Wednesday, 28 March 2012

R.I.P Flo 6 August 1925 - 28 March 2012

Today we said goodbye to Marion's mum Flo who passed away peacefully in the early hours of this morning. After being with her for many hours it seems tragic that she slipped away when we had gone to snatch a couple of hours sleep and we both feel devastated that this could happen so cruelly.

Flo, with her loud South London accent, was a very unlikely Scotswoman but she was indeed Scottish and spent her very early days there before her father - his lungs damaged through working as a miner - found a job as a gardener in a large house in Richmond. It was a job that he loved and Flo had a very happy childhood growing up with her sisters and her brother in leafy Surrey.

Happiness is something that went hand in hand with Flo. She was a very positive character who never had a bad word to say about anybody; her glass was more often half full than half empty and she turned the Les Dawson view on mothers-in-law on it's head - I can not remember ever having to grumble about my mum-in-law other than perhaps a few groans when she repeated some of her well worn anecdotes.

Our favourite story was about the time that she worked in a photo processing studio. Her boss pulled her to one side one day to tell her that a customer had been on the phone to complain. It seems that Flo, in attempting to prepare a perfect set of prints, had corrected the client's holiday snaps of his break in Italy and managed to do something that had eluded the Italians for hundreds of years and straightened the leaning tower of Pisa.

She married Dudley (Doug), a dashing merchant seaman and the one true love of her life. When we cleared her flat recently we found so many beautifully affectionate cards that they had sent each other and Flo was truly heartbroken when she lost Doug in 1995. They had two daughters, Susan and Marion, five grandchildren and six great grandchildren. Flo loved then all equally. She never forgot a birthday and was proud of every one of them.

If Doug had not been successful in his career with CAV, I would never have met Marion so I owe him a huge debt of gratitude. A skilled engineer, he was transferred to a management role in Merseyside in the mid 1960's and settled down in Ainsdale. The couple made some wonderful lifelong friends through Doug's job, Alan and Ann here in the north, Bill and Joan and Doris and Jack in the south and they shared so many happy days with those close friends, some recorded for posterity on Doug's trusty cine camera. We watched those happy scenes with Flo just a few weeks ago and she was delighted to have those films to jog her failing memory.

When CAV relocated Doug to their Rochester plant the couple made the move back south and settled in Rainham where they had some very happy times. Flo loved her job at the Motorway Service Station where she made so many friends and Doug managed to get back afloat for the first time since leaving the navy and enjoyed sailing competitively on the Medway - Flo had a cabinet full of his trophies. We were fortunate to be close to them for a couple of years while we lived in Kent and our kids were able to get to know their Granddad and Nanny before they retired to Spain.

Again in Spain, Flo's friendly manner and willingness to talk to anybody brought the couple plenty of friends and Flo was the life and soul of the little English pub in Villa Martin where she and Doug became regulars before his life and his retirement was cut horribly short through illness.

Flo depended on Doug for everything and we were amazed when she came back with us to Southport and became totally independent and settled into her own flat in Stirling Court. She coped stoically and very bravely with two bouts of cancer and came through them strongly. Again, a recurring theme throughout her life, Flo made plenty of real and genuine friends, particularly Enid and Sheila, Ruth, Tina and my mum Ann. I know that, like us, they all will miss her and her stories, even the one about the tower of Pisa. 

She was very happy in Churchtown and was a well known figure in the local shops where she established a very particular weekly routine that she followed religiously. She loved to talk about Liverpool and part of the routine was an appointment by the radio on Saturday afternoons to listen to the match on Merseyside. Sometimes she wore her treasured shirt with Gerrard 8 on the back. It was only when she started to depart from her routine that we realised that she was becoming unwell and unable to care for herself.

Fortunately we found an extremely caring home in Peacehaven. She didn't want to be there but she was made very welcome and looked after with a lot of love and kindness for which we are very grateful.

Flo had a saying about things that she liked. If she really loved something she would describe it as 'quite nice'. All I can say is that she wasn't just 'quite nice', she was very very nice and we will miss her deeply.


