Monday, 2 January 2017

Happy New Year

My blogs were not as frequent as I would have liked in 2016 so I must try and do better in 2017. I know that everyone says that 2016 was a dreadful year and, yes, a lot of famous people died, the USA voted for an imbecile as president and people here, unfathomably, voted to leave the EU and with that I lost a bit of my identity. But, all that sadness apart, it was a good year for me and for Marion.

We saw our grandchildren grow and thrive and it was absolutely fabulous for us to have them all together for the very first time here in Framlingham. I do hope that we can do this again very soon.


That day alone was enough to make 2016 a good year.

We also got together with friends in the best self catering holiday house in the entire Lake District (as agreed by both The Sunday Times and Cumbria's Tourist Board)

 

I'm still working on an excuse for us to get back to Waternook again this year.


Our lovely friends Dave and Jane Haworth took us for a wonderful hotel break to celebrate our Ruby Wedding.


The summer in Framlingham was glorious which meant plenty of metal detecting when the harvest was in. We made the most of the weather with walks and bike rides aplenty.


Sadly we said goodbye to our lovely old neighbour Wilfrid, one of the very last German Prisoners Of War to survive here in the UK (only one, who died shortly after, outlived him). I wonder how Wilfrid would have felt about Brexit.

After a few false starts we've gradually begun to make new friends in Suffolk and we were invited to a great party the Friday before Christmas and had fun dancing into the early hours.


One of my people of last year has to be Jurgen Klopp who has brought some joy back to watching Liverpool. Having watched the joyless performances since the start of the decade I began to despair that my team would ever return to its glory days but in Klopp we've finally got a manager who "gets" Liverpool again. The vociferous Framlingham Branch of the LFC supporters club now meets regularly at our house to watch the matches (now in UHD courtesy of Sky Q). 


Another person of 2016 has to be Gary Lineker whose tweets have been a touch of compassion in a sewer of ugliness. I've just deleted my Twitter "Idiots" list as the daily bile poured out by Trump, Farage, Banks and Paul Nuttall from UKIP was doing my blood pressure no good. If you are on Twitter do follow Gary. Other Twitter favourites of mine are Sid Siddiqui, Mary Beard and Eddie Marsan. Each is an oasis of goodness in a desert of hate.

I told you in my last blog about this super (but badly cracked) Spode honey pot I found on eBay and wondered how much it might fetch.
Here's the result. I'm very pleased with that (as long as the buyer is happy when he gets it).

My new novel has some eBay links and it's been a really impatient time for me as I finished it in the summer, had it professionally edited and proof read and then tried to get a publisher. I've only approached two potential agents so far. One rejected it, the other has not replied but the agent recommended by my editor is not accepting manuscripts at the moment. I'm happy with the book, it's ready to go and maybe when we get back from our holiday (off to Bequia for two weeks) I'll go down the self publishing route again if he's still not looking for new writers.

We had a wonderful Christmas in Rochester and then again in St Andrews. It was over twelve hundred miles driving but worth it to spend time with our family. 

In my last blog I said that it had been a good year for finding treasure. After I wrote that I had my final outing with the detector for 2016 and some great finds turned up.

This is probably an escutcheon for a keyhole but it's an old one
A late medieval sword belt fitting
An unusual fob watch key
Excited to find this. Although damaged it is a Colchester type Roman fibula - only the second Roman find I've made around here
And finally. What better way to end the year? A Portuguese gold half escudo 
John V dated 1736 and in nice condition.
So that's a bit about 2016 - a year that saw us married for forty years and retired for six whole years. 

I hope that 2017 brings happiness to everyone who reads this.


Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Looking For Treasure


Noticing that my favourite field had been cultivated when I drove past a month or so ago I decided to hang up the metal detector for the year. It was a great year for me in the hobby - the highlight being this gold Henry VI quarter noble that I found in September. I found plenty of other very interesting bits and pieces and duly took them to the Finds Liaison Officer in Bury St Edmunds for recording under the Portable Antiquities Scheme. I'll probably get them back some time in 2017.

