Pandemic Pondering #244

I’m doing a bit of time managing Drawn to the Valley  art groups Instagram page. In these ever changing pandemic times it is a quick way, combined with Facebook and Twitter to communicate with both the artist members and people who like to buy original art. November in any year can be a little slow artwise before December explodes into Christmas Fairs and Markets. 2020 takes slow November to a whole new level of slow. This morning I came up with a # inspired by an early morning walk in typically November West Country greyness.


@theoldmortuary November life was certainly brightened up today by two things. Firstly the most gorgeous Orchid arrived clutched by a lovely friend. Definitely something that cuts through Cornish grey #lightupnovember2020

The other thing that twinkled into @theoldmortuary was a tutu . Just a little one for a little person but it certainly fits the brief for #lightupnovember2020

#lightupnovember2020 spreading a little bright in the grey.

Pandemic Pondering #243

There was always a plan to take a winter sea swim on my birthday. A stormy day made swimming impractical but just two days later things were a lot calmer.

Hugo and Lola never quite know which way to look when we swim in slightly different locations.

Today the beach was uncrowded.

There was even some time for some Land Art.

And because it was officially a birthday swim, there was a reward for us.

Plus a well earned sleep for our lifeguards.

Pandemic Pondering #242

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#241

A Post- Pandemic Birthday Pondering.

I’m late to the party, or not, of having something to celebrate during a Pandemic. There were two things we should have done yesterday and didn’t. One was a ‘Dining Experience’ which sounded fabulous .A banquet held in The National Marine Aquarium, a Night at the Museum event that would have been mostly wonderful . I worried a little about ordering Skate Wings or Calamari but beyond that it was a great idea. The other thing we didnt do was meet other people. Two women , two dogs and a campervan was the order of the day. You would think a beach in Cornwall would be a peaceful place in mid- November , our regular beach, Harlyn was heaving with Humans mostly wearing the semi- effective PPE of full body wetsuits anxious to immerse themselves in saline. Despite having plans to swim we could see it was not the place for us to find calm contemplative peace. We set off for another beach, Trevone, and it was empty.

The dogs particularly like Trevone for scampering . We managed more than an hour’s scampering before the tide chased us back into the van. No birthday haute cuisine in 2020 or awkward decisions about Skate Wings . Chicken Noodle soup and the last two portions of Connie the Caterpillar were consumed before we flipped open the back of the van and watched the tide come in.

The dogs took the watching part very seriously. Another hour or so was lost watching the bay fill up with water, it was the perfect way to spend a birthday. Coupled with copious cups of tea and a newspaper.

Our plan was to walk along the coastal path back to Harlyn to enable the dogs to ‘ make themselves comfortable’ before we drove home . It was a great decision but we didn’t get to Harlyn.

Nature decided to throw a foam party just around the corner.

The day was pretty much perfect with the added bonus of finding another naturally occuring 💓

Thanks to everyone for the birthday love in whatever form it took. Many, many hugs are owed.

Pandemic Pondering #240

It’s a significant birthday today. Not one with a 0 in but important in a different way. My parents were both the age I am now when they died. There is no genetic or familial map for me to follow from here. Overnight a schoolfriend offered me the sage advice to take each day as it comes and enjoy every single one. I plan to do that with every day, every year and every decade that I can inhabit.The pandemic will ensure that each of those date milestones is different to how we imagined.

Connie the Caterpillar came with us on a coastal walk yesterday . We celebrated early with cake and a flask of tea using the millstones as a table at an ancient coastal mill on the South West Coastal path.

The size of our flask led other walkers to assume we had set up an impromptu and in these times , illegal cafe. Unfortunately the size of the flask also encouraged too much tea drinking and we had to scamper back to the loo which ended a breezy coastal walk.


The setting sun caught the birthday confetti, just before we gathered it up to use again on future birthdays.

Pandemic Pondering #239

Week 1 of Lockdown #2 completed. I have lower expectations of myself this time around. Managing expectations has turned out to be quite simple. If I have none they require no management and everything achieved is a bonus.

This sign in my favourite coffee shop is a beautiful example of managing expectations. If a complete apocalypse occured and this poster was discovered even in 100 years time it would still express optimism. I spotted it yesterday on my daily fresh air and exercise expedition.

Shamefully my exercise yesterday did not include a sea swim in Firestone Bay. But it would have been impossible to get a tranquil photo of the tidal Pool because it is busy most of the time in daylight hours now sea swimming has become so popular.

My bonus of yesterday was the exact opposite of a cold crisp swim. The link below shows you a video that will give you a flavour of the Thursday Bonus.

A chocolatier has opened a tiny shop in The Royal William Yard. In truth we went for coffee but the offer of a brownie, especially when the word Caramac was used completely loosened any pretence of good behaviour. Unctuously decadent .

The experience was further enhanced by having the Brownie served warm. Nothing could be further from a cold crisp swim and unlike sea swimming in winter it required no special clothes or planning. It is entirely possible to just accidentally have a slightly warmed brownie in regular clothes while looking at a fabulous view.

Week 1 done!

Pandemic Pondering #238

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 #236

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 #235

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!