#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.

#391 theoldmortuary ponders

Two days in the shadow of Christ Church, Spitalfields. It being November the shadows are very sharp. Two days in the company of some great writers who were also pretty sharp, an eclectic mix of writers honing their skills towards better blogging. In the hands of The Gentle Author, a blog is a thing of beauty. A distilation and clarification of facts and images, conjured into easily digestible, beautifully readable essays that educate, delight and inform. We were there to be shaped and eased into creating blogs that people wish to read To aid us we supped at the The Townhouse, a well fed brain is more absorbent. Our hosts Fiona and Clifford fed us very well, in their small but fascinating Art Gallery, at the back of one of my favourite shops in London. As luck would have it there was a painting of Christ Church on the gallery wall so you can get an idea of the bottom half of the church. Something I could not have easily achieved due to the plethora of electric scooters and skate boarders who arrived at the exact same time as I was taking the photograph. Writing a blog can be a risky business!


© Marc Gooderham ❤ Sold

Our writing sessions took place at 5a Fournier Street.

What went on behind closed doors is cloaked in quiet confidentiality to allow freedom of expression and wild creativity.

Our group brought great diversity of life experience, gathered together in a 17th Century sitting room.

I leant a great quote from one of the course members. It would have been appropriate, for certain, in the era of this bedroom but continues to resonate in the 21st Century.

“Shit, or get off the pot”

Which is a good place to end this piece but in my archive I have quite a cute photo from the exact same location nearly 10 years ago. I had gone to the cafe in the basement to enjoy tea and cake.

Hugo trying to become a stock item in a Huguenot House.

#390 theoldmortuary ponders

Yesterday was the first time the Great Bell, most often known as Big Ben bonged for real in 5 years. The Elizabeth Tower and the workings have been restored and strengthened to withstand time keeping for the country for many more hundreds of years.


I have always felt a thrill, when crossing Westminster Bridge, if the timing was right, to hear Big Ben striking the hour. Me and Big Ben go back a long way. Radio was the way I got my entertainment as a small person. I eagerly waited for the sound of Big Ben striking two, because that meant an hour-long radio programme was about to start. Listen with Mother was my daily fix of storytelling that I could access without pestering my busy mother. I was transfixed, often I sat waiting, cross-legged on the floor with an audience of soft toys for up to half an hour before the bongs raised my expectations to peak excitement. Whatever the weather or activity I was there waiting. Our wireless was on a low shelf and I could get close, my nose touching the scratchy fabric of the built-in loudspeaker taking in the smells of gradually warming Bakelite.

My addiction to listen with mother waned but not my sense of anticipation when I hear the bongs of Big Ben. When I was a student in London, a catastrophe occurred in the early hours of August 5th 1976. Metal fatigue had caused a scene of devastation. The chiming mechanism had fractured and pieces of flying metal had caused immense damage within the enclosed stone tower. I was fortunate enough to be on placement at nearby St Thomas Hospital. As soon as I could, I crossed Westminster Bridge to witness silence.

The damage to the mechanism and the tower was repaired in time for the Queens Silver Jubilee in 1977. I made sure to be in the crowds for the first hearing of the repaired mechanism, thank goodness I did, the Queens Jubilee was such a great event for students I barely remember much else from the day.

Me and Big Ben left London in the same year, 2017. Big Ben was silenced for 5 years for restoration and I experimented with a semi rural life in Cornwall. Serendipity brought me back to London on the very day the Great Bell bonged with all the clarity that a £100 million restoration project could create.

#387 theoldmortuary ponders

A lovely old sign that is quite inaccurate today.

©The Evening Standard

The London Underground strike has made London somewhat constipated. All the people who would normally transport themselves by tube have taken to their cars, busses or the pavements. Walking on Wimbledon Common was unaffected as was a little retail therapy. I have started my Christmas shopping. I blame the transport problems!

#366 theoldmortuary ponders

For a mad moment yesterday, we considered going to the re-opening day of Battersea Power Station. I have loved the hefty 1940s monolith all of my life. For many of my London living years, it was a welcome sign of heading home.

I also liked to sketch it in the years when all the outlying buildings had been knocked down for the redevelopment.

Maybe visiting on the first day of the reopened building was a bit foolhardy but as it turned out we ran out of time and the Evening Standard ran stories of massive crowds.


We were slowed down in other parts of Battersea, by sourdough pizza and Turks Head Pumpkins.

And wonderful retro items, an old phone and a VW Beetle.

Which are both a similar vintage to Battersea Power Station. Which makes the day rather retro. Our afternoon plans altered by a shortage of time took a different and unexpected turn.

