Thursday, 29 August 2013

A Few Miles Too Far

We took advantage of the continuing glorious weather today to get out on our bikes again for the last time before we head off to Scotland for the imminent arrival of grandchild number three. I said on the last blog that our ride was enough to feel that we had done some riding but not too much. Today I think we pushed that just a little too far as we chose to ride to Orford. It's about 17 miles by the route we chose and it was a very pleasant ride there. It took us under two hours and, apart from the occasional enormous piece of farm machinery, the roads were fairly quiet.

We stopped at the Orford quayside for a well earned drink and a home made sausage roll and cake before heading back along a slightly different route through Tunstall Forest. We did well but started to flag about half way back and by the time we reached Great Glemham we were pretty tired. But we carried on and managed to make it home in about the same time as the outward journey. This shows that about 34 miles is our limit at the moment. Perhaps when we get back into our normal routine and get back to the gym (we've not been since May despite paying £55 per month) our fitness will improve and we can look at some 40 mile round trips. 

When we got back there was a memory stick in the post from the wonderful Orwells of Ipswich who fitted our kitchen. They came to take some promotional photos a couple of months ago and promised us some copies. I think they are fantastic although I am not sure about the male model. 

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

A Long Weekend In Suffolk

We're in Rochester as I write. It's probably the last time that we will be here on child minding duties for some time as our third grandchild is due in the next couple of weeks and, as he or she will be arriving in Scotland, we'll be heading off to St Andrews very soon. We'll miss our regular visits to Kent - it's been wonderful seeing so much of our family over the summer months. 

We spent the Bank Holiday weekend at home in Framlingham. After a pleasant Saturday morning exploring the market and stocking up on some foodie treats at Leo's Deli, Hall Farm Butchers and Darren the fishmonger, we spent a bit of time enjoying coffee in The Crown where attempting the Times2 Jumbo Crossword has become a bit of a Saturday ritual. Needless to say I didn't manage to finish it again this week. I've only completed it once without cheating although I get close most weeks.

The weather was not too wet after lunch so I walked down to a local field to try my luck with the detector. I found stubble almost a foot tall which is not the easiest of conditions to detect on but I was very lucky and within a few minutes of arriving managed to find this.

I know that it doesn't look much but it is a silver annular brooch and dates from around the 12th century. Although the pin is bent it is in good condition and, as silver over a couple of hundred years old, it falls under the Treasure Regulations and I have reported it to the Suffolk Archaeology people in Bury St Edmunds. I thought that it might signal an afternoon of finds but I found little more of great interest although plenty of buttons and the usual stuff kept me occupied.

Sunday gave us the chance to get back out on our bikes. We headed off to Iken church. Standing on a promontory in the Alde Estuary, the ancient church is in a remote and idyllic spot.

It's an atmospheric old building and we loved its thatched roof - not something you see very often. We headed back to Framlingham via Tunstall Forest and Great Glemham after passing a handful of beautiful thatched cottages near Iken. It was another enjoyable ride without too many climbs and with just enough miles to makes us feel we'd done something but not too many for us to regret having done so.

Marion spent yesterday tidying the garden while I had a few more hours with the detector. No more finds - that silver brooch was a real stroke of luck. 

We'll be spending the rest of this week preparing for Scotland and hoping that the new baby does not arrive early.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Meeting Some Of The Locals

Although I am writing this in Rochester, we have had three consecutive days in Framlingham this week and it gave us time to get involved in a little activity locally.

On Wednesday I was invited to give a talk on my metal detecting hobby to the members of the Rotary Club Of High Suffolk at The Old Mill House pub in Saxtead Green. I prepared a power point presentation and took along a wide selection of finds as well as all the equipment. There was a bit of a technical hitch with the projector which meant that I had to give the talk without my notes but I managed to remember most of what I had intended to say and the talk seemed to go down well - plenty of questions were asked and there was a good response to a short competition that I ended the talk with. The pub put on a good meal and, it was an enjoyable evening with a very friendly bunch of people.

Last night we were invited to make up the numbers for a team in a pub quiz. Things didn't go too smoothly when we turned up at The Station instead of The Railway (a forgivable mistake don't you think?). Fortunately as the two pubs are only separated by a few hundred yards we made it to the right venue with plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately the couple we were originally teaming up with sent us a message earlier in the day to say that they were unable to come but encouraging us to go anyway. The quiz master put us in with another team and we made a respectable showing although I am not sure that my answer to "who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?" in the "answers beginning with F" round endeared me to my teammates. It turns out it wasn't Fonzie but Pope Francis (although I would contend that Pope Francis begins with P rather than F). Our contribution helped us to third place. The quiz is held every fourth Thursday and it's great fun. We'll be back for the next one which is in October due to refurbishments planned for the pub in September.

