#261 theoldmortuary ponders

©Jenny Tsang

Spring tides and slightly warmer waters have brought a little zing to coastal sea swimming.

Kim and I had a Sunday night swim and she returned to the beach with the sensation of a stinging nettle encounter on one arm, neither of us had seen any jellyfish but that seemed the most likely cause of her discomfort.

Yesterday I was working in The Box and was having a natter with a colleague. We were talking about our weekends and were surprised to realise that while I was in the water on Sunday she was basking, like a reptile in the sun, on a boat moored not far from where Kim and I were swimming.

We were not even in the Natural History department when she flashed me the picture of the Compass Jelly Fish she had seen on her return to land. The Sunday mystery sensation explained…

©Jenny Tsang

#258 theoldmortuary ponders

©Lauren Webb

Yesterday was all about watching family members doing sporty things. The weather was kind to everyone. Hannah and friends Emily and Becky swam to Drakes Island and back.

Just once a year swimmers are allowed to swim across the deep water channel entrance to Devonport Dockyard between Devils Point and Drakes Island. The swim was sponsored to raise money for the Chestnut Appeal, an organisation that raises money for research into Prostate Cancer. A disease that is close to our hearts and minds as far too many men have lives blighted by this disease. When I say close to our hearts the comment is emotional not anatomical. The prostate gland actually lives just below a mans bladder and surrounds the urethra just after it leaves the bladder. Clearly nowhere near a woman’s actual heart! It is the size of a walnut or chestnut. The prostate is a busy thing making the juice that sperm swim in, but in engineering terms it is badly designed for longevity. My dad described it as having ‘built in obsolescence’ . As men age it swells and becomes thickened, which is benign disease, and makes men wee a lot at night, sadly it is also the site of a very common cancer.

The swim was a little delayed because a big ship needed to pass.

But soon enough the swimmers were off.

And 30 minutes later back again.

Rewarded by coffee provided by their very attentive support team.

My second stint of watching involved the TV, our family had tickets for Wimbledon and while on an outside court had front row seats. Unfortunately the BBC overlayed the exact spot they were sitting with a score checker.

When they were in court 1 they were just tiny dots of pink and blue.

Never in the history of @theoldmortuary has a blog had so many people in it! The dogs were there, at swimming, not Wimbledon, too.

So after a day of watching other people do stuff I felt duty bound to take a little dip in the sea. The crowds were smaller and reaching the island positively not allowed.

#252 theoldmortuary ponders

This lovely shaded orange was a pocket shot after our evening bob/swim. It really was a rough one and nobody stayed in long. The strange thing is that waves can be lovely to swim in, but near to high tide it can all be a little bit too much of a good thing. Yesterday morning the perfect wave machine made its way close to our swimming zone. A very expensive wave machine to be sure, and very unusual.

The waves created were beautiful. Just big regular ripples really, I was sad to be on dry land, as this powerful submarine slipped by, it might have been rather interesting to feel all that power reverberating through the water. Our poppies are also presenting as rather powerful beasts this week. Just like the submarine, all the action is happening under the surface.

These two have not yet opened but someone else did overnight.

Is it just me or does the centre of this poppy look just like the most delicious cake?

Nuclear submarines to Fondant Fancies all in the space of about 500 yards and fewer words. Happy Monday.

#240 theoldmortuary ponders.

The was a touch of the Mediterranean and some mythology to last nights’ swim.

Mythology because it was a bobbers birthday and the cake was so soft and gorgeous that it required cake forks. Definately styled on Neptunes Trident if Neptune would ever have considered a collaboration with Laura Ashley.

Mediterranean because the beach looked like this at 6:30 pm.

I’ve always been envious of summer birthdays, especially now I am a year round sea swimmer. Winter bobbing birthdays have their own vibe but a summer, bobbing, birthday has a far more relaxed feel.   Less scrabbling into clothes more relaxed chattering.

