Pandemic Pondering #236

The  link below takes you to an excellent article published in the Guardian today.

Pandemic Ponderings has covered most of the topics mentioned but the whole lot, covered by a proper newspaper, makes for a less whimsical read. Even before this article appeared, today, other people’s writing was going to inform this blog.

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2020/sep/25/top-10-locals-guide-to-plymouth-mayflower-400-anniversary?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Other

This is the book,randomly chosen, for the September choice of my book club. By a huge coincidence a character in this novel visits Plymouth . A couple of comments in the book reminded me of things I have not yet pondered about . Given that this blog is about Plymouth, I will just share the Plymouth based one today. But before that an aside.

An hour or so before this blog was due to be published I finished this book. Further curious and serendipitous connections come to light. I love the book for many reasons, including its locations. It is based geographically in places I know intimately, Cornwall and the area around St Pauls Cathedral in the City of London.

Just as I sit through the rolling credits of films, I also read the acknowledgements in books. This one dealt a huge dollop of serendipity. The author, Sarah Winman writes ” Thank you to The Gentle Author and the community that has grown around the Spitaldfelds Life Blog- you are a constant reminder of why we do what we do”

Spitaldfelds Life is the Gold Standard that drives my writing @theoldmortuary . The Gentle Author guided and encouraged me, and many other blog writers to simply write. The surprise to see him mentioned at the back of this novel gave me such a warm and welcome boost. He really is the loveliest of men , the courses he runs are inspirational.

Returning to talking about the pondering the book inspired. In,A Year of Marvellous Ways, a sexual awakening and affaire de coeur is marked by the gift of a penny which is significant to the location of the entwinement. To illustrate this I need to rummage a bit.

It didn’t take long to find an old penny. Significantly this one would have been used in the Plymouth Area. It was designed by Leonard Charles Wyon an adaptation of a design by his father William Wyon for earlier pennies.

1967 British Penny ©theoldmortuary

The lighthouse, which can just be glimpsed behind Britannia is Smeatons Tower. Plymouths Iconic Landmark. Imaged on the coin in its original position on the Eddystone Rocks. 9 miles south west of Rame Head in Cornwall. Despite being closest to Cornwall the rocks are within the City limits of Plymouth and therefore considered to be within Devon.

Another blog that shaped its own destiny. Not the journey I planned but the journey that happened whilst I was planning.

Pandemic Pondering #235

https://www.itv.com/news/westcountry/2020-09-23/opinion-divided-on-plymouths-new-sir-antony-gormley-sculpture

Our Staycation trip this morning took us to visit the new Antony Gormley sculpture , Look II on the Waterfront in Plymouth. A cultural dog walk on a blustery day.

Look II

If I were a sound artist I would record twenty second snippets of the conversations that occur as People get close to it. Then play them in the echoing paths near the Tinside Lido that overlooks the sculpture at a distance.

It is no surprise that a piece of contemporary sculpture would have a mixed reaction in Plymouth. The link at the top of this blog takes you to a selection of local opinions.

Look II

My creative head was lucky enough to share my first experience of Look II with a couple of people who I will call Twat I and Twat 2. I have precised the conversation to protect my word count.

Twat 1 ” Its a bit rusty for a million pounds”

Twat 2, thinking quickly, how can I uptwat him?

” Oh well it’s been here a week, I expect it’s the sea”

Twat 1, thinks, bugger I’ve been uptwatted! Best play my trump comment.

” My grandchild built something like that over the weekend”

Both get a little closer and kick the sculpture as if it were the tyre of a second hand car that they were giving an opinion on. Twat credentials fully exposed .

Far better the fishermen who demonstrate so deftly why this is a beautiful, thought provoking work of art.

Pandemic Pondering #231

Just a little blog today. The subject has been covered in a couple of different ways in other blogs. A regular dog walk for us starts on Commercial Street in Plymouth and follows a circular walk around Sutton Harbour and the Barbican in Plymouth using the footbridge by the Marine Aquarium and then back via Sutton Wharf. Within Pandemic Ponderings we have only done it in daylight

Last night was our first walk this year in the dark. I hadn’t really planned a blog about it but two nice photos presented themselves and it seems a shame not to use them

The first was a flock of swans with the twinkly lights of The Barbican behind them.

The second was a lovely flat tide image of some fishing boats.

Either of these images would have charmed us if we were on holiday in Greece, but they are very close to home and it may well be the Pandemic that has made us appreciate , more fully, local scenes. The dogs , of course, never go to Greec e so have no idea why we keep stopping to take pictures on home territory. Quite possibly they are wondering why we are not making the effort to have a good sniff or do a little wee.

Being more appreciative of everything is a curious side effect of Covid-19. @theoldmortuary we plan on being better at appreciating everything more effectively. A hard way to learn a simple lesson.