With detecting off the cards and my novel complete and sent out to potential agents in the hope of finding a publisher I needed to find something else to occupy the bit of spare time that I have. I decided to turn back to my old favourite - eBay. It's over seventeen years since I first discovered the eBay site and started to use it to build up a collection of antique ceramics and, after three or four years' absence I wondered if there might still be treasures to be found. I started my routine trawl through page after page of rubbish in the hope of finding a pearl. And lo and behold I spotted this.




It cost £6 in total and arrived promptly. The seller had missed a small crack but I was happy to win it for that price and decided to put it back on eBay with a correct description and full details. I had high hopes of it reaching around £100 but it has just sold.



Which is a decent profit I suppose but, after shipping, eBay and Paypal fees is less than what I hoped for. Maybe the market is a little flat for Moorcroft pottery.

The problem with antiques is that they are addictive and, as soon as I spotted the jug, I was hooked on trying to find more bargains.



I had to laugh when I saw this piece of porcelain described as having "minor restoration". 

Sure enough I spotted a few more "sleepers". Sadly I wasn't the only one and I was outbid but I was then  delighted to find this lovely and rare Spode porcelain honey pot which the seller had not identified. 



The seller described it thus "This has a hairline crack from top to bottom,but still very attractive. Maker not known."

This too arrived very quickly and very well packed but when I opened it I felt that "hairline crack" was something of an understatement.



When I pointed this out to the seller, he responded"Sorry about the understatement, John. It must be because I'm a very elderly laconic Lancastrian. Takes a lot to impress us!" To be fair I could have sent it back for a refund but I've put it up for sale and hope that a Spode collector can accept the damage. In perfect condition it would be worth around £350,with a hairline maybe £175, like this?  We'll have to wait and see.

The hunt is the fun and on Monday the bug got hold again and we went to Marlesford Mill Antique Centre where I found this lovely pair of vases designed by the major 20th century ceramics designer Charlotte Rhead. 


With Christmas around the corner and holidays coming up I will have to wait until January  to find out if I've made a good buy or a loss. 

I went around to my local farms at the weekend to give them a Christmas card and some wine as a thank you for letting me search their fields. The farmer whose field I had thought was cultivated told me it isn't planted yet so I've missed about five weeks of detecting. Doh! It was a bit damp today but I went to have a quick try. Here's what turned up.

Sorry about the poor focus - a Tudor period spectacle buckle
Bits of medieval cooking utensils including a pot foot
A Georgian fob seal - the impression is a griffin above a crown
And, of course, lots of lead. I sold a huge box of lead to the scrap merchants recently. I can see it filling up again very quickly


In other news, Marion and I have had a hectic time. It hasn't helped that Marion has been poorly with a cough but, hopefully, she's starting to mend now. We've done all our Christmas shopping using a combination of local shops, the internet and Bluewater shopping centre. We pass Bluewater en route to our son's house in Kent so we thought that we might as well use it. It's a good shopping mall and not as unpleasant an experience as you might think.

We've also been helping out a few old people here in Framlingham under the Framlingham Hour Community scheme and I've done my Suffolk Chamber Business mentoring in between visits to Kent for our granddaughter's nativity play and to do a stint of baby sitting there. 

On Monday night we had the Framlingham Liverpool Supporters Club round for the Everton match in UHD - great result. Last night we went to The Station in Framlingham for a Christmas get together with friends - great food and service at The Station.

I may not be blogging again before Christmas so I'd like to wish any friends and ex-colleagues reading this a very very happy Christmas (whichever way you voted). Look out for my new novel in the spring.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

On A Winning Streak

We've had a bit of luck recently. That comes as a nice change after month after month of no numbers on the National Lottery and a complete inability to pick a winner on Betfair. We went to the Framlingham Residents' Association Christmas party last Friday and were lucky enough to have one of the first numbers out of the bag in the raffle. Local businesses and supporters of the Residents' Association had been extremely generous and I had a host of excellent prizes to choose from but as soon as I saw the Aveda gift set donated by the excellent Carley Hill Hair I needed to look no further.





