Pandemic Pondering#433

Plenty of sunshine and a lovely bit of misogyny.

A sunny Bank Holiday weekend has brought many moments of mirth and pleasure. I took this comment from our towns community page on Facebook. I too think the mowing of the wildflowers is a dreadful shame. In the portion of the graveyard that we overlook, the graves  are so old that they are extremely rarely visited. The wild flowers make the area calm and contemplative. Pollenators love it. Never could the author of the comment have imagined she would get such a delicious example of misogyny as a response. Alan R is quite the man for going off at a tangent, in unexpected ways. In other churchyard news the poppies are  really showing off.

Planted to mark 100 years since the end of World War 1, this their third year is their most glorious.

Despite spending over a year walking every inch of our local area we discovered a new viewpoint yesterday. High up, ovelooking Plymouth Sound. There is a tarmac viewpoint just behind the old Marine Biology building on the Hoe.

The views are splendid.

On such a beautiful day it would have been impossible not to swim, or bob, in the sea. An evening bob with bobbers, friends and families was the perfect end to a gorgeous Monday.

Unexpectedly early, some of the bobbers took delivery of their new summer, post-bob, cover ups, this weekend.

All excitedly modelled on the Whatsapp group.

In other news my fabulous school friend Dai Pullen, an occasional contributor to Pandemic Ponderings has entered a short story competition. If you have the time please visit the facebook link below, read his entry and vote if his wordplay floats your boat.

Pandemic Pondering #336

There has been a good bit of pondering over this blog today. No standout trail of random thoughts stood out yesterday ready for publication this morning. The tomato figurehead was a late arrival, its significance will be revealed later.

February is watercolour month @theoldmortuary . Not this year, the studio is partially packed away. I’ve not painted anything since a commission was finished before Christmas. Not able to quite control creativity I found something I can keep in a small bag, Lino printing is likely to become a method of illustration for these blogs once I get going effectively.

For similar reasons watercolour is my medium of choice in the dark months of January and February. It doesn’t require studio space, just a dining table which happens to be in the actual old mortuary, which is lovely and warm. ( Not a sentence associated with real mortuaries)

February is often about experimenting. So linoprinting is not such a great leap. Watercolour portraits, fascinate me. This one is of Fred, one of my schoolfriends. Painted a couple of years ago. I enjoyed the discipline and probably need an excuse to do more.

February is also about buying new art materials and getting to know them. The quickest way for me to do that is to revert to my earliest artistic endeavours and one that I only truly revisit on holidays ( no time soon I think)

Watercolour landscapes, a fine way to relax and experiment a bit. As a holiday activity it is unequalled, although many of mine are not truly watercolour as it is all too easy to dip a brush in my gin and tonic in error. This last watercolour will feature in tomorrows blog too, as it is a painting of the ‘Nearly There Trees’ a famed Landmark on one of the routes into Cornwall.

So back to the tomatoes. Inspired by The Lighter Side of Science on Facebook a page published by

This site is perfect for the strange old mashup that is me. Part artist , part scientist, part ponderer.

I’ve reused and paraphrased their quote of today onto my painting. When else would l get the chance to use a painting of a tomato!

Pandemic Pondering #164

Layers is the prompt word for the Art Group today. This photo was taken during a Drawing Day at Kelly House, Lifton. A house that has been lived in by the same family for over 900 years has the most exquisite textures. 60% of us live in the same house for 15 years but only 10% for 25 years. 900 years is an astonishing amount of time even though more than one person has had to make that decision to stay. Imagine how interesting the domestic clutter must be at Kelly House, the layers of familial bric-a-brac. Recycle, repurpose and Reuse has a whole new depth when there is 900 years of things that will come in useful, stored away in cupboards.

By comparison our layers @theoldmortuary are miniscule there is nothing here older than three generations. Four generations if you include old photographs.

I’ve recently been digging through a box that holds some of these layers, while looking for a lost spare car key. The digital age and its minimalism side effect will diminish the amount of clutter or stuff that we leave behind. The things I found gave me such pleasure, I’m not sure less layers is a good thing.

Leave some layers.

Braintree Shakespear Players 1947. Keith and Raymond

Pandemic Pondering #88 told a story.

This black and white image is part of it.

Pandemic Pondering#100

Given Cornwall’s grand seafaring tradition and your nerdish love of words I thought you might enjoy this collection of phrases all derived from maritime/nautical origins. A topic for your next blog perhaps?

© theoldmortuary

© @theoldmortuary
When I got this message in an email it seemed obvious that #100 could be special by having a guest author.@theoldmortuary welcomes Dai Pullen as our first guest author.

To be on Strike

Naturally the first thought that comes to mind when we think of seafarers and the waterfront are long and bitter campaigns of industrial action.
But this term has its roots in the 18th century when life at sea was lonely and cruel (for example, though it seems hard to believe today on some vessels the supply of chocolate biscuits would be exhausted before the ship had even lost sight of land).and harsh punishments were handed out to offenders. But seamen sometimes got together to fight their bad conditions. They would then strike the sails of their ships – which means to lower them – so preventing the ship from leaving port until their grievance was settled.
Swinging the lead
A person who pretends to be working when he is doing nothing, or claims to be ill when there’s nothing wrong with him, is said to be ‘swinging the lead’.
Before today’s sophisticated navigational equipment, seamen used to find out the depth of water by dropping a lead weight, attached to a tins, marked rope, to the bottom of a waterway.
Some lazy sailor, would take as long as possible about it. They would swing the lead to and fro several times instead of just dropping it straight into the water. Behaviour unheard of in the VPCM but quite common in certain sections of the POMC.

