Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Multi-Tasking In Framlingham And Kent

It's been quiet on this blog for the past week as we've been keeping ourselves very busy and time has been in short supply. We've been doing a bit of voluntary work in Framlingham helping some elderly people with form filling and shopping. The shopping is easy but the form filling can be extremely complicated. We've got to the stage where we could almost call ourselves experts in Powers Of Attorney, Attendance Allowance and various other bureaucratic paperwork. Powers Of Attorney are brilliant things and really help the partners of  those with dementia - ( A word of advice; make sure you sign one as early as possible as you never know when memory loss can turn into something much worse and by that time it may be too late to sign). We've done ours so we can relax knowing that if we lose our marbles our kids can take over managing our affairs for us. Form filling is fine but the human story behind each form is often difficult to handle and not every decision goes the way that you would like it to.

Last weekend we drove down to Kent to look after our granddaughter Catherine while her mum and dad and baby brother went to a wedding in Lancashire. We had a great weekend babysitting and the time simply flew by.

On Saturday we took her to the English Festival near Chatham. The Riverside park was filled with stalls, and there was live entertainment and, of course, a funfair. Catherine had a wonderful afternoon and I was even roped into going down the helter skelter with her.

On Sunday she had a horse riding lesson. She was given her favourite horse (Jacket Potato) to ride and she loved her half hour of trotting quickly and slowly around the paddock.

We bought her a bubble gun at the English Festival and she had hours of fun with it (well, minutes really as the bubble solution doesn't last too long at the rate she was using it). We took her to school on Monday morning and then had a day in Rochester before driving back to Suffolk when the family got home. 

Although she's only three Catherine is extremely grown up. When we told her that she couldn't do two things at the same time, she disagreed. "I'm multi-tasking" she said. 

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

A Derbyshire Reunion

When Marion had her 60th birthday last year, we and a group of friends (four couples in total) got together and celebrated at The Inn At Whitewell. We got along so well that we suggested that we should make such reunions a regular event and six of us were able to meet up again in November in Yorkshire. Last weekend saw our third gathering and I am delighted that all eight of us were able to make it this time as we rented a big house in Matlock in the Peak District. 

We got there on Friday night and enjoyed a good meal (I would say that as Marion and I cooked it) with plenty of fresh Suffolk produce from Leo's Deli, Hall Farm Butchers and other local stores. Our friends Mark and Nita, whose son runs the fabulous and multi award winning Whalley Wine Shop, took charge of the wines for the weekend and supplied us with an excellent range to complement the meal. With such good wine and conversation it was well into the early hours when we got to bed.

With unpredictable weather forecast for Saturday we played safe and went to nearby Chatsworth House where we could keep ourselves occupied rain or shine.

Friends Dave and Janet Wareing brought their three King Charles Spaniels with them. Nita adopted one of them.

Marion and her dearest friend Jane

Chatsworth's parkland and gardens are full of interesting sculpture.

And beautifully landscapes.

A fascinating mechanical sculpture that opens and closes with water pressure.

There's a real mix of the old with the new in the house.

Nothing illustrates that point better than the chapel.
The ceiling in Chatsworth's entrance hall is not quite Michelangelo but still pretty spectacular.

More sculpture combined with landscaping.

Being rich sometimes has its drawbacks like having to dress like this.

Our dining room in the house wasn't quite like this but it was extremely good.
After a good day at Chatsworth we returned to the rented house before enjoying a good meal at a cheap and cheerful local Italian in Matlock called Viva. The service was friendly and the food tasty. 

On Sunday morning we had to have a look at what was waking us up at six in the morning. The bells on this clock were the culprit. 
We carried on from the church for a walk to Matlock Bath
A rare photo with me on.
The route passed some spectacular scenery and the famous cable cars (above) at the Heights Of Abraham
We didn't stay long in Matlock Bath as it was overrun by motor cyclists and resembled the pit stop at the Isle Of Man TT
We walked to The Barley Mow in Bonsall for a good pub lunch

It was quite a crowd for a small pub to fit in at short notice but the food was excellent and worth waiting for.
Duly refreshed with plenty of local ale and Sunday roast we walked back along the Limestone Way to Matlock
It really is an ideal base with lovely countryside but also plenty of local amenities.
It was lovely to receive this thank you from friends Mark and Nita for our organising the weekend - it really wasn't necessary

Mark also sent some of his photos of the weekend.

