Pandemic Pondering #381

Hugo and Lola went for a walk yesterday with their friend Grace. I tagged along to natter to her mum and drink coffee. Facebook Timehop gave me evidence of a curious coincidence.

Yesterday we walked in Victoria Park , Plymouth. Previously on the same day a few years ago Hannah and I had been walking and drinking coffee in Victoria Park in Hong Kong. A coincidence I am happily exploiting to inject an image of coffee, in a china cup, in a coffee shop, abroad!

Not that Victoria Park in Plymouth needs embellishing with interesting stuff from elsewhere. It has quite a lot of interest of its own.

JMW Turner painted there when the area was still a tidal pool at the head of Stonehouse Creek. At the time it was known as the Dead Pool.

Sometime, not long after Queen Victorias death it was drained and turned into a park. Not always known as the most salubrious of places at night it is the perfect place to walk dogs and coincidentally enjoy art.

©Plymouth Evening Herald

At the far end of the park ‘ Moor’ by Richard Deacon is both obvious and easily missed.

Luckily for me and for different reasons Hugo and Lola, Grace knew the exact location of some new Street art so we took a very sniffy walk up some steps towards North Road West. Goodness knows what creatures scamper up and down those magnificent stairways at night. Hugo and Lola took forever to fully investigate the odours. Sometimes they give me a very dissapointedly specific look as I try to move them on. Particularly in areas of historical interest. Yesterdays ‘ look’ said. ” We don’t need wall plaques to tell us historic facts. Turners dog did a wee here 250 years ago and she had just had sausages and ale for breakfast”

Regardless of their investigative sniffing we eventually moved on to the Street Art. There was so much I am only sharing one location and one artist in this blog.

©https://www.facebook.com/groups/310503822375100/?ref=share

https://www.facebook.com/groups/310503822375100/?ref=share

Isn’t it great to have Street Art and contemporary sculpture all within a few minutes walk of a favourite location of a Royal Academician ‘ Romantic’ painter.

Just to give even more texture to the walk Grace met her swimming coach and I met a fellow ‘Drawn to the Valley’ artist.

A walk worth pondering!

Pandemic Pandemic #367

Starting Thursday with Maritime Sunburst Lichen because the day has actually started with rain.

Yesterday evening though was graced with a lovely sunset and an increase in water temperature of 1 degree. We were giddy with the tropicality of our evening swim. Five months of winter swimming in the same location might seem a little dull and I suppose excitement at a tiny improvement in water temperature only enhances the dullness quota. Tranquility Bay is the lovely name of our swimming destination but it doesnt really describe the swimming conditions. Tranquility Bay is a beach on Devils Point opposite Drakes Island. Darwin set off on what was to be the voyage that inspired and informed his later work ‘A Theory of Evolution’ from Barn Pool a bay opposite both Devils Point and Drakes Island.

Drakes Island

The origin of the name Devils Point is uncertain but 7 currents converge nearby making this area of water dangerous to navigate.

Tranquility Bay is a little way from the convergence point of these currents but they still play a vital part in our regular swims.

When we arrive for our dip all bundled up in warm clothing we lean over the sea wall to assess the days swim. If any of us were beardy men there would be a lot of beard tugging as we sagely consider the quality and safety of our swim. In truth we never really know until we get in. Appearances are deceptive and knowing the tide times, wind direction and weather are helpful but cannot predict what is going on under the surface. Sometimes the most unappealing looking days turn out to be a delightful swim and the reverse can so easily be true.

All this is, I suppose, a long preamble to a description of my curious feeling during last nights swim. It was at sunset and the water temperature was 9.6 degrees so everything was pretty chilly. I was doing my usual paddle across the width of the bay. I was swimming towards the sunset and I had a strange sense of being somewhere else. The whole swim felt like the last swim of a much enjoyed holiday, just as it is on holiday, it was hard to get out of the water and break the magic of the moment.

I took this shot the moment I got out. Had this been a holiday I might be enjoying this view with a good coffee and a plate of seafood having barely bothered to dress

The reality in March in Plymouth was somewhat different. A flask of Horlicks and a square of chocolate while squeezing cold damp skin into warm layers of clothes. None of them quite layering correctly on imperfectly dried skin.

