Pandemic Pondering #336

There has been a good bit of pondering over this blog today. No standout trail of random thoughts stood out yesterday ready for publication this morning. The tomato figurehead was a late arrival, its significance will be revealed later.

February is watercolour month @theoldmortuary . Not this year, the studio is partially packed away. I’ve not painted anything since a commission was finished before Christmas. Not able to quite control creativity I found something I can keep in a small bag, Lino printing is likely to become a method of illustration for these blogs once I get going effectively.

For similar reasons watercolour is my medium of choice in the dark months of January and February. It doesn’t require studio space, just a dining table which happens to be in the actual old mortuary, which is lovely and warm. ( Not a sentence associated with real mortuaries)

February is often about experimenting. So linoprinting is not such a great leap. Watercolour portraits, fascinate me. This one is of Fred, one of my schoolfriends. Painted a couple of years ago. I enjoyed the discipline and probably need an excuse to do more.

February is also about buying new art materials and getting to know them. The quickest way for me to do that is to revert to my earliest artistic endeavours and one that I only truly revisit on holidays ( no time soon I think)

Watercolour landscapes, a fine way to relax and experiment a bit. As a holiday activity it is unequalled, although many of mine are not truly watercolour as it is all too easy to dip a brush in my gin and tonic in error. This last watercolour will feature in tomorrows blog too, as it is a painting of the ‘Nearly There Trees’ a famed Landmark on one of the routes into Cornwall.

So back to the tomatoes. Inspired by The Lighter Side of Science on Facebook a page published by

This site is perfect for the strange old mashup that is me. Part artist , part scientist, part ponderer.

I’ve reused and paraphrased their quote of today onto my painting. When else would l get the chance to use a painting of a tomato!

Pandemic Pondering #335

Illuminate 2019

The storms keeping us out of the sea have abated , but only just. Overnight the rain has been torrential. There is a plan, this Sunday morning, for us to have a swim . I’m fairly freshly out of the dream state , illustrated above.

On waking I have immediately landed into the Procrastinate Zone. The, nearly year long, series of lockdowns and life restrictions have given me the luxury of time  and in turn that has allowed procrastination to become a decision process. An alternative or extra option to add to any decision making moment.

This morning the cogs are turning slowly.

Shall I have a shower before I swim?

Can I actually bear to get out of bed and get into a hot shower?

No , there might be a moment of chill before the shower gets really hot.

Ok, I will just lay here. Procrastinate a bit and think about it in 5 minutes.

There is no logic to this thought, in an hour or so I’m going to be stepping into the sea for fifteen minutes of swimming in water that is about 8 degrees. It is unlikely to be as beautiful as the picture below, but this is the mental image that will get me out of bed and into the shower.

If thats not enough then at the weekend there is the added promise of good coffee.

None of these lovely images are actually persuading me to make that move into the shower. Writing about it , has of course given some legitimacy to procrastination. I could have just posted a different blog and got on with the shower but burbling on about procrastination has kept me in bed for an extra fifteen minutes and now there is no time for a shower.

Sometime soon I’m going to be back in a real world.

This cannot become a way of life!

Pandemic Pondering #329

Yesterday was Valentines Day. Over commercialised and lacking originality the day is often the same year after year. 2021 though , felt a little different because everything feels different. There seemed to be less of a focus on romantic love and more on community love. Which is jolly convenient as the image above is about all sorts of Love. The picture above is the Love Tree , found just outside Saltash in Cornwall and the subject of a blog last year. Link below.

It is a local focus for fetish objects to do with love of all sorts. Talisman and mementoes are hidden in roots and the cracks and crevaces of the trunk of this old Elm tree. The custom is hundreds of years old.

The image of the tree was supposed to be artfully printed in gold foil on an abstract watercolour background. The original image and the painted backgrounds are lost in a print shop , victims of the Lockdowns. The exhibition they were intended for never happened. Soon I am going to learn to do Linocut Printing so that this image can have a new and different future.

Different as it turns out is the theme for this blog.

My Valentines Day was made very different by attending a local sports club to receive my first Vaccine against Covid 19. A brilliantly organised and efficient service staffed by happy and helpful volunteers. A triumph of Science and humanity against a difficult adversary. Aided and abetted in this country by poor political decisions.

My umbrella, needed, on the day, because of the torrential rain, but also, as it happens, as a metaphor for a brighter future post vaccine.

I am very grateful.

Pandemic Pondering#324

I’m not even sure which day of Lockdown 3 we are in. The day is probably irrelevant and can, of course be fact checked later. A daily blog in a time when we are not supposed to do very much might seem something that could be a struggle. But as a writer or recorder of things my bar is set extraordinarily low. Todays ponder is officially about the boundary between Devon and Cornwall, very specifically either side of the Tamar Bridge. Which is why the pretty image of the bridge heads up this blog. Before that however I wanted to share a side ponder not truly worthy of a full ponder. One that really would scrape the boredom level if I were to illustrate it. Lockdown 1 was the lockdown of some personal and public anguish and a lot of getting things done.

