Thursday, 26 November 2015

Another Postcard From St Andrews

We've been in the caravan in St Andrews for almost two weeks. I always have a moan about the WIFI when we are here and I'm afraid today's no exception. Although a signal for Caravan Connect shows on the laptop and the 'sign on' screen appears - that's as far as it goes. There's almost no phone signal either so we can't use 3g. I've spoken to the site manager who tells me that they improved the speed but that has reduced the distance that the signal travels and, as we are at the far end of the site, we're the ones who lose out. But, do you know what? Life's not all that bad. I've been busy on the next novel and managed to watch TV with subtitles without being distracted by Twitter or Facebook and having to ask Marion "what did she say?". So thank you Caravan Connect for being so crap. I won't be renewing the £75 subscription in January and can escape cyberspace whenever we are here in future.

So where is today's blog being delivered from? We enjoy our daily fix of coffee and a snack and when we're at home that's usually provided by The Dancing Goat. Here in St Andrews it  used to be Mitchells but that's a busy place and we feel obliged to move on when the coffee is drunk. We've discovered the St Andrews students' union cafe. The WIFI is lightning fast (it has to be, virtually everyone in the place is using it), it's good to be surrounded by youth (not sure if that feeling is reciprocated but we seem to be welcome enough) and the food and drink is good (and cheap). I've uploaded the photos for this blog in about ten seconds and there are plenty of empty seats so I don't feel that a kicking out is imminent.

It's been cold, wet and windy for most of our stay but it's been sunny once or twice and this morning was glorious. The weather is not that important as the grandchildren and family are the main purpose of our visits.

Now that Melody is two she can manage a jigsaw puzzle with a bit of help.

She and her sister have visited us at the caravan a couple of times.

We kept all of Sarah's My Little Ponies from when she was small and the girls love playing with them. Maybe they will survive to be played with by their own children one day or end up on Antiques Roadshow fifty years from now.

We took the family for a day at Muddy Boots. It's a farm packed with outdoor (and some indoor) fun for toddlers and its only half an hour away. 

There's plenty of fun for kids of all ages.

And it's in a lovely spot.

We've also paid a couple of visits to another caravan site with an excellent indoor soft play area. Rose was given the responsibility of looking after her nursery's class teddy bear.

With it being such a lovely morning. We walked into St Andrews today and I took some photos on the phone. I know I've photographed and blogged just about every St Andrews scene there is in the past but I've been experimenting with some of the features on the new iPhone so I hope that some of these are a little bit different.

St Andrews Cathedral - One of the most spectacular ruins in the UK

Marion's twin joined us 

The famous pier and harbour.

More cathedral views.

The Castle

We managed to get to the local Cineworld in Dundee last week. We wanted to see the last Hunger Games movie but they don't have IMAX so we're saving that for Ipswich. We went to see The Dressmaker instead. After Brooklyn , our last cinema outing, it's another film with a female protagonist and, what a protagonist! Kate Winslet is brilliant as the tough seamstress who returns to her Australian outback shanty town to seek revenge for a ruined childhood. Populated by grotesques and oddballs, the aptly named Dungatar meets its nemesis in Winslet's Tilly Dunnage. Filmed in brilliantly garish colour the film casts many a nod in the direction of Tim Burton and it reminded me of Burton's Big Fish and Alice In Wonderland. It's had mixed reviews critically but we absolutely loved its mix of pathos, romance and black comedy, 

Thursday, 12 November 2015

A Romantic Movie A Free Body Blitz And Some More Time In The Fields

Our movie choice for this week was Brooklyn. It's adapted from the award winning novel by Colm Tóibín and tells the story of Ellis a young Irish woman played by Saoirse Ronan who leaves her ultra Catholic small town in 1951 to find work in America. A priest, ( Jim Broadbent) has found her a job in a department store in Brooklyn and lodgings in a good Catholic house run by a maternal landlady played by Julie Walters. It's a very pleasant film with many varied themes running through it. Will homesickness ruin Ellis' chance of settling in Brooklyn? Will her young plumber boyfriend be Mr Right? Or, when she makes a visit home will her head be turned by the dashing young eligible bachelor? Principally, the big question is will Ireland change from small minded Catholic bigotry to acceptance? It's good to see a film with a female central character as, Hunger Games apart, this doesn't happen often enough. Saoirse Ronan takes the opportunity well and gives a convincing performance as a clever, sensible and determined young woman in a beautifully filmed low key romantic drama.

