Friday, 5 February 2016

Another Cineworld Binge Day

After trying to make my point to the Planning Inspector at the Framlingham Planing Appeals Inquiry in Woodbridge first thing yesterday morning, we drove straight to Cineworld in Ipswich to watch the first of this week's two film choices.

Michael Caine's latest film Youth has had mixed critical reviews. Our daily paper The Times gave it five stars but its sister paper The Sunday Times felt it worth only two. I can see why it divided opinions. Michael Caine's central character Fred Ballinger is an octogenarian composer who is spending a few weeks at a magnificent Swiss spa resort. His old and equally aged friend Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) is staying at the hotel with a young team of scriptwriters trying to finalise the final scene of his latest movie. American film star Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano of BBC's War And Peace) is also staying at the hotel. Another host of characters, Fred's daughter, a Tibetan monk, Diego Maradona, a climbing instructor, a silent couple, a prostitue, a masseuse  and a stunning Miss Universe are either residents or working at the hotel.

The main interaction is between Keitel and Caine musing on their own youth. These scenes are both funny and poignant. Surrounded by youth in the shape of Dano, the scriptwriters, the prostitute, Fred's daughter, Miss Universe and (bizarrely) Paloma Faith, the two old men have a great deal to muse about. Fred has been asked to come out of retirement to perform for the Queen but 'personal reasons' that are key to the film prevent him from doing so. 

This is a fascinating movie. It is beautifully filmed, the Swiss settings are, at times breathtaking and it includes some fabulous dream sequences including one in Venice's St Marks square. In many ways the film attempts to be a piece of art cinema with its nods to Fellini and to Peter Greenaway. It has some very touching moments and Caine and Keitel are a perfect acting partnership and put in outstanding performances. Their characters are voyeurs watching the youth around them and my only concern was the director's obsession with female (but little male) nudity. We get shots of a naked guest swimming, the prostitute dressing, the hotel staff in the locker room (the women in their underwear but the men in white coats) and, in an important scene emphasising the age gap between the old couple and Miss Universe, long and lingering shots of her (admittedly beautiful) body. The nude shots don't offend me but I also don't see any genuine need for them. The same points could have been made with bikinis without losing any of the narrative and I feel that the nudity was little more than intentional titillation a la page 3 and took the edge off the film for me.

I am probably not alone in this view. Here's a picture I found when looking for a poster on Google. Photo copyright

After Youth we had a quick trip to John Lewis before returning to Cardinal Park for a meal at a Mexican styled chain called Chimichangas (okay but no more than okay). And then it was time for our second film of the day.

Spotlight is an excellent movie and well worth its Best Movie Oscar nomination. It might not win but it will be close. It tells the true story of four investigative journalists charged with the task of investigating sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests in Boston. They uncover a web of deceit, lies and cover ups. The film has an outstanding cast with Oscar nominated supporting roles for Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams. It is a powerful and compelling film and well worth a view.

As we go to the cinema so much we've seen trailers for most of the films coming up in the near future. Will Smith's Concussion looks worthy but dull, The Finest Hours looks like it will be an IMAX visual feast and Triple Nine looks like it will be exciting stuff but that may just be skilful trailer making. The trailer that has really caught our eye recently is this one (below). We love George Clooney. We love the Coen Brothers. What's not to like?

Thursday, 4 February 2016

In The Witness Box

After weeks of submissions at the Public Planning Appeals Inquiry in Woodbridge for and against the enormous planning applications for Framlingham I got the chance to have my own say today.

I went into what the Inspector calls the 'Witness Box' and put in my own twopence worth. My speech follows. Unlike other members of the public who have spoken at the Inquiry, I wasn't subjected to cross examination by the Appellants Barristers. This means that they either found my arguments insignificant or, hopefully, impossible to argue against.

Here's what I said. The statistics supporting my claims are below the speech.

"My name is John Brassey and I am speaking independently as a resident of Framlingham.

"I have listened to legal arguments put forward by some of the most brilliant minds that money can buy over the last few weeks and, whilst I don’t expect you to ignore the legalities of the cases put forward both for and against the development in Framlingham I ask the Inspectorate to apply just one rule in making a decision – the rule of common sense.

My wife Marion and I ran a successful manufacturing business that grew steadily over the years to a point where we were able to sell the company and retire. I stress the word gradually. Few people will argue that Framlingham does not need to grow but it is the pace and the size of the growth proposed that belies common sense.

Before we grew our business we put into place the necessary groundwork to do so – plant and machinery, staff, IT, training, vehicles and finance. But Framlingham is being asked to grow with no groundwork at all. The necessary infrastructure is not in place.

