Wednesday, 31 July 2013

To Ipswich To The World's End

There was a change of plans today as our child minding stint in Rochester was postponed. So we found ourselves with time on our hands and, after doing a pile of ironing, we decided to head to Woodbridge and get some of the miniature paintings that we bought at Westhall on Sunday framed. 

It was pouring with rain - ideal for a trip to the cinema - so we looked for something light and decided on The World's End which was showing at Cineworld down the road in Ipswich. It felt like the world's end when we arrived at the multiplex and found it heaving. It seemed that half the parents in Ipswich had, like us, taken the rain as a prompt for a movie trip and it was bedlam in the foyer as they queued with their kids for tickets for Monsters University and Despicable Me . Fortunately buying online (well done Cineworld no booking fee plus discount for members), we bypassed the mayhem and went straight in to the screen.

We like Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and loved Shaun Of The Dead. Hot Fuzz was okay. The cast of The World's End includes Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Rosamund Pike which is a pretty strong line up by any measure. The screening was full but we were about forty years older than 99% of the crowd which perhaps suggests that we are not quite the target audience Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright were aiming for. I would love to say that it was hilarious but I'm afraid that it was more "alright" than "great". 

Pegg plays his Peter Pan role as Gary King a forty year old looking to recreate a pub crawl that he and four friends failed to complete in their home town of Newton Haven when they were just eighteen. His friends now have respectable middle class lives but alcoholic King hasn't changed. He just wants to have fun and he persuades them to (reluctantly) join him. Like Shaun Of The Dead there's a lot of chasing and being chased as they discover that the inhabitants of Newton Haven are not quite what they seem. There are plenty of pretty corny jokes and some visual slapstick but I wouldn't go to the world's end to see it.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is good. Perhaps we'll be able to get out on our new bikes for the first time.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Some Secret Mini Paintings

It's pretty hectic at the moment as we've been doing some temporary child minding in Rochester. It's wonderful being able to see more of Paul and his lovely wife Josephine and we love looking after our granddaughter Catherine while they work. She was one yesterday and they took her to London for a fabulous celebration. It looks like we'll be here on Mondays and Wednesdays for a few weeks and, apart from the driving, we're going to enjoy it.

In the meantime our getting to know the area holiday continues and yesterday we had a day out to the Beccles region. We sat for a while at the picturesque quay and then headed to the village of Westhall as we had read about  a secret art auction that they were holding in the village hall. The organisers had asked artists from far and wide to donate a postcard sized artwork and over 160 individual pieces were provided. These were on display together with a list of the artists but, importantly, the names were not attached to the works.

The event was brilliantly organised and extremely well run and we enjoyed a very pleasant few hours in the village hall.The standard of work was very high and, as we love collecting paintings but no longer have much wall space for new ones, the postcard sized pictures were perfect for us. The only room we have that is unfinished is a small bedroom that we plan to fit out for when the grandchildren visit so a few suitable pieces caught our eyes. They were clearly by accomplished artists and, although many postcards were selling for under a tenner, we were not surprised to be bid up on our choices.

We paid £52 for this highly original bush baby in acrylic which turned out to be by Mark Ward a Halesworth artist who specialises in creating exotic fauna in everyday materials and painting them. The kids will adore this.

We recognised that this piece was by acclaimed artist Mark Burrell whose paintings are full of fantasy and vivid colour and again we felt that it would sit very well in the babies' room. Titled The Swan Boat it is a miniature masterpiece and were delighted to be the high bidders  at £210 which was just inside the limit that we set ourselves.

We paid another £32 in total for these three pieces titled Abstract, Michael and Narcissus. The first two of the artists are from abroad and, though relatively unknown, they have exhibited widely and their paintings are very interesting. The final one Narcissus is a very delicate little oil painting by a local artist. Together the little collection of postcard sized paintings will provide Rose and Catherine with plenty to look at and talk about when they come to stay.

The proceeds of the auction were in support of this wonderful children's charity so it was money very well spent. 

