Pandemic Ponderings #10

Yesterday was a strange one . It started off sad and strange and finished off stranger.

Yesterday I decided to put away our grandchild kit @theoldmortuary.

Stuff that we gathered in a hurry in July last year when she arrived in the UK at 8 months old.

It was surprisingly sad. I thought we were well used to not seeing her. Even before she was born there was the knowledge that any contact was only ever going to be fleeting. She was born in Hong Kong and we met her two weeks later fully aware that it would be a Hello/Goodbye relationship. Then her parents decided to return to the UK and we spent a month in Hong Kong caring for her during the beginning of the troubles whilst they fulfilled their contracts. She was a resilient little soul as we made the most of being with her and being in Hannah’s home town. Public transport was sketchy and the climate unforgiving as we visited government offices and Embassies to facilitate the paper trail of three people leaving their home of five years. We also managed swanky afternoon teas and less swanky but far more interesting visits to Sham Shi Po and Cape Collinson, the former home of Hannah’s family and the last resting place of her parents and sister.

One last goodbye we thought as we jumped on a plane in Hong Kong, a few hours ahead of her and her mum and dad. As luck would have it they were moving to Cornwall.

It’s strange having an 8 month old baby arrive in your home. The equipment needed is massive and happened all at once. Since July we’ve settled into a routine of seeing her most weeks , sharing family time and viruses in equal measure.

We waved her off ten days ago, clean and sleepy in her pyjamas fully expecting the new routine of life to continue.

But we don’t know when we will see her again . Social distancing and self isolation have isolated bits of families and friendship groups in a startling way. Lock down which was announced last night further breaks our social and familial ties . We’ve all had last goodbyes without ever realising the significance of the moment.

Some of those last goodbyes will have been exactly that.

What strange times.

Leap Year

What to do with the extra day in 2020.

©Hong Kong Ballet

Obviously after just one lesson we are fizzing to leap around on Leap Day, but this young man does it so much better .

February always needs more red.

Leap Year attracts flimsiness and fun, see my efforts above, or read Guardian flimsiness.
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/feb/29/leap-year-day-how-you-could-and-should-celebrate-29-february

But it exists to keep us all ticking along nicely in time. Introduced by Julius Caesar over 2000 years ago.

Leap day recalibrates and corrects time keeping because every year is actually 365 days and 6 hours long (one complete earth orbit of the sun) so once every four years those extra 6 hours are gathered together to make an extra day.

29 pictures in red to fill your extra day.

Red car Plymouth Hoe
Miss VV
Tywardreath rail crossing
Crystal Palace Rail Station
VV and Mum talk Rothko
Posters Devonport Playhouse
Redcurrants Butler’s Cottage
Red vase @theoldmortuary
Poppies @theoldmortuary
Jewel Salad @theoldmortuary
100 Homes Project, Plymouth
Chinese New Year , Hong Kong
Bowls South Korea
Hugo and Lola hit the Red Carpet
Gipsy Hill Brewery at The Lord High Admiral , Plymouth
Nasturtiums
Detail of painting
Street Art Haggerston
Chilli lights and cook books
Welsh Guards
Autumn Leaf Dulwich Picture Gallery
Beach plastic, Portwrinkle
Croxted Road, Dulwich
Detail from painting
Street Art, New York
Dodging the spray, Niagara Falls, Canada
Post Box, Barnes
Brixton Market
Hoi An

Vivid

Vivid is my word of choice on a dull, wet January day. Vivid brightens the world. Vivid people enrich the world. Vivid is never dull. I searched my files for a picture or two to illustrate vivid. My vivid file is rather full and I’m unable to just pick one so join me on a vivid journey for January. The route will be erratic.

Vivid Hugo in January 7 years ago. An 8 week old puppy. As I write this he still loves a vivid backdrop. Today he is sleeping on a Chartreuse coloured pillow.

One last Hugo centric image comes from Brighton Pavillion Winter Ice skating rink possibly 6 years ago. I love the accidental or serendipitous heart shape of the illuminated portion of the image.

Taking my next link as architecture Brighton Pavillion we to Neal’s Yard just North of Covent Garden Tube Station.

I’m completely lost as to where these beach huts are. Pink and orange takes us to the seaside, either Suffolk or Sussex.

This wall is in Marrakech, dropping the orange we go pink. A pink wall in Majorelle Gardens famed for their blue. There is a tiny triangle of the eponymous blue if you look hard enough.

Pink Marrakech walls guide me gently towards the next new direction, which will be sartorial with a nod to a traditionally dressed market porter. What is intangible from this picture is the vivid smell eminating from the tannery area. A rare example of vivid not being a good thing.

Sartorially vivid takes us to South Korea. A chance photograph of a proper dapper chap.