Our afternoon dog walk was going to be in Putney Vale Cemetery doing a guided tour of Notable People’s graves, but our early morning care of a new baby grandaughter combined with the convenience of a bed in our camper van meant that as soon as we arrived in the cemetery an afternoon nap occurred, honestly the first time we have ever slept in a graveyard.

Who Knows Where The Time Goes.

Not just a random quote but a rather appropriate lyric for this blog from Fairport Convention.

Sandy Denny is one of those notable people who is buried in Putney Vale Cemetery. Her lyrics on this song are also poignantly appropriate for an afternoon spent kicking autumn leaves around in a peaceful corner of Putney Vale.

#365 theoldmortuary ponders

Just a regular day with a walk in the village. For Wimbledon this flamboyant cyclist is just a regular cyclist. You can see his London adventures on his Instagram page.


Flamboyance can be the picture theme of the day, although the rest are totally natural. There is nothing like the pleasure of Charity Shop shopping in the more affluent areas of London. With three hours to spend out of the house we were very happy shoppers. A brand new cashmere scarf for £20 and the same price for a Cos dress we were very sartorially satisfied.

The vegetables also felt a little flamboyant.

Along with some very prickly chestnuts.

Breakfast of Champions or in truth the Cheese Straw that all others are judged against.

Even the fungus on the way home got the flamboyance memo.

#304 theoldmortuary ponders

Desire paths that lead to a realisation.

Desire Paths have always fascinated me. Reading a recent blog from Spitalfields Life, nudged me into writing this blog today.

When I was a student at Barts Hospital my chosen Desire Path took 5 minutes off my journey to Moorgate Station. It was an ancient right of way. For nearly a thousand years medics and butchers have shared adjacent plots in the City of London.

Barts©The Wellcome Trust
Smithfield© Spitalfields Life. The Gentle Author

My short cut, or desire path, took me from the hospital boundary through slaughter yards, with bloodied water running into open drains. My desire path was almost certainly created by butchers, through history, making their way to and from one of the City gates. Moor Gate, so named because it led out to marshy ground known as Moor Fields. The to and fro on my little cut way was not just medical folk and butchers trying to make a quick access or escape, but, by passing so close to active slaughter yards the route may only have been tolerable for those with minds and stomachs already hardened to the sight snd smells of blood and gore. Butchers sometimes used the path as walking wounded, a quick way in to seek medical attention when sharp knives and cleavers have cut through living human flesh. A cleaver cutting through a femoral artery is a mucky and life or limb threatening event. Butchers, before the days of Health and Safety, often had bits missing, and the butchers of Smithfield were very regular and grateful customers when Barts had a fully functioning A and E. Anyway, I digress this blog is about a coastal desire path with much less to talk about. When I returned to work at Barts in 2013 I was hugely sad, but not entirely surprised, that I could no longer follow my short cut to Moorgate.

A desire path (often referred to as a desire line in transportation planning), also known as a game trail, social trail, fishermen trail, herd path, cow path, elephant path, goat track, pig trail, use trail and bootleg trail, is an unplanned small trail created as a consequence of mechanical erosion caused by human or animal traffic. The path usually represents the shortest or the most easily navigated route between an origin and destination, and the width and severity of its surface erosion are often indicators of the traffic level it receives.Desire paths typically emerge as convenient shortcuts where more deliberately constructed paths take a longer or more circuitous route, have gaps, or are non-existent. Once someone has already treaded out a path through the natural vegetation, subsequent traffics tend to follow that visibly existing route (as it is more convenient than carving out a new path by oneself), and the repeated trampling will further erode away both the remaining groundcover and the soil quality that allows easy revegetation.*

The desire path I walk on most days has none of the history of the Barts desire path. It cuts off only seconds of an already brief walk to the beach . It is the area in sunlight in this picture, the actual, brick path runs close to the wall of Stonehouse Tennis Club. But such is pondering that I only realised today that the South West Coastal Path, that both this Desire, and official, brick path lead to, must be made up entirely of historic desire paths that have been linked together. Unexpected enlightenment on a Wednesday

Today I am a rubbish photographer and have managed to cut off the vital words on this plaque. South West Coastal Path are the words I needed but managed not to include in this image.

One of my recent paintings combined with typewriting sums this whole blog up really. Todays in particular but pretty much in general too.

* definition of Desire Path. Wikipedia

#227 theoldmortuary ponders

Welcome to the Thursday that thinks it is Saturday. The Queen has been on the throne for seventy years, so in Britain we have a four day weekend with today, Thursday,being the first of the days off.

