#92 theoldmortuary ponders

A photograph never lies. Digital photography is certainly a big liar and analogue photography was not so squeaky clean either. Check out dead child Victorian photography to see how photographers altered the truth.


Less macabre but also deceitfully the Cottingly Fairies were also a photographic hoax.


No deliberate deception is intended by my window picture but one quick glance might suggest now is a good time for the early morning elimination walk for the dogs. It is not a good time, the rain is blowing sideways and no amount of the ‘ right’ clothing is going to make any walk this morning a pleasure. Maybe the dogs are cleverer than I think, they got me up at 5 this morning for a quick comfort break in the back yard.

None of this is actually the point of this blog. This house is surrounded on three sides by the sea. The fish in our window are swimming in the only direction that would take them to dry land. Having only just realised this I feel compelled to turn them around. Having done that I now wonder if they were always fleeing predators.

#88 theoldmortuary ponders

The first sunrise picture of 2022. The temperature has plummeted and even the coastal pigeon is feeling the chill.

Over Christmas I read a fabulous paragraph that has engaged my pondering head enormously.

A fact is information minus emotion. An opinion is information plus experience. Ignorance is an opinion lacking information, and stupidity is an opinion that ignores a fact.

The first pure ponder of 2022, it’s enough to make a pigeon stare.

Pandemic Pondering #361


There is a tranquility in this picture that I’m not quite feeling.

Yesterday I took the scissors to my hair. With a month to go until stylists are allowed to open up it may have been a rash move. Im not even sure why yesterday was the day I decided to do it. Too many Zoom meetings or calls I think. I spend most of my life not looking at myself . Meetings have become a liitle mad. Talking to a group of people, myself included, on Zoom shows me everything Ive ever wondered.

Did I Look Ok.

Do I look interested when others talk and I am listening.

Did I say what I needed too.

Can anyone tell Im also using my phone.

The last worry shouldn’t be a worry, additional devices are the current equivalent of arriving with a sheaf of papers. My actual papers , an old- school reporters notebook is just about full after a year of Zooming. It has a life of its own . There was a plan early on to use different colours for different Zooming. In the excitement, that has been lockdown life, Ive misplaced some of the colours. Without fail for at least the last three months I have forgotten to replace the notepad. In consequence my notes now fill borders and gaps between notes made months ago.

Yesterday I found 6 unused pages in the middle of the pad. The excitement in my room was palpable!

There is a quote in my head , I have no idea where I got it from.

” There is no point in an archive if there is not an efficient way of retrievals”

My Lockdown brain has got this covered!

Ask me for a certain date or point and I get too it really quickly. Somehow remembering the colours or patterns , doodles might be another word, where any particular meetings notes were jotted down. This could all have been done more efficiently with dedicated note books but I wasn’t planning on going on like this for a year. The notepad was temporary. I may never give it up.

If only I knew shorthand it would be a thing of true abstract beauty. A modern version of papyrus with stenograhic symbols merged with hieroglyphs.

The reality is messier. As was my hair.

The notebook is a keeper, the hair is gone.

Friday another week done .

Pandemic Pondering #293

Some days a pondering is burning to get out but perhaps doesn’t quite have the legs to fulfill enough interest. Today is one of those days. A pondering that has been poddling about in my brain for days runs headlong into another pondering and boof!! They find they have something in common and off they run onto the blog taking some nice images with them to expose themselves on a Saturday. The 10 on the header image is the common link and it is superimposed on Seaton Beach where we harvested some more vitamin D.


This morning Google maps showed me all the locations I visited in 2020. Thank goodness there has been no major crimes on the M4/ M5 corridor last year. I do not have an alibi or a distant location to hide behind. The point of putting this in the blog is that I’ve worked out the last time I had such limited travel was the year I turned 10!

The age of 10 is also the last time I wrote down the word ‘ ornery’ until PP#347

As mentioned in previous blogs my life as an only child was filled with reading. I got ‘ornery’ from Mark Twain and Brer Rabbit. It, the word, lives mainly in my head as a fairly regular descriptive of certain people.

PP#347 was possibly the first time I have written it down since I was 10. I’m not sure if shame, indignation or fury has stopped me using it.

At age 10 I threw it into a composition during an English class at my primary school, soon after I was marched to the headmistresses office. In terms understandable to a child I was told that I must not copy other authors sentences into my essays. Apparently my sentence construction was too good to have come from my own skillset and imagination.

The Headmistress and my form teacher were unmoved by my referencing to the stories of Brer Rabbit and I was warned never to copy again. Ornery has remained a word for private usage until this week. I was seething. So seething that when I read a glowing obituary of that particular Headmistress in Other Lives in the Guardian Newspaper I could not contain my irritation as I remembered that and another misjudgement of my character.

