Wednesday, 16 April 2014

A Welcome Visitor

My mum's staying with us this week so we've taken advantage of the fine weather and done a bit of sightseeing. On Monday we headed towards Bury St Edmunds and had a look around Ickworth, the National Trust's showpiece Suffolk property. It was our first visit to the house and we were very impressed. 

Although Mum is very sprightly for 88, walking around the grounds would have been a bit too much for her so it was good when a bloke pulled up alongside us in a motorised trailer and offered to give us a quick tour. He drove us through the parkland and then dropped us back right at the car - excellent service.

And speaking of excellent service, I must mention Luke of Framlingham Greengrocers. When we went into the shop for the first time since getting back from Scotland he told us that he had charged us for the previous customer's grapes about three weeks earlier and insisted on refunding us. We buy almost all of our fruit and veg in his shop and his prices are so reasonable that we hadn't even noticed the overcharging - thanks for your honesty and the complementary bananas Luke.

Mum treated us to a very good meal at The Crown on Monday evening. Marion had a lovely truffle macaroni cheese and my liver starter and pork chop main course were delicious. Mum and Marion both said that soup was perfect and Mum's fish and chips were good too although the portion would easily have served three. 

It's a pity Mum didn't arrive in time to have a look at the Framlingham Show. It was another good show this year with plenty of different things to look at. We heard a talk on wine tasting and a talk on antiques. We missed the sheep racing but were very impressed with the prize specimens on display. Today it's time for a bit more Suffolk sightseeing for Mum before we take her down to see the family in Rochester and then on to Gatwick where she's jetting off to see my sister in Spain.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Still Keeping Busy

You know how it is when you speak to retired people and they tell you that they don't know how they ever found time to go to work? You probably raise your eyebrows yawn and think to yourself  "yeah sure". Well I'm afraid that it's exactly how things have been for us recently and we've found ourselves writing "to do" lists to make sure that we've not forgotten anything - writing this blog features somewhere towards the bottom of those lists.

On Friday night we went to The Lemon Tree here in Framlingham for an evening meal for the first time since it reopened. There was a wide selection of tapas on offer and we really enjoyed the meal which put an emphasis on local produce. The Lemon Tree is not opening every night but look out for the adverts for when it is open and give it a try. We think you will enjoy it.

I did some more detecting on Tuesday morning. I've not had time to sort through all the finds yet - it was mostly buttons - but I did find an interesting little silver coin from the reign of Elizabeth I.

Son Paul wasn't working yesterday so we headed down to Rochester on Tuesday evening and spent a night there. The weather on Wednesday was glorious so we took advantage of it and drove a few miles down the road to farm attraction Kent Life near Maidstone. It's a good family day out and we had a lovely day with Paul and our toddler granddaughter. 

There was plenty to see including animals like these rare breed pigs.

As well as a petting zoo, donkey rides, big playgrounds (both outdoor and indoor) there were museum exhibits explaining the history of hop farming and farm life in the early to mid 20th century - we both remember many of the featured exhibits like outside toilets and tin baths and it was a little disconcerting to find that things from our own past have now become museum pieces.

At lunchtime we left the farm museum briefly and walked along the banks of the Medway where we had the only poor experience of the day. We went into The Beefeater pub for a snack but having spent a lot of time scanning the menu and queuing to order we were told that the menu wasn't being served in the area we were sitting in and we would have to order from another menu or wait half an hour to go where that menu was being served. It was a case of very poor management and we ended up back at the museum cafe after a wasted journey.

On Monday I had a fascinating day out at the Clarke And Simpson weekly auction at Campsea Ashe. There was a huge crowd there and the auctioneers were running three auctions simultaneously in different rooms. I bought three or four interesting bits and pieces.

I particularly like this colourful bowl and stylish tankard. I'll have to make sure that I don't go too often or I'll end up with a house full of clutter. I've put another five bits for sale on eBay today. I really enjoy doing it but it takes up too much of that precious time that's in such short supply and I think I will have to give it up.

