Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Back To Reality

We got back from our wonderful break in Ile De Re on Sunday evening without a hitch. It's been a long time since a holiday passed so well without problems - we usually return home to some sort of niggle like the time that the fuse box fused resulting in a defrosted freezer leaving a soggy, stinking mess that took hours to sort out. But no, our neighbours Jeff and Mo had kept an eye on everything for us and all was well.

A big pile of ironing is a long way from cycling in the sun but it had to be done and, now that that's out of the way and the garden has been weeded we're ready to get back into the retirement swing - when we've lost the weight that we piled on in France that is. We each put on about eight to ten pounds which, considering our input of food and drink during the last three weeks was a reasonable achievement. We've now got to lose those pounds again so it's back to eating sensibly (chicken with brown rice tonight) and drinking no alcohol until we're back to our target weights and the shirt buttons are under less of a strain.

Marion has been invited to a hen party on Friday. I say hen party but they don't really do just hen parties or stag nights any more do they? This one, for our dear friends' Dave and Jane Haworth's daughter Kate, is being held at Center Parcs Nottingham where they've taken over a number of chalets for the whole weekend. Knowing Marion and Jane it's likely to be a pretty tasteful event and anyone who has booked a weekend at Center Parcs needn't worry about an invasion of raucous scousers in nurses', nuns' or bunny girl uniforms screaming innuendo at passing males and throwing up in the swimming pool.....Or should they? I've just seen Marion staggering in from the car with a case of champagne.

So I'll be all on my own. Ahhh I hear your sympathy. So I've decided to go out and try and find some new fields to search with the metal detector. I've booked myself into a B&B in Yorkshire and hopefully I will have a bit of luck. The local farmers are very friendly and if I have no success there's a very decent pub quite near the B&B. I haven't been away on a break like this alone before and it will be an interesting experience seeing how I am treated at the restaurant that I've booked for the evening meals. I'll never forget taking the kids to a cafe in Southport once on a weekend that Marion was away and listening to a couple of old women on the next table nodding in my direction talking in hushed tones (but not as quietly as they thought) disapprovingly about how all these poor divorced dads had to take their children out on their own on Saturdays. I'll let you know how I get on.

Remember this? If you used to read my old blog you will know that I wrote my first novel in late 2009. I printed a few copies and gave them to friends and family. I knew it wasn't a masterpiece but I enjoyed writing it although my son's savage but honest criticism stopped me from trying to find a publisher. I recently had the novel appraised by an expert (and I do mean expert - a senior figure within the industry). He too was very critical but within the criticism were words of real encouragement along with some extremely helpful writing advice. Since writing"Give Your Tomorrow" I have had time to read many more novels and I am starting to rewrite using the expert advice and experience gained form the reading. I may put an extract on here and see if it brings any comments.

Friday, 27 May 2011

A Very Fond Farewell To Ile De Ré

As our two weeks in Ile De Ré draw to a close I'm offering some advice for visitors to the island as my final blog. If you've read any of the blogs over the last fortnight you will know that we've had a great holiday and it's certainly a wonderful place to visit. But to make the most of it you have to get things right. 

Firstly, make sure that your accommodation is in a good location. We stayed with iledereholidayhomes who have four properties on the island and all are in great positions. Last time we visited we stayed in a remote bungalow which meant eating in or taking the car every time we went out for a meal which in turn prevented us from enjoying the local wines and aperitifs. Being located in St Martin (the largest and ,in our opinion, the best of the island's towns and villages) gave us the opportunity to stroll down to the harbour every evening and watch the people promenading whilst enjoying an aperitif in the Colonnes bar or eating at Bistrot Marin.

And by booking with a private firm like www.iledereholidayhomes you can be assured of the personal touches that are often overlooked by bigger operators. Our house (Maison D'Aquitaine) was beautifully furnished with antique but comfortable furniture that worked so well with the character of this old building beside the magnificent ancient church. It had all we could need, including wifi (essential), Digital TV (not essential but great for listening to Radio 4), an iPod dock and as many other mod cons as you could want plus a nice bath and comfy bed.

