Pandemic Pondering #66

Lockdown Saturdays have become so much more exciting since Hutong started selling take out coffee in a pub .

I think we are better humans after a properly made Flat White. If this is the case , today we will be even more improved because we had two . One either end of the walk. Definitely more caffeine than I’ve had in three months.Giddy with excitement I’ve settled to writing a blog on one of the more mundane subjects of Lockdown.Soap bars, I think caffeine induced excitement might drag this blog into something vaguely interesting.I’m inspired to write this today because the first of our lockdown soaps has lathered it’s last.Bar soap is not something we ever really had @theoldmotuary. Hannah has traditional dry skin and I have non traditional. Either way the harshness of soap in a bar was something to avoid. Pump soaps disappeared off the shelves early on in Lockdown and bars it had to be. We have really enjoyed them and the extra time that there is in Lockdown allows for plenty of hand moisturising.The stand out bar soap in our house comes from Niagara in Canada. Not somewhere anyone outside of Niagara can nip to right now but it lasts and lasts doesn’t dry out skin and smells amazing. We bought a few bars two years ago and had forgotten we had them. More than two months on and there is still loads left.Soap Opera on-the-lake
15 Queen St, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0, Canada
+1 905-468-7627https://g.co/kgs/3jwBYVNext favourite and the one that needed to be replaced today is Waitrose own.This little bar has lasted the whole of lockdown only needing replacement today.Least popular is this blue bar from Pears. Proof of any was needed that the enemy of good is better.

Despite being one of my favourite brands, this one dries out our skin and is really disappointing fragrance wise. I wish I had picked up the traditional version, which I know is ok for our skin.So…Soap and Caffeine not normally a traditional pairing but if you have enough of one you can Witter on about the other.The great thing about writing blogs is the need to research my own image archive. While checking the name and any photos of the soap shop in Niagara-on-the-lake I found one of my favourite pictures which was also taken in the town.kingstgallery.comThis tiny Private entrance enchants me.The Gallery has some lovely quotes . This one says it all.King Street GalleryNiagara-on-the-lake

Pandemic Pondering #58

Deja vu.

©Wikipedia

Hours, days, weeks and now months have blurred boundaries. Just about everything we’ve done this week has been done several times in the last couple of months.

Saturdays have a new shape, for three weeks we have been able to get our favourite Hutong Coffee. Following that we do a favourite dog walk but we’ve done todays so many times I won’t bore you with the details. But everything on our walk looks a little bit brighter. Lockdown has given people the chance to get all sorts of jobs done and everywhere looks a little bit twinklier.

The best example of twinkle was this motorbike which had been ridden into town and was still so pretty. Presumably it has had a lot of attention in the last few weeks.

Plymouth has also gained some new street art and not a moment too soon.

We also found this picturesque wasteland.

And finally our used compostable coffee cups crossed the Tamar to our compost heap.

Not a bad Saturday.

Pandemic Ponderings #44

A pondering in which we queue for good coffee in Plymouth. Saturdays are made for good coffee. For the 6 weeks of lockdown we’ve not had a coffee made with love and care by a proficient barrista. Given the Coffeeshop in question you could say we’ve missed out for 6 months. Hutong which closed in October for a rebuild, ‘popped up’ today at The Lord High Admiral.

Queuing for coffee is not unknown to us as Monmouth Coffee at Borough Market is another favourite coffeeshop.

Hutong coffee is worthy of the queue. The new environment at The Lord High Admiral is pretty cute.

On reflection , it was lovely to see George…

and Emma who didn’t make it into the mirror.

Perfect Social Distancing throughout the process we took delivery of our coffee.

It was every bit as good as we knew it would be. Right to the bottom of the cup.

If you are in Plymouth next Saturday the Hutong will ‘pop-up’ again next Saturday 9th May from 8am. The other ‘pop-up’ at The Lord High Admiral, Knead Pizza had sold out all their Pizza slots today and I think all of next week’s are sold out too. We were too slow for Pizza for both weeks and actually missed out on Hutong bacon butties today.

Note to self, get up earlier!

What to do after a Hutong Coffee? Drive to Stonehouse and do the usual walk.

This could not have been a better decision.

Firstly we parked up near Elvira’s,

who were serving bacon butties. By a strange coincidence we queued up at Elvira’s with a couple who had also been at the earlier coffee queue. They were much braver than us and ordered take-out Eggs Benedict. I would have been wearing egg yolk all day if we had ordered that.