Another chance photograph. Not so dapper but definately a chap taken at Whitstable Carnival.

Body habitas gives me the next cue for a change of direction. Statues by Mauro Perruchetti. Jelly Baby Family at Marble Arch.

Jelly baby sculptures neatly swerve me to foodstuffs. Next up Dolly Mixtures at a baptismal party.

The glitter and twinkly confetti party table takes us effortlessly to a live Christmas Karaoke party in Peckham.

Then on to yet more twinkle. This time for Chinese New Year in Hong Kong.

Peckham to Hong Kong, quite a journey but as we’ve arrived there is more Hong Kong to reveal.

Close up of a lantern , quickly followed by a photographic error but vivid and thus valuable to this blog.

As luck would have it I have a Chinese New Year textile link.

My packing for Chinese New Year.

That was a lucky turn as textiles are awkward to weave into a story. The craft tent at The Royal Cornwall Show tempted Psychedelic crochet out of the closet.

Port Eliot Festival, also in Cornwall ties up trees as gifts.

Which brings me gratefully to Vivid Nature.

February tulips in Saltash

Artichokes in June.

Which briefly return us to Hong Kong for spiky plants.

Rambutans at Tuen Mun market in the New Territories. Fruit directs me to some of my paintings. Starting with Fig, Blackberry and Cob but.

Then on to an invented abstract fruit.

Which bears a little resemblance to a real flower,

at the Chelsea Flower Show, which of course returns us to London.

This is a very expensive monitor in a hospital in Marylebone. This intriguing pattern was caused by an unexpectedly vigorous movement of an x-ray machine, known as a C-arm it orbits around the patient. Swinging us neatly to the actual Orbit at The Olympic Park. Sculpture by Anish Kapoor.

Red neon effect and East London track me back to The City.

A favourite bar and coffee shop opposite Smithfield Market and close to St Bartholomew’s Hospital . Ask For Janice is a refuge from the realities of work. It is also the location for celebrations and socializing with work friends. Often before more physical challenges , which bowls us along nicely.

Posh bowling in Bloomsbury with the boys.

Buoys on the Norfolk coast.

And finally some vivid music and more spheres.

Congratulations on completing a vivid journey. Have a chocolate.

Advent#31

December 31st 2019, the last day of a decade. The blog has grown into itself. Pondering has become the driving word for narrative and visual creations. All thanks to a writing course with The Gentle Author of Spitalfields life.

https://spitalfieldslife.com/

Pondering the past year, I grabbed one picture for each month from my smartphone. There was no theme. No images of dogs or family or friends. In reality I ponder my friends, family and dogs often in the moments of these images. Taking you all into the next decade is the best gift imaginable.

Time to gently close the door on 2019 and lift the latch on the one marked 2020.

@theoldmortuary , pondering 2019 one month at a time.

Portwrinkle, Cornwall. January 2019

Portwrinkle again. Shells on a rusty GPO box. February 2019

https://gailsbread.co.uk/bakeries/dulwich-village/

Cheese straws. Gail’s Bakery, Dulwich Village. March 2019

https://www.porteliot.co.uk/

Wild Garlic, Port Eliot, St Germans, Cornwall. April 2019

Spring Flowers, Trematon Castle, Saltash. May 2019.

Hong Kong. June 2019

https://www.vam.ac.uk/

Shadows at the Dior Exhibition. V and A, Kensington July 2019

Rusty watering can rose and geranium. @theoldmortuary.August2019

https://kelly-house.co.uk/

Quick sketch of a 90 year old theatrical crown. Kelly House, Kelly. September 2019

Spider web, Waterside, Saltash October 2019

Corrugated cardboard rolled. St Ives, Cornwall. November 2019

Scavenged Festive wreath @theoldmortuary December 31st 2019.

https://www.oceanstudios.org.uk/

See you there …

Advent#27

Extending my Advent to include Yule has brought such pleasure. During my ponderings I discovered the Yuletide Goat. This thrills me because I have a fascination for goats . They are the highlight of Greek holidays, and a recurring source of pleasure.

Before today my knowledge of all things Yule extended to logs, both the chocolate and massively woody sort. Yuletide , the time around Christmas, originally of Pagan origin.

The Yule Goat is a revelation. He is a Christmas tradition of Northern Europe with Pagan origins. He was in some traditions the giver of gifts , a precursor to Father Christmas . As traditions have matured and altered he has become the creature that Father Christmas rides to deliver gifts or even the animal that pulls the sleigh. This is all hugely confusing in Britain where our traditions are either created or improved by first the Victorians and secondly the USA. Goats do not play a part .

Imagine the complexity of the Santa App if it had to cope with Reindeers being taken out of harness over Scandinavia to be replaced by goats or even Santa going Solo and just casually swinging a leg over a solitary goat to hit the hard to reach places.

