Sunflowers on a tricksy day. Pandemic Ponderings is not the place to share all the ups and downs @theoldmortuary . More a place to ponder on the pandemic and the effect it has on a fairly normal household. Today a small family pet went on that dreaded one way trip to the vet. Not one of the coffee hounds. Visits to the vet are a hugely affected by Covid -19 precautions and restrictions. So today was difficult plus difficult. Yet the vet we met was brilliant at expressing kindness and compassion at a distance and with a mask on. A sad experience made better by someone who was brilliant at being a good human.
The death of small pets, always seems to be a particularly poignant grief. I’ve always thought it gathers all the sadness that is laying around in your mind from other experiences and allows it a way out which seems disproportionate. I suspect the pandemic has magnified that sensation. Which is why I’ve allowed this subject into Ponderings.
Living through the Pandemic has probably made @theoldmortuary all a little bit more fragile or sensitive. The normal tribulations of life just seem that little bit more taxing.
Yesterday was a day for basking in afternoon sunshine. Autumn may have arrived but the sunshine had forgotten and we sat, like lizards on hot rocks, taking in the late September sun. The wind however was very much in Autumn mode and swirled and nipped at us whenever we turned a corner between buildings. In truth the basking was accidental , we were only on one of our regular dog walks but we had stopped for a coffee and some people watching. Neither were exciting enough to be pondered about but the sunshine was lovely. For reasons which I don’t fully understand the water which accompanied our coffee arrived iced and with a straw. Leave two women with a straw in strong sunshine and this is what you get!
The link below takes you to an excellent article published in the Guardian today.
Pandemic Ponderings has covered most of the topics mentioned but the whole lot, covered by a proper newspaper, makes for a less whimsical read. Even before this article appeared, today, other people’s writing was going to inform this blog.
This is the book,randomly chosen, for the September choice of my book club. By a huge coincidence a character in this novel visits Plymouth . A couple of comments in the book reminded me of things I have not yet pondered about . Given that this blog is about Plymouth, I will just share the Plymouth based one today. But before that an aside.
An hour or so before this blog was due to be published I finished this book. Further curious and serendipitous connections come to light. I love the book for many reasons, including its locations. It is based geographically in places I know intimately, Cornwall and the area around St Pauls Cathedral in the City of London.
Just as I sit through the rolling credits of films, I also read the acknowledgements in books. This one dealt a huge dollop of serendipity. The author, Sarah Winman writes ” Thank you to The Gentle Author and the community that has grown around the Spitaldfelds Life Blog- you are a constant reminder of why we do what we do”
Spitaldfelds Life is the Gold Standard that drives my writing @theoldmortuary . The Gentle Author guided and encouraged me, and many other blog writers to simply write. The surprise to see him mentioned at the back of this novel gave me such a warm and welcome boost. He really is the loveliest of men , the courses he runs are inspirational.
Returning to talking about the pondering the book inspired. In,A Year of Marvellous Ways, a sexual awakening and affaire de coeur is marked by the gift of a penny which is significant to the location of the entwinement. To illustrate this I need to rummage a bit.
It didn’t take long to find an old penny. Significantly this one would have been used in the Plymouth Area. It was designed by Leonard Charles Wyon an adaptation of a design by his father William Wyon for earlier pennies.
The lighthouse, which can just be glimpsed behind Britannia is Smeatons Tower. Plymouths Iconic Landmark. Imaged on the coin in its original position on the Eddystone Rocks. 9 miles south west of Rame Head in Cornwall. Despite being closest to Cornwall the rocks are within the City limits of Plymouth and therefore considered to be within Devon.
Another blog that shaped its own destiny. Not the journey I planned but the journey that happened whilst I was planning.
Don’t you just hate wisdom that gets shared on Instagram and Facebook. I’m not a complete quote/ inspiring text pooper but in truth many are pretty dire. And then completely by accident you write one of your own.