If all the developments on the table were to go ahead, the town would be facing a near instant increase in housing of almost 28%*1. My family hails from Southport which recently approved the building of seven hundred new homes – the largest ever development in the town’s history but that massive and controversial development is only double the number planned for Framlingham and just four times the Fairfield Rd proposals in a town with a population of 90,000*2 – over twenty-nine times the size of Framlingham, Our county town Ipswich grew in population between the last two censuses by 13.8%*3 over a period of TEN years- sensible and manageable growth. If proposals were made to increase Ipswich by 28% (which equates to the building of over 16,000 new homes) with no new education, public transport, roads or medical facilities in place, those proposals would simply be laughed out of court.

And yet such an increase is being proposed for our town in just a few years. The law of common sense says that these proposals are quite outrageous folly. The eloquent legal minds will depart this inquiry shortly having made their cases to change our future but it will not be them trying to book an appointment at an oversubscribed surgery, it will not be them playing Framlingham’s equivalent of musical chairs looking for a parking space on a Saturday in the CO-OP car park and it will not be them listening to a popular historic tourist destination reverberating to the noise of heavy plant and machinery from three sites for the foreseeable future.

This Inquiry has heard that Framlingham can support significant growth. The Station Rd development alone at one new home for every thirteen households*4 is significant growth, add on the 95 homes in Mount Pleasant and the growth at one new home for every 6.7*4 households is much more than significant. Take this in the context that the UK is expected to grow in population by 6.8%*5 in the next decade and you can see how disproportionate these proposals are. The town needs to grow. It needs to grow at a realistic and sensible pace. The size of these proposals is not only unrealistic it is ludicrously so. Common sense says that this should not go ahead and I am sure that the Planning Inspectorate will apply common sense in reaching its decision.

Source of statistics.

*1.2011 Census Framlingham population 3,086 in 1,302 households.

Station Road                        99 homes
Mount Pleasant                  100 homes
Farifield Road                     163 homes

Total                                    362 new homes/households      

Calculation 362/1302 = 0.278 rounded up to 28%

*2 Southport population 2011 Census 90,381

*3 Ipswich population 2011 Census 133,384

*4 Framlingham households 2011 Census 1302

Station Rd Site 99 homes = one new home for every 13.1 households
Add Mount Pleasant 95 homes = 194 homes or one new home for every 6.7 households.

*5 Source of data BBC News website 29 October 2015

“The Office for National Statistics said the population was expected to increase by 4.4 million in the next decade, before reaching 70 million in 2027.
That increase is roughly the size of the Irish Republic.
The population is projected to grow by 9.7 million over the next 25 years, to 74.3 million.
Latest figures show there are 64.6 million people in the UK.”

64.6 +4.4 = 69 million or 6.8% increase"

Monday, 1 February 2016

Capital Of Culture

Framlingham's arts scene continues to go from strength to strength as those lovely people at Slice Of Life brought us yet another outstanding event last night. Following the recent hilarious evenings with Daphne, Jonny Lennard and Pierre Novellie it was time for something completely different.

Tiata fahodzi's website describes the piece "i know all the secrets in my world" as 'a physical adventure that breaks your heart and then pieces it together, putting plasters touched with tiny kisses over the cracks' and it would be difficult to put it more eloquently than that. Solomon Israel and Samuel Nicholas play a happy and close father and son whose life is shattered by the tragic death of their wife and mother. We see them in their struggle to find a light at the end of a very long tunnel through a series of poignant scenes, some played out as individuals and others together as they reflect, mourn and gradually begin to heal. 

Solomon and Samuel's athletic movement was beautifully choreographed, exciting, touching and yet sometimes wonderfully comic. They were accompanied by the beat of a very simple but highly effective soundtrack. It was a play of very few words but those few words were used to maximum effect. I was mesmerised by the whole event.

Well done Slice Of Life (again).

When does Fram apply for Capital Of Culture?  

Sunday, 31 January 2016

More Trips To Cineworld And This Week's Detecting Finds

We've spent a while in Woodbridge at the Planning Appeal this week, I've written another four thousand words of my second novel and we've been to lots of exercise classes but we still found time to continue our cinema binge. On Thursday it was The Danish Girl and The Big Short at Cineworld in Ipswich. Eddie Redmayne has been nominated for the best actor Oscar for his role as transgender artist Lili Elbe but I felt that it was Alicia Vikander as his wife Gerda who stole the show in The Danish Girl. Vikander has been nominated as best actress in a supporting role and I feel that she may well win it as it was hardly a 'supporting role' in what was really a two-hander. The film showed the agony that grew from when Einar Wegener began to cross dress to pose for his wife's portraits to the stage where he felt unable to go on without transgender surgery to become his alter ego Lily. It's a moving and very beautifully filmed movie with some stunning Paris period locations and lovely costumes.  

