Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Here Comes The Sun

To say that it has been bitter over the last week or two would be an understatement. The log burner has been working overtime and has kept us snug and cosy in a sort of retirement hibernation as we've busied ourselves with booking a winter sun holiday for next January. I'm pleased to say we've done it and we're off back to Bequia (and for three weeks this time). It's the first time we've returned to the same place for a holiday for a very long time but it was so relaxing that we think it would be very hard to beat.

We've also watched moreTV than is good for us. There's so much choice now with Amazon Prime (when it works), Netflix and Sky. We've seen some rubbish (Cell and Silent House) but two films that were worthy of note are Nightcrawler and The 13th. 

We watched Nightcrawler on Amazon Prime one afternoon (Prime seems to fail in the evening at the moment - hope they sort it out soon). The film is everything it says on the poster and we'd strongly recommend it. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a strange loner (possibly on the autistic scale) whose lack of emotion and feeling enables him to film accidents, fires and murders for local news channels in graphic detail without qualms. It's a sinister and well acted movie that's well worth looking out for.  

Netflix's documentary The 13th which won a BAFTA at the weekend is another excellent movie. In the current political climate, both here and in the USA, its message is extremely relevant and brilliantly presented without being over manipulative.

We haven't been inside all the time. We recently went to yet another brilliant talk at Framlingham College. This time FramSoc members were entertained by the eloquent and very funny Benet Brandreth who spoke at length about the art of rhetoric and, in doing so, cleverly promoted his book The Spy Of Venice a "what if" novel that explores the possibility that Shakespeare visited Venice in his youth and used his experiences there as inspiration for his plays.

We also got to the wonderful Ipswich Film Theatre Trust to see My Feral Heart a story about a young man with Down's Syndrome who loses his mother and consequently loses his independence. It's a very moving little film.

When I said at the start of this blog "Here Comes The Sun" I wasn't only referring to the Caribbean holiday we've booked. Today the sun did indeed show itself here in Framlingham and the temperature gauge rose into double figures for the first time in a while.

It was so mild and sunny on Market Hill this morning that we enjoyed our regular coffee OUTSIDE the Dancing Goat for the first time this year.

The castle was packed with half term visitors (although I have to say that shirtsleeves was overdoing it a bit).

And I managed to take a nice shot of the church beneath a brilliant blue sky.

When I did a bit of gardening later in the day I was treated to my own private airshow as this helicopter performed all sorts of training exercises right above me. I only managed to get my phone camera ready when they had completed a full loop overhead. This was taken as they straightened out.

An exciting end to the week awaits us as two of our grandchildren are going to come and stay with us here in Framlingham on Thursday and Friday. Let's hope that the sun stays out for them and they can go and fight some knights at the castle's half term entertainment.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Crossing Borders

If you follow this blog you will know that last year we celebrated our Ruby Wedding Anniversary. As an anniversary gift my mum and my sister Julie kindly bought us a voucher for a couple of nights away in one of a wide choice of hotels and inns. We decided to save the voucher for early this year and, as we didn't want to drive too far for two nights away, we chose a hotel in North Walsham across the Suffolk border in Norfolk.

We headed out early on Sunday and drove to the Norfolk county show ground just outside Norwich. They were holding an enormous antique fair and we spent a couple of hours looking for a bargain amongst the thousands of items on hundreds of stalls - we didn't find one. 

After a very decent dinner and a comfortable night at the hotel (The Beechwood), we spent Monday exploring the North Norfolk area and had a good look around Holt with its many interesting shops.

Leaving Holt we drove north to the coast and found ourselves in Wells Next The Sea where we had a light lunch in the Grey Seal Coffee Shop. 

I've always been interested in visiting Walsingham having seen a lot of metal detecting finds of souvenirs from pilgrimages to the abbey including an ampulla that I found myself near to Framlingham. 

The abbey grounds are famous for their displays of snowdrops and we were fortunate to find them carpeting the whole woodland surrounding the ruins.

Our friends at our keep fit classes told us not to miss The Gunton Arms near North Walsham.

So on Monday evening we took a short taxi drive from the hotel and enjoyed a fabulous dinner there. My steak was probably the best steak I've ever eaten and Marion too enjoyed a hearty venison stew - a pub speciality. 

We had planned to do some more exploring of the coast on Tuesday but the weather wasn't suitable so we thought we'd check out Norwich cathedral. It's a place we've walked past a few times but this was our first time inside. It's a spectacular building and the best religious site I've visited outside of London. Here are a few photos.

