#93 theoldmortuary ponders

This time last year our Christmas decorations had been packed away extra carefully in preparation for a house move. Not a single one was broken. The job this year is much easier. They are just stored away in shoe boxes and then kept in a large Sandalwood Chest which in itself a tough old thing that survived the Indian Uprising of 1857-59. A series of mutinies and rebellions against the British East India Company that functioned as a sovereign power on behalf of the British Crown. The uprising is more properly known as the First War of Independence. 900, 000 people, mostly Indians lost their lives in a series of violent and cruel events where civilians were the largest group of victims. Truly dreadful things were done to innocent people. All of the usual cruel and demeaning acts of war and domination plus a torture that is readily relatable to everyone who cooks. A paste of mashed chillies and peppers was applied to the eyes, genitals and rectums of victims.

Our Sandalwood box arrived in Britain after the Partition of India in 1947 and has lived with me since the death of my parents. It has lived a peaceful life for the last 30 years protecting Christmas decorations.

A somewhat grim meandering for a ponder about Christmas decorations , but not without reason.

With a nod to history, our Christmas tree always has a few peacoocks, an unintended but direct nod to the Victorian domination and rule of India. Only the tail is visible in the picture above. This may just be family folklore but it does make some sense.

It would have been rather dull to remove our Christmas tree without some form of celebration. The tree has been part of our lives for a month and has provided light for the darkest of days and a focal point for our festive gatherings. Mince pies and Baileys was the perfect accompaniment to a prickly end of the Festive Season.

#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.

#91 theoldmortuary ponders

Not every ‘bob’ renders a blogworthy photo. Todays sea temperature was 10 degrees and despite it looking like a murky, bumpy ride, it was a pretty good swim. The currents though were something else. A moments inattention and one current swept us off towards the rocks. The swim back then took us into another current which pulled us quickly in the opposite direction. This area is not called Devils Point for nothing. Fortunately we are all more than one year experienced at swimming from Tranquility Bay and know well enough the tricksy currents and the need to carefully look out for one another.

My pre swimming energy came from a festive breakfast cereal.

We didn’t manage to eat any of them during the festive season. I’m not sure I particularly need to buy them again except that they provide the most glorious whiff of nostalgia if you plunge your nose into the packet before pouring them into a cereal bowl. I am hugely nose orientated. For inexplicable festive reasons we also have a mulled wine spice air freshener for the loo. No sane person on the planet needs their bathroom to smell like a bar in December, it just needs not to smell of poo. I am a festive smell marketing directors favourite shopper…

In other news I remember that pre-Christmas I wittered on about a sewing project but couldnt reveal too much as the item created was a gift. May I introduce you to Madame Cholet. A Womble of Wimbledon Common who gathers the left over embellishments from a man who brings huge joy to some of the streets of London.


Should you be wildy interested in Wombles the link above gives you the Madame Cholet official biography.

My Madame Cholet was created from completely recycled fabrics. Her eyes are the only new thing about her. I bought an original and second hand sewing pattern from EBay.

The fabrics came from my own stash. The stash of a friend and fellow artist, Tess.


And the wonderful organisation, Plymouth Scrap Store


The whole project was inspired by a man who brings so much joy to the London streets that he cycles on. Wombles are keen recyclers and as this amazing man, who has turned tragedy into joy, cycled past me I wondered what the wombles would make of any bits that might blow off his bike or costumes. ( I suspect he is a master craftsman and bits do not really drop off) You can find him on Instagram.

Is there a point to this blog I hear myself and many other people thinking. I’m writing it as I warm up, it could end up as complete nonsense, which is exactly what we talk as we thaw out.

There is. This meandering blog comes from a very dull January day from an entirely average person who has never excelled at anything.

Writing a daily blog is about stitching any old stuff together to tell a story.

Making a womble out of mine and other peoples cast offs is more or less the same.

Swimming in cold water really is no big deal.

Most of us are ordinary,there really is no need to be special to achieve things.

Anyone can turn nothing into something. We all just need a tiny scrap of inspiration.

#89 theoldmortuary ponders

Lola is struggling with the concept of the festive season being over. Her first full day of normality was mostly spent as I de-rigged 3/4 of the Christmas decorations, snuggled in a blanket. The tree remains and it is the red lights from the tree that give her the warm glow to her face. Our local council is not offering a Christmas tree collection service this year. Without a front garden the tree must stay up and indoors until we can wrestle it into an old quilt cover and take it to the local tip. It is a completely different beast from the slender,fragrant and sheathed tree we brought home in mid December. Remarkably it is not yet dropping its needles but I know the minute we start its decommission we will be ankle deep in spiky needles. To be honest I have little truck with the bad luck concept of leaving a tree up beyond 12th Night, and a great deal of truck, maybe the M2 after Brexit, with the concept of keeping this dark time of year illuminated with twinkling lights. So for now snuggling in a cosy blanket illuminated by small red lights is still a thing in our house.

The tree has also gained its own festive coloured bag of Tea Bags. Thank you, again,Brenda Bennett. We may now have enough tea to see us through to the unpredictable end of this pandemic and possibly to next Christmas!

