#302 theoldmortuary ponders

Hang out the flags. The Print exhibition I have been curating and managing, with others, has come to a close. With its closure comes the end of the most delightful commute of my life. Just a ten minute walk from home, today I took my car and parked even closer, under this bunting which was caught in this tree during the Queens Jubilee during a windy spell.

At 8 am the gallery was very peaceful before the take down team arrived.

Despite our best efforts of restocking after prints were sold some gaps have appeared but we only started to rum out during this last, very busy, weekend.

Ocean Studios in the Royal William Yard was a new venue for our art group. It has been a completely positive experience for the curating team and the Printers who took part. Our work has been seen by many of our regular visitors but we have also had a completely new audience and many international visitors. The next event for Drawn to the Valley is Open Studios.

The brochures for this Tamar Valley wide event were leaving Ocean Studios like the proverbial ‘hot cakes’

On a personal note I did sell enough prints to recoup my costs but I also bought quite a few prints so there may be a financial imbalance, but my house walls will thank me, I’m sure. And at last the purple note book and my emails do not need to be by my side or checked regularly.

#301 theoldmortuary ponders

Sunday, full disclosure, I didn’t write the main body of this blog. I am the ‘ old friend’ mentioned in the text. These blogs do all come out of somewhere, my daily interactions with people, this one comes from a real but email friendship. I love the writing style of my lovely friend Dai. We grew up in the same idylic village in North East Essex. We were awkward teenagers in the same location, young adults,medium adults and now older adults half a world apart. Our email contact mulls over all sorts of topics. We truly do not stick to reminiscing. I had no idea quite how to introduce this guest blog until a fact brought the 1970’s into sharp focus.

2022 is as far from 1970 as 1970 was from 1918. With that mind bending thought the blog is officially handed over to Dai. Not so much a blog more a Sunday Supplement.

It’s a modern trope often heard among the cohort of a certain age, that modern music isn’t a patch on the music of their day, which was without question the ‘golden age’ of popular music. Being a child of the 70s, I often find myself lapsing into this sort of diatribe in which the hopelessness and futility of the younger generation is laid bare by what passes as creative output in the form of the latest modern music. At such times I find myself sounding frighteningly similar to my own father who would bang on in the same vein whenever I cranked up the volume on the latest Slade single, or heaven forbid started playing that awful racket of an album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust.

