Sunday, 21 September 2014

A Wonderful Wedding In The Midlands

We had a great couple of days last week in Rochester looking after our lovely little granddaughter. On Thursday we took her to the National Trust's fabulous Sissinghurst Castle in Kent.

She's showing a keen interest in flowers. Perhaps she'll take after Marion and share her love of gardening when she grows up.

We had to return to Framlingham in the early evening on Thursday to get ready for our biggest social event of the year to date - the wedding of our dear friends David and Janet Wareing's son William to his lovely bride Sophie. I met Dave when we were both eleven and we've now been friends for fifty years.

The wedding was held in Sophie's neighbourhood church in Four Oaks with a reception at the grand and magnificent Ettington Park hotel near Stratford Upon Avon.

After a super informal meal at a nearby pub on Friday night we were whisked away to the church on Saturday morning in this fully restored old Leyland bus. It was a totally authentic bus ride complete with a uniformed bus conductor and his vintage ticket machine

William And Sophie Leave The Church

The charming ceremony conducted by an Evertonian vicar included a beautiful poem about togetherness by A A Milne called Us Two. We used to read Milne to our children when they were small but I was not to familiar with this one and can strongly recommend it (see full text at the end of this blog post)- it was perfect for a wedding and was read brilliantly by Sophie's sister.

After the ceremony it was time to jump back on the bus for the ninety minute return journey to the hotel.

While the newly weds were involved with their photographer we guests enjoyed champagne and canap├ęs on the terrace outside the hotel. The weather stayed dry and it was the perfect opportunity to catch up with old friends and David and Janet's family.

Dave And Janet Looking Immaculate As Always

We Were (Unintentionally) Colour Co-Ordinated In Pink And Grey 

The Groom's Uncle Tony And His Lovely Daughter Rachel

Friends Richard And Diana

Here is William with his fabulous sister Lizzie who brought tears to the congregation's eyes and a round of rapturous applause for her amazing rendition of a Welsh hymn.

Further applause followed during the reception when to everyone (including the happy couple's) surprise the waiters began to argue amongst themselves before putting on a hilarious act including some outstanding tenor singing of several famous arias to the delight of the diners. 

They turned out to be "The Three Waiters" - hilarious as well as tremendous singers - check them out on Google. 

More entertainment followed with some great speeches before a disco and another surprise when tribute act The Cavern Beatles wowed the guests with two perfect sets of Beatles' songs that had us all on our feet.

The hotel is reputed to be the most haunted in the country but the only spooky figures I spotted were these three including Dave's old friend David Sykes who we were delighted to catch up with after missing seeing him for years.

We didn't manage to make it to the end of the disco as we needed an early start to head back to Framlingham in time for the closing show this season of our excellent pop up cinema Little Lightning. I'll tell you more about it in the next blog but, after a huge thank you to the bride's parents Derek and Denise for inviting us to their memorable event and the very best wishes to Will and Sophie, I'll leave you today with that moving Milne poem.  

Wherever I am, there's always Pooh, 
There's always Pooh and Me. 
Whatever I do, he wants to do, 
"Where are you going today?" says Pooh: 
"Well, that's very odd 'cos I was too. 
Let's go together," says Pooh, says he. 
"Let's go together," says Pooh. 

"What's twice eleven?" I said to Pooh. 
("Twice what?" said Pooh to Me.) 
"I think it ought to be twenty-two." 
"Just what I think myself," said Pooh. 
"It wasn't an easy sum to do, 
But that's what it is," said Pooh, said he. 
"That's what it is," said Pooh. 

"Let's look for dragons," I said to Pooh. 
"Yes, let's," said Pooh to Me. 
We crossed the river and found a few- 
"Yes, those are dragons all right," said Pooh. 
"As soon as I saw their beaks I knew. 
That's what they are," said Pooh, said he. 
"That's what they are," said Pooh. 

"Let's frighten the dragons," I said to Pooh. 
"That's right," said Pooh to Me. 
"I'm not afraid," I said to Pooh, 
And I held his paw and I shouted "Shoo! 
Silly old dragons!"- and off they flew. 
"I wasn't afraid," said Pooh, said he, 
"I'm never afraid with you." 