I was messaging a former work colleague, who works hard under difficult circumstances. Her only moan was that age was ‘ getting’ to her. Without thinking I replied ” Age is unavoidable, surf it with style”
I’m not normally that profound but I had just got out of the sea after a really long morning swim. Last night we wild camped near to Tregirls Beach so we could make the most of a high tide early in the morning.
The evening dog walk was dramatic, but we had missed sunset so walking on uneven ground was tricksy.
Hugo and Lola settled in with books and the newspaper while we got supper ready.
Tregirls beach was the location that inspired my profoundity. A good long swim with just the right amount of chill was exactly what was needed to clean the cobwebs from my mind, and indeed prepare the ground for a memorable quote. Depending on your standards of course.
A little bit of weekend meandering. I realise that 2020 is both a landmark year and one that many of us would like to see the back of. I’ve caught myself twice this week discussing how I would like to look back on this year and understand its significance on the future. I don’t think I’m wishing my life away but I’m intrigued to know how life will be post pandemic ponderings. For now I’m sharing some random thoughts and images that have brightened our weekend.
A very late wildflower patch is maturing under our outdoor tomatoes, tomatoes that would not exist if we hadn’t been in a Lockdown for so long.
The glorious poppies of late spring and early summer, much loved and instagrammed by our neighbours during lockdown are long gone but one lonely little seed pod came indoors with me today and nestled in a sunbeam on a velvet cushion.
The next pictures are related because they were taken at the same location. The first two are tiny figureheads that mark the gender of the Loos at our favourite pub/coffee shop. I’ve included them because during last week I’ve been working at The Box, a new museum and gallery in Plymouth during the soft opening sessions before it opens properly. Figureheads are a big feature of the entrance area, but any photographs of the actual museum are banned until the museum is properly open. These two are at the Lord High Admiral in Plymouth. A fine substitute until I can share the real things. The Lola picture was taken just after we had had our weekly coffee fix at The Hutong ‘pop-up’
Four pictures from the weekend that would not have existed if the Pandemic had not happened.
A vision of the Mewstone means that @theoldmortuary it is dog grooming day. Now we are addicted to sea swimming it no longer means coastal path walks and coffee. It means 2 hours of swimming without dogs waiting not so patiently for us on the beach. Serendipity is a funny thing, when I was doing training at The Box, mentioned in Pandemic Pondering #220 I met a woman who had lived close to us in London, we discovered this when she commented on my tote bag.
In London we lived 2 miles apart, in Devon/ Cornwall 13 miles divides us. We met for the first time last Thursday and today by complete co incidence we sat next to each other on the beach at Wembury. Tomorrow despite neither of us wishing to work at The Box on a Tuesday we find ourselves both rota’d to do our first days work, in the new museum and art gallery, as you read this blog. It seems we were destined to meet somehow. Luckily neither of us were hiding behind the ubiquitous British windbreak. Less about protecting from the wind and more about defining territory I often think.
Today was a personal grooming kind of day. The eyebrows that scatter themselves around my supraorbital ridge need corralling into tidy brows every now and again. They also require dyeing to give my ageing face some defining features. It never ceases to amaze me that so much eyebrow is removed with waxing, plucking and threading and yet I leave the calm of the salon with freshly honed eyebrows that look thicker and more verdant than I walked in with.
It is described as a lifestyle store and cafe, both of these functions are gloriously styled with idiosyncratic lighting, fixtures, merchandise and fittings.
There is an intoxicating smell of good food, coffee and old leather.
The old leather is the smell I wish I could link to. It instantly transported me back to a time when close proximity to leather clad musicians or art students was a thing. The vibe at Rust and the Wolf is more biker really but where a smell takes anyone back to is a personal thing.
How this wonderful place emerged in Ashburton, a town that feels genteel,is slightly puzzling. The coffee , food and the Lifestyle store is a heady mix of sensory pleasure that is a little rougher, in a good way than you might expect from a small market town.