Pandemic Pondering #226

As a non-Plymothian my interaction with Union Street in its prime was very limited. Visits to friends in the city nearly always took in a trip to the famous Plymouth Street, but it wasn’t until the eighties when I moved to the area that it became the location of work nights out.

There was a film made in 1982 set on Union Street that was part of the early output of Channel 4 . Remembrance must have done the rounds at Arthouse cinemas because although I’ve seen it I’m fairly certain there was no Channel 4 coverage in Brighton, where I was living at the time. It was filmed only a couple of years after I had last visited the street as a tourist and before I lived locally. It is the story of a last night out for naval ratings prior to a six month deployment in the U.S. It does not end well.

Last run ashore is also the subject of the lyrics of Union Street ( Last Post) by West Country Folk band, Show of Hands. The playing of the Last Post, in this song, is a chilling reminder that Union Street would have been the ‘Last Run’ not only ashore but also in any earthly Pleasure Dome for many serving servicemen.

Union Street was not always a street famous for night clubs and evening shenanigan’s although that is what defines it. When the street was first built in 1815 to link three waterfront towns it housed prosperous families. Later when the Theatres were built the area began to attract other venues and providers of after hours entertainment. Union Street become known for drunkenness and libidinous behaviour long before Plymouth, formed of the three towns of Plymouth, Devonport and East Stonehouse, became a city in 1928.

The area was heavily bombed in the second world war but Union Street as a destination for a night out thrived and grew out of the rubble. Nightlife always creates a heady mix of pleasure and excitement but there is usually a side order of lawlessness and aggression that is not so comfortable. In the ‘good’ times both regular and military police patrolled the area. Nearby residents were uncomfortable in their streets and many stayed safe indoors on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

It was the hedonism of 90’s club culture that tipped the balance for Union Street. Clubs and bars started to close as the drug culture changed the way things had always been. Lifestyle changes and technology around dating combined with massive cuts in the numbers of people employed by the Navy also fueled the slow burn demise of Union Street as a party place.

The residents are still there though amid the shadowy and decaying grand buildings, awaiting a master plan, people still go about their daily lives . For the last few years people rather than partygoers are shaping the area. Local residents held their annual street party last weekend.

Coronovirus restrictions made it less vibrant than the last few years but it always brings a smile . It is the most multicultural part of Plymouth and the smells wafting from the street food stalls demonstrate this better than anything. The weather was kind and people were happy. Union Street is waiting…

Pandemic Pondering #225

Lockdown @theoldmortuary changed many things , some things stayed the same.Today we received half of a prize that represents change and we await the half that represents no change. This is to encourage anyone who sees those ‘share and comment’ posts on Instagram for a chance to win a prize. The prizes are real and random people win them.

Our reading habits changed during Lockdown. Hannah completely lost the ability to commit to a book. I lost the focus for the kind of books I like to read and developed a thirst for foreign based detective drama. We weren’t unusual, everyone in my book group reported changes in genre choice. None of us managed to read the classics or ‘ difficult’ books that you might imagine time and limited life choices might allow.

Today we received the first part of our prize. 4 books fromhttps://www.deadgoodbooks.co.uk/ Neither of us are thriller readers but with changes in reading style so fresh in our minds and a gift of books, now must be the time.

Book bundle from https://www.deadgoodbooks.co.uk/
Coffee the ‘ no change’ habit @theoldmortuary . Less cake recently

Coffee and the pursuit of excellence is unchanged @theoldmortuary . Our prize will come from https://extractcoffee.co.uk/ A company we have used to send us lovely coffee by post.

What a clever coupling, books and coffee. Perfection would be enjoying both in a foreign place beside a pool. What may well happen is a flask of good coffee, a book and some warm clothes after a swim at the only pool available to us.

Tidal Pool, Devils Point, Plymouth
Tidal Pool, Devils Point ,Plymouth

Not a bad way to enjoy a prize.

Pandemic Pondering #223

September 13th often gives us the gift of sunshine. It was Hannah’s mums birthday and we were always able to plan a birthday picnic for her, safe in the knowledge that the sun would shine.

This morning we started the day with a sunshine yellow breakfast. Sweetcorn fritters, bacon and egg.

A morning spent doing Sunday stuff, including clearing up fragile, ageing, yellow roses.

Then a trip to Union Street for a Street Party, more about that later in the week.

Sunflowers bought on Union Street replaced the discarded roses.

Then an evening spent swimming at Devils Point!

Dog bottoms in the Sunset…

Pandemic Pondering #221

Today was a personal grooming kind of day. The eyebrows that scatter themselves around my supraorbital ridge need corralling into tidy brows every now and again. They also require dyeing to give my ageing face some defining features. It never ceases to amaze me that so much eyebrow is removed with waxing, plucking and threading and yet I leave the calm of the salon with freshly honed eyebrows that look thicker and more verdant than I walked in with.

https://instagram.com/petite_retreat?igshid=1iw6zetl6vird

Both of us @theoldmortuary were freshly and resplendently eyebrowed when we met some friends later at Rust and the Wolf in Ashburton.