So wherever I am, there's always Pooh, 
There's always Pooh and Me. 
"What would I do?" I said to Pooh, 
"If it wasn't for you," 
and Pooh said: "True, 
It isn't much fun for One, but Two, 
Can stick together, says Pooh, says he. 
"That's how it is," says Pooh.

Friday, 19 September 2014

I Am Thrilled By The Result

I am delighted to have woken up this morning to find the United Kingdom intact and our Scottish family still part of Great Britain.

And, whilst it is a disappointment that 38% of those eligible to vote, voted for independence, that still leaves a fairly hefty 62% who chose not to do so.

Which means that, hopefully, for the remainder of my days, our beautiful little Scottish grandchildren Rose and Melody will share our nationality. I want them to feel totally Scottish and to be part of that wonderful country but also to feel part of a United Kingdom and be able to share the culture and heritage of each and every one of the individual nations that make it so unique.

I feel a bit sorry for Alec Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon. In all honesty they ran their campaign brilliantly and quietly without shouting until suddenly they found themselves in the surprise position of a YES vote becoming a real possibility. It was an exemplary example of how to run a political campaign and they managed to keep their dogs of war on a very tight leash until the polls showed the narrowest of gaps between the parties.

And then somehow, suddenly and inexplicably Jim Sillars and Tommy Sheridan slipped that leash and were all over the press spouting their opinions in the way that Salmond and Sturgeon had studiously spent two years trying to avoid. I imagine that Sillars appearance on BBC's Today Programme last week gave the NO campaign its biggest single boost in the last six months and slammed the brakes onto what was looking like an unstoppable Independence Bandwagon. The BBC was accused of bias. Had they shown Sillars and Sheridan on a 24 hour loop they could not have done the independence campaign more harm.

Once the firebrand fringe had shown its true colours with this sort of thing, the bandwagon came off the rails and I honestly believe that without this sort of negativity from the YES side, the outcome would have been much closer - a spectacular, but for me welcome, own goal.

As for Andy Murray and his now infamous tweet? Let's give the lad a break. He shared the view of almost two fifths of his compatriots. What's wrong with that? He wasn't aggressive in his opinion and, like all those who campaigned in a civilised manner on both sides of the argument, he should be congratulated on getting involved. Now that it's all over I will certainly continue to back him whenever he is playing and I hope that the rest of the UK gets behind him too. Anyone booing him on court should be swiftly shown the exit.

Now that it's all over and my worries of the last few weeks have subsided I feel certain that the referendum will prove to have been a good thing and have real beneficial effects for both Scotland and the UK as a whole.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Don't Leave Us Fair Alba Revisited

On 11th January 2012 I posted the following on this blog (all the stuff in italics) under the heading "Don't Leave Us Fair Alba"

It's been a second home to us since we bought the caravan in St Andrews and I hate to think of Scotland breaking away from the United Kingdom and going all independent. I haven't had time to listen to Alex Salmond's arguments in favour of the break. He was on all the screens at the gym last night but I had forgotten my headphones and couldn't hear what he had to say; I entertained myself on the exercise bike playing Words With Friends on the iPhone and watching his face inspired me to SMUG (42 points with a double letter and triple word) - thanks Alex.

The Scots have always had a reputation for being dour and my experience of some Scots (or to be honest one particular Scot) in England backed this up. But perhaps this perceived dourness has been due to their being fish out of water and away from their homeland as, in Scotland, I have never found the people to be anything but cheerful  and friendly. I'm not saying that in a patronising way it's just that, even in a big supermarket, you are a hundred times more likely to strike up a conversation with a fellow shopper than you are in England (in Southport at least - unless it's your best friend - and even then you might just nod); and the conversation does not end the minute they hear your English accent.

The other type of Scot, the stereotypical beer swilling, whisky drinking, deep fried Mars bar munching lard arse is certainly not in evidence in St Andrews. Okay so St Andrews in not exactly typical but the same goes for all the towns we've visited including Dundee and the wonderful Edinburgh which, London apart, has to be Britain's most exciting city; I'm pretty sure that he's a figment of some lazy journalist who has never been north of Watford's imagination.

