Pandemic Pondering #287

Its been a funny old festive season @theoldmortuary . We have a smallish family circle and a larger circle of friends. We are very lucky. One Christmas lost to being decent citizens, who stuck to the rules, is not actually a ‘ lost’ Christmas just a diminished one without all our treasured people around us.

Pyjamas @theoldmortuary

Today it is 360 days until Christmas 2021. Our strange distorted world will look very different.

Anish Kapoor at Pitzhanger Museum and Art Gallery

And while it can never turn the full 360 degrees to return us to our pre-pandemic normal. ( We can’t ever turn back the clocks.) Things will look and feel very different 360 days from now.

Less

A feature of a cleaning cupboard at The Box

And more.

The tunnel at Royal William Yard during Illuminate 2019

Pandemic Pondering #286

Merryneum continues, as do the leftovers. Turkey Pie, fresh sausage rolls and smoked salmon quiches were created @theoldmortuary baking session yesterday.

Under normal circumstances the above plate of food would have been hoovered up in half a day. Not so this year, on a positive note that is all the left overs gone from Christmas day food. I’m not sure how many calories Zoom meetings consume but that was our peak activity yesterday. Books were also consumed in large amounts. An activity not usually listed as a fat burner.

Dog walking in abysmal weather was also a feature of the day. Not satisfying to the body and soul of human or dog. The dogs now have thermal coats to pop on when we stop for coffee, so they can warm up. There are unlikely to ever be cute photos of them walking in their thermals. Because they refuse to walk in them but stationary dogs in thermal jackets might appear.

Like so much, our doggy thermals were made in Shenzhen an industrial town just north of the border between Hong Kong and China. The pollution from Shenzhen was dreadful for our granddaughter yesterday, she lives on the Hong Kong side of the border.

She was stuck indoors to avoid the pollution caused by the manufacturing industry starting up after the Christmas break. Inadvertantly, in a virtual world, we also got stuck indoors there too. Our Zoom chats took place inside her play tent and when she got a little bored of screen time she finished the call by leaving us and the phone inside the tent. The next day we were, again, talked to only in the tent while she busied about. Being stuck in a pale green teepee is our punishment for not shopping local. Although I think it will take more than us shopping local to cut pollution from the monumental manufacturing sites in Shenzhen.

Advent#34

The end of Yule and the end of theoldmortuary Advent. Starting on the first day of a chocolate advent calendar and ending on the last day of Pagan Yule. Fittingly, as with much of the festive season, today’s blog is about something Pagan that is enmeshed in the secular and sacred traditions of a Christian Christmas. Christmas is for everyone… Lights are not just for Christmas…

Christmas Lights

The custom was borrowed from Pagan Yule rituals that celebrate the slow returning of light and lengthening days after the Winter Solstice.

©Kate DuPlessis

For Christians, lights symbolise the birth of Christ, the bringer of light to the World.

William Holman Hunt

©William Holman Hunt.org

Light was created for Pagans with the burning of the Yule Log, early tapers and braziers.

Early Christians had much the same. Candles,gas lights and then electricity. In the mid twentieth century, it became popular not only to decorate the tree with lights but also to decorate homes and commercial buildings with strings of lights. Cities have year round light shows that are only marginally ramped up for the festive season

©theoldmortuary Hong Kong

More recently, landscapes and country parks have realised the commercial value of having Festive Season illuminations.

Ginter Garden lights. ©Bob Kovacs


In many countries festive lights go up at the beginning of Advent and come down at Twefth Night or Candlemas.

But there is a new thinking out there…Psychologists suggest that putting Christmas decorations and lights up early makes people happier and the happiness spreads to friends and neighbours.
https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/people-put-christmas-decorations-up-early-happier-feelings-stress-anxiety-december-experts-study-a8065561.html

It doesn’t stop there, keeping them up beyond Twelfth Night is also a good thing.

https://www.inspiralist.com/home-garden/when-take-christmas-lights-down/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=sharelink

Shared from Inspiralist – https://www.inspiralist.com

theoldmortuary adopted year round Festive lights long ago. Although we are often quite late to decorate for the festive season.

Both of us have a background of medical imaging. In the pre-digital age that required a lot of time in an actual dark room but even in the digital age it requires working life in a darkened room. Domestically our interior design is inclined towards the dark side. A little bit of twinkle is good for us.

The Cornish Range is somewhat aged and thankfully we don’t rely on it to feed us or heat the house. A little bit of Festive illumination gives it the look of fabulous domestic productivity.

So from the glowing heart of theoldmortuary, it’s farewell to Advent until December 1st 2020.

Tomorrow is another day.

Advent#26

Seaton Beach Christmas 2019

Christmas Day 2019 and the weather was very kind to us. It took extremely creative photography to make the beach seem as quiet and tranquil as this. There were hundreds of people and dogs taking in the sunshine .

The pre- turkey sandwich beach walking team.

Going back to Advent#24
https://theoldmortuary.design/2019/12/23/advent24/

Two strangers who discovered they were siblings, walking on a beach.

Advent#24

Christmas Eve, normally the last chocolate in the advent calender, however this blogs advent is going to stretch just into January to cover the whole of Yule, an all encompassing Advent.

 

Like many families we have a few empty chairs at Christmas . Grief and sadness is part of the festive season for many people.
But replenishment happens too. Sometimes in unexpected ways. Two years ago we bought an AncestryDNA kit for our brother/ brother-in-law.