Other funds raised at the event went in aid of Westhall's fabulous medieval church - another very worthwhile cause. We haven't visited yet but I believe that it houses some outstanding medieval painting and we look forward to a trip.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Before Midnight Before Teatime

The weather has remained glorious for another week. It hasn't exactly been cinema weather but we tend to get withdrawal symptoms when we go too long without our regular movie fix. There are quite a few films that we want to see on release at the moment  so we opted for the matinee at the shortest drive which is the Riverside in Woodbridge.

With the temperature on the dashboard reading at 29.5 C we left ourselves plenty of time to explore the riverside harbour. The famous tide mill looked fabulous beneath a cloudless sky.

And we walked along the river bank to the quayside cottage that Paul and Josephine rented a few years ago long before we had any plans to relocate here.

We bought a few bits and pieces for the kitchen in a fantastic kitchenware shop  (The Woodbridge Kitchen Company at 7 Thoroughfare) and then enjoyed an ice cream at The Riverside before the film. If you are in Suffolk and serious about cooking you should check the shop out - it had everything that we were looking for and plenty more besides. It's good to see an independent retailer holding its own on a high street.

The film, Before Midnight, is the third so far in Richard Linklater's series of films charting the love affair between Jake (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) who met almost two decades ago in Before Sunrise. In that film the pair roamed the streets of Vienna after meeting on a train. In Before Sunset we met up with them again and now we find them in Greece. Jake is seeing off his son by his failed marriage on the plane home to the USA after six weeks staying with him and Celine at the idyllic home of a famous novelist. 

After leaving the airport the couple chat briefly about a job that Celine has been offered. They are not married but have twin daughters. Celine wants to take the job in Paris; Jake is interested in spending more time with his son in Chicago. 

There are only five real scenes in the film: the airport , the drive back, a garden conversation,  a dinner party and then the scene that makes the film - the couple has been given a night in a swish hotel as a leaving gift. The hosts are to look after the twins and Jake and Celine are alone together for the remainder of the film. It echoes those earlier films as they set off from the dinner party villa and walk together past ancient ruins and via a chapel to the room. It is so well done that it almost feels as if it is one take. We've been together for longer than Jake and Celine and we both found the conversation very real. There's romance - "will you still love me when I'm 97" , and there's conflict - the job versus the son. And it all works beautifully. The couple have real magic together and the dialogue is funny, sometimes sexy, often romantic and always very very sharp. 

Although I felt that the garden and dinner party scenes somewhat padded out the film unnecessarily as perhaps one hors d'oeuvre too many, it is well worth waiting for the main course. It's an excellent finale. Do try and see it.   

Monday, 22 July 2013

On Holiday At Home

When you are retired life is a constant holiday but it's more so for us, as, having moved to a completely new part of the country, we don't know a great deal about where we are living. So we've decided to treat July and August as a bit of a holiday while we discover more about where we are.

On Saturday the weather changed a little and was cooler with a light cloud covering. This was good for us as we had booked a boat trip run by the RSPB to Havergate Island. It's Suffolk's only island and it is not much more than a strip of grassland flanked by muddy lagoons. But it is home to an incredible array of wildlife and we had a very enjoyable morning sitting in the hides and watching the avocets, spoonbills and much more through our guide's super powerful telescope.

The hides all have helpful charts for identifying what you see.

And they are well fitted out with plenty of room for visitors to watch in comfort.

We managed to see the famous hares.

It's not scenic but we had an interesting three hours and if we were keen bird watchers I think we would have added a fair few new species to our spotting books as even our guide said he'd seen some rarities.

It was good to see the boats under sail in the river.

When the boat docked back at Orford we went for a coffee at the famous Pump St Bakery and then bought some very fresh seafood from the shed on the quay. 

I made a very simple Saturday meal with the lobsters and they were absolutely delicious.

On Sunday we went to Rochester for our granddaughter Catherine's first birthday party. I've put a few photos on my Facebook page. Josephine baked a fabulous strawberry cake which looked great and tasted delicious.

Today we've holidayed in our home town of Framlingham. 

We visited our local castle and enjoyed the displays, a walk around the walls and watching the children's entertainment laid on by English Heritage who were putting kids through their paces at jousting and an assault course - great fun. I can't wait to bring the grandchildren.

