Saturday, 3 October 2015

A Sunny Birthday Week

I can't believe that a week has passed since I blogged about our trip to the Aldeburgh Food Festival at Snape Maltings although so much has happened it should really be no surprise. On Sunday I did something I've never done before and attended a metal detecting rally. Those who are familiar with my blog know that detecting is on of my hobbies but I've always felt that there's little point in travelling miles to join hundreds of others detecting in a field when I've got plenty of fields that I can walk to and search on my own. But the Worlingworth rally was local, in support of their Local History Society and my gardener is friendly with the organiser and asked me if I'd like to join in.

So, on a perfect Sunday morning I found myself in a huge field with about a hundred and thirty other enthusiasts. My celebrity as a local detectorist resulted in me being asked to judge the best find of the day. Sadly, there were only in the region of eighty finds on the table at the end of the rally so the judging was not overly difficult and I selected a beautiful and rare coin from the short realm of Queen Mary. Like most of the others, I found very little, with a musket ball, a button and a Victorian penny being the highlights of my day. However, I did meet a few nice blokes and enjoyed their conversation and some excellent bacon and sausage butties from Framlingham favourites Friends Farm.

I've started searching a new field that turns out to be full of rubbish and could well have been the site of an old rubbish dump. However, amongst this trash (over 140 signals) there were four hammered silver coins ranging from Medieval through to Queen Elizabeth.

 This was the nicest one. A penny from the realm of Edward II - over seven hundred years old.

It was my birthday on Tuesday and we decided to explore some areas of our new home county that we haven't visited yet. We headed to Dedham Vale which is classed as "Constable Country".

Here, like millions before us, we had a look at the site of The Haywain.

The painting was painted here at Flatford Mill. We were blessed with glorious weather as our Indian Summer continued through the week.

From Flatford we drove to East Bergholt and visited a fabulous plant centre and arboretum where we bought a few plants for our garden before driving to our hotel for the night, Maison Talbooth (above), back in Dedham Vale.

On arrival we were pleasantly surprised to be greeted with an iced bottle of champagne courtesy of our daughter Sarah and her partner Duncan. It was an unexpected birthday treat that ended the afternoon nicely.

After the champagne I got dressed up for dinner (following Robert Peston's tieless style), although the other diners in the restaurant were dressed quite casually. It was a very good meal although service was a bit slow and, after downing half a bottle of champagne each before heading to the restaurant, we could have done with the food arriving a bit faster. That's the only criticism as the room was excellent,  the food, including the breakfast, was great and the staff were all extremely welcoming.

After leaving the hotel we drove to Saffron Walden and visited Audley End House. It's a fantastic old building jam packed with art and interesting artefacts with a fabulous garden and decent tea room. Well worth a visit.

We got home in time to join fellow Framlingham wine lovers at Framlingham Wine Shop for another monthly tasting. Once again we enjoyed half a dozen decent wines, some nice cheese and good company - a very pleasant evening.

Thursday evening found us at FramSoc's book club where we discussed The Free by Willy Vlautin. Centring around a solider injured in Iraq, this American novel was loved by all the members for its warm and upbeat characters despite the dire circumstances they found themselves in. It's highly original and interspersed with comatose Leroy's Sci-Fi dreams along with the difficult lives of his carers. We had a great discussion and will be sorry to miss the next event in November.

I spent hours on Thursday trying to resolve a problem with some tickets we bought at hugely inflated prices for our son and me to go to see New York Jets play Miami Dolphins at Wembley. The agents, Viagogo advised us at the last minute that the tickets were not available and offered us inferior seats with a small credit note. This was a huge upset and, due to the lack of a telephone help desk, we had to resort to Twitter to finally get in touch with someone from Viagogo. We ended up cancelling the purchase. All credit to the employee I dealt with as they gave us a refund plus a £200 credit note but that doesn't make up for the disappointment of my son's birthday present ruined. The match is sold out but I was determined to get him tickets. Somehow, at the final hour, two turned up on Ticketmaster. They were better than the original seats and were at face value plus £10 booking fee each (the originals were at least double face value). We have to pick them up from Wembley but, if all turns out well, we are £230 in pocket, have a £200 credit with Viagogo and better seats - result (I hope).