A good way to end a day though.

Pandemic Pondering #364

What a lot of miles we’ve walked this weekend. Sometimes on very familiar routes and other times on city roads hardly ever visited before. Always trying to avoid large numbers of people. There wasn’t really a plan blogwise, but as often happens a subject revealed itself. Random signs we’ve never noticed before.

So far this one resists quick research. Writing this blog will possibly inspire somone with a comment that points me in the right direction.The sign is near Millbay Dock in Plymouth. Named Millbay because tidal Mills were established here in the 12th century. Millbay is currently best known for being a ferry port. Not too far away we found St Demetrios & St Nikitas Greek Orthodox Church.

A sign that should inspire us to revisit the classroom , a coincidence as we were urged, yesterday, to visit our friends in Katerini and Upper Apple Tree Village as soon as travel is permitted.
https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2862607387315359

Closer towards the city centre this Street art is new to us.

Plymouth is having a surge of thought provoking street art. Another new to us piece in the city centre are these two happy birds.

© None Here
https://www.stevemccrackenart.com/product/noneherenow2/

I’ve written about the work of None Here before, typically the transient nature of street art requires people to photograph and record it for many reasons. It can become a target for thieves and disappear overnight or become part of something bigger as others add to it or obliterate parts of the original work.

This sign is far from new but I’ve never noticed it before.

I’ve often pondered on how the Plymouth of the future will reconcile the true history of Francis Drake now he has toppled from the romantic and always false notion that he was a romantic and heroic buccaneer. Pirate and slave trader are much more difficult subjects to consider. Some others from the time can be more easily removed from the modern city by renaming streets or buildings but Francis Drakes name is all over the city like a rash.

Also all over the city like a rash are the links to the Armed Services. The last new sign is a tiny sticker.

Have a fabulous first Monday of Spring/Autumn depending on your hemisphere.

Pandemic pondering #355

If a picture paints a thousand words then this frame says it all about Lockdown 3. Usually this frame on a wall on The Barbican holds topical graffiti. Currently it stands empty…

A friends retro print, though, might be predicting our 2021 travel plans.

©Marianne Wood

Pictures are the theme of this blog, like many blogs serendipity chose the subject. We did manage a sea swim today. We were super cautious and the weather was not kind.


Really cold fingers after our swim produced this curious image. It looks like a photograph produced on a glass plate from the earliest years of photography. Same location as above.

The ‘ bobbers’ also today at the same location.

©Andy Cole

And finally one last picure, after the swim and the restorative hot drink my warmed fingers found the Silky Water Filter on the camera and the sun came out.

Pandemic Pondering #343

March 1st St Davids Day. Monday . The last full month of  Lockdown in Britain …

Meanwhile Fools Spring is still in full swing . To avoid too many people we set off for the beach early and were rewarded with a Mediterranean style morning coffee just west of Plymouths Ferry Port on wartime concrete set into the cliffs.

10,000 or so steps later we returned for an evening swim.

We are lucky, now, that we only have tide times and the weather to consider. Sunrise and Sunset have pushed back enough for them not to be a concern. The bright evening sunlight gave us an interesting moment. Is this the oldest Co-op shop in Britain?

Pandemic Pondering #339

There was a time when Thursday blogs were based on my experiences as a gallery guide at The Box. A Pandemic put a stop to that but here we are on a Thursday and this blog will be distinctly Boxlike.

Not Real World of course. Another new tech experience .

The Box Quiz

The people with all the questions and all of the answers.
Two of many categories

The low tech answer sheet.

What I can’t show you are my fellow competitors. Microsoft Teams was new to me and I had failed to download the system . In consequence only the hosts/quizmasters were visible to me eveyone else was just a disembodied voice as I was to them!

The questions were fired at us at speed, all the better to thwart googling cheats. It was a fabulous quiz and reassuring that I could actually retrieve random facts from my pandemic befuddled mind.

As it happens @theoldmortuary did quite well. Which just goes to prove that straddling the digital/ Analogue divide is entirely possible, especially if you have your comfy pants on. Or even if you don’t. No video evidence!

