Pandemic Pondering #294

A funny thing happened between Lockdown I and Lockdown II. @theoldmortuary took to the water.

As spring turned to summer and swimming pools stayed resolutely closed we took to the sea for swimming and bobbing about while talking as soon as it was permitted in mid May.The habit stuck and by November we were part of a ‘thing’ a massive increase of people wild swimming. Not only that but by persisting with it we were able to do it in skin, until mid November.

This weekend wetsuits were purchased, and that is the result of the funny thing that happened between Lockdown I and II. Why did we not just stop swimming in the sea in September just like any normal year?

We’ve cut down on the post swim reward. Black coffee without the embellishments of doughnuts, Eccles cakes or cinnamon buns. Wet suits are not as forgiving as bathing suits. 2020 is notorious enough without being the year two wetsuits were purchased. Whatever next!

Pandemic Pondering #293


Oh my goodness, I’ve completely missed my year anniversary of daily blogging. As regular readers know , daily blogging was never a plan but the Pandemic has stepped in and daily blogging is where I have ended up. It would be tempting to leave a missed anniversary as just that but admitting my error allows me to share some photographs of an area I’ve loved since long ago when it was shabby and even more since the rest of the world has discovered it.

1 year and 12 days after my blogging course I bring you Spitalfields. A year and 10 days ago I wouldn’t have had the confidence to write a random blog. On the 9th and 10th November 2019 none of us had any idea what was coming; a Pandemic that has given me the time to ponder.

What thrills me is that the amazing Palimpsest that is all over Spitalfields inspired a friend of mine, Anne Crozier, to create Palimpsest for an Art Exhibition in Tavistock.

Pukka Palimpsest © Anne Crozier
Spitalfields Palimpsest

Great images just happen in this special corner of East London.

My relationship with the building the course was held in goes back many years . The Townhouse , Spitalfields is an antique shop with beautiful contemporary pieces sprinkled among older items. It is an art gallery and cafe and holds some resources to demonstrate the importance of the area to families linked with Hugenot migrants. Accomodation is also offered in unexpectedly comfy rooms.

On a previous visit, before he knew how to behave, Hugo hid in a corner pretending to be stock.

Here is the back door of The Town House.

And some more street art that was just around the corner.

And a link to the website of the Gentle Author who ran the course I attended.

And another to the townhouse, I don’t know how it has fared during the pandemic.

Both links show beautifully why I am inspired by them.

Pandemic Pondering #291

Just as I come up with a great # for Instagram, #lightupnovember2020. It, November that is, decided to light itself up.

Sunshine, infinity pools and islands in Firestone Bay. Basking on a sunshine flooded seat and a three hour dog walk just to enjoy the weather are not normal behaviours in the third week of November.

Added to that a, somewhat tenuous pair of naturally occuring hearts washed up in the detritus of this weeks unusually high tides.

Three hours jiggling about in my pocket, unlocked, gave my phone ideas of independence. It called random people, my apologies if you were one of them, and took many photographs. The photographs were mostly black but some of them may turn out to be useful.

In contrast my afternoon was spent in a Zoom meeting with creative types which gave me a funny thought inspired by my morning in the sun.

In Victorian times it was not unusual to dress up a recently deceased person , often children, and call a professional photographer for one last family photo. The propping and support to make this look even vaguely normal might just have a use in our Pandemic times, allowing participants to take a little nap during a zoom meeting.

Obviously I am not thinking about the meeting that I was involved with. That was as scintillating and fizzy as these things get.

However when I arrived yesterday at the car park, overlooking Plymouth Sound, I parked next to a man who was fast asleep in his car.I doubt very much that he had anticipated sitting in a car that was delightfully hot from bright sunlight. Dressed in a shirt and tie with jeans, he was slumped at an awkward angle which made me suspicious and slightly concerned. When I got close I could see his laptop open on his lap with an active , corporate looking Zoom meeting going on while he dozed. I left him to it. What he needed at that moment was the kind of props the Victorians had used. Something to make a dead, or asleep person, very much look like they are part of the action.