Ile De Ré is perfect for cycling with kilometers of safe cycle tracks criss-crossing the island through woods and along (low) cliff tops. Being flat, the cycling is easy and there is a plentiful supply of bikes to hire at reasonable prices. We opted for the cycle hire just behind Le Phare Pizzeria on the quay at St Martin (La Maison De Velocipedes). We used this same hire shop last time. The proprietor Antoine is charming, his prices are reasonable and the bikes are good. We had no problems but four years ago I got a puncture in a remote spot and he drove out with a replacement bike in no time at all. We cycled for an average of four hours every day. A couple of recommended routes are from St Martin to La Couarde along the coastal track and a similar ride from St Martin to La Flotte again along the coastal track (keep straight on past the little fun fair and on leaving the town go straight ahead with the car park to your right and go through the prison gates and through the prison car park). Two longer routes are from St Martin to Le Phare De Beleines and back via Loix (enjoying lunch at La Route De Sel) and from St Martin to Rivedoux Plage (lunch at Le M) and back through Sablanceau, St Marie, La Noue and La Flotte.

But if you aren't into cycling there are plenty of excellent beaches which are ideal for children and also for fishermen, wind surfers and sailors.

If you've been reading this blog you will think that we are a pair of gluttons but the food here is so good that opportunities to eat to this standard rarely come our way and we made the most of it. Some recommendations follow. There are a few places that we wouldn't recommend but I won't be churlish and name them. I've added a few guide prices. These are based usually on just two courses plus an aperitif and an inexpensive wine (we weren't that greedy and normally shared starters and desserts).

This tea room L'Atelier in La Flotte is run by the people who run the excellent ice cream parlour La Martiniere in St Martin. The coffee is great and comes with a delicious macaroon, the place is spotless and the waitress in lovely. Strangely it was often empty when the neighbouring bar was packed but we went back time after time.

Here's a super little place for an inexpensive snack en route whilst cycling. Ici et la in La Noue serves a wide variety of snacks. We had four lovely tapas between us including calamares fried in the lightest batter imaginable, tasty meatballs and some lovely garlic mussels. Together with two glasses of pineau, some wine, a shared dessert and coffee the bill was 34 euros.

We pushed the boat out yesterday with a trip to L'Ecailler in La Flotte for a three hour blow out lunch. My red mullet and anchovy starter (above) was so fresh that the fish must have been landed that morning and the creme caramel souffle was perfect. This is at the pricier end of the scale and the lunch was just under 180 euros although we did have three courses each, an aged pineau as an aperitif and a better bottle of wine than usual. Service was charming with the waiters and the lady proprietor extremely attentive.

Others I've already mentioned are La Route Du Sel at Loix (a great lunch stop for about 60 euros for two - do try the duck breast or the lamb cutlets). Le M at Rivedoux another great lunch stop. A higher standard than Loix in a lovely seaside setting (about 80 euros for two). The pizzeria Le Phare here in St Martin for an excellent pizza in a relaxed child friendly atmosphere (about 50 euros for two). Le Serghi on the quay for fine dining (slightly north of 100 euros for an excellent dinner for two) and our favourite the Bistrot Marin. This is pub grub of the highest quality in a buzzing atmosphere. It's frequented by all the locals and is always lively. The food is great and the bill with drinks would normally be about 70 to 80 euros. We ate there four times - more than any other place.

Stop press. The cote de boeuf at Bistrot Marin - carnivore heaven.

