# 428theoldmortuary ponders

Last week when I was working at the museum someone asked me what I “got’ out of being a gallery guide on a quiet day. Sometimes a lot more than I get on a busy day to be honest. The Museum going public are an easy to manage bunch on the whole. Busy days are spent directing people to toilets. Apologising that their favourite exhibit of fifty years ago is no longer on show. Listening to men, it is always men, who are expert on a very very small part of the museums collection and who wish to batter me with their superior knowledge as if we had mutually agreed on an intellectual battle. There are lovely two way conversations with interesting and interested people from all over the world.  There are days, to be honest, when any museum, even in these more enlightened times, can feel overwhelmingly male. When the museum is quieter I often return to a collection of artifacts that were collected by a woman explorer. Currently she and one other woman, Elizabeth the First, represent women in a gallery that is dedicated to exploration and exploitation. The men depicted in this gallery strike heroic poses with jutting chins and out of proportion genital areas. Some of them did very very bad things others just stole stuff and brought it back to fill their homes and now museums. Some conquered simply for the challenge of conquering. Many dying while on the task. On quiet days I go and rest my mind with a woman called Gertrude whose collection of objects are not blood stained, stolen or ego boosting. But fairly traded or purchased.

Gertrude Benham was an English explorer and mountaineer who was born in London in 1867. She was the youngest of six children and began climbing mountains as a girl. She went on to climb mountains on almost every continent. Benham was also an intrepid hiker and walked from Valparaiso, Chile, to Buenos Aires, Argentina. She went on to hike across Kenya, and traverse Africa on foot.

Benham always traveled alone or with native guides, spending less than 250 British pounds a year. In 1916, she was named a fellow of the Royal Geographic Society. Throughout her life, she climbed more than 300 mountains. Notably, she was the first woman to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Truda Peaks, one of the summits of Mount Rogers in Glacier National Park, in the Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia, Canada, is named in her honour.

  • She was the first woman to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
  • She was also the first woman to climb the Matterhorn.
  • She traveled to over 60 countries and climbed mountains on almost every continent.
  • She was a prolific writer and artist, and her work is still admired today.
  • She was a pioneer in the field of mountaineering and exploration, and her accomplishments are truly inspiring.

I love her because she is unknown, the display could all be carefully folded and stored in a trunk. I realise there is much more in store. She had a good eye. She bought what she liked.

Her textile and craft purchases are inspirational and suggest that her home would have been both eclectic and welcoming. I have friends, mostly artists, whose homes could easily absorb some of Gertrudes collection and it would look contemporary and fabulous.

I love visiting Gertude because she makes me think.

I really won’t bore you all with my Gertrude inspired thoughts but here is one to ponder. The peak that has been named in her honour. In the Selkirk Mountains of Glacier National Park is called Truda Peak. An honour absolutely, but anonymising too. A diminutive firm of her first name. Had she been a man, who had achieved so much, the peak would almost certainly be named Benham Peak. There would be drawings of her standing astride pointy rocks. A steely look in her eye and some artistic licence around the knicker area suggesting a cavernous vulva. Instead and far more interestingly, we have a delightful black and white photograph of a fascinating woman’s face.

For your pleasure. Just give some thought to this.

The Cook Islands become Jim Islands.

United States of America becomes the United States of Rigo

Melbourne becomes Bill.

#274 theoldmortuary ponders

It’s complicated having Covid. Such gratitude that our experience has been so mild because we are triple vaccinated and usually well. But there are dark thoughts too, so many people have died from this actual virus. Including one close work colleague. I think I may never get over seeing his coffin,alone, in a multi-story car park, near his local Mosque. How could such a fabulous character, full of laughs and smelling of Tom Ford fragrance be contained in such a box. Unthinkable. And yet I do think. Never in my life has being negative meant so much. I really am just joining in at the scrag end of this virus, for the last 28 months I have just watched it from a distance, protected by isolations and then vaccine. Science, technology and luck have got me here, face to face with a notorious and prolific killer. I am very lucky that all our family lost, were some plans. There will be other days for plans.

#270 theoldmortuary ponders

And so, just like that, normal life stops with the screeching speed of a braking Heavy Goods Vehicle. What we had thought was a bad touch of hay fever turns out to be something entirely different. Routine testing prior to a visit to a vulnerable relation has put three of us in the Covid box. None of us are too poorly with it but it is the perfect excuse to watch Lion King.