Obviously once you’ve queued twice with people, observing social distancing, you can talk for ages even though they are complete strangers. (Pandemic observation, talking to strangers is a lovely thing now we all have more time)

Our Stonehouse walk is one we do often but everything in Lockdown is changed , there seems to be more to see.

Even at Elvira’s we saw these two lovely unusual things.

Non-local people can have a chuckle at the name of this location.

Admiral’s Hard; another saucy Plymouth location is Pennycomequick.

I just threw that in, it’s nowhere near our walk.

Stonehouse did not disappoint, we met another complete stranger at the proper distance, for more lovely conversations and Devils Point itself thought it was on the Mediterranean.

Pretty houses on the way back to the car.

Saturdays and Sunshine

Hutong Coffee

Elvira’s Bacon Butty

Lockdown rules all applied

Texture change at theoldmortuary

Nothing big but February sees theoldmortuary joining a gym.

It’s 12 years since we last saw a gym or rowed competitively. Time to get the bones at theoldmortuary moving.

We certainly didn’t plan to be away from fitness this long but life has a way of confuscating plans and good intentions.

The London Years replaced leisure fitness with punishing work hours and amazing cultural experiences, coupled with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the capitals independent coffee shops and sourdough purveyors.

Yes we are that shallow, caffeinated and plumptious from bakery products and cultural experiences.

This blog is not about to become lithe and lycra clad . Pondering will remain at its heart. Occasionally though the humour of the life of fitness returners might make an appearance.

We start with the walk-round.

We are coupled with a glossy and lovely pair of people. In our hands we have various complimentary vouchers.

The club we joined has a new gym and refurbished areas. As we were shown into the spinning room.( I could act faux naive and say I expected homely weavers creating yarn from their Vegan Yaks. But I know what goes on in a spinning room and I know that with our current level of fitness , walking would not occur for many days after a spinning session)

Not so for the glossy couple.

” Oh ” she says with genuine joy ” We could live in here”

We remain impressed but silent as we continue the tour.

The coffee shop is our last port of call on the tour. We have free vouchers.

A thought bubble erupts from my slightly over-awed head. Nothing I try contains it.

And we had vouchers!

Advent#28

Bubble, friends, terrorists and artists.

“Bubble” spoken or shouted in a broad, loud, East London/Essex accent.

Bubble and Squeak is a staple of our festive season. It was always part of our childhoods, made as a way of using up Christmas leftovers. Our abiding love of “Bubble” currently involves an early festive meeting in London, with friends. “Bubble” happens regularly at Maria’s Cafe in Borough Market. We’ve settled very happily into an annual December breakfast at Maria’s after searching for Christmas breakfast perfection high up in London’s Skyscrapers with extravagant prices for many years. Height does not necessarily dictate breakfast good quality or satisfaction. Closer to the ground, and reality, Maria’s has become our regular pre Christmas breakfast haunt, they do the best breakfast we’ve ever had in the area. Any breakfast comestible with their bubble and squeak is festive perfection on a plate.

Fortified by calories, laughter and cups of tea we set off to sample, taste and shop.

https://www.monmouthcoffee.co.uk/
https://www.sallyclarke.com/category/sweet/chocolate-truffles/

Coffee from Monmouth is always enjoyed with a chocolate truffle, we drink our coffee and nibble our truffles, overlooked by the Market Porter. A flat-capped sturdy chap depicted in Street Art painted on the wall of The Market.
https://www.themarketporter.co.uk

Illustrations by Josie Jammet https://www.designfather.com/illustrations-by-josie-jammet/

img_20191227_2301075256103970405829227.jpg

Art at Borough is not only about the working life of the market.

London Bridge and Borough Market have been the location of two seperate terrorist attacks. The second only weeks a go. The first in June 2017 has been commemorated by a mural by James Cochran or Jimmy C. on a railway arch in Stoney Street, part of the perimeter of the market. Jimmy’s work is a joyous multicoloured commemoration of the lives lost and the lives forever marked by the event. It also reflects the vivid and resilliant nature of London which will rise above the harm and wickedness of terror attacks. A series of hearts float like bubbles on a background of blue. The code 44A is the identification number of the railway arch.


https://www.railstaff.co.uk/2018/03/27/mural-unveiled-in-memory-of-london-bridge-terror-attacks/

Following this sad but resilient image, this blog about bubble shifts location from Borough Market and heads for home.

Bubble is a traditional left-overs treat in our house. Formed from the remains of the Christmas day roast it has a domestic ritual of its own.