The Queen as Ziggy Stardust, both great British institutions.

My head has been incapable of adjusting to a Thursday Bank Holiday.I can’t help but be puzzled that this is not Saturday. Our usually quiet week day walk was enlivened by huge numbers of tourists. The dogs took their time reading all the pee mails that the unknown holidaying dogs have left, almost making us late for our usual, free, two hour parking spot. A big celebration in London with us not visiting is unheard of, but we never considered going this time. We no longer have our own Welsh Guardsman performing for Her Majesty.

Not because we have lost him, but because he has retired his Bearskin. To be fair his instrument of choice made him one of the men in the back row so we have spent many events of great national significance waiting for a glimpse of his bottom.

We often got front row seats, again really very lucky. On one occasion the seats were so special we had a slightly awkward sartorial moment. We had taken some South African friends, with us, who were dressed amazingly, I suppose we were dressed well enough for normal but as it turned out our tickets were anything but normal. London, on these occasions, is also far from normal so when our tickets, being checked at pinch points, sent us nearer and nearer to Downing Street we were not particularly perturbed. Alarm bells were slightly raised by the fashion and style of all the other people who were being gently directed with us. If we were dressed to an OK standard the others in the queue clearly had a different dress code. Men in Morning Dress ( three piece suits with tails) women in fabulous outfits with high heels and hats of the most fabulous sort. What sealed the deal for the strangeness of our ticket allocation, was the last part of our journey which was through the gardens of Number 10 Downing Street. The home and Office of the British Prime minister. We had randomly been given tickets on the same stand as International Diplomats. We diplomatically stuck close to our South African friends, who looked more dressed for the  occasion than we did. We took our places in the stand and had fabulous views. No one noticed us at all,  apart from those moments when our friends caught a glimpse of a black Welsh Guards musician and ululated with joy. Having done it once, those diplomats and their families, who could ululate, joined in on on every subsequent occasion. I suspect that is not the normal behaviour from the Diplomats stand, but it made the days events joyful and memorable.

Thursday as the new Saturday, a Platinum Jubilee is unlikely ever to happen again. My confusion is unlikely to be repeated. Probably just as well!

Pandemic Pondering #534

The King of Bling

Yesterday was vivid. The exuberant creativity of a passing cyclist embellished the day and boosted our happiness in a way that sweaty lycra never would.

Instagram @bondwimbledon added to a day that was full of texture and sensation. Starting with a purple cabbage.

In truth the day actually started with dusty, filthy feet when I got a little lost on Wimbledon Common, but nobody needs to see those bad boys on a Monday morning. The inevitability of Autumn gave more texture with fallen Oak leaves which have way more charm than my grubby toes.

Fuelled by lunch from Wimbledon Market, Turkish flat breads and salad.

We set off for the Sky Garden in the City for vertiginous views and some much needed, after the last 20 months, or so, family time out and about.

Even there,in a highly controlled environment, Autumn gave us some gorgeous form and texture.

Natures way of mimicking the King of Bling!

The Sky Garden is an extraordinary place to people watch although the style bar for the day had been set to unreachable high standards already. An accidental photographic moment , the red crane that forms a tick, sums up my relationship with London. Some of the best moments of my working life were had in hospitals that are part of the annonymity of this urban landscape. Some wonderful friendships were formed within the boundaries of this image.

A Sunday well spent!

Pandemic Pondering #158

Todays word for the Art Group is Skyscraper. I’m going to be perverse today and talk about the absence of Skyscrapers.

I was 17 when I first became intimately acquainted with St Pauls Cathedral. I calmed my nerves before a career interview at St Bartholomew’s Hospital by wandering the Crypt and Whispering in the eponymous Gallery.

Training in the City with its associated highs and lows gave me ample chance to explore the nooks and crannies of this amazing Cathedral and to develop a humanistic love of the Evensong Service. There is something lovely about doing something that humans have been doing in the same location since 604. Not all history in this area bears repetitions quite so comfortably.

The lack of Skyscrapers around St Pauls is no accident. This is the view from Nunhead Cemetery in South London.

It has a protected view.

You can read more about protected views in this link. https://www.citymetric.com/fabric/protecting-view-how-st-pauls-cathedral-has-been-shaping-rest-london-centuries-2577

This is a painting a little way from St Bartholomew’s Hospital , showing the scale of permitted development closely around St Paul’s. The picture below shows a more distant view from Tate Modern.

Skyscrapers define modern cities but the absence of them near St Paul’s opens up the sky and gives the City a different visual experience.