#518 theoldmortuary ponders

Today would have been my Dads 92nd Birthday. For many people, including myself, he was the easier person in my parents marriage to get along with. His genetic gifts to me have been reliable, useful and enabled me to see the world and my place in it easily. My mothers character, skills and temperament was more skittish and impulsive. She divided a room, he could bring a room together.Their combined talents have given me a skittish core with a practical, sensible overcoat Sometimes I bore myself, other times I wonder what an earth I am going to get up to next. As their only child I was a puzzlement to them both. Neither could see their characteristics reflected in me because their two strong personalities masked any obvious inherited characteristics reflected in me.I was their conundrum. My skittishness was measured and my steadiness unreliable.

Marmalade is the perfect illustration. My Dad loved it and my mother hated it. There were often five or more varieties in our larder at home, experimental flavours tried once and then left to gather a dome of mould, a source of constant irritation to my mother who, once the mould level threatened good housekeeping, would throw them away with a flourish of delighted satisfaction or sometimes more fiercely, the mouldy marmalade standing in for someone or something that had really pissed her off. If my dad pissed her off she would throw away his absolute favourite, Rose’s Lime Marmalade, whether it had mould or not.

In a perfect reflection of my genetic make-up, I love marmalade. Until recently there was only ever one Marmalade for me. Frank Coopers, Thick Cut, Oxford Marmalade. From shared student homes to home ownership and settled domestic home maker, Frank Cooper has been my bitter preserve companion. More recently one of the Bobbers, Gill, has been sharing, with me,her short season Seville Orange, home -made marmalade. Gill is up there with Frank. A mass produced God and a small batch Goddess. They share the marmalade shelf now, Frank there all year, reliable. Gill fleetingly, only in season, both bitter to their core, both adored.

Wherever my parents are, and they may not have chosen,or been sent to the same other realm destination, both would be satisfied over my adult marmalade development.

My dad , thrilled that I love marmalade. My mother, grateful that it is only ever one flavour, at worst, two jars- no mould.

#517 theoldmortuary ponders

The first day of Spring washed in on a wave of persistent, penetrative rain.

Drips were the tiny gems of the day hanging around waiting to catch the sunbeams that resolutely failed to arrive.

Raindrops when gathered together turn into puddles. So one puddle two ways is the endpoint of this blog. It is a puddle we have been to before, but the alternative, a variety of shots of room settings at Ikea is one step too far for a blog that has no problem celebrating the mundane. IKEA is almost a global experience, all around the world people were sat in IKEA cafes, at the exact same time as me, pondering on their various domestic needs. Ours were simple and we managed the, almost impossible, task of getting out with only one extra item. A tool to fish spaghetti out of bowls or saucepans.

The first day of Spring, raindrops, puddles and IKEA.

#516 theoldmortuary ponders

We had an accidental weekend of nostalgia. The high point of yesterday was going to see the recently released film Rye Lane. Just about every location had been part of our South London home life. From the very first London Park, Brockwell, where Hugo took his first small, off-the-lead puppy steps in, to Brixton Market where we bought the most amazing fruit and veg, and ate Street Food from around the world. The film cleverly never fully crossed the Thames to the better known and more Iconic north shores. The film was both a rom-com and a love letter to a part of London that, only infrequently, gets a joyful spotlight on its many different faces. I will admit that my eyes stung with a little moistness of the eyes when the film went to places that I had spent time with my family and friends from all over the world. We are now dispersed but South London was where the good times rolled.

Nostalgia of a different sort on Saturday when we caught up with the first race of the Gig Rowing season in Saltash. 85 wooden boats, crewed by 6 rowers and a cox, took part in The Three Rivers Race. I was always on the heavy side for a rower but that is exactly what is needed to keep the back of the gig in the water.

The nostalgia on this occasion took the shape of appreciating that rowing was the only team sport I ever actually loved and thrived in. My eyes stung a little with the memory of fracturing and dislocating my jaw at the back end of this gig when my paddle hit a buoy that was, unusually, made of concrete and did not move in the way that plastic ones do. Unsurprisingly the buoy came out of the encounter better than I did.

These paddles are 13 feet long and weigh just under 6 kg. A quick bang on my chops when paddle and buoy collided silenced me, a bit,for a few days but the race was both continued and lost. The true nature of the injury not realized until the swelling went down many days later.

Sometimes revisiting past pleasures is absolutely the best way to spend a weekend.

#515 theoldmortuary ponders


Mothers Day in the UK dawns bright and early. My baby octopi and their baby octopi are many miles away. For some years,I have been so very pleased not to be an Octopus Muma. I would not be writing this now if I were. Octopus Muma makes a great big life changing sacrifice when she books into the underwater maternity world. Bigger than giving up sleep, listening to live music and restful days doing nothing. Octopus Muma becomes a snack.