Bubble is prepared during the evening after the big roast has been served. Portions of bubble rest in the fridge overnight, awaiting frying in butter the next morning.

Reminiscent of Jimmy C’s bubble-like hearts on the Borough Memorial a heart shaped knob of butter softens in the pan.

An edible landscape of buttery fjords and pillowy potato mounds form in the pan.

Once the outer surfaces are crispy, dark and caramelised it’s time to serve up the bubble and share.

Bubble, 💕 on a plate.

Advent#16

Christmas comestibles.

Today the long walk in the sunshine took us back to the location of Advent #1
https://theoldmortuary.design/2019/12/01/advent-1/

Our visit to Jacka today was enhanced by festive baking. We weren’t exactly early birds, but were lucky enough to get there in time to get the last available slice of Stolen and one of their lusciously deep mince pies. Coffee drinking at Jacka this morning was hugely sociable . The coffee hounds Hugo and Lola were treated to snippets of delicious bacon from a generous benefactor while everyone at the various tables were talking to one another.

As this is a second Advent visit to Jacka I thought I would share some of the bakeries history . Gleaned from a 1985 published article displayed on the café wall .

Dated currently back to 1597, Jacka is the oldest working Bakery in Britain. It is said that it supplied Ships Biscuits to the Mayflower in 1620. Ships biscuits from this bakery were still famous worldwide well into the twentieth century.

Todays festive bakes were tastier than any Ships biscuit. Time to roll out the the word ‘ moist’ . The festive season is known for its traditional foods. In Britain moistness is demanded of Christmas cakes and Turkey. Today we added a third moist festive eating experience.

Bakery made Stollen , as far removed from the supermarket stuff as it is possible to be. A generous core of deep yellow marzipan surrounded by jewel fruited,doughy loveliness , gently dusted with icing sugar. The mince pie, no less lovely, had a deep, golden pastry case filled with dried fruits, quenched to plumpness and topped with a pastry star.

The coffee, as is usual at Jacka was made with great beans by a skillful barrista.

This may not be our last Advent visit.

Advent #1

Christmas Scene at Jacka Bakery

This morning was sunny and beautiful. The sun was out and the temperature was down, time for a long walk and a hot coffee as a reward.

Jacka Bakery is the oldest working Bakery in the country. Coffee here was our half-way, warm-up and sit-down reward.

theoldmortuary wrote a blog a while ago that mentioned an earlier visit to Jacka.
https://theoldmortuary.design/2017/05/12/what-a-difference-the-sun-makes/

Plymouth Literature Festival 2017

JB Barrington at the Hutong Cafe

Plymouth has an established and vibrant Performance Poetry culture. For Plymouth Literature Festival 17 there is a new venue on the block. The Hutong Cafe, which opened earlier this year, is building a reputation as an intimate location for evening events. Saturday saw the arrival of JB Barrington, a performance poet from Salford, a particularly interesting area of Manchester, he was supported by two local poets and a surprise extra poet from Hull.

The evening kicked off with Antonia Raine, a local poet who flipped misogyny on its head, shining wit and humour on the cliched comments and behaviours of some men that really piss women off. She was followed by another local wordsmith, Andy Blackwell who weaved local and carnal knowledge into brilliant and narrative poems, told in a range of accents that were superbly accurate.

The surprise extra of the evening was Jim Higo, a poet/ comedian from Hull, as a salve to the pride of Plymouth which lost the chance of being City of Culture to Hull he suggested that the only perceptible change in his City, now it is cultured, is that there has been an increase in the street price of heroin. Jim’s set was lively and left me an earworm that was hard to shake. His rant “ I Hate a Floating Voter” was a polemic, and although I didn’t completely agree with it, I was hooked by his performance. His incomplete Ice House Road, a tale of prostitution, left me wanting more and the poem about a lonely aged boxer cadging drinks in the pubs of Hull was unexpectedly moving. He told us that his mum thought that a Plymouth audience wouldn’t ‘get’ him when he told her where he was performing. She was wrong, the audience at Hutong definitely ‘got’ him, his tales of deprivation and humour struck a local nerve.

