Monday, 25 July 2016

The Holiday At Home Continues

It's harvest time here in Framlingham this week and we've been watching as the combine harvesters and tractors have been buzzing around the fields behind the garden. It's not exactly the most peaceful time but the work's got to be done and, on the positive side, when it's all over I might get chance to get out with the metal detector - it's been languishing in the garage for a couple of months now.

Living close to nature

The spell of glorious weather has continued throughout the week and the exercise classes at Fram Leisure have seen us at near melting point. It's a good job that we've been doing the classes though as the weather has been very conducive to lazing around in the garden and drinking wine or popping down to The Dancing Goat for a cappuccino and cake. (Marion has just pointed out that it is me that has been doing the lazing about - she has been busy gardening). On Wednesday night we went to Framlingham Wine Shop for the regular wine tasting and tasted some very fine wines at very reasonable prices. 

Yesterday we decided that conditions were perfect for a bike ride. For keen cyclists I'm embarrassed to say that this was one of very few ventures out on the bikes so far this year.

We didn't go far before stopping for a breakfast of cappuccino and pain au raisin at 221b in Framlingham. After that it was time to get on our way and we went from the bakery past the castle.

The castle was as photogenic as ever in the bright morning sunshine.

Before long we were out into open countryside with only the birds and the butterflies for company. We headed from Fram to Cransford and then on to Glemham before crossing the busy A12 and through Tunstall Forest to Orford.

We enjoyed some lemonade and home made sausage rolls at the cafe on the seafront at Orford and then went for a look around an Antique fair that was being held in the village hall. After that it was time for a well earned ice cream and to sit beneath the magnificent castle where we attempted to complete Saturday's Times Jumbo Crossword.After a long run of successes we failed miserably this week - may have to cut back on that wine.

Marion at the castle.
Duly refreshed from our stopover in Orford we headed back towards Framlingham at 3 o'clock. Despite our relaxation, the return journey was much harder and we were pretty saddle sore when we rolled back into Fram at four thirty five and poured ourselves a well earned glass of chilled cider. It must have been a pretty exhausting day as we woke up this morning at almost ten compared to the usual eight.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

A Postcard From Suffolk

We had  great Ruby wedding Anniversary on Sunday. We relaxed in the garden and then joined our super book club friends for a few pints at The Station's beer festival. The festival was all but over when we arrived but we had a good few hours putting the world to rights over some half price beer and cider before heading home for an evening in the garden with a bottle of champagne given to us as an anniversary present by my brother Pete and his wife Val.

We kept our anniversary meal simple with a delicious cold fish platter.

Our fortieth anniversary selfie.

I know that when you are retired you are on holiday all the time but we decided to have a holiday at home this week and explore some of the local places that we've not had chance to visit yet. 

On Monday we drove to the tiny hamlet of Covehithe north of Southwold.

The thatched roofed church built within the ruins of the majestic ancient church is well worth a visit

We saw the church in the best of conditions with a glorious cloudless sky.

There was a lot of wildlife around and I saw a grass snake at the gate to the church.

After leaving the church we walked through fields to the nearby beach.

We shared the glorious miles of sand with just a handful of visitors and had a lovely day in the sun reading and relaxing to the sound of the waves.

Today we decided to head south of Framlingham and, after a couple of exercise classes at Fram Leisure, we drove to Suffolk Food Hall beneath the Orwell Bridge for a late breakfast of coffee and pains au chocolat

After breakfast we drove to the hamlet of Pinn Mill on the tidal stretch of the Orwell and went on a two mile walk through woodlands and farmland. The dappled shade in the woods was a welcome relief from the relentless heat of today.

The walk ended on the river at The Butt And Oyster where we enjoyed a very good pub lunch .

After lunch the tide had dropped so we walked along the river bank and looked at the many houseboats and other vessels dotted around the river. 

A great day's holiday at home.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

It Was Forty Years Ago Today.

And we haven't changed a bit.

Well that's what I keep telling myself as I inspect yet another grey hair, wrinkle or liver spot. But hey, you're as old as you feel and I have to say that both of us feel just as young at heart as we did on 17th July 1976 when we tied the knot at Chatham Registry Office and followed it up with a great reception organised by Marion's mum and dad at the local scout hut. I think the whole event cost less than people spend today on the invitations but that didn't take anything away from the day for us. For us the most important thing was that we were starting off on a life together.

And so far it's been a great life (I hope that Marion agrees). It's hard to believe that, forty years on, we've got two fantastic children and four super grandchildren. I wonder if I'll still be around to blog about great grandchildren - I certainly hope so as I'm not planning on departing this mortal coil anytime soon (not that I've got any control over that.)

