#54 theoldmortuary ponders

Gratuitous sunset shot

When I was a teenager growing up in North East Essex, absolutely not the ‘cool’ or ‘trashy’ Essex of modern urban myths, I thought I lived in the Boondocks.

© dictionary.cambridge.org

With only a few people of my own age,and even fewer of them that I actually knew, I imagined I was having the dullest adolescence ever. My internal imaginary life was vivid and full of colour, teenage passion and adventure. Real life not so much.

Travel, maturity, and now a lived experience of a Killer Pandemic, has made me recalibrate my thoughts on my adolescence and life in general. Some of my travel has taken me to actual Boondocks, making me realise my teenage years were actually giddy with opportunity. Only a few of which I took.

During the Pandemic many of us have lived a bit of a Boondocky existence, for various periods of local or national lockdowns.Venturing out only to take exercise or undertake essential tasks. People who actually live a Boondock life have possibly been the least affected.

© Spitalfieldslife – The Gentle Author

Writing a daily blog since November 2019 has stretched my mind in all sorts of curious ways. If I were ever to find myself in an actual boondock or when I find myself in a mental boondock, I am obliged, to myself,to find something to ponder, this has been a valuable and enriching experience. Not one I am keen to give up any time soon.

Detail from stained glass window. Plymouth Synagogue

1st of December 2021, welcome December. Who knows quite how you will shape up pandemicwise or in general, something to ponder on, I’m sure.

#46 theoldmortuary ponders

A timely reminder that to chose working in the arts is not without its crtitics. But once the scientists have done their bit and pulled or pushed us to the other side of our recent pandemic it is artists and creatives who will give us the good things that add sparkle and embelishment to life.

My Wednesday Ponder, brief and to the point. Enjoy it with your coffee.

Pandemic Pondering #387

L’esprit de l’escalier is a French term used in English for thinking of the perfect reply too late. I think it is mostly considered to be a witty or clever retort that would finish of a conversational or indeed confrontational encounter more perfectly.

Where is the handy french term for when you/ I, have thought of the perfect retort and delivered it leaving the other person stunned and perhaps uncomfortable. A linguistic victory certainly but not always kind.

Kindness at the end of a conversation is another of those moments with no useful term. Hugely important during difficult conversations when serious, possibly hurtful and important points need to be conveyed. If there is love, care, affection or even just integririty that must be built into that conversation the parting words need to be perfectly judged if the conversation is to be effective rather than harmful. A lifetime of harm can be caused without the right conversational ending included. If only these things could be straightforward.

The whole business of ‘stair case wit’ which I have expanded to Staircase Wisdom is chronically complicated and acutely regrettable. I have a huge dusty box in my personal archive of conversations that were not perfect because I got the end wrong.

The trouble is, unlike this collection of staircases, conversation with another is never black and white, and it can be complicated and unpredictable. The conversations in my head always go much better to plan.

The link below takes you to a less personal consideration of L’esprit de l’escalier. I hope that is the perfect ending.

L’esprit de l’escalier


Here is a less than perfect ending , the steps that I imagine take me to my store of archived badly finished conversations. I don’t imagine I’m ever going to be diplomatic or wise enough not to need to store badly finished conversations in an imagined room beyond these stairs any time soon. These steps will continue to be well worn, a little bit smelly and unloved until I can no longer engage in meaningful conversation.

Pandemic Pondering #340

Casting a long Shadow. Part 1

I could, of course, be talking about the effect of the current Pandemic. Absolutely it has, and will, cast a long shadow on all of our lives. Not all the long shadows will be negatives. @theoldmortuary, in common with everyone, we’ve had some absolute shockers of negative experiences associated with Covid-19 but there have also been some life changing positives.

Casting a long shadow. Part II.

But today , I’m talking about the long shadows cast by our fish sculptures. The bright sunshine caused, George, our 22 year old cat to bask on the stairs. As the afternoon progressed the fish shadows started moving towards her. At the same time her own particular sunbeam left the stairs and started tracking up the wall. She was not impressed.