So thats it, another Thursday Box Tale.

Thanks to everyone who made the magic happen.

Pandemic Pondering #330

At no time in the last week or so would we have chosen to stand in this location . A cold wind has been blowing in from the East, today it was gone and a watery sun suggested that a taste of Spring was the style of the day.

This visit was not a ‘ Bobbing’ visit but we very much regretted not having our swimming stuff with us. Progressive as Plymouth is trying really hard to be I doubt if skinny dipping from a prestigious tourist destination would go unnoticed. So walking and talking was the focus of the morning 10,000 steps. Conversations were wide ranging but centred for the most part on what the future holds for us after the Pandemic. You can read the serious stuff elsewhere but consider this. What happens when we share an actual exercise room with other people. Will they be willing to see us stretching and moving in our pyjamas? No sports bra keeping our bouncing parts under control. Pilates! Pilates is well known for being one of the more fart producing classes. Doing it on- line in your own sitting room allows a certain casualness about such things. After nearly a year of a looser bottom etiquette, at home , the first few communal sessions may be windier than our last weekend.

We did return later for a swim, appropriately dressed. The weak sun had changed and the currents were not too kind. A good ‘Bob’ was had but it started on our usual beach and finished further to the west.


The tunnel, later, had a different light but was still wind free. Maybe Spring is lurking.

Pandemic Pondering #327

It was a ‘Tiara Bob’ today. In other words a Bobbers Birthday.

Also a two bob day.

Our informal ‘Bobbing’ group only has one rule. There always needs to be one non-swimmer for safety and photograhy.

Two bobs were called because Birthday Zooms were needed at the optimum tide . So we split into two groups, one for birthday zooming and one for optimum tide grabbing.

The birthday group were bouyant. The birthday bobber got gifts and Pandemically acceptable hugs.

In the afternoon the Optimal Tide Bobbers were obliged to not swim in the sea as the currents at our favourite beach were a bit too strong. Instead we opted an Atlantic Infinity Pool with a wave splash feature.

Looks like summer, feels like -6

Pandemic Pondering #321

Summer in February. The sun put in an appearance today and the Stonehouse beaches looked like socially distanced summer.

We enjoyed coffee in the sun and witnessed a charming rescue by Plymouths Plastic Patrol.

Pictured below before the current pandemic.

© Plastic Patrol/Planet Patrol

A toddler dropped a much loved Zebra in the water near the Royal William Yard. The tide was high and, sadly, Zebra had to be left to his watery fate. Some time later members of Plastic Patrol paddled past.

They swiftly recovered the Zebra and, as luck would have it, Archie and his parents were waiting for a take out-coffee.

Zebra and toddler reunited.

A good end to a brilliant morning.

Pandemic Pondering #320

The sea swimming community in Plymouth is very welcoming.

When you drive along Durnford Street at 10am and see a woman walking along wearing a Tiara, it is a fair assumption, and in this case correct, that she is a sea swimmer celebrating something.

A double celebration as it turns out, a birthday and retirement.

The beauty of this lovely community is that everyone looks out for each other, in or out of the water. It is entirely normal to ask a complete stranger why they are wearing a tiara. Talking to this particular stranger gave me the heart image at the top of this blog. Her husband had made this heart on their gate to celebrate her birthday.

The smiles are not just reserved for Tiara wearing. Just doing a sea swim makes us smile inside and out.

Some other facial expressions!

But mostly smiles.

People are always willing to share their expertise. On this occasion, not swimming related, how to use drainage holes to frame photographs.

Two of our images.

And someone using their newly acquired knowledge.

As it happens within our ‘Bobbers’ group we have had two recent birthdays. Unaware of the informal Tiara rule, we just exchanged cards. (In future, tiaras will be involved!) ‘Bobbers’ also do original art.

Hugo and Lola by Debs Bobber

Sea swimming is an amazing activity. We plan ours using Tide times and weather forecasts.

For local and constantly updated information, we often refer to Plymouth Open Water Swimmers. Link below.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/214153495854310/?ref=share

Some of us have had swimming lessons from Jason at Ace Swimming

https://www.aceswimming.co.uk/

Cold water swimming, it makes us smile. We Love It.