Tuesday, 27 March 2012

99 Reasons Why

There are hundreds of reasons why I eagerly awaited the launch of 99 Reasons Why. Caroline Smailes is a hugely talented author who readers can always rely upon to come up with something new and something original. Her earlier novels included poetic prose forming artistic patterns on the page, small chunks of text in sign language, a beer swilling Jesus living in Malta - she is a bit special, a one off. 

So it's little surprise that, in the world of e-publishing, she has once again come up with something original - a book with eleven different endings. No doubt, had the book been released in print, Caroline and her equally adventurous publisher Scott Pack would have included one of these origami fortune tellers to help you to choose your ending. It's a great idea and I wanted to love the book.

Unfortunately I didn't love it.  The novella is told in the voice of twenty-two year old Kate. Kate talks to the reader in an authentic North Eastern voice and I felt as if I was being told a story by Sarah Millican. So far so good. The voice is brilliant. Kate is reclusive, thinks that Princess Di was her mother and is being paid £90 every week by a shady uncle (who may or may not be her dad) to monitor the comings and goings at the Kevin Keegan day nursery opposite her house. She spends her free time buying Princess Di memorabilia on eBay. This is fascinating stuff but, whereas I could empathise with the miserable existences of characters in Caroline's Black Boxes and In Search Of Adam, I couldn't warm to Kate and her ghastly parents who would fit perfectly into the cast of Shameless - feckless work shy dad and foul mouthed lazy mum. Smailes' skill as an author presents the reader with visceral images of Kate and her bodily fluids - blood, vomit, piss and more, in situations that would have evoked my sympathy in other books but here just left my nose wrinkling and "yeuch" in my mind.

It's a page turner, cleverly written in short chapters or "reasons"and it's a must read for anyone who appreciates something different. But by the time I reached the choose an ending process I wished the whole family dead. Unfortunately as I hit on a happy ending, my wish was not fulfilled. Of course I went back and found a Tarantino ending which might have been preferable first time around but there was something strange about going back to a new ending that for me didn't feel right. I tried several more endings but felt that once I'd been to an ending I was out of the loop of the story and to get the most from the process I would have to start back at page one.

So it's five stars from me for originality and exceptional writing but, as I didn't enjoy the experience, it's sadly not going to join Caroline Smailes' other books amongst my all time favourites. Well three out of four ain't bad.

Friday, 23 March 2012


I'm sitting with a small glass of brandy beside me as I write this. I think we deserve to wind down after what has been an exhausting week.

We've spent most of it, clearing out  Marion's mum's flat. I snapped this just before closing the door on it for the last time. We've left it very clean and tidy (not difficult as Flo always kept things immaculate). The last job was helping the men from The British Heart Foundation to take away the items of furniture that the purchasers don't want. There were a few display cabinets and a bookcase in fabulous condition and the manager of the charity shop phoned this evening to say how pleased they are with the donation.

I hired a van to take Flo's bed to the care home. Although I only drove it for three or four miles I had to put diesel in as the hire firm left the vehicle virtually empty - so much for picking the bargain hire price. We also enlisted the help of an odd job man, Ian, who has done a few jobs for us recently getting our house shipshape for selling. He put up four shelves in Flo's care home room and, after four hours of fitting the room out with her favourite photos, nick nacks and  ornaments we were ready for the grand unveiling.  Flo hasn't been very well this week; she's been very grumpy, miserable and even uncharacteristically angry. So we weren't expecting an enthusiastic response. However, we were wrong and she was the happiest she's been for ages and delighted to be reunited with her possessions and photos - we gave ourselves a pat on the back.

We're off to Framlingham on Sunday. We've got to discuss the surveyor's findings with the architect and run through the plans we've got for the property we're buying. It should be a pleasant break after a week of stress that's taught us a lot about clutter and how to handle it.