Rust and the Wolf is the sort of place that once again makes me wish they there was some way to share a link that could take you to a smell.

The link below takes you to the website.

https://rustandthewolf.co.uk/

It is described as a lifestyle store and cafe, both of these functions are gloriously styled with idiosyncratic lighting, fixtures, merchandise and fittings.

There is an intoxicating smell of good food, coffee and old leather.

The old leather is the smell I wish I could link to. It instantly transported me back to a time when close proximity to leather clad musicians or art students was a thing. The vibe at Rust and the Wolf is more biker really but where a smell takes anyone back to is a personal thing.

How this wonderful place emerged in Ashburton, a town that feels genteel,is slightly puzzling. The coffee , food and the Lifestyle store is a heady mix of sensory pleasure that is a little rougher, in a good way than you might expect from a small market town.

Pandemic Pondering #220

Thinking outside the Box.

Today was filled with training at The Box. Internal photos are top secret until the new gallery/museum/cultural centre opens properly to the public. Where once there was a building site there is now a nearly ready gallery, museum and archive.

Now the building is all fitted out the room plans and layout make much more sense than they did in the days of hard hat tours, and wearing comfy shoes was so much more pleasant today than steel toe capped wellies of my previous visits.

What is The Box?

It is a museum, gallery, and archive in the centre of Plymouth, and is the biggest cultural initiative in the U.K to be opened in this memorable year of 2020. Covid-19 restrictions have caused the opening to be delayed and guest numbers will be restricted for the foreseeable future.

The original City Museum and Art Gallery has been extended and now it hi incorporates the old City Library. Both of these historic Plymouth buildings have a shining ‘ Box’ behind and above them. The eponymous box houses the Archives and gracefully imposes itself on the city skyline above the new main entrance. Outside the main entrance there is a new car-free, paved Plaza that will be the location of outdoor events in the future but also links the new Contemporary Art space that was formerly St Luke’s Church.

While we are only able to think outside of the box, I wonder what my fellow ‘word nerds’ think about this foundation stone?

Proper job or not proper job? *

* ‘Proper job’ in this part of the country is a term of praise, sometimes extended to ” Proper job, ‘ansome’

Pandemic Pondering #219

Speedwell.

Speedwell is a light installation located on Mount Batten Breakwater.

It can be seen from many parts of Plymouth but is perhaps best seen from near the Citadel west of The Barbican.

Speedwell: Largescale artwork transforms Plymouth coastline to explore legacy of The Mayflower

Follow the link above to read about the thoughts behind the Artwork.

Briefly Speedwell was a ship destined to make the journey to the New World but was considered not to be seaworthy. The Mayflower was used to sail the settlers to the New World and grabbed the headlines.

Three words are illuminated in a random sequence and are there to provoke thoughts about many things both historical and contemporary.

The installation will be in situ for 3 months. The words do make you think, particularly on a day when Britain tightens controls on public freedom as part of the Covid-19 restrictions.

Thought provoking enough whenever this artwork was commissioned , unexpectedly pertinent currently.

Pandemic Pondering #218

No New Worlds is a new art installation in Plymouth it has a profound message which deserves its own blog. Contrarily @theoldmortuary has discovered new worlds while the installation was being constructed. We first encountered it when we went on the Dockyards and Warships boat trip. A New World, or an old world rediscovered for us. The installation was being constructed on the Mountbatten Break Water, we saw it as we sailed out of Plymouth Sound, at the time we didn’t know it was a significant commissioned Art Work.

Another New World for us is open water or Wild Swimming. We can see the sign from many of our new found bathing spots.

As an aside I had a very strange swim today which was also a bit of a new world. Maybe a little Queen World.

While swimming at Devils Point I was suddenly surprised by HMS Albion steaming towards me, towed by two powerful tugs. It is not every day that I am saluted by an entire ships company as I bob along in the sea. Obviously they were doing the salutations just for me. I so enjoyed the moment I couldn’t take a photo until the ship had passed by. A ship’s backside is an interesting change from the usual dog bottom in this blog.

Apparently this ship is the Swiss Army Knife of the Royal Navy. That’s quite a claim, I wonder where the corkscrew is?

I can say that not only did I experience a moment of Queenliness with the delightfully polite young persons saluting me. I also experienced a bit of Dolphinliness, the ship created quite a vibration in the water and some waves.

Another New World for @theoldmortuary was visiting the Mount Batten Breakwater, a place we had never visited before. We went to be up close to the Artwork to research and photograph for the proper blog tomorrow.

The installation is called Speedwell.