So how are we spending this momentous event? Big family get together in a country house? Slap up dinner somewhere posh? Nah. Marion's busy washing her hair, I'm faffing around on the laptop and, if the sun stays out, we may walk down to the Station Hotel here in Framlingham and listen to the music at the beer festival they're running today. Like that first day of marriage, there's no need for grand gestures. We're together and, to be honest, that's all that matters. 

Here's to the next forty with the best wife in the world.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Back Home Via Southport And Llangollen

Towards the end of our stay in Scotland, Sarah and Duncan kindly invited us round to their house for a special dinner that they cooked for us to celebrate our Ruby Wedding Anniversary which is coming up on Sunday. We had a delicious meal. Here's Marion with Rose and Melody making a toast.

We took the family shopping in Dundee before we left for home. A few years ago Liverpool was inundated by the famous Lambananas and more recently there have been scores of Pigs Gone Wild in Ipswich. Dundee is going through a similar statue celebration and this time it's the famous DC Thompson's Oor Wullie. 

Rose and Melody were impressed by the disco ball Wullie and the punk Wullie.

And enjoyed a drive together while their mum and Marion did some shopping. We left Scotland on Saturday and drove to Southport where we stayed with my mum for a night.

Mum's still going strong and despite having recently suffered attempted frauds by not one but two low life criminals, she's still lively and doing extremely well for a ninety-year-old. She kindly treated us to a very good meal at The Vincent hotel on Lord St. Thanks Mum. From Southport it was on to Llangollen to visit our friends David and Janet who hosted another excellent Eisteddfod lunch. We had some fabulous beef, ham and salmon (not forgetting the wine) before walking down the hill to the closing event of his year's festival.

Janet (centre) and Dave (right) with friends.

Marion with more friends enjoying David and Janet's hospitality.

The final show for this year's Eisteddfod was Jools Holland and his fabulous rhythm and blues orchestra.

We've seen Jools before at Llangollen and his shows are hugely enjoyable - no theme tune could ever be more appropriate for an artiste than Jool's Enjoy Yourself. My favourite part of the session was the fabulous ska duo Pauline Black and Arthur "Gaps" Hendrickson from The Selecter. Another brilliant event.

I'll close today on a sombre note. While we were in Scotland five men were killed in an industrial accident. I caught it briefly on the news and assumed that it was an accident overseas as it was given very little time in the bulletin. I noticed in a very small piece in The Times the next day that the accident happened in Birmingham. How is it that the accident was not a major news story? Okay there's been a lot of politics going on but two poor children who drowned in Scotland a day or so later were front page news on almost every newspaper. I can't remember an industrial accident on this scale that has merited less column inches and have to ask myself if it could be to do with the fact that the five men who died were from Africa. The few bits of information on the internet reported them as "foreign", "Senegalese", "Spanish" and "Ghanaian." Does the fact that they were black have anything to do with the lack of newsworthiness? We see the problems that America has with black people being murdered by the police. Isn't this failure to cover a story an example of the same sort of attitude to the value of black lives?

Monday, 4 July 2016

Back To Normality

Today’s blog is going to be non-political as, to be honest, my head aches from the non-stop roller coaster of breaking news of the past ten or so days. That’s not to say I’ve simply accepted the status quo and will now remain silent on the matter forever, just that my mum enjoys pictures of the grandchildren and hearing about how we all are. So, Mum, this one’s for you.

A lot has happened since I last did a blog on the continuing retirement. On the day of the referendum we were invited to London to our financial advisors’ annual summer party. As we were going to Scotland on Friday morning we booked into a hotel in London for the night to save the long trip back to Suffolk. That aim to avoid a long drive was anything but successful as East London flooded and we found ourselves in some of the worst traffic jams we have ever encountered. To compound the problem the Sat-Nav in the new car decided to stop picking up travel information and was oblivious to the alternative routes that it would normally send us on.

We attempted our own detours using an old fashioned map but ended up in this. The result was an almost six hour drive to London when it would usually be under two hours.

This year the Cumberland Place party was held at Tower Bridge and we enjoyed drinks and canapés on the viewing platforms high above the river before going on a guided tour of the Victorian steam engines that once powered the bridge mechanism. It was a very enjoyable couple of hours before the sleepless night ahead.

We drove to St Andrews without event (apart from the car keeping telling me I was tired – I knew I was tired I’d been watching TV all night) and arrived on Friday afternoon in good time for our eldest granddaughter Rose’s fifth birthday party on Saturday. 

It’s not her birthday yet but Sarah needed to fit the date around other children’s parties and holidays. Sarah did a wonderful job in arranging the party around the My Little Pony toys that she herself loved so much when she was a child (and are now popular again with today’s kids). There were pony races, face painting, cake decorating and much more and the small group had a lovely time.