Dave surveying the landscape.
En route
East? West? This way's best
The weekend seemed to be over before it had begun and Dave and Jane and Dave and Janet had to leave on Sunday evening due to work commitments. Marion and I and Mark and Nita spent Sunday evening lazing in front of the TV and enjoying what was left of the food and wine. 

It was a great weekend and we're now planning the next.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The New Novel Is Off To The Editor

My second novel is now complete at 82,700 words and it's gone to a professional editor to be knocked into publishable (hopefully) shape. I really enjoyed writing this book and I've been very pleased with the feedback to date.

I asked for volunteer readers on this blog and on Facebook and Twitter and was delighted when a fair number of people responded and offered to give it a try. Their responses have been trickling in over the last four weeks and they've provided me with some helpful and constructive criticism and some very encouraging comments.  

I appreciate that I have not made any comment on the blog or on Facebook about the content of the book. This is deliberate. The subject matter is quite topical and I want it to be as fresh and original as possible when it comes to its launch.

It's a comedy and for me the most important thing is that everyone who responded has said that they laughed (some even admitted to doing so out loud). The other pleasing thing is that  three readers reported staying up late well beyond their normal bedtime to finish the book as they wanted to discover what happened. This means that my two principal aims - to write something funny and to create a page turner were met (at least with my volunteer readers). This has been particularly encouraging as they have not all been people who I would consider my target audience.

As a result of some of the critical comments I've made some very minor changes. I also spotted another half a dozen typing errors in my final draft. It's always easy to get carried away when you create something. No friend or relative is going to want to tell you that your painting is rubbish, your poetry stinks or your novel is dire and that's why I asked for volunteers. Of course some of those readers have been friends and relatives but there are several others who I have never met and their feedback has been very much on the same lines as the rest.

So what next? The editor is a highly respected figure in the publishing world and he will not pull any punches when he gets back to me. I'm paying him for his expertise and not his sycophancy so my current upbeat feeling about the novel may be taken down a few notches when he gets to work but until then I'll bask in the warmth of the response.

Thanks again to those who have read the book for me. I'll make sure that your help is acknowledged if it goes into print.

Now it's time to start on the next one.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Love A Duck

Before we left for Scotland we cleaned the garden decking of muddy prints left by some of the local wildlife but when we got back at the weekend there were plenty more. It didn't exactly take Sherlock Holmes to deduct who was the culprit as we followed the mucky trail into the garden borders.........

......where we discovered whodunnit. Not content with leaving us more cleaning she's built herself a nest in the middle of a lavender and is incubating a clutch of eggs. We hope that, once she's hatched them, she'll lead her ducklings to a more suitable home. Until then we're going to have to try and keep the mess down to a minimum.

Things would have been far simpler if they were this type of duck which Kent granddaughter Catherine enjoyed hooking when we visited her and her dad and little brother at the weekend. We went out to an enjoyable event in Chatham where we were entertained by a variety of musicians and sideshows.  

It was sad, as always to leave our Scottish family but we had a great time seeing Rose and Melody who are growing up so quickly.

It won't be long before Rose starts school. She and her mum and sister are coming to visit us in Framlingham soon. We can't wait to welcome them. Let's hope the weather's kind as there is plenty on over the Bank Holiday weekend.

It was certainly kind in St Andrews where we enjoyed some pleasant sunshine while Marion was recovering. I'm so pleased to report that she's better now. She's done a couple of classes at the gym and returned to the yoga class where her illness first showed itself six weeks ago.

Next time we're back in Fife we'll have to go back to The Seafood Restaurant. It's in such a magnificent position with the best views in St Andrews on a fine day.