Lockdown 2 . Anguish accepted as a way of life on a sliding scale of severity depending on the day. Beyond that it was full on-prep for the Christmas that never was.

Lockdown 3 . Eat all the food puchased for the Christmas that never was. Emerge from that lifestyle to one that is not normal and also doesn’t feature a lot of getting things done. Stuff still happens though, no day is a void.

Over the weekend we watched a Christopher Plummer film. Not the Sound of Music but Beginners. The implausibility of The Sound of Music would have gone unnoticed but watching Beginners felt implausible not because it was the story of a 75 year old man embarking on his true life as a gay man but because the film featured almost impromptu parties. It felt so unbelievably wrong in a way that a family saga involving the Third Reich and clothes made from curtains never feels.

A small point I agree but this side ponder is about small points.

Small point number 2, in the mornings I wake up and am excited that the first cup of tea with caffeine is about to happen. Since the insomnia of Lockdown I , I have become tediously fastidious about no caffeine after 1pm. Were I to have some after 1pm , I could get giddy and throw a party. No I wouldn’t , but you get the picture!

If there were to be a party, I would almost certainly wear new thermal underwear. Today was a red letter day. New thermal leggings arrived. Essential for getting my 10,000 steps during my permitted, outdoor exercise. Such excitement!

Back to the Bridge, I have used this bridge regularly for nearly half of my life. I only realised this weekend that travelling west I am welcomed into Cornwall.

Welcomed in this instance is a loaded and slightly disingenuous word. I was not born in Cornwall, I have been a second home owner, I do come from ‘ up the line’ and for a long period of time I was from ‘ down London way’. The likelihood of me truly being welcomed by everyone in Cornwall is extremely unlikely but entirely livable with. Devon in the easterly direction offers no such welcome, genuine or otherwise.

Halfway across the bridge drivers or walkers enter the City of Plymouth. No mention of Devon, no warm welcome. At no point on the A38 are travellers welcomed to Devon. Most skirt Plymouth on the Devon Expressway. Once they have left the environs of the Plymouth City Boundaries they are left uncherished until they cross the county boundaries of Dorset or Somerset when other counties offer them an unconditional welcome.

The far South West of England, one welcome, not as whole hearted as you might think and one completely absent one.

Pondering- it makes you think.

Pandemic Pondering #321

Summer in February. The sun put in an appearance today and the Stonehouse beaches looked like socially distanced summer.

We enjoyed coffee in the sun and witnessed a charming rescue by Plymouths Plastic Patrol.

Pictured below before the current pandemic.

© Plastic Patrol/Planet Patrol

A toddler dropped a much loved Zebra in the water near the Royal William Yard. The tide was high and, sadly, Zebra had to be left to his watery fate. Some time later members of Plastic Patrol paddled past.

They swiftly recovered the Zebra and, as luck would have it, Archie and his parents were waiting for a take out-coffee.

Zebra and toddler reunited.

A good end to a brilliant morning.

Pandemic Pondering #317

Wednesday, ‘Hump’ Day. Definable for a week but when will England pass the ‘ hump’ day of the 3rd Pandemic Lockdown. Pedaling uphill with no summit in sight and no promise of a freewheel to the end is so much harder in these winter months.

I’ve always enjoyed February so it feels unfaithful to not be so keen this year. February is the month we make plans for the rest of the year.Meet ups and even, dare I say it, when holidays with family and friends are planned.

This time last year I was preparing to curate a Spring Exhibition , although  I had a sneaking feeling by the end of February that we might well be planning in vain. Working closely with other artists in any collaboration isn’t ever a waste of time and I gained 
a good friend, who has proved to be  a valuable pair of ears in this pandemic, while planning the exhibition that never was. We may never have cemented a friendship without the unique circumstances of the pandemic.

She is not the only friend @theoldmortuary has gained in this unusual year. Funny to think that we have friends that we now know really well who we have never hugged or even been closer to than a metre. All these new friendships come from a tiny geographical area close to home. Less than ten miles certainly. Meanwhile friends and family old and new  are out there locally and in the rest of the world also unhugged. For the forseable future they will remain unhugged.

I suppose the best I can hope for from this February is to just keep moving forward on a metaphorical bicycle, no plans but with a basket full of hugs, waiting to spill out on the downhill when my feet are off the pedals and the future is a little more certain.

Pandemic Pondering #316

It’s not often that February gets quite such a welcome, but @theoldmortuary January seemed to drag its feet a little. Probably not the months fault. With Lockdown III starting moments after non- Christmas the normal January ennui started sooner than normal. Cold water swimming has pulled us through the month with twice weekly swimming.

Strange that in a month with more time to read, I had forgotten about this book until yesterday. When I was working and commuting in London the electronic version of this book was my daily read. I never felt moved to read it out loud on the bus or train as people who read the Bible or Koran were sometimes moved to do. Now I’ve refound it I may throw in the odd snippet or morsel of London history into the pondering mix.