The spire from the cloisters
Stained glass panels
The amazing ceiling

One of the hundreds of medieval carved ceiling roundels
A magnificent medieval panel by a Norwich artist that miraculously survived the Reformation  disguised as a plumber's table

Another major medieval art work.

I loved this Pre Raphaelite style stained glass memorial to Norwich soldiers who were South African War heroes 
Exquisite stonework
More wonderful stained glass
More master stonework
I could have taken a hundred photos.

I've still got a field available to search with the detector so I had a try today. The weather was bitter and I found myself carrying half the field around on my wellies and my detector but I did manage to find a bit.

Here's what I tipped out of the bag. This was from today and a visit last week.

The scrap lead box is starting to fill up again.

The best find was this Edward I silver penny 
Civitas Cantor means it was minted in Canterbury
This white metal cufflink with a glass inset dates to c1650-1750. It's interesting as it still has the link. There are several examples on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database but none with the link.
Artefacts and "partifacts" including a spindle whorl, a bell fragment a couple of lead pot mends, a pot foot and several unidentified bits

Three sixpences, a Charles I rose farthing and an unidentified copper coin 

And, of course, the usual selection of buttons

I think I'll wait for things to warm up and dry out before I head out again. 

Tuesday, 31 January 2017


Here's the front page of yesterday's East Anglian Daily Times. It tells the amazing story of young local man Mat Bayfield who, while we've all been grumbling about Brexit and Trump, decided to put something positive into his local community and arranged a series of Suffolk walks for every day in January to give people the chance to meet up, take some exercise, chat together and maybe raise a few pounds for Brain Tumour Research. Sadly Mat is a victim of this horrible disease and was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour four years ago.

His initiative snowballed and his series of walks reached a climax on Sunday when no less than five hundred and forty turned up at Glemham Hall for a three mile hike across the local estate followed by abundant refreshments, some jokes from Mat's dad and a performance of folks songs by Mat's band The Broadside Boys.

As we were in Scotland and then Bequia for most of January we were unable to participate in many walks but Marion and her friend Jane did one in Debenham on Thursday and I joined them both at Glemham on Sunday.

I've never seen so many ramblers together.

Mat (apologies for misspelling it as Matt on Twitter) and his girlfriend Kelly gave a moving speech explaining that their main intentions had been community based and the cash received for The Brain Tumour Charity was secondary. But with a total now in excess of £15,000 raised that is far from secondary. There's still time to make a small donation (he's not the sort to expect you to break the bank). Here's a link to his just giving page.

After months with very limited cinema going we're finally back into our stride and, in the middle of Oscar season, there's been plenty of choice. We've managed to see three films this week.

Lion, the story of Saroo an Indian boy who ended up lost over a thousand miles from home and was eventually adopted by an Australian couple is a "nice" film. There is a wonderful performance from little Sunny Pawer as the young Saroo and, as Saroo grows up and Dev Patel takes over the role Patel plays the part with great feeling. I enjoyed it but it was not as moving as reviews suggested.

Unlike Manchester By The Sea which was incredibly moving. Casey Affleck must be a certainty for an Oscar for his intense portrayal of a young man whose one act of stupidity destroyed his life. It's unbearably grim (think I Daniel Blake and double the bleakness) and I can't say that I enjoyed it but it has to be one of the best dramas made for some time.

The last of the three films was La La Land which we've just been to see at the lovely Riverside in Woodbridge. I can't say much about this. It's been nominated for tons of Oscars but, apart from a very charismatic leading couple in Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, I though it was all a bit meh.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

A Postcard From Bequia

I know, I know - it's freezing cold here and the last thing you want to do is look at some smug blogger's holiday photos but come on, we don't go on holiday that much so indulge me for ten minutes.

We were having a meal in a restaurant in Matlock last March when my dear friend Jane told me I didn't take Marion on enough holidays. After words to the effect of "what do you mean? We're at the caravan in St Andrews for eight weeks every year!" I conceded and decided that perhaps Jane was right and our 365 days per year retirement holiday was not enough. So I took heed of her advice (who says I never listen?) and went right out and did what I was told and booked a break somewhere hot and sunny for January. I settled on Bequia - a place that Marion has been interested in visiting for years.