The new car has arrived. It's the same model as the old one but in white instead of silver. They've done some tweaks to the shape and style and I really love the new look. It's also very comfortable which, in view of the pretty substantial mileage we do every year, is the main reason for buying it .

While we were away I put my first novel on free offer with Kindle for five days. The promotion saw it hit number three in the Amazon charts in the holidays category. I hope that all those who downloaded it enjoy it. I also hope that the people who volunteered to read my second novel have enjoyed it. Some of the comments I have received have included "Brilliant", "I couldn't put it down" and "I laughed loads" which is encouraging. I've also had some very constructive criticism. It's booked in to be professionally edited next week so I need feedback soon to make my volunteers' time  worth their while as the editor has given me a specific time slot. If you have a copy and can't give me feedback in time please let me know so that I can crack on with final revisions.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The End Is In Sight

Five weeks to the day since Marion came home from her yoga class feverish and shivering, I am delighted to report that she is finally well again. She's not totally fit as the swine flu took a hell of a lot out of her and she still finds walking quite exhausting but the cough has gone, her complexion is back to normal and her energy is gradually returning. She's had a very peaceful ten days here in the caravan in St Andrews and is feeling very relaxed.

The weather has been kind during our stay and while much of the country suffered from storm Katie over the weekend this was the huge queue outside Jannetta's ice cream parlour on Easter Monday.

While Marion has been on the mend and putting her feet up with a good book I've been out on the bike four times so far. I've done some nice rides and travelled a fair distance. I managed to take a route along a road that was washed away two years ago during a heavy storm. It was my first time on this cycle route since that fateful night which saw a house on the road collapse.The new road (minus house) means that this waterfall is visible for the first time. 

What is also visible to the cyclist is roadside litter. I commented on Twitter on the trash along the verges on the A1 on the way here but when you are on a bike the amount of rubbish is more obvious and I am staggered to see how much detritus is ejected from cars. The moment you leave a built up area it seems to be open season for litter louts and even the most remote country lanes don't escape it. I have no idea who it is that is chucking such an amount of garbage but they clearly have no love for the countryside. Judging from the amount of fast food packaging, beer bottles and Irn Bru cans I can only deduct that it is an army of obese idiots who don't own a bin at home.

Living in Framlingham we are very lucky to be in one of the loveliest parts of the country. Having a caravan in St Andrews makes us doubly lucky and yesterday we were able to spend an hour with our Scottish granddaughters in the grounds of the ancient cathedral.

It's a wonderful place for children to explore in safety.

It's hard to believe that it is almost five years since Rose arrived and we bought the caravan

And two and a half years since little Melody joined us.

We're heading back to Suffolk at the weekend. We've lots of things on in the next few weeks. It looks like an eventful spring ahead of us and I'm delighted that it looks like Marion is going to be well enough to enjoy it.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Convalescing In St Andrews

We’re up at the caravan in St Andrews after an uneventful and easy eight-hour drive yesterday. After Marion’s recent illness I was reluctant for her to share the driving but she insisted so we went to the excellent Farm Café at Marlesford at eight in the morning to make sure that she had a substantial breakfast to fortify her for the journey. She drove for the first four hours and, although she was shattered when we arrived at Scotch Corner, she had no problems. I think that we can consider the swine flu finally beaten now and this next couple of weeks will be a bit of convalescence for Marion.

When we arrived at the caravan we were greeted by some beautiful flowers and this cake decorated by the girls for Marion’s birthday. We popped in to see the family for an hour when we were unpacked. It was great to see them again – so many changes in Rose and Melody in just ten weeks.

On Friday evening we went to FRAm’s quiz at St Michael’s rooms and our team, Danbury Metal Detecting Club, actually won. It was a great all round performance. I hope that it raised a good sum towards the legal fees for the Fairfield Road and Mount Pleasant appeals. The target of over £24,000 is now almost in sight.

Saturday saw us saying goodbye to the car. We bought it shortly after we arrived in Suffolk and it’s been extremely comfortable to drive. We really need a decent car with a bit of luxury for all the miles (and hours) we do travelling to Scotland and to Kent so we’ve bought the same again and look forward to picking it up when we get back.

