Thursday, 4 June 2020

Ten Weeks Of Lockdown And All Is Well

So here we are, another seven weeks on from the last blog. Probably the strangest seven weeks of our lives . All I can say is thank goodness for the weather. It might not be exactly what the farmers want but, being reluctant to leave the house, the sunshine has been a godsend.

In fact it was so nice that it even tempted Marion back onto her bike after years of hesitancy following a nasty meeting with a pothole on a steep hill. 

She did well and we managed a very pleasant ride of about six miles.

We booked a decorator to paint the outside of the house last summer but he had a mishap which meant that he was unable to come. He re-booked for April but, of course, you know what happened next. Part of the job was my garden office. If it had been done last summer it would have been fine but is started to deteriorate badly over winter.

The paint flaked so badly that there was no alternative but the dreaded DIY

I think we did pretty well.

Carried away by the success of the office we decided to paint Marion's beach hut shed. The pillars at the front showed signs of rot so I started to dig away at it. My cutting away of the rot went on and on. 

And on until there was more hole than pillar. 

I've filled this and it's now ready to paint. The only problem is that the chosen paint by Cuprinol is out of stock so that job is now on hold. 

When we moved here we had the whole house stripped out and that work included a new en suite shower. A few weeks ago we noticed water leaking through the hall ceiling. The insurers called out an emergency plumber.

So the hall ceiling now looks like this. The plumber was great and kept his distance and wore a mask but he showed us the cause of the leak. Our original plumbers had to join a standard pipe to a non-standard fitting. They botched it completely and the fitting cracked but miraculously was water tight for seven years when it finally gave way and split completely. It was shoddy work and if it was not so long ago I'd be asking for them to pay for repairing the ceiling (which is not covered by the insurance - well it is but it's not worth paying the excess).

A consequence of the beautiful weather has been an equally beautiful blooming of roses. We've planted a lot of roses over the seven years that we've lived here and they are really making a fabulous show.

The rest of the garden is also looking good

Gardening and cycling apart, I've busied myself with The Times crosswords and am gradually creeping up the leaderboard in the Times online Puzzle club. I'm just in the top 300 for the cryptic puzzles but I am nearly into the top 100 for the concise ones. It will take a long time to get much higher as they use so many obscure words - this morning there was "Barratry" which is an old word for a type of fraud.

I've also dipped my toe back into buying and selling on eBay aiming to sell about five bits per week. 

Here's a beautiful 19th century Italian faience wine jug that I bought at auction in March and want to list on eBay.

The signature is very clear but I can't for the life of me decipher it and I don't want to sell until i've identified it. Any ideas? 

Here are a couple of nice finds made on eBay and sold for a reasonable profit.  

Chinese export bowl made for the Isalmic market c1790

Hand painted Hicks & Meigh desert service c 1820

This bad taxidermy lizard turned up in a box of pottery at auction. I didn't want to throw him away. Amazingly he sold on eBay for £25 and the buyer was absolutely delighted. 

If you're on Facebook or Instagram you'll no doubt be familiar with Emil Pakarklis who constantly pops up in videos trying to sell his iPhone Photography courses. I've always liked his simple videos but been put off by the cost of the course. He put on a lockdown special price of £49 so I subscribed. And I have to say that it has been £49 well spent. I've finished the course now and have started with the editing course (which cost more) but I think that it's been money very well spent. 

The videos are very simple. Emil is self taught and makes everything very understandable and I'm pleased with the results. Most of the photos above were taken since starting the course. Below are some that I've taken practising the tips from the modules.

Alium edited using the Snapseed App 

Framlingham Castle at dusk

An old friend and colleague Max asked me on Instagram if the photos were edited. Here are a couple of examples of the editing.







I feel that I am learning a lot from the courses and hope to get out practising more and more. 

Hoping everyone is well in lockdown. We've no plans to get out anytime soon. We're not convinced that we can trust the Government to get this right.

We're not going out but this little fellow seemed determined to come in!

Thursday, 16 April 2020

And So This Is Corvid

And what have we done?

An old world just over

And a new one just begun

It's two months since I last blogged. That's the longest I've gone in the many years since I started blogging at Instanta and carried on into retirement with this blog.

So did you miss much? No really. I suppose that I would have been doing the usual telling you about our cinema and theatre visits, our trips up to the family in Scotland and down to the family in Kent, metal detecting maybe and perhaps some special eBay treasures.
Before the pandemic set in we managed a final cinema trip.

Emma was just perfect in my opinion and it's so long ago now that you can get it on TV. If you do get the chance I can't recommend it highly enough from costume to sets to performances from the leads I loved it. My only niggle? Being a lover of antique ceramics a lot of the props were of a later period but only a nerd would complain about that.