I must thank the Association for putting on such a lovely evening for next to nothing (£10 including food and music). We joined in singing some carols and were entertained by local musicians Intermezzo with some classical pieces and the lovely Damselflies who performed a series of traditional Suffolk folk and improvised dance. The highlight of the event for me was James Hutchison Jazz (above). James, a local student can regularly be seen performing on Market Hill in Framlingham. He's an excellent musician and, now that he has teamed up with an equally excellent singer, maybe we'll see them follow in our other local songsmith Ed Sheeran's footsteps and hit the big time. I wouldn't be at all surprised.

Back to the winning streak. About Fram provides an excellent weekly mail shot highlighting local events and promotions and, amongst other things, also produces a regular printed About Fram booklet. These booklets usually contain a competition with some outstanding prizes and I always send in an entry. The last edition featured an article about the wonderful ham produced by Emmett's of Peasenhall who've been making ham in Suffolk since 1820. The prize was a huge black glazed ham and I couldn't believe my luck when About Fram contacted me to tell me that I was the winner. I went to pick it up today from their super shop. What a fabulous prize! You don't have to live in Suffolk to enjoy Emmett's excellent produce. You can order direct check out their website here.

Collecting my prize from Emmett's proprietor Mark Thomas
It's been a few weeks since my last blog as we've been in Scotland and you know what that means - no internet. Except, to be honest that's not true anymore. Although the Caravan Connect internet is still impossible to use, 4G has found its way to Craigtoun Meadows and by linking the Mac to the iPhone and buying extra minutes on GiffGaff we've got a fairly workable solution to the caravan internet drought. I didn't have time to blog as we kept ourselves pretty busy while we were in St Andrews.



While Suffolk was enjoying brilliant sunshine and bitter cold we were experiencing milder but more overcast conditions. It didn't deter us from having a great time visiting the family.


For once the two little princesses discarded the Disney dresses and dressed for the great outdoors.

We went to Muddy Boots, a local farm and play barn attraction and chose a Christmas tree.


Which Melody and Rose had a wonderful time decorating.



We had some quality time playing with and reading to the girls. All too soon it was time to get back in the car and make the long journey home. We were lucky enough to have two very smooth journeys and did the five hundred mile trip in about seven and a half hours both times.




























I'm not going to write much about politics - it only gets me into arguments but I was interested to see while in Fife that, whilst I am criticised for wanting a second referendum on the basis of a lying Leave campaign and the shambolic government handling of the outcome, nobody was calling these Scottish Independence campaigners treacherous or traitors despite their referendum result at 55/45 being far more clear cut.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Afternoons At The Movies

I've been embarrassed to call myself a movie fan recently. The weather since spring was so good that driving to Aldeburgh, Woodbridge or Ipswich to sit indoors for a couple of hours held little attraction and we missed a lot of good films when they were released. Now that the weather has turned, we can put that right and we've certainly done that with a vengeance this week.

Our first trip was to Cineworld to see Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals.   


This is a stylish film. Amy Adams is a gallery owner who lives in a shallow world of pretentious art. Her ex-husband sends her the manuscript of a novel that he has written and dedicated to her and she immerses herself in reading it. His story comes alive on screen and she and her ex play the lead characters in a horrific rape and murder story. As she finishes each section of the novel we return to the reality of her life and problems. Both stories are gripping in their own right and it is easy to forget that one is simply a fiction in which her ex (like many authors) has used his own life experiences to fill the page. Adams is brilliant in this role and I won't be surprised to see her figure in the Oscar nominations when they are announced.


On Tuesday we were back in Cineworld and it was Amy Adams again. This time she starred in Arrival. When twelve alien craft arrive on earth simultaneously the world struggles to communicate with the strange octopus like creatures that become known as Heptapods. Amy Adams is a language professor whose task it is to try and learn the Heptapod language and communicate with the creatures before the world loses its patience and blasts them to kingdom come. It's a very clever story with a big twist that you may or may not pick up on. Although I saw the twist coming I never quite understood it and, two days later Marion and I are still not a hundred percent sure if we got it all right. It's a very thought provoking and clever Sci-Fi movie and a real cut above the flash bang wallop of Star Wars and similar.