I hope that this might help anyone thinking of a break in  Ile De Ré. If you want any information get in touch via the comments. Bon Vacances

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

We're Like Royalty

We don't carry cash. Well as little as we think we are likely to need. So today we set out with about twenty euros in our pockets and had a wonderful three hours cycling to the famous Phare De Baleines lighthouse before heading back to our favourite cycling lunch venue La Route Du Sel in Loix en Re. The lunch was super. We shared a goat's cheese in filo pastry (see below) for a starter and I had the superb duck breast in lime and honey sauce that I raved about the other day for a main course whilst Marion had a scallop salad (also below). We followed this by sharing some fresh strawberries and cream. Another great meal. We are happy to recommend this to anyone who visits Ile De Re. The restaurant is always busy and the food is moderately priced and beautifully presented. Unfortunately when the bill was presented, the restaurant's credit card machine decided to pack up and, having about ten euros left between us we were envisaging having to do le washing up. But fortunately the waitress pointed out that there was  a cash machine in the square around the corner where all could be resolved. Sadly not so as that too was having an off day (which is not at all unusual as the helpful woman in the tourist office next to the cash point pointed out). 

By now the restaurant was closing but the chef suggested that we come back tomorrow and pay as the restaurant is closed on Wednesday evening and they were all going home. We then hatched an ingenious plan with the waitress to post an envelope of cash through the restaurant shutters and headed off on our bikes to the nearest machine. 4.5 kilometers away in La Couarde, that machine was working and, on the hottest day of the holiday yet we returned to Loix with the cash having added 9 kilometers to our planned day's cycling. The chef was just locking up so no posting through shutters was required. Maybe we should carry just a little more cash with us in future.

Like Jack Spratt who'd eat no fat and his wife who'd eat no lean, Marion likes her beef well done and I like it very rare. So several nights this week we have sat in Bistrot Marin on the quayside and watched couples enjoying the restaurant's fabulous speciality cote de boeuf for two in the knowledge that if we ordered it we'd have to go for a medium compromise that neither of us would enjoy. Not so, said the proprietor. He'd be happy for the chef to cook half (let's say 65%) very rare and the rest bien cuit. End of problem. So that's our final meal of the holiday sorted for Friday night.

See if you can spot the difference. Here is the view from our restaurant before we ate last night and half way through the meal.

A flotilla of about eighteen beautiful yachts entered the harbour and moored for the evening. It seems that there is some sort of regatta going on. We didn't go into details but the boats were spectacular.

The weather on this holiday has exceeded all expectations. The forecast is bad for the last two days but we've already had two weeks of sunshine and high temperatures so a bit of rain will be a welcome respite. It's hard to believe that it's not really summer yet. And being retired, we've still got all summer to look forward to.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

A Trip To Fort Boyard

A break from the cycling routine today as we took a boat trip to Fort Boyard. About an hour or so from here by boat, the impressive Napoleonic fort built in the middle of the sea is a spectacular edifice and, although we couldn't disembark and have a look around, it was a very enjoyable trip.

The fort is, of course, famous for it's role in the eponymous show "Fort Boyard". And the other show that we watched being filmed down by the harbour last week "Coeur Ocean", is still on location here in Ile De Re. Yesterday we came across the cast and crew again as they filmed a scene outside the nearby restaurant Une Air De Famille. With fewer distractions than on the quayside they seemed to be rattling along with their filming and getting everything done in the first take.

When we stumbled upon them we had just been for a long ride to the tip of the island. It's full of lagoons that are themselves full of wildlife and the bird watchers were out in force watching the multitude of wading birds that inhabit this wilderness.

On the way back we stopped for lunch at the Cafe Du Commerce in Ars En Re. With a lovely waterfront setting, the chirpiest and friendliest waiter you could ever meet and a scouse couple at the next table what more could one ask? Well some decent food wouldn't go amiss. Sad to say this was our first disappointment of the holiday. It wasn't expensive but the meal was uninspiring and unappetising. We chose the set menu but, apart from some tasty langoustines and a decent pichet of local wine the meal was disappointing. As you can see from the photo (not mine for once I pinched this from another blogger  Edgy01), it is a very peasant place to stop but I'd leave it for coffee or cold drinks if I were you. In the evening we were too full from the lunch to eat much so we tried the local tapas bar in Saint Martin. This was cheap and cheerful but the tapas were nothing to rave about although the portions were quite enormous.

We've decided to revisit or favourite places as we've only got three days left now. It's been a great break and one that we will certainly be recommending to friends when we get home.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

The Rapture? It happened didn't it?