February the first is not so interesting , and none of my favourite diarists bothered with it but in 2021 just getting to February 1st feels good enough.

January did not slip away unnoticed yesterday. An irregular swimming companion joined us for a lunchtime beach walk.

Pandemic Pondering #311

The greige is back! This picture is in full glorious colour but you would never know it, only a life jacket on the pontoon gives a tiny splash of colour. Headlines are a starker version of greige, the United Kingdom has recorded an excess of 100,000 deaths linked to Covid.

This picture is also in full glorious colour again there is a tiny splash of colour on a pontoon . On this occasion the splash of colour is an office building painted a curious shade of salmon pink. The thing neither of these pictures show is the unrelenting rain. What they do demonstrate is why safety equipment is painted red, or in unusual circumstances Salmon Pink. The salmon pink office is part of a Royal Navy Munitions Depot. Barges, called Lighters, make their way to the Jetty, on which it stands, from the Dockyard to collect armaments to transport down the river to load onto warships. I had often wondered why the building was pink. I presume now that is is because Salmon Pink also stands out in Greige. There would not be a jetty if the barges had trouble seeing it.

As ponderings go this one is biased towards the dismal end of the spectrum. Late January, dreadful pandemic statistics, jetties solely built to deliver weapons are not the ingredients for a joyful blog particularly set within a background of a third lockdown.

Thankfully Facebook timehop gave me an eight year old image, also with some obvious red to twink the mood a little.

Hugo loves a drink of tea. He is never too fussed about the design of the mug, but for the purposes of this blog I’m quite grateful he chose this one for his morning refreshment. A tiny uplift of encouragement in a world that is rather greige.

Pandemic Pondering #308

Some Sunday Pondering.

“Turn the other cheek”

“Let Bygones be Bygones”

“Forgive and Forget”

Obviously I ponder, I’ve always pondered, and I’ve pondered sayings like this for as long as I have pondered. Several years in Sunday School failed to drum Christian forgiveness or much else into me.

* note to readers. My grandmother took me to Sunday School, my parents were casual atheists. However my parents were always rapturous and industrious when I was returned to them several hours later. I was always puzzled about having to attend Sunday School when, even to a child, it was obvious that Church lay in the same place as Unicorns or Mermaids for my parents. Parenthood cleared the whole thing up, ‘Sunday School’ was a guaranteed child free space for my parents to enjoy ‘ conjugal bliss’ in much the same way that a Thomas the Tank video might have done in the nineties or for more prolonged events a Disney Film.

” Never bear a grudge” is another one. I do not bear grudge for the whole Sunday School thing. I do rather wish two hours a week had been better spent with my grandparents in a swimming pool or soft play area, but those were things of the future.

All of this is a perambulation taking us to my home grown philosophy. One that has never been peer reviewed or researched.

My cheeks stay resolutely in the same place. Bygones are inclined towards the dusty. I do forgive, and mostly I forget. But I don’t forget, the really big, important harms to my soul. That really does seem to be an act of foolishness.

Instead my non- forgiveness, my grudges if you will. Live in a small disheveled carrier bag within the massive Industrial Unit of my happy, glorious memory bank of fabulous life experiences. The grotty, grudge carrier bag lives in a closet in the small room of sad memories that sits within the massive Industrial Unit of happy stuff.

There really is a point to all this pondering. Just before New Year I received a text asking me to do something. Every point of my personal moral compass was twirling round to point towards me saying ‘ Yes’. The whole Industrial Unit of Happiness said ‘yes’. The small room of Sadness said ‘Yes’. But when my thoughts delved into the very small, very grotty, carrier bag of grudges, my fingers found the unfamiliar word ‘ No’. Knowing that this was the guidance I actually needed the decision was made. It has not caused me a single sleepless night.

Don’t bear a grudge. Discard the unimportant ones. Keep the significant ones in a grotty carrier bag out of sight. Pop your hand in very, very rarely if all the happy or sensible stuff is not giving you the right answers. Not all wisdom comes from a good place.

Sometimes to get a good nights sleep we need wisdom from the grotty carrier bag.

Pandemic Pondering #303

Our first bunch of supermarket daffodils illustrate this blog today. They have just emerged from tight buds. Strange to think that daffodils were a favourite subject when pondering started. Now there are so many favourite subjects that I would not have imagined a year ago.

My maternal grandmother would often say ” Some of us quite enjoyed the war you know”

I cant say I’ve enjoyed the pandemic, could anyone? It has forced me to adapt my life and I enjoy many of those adaptations. The unexpected benefits of a pretty dire period of history.

Daffodils are also known as the Heralds of Spring. I think mid- January is pushing that title a bit, particularly in Cornwall where daffodils arrive early and long before the worst of the winter weather. Regardless of their reputation they are very welcome guests @theoldmortuary , particularly in this tricksy period of the pandemic. Maybe the next time I buy the first supermarket daffodils of the season, life will have taken on a more easily navigated road map and just possibly I will have stopped pondering Pandemically.