Tuesday, 30 October 2012

A Few Days Back In Fife

We're back in St Andrews for a few days before we head south again. This week we're only doing a five hour drive down to Southport;  five hours is nothing compared to the twelve hour slog we had last Saturday when we travelled back from Paul and Josephine's house in Rochester via Framlingham and then via the bedroom fitter's showroom in Ely.

It was wonderful to see Paul, Josephine and Catherine even if we had less than forty eight hours with them. Catherine has grown so much since we last saw her and it was lovely to see her gorgeous little smiling face. Paul and Josephine were in the throes of organising a Halloween party and the house was fabulously decorated in readiness for the event.

Back in St Andrews Duncan and Rose have been poorly with stomach upsets and, although she is as happy as ever, Rose has been sick a few times. 

Sarah's been making her an outfit for a halloween party so Rose busied herself playing with the off cuts.

Yesterday it was time for new shoes. It's only six weeks since her last ones and she's already grown out of them. Toddlers shoes are no cheaper than adults' so it's pretty expensive being a mum and dad nowadays.  Beautiful little boots though.

We got the car's damaged bumper repaired yesterday. Someone reversed into it in the car park at Leuchars when we went to Edinburgh a couple of weeks ago. It wasn't worth claiming on the insurance due to the excess and the no claims bonus so, at £270, that was an expensive day out in the capital.

Today we went to babysit for Sarah this morning and then it was a trip to Dundee to see Skyfall.

We were worried that, after all the rave reviews, we might not get in. No fears there! (To be honest it did fill up a bit shortly after we arrived). I can't add much to all the reviews. It's really very good. There's plenty of action, some great chases and the usual glamorous and exotic locations (and stars) but what singles it out from many of the earlier Bond movies is the relationship between Bond and M (Judy Dench) which is done very sympathetically and shows a much softer and more human side to 007. Javier Bardem is a magnificently sinister megalomaniac baddy, Rory Kinnear plays M's assistant perfectly and Ben Wishaw's IT Crowd Q puts a completely new twist on the character. Great fun and well worth seeing. 

We're off on a bit of a grand tour on Saturday. It's down to Southport for an old colleague's fiftieth birthday and then we're going to have a short break in Cumbria and, as we haven't been to our home town for over three months we're then going to do a bit of visiting friends and family before heading down to Framlingham again on the following Sunday.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Framlingham Progress

We're down south in Rochester today visiting son Paul and family. We came down after a hectic two days of meetings in Framlingham  to catch up with progress and to meet various people to discuss the next steps of the project. All went well and everything is on target for the kitchen fitters to start on 10 December and for us to move our furniture in during week commencing 17 December although we won't be able to move in until mid January.

On Wednesday we met the interior designer and a bedroom fitter to run through the design for the dressing room. Then we saw a man about a burglar alarm and surround sound system and on Thursday the interior designer was back again with the kitchen fitters to run through their template of the kitchen. After that it was the landscape designer for a preliminary meeting and finally the Timber Windows manager to run through a couple of snags with the windows. Throw in an eight hour drive with a five a.m. start and another two hour drive to Rochester and it was a pretty hectic forty eight hours. 

Here's the progress to date.

Our bedroom now has radiator, skirting board and wooden windows.

Our en-suite shower room tiling is well under way.

The Solarlux bi-folding doors are now in place giving the lounge the bright and open feel that we aimed for.

The Solarlux french doors are in place too and the kitchen template gave us an idea of how the finished room will look.

We can now see from the kitchen right through the lounge and into the garden.

The outside of the lounge needs to be rendered and the pillar has to be clad. 

We've got a bath in the family bathroom now

All our wiring is now going to terminate under the stairs. We've hard wired broadband into all the rooms so there are rather a lot of wires.

The garden studio is finished.

Marion has clear ideas of what she wants and spent time telling the garden designer what she would like.

The water cylinder in the airing cupboard is now in place.

It's not quite total open plan living but we have opened the ground floor space into a much brighter layout.

