months have blurred boundaries. Just about everything we’ve done this week has been done several times in the last couple of months.

Saturdays have a new shape, for three weeks we have been able to get our favourite Hutong Coffee. Following that we do a favourite dog walk but we’ve done todays so many times I won’t bore you with the details. But everything on our walk looks a little bit brighter. Lockdown has given people the chance to get all sorts of jobs done and everywhere looks a little bit twinklier.

The best example of twinkle was this motorbike which had been ridden into town and was still so pretty. Presumably it has had a lot of attention in the last few weeks.

Plymouth has also gained some new street art and not a moment too soon.

We also found this picturesque wasteland.

And finally our used compostable coffee cups crossed the Tamar to our compost heap.

Not a bad Saturday.

Pandemic Pondering #57

All dressed up and nowhere to go.

Smeatons Tower on Plymouth Hoe has shrugged off its ungainly scaffolding and has emerged into the bright sunlight with a beautiful paint job ready for the Mayflower 400 Celebrations. COVID – 19 will have disrupted the events that this bright new livery was created for. Just like humans, Smeatons Tower is not going to be at the centre of of a party any time soon. Luckily a few more people can visit the Hoe now, to enjoy the view and the lighthouse with its crisply painted stripes.

Smeatons Tower even made the clouds smile today.

Pandemic Pondering #55

Easing of lockdown in England and Cornwall. There is a joke here as Cornwall believes it is, in many ways, a separate entity from the rest of the United Kingdom. Unlike Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland which have some self-determination, Cornwall has not been able to stick to comfortable, safe lockdown.

We were obliged to travel into the rest of the UK this morning across the Tamar Bridge.

Watercolour © theoldmortuary

We’ve had to do it a few times during Lockdown but always in very controlled situations where social distancing has been easy. Shopping at Marks and Spencer and Holland and Barrett in Drake’s Circus, in Plymouth, was entirely relaxing and easy, but one other destination was just too much contact with other humans. We quickly left.

Emerging from Lockdown is going to be a strange and challenging experience. We felt like country mice suddenly being thrust into the Hurlyburly of Christmas shopping on Oxford Street. In truth the experience this morning was nothing like that , but that’s how we felt.

A Jack and Jill Book . 1962©Fleetway Publications

The illustration is from a book I had as a child and it always made me anxious, although Katie Country Mouse was always quite a role model.

The project for today was to sort out our glass jar storage area on the Cornish Range and label the jars , as many of our new healthy eating ingredients look similar. It was quite the task, but meditative and relaxing, which was just what I needed after the jarring retail experience to get the bloody labels. Now I’m a bit further away from the expedition it’s easy to see why it was quite stressful. The store was just too big and we probably saw more people than we’ve seen in two months. Everyone was pretty good at social distancing but there were too many people there and too many who should not have been out, let alone in a large retail store. I’d be struggling if I had been told to isolate for 12 weeks and I might also have slipped out for a bit of fresh air. A massive shop is not the place for those with compromised health. My worry for them made me sad.

Anyway back to the jars. All filled up and properly labelled whilst I watched Sewing Bee on the TV.

Link to The Great British Sewing Bee.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03myqj2

Two friends have sent me something, via digital media, today. Both are appropriate for the end of a blog.

One is a quote from someone I’ve known since I was 11, we share a love of language.

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make beginning. The end is where we start from.

T.S. Eliot.

The other is a sunset over Plymouth Sound from someone I’ve known two weeks. We’ve shared a large space in a coffee queue.

Happy Hump Day

Pandemic Pondering #50*

* The late edition.
Apart from garden chores, we had no great plans for today. VE Day has written this late edition itself. The day started, as they all do, with a Joe Wicks Work Out.The picture below was taken during the two minute break between exercises. The dogs love Joe Wicks, the cans are our improvised dumb bells and the velvet cushion , an item that should actually be in every gym, is a great asset for the kneeling exercises. Out of shot are the cake plates.

Once Joe is out of the way it’s time to shower but the dogs were very excited by something outside.A small, unannounced, outdoor memorial service was happening just across the road. Just a vicar and a standard bearer and 5 or 6 people all standing apart, silently witnessing the service. 2 minutes silence in the midst of so much silence was intensely moving.

I was, however, not dressed for church.

Sometime later a Civic group appeared to lay a wreath.