Tonight I've been busy making pasta for tomorrow night. Okay it doesn't look like the neat stuff you find in a packet in supermarkets but I'm hoping it's going to taste much better.

Next week we've got a V.I.P guest. My Mum is visiting Framlingham for the first time. We're looking forward to showing her around our new home, new home town and new home county. We've plenty planned including a meal at the Crown and trips to Ickworth, Aldebrugh and Southwold.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

More Treasure

This is what I tipped out of my finds bag yesterday after going out with my metal detector for the first time in many months. It looks like a heap of junk but there is an item of Treasure in there.  Now your idea of treasure and The Treasure Act's idea of treasure might differ slightly but, according to the act, the following item is treasure as it's made of precious metal (silver in this case) and over three hundred years old.

So what is it? I hear you ask. My preliminary research suggests that it's what is known as an aglet or lace tag. You can see it's pretty tiny and it would be squeezed onto the end of a lace to stop it fraying - just like those plastic ones on the end of today's shoelaces. As for the date, I think that the decoration suggests it was made in around 1600 but I am waiting for the official verdict as I've declared it to the authorities per the rules. My last "Treasure" find was claimed by the British Museum and is being bought by the Colchester museum. It's only a few pounds but I haven't waived my award this time as the farmer wants the proceeds to go to charity and I'm sure that £50 won't break Colchester Museum's bank. The farmer tells me that the last find was reported in the local Framlingham press the other week while we were away in Scotland but I haven't been able to find a copy of the report anywhere. If anyone in Framlingham reads this and saw the article I would love to hear from them and get a copy.

This is what the finds looked like when I'd sorted them out. Apart from the tag there are a few more interesting bits and pieces in there.

A lovely little button from c 1500-1600.

A strap end - possibly medieval.

A pot fragment made of bronze - possibly very old.

An interesting stud - not yet identified but hand made so pretty old.

And finally the detector users Holy Grail - a hammered silver coin. This one is Tudor and might be Queen Mary but it's in such a bad state that it's probably beyond identification.

Speaking of old things, Marion discovered yesterday that her name is on a newly announced list of endangered names and has almost died out. I know that sentence can be misread - you know that I'm talking about her name as an old thing not her. It's sad to see a lovely name disappearing. Maybe if our grandchildren ever have any daughters they might bring it back to life.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Such Fun

It was off to Framlingham College last night for the latest production from local am dram society FADS. Arnold Ridley's Ghost Train was an excellent choice for the group having just the right blend of comedy, thrills and drama to entertain a wide audience. The Headmaster Porter Theatre was packed and we had a great evening.

It's set between the wars at a remote station in the wilds of Cornwall; a group of passengers are stranded in the gloomy waiting room. The last train has gone and the station master is ready to head for home. He's reluctant to stay and warns his unexpected guests of spectral visitors and an infamous ghost train that haunt this place on this particular date.   

Should they stay or should they go? Their dilemma unfolds with their individual stories; newly weds, nearly divorcees, an old maid and an idiotic and bumbling young man make up the group and keep the audience amused as things go bump in the night and not everything is exactly what it seems.

Mark Watts stole the show as the very silly Teddy. He was word perfect and captured the Bunteresque character to a tee. He was supported by another gentle husband performance from Peter Turner as the newly wed Charles and Ian Baird as grumpy Richard Winthrop. Kathy Churchill (from the excellent AboutFram) was gloriously melodramatic in Act 2 bursting into the station in a wonderful period evening gown to add confusion and intrigue to the proceedings. The remainder of the cast all played their characters very well.

A special mention should go to Glynn McKay for his fabulous set and to Maurice Gifford and Tom Howard for the super sound and light effects. This was just what amateur dramatics should be; fun for the audience and fun for the cast and crew. I felt that they were worth a couple of curtain calls but they left after just one bow - very modest.

In other news, we managed to get out on the bikes on Tuesday. The weather was glorious and, due to my lousy navigation, we managed to find ourselves three miles off the planned route in Kettleburgh instead of Earl Soham. Whilst that added six miles to the ride, we had a good workout and the build up to our cycling tour in Provence in June has finally started (could do with some padded shorts though).

