Sunday, 19 April 2015

A Theatrical Week

Well, that was a pretty theatrical week for us! On Sunday it was The National Theatre for Behind The Beautiful Forevers and a few days later we were back in London for Beautiful, The Carole King Musical. Before the play we had an appointment with our financial advisors in their new offices hear Holborn Circus so we walked from there to theatre land via the beautiful legal district near Lincoln's Inn. We aren't familiar with this part of London and it was a fascinating walk in warm sunshine.

Before the show we needed to eat. So we had a look around the streets near The Aldwych. There was plenty of choice but we settled on The Delauney which is less than twenty feet away from the theatre. We hadn't heard of it before but it's run by Corbin and King who own the famous Wolseley in Piccadilly and, like the Wolseley it's run in the grand European cafe style with starched white tablecloths, smartly dressed staff and an interesting Austrian themed menu. The restaurant looks like it has been long established but only opened a few years ago. It has clearly been successful as it was buzzing when we visited and, with many of the clientele clearly regulars on first name terms with the staff, it has attracted a loyal following. It was a wonderful place to "people watch" and we spotted a couple of familiar faces including a well known ITN newsreader. The food was great, the service friendly and fast and the prices were reasonable. It was a perfect prequel to the matinee performance.

As for the show, I am not a musicals lover but this was very different. Instead of being just a vehicle for cramming in a load of hit songs from the sixties loosely connected by a flimsy storyline it was, instead, a play about songwriters which, naturally, included the songs that they wrote. So, all of the music was relevant, all was sung in context and none left me wondering why a character was suddenly bursting into song. 

The songs were not simply those composed by King and her husband Gerry Coffin but also included those by their friends Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil which added variety and range to the music. So, as well as King's fairly samey It Might As Well Rain Until September and Will You Love Me Tomorrow, there were Mann and Weil's We Gotta Get Out Of This Place and Walking In The Rain. I don't mean to imply that all of Carole King and Gerry Coffin's music sounds similar but the extra couple of songwriters gave even more depth to the production.

It's a marvellous production. Katie Brayben thoroughly deserved the award as "best actress in a musical" that she collected the previous week and the rest of the cast all gave strong performances. The lighting, set, singing and the music were stunning and the audience  gave the show a rapturous reception with a standing ovation for Brayben at the curtain call. I still don't like musicals but, plays with music in them? -  now that's another matter.

Arriving back at Liverpool St I checked the train times on the phone to find our, off-peak, train cancelled. Bad news when the trains are infrequent and the journey a long one. But fate smiled on us. We were early at the station and were allowed to travel on a peak hour journey that got us back to Ipswich half an hour ahead of our plan.

After Beautiful on Thursday it was a hard act for FADS, our local am-dram group to follow on Friday night. They did their very best. The set was, as always, brilliantly done and there were one or two notable performances in House Guest which was classed as a thriller. Leading man Glenn Hurlock as Robert Drury, a dashing film star and director, and Kathy Churchill as his wife were word perfect as was newcomer Ruth Noble who made a brilliant debut for FADS as Robert's cousin. For the rest of the cast I am afraid that it was a case of third night nerves with the prompt working on overdrive as numerous cues were missed. Which is a pity as, behind the fluffed lines, were several excellent characterisations such as Ian Baird's Inspector Burford and Glyn Mackay as thuggish Sergeant Clayton

I wouldn't blame the cast. I feel that it wasn't a great choice of play - the plot was complex, not totally credible and lacked the humour that usually lifts FADS' performances. We'll be back for the next one but hope that they give playwright Francis Durbridge a miss. 

As for the meeting with the financial advisors. All went well and we should be able to live in the manner to which we've become accustomed for the foreseeable future. And to make things even better, the following invitation was in the post when we got home. An invitation to a private view of the Alexander McQueen exhibition at the V&A. That's another trip to London on the cards. 

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Back Home With A Bang

We got home from Scotland on Friday evening and in no time we were back into the hectic schedule that is our retirement. On Saturday we had an excellent cooked breakfast at The Lemon Tree and, for once, managed to finish The Times Jumbo crossword (the non-cryptic version) while we were there. The rest of the day was a catch up of washing and cleaning before heading off on Sunday to London.