We've been keeping up with the exercise classes up at Fram College. I've been doing eight or nine sessions a week and Marion has been doing similar with Yoga at St Michael's too. The classes are all good but a couple of them are undersubscribed and I found myself doing this week's Body Blitz with instructor Alastair (above) and nobody else. It's such a good class there should be a waiting list. Next Tuesday there's a chance to sample it FREE as part of Fram Leisure's free class promotion. Book now to avoid disappointment.

I was excited to spot this fine Japanese Satsuma bowl coming up for auction on the internet with an estimate of £80. I recognised it as by the most famous Satsuma artist Yabu Meizan and hoped that none of the big hitting collectors would spot it. Sadly I hoped wrong and it sold this morning for a massive £4,400. For a 9cm diameter bowl this is a spectacular price even for Yabu Meizan (I anticipated it might fetch about £1,200 if it was spotted). Oh well. I'll keep on looking.

The unseasonal mild weather continues so I've managed another few hours out with the detector. I didn't find a great deal this time but here's what turned up.

There's never a shortage of buttons.

These look like a couple of lumps of scrap but are probably medieval vessel legs.

This is a miniature toy knife (minus its blade). It's probably from around 1700

This is another toy. Although used for centuries this one is very similar to one found in an archeological context  from around 1650-1750. It's known as a whirligig or buzz-saw. Threaded with string and spun at high speed the toys made a loud humming noise. You would need strong string as this heavy jagged piece of lead could do some damage if it flew off at high speed.

Here's another big chunk of lead. I guess that this is a weight.

Few sessions pass without a thimble turning up. This one is tiny and dates from the 18th or 19th century.

It's only a button but it's an early one from around the 17th century.

This silver penny is the oldest find of the day. It's from the realm of Edward I (1272-1307).

We're off to Scotland for a couple of weeks soon. We're looking forward to seeing the Scottish branch of the family. Let's hope that the mild spell continues while we are in the caravan.

Monday, 9 November 2015

A Weekend With Our Friends In The North

When we got together with six friends for Marion's birthday in March we had such a nice weekend that we agreed that we should try to do it again before too long. Unfortunately we couldn't find a date on which all four couples would be free but six of us were able to make this weekend. 

So Friday saw us with the car packed to bursting with everything bar the kitchen sink in preparation for the drive to Malham in the Yorkshire Dales.

We booked a big old Georgian house just outside the village.

The location was perfect with beautiful views across the dale and we soon settled into the place and made ourselves at home.

Mark and Nita stocked us up with plenty of fine wines from their son Tom's shop - The Whalley Wine Shop - and we settled down to a great Friday evening of food, wine and conversation.

The rooms were all quite grand with high ceilings and comfortable furnishings and we all felt very much relaxed and at home.

The plan was to do some walking around Malham but it was midday on Saturday before the sun finally made an appearance.

Mark, Nita Marion Jane and Dave
The sun's appearance was brief and half an hour later it disappeared again. But we did manage to walk to the top of Malham Cove and back to the village before the rain returned.

Climbers tackling the sheer face of the famous cove

We didn't venture far from the house (that's it just right of centre)
After our short but invigorating walk the rain set in with a vengeance and we settled back into the house.

As Dave and Mark settled down to watch England and New Zealand play rugby on TV I drove to Settle to stock up with a few provisions. The clouds thickened on the moors and I found myself on the remote single track roads with just the occasional nosy visitor looming out of the mist.