Sadly the weather has not been at its best and we’ve found ourselves confined to the caravan for much of the past week apart from forays out to visit the family and to the university student union café to use the WIFI. We had hoped to use our bikes but with temperatures in the low teens and persistent wind and rain we haven’t had the chance to take them out yet – we’ve even had the central heating and electric blankets on. This summer is turning into something of a disaster for us weather wise. We’ve got four more days left here but we are not expecting a break in the clouds so will be heading back to Suffolk unfit and un-tanned.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

As the dust settles

If you know me, you’ll know that I am the embodiment of the eternal optimist. My son planned to have “There’s some blue sky over there” engraved on the back of the watch that my family bought me for my sixtieth birthday and my glass is usually not only half full, it’s full to overflowing.

Unfortunately, since Thursday night, my glass has been empty and I have been under a deep and very dark cloud of depression; a cloud that seems to be taking a very long time to lift. 

“You lost, get over it.” I hear my critics say. “You, sir, don’t respect democracy” someone said to me on Twitter. Nothing could be further than the truth. Of course I respect democracy and, had the public been given the truth before the referendum, I would simply congratulate them (albeit begrudgingly) and get on with my life.

But as the days go on, and the Labour party disintegrates before our eyes and the country loses a prime minister who spoke truthfully whatever your opinion of him, we are seeing politics at its very ugliest and a Leave leadership with not a clue of what the hell they are going to do and showing clearly that there was simply no cohesive plan. 

I’ve already written about the lies that were the foundation of the Leave campaign and my outrage at allowing such falsehoods to be peddled as truth. When I put the £350m lie to my own MP Dan Poulter this is how he responded 

This implies that the £350m claim was not gross misinformation, just “silly and inaccurate”. Well hah hah hah. The country has made the most important decision of the past forty years on “silly and inaccurate” information. You really could not make it up.

Okay you might say that this was not the main argument. Perhaps it was not. BUT, if it was the main argument for just 4% of Leave voters the result would have been a tie. 4%. Think about it.

I won’t touch on many of the other negatives that have come in the aftermath of the vote – just one.

This man stood up in the European Parliament and made the most jaw dropping, artless, arrogant and puerile speech I have heard in my life. Had he thumbed his nose and said “nah nah nee nah nah” he would not have been more embarrassing. This was done with a union jack on his desk and shamed everyone in the country - this from a man who called the result a victory for “decent” people. If 52% of the country was happy to let this person speak for them, the country has declined immeasurably in my estimation.

I don’t think the EU is perfect – far from it. There are migration issues - which David Cameron had gone some way to easing (concessions that have now been withdrawn) but for me the EU is about far more than money, immigration and trade. It is about togetherness and unity. Our country has become so much more interesting, vibrant, exciting and cosmopolitan since we joined. We started to travel to Europe and feel part of it. Now we are back to being as welcome as a nasty smell.

As all this unravels over the next few months, I want things to go well for Britain. I want things to go well for Scotland too. I’m not going to make any outlandish forecasts of doom and gloom but after years of feeling part of a big European community, European first, British second and English third, I now feel part of a country that is small in size, small in outlook and small in mind – not Great Britain but Little England.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Nobody Likes A Bad Loser. I Don't Care.

Nobody likes a bad loser. 'Play up play up and play the game' and 'it's not cricket' are just a couple of sayings that sum up our attitude to sportsmanship.

So, as a very good loser, I should be saying "Well done chaps. I strongly disagreed with you over the referendum but more of you voted leave than remain so, fair do's."

But hang on. Sometimes our anger (and grief) in losing is more than just bad  sportsmanship. Remember this.

Were we wrong to be furious of being cheated out of a place in the World Cup Semi Finals? Of course not. And this?

No wonder the Irish were bloody furious and justifiably so.

But these two incidents were simply sporting events. Totally trivial in comparison to what we are facing today.

On Wednesday I joined in an amicable debate on Facebook with a guy who I like and respect. He stated that, on balance, because of the £350m, he was voting Leave. I asked him where the thread had gone today and he told me that he had deleted it as others were getting very personal. But I assure you that it was there.

So one person was swayed by that £350m claim. So what. Over a million people more voted Leave than Remain. But hang on a minute. I only have a few friends on Facebook - 77 to be precise. If just one of them was influenced by that claim, how many more were similarly influenced?

And don't tell me that it was nothing.

This is not just politics. The Leave side have admitted that this claim was unjustified and drove around in this bus throughout the campaign. Legal, decent honest and truthful? I don't think so.

So. Am I a bad loser? Bloody right I am. And I feel completely justified in being one.

Call me a whinger but these ads would have brought a rebuke from the advertising standards people. This wasn't a football match. This was a life changing political event and one that people deserved to be correctly informed upon. Not a football match.