We're off back to Framlingham tomorrow to leave a few bits that Paul stored for us. After that it's off to Ely to see the bedroom fitter and then the long slog back to St Andrews for a quiet week. 

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Making The Most Of St Andrews Before Winter Sets In

Although moving to Suffolk is a big adventure for us - a retirement step into the unknown; we know nobody (apart from brief introductions to the neighbours and a friendship we developed with Dave & Lyn who rented us their cottage) - there's the builder, the architect and that's about it. So, after fifty plus years of knowing our neighbourhood and many of the residents very well we're looking forward to new people, new places and, hopefully, a long and happy retirement. We're off there tomorrow to see how things are progressing.

Until we move we will continue to make the most of living in St Andrews. It really is a beautiful little place. We took advantage of a glorious autumn day to get out on our bikes again on Sunday. The light was fantastic and I wish that I had taken my camera with me although you will get the idea from these shots taken on the iPhone. We're going to miss living here but we won't miss living in the caravan - we've made do for over three months now and we're on the home straight but the luxury of a bit of space even in our downsized new house will be something to savour.

I got out with the detector again yesterday for what has become almost a regular Monday outing - it's been good weather every Monday for the last four weeks. I tried a new field. It was a meadow but when I started to find tin cans almost a foot down I realised that anything historic would have sunk out of range and headed back to the field I've searched for the past six weeks. You would think that after six visits I would have found everything but no, I managed to dig up almost a hundred more items and still haven't walked over the whole enormous field.

There were no important finds but I dread to think what damage this .577 lead musket bullet (probably for an Enfield musket c1860) would inflict on a man. These were used throughout the American Civil War and the injuries must have been horrific.

Although they don't look much I think that three of these bits are medieval buckle plates and the tiny buckle dates back to the 13th century. I haven't got a clue what the ring is. It looks like a finger ring but it's very small and has 125 stamped into the bezel.

It was interesting too to find this saddler's name badge. Although unclear it reads J Mackie Cupar. I looked him up on the internet and he's recorded in the Cupar parish records for 1861.

Time to get ready for tomorrow now. It's a major feat of organisation from Marion who gets everything ready brilliantly and never forgets anything (if it were left to me it would be a last minute rush and something would definitely be overlooked). We aim to head off at 5.30 (fog permitting) and we're staying at The Crown Hotel in the centre of Framlingham. It has had dreadful reviews on Trip Advisor but has recently changed hands and the latest reviews have been positive. As it's the only hotel in the town we've not much choice unless we want to drive. I'll let you know what we think.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

All Quiet On The East Fife Front

You may have noticed a paucity of blogs this week but there's little point in blogging when nothing much is happening. We've had a good, family week. Despite the impression that you may get from the photos below, it's been pretty miserable on the weather front so we we filled our spare days with simple pleasures like reading, listening to the radio and watching TV. We did manage a couple of days out too.

On a Wednesday of incessant rain we needed to do something indoors so we had a trip out to the Perth & Kinross Antique And Arts Centre. It's a huge showroom with maybe a hundred individual cases of antiques and collectables. There was nothing spectacular but it's the sort of place where you might well pick up a bargain. We were a bit concerned to see these G Plan tables classed as "antiques". We had a single table in this range when we got married! The tiles are a bit dated but the tables are in perfect condition and beautifully made- someone will get a bargain at £80.

Thursday saw us taking Sarah and Rose to Edinburgh for the day. It's one of the nicest rail journeys that you could take. The train runs along long stretches of the Fife coast and the Forth bridge crossing is always a highlight.

I did a bit of sightseeing looking after Rose while Marion and Sarah did some shopping. We had a look at the magnificent Sir Walter Scott Monument.

Rose was not impressed.

Now that's more like it.

Yesterday we had the pleasure of looking after Rose for a whole day. We picked her up at around nine, took her shopping and then took her back to the caravan to play and have lunch. The sun came out later in the day and we managed to take her to the beach before taking her back to her mum and dad. We had a wonderful time and we think that she did too.

We can't wait to do the same with our other granddaughter Catherine or even maybe both of them one day.