Yesterday was time for an independent and lesser known film. "Like Thelma and Louise with Casper The Friendly Ghost" is how Dan, one of the characters in Burn Burn Burn, describes the road trip that he asks his friends Alex and Seph to take. Sadly Dan is dead at the age of just 29. He didn't tell his friends that he was ill but instead made a series of short videos telling them four locations where he wanted his ashes to be scattered. The memory stick (Daniel's Dongle) containing the films is given to the girls at his funeral and they set off with Dan in a tupperware box to fulfil his final requests. 

Although we've seen plenty of road trip movies it's a fascinatingly refreshing and different idea and there are plenty of smiles and more than a few tears as the young women come to terms with the home truths that Dan felt unable to express when he was alive but is happy to confront them with on his death. 

We saw this at the excellent Ipswich Film Theatre a great supporter of independent movies. It's unlikely to get on widespread release but it's very well acted and certainly worth trying to track down.   

While not at the cinema we've been busying ourselves with Christmas shopping. We've made good progress and have bought over half our gifts. I've not done any detecting but did go to see the archaeologists in Bury St Edmunds to leave my finds from the last few months for recording on the Portable Antiquities Scheme.



Anna, the Finds Liaison Officer, confirmed that this gilded silver piece is part of an Anglo Saxon mount and, as such is Treasure. 

I did write a blog about recent events that have led me to becoming political - I joined a political party last week for the first time (Lib Dems if you ask)- but I didn't publish the blog as some of the stuff that has caused me to feel this way may have offended readers. However, I have to pass comment on one thing.


 

This man referred to Barack Obama as "that Obama creature" - "so what" said his UKIP acolytes "we're all creatures." Rest assured, we know exactly what Farage was saying. His words were chosen deliberately. People are talking about making him a Lord. (Lord definition - a man of noble rank) (Noble definition - having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles). Need I say more?


Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Worth Waiting For?

I am what the marketing people call an "early adopter" so, when I heard about the future of TV being Ultra High Definition, I immediately went out a bought a UHD ready set (just as I did with HD and 3D some years ago). I looked forward to watching a wide variety of films and TV shows with the sharpest images imaginable and, indeed, some of the Netflix and Amazon Prime offerings were amazing. The problem was that the UHD output was limited and there are only so many times that you can watch YouTube videos of The Grand Canyon and coral reefs. 

It was with great excitement therefore that, eighteen months after buying the set, I read about the arrival of Sky Q. Finally there was going to be regular programming in UHD including football. So, once again, I ordered it straight away (before the current price cuts) and waited to be delighted by a new viewing experience. I waited...and I waited. Two months after forking out for the service and numerous emails, phone calls and internet chats with Sky operatives we finally got an installation date.

Was it worth it?


Here's a photo of the screen from the Liverpool Watford match on Sunday. The sharpness was amazing and it certainly is the highest picture quality football match I've seen. Touch wood, the Sky Q system is working well and I look forward to enjoying plenty of Ultra High Definition programming.

A consequence of getting Sky Q is that the ordinary Sky boxes are obsolete. Our son Paul works in TV and for some time we've recorded and saved shows that he developed and awards ceremonies in which his work featured. We realised that we would lose these recordings. It would be possible to copy them to DVD but, although we have recordable DVD players we never watch DVD and I wasn't confident that they would last. 

