#439 theoldmortuary ponders

This was the view from the van at Harlyn yesterday. We have been waiting for the whole festive season for the weather to improve enough for us to spend a day by the beach. One of our regular winter treats, usually on Christmas or Boxing Day. Harlyn has been much on my mind since my work at The Box last week. My poor insomniac head was pondering the inclusion of a human skeleton, from about 2000 BC, in an exhibition at the museum.The skeleton and it’s Cist style slate coffin had been exhumed from an Iron Age cemetery just beyond the beach at Harlyn. In the circular and always inconclusive thinking of an occasional insomniac I felt so sorry for those bones, that ex human, that loved one ,who had been moved from somewhere so beautiful to be gawped at in a museum, even a very splendid museum. I would so prefer my own bones or those of the people I love to lie close to where the waves break over a beach. Left alone where they had been interred in the place where they lived and died.

I realise far more learned heads than mine have debated the rights and wrongs of showing skeletons in museums. But the curious workings of my night-time brain are never restricted by my lack of qualifications or experience in any subject. Now I’ve got my nighttime pondering off my chest I can waffle on about what a gorgeous day it was today. This is not as random as it seems, when my childhood home was built a terracotta pot and some bones were found and put on a show in Colchester Castle. I always felt sad that that person had been moved too. My parents always thought I had an overactive imagination.

Strong Adolfo’s

Our real world day started with coffee at Strong Adolfo’s and one of my favourite complicated images created by sharp bright sunlight. Soon enough we were on the beach, scampering in the waves.

Since we were last at Harlyn a sauna has been built in the sand dunes.

The sea provides the cold plunge for scarlet and over-heated Sauna lovers. Hugo and Lola liked to join them for the plunge once they realised it was a leisure activity that involved squealing.

Two long beach walks and an hour or so of van time, enjoying tea and magazines that had been gifted to us, as subscriptions for Christmas gifts, was as arduous as our day got. The temperature dropped once the sun started to set so, putting coats on for the first time of the day, we took a final walk on a much quieter beach.

The last of our festive season traditions completed.

#224 theoldmortuary ponders

Our impromptu visit to North Somerset took us to a gem of a small seaside town, Clevedon on the Bristol Channel. Like everywhere in Britain, things are getting titivated ready for the Queens Jubilee next week.

Tiffins Cafe

Clevedon is a town that swelled in popularity when the Victorians fell in love with fresh air and coastal holidays. The jewel in its crown is the Grade 1 listed pier.

Which managed to get into every one of our photographs during our brief visit.

The pier is very well cared for and is blissfully free of all the amusements tat that usually accompanies sea side entertainment. If fact this pier is very well balanced, with a coffee shop at either end.

All this loveliness failed to completely impress two members of our family. Hugo lowered his centre of gravity firmly to the decking boards of the pier and refused to move. Hannah got the sort of nausea that could only be alleviated by having coffee at both ends of the pier. Both of them affected by seeing the beach and sea far below them between the gaps of the decking boards. Hugo had to be carried, a favoured luxury not lost on Lola who made no fuss at all. Her face says it all in this picture.

The weather was not particularly kind, the one aspect of the pier that we failed to explore was the Port Hole room. We would have had to hang around a bit until a private function ended so I’ve pinched a couple of pictures from the Pier website.The porthole shows off the engineering beauty of the structure.

With the weather turning rather wet we turned for home. An ebay bargain stowed in the back of the van and a new destination explored.

#223 theoldmortuary ponders

Yesterday was a fine example of planning v serendipity and also a lesson in observation. We had planned to meet some friends for an early morning dog walk and breakfast. We were very surprised when we arrived , the cafe, which we had never noticed before, was very close to the end of one of our regular dog walks.

The end of our walk is between the double lines, we walk until there is nowhere else to walk. Quite how we have missed the Waypoint Bar and Bistro is beyond me. If I have an excuse it is that there is always loads of things to look at.

