#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.

#251 theoldmortuary ponders

3 years since the last Glastonbury Festival and,coincidentally, 3 years since we have seen two sets of friends, who we met up with this weekend. The TV coverage of Glasto has been the soundtrack of our weekend and on Sunday Glastonbury defined where we could meet our friends without either set of people getting caught up in festival traffic.

West Bay became our destination of choice and the sun came out with a side serving of cold blustery wind.

The day started with marmalade for breakfast. Traditional enough you might think but for us the day started with marmalade ice cream. A very fine toilet on our route can be found at an Ice Cream Farm. Despite the earliness of our arrival it seemed rude not to partake in their titular product.

Gooseberry and Marmalade Ice cream at Otter Valley Farm. https://g.co/kgs/Bmh7fB

The next stop was Bridport, it seemed fitting on this occasion to have cake as this comfort break was at a bakery.

Glorious Baked Goods at Rise Bakery Bridport https://g.co/kgs/t1nLJC

These were way to fancy for our tastes and we decided to buy something a little simpler, and save it for the return journey.

And so the three year reunion occured. We hugged and laughed and walked a lot and drank coffee.

West Bay did not disappoint it even gave me two of my favourite things. A glitterball and an old weathered door.

Three years has been a long time, the gentle trickle to normality is gathering pace . I’ve loved seeing great crowds of people enjoying themselves at Glastonbury and at a different level it is just so good to give friends a good old hug and a squeeze when we meet. Ice cream for breakfast; not an everyday occurrence for sure but definately an opportunity to be taken occasionally. Random opportunities are assets waiting to be realised. It may have taken a world pandemic for me to fully realise their value.


Link above to happy news article.

#86 theoldmortuary ponders

This empty table is the beginning of the end of our festive season. A family birthday breakfast. 2020 and 2021 gave us a lot of empty tables where proper gatherings should have taken place. Celebrations not celebrated, sadnesses not marked and just general gatherings in normal life that we have all failed to  achieve with Covid restrictions and actual Covid infections. Only this week we were unable to be with our friend Prof Steve who got an honour in the Queens New Year Honours.

Here he is wistfully looking out to sea, dreaming of being a Dame. The Queen of course does not gift dreams. She gave him a solid respectable C.B.E for outstanding work in the NHS. I’m sure 2022 will eventually reward him with a Kitchen Disco featuring 90’s Anthems, our usual method of celebrating most things when we are together.

This morning our table quickly filled with family and friends, lets hope 2022 really does give us more fun times and full tables. We are more than ready!

Pandemic Pondering#493

I love this image from a set yesterday. The colours give it the quality of an Old Master. Yesterday the fickle Covid fairy had once again been looking over my shoulder to see which acts I had ticked on my festival running list. And Ping! Just like that some of my selected acts were zapped by the test and trace app and unable to perform.

My location at the main stage last night pretty much sums up the weekend. We use What3words to relocate one another after the inevitable trips to the festival loos or food and drink consessions.

© What3words

Offstage- self explanatory really, our chosen acts were off for Covid safety reasons.

Modifies- there is always something else at a festival. Yesterdays unplanned events included Joe Marler talking rugby and mens mental health and Steve Davis and Kavus Torabi talking Medical Grade Music. Which in turn led us to the Bollywood Stage at Camp Bestival just after midnight where we danced and had the surreal experience of watching drunk men mime a snooker match on a picnic blanket.

Sleep- an essential of Festival life.

Just like attending last Saturdays gorgeous wedding, this weeks festival has had us mingling with strangers, this time at a festival. Listening to people talk with real emotion when they describe their joy at our slow re-emergence into a more normal way of life and yet always reflecting on the losses and sadnesses that we have all experienced, appears to have given me my own version of Long Covid. My emotional carapace is not so tough. My eyes don’t normally ooze at weddings and certainly not at festivals. Every time someone makes a heartfelt soliloquy my newly sensitised and accesible soul makes my eyes sting and my heart feel a little sad. Just like Long Covid, I fear my sensitised carapace may be with me for some time.

