Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Boy Do We Have A Church!

It's a pity that we are not religious as we've just discovered that our local church is not only a wonderful historic building but also houses some of the most fabulous religious artifacts we've ever seen. Of course we'd read about the church plenty of times when we were researching where to move to but imagined most of these glowing reports to be tinged with a touch of  exaggeration to attract tourists. We thought that we would save a visit until we were settled in and had some visitors to stay. But with another house full of workers today (two kitchen fitters, the landscape gardener and the men delivering the new garden office (at last)) we felt it best to escape the upheaval and brought our visit forward. We discovered that the reports were far from hyperbole and, if anything, slightly understated.  

We popped into the Lemon Tree for an excellent light lunch (squid and chorizo salad and a veggie burger) before heading across the road to the church. 

St Michael's dates from medieval times.

This is the amazing church organ. My photo doesn't do it justice. It dates from the 1600's and is ornately carved and finely painted.

This fragment of medieval art is more complete than that we saw recently in Rochester Cathedral.

The Duke Of Norfolk's tomb is as spectacular as any you are likely to see anywhere not just in the UK. It is a masterpiece that easily matched some of the works you might find in Renaissance Italy.

And that's just one of several spectacular tombs inside the church. Here is another.

The fourteenth century font is another medieval masterpiece.

And the church interior is of near cathedral proportions.

We didn't have long to explore the building today and I reckon it's somewhere that we can go back to again and again and always discover something new. 

It certainly humbles our own "Grand Design" but, after feeling fed up earlier in the week, we're starting to see some signs of progress.


Marion's Southwold Beach Hut potting shed is going up.

And Tony has put the curve into the lawn area and prepared the groundworks for the paths and the small patio outside the office. It almost looks like we're planning go-karting in the garden. 

We still feel a bit like prisoners in our home but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and we've got two weeks in the caravan to look forward to soon. Maybe when we get back we'll be nearly finished and ready to settle properly into our new life here in this wonderful little town. 

Monday, 25 February 2013

Fed Up In Framlingham

Don't get me wrong, we love it here in our new home town but we've been in the house for five weeks tomorrow and we've still got an endless stream of workers and delivery people beating their path to the door. We pity the neighbours who have had to put up with over seven months of this now. It would be good if we could see the light at the end of the tunnel but things don't seem to move as quickly as we're used to and I can't see us actually being settled until the end of April.

Marion's having a potting shed built in the garden. It's a really nice little shed designed in the style of a Southwold beach hut. The men from Anson Timberworks started to erect it on Friday and returned on Saturday but then asked if they could come back on Sunday. We didn't think that we should put our neighbours through another day of hammering and sawing so we politely declined - a decision which we now discover means that they can't come back to finish it until Saturday.

Today was the turn of the curtain fitters who came and fitted Roman Blinds in the dining area, hall and two bathrooms, voiles in our bedroom and curtains in the spare bedroom They also fitted curtain track in the kitchen but now have to go back and make the curtains and blinds for that area so that's another visit next week. We've got Orwells coming on Wednesday to fit the splash back which will mean that the kitchen will finally be finished after starting on 8 December (not quite there are still those curtains I just mentioned).

On Thursday we've got a dressing table and bedside cabinets coming for the spare bedroom.

Meanwhile landscape gardener Tony continues to slog away in the garden. He reckons that we'll see good progress next week after weeks of groundwork. The decking is coming on Friday and paths should be in place later this week. We've still got two fences, the whole of the front garden and resurfacing of the drive to be done in March and then, when all that is done, the garden has to be planted and the exterior of the house has to be decorated.

We did lots of work on our last house and had the similar experience of dust, noise and a house full of workers but in those days we had the luxury of going to work and leaving them to it. Now, retired and not wanting to be at home, we find ourselves escaping by making regular trips to The Dancing Goat, The Crown, The Station and the gym at Ufford Park to keep ourselves out of the chaos.

The new garden office was scheduled to arrive today - it didn't.

On a positive note, we're finally getting the hang of the wood burning stove.

Friday, 22 February 2013


It's been a week in which nothing much has happened. After last Friday when the house was packed with workers it was business as usual on Monday when, after a brief visit from decorator Gerald to finish off the shelves, we were left on our own with just landscape gardener Tony slogging away in the garden.