Being a predominantly black cat George rarely features in photographs, which made todays impromptu photo shoot all the more lovely. It also gave me the chance to consider long shadows.

Pandemic Pondering #308

Some Sunday Pondering.

“Turn the other cheek”

“Let Bygones be Bygones”

“Forgive and Forget”

Obviously I ponder, I’ve always pondered, and I’ve pondered sayings like this for as long as I have pondered. Several years in Sunday School failed to drum Christian forgiveness or much else into me.

* note to readers. My grandmother took me to Sunday School, my parents were casual atheists. However my parents were always rapturous and industrious when I was returned to them several hours later. I was always puzzled about having to attend Sunday School when, even to a child, it was obvious that Church lay in the same place as Unicorns or Mermaids for my parents. Parenthood cleared the whole thing up, ‘Sunday School’ was a guaranteed child free space for my parents to enjoy ‘ conjugal bliss’ in much the same way that a Thomas the Tank video might have done in the nineties or for more prolonged events a Disney Film.

” Never bear a grudge” is another one. I do not bear grudge for the whole Sunday School thing. I do rather wish two hours a week had been better spent with my grandparents in a swimming pool or soft play area, but those were things of the future.

All of this is a perambulation taking us to my home grown philosophy. One that has never been peer reviewed or researched.

My cheeks stay resolutely in the same place. Bygones are inclined towards the dusty. I do forgive, and mostly I forget. But I don’t forget, the really big, important harms to my soul. That really does seem to be an act of foolishness.

Instead my non- forgiveness, my grudges if you will. Live in a small disheveled carrier bag within the massive Industrial Unit of my happy, glorious memory bank of fabulous life experiences. The grotty, grudge carrier bag lives in a closet in the small room of sad memories that sits within the massive Industrial Unit of happy stuff.

There really is a point to all this pondering. Just before New Year I received a text asking me to do something. Every point of my personal moral compass was twirling round to point towards me saying ‘ Yes’. The whole Industrial Unit of Happiness said ‘yes’. The small room of Sadness said ‘Yes’. But when my thoughts delved into the very small, very grotty, carrier bag of grudges, my fingers found the unfamiliar word ‘ No’. Knowing that this was the guidance I actually needed the decision was made. It has not caused me a single sleepless night.

Don’t bear a grudge. Discard the unimportant ones. Keep the significant ones in a grotty carrier bag out of sight. Pop your hand in very, very rarely if all the happy or sensible stuff is not giving you the right answers. Not all wisdom comes from a good place.

Sometimes to get a good nights sleep we need wisdom from the grotty carrier bag.

Pandemic Pondering #235

Daily pondering is a lovely habit. It doesn’t always go to plan. As I write this it is the evening of Remembrance Sunday and this morning it seemed entirely appropriate to just post a simple picture of one of our poppies.We should have harvested more Poppy pictures today for the Monday blog but that didn’t happen. Never mind, a ready-made subject for 11.11.20. Meanwhile the day took its own path. Loads and loads of walking, some coffee and some 2:1 government approved socialising outdoors. Next week a painting commission from last month’s exhibition has to be started. It is a little too wintery in the garden studio so the table in the actual old mortuary has been cleared ready for action.

I’ve been experimenting with some new paints this weekend. I didn’t get quite as much done as I had hoped but anything more will have to wait until the commission is finished.

To avoid temptation all the experimental stuff has been tidied away. This Lockdown has a project!

Pandemic Pondering #149

Change is the prompt word for the Art Group for Saturday.

Is there a word more significant for Pandemic Pondering in a Pandemic. Change is the most unmentioned symptom of this whole Covid-19 period.

Percy the Peacock is the perfect example of the correct way to cope with change.

Most of the time he responds beautifully.

Sometimes he reacts….

Everyone prefers it when Percy responds!!

So being a wise bird, he reverts to responding. It’s better for everyone.

There is so much change for everyone right now, some of it’s pretty unwelcome and reacting is understandable, but it is always possible to upgrade a reaction to a response.

When confronted with change be more Percy!


Pandemic Pondering #136

August 2nd. Prompt word for Drawn to the Valley is Seascape. I loaded up a series of random images that represent seascapes in my image file.