After a refreshing glass of cider in sunshine at The Crown, Marion bought a few more summer outfits from Ruby Tyger and had a quick look at the other clothes shops before heading home. We had a lovely afternoon all within a quarter of a mile of the house.

To end the day on a high note. We dined outside on some home made fresh pasta that I got from a recipe in Jamie's Italian cook book. It was supposed to have home made pesto with it but as the Co-Op had run out of pine nuts, Leo's Deli came to the rescue and I used theirs (which was delicious and probably better than what I would have made).

It's days like today that make retirement very special.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Getting To Know Where We're Living - At Last

Six months after moving into our new house we've finally managed to find a bit of time to get to know our new location.

On Wednesday evening we celebrated our wedding anniversary at Lemon Tree Bistro. We've been five or six times now and we've always enjoyed the food and the relaxing surroundings and some very good service. It's great to have a choice of good places to eat within a few minutes walk of the house. The Lemon Tree and The Crown are our favourites but there's also a good Indian restaurant and a Chinese that we haven't got around to trying yet - we aren't huge fans of Asian food. 

Yesterday we took advantage of the continuing glorious weather and ventured a few miles down the road to Helmingham Hall. In the hands of the same family - the Tollemaches - since Tudor times, it is a magnificent and spectacular moated mansion. The house is not open to the public but the gardens are open four afternoons a week and what beautiful gardens they are. Landscaped by the current lady of the manor and Chelsea gold medallist Xa Tollemache there is a formal walled garden, a wildflower walk, a yew walk, a knot garden and much more. 

As well as stunning borders, there's an impressive display of topiary which added a nice touch of humour to the visit. 

We were lucky enough to see the glorious gardens at their summer best. After walking around and taking in plenty of Xa Tollemache's  ideas we enjoyed a pleasant bite to eat at the hall's cafe. Our own garden may be on a substantially smaller scale but our designer is also a Chelsea medallist and I'm sure that, as it matures , the garden will be equally colourful.

It was a very enjoyable afternoon and we're looking forward to discovering more of our local surroundings over the next few weeks.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

We Always Wanted A Pet

Some people think I'm not an animal lover. Just because I was traumatised for life by a one eyed greyhound chasing me on my bike when I was five doesn't mean that I'm an animal hater - although what that cyclops greyhound was doing on my bike is another matter.

No, I got over being chased by that beast when I was about fifteen and gradually started to warm towards animals until I was attacked by an Alsatian on the way to church. He did drop his bible before pouncing.

When we got married we had tropical fish and the kids even had a hamster and some goldfish when they were growing up so we didn't deprive them of the joys of pet ownership.

Here in our new home town almost everybody has a dog and we felt a bit left out. So we thought long and hard about it. Dogs can be good company. They can bring happiness. They can encourage you to exercise. They can help social interaction. But if you spend lots of time travelling they can be a bit of a bind. They can also scratch things and, after investing a small fortune in doing the house up, that's not exactly ideal.

So we've come up with the perfect solution. It doesn't need feeding. There's no poo to pick up. It runs happily around the garden. It doesn't make any noise and, to top it all, it keeps the lawn looking tidy. Here it is. 

All we need now is a name. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

It Was 37 Years Ago Today

It hardly seems five minutes but it's thirty-seven years ago today that we walked down the aisle (if that's what they had in Chatham Register Office) and tied the knot. It was a scorching day in the famous summer of 76 - a summer of near constant sunshine. As things are going at the moment perhaps we will have a repeat of that year as we must be close to 30 degrees here in Framlingham today.

We would never in a thousand years have predicted that we would be spending our 37th anniversary in this lovely little town but we have had a good day sorting out a new accountant and then looking at the local shops. Marion bought some new stuff in the excellent lingerie shop (sadly closing soon) some jewellery in H-P's Emporium and a lovely smock at Ruby Tyger - as I've said before on here we are blessed with some good shops for a small town. Tonight we're looking forward to a celebration meal at Lemon Tree Bistro.

I wrote yesterday about our visit to David and Janet Wareing. Here's Dave as my best man on that day. He's not changed a great deal.