The actual Waypoint, itself demands attention. Yesterday the breakfast demanded attention.

There was also a pretty, camp, figurehead to catch the eye.

And pretty yachts, prepping for the Round Britain and Ireland Yacht Race.

Round Britain and Ireland Yacht Race

No wonder the chatter around the other tables at breakfast were in so many different languages and so animated. When we left to do the gardening, , I almost wished I was going on an epic journey requiring skill and courage. Then I remembered I have neither of those attributes and that my potbound spider plants would not thank me for going off on an unplanned adventure. Later with the gardening achieved we waited to see if a cheeky offer on Ebay would be successful.

It was and the unplanned part of the day began. Our purchase required us to be in Bristol with the van early on Sunday morning. Supper and breakfast and a few clothes were popped in the van and we drove to a  farmers field between Bristol and Bath for the evening.

Once we left the traffic jams of the motorways we found a different sort of hold up.

Paella in the sunset was our reward for gardening and driving.

The evening dog walk brought one more surprise for the day.

Definately a day that taught us to be more observational.

#216 theoldmortuary ponders

I expected a morning of birdsong and sunshine today. We are overlooking a valley not too far from home, with a very poor signal and no wifi. Somewhere, in this blanket of fog, there is the Fowey River.

Fog is funny stuff, often depicted as malevolent it alters the way we think. During the pandemic ‘brain fog’ was one of the long term negative symptoms that people described. We all understood that feeling, even if we had never experienced it. Fog is universally a weather phenomenon that no one has a good word for.  No positive spin exists for fog.

Photographers only love it as it is leaving the area. So far, today, we are not yet at the point of fog appreciation.

And then just like that, it happened.

#198 theoldmortuary ponders

Over the weekend we did a coffin walk from Trethen Mill to St Just in Roseland. Our micro excursions over the weekend are very random events powered by just a little bit of research. Often the location is inspired by news of an interesting coffee shop, eating location or small event. Instagram is a favourite source of random inspiration. This was just such a find.

Footpaths that lead to churches are mostly relatively easy to navigate because as the name suggests long before motorised transport it would have been possible for two people, or more, to carry a coffin to a burial ground using the path.

The beginning of our walk was pretty in the way that many Cornish paths are but the view above was the first sign that this particular walk was going to be special. At this point I should admit to not doing a lot of research about this particular part of our weekend trip. Had I done so I might have been better informed.

Oblivious to what we were walking towards I was happy enough with the spring flowers and a winding path. But then just around the corner this happened.

There was also a signpost to a Holy Well.

Then on the return from the well the path opened up and the full view of the church appeared.

Really just a magical moment, a few steps further and we were at the ancient entrance to the churchyard that would have been a very welcome site to weary travellers carrying a coffin.

This was all reward enough for what had been a couple of miles of gentle downhill walking. But just as John Betjeman said this arch really does lead to a most beautiful churchyard. Oblivious to all this gorgeousness we had chosen this walk to be our evening adventure, not doing research really paid off, we were the only people here apart from a lone bell ringer and the rooks who created an amazing soundscape for us to explore this remarkable place in the setting sun.

Among the gravestones we found the most evocative name.

Bathsheba Tiddy.

And a perfect endnote for a blog.

#196 theoldmortuary ponders

Our Beltane feast at the Hidden Hut, Portscatho.

Goodness we have wanted to find the Hidden Hut for ages! When we lived and worked in London it was the aspirational destination of food writers in all sorts of magazines.

Our weekend visits to South East Cornwall never seemed to have the time for a trip down to the Roseland Peninsular. Being busy and Covid restrictions have run away with our time since our return to the South West. Yesterday we were up early to do another tiny chunk of the South West Coastal Path and more importantly to be at The Hidden Hut in time for lunch.

As you can see we were well on time and enjoyed an aperitif of coffee and ice cream while we waited for our lunch

As is obvious from these blogs I am a very confident consumer of wonderful food but live in awe of actual food writers. So I will share two reviews from my favourite eating gurus. Grace Dent and Jay Rayner.