Normal blogging service will resume when it cam

#200 theoldmortuary ponders

200 days since Pandemic Ponderings shifted without fanfare into theoldmortuary ponders. In much the same way that the actual pandemic has become without fanfare ‘ endemic’.

Always anxious to throw numbers about to illustrate the depth of the situation, news channels have been throwing the figure 15 million around this week as a total for worldwide Covid Deaths. Of course nobody actually knows, since around  40 % of the world do not accurately record either births or deaths. I know this because I’ve been doing a good bit of driving around this week. We all love numbers, ( I actually only love numbers if they are not anywhere near the word mathematics) Numbers give us scale to lifes failures, tedium and success. Round numbers are particularly satisfying and easier to cling to for some reason. My little number of 200 is well within everyone’s imagination as is 201 but 200 just feels more comfortable. But what does 15 million actually look like, and yet 15 million sits more easily in a sentence in a way that 15.33 million does not. In the same way #201 theoldmortuary ponders, will shrink into the shadows tomorrow.

When I haven’t been driving around this week I’ve been doing domestic admin and some fun stuff, very little sketching. In fact just one very quick sketch all week but I can relate it to this blog. I have been trying to sum up the discomfort of the Pandemic years with one image. Something I can expand for an exhibition later in the year. Playing with the truism about numbers that statistics are of no value to the individual. The header picture of this blog is a digitally altered version of my sketch, reimagined to be chaotic. The original sketch is the simple version.

Who could not understand two round figures/ numbers hugging.

P.s You can tell a lot about a person by the way they hug.

Pandemic Pondering#503

Yesterday was all about doing essential tasks but taking the odd moment off to take in the signs of summer. Rolls of straw disappearing into infinity were a good reminder that the summer, which has barely got started weather wise is already on the home run towards autumn. I spent a good part of yesterday harvesting wisdom. Sometimes when I spend too long cogitating on things alone it can be like drinking champagne to share those thoughts with a friend. A moment of someone elses perspective or experience brings light and clarity to a situation that I was making murky by over-thinking. I visited a friend with a new Shepherds Hut yesterday, and in its tiny space and in a few minutes of nattering she quickly gave me a precious nugget of wisdom that solved a situation I had been mulling over for some time.

Even the Shepherds Hut made me think of autumn. Maybe I’m expecting too much, but so far in the summer of 2021 my stand out piece of summer clothing is a lightweight but very effective raincoat. We may have been over excited in buying a big garden parasol for our new back yard, an essential item for safe outdoor socialising in these Covid times. We’ve only needed it twice in a little over 6 weeks of prime-time summer. Earlier in the week we managed a whole morning of yardening untroubled by over zealous sun or blistering heat. Our yard is essentially a bright white box of enclosing stone walls facing west. A perfect sun trap if there was any of it about! The yardening was an exercise in potting and repotting container plants that we had moved from the old house. Just to show off the sun and a little heat made a late appearance yesterday in the yard and warmed the newly potted plants.Which makes all my moaning about a lack of summer sun seem like nonsense.

But stuck in England as I am I would like to have some consistency of sunshine and some sweltering heat so that when autumn does arrive I can fully appreciate the cooler days with occasional showers. Which perversely, of course, is exactly what the whole summer of 2021 has been like here!

Pandemic Pondering #500

500 Pandemic Ponderings and the world is still in the grip of something that affects everyone. Currently our planet is still gripped and the Pandemic is far from over.Who knows how this part of our history will end.

@theoldmortuary, just like everyone, is in quite a different place at #500 to where we were at #1. No longer living at the actual Old Mortuary, that was never a plan!

Today though, beyond PP#500, is pretty average. We took a trip out to Tavistock in the rain. The rain gave me all the images for this blog. A rain swollen river + my silky water feature on the phone camera is as good an illustration for time passing as I could muster today.

We went to Tavistock to visit the Drawn to the Valley exhibition again and to visit the Saturday market.

We also had a Bubble Wrap popping and styling date with our grandchild in Hong Kong.

Not something we were planning to do in the street but that is where we were when the call came through. We had planned ahead and just whipped our Bubble Wrap out of a handbag and struck some poses and popped away. Passers by were certainly puzzled! A fine way to spend half an hour on a normal day with an auspicious number.

Pandemic Pondering #438

On reflection. True to many British holidays, we’ve taken the van away for a couple of days and the weather has turned to persistent precipitation. So small tasks in the van have filled some of the time. Fitting a usable mirror has long been a project. Today we achieved with Superglue something that we are both happy with.

