Thursday, 18 December 2014

Tapas And Music In Framlingham, A Daily Mail Fail And Wrong Direction

After our visit to Cineworld on Sunday we've had a fairly quiet week finalising a few Christmas presents and getting back into the exercise regime. We've managed to get to several classes at Fram Leisure and needed them as we've lost a bit of our fitness over the past couple of months.

On Monday evening we headed to The Lemon Tree here in Framlingham.

We enjoyed a very good selection of tapas.

And were entertained by swing singer Gary Winter (accompanied here by a couple of diners from a very large party who were having a great time).

On Tuesday we walked down to The Framlingham Wine Shop where owners Richard and Sarah were holding one of their regular wine tasting events. It's always a great evening and tremendous value at £10 which is deductible from any purchases. It was good to meet up with fellow wine lovers and to sample six outstanding and varied wines. We used to buy a lot of our wine from our good friends Whalley Wine Shop but we're doing our best to buy in local shops and, now that Whalley Wine is one of the leading wine outlets in the North West, I'm sure that they won't mind us swapping allegiances to support a new venture in our home town.

Wednesday found us in Norwich where we did a bit of present shopping. It's a very welcoming city and the park and ride service is first class and makes the journey more relaxing.

Today we've been back to the gym and done a few odd jobs about the house. If the weather holds up I'm hoping to make my last metal detecting trip of 2014 for a couple of hours tomorrow. 

Whilst on the subject of detecting, I am sure that many of you will have read this news of the discovery of a £1 million coin in Nottinghamshire in September.

And there was great excitement in the detecting fraternity when the coin turned up for sale at auction this week. The forums were buzzing in anticipation of the sale of the coin which the auctioneers had conservatively estimated at £20,000 - £25,000. Somewhat less than the £1m quoted by The Daily Mail.

And if you think that was an anticlimax - the price realised fell way short at just over £5,000. So, perhaps, when you read in The Daily Mail that a million immigrants have overrun the country you may discover that the true figure is closer to 5,000.

I'll finish today with a YouTube video. You may well have already seen this but an old colleague posted it on Facebook and said that it made him laugh so I had to check it out - and yes it made me laugh too.


Monday, 15 December 2014

On Orcs, Meteors And The X Factor

It's all over. What has been something of a Christmas tradition for us for the last ten years or so has finally reached its conclusion and we can no longer await Michael Jackson's next CGI fest in eager anticipation. It certainly finished with a bang and not a whimper and The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies was a visual treat on the Cineworld Ipswich IMAX screen. It wasn't all about the CGI (although it does make up 90% of the film) and Richard Armitage's performance as Thorin Oakenshield was a superb portrayal of inner turmoil and conflict and Ryan Gage added a nice comedic touch as the weaselly coward Alfrid. Martin Freeman was Tim from The Office with big hairy feet and the Orc leader King Azog was a hugely scary and monstrous opponent for the band of dwarves. Presumably bowing to the aim of a PG classification, the film is not particularly violent with much of the fighting and battle scenes assuming a near Tom And Jerry style (e.g Billy Connoly head butting iron helmeted  warriors). If you get the chance to see it with the full IMAX experience you will get the most out of of the film but I'm sure that even if you watch it in 2D on the telly when the DVD comes out you will enjoy it.

Another of those traditions is my annual bet on X Factor and I'm delighted that my winning streak has continued. Last year I won £200 on Sam and this year I managed to double that with Ben Haenow's win. I was a bit of a chicken really as, when the final weekend arrived, I stood to win £796 on Ben but lose £170 if Fleur won. So I hedged the bets and watched in comfort with the assurance that whoever won I would be £400 better off. I was convinced that Ben would win but, in honesty, I thought that Fleur was the better performer over the weekend. Perhaps  our local Framlingham hero Ed Sheeran swung it for him.

At midnight on Saturday I went outside to look for the meteor shower. It was a fabulous cold and crisp night with a million stars and I saw five meteors in quick succession. The iPhone isn't really the best thing to use to photograph them.

I'll finish now as we've got a table booked for seven o'clock at The Lemon Tree here in Framlingham. They're having a music and tapas night. Should be fun.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Through The Wind And The Snow

After a drive through Scottish blizzards yesterday we're back in Suffolk for a quiet couple of weeks before Christmas.

We set off early as we knew that this was a on its way and, fortunately, by the time we approached Carlisle, we had passed the worst and had an uneventful journey across the A66 and down to East Anglia.

We've had a peaceful ten days in St Andrews. None of the other caravans was occupied and the only sign of life at Craigtoun Meadows was the wildlife including this little family of deer that showed up most mornings to graze on the children's playground

We got to know our youngest granddaughter Melody a bit better. 