Wearing a brown Mac and clutching a carrier bag of stuff, the main man, JB Barrington wandered to the front of the room for the third part of the evening. He cut a stylish figure with steel grey hair and modish good looks. The previous night he had performed at the 02 at Sheffield with the Sleaford Mods, and tonight 50 lucky people at Hutong had a much closer encounter.
JB is from Salford, an award winning performance poet known for his satirical, lyrical, ‘working class’ poetry. His poems feature dole and debt, dockers and unions, proud men, strong women and the love, fun, misery and fragility of normal life where he comes from. His mum is a huge source of inspiration. Things Me Mam Used to Say might be the words of a Salford woman but the motherly advice and discipline all seemed pretty relatable. Nostalgia conjured for humble icons like the Spanish dolls that resided in countless Council homes depicting the glamour of European travels long before Easy Jet. JB points out the obvious things that it’s all too easy to overlook and forget; yet these are the things of recent social history.

You Had Me, is the tale of an ex lover-note to many, never upset a poet you might become a performance! Truly I was lost for words, it was such a great evening. Not only because it featured poetry from a man who is such a high caliber performer – I don’t know why did he agree to perform in such a tiny venue a seven hour drive from his home but I am glad he did. JB Barrington came to Plymouth Literary Festival, he was brilliant and incidentally brought another wonderful poet with him and they were both ably supported by some seriously good local talent.

Plymouth Art Weekender / Articles written for Made In Plymouth

 My Plymouth Art Weekender trilogy #1
This year was the third Art Weekender in Plymouth but having only recently returned to the area this was my first experience and I was impressed! The quantity and quality of the art was astonishing. Despite having one of the few dedicated Art Schools in the country and a well respected Arts faculty at Plymouth University, when I left 10 years ago Plymouths Arts Community was not hugely visible to mainstream Plymouth and beyond.

But things are changing and Plymouth Art Weekender is a vibrant sign of ‘Artsy’ Plymouth. I’ve attended week-long festivals which haven’t had such a voracious and high quality itinerary as PAW17. It didn’t pass me by that Art Weekender exhibits started popping up well before the weekend, and I hope some of it will hang around a bit as well. For me the weekender has been a case of ‘so much art, so little time’. I’ve written about the exhibits and events that really stood out in my weekend but there were many other wonderful pieces I would have loved to write about.

For me the first event was live music at Hutong Cafe. Hutong Cafe cuddles up to the outside of the main entrance of The Royal William Yard and is the evolving brainchild of George, Jack and Emma who opened the Cafe earlier this year. Diamond Family Archive are a Lo-Fi psych folk duo and they filled this intimate venue. The music was mesmerizing, the music swelled and grew to the point that it seemed impossible that only two men were creating it. Ambient sounds, seemingly plucked out of the night air were woven into the performance. Coupled with good wine and food, this could be the new way to enjoy live music.

Ocean Studios played host to JoJo’s photography exhibition before and during the Weekender. This exhibition features couples who have committed to life together alongside single mothers with their children. I posed for Jojo 10 years ago in his first Plymouth Uncovered book and know from experience what a charismatic photographer he is so I felt a particular connection to this exhibition. His empathetic approach to his photography gives it the quality of painted portraits, evolved over a far greater timeframe. Faces, but also hands and feet are expressive at a deeper level than in a usual portrait because of some special magic that Jojo manages to infuse into his sessions. Some of the photos in this exhibition ache with the amount of information they are trying to convey.

I was lucky enough to talk to the artist after seeing the exhibition, and told him some of the sentiments I had picked up on from his images. Ever the consummate professional he said nothing indiscreet about his sitters but I’m sure his eyes agreed with some of my thoughts. I’ve been back a couple of times to enjoy his exhibition; it is well worth the time. This diligence has nothing to do with the great coffee and cake that can be bought at The Ocean Studios Cafe next to the exhibition…

 
My Plymouth Art Weekender trilogy #2

Saturday saw bright sunshine and driving through Plymouth early in the morning I could sense there was something arty in the air. As I drove around the city I caught sight of what can only be described as human sized litter, performing strange activities. I arrived to my first venue of the day, Ocean Studios Open Studios. This event took up way more time than I had planned for and the event blew me away. It was like visiting a massive advent calendar. Every time I took a peak behind the door of a studio I had no idea what I was going to experience. The ground floor, larger, studios of ceramicists and other makers were alive with the chatter of children’s workshops.

Space was at a premium as the peripheries of the rooms were filled with proud and attentive parents who marveled and photographed the skills and achievements of their offspring. Chunky stone stairs led me upwards to smaller spaces. My nose led me in the direction of an artist who was using oil paints, brilliant jewel like colours shone off canvasses, coupled with the smell it was a heady mixture. Sadly the artist was missing, (everyone needs a wee sometime).