We went to London to see Behind The Beautiful Forevers at the National. It stars Meera Syal as a matriarch in a Mumbai slum where her family's meagre living is funded by collecting and sorting through rubbish. After enjoying a hearty lunch at House, The National's excellent new restaurant, a couple of hours of Indian poverty was quite difficult to experience. As always, The National's designers had excelled themselves with the set which brilliantly captured the hustle and hubbub of busy Mumbai streets, a rubbish strewn shanty town and the perimeter of one of Asia's busiest airports. I can't say that I enjoyed the play - it was a bit too downbeat for me but I did appreciate the fine cast and the moving story, lightened occasionally by humour. I am afraid that I am a sucker for a happy ending and, although there was a glimmer of hope in this, the overriding stench of corruption left me a little depressed.

But it was a glorious day in London and we enjoyed a vigorous stroll along The South Bank both to the theatre and back to Liverpool St Station.

Monday was time for a haircut with the lovely Tori at Carley Hill hair and a trip to Leiston to collect more recycled compost from the recycling centre. We've been trying to improve the soil in the garden which is heavy clay. So far we've dug in about a hundred bags of this compost but there's still a fair way to go. We then had a whistle stop tour of four local garden centres looking for some plants that Marion has chosen for the borders. We managed to source some of them. Each of the centres was good for one type of plant but we didn't find one that was good for all. Following this with a two hour exercise session at Fram Leisure made for a very busy Monday.

On Tuesday it was Marion's turn to visit Carley Hill. I went out to try a bit of metal detecting for a couple of hours but had no success. I've searched the field seven or more times and, as the undergrowth is getting thicker it's quite hard to detect there now. My other fields are full of crops so I will have to wait a while before doing some more "treasure hunting". I did have twenty or more signals and ,although these were mostly scraps of lead, any one of them could have turned up a decent find.

Summer has arrived in Framlingham this week and it was glorious again today from the moment we pulled back the curtains - perfect weather for going for my first bike ride of the year.

Never has a Christmas stocking filler been more welcome. Just half an hour into my ride and in the middle of nowhere I had a puncture. This kit, bought for me by son Paul and his wife Josephine did the trick. It's been many years since I last repaired a puncture and I don't think I've ever had to do one by the roadside before so I was not exactly expert. As the inner tube turned out to have two tiny holes, and each repair required a wait of five minutes for the adhesive to go off, the job took me the best part of half an hour to complete. I'm pleased that the repair held out so I decided to carry on with the ride.

And a cappuccino at Pump Street Bakery in Orford accompanied by one of their Oscar mentioned doughnuts was a well earned treat. I got home to find Marion, who spent the morning at yoga, busy in the garden. She has been putting hours into working on it. Although we had the garden landscaped and planted in 2013, it was planted for instant colour and was not a long term planting scheme. Marion is now putting that right and taking out many of the perennials and replacing them with shrubs. She's done a brilliant job and it's really starting to take shape - watch this space for photos when the new additions start to grow.

When I got back from Orford the weather was still glorious so an ice cream was called for. The castle was open so, as we are English Heritage members, it was the perfect spot to go and buy a couple of tubs from their kiosk and enjoy the sunshine in the shelter of the castle grounds.

After that we strolled down to The Dancing Goat and enjoyed a couple of their home made lemonades. The hot weather (23.5 degrees here today) is not going to last but it is forecast to be sunny for the next six or seven days. Tomorrow it's back to London to see the people who look after our investments and retirement savings and then we're off to The Aldwych theatre for Beautiful the musical about Marion's favourite singer Carole King.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

A Royal Visit

We’re still in St Andrews and it’s been a pretty internet free week as the caravan site has been full to near overflowing and that means that the WIFI which is slow at the best of times has been almost non-existent. As ours is almost the furthest caravan from the transmitter every caravan owner and his dog is logging on before us. If desperate I can take the laptop down to the site office and hitch my computer up to the site’s own BT WIFI but I’ve realised  that checking out Twitter, eBay, Facebook and blogging isn’t really that important.

And what’s more we’ve had a V.I.P visitor this week. My mum, like the queen, is in her ninetieth year but I think that Mum looks much younger despite not having scores of flunkeys at her beck and call to attend to her every whim.

We’ve kept her busy. We haven’t exactly spoiled her and, apart from a trip to the National Trust For Scotland’s Hill Of Tarvit (where we had the slowest served coffee ever – one hour wait as they had forgotten to switch the machine on) and some lovely coffee and shortbread (above) overlooking the famous golf course at The Old Course Hotel, she’s been living the caravan life. Hopefully she’s enjoyed it (she says she has) and, all being well she can join us down in Suffolk for a few days later in the year.