On Your Beam Ends
When you are absolutely out of luck, out of money and out of much else besides, you are said did to be ‘on your beam ends.’
It’s a phrase borrowed from old nautical times. A wooden ship depended for stability on its beams- the timbers that ran across the vessel, holding the sides in place and supporting the deck. A ship that was wrecked or so badly damaged that it was lying on its side, was ‘on its beam ends’.

Not enough room to swing a cat
When an estate agent describes a house as ‘ compact’ what she probably means is that – there is ‘not enough room to swing a cat’.
The ‘cat’ in this centuries -old -saying is not a furry tabby but the dreaded ‘nine-thronged whip, known as the ‘cat o’ nine tails’ that was used to punish sailors. The punishment always took place on the open deck because below in the cramped living quarters there was ‘not enough room to swing a cat.’
For those keen students of history this explanation will evoke a memory of Winston Churchill’s famous observation, ” Don’t talk to me about the Royal Navy, it’s all Rum , sodomy and the lash.” Fortunately for those us from the Merchant Navy, the experience of the seafaring life wasn’t quite as traumatic as there was no lash and even the rum was rationed.. as for the other pastimes we mainly did jigsaws and painted water colours.
Between the devil and the deep blue sea.
Somebody who is in a very difficult situation and is liable to be in real trouble whichever course action. he chooses is said to be ‘between the devil and the deep blue sea.’ The devil in this case is not ‘Old Nick’ but the heavy wooden beam which used to be fixed to the sides of ships as a supporter the big guns. It was called the gunwhale and was a very difficult place to get to, calling for great agility on the part of the luckless sailor ordered to that position. One slip and … splash He was literally between the devil and the deep blue sea.
Ship-shape and Bristol fashion
In the fifteenth century, Bristol was one of England’s most important ports, its biggest sea-faring claims to fame is that John Cabot and his three sons set off from Bristol in the reign of Henry VII to discover Newfoundland.
Survival on such perilous journeys in those days meant that the ships and equipment had to be in perfect working order. The men spent many hours making sure this was so. Anything that was well prepared neat tidy, and efficient therefore came to be known as ship-shape and Bristol fashion.

To Cut and run
Formerly anchor cables on sailing vessels are made of hemp. If a naval warships at anchor are in danger of enemy attack and needed to make a speedy departure, the crew would not take the time to wind in the anchor as this could take several hours but would simply cut through the cable and then let the ship run before the wind.
In the doldrums
depressed, low in spirits
Early in the 19th century in the doldrums was used as a synonym for ‘in the dumps’, depressed. Later sailors borrowed the phrase to describe the region of sultry calms and baffling winds within a few degrees of the Equator, where the north-east and south-east trade winds converge. Here the progress of sailing ships would be greatly delayed for many days, their crews becoming frustrated and demoralised . Hence their feelings provided the name for the area.
In itself. Lassie is not a nautical term, but the name of this famous Collie has an interesting connection with maritime history.
The first British battleship to be torpedoed by a German submarine was HMS Formidable, sunk just off Portland Bill in the English Channel in 1915. A few hours after the sinking, some fishermen found the body of a seaman that had been washed ashore in Lyme Bay; they carried it to West Bay and laid it out on the floor of the Pilot Boat Inn, and out of decency covered it with a tarpaulin.
However, the dog belonging to the landlord of the inn kept pulling aside the tarpaulin and licking the face of the dead seaman. Despite every discouragement, the dog persisted until the landlord was forced to see for him self what the dog had apparently known all along, that the seaman was not yet dead. The man was revived, and that is the end of his part in this story. Eventually, though, the incident inspired the famous film featuring the collie who won the hearts of millions of children the world over for her bravery, loyalty and intelligence.
The point of this anecdote is that the dog was named after the survivor of the sinking of HMS Formidable, John Lassie.
These are just a few examples of the thousands of words and expressions that were coined by our gallant seafarers

4th January, no Advent, blogging wilderness?

There is a slight hesitancy in emerging from the last blog of an entirely self created Advent of 34 days . I’ve had to remind myself that this is, in my own words, a blog of no consequence.

It feels a little like my personal New Year’s Day, without the pressure of resolutions or plans. Whilst writing Advent blogs, other stories, photos and paintings occured that didn’t fit my writing brief for those 34 days. They will have their moments in the sun soon enough.

Today feels like a day to explain. I have always loved random information. Before Google or Wikipedia I was often the go to person for random knowledge. I’ve become socially redundant and if I’m honest a little resentful of Messrs Google and Wiki.

Naturally an introvert, random facts or useful knowledge were my carapaces of Extravertedness.

Attending a blog writing course with The Gentle Author gave me the clarity and freedom to examine my motivation for blogging.

Not for me a blog of worthiness or of great usefulness. This is a blog of no consequence, some random thoughts and facts and an occasional English word gleaned from my trusty 1971 Thesaurus.

It is also an occasional platform for the thoughts of Hugo and Lola who are present on most of theoldmortuary adventures

Always keep your putty rubber warm.

A putty rubber is also known as a kneadable eraser, it gets you out of trouble with sketching, watercolour and charcoal.

This is not really about putty rubber . It’s more about life.

Prepping my kit for some water-colour classes I was reminded of a sentence that I last heard 45 years ago. ” Always keep your putty rubber warm” were the wise words of an art teacher called Tom Abrahams. In art terms a warm putty rubber always gets you out of trouble if you are in a tricksy spot while sketching.

Not having a warm putty rubber was exactly the moment that I remembered this quote. Isn’t that always the way.

As it happens this quote is not only really useful for sketching but is also a fine metaphor for looking at life.

Always being able to correct errors would be an absolute superpower. Meanwhile I’m keeping my putty rubber warm.