#306 theoldmortuary ponders

Sometimes I have a nugget of a blog in mind that doesn’t quite have enough substance. The story of Darwin and his Origin of Species came into this category. No disrespect to Darwin is meant but I wanted to express the flavour of his relationship with Plymouth. He was only 22 when he set sail from Plymouth for a two year exploration and survey of the coast of Patagonia and Tierra Del Fuego. He was rich enough to pay the £30 a year cost of the voyage, was making a name for himself as a naturalist and had no responsibilities. The yellow boat in the picture above is moored roughly in the position of the Beagle at Barn Pool.

©Plymouth History Festival

Darwin arrived in Plymouth in late October and eventually sailed in late December. He described his months in Plymouth as the worst time he had ever experienced. He was able to spend time with many great scientists and engineers of the time and also listen to sermons given by university friends, in many first hand accounts he expresses great pleasure in doing such things. But Plymouth, as the city is now known, had a vibrant night culture which Darwin made no effort to study. The city was too bawdy and licentious for a man who delighted in sermons. Devonport where his lodgings were was a place well used to having young men slightly bored waiting for a boat to sail. Devonport had bars and Theatres and many many ways a man with money could have found stimulation and good times. I suspect he was a prissy young man who would not have know a good time if it had jumped up behind him and said Boo!

The Beagle was eventually ready to sail in late December when the weather had become more favourable. One more thing was set to cause Darwin misery. It was just another thing for him to disapprove of, furthering his judgement of Plymouth as a giant den of iniquity.

On Christmas Day 1831, Darwin went to church, most probably Stoke Damerel, where the guest preacher was a friend from Cambridge University, William Strong Hore of Stonehouse. Hore was at that time Assistant Stipendiary Curate to Saltash; after ordination he became Curate at Stoke Damerel.

Whilst Darwin was at church, the Beagle’s crew got drunk and disorderly. The weather on the 26 December was ideal for sailing, but the crew were either hung over or in irons as a result of their behaviour the day before. At 11am On Monday 27 December 1831, in perfect weather, the Beagle did weigh anchor and set sail. On a friend’s yacht, Darwin caught the ship at 2pm beyond the Breakwater, and so began his epic voyage.*

Nearly 200 years on I can sense the look on his face and the set of his body language as he eventually set sail for South America. Most of us know a Darwin!

* Shaun Standfield 2008 Plymouth History Festival 2022

#286 theoldmortuary ponders.

Facebook reminds me that it is five years since I was in North America. That is a timely reminder as yesterday we had planned a North American experience.

Lets be honest a coffee in an independent Coffee Shop, Hot Black Coffee, in Toronto is a very different experience from a Tim Horton coffee, but needs must and we are in Plymouth not Canada. Tim Horton opened in Plymouth yesterday.

Now that was the plan. But domestic life got in the way and inadvertantly solved a year old problem.

When we moved house a year ago we had made a grab bag of important documents and items that must not be lost. The plan was that one of us would grab the, highly visible, leopard print clutch bag, and move it safely from one house to the other. That didn’t happen and neither of us know how. The bag has been missing for over a year. The contents were so important that every room in the new house has been turned upside down and inside out several times. The loss of some of these items has been crucial and the 6 month wait for new passports is probably the most painful result of our loss.

We were up early yesterday to visit Tim Horton’s for breakfast. In the quiet of the morning there was the sound of a drip in our utility room.

Our utility room is know as the ‘Futility Room’ as it is too small for its true purpose and yet somehow is a perfect store room, and loo!

We had to move a lot of stuff to get at the drip. Having located and fixed the fault we decided to reconfigure some of the shelving installed by our diligent removal men. Unbelievably behind the shelving the Leopard print clutch bag was resting, safely holding all of our important things. One of the removal men must have picked it up, tucked it under his arm and moved it with the shelving and then just put it to one side at the new house. That is the end of a year of puzzlement. It was also the end of breakfast at Tim Horton’s. We did drive over at 2pm having mentally swapped breakfast for doughnuts but the rest of Plymouth had got there before us. Huge queues for drive-thru and eat in. Maybe we will go back, maybe not. In less than a month we are Toronto bound, the queues will be shorter there and we can also go independent. After 5 years we may well do both.

#273 theoldmortuary ponders

So whilst I am languishing about like an overcooked parsnip, being Covid Positive, in a record heatwave. The print exhibition that I have been planning for months went and made a success of itself without me. An amazing curatorial and hanging team set it all up on Monday.

They worked incredibly hard, all day, in the blistering heat.

