#396 theoldmortuary ponders

First steps in Dublin lead us to an Irish/Italian Cafe Bar serving homely food in cosy surroundings. Two bottles of Jameson* later we tuck into food that smells and tastes like our mothers made it.It being Friday night our habitual back street wander took us into cobbled streets alive with the sounds of boisterous fun being had just out of sight. A few men leaned on walls for support as they splashily dampened their boots with misdirected urine. Dublin is new to us, but not. Dublin feels like a mythical, hidden suburb of New York or Chicago. A concentrated, vivid place full of young people. Two of them stopped us in the street to take a selfie, perhaps thrilled that people over 40 had joined them in their night-time place. Too soon our travel weary knees called us away to a sofa and curative cups of tea. As we slept the night noises of Temple Bar kept going until they were chased away by the dawn chorus and road sweepers. Tweaking Dublin back to perfection after a bachanalian night just beyond our windows .

* Jameson bottles used as water carafes @theoldmortuary would barely function after two glasses.

#395 theoldmortuary ponders

Starfield Library, Seoul.

We are off on an adventure to Dublin. A trip, to possibly the most beautiful library in the world. We have been to some fabulous libraries and bookshops so the bar is already set quite high. The serendipity of the picture above could not be allowed to pass. The picture of a gentleman, not reading his book was in a temple. The same day I found this contemporary man, not reading his book in the Starfield Library, Seoul. I will let you know how the comparison goes.

#394 theoldmortuary ponders

A busy day in the beautiful Tamar Valley helping to set up an art exhibition has given me no free time for a blog today. There have been some amazing pieces of art delivered, and I will share some stories from there next week once the curators have worked their magic.But one picture caught my eye today. When I moan on about greige weather I should remember that not all greige is dull and tedious. Sometimes it is as beautiful as this painting.

Late evening Dartmoor by Paul Kemp

#393 theoldmortuary ponders

Art Exhibitions don’t always play to my strengths. Face Value which starts on Friday, naturally calls to Portrait painters. I love painting portraits, I just don’t do it very often. This is the only true portrait I have submitted. ‘Fred’ is a fondly remembered school friend. He is a singer and can sometimes be found performing in Neds in The Hague.

HOME

For the rest of my submissions I took myself off in a wordy direction. The border lands between Devon and Cornwall are home to some of Britains few remaining areas of Atlantic Rain Forest, quite a stretch of ‘Face Value’ but I painted a portrait of the forest floor in October.

The third submission is faceless and undervalued. The Tamer Valley is famed for its important role in the Industrial Revolution. Mines from this area exported minerals all over the world. The mines and the miners who worked them are celebrated all over the Tamar Valley.

Rarely mentioned are the women who worked in the Mining Industry. Bal Maidens we’re consider to be low skilled, manual workers. In this painting I have designed a commemorative Stained glass Window to honour the women who played an essential role and rarely get a mention.

And finally a tongue-in-cheek image. Landscape with Coffee stains. Mugs of tea and coffee are a regular sight in the studio. There is nothing more irritating than putting a mug down on expensive paper. Today I just thought a bit laterally, saving face and getting good value.

#392 theoldmortuary ponders

©Gails Bakery

Yesterday was my birthday. Under normal circumstances I don’t think birthdays always get a mention in my ponderings. This one gets a mention because it was quite unbirthday-like. After a week in London providing love and support to a new grandaughter, and attending the blogging course, my birthday was the day to travel home.

Not that the birthday was unmarked. Sunday evening there was a fabulous curry for supper boosted by savoury Bengali snacks from Brick Lane and a Connie the Caterpillar Cake.

Our drive to Devon was made birthday-special by visiting a Gails Bakery on our pre-drive dog walk. Gail’s is a large, London, chain of bakeries. Their cheese straws are my personal gold standard. Because it was my birthday I chose two baked goods to accompany me to Devon and a flat white, oat milk coffee. I picked, as my luxury item a brioche bun. Unknown to me it was not just any bun but a Christmas Bun!

Despite being a fairly loyal customer , I had never encountered a Christmas Bun before. Why do these things happen just as I leave London? To save me from myself would be the best answer.

The revelatory moment occurred as I drove on the A3 almost certainly beyond the last outpost of the Gails sphere of influence. Out into the world of Surrey and beyond.

No other incident in my life has made me inspired to make brioche buns before. Googling gives me the other ingredient I will need to learn to make – frangipane.

If I manage to crack this project there is one thing certain. These buns will not just be for Christmas.

The other end of the journey also had a surprise. We stopped on the edge of Dartmoor to collect something, the unusually warm November had allowed Lichen to thrive on Gabions that had been used instead of Traditional dry stone walling. I am normally very sniffy about such poor practice but who wouldn’t be charmed by these quilt- like patches of lichen.

Now this may seem an odd pairing for a blog but anyone who regularly drives long distances knows just how hard it is to get enough green into your diet on driving days. The same goes for blogs.