© Jenny Jones

The Netflix Documentary, My Octopus teacher shows the intelligence and wisdom of an Octopus Muma, link below


Beyond the final sacrifice, being an Octopus Muma seems fabulous. Swimming in warm waters with my children. No lego to step on, no last minute costumes for school plays or ingredients for cooking projects. No need to join parents groups or be a taxi. Just all the fun stuff, adventures in kelp forests. Hide and seek in underwater caves. Catching a ride on a thermal current. The fun stops though when Muma becomes supper.

So although it is a little sad to be apart on Mothers Day. I know that I am safe. My beloved children and grandchildren are far enough away and enjoying their lives elsewhere. With no thought of turning me into something to be served from a bowl!

P.S just as I finished writing this I opened my Mothers Day card. It features a bee so cannot be included in this blog but the sentiment is worth sharing.

Motherhood is no joke, but I am proud to have nurtured two lovely human beings into adulthood. At times I have been eaten up with worries, sadness and the pressure of getting ‘Motherhood’ done right. For the most part I know I have ‘winged’ it, usually dropping down on the side of ‘Good Enough’which is fine by me. In an age where everything seems to have external assessors, or users reviews, with the goal being ‘The Best’ it is easy to forget that ‘Better,is often, the enemy of Good’

Three or four stars is just fine .

#514 theoldmortuary ponders

What activities do you lose yourself in?

A lovely coincidence today when my blogging platform made a title suggestion, I could employ easily. I have often lost myself in painting. Any spare moment in March will be spent creating paintings, prints and cards for a Spring exhibition. While procrastinating I found this unfinished painting in a pile that I had discarded. Discarded because I had painted it on a new paper that I have not used before. The underlying pencil sketch could not be rubbed out and I had discarded it, probably with a touch of grumpiness. More than a year later I covered the pencil marks with some coloured Posca Pens.

And then added some indoor palm fronds for the print version. Although there hasn’t been a lot of free time today I have spent odd moments losing myself in the water of Tinside Lido. Not the actual water but a watercolour, a far warmer pursuit.

Painting and cold water swimming both give me the ability to lose myself, painting just does it for a lot longer. On a really productive day I could lose myself in painting for several hours without any detrimental effects. Swimming or Bobbing are shorter periods of loss, more than an hour is about my limit and that is in the summer.

So if I am not ‘lost’ in water or painting, am I fully present? For the most part yes, but probably the biggest lost period of my life has been spent in books or reading. Currently I am in New York with an early twenties Stanley Tucci, the pasta and the company are sublime. I may not return.

Reading, painting, swimming and procrastinating. Sometimes I am more lost than found.

#513 theoldmortuary ponders

I’ve been painting stormy sunrise for a couple of days. It has been a stormy everything for the last few hours. I don’t think the subject matter influenced the weather, but if I have in any way got some supernatural powers today should be a good day as I am painting Tinside Lido in high summer.

Actually not this view, but I might try this one later. It is almost identical to an old poster that lives in our bathroom.

In this poster and the imagined life beyond it there are always handsome servicemen in uniform decoratively placed at every corner. Real life is not like this. In real life the swimming rafts are a good way further out and in real life the water in the lido really is a gorgeous turquoise colour. I am not sure I would feel any sense of achievement if the rafts were this close, neither would I wish to swim in a murky green sea water pool. Since taking up sea swimming, pools are not my thing. I do however allow myself a couple of dips in the Lido, just for the love of the art deco beauty and the unique experience. It can be the most delightful suntrap and conversely it is also well positioned to make the most of cold south westerly winds even at the height of summer. Plymouth was a centre for the most delightful of holidays with my parents. They were not, however, swimmers so the Lido was definitely viewed but not experienced until I was in my 40’s with children who would enjoy it as much as I did. My delightful holidays in Plymouth took in bomb sites and remarkable modern Brutalist rebuilding. Not something that has made it onto promotional holiday posters. My arrival in this city was as marital baggage to my ex- husbands career, a two year project we thought. Many years later here I am doing that classic thing living my dream in a holiday destination, completely unplanned.

Hoping for better weather tomorrow.

#512 theoldmortuary ponders

Yesterday colour and procrastination collided. The museum and gallery where I work has an exhibition of sketches and drawings, some 500 years old and some very recent. In between the two galleries is a break- out space where members of the public can sketch and draw with pencils and paper provided. The exhibition has been open a month and there were boxes full of blunt pencils. Pencil sharpening is one of my great pleasures and a bit of a favourite procrastination. It is the perfect dopamine hit, a few quick turns in a pencil sharpener and a blunt grubby thing becomes sharp and clean. With the added bonus of a swirl of wood shaving with a bright edge.