Today was the first day of being open fully to the public. Stewarded by volunteers, there will always be someone on hand to chatter about all things print related.

Thursday evening, this week, the 21st of July, between 6pm and 8pm we are holding our Private View. There will be fizz and singing. Everyone who is able to attend is welcome to the Private View, or of course, any other time over the next 3 weeks.

#248 theoldmortuary ponders

Look at these vivid flowers, they just revealed themselves near a local roundabout. Another revelation yesterday was Kate Bush doing an interview on Radio 4. She was discussing her surprise elevation to the top of the music charts in Britain and America with the single Running up that Hill ( A deal with God).44 years after it was first released. The single is part of the soundtrack for Stranger Things. A TV drama featuring teenagers and supernatural events and curious government behaviour in a mundane Indiana location.

What struck me as unusual in the interview by Emma Barnett and the preview piece by Caitlin Moran was that at no point did anyone discuss Kate’s looks or her fabled allure to men. How refreshing to just talk about music, life and gardening.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0018gqv?partner=uk.co.bbc&origin=share-mobile

I realise that BBC sounds does not play everywhere so I have included a newspaper report of the interview.

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2022/jun/22/the-whole-worlds-gone-mad-kate-bush-on-running-up-that-hills-success?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Other

The fact that this interview struck me as both unusual and refreshing is a symptom of how women are still judged differently to men. This may seem like an odd kind of theme for a blog but it struck a chord.

Earlier this week while I was swimming up and down the wide part of the Lido I had to regularly pass 5 young men playing with a ball, something I would probably not have done in my entire life for fear of the ribald or sexist comments. Confident that age has made me almost invisible I pressed on. But no, my crime as a woman, this time, was to be ‘ too old’ to be a threat to them.

#245 theoldmortuary ponders

This was a day with an unexpected ending. Today was a yardening day. Almost a year since we exchanged an exposed but fertile country garden for a coastal, white painted, stone yard.  Yardening has been a huge surprise. Today the plan was to weed and tame the jungle that the yard has become, unexpectedly fertile too.

All went to plan, but with the temperature at 23 degrees it was quite the labour of love. A sea swim was suggested but the tide was not our friend. Then we planned a swim in a local outdoor pool. The website was decidedly wonky and ultimately we couldn’t book a session.  The alternative, an ice cream and some sunbathing was a good enough plan. Until we got too hot. Retreat into the house was timely in two ways. We really were too hot, but the curious twist was an email from the cranky website that said we had managed to book a swimming session.

We were very certain we hadn’t , but a cooling swim was exactly what we needed. Arrival at the pool confirmed the crankiness of the website. Apparently everyone who visited the webpage had been given swim sessions without payment. The pool was far from full so we did that old fashioned thing of buying two tickets and prepared for a dip.

Tinside Lido

This pool is probably very familiar to anyone in Britain who watches the BBC. This image is one of the regular infills between TV programmes. As you can see it was not very busy at all and we had a wonderful swim in the historic pool.

There was another lovely bonus, bright sunshine and recently cleaned 1930’s glass bricks in the shower area gave the most wonderful distorted, abstracted views of the pool.

A fine end to a busy day.

#219 theoldmortuary ponders

Sunflowers in Cuba

Todays blog is a little late due to holiday travel. Not mine, for certain, as I am still without a passport. But it did give me the chance to share one of my favourite holiday photographs. This morning I dropped some friends to the airport for their holidays and by coincidence several friends and family are travelling to Europe for weddings this weekend which makes my whatsapp notifications bright with happy holiday images.

©Debs Bobber

All of my adult life I have taken foreign travel for granted. Covid and now an inept passport office have kept my feet very firmly on United Kingdom soil for nearly three years. This has made me appreciate the similarities and pleasures of Britain that I previously would, perhaps, have not even noticed. After the drive to the airport this morning I went to Sutton Harbour area to have new tyres fitted. I heard a sound that would be well known to anyone who has spent time in the Mediterranean . A handbell being rung from the window of a white van carrying food items. Today was not freshly caught fish or locally grown vegetables but the humble pasty!

So, I am a little envious of my nearest and dearest sampling foreign sights and sounds. The minute a passport lands in my hands, foreign adventures will be planned. But today I walked past scenic lobster pots with a baguette under my arm, only the weather proved to me that I was not, currently, somewhere more exotic.

#202 theoldmortuary ponders

Lurid dreams, reflux, and Wordle. Where could this possibly be going ?

Just one of those nights I suppose. A busy day was followed by a late supper and the evening dog walk amongst Pirates on the Barbican.