As I sampled this wonderful chocolate souffle at Le M in Rivedoux Plage today I thought for a moment that that Rapture thing might well have happened yesterday and I had died and gone to heaven - it was that good. Our culinary adventure in Ile De Re continues although now that we have got to know a few restaurants on the island we are somewhat reluctant to experiment any more as we've only got five days left and we've only tried a couple of dishes in our favourite places and could eat at least another ten before we need to look elsewhere. It's a good job that we've only five days to go as the waistbands are tightening by the day but what's the point of being good when there are more outstanding restaurants within five miles of here than there are within fifty miles of home? We've got all summer to eat lettuce and brown rice and drink water.

Even the local Pizzeria - Le Phare -  (which we visited last night as a break from fine dining) was a treat. Great service, super view (see below), lovely pizzas and a real treat for families with kids as the place was extremely welcoming and family friendly.

The harbour here in St Martin De Re was heaving today with a huge influx of day trippers enjoying a stroll along the quayside so we rode a few kilometers down the coast and visited a "brocante"fair or flea market. After lunch at Le M we felt so guilty about our over eating that we cycled about another twenty kilometers as a sort of penance. There was a huge variety of cyclists enjoying the island's tracks. They ranged from toddlers with stabilisers through young lovers on tandems (why is the man always at the front?), groups of men in all the gear who look like late arrivals for the Tour De France and spend all their time ringing their bells to warn dawdlers like us of their presence, dads with kids on baby seats or in little carts being pulled behind the bikes, lots of couples from teens to pensioners and much bigger mixed groups of all ages. It's all so pleasant, so French and something we would never see in England. We love it.

And on a cycling note, here's a few who enjoyed it so much they carried on even when they got to the airport.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Hollyoaks Sur Mer

As we arrived at Bistrot Marin for an early morning coffee today, the quayside was packed with a film crew. They were shooting a cafe scene in the next creperie along from us and it transpired that the drama unfolding was for the popular France 2 soap "Coeur Ocean". None of the actors was over thirty and we nicknamed it Hollyoaks Sur Mer. There were at least twenty five cast and crew so the expense of filming must have been significant. The costs were escalating by the minute as three old blokes like a French Compo, Foggy and Clegg at the table next to us enjoying a croissant and coffee listened attentively and obediently to the runner's whispered plea for silence and then repeatedly broke into loud and animated conversation as soon as the director shouted "trois,deux un action!" If that was not enough a young lad starting up his souped up Harley Davidson just as a third take was almost in the can had M Directeur flinging his headphones to the floor in desperation and when all around us was finally silent, the waitress at Bistrot Marin decided to wind up the bar's enormous parasol with a squeaky handle whilst giving a Gallic shrug and saying that she wasn't a big fan of the show. Great entertainment.

And speaking of entertainment we spotted that there's a boat trip to Fort Boyard next week. Son Paul used to love the game show that was filmed at this remote Napoleonic fort so we feel that we must take the visit to be able to take some photos and tell him about it. Like the Crystal Maze (another of his favourites) the show involved teams competing against each other in a number of daredevil games in this very different studio.

Another day another nice restaurant. We stopped off for lunch at Le M at Rivedoux Plage. Part of the La Maree hotel, the restaurant has a pleasant and modern seating area across the road from the hotel right on the sea. A little more up market than La Route De Sel at Loix, this is the sort of place where your aperitif comes with an amuse bouche rather than the standard bowl of stuffed olives and a couple of cocktail sticks and we were perhaps a little under dressed in our cycling outfit of shorts and t shirts. Under dressed or not we were made extremely welcome by our waitress Sonia and enjoyed a super lunch. 

Marion had a vegetarian platter and I had an excellent hake with rice in a lightly curried sauce. 