She's a lively character with a fiendish sense of fun.

Her big sister Rose is three now and goes to nursery. She drew this card for us before we left.

And if you mirror the image you will see that she has managed to sign it.

It's wonderful to be able to be close to the Scottish grandchildren for a couple of weeks at a time and, although it's not the Ritz, the caravan has been a tremendous investment and has given us the opportunity to experience their childhood that we would never have had without it.

Friday, 5 December 2014

A St Andrews Photo Album

We're back at the caravan in St Andrews which usually means a dearth of WIFI and lack of Twitter, Facebook and anything digital for a few weeks. But, wonder of wonders, we find the WIFI working - maybe because the caravan site appears to be occupied at the moment by just a few rabbits, owls, squirrels, deer ... and us. The signal wasn't good enough to watch Liverpool on BT Sport on Monday night - I spent a frustrating ninety minutes watching as promising Liverpool moves were suddenly replaced by a revolving circle which eventually disappeared to show that the score had changed. Never mind, at least I've managed to upload a few photos to share with you.

We always smile as we head through the Scottish borders and pass through Rochester. As we visit its Kent namesake frequently Marion thought we should take a photo to show to our family in UKIP land.

No this is not a satellite picture of the North Atlantic, it's the car windscreen when we woke up on Wednesday morning - perfect caravanning weather. Thank heavens for central heating. But the clear skies that brought us our first frost of the winter have also made St Andrews look particularly fabulous this week. 

On Wednesday we strolled through some of the older university quads. Anyone interested in historic buildings could spend hours exploring the town's nooks and crannies.

We've done a bit of babysitting and it's been nice to get to know our youngest granddaughter Melody again.

As she keeps telling us, Rose is a big girl now. She goes to nursery but when she's at home she loves nothing more than building stuff with her Duplo.

I must have taken photos from this point dozens of times but the scene changes on every visit. Today was one of those days when the sea was calm and the light was just perfect.

Here's Marion by the famous pier.

 The harbour was as calm as a millpond.

 And the sky really was this colour

 The view from the top of the tower would have been marvellous but after a fitness workout we didn't think our knees would be up to it.

 It's not quite on a par with Framlingham's or Rochester's castles but St Andrews castle is in a glorious location which belies its fairly gruesome history.

The harbour again. Next to one of the most beautiful beaches in the UK I always feel that this unspoilt and undeveloped harbour's potential is totally unrealised.

We're hoping that the weather stays like this for the rest of our stay. Who knows I might even be tempted to get the bike out of storage.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

On Killer Beasts And Other Framlingham Musings

It's been over a week since my last blog. That's something of a record as I've done my best to try and post at least three every week to keep up my writing practice. 

It's not that I haven't done any writing though as I am also lending a hand to Fram Residents Association. They are currently fighting a battle to ensure that Framlingham isn't ruined by over development. I've written a number of posts for that blog I haven't written all of those posts, only those with my name at the bottom. Look out for one next week on the statistics of the development (I love statistics). I've not turned political it's just that, whilst I am happy to see progress, it's not progress to destroy green fields while derelict old factory sites remain undeveloped.

Whilst on the writing theme, I was delighted to get this tweet from a reader on Friday. Give Me Your Tomorrow is still selling copies every week although the volumes are not as high as I would have liked. Tweets like this really encourage me to persevere in trying to get it noticed. I am working on some more promotion for the book and I am also trying to make progress with the next novel which I aim to publish in 2015.

So what else has been going on? Last weekend we visited the Taste Of London winter event at Tobacco Dock in Limehouse. We went with the Rochester branch of the family and enjoyed sampling the amazingly diverse range of food and drink on display. Sadly we were driving so the drink sampling was kept to a minimum. 

After that we had our last two days of baby-sitting in Kent for the immediate future. It was sad to say goodbye to the family on Tuesday evening as, whilst childcare at 100 miles distance is hardly ideal, it's been a wonderful opportunity for us to bond with our little granddaughter. Being the only granddad at Toddler Boogie was certainly an uplifting experience and one that far more men should try. (If any grandfathers out there need the words to The Wheels On The Bus or any other children's songs, look no further).

Wednesday saw us in Ipswich where the Christmas decorations were making very good progress. I was there for the fitting of a new hearing aid whilst Marion did the last of our Christmas shopping.

You may think that's premature but, when you have a schedule like ours, you have to make use of every spare moment so Marion has spent this weekend getting the decorations in place before we head off to St Andrews to see the Fife branch of the family.