Our next big job is to sell our house. It's supposed to be pretty hard in the property market at the moment so I was surprised when we phoned a highly recommended local estate agent and asked if they would be interested in selling it only to be told that 'yes they would be interested' but they 'can't come to see the house until April 12th'. April 12th! That's almost three weeks. So much for hard times if an estate agent can be so nonchalant about a potential commission of over £4,000. I phoned a couple more agents who can come much sooner. When we were in business our sales team would have leapt at the chance to get a lead like this.

Oh well. We'll wait and see what the other agents come up with. I'll leave you today with a couple of videos. I haven't posted many lately so I've chosen one to amuse our lovely American daughter in law Josephine and another for our equally lovely son Paul.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

A Very Sweet Rites Of Passage Novel

I've read three male teenage 'rites of passage' novels in the last couple of months; four if you count Pigeon English. The Rotters Club and Skippy Dies were written by men whereas Just In Case was written by a woman and there's a very clear difference in the way in which the authors handle the turbulence of male adolescence. Having experienced it myself (admittedly many moons ago), I feel that Meg Rosoff has created in Justin a very real and far more sensitive character than the norm and this book is so much better for it.

A teenager with a telepathic understanding of his toddler brother Charlie, a conviction that fate is about to send him to an early grave and an imaginary greyhound as a pet would never find high school plain sailing and it is little surprise that Justin finds himself on the periphery of his circle of schoolmates. When an older girl - a photographer - spots his haunted looks and exploits them to advance her career our hero's teenage angst is cranked up to the maximum.

It's a highly original and unusual novel. Justin is a fascinating creation. His story is told with page turning pace and gentle humour and I am happy to give it five stars.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

A Bit Of Light Relief

We took a day off from clearing Marion's mum's flat today. Marion had an appointment to have her hair done so I caught up with a huge pile of ironing (no don't stop reading, it will get better - honest). After a really good lunch at The Vincent on Lord St we headed to the local Vue to see 21 Jump St.

Looking at others in the audience Marion wondered if we had chosen something that's perhaps aimed at a slightly younger market. I started playing with my iPhone in an attempt to signal 'Hey kids we may be oldies but we're cool oldies' but then let myself down by switching it off when the film started. 

The film (21 Jump St) came highly recommended by reviewers across the whole spectrum of tabloid and broadsheets (although I seem to remember the same for Jackass 3D). This time the reviewers got it right as it has all the ingredients of a great comedy - superb performances from leads Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, a strong story line (based on an old TV show that we don't remember), a good script with plenty of  intelligent jokes thrown in amongst a minimal amount of the gross out stuff usually associated with this genre. 

Hill and Channing play a couple of rookie cops whose "youthful" looks leads to them being chosen to go undercover as high school students. Tatum was a jock at high school while Hill was the geeky kid that he bullied. They're chosen to reprise those roles in their assignment to bust a drugs ring but, as in most good comedy from Shakespeare onwards, things don't go exactly as planned. What follows is fast moving and laugh out loud funny and it certainly gave us a lift from a week of flat clearing.

As we left the cinema I got an email with the surveyor's report on our proposed house purchase in Suffolk. While the man from the architect said yes, the man from the surveyor's says yes ...... but;  and then gave us a pretty long list of buts.   

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

All Cleared

We sold Marion's mum's flat recently so this week we've set aside four days to empty it before the new owners move in. It hasn't been the happiest job sorting everything Flo owns into just three piles - keep, charity shop and tip. We made a few journeys to the tip and we've given a selection of things to various charities and now we're left sifting through the "keep" pile. Going through everything that Flo and Marion's dad Doug kept - all the little personal mementos, cards, certificates, photos and nick nacks - is extremely sad but it has to be done. And it has made us realise that we don't want our own kids to have to do the same one day in the future. So, when we sell the house, we're going to do it for them. Whilst it's nice to have things like the lovely anniversary cards that we gave each other, our school certificates and reports, souvenirs and reminders of things that meant something to us in our lives, we never look at them; they're simply gathering dust in boxes in the attic awaiting the day when someone does what we've just done and takes them all down to the tip. So we've got a big de-clutter to carry out soon. We're going to be ruthless so Paul and Sarah don't have to. We'll keep plenty of photos in case anybody ever wants to make a family tree but the rest is simply sentimental and we'll have to rely on our memories instead.