After the lull of this week we've busy days ahead. A five a.m. start and drive down to Framlingham is planned for Wednesday. We're staying over on Thursday before heading down to Rochester for a couple of nights with Paul and Josephine. This may be our last Framlingham visit before we move our furniture in. We've got a lot to do. We're meeting a bedroom fitter to plan the dressing room, checking progress with the woodburner, timber windows, bathroom tiling and aluminium bi-folding doors, seeing a man about fitting a home cinema sound system and burglar alarm and seeing another man about the landscape design. And that's not the main purpose of the visit - the kitchen fitters are fitting a mock up of the kitchen for us to run through too. On top of that there will no doubt be half a dozen queries from the builder. If all goes well we won't need to go back until December so a peaceful November beckons - apart from a trip to a birthday party in Southport that we're going to turn into a week's break.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Tempting Fate

I suppose I was tempting fate by gushing about the glorious weather here in St Andrews so much on the blog last week; all good things come to and end and we awoke to a flooded caravan site on Friday morning after a night of constant torrential rain. It was so heavy that a house in a nearby village collapsed after its foundations were washed away by the torrent. Trust me to choose to have the car valeted a few days earlier - what a waste of £65 that was - the car now has a mud rather than wax sheen.

It has dried up a little now although when I went out with the detector in a new field yesterday the mud immediately went up to the top of my wellies and I had to beat a speedy retreat and find an alternative field. Like most detector users I am smiling through gritted teeth at today's news of the novice searcher who found no less than 159 gold Roman coins on his first outing with his new detector - excuse me while I wipe away the tears - as I write about the half dozen buttons that I managed to unearth yesterday. To be honest, good luck to him. He's unlikely to ever find anything like that again while I can still go out with high hopes on every trip. 

We managed a cinema trip to Dundee today. We saw the excellent "Ruby Sparks" an offbeat romantic comedy about a young novelist struggling to live up to the exceptional first novel that has earned him a fortune. Directed by husband and wife Jonathan Drayton and Valerie Faris who sprang to attention with the wonderful "Little Miss Sunshine", this quirky film has plenty of humour and charm. Author Calvin overcomes his writers' block when he conjures up and writes the character of Ruby who comes to life in his mind so much that she does just that - comes to life. Mad, I know, but it somehow works and was a very pleasant bit of escapism for a wet Tuesday afternoon.

Although we gave up on the fasting diet we both still need to lose weight after the lack of gym visits in the three months that we've been living in the caravan. We've been wracking our brains and reading what the Saturday supplements say in an attempt to find a suitable diet and we've come to the conclusion that it's simply a matter of eating healthy food like this delicious butter bean and sweet potato stew and, sadly, cutting out alcohol. A week since we started I've managed to lose quite a bit although I'm not sure how much longer we want to go without a glass of wine.

Our interior designer Jemima's schemes for the two bathrooms and the lounge arrived today. She's an excellent interior designer and everything coordinates beautifully. When we've moved in I hope to be able to write a gushing blog as a testimonial but we better see the end results first. No more tempting fate.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

On Looper And A Couple Of Recent Reads

Following our long walk around Loch Leven on Wednesday we did indeed sleep well and our bones were aching as we rose in the morning to head to Edinburgh for the day. We had a few presents to buy and we needed to get some bits and pieces to finish off the bathrooms in Framlingham (toilet roll holders, towel rings – you know the sort of thing).

We always enjoy our visits to Edinburgh. It’s the perfect sized city; everything is within fairly easy walking distance but there’s loads to do - good shops, museums, restaurants and galleries and much more. We went into Harvey Nicholls to look for a present. It’s a super shop and it would be easy to spend hours browsing in there. We just bought the present and enjoyed a cup of coffee but we’ll make sure that we have plenty of time next time we visit.

We debated which film to see with the last few pounds remaining on our VUE gift card that we got for Christmas but hadn’t spent due to the lack of VUE cinemas near St Andrews and Framlingham. It was a toss up between The Perks Of Being A Wallflower and Looper. Each scored about the same on the IMDB website but Looper came out slightly on top with the critics.

