#526 theoldmortuary ponders

This morning dawned bright so I allowed the dogs to choose their walk of the day. I read somewhere that it is good for dogs to choose their destinations, it allows them to follow the smells that intrigue them the most and that feeds their love of life and intellect. It gives me the chance to ponder off-blog because walking is always good for a good old think. Beyond the blog I am pondering the role of Social Media. For many years I have managed the Social Media accounts of different organisations. I have recently joined a new organisation. In many respects an unusual choice for me, as it is a Tennis Club with two wonderful grass courts and a beautiful garden, surrounded by the sea. I am interested in how people who read my blog view Social Media and how useful it is.

Currently I am actively involved with my own oldmortuary sites. Drawn to the Valley and Stonehouse Lawn Tennis Club. If you have the time I would appreciate your feedback. All are on Facebook or Instagram.

If you are happy to share I would love to see your Social Media Pages. Please leave a comment or link wherever you usually read this.

Thank you.

#522 theoldmortuary ponders

First Ice Cream of the season. Soft whip with clotted cream and a chocolate flake.

A late in the day pondering, possibly not hugely interesting but worth pondering, I feel.

I recently read a very bitter editorial by a woman journalist who was bemoaning that the craft of good journalism was being diluted by people like myself who blog.

She claimed we were “flooding the world of the written word, with bad grammar and poor punctuation.”

Maybe she was having a bad day but that comment seems counter intuitive to a profession that holds on tight to the right of free speech.

There are some professions whose job of work is quite rightly protected by law. So that amateurs, people without formal training and qualifications cannot do the thing in question.

Writing is not one of those occupations. But her pithy article made me think, ponder if you will. I am all too aware that my punctuation and grammar can be hit and miss at times. I am comfortable with this, I realise. For the most part nobody has paid me to write so I have only rarely stolen work from ‘real’ journalists. My cranky punctuation and grammar are my written voice. Just as my actual voice is not perfect, neither is my written one.

I am comfortable with my writing peculiarities, not necessarily proud of them, could do better, of course.Thank you, anonymous journalist for pricking my conscience on a Sunday. It was a brief and productive ponder.

Last muddy boots of the season ?

#228 theoldmortuary ponders

Not an average evening on Plymouth Hoe. Faithless blasting out from a music festival and a beacon lit for the Queens Jubilee.

A lovely evening walk, ripe for a good old ponder. How effective was the beacon system as an early warning system. There is a good bit of theorising on the internet hampered by not a huge amount of recorded data. It is said that when the Armada was spotted of the coast of Lands End the beacon system alerted London about 6 hours later. Beacons were located about 5-15 miles apart depending on the geographical features of the land. Each beacon would have had a watcher and a beacon lighting team, their efficiency would have had an impact on the transmission time. Beacons were dotted along the south coast of England as far as Portsmouth and then turned inland and spread the news to London and the rest of the country. It is said that the news reached York in the north of the country in under ten hours. This is all vague because at the time no-one kept the time. The specificity of the news would have been carried by a messenger on a horse, the horse and probably the rider would have changed regularly between the start point of Lands End to the end point London. The news would then have then been spread far wider by horses and messengers being sent in all directions from London.


Tonight however the Queen touched a symbolic globe and without any horses or messengers, the beacon lit up in Plymouth and many other locations , just like magic. Although not exactly magic, we were close enough to the beacon to hear the gas being turned on several moments before the Queen placed her gloved hand anywhere near the globe. A moment made all the more memorable by ceremonial bagpipes adding unexpected notes to very well known Faithless anthems. Its been a day of anthems.

P.s. here is a proper photograph from a proper photographer.

©One Plymouth

#215 theoldmortuary ponders

Yesterday my early morning dog walk sent me down a Google rabbit hole. The picture above is from one of the emergency on -call rooms at St Bartholomews Hospital in London. St Pauls Cathedral and St Bartholomews Hospital have always been a big part of my life. I realised, yesterday, that there is another St Pauls in my life now.

This St Pauls is the early morning sniffing zone of Hugo and Lola. At the very least they must sniff across the forecourt once or twice a day. Yesterday the trail around the church was very enticing for them, and having nothing better to do I allowed them to make the most of the good sniffs. It occured to me that I have no idea how Churches or any other religious institutions get their names. St Pauls is remarkably common.

Not all St Pauls are created equal.

So while the dogs sniffed round rusty pipes, I googled. It seems that as this is a subject of faith rather than science the whole naming thing can be quite arbitrary. Arbitrary suits me very well in fact.

Gladioli and Sunburst Lichen in St Pauls Church Yard

Am I drawn to know more about St Paul, no not particularly, I’m sure he was a worthy and wonderful chap since so many places, both great and small are named after him, but my nature is always to search out the less populist things in life . The saints in the shadows perhaps, the ones at the bottom of the class or on the reserve list. To return briefly to the City of London there are two churches, St Bartholomew The Great and St Bartholomew the less. Surely the lesser Bart, as he would have been known to his chums, would have been the more interesting.

Pondering such things can bite you on the bum though. While I was pondering the lives of the saints and the places named after them, the dogs found their own interesting topic. Urban fox poo. Jerked out of my unusual ponderings I was alert enough to save myself from a morning of dog bathing. I wondered, briefly, which Saint I should thank for that.

Reflecting on St Paul and other Saints. Link below for an interesting lift ride.


#176 theoldmortuary ponders

School Holidays in a museum have an energy and a sense of jeopardy that term times do not have. Children are always present but in term times they are mostly there in large groups with professional child wranglers, their teachers. School holidays brings smaller bespoke groups headed up by adults who are also in the museum to have a good time. The pictures above and below are of exquisite Korean Quilts.

As adults we dont even need to know what these panels are to appreciate them, but to three small boys, not as supervised as they should have been, they were bright bold targets that needed to be kicked as they drove imaginary footballs into the back of an equally imaginary goal. To the artist, Zadie Xa these panels represent trees.  Which is as good a way as I can think to demonstrate that art, once out in the public domain is open to interpretation.

This exhibition is titled ‘ Long ago when tigers smoked’ again not something that leaps to mind just looking at these quilts.

Zadie Xa: Long ago when tigers smoked

The links above take you to articles about the exhibition. I am charmed by the expression ‘ Long ago when tigers smoked’ is the Korean way of saying ‘ Once upon a time’ or ‘Back in the day”

Researching the saying suggests there are a few explanations for this saying , some mythical and some  historical. My take,for what it is worth is this. In Korean Folklore there was a time when animals and humans had equal status in the  world. Tobacco was introduced into Korea in the 17th century, at the time it was so cheap absolutely anyone could afford to smoke. By mixing these two schools of thought it makes it possible to consider that in long ago times when egalitarianism also include the animal kingdom, it would be entirely conceivable that Tigers would have been able to smoke. Turning the phrase ‘Long ago when Tigers smoked’ into a lovely way to suggest a historical perspective.

©Benito Major Vallejo. The Box Plymouth

From naughty boys to smoking tigers in one blog. A classic ponder.

#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.