I did not take a crafty photo to illustrate this blog, that would just have been wrong, where as photographing dead children was entirely normal. Changing times… Different Pandemics.

Pandemic Pondering #287

Some days we commit to a dog walk regardless of the weather. Yesterday’s was a case in point. Our regular circular walk around Sutton Harbour in Plymouth was tied into the day by some chores that also needed to be achieved. Once the chores were done the weather had taken quite a turn for the worse, our walk from Commercial Street to the Barbican was definitely the sort of walk where you spend more time looking at your feet with your head lowered against the ice cold needles of rain. Pondering my feet as a distraction against rain gave me the topic of this particular walk. The Barbican area of Plymouth has more cobbles than any other area of Britain.

I am no expert on cobbles. I do know they can be lethal when wearing high heels or when out on work Christmas parties. Both things that the world has given up in 2020.

Cobbles fascinate me . I’ve even painted an abstract , still unsold unsurprisingly, that was inspired by the bright lights, happiness and occasional vomit on the streets of the Nightlife area of the Barbican. I called it Excressences. Even with a gorgeous title it didn’t sell.

Detail from Excressences ©theoldmortuary

In the time before Lockdown we would sometimes do Historic guided tours of Plymouth for pleasure. One of them taught us how to identify shrapnel damage to streets and buildings. I wonder if this is an example on the disused Railtrack on the cobbles of Tin Wharf.

As you can see, the weather did dry up and after a coffee we looked skyward only to discover Christmas had sneaked in early.

Maybe I should paint more unpopular abstracts!

Pandemic Pondering #283

This pondering is not about fungus , because I know know nothing about Fungi. Googling Fungi is madness as misinformation in the Fungi world is a recipe for a very upset tummy. I need some random pictures to illustrate this blog and mushrooms and toadstools are prolific right now in damp South West England.

I’ve been working on a painting commission for the last few days and I don’t really like sharing pictures of commissions until they are in the hands of their new owners. There is an added pressure when painting a commission, not necessarily at the beginning but certainly at the end. Which is where I was yesterday when I banged my head on a pot of black gesso and it overbanced and fell to the floor!!!

Gesso is a dense , matt, underpaint that comes in a range of colours. I always use black as it is also useful to paint the shadow support that I have on some of my boards. As the black gesso fell towards both the floor and the painting I was imagining the horror that was about to unfold. To my surprise, inexplicably, the pot had slid upright down the face of the painting and landed on the floor with not a drop of paint spilled and only a small scratch and some tiny splashes on the painting. At this point I can almost hear you all wondering why I’m bothering to tell this tale of potential but not actual disaster.

The point is the release of happiness when the worst that could happen doesn’t happen, the resulting joy made me forget I had banged my head.

The painting was easily fixable and the whole scene of the drama was easily tidied up. Once I knew no harm has really been done I took the dogs out for a happy walk, grateful that diaster had been avoided. With a definite spring in my step I popped into the supermarket on the way home. The supermarket was weird, weirder even than the current wieredness that is not quite recognising people because they are wearing masks. For some reason everyone I glanced at seemed to recognise me but I did not have a clue who they were. There was plenty of eye contact and those rather strange eye smiles that we have all developed. It was only some time later, after I had returned home, that I caught sight of my face. On my forehead was a perfect black crescent of black paint, from when I had banged my head on the pot of gesso. It looked as if I had deliberately drawn a smiley face on my forehead to cheer people up. I am not that community spirited!

And that my friends is why you have pictures of fungi, you can see the painting later in the month and no one needs to see my face enhanced by an artificial forehead smile.

Pandemic Pondering #281

This is the first of another ‘ themed’ Pandemic Ponderings. In the world of proper journalism it might be known as a ‘slow’ news day. ‘Slow’ news, however, pretty much sums up Ponderings. This is a blog that could happen any day. One that that I can whip out when daily life is not giving me a theme. A recent flurry of domestic admin has unearthed a lot of miscellaneous printed matter. My mother’s collection of 1960″s and 70’s sexual health books is one of the more interesting finds.