Pencil sharpening has become a solitary pleasure since childhood but yesterday I was reminded of the pleasures of social sharpening.

When I was at primary school queuing for the pencil sharpener was a social activity. Friends were often separated during lessons, to cut down on idle chatter, but if mid-lesson we had a conversation that just had to be had in lesson time we could signal to one another and join the queue for the table mounted pencil sharpener. In one class set up it was also a break from my malodorous desk partner, a boy called Nigel, who lacked any social skills, but thought that at age 9 feeling my legs with his plump sweaty hand was an acceptable use of shared leg space. Imbecile! The sharp point of a metal compass became invaluable. Far more useful than reporting such things, which were caused by my overactive imagination, apparently.

Yesterday 3 of us set about sharpening pencils. As we created a glorious collection of shavings we kept an eye on the galleries and the sketchers but also managed wide ranging conversations covering bell ringing, dentistry and the cultural lives of ninety year olds.

Before I left the pencil shavings I took a moment to run my hand through them. They didn’t have the wonderful oily smell of wood that you would get in a carpenters workshop full of bigger shavings, something drier and a bit musty. I realised yesterday that I have no idea how a pencil is made. If you are similarly in the dark I have shared a link. Thank goodness for YouTube and How Pencils are Made.

And then there is Instagram. https://theoldmortuary.design/2023/03/16/512-theoldmortuary-ponders/

#511 theoldmortuary ponders

Rewind to the weekend. We had a bit of a blue Sunday.

A silent disco at The Box in Plymouth under the figureheads. Having circled the globe many times these restored figureheads have witnessed all sorts of shenanigans but rarely, I imagine, cast so gorgeously in blue lights. I won’t shock your eyes with the moves of a small group of bobbers who attended but * did find some blue flowers in my photo archive that might give a flavour of our shapes.


You might think that taking off the headphones would give a zen-like silence. Perhaps suggested by the name of the event. Silent Disco

But no, the silence does not exist, the overwhelming sound when the headsets are removed is laughter. We were also treated to an informal gathering of Rock Choir singers who belted out the lyrics of three different tracks with more accuracy than the rest of us. Sartorially the attendees were all fabulously attired , some of the figureheads were overdressed for the occasion.

3 hours slipped by, bones and joints groaned a little but a Blue Sunday was a fun experience.

#510 theoldmortuary ponders

What a difference a day makes. Below the Mewstone at Wembury from Firestone Bay this morning, and below the Mewstone from Wembury Beach Car Park yesterday.

When I woke up this morning an unexpected shaft of sunlight pricked at my left thigh. A few more moments of sleep was not an option. A quick check on a WeatherApp suggested that this was going to be short lived. Eschewing breakfast me and the box-fresh, recently groomed dogs set off on a quick circumnavigation of the Stonehouse Peninsular. The sun was fabulous but I really appreciated my very warm fishermans sweater. The wind was piercing, icy needles pricked at my naked ankles. The wind was blowing in a north-easterly direction making the second half of the walk much less pleasurable but it also takes me nearer more trees. The shafts of sunlight had also woken up the sleeping birds and they were doing their very best to assemble a Dawn Chorus, not perhaps as fabulous as those heard at the end of Spring, but certainly those birds that were trilling this morning were putting in a good early season shift, a fine reason to get out early.

#509 theoldmortuary ponders

View from the office today.

It’s dog grooming day, normally after getting chores done I return here for a coastal walk or a swim without doggy distractions but the view from the car tells you why I would rather catch-up on on ‘stuff’ on my phone.

Before we left I rescued the garden daffodils from the swirling winds and icy rain of the day

And rescued some figs from a fate of becoming over-ripe.

But the most Important task of the morning was to respond to a Government Consultation Document about the quality of sea water that we swim in at Firestone Bay. The bay has been used for swimming for more than a century but post-Covid the popularity of the area has hugely increased. If the area becomes a designated swimming area the water quality will be closely monitored during the official swimming season of mid-May to mid-September.

As regular readers know we swim year-round and none of our regular bobbers have ever become ill in the two years we have been bobbing. But becoming a Designated Swimming Zone will also ensure that our waterside environment remains safe and with adequate life saving equipment available. The link to the document is below if any bobbers are reading this. It only takes a few minutes to fill in.


Just to finish with a non-rainy picture my early morning dog walk took me past some peeling paint. There is even a ghost sign being revealed.