We are on a campsite with shared WiFi so connection to the internet is sketchy due to the number of people stuck in tents, caravans and campervans. So research for this blog is not so easy. But I vowed to use the first photos that came out of my cloud using the search, reflection.

I’m sure I could have waffled on about anything that appeared but the two pictures of Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong give me huge pleasure. Victoria Harbour has been in my life all my life. My nightlight as a small person showed the twinkling lights of Victoria Harbour, now it is the home of treasured but distant family members.

These pictures were taken in June 2019 long before we had ever considered a life with such unimaginable restrictions and deprivations as those we live with now. 2019 a year when we thought humans had control! Little did we know.

Maybe it is best to reflect on the little things in life. The small achievements , the things we do still have control over. Hanging a mirror perhaps.

Pandemic Pondering#435

I’m a little obsessed with the sad fate of Octopus mothers. They mate only once and after caring for their babies they die and are consumed. I always felt quite octopus-like as a mother, certainly wishing that I had more than one pair of hands. But very glad that the whole experience was not so all consuming that I succumbed to maternal death in order to provide my beloved children with a snack.

I’ve been doing a little Octopus research before I start a series of Octopus watercolours, and discovered a fascinating fact about Octopus anatomy that would explain a lot about some humans if only they shared the same anatomy.

We’ve all met some shockers of human beings. Often at work, certainly in general and public life and unluckily for some , within families.

Just look at this simple anatomy of an octopus.

Right by the Octopus heart there is a poison gland.

Everyone knows a human with one of those!

I’m not too sure where this blog is going. Watercolour research to fantasy anatomy.

But I think in the future when I meet a bad human I may try to imagine them being overwhelmed by their own poison gland. I hope it is unpleasant.

Bonkers Pondering.

Pandemic Pondering #426

This one picture is all that was left of the day once weather and breakfast had taken what it wanted out of our waking hours. The Pandemic, guilty as it is for so many things, did not affect Sunday, or indeed this blog.

The weather was the most damaging. Another day deluged out of existence. This blog should have early morning action pictures of Pilot Gigs and happy rowers rowing on the Tamar. But the wind and rain postponed that. Nothing stopped our first meeting with friends indoors to share breakfast and natter over too much coffee. The rain continued to pour down on their courtyard garden , making everything lush and tropical looking. The trouble is we forgot our manners, we’ve not really used them for more than 15 months. A breakfast gathering suggests that other things might be done with the rest of the day. Not with guests like us! We left the breakfast gathering at 4:30 in the afternoon. We had talked and talked, fueled by good coffee and breakfast, but we had talked the day away, our ribs and faces aching from mirth. At 4:30 the rain still battered the streets but dogs needed walking, any pretence that anything else might be achieved was washed into the gutter with rainfall. A brief dog walk in waterproofs got the essentials done before book reading and cooking filled a couple of hours. Finally at 8:30pm we could find a rain-free period when dogs could be walked and 10,000 steps could be achieved. One day, one photograph, some sort of milestone.

Pandemic Pondering #421

Life is starting to stack up. With every slight loosening of government restrictions our lives @theoldmortuary get a little busier. In many ways it feels as odd as the sudden deceleration of our lives over a year ago. We are not even pushing ourselves to the max possible.

Lunch indoors with one set of friends yesterday followed later by a meal inside a pub with different friends was lovely and an enormous pleasure but it felt both exotic strange and exciting to behave almost normally for once . Just as lockdown deeply affected my sleep patterns, last nights sleep was disturbed by recalling the days events. We also have some longstanding domestic admin that keeps us awake and an art exhibition to organise at the end of the week. Just as Covid-19 has the physical nasty that is Long Covid, all our lived experiences will suffer from the after effects of this pandemic for a long while even if we have been lucky enough not to catch the wretched disease.

Another period of sleeplessness will not be welcome in this house.

Some people are, of course, oblivious, although even this doggy naughtiness is Covid related. Thermal socks for outdoor socialising and post swimming are the best for chewing and there are plenty of pairs to be stolen.

In other news, the Advanced Blogging course has been announced for October. Alongside this announcement, the delightful Gentle Author has decided to return to teaching the art of blogging. I will pop a link below, his courses are wonderful.


So in a fine example of art imitating life everything is starting to stack up.