There is certainly a strong sense of pride and national identity in the country and it's good to see the traditions and local costume - long may they continue. I know that we English have got a lot to apologise for but Culloden was almost three hundred years ago now and we've been quite a united kingdom for the last hundred years. I'm not going into all the political or economic arguments about the referendum here. I'm sure that there are strong arguments both for and against but, however eloquently the politicians express them, I very much doubt that the vote will be won on those arguments. I'm sure that it will be won on how much Scotland feels wanted by the rest of the UK. So now and for the next 1,000 days it's time for us English, Welsh and Irish to let the Scottish people know that we really want them to stay.

I wrote that over two years ago but it's a position that has only been gaining support  and sympathy here in England for the last couple of weeks since the Sunday Times published its infamous YouGov poll that showed the Yes camp in the ascendency. Most English people have been complaisant in the sure belief that Scotland would not dream of breaking away from the strong and happy union that we all enjoy and have enjoyed for as long as we can all remember.

But, having been in Scotland for the last two weeks and having extremely close connections with the country (two Scottish grandchildren) I am no longer convinced that we are seen by the Scots in the way that we thought we were and in the way that we have always seen them - true partners, countrymen and fellow Brits. 

I saw a fair amount of canvassing and publicity in the two week stay and must say that I felt the YES camp was aggressively hostile in its stance. I saw scores of NO posters defaced with either a simple YES or, quite often, something far more unpleasant. I saw no YES publicity defaced in any way. The YES campaigners had a nasty tone to their arguments (at least the vociferous ones did) and, after years of feeling welcome in the country and enjoying staying in our caravan there, for once, I felt uncomfortable and was unsure that we were as popular as we had previously been made to feel.

I still want to see a NO vote tomorrow. I don't want to be visiting my daughter and grandkids in a foreign country and I strongly believe that my family will be better off in a United Kingdom. But, whatever the vote, the referendum has damaged my relationship with Scotland and love for the country. Lets hope it's just a temporary spat and that when a NO is announced at breakfast on Friday, we can start to build bridges and mend that damage but if you really want to leave us fair Alba let's hope you get everything you deserve.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Another Year Vanishes

I can't believe that over a year has passed since Duncan rushed Sarah to Dundee on a Saturday teatime and arrived with ten minutes to spare before this little girl arrived on the scene. But yesterday was her first birthday and twelve months have passed in the blink of an eye.

We joined the family along with Duncan's parents Jack and Muriel and his sister Katriona and nephew Blake yesterday at the grand Fairmont St Andrews hotel for afternoon tea to celebrate Melody's birthday. We had a surfeit of cakes which left us more than full for the long drive back to Suffolk at the end of the afternoon.

Sarah is the busiest of busy mums with her Yoga instructing, maths tutoring, and parenting but she still found time to bake this lovely building block cake for Melody.

Melody is growing into quite a little character and it was good to get to know her a little better during our two weeks in Scotland.

And big sister Rose who had  great time at The Fairmont playing with her cousin Blake is really starting to enjoy her company. I suspect that the two are going to be great friends when they grow up.

I'll finish today with a photo for Rose to prove that we genuinely couldn't see her when she was hiding in the ball pool.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Give Me Your Tomorrow by John Brassey

Give Me Your Tomorrow

by John Brassey

Giveaway ends October 10, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Win A Paperback Copy Of My Novel On GoodReads

I am discovering that the years spent writing a novel, getting it professionally edited, having a super cover designed and self-publishing it on Amazon are simply the very beginning of being able to think of myself as a published author. Without a publicity machine to support my efforts I realize that my novel is likely to sink as deep as some of the Greek sponge fishermen who feature in it.

But initial response to the book has been very favourable and, as I write, it has five reviews on and one on Not a huge number I know but I have seen some well established authors’ novels published around the same time with less than ten reviews to date.

So I am not giving up and am starting a publicity drive over the next month. Locally I am advertising in About Fram a weekly e-newsletter that goes out to hundreds of people in our neighbourhood. More importantly, nationally and internationally I am offering a giveaway of twenty paperback copies of the book on Goodreads.Com. Register an interest via the following link.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Give Me Your Tomorrow by John Brassey

Give Me Your Tomorrow

by John Brassey

Giveaway ends October 10, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

As for those reviews, here is a selection of comments -

“A sweet love story. Also some thought provoking life issues....”  5 Stars

“Nostalgia, sun and a cracking good love story! As a lover of Greece, too, John was able to evoke that special warmth and light that only those islands can truly portray.” 5 Stars