Jay and I often commuted into central London on the same early morning tube from Brixton perhaps we we both dreaming of seafood by the sea.

No London food critics obvious yesterday at The Hut, no longer hidden from us! But plenty of Londoners and food savvy visitors flocked, some of them in box fresh country gear, to this small corner of Cornwall.

A new flat cap reflected in the window.

Nature and beach detritus are carefully arranged to catch the eye.

It really makes a point to see such soft beauty and plastic waste both arranged with effortless charm.

Nature wins over in the battle to catch our eye but it made us think, again about plastic waste, and that is no bad thing!

Was the Hidden Hut worth finding?

Absolutely, great fish stew and mackerel pate.  Served with plump flatbreads, if that is not an oxymoron. The rain held off until we were safely back in the van. Promises to return were made, we loved it.

#189 theoldmortuary ponders

Yesterday the blog drove life, rather than lagged behind it. Some friends were reading the blog on their way to shop at Ikea. Realising that we would all be there at the same time they Whatsapped us and we all had breakfast together. Then we parted, them to browse and buy things they didn’t need and us to click and collect with no chance of temptation. With our van loaded with multiple Kallax units we drove off to the South West Coastal Path to walk a little chunk of it. We really did pack a lot into one Ikea trip. Despite the sunshine the sea mist was not kind to us at all so there are no glorious seascapes to share.

Wildflowers had their moment in the spotlight. As did small portions of Atlantic Rainforest.

We had a really comfortable few hours in the sun, walking in a new area. We stopped for lunch at the intersection of three footpaths and took some time reading about the walk we were doing.

If you can read the text you can see that beautiful, white, Park Cattle were predicted.

We met Brown Cattle with horns. Brown cattle who had been absolutely pissed off by teenage boys running at them and screeching on the very very steep rough pasture where we met them. Brown cattle who took one look at us and decided that they would graze and wetly defaecate on the only narrow track that was available to us. Just because they could and because as representatives of the human race we had to pay the price of too much testosterone in teenage boys.

The cattle had safety in numbers so we sat down again to enjoy the non view and give them the chance to wander back off. We also had our own slight testosterone problem. At the sight of the cattle blocking our path Hugo was pumping himself up to be the Alpha male of our pack and started practicing his latent herding manoeuvres, while firmly on the lead. Despite a wait of nearly twenty minutes the cattle were going nowhere and even if they did leave, the footpath had become a stinky puddle of post lunch poo. Our choices were limited; retrace our steps, possibly the simplest, but 3 miles distance, solution to get to a point 500 yards away. Take an unknown footpath for a similar distance in a different direction or scramble up an almost 90 degree, gorse covered slope. Obviously we chose the gorse covered slope!

The details of the scramble will remain hazy. All was well that ended well. There was a huge fallen tree at the top of the slope, the perfect place to stop, take a sip of water, gather our thoughts and allow our pumping hearts to return to a normal rhythm. We could also observe, 500 yards beneath us the brown cattle still quietly grazing and pooping on the footpath. They had an air of solidarity and victory about them.

#186 theoldmortuary ponders

This is what procrastination looks like. I’ve been trying to buy some popular shelving from Ikea, I dithered about yesterday and didn’t check the website until later in the afternoon. All the units I wanted were available in the colour I wanted but I had missed the deadline for click and collect. Suddenly a trip to Ikea had turned into a spontaneous overnight camping trip as we ‘made the most’ out of a trip to Exeter and wild- camped overnight on the seafront at Exmouth. Close enough to Ikea to get there when it opens on Sunday morning.

In all my Ikea life such a plan would never have been hatched before. Our most regular Ikea was always Croydon and before that Bristol and Thurrock, none of these destinations scream wild camping wonderfulness. But Exmouth really is rather fabulous for an overnight spot of Van life.