Pirate weekend is a big thing in Plymouth by 7pm it was a little ragged around the edges but it was obvious that after a two year break, everyone was anxious to bring out their inner Corsair.

Our favourite Saltash Pirate had been out and about earlier in the day.

© Chris Wotton What’s on Plymouth

We were just a little late for all the full on Pirate antics but the soft evening light made the boats look good.

The Barbican itself was possibly looking more truly authentic than earlier in the day. There was an air of too much sunshine and booze but in a good way, the sense of a day well spent having fun and the promise of an evening with high heels on cobbles, some wobbly flesh and tears before bedtime.

© https://www.berylcookprints.co.uk/

Visit the website below to get a flavour of Plymouth with it’s going out mood on. Beryl Cook is a notable Plymouth artist.

https://www.berylcookprints.co.uk/

None of this really explains my opening sentence, but I had a shocking nights sleep last night. Mostly due to eating a lively Levantine soup too late at night, reflux and a vivid imagination kept me in and out of sleep and this morning I had my first Wordle fail.

Pirates are life disrupters.

© Anheuser-Busch InBev
Cerveceria Bucanero S.A. (CBSA)

#154 theoldmortuary ponders

Early morning wanderings, naked toes for the first time this year and a proper ponder. Dorothea Ltd is a very unusual name for a historic piece of cast iron street furniture. I had a lot of time to ponder some odd things on my walk today. The dogs took the business of sniffing out other dogs peemail messages very seriously, so there was lots of time for pondering the small stuff. Dorothea Ltd turn out to be pondering golddust. Please follow link.

https://www.dorothearestorations.com/about-us/history

Have dogs, will stand still a lot, is the motto of my day. Fortunately I had pre planned some supplies to keep me fortified on the walk.

Sunrise reflected as a Pain au Chocolat

The walk was one I have shared many times on the blog but these highlights are purely generated by prolonged sniffing locations.

Fabulous reflections on The Barbican, Plymouth.
A cafe sign has been removed showing a more nautically focussed business from the past.

What more strange things have my dogs given me to share with you?

A doorway into the sky.
A very complicated image that curiously mimics the random Union Jack on the next building.
Bold Primary Colours in morning sunlight.

So there we are, my visual notes from early morning, prolonged dog stops. I have no idea what information they gathered this morning. Information gathering exhausted them. Both fast asleep for hours on our return.

#139 theoldmortuary ponders

Blue Sunday, the sun is erratic today but when it is out it is OUT.

© Jenna Blake

Last night we went to some Cuban contemporary ballet. Just mind blowing and we were in the front row so the sweating and the heavy breathing of the dancers was very very real. In truth the raw energy of the performers made our evening.

The picture below is another blue example of raw energy and huge joy.

A rogue kite wrapping up our grand daughter in Honk Kong.

©Sam Blake

Finally in the theme of blue is the Plymouth Christmas lights, reprogrammed to show solidarity with Ukraine

Blue Sunday in three pictures.

#139 theoldmortuary ponders

Today was my last shift at The Box being a room steward for the Songlines Exhibition. There are still 4 more days to visit, for those of you who live locally, as the exhibition actually finishes on Sunday. Then all these wonderful paintings will be crated up for their journey to Berlin. I’ve pondered a good bit on what to write about this exhibition. Not feeling quite able to live up to the words of many very knowledgeable art critics or indeed the wise words of Dame Mary Beard, I’ve decided just to give my thumbnail response.

Songlines is a cross cultural tale, both ancient and modern, of womens care and responsibility to one another when faced with predatory male behaviour. It is a #metoo story handed down for thousands of years, woman to woman. The villain of these stories is a bad bad man. Songlines as presented here skims on some of the brutality and the accompanying texts are lighter in mood than the true depravity of the situations the women in the stories endured. All of the exhibition can be viewed by adults and children and enjoyed simply for the artwork, with or without,an age appropriate understanding of the story. But viewing all the paintings ,videos, and 3d sculptures leaves no one in any doubt of the way these stories unfold and that there will be no happy ending. For all that this collection of Australian indigenous art is a wonderful blast of colour and form, there is enough to keep most people occupied and interested for a whole day with appropriate rest and nattering stops. Throughout the exhibition the visitor is kept in touch with the artists who created the work and the portion of the exhibition which is held in the University gallery recreates the art hubs where these works were created.

Yesterday, among the hundreds of visitors, I pondered which piece of art I would miss most and came up with two choices that could easily be acommodated in my own home were I to become an International art thief. I don’t actually have the wall space for my favourite paintings.

Shape shifting vases.
Poker work Coolamon

Since I have zero talent for crime, no theft occured.