In other news my 89 year-old Mum's modelling career continues to flourish as she turned up in some higher education promotional material this week. 

And I had a stroke of luck when my copy of More Letters Of Note turned up. It's a wonderful book funded by crowd sourcing publisher Unbound. We bought four copies of the first book for ourselves and for Christmas presents and the new edition is equally beautiful. What's more, I was lucky enough to find one of only 50 Golden Tickets with an additional letter. You really should consider this book for a present. It's full of brilliant facsimiles of letters from the great and the good - one to dip into again and again.

Today we've been to the excellent Farm Cafe on the A12 at Marlesford for breakfast. We like to have a cooked breakfast on a Saturday accompanied by The Times Jumbo Crossword. This is our second outing to Farm Cafe and, I have to say, it's the best local breakfast I have eaten in a long time - we'll be back.

Better finish now. Got a couple of great lobsters from Darren at Framlingham market this morning. We could have eaten them watching X Factor but it's not on due to the ****** rugby. Now I know how Marion feels when the Football World Cup is on.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Some Inspirational Events With FramSoc

One of the best things about Framlingham is FramSoc, the society run by Framlingham College. Each term they organise a series of events such as talks, outings and a book club. These events are always popular and have given us the opportunity to do so many things we would not have otherwise done such as punt down the River Cam, meet author Esther Freud and see the Cambridge Floodlights review. This week we've been to two more exceptional events.

On Wednesday it was a talk by the remarkable Karen Hester. Karen's life story (to date -she's still relatively young and I'm sure that there's a great deal more to come) is one that, if I put it in a novel, I'd be accused of making things up. Forced to run away from home at sixteen by a wicked and brutal step-father, Karen joined the army and chose the Transport Corps. Within months she was the youngest person ever in the UK to obtain their HGV licence (a record that she still holds today) and she was on the road to what should have been a dazzling army career. She rapidly rose through the ranks but when she married and became pregnant a few years later the army gave her the ultimatum to either abort the baby or leave the forces. She chose to keep her child and followed her army husband overseas to Germany.

A few years later the marriage, sadly, failed and Karen found herself back home in Suffolk with two children. She had set up a business in Germany but had to liquidate her stock when she returned and she found herself working part time in the evenings as a cleaner at Adnams brewery in Southwold. When she tired of night work and gave up the job a couple of years later her boss didn't want to lose her and offered her a day job in procurement. I won't repeat Karen's entire talk here but suffice to say, she did a very good job and continued to do a good job in every position she was offered in a meteoric rise through the company which has ended (to date that is) with her on the board of Adnams. 

It's little surprise to see what she has achieved as she is a person of rare determination to succeed through natural ability and sheer hard work. I share much of her business ethos - she likes to talent spot from within the business often promoting from the shop floor (nothing gave Marion and me more pleasure than seeing, for example, a schoolgirl office junior become a senior manager, a metal worker become a senior sales executive and a schoolboy shop floor worker end up as Operations Director) ; she doesn't hold with days off for colds (I can count my entire career days of absence on one hand); she was an early adopter of green business practices and she likes to ensure that everyone has good terms and conditions. I'm certainly not the workaholic that Karen is (five p.m was my working deadline) and I certainly didn't end up on the board of a major company but I liked what she said and her life story should be held up to all budding entrepreneurs as an example of what can be achieved if you are determined to achieve it.

I mentioned that Karen left the army because of her pregnancy. You wouldn't expect someone like her to take that lying down and you would be right. Not only has she gone from being a single mum and part time cleaner to the board of a large brewery she also took the army to court and won the rights for women to have children and keep working in the forces - a landmark court victory that has benefited thousands of female soldiers.

