#340 theoldmortuary ponders

Todays blog has , once again, written itself. The plan was to have a bit of a natter about the architecture and history of The Great Hall, Westminster. But something more organic has grabbed my attention.

#QueueForTheQueen

Overnight the British love for an orderly queue has reached its zenith. Could there be anything more gloriously, gorgeously, British than a queue with a life of its own.

The Queue has its own website, live tracker and constant streamed wencam.

I woke up for a wee at a moment of unfortunate activity.

A guard took a tumble during his duty.

Twitter, as can be the case, is the place for witty comments. Visual jokes that will only improve over the five days of The Queue’s life.

I am not an innocent in this queueing malarky, only two weeks ago I chose a restaurant in Chicago “Because it had a queue” I don’t know why those words came out of my mouth or even where the thought came from. I was not wrong though, our lunch was excellent.

It is not an exaggeration to say that people have travelled from the four corners of the earth to join #QueueForTheQueen. Just like Glastonbury there are wrist bands, portable toilets, and no sleep.

But here, perched on the edge of my bed there is definitely sleep. Five more days of the greatest queue on earth, An unexpected pleasure!

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/sep/14/queen-coffin-queues-30-hours-london?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Other

#328 theoldmortuary ponders

Leaving Chicago, and then, suddenly, not leaving Chicago. The book planned for my return flight, titled ‘The Paris Wife’starts off in Chicago. Set in the first chapters, somewhat unexpectedly, on the exact streets that my over used feet walked their daily 20,000 steps last week. I bought the book in Toronto because it promised to take me to Jazz Age Paris. 20 pages in and I am in Chicago and in Chicago. Two weeks ago the streets would have just been abstract names but now I have a real feeling for the geography of the early plot. This is the most delightful surprise and, as so often happens will take this blog somewhere entirely different to the planned destination.

The funny thing is that the book was chosen because it is a book written about Ernest Hemingway and his time in Paris, two subjects I am familiar and comfortable with. Already I am hoping the characters will make a visit to the Drake Hotel, a beautiful survivor from the Jazz Age.

And just like that the characters have moved on to Paris and I am in an Uber to Wimbledon.

No trips for either of us to The Drake.

#227 theoldmortuary ponders

Welcome to the Thursday that thinks it is Saturday. The Queen has been on the throne for seventy years, so in Britain we have a four day weekend with today, Thursday,being the first of the days off.

The Queen as Ziggy Stardust, both great British institutions.

My head has been incapable of adjusting to a Thursday Bank Holiday.I can’t help but be puzzled that this is not Saturday. Our usually quiet week day walk was enlivened by huge numbers of tourists. The dogs took their time reading all the pee mails that the unknown holidaying dogs have left, almost making us late for our usual, free, two hour parking spot. A big celebration in London with us not visiting is unheard of, but we never considered going this time. We no longer have our own Welsh Guardsman performing for Her Majesty.

Not because we have lost him, but because he has retired his Bearskin. To be fair his instrument of choice made him one of the men in the back row so we have spent many events of great national significance waiting for a glimpse of his bottom.

We often got front row seats, again really very lucky. On one occasion the seats were so special we had a slightly awkward sartorial moment. We had taken some South African friends, with us, who were dressed amazingly, I suppose we were dressed well enough for normal but as it turned out our tickets were anything but normal. London, on these occasions, is also far from normal so when our tickets, being checked at pinch points, sent us nearer and nearer to Downing Street we were not particularly perturbed. Alarm bells were slightly raised by the fashion and style of all the other people who were being gently directed with us. If we were dressed to an OK standard the others in the queue clearly had a different dress code. Men in Morning Dress ( three piece suits with tails) women in fabulous outfits with high heels and hats of the most fabulous sort. What sealed the deal for the strangeness of our ticket allocation, was the last part of our journey which was through the gardens of Number 10 Downing Street. The home and Office of the British Prime minister. We had randomly been given tickets on the same stand as International Diplomats. We diplomatically stuck close to our South African friends, who looked more dressed for the  occasion than we did. We took our places in the stand and had fabulous views. No one noticed us at all,  apart from those moments when our friends caught a glimpse of a black Welsh Guards musician and ululated with joy. Having done it once, those diplomats and their families, who could ululate, joined in on on every subsequent occasion. I suspect that is not the normal behaviour from the Diplomats stand, but it made the days events joyful and memorable.