I bought Marion this giant urn for her birthday. It’s been in the window of H-P’s Emporium here in Framlingham for a few months and Marion was always admiring it. It’s a super shop and the owner Sara is incredibly helpful and wrapped it beautifully for me so Marion got a nice gift to unwrap instead of something that looked like a dog’s dinner.

I also bought Marion this oil painting by Lowestoft artist Mark Burrell. She loved it when we went to his exhibition in a Southwold Gallery last year so I contacted him after the show ended and he agreed to hold it for me until her birthday. We’ve got two of Mark’s paintings now and it makes a nice addition to our somewhat quirky art collection.

My £75 sub to Caravan Connect WIFI has expired and I’m umming and aaahing about renewing it. The service was totally unusable last time we were here so I’m not sure of the point. On the other hand, if it has, by any chance,  improved I can use WIFI from the comfort of the caravan and not sitting in the car outside the caravan site reception piggybacking onto their BT WIFI as I am now.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

A Slow Recovery But At Least It's A Recovery

Marion's illness is now entering its fourth week and, though weak, she is making good progress so we decided that she was well enough to venture out this week. I do some business mentoring for Suffolk Chamber Of Commerce and I had an appointment with a client on Monday in Bury St Edmunds so Marion joined me and did a bit of shopping while I had my meeting. After that we went to the car dealership and ordered a new car. I mentioned last week that I was unhappy with the service I got in Ipswich. The Bury St Edmunds franchise (which is in no way related to Ipswich) made us very welcome and in less than half an hour we had signed up. The salesman was delighted to help us and I can't understand why Ipswich were so unhelpful as I imagine that the commission on a vehicle at the price we paid would be quite substantial. After we got home, Ipswich phoned and left a message to say that they had some details for us if we would phone back. I didn't phone back and they haven't tried again. They must have more customers than they need.

After we bought the car Marion said that she felt up to going to the cinema so we headed to Cineworld in Bury for Hail Caesar. We've been looking forward to this movie since we first saw the trailer and Marion was not  disappointed - she loved it. For me it was a bit of a let down. The vignettes and pastiches of 1950s Hollywood's golden times of musicals, westerns, and war films were absolutely brilliant. Channing Tatum's scene as a tap dancing sailor was fabulous and Ralph Fiennes was on top form as a camp director. One scene in which he attempted to get a young cowboy actor (Alden Ehrenreich) to enunciate his lines in a new role as a high society beau was laugh out loud hilarious. My problem with it was that, despite such  brilliance in many areas, the story didn't hang together for me and I found myself getting bored waiting for the next pastiche to arrive. It's a good film and a must see for any film buff but, loving the Coen brothers' previous work so much, I was a bit disappointed.

With Marion on the mend but still taking things slowly I've had a few more hours in the fields with the detector. You can stop reading now if this doesn't interest you but if you are interested, here are the finds that have turned up this week.

Nice 17th c bag seal castle and CN for Civitas Norwich
Damaged toy gun or 'petronel' from the 17th or 18th century

The Finds Liaison Officer tells me this is a medieval vessel mend.
Some fancy buttons 18th and 19th century

And a few more of this week's buttons
This week's scrap lead
It's a struggle to lift the lead scrap box now
A hammered silver coin. Almost completely devoid of detail. A friend and I keep a running total of our hammered coin finds in a friendly annual competition. They all count.

18th century Prussian Thaler 
Post medieval spur fragment probably 17th century
Various weights dates unknown

Medieval strap end

William III shilling in terrible condition
Victorian florin 1899
Spindle whorl (date unknown)

Post medieval buckle

Tudor period buckle

Charles I rose farthing
And a couple more
Tudor period buckle
Yet more musket balls

I've got scores of them

The finds liaison officer at the Portable Antiquities Scheme reckons this is a medieval spout.
Very early pewter military button. Royal Ordnance c1780-1820

Lead cames for window glass

Good Tudor rose horse decoration probably 18th century

Tudor period spectacle buckle