Marion has been under the weather with flu like symptoms for almost two weeks so we had some time indoors and,in a break from reading Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead (don't ask)  for the Framlingham book club, we watched the charming Japanese film I Wish kindly lent to us by Scott Pack of Meandmybigmouth fame (see links to his blogs over there one the right). This is  a beautiful little movie about two brothers whose parents have separated. One lives with his mum and the other with his dad. They go on an adventure with friends to a spot where they can meet up and watch the famous bullet trains pass - an event that they have been told has magical wish fulfilling qualities. It's a simple story beautifully told. Not quite a rites of passage movie (the children are pre-teen) it has an innocence that probably wouldn't work with English or American kids. Try and seek it out if you can. 

We managed to venture out on Wednesday and the weather held up for us to go on a walk around the surrounding countryside. We walked with a group who get together monthly for an easy ramble and it was a gentle way for Marion to get a bit of exercise after being out of action for so long. 

Yesterday we had a look at some other local villages and drove to Orford where we saw the imposing castle, bought some excellent local smoked food from the famous Pinney's Smokehouse and enjoyed a fine snack at the Pump St Bakery. It's quite amazing that a tiny place like Orford can have at least three first class attractions like this and I'm quite sure that the local village shop and pubs would also be worthy of a mention if we had tried them. On the way home we had a look at the Maltings at Snape and are sure that it will become a regular place to take visitors when we have some.

As for the progress I referred to in my heading, Tony the landscaper has made great progress with the base for the decking as you can see from the photos above. In addition the men from Anson Timberworks came today and delivered Marion's beach hut style potting shed. It should be erected by Monday and the garden office should be complete by this time next week - at last.

Friday, 15 February 2013

A Record Day Today

You would think that, now that we are actually living in the house, the upheaval of workmen would be a thing of the past. Nothing could have been further from the truth this morning as the neighbours had to put up with no less than five transit vans turning up between eight and eight thirty. Electrician Trevor was preparing his certificate for the house electrics, Tony the gardener and son Carl were continuing with the landscaping, Roger the builder arrived to put up some shelves and mirrors, Gerald the decorator was here to tidy up some cracks in the new plaster and paint the shelves Roger was installing and Rob the tiler came to sort out some tiling that we weren't happy with in one of the bathrooms (not Rob's work I hasten to add). So the house was a madhouse again and we were both relieved to get out of their hair and leave them to it. Marion  headed off to Carley Hill Hair for a full treatment (her hair looks lovely) and I headed off to the iStore in Ipswich to see if they could do anything with the old laptop. 

Now they have all gone, peace has descended upon the house once again (together with a hell of a lot of dust from all their endeavours).

Until the work finally comes to an end I think that we're going to feel like we are living in limbo and unable to start our new life here in Framlingham properly. It won't be too long now. The new office is scheduled to arrive on 25th and the garden should be finished and ready for planting by the end of March - only another six weeks. (Only).

We are trying to get settled though. On Monday we tried out the new gym - very good. Marion had a new class, Tae Bo, and although it exhausted her, she enjoyed it. 

On Tuesday our old sales director Nick popped over and stayed the night. We didn't have any curtains for his room but we managed to black the window out.

Nick very kindly sourced some fantastic chefs' knives for us so we now stand the risk of amputation at every mealtime. He also took us for an excellent meal at The Station,our local pub (named in last week's Sunday Times as one of the UK's top fifty venues for a value for money Valentine's dinner). It wasn't Valentine's day but it was an excellent meal.

On Wednesday there was a fabulous cookery demonstration by renowned Norfolk (I'm supposed to boo here now I'm from Suffolk I believe), chef Galton Blackiston at Framlingham College. We've been a bit spoilt by the FramSoc run by the college as we've had two great nights there in under a week. Galton is a chef with a personality and his three course meal for entertaining at home was spectacular but also very simple and I can't wait to give the recipes a try. I loved his lamb fillets rolled in the trimmed skin with spinach and black pudding but sadly didn't win the raffle to take the dish home with me. His mashed potatoes were to die for but sadly with my blood pressure they would be to die for and with healthy (or should that be unhealthy?) dollops of cream, butter,cheese and milk I'm afraid that Marion won't be putting them on the menu any time soon.