Mindful of this feeling I tried to create an image of barely there festival goers to represent the millions for whom mingling with strangers is no longer an option at any venue at the festival of life.

Pandemic Pondering #466

Better late than never. A Sunday morning blog written on Sunday evening. Standards are dropping here. Today is the second year we have missed a friends birthday. The grand Black Labrador Officer is a quirky gift that has still not been delivered. He was unpacked this morning in a box of both random and essential items. Today has completely been about curtains and torrential rain, neither subject particularly blogworthy.

We took the dogs out when the rain, briefly, cleared. The hedge in the middle of this picture is made up of roses that grow wildly on this cliff. Their fragrance is exactly that of Turkish Delight.

The break in the rain was all too brief. Just one look at this sky made us head for home and another few hours up ladders wrestling heavy fabrics onto curtain polls.

Just one more day of tardy blogging. Tomorrow we should have our broadband service connected and a normal service will resume!

Pandemic Pondering #375

Good Morning, Good Friday and we are embarking on another strange Easter. Yesterday my list of jobs included finishing the Christmas present wrapping. Not a usual deadline for early April but these are not usual times.

I don’t fully understand the movement of Easter dates but it must be around this early part of April quite often as my Facebook Memories page for today has lots of photographs of us specifically doing family stuff on the 2nd April. The dogs also appear to always be well groomed around now. Ready to charm relations into cuddles and tasty nibbles.

Miss Lola posing for best dog of the week.

In contrast, like many people this Easter, Hugo is looking rugged.

Motorways also seem to play a big part in memories of past April 2nds. The M25 and the M3 have their own mentions on Facebook . The M3 is recorded as being more like a car park than a motorway. 11 years ago we were heading to Southampton to visit a family member in Southampton and then travelling on to Cornwall We were stuck somewhere on the M25 and could see our friend Suzannah in a car next too us. She was also travelling between London and Devon. We managed a twenty minute catch up before the traffic moved!

Food is also a big part of any Easter and 10 years ago despite an over-full fridge and many Easter eggs we felt the need to visit Pattiserie Valerie and stock up on fancy calories.

In a previous iteration of record keeping there is also a lot of mentions of visiting comedy clubs or venues in early April. We trailed all over London for comedy but our ‘home’ pitch for laughter was the East Dulwich Comedy Club.Based either at the East Dulwich Tavern or The Hob in Forest Hill. We are never hecklers but we do often fall for being the victims of witty banter.

One Easter 6 years ago myself, Hannah and Hannahs mum had the mammoth task of sorting a mountain of Lego and Silvanian Families. It was a production line of cleaning and packing away for future family members.

In the middle of the task we were stopped by a phone call from Japan. Sam, my son, and his friend Martin had managed, in a drunken state, to upset members of the Japanese mafia, the Yakuza and were being chased around a city by them. Silvanian families and Lego were put aside as we nattered to a loquacious Sam who was hiding in a doorway.

Family, friends, travel, food, laughter and memories. The stories of Easters of the past .

Fingers crossed for next year.

Pandemic Pondering #309

A glorious weather weekend lifted our cabin fever this weekend. Snow and Bagels were forecast.

A favourite coffee shop reopened as a take away destination. Sweetening the deal with home made bagels. Bagels it seems got the good people of Plymouth out of their beds very early and by the time we arrived at 10:30 the bagels were just a memory. Good coffee in hand we set off on a city walk enjoying the sunshine. The sunshine kept coming and the walk kept walking. 7 miles or 11 km later we arrived home. Only then did the snow arrive!

©Helen Flinton

Our social media in-boxes were filled with friends and family sharing snowy photos.

©Mark Curnow

Even the dogs friends got in on the act.

©Monty and Murphy

We received Dinosaurs.