AncestryDNA

The story is not ours to tell but here is a link to a radio programme that tells the tale, make a cup of tea it’s a good listen.

http://www.wypr.org/post/finding-family-dna-tests-help-two-strangers-discover-they-are-siblings

A consequence of the DNA kit is that we all have a whole new chunk of family in the USA.
https://www.ancestry.co.uk/dna/

Today these two lovely people arrived to spend Christmas with us


Also joining us for the first time is our adorable VV.

Families have a way of filling empty chairs.

Advent#23

http://www.dulwichdiy.com/

Tinsel

Is Tinsel ‘ camper’ than Christmas. Is it set to return to Christmas in the next decade?

Tinsel was invented in 1610 in Nuremberg. It is a twinkly metal garland invented to reflect the flicker of candle light on Christmas trees, it is intended to mimic icicles. When the shiny strips are not tethered to a central thread it is known as lametta. Tinsel has been adopted around the world as a festival decoration. It is Tinsels role as a garment or prop in the theatre that has raised its ‘camp’ credentials and given it year round legitimacy. In particular, Drag acts and Pantomime are never knowingly underdressed. Tinsel and lametta are a staple accessory to bring a pop of sparkle to an outfit or even provide a stage name.

9E9639F4-4A74-4513-BA94-656C6D8DD750
allevents.in New Hope

Tinsel was hugely popular in the fifties, sixties and seventies. I remember the skinny cheap stuff that came from Woolworths, however by the seventies trips to London exposed us, as a family, to lush, dense, luxurious garlands, from Liberty or Harrods. Tinsel in our house was used year after year , being stored between each Christmas in the loft . It developed a musty dusty smell that became a familiar fragrance of December. As tinsel fell out of favour it stayed in the loft, gathering more dust instead of draping the tree.The skinny Woolworths stuff became stiff and brittle but the luxury version , supple and glossy rested in the roof waiting for it’s retro return.

My parents died in the nineties, the dreadful job of clearing their house was an absolute nadir of life. In the context of Tinsel it was also tinsels lowest point of popularity, without a second thought it went on the discard pile.

Rumour of Tinsels resurgence started on-line in about 2010. 400 years after it was first invented. I realise some people never abandoned it. However it seems to have taken another 10 years to see Tinsel stepping back into the limelight on domestic Christmas trees rather than magazine illustrations or commercially decorated corporate trees. Shops have started offering wide selections of tinsel and I bitterly regret binning my inherited luxury swags.

http://www.dulwichdiy.com/

Coincident with my Saturday ponderings on Tinsel a post appeared on Instagram from an Editor I used to write for. . #nakedforchristmas on Instagram shows Tinsel at its resurgent best.

#nakedatchristmas Instagram

Advent#6

Why an advent blog? Actually why not, theoldmortuary blog is a flimsy insubstantial thing. A daily pondering of no real significance, so why not ponder productively whilst the evenings are long.

Advent is not solely the possession of the Christian Church, like many things considered to be Christian, it was a pagan tradition beforehand. Advent in the Northern hemisphere belongs to December when the days are short and the weather intemperate. Some days feel as if almost nothing is achieved within daylight hours. The long dark evenings are good for cosy activities like reading or indeed pondering. Advent ponders are whatever crops up in my day that makes me think…
Today it’s baubles.

These amazing baubles hang in a local garden centre. These particular ones have travelled from Slovakia, others from the Ukraine, but most come from China and in particular Yiwu.

This article from The Guardian in 2014 explains their production.
https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/architecture-design-blog/2014/dec/19/santas-real-workshop-the-town-in-china-that-makes-the-worlds-christmas-decorations

Gisella Graham is a bauble designer and wholesaler. theoldmortuary has loads of her baubles, some from the Garden Centre and some from Liberty, London. The ones we mostly buy are London inspired, they also make great gifts for our family and friends abroad. I’m unsure where I thought baubles came from, but it wasn’t factories in China or wholesalers near the Elephant and Castle. Like Yiwu, Elephant and Castle is not a remotely Christmassy location. I only mention this because I once got lost nearby and discovered this bauble Mecca. Just as in China, normal people work there. No Elves. Shame.
https://www.giselagraham.co.uk/contact-us/

I’m sure the baubles of my youth came from Poland and Hong Kong. They were fine and fragile. None have survived my many moves. These random thoughts have inspired me to research the history of the bauble.

Germany was the home of the first blown glass bauble in the 16th Century. Hans Grenier produced glass beads and tin figures in the small town of Lauscha. In the next two centuries, the growing popularity and commercial success of his original decorations inspired other glass blowers in the town to make baubles. By 1880, F W Woolworth had discovered the German baubles of Lauscha and started to import them, despite bauble manufacturing beginning in New York in 1870. This German business grew and flourished until the end of World War Two.

After WW2, the Lauscha bauble factories became state owned and production ceased. However, after the Berlin wall came down most of the companies re-established themselves as private companies. They positioned themselves as high-end manufacturers, not competing with mass production and continue to produce baubles of very high quality.

Meanwhile, to fill the gap created by the closure of the Lauscha producers after WW2, mass production of baubles started, in the second half of the twentieth century, in Poland, other Eastern European countries, Mexico and China.

My recollection of Hong Kong baubles proved to be correct. During the Korean war, there was an American embargo on China. Hong Kong quickly increased its manufacturing capability not only to produce the products it would normally import from China but also produced enough goods to export to the rest of the world replacing China’s output. Glass blowing had been established in Hong Kong in the 1920’s, so inevitably baubles became another mass produced item that Hong Kong could export all over the world.

Bauble pondering, a journey of changing destinations, sometimes caused by war. Fascinating.