After eating at Ask a restaurant near the cinema we went back to Cineworld a few hours later to see Oscar Best Film nominated The Big Short. I loved this quirky film that tells the story of a number of American bond traders who bet against the US property market before it collapsed. It did it's very best to explain some of the weird and wonderful financial products that were being put together by the corrupt Banking industry and the agony that the traders went through before the world finally realised that the bonds were worthless. If that sounds boring it most certainly isn't. The director uses some way-out and quirky methods to show us what exactly was going on and I think that it is a strong competitor in the best movie stakes for its originality alone although strong performances from Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell also make this a very entertaining and watchable film.

This coming week's movie picks are Michael Caine's Youth and the last Oscar Best Movie nomination for us Spotlight. Youth has only one Oscar nomination (best song) but Spotlight has four or five. It promises to be another great day at Cineworld.

Another exciting cultural event awaits us tonight. Slice Of Life our local arts promoter has brought another tremendous event to Framlingham. Tiara fahodzi's play I Know All The Secrets In My World received huge critical acclaim at Latitude last year and we are both looking forward to what promises to be a thought provoking and (reportedly) emotional piece of theatre.

We try to buy most of our food locally and we treated ourselves last night to some excellent lobster from Darren who is one of the mainstays of Framlingham market. With all the development being discussed for Framlingham it is important that we try and support the local businesses as much as possible as, if housing goes ahead on the scale proposed, another supermarket will inevitably follow and the traders on our historic market hill could suffer.

It was our dear neighbour Wilfrid's funeral on Friday and we were pleased to see a good turnout to say their goodbyes to a funny and knowledgeable old man.

No week would be complete without a detecting outing and yesterday I had a few hours on some very damp stubble.

It wasn't my best session but, as always, there were plenty of signals to dig.This was what I turned out of the bag when I got home. The individual finds after sorting are below.

Georgian Cartwheel Penny

Small mount. Possibly from a book.

Bullet and Musket Ball
Watch Winder
Copper rings (not finger rings). Top one probably medieval.
Plenty of buttons
Victorian coins.
Lead toy horse's head.
Lead pieces. Unsure but top two possibly weights bottom perhaps a palm guard.
Charles I Rose Farthing
Post Medieval seal matrix c 1570-1700
Seal impression a Tudor rose.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Busy In Framlingham And At The Planning Appeal In Woodbridge

The planning appeal by developers hoping to overturn the rejection of their plans to wreck our small Suffolk market town began last week. We've been to several sessions of the hearing. It's scary how a big shot barrister can manipulate words and intimidate those supplying opinions and being cross examined on the case. From listening to the Taylor Wimpey barrister you would think that Taylor Wimpey was some sort of charitable Robin Hood trying to build homes for the impoverished and disabled townsfolk of Framlingham but being impeded by idiots who think the green fields that would be forever lost actually have value. He also argues that the small town can easily cope with over three hundred new homes arriving at once on three separate sites. Money can't buy you love but it can certainly buy you erudition. Sad thing is that I am sure that the lawyer would make an equally compelling hatchet job on Taylor Wimpey if he were employed on the other side. I hope to be able to stand up and offer my own twopence worth before the appeal finishes. I don't care what the rules say or what the county's housing needs are, you can't increase a town by 30% almost overnight without it ending in tears.

When not at the hearing in Woodbridge we've kept up with the exercise classes. We also had a great evening at the Fram Soc book club on Thursday when our book was The Great Gatsby. It was a really interesting evening chatting about the book (which everyone loved). We've not been to the cinema yet this week but we've got another binge planned on Thursday with The Danish Girl and The Big Short in Ipswich. 

On Friday we went to the official re-opening of The Castle Inn here in Framlingham. The pub was absolutely packed as new landlord and landlady Tony and Jennie welcomed locals with free food and drink samples along with some excellent live music. It's not easy running a pub today so I wish them every success in their new venture. The pub is in a great location so, if they make hay during the tourist season they've a good chance of making a go of it.

On Saturday we treated ourselves to breakfast at the fabulous Farm Cafe in Marlesford. The breakfasts there are magnificent and we managed to do the Saturday Jumbo crossword in The Times whilst I enjoyed a full English that included kidneys and black pudding (delicious). Marion had less of a blow out but she tells me that her chocolate croissant was equally delicious.

After years of wondering just what went wrong at Liverpool I finally saw a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel as I watched the Norwich game on TV on Saturday afternoon. Not only was it a fabulously entertaining game but we witnessed a manager who actually seems to "get" what Liverpool is all about. When I was a kid in the sixties I can remember Emlyn Hughes urging the team on when they were 1-0 down against Manchester City with a minute or so left. We won that game and that sort of spirit continued throughout the seventies and eighties but hasn't really been seen since. Jurgen Klopp appears to have rekindled it. I hope it's not just a flash in the pan.

I've been getting on well with my second novel. I'm up to 53,000 words now and have written 25,000 this month. If I can carry on at this rate I should be ready to start the editing process by March. I just hope that people like it. 