©Claudia Winkleman

Lockdown reading has brought me to this book just this week. In the very first chapter Claudia uses the word ‘ornery’ and boasts that she knows how to use it correctly. No marching off to the headmistress for a published author!

Liberated! The minute I felt slightly dyspeptic, crotchety or even waspish about President Trumps’ shenanigans this week I whipped out ‘ornery’, if Claudia can use it in public without humiliation then so can I!

So there we have it. Pondering around the theme of 10. While taking in Vitamin D on Seaton Beach.

Pandemic Pondering #259

©Elle Media Group for royalmarsden.org

The first Christmas card of the season arrived yesterday. Thanks to our lovely friends ‘ The Hobbits of Cheam’
It features a robin and the toe of a lovely red wellie.

Wellies are a bit of a topic @theoldmortuary just recently. The wellies that took us from muddy park walks to commuting to work in London, on occasions, had a simultaneous death pact during 2020. Three pairs have hit the recycling bin in the last month. Two with leaky seams that worked OK in summer mud and were serviceable until faced with proper winter Cornish rain. The last pair, an incognito wellie masquerading as a Chelsea boot, developed an awkward fault. One of the soles started to take in water and mud . The fault was unnoticeable in fields or other grassy areas but the minute I strayed onto tarmac or any hard surface it made squishy noises and loud farty sounds . My feet were never affected and remained dry but sometimes the curious sounds startled passers-by. The sounds were not a good enough reason to recycle them but as the weather has got colder and we’ve needed some heating they have started exuding a range of smells as they rest in the hallway. Some smells are not so bad in a house in winter, warm earth or even mild vegetation smell and sound almost like a deliberately chosen room fragrance. But you don’t always know what is in the mud you’ve walked through. and sometimes the smell was more rugged. Clinical even, like a sigmoidoscopy room after a busy day or Accident and Emergency on a Friday night when a fighting drunk loses control of their bowels and creates a toxic cocktail of smells. The Chelsea boots had to go!

This wouldn’t really be a story but 2020 twists everything. Once the decision was made to ‘ let the Chelsea Boots go’ a fairly quick replacement was necessary. You would think replacing wellies would be pretty simple, but apparently during the run up to the storm that is ‘ Black Friday’ everyone had needed short wellies in a size 6 ( I need short wellies because my calves are a well rounded and substantial pair of muscles)

The only pair I could find that would fit the bill were a pair of ‘rugged’ ones from Kurt Geiger! Rugged or Chunky boots are this season’s big fashion news and if you are buying boots from Kurt Geiger they are going to have a stylistic edge. They look like the love child of a polyamourous coupling between a tractor tyre, Chelsea boot and builders safety boot conceived during Pride Weekend.

They neither leak nor smell and that is wonderful.

My thanks to the lovely ‘Hobbits of Cheam’ who sent us the first Christmas card of the season. They also very kindly wrote that these blogs are ” Keeping them going in 2020″ That is awfully big boots to fill and really lovely feedback. Hobbits you inspired this blog, I also can’t wait to see you on the other side and I hid your names in one of the paragraphs x.


Extending my Advent to include Yule has brought such pleasure. During my ponderings I discovered the Yuletide Goat. This thrills me because I have a fascination for goats . They are the highlight of Greek holidays, and a recurring source of pleasure.

Before today my knowledge of all things Yule extended to logs, both the chocolate and massively woody sort. Yuletide , the time around Christmas, originally of Pagan origin.

The Yule Goat is a revelation. He is a Christmas tradition of Northern Europe with Pagan origins. He was in some traditions the giver of gifts , a precursor to Father Christmas . As traditions have matured and altered he has become the creature that Father Christmas rides to deliver gifts or even the animal that pulls the sleigh. This is all hugely confusing in Britain where our traditions are either created or improved by first the Victorians and secondly the USA. Goats do not play a part .

Imagine the complexity of the Santa App if it had to cope with Reindeers being taken out of harness over Scandinavia to be replaced by goats or even Santa going Solo and just casually swinging a leg over a solitary goat to hit the hard to reach places.

The Goat is significant in Poland. Particularly vexatious for me as I’m writing this on Boxing Day and I spent the day with Polish relations who could have explained Goatish things to me.

As an aside I spent yesterday with American relations and had to explain Boxing Day.

Trust me Advent 2020 will be much more Goaty. I will research goats, I will photograph goats . I will find more utterly gorgeous Goat illustrations like this one from Buccifolio.


I remembered a festive goat from Hong Kong a couple of years ago at PMQ. Created for the Chinese New Year. Not exactly a Yule Goat but certainly proof that theoldmortuary loves a Goaty photo.



Why an advent blog? Actually why not, theoldmortuary blog is a flimsy insubstantial thing. A daily pondering of no real significance, so why not ponder productively whilst the evenings are long.

