Wednesday, 9 January 2019

And So That Was Christmas

And what have we done?

Quite a lot actually. It was a  pretty hectic December but things are winding down a little now as we prepare for a holiday on our favourite Caribbean island - Bequia.

So what made the last few weeks so busy? We can't really grumble, apart from the travelling, it was all very enjoyable. 

We've been down to London twice to The National Theatre where we saw the fantastic production of Antony And Cleopatra with outstanding performances from Sophie Okonedo and Ralph Fiennes. After the dreadful Macbeth in February it was great to see The National return to Shakespeare in such style - outstanding.

We also went to see The National's Christmas offering at the Dorfman. Anthony Neilson has created a fabulous black comedy based upon Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart. Irreverent, macabre and very funny, this was a lot of fun.


We've also been to see a couple of critically acclaimed films. Robert Redford's The Old Man And The Gun has great performances from Redford and Sissy Spacek but I found the pace very slow and was disappointed.

As for The Favourite? Where do I start? It's going to win a bagful of awards and the three stars Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are outstanding. The costumes and sets are lavish, the cinematography is wonderful and the music striking (if bizarre). But (and for me there is a but - Marion loved it), despite all those merits, I found it at times tedious and a little boring. I can't see the typical Cineworld audience flocking to see it (or if they do go based on the awards) I don't think they will enjoy it much.

We did a lot of driving over the Christmas break. On Christmas Eve, after stocking up with a fabulous hamper made by Framlingham's wonderful Leo's Deli, we drove to Rochester to see the Kent arm of the family.


I took these Rochester views, whilst walking to the shops to pick up a few last minute supplies. It's a great little town and, with the high speed rail connection and new station development, seems to be very much on the up.

Paul and Josephine made us very welcome and Josephine and her mum created the most fantastic Christmas dinner.

Bake Off eat your heart out

The fine weather enabled us to enjoy a Christmas walk with the family in some local woods

I loved the water droplets on this spider's web.

We drove home on Boxing Day and the next morning it was time to drive to see the Scottish side of the family for New Year.

The weather was kind to us in St Andrews too, so a week in the caravan was pleasant and quite relaxing.

It was nice to spend time with Sarah who was enjoying a few days off from her hectic schedule.

It's good to see all the grandchildren sharing our love of reading. Rose spends hours with her head stuck inside Harry Potter novels.

Before leaving St Andrews we had a very good meal at The Fairmont which looked spectacular in its Christmas finery.
The journey home was marred by a puncture which ended up with us having to have two new tyres fitted and a three hour delay in the eight hour drive.

Many of the presents we got this year were home made. I love this bag made for us by Rose.

And my personalised puzzle book from Catherine and Teddy was lovely.

We bought this fabulous cot quilt at a silent auction at St Michael's church. Not sure what we will do with it but couldn't let all this work go for nothing.

I've still been doing a bit on eBay.

I found this super T G Green art nouveau vase for just £6. It's now in the T G Green Museum after selling for over ten times that.

I wanted to do a bit of metal detecting before we go to Bequia but my favourite field has been full of sugar beet for ages. So I spent a bit of time tidying up the coins I've found since moving here.

When I get the coins I've left with the FLO in Bury St Edmunds, I'll have filled both of these printers' trays and will have to find another (on eBay of course).

I finally got a chance to detect yesterday when I saw activity in the field and the beet harvested. Here are some of the finds.

Medieval buckle with pronged spacer c1200-1500 plus lead spindle weight

Medieval penny heavily clipped. Unidentified.
Charles I Rose Farthing

Finally, it's time to mention Mum. She was 93 yesterday and she's still looking great.

Here's to the next one Mum. We'll see you soon.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

A Christmas Gift

We've been pretty well organised for Christmas this year. Marion has been brilliant in her planning and she had almost everything sorted before the end of November.

Whilst Marion has been run off her feet, I've had a pretty lazy time. I've been suffering from a couple of injuries. My shoulder has been painful for some months so I finally went to see a doctor. He sent me for a scan which shows tears to some ligaments and a lot of other wear and tear from old age and we're now waiting until February to see if there's any improvement or if I've got to have an operation. To add to my woes, my hip has also been playing up so it's been double doses of painkillers. 

Of course this has resulted in a cut back on my regular exercise classes and metal detecting and instead  I've filled my time reading and getting back into the old hobby of antiques buying and selling on eBay.

Last week we drove up to Southport and collected my mum for a week here in Suffolk. 

She'll be 93 in a few weeks and she's looking very well. We enjoyed having her and I think she had a good break before her long trek back. She coped really well with a return journey that involved two drives, two trains and two tubes. We're looking forward to welcoming her back here in 2019. At this rate she might get to clock up a 100.

We watched Murder On The Orient Express and The Greatest Showman with her on TV but the best film we saw during her stay was Wildlife starring Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhall at Aldeburgh Cinema. It's a touching and stark examination of a marriage in crisis and quite beautifully done. Do see it if you can.

We also saw Widows recently. I wanted to enjoy this film as I like Steve McQueen as a director but, despite the tremendous reviews we both found it a bit slow and disappointing.

I said earlier that I've filled in some time, during my enforced inactivity, with eBay and I've certainly caught the bug again. My novel Mr Prendergast's Fantastic Find tells the story of a man who spots an incredible bargain on the website and I've tried to emulate his efforts. I've not quite reached the dizzy heights achieved by my eponymous hero but I've loved trying. There's a special Christmas gift offer at the end of this blog so you can learn Mr P's methods for free.