My blog about my model mum resulted in an email from my sister linking me to an American used car seller's website. There's Mum again. This time with a megaphone and the catchy slogan "It's sale time Honey".   


We had planned a day out at our favourite cinema FACT in Liverpool tomorrow. We were going to see the Polish film In Darkness, the new Robots and Avatars exhibition and 21 Jump St. But clearing the flat has been so draining , both physically and mentally, that we don't think we could cope with the journey and a subtitled film about refugees hiding from the Nazis. So we're going for a lighter option of lunch in Southport and 21 Jump St at Vue. It's been getting great reviews so maybe it will give us something to smile about. I'll let you know.


Sunday, 18 March 2012

My Mum The Model (86)

To say I was, to use an ugly word, gobsmacked when I turned to page 55 of this month's edition of Which? magazine would be an understatement. For there staring out at me beneath an article advising on how to negotiate cheaper car insurance was a photo of my eighty six year old mother. (Sorry to say it Mum but I'm not sure that you or I would have too much scope to reduce our car insurance with our driving skills). I've never read Which? before but, with lots of home improvements in the pipeline, we subscribed to it for a trial to check out new kitchens and bathrooms etc.

I did a double take and sure enough it was definitely Mum. I remember her telling us about our Spanish niece Vicky's photographer boyfriend Aaron and how he's taken a few photos of my family in his studio and how he'd sold some stock photos via the internet. And I'd seen some of the photos posted on Vicky's Facebook page but it was still a big surprise to see her in a high circulation magazine. A model at 86 eh? It just shows that you're never too old to start something new.

As it was Mother's day today, our page 52 girl came round with Marion's Mum and we had a glass of fizz to celebrate. Sadly Flo was not very well today; she hasn't been eating properly this week and as well as feeling weak and debilitated she was worried because she had lost her wedding ring. We  managed to find it for her when we took her back to her care home and I hope that the relief of getting it back will make her feel a bit better and help her to get her appetite back.

We were able to sit in the garden for a while and it's always exciting to see frog spawn in the pond as it means that, hopefully, we've seen the last of the winter. It looks like the heron I wrote about a few weeks ago has finished off all the fish over the winter but at least the frogs and newts remain.

And speaking of amphibians, how do you wind up a frog?

Friday, 16 March 2012

Another Great Read

I've managed to find time to read a couple of books this week and I've enjoyed them both. I wrote about Build A Man, my first brush with chick-lit, earlier in the week. Our daughter Sarah bought me The Glass Castle for Christmas and it was good to settle down and read most of it in one long session. Here's the review I posted on Amazon. It's a five star memoir.

Although ostensibly a misery memoir like 'Angela's Ashes' and 'The Road To Nab End' Jeannette Walls' 'The Glass Castle' depicts a far more upbeat view of a childhood of abject poverty than her fellow sufferers across the pond.

Brought up by a feckless alcoholic father expert in the art of the moonlight flit and an equally feckless mother who, despite having the means and qualifications to support her family chose to neglect her children to indulge her own passion for painting, you could forgive Jeannette for being bitter. But very little bitterness surfaces even though she could give The Pythons' Four Yorkshiremen a run for their money - 'you were lucky, we had to scavenge for food in the school garbage, our toilet was a bucket on the kitchen floor and I had to paint black spots on my legs to render the holes in my trousers invisible'.

The book charts Jeannette's nomadic childhood in the American West living in desert, mountains and all the terrain in between. It's written in the crisp, journalistic style of her eventual career which makes the memoir extremely readable - I finished it inside forty eight hours. But it isn't simply factual, there are some wonderful descriptive passages on the adventures that she and her brother Brian had as underdogs - the lowest of the low - in places where the whole town was at the bottom of the social scale.

Jeannette ended up living grandly on Park Avenue while her parents lived homeless on the New York streets. She writes lovingly about her father whose catch phrase "would I ever let you down?" she always responded to through gritted teeth. He comes across as a daydreamer whose grand plans never came to anything but at least he encouraged his family to read and must have had bucketfuls of charm to be painted as sympathetically as he is. Her mother is portrayed more coldly even though she, a teetotaler, suffered a life of coping with a hopeless and penniless drunk.