It's good to see the village signs around the county. They add a nice individual touch to the communities. It's also good to see all the local produce for sale with honesty boxes. We bought a bit of marmalade en route.

Along with the fabulous naive painting I mentioned on the last blog, I'm selling this super little fluted Delft dish on eBay starting tonight. Dating from around 1690 it's probably the oldest pottery piece I've ever owned but it looks like it was made last week. My eBay name is lfcchampions. I signed up with that name when eBay was in its infancy and I was confident that Liverpool were heading for the top of the Premiership. Maybe, my selling name will finally be justified if they can win their remaining matches.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Back In Framlingham

It's over a week since the last blog. I think that's the longest gap I've had since I started writing this over three years ago. If you read the last post you'll realise that we were in a near WIFI free zone at the caravan so blogging was difficult to say the least. 

As always it was lovely to see Sarah and Duncan and the children. The kids are growing so quickly.

It's difficult to believe that six months have passed since little Melody arrived on the scene. She's developing fast and has a great sense of fun. 

We kept ourselves busy in St Andrews helping Sarah as much as we could. She's running Yoga classes for babies and toddlers and it's very hard work with two children in tow so we did our best to look after them while she taught  her classes. We don't know how she manages when she has no help on hand - it's hard work - probably harder than the secondary school Maths teaching she did before the children were born. But she loves it and there's a lot to be said for loving your work.

Now that we're back in Framlingham for four weeks we want to cram as much into the month as we can. The weather is fine so yesterday we walked along the Fisherman's path from Snape Maltings to Aldeburgh for a couple of hours. The scenery around Snape is quite wild and spectacular wetland - a bird lovers paradise.  This morning I dusted off the bikes and we're all set for our first cycle ride of the year. It's a perfect cycling day and I'm looking forward to it. 

It's promises to be a full month. Tomorrow we've got the latest production for FADS (Framlingham Amateur Dramatics) and we've booked for an opera evening at nearby Crows Hall (although that's in May) as well as The Vikings at The British Museum and King Lear at the National and we're hoping to try and get tickets for Mozart at Snape. Throw in a couple of visits to Rochester, a trip to Southport to pick up my mum for a visit and time will be at a premium. I am hoping to get out with the metal detector too.

After my brief courtship with eBay I'm still waiting for payment for two of the things I sold and I've heard nothing from one of the buyers (the other promises to pay this week). I've not got much left to sell on eBay now (I said that I was going to be more selective) although I did find time to go to the auction in St Andrews while we were there and bought this fabulous naive Brazilian gouache by the important naive artist Isabel De Jesus. Isabel's work is highly prized by collectors of naive art and her gallery tells me that they would be asking around US $1800 for this. My only worry is that eBay buyers won't appreciate this and it could sell for a pittance and I don't want that to happen.

Time for the bike ride now. Let's see how fit we are.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Out Of The Loop

This is the message that I'm seeing most of the time when I'm online (or should I say "not online" ) at the moment. Yes, once again we are staying in our St Andrews caravan and, once again Caravan Connect WIFI is sporadic to put it kindly. Marion's been complaining that I'm spending too long on the internet whereas, in reality I'm spending too long trying to use the internet. My games of Words With Friends have been protracted and my presence on Twitter minimal. Whether I'll get to the end of this blog before midnight or not is the question of the moment. 

Anyway, must press on as the elusive signal is here and, as the rest of the site appears devoid of caravaners, I'll crack on before someone spoils it by trying to download their email. Yesterday it took over 60 minutes to download The Archers Omnibus our weekly dose of soap but we got there in the end and heard Bradley Wiggins' historic performance. 

The third week of my experiment of selling antiques on eBay ended yesterday. This nice little porcelain plaque that I bought at Campsea Ashe in a job lot of three did okay but overall, after eBay, postage and Paypal charges the three weeks have yielded just under £200 profit on items that cost £520 - a margin of 35%. I'm still regretting the fabulous cheese dish that arrived in a hundred pieces as I am certain that would have made a very good price and would have skewed theses figures upwards in a positive way. As it stands £200 hardly covers the cost of diesel and entrance to antique fairs etc but at least it is a profit and I've had a lot of enjoyment from it. I think that I've learnt quite a lot too. I probably won't continue on a regular basis but maybe will still buy one or two bits and pieces that have prices too good to resist. As Marion (sensibly) keeps telling me, my new mantra has to be "be more selective".