Thursday as the new Saturday, a Platinum Jubilee is unlikely ever to happen again. My confusion is unlikely to be repeated. Probably just as well!

#3 theoldmortuary ponders

Long before I started a blog, I had a normal job in London. One of the places I would seek refuge, after a nights work, was The Townhouse, Spitalfields. Home made cake and coffee embellished by the Townhouse itself always slowed the busy pace of London down to something more manageable. The link below describes the Townhouse far more comprehensively than I ever could.

Town House Spitalfields

There was serendipity at work when one of my favourite blog writers, The Gentle Author offered blog writing courses based at The Townhouse.

Returning this weekend for a second writing course with The Gentle Author was a treat, both visual and experiential. In between learning and enjoying wonderful food I hopped around like an overactive magpie gathering photographic trinkets for future blog use. It helped that bright autumnal sunshine barged its way into the corners and recesses of the early Georgian building, making everything a little more magical.

Taking magic to a different place was the bathroom we used this weekend.

And the kitchen where refreshments were served.

https://www.townhousespitalfields.com/

The link above takes you to the Townhouse website. I”m sure this will not be the last blog I write about this gorgeous building.

#2 theoldmortuary ponders

I could be in complete denial that autumn is in full glory this morning. The trees outside my room are uniformly green. Yesterday was bright and sunny and the street markets I explored were still selling whisps of dresses in bright sunshine. It is all a bit of trickery, the trees rustle with squirrels busy stockpiling seeds and acorns and market traders need to sell summer stock to empty their warehouses for heavier winter clothes.

Likewise, in denial, this beautiful assemblage of coloured- glass, domestic objects and a tea strainer, twinkle in bright sunlight against a robustly healthy Banana tree.

More trickery of course. The banana tree lives in a micro climate. Surrounded on all sides by tall, Georgian town houses that protect it from harsh easterly winds that whip the east of England and blow up the Thames estuary, burning delicate foliage at first touch.

Attending a writing course is a lot like trickery and microclimates. The conclave ( secret meeting) format relaxes absolute strangers into shared and deeper mental intimacy; providing a fertile literary microclimate to explore and evolve writing styles and to sort out the dry areas in our creativity.

The beauty of attending face to face meetings again is that we can be experimental and risky away from our domestic environment. The sights, sounds and smells around Spitalfields are so stimulating, the architecture spans centuries and the people are from every corner of the world. Every course member walks into the writing room with some new common layers of sensation sprinkled on to their existing diverse life experiences. Advanced blog writing was a blast this weekend, thanks to everyone who shared it. You know who you are.

#1 theoldmortuary ponders.

A weekend away on a blogging course and a little rebranding. Moving on from Pandemic Pondering as the world moves from Pandemic to Endemic @theoldmortuary will be pondering at large. My walk from Spitalfields to  Islington yesterday evening gave me the gift of this totally apporopriate sign.

There is an agreement within our blogging group that the course and its goings on are in the form of a conclave. While sticking very happily to those restictions I’m almost certain to natter on about the course in the future but not about the attendees or the contents. The venue is one of my favourite spaces in London and is always inspirational so talking about the course while not being explicit is easy.

There are 12 bottoms.

©Pádraig Macmiadháchain @Spitalfields Townhouse

Occupying 12 seats.

We talk about our blogs and how we would like to allow them to evolve and improve. Refreshment and blogging nattering occur over beautiful food.

Right now I’m on my way back for Day 2. Have a fabulous Sunday.

Pandemic Pondering#442

Quite a red letter day @theoldmortuary . Nearly time to get on a train and take a trip to my old workplace. St Bartholomews Hospital in the City of London.

I’ve always loved the contrast of City and Country/Coastal life. Today is a fine day to leave Cornwall. A huge blanket of fog has settled on the peninsular over the last 24 hours. Somewhat perverse as the Worlds press has descended on the area to cover the G7 meeting. The famed beauty of Cornwall is wearing a murky mask just like rest of us. The slow trickle of VIP helicopters on Tuesday never got going yesterday and film crews search for scenic backdrops is going to be fruitless for a day or two. Yesterday was Ocean Day, our tiny corner of the Atlantic didn’t really make an appearance.

Luckily the ‘ bobbers’ brought some colour to the coast.

Picture not taken yesterday!

Last nights swim was really pleasant at 14 degrees and a high tide that we could just step straight into. Not a single photo opportunity that would lift anyone’s spirits though!