I wracked my brains about how to save these numerous bits and pieces for posterity. We decided to forget about the series of programmes (after all, most are readily available somewhere on the internet) and opted for just the awards shows. As the latest iPhone has a 4K video camera Marion played the clips she wanted saving on TV and I filmed them. We're pretty satisfied with the results. I've uploaded this one in low resolution but the quality of the clips we've saved is very high.

video

A League Of Their Own

I've loved art and antiques for years and for around ten years from 1999 I spent hours on eBay buying and selling ceramics and other bits and pieces. When we downsized and moved to Framlingham, most of the collection had to go and I had to hang up my "boots" or whatever antique traders hang up when they stop dealing. However I still get the occasional itch to get back into it and when I saw a fabulous piece of pottery in friends Rob and Richard's In Da Cottage shop last week I couldn't resist the urge to buy it.


Yes that really is a full size coffee mug alongside it.



I've no idea where to put it and had no idea who made it when I bought it although, after hours of painstaking detective work I've discovered that it was made in Germany in the Westerwald region in around the middle of the last century by an art potter called Wim Muhlendyck. He's not a massive name but this is a gigantic piece and a real statement that would not look out of place in a museum.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

A Postcard From Ullswater

The broadband in The Lake District is not exactly high speed so, as I've got so many photos to share with you, I've delayed posting this blog until getting home. 

We've been staying in Howtown on Ullswater for a week. Eight of us stayed at The Inn At Whitewell to celebrate Marion's sixtieth last year and enjoyed the weekend so much that we've tried to make it a regular event. After Whitewell, Malham and Matlock, this was our fourth such get together and, as it's our Ruby Wedding year, Marion and I decided to book somewhere very special for a week with our friends joining us for a long weekend.

So, last Friday evening here we all were, together again.

The idea was to use the cars as little as possible so, on Saturday, we walked from the house along the lake to Glenridding.

The Bluetooth shutter release for the iPhone only worked when I moved from the back of the photo.

But was fine for close ups.

The house, Waternook, could not have been in a more perfect location.
It's an absolutely fabulous place. It would be difficult to find a superlative to do it justice.Here are some photos taken near the house.






Waiting for the Ullswater Steamer with Waternook in the background.

After walking to Glenridding on Saturday we caught the steamer to Pooley Bridge on Sunday and had a decent lunch at The Sun before walking back to Waternook across the fells.





Although the walking was great, the house was so amazing that it was a pleasure to get back.
We enjoyed three communal meals in the superb kitchen. We kept things simple with a lasagne, and some excellent game pies and a Badhu's curry from Leo's Deli in Framlingham.


I took all my SLR camera stuff with me but was so happy with the iPhone that it stayed in the camera bag. Here are some more photos from near the house.








It was misty on Tuesday morning so I went out for another photo session. I'm particularly pleased with some of the images I captured.





The next one is my favourite.

























Our friends departed on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday leaving Marion and me rattling around in Waternook for three nights. Underfloor heating, mood lighting settings in every room and a networked music system with a huge choice of tracks are just a few of the features. Here are some photos. As I said earlier, I can't think of a superlative that would do it justice - it really is that good. 

Kitchen diner

A bath with a view (and a TV if it's dark)

A hot tub with an even better view

A welcome daily visitor

The perfect kitchen 
On Wednesday evening we caught the steamer from Howtown to Pooley Bridge for the Pooley Bridge winter droving event. In celebration of the community getting back on its feet after last years horrific flooding there was a torchlit procession from the landing stage through the village to a bonfire. The droving was led by a far from traditional drum troupe dressed in bizarre illuminated costumes that would not have looked out of place at Carnivale in Venice.




We did more walking on Thursday.




We stopped at Lowther Barn Tea Room. This is a great little place that's reachable only on foot (or by bike). Gill, who runs the cafe, sorted us out on Saturday with some superb home made sausage rolls and cakes. We went back on Thursday. The steamers weren't running due to high winds so we had the cafe to ourselves.

The house has so much space


Each room is beautifully furnished and decorated. We didn't use this bedroom.

Or this one

Lazing in the laconium (hot room) after a dip in the hot tub was totally relaxing

And the home cinema experience was outstanding (now we're trying to work out how we can fit one of these screens at home)

The cocktail bar was nicely fitted out

The week flew by. It was perfect and I doubt that we'll ever better it. But for the sake of our friends.


We'll do our best. Here's to the next time.