In an effort to put International in our life while I still have no passport we are eating our way around the world while remaining in Plymouth. Before we even thought about Ikea or camping trips we went to Canada for lunch. Kickin Caribou on Mutley Plain serves Poutine and other Canadian treats.

We had the window seat and had an unusually vivid street scene to enjoy while we tucked into chips, curd cheese and gravy. Yesterday was St Georges Day and one of the biggest charity events that Plymouth hosts. The St Luke’s Mens Day Out, passed by our window seat. The link below explains the great ethos behind the event. The route of the walk takes in some amazing scenery and passes plenty of pubs. It is a thoroughly wonderful event. There are some unplanned additional events related to these pubs. My following comments are tongue in cheek and not representational of the organisers plans.

Men’s Day Out: The power of hundreds of men on the move

The clue is in the statement ‘ there are plenty of pubs on the route’

Many of the men choose to walk in fancy dress, some of them drink far too much. Some of them fight. Lets just say that history does not suggest that Crusaders or the Flintstones ever got involved in street fighting or T Shirt pulling but there were pockets of such behaviour along the route. The walk started at 10am, when we decided to leave for our unplanned Ikea adventure at 5 pm there were still the walking wounded shuffling their way along the route. There may be a few sore heads this morning alongside the many more sore feet. Most importantly a lot of money was raised.

Pandemic Pondering #563

The Scrag End of Summer, North Coast Bobbing tour continues today after a brief return to home. The sand and mud of North Devon has been cleared, out of the van, ready for some North Cornwall sand and mud to be gathered. While I was in North Devon there was a fair bit of rain but my reading journey took me to the unrelenting heat of turn of the century Buenos Aires and the evolution of Tango as a music and dance form in the hands of migrant musicians to Argentina.

So while my real world outlook was grey and a bit damp.

My immersive reading world was somewhat more lively.

My reading for North Cornwall will take me to 18th Century London, I’m not anticipating a huge improvement in the weather of my reading life or my real life on this trip. Awaiting whatever the Scrag End of Summer brings us.

Pandemic Pondering #562

The last morning of the Scrag End of Summer Break. Tea and coffee options on the hob. The next trip in the van will fully embrace Autumn. This has really been a very traditional Scrag End, British break with long walks in the rain and steamy cafes providing respite from the weather either side of one full day of glorious skin warming sunshine. Our last day highlight was the local museum , something we would have missed if we had had two consecutive days of serendipitous sunshine. Local museums are just glorious nuggets of local history, geography and culture. Sometimes they are dusty and fusty and you have to dig around to find pride and joy. Combe Martin Museum is not like that. A great selection of second hand books at the door entices the museum phobes closer luring them into the museum and part with their fifty pences for books and even better the small entrance fee. As is often the case in second hand book shops three well thumbed copies of Fifty Shades of Grey suggest that Combe Martin has a specialist interest in S and M. Just a few steps into the museum gives a mental loosening of the bindings when the true specialty of the area is revealed to be S and S. Strawberries and Silver.

©Combe Martin Museum
©Combe Martin Museum

Three sorts of cream is quite decadent. Never has ‘normal’ cream been so unappetising to me though. Who in their right mind would ever order ‘thin’ cream. Regardless of that Combe Martins original USP was mining for Silver and Lead and growing Strawberries. Products that they historically traded with nearby Wales for Coal and other essentials that coukdnt be found closer to home. Tourism has obviously been a big factor in the life of Combe Martin. In a curious time warp the first big boom was during the time of the Napoleonic Wars when the wealthy could no longer travel in Europe. Combe Martin boomed again this year when neither the wealthy or the normal could easily travel anywhere but the British Isles.

One small aspect of the museum I loved was a contemporary book of Remembrance. Featuring obituaries of the residents of Combe Martin. Ordinary peoples lives reveal extraordinary stories, revealing the human face of a location.

Here are our doggy faces posing, vintage style at the end of their Scrag End of Summer Van Trip.