To finish we shared the chef's special dessert - a medley of home made bon bons - a jokey but delicious bunch of confections based on childhood favourites, liquorice, sweet and sour candy and caramel cream. The lunch came to 77 Euros for one main course each, the shared dessert, a couple of glasses of wine as an aperitif and a small pichet of house wine and I thought it was good value for the very high standard of food and service. The only negative is that the restaurant is right on the roadside and, although covered and sheltered, on a busy day the traffic might be off putting. On the positive side, when the tide is lapping at the restaurant's edge the setting is very attractive. 

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Nous Mangeons Très Bien

Before setting off on our holiday in France, Marion and I prepared ourselves for the anticipated culinary delights by losing about twenty pounds between us. We reckoned that that would do the trick and, combined with cycling about thirty kilometers every day, we wouldn't pile on so much weight that our holiday clothes would cease to fit.

So far we have eaten out in a number of St Martin De Re's acclaimed restaurants. As usual in a self catering house there are recommendations from the owners and from previous visitors so we followed the advice and had some great steak in Bistrot Marin on the quayside and a very fine meal at Le Serghi on the harbour opposite. We also tried dinner in a lovely garden setting called Cote Jardin hidden away in a side street. Each of these was great in its own way. Bistrot Marin had an excellent pub like ambience, friendly service and was clearly popular with the locals. Le Serghi has an exceptional chef and the location is superb although the wine list with basic local wine starting at around twenty euros seemed somewhat pricey. Cote Jardin could not match its romantic inside garden atmosphere with its food and service which were both ok but not of the standard of the others. All the meals came in at around 40-50 euros per head including wine and two courses (we tend to share a starter and dessert so that we aren't over faced).   

But, surprisingly, my favourite restaurant is not mentioned in either the house notes or the guest book. La Route Du Sel in Loix ( a gentle hour's cycling away) was popular with us last time we were on Ile De Re so we thought that we 'd give it another try despite its absence from the reviews. We were not disappointed and stopped by for lunch yesterday and again today. It's in a very sunny spot in the square by the church in this tiny village situated amidst salt marshes and it fills up at lunchtime as cyclists stop for refuelling. Although it specialises in savoury crepes there is also a wide choice of meats, salads and seafood on the menu, the cooking is of a good standard and the service extremely cheerful and friendly.

Today we shared this seafood salad as a starter. There was a nice mixture of tiny shrimps, mussels and other shellfish, nuts, avocado lettuce and sardines on toast with a piquant tomato sauce.

For my main course I had this amazing duck breast in a honey sauce. It was the best duck dish I have ever tasted and I am probably being churlish to mention that there were enough potatoes to feed a small army (it took some strong willpower to leave as much as I did as they were delicious).

For dessert we chose the cafe gourmand -  a super expresso accompanied by four tiny puds - a rice pudding, a chocolate brownie, a macaroon and a caramel mousse. On each day the bill came to around fifty five euros for two (we only had a small pichet of house wine although the wine prices are inexpensive). It's a spot that we will be recommending in the guest book and one that we'll certainly return to before we leave the island.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

No Longer The Isle De Rain

We decided that a cycling holiday would be the best way to continue the recovery from the hip replacement. Nothing too strenuous mind - I didn't want to end up in A&E with a dislocation. So where better than Ile De Re in France. This little island just off La Rochelle is almost as flat as a pancake (or should I say crepe) and it is a cyclist's paradise with kilometer after kilometer of cycle tracks alongside a deep blue sea and through pleasant woodland and vineyards. We came here in July 2007 and endured two weeks of non stop rain which resulted in our renaming the island the Isle De Rain but the residents assured us that the weather we experienced then was a freak and we thought we'd give it another try.

We've been here for three days and so far the sun has been relentless resulting in sunburnt knees (wearing a long sleeved shirt and shorts they're the only bit exposed) and the planned acquisition of a hat -no I won't be posting a photo on here. 

We're staying in a lovely old town house right next to this ancient church which means we've no need for an alarm clock as the priest gets cracking with the bells at about seven thirty. It's a great location as we're only a hundred yards or so from the harbour in the photo at the top of the blog where there are scores of bars and restaurants so you can enjoy some excellent cuisine or just sit with a drink and watch the world go by - extremely entertaining.