#391 theoldmortuary ponders

Two days in the shadow of Christ Church, Spitalfields. It being November the shadows are very sharp. Two days in the company of some great writers who were also pretty sharp, an eclectic mix of writers honing their skills towards better blogging. In the hands of The Gentle Author, a blog is a thing of beauty. A distilation and clarification of facts and images, conjured into easily digestible, beautifully readable essays that educate, delight and inform. We were there to be shaped and eased into creating blogs that people wish to read To aid us we supped at the The Townhouse, a well fed brain is more absorbent. Our hosts Fiona and Clifford fed us very well, in their small but fascinating Art Gallery, at the back of one of my favourite shops in London. As luck would have it there was a painting of Christ Church on the gallery wall so you can get an idea of the bottom half of the church. Something I could not have easily achieved due to the plethora of electric scooters and skate boarders who arrived at the exact same time as I was taking the photograph. Writing a blog can be a risky business!

https://www.townhousespitalfields.com/

© Marc Gooderham ❤ Sold

Our writing sessions took place at 5a Fournier Street.

What went on behind closed doors is cloaked in quiet confidentiality to allow freedom of expression and wild creativity.

Our group brought great diversity of life experience, gathered together in a 17th Century sitting room.

I leant a great quote from one of the course members. It would have been appropriate, for certain, in the era of this bedroom but continues to resonate in the 21st Century.

“Shit, or get off the pot”

Which is a good place to end this piece but in my archive I have quite a cute photo from the exact same location nearly 10 years ago. I had gone to the cafe in the basement to enjoy tea and cake.

Hugo trying to become a stock item in a Huguenot House.

#390 theoldmortuary ponders

Yesterday was the first time the Great Bell, most often known as Big Ben bonged for real in 5 years. The Elizabeth Tower and the workings have been restored and strengthened to withstand time keeping for the country for many more hundreds of years.

https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/building/palace/big-ben/elizabeth-tower-and-big-ben-conservation-works-2017-/

I have always felt a thrill, when crossing Westminster Bridge, if the timing was right, to hear Big Ben striking the hour. Me and Big Ben go back a long way. Radio was the way I got my entertainment as a small person. I eagerly waited for the sound of Big Ben striking two, because that meant an hour-long radio programme was about to start. Listen with Mother was my daily fix of storytelling that I could access without pestering my busy mother. I was transfixed, often I sat waiting, cross-legged on the floor with an audience of soft toys for up to half an hour before the bongs raised my expectations to peak excitement. Whatever the weather or activity I was there waiting. Our wireless was on a low shelf and I could get close, my nose touching the scratchy fabric of the built-in loudspeaker taking in the smells of gradually warming Bakelite.

My addiction to listen with mother waned but not my sense of anticipation when I hear the bongs of Big Ben. When I was a student in London, a catastrophe occurred in the early hours of August 5th 1976. Metal fatigue had caused a scene of devastation. The chiming mechanism had fractured and pieces of flying metal had caused immense damage within the enclosed stone tower. I was fortunate enough to be on placement at nearby St Thomas Hospital. As soon as I could, I crossed Westminster Bridge to witness silence.

The damage to the mechanism and the tower was repaired in time for the Queens Silver Jubilee in 1977. I made sure to be in the crowds for the first hearing of the repaired mechanism, thank goodness I did, the Queens Jubilee was such a great event for students I barely remember much else from the day.

Me and Big Ben left London in the same year, 2017. Big Ben was silenced for 5 years for restoration and I experimented with a semi rural life in Cornwall. Serendipity brought me back to London on the very day the Great Bell bonged with all the clarity that a £100 million restoration project could create.

#389 theoldmortuary ponders

All of life is a journey, either of the mind or the body. My today journey was to a destination I have known and loved for many years. The Townhouse, Fournier Street, Spitalfields. For many years it was a coffee/ tea destination and then by the greatest of coincidences The Gentle Author started running blogging courses there.

Today my journey was pretty simple. 19 stops on the District Line. My reason to travel was another blogging course. How I originally found my way to Fournier Street has been forgotten, it almost certainly started with curiosity about my Huguenot forbears and my love of the Spitalfields area when I was a student. The Huguenots were the first refugees to arrive in Britain and 1 in 6 of us are descended from them.

My parents also often took me to the market in Wentworth Street, not so much to shop but to experience the hustle and bustle of a proper London Market. 5-year old I would have stared up at this actual London underground sign in Aldgate Station in wonder and excitement.

I am no less in awe of Spitalfields than I ever was, no less excited either. Tomorrow I get to do it all again.

#387 theoldmortuary ponders

A lovely old sign that is quite inaccurate today.

©The Evening Standard

The London Underground strike has made London somewhat constipated. All the people who would normally transport themselves by tube have taken to their cars, busses or the pavements. Walking on Wimbledon Common was unaffected as was a little retail therapy. I have started my Christmas shopping. I blame the transport problems!

#386 theoldmortuary ponders

It will come as no surprise to anyone that @theoldmortuary has no experience as marathon runners or other extreme sports. So we have never experienced survival blankets. You would never expect to be introduced to a survival blanket by a five week old grand-daughter. Rather intriguingly in her sensory box there was a whole adult sized survival blanket. Who knew that a collection of sensory toys could exhaust her accompanying adult to the point of exhaustion.

I rattled things and twirled ribbons with caution being really quite unaware when fatigue might overwhelm me. The small person was not remotely interested in having her senses stimulated at any level so there was no chance of me deserving the survival blanket. Deserving or not I donned the survival blanket and was amazed at how quickly I became very warm.

On a practical level I might but some survival blankets for winter swims, just in case we get too chilly. On another practical level the blanket is in a baby sensory box so she can enjoy it’s silvery crinkly surface. And on a last practical level I am writing about a Survival blanket because nobody wants to read about a long rainy journey with many detours. There was no rainbow at the end of my travels but there was blue skies and a small girl with a Sensory box.