In between a great workout with Becky at Fram Leisure and a disastrous performance at The Railway quiz (next to bottom this time), we spent Thursday preparing for a Friday evening dinner for some friends. Thanks to Hall Farm butchers and Leo's Deli, the food was fabulous and a great evening was had by all. We got everyone to provide their Desert Island discs and made a playlist of them all. It always provides plenty of conversation so it was 2.30 a.m when we finally got to bed. Last night I did another trip to the bottle bank under cover of darkness to spare our blushes. We made enough to cater for our widowed neighbour who was very pleased when we turned up with beef Wellington, fruit cream ice, cheese and biscuits and a glass of Chateauneuf Du Pape for his Saturday tea.

Yesterday was time for a relax in Fram. After breakfast at The Lemon Tree (finished the crossword this week), we had a look around the market and the shops and Marion bought this lovely necklace from our local hero's mum.

We had an unwelcome visitor to the garden in this giant killer slug. I've read all about them but this is the first encounter with one at home. In other wildlife news we sadly had a fatality as a blackbird managed to fly headfirst into the patio doors. We are constantly hearing bangs as birds fly into the windows here but most are only stunned and live to see another day. Sadly two or three a year don't make it. I wish there was a solution to prevent it.

But when you live so close to nature things like this are going to happen.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Talking About Our Generation

I'm sixty-one now and grew up at a time when you were very lucky if you had a phone that plugged into a socket in the wall at home never mind a phone in your pocket on which you could tell the whole world what you were thinking instantly wherever you were, 24 hours a day 7 days a week. So, despite being fairly up to date with all the very latest gadgets and social media, I do sometimes worry about the storms of outrage that are kicked up on Twitter and other sites up when  people of our generation get things wrong. 

It's embarrassing to admit it today but, when I was a kid, children of mixed race were referred to as "coloured" by everybody. That's why I was not in the slightest bit shocked when Alan Hansen used the term on Match of The Day. He was not being racist but simply using a term that he had grown up with.

I was recently told in no uncertain terms that I must never use the word "negro" but, again, it was commonplace in our formative years and, indeed, in one of the world's most famous speeches ever, Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" he used the word Negro no less than sixteen times - not once in a critical or derogatory way - that's the way it was.

So what's all this leading to and why is it relevant today? Well, I was reading the sports pages in The Times and it reported that Mr Whelan of Wigan is in big trouble for being derogatory about Jews and Chinese. I have read his comments on Jews and they are indeed, extremely derogatory and he should have whatever book the FA can find thrown at him for them. However, his reference to Chinese as "Chinks", which, I know, looks completely wrong today, should be taken in the context of his generation.

In 1970 multiracial group Blue Mink stormed the charts with Melting Pot. This was an anti-racist anthem which encouraged the world to join together in a gigantic melting pot and, in doing so, eradicate racism and prejudice for ever. And what did they, in all innocence, call the Chinese in this song? You guessed. You can check it out below.

Or if you haven't got time here are the relevant lyrics

Take a pinch of white man
Wrap it up in black skin
Add a touch of blue blood
And a little bitty bit of Red Indian boy

Curly Latin kinkies
Mixed with yellow Chinkees
If you lump it all together
Well, you got a recipe for a get along scene
Oh, what a beautiful dream

If it could only come true, you know, you know

So, when you have a go at us oldies for sometimes saying the wrong things, bear in mind that when we were growing up this was an ultra-liberal and progressive song - let's get the Whelan quotes in perspective (he'll be 78 next week) . And yes, I just noticed the Red Indian bit in the lyrics too!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

In The Thick Of It

Our childminding in Rochester has thrust us into a hive of activity this week with by-election mania taking over the town as tomorrow's big event approaches.

Watching ITN News At Ten we had to laugh when, during an interview with the Labour candidate, Marion walked into view totally oblivious of the cameras.

The Loony Party is hardly running a no expense spared campaign with this A4 sheet on an empty shop window the only evidence of their presence.

It's a pity the same can't be said of UKIP who were all over the place today and touring in an open top bus (pity it wasn't raining). Their main point seems to be anti immigration, which, in a town that appears to be full of white English people, seems particularly bizarre. Perhaps they are all Polish and Romanians who have developed impeccable Kentish accents.

If you run a shop on Rochester High St a punning name based on the town's most famous past resident Charles Dicken is de rigueur. Sweet Expectations is no exception and they are asking customers to put a coloured sweet into the  jar of their choice from which you will see that UKIP appears to be in the lead (although there are plenty of don't knows). It looks like the Lib Dems may as well not bother turning up.

I wondered who this lot were supporting but it seems that the campaign has clashed with The University Of Kent's graduation ceremony.

We've been eating well and this leg of lamb from Hall Farm Butchers in Framlingham was delicious.

Our granddaughter helped us to bake a fish pie.

It turned out well.

Election fever will be all over by the time we head back to Framlingham tomorrow evening. We'll have to find something else to amuse us when we come back next week.