The house is owned by an Englishwoman called Jenny.  We have not met her as she was away from the island when we arrived but she has fitted it out to a very high standard and added some lovely touches like this welcoming bunch of flowers and a delicious home made chocolate cake (that's the diet gone then). We're spending our time cycling and reading and it's a very relaxing break from the grind of retirement.

One of the biggest advantages of retirement is being able to holiday off season. Judging from the number of bars, restaurants and camping sites on the island, I imagine that Ile De Re is extremely popular in the high season but at the moment we are cycling to beach after beach like this and sharing them with just a handful of visitors and a few dozen cockle and mussel pickers who scavenge the low tide shoreline looking for the delicacies that the island is renowned for. It's also a bird watchers' haven with a huge variety of wading birds inhabiting the salt marshes that surround some of the villages.

We're off now. We're going to a shady spot to do a bit of reading. I'm just starting my fourth novel of the holiday. C'est la vie.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

A Retirement Break and Obstacles To Young Love

We're having some time in France at the moment. It's the first time we've been outside the UK since 2008  so I think the break is well deserved. One of the beauties of retirement is that we're not stuck to weekend travel and,although it's only early in the season, I've never been on a ferry with so few people before. It was like the Marie Celeste and Marion and I felt like we had a whole deck to ourselves. It was a smooth crossing and we arrived safely before a four and a half hour drive to our hotel in Brittany. It should have been a three and a half hour drive but thanks to the wonders of sat nav we seemed to take the most tortuous route conceivable. Fortunately for me, Marion had a road atlas to hand and after hours of driving but apparently getting not very far, she took control and the hotel finally came into view. It's a super little place Le Lodge Kerisper in Trinite Sur Mer - strongly recommended.

We've had a lazy first day. A walk around the town and along the beach marveling at the wonderful local architecture. Although I've got my digital SLR camera with me, the iPhone is still a very handy thing for holiday snaps like the ones on today's blog. Tonight it's our first taste of French cuisine (we were too late to eat last night). We're going to have to do plenty of walking and cycling as the portions on the plates of diners we passed at lunchtime looked generous in the extreme.

There are plenty of imposing mansions along the coast like this brooding edifice which reminded us of something out of Daphne Du Maurier - it has a bit of a Cornish feel to the place.

I managed to read my first book of the holiday today. David Nobbs was the creator of "A Bit Of A Do" a late 1980's tv series that we loved so, when I saw that connection on the book cover, reading it was a foregone conclusion.  It's a wonderful novel, funny, sad, original and beautifully observed. It follows two young lovers who star together in the school production of Romeo and Juliet from their teens to their forties. The path of true love isn't a smooth one but the bumps along the way are hugely entertaining. I would love to see more novels in this genre. At the moment the shelves seem to be piled high with crime and fantasy but for me you can't beat a good romance or social drama. Last week I read "We had it so good" by Linda Grant which is in a similar vein although with far less humour. That too was very readable. Publishers please note. More please.

Monday, 9 May 2011

PPI - It Was Always Going To Be Trouble

Apologies if I sound exceptionally smug but I knew from the minute I saw it that Payment Protection Insurance was trouble. I was working as a bank manager in Southport when someone in Head Office came up with the idea of selling PPI with every loan. There was a box on the application form and if the customer failed to put a cross in that box they were deemed to have accepted payment protection insurance. On the face of it it looks like a good idea but the cost was extortionate (no wonder we were being pushed to sell it) and the premium for the whole period of the loan was added to the cost of the loan at the outset and interest was charged on it - so effectively the borrowers were paying for a loan to buy up  to five years worth of insurance. Most insurance is renewed annually so this looked like a bad deal. I phoned a local insurance broker and asked how much similar cover would cost with him. It was miles cheaper and could be paid monthly or annually so I told my customers to go to him if they wanted the cover. It sounds a bit disloyal I know but I was one of those old fashioned bank managers who thought that they were there to offer good financial advice - not a rip off insurance salesman. Now that PPI has come home to roost (mostly on the grounds of mis-selling rather than the ridiculous cost) the banks have got their just desserts.