As an example of triumph in the face of adversity this is an uplifting book. Two of Jeannette's three siblings also appear to have survived the childhood to live lives of normality; the fate of the youngest, Maureen, is unclear and, as she grew up when her father's alcoholism was at its worst, she missed the happier times that cemented the older children's relationships and she is probably the real victim of these dreadful parents.

A wonderful book.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

La Petite Gourmette

Duncan wanted to treat us to lunch at the fabulous Seafood Restaurant before we head off down the motorway for home. It's been a highlight of many a trip to St Andrews so I was disappointed when we phoned to make a reservation and discovered there was no high chair available for Rose. However, after tweeting my disappointment, Tim at the restaurant got in touch and offered to find a high chair for us so happiness prevailed. 

Serving wonderful dishes like my delicious crab tart starter and scrumptious turbot main , it's not exactly the place for chicken nuggets and chips so it isn't somewhere to take a hungry family with typical school age children (although do give it a try if they're adventurous). But, as Rose is at the very early stages of eating solid food and will try anything, it was perfect and she merrily tucked into small portions of her dad's turbot, Marion's courgette, Sarah's bread and crab cake and my er well that was enough for her wasn't it? We had an excellent lunch washed down with a lovely crisp bottle of white wine and a glorious tarte tatin dessert. Service was friendly and welcoming and we had a super long and leisurely time reminiscent of holidays in France when Sarah and Paul were growing up.

And if great food and service is not enough for you, just look at the restaurant's location (photo borrowed with apologies from their website). Perched above the sea, diners are able to enjoy the view and the sound of the waves crashing or lapping depending on the weather and the state of the tide. For fine dining, it's as good as it gets. It's five stars from us and a big thank you to Duncan.

At the head of the table
The waiter just cracked a joke

And to show that she's not picky and doesn't only go for fine dining, we took Rose to Pizza Express on Tuesday where she tucked into her mum's pizza with gusto.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The Lull Before The Storm

I was going to title today's blog "Headless Soldier Found In St Andrews" but thought better of it as I don't want to cynically manipulate my visitor stats by luring readers here under false pretences. It may have been a cynical heading but it was at least true as the remains of this vintage lead guardsman was amongst the pocketful of junk that I unearthed while out with my metal detector this morning. I've not had a great deal of luck with the detector so far this year. Three trips have yielded very little and all I have to show for six or seven hours plodding up and down a ploughed field this week is this.

Plus a headless soldier of course.

So, instead, I titled today's ramblings "The Lull Before The Storm" as that's very much how life feels at the moment. Here in the caravan in Fife, it's peaceful with a capital P. The owners of the nearby mobile homes only seem to turn up at weekends so we are extremely chilled and relaxed watching the hordes of rabbits and listening to the birdsong. But unfortunately, however chilling and relaxing the break is, we can't ignore the fact that when we get back we've got a pretty nonstop schedule lined up and, with our minds working overtime thinking about that schedule, we aren't sleeping brilliantly.

After Mother's Day we've got a decorator coming to tidy up the paintwork around the house in preparation for putting it on the market; then we have to put it on the market. We've sold Marion's Mum's flat so we have to empty that out and sort out all her furniture and belongings next week. We're buying a house in Suffolk and are planning major alterations so have to travel there in ten days for a site meeting with the architect. Then we have to plan kitchen, bathrooms and everything else. Then we have to hope that our house sells as we don't really want to own two for more than six months. Hectic? I think you'll agree there's plenty to keep the cogs spinning.

At least one of the planned jobs has been completed and the caravan is now fitted with a substantial deck . I downloaded a brilliant new iPhone app called Camera  Awesome that allows you to add all sorts of clever features to the iPhone camera. I used it for this photo. Okay, so what's the point? Well there isn't one for this particular picture but there are so many great features on the app such as selective focusing and exposure and I'm sure it will greatly improve my iPhone photography. 