As far as my father was concerned the zenith of popular music had already been reached by the likes of Mr Acker Bilk, Vera Lynn, Paul Robeson, and in all likelihood such heights would never be surpassed despite all the recent advances in recording technology.
So, what is it with popular music? Is it simply a generational thing, or is there more to it than that? George Bernard Shaw, observed that, “music is the brandy of the damned.” But then, again, he also promoted eugenics and opposed vaccination, so it could well be that when it came to popular music old Georgie boy was more of a conservative in his views than my father. Noel Coward, on the other hand claimed, “It is extraordinary how potent cheap music is.” And that is a statement with which we can agree because there is no doubting the power of music to uplift, to decrease anxiety and to invoke memories and emotions long locked away and all but forgotten. “Music has the charms to soothe the savage breast (yes, the correct quote is breast and not beast as is often quoted), to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.” William Congreve (dramatist of the 1600s). Music provides the soundtrack to our lives and in cases of individuals suffering even severe dementia, music has proven to possess the power to slice through the fog to release and retrieve old memories believed, lost forever, as well as restoring a sense of happiness and a lessening of depressive thoughts. Medical research, through the use of brain imaging technology has also demonstrated that listening to melodic music can stimulate the brain to produce increased amounts of dopamine and serotonin, the ‘feelgood’ hormones which may even result in the improvement of some disease symptoms without the need for pharmaceutical intervention.
Without too much effort we can all probably name a piece of music which can instantly transport us back to a specific time and place, complete with the attendant emotions and sensations we were experiencing that particular moment in time. In the case of an old school friend the trigger is the song by America, The Horse With No Name. The mere sound of the opening strummed chords and she is instantly teleported back 50 years in time and immediately becomes once again, despite all her subsequent achievements and success, that awkward, insecure lonely teenager trying to negotiate that most difficult of transitions from a small insular primary school to the overwhelming chaos of a large comprehensive secondary school. It isn’t just the music and the song she can recall so vividly but all of the associated emotions, passions and feelings. Music has the power to summon forth this episodic memory, often connected with a difficult or stressful period in life, which can lie dormant and suppressed until released by the strains of a familiar song. For me it’s Bachman Turner Overdrive belting out You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet. The reason being this song was on high rotation at the time my family decided to emigrate to Australia, a decision with which I was not in total agreement as it meant being uprooted and removed from all that was familiar, including an only recently discovered love-interest, at a critical time in my life.
Hearing that song and I am immediately transported from the perpetually sunny climes of cosmopolitan Melbourne back to the damp overcast mediocrity and greyness of Northeast Essex. The reaction on hearing the music is a visceral one. Yes, it can be a painful experience but simultaneously an uplifting and joyful one as I morph once again into that wide-eyed 17-year-old ready to take on the world; and, as things turned, out more or less succeed.
We’ve probably all got a song that can performe a similar time-shifting trick, complete with stirring emotional resonances but does this prove that music of yesteryear is better than the contemporary efforts? Well, no, but there are further aspects to this argument which should be explored before we cast a final judgement. The thing about music in the 70s was that it was generally speaking new and fresh. When Jimi Hendrix burst onto the scene the things, he was doing with the electric guitar had never been done before, and I don’t just mean setting fire to it. It was like WOW! Did you hear that? What made Bowie so incredible was the originality and creativity of the man as he strode so confidently down a road absolutely no one had walked before him. Bob Dylan may not have been everyone’s cup of Lap sang su Chong but he was a pioneer in fusing popular music with older more traditional forms such as folk he may never win any prizes for his singing but he did win a prize for his lyric writing, a Nobel prize for literature no less. Which means that today’s music almost inevitably is saddled with a sense that it’s all been done before and let’s be honest usually much better. But I believe there’s more to it than that. The way the music was presented was also an integral part in the way it was consumed. The pop charts mattered, most of us listened to the same radio station and watched the same tv music show simply because there weren’t many options. This meant that when a song became popular it permeated and left an indelible mark on the collective consciousness.This was also the age of the long form content. In this time of Tick Tock and Twitter and SMS texts, the concept of the LP is probably a totally alien one for the present generation to grasp. But back in the day the album reigned supreme, The artist would put as much care and effort into sorting out the track listing as in the writing of the material. And the listener would devour the album as a complete entity not as individual pieces of music. The other aspect of albums was the cover artwork, many album covers of this period became as iconic as the music itself, think Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, the Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers, the Beatles, Sgt Peppers. The list is extensive. The songs on an LP can’t be shuffled skipped or readily rearranged. The listener is forced to hear the work complete in the exactly way the artist intended. This requires a certain commitment and level of concentration on behalf of the listener, which would not come naturally to the fickle, more easily distracted youth of today. On the subject of albums when I was 17 there were three albums that were played constantly on the rickety old turn-table in the 6th form common room, namely
Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the centre of the Earth
Mike Old field’s Tubular Bells and
Emerson Lake and Palmer’s Brain Salad surgery
These records were what was referred to as progressive rock, in fact they were quasi classical in style.
And not a hit single between them. They definitely required commitment and a certain intellectual response from the listener. Yet they were all highly successful both critically and commercially and would be played from start to finish over and over again. Each track, you could hardly call them ‘songs’. Would go on for 20 minutes or more. I would argue that our brains were obviously more highly developed than those of the present custodians of popular culture who are so easily satisfied by gorging themselves stupid on the output of Justin Beiber, Katy Perry and One Direction. And as problematic and contentious as it may be. I am happy to state for the record, no pun intended, that the both the music and the listening public of my youth, are in a completely different class when compared to the examples of today.

Or am I being too harsh? After all, no matter how dismissive and disparaging I am of the state of modern music it is the batch of contemporary artists who will create the soundtrack and music memories for the current generation, though, only time will tell whether this output will be as memorable and enduring as that of earlier eras. Then again, not all music generated in the 70s was fresh, innovative and ground-breaking, some examples were derivative, shallow, disposable bubble-gum pap, I’m looking at you Gary Glitter. Perhaps trying to decide whether one period of music is better than another is simply too subjective an exercise to be able to produce a really definitive answer. For example, if 20 people were asked to compile a list of the best albums of all time, the chances are no more than one or two albums would appear on multiple lists. Still, maybe thinking about constructing such a list might provide an interesting and equally contentious subject for a future blog.