Our poppies put up a natural show of respect.

Clean and sparky we set off on a dog walk. Someone in the estate just beyond the church was playing Glen Miller on a sound system that would not have been out of place at Notting Hill Carnival. The sound was the epicentre of our circuitous walk and we’ve chosen to listen to similar music all day.

This cute window display was just beyond the Glen Miller Sound System.Then a little further on this jeep appeared.

The Nature Reserve itself was unmarked by anything, but in its quietness it has always marked history

During lunchtime I remembered a friend in London has a Union Jack, in pristine condition. It survived the whole of the second World War and spent actual VE day flying from the roof of a house in Grimsby. This morning he ironed it and it posed in his garden and ethereally in his bedroom window, for this blog.

His cat Banjo was perplexed and intrigued. Banjo is a Gipsy Hill cat but not ‘ the’ Gipsy Hill cat.

While we are in Gipsy Hill, on the route of the number 3 bus, we found a shot of a number 3 trying to get through Crystal Palace on VE Day.

This evening we were on a social distancing adventure. The evening dog walk was in Plymouth where we had Click and Collected an order of fish and chips which we ate in the van. The van was cleaned today for its first run out in a month.

Then it was off to the Hoe for the evening dog walk and a visit to the many war memorials. This year there is a new one for the Merchant Navy.

Plymouth Sound was looking gorgeous.

We also found a new sculpture, the bottom and hand prints of the Beatles.

Sunk into the earth where they, the Beatles, relaxed in the sun before their gig in Plymouth in 1967. The moment preserved by an iconic photograph.We finished the day with a cup of tea and a scone. The scones were traded to us by a neighbour for the loan of our hedge trimmer.A cup of tea is a fine way to end a blog on VE Day. The last image of the day is my favourite WW2 picture from the South West Image Archive. The Archive is held by The Box, Plymouth and is of a woman, drinking tea while sitting on the rubble of her destroyed home near Plymouth Dockyard,

Pandemic Ponderings #44

A pondering in which we queue for good coffee in Plymouth. Saturdays are made for good coffee. For the 6 weeks of lockdown we’ve not had a coffee made with love and care by a proficient barrista. Given the Coffeeshop in question you could say we’ve missed out for 6 months. Hutong which closed in October for a rebuild, ‘popped up’ today at The Lord High Admiral.

Queuing for coffee is not unknown to us as Monmouth Coffee at Borough Market is another favourite coffeeshop.

Hutong coffee is worthy of the queue. The new environment at The Lord High Admiral is pretty cute.

On reflection , it was lovely to see George…

and Emma who didn’t make it into the mirror.

Perfect Social Distancing throughout the process we took delivery of our coffee.

It was every bit as good as we knew it would be. Right to the bottom of the cup.

If you are in Plymouth next Saturday the Hutong will ‘pop-up’ again next Saturday 9th May from 8am. The other ‘pop-up’ at The Lord High Admiral, Knead Pizza had sold out all their Pizza slots today and I think all of next week’s are sold out too. We were too slow for Pizza for both weeks and actually missed out on Hutong bacon butties today.

Note to self, get up earlier!

What to do after a Hutong Coffee? Drive to Stonehouse and do the usual walk.

This could not have been a better decision.

Firstly we parked up near Elvira’s,

who were serving bacon butties. By a strange coincidence we queued up at Elvira’s with a couple who had also been at the earlier coffee queue. They were much braver than us and ordered take-out Eggs Benedict. I would have been wearing egg yolk all day if we had ordered that.

Obviously once you’ve queued twice with people, observing social distancing, you can talk for ages even though they are complete strangers. (Pandemic observation, talking to strangers is a lovely thing now we all have more time)

Our Stonehouse walk is one we do often but everything in Lockdown is changed , there seems to be more to see.

Even at Elvira’s we saw these two lovely unusual things.

Non-local people can have a chuckle at the name of this location.

Admiral’s Hard; another saucy Plymouth location is Pennycomequick.

I just threw that in, it’s nowhere near our walk.

Stonehouse did not disappoint, we met another complete stranger at the proper distance, for more lovely conversations and Devils Point itself thought it was on the Mediterranean.

Pretty houses on the way back to the car.

Saturdays and Sunshine

Hutong Coffee

Elvira’s Bacon Butty

Lockdown rules all applied