What a wonderful word. So much more exciting than Varnishing Day
I’ve received an email with the instructions for a Winter Exhibition that I will submit some paintings to.
Instead of a Private View the exhibition will have a Varnishing Day.
Each exhibiting artist will be able to take a friend/relative/Patron/collector to see the exhibition a day before the opening of the exhibition to the public.
It is an old tradition, associated with the Royal Academy in London, revamped for the Coronovirus era. Vernissage is the French word for Varnishing Day. A day when artists would visit the exhibition and varnish/finish paintings in situ and show their friends and patrons the new seasons work. Ultimately Varnishing Day turned into the more contemporary Private View so it is intriguing that with Coronovirus restrictions the only way to allow artists the opportunity to see the lay out of an exhibition is to revert to a more controllable format.
Not that Varnishing Day was always controllable in history. The Royal Academy in London saw Turner deliver paintings that required more than finishing off and his spot off with Constable is a notable art moment when he added with a flourish a red buoy to a seascape. Constable had taken 15 years to paint his picture painstakingly and felt the snub of Turner’s swift embellishment.
Knowing the cattiness and ill concealed competitiveness of the art world Turner and Constable cannot have been the only disagreeable moment in the Royal Academies long history of Varnishing Days. Nothing is recorded, it seems what happens at Varnishing Day stays at Varnishing Day.
Literature and in particular novels about real or imaginary artists portray Varnishing Day as a far more hedonistic event, which seems more likely given the heady mix of artists, wealthy patrons and hangers on. The proximity of The Royal Academy to Piccadilly, the pleasure centre of London for centuries makes it unlikely that Varnishing Day was ever a sedate affair.
Plymouths own Joshua Reynolds the very first President of the Royal Academy was known for leading quite a colourful life of excess. He probably preferred the word Vernissage too.
Covid-19 has not, thankfully attacked us personally with its Spiky little viral sphere, but it has altered our lives significantly and forever. One of the more acceptable changes is a new found love of swimming in the sea; or wild swimming as it is now known.
Weekends used to be about getting a good cup of coffee to start the weekend. Now the Coffee has a higher purpose, to warm us up after a dip.
And for today’s brief blog it gave me a colour theme.
Life took @theoldmortuary to a cemetery this morning. The weather was shocking for September and a dense fog filled every nook and cranny . Taking the dogs for a scenic walk was pointless so we took a walk in a cemetery that began its existence to accommodate the dead from a different sort of Public Health Crisis
The Plymouth, Devonport and Stonehouse Cemetery was set up to alleviate overcrowding in church graveyards. 400 victims of the Cholera outbreak of 1848 are buried there.
This morning it was atmospheric to say the least and I did find a grave of the Baskerville family. Probably no coincidence that Stonehouse GP Arthur Conan Doyle used that wonderful surname in the title of his novel The Hound of the Baskerville’s, set in nearby Dartmoor.
Actual or literary Baskerville’s aside the morning had an aura of Victorian drama.
Ford Park Cemetery as it is now known needs continued burials to enable it to stay viable.
Prepaying gets you the sort of receipt that would be hard to tuck into a pocket or wallet.
The fog filled nearly the whole day but by 4pm the sun finally chased it away and by sunset I managed an entirely more cheery photo of a bird, in contrast to the morning bird of gloom.
The Seagull was perched on the perimeter of The Royal William Yard which was completed just 15 years before the Cholera outbreak in Plymouth. Plymouth , in common with many other cities had a growing population in the mid 19th Century and became overcrowded Cholera is caused by water born bacteria. People in overcrowded areas drinking water that is contaminated by a cocktail of filth both biological and industrial are highly susceptible.
Residents and workers at the Royal William Yard would be safer and luckier than other Plymouth inhabitants, because the Royal William Yard had its own reservoir for fresh water. The Western Kings Reservoir.
So in a wonderful coincidence my two pictures of birds taken today demonstrate rather nicely the benefits of safe drinking water.
Which leads me serendipitously to an article in The Guardian.