Wonderful news from son Paul. His missing cat turned up at three o'clock this morning sitting on the end of his bed. After being gone for a week, he and Josephine were not hopeful of seeing Wednesday again but you couldn't fault the incredible efforts that they made in trying to find her. Between them they pounded the pavements, canal towpaths and back alleys of the East End delivering hundreds of leaflets and posters. And their success was well deserved even if the cat returned of her own accord. Maybe she saw a poster and realised how much she was missed. Marion and I are delighted for them.

My brother Peter and I had our last trip metal detecting together for some time yesterday as I am off to France soon and he is off to Spain. We travelled down to Shropshire to a field near this ancient church. It's not really the right time of year for detecting as fields are mostly sown with crops and the only available land is pasture which, being unploughed, does not get regularly turned over resulting in lost items sinking deeper and out of the detectors' range. It was a very fine day and I had a great time wandering across the field for a fair few hours. I also had a good chat with the farmer, who, like me, had experienced being filmed for The Antiques road Show. I hope to go back later in the year and try some of the arable fields. It's beautiful countryside so Marion and I may make a short break of it and book into a hotel where she can relax whilst I visit the fields.

I found over sixty signals but, as you can see, there was nothing exciting. At least I cleared a fair bit of junk out of the field. The best finds were a couple of buttons, a musket ball from around the 18th century, a grotty George III penny and a large bronze pot leg (bottom right). This is probably medieval but these are difficult to date and it could be from the 14th to the 17th century. From it's crude shape I imagine it's to the earlier end of this scale.

Oh well. Still no riches from the hobby (but that's not what it's about for me). Here's a few blokes in a field. I think that they might well have found some gold.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Great Initiative From Sainsbury's

I spotted an ad in this morning's Guardian (I say "spotted" but, being a two page colour spread, you could hardly miss it ). They've created a full weekly menu comprising three meals each day and the meals are wholesome, easy to prepare and, above all, cost just under £50 for four people. The recipes are very similar to those we ate when we were dieting last year so the food should be enjoyable. But if their initiative is taken up in big numbers we are going to see a heck of a lot of slimmer Sainsbury's customers as a typical day's calories is about 1800 which may be OK for women but is not a huge amount for growing and active teenagers and men over around twelve stone. My diet calorie allowance was about 1600-1700  per day and the weight fell off me. Maybe they've assumed (probably correctly) that the average family is overweight and could do with losing a bit. If so, it's quite a brilliant ploy as in a few months they'll be able to create a similar offer for all the subscribers to the menus to fit themselves out with a new wardrobe as none of their clothes will fit.

Sad news from son Paul and his wife Josephine. They recently became proud owners of two cats which they got from Battersea Cats And Dogs Home. One of them (Wednesday) went missing on Monday and there's been no trace of her since. In the unlikely event that you are reading this in the Limehouse area of  East London, please keep an eye open. She is chipped so, if her collar is missing, a vet can identify her. I know that Paul and Josephine will be very upset at the loss as the cats had really settled in.

On a happier note, we spent an enjoyable hour browsing our library of unread books to find some to take on holiday with us. I knew that we've got hundreds of books (they're two deep on most shelves) but I didn't realise that there were so many of them that I hadn't read yet. A couple of months ago we bought a Kindle to take with us on holiday to save on packing but we've decided to leave it at home until we get through this lot. It's a good job we're traveling by car or Ryan Air would have a field day with our luggage fees.

Rain at last. Pretty much to be expected with us about to go on holiday. Having said that, there's been less than a cup full so far. It's going to have to pour to give the garden the soaking that it needs.

Yesterday I had a tidy out of all the junk I've found with the metal detector over the past few years. Most detectors discriminate against iron to save users digging up old nails and rusty rubbish but from time to time detectorists are not sure and do dig up some iron. These are the iron bits from my junk box. It seems that at least three of these are Roman and all are certainly at least a couple of hundred years old. So maybe there's some mileage in digging every signal.