We’ve helped Sarah a little. She gave up her Easter weekend to help the Friends Of Craigtoun Park by giving free baby, toddler and yoga classes. It was a glorious two days and the park was absolutely packed although yoga was not as popular as we had hoped.

Which, given that there were bouncy castles and other playground attractions, is perhaps understandable.

Both Melody and Rose have been as good as gold for the time we’ve been here. Melody is getting to know us better which is great. Today Marion joined Sarah with the girls for a trip to Edinburgh where they went to a singalong showing of Frozen.

Meanwhile I took Mum to the Scottish Antique Centre near Dundee. I’m still dabbling in antiques a little on eBay although the lovely French antique that I wrote about on here recently sold for only £16 which is about £100 less that I think that it was worth. Fortunately this was not a loss and I managed a £40 profit on a vase, which means that the four items I’ve now sold have all made a profit.

Today I bought just one item. It was sold as a “Georgian Cupid print” but I think that it is actually a very early Regency Valentine. It’s not in great condition but has been folded which I think adds to its authenticity. Let’s hope that I got this one right or my flirtation with eBay may be a very short one.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The Birthday Celebrations Continue

After a few days in Suffolk we're now in St Andrews visiting the Scottish branch of the family.  We had our regular big Suffolk breakfast at The Lemon Tree in Framlingham on Saturday before buying a couple of delicious sausage rolls and Bakewell tarts from Leo's Deli for sustenance on the journey and some of In Da Cottage's luxury chocolate for a treat when we reached the caravan and then set off on the 507 mile journey north. We're used to the trip now and this time it went very smoothly and, with very little traffic, we managed it in under eight hours including our half way rest break and driver changeover. 

Sarah had lined up a treat for us on Sunday and she and Duncan took us to Rufflets Country House hotel just outside St Andrews for a lovely champagne afternoon tea.

It was great for us both to catch up with granddaughters Rose and Melody.

I am not sure that, with pastel sofas, chocolate rice krispie cakes were the hotel's wisest choice for the children's afternoon tea menu but ,after a precarious few minutes, the upholstery escaped unscathed.

The weather cleared up enough for the girls to spend a few minutes in the hotel's lovely gardens.

It was good to see how little Melody is growing up. When we were between houses we spent six months living in the caravan in St Andrews so got to know Rose very well, we've spent a lot of time babysitting our second granddaughter Catherine in Rochester but we haven't seen as much of Melody. Hopefully this couple of weeks will start to redress that balance and she and we will get to know each other much better. She's a very happy little girl with a great sense of fun.

It's been very cold and windy at the caravan. My mum is going to join us here for Easter and it will be nice if the weather picks up and she can enjoy St Andrews in some sunshine.  

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Birthday Celebrations

We're briefly back in Framlingham for a few days before we head to St Andrews for Easter. Last week we celebrated Marion's 60th birthday and went up to Kirkby Lonsdale in Cumbria where we rented a small cottage for a short break.

Fortunately we have stayed at the lovely Chapel Cottage before so we knew that the access would be too narrow for our other car and went in the smaller one instead. Even then it was a tight squeeze but with one of us directing each time we left or arrived at the cottage we got through the week unscathed. 

It was a quiet few days. We visited some of our old stomping grounds.

The River Walk At Kirkby Lonsdale

And The Famous Ingleton Waterfalls Walk
It's still a lovely walk around Ingleton's falls but the health and safety people seem to have gone mad with the fences. Our son Paul was an adventurous child but managed to get around the walk many times unscathed without all the (sometimes unsightly) fences.

On Wednesday, friends Mark and Nita Jones joined us and very kindly treated us to a champagne afternoon tea at the lovely old Hipping Hall hotel to celebrate Marion's birthday the following day. 

Marion's birthday was a quiet day and we ended it with some very good fish and chips from the local Kirkby Lonsdale chippy washed down with a nice bottle of white wine.

And then it was off to the famous "The Inn At Whitewell" to meet up with three couples who have been our friends for a long time. Mark and Nita (above) along with David and Janet Wareing and David and Jane Haworth joined us for dinner and a night at the lovely hotel.

The hotel put on an excellent meal

The rooms were all spacious and beautifully furnished (doesn't Marion look good for 60?)