A really beautifully written story, perfect to read on holiday in the sun!” 5 Stars

Thoroughly enjoyed the book, once I started reading I couldn't put it down” 5 Stars

Really enjoyed this book. At the end of each chapter l was eager to find out what would happen next. Found the characters believable and l cared what would happen to them. Can definitely recommend this one” 4 Stars

A lovely story - believable and engaging. Well written. Would definitely look for another by the same author.” 5 Stars

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Why I watched THAT video

If you know me or you have visited this blog a few times you’ll know that I am a fairly upbeat sort of bloke – someone whose glass is always full never mind half full (although not for long I hear you say if a nice bottle of Chablis is involved). My cheerful spirit inspired my son to try and have “there’s a bit of blue sky over there” engraved on my lovely 60th birthday gift of a watch last year. The engraver said there wasn’t enough room but hey, I went to a museum in Spain with my sister once where they had the whole of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel fresco (or something like that) reproduced on a grain of rice.

So what’s this video I’m talking about in today’s blog heading? No it is not some ghastly murder in the name of religion and patriotism – I had enough of that in the sixties when the world’s press published a photograph of a Vietnamese General summarily executing a Viet Cong Officer on the streets of Saigon. It shocked me then and haunts me still and I have no wish to see anything like it again – I wish that today’s press would not reproduce images from the current atrocity videos being circulated by IS terrorists today. The victims in each of these videos, be they American journalists or simple Syrian or Kurdish soldiers, were human beings with mothers, fathers, siblings, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends and children. Their final moments should not be paraded in front of the world to fuel some sadistic fanatic’s idea of religion.

And it’s not a video of a famous female actress. However lovely such a video may be I would not dream of watching it unless it arrived from her personal email address with a private message to me and even then I would have to ask Marion her opinion before opening it.

No, the video I am talking about is this one (click here.It's embedded below too). It’s a group of Iranian kids (adults really but kids at heart) singing along to Pharrell Williams Happy. As the title suggests, it’s a really happy song and even an old codger like me could be stirred into dancing along to the catchy tune.

So what’s the fuss? You’ve probably already heard but some idiots in Iran have deemed this performance as criminal. I’ve watched it a few times and apart from some pretty dodgy beards on the men in the video I have failed to spot anything that could be deemed remotely criminal. The girls are fully clothed, they smile and they dance. They are not in the slightest bit suggestive, they depict exactly what it says in the song – HAPPINESS. And yet in 2014 some medieval, nay prehistoric, rulers have got the performers and directors in court this week. We thought that the Twitter joke trial was a bit of a joke but this trial really makes me want to weep. When there are countries in the world where happiness is outlawed my heart bleeds for the future of mankind.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Give Me Your Tomorrow by John Brassey

Give Me Your Tomorrow

by John Brassey

Giveaway ends October 10, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

A Week In St Andrews

It hardly seems like five minutes but we've been here at the caravan in St Andrews for over a week now and before we know it we will be getting ready to hit the road again for the return journey to Framlingham. The sun finally peeped out from behind its grey covering today after a dull, wet and cloudy week.

Although it's always sunny when we see these two. Melody will be one at the end of this week and she's growing up extremely quickly. Rose has had a year to get used to her sister sharing the limelight and the two are beginning to become good friends and playing together.

Sarah was doing some yoga training in Edinburgh at the weekend so we drove into the capital to see Duncan and the girls.

Rose loved a little playground we found tucked away in a back street.

 And I was fascinated to see the trams finally running after years of traffic disruption. The trams themselves are very modern and look very comfortable.

I spoke to my favourite Scottish farmer and asked if there were any fields available for me to try with the detector. He told me that one of my favourite fields (on which I have found some very nice ancient artefacts over the last year or two) was available.

But when I saw the height of the stubble I wasn't exactly excited at the prospect of searching the field - I had to hold the detector about six inches off the ground.

So it wasn't surprising that I didn't find a great deal.

Although I do feel that the only decent find (this ornamental buckle) has a lot of age to it and may well be of the Viking period. I have asked the museum in Edinburgh and will see what they say. 

We've been watching the X Factor again (gluttons for punishment I know). I wonder if this little lady will be entering thirteen years on from now.