Here's one of my best finds so far. 

I absolutely loved this piece.

Especially when I spotted this little fellow in one of the chimneys.

This is some of the stuff I'm selling this week - all bought on eBay

My only eBay failure has been our lounge curtains which cost about £2,000 and are only six years old. They attracted no bids at all at £50. I'll try again over Christmas 

I set myself a target of 35 books to read during 2018 on my Goodreads reading challenge but I've managed to get through 46 so far. I've enjoyed most of them.

My favourite? I loved A Man Called Ove and Less but Middle England, being so much a novel for these Brexity times, possibly topped what has been a very enjoyable year's reading.

Which leads me to my Christmas gift to you. I've self-published two novels and they've both been well received. (I've started a third but it stalled in April although I'm ready to get going again now). You can download both of these very different books for free by clicking the links below any time between 12 noon US East Coast time on 22nd December until the end of December 26th. Both have high ratings on Amazon.UK and on Goodreads.

Give Me Your Tomorrow  is a romance set on a beautiful Greek Island in 1969 against a background of the Apollo moon landings click here from late on 22nd December to Boxing Day and download for FREE

Mr Prendergast's Fantastic Find is a comedy about the hapless Dave Prendergast and his quest for treasure on eBay click here between 22nd December and the end of Boxing Day to download for FREE.

Have a wonderful Christmas

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Dancing With Marion's Melons

 Okay, I've got your attention. There'll be more about Marion's melons later.  

I said in my last blog that my first month or being an OAP was pretty hectic - the second (so far) has been equally so. 

After getting back from Scotland we were home in Framlingham for a week or so.

The castle was looking good in the autumn light.

Our friend Richard's reference to the castle on his Wine Shop advertising board on Market Hill made us smile. 

We don't have many clothes stores locally so every now and then I go to Selfridge's in Oxford St and top up. We always have a great day and London was starting to feel Christmassy. 

I loved Selfridge's Christmas windows this year.

And John Lewis's new rooftop winter gin garden was a welcoming call after a busy day.

Warm gin, ice skating and blankets make for a very wintery experience.

And yes I did manage to stock up on a winter wardrobe.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I was doing a bit of dabbling on eBay. I love the thrill of hunting for bargains and wrote about it in my last novel Mr Prendergast's Fantastic Find (That's it up there on the right). I bought these four bits on eBay for under £40.

They sold on Sunday for £280 which is not bad at all.

Packing is still a pain though.

We've not been to many concerts at Snape Maltings this year but some friends told us their choir The Rabble Chorus were performing with Wigan folk rock band Merry Hell. We managed to get some tickets and had a fantastic night. The event was sold out and we were treated to some brilliant arrangements by choir leader Kirsty Logan in the first half and in the second half the choir joined Merry Hell in a joyous and uplifting performance. We absolutely loved it. Merry Hell have put together a brief video of the event. They're going to produce a more polished one in due course but this rough first copy should give you an idea of the joy of the event. 

We were back at Snape the next night.

The Blind Boys Of Alabama gave us another amazing evening of Gospel Blues - fabulous.

After the weekend of concerts it was time to get ready for another of our friends' weekends away. Sadly one of the regular couples couldn't make it this time but six of us headed to Coniston and stayed at The Gate House. We stayed at this excellent holiday cottage for a weekend last November. This time Marion and I booked for a week and the friends joined us for the weekend.

We had a great view of the Coniston fireworks from the holiday cottage.

The cottage is in a great location. Although the weather wasn't very kind.

Which gave us plenty of time for indoor pastimes. 

Saturday was a washout but the weather forecast was okay for Sunday so we set off on a walk.

I was excited when we turned up at Bank Ground Farm, the home of Swallows And Amazons, my all time favourite childhood book. The farm is now a holiday complex with a tea room, holiday rentals and a B&B. 

Coffee and scones in the tea room were delicious.

So much for that weather forecast. The heavens opened shortly after coffee and,to make things worse, my boots fell apart.

We've gone on holiday by mistake.

So it was back to the jigsaw puzzle. Annoyingly with one piece (circled) missing.

The weather certainly didn't dampen our spirits and we shared the catering in the cottage and had three great meals.

We really enjoy these weekend get togethers and hope that we'll be doing it again next year.

The weather didn't improve after our friends left but Marion and I had a great week.

Just outside Coniston


The magnificent Arts And Crafts house Blackwell on Windermere

John Ruskin's private turret at Brantwood on Coniston

The amazing industrial landscape up in the hills.

The friendly neighbours.

Home in Framlingham late on Friday, we got unpacked and then on Saturday went to FAYAP for another brilliant event organised by Slice Of Life.

We had an evening of poetry performed by Luke Wright and Elvis McGonagall. Both were incredible with Luke's highlights including an ode to his "Posh Plumber" and a moving poem about sailors getting ready to sail to war. Elvis gave us some fantastic anti Brexit stuff and an outstanding poem about Patriarchy. Both made us laugh long and hard and Elvis' barman's response to a customer's request for something "bitter but hoppy" (There's a misanthropic rabbit out the back) still has me smiling four days later.

Framlingham had a marvellous tribute to the fallen in the Great War with hundreds of knitted poppies adorning the church.

Oh yes. Not forgetting Marion and her melons. Our friend Dave put some music on while we were cooking Sunday dinner. I put the resulting film online and it almost (almost) went viral. Marion has asked me to point out that no, she had not been drinking at all.