On Thursday I had a bit of an adventure and headed for London at 6.50 to help out son Paul who was arranging a run through of a number of new TV shows that he and his colleagues are developing. Obviously I can't tell you anything about the shows on here but I took the role of contestant and found all the ideas interesting and several of them very exciting. I look forward to seeing some of them commissioned very soon. Paul's latest creation Beat The Pack is airing on BBC in the not too distant future.

I got back from London in time to take Marion for a Valentine's dinner at The Crown Hotel in the centre of town. It's a place that has had mixed reviews over the years but new proprietors Dave and India have really made their mark on the place and we've enjoyed lots of visits for snacks, drinks and coffees over the last few months but this was our first full meal. It was excellent.  The complimentary Valentine's prosecco set us up nicely. I had asparagus with a crumbed poached duck egg as a starter followed by a rump steak cooked exactly as I asked. Marion enjoyed a home made soup and Guinea Fowl. The desserts of panna cotta and cheese were equally lovely and the young waiters were charming and attentive - a very successful evening. 

And speaking of lovely, these beautiful flowers arrived from our dear friend Liz who worked with us at Instanta.  Not only do they look fabulous but the house has been full of their heady spring scent. What a lovely thought from a lovely person. Hope you can come and see us here soon Liz.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Will It Never End?

I feel really sorry for Tony the landscape gardener. It's as if he's playing a game of snakes and ladders. The weather stops him from coming for almost a week and then it thaws and he gets a good five or six days of work under his belt and then we wake up today to this. It may look lovely but it's certainly delaying our progress and I can see the whole refurbishment stretching to almost nine months by the time we finish.

I was only thinking how well Tony was doing on Friday when I took these photos. You can't knock him for effort. He's arrived today and is cracking on despite the layer of snow.

We fancied a trip to the pictures yesterday and hoped to go to the Riverside in Woodbridge or the cinema in Aldeburgh but we'd seen the films that they were showing so we headed to Cineworld in Ipswich to watch "Flight". I messed up with the times and thought that the film started at 2.40. We got there punctually but discovered it was a 2.20 screening. Marion said it wasn't worth bothering but we went in to find the trailers still running. It makes you realise just how long the pre-film advertising runs for. Denzel Washington was excellent as the alcoholic pilot and the film is an entertaining couple of hours diversion although it slows down considerably after the opening in fight scenes. 

Before the film we headed to Ufford and joined the gym. It's nicely equipped, very friendly and not very posh so we should fit in okay. We're going to give it a try this morning if the roads are not too icy.

If you are in our address book you will have hopefully received our change of address card a day or two ago. We used to send ourselves up and I must thank Mark Palmer of Mark Palmer Photography here in Framlingham who entered into the spirit of things and announced himself as a paparazzo upon arrival. He took a lot of shots and we were absolutely delighted with the results. If we can ever get all the family together here in Framlingham a visit to Mark's studio will be a must.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

A Couple Of Highly Recommended Websites

When you're buying as much as we've been buying for the house over the last six months you need to get the best possible value for money and the best service. As we were ordering from the caravan, which is over five hundred miles from the house, there was no chance of buying locally so the internet was the only real option available. We used a lot of  household names such as Marks & Spencer, John Lewis and NEXT and all of them were extremely good but several lesser known sites also performed fantastically and deserve a special mention as they were were brilliant to deal with.

Bolton based Boundary Bathrooms provided almost all of the fittings for the family bathroom and en-suite. I don't have a wide angled lens or you would get a better idea of how good both rooms look. The staff at Boundary were always helpful; the prices were always competitive; deliveries were prompt and efficient and when I ordered a shower screen that was not the right size, they made a real effort to arrange a refund despite a delay of several months before we realised our mistake. They always returned calls promptly and made a big effort in helping us to sort out the replacement shower screen.They also followed up after orders to check if all was okay. If you are looking for anything for your bathroom make them your first point of call - you won't be disappointed.