Fortunately the house was only five minutes walk from the local pub The Lister Arms and on Saturday night we enjoyed dinner together there.

We had another walk planned for Sunday but the weather turned even worse with huge puddles everywhere and one stretch of road under a foot of water and only just passable. So we found ourselves confined to the cars and a brief walk around the shops in Grassington before enjoying a decent Sunday lunch at the Fountaine Inn in Linton.

What we enjoyed most about the weekend was the chance to get together and relax in good company. Perhaps the torrential rain was a Godsend and made the weekend more relaxed than if we had done the eight or nine miles of walks that we had mapped out. We lounged around, did crosswords and puzzles, watched the X Factor, Strictly and Downton and drank perhaps just a little too much of Mark's wine supplies. 

Nita almsot completed a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle that we found in the house.

The views from the house must be glorious when the sun shines
We're back in Framlingham now but it won't be long before we're off to St Andrews to see the family. Maybe while we are there we will find time to think about another get together next year.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Foggy Aldeburgh, Murderous Mexico And A Rare Scottish Coin

One of the benefits of all the exercise classes we've been doing at Fram Leisure is that we can occasionally overdo the food and drink without worrying too much about the effect on our waistlines. Which is a good job as we've eaten (and drunk) rather a lot in the last few days. On Friday night we invited four friends round for some lasagne, wine and music. We made a Desert Island Disc playlist comprising eight songs from each of the six of us to accompany the meal. It is surprising how much wine you can get through in a 3 hours 15 minute playlist. I managed to carry the bottles to the bottle bank on Monday morning though (another benefit of those classes perhaps).    

Saturday started with a good breakfast at The Lemon Tree here in Framlingham and a bit of shopping in town (Marion bought a lovely top at Boo Tiki) before spending the afternoon working in the garden. We went out for breakfast again on Sunday to the excellent Farm Cafe at Marlesford. I love their breakfasts as they serve kidneys as an option and you don't find them on too many breakfast menus.

After breakfast we decided to have a walk around Aldeburgh. A light fog hung over the town and the famous scallop sculpture loomed quite eerily in the mist.

I had a hearing test in Ipswich yesterday so made the most of the visit and went to Cineworld to see Sicario. This is an extremely powerful and violent film about the war against Mexican and Colombian drug cartels.Emily Blunt plays a US cop who is roped into a special mission to assist a shady (but government approved) underground operation into Mexico against the gang leaders. Her role is purely to give some legality to a very dodgy plan  Her accomplices in this scheme are played by Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Torro who, unlike Blunt who likes to do things by the book , appear to have no rules or scruples. The film opens by explaining that Sicario means "assassin" and, without giving too much away assassination is the thrust of the mission. It's an extremely dark and suspenseful film and, although violent,  is filmed in a way that enabled it to be given a 15 rating. If you like tension, great acting and a heavy, throbbing soundtrack you will love this.  

Today has been glorious yet again so I grabbed the chance to get back into the fields with the detector.

This is what turned up this time.
 After sorting out the junk. Here are some of the finds.

This has the look of a Georgian shoe buckle but is decorated with croquet mallets, hoops and balls and lacks any sign of fitments.

Another thimble. Not a very old one this time

Some medieval and post medieval buckles


Post medieval stud

More musketballs

Another unidentified piece. 

Three loom weights 

Fob watch winder
Although there is nothing particularly exciting here, the best find of the day was a little silver coin. It's unusual to find a Scottish hammered coin here in England and there are only twenty-five pennies from this ruler (David II) on the Portable Antiquities Scheme Database compared to over two thousand for the English King (Edward III) who was ruling here at the time.
David II Penny c1357-67 (Rex Scotorum)

Reverse legend reads Villa Endinburgh
 We've got a trip to the Yorkshire Dales planned for the weekend. That's going to involve plenty more food and drink so we had better not miss any of those classes with Alastair tomorrow and Thursday.