#300 theoldmortuary ponders

A late blog that is all about the early morning. Our fish sculpture swims across the bedroom wall as the sun rises. And as the sun rose we were up and off to sample a Tim Horton’s breakfast in Plymouth. Tim Horton’s is a favourite when we visit family in Canada.

5 days after Tim’s opened, there were no queues and we achieved breakfast pancakes with bacon and gorgeous Maple Syrup.

A very fine way to start a day.

#289 theoldmortuary ponders.

Late evening swimming has become an add on to the very last dog walk of the day. Last night the tide and sunset concurred to facilitate some skinny dipping. I have been a life- long, intermittent skinny dipper. In my youth I used to sneak into posh hotels and swim in their closed for- the -night swimming pools. In London the icy charms of the Hampstead Ladies Pond was a post on-call treat on a few occasions. Any deserted beach is an opportunity not to be missed and abroad I am much freer to just get on and do it as I always believe that I will never see any accidental observers again.

Now I live in a close knit community, a village in a city. I will, almost certainly, meet any casual observer again and yet even that didn’t matter when the chance to swim between rocks with only bats for company presented itself last night.

I was not alone, as the dimpsy light darkens, others cast off their bathing suits for a brief sensation of complete freedom, the moment marked with squeals of joy as celebration.

#288 theoldmortuary ponders

I must walk past these lovely handles most days but have never noticed them before. Today turned out to be a day for first experiences in every day places. These doors can act as a portal for the day. A little bit of Plymouth as a Mediterranean location. A Tuna was seen this morning in Sutton Harbour .

And a neighbour gifted me a home grown fig.

The fig was eaten soon after this posed image but may feature posthumously in a sketch. Possibly one of my watercolours with typing.

After a day of delicious figs and fabulously diverse natterings the evening dog walk had a little surprise.

This walkway into the sea was empty and we were hot, an impromptu swim was decided upon, just a quick dip in our knickers. It was glorious.

#287 the oldmortuary ponders

The Eye of the Storm © Glenis Blakiston

Yesterday was a day of Drawn to the Valley , stewarding at the print exhibition during the day and then a quick trip to Tavistock for the Summer Exhibition Private View. It was refreshing to visit an exhibition that I had no responsibility for and no work submitted. Anne and Michael have curated a stunning exhibition at Butchers Hall.

Councillor Caroline Mott, Mayor of West Devon with Anne and Michael.

Visitors to the Private View were treated to a fabulous Mid-Century Modern buffet of vol au vents and intricate delicacies mounted on Ritz biscuits, served to accompany locally produced apple juice. The wines may have come from beyond the valley…

Vol au vents are an exploding confection of Coronation Chicken and flaky pastry. My terrifically arty outfit, a concoction of various blacks was a terrific background for the crumbs that my greed created. Undeterred by my flaky appearance I set about talking, a lot, to artists and friends and enjoying the art. The picture at the top of the blog is by a member Glenis Blakiston, she was a long term member of Drawn to the Valley until her recent death. Her husband, very kindly, submitted some of her pictures to this years Summer Exhibition. Her Encaustic wax image is one of the first things visitors to the exhibition will see this year. The terrific texture in her work gave me the theme for a few pictures from the exhibition. Texture.

©Andy Cairns
©Shelagh Brown

I love that the two creations above share the same colour palate but have a significantly different visual heft. Similarly the next two share similar colour and line but could not be more different.

© Gudrun Taresch
©Barbara Beckerleg

The Exhibition runs from today until Sunday at Butchers Hall, Tavistock. Well worth a visit.

#286 theoldmortuary ponders.

Facebook reminds me that it is five years since I was in North America. That is a timely reminder as yesterday we had planned a North American experience.

Lets be honest a coffee in an independent Coffee Shop, Hot Black Coffee, in Toronto is a very different experience from a Tim Horton coffee, but needs must and we are in Plymouth not Canada. Tim Horton opened in Plymouth yesterday.

Now that was the plan. But domestic life got in the way and inadvertantly solved a year old problem.

When we moved house a year ago we had made a grab bag of important documents and items that must not be lost. The plan was that one of us would grab the, highly visible, leopard print clutch bag, and move it safely from one house to the other. That didn’t happen and neither of us know how. The bag has been missing for over a year. The contents were so important that every room in the new house has been turned upside down and inside out several times. The loss of some of these items has been crucial and the 6 month wait for new passports is probably the most painful result of our loss.