We  came across when browsing for a couple of light fittings. Their prices looked good and there was a loyalty scheme where you earned cash back towards your next order so we gave them a try. The lights arrived next day and we were very impressed. So when we needed more lights we went straight to Wayfair's site and started to browse. It was only then that we realised just how many items they had on offer. It is no exaggeration to say that there were a thousand or more lights to choose from. They ranged from a few pounds to thousands. We bought lights for bathrooms, hall, landing, stairs and a number of table lamps.  Browsing the site we found that lighting is just a small fraction of what they sell and we went on to order a couple of breakfast bar stools from another amazing selection running to many hundreds. Prices are very keen, choice is amazing and when our builder pointed out to us that a light fitting was broken (months after it was delivered) even though we told them that we were not sure how and when it was damaged, Wayfair exchanged it without a quibble - now that's what I call service. 

We wanted towel radiators in the bathrooms and WC. could not have been more helpful. They were let down by a supplier but  pulled out all the stops to find an alternative quickly and efficiently and most probably at a loss to most of their profit margin. If you need a towel radiator you're sure to find one to suit your needs there.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Getting The Hang Of Things

Now that the major part of the work is complete it's time to start getting used to actually living here as opposed to managing a building project. Having said that, the landscaping of the garden is still ongoing and today Chris of DeakinLock ( called in with his planting layout for both the front and back gardens. It's an impressive design and should guarantee a brilliant array of colour throughout the year. He even thinks that we'll get some colour this year.

Garden apart, we've now got free time on our hands and Marion has been trying out a few of the local keep fit classes. We went to look at the college gym but, although it's very well equipped, being a college gym, the public hours are limited to early mornings and evenings and I prefer to exercise in the day. Marion was interested in their classes and may well give them a try. We've joined the college run local society FramSoc and are going to see The Brandreth Papers on Friday evening. Benet Brandreth is Gyles' son and this one man show got great reviews when he performed it at The Edinburgh Fringe in 2011 so it promises to be a good night. FramSoc also run a book club and are reading Ayn Rand this month - that promises to be a challenge.

I'm learning to work in the new kitchen and was quite adventurous tonight. I bought some Sea Bream from Darren the fishmonger at the local market on his special Tweet offer and steamed it in the steam oven with some fresh veg from the greengrocers and served it with my first attempt at home made tagliatelle. Apart from over-facing both of us by making too much, the meal was quite a success and I think we're going to get a lot out of both the steam oven and the pasta maker.

We're getting a lot out of using Skype on the Smart TV. I always thought Skype would be big and when it first came out in 2006 we rushed out and bought a load of webcams for Instanta and waited for all the customers to beam themselves into the office. Unfortunately we were ahead of our time and it didn't take off as quickly as expected. But today it is so simple to set up and, with a built in camera in the TV, we can see the family in full screen if we want.

My mum pops in regularly using her iPad.

We even get a good picture when son Paul uses his phone.

And it's just fantastic to have the grandchildren beamed into the kitchen. It will never be as good as seeing them face to face but when we are hundreds of miles apart it's the next best thing.

Monday, 4 February 2013

An Invaluable Tool For Home Design

If you're undertaking a home improvement project, however small, here's a program that you'll find invaluable. And when I say "however small" I mean it, as, being free, you can use Sweet Home 3D for something as simple as checking how a new piece of furniture will fit or, like us, something as complex as knocking out walls and redesigning entire floors of a property.

You start by putting in the walls and drawing a flat plan of the property like this and then continue to add furniture, flooring, ceilings, lighting and pretty much anything you need. We used it constantly during our project and it was fantastic when it came to deciding on where to position sanitary ware in the bathrooms and again when buying new dining furniture and looking at various options for kitchen layouts. I reckon it saved us making several mistakes as we had our hearts set on a couple of bits of furniture that we realised would not have fitted once we had input the details.

Once you've done your layout you can use the camera tools to look around the property in 3D and from every angle be it at normal head height or a bird's eye view.

Here's how Sweet Home 3D suggested the lounge would look.

You can then convert that view into a photo (or even a walk through video).

And here's how the lounge actually turned out - a pretty accurate prediction I think you'll agree.

The same applied to planning the kitchen/diner.

If I had a wide angled lens for my camera you could see just how accurate its predictions were.

There are so many more features to this fabulous program. Including a choice of lenses when taking snapshots of the designs. 

I really can't recommend this highly enough. It's been a fantastic tool in designing our project. Obviously there are professional versions but for us the free version was more than adequate.  You can download it at You won't be disappointed.