Advent is not solely the possession of the Christian Church, like many things considered to be Christian, it was a pagan tradition beforehand. Advent in the Northern hemisphere belongs to December when the days are short and the weather intemperate. Some days feel as if almost nothing is achieved within daylight hours. The long dark evenings are good for cosy activities like reading or indeed pondering. Advent ponders are whatever crops up in my day that makes me think…
Today it’s baubles.

These amazing baubles hang in a local garden centre. These particular ones have travelled from Slovakia, others from the Ukraine, but most come from China and in particular Yiwu.

This article from The Guardian in 2014 explains their production.

Gisella Graham is a bauble designer and wholesaler. theoldmortuary has loads of her baubles, some from the Garden Centre and some from Liberty, London. The ones we mostly buy are London inspired, they also make great gifts for our family and friends abroad. I’m unsure where I thought baubles came from, but it wasn’t factories in China or wholesalers near the Elephant and Castle. Like Yiwu, Elephant and Castle is not a remotely Christmassy location. I only mention this because I once got lost nearby and discovered this bauble Mecca. Just as in China, normal people work there. No Elves. Shame.

I’m sure the baubles of my youth came from Poland and Hong Kong. They were fine and fragile. None have survived my many moves. These random thoughts have inspired me to research the history of the bauble.

Germany was the home of the first blown glass bauble in the 16th Century. Hans Grenier produced glass beads and tin figures in the small town of Lauscha. In the next two centuries, the growing popularity and commercial success of his original decorations inspired other glass blowers in the town to make baubles. By 1880, F W Woolworth had discovered the German baubles of Lauscha and started to import them, despite bauble manufacturing beginning in New York in 1870. This German business grew and flourished until the end of World War Two.

After WW2, the Lauscha bauble factories became state owned and production ceased. However, after the Berlin wall came down most of the companies re-established themselves as private companies. They positioned themselves as high-end manufacturers, not competing with mass production and continue to produce baubles of very high quality.

Meanwhile, to fill the gap created by the closure of the Lauscha producers after WW2, mass production of baubles started, in the second half of the twentieth century, in Poland, other Eastern European countries, Mexico and China.

My recollection of Hong Kong baubles proved to be correct. During the Korean war, there was an American embargo on China. Hong Kong quickly increased its manufacturing capability not only to produce the products it would normally import from China but also produced enough goods to export to the rest of the world replacing China’s output. Glass blowing had been established in Hong Kong in the 1920’s, so inevitably baubles became another mass produced item that Hong Kong could export all over the world.

Bauble pondering, a journey of changing destinations, sometimes caused by war. Fascinating.


Mistletoe at Cotehele

Mistletoe looking glossy during last weeks visit to Cotehele.

Culturally it’s a busy plant, there’s the well known kissing tradition, beloved by Hollywood and the music industry.

#metoo has illuminated that to be a less benign and darker force at times. Especially in the workplace.

Pre- Christians, and Ancient Greeks tagged Mistletoe with the responsibility of representing male fertility. The Celts took this to a whole new level and claimed Mistletoe was the actual semen of a chap called Taranis. Surely that would smart* a bit.

It takes the Romans to give Mistletoe a more comfortable festive responsibility . As part of Saturnalia it was hung around doorways and thresholds to protect those within and represented Peace, Love and Understanding.

*smart – verb, to feel or cause a sharp burning pain in part of the body.

More plant based Cotehele stuff,

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The Last Dahlia- a pondering.

Yesterday was a day of garden clearing and tidying ready for winter. The last Dahlia was picked.

Google is a wonderful thing, we needed to know how to overwinter the dahlia plants. The trouble is, with Google, it doesn’t just stop there. Once I had discovered that a thick mulch of bark would do the trick, I set off on other Dahlia related adventures. Goodness there was a lot of sadness. The National Trust property, Baddesley has reluctantly decided to give up having a Dahlia border due to an infiltration of pests. 20 years of gardening tradition gone only moments after I had first discovered it.


Worse was to follow, Black Dahlia was the name ascribed to a murder victim in Los Angeles in 1947. Elizabeth ( Bette) Short was found dead in a parking lot. Her body dismembered and eviscerated and her face disfigured by something described as a ‘Glasgow Smile’, her mouth was cut from ear to ear.


Away from Google and still pondering Dahlias I remembered that while we were in Hong Kong ,in June, the very early style of the protesters was not only black clothing but also each protester carried a white flower, very often a Dahlia. Why did I not take photos? There was ample chance, peaceful protesters with flowers filled our trips to the city .Sadly things have escalated and the flowers have a different purpose now.

Photo from Sydney Morning Herald

Dahlia pondering, sadder than you might expect.