The Goat is significant in Poland. Particularly vexatious for me as I’m writing this on Boxing Day and I spent the day with Polish relations who could have explained Goatish things to me.

As an aside I spent yesterday with American relations and had to explain Boxing Day.

Trust me Advent 2020 will be much more Goaty. I will research goats, I will photograph goats . I will find more utterly gorgeous Goat illustrations like this one from Buccifolio.

https://www.redbubble.com/people/buccifolio

I remembered a festive goat from Hong Kong a couple of years ago at PMQ. Created for the Chinese New Year. Not exactly a Yule Goat but certainly proof that theoldmortuary loves a Goaty photo.

http://www.pmq.org.hk/?lang=ch

Advent#19

It’s serendipity again that leads me from the surprise experience of Dragon dancing kites in Plymouth yesterday to home via another tradition that also has its roots very firmly in Chinese Culture.
https://theoldmortuary.design/2019/12/17/advent18/

It’s a busy time in Christian churches in December. School Carol services fill the mid-week evenings. theoldmortuary overlooks a church. Last night’s school Carol Service had a lantern lit path leading to the church.

Lanterns of the paper sort have had a rise in popularity in Europe over the last fifty years. The type that are lit with a night light and float away like a balloon had a rise in popularity and then a meteoric fall when the effects of their ultimate descent was highlighted by a series of accidents caused to property, livestock and the emerging awareness of the environmental impact.

Lanterns as part of celebrations started in China 2000 years ago, the earliest lanterns held captured Fire flies. The lantern habit soon spread to South East Asia where they continue to be popular throughout the year rather than the more European habit of winter time lantern activity.

Korea

Hong Kong

Vietnam

Home.

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.

Advent#5

This time last year we were wandering the streets of Hong Kong looking for the location of the military hospital that Hannah was born in. On the way we walked streets with amazing neon signs.

Like so much in Hong Kong, a year has seen a lot of changes. Beyond the well publicised protests, there are other alterations to Hong Kong’s heritage afoot. Neons, in particular the ones that hang over roads are being removed. Health and safety and energy economics are the reasons given. Hong Kongers see it as another sign of Hong Kong culture being crushed by China. Their loss will alter the night- life street- life scene massively.

© Juliet Cornell Watercolour

Devon Slice and other baked goods controversy.

Yesterday’s Quickie#5 was a scone. A controversial food item, in particular in the borderlands of the Tamar Valley but also worldwide. Quickie#5 was a cheese scone for simplicity

Lively conversation occurs at theoldmortuary over baked goods as we are a mixed heritage household. One Hongkonger with Devon/Cornish genes, one Essex woman and two dogs from Bedford. Growing up in Essex I loved being bought a Devon Slice. A soft mound of sweet dough, glazed and split across the top and filled with fresh cream and jam. When I moved to the Tamar Valley I fully assumed I would reacquaint myself with the Devon Slice. I can’t say I was hugely diligent in searching them out but occasional enquiries were met with puzzled looks in the bakeries I visited. I have a vague idea I bought something similar, in the eighties, at Jacka Bakery on the Barbican in Plymouth, but it wasn’t called a Devon slice. As they are the countries oldest working bakery and must know their dough products I must assume a Devon Slice was an Essex or maybe even more locally a Braintree invention or,worse,a family made- up name.

Our much missed family baker, Jenny, part of the Cornish heritage had never heard of a Devon slice fitting my description.

This opening paragraph illustrates that there isn’t much of my bakery knowledge that is factually correct, and so with my lack of accurate knowledge laid bare I will make a small personal statement about the Scone/ Jam/Cream debate.

In my early Essex life amongst family we split a scone, spread the cut surfaces with thick cream and topped it with jam. We were all happy with this, I continued to be happy with it for 30 years until I moved to the Tamar Valley. My life since then has straddled the Tamar Valley, living in Cornwall and working either in Devon, or more recklessly and wildly, ‘ Up the line’ *

* Up the Line’ in Cornwall means anywhere beyond of where you are within Cornwall and to the East. It could mean Plymouth, London or, in reality, anywhere in the rest of the World.

Personally despite living in Cornwall I persist in my ‘Essex’ ways left to my own devices. In company I can go either way to be honest. I actually don’t have a huge preference. To say the spreading order of jam and cream or cream and jam is contentious is in itself contentious. Not having an opinion is entirely possible but will always expose the undecided individual to unlooked for advice in any group of people.I am hugely fascinated by other people’s views . Does Aberdeen side with Devon , cream first, or does it follow a Celtic lead and side with Cornwall, jam first? Where does Birmingham stand?

Essex I believe stands with Devon, but maybe that’s just my own leafy corner of North East Essex. Who knows?

Debate and more knowledge warmly welcomed.