I usually write just a paragraph on the blog for each item - there's no way I could do justice to a woman like Karen Hester in one paragraph and I haven't really come close to doing her justice in five!

Our second FramSoc event of the week was a trip to the fabulous Aldeburgh Food And Drink Festival at Snape Maltings yesterday. Here, in warm autumn sunshine, we joined Vivia Bamford, cheesemaker and forager par excellence, for a fascinating walk around the surrounding countryside to discover the natural foods that we usually walk past without so much as a glance. Vivia would give Bear Grylls a run for his money in the survival stakes. She showed us a wide variety of flora that we could use in our everyday cooking as well as several that we should give a wide berth. It was an excellent introduction to foraging and I would strongly recommend anyone around the Framlingham area to check out when Vivia is doing her next one. You can check out and follow her blog here.

In other news I've been doing a bit of metal detecting. I think today's blog is long enough as it it is so I'll leave the finds for my next one.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

On Local Art And Being On Everest

The hectic (but enjoyable) retirement schedule continued this week. 

On Saturday we drove down the road to Glemham to see Cornucopia, the latest exhibition to be held at Jason Gathorne-Hardy's lovely Alde Valley farm. Amongst the exhibitors where Robert Hardy (centre above) whose amazing fantasy animal works sculpted from everyday tools and objects filled one of the barns. His show was opened by Radio presenter Libby Purves who is an avid collector of his work. We didn't buy one due to shortage of space but they are well worth seeing and are on show until 4th October.

The exhibition got us into an arty mood so we drove to Southwold where another local artist  Mark Burrell was showing his paintings in Craft Co. We have one of his paintings and love his colourful fantasy landscapes. We particularly liked two merry-go-round pictures and would have loved to buy one if only we had wall space.

We had a stroll along the seafront at Southwold before coffee and a snack in a really pleasant cafe. It's called Fifty One and is at 51 High St. Very friendly service, with good and reasonably priced home made food made it somewhere we will be going back to again. 

I've mentioned the excellent IMAX screen at Cineworld many times on this blog but on Monday it came into its own more then ever. We went to see Everest, the true story of an ill fated ascent of the mountain in the 90's. The overall IMAX effect made us feel as if we were with the climbers in the ice storms and on the summit - a truly brilliant movie experience. It's a very good film but if you see it in IMAX it's a great film.

We're regularly eating Jamie at the moment (you know what I mean). His Super Food book has some really super recipes and on Saturday Marion cooked this chicken and sweet potato meal including her own home made rye bread. I think you will agree that it looks pretty much like Jamie's version. It tasted delicious.

On Tuesday I had an hour with the detector. I dug the deepest hole I have ever dug and after getting to two feet I had to go home to get a spade. All the effort was sadly wasted as, at almost three feet down I hit something that looks like a rusty old iron pipe. Never mind, keeps me fit I suppose!

Tonight we're missing the monthly quiz as our team mates can't make it so we're going to the college for what promises to be an interesting talk by Karen Hester who started as a cleaner and ended up as an Executive Director of Adnams. Wonder if there will be any samples?

I used to post a lot of YouTube stuff on my blogs but haven't done recently as there are thousands everyday on Twitter and Facebook and anywhere you care to look. But with my love of movies and Bruno Mars Uptown Funk, I had to post this one.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Back Home

After sitting in the car park to write my last blog post I all but gave up on the internet for the last week of our stay in the caravan in St Andrews. We kept ourselves busy so there wasn't much time to go online even if we had been able to .

I mentioned that we were going to The Rocca Bar And Grill where Masterchef The Professionals winner Jamie works. I assume that he is still there (we didn't ask) as dishes like Marion's lovely starter certainly had the Masterchef look about them. We had a great meal with very friendly and attentive service. We had another good meal on Tuesday at Little Italy. We haven't tried it before but were very impressed. It's a typical little trattoria serving good homely Italian food. It's a great deal different from Rocca but, at a third of the Rocca price for our dinner (a comparable number of courses but less wine) extremely good value for money. We'll certainly be going back to both when we are in St Andrews again.