Teresa Pemberton was in the building and her big bright canvasses bring a smile to anyone’s face. Talking to Teresa it was easy to discover the value of working as a lone practitioner within a collaborative space like Ocean Studios. Mosaicist Emma Spring works was working on a brightly coloured commission in her studio space.Emma has been creating Mosaics a long while, examples of her work adorn the streets of Saltash and she is also closely associated with Flameworks in Plymouth. I’ve recently taken more interest in mosaics, it was great to meet her and see the process as a contemporary practice.

So far so familiar, and that is not a bad thing but on opening one of the doors I met a woman who Free-style embroiders on a machine. Who even knew there was such a thing! Ewa Morawski has recently relocated to Plymouth and lives close to her studio in Royal William Yard. She studied textiles in London and has had commissions from some interesting organisations. Her creations are stored in clear crystal boxes and as her work tumbles out it is hard to believe that the flimsy, beautiful objects are not petals and blossoms just plucked from a bush. One recent commission had her making delicate orchids for the Royal Horticultural Society; they were better than the real thing. She works on an old Singer sewing machine that looks just like the ones that retailers use to give their interiors retro credibility. Ewa creates flowers for brides and corsages but not all her work is soft and sensitive. She rocks punk sensibilities when she recreates tattoos in fabric and her version of a Remembrance Day poppy is vibrant and jazzy.

As I came to the end of my journey I connected with Shayne House. Shayne and Sarah Smalldon share a studio, Shayne is a digital marketing expert and creates wonderful prints with Letterpress and Silk Screen. Sarah produces prints and exquisite house portraits. Perhaps most importantly after four hours of poking my nose in Studios they had a lovely squashy sofa to rest my weary art tourist feet.
My Plymouth Art Weekender trilogy #3

Sunday, I planned to spend the whole day with one topic – Commit This To Memory. Jessica Wright had installed QR codes at each of the 32 sites identified by Plymouth City Council as ‘at risk’. My interest in this project was that each of these sights was already known to me from years of hunting down old bits of Plymouths history, however I have neglected them for the ten years I’ve not lived in Plymouth. The project aims to get Plymouth people involved and interested in the architectural features that Plymouth Council consider to be at risk of becoming unsustainable, to preserve their history. As a family and group of friends we love finding ‘Old Plymouth’ and the conversations and happy memories that spring out of an old piece of Plymouth architecture are precious.

In Jessica’s words- The project is about the here and the now, engagement in the present and the infra-ordinary – the little things that go unnoticed. Scan the QR codes on the stickers to find out more about the sites included in the project and use the hash tag #cttmplymouth to get involved on Instagram. Follow the project @cttmplymouth.

Following the project on Sunday got more and more unpleasant as the rain tracked down my neck, and photography became impossible. The great thing about this Art Weekender experience is that these artifacts have been around a while and will last even longer with love and respect from the city even if this particular project is transitory. Sunday’s weather defeated me but Monday, saw sunshine and climate induced enthusiasm. I popped out to three of my favourite sites on CTTM. And in the spirit of the project shared some of our familial memories.


Thanks to Jessica Wright and her project, I’ve had a great Sunday/Monday. As my personal conclusion to Plymouths Art Weekender, CTTM beautifully illustrated how art enhances life. Just visiting these architectural locations makes me enthusiastic to learn more about each of them and to experience and talk about them with other people.

The 3rd Plymouth Art Weekender, what a blast!

  

Sunshine and Art

Plymouth Art Weekender Saturday was perked up , if perking were needed, by glorious weather.

The city was like a creative ice cream van offering choice and temptation in equal measure . Following the analogy, it was great to be able to sample so many different flavours of art. Not all were served in a way that encouraged me to prolong the experience but others were made for gluttony.

In the gluttony category was the ‘Open Studios’event at Ocean Studios. Architecturally pleasing, box-like studios, make the best of the original features of the Royal William Yard. The uniformity of the studios alters immediately you open a door and step into the creative space. I loved the art and skills I experienced there, more importantly every one of the artists or makers was engaging and interesting.

Elsewhere I experienced a vignette of a pretentious arty person. If this had been a comedy or theatrical festival I would have stayed and marvelled at the accuracy or wit of the performer. As it was it was easy to move on and enjoy the work of other artists more deserving of my time, that is the beauty of a diverse art event.

Today the Plymouth Art Weekender will be robed in ‘mists and mellow fruitfulness’. The weather is shocking. Jumpers are packed for a full day of art.