Sunday, 19 June 2016

Busy Times For Marion

We've had another three days babysitting in Kent so we've been pretty busy again this week but we've had a weekend free and Marion has used it to get on top of the garden.

We bought this house because of its sunny south facing garden that overlooks open farmland. Marion has always been a very keen gardener so it gave her the opportunity to stamp her mark on a fairly large but somewhat uninspiring plot.

This is how it looked when we bought the house in 2012.

Note the slope and the large Leylandi

Before Marion got to work on the garden we had my office built and the large Leylandi Cyprus removed.

With the office in place, it was time for the landscape gardeners to start work.

And here's how it looked when the landscapers had finished in spring 2013. I don't seem to have taken any photos in 2014 - it was a very hectic year for us.

But in 2015 it was beginning to take shape.

The local blacksmith made us this archway and fitted it last spring.

Today Marion has spent all day in the garden and here are photos of how it is looking now. I think she's done a fantastic job and, before long, we'll have a well established and (hopefully) very pretty garden. I think you'll agree it's quite a change from when we bought it.

We're off to Scotland later this week so hope that the gardener can keep on top of the garden for us while we are away and that when we get back it will look even more established.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Where's The Blog

That's the question that a number of readers have asked me recently (or at least that's what they would ask me if I had any readers). In response I would have to say that we've just been too busy to blog. I know we're retired and, technically, we should have hours and hours to spare but, as I've said so many times before and it is a retirement cliche, we don't seem to have any time at all. Life's so hectic that we're not even going to an opera we bought tickets for tonight as we don't feel like getting dressed up and think that a night at home with a paella and a bottle of wine will be more relaxing.

So what's all the stuff that's making life so hectic? Well, firstly there's my novel. My editor sent me his review and edits two weeks ago and I've been mad busy revising the book and making the changes he suggested. I'm very pleased with the results and I am hoping to have finished the changes by Monday.

But that's no the only thing that's keeping us busy.

After Paul came to Framlingham with Catherine for the Bank Holiday we went back to Rochester for the week to babysit while Paul's wife Josephine was working away. We had a great week with our granddaughter and, before we left for home on Friday we took her to the Rochester Dickens Festival.

Her other granny had made her this wonderful Dickensian costume for the event. Although it was far and away the nicest costume on display, Catherine didn't win a prize. I suspect that the judges couldn't believe that somebody's gran could have made such a spectacular outfit. It was quite incredible.

After a funfair outside Framlingham castle two weekends ago, it was time for a funfair outside Rochester castle.

Dickens' characters were roaming the High St and we bumped into Fagin, Bill Sykes, Nancy and Miss Haversham.

When we got home we had a busy few days in Framlingham tidying up and getting on top of the garden. We got the chance to catch up on the exercise classes at the college too before heading down to Gloucestershire on Thursday. Our dear and longtime friends Dave and Jane Haworth treated us to an overnight stay at the beautiful Cowley Manor Hotel and Spa near Cheltenham as an early Ruby Wedding Anniversary present. It was a fabulous gift and we were blessed with glorious weather for our short stay.

Dave, Jane and Marion on the hotel terrace.

I tried using some of the tips from the talk by fashion photographer Tom Murray at FramSoc a few weeks ago

The hotel has fabulous Grade 2 listed landscaped gardens

Marion and Jane don't look much different from when they met over thirty years ago

We got home yesterday and were looking forward to seeing how the house looked after we'd arranged to have some more work carried out.

This is how it was when we bought the house four years ago.

And this is how it was when we finished working on it three years ago.

Unfortunately the rendering on the front began to crack and was susceptible to algal growth so it was looking unsightly and we decided to have it clad in common with other properties in the road.

And this is how it looked when we got back from Cowley Manor. We're very pleased. It should put and end to unsightly cracks and algae.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Welcome Visitors To Framlingham And Some Babysitting Duties in Kent

After writing about Marion's hair loss ( an after-effect of her swine flu) on my last blog, I was hoping to report a slowdown this time but I'm afraid that it's still carrying on. The specialist we saw last month said that it could be three months before the loss stops completely and her hair returns to its normal growth cycle so I suppose it's not really a surprise but it is getting her down. Although her hair still looks great to me and I don't think anyone would notice it without being told, I hope that there's an improvement for her in the near future.

I got my new novel back from my editor about ten days ago and I'm doing my best to work on his very constructive criticism. His comments are extremely helpful and make a lot of sense but making the changes is hard work and taking a lot of time. I'm hoping to have rewritten it by the middle of the month and then I'll be ready for the next step. When I've not been busy rewriting we've had plenty to do at home and not much time to get out but we did find the time to visit a local landmark (Leiston Abbey - above) last week. It's a very interesting and quite atmospheric site.

We had visitors for the Bank Holiday weekend when son Paul and his daughter Catherine joined us in Framlingham. Catherine enjoyed a visit to the castle where she took part in the Tudor dancing class.

She also enjoyed the funfair outside the castle - a slightly less genteel event. 