It’s one of those films that creates a grim, dystopian view of a future where half the population appears to be living in abject, lawless, poverty while the remainder is involved in a hedonistic, drug fuelled life of relative luxury. This future is 2044, only just over thirty years away so I hope that it’s way off the mark as I wouldn’t want our grandchildren living in it. It seems that thirty years ahead of that it will be impossible to dispose of a body without being caught so the criminal mob, who by then have mastered time travel, send their victims back thirty years where they are unceremoniously disposed of by hit-men known as loopers.

It’s a complex but interesting idea, which becomes even more complicated when the time traveller turns out to be an older version of the assassin himself and sees Joe ( Joseph Gordon-Levitt) sitting down to steak in a diner with his older self (Bruce Willis). Throw in a kid who is a sort of six year old medium with one hell of a temper and his sexy mum to create a love interest and you’ve got a plot that doesn’t make a lot of sense but is nonetheless an entertaining couple of hours with plenty of action.

I enjoyed seeing what happened to one of the loopers who travelled back and escaped his younger self. The mob exact violent revenge on his 2044 version but we don’t witness the violence and instead watch the older man metamorphise before us – a clever idea. The romances between the lead character Joe in both 2044 and in the future are unconvincing but they aren’t central to the film, which is essentially a sci-fi shoot em up,  and I’ll forgive them.

I haven’t written about what I’ve been reading lately. The WIFI here at the caravan is so poor that I struggle to upload the blog but I’ve enjoyed Caroline Flett’s Separate Lives, Meg Rosoff’s What I Was and  I also read Summer’s Lease by Charles Mortimer which is entertaining but very dated just thirty years after it was first published. I am currently reading The Quincunx by Charles Palliser as part of Scott Pack’s internet social reading group – see the link to Meandmybigmouth blog over to the right. This is a monster of a book at over 1200 pages and not something that I would have normally picked up. However, it’s surprisingly good so far and not at all what I expected – and owes more to Charles Dickens than any 21st century writer. I’ll let you know what I think after then next 900 pages.

It's a quiet week this week with no trips to Sufoflk planned so I hope we can get to a couple of films in Dundee, take granddaughter Rose and daughter Sarah to Edinburgh and also have a day out with the detector. After that we're really excited about seeing the progress on the house in Framlingham on 24th October and even more excited about seeing this little lady again on  25th. She'll be almost three months old.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

We Should Sleep Well Tonight

To be honest we're both absolutely knackered. We decided to take advantage of the continuing glorious weather here in Scotland and headed to Kinross to do a spot of walking around Loch Leven. We'd heard that there was a beautiful Heritage Trail around the loch with well laid level paths making walking a doddle. 

The car park was reached through a small housing estate and some industrial units which belied the splendour and beauty of what was to come. After a quick coffee we set off down the trail.

It's a beautifully created and well marked trail with lovely features such as this rail at a viewpoint engraved with information about the history and wildlife of the area (this is just a small segment).

There are a dozen or more benches finely carved with slogans in Rabbie Burns style dialect - we enjoyed having a stab at their translation and think that we managed to understand most and learnt a few words to add to our sparse local vocabulary.

But it wasn't just a few benches and well laid paths with clear signposts that made our walk a success - the glorious scenery was quite stunning. We learnt that Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned in (and escaped from) this island castle.

We saw some of the scores of geese that arrive at the loch to winter before we headed for a well earned snack at the cafe run by the RSPB.

The cafe and information centre is a paradise for bird lovers and there were plenty of twitchers about with their high powered telescopes and long lens cameras.

So why are we knackered after such a lovely gentle walk? Well, every inch of the lake's shoreline that you can see in these photos was part of the path and it came to just over eight miles - in each direction! So, for a couple of retirees who haven't had much exercise for three months a seventeen mile walk was quite an exertion. But we wouldn't have missed it for anything; glorious weather, beautiful countryside and great company. Who could have asked for more?