The big event of our two weeks in Scotland was the second birthday of our granddaughter Melody. Sarah found time from her extremely busy schedule to make a Soup Dragon cake for her Clangers themed party.

It seems only a few weeks ago that we were looking after Rose while Sarah went into hospital to have Melody. It's scary how our life seems to be simply flying past us. 

I found plenty of time to read while we were away and managed to complete the book of the moment and Booker Prize favourite A Little Life. I was reading it as part of an online social reading group and, like most of those involved, I hated it. How it is getting so many rave reviews makes me wonder if it is a major case of King's New Clothes syndrome. It's dreadful. Unless you love depressing reading material don't touch it with a bargepole.

The weather was mixed while we were away but I did get the chance to go on another long bike ride through some lovely forest and farmland in perfect cycling conditions. 

Rose and Melody were, of course, the highlight of the break. I'm waiting for the time when they audition for X Factor and put their singing down to "encouragement from our Nanny and Granddad when we were little."

They certainly know how to belt out their favourites from Frozen.



We're going to miss them and their parents very much but it won't be too long before we get back.

We passed the new Forth Road Bridge on the way home yesterday. It's going to be a pretty impressive structure when it's finished.

We had an uneventful drive in perfect weather until we reached the sign that told us we were back in Suffolk.

We had a couple of hours of exercise classes this morning to try and keep our fitness as we get older and then, to keep us in good health as well, did some shopping for recipes from Jamie Oliver's Everyday Superfood - his latest cookbook. The meals look great and I will let you know how we get on with them. After shopping and a quick coffee we went to Ipswich Film Theatre again for the matinee showing of 45 Years. We were amazed to see a long queue for tickets and the screen almost full. It was a silver haired audience and we were amongst the youngest in it. I imagine that should be no surprise for a highly acclaimed film starring two OAP actors. Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay will almost certainly go on to win more awards for their excellent performances but, for a couple like us coming up to our 40th anniversary, it touches on some serious and quite depressing issues. It's not a barrel of laughs but certainly provides plenty of food for thought.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Here We Are Again

We're back in our caravan in St Andrews for a week or two which means that I'm writing this sitting in the car in the site car park as, as always, WIFI has two speeds at our pitch - very slow and non-existent. The same goes for mobile phone reception which is why we found ourselves sitting in a lay by in the middle of nowhere last night so that we could make a phone call. Connectivity apart, it is lovely up here and we're enjoying the chance to see the Scottish branch of the family.

Before driving up to Scotland we had our last night of the Snape Proms for this year. It was The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra performing sixties hits with three vocalists. This photo from their website includes three of the singers we saw on the night. It was a tremendously entertaining event - great singing, great playing and a fabulous choice of music. The highlight for me was probably the rendition of the clarinet classic Strangers On The Shore but this was just one of many hugely popular sixties favourites. We've been to four of the Snape Proms and have enjoyed them all. Hopefully next year we will get to more.

We didn't find a crock of gold but this beautiful rainbow welcomed us shortly after we arrived on site at Craigtoun Meadows. We didn't know if it signalled a change to dry weather or that more wet days beckoned. Fortunately it turned out to be the latter and we've had three or four beautiful days already which is good news as the Scottish press reported last week that nowhere in Scotland recorded more than six days of unbroken sunshine this summer.

We've already seen Rose and Melody and their mum and dad plenty of times in the few days we've been here. We bought the caravan on the day after Rose was born and, without it, we wouldn't have had the opportunity to see them growing up - such a good buy.

After getting off to a patchy start (like many siblings), Rose and Melody are now the very best of friends and play together for hours on end. No need to guess who is the most mischievous.

Rose loves dressing up. 

While we were at their house at the weekend I was fascinated to see what happens if you don't cut and eat artichokes when they are ready. The resulting flowers are stunning.