Luckily for tomorrows blog I’m briefly off to the bright lights.

A sign of a good night out in London has always been how late a return to home is. With the certainty of a train timetable I know I will be getting home at 5:30 am. Great night out guaranteed even under Pandemic restrictions and by 10:30 I will be back in the sea.

This is how dense the fog is, there is a house 10 yards from this wall.

Pandemic Pondering #251

This is a little bit of a one trick pony of a pondering. One of my favourite Facebook History Pages, asked the question. ” What is your favourite street name?”

No other name comes close to Grotto Passage in Marylebone. It was on one of my regular work walks. As an aside but slightly work related, some of my work colleagues were big fans of post work hook-ups using the dating App Grindr. If it were me there could only ever be one address for a liaison post work. ” Meet me in Grotto Passage’ would be my first choice everytime.

As it happens history got there before me. In the 18th Century Grotto Passage led to a Grotto. A pleasure garden, greatly embellished with sea shells by the owner John Castle, an acknowleged expert builder of such things. The fashion was brief and after John died the grotto fell into disrepair and was eventually built over. Most notably in 1846 by a children’s home and school entitled ‘ The Grotto Ragged and Industrial School’ and later ‘ The Grotto Passage Refuge’ It was around this time the area became known for the sort of sexual liaisons I jokingly referred to at the beginning.

But not necessarily in a good way, in TripAdvisor of the time the sort of sexual entertainment that could be had in Grotto Passage was considered to be inferior to the services available in Haymarket and was described as ” Depraved in every sense”

That seems as good a place as any to finish this ponder.

Pandemic Pondering #248

©thegentleauthor

Oh my goodness, I’ve completely missed my year anniversary of daily blogging. As regular readers know , daily blogging was never a plan but the Pandemic has stepped in and daily blogging is where I have ended up. It would be tempting to leave a missed anniversary as just that but admitting my error allows me to share some photographs of an area I’ve loved since long ago when it was shabby and even more since the rest of the world has discovered it.

1 year and 12 days after my blogging course I bring you Spitalfields. A year and 10 days ago I wouldn’t have had the confidence to write a random blog. On the 9th and 10th November 2019 none of us had any idea what was coming; a Pandemic that has given me the time to ponder.

What thrills me is that the amazing Palimpsest that is all over Spitalfields inspired a friend of mine, Anne Crozier, to create Palimpsest for an Art Exhibition in Tavistock.

Pukka Palimpsest © Anne Crozier
Spitalfields Palimpsest

Great images just happen in this special corner of East London.

My relationship with the building the course was held in goes back many years . The Townhouse , Spitalfields is an antique shop with beautiful contemporary pieces sprinkled among older items. It is an art gallery and cafe and holds some resources to demonstrate the importance of the area to families linked with Hugenot migrants. Accomodation is also offered in unexpectedly comfy rooms.

On a previous visit, before he knew how to behave, Hugo hid in a corner pretending to be stock.

Here is the back door of The Town House.

And some more street art that was just around the corner.

And a link to the website of the Gentle Author who ran the course I attended.

https://spitalfieldslife.com/

And another to the townhouse, I don’t know how it has fared during the pandemic.

https://www.townhousespitalfields.com/

Both links show beautifully why I am inspired by them.

Pandemic Pondering #158

Todays word for the Art Group is Skyscraper. I’m going to be perverse today and talk about the absence of Skyscrapers.

I was 17 when I first became intimately acquainted with St Pauls Cathedral. I calmed my nerves before a career interview at St Bartholomew’s Hospital by wandering the Crypt and Whispering in the eponymous Gallery.

Training in the City with its associated highs and lows gave me ample chance to explore the nooks and crannies of this amazing Cathedral and to develop a humanistic love of the Evensong Service. There is something lovely about doing something that humans have been doing in the same location since 604. Not all history in this area bears repetitions quite so comfortably.

The lack of Skyscrapers around St Pauls is no accident. This is the view from Nunhead Cemetery in South London.

It has a protected view.

You can read more about protected views in this link. https://www.citymetric.com/fabric/protecting-view-how-st-pauls-cathedral-has-been-shaping-rest-london-centuries-2577

This is a painting a little way from St Bartholomew’s Hospital , showing the scale of permitted development closely around St Paul’s. The picture below shows a more distant view from Tate Modern.

Skyscrapers define modern cities but the absence of them near St Paul’s opens up the sky and gives the City a different visual experience.