We saw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel at the New Picture House here in St Andrews yesterday. It's quite a sweet film but the small screen that it was showing in was packed and I could only see three quarters of the picture due to the bloke sitting in front. He wasn't particularly tall it's just that the rows of seats are almost at the same level with very little elevation above the row in front. As a story about growing old, it attracted an old audience and we were amongst the youngest. There are some good performances from Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson and Celia Imrie but for me Penelope Wilton stole the show with a brilliantly observed performance as a frustrated wife in a loveless marriage. Bill Nighy was, as always, Bill Nighy and Maggie Smith was Maggie Smith; Nighy with his twitches and stutters and Smith with her raised eyebrows and elastic expressions but Wilton looked a natural whilst her illustrious colleagues looked like actors. At 124 minutes the film is 24 minutes too long but, it's a gentle enough diversion and the OAP audience seemed to love it.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Getting Decked

Apologies if my headline mislead you into hoping that someone had finally given me my just deserts - it's not easy coming up with snappy blog headings day in day out. Of course it refers to the decking alongside the caravan which, after several false dawns, finally started to take shape today. The joiners have worked at a cracking pace and I anticipate it being finished by tomorrow. This area faces south and catches the sun all day so we'll have to go and invest in a table and a couple of chairs to take full advantage next time we're here.  

I said how lucky we felt yesterday to be able to enjoy our retirement and get out and about on our bikes while we are still fit enough. Lucky wasn't exactly how we felt today after we cycled to Tentsmuir nature reserve. We somehow seemed to have a wind blowing into our faces all the way there and all the way back and, although flags were only fluttering gently, the breeze was stiff enough to make the twenty five or so miles round trip seem like cruel torture. Thank goodness for the salvation that is the Harbour Cafe in Tayport. Run by local community volunteers, this friendly little place is a haven for cyclists like us and walkers on the Fife Coastal Path and we were able to recharge our batteries with tasty fresh rolls and slabs of cake - at least we could justify the cake, that cycling into the wind must have burnt plenty of calories.

I just finished reading Build A Man by Talli Roland. It's chick lit and isn't aimed at fifty eight year old blokes but some of the people I follow on Twitter were gushing about it and I decided to give it a try. I gave it a five star review on Amazon as it's very well written, funny, original and, unlike many self published books, well edited with virtually no typos. You can read my full review HERE My own novel is a very gentle love story and I'm not the only bloke who enjoys romance - Times columnist Robert Crampton devoted his column this week to his love of romcoms; like me, he enjoyed Love Actually, About The Morgans and other slushy movies and maybe a few more of us should own up to being in touch with our softer side.

No Orange Wednesdays in St Andrews so we're going to have to pay full price this week. We're going to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. With a great cast of 'mature' British actors I'm expecting something light and I hope it doesn't concentrate too much on the downside of growing old.

Marion just burst into tears. No it wasn't at the prospect of proof reading this blog. It signaled her finishing reading Just in Case by Meg Rosoff. She tells me that it's a fabulous book, very original, well written and it has a beautiful ending - the best book she's read in ages. So that's my next read sorted then.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Feeling Lucky

We went for a bike ride this morning and it made me appreciate how lucky we are to have been able to retire while still in our fifties and to be healthy enough to enjoy days like today in the beautiful surroundings of St Andrews (and soon in Suffolk too). It was a warm spring day as we chose the downhill route from the caravan site into the little city and along the harbour by the glorious East Sands where it was pleasant enough for some families to settle down on the beach and build a few sandcastles. We imagined bringing Rose down there one day to do the same.

We then headed to the West Sands which were a hive of activity with all manner of recreations underway. With a brisk breeze it was perfect for Sand Yachting (if not for cycling) and the yachters were flying across the sands at a hell of a pace. There were also kite surfers out and about as well as the usual plethora of walkers and runners plus an isolated angler.