We've been having some wonderful sunrises recently. They've been followed by mild days and with this milder weather I decided to have some time on the fields with the detector on Sunday. 

I was back on a field that seems to have once been a tip of some sort as there is an awful lot of rubbish (as you can see from the above). But there were a few interesting bits amongst the rubbish.

This silver spoon was an unusual find in that it its complete. Sadly it's mangled. 

But it does have a full set of hallmarks from a good London maker from the early 19th century.

Here are a few other finds.

Buckle Possibly A Garter Buckle 18th century
Lead Cloth Seal Or Alnage 17thc
William IV Sixpence And Victorian Farthing                       Buckle pin possibly Medieval

Silver Groat Edward III The Reverse Is In Super Condition
Not so (sadly) the Obverse.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

A Winter's Tale

It wasn't quite "Exit Leo DiCaprio pursued by a bear" in Alejandro Inarritu's winter's tale The Revenant at Cineworld yesterday but it wasn't far off in this epic western which has garnered no less than seven Academy Award nominations and includes a fiercely savage encounter with a grizzly. It's not difficult to see why it has been given so much acclaim as there are several exceptional scenes that are quite breathtaking in their execution. The film opens with an incredible confrontation between Leo DiCaprio's character Hugh Glass's party of fur trappers and a tribe of native Americans that surpasses any western I have ever seen (and I grew up watching John Wayne, Sam Peckinpah and Sergio Leone films). The film is worth the admission for this scene alone but there is plenty more to marvel at.

The cinematography is outstanding although by the end of the 156 minutes some of the views up into trees with a central sun started to feel repetitive. The Canadian winter scenery is magnificent and Tom Hardy's performance as the bad guy of the bunch is almost certain to win him his best supporting actor Oscar. As for Leo and his Oscar prospects? I thought he should have won one for The Wolf Of Wall St so I would love to see him win. His part in this movie, acted mostly on location in the harshest of sub zero conditions must have been sheer hell to play and he (and the entire cast and crew) deserve medals for their endurance in making the film. 

We were lucky to see the film in IMAX which totally immersed us in the event. Such is the involvement of the IMAX experience that , as in Everest last year, we felt as if we too might get frostbite. Don't be surprised to see it win most of those seven Oscars.

After the movie we went to Ask, the Italian chain restaurant, in Cardinal Park by the cinema. We had a decent meal before going back to Cineworld to see Room. This movie also has Oscar nominations (4)  but, I feel that Brie Larson, who stands a good chance of best actress, could be the only winner.  She plays a young woman who was abducted as a teenager and raped on a daily basis over seven years in which she is imprisoned in a single room. During that time she has given birth to a son who is five when the film opens. I read the book a few years ago so the film held no surprises for me. It's not a pleasant story and it does have one plot device that I found unbelievable when I read it and is equally unbelievable on screen. After reading the glittering reviews, I expected more. Great acting from Larson and Jacob Tremblay as her son but that's about it.

Today we are off to Woodbridge to show our support for Framlingham Residents' Association at the appeals against the two big housing developments proposed. It's freezing today. Could do with one of Leo's bearskins.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Auf Wiedersehen Wilfrid

With great sadness I have learnt that our neighbour and good friend Wilfrid Robst passed away peacefully at his nursing home yesterday. 

I visited him on Friday and found him in good spirits, full of his usual mischievous humour and busily tapping away on his beloved laptop. We talked about getting him into the car for a brief tour around Framlingham as soon as the weather warmed up. Since we moved to Framlingham we have enjoyed our regular conversations with Wilfrid. Although he was housebound for several years he was a constantly positive and upbeat personality who coped extremely well with adversity and kept himself busy at all times.

I particularly enjoyed his stories of his active service in the Luftwaffe - captured by the British on his first day and sent to P.O.W camps in Scotland and then Dorset. His amusing P.O.W experiences in the south of England could have filled a book. He met an English girl whilst still a prisoner. She eventually became his wife and he remained in England for the rest of his life. 

He had a very successful career as a financial controller at RAF Bentwaters US air base here in Suffolk. He lived in Orford for most of his life where he loved sailing his small yacht and taking an active interest in village life. I believe that he once was Chair of the Parish Council 

He held very strong religious beliefs and spoke fearlessly about death. 

We are pleased to have known him and hope that he rests in peace.

I'll finish with one of the last emails he sent me last week. I think it shows his sparkle

"Good Afternoon John,

Please convey your unknown mother by me (although I saw her famous pictures) my sincere best wishes and congratulations for her birthday she nearly beats me by being a year younger than I will be on 5 February next and tell her I believe all best persons are born in the first quarter of each year. They had the advantage as babies to look forward to summer!

Thank you for your good wishes,

Hope to see you again some time

your erstwhile neighbour