©Emily Yates

And tranquility

©Debbie Sears

Paths to walk

©Helen Flinton

And the boot prints of walkers.

©Jenna Blake

Have a marvelous Monday. P.S we got the Bagels!


Pandemic Pondering #55

Easing of lockdown in England and Cornwall. There is a joke here as Cornwall believes it is, in many ways, a separate entity from the rest of the United Kingdom. Unlike Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland which have some self-determination, Cornwall has not been able to stick to comfortable, safe lockdown.

We were obliged to travel into the rest of the UK this morning across the Tamar Bridge.

Watercolour © theoldmortuary

We’ve had to do it a few times during Lockdown but always in very controlled situations where social distancing has been easy. Shopping at Marks and Spencer and Holland and Barrett in Drake’s Circus, in Plymouth, was entirely relaxing and easy, but one other destination was just too much contact with other humans. We quickly left.

Emerging from Lockdown is going to be a strange and challenging experience. We felt like country mice suddenly being thrust into the Hurlyburly of Christmas shopping on Oxford Street. In truth the experience this morning was nothing like that , but that’s how we felt.

A Jack and Jill Book . 1962©Fleetway Publications

The illustration is from a book I had as a child and it always made me anxious, although Katie Country Mouse was always quite a role model.

The project for today was to sort out our glass jar storage area on the Cornish Range and label the jars , as many of our new healthy eating ingredients look similar. It was quite the task, but meditative and relaxing, which was just what I needed after the jarring retail experience to get the bloody labels. Now I’m a bit further away from the expedition it’s easy to see why it was quite stressful. The store was just too big and we probably saw more people than we’ve seen in two months. Everyone was pretty good at social distancing but there were too many people there and too many who should not have been out, let alone in a large retail store. I’d be struggling if I had been told to isolate for 12 weeks and I might also have slipped out for a bit of fresh air. A massive shop is not the place for those with compromised health. My worry for them made me sad.

Anyway back to the jars. All filled up and properly labelled whilst I watched Sewing Bee on the TV.

Link to The Great British Sewing Bee.

Two friends have sent me something, via digital media, today. Both are appropriate for the end of a blog.

One is a quote from someone I’ve known since I was 11, we share a love of language.

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make beginning. The end is where we start from.

T.S. Eliot.

The other is a sunset over Plymouth Sound from someone I’ve known two weeks. We’ve shared a large space in a coffee queue.

Happy Hump Day


Counting down to the end of Yuletide 2020 on the 3rd of January. I’ve enjoyed writing daily on something vaguely festive.

Christmas, New Year and Yuletide has introduced or deepened our knowledge of new- to- us family members. Every one of them is a fabulous addition to our lives.

The sleeping black Labrador is Mr Murphy, who we met for the first time in the Cotswolds. Black pets are notoriously difficult to photograph, so I’m pleased with this shot. His serenity was short lived but he was also really keen to help with the domestica of festivus.

Mr Murphy was our canine companion, one of four, for New Years Eve. New Year 2020 was improvised at the last minute caused by a change of plans. We had supper and then took the four, four legged people for a late evening walk. The Swan Inn Lechlade was our hoped for destination as one of our friends had lived in a tiny barn conversion just behind it and knew it was a welcoming place.

Finding space for four adults and four dogs is a big enough ask on a normal evening so we were not hopeful. Serendipity was with us, a table and live music pulled us in. Curiously the Swan felt like a time warp, the price of a round was very reasonable , the music was eclectic and the public bar was comfy and authentic. We could have been awaiting any change of decade from the last fifty years. We’ve all been through more bereavements than any group of friends wants to . Being in the Swan would have really suited all of our deceased and beloved . I did some artyfarty shots of Shadows for absent friends.

Four dogs at midnight in a confined space on New Year’s Eve might have been hazardously daft so we headed home about 11:30 and did what millions do and watched the BBC for Jools Holland with London Fireworks for midnight.




Happy New Year and a delightful new decade.