Yesterday was so fine that we managed to get out on our bikes for a ride. Although I have been on a number of rides in St Andrews on my own I think it's only the second day this year that we've managed to get out together. We sat and watched surfers and canoeists in the waves on East Sands.

And then took the road behind the famous West Sands. There was hardly a cloud to be seen all day.

Before going back to the caravan we stopped for coffee at the new cafe above the Golf Museum. It certainly is a place with a great view. It was a prefect day and must have been brilliant for the hundreds of freshers who arrived at the university at the weekend. It's Freshers' Week and the town is full of society stands advertising their clubs. I particularly liked the look of the fine cheese and wine society but I would wouldn't I?

Whilst on the subject of food and wine, on Thursday evening we're trying out Rocca Grill. It's right alongside the Old Course and is the place where Jamie, the winner of Masterchef The Professionals works. It should be interesting.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Mum The Poster Girl (89)

Three years ago I blogged about my surprise upon opening a copy of Which magazine to find a photo of my 86 year old mum in a feature on choosing car insurance click here. Now, at 89, she has gone one better and has been found on a street advertising hoarding in Murcia.

The gist of the advert is "The diet that isn't a diet". It's promoting the Mediterranean diet to the people of Murcia. In a bid to improve their health it's exhorting them to eat like their grandmother did. As Mum spent part of her childhood in a fish and chip shop and her favourite foods include cream and butter I'm not quite sure that she's the ideal role model but I think you will agree that, whatever diet she's been on, she's certainly looking very good. I hope that I've got plenty of her genes and not my poor Dad's who she has now outlived by almost twenty years.

Our busy summer has taken in more cultural stuff this week. On Thursday night we went to Snape Maltings for another of the summer proms. This time it was Beth Nielsen Chapman an American singer/songwriter. She performed for two hours with a very talented trio of young British musicians. We had read that she had written songs for a number of famous artistes but , until her final encore of the fabulous Beach Boy hit God Only Knows (which was composed by Brian Wilson), we were unfamiliar with all of the music. Her voice and style reminded me a little of Eva Cassidy and we enjoyed a string of easy listening - tending towards country style songs. Beth was a genial performer and her support were outstanding. We've got the Philharmonic Orchestra performing 60's music for our final Snape Prom tomorrow.

We had another trip to the excellent Ipswich Film Theatre earlier in the week. This week's film choice was the Spanish movie Marshland. Set in the 1980's in Isla Mayor, a remote Marshland region of Southern Spain. It's an atmospheric thriller about two enigmatic detectives attempting to solve the disappearance of two teenage girls. Magnificent arial shots of fascinating landscapes and scenes in extreme weather make it very artistic cinematographically and the story, against a background of poor farmworkers and the recent demise of General Franco, is an exciting whodunnit. It's certainly one to look out for.

Yesterday we visited our family in Kent and had a trip to a fete at Fort Amerhurst in Chatham. Today we went to the outdoor antiques markets in Beccles and Halewsorth. We've been meaning to get to these for a year or so but have been put off by bad weather on the last few occasions but today, though overcast, it stayed mild and dry and we enjoyed both markets. We didn't buy anything but had a good rummage around the thousands of items on offer.

No week would be complete without me having a few hours on the field with the detector. The BBC weather ap predicted a dry morning on Thursday so I drove down to a nearby farm and was in the middle of a field when the heavens burst and I was caught unprepared. To say I was soaked to the skin would be an understatement as I virtually poured myself into the driving seat ten minutes later and drove back home. The shower was relatively short and, after drying myself thoroughly and putting on a change of clothes, I was back on the field. The finds were not spectacular but, as always (at least to me) interesting.

Post Medieval Buckle Complete With Pin

The Usual Pistol And Musket Balls
A Post Medieval Spur Fragment

Solid Silver Spoon Handle Probably c1700

Lead Fragment. Could Be Modern But Could Also Possibly Be Saxon Brooch Fragment

Lead Fragment With King's Head (Poss Charles II)

Heavily Clipped Silver Half Groat Probably Henry VII