Pandemic Pondering #70

Another friend has died in this curious time of Pandemic Lockdown. Just as my beloved friend mentioned in Pandemic Pondering #28, the friend who died yesterday died an anticipated death , unconnected to Coronovirus but most certainly affected by the restrictions imposed by the Pandemic. He died at home supported by a loving family.

We shared a love of books and music and he was kind and generous with his knowledge of both and equally enthusiastic about exploring new genres of either. I will miss his inspiration and enthusiasm.

Just as in #28 , I am a lower tier mourner. Unlike #28 I’ve had more time, as we all have to absorb the current way of marking a death. More experience too, our regular dog walk takes us between two graveyards and @theoldmortuary overlooks a church graveyard. In consequence we witness many restricted graveside services as voyeurs. We’ve become accustomed to the new way of marking death.

Not being able to join friends in a celebration of life at a traditional funeral has become an acceptable fact of life. The promise of attending a Memorial Service in the future is not something I’ve ever experienced before. It will, for many of us, be a new reality once communal gathering can take place.

For now, all I can do to mark a friend’s passing is quiet contemplation. Very Zen.

Pandemic Pondering #69

Pandemic wanderings.

Today found us having a small permissible family gathering midway between London and Cornwall.

We met at Ashton Court on the outskirts of Bristol. Acres of amazing walks and plenty of places to have socially distanced picnics.

The house has some lovely architectural details.

and some curious graffiti.

Frosty Flakes anyone?
https://thebristolmag.co.uk/mr-mrs-smyth-the-history-of-ashton-court-estate/

The views from the park are phenomenal. In the distance we spotted a beautiful church. How often in life are there so few pressures on time that you can just go and find a church that you’ve seen in a landscape? That’s how we ended up at St Michaels Church, Dundry. It has spectacular views over Bristol

and the churchyard has an unusual project.

Many of the old graves have been planted with bee friendly, and other polinator friendly, flowers. This whole area of the graveyard has a softness and distinctive look, created by the flowers that makes it mystical and beautiful in a way that is unfamiliar in Britain.

The church door of St Michaels is guarded by two faces. One has definitely done more years.

After leaving St Michaels we took a scenic journey to Chew Lakes to finish up our picnic that was started lunchtime.

Two days of meeting up with much loved family members has exhausted us. We might gently slip back into full lockdown tomorrow for a rest. But it’s been wonderful to see everyone.

Pandemic Ponderings #68

Some days are harder than others to distil down into a blog , on those days I often dig out a topic or theme and ponder on. But today deserves its moment in the sun.its just a struggle to find the right words.

We, like many others have been deprived of seeing our families . Today and tomorrow we have arranged to meet a small part of our small family, respecting government guidelines.

Obviously meeting loved ones has been looked forward to and anticipated with pleasure .

Lockdown is known to mess with most people’s heads . There are the obvious things like worry, insomnia, depression, grief . The serious proper head messes. I’ve had some of those but a few times I’ve had a curious little head mess that puzzles rather than worries me, and although you might think it is sad it doesn’t sadden me. It occurs in the Limnal spaces of my thoughts or when I’m waking or dropping off to sleep.

Sometimes imagining meeting with my actual living family after so many days of lockdown and self isolation gets complicated.

In these moments there are other people at these family gatherings. People like my parents or father-in- law who have been dead a very long while or Hannah’s parents who have crossed into the other realm more recently. I don’t put them in my thoughts they just appear and seeing them,after a gap of more than 30 years in some cases, feels as natural and normal as seeing the living people after only 3 months. The closest thing I can use to describe the sensation is Magical Realism.

https://bookriot.com/2018/02/08/what-is-magical-realism/

My entirely normal family is not going to be a powerful tool against political regimes any time soon, but my head, albeit briefly, sees nothing incongruous about me meeting my granddaughter in the presence of many dead relations. It seems to be entirely normal and quite unworrisome.

I’m really not sure where these thoughts are coming from.

Today , far away from Limnal spaces none of the deceased put in an appearance. The beach at Harlyn bay just held the live family members that I’ve missed so greatly. There was plenty of room for the others, they just didn’t put in an appearance.

Minds and thoughts are complex at the best of times, how much other strange and intriguing stuff will this curious period of our lives give us to ponder over.

Pandemic Ponderings # 67

Sunday musings on a sun lounger. Not everything goes to plan. This is true in real life, just as it is in pandemic life. I’ve always been accepting of the wonderful John Lennon lyric.

‘ Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans’

I’m surprised by the accepting way the whole world has taken to changing its plans, very little protest and a lot of understanding.

Things happen @theoldmortuary, under normal circumstances,that I had never even considered needed plans. A trip to the supermarket, coffee with friends, weekends with our family. These things happened, sometimes spontaneously with very little thought. Now doing anything takes great thought and the mundane has become something to dress up for and revel in, when three months ago it would have been a chore.