Mum was visiting us from Spain and we'd planned to take her to see Military Wives while she was with us but as the severity of the virus became increasingly obvious we stopped all visits out long before the Government implemented its restrictions. She stayed with us until 12 March when we took her back to Stansted airport in gloves and face masks only to find social distancing non existent.

It was then decision time. We needed to check on the caravan in Scotland after the winter break and had booked to visit the wonderful Seafood Restaurant in St Andrews for Marion's birthday so we drove up to caravan site. We hoped to see the grandchildren but when we heard that they had coughs and high temperatures we had to just see them on Skype.
By this time we were seriously worrying about the pandemic and whether we would be safer in Scotland or Framlingham. We planned shopping for our time in the caravan and visited a very well stocked and very quiet Co-op in Cupar and filled a basket only to be horrified when the local comprehensive school broke for lunch and fifty hungry teenagers descended on the store. We were terrified (I know that sounds soft but we had been taking so many precautions) and headed to the fresh vegetable aisle where we stayed until the marauding horde had disappeared. It was half an hour before we went to the checkout.
We decided that Framlingham was our safest option and after just forty eight hours in Scotland we were back on the road home without seeing any of the family.

I did manage one detecting trip while Marion was packing the bags - no finds but a very peaceful couple of hours and probably the last detecting until the autumn at the earliest.

We also managed a walk along the famous West Sands before returning to Suffolk.

Shortly after returning to Spain, poor Mum who is now 94 had a very bad fall and ended up in hospital with a broken nose, three broken ribs and a punctured lung. We thought that we might lose her but the hospital is a private one that usually fills with British tourists and was not busy. She was very well treated and kept well away from any Coronavirus patients. She was out of hospital after a few days and, although she's not her old self and in a lot of pain, she is making progress. 

By the time that we were back in Suffolk, the Government was finally starting to take things seriously. Within a few days, the caravan site in Scotland was closed so we made the right decision in returning.

We wanted to try and do something useful as we could see that things were looking pretty bleak ahead so we prepared a flyer suggesting a neighbourhood WhatsApp group for our street and posted these through the letterbox of every house. The response was amazing and we now have over forty members in the group with lots of interaction and mutual help going on. The residents who don't have WhatsApp are also involved as we send out daily updates on anything relevant and send these by email as well as through the WhatsApp group. We've got regular meat and fresh fish deliveries organised, a connection to the local DIY shop (which though closed will deliver), people prepared to phone others who are lonely or struggling, a home budget guide, a list of volunteers willing to print for those without printers and most of the street has put teddy bears in their windows to amuse one of the few toddlers confined to the road. We've also published seven profiles that residents have sent in so that we can get to know people that we didn't know existed a few weeks ago.

Instead of our regular gym visits we've been keeping fit with Fitness Blender, Davina McCall and Joe Wickes on YouTube and Jillian Michaels' Thirty Day Shred on DVD. I reckon we're probably fitter than we've been in a long time. We've also been doing our lovely daughter Sarah's Yoga classes which she has had to change to online. She is now doing them on Zoom. So you no longer have to be in St Andrews to join her. Check her classes out. Please note that these are not just videos but live interactive classes - she can see you and guide you if necessary. Check the classes out here. 

Obviously there have been no theatre or cinema trips but we've enjoyed the following.

The National Theatre Live's transmission of Jane Eyre free on YouTube was fantastic.

The Tiger King on Netflix. The amazing story of Joe Exotic lived up to all the hype.

And Andre Bocelli's short concert from Milan on YouTube was wonderful.

We've also been doing the Thursday night virtual pub quiz on YouTube with friends on Zoom. Great fun.

Before all the troubles I'd been keeping myself busy on rainy winter days hunting for antiques to sell on eBay. My novel Mr Prendergast's Fantastic Find is about a man who did the same (albeit with more luck than me). I used to do it quite successfully ten years ago but have been too busy with other things since retiring but, with a bit of free time I started again.

I've made some great finds both on eBay and at auction.

I was thrilled when I found this beautiful French tureen for just £19.

And even more thrilled when it sold.
However. After years of moaning about broken buys arriving on the doorstep I finally felt what it's like to be the seller of one of those buys. It was packed with a ton of bubble wrap but it was shipped to Lithuania (of all places) and sent at the outset of the current crisis.

I've no idea how it happened but this is how it turned up in Lithuania.Maybe I should have known not to ship. Oh well. You win some, you lose some but what a big loss this was!

While stuck in lockdown I got an email form the iPhone Photo Academy. You've probably seen their posts on Facebook. They were offering a huge discount so I enrolled on their basic and their editing courses. I'm only a few modules into the course but I'm extremely impressed. I already know more about using the iPhone camera than I ever did.
I will leave you with some of my first attempts taken during my daily exercise.

Framlingham's Castle St experimenting with shadows

Castle Panorama

Castle Grounds

The old and the new

At least we've been able to enjoy some sunshine during lockdown