I didn't spot anyone with a metal detector on the beach (although I have seen a few there in the past). I went out with my detector yesterday and found a few interesting bits and pieces - nothing of any great age or note. This item is a bit of a puzzle. It is complete. Any ideas what it might have been used for? I would love to know what it might be - answers in the comments below please.

The weather forecast is for more of the same tomorrow so we're planning another ride. This time it's a long one down to Tentsmuir Forest. It's a haven for wildlife but wildlife was closer to home today when we went to Duncan and Sarah's for lunch. Duncan has spent lots of time renovating a big pond in the garden and recently filled it with fish. Unfortunately the new fish didn't go unnoticed by the locals and  Duncan looked out of the window during lunch to see this magnificent creature having a fair old paddle. It was so brazen that when Duncan scared it off it merely sauntered to the neighbours' roof and looked greedily at the remaining goldfish with a look that said 'just wait until you go out'. Having the same experience with our pond in Southport I suspect that it's a pond keeper's occupational (and expensive) hazard.


Thursday, 8 March 2012

St Andrews Musings

I decided to take a drive around the farms just outside St Andrews today to see if I could get permission to have a look around some fields with my metal detector. With the sun peeking out from behind the clouds there were some magnificent views of the city from the neighbouring hillsides. It really is a beautiful spot. I didn't have to drive for too long as the first farmer I visited was very welcoming and said that I could come and have a wander around his fields at the weekend. It's so good to be able to drive five minutes from the caravan to the detecting site - I usually have to drive well over an hour from Southport.

Whilst on the subject of metal detecting, I've mentioned it before but have you seen the Aviva ad with Paul Whitehouse? In case you haven't, here it is.

It has caused quite a stir on the metal detecting forums as some detectorists are offended by Whitehouse's depiction of them as geeky nerds or nerdy geeks. These comments are then followed by a lengthy discourse on how Whitehouse has set the detector up wrongly, is not using the right discrimination settings, is holding the detector too high and is swinging it too fast. Others complain that the particular model he's using doesn't make that sound. Geeky nerds? Never.

The moon over the caravan site was fabulous last night. It's a pity that I only had the phone to photograph it.  Marion watched her favourite TV show 'One Born Every Minute'. She insists on watching it every week and spends half the show in tears. I read a great and very accurate review of it today by Dinah Hatch you can read it here. 

We managed to see our very own baby - our little granddaughter Rose - again today. Her adventurous weaning continued with a lunch of home made bread followed by spinach and pepper frittata and a dessert of freshly baked banana muffin. It's a big change from the pureed carrot that we gave her mum. 

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Back In Fife

We didn't sleep well last night after going out for a big meal at The Warehouse in Southport. So, instead of waiting we got up at 4.50, dressed, loaded the car and were on our way to St Andrews long before the alarm was set to go off. As we reached Scotland we were met with rainbow after rainbow - a colourful welcome back to Alba. It's great to be back and, as most of the caravan owners work in the week and only visit the site at the weekend, once again, we've got the place almost to ourselves.

And here are two very good reasons for buying the caravan. We still can't get over how wonderful it is to be able to see daughter Sarah and granddaughter Rose without getting under their feet. We've probably had almost ten weeks here in the last eight months and, without the caravan it would have been maybe two at most. Although it's only six weeks since we last saw them, Rose has made great progress and she's now sitting up comfortably and eating a huge variety of different foods. The method Sarah is using to wean Rose involves her eating exactly the same stuff as her mum and dad - so this evening she tucked into paella (of all things) and enjoyed it immensely.

Just down the road from Sarah and Duncan is this old doocot (dovecote). It's an historic building and has been very sympathetically restored. It once sat in the middle of a farmstead but is now hidden within a modern housing estate.

Nanny Marion is in her element with children and had a great afternoon getting to know Rose again. I'm sure that she recognised us though.

I mentioned my nephew Chris and his wife Becky's new arrival on my last blog and here is the first photo of baby Emmy who weighed in at a healthy 8lbs plus. I'm sure there is a bit of a family resemblance  there. I'm delighted that all went well.

I'll leave you today with this great video that I've been saving for our return to Scotland.