This weekend would not have been mundane.We should be exhausted and bursting with ideas and inspiration. This would have been a weekend in London soaking up the buzz and vibrancy of our favourite city.

Friday would have seen us at The Chelsea Flower Show, but like everything it has been cancelled.

The rest of the weekend would have been spent with friends and family in various parts of the city. Our hair would be cut, our minds would be restocked with happiness and great ideas, some shopping might have occured and, by now, we would be on the A303 chattering about everything and, in particular, how much our garden would be tweaked. Chelsea and Hampton Court are the two flower shows that inspire us.

I’m not actually dwelling on the might- have-been because there is a future out there for most of us , we just have to wait a bit to experience it. Today I should have been spending four hours on the road but actually I’ve spent four hours in the garden enjoying some of the stuff we’ve learnt in the past, at Chelsea, and the washing is dry.

So a Sunday, not as planned, but a Sunday full to the brim of unplanned loveliness.

Pandemic Pondering #66

Lockdown Saturdays have become so much more exciting since Hutong started selling take out coffee in a pub .

I think we are better humans after a properly made Flat White. If this is the case , today we will be even more improved because we had two . One either end of the walk. Definitely more caffeine than I’ve had in three months.Giddy with excitement I’ve settled to writing a blog on one of the more mundane subjects of Lockdown.Soap bars, I think caffeine induced excitement might drag this blog into something vaguely interesting.I’m inspired to write this today because the first of our lockdown soaps has lathered it’s last.Bar soap is not something we ever really had @theoldmotuary. Hannah has traditional dry skin and I have non traditional. Either way the harshness of soap in a bar was something to avoid. Pump soaps disappeared off the shelves early on in Lockdown and bars it had to be. We have really enjoyed them and the extra time that there is in Lockdown allows for plenty of hand moisturising.The stand out bar soap in our house comes from Niagara in Canada. Not somewhere anyone outside of Niagara can nip to right now but it lasts and lasts doesn’t dry out skin and smells amazing. We bought a few bars two years ago and had forgotten we had them. More than two months on and there is still loads left.Soap Opera on-the-lake
15 Queen St, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0, Canada
+1 905-468-7627https://g.co/kgs/3jwBYVNext favourite and the one that needed to be replaced today is Waitrose own.This little bar has lasted the whole of lockdown only needing replacement today.Least popular is this blue bar from Pears. Proof of any was needed that the enemy of good is better.

Despite being one of my favourite brands, this one dries out our skin and is really disappointing fragrance wise. I wish I had picked up the traditional version, which I know is ok for our skin.So…Soap and Caffeine not normally a traditional pairing but if you have enough of one you can Witter on about the other.The great thing about writing blogs is the need to research my own image archive. While checking the name and any photos of the soap shop in Niagara-on-the-lake I found one of my favourite pictures which was also taken in the town.kingstgallery.comThis tiny Private entrance enchants me.The Gallery has some lovely quotes . This one says it all.King Street GalleryNiagara-on-the-lake

Pandemic Pondering #65

We’ve got to #65 before I mention hair. Rather too much of it if I’m honest. Curls give me a bit of leeway but today I started to pin it up and tied it up with a scarf.The writing is on the wall. Hannah has a sculptured crop and has snipped a bit around the edges. Hairdressing scissors have been bought. Apparently she feels confident with them

The summer weight scarves have been laundered ready to control curls and provide face masks if we need them.

Hay fever season makes us prone to explosive sneezes. A quick cowboy style scarf/mask makes us more socially acceptable.

If there is much more talk of confidence with scissors I could be in trouble.

Pandemic Pondering #64

As dusk falls Smeatons Tower, on Plymouth Hoe, is lit up in shades of blue as a sign of respect for the regular Thursday night clap for carers.

I have to admit to a huge conflict with the whole thing. For political and personal reasons. I’m inclined towards the views of the anonymous author of the article in this link.
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/may/21/nhs-doctor-enough-people-clapping

A whole career in the NHS, when I was repeatedly expected to work in less than optimal conditions,has always made me want to be in a properly funded work place with good working conditions.

All the clapping in the world cannot make this a reality.

However I am not so hard hearted or embittered not to be moved by the regular Thursday night clap. It affects me in a way I find hard to explain.

The silence surrounding the blue- illuminated Smeatons Tower, two hours after the clap, was a completely different sensation. Something entirely secular, thought provoking and calming. A sort of visual two minutes silence.

Time to reflect.

Pandemic Pondering #63

The world for now has become a little smaller and our garden a little more stony. The two are linked. The area in front of the garden studio is a muddy lawn during the winter months and for some time we’ve wanted to turn it into a Dungeness, Derek Jarman style garden.


https://www.theguardian.com/film/2020/mar/15/writers-join-campaign-to-save-derek-jarmans-cottage

It was my love of the poetry of Derek Jarman that first took me to his home on Dungeness and it is Dungeness that has stolen a big bit of my coast loving heart.