None of them are aspirational. Some, like the one above, are fictional. Some are painted. Humdrum would be the word. Seascapes captured in daily life, none involving exotic locations. All within an hour of home or work. All give me the space to think.

An explanation of August Pandemic Ponderings.

Drake’s Island, Plymouth Sound.

This stretch of water is known as Firestone Bay. In this picture, it is masquerading as a Mediterranean Port. As an artist it eludes me. There are more versions of this on my painter/artist ‘Wall of Shame’ than any other single subject.

The next three are my drone-9 fantasy seascapes. In truth they are the drivers-eye view in a car wash.

The Mewstone,Wembury, a cup of tea.

One of the best places I know to contemplate my life. Many of life’s treasures and tribulations get thinking time here.

A recent painting. Still unsold.

Portwrinkle Beach, Cornwall. I have a friend who creates the most beautiful textile art inspired by this beach. Her amazing talent at harvesting the beauty of this little known beach is inspirational.

The next picture is one that illustrates another friends wisdom. He is a wise and talented photographer. I asked him once which was the camera he would recommend?.

“The one in your hand when the perfect shot appears”

Hannah caught this with her phone, at Widemouth Bay.

Finally another painting. Dungeness.

Seascapes just another excuse to ponder…


Why an advent blog? Actually why not, theoldmortuary blog is a flimsy insubstantial thing. A daily pondering of no real significance, so why not ponder productively whilst the evenings are long.

Advent is not solely the possession of the Christian Church, like many things considered to be Christian, it was a pagan tradition beforehand. Advent in the Northern hemisphere belongs to December when the days are short and the weather intemperate. Some days feel as if almost nothing is achieved within daylight hours. The long dark evenings are good for cosy activities like reading or indeed pondering. Advent ponders are whatever crops up in my day that makes me think…
Today it’s baubles.

These amazing baubles hang in a local garden centre. These particular ones have travelled from Slovakia, others from the Ukraine, but most come from China and in particular Yiwu.

This article from The Guardian in 2014 explains their production.

Gisella Graham is a bauble designer and wholesaler. theoldmortuary has loads of her baubles, some from the Garden Centre and some from Liberty, London. The ones we mostly buy are London inspired, they also make great gifts for our family and friends abroad. I’m unsure where I thought baubles came from, but it wasn’t factories in China or wholesalers near the Elephant and Castle. Like Yiwu, Elephant and Castle is not a remotely Christmassy location. I only mention this because I once got lost nearby and discovered this bauble Mecca. Just as in China, normal people work there. No Elves. Shame.

I’m sure the baubles of my youth came from Poland and Hong Kong. They were fine and fragile. None have survived my many moves. These random thoughts have inspired me to research the history of the bauble.

Germany was the home of the first blown glass bauble in the 16th Century. Hans Grenier produced glass beads and tin figures in the small town of Lauscha. In the next two centuries, the growing popularity and commercial success of his original decorations inspired other glass blowers in the town to make baubles. By 1880, F W Woolworth had discovered the German baubles of Lauscha and started to import them, despite bauble manufacturing beginning in New York in 1870. This German business grew and flourished until the end of World War Two.

After WW2, the Lauscha bauble factories became state owned and production ceased. However, after the Berlin wall came down most of the companies re-established themselves as private companies. They positioned themselves as high-end manufacturers, not competing with mass production and continue to produce baubles of very high quality.

Meanwhile, to fill the gap created by the closure of the Lauscha producers after WW2, mass production of baubles started, in the second half of the twentieth century, in Poland, other Eastern European countries, Mexico and China.

My recollection of Hong Kong baubles proved to be correct. During the Korean war, there was an American embargo on China. Hong Kong quickly increased its manufacturing capability not only to produce the products it would normally import from China but also produced enough goods to export to the rest of the world replacing China’s output. Glass blowing had been established in Hong Kong in the 1920’s, so inevitably baubles became another mass produced item that Hong Kong could export all over the world.

Bauble pondering, a journey of changing destinations, sometimes caused by war. Fascinating.