Last night had perfect conditions but even without perfection the sea has been filling up with swimmers, this month, as the water slowly warms up. An average June temperature of 14 degrees was boosted a little, last night to 15 degrees. Suddenly the sea has the intimacy of a swimming pool, we are close enough to other swimmers to converse with people other than our little band of bobbers. Even the proper out to the third buoy swimmers had a little more competition for sea space. Now we have done a full second winter of sea swimming there is a familiarity to the circling of the sun. The topic of conversation in early June is how many of us can fit in two swims on the summer solstice and achieve the real life commitments of families and work. Sea swimming became so popular during the Covid lockdowns; now they can, cafes are opening early to offer early morning breakfast to the swimmers who are up for a 4:45 swim. What fabulous luxury, no more wrestling with baps, bacon and tinfoil before the early morning dip. Just the regular bap wrestling that is an integral part of getting dressed in the public domaine after a sea swim. One last watery image to clear your minds of the bap wrestling. Maybe the first day of summer in Stonehouse.

And a psychedelic birthday cake.

This slightly crazy image exactly replicates the lemony gorgeousness of last nights cake.

#238 theoldmortuary ponders

Finally, yesterday I was ready to ditch any form of wetsuit and just swim. Unencumbered by a lengthy dressing and undressing process. Summer has arrived in my swimming life. The day had been a collection of small domestic positives, admin and chores achieved and dog walks in the sun. One of my walks located some old friends, the white cows who normally sit on the green are having a rest and possibly a spruce up in one of the local secret gardens.

A small tin has also arrived. A reward to myself for selling a few pictures recently. The topics of the exhibitions I am entering later in the year need a more earthy feel than recent works, so I bought some earthy colour watercolours hand made from natural minerals in Pennsylvania just to start off my thinking process.

One of my evening swimming companions took a fabulous panoramic shot of Firestone Bay. The colours in my little tin would also work quite well if I attempted a sketch here one evening.

#168, theoldmortuary ponders

For the last few weeks I have been involved in a Wordle Whatsapp group. It involves a group of people connected with a fiftieth birthday party that I went to in Pangbourne. It must be a sign of age that the only significant thing I don’t remember from the party is talking about Wordle. Perhaps even more important is that it appears to be an early morning WordleWhatsapp so I wake up already under pressure from the really early birds.

Now my early mornings have so many possible starts. Dog Walk? Blog? Wordle? Shower? Breakfast? Book? Staying awake beyond midnight gives me the chance to Wordle or Blog before most people are about, but me and midnight are not as well acquainted as we used to be since I swapped NHS life for that of Museums and Art.

All the interiors or fashion magazines mention Wordle Green as a key colour this year.

I’m not convinced, myself, that I could wear Wordle Green or live with too much of it. But some of my favourite colours are greens. When the sun is out in April it makes greens especially vivid. So taking my queue from recent style magazines I’m going to feature some almost Wordle Greens for the end of this pondering


Plymouth to Gunnislake railway journey. Bright shafts of sunlight hit overgrown hedges along the track . April 2021
Inherited 1970’s coloured glass tumblers sitting in the sun waiting to be packed for a house move. April 2021
Easter painting from our Grandchild in Hong Kong . April 2021
Seaweed in the tidal pool at Firestone Bay. April 2021
Old door near the Cremyl Ferry. Stonehouse Peninsular. April 2021

All the dates on these pictures predate Wordle Green by a year. If only I were published by the New York Times, the hot new colour on the block could have been…

@theoldmortuary Green. There’s a thought!

#167 theoldmortuary ponders

Some days should be celebrated for their ‘ normalness’. Lola has returned to her pre-surgery, happy, self so the dog world, in our house, has returned to near normal. In the outside world, we had a day that was really very similar to pre-pandemic life. We said goodbye to some friends heading off for some prolonged travelling and I went to an in-person bookclub where 90% of the members attended with no-one away with Covid. The only person who couldn’t attend couldn’t come because she was too busy elsewhere. These may be really mundane observations on the activities of a day but the fact that they are so normal is spectacularly exciting. Near normal days have been almost impossible for more than two years. Normal is really rather lovely. A normal day ended with a beautiful, but normal for here, sunset. Pretty much a perfect day.