His poetry book, A finger in the Fishes Mouth, found its way into my life a long while ago. It took me to Dungeness.

I love the serendipity of following a poet to his special place and then finding one of my own. The flat blank mounds of pebbles inspire me to paint, and photograph


and now obviously to garden.

Who knows when we can next travel to Kent to recharge our batteries but Lockdown has given us the chance to start our stone garden .

Much laying of membrane and humping of pebbles, quaintly described as Raspberry Ripple, has turned the grotty lawn into a miniature space of pebbles , I can read a Sunday paper on it.

Today we are resting our aching muscles on it whilst basking in the sun.

Dreaming of endless pebbles.

Pandemic Pondering #62

Insomnia/Dungaree Day/Exercise

I’ve been struck by Pandemic Insomnia. The causes are multiple and the Italians warned us all that it would happen. You would think hard Labour would give some protection but despite shifting tonnes of gravel yesterday my head was very busy overnight. Contrary to popular wisdom Blue light can make me sleepy in a way that a book does not. So I have some constant companions on my night time sojourns into smartphone enlightenment.

Messrs Google, Guardian, London Evening Standard, and a little Instagram and Facebook.

Last night the main topic of my swiping and browsing was stay at home exercise. My guru is Joe Wicks but yesterday I listened to a podcast of Joe talking to Lennie and Jessie Ware on Table Manners. I’ve reccomended this podcast team before.
https://play.acast.com/s/tablemanners/58b1f7e1-a06b-476e-83a8-e0590acb45f4

Joe said his wife, Rosie, sometimes used other on-line fitness coaches. No shock at the virtual dining table as Jessie’s husband is a fitness coach and she also used someone else.

Not being married to a fitness coach I feel no need to be unfaithful to Joe. Last night I browsed other sites, gazed with only a reluctant shoppers eye and decided to stay with Joe.

Last night, I learnt some adjunct useful tips that I can apply to our fitness regime.

Some we’ve initiated without the help of the internet. Baked bean cans have been ditched in favour of proper dumbells. The cans had a life of their own, once put down, and the exquisite pain of a can being exactly where I plonked my commodious bottom is a Covid-19 memory to cherish.

Apart from bottom injuries, uneven weights can cause harm when you exercise. I mention this not because my beans were uneven but because some unevenness occured coincidentally this morning, more of that later.

The internet warned about being obsessive about home exercise. This morning I took heed and didn’t wear lycra, bringing a certain casualness to the event.

Now to the unevenness of weight during an at-home exercise session.

Hugo is an empathetic dog. He has lived his life predominantly with 3 women . He is in tune with our emotional and hormonal states. An emotional or hormonal state brings Hugo to his true purpose in life. To calm and console, with a cuddle that is as close as he can possibly get to the woman in question. He also mimics the symptoms so he has in the past suffered from horrendous hangovers, romantic break ups,shocking grief and menstrual cramps. Insomnia is unknown to him and is more difficult to understand. It is rare if not highly improbable that a dog would actually suffer from too little sleep. Hugo decided that my cure would be his constant close attention.

An uneven weight for indoor exercise.

So now onto the blog I should have written today.

Pandemic Pondering #61

Hugging the void. I wanted to find an image of a hug to illustrate this blog. My own archive didn’t have what I wanted. I don’t remember my exact Google search, maybe ‘famous hugging painting’. Klimt came up with several versions of Kiss, all gorgeous and sumptuous but not what I wanted. @theoldmortuary we are huggers and touchers. Like many people, we really miss everyday human touch. Family hugs and good friend hugs are obviously top of the list but random people hugs or a touch of an arm to express understanding or support are also much missed. It just feels strange not to touch other humans. It is also important for our health. Let’s do it more.
During a hug we release oxytocin, a hormone that relaxes us and lowers anxiety. It’s often called the “cuddle hormone,” and when it’s released during a 20 second hug it can effectively lower blood pressure and reduce the stress hormone norepinephrine. … Good, long hugs are good for your heart , mind and all the other important human bits.

Regular readers would know that we live very close to a church. There is one vicar who absolutely rocks a good hug outside the church gate. It crosses the boundaries of secular and sacred and it seems so right when people are in distress or blissfully happy.

But back to the image I found that expresses hug so eloquently.

The fact it is painted on a huge chimney plays nicely to the void part of my first sentence. Painted by Loretta Lizio in Brunswick, Melbourne, Australia.
https://www.lorettalizzio.com/

It depicts Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand Prime Minister comforting a Muslim woman after the Mosque massacre in 2019.

The subject matter is significant but it’s the rendering of the hug that made me choose it.

Hugging goals for when we can do them randomly and with no restrictions.