On Saturday we headed off with the family to Edinburgh. Sarah and Duncan had treated Marion to tickets to see Northern Ballet's production of Cinderella so Duncan and I took the children to the fabulous Edinburgh Museum while Sarah and Marion enjoyed the dancing.

Melody was as good as gold although she wasn't greatly impressed by the exhibits.

Rose was very impressed - especially by the excellent children's discovery room where she flaked out from exhaustion after an extremely busy couple of hours. As always, it has been great seeing the family and whilst it isn't exactly the lap of luxury, the caravan is comfortable enough and has been a great buy in letting us see more of Sarah, Duncan and the children regularly without getting under their feet or breaking the bank.

Whilst we've been away we've been reading The Sunday Times top 100 places to live. Interestingly, Framlingham and St Andrews both figure in the top 100 as does Southport - quite a surprise that all three places with strong connections for us feature - must be our impeccable taste.

And on that note, I'll finish quickly before the WIFI disappears. 

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Feeling Grumpy

I'm feeling grumpy today. That's not a cue for a lame Seven Dwarves joke, -no, I'm feeling grumpy because First Utility have, yet again , messed up our gas and electric accounts. I can't remember if I've written about it before. This blog is scintillating enough without having to excite the readership with accounts of our utilities bills. 

All was fine with our gas and electricity until last summer when the gas meter went faulty. First Utility were very efficient and changed the meter quickly but since then we have not had a single bill for either electricity or gas. I've filled in the readings online religiously every month and when several months had passed without a bill I started to contact them. I phoned (kept hanging on for thirty minutes and then got cut off). I emailed (replies followed promising rectification). I sent Tweets and got apologies and more promises but it's now seven months since we were billed and we've no idea where we stand with our fuel.

To compound things we changed banks in October. The first direct debit went out correctly from the new bank (Santander) but in December it was claimed from our old Barclays account which is still open. I cancelled the Barclays debit and told First Utility to claim from Santander (which is the only account on my online details). I got stroppy emails telling me my bank had advised them we had cancelled our direct debit (duh) and no debits were taken at all in January and February despite everything being correct online. As a last resort I wrote an old fashioned letter a few weeks ago. I haven't had a reply but I checked my Barclays statement today and lo and behold First Utility have now taken a payment - from the wrong bank again. In the words of another famous curmudgeon "I don't believe it." First Utility's tariffs may be competitive but their customer service appears to be run by a bunch of idiots without a brain cell between them.

Rant over. It's Marion's birthday today - I don't want to spoil her day by continuing to fume about First Utility. This lovely outfit arrived in the post from Paul and Josephine in Rochester together with the beads painted by our granddaughter Catherine. I think you'll agree Marion's looking great - the outfit fits perfectly and suits her very well. We're going into St Andrews this evening for a bite to eat to celebrate with the Scottish branch of the family.

We drove up to Scotland early on Sunday. Wouldn't it be nice if motorways always looked like this?

St Andrews has a decent little cinema so we headed down to see The Grand Budapest Hotel last night. I don't know what to say about this. It's a very old fashioned farce starring Ralph Fiennes as Gustaf the concierge at a grand old hotel in a mountainous Eastern European state just before World War II. Gustaf offers more than room service to the wealthy women who stay at the hotel and consequently receives a bequest that is not exactly welcomed by the bereaved dowager's family. 

What follows is pure farce and cartoon capers as Gustaf and his sidekick Zero the lobby boy flee the family and its fierce henchman and try to evade the law and the military. The whole film is full of cartoon colours and Tom and Jerry antics and is filmed in a very stylised way with a square screen in which the characters' heads and shoulders are often fully framed. There are plenty of laughs. It's very entertaining and also very weird.