Before we returned to Rochester, where we are staying for the week to babysit ,we also watched the Annual Framlingham Gala parade. It was a fairly short parade this year which was a good job in view of the very unseasonal temperatures.

Back in Rochester I soon came into contact with the local wildlife (or not so wild life in the case of foxes). This one hardly budged while I had time to take out my phone and switch it on before taking a photo.

It's been lovely looking after Catherine. We've kept her busy. Yesterday we went to a dinosaur workshop in Maidstone museum where she made this great dinosaur head hat. The decoration was entirely her own work - not a bad effort for a three-year-old.Tomorrow we're taking her into London and on Friday it's the Rochester Sweeps Festival. 

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Swine Flu Fall Out

I thought that we'd heard the last of Marion's nasty encounter with the H1N1 virus (otherwise known as swine flu) as she has been making good progress since late April. It was way back in February when she first showed signs of being unwell and her health deteriorated rapidly before she started to improve. She was still a bit tired and run down at the beginning of May but she was taking things easy and we were happy that the swine of an illness was behind us.

Until recently that is. We started to notice it just after Sarah and Rose and Melody visited us a few of weeks ago. When Marion showered or washed her hair, large clumps of hairs filled the shower plughole and her hair brush. She recently changed hairdresser and we thought it was perhaps a short term reaction to new products. But it wasn't short term and the volume of hair on her brush and on her clothes and shoulders started to increase until she got to the stage where she began to worry -and worry, is the last thing you want if your hair is starting to fall out.

We booked an appointment at a specialist in Ipswich and we visited him on Thursday. It seems that poor Marion has something known as Telogen Effluvium and it is a known after-effect of swine flu. It appears that the virus somehow upsets the hair growth cycle and causes a well above average number of hairs to move to the dead or dying stage in their cycle. On the positive side, he can see new growth on her scalp and the condition is unlikely to be permanent. On the negative, it is possible that she may lose up to 40% of her hair before things start to improve and that's difficult for someone who takes such pride in her appearance. 

We visited Seckford Hall Hotel on Wednesday for a very nice afternoon tea that my brother Pete and his wife Val had bought us for Christmas. As you can see, Marion's hair looks fine but she've very conscious of it and we'll both be very happy when things start to improve.

Four of Framlingham's biggest Liverpool fans came round to our house on Thursday night to join me in watching the Europa League Final. With Liverpool coasting at half time I decided to show them the banner that Paul and I took to Athens with us for the disastrous Champions League Final. I then somehow managed to switch channels before the start of the second half and, two minutes later when we realised the mistake and put the match back on, Liverpool's lead had disappeared and we were heading for a miserable night. That banner brought us no luck in Athens - I should have kept it locked up.

On Thursday evening we went to the college for a very interesting talk by Darren Tansley (above) about the mammals of Essex and Suffolk. I was amazed at how many mammals we actually have in the county and really enjoyed this very informative evening.

It's been a quiet few months on the metal detecting front as most of the fields are full of crops but I managed a couple of hours out on Friday. I didn't find very much but this decorative mount from a huntsman's powder flask is a nice item. I probably won't get out again until after the harvest.

While there's not detecting there will be time for my writing. I got my manuscript back for the editor on Friday and have set aside this week for going through his views and revisions. Exciting times (I hope).

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Sun And FramSoc

The sun has been shining this week so we've made the most of it and spent plenty of time at home keeping on top of the garden. 

When we've not been working in the garden we've been doing a bit of voluntary work counting cars for the town council's parking survey and helping some elderly people for the Framlingham Hour Community. The rest of the week has been involved with Framlingham College. We've done about eight classes at the Leisure Centre and FramSoc has had no less than three events.

Photo copyright EADT website 
On Wednesday we went to a talk by photographer Tom Murray (above) who was the very first Sunday Times Magazine photographer way back in the sixties. Tom, who now now lives locally in Bury St Edmunds, gave us a fascinating insight into his jet-set career photographing Royalty and some of the world's most famous people such as The Beatles and Dustin Hoffman. He also gave us some helpful hints on taking photos and I hope that the standard of photos on this blog will improve as a result.

Tom stressed the importance of light in his pictures and the late evening light on the castle was perfect when we walked up to his talk.

On Thursday morning we headed to Snape Maltings for a FramSoc tour of the concert hall and the other music facilities. It was a fascinating couple of hours and we left with a far better understanding of the ethos behind the venue.

After the tour we had some time to look around the maltings and took the opportunity to check out the newly installed Henry Moore sculpture before enjoying an excellent lunch at The Plough & Sail. 

After lunch, our party moved on to The Red House in Aldeburgh which was Benjamin Britten's home and studio. There was an incredible archive display, a brief tour of the house and a beautiful garden.

Almost as soon as we were home, it was time to head back to the college for this month's book club. It was another glorious evening.

The Headmaster's garden must have one of the nicest views in Suffolk.

This month's book was The Loney. Although none of us considered it a classic, everyone enjoyed the book and we found plenty to talk about in a very enjoyable hour's meeting.