My mum ran Family Planning Clinics in Essex. These books were part of an informal library that were provided, in her clinic waiting rooms, alongside the more normal aged magazines. The books were boxed up and transported between the three locations of her clinics. In between clinics they lived under the stairs at home.

Always a precocious reader it was inevitable that I would have discovered the books , and dipped into them long before they would have made any sense to me. Reading them again 50 or more years later made for a very giggly weekend . I’ve done a bit of googling to share other snippets that can be discovered about these old books . This first blog on the subject is about the easiest book to write about.

Easy to write about because the title was parodied around the world, its unusual tagline ” * BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK” was easily tagged onto any subject and made a laughter provoking punchline with relatively little effort. More people were aware of the title than ever read the book. The simple question and answer format suited me as a fledgling reader.

I realise the subject matter may make many of you think that reading this stuff was in appropriate for a child. You may well be right but I was a voracious reader, I was just flexing my newly acquired skill of being able to glean information from books rather than just reading stories. In all honesty the sexual nature of these books didn’t interest me . If my mum had been an expert on arable crops I would have read her text books about yields and weeds. This book also had no pictures. Another first for me into the adult world of books, even if the ‘adult’ content pretty much passed me by in my quest to improve my reading skills.

Reading it now , it is impossible not to laugh. The author David Reuben does not hold back in his answers. His prejudices and personal opinions dressed up alongside his genuine intellectual knowledge as factual answers. This seems harsh but as a child I completely missed that the book was meant to be witty. Read as an adult in 2020 it is hilarious, if you can find a copy on a second hand book website I can recommend it as lockdown reading. Go for the original 1969 version though, it was rewritten in 1999. The link below is a good source of information about the book, the author and the societal and historical context in which it was first published.

Pandemic Pondering #280

Daily pondering is a lovely habit. It doesn’t always go to plan. As I write this it is the evening of Remembrance Sunday and this morning it seemed entirely appropriate to just post a simple picture of one of our poppies.We should have harvested more Poppy pictures today for the Monday blog but that didn’t happen. Never mind, a ready-made subject for 11.11.20. Meanwhile the day took its own path. Loads and loads of walking, some coffee and some 2:1 government approved socialising outdoors. Next week a painting commission from last month’s exhibition has to be started. It is a little too wintery in the garden studio so the table in the actual old mortuary has been cleared ready for action.

I’ve been experimenting with some new paints this weekend. I didn’t get quite as much done as I had hoped but anything more will have to wait until the commission is finished.

To avoid temptation all the experimental stuff has been tidied away. This Lockdown has a project!

Pandemic Pondering #275

It’s Complicated

Living @theoldmortuary currently is a little like living in a wisdom tooth while the tooth next door is being filled. Unanounced a week ago a team from a gas company dug up the road next to the house. The front of the house is both an informal depot and the location of temporary traffic lights.

The configuration of barriers, mounds of tarmac and holes in the ground changes daily. This morning the set up feels like a metaphor for the soon to be imposed Lockdown and just like the Lockdown we have no idea how long these road works will go on or how disruptive they will be.

Today was another day of domestic admin and rain avoidance. Looking into the roadworks during a spell of dry weather didn’t make things any clearer.

Time to accept that the road ahead is full of pitfalls and barriers,while we wait to find a way through.

Pandemic Pondering #274

This is the face of a dog who believes her humans are not performing due diligence to her needs.

In truth her humans were tied up with life admin and paperwork. It’s amazing that really well filed information only three years old is more difficult to find than 100 year old documents @theoldmortuary . 100 year old documents are enormous time wasters, as are old family photographs and any number of the things we found today. The job expanded to fill the time available.

In other news we are preparing for lockdown and rather than panic buying we are panic socialising . Touching base with a few people before we are banned.

Either activity is not as popular as a good long walk with either dog.

Hugo being dogged