After a comfortable night at Sofitel in Gatwick we got up early and flew to Barbados with Virgin Atlantic. For a bit more comfort and leg room, we chose Premium Economy and got a glass of fizz thrown in. It was a great flight and we couldn't fault the service (or the food and drink). After arriving in Barbados we were whisked through the airport very efficiently by SVG air and, in no time at all, found ourselves in a tiny propellor plane en route to Bequia.

This flight was not exactly Premium Economy and if we had been sitting much closer to the front we could have flown the plane. It only held about twenty passengers but Dawn French and her husband were among our fellow travellers. Yes, I know she won't be blogging that Marion and I were flying with her but, hey, after watching her Thirty Million Minutes at Christmas, she's something of a hero to me now. I avoided the urge to tell her so as I'm sure it would have been the last thing she wanted. At the same time I thought "bloody typical, if this plane goes down, we won't even get in the headlines."

Just over twenty four hours after leaving Framlingham, here we were at our holiday home for the next two weeks.

It was dark but this is what we woke up to in the morning.
And this is the lovely little cottage that was our hideaway at Tropical Hideaway.
We were all set up for two weeks of relaxation.

The island has a lovely bookshop and we bough a few books for the grandkids.

There are still plenty of churchgoers and your typical C of E vicar would be green with envy at the attendances.
We love our daily dose of coffee and cake so we swapped Framingham's The Dancing Goat and made Gingerbread in Port Elizabeth a regular port of call. 
Bequia has plenty of lovely beaches. This one, Princess Margaret Beach, is the most popular, as you can see from the heaving crowds.
It was hard to remember that, at home, everyone still had their Christmas decorations up but this roadside grotto served as a reminder.
We made a point of walking every day and our daily walks from Tropical Hideaway gave us this spectacular panoramic view of both sides of the island. According to the phone we walked 62 miles in two weeks which, at an average of 4.4 miles per day, is not bad considering the heat and the gradients.
We were so lucky to have the use of what a colour travel supplement described as the best infinity pool in the Caribbean.
Granddaughter Catherine wanted to make sure that we were not too hot so she made these fans for us to take away with us.
Panoramic view of the infinity pool.
The local flora and fauna were fascinating although three of these were three too many for our liking.
Marion with her Kindle at the poolside (correction, on one of the underwater bar stools). I managed to finish no less than seven novels in our two weeks - it was that relaxing. Best one? Probably The Essex Serpent although Kent Haruf's Our Souls At Night is magical and A Prayer For Owen Meaney is also very special. 

Tropical Hideaway is home to three beautiful and rare Bengal cats.

My stab at a pic for a Bounty advert.

Half expecting Jack Sparrow and crew to sail into the bay.
Thanks to Alastair at Fram Leisure we coped well with our daily walks up the hill back to the cottage but, with no exaggeration, this gradient was close to 1:2 (and in thirty degrees).

Bequia's beaches are unspoilt and uncrowded (apart from the one day when the cruise ship arrives in town).

On our balcony at sunset.
A view from Gingerbread
Now that really is an infinity pool.
Panoramic view.
Although we were on a self-catering break, the owners of Tropical Hideaway were experimenting with the demand for cooked breakfasts. Well that was an offer we weren't going to refuse so, on most mornings, I tucked into a delicious happy meal to set me up for the day. Marion opted for the lighter options.
It was cooked by the lovely Shelina.

We rewarded ourselves for our daily long walks by stopping at one of the island's superb restaurants for a rum cocktail and a light lunch.
Our walks were also rewarded with endless scenery like this.
We decided that, if Tropical Hideaway were booked up, this plantation house is where we'd book in future.

We visited the turtle sanctuary which has relased many thousands of turtles back into the wild after raising them for more than four years.
A quick dip before cocktails at Sugar Reef
A brilliant Creole band that played at The Fig Tree when we had a night out.
I didn't want to miss the Manchester United game but this is what was on screen at Papa's Bar for the last five minutes.
Although the view from Papa's was some consolation as we waited for confirmation of the final score.

We experienced some glorious sunsets.
And plenty of glorious days too.

So that's it. Hope I haven't bored you too much. Thanks Jane for telling me to take Marion on holiday more. One of the best bits of advice I've had in a long time.

Thanks too to Martin and Julie Mansfield (sorry for pinching your photo from your website) who have created the most magnificent small complex of holiday properties in a truly exclusive and fabulous location. Their story is an amazing one of incredible ups and downs but you'll have to go to Bequia and let them tell you all about it. Check them out here.