#86 theoldmortuary ponders

This empty table is the beginning of the end of our festive season. A family birthday breakfast. 2020 and 2021 gave us a lot of empty tables where proper gatherings should have taken place. Celebrations not celebrated, sadnesses not marked and just general gatherings in normal life that we have all failed to  achieve with Covid restrictions and actual Covid infections. Only this week we were unable to be with our friend Prof Steve who got an honour in the Queens New Year Honours.

Here he is wistfully looking out to sea, dreaming of being a Dame. The Queen of course does not gift dreams. She gave him a solid respectable C.B.E for outstanding work in the NHS. I’m sure 2022 will eventually reward him with a Kitchen Disco featuring 90’s Anthems, our usual method of celebrating most things when we are together.

This morning our table quickly filled with family and friends, lets hope 2022 really does give us more fun times and full tables. We are more than ready!

#83 theoldmortuary ponders

As the Turkey leaves the building for 2021 we celebrated with a traditional curry. There is enough for a pie in the freezer but the curry is always the big send off.

Henry VIII was the first English king to serve Turkey at Christmas feasts.I feel a lot like Henry VIII right now. Rotund and somewhat over feasted.

Over feasted yet I wake up hungry in the morning. Deep December is a funny place to live. Mince Pie for breakfast anyone?

#81 theoldmortuary ponders

We took ourselves off for a coffee date this morning with friends and then took a walk around the old Elizabethan Port of Plymouth. An area that still roughly conforms to the pink area on this map of 1620. We walk it so often we quite take it for granted and I took very few photographs today.

Just as the Pandemic took hold of the world, Plymouth was gearing up to celebrate its part in the founding of the New World with the Mayflower 400 celebrations. Plymouth was being primped for many visitors and events. All that preparation and anticipation came to nothing as the world shut down. One of our favourite, tiny corners of Plymouth has been shut ever since. To our surprise the Elizabethan gardens were open today on our walk and we popped in.

December is not a great time to admire a garden but it was really nice just to be back in a favourite space.

I think I was so surprised to be in there at all I only took a couple of pictures, but all around there were signs of the refurbishment of historic buildings which would have been so central to the 400 year anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower to what we now know as the United States of America.

I am disappointed in myself photographically but sometimes ot is just good to lose yourself in the moment which is exactly what I did. A perfect reason to go back, very soon when Spring starts to make an appearance.

In other news, we had a sporting day yesterday with golf and Ten Pin Bowling.

Both venues were totally artificial but we had a great time being competitive indoors away from the somewhat murky weather .

We have been lucky in our new home, and totally grateful,that none of our Christmas visitors have involved grumpy old farts like this chap on the golf course.

My commiserations to any of you who have suffered a friend or family member who has cast shade on your festivities, there is nothing worse. If this Pandemic has taught me anything it is that life is too short to share extended moments with people whose habitual attitude to life tends towards the negative.

We have been extraordinarily lucky this festive season. Smiles and happiness overload.

#79 theoldmortuary ponders

Christmas in a new home is always a voyage of discovery. Past Christmases have sometimes involved up to 24 family members and friends joining us in previous homes. Our last Christmas 2020 drew our lowest numbers ever with just the two of us @theoldmortuary , due to Covid restrictions. This first year in our new home has hardly ramped the numbers up. We are 3.5 rising to 5.5 people this year. Curiously our new house is just a tiny bit older than Christmas reinvented. Reinvented meaning the Victorian mass introduction of imported or invented Festive Tradition . The new house has made a welcome and comfortable refuge for us all from the norma, not normal life of 2021. Time to just hang out together after a highly unusual couple of years. We are very comfortable here.

The award for the most useful room, at Christmas, in the new house goes to the utility room pictured above. This picture has been published in a blog before and inspired the most unusual and unexpected Christmas gift of 2021.

3 boxes of Thompsons Tea arrived from a blog reader who noticed we favoured Yorkshire Tea. She reccomended Thompsons as a good alternative to our favourite brew. We had never heard of Thompsons and thought no more about it until Christmas morning when we unwrapped a parcel from her. Suddenly the uncertain future of 2021 has a purpose! 3 new flavours of tea to try while we wait for Covid to pass. Contemplating boxes of tea on Boxing Day.


#77 theoldmortuary ponders

Here we are. Christmas Eve. Time to reflect perhaps, or time to hit domestic admin with gusto and efficacy. Gusto and efficiency for the last 36 hours was going to be rewarded with some cheesy chips from a local seaside cafe. Imagine my disappointment when they were closed. A disappointment compounded by Miss Lola delivering her lunchtime poo into the heart of a teenage thistle. Teenage thistles are a lot like regular teenagers. They look quite cute, a mix of the child you loved and the adult you will come to love. But whoa! Looks can be deceiving those cute slightly downy leaves carry quite a spiky message. How Lola delivered a whole poo quite so deeply into this moody spikey plant is beyond my imagination. She appeared to deliver it with ease. I did not retrieve it with anything like ease, to be frank, I yelped, as she certainly deserved to. For my troubles I have a nasty and unusual Christmas scar, not the traditional forearm one from retrieving baked goods from the oven. A thistle scratch, slight but jagged and ridiculously sore.

To get over my trauma I devised a new reward for my Gusto and Efficiency. An hour or two of dabbling with watercolour, typing and paper. I had success and hit on a happy accident of a paper that responds really well to typing and water colour. Have a Happy Christmas.