Sadly only my mum (far left) remains of our parents who all looked so young in 1976.

Marion's beloved dad had a very happy day.

But most of all it was about us.I've had a wonderful thirty-seven years. It would be great if we could manage to make it to another.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Cool In Llangollen

Lack of WIFI at the caravan site and a couple of days on the road has meant a near blogless week for me. But we're just back home in Framlingham and, having spent twenty four hours getting straight, I finally find myself with a bit of time to spare.

The cool in today's heading doesn't refer to the weather in the famous Welsh tourist spot but rather to Jools Holland and his rhythm and blues band who closed the annual Eisteddfod on Sunday night. I don't think we've ever seen such an array of cool people in one place as Jools and his musicians to a man (and woman) epitomise the word. It was a fantastic concert and we had a wonderful evening. Jools has that something that gets you involved and on his side. He came on with a broad smile that stayed with him for the almost two hours that he was on stage. It became infectious and when the band performed "Give Me Sunshine" for their encore, it had spread to the entire audience. The show was performed with amazing professionalism and covered a huge rage of musical styles including plenty of blues and, my favourite, reggae. 

David Wareing with brother and sister in law Mike and Ann and business partner David with his wife Carol

Marion, Janet and David's stepmother Joyce

We were in Llangollen courtesy of our old friends David and Janet Wareing. They have owned a beautiful cottage retreat nestling on the hillside between the castle and town for twenty years now and their Eisteddfod parties have become the stuff of legend. We have been blessed with wonderful weather on several times when we have been fortunate enough to join them and Sunday was possibly the hottest we have experienced. 

Three generations of David and Janet's family came to the event and I am annoyed that I didn't get a chance to photo the younger generation who are now in their twenties as I have some photos of them from a party in the nineties and it would have been good to show how they have all changed. On that similarly hot day they were all playing in a paddling pool and with a sprinkler. This time they all disappeared later in the day to swim in the River Dee.

Poor Marion has been suffering from a terrible cough for the last week but I thought that she looked great at the party. She had a relax between the horrendous bouts of coughing. 

En route to Llangollen we stayed over with other dear friends Dave and Jane Haworth. We've been friends for over thirty years and miss our regular get togethers with them. Jane prepared a great meal for us in her fabulous new kitchen and then got us envious with their photos of a holiday in The Maldives. I don't think I've ever seen sea so perfectly blue. It was fabulous to see then both looking so fit and well and we're really looking forward to catching up with them again soon.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Not So Fine Dining In St Andrews

Whenever we visit the caravan we try and treat ourselves to a meal out at least once during our stay. I was about to book for our usual favourite when I spotted some terrible recent reviews on TripAdvisor. Any restaurant or hotel can get the odd poor review and, provided the general trend is good, we tend to ignore the isolated grumble. But these reviews posted over the last few weeks were very bad indeed and we felt that we shouldn’t risk wasting a considerable sum if something is amiss there.

So we tried somewhere new; at least new to us. I’m not into criticism so I’m not going to name the restaurant but, whilst it had a lively and buzzing atmosphere, the food was decidedly average and we won’t be heading back in a hurry. At £65 for two including a glass of wine each it was not the cheapest venue in town - we’ve had far better meals in St Andrews at half the price. So it was a case of out of the frying pan into the fire. We avoided the risk of disaster at our favourite place but didn’t enjoy the substitute. We’ll be reading the Trip Advisor reviews with interest next time we’re here in September.

Today we discovered somewhere new when we went with Sarah and Rose to Craigtoun Country Park. It adjoins Craigtoun Meadows Holiday Park where we are sited but it was not open last year as far as I am aware. It’s a very pleasant park with a playground, boating, putting and plenty of other stuff to keep families amused and we had a very enjoyable couple of hours there in warm sunshine.

Our fortnight here is drawing to a close. It’s been very hot and sunny and I believe that there’s been similar in Framlingham. I just hope that after all the time and effort that Tony from DNA Landscapes put into landscaping the garden, our gardener has managed to keep everything alive. We’ll find out on Monday.