Scotland The World Over from Blipfoto on Vimeo.

Monday, 5 March 2012

The Man From The Architects He Say Yes

Our planned relocation took a step closer to becoming reality today when the architect we instructed phoned to say that all our proposed plans for the property in Suffolk were feasible. Marion and I, heavily influenced by Kirsty Allsopp, looked at the property with a view to what could be done with it rather than what it's like now. I'm quite excited by the plans as they involve removing three walls, fitting two new bathrooms and a new kitchen and doing some very interesting stuff to bring more light into the property with glass doors that wrap around a corner making a big feature of the lounge. The next stage is for a survey to be carried out and, if the surveyor gives us the nod, get the ball rolling with the conveyancing.

After the hectic activity of the last couple of weeks we're going to have a bit of a rest and are heading up to St Andrews to see Sarah, Duncan and Rose. As a foretaste to our long distance building project in Suffolk, we arranged to have some decking built around the caravan in February but the joiners now want to fit it while we are there next week; what's that they say about the best laid plans? It's going to be great to see our granddaughter for the first time in six weeks. I wonder how much she will have changed.

The caravan may turn out to be a Godsend if the sale of our own house goes through before the work in Suffolk is finished. At least we'll have a roof over our heads - then we'll be project managing at 469 miles instead of 260 miles. Some might doubt our sanity at buying a house and knocking it about so much when we could buy a brand new house for less but the beauty of doing this is that we will have exactly what we want rather than compromising. Some of the new houses we viewed had badly planned layouts and pretty poor quality fittings.

It was a big day for our nephew Chris (pictured here (2nd right) almost thirty years ago ) today. He and his lovely wife Becky are celebrating the arrival of a daughter, their first child (tentatively Emmy) this morning - congratulations to them. We are delighted that everything went well and look forward to seeing the new addition to the family soon.

Of course this means that my brother Peter - forever a Peter Pan at heart - now has the soubriquet Granddad and, there's no escaping it Pete, that means you are now officially old.

A big thank you to our friends David and Janet Wareing who treated us to a wonderful lunch at The Hand in Llanarmon near Llangollen yesterday. It's a great pub with open fires, excellent food and friendly service and it's highly recommended. I saw that they also do B&B at very reasonable rates and I imagine that a short break with such good food and in such beautiful countryside would make a fabulous escape.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

The End Of An Era

The sun is starting to set on an era here in Coudray Rd. The sold sign went up on our next door neighbour's property last week and yesterday the removal van turned up and, house empty, suddenly our lovely neighbour Vincent is no longer around to share a few friendly words and help us out when we are away. 

Although Vincent moved in next to us over twenty years ago, we didn't get to know him very well until his wife tragically died some three years ago; we were working and Vincent and Pauline were enjoying a busy retirement. Since he became a widower we have seen him frequently and he never ceases to amuse us with his excellent anecdotes and some great jokes as well as being a very interesting and intelligent conversationalist. He's taking us out to The Warehouse for a final meal together on Tuesday and after that our paths are unlikely to cross very often. We will miss him.

And as the sun set on Vincent, I took the opportunity to snap our own house in anticipation of putting it on the market soon. The poor new neighbours will wonder what they've done to offend when they see a board go up within weeks of their arrival. I hope they aren't from any minority that might think that we may be selling because of them. Vincent can't remember who has bought his house as it was months since he had all the viewings and he can't recall the family although he thinks that they've got children. Children will be nice as the road could do with some new blood with most of the kids who grew up here over the last twenty years having flown the nest. We'll see when the removal van rolls up.

I was flicking through the local free sheet yesterday and came across an article about local actor and dancer Daniel Crossely pictured above right in his staring role in Singin' In The Rain in London's West End. Daniel's dad Tony was a friend of mine when I was a spotty youth just starting out on a career in Barclays and he was head of the securities department. Marion and I sometimes babysat for Tony's two sons when they were tiny and we were delighted to see Daniel's success as it's not far off forty years since we last saw them. It's so sad that Tony didn't live long enough to see him in The West End. I know how proud he would have been.