#163 theoldmortuary ponders.

©Angela Bobber

There has been an abrupt cold weather change this week. The sun is out but the temperature is decidedly chilly. Goodness knows what the sea is doing, from a distance in the early evening it appears to be very dark in colour. Closer up during a bobbing session on Wednesday the bay was this gorgeous teal colour. Bobbers can have lively imaginations about the sea creatures they can see when the water looks like this.

This week I’ve started work on a longstanding commission for some paintings of things that are actually in the sea.

My starting point is Mackerel.

Three jolly mackerel posed in the bright sunlight this week.It was so cold they didnt thaw out at all during the half hour posing session. Natural sunlight brought out all the colour on their backs and the subtle iredescence of their bellies.

It must be amazing to sail close to shoals of mackerel. I find them a really beautiful subject to photograph and paint. But being near them alive and swimming must be really special.

For this commission mackerel are going to pose on the fishmongers paper they arrived in. The crumples and creases make some really interesting shapes on a neutral background when lit by sharp morning light.

Enough of fishy posing and pontificating we are nearly at the weekend, we have arrived in April and here the sun is shining. Happy Friday, take care with cunning April Fool jokes, my early morning wake up by Alexa was the first to catch me out this morning. Enjoy the weekend.

#156 theoldmortuary ponders

Early morning on the Stonehouse Peninsular. I’m freshly out of a hot shower and on an early morning dog walk, knowing full well that the next time I am standing here, in about an hour, my warm clothes will be off and,along with other bobbers, I will be submerging myself in the Atlantic. Nearly three weeks of a nasty virus has kept me out of the water. My lingering symptoms are no longer significant enough to keep me on the shore clutching a hot drink and nattering with Coach. Three weeks out of the cold water is a significant mountain to climb. She said mixing her metaphors like a pro. I’ve even added arty filters to the image to make it feel more enticing. Today we have a first time bobber joining us and a visiting bobber as well as several Covid recoverers. Definately a day for pulling on our big girl pants and getting on with it!

Yesterday this huge boat was tugged past our bobbing spot. I could feel the thrum of the three tugs long before I saw the vessel.

Yesterday, I wished I had been in the water as this boat passed our swimming zone. There is something rather thrilling about being in the water when the tugs are working really hard, guiding big ships through the safety channel. The rumble of hard working engines in water turns into something that is so much more than a tingle as it is transmitted through our submerged bodies. Its a tingle but fatter, not quite a throb. Whatever it is I could do with one today to encourage me in…

Happy Friday x

P.S. It was wonderful.

#138 theoldmortuary ponders

I learnt last week that longstanding residents of Stonehouse call the recent influx of wild or outdoor swimmers “Dryrobers”. This is infinitely more polite than the residents of the Lake District where the same groups of people are called ” Swimmers in Wankerobes”

The bobbers are unapologetically swimmers who wear these types of garments.


dryrobe Advance Long Sleeve

Nowhere in the companies website do they mention increasing, post bob, talking time or the comfort of patiently waiting dogs. There is even a large pocket that can accommodate a champagne or prosseco bottle for Birthday Bobs.

Yesterday the water temperature was a balmy 10 degrees while the air temp was 7 degrees. Today they have both dropped a further degree. But even in such chilly times we managed over half an hour of proper post swim chatting.

Certainly in large numbers ‘Dryrobers’ look like swarming, plump, insects stuck forever somewhere in the pupating stage of life. With head feet and hands emerging from a protective cocoon their bodies have no intention of leaving.

The popularity of outdoor swimming is a post-covid phenomenon that shows little sign of going away as the pandemic ebbs away. Coastal areas have become 365 days a year destinations, which is almost certainly a welcome boost for independent businesses who suffered so greatly during the multiple lock downs. Swarms of happy, healthy people is a good thing to have emerged from a sad and difficult two years of Covid-19.