And we certainly had a "room with a view"

Marion with best friend Jane

We blew away the cobwebs on Saturday morning with a walk of about five miles from the inn and across some beautiful countryside. 

The weather was kind to us for the whole week and we finished with a fabulous pub lunch at the Parkers Arms in nearby Newton where it was almost warm enough to dine outside. The food at this pub was excellent and we enjoyed some of their many specialities which included crispy potato skins, delicious potted shrimps, home made game pie with raised hot water crusts and a fabulous Portuguese egg custard dessert. After the fine meal at Whitewell the night before I think everyone was pretty well stuffed as we parted ways and headed back to our various homes. It was great to meet up with our friends, we miss them all here in Suffolk but plans are in hand to see them again in the not too distant future.

In other news, the eBay dabbling continues and the fabulous tureen sold for £110 and is now on its way to Australia. The original high bidder turned out to be a rogue who has been bidding on tons of stuff and not paying (and has now been kicked off eBay) but fortunately there's a second chance offer system and the underbidder was able to buy. 

I'm now selling this lovely French faience planter made by the St Cement factory in around 1900 and again found on eBay for a few pounds. I'm hopeful that this will do very well as it's completely hand painted and a very fine and pretty piece of antique French pottery.

After four gym classes in the last 24 hours I'm getting back some of the fitness lost in a week of wining and dining. Sadly Marion has picked up a very heavy cold and blocked sinuses and is having to take things easy.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Under The Weather

I've been fortunate to have been blessed with good health for most of my life so it was a bit of a shock to the system when I started to feel off colour on Tuesday - nothing serious, just a bit of an upset stomach and an extreme sense of tiredness that was enough to take blogging off the agenda for a few days. I'm pleased to report that I am finally back to normal today but it meant a week of taking it relatively easy.

As a kid I was encouraged to fight illness  and would always be the last standing when the rest of the class had succumbed to the latest round of flu or vomiting sickness even if sat alone at my desk, teeth chattering, shivering and running a high fever. My mum reckoned I would fight it off. She was probably right as times like these few days have been mercifully few and I can count the sick days spent off work in forty years on my fingers. So it was no surprise that I turned up at Fram Leisure for all the spinning and circuit training classes for the week even if I did put in a pretty feeble performance. I've no idea what caused me to be under the weather but, as nobody else seems to be affected, it may just be down to something I ate.

Before the sickness we'd been enjoying some time around Framlingham for a few weeks. We've got a few trips away coming up soon so it was good to be home for a short while. Last Saturday there was an auction at The Castle Inn. It was a small sale but I bought this piece of original artwork from one of the Postman Pat books. I thought it would be nice for the spare bedroom that we've fitted out for when the grandchildren visit although Marion wonders that it might no longer be politically correct. 

We added the final finishing touches to that room when, continuing on our mission to buy local whenever possible, we asked Emma from Esme's House in Framlingham to sort out the window blind and matching light and lamp shades. She did a great job and we are very pleased with the result. Now we're planning to redecorate the hall, landing and stairs. We ordered about twenty samples of wallpaper.

This is the one we've chosen. Let's hope it looks as good as it does on the website.

On Monday, while still fully fit, I did one of my occasional lunches for an elderly neighbour to give him a change from his regular (but very good) microwave ready meals. Sirloin steak with mashed potatoes, green beans and a red wine and mushroom sauce followed by tart au citron (bought I'm afraid) and a small cheese plate were all well received.

Again while still fit I managed a few hours out with the detector too. I've searched a small field about eight times but there are still plenty of signals even if many are rubbish. A few of the more interesting bits follow.

A Medieval Sexfoil Belt Stud

A Good Late Medieval/Post Medieval Sewing Ring Complete

My First Medieval Hammered Coin Of 2015 A Farthing Monarch Unidentified

Another Belt Stud - This One Is Post Medieval

Enamelled Badge 48th Northamptonshire Regiment 

Huge George III "Cartwheel Penny" 1797

Following the successful sale of the gnome two weeks ago, I'm selling the lovely tureen and cabinet plate I found on eBay on eBay. They finish tonight. They won't sell for as much as the tobacco box but with a few hours to go they have at least exceeded their buying cost.

It's Marion's birthday this week so we are heading to Kirkby Lonsdale for a quiet few days in a cottage before a night at The Inn At Whitewell with friends. It should be a good week and we're off to The Crown in Framlingham for dinner tonight to get it off to a relaxing start.