We were up early yesterday to visit Tim Horton’s for breakfast. In the quiet of the morning there was the sound of a drip in our utility room.

Our utility room is know as the ‘Futility Room’ as it is too small for its true purpose and yet somehow is a perfect store room, and loo!

We had to move a lot of stuff to get at the drip. Having located and fixed the fault we decided to reconfigure some of the shelving installed by our diligent removal men. Unbelievably behind the shelving the Leopard print clutch bag was resting, safely holding all of our important things. One of the removal men must have picked it up, tucked it under his arm and moved it with the shelving and then just put it to one side at the new house. That is the end of a year of puzzlement. It was also the end of breakfast at Tim Horton’s. We did drive over at 2pm having mentally swapped breakfast for doughnuts but the rest of Plymouth had got there before us. Huge queues for drive-thru and eat in. Maybe we will go back, maybe not. In less than a month we are Toronto bound, the queues will be shorter there and we can also go independent. After 5 years we may well do both.

#285 theoldmortuary ponders

Yesterday I put a #meettheartist post on Instagram. I warned potential new readers that many times the same thing happens day after day on the blog. Unintentionally this is exactly the case today.

Saturday and Sunday were shaped by the Sail GP event taking place on our doorstep.

Day 1

Day 2

The days of the weekend are differentiated by other things that happened. Saturday was mostly art and Sunday was mostly sport. Quite by chance there was a curious connection to the sporty bits of yesterday.

A special race was put on at the Sail GP event. The team GB boat had a temporary crew member, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge.


Did we see her? Yes,we must have done from our vantage point near the race HQ and village, but everyone really does look exactly the same in a wetsuit and helmet.

She is on the GB boat as it crossed the finish line in front of us.

Then our evening plans created the curious link. Like many we watched the Womens England Football team bring credibility back to our national sport. When they won we watched Kate’s husband greet the winning footballers with the most glorious of joyful hugs.

And by the most delightful of coincidences I have a piece of art for sale at the Exhibition I am managing, that sums this image up.

You can tell a lot about a person by the way they hug. ©theoldmortuary

A repetitive blog but with some subtle changes and an observation that works for me. With the added spice of sporting success.

#284 theoldmortuary ponders

As grandstand views go we got the best table this morning for breakfast with Sail GP. Four women, three dogs and a lot of water action.

We especially got to see the start and finish of the races.

One of our bobber friends, Helen, has hair to encourage team GB to do their best.

The dogs were more interested in bacon butties and chocolate brioche than super elegant sailing boats, which missed the point a bit.

This wonderful viewpoint is a long term favourite spot of ours. It is a complex landscape of rocks and WW2 defensive concrete just below The Long Room, Plymouths civilian and military maritime Port Control.


We call it the area ‘Greek Beach’ because on a good day it feels like a million miles from Plymouth. Greek beach is moments away from our usual swimming beach . You can see how close everything is in the picture below. The yellow buoy is the one that we swim to when we bob.

Today we discovered our Greek Beach has new graffiti to embellish the whole experience.

So much joy on concrete!

#283 theoldmortuary ponders

© theoldmortuary

Another day stewarding at the Drawn to Print Exhibition. The two artists who were the primary curators and managers of this exhibition are not printers. I managed to dig out some old work from my long ago Fine Art Degree and,by complete luck, the act of applying typewritten text to watercolour pulls the work loosely into the Print family.


What a family we have joined! The Printers of Drawn to the Valley have been an amazing bunch of people to work with. Trusting us with their beautiful prints with our invented hanging system.

But they have also nurtured us. Debs my fellow non-prntmaking curator, managed this fabulous trio of prints. Her first in this medium. Printmakers talked her through the process on the phone.

©Debra Parkinson

Debs has been commissioned to create several runs of ‘ Smeatons Thief’

This morning I was excited to dive into the world of Tetrapak printing.

Not my finest artistic hour because I had more excitement than talent, but I did create a half decent Tetrapak image and while printing it effectively eluded me, another lovely printer shared her wisdom for future success.

For now I have just applied some digital magic to make me feel better.


The video below is the wall mounted Print hanging.

Drawn to Print at Ocean Studios, Royal William Yard, Plymouth