I also continued with the business mentoring that I am doing for Suffolk Chamber Of Commerce this week. I have been teamed up with a businesswoman in Newmarket who needed help in interpreting her financial figures. We started in May and I have set up a number of reports and budgets for her and she is now able to financially forecast and plan and fully interpret her balance sheet. Five meetings on and the project has been extended to cover trying to grow the business. It has been good to be able to share some of my experience with her and I hope that my help will make a difference to her success.

Sadly not all of the locals are as friendly as those from the quiz and the Rotary Club and one crept up my trouser leg at some time on Wednesday evening (perhaps it was bored by the talk) and left its mark. I didn't see what bit me but it left these two enormous blood filled lumps on my leg - ouch. I've gone all summer without being bitten once while Marion has been targeted scores of times.

We've got almost a week in Framlingham ahead of us now. We're hoping for some good weather so we can relax and enjoy the town and the garden and maybe even a couple of hours out with the detector or on the bikes.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Perfect Timing For A Suffolk Sahara

We're thinking of selling the Prius. We've had it for over three years now and we piled on the miles last year during our regular round trips between St Andrews and Framlingham. We've also been doing a hefty weekly mileage on our child minding trips to Rochester. Most of the piling on of the miles will be finishing shortly and now that we have a second car we can think of a sensible replacement for the Toyota. So, in anticipation of selling, I booked a valet a few weeks ago and yesterday Tony from Autogleam in Stowmarket  came and polished it until it shone like new inside and out. To make his journey more profitable for him I asked him to give the new car a wash too.

So, at about four o'clock yesterday we had two cars sitting on the drive and gleaming like new.

A couple of hours later were doing a bit of pottering about in the garden when we heard the rumble of machinery. In the distance I could see a combine harvester and accompanying truck running through the wheat fields - an idyllic late summer Suffolk scene little changed from when Constable painted his Hay Wain (apart from replacing the cart with the combine harvester).

We're new to this country living and we didn't quite appreciate the speed at which these modern agricultural monsters do the job. Less than half an hour later they had reached the field adjoining the garden.

And with them came dust clouds like a Saharan sandstorm. 

I can't complain. I love the view of bucolic life from our garden and I suppose a bit of dust is a small price to pay to be living within touching distance of the countryside.

Mind you the £100 plus paid for the valeting was not exactly money well spent. The cars looked pristine for all of five hours and it took half an hour this morning to (not particularly effectively) shift the dust. Talk about perfect timing!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Too Busy To Blog

When we were working and bumped into a retired friend or acquaintance they invariably told us how they were rushed off their feet with "not enough hours in the day" - you know the sort of thing. We would brush this off with a wry and knowing smile whilst thinking "of course you are rushed off your feet. You've got twenty four hours in every day and absolutely no work to worry about." But now that the tables have turned and we are in their shoes, we are the ones who are claiming there is too much to do and not enough time to do it in. So few hours that I've been unable to get time at the laptop to write for over seven days - my longest blogging absence since I started writing this almost three years ago.

So what has been taking up all this time? I hear you ask. Well our schedule for the last seven days went like this. 

On Monday we drove to Rochester to help out with a little childminding for a wonderful little granddaughter. We took her to the enormous shopping mall at nearby Bluewater where she had a whale of a time checking out the toys on offer while we bought some bits and pieces to keep in Framlingham when she visits.

On Tuesday I took advantage of the fine weather and headed down the road to search some local fields with the detector. There's nothing particularly exciting in the day's finds but there are a couple of late medieval studs amongst the usual mixture of buttons, buckles, shotgun cartridge cases and musket balls. It was the first time in my twenty odd years detecting that I have been able to walk to a field near home instead of driving the once obligatory four hour round trip in the car. When I got home I completed the preparations for a talk that I'm giving on the hobby to a local Rotary Club.

Wednesday saw us driving back down to Rochester for another child minding day. This time we visited the village of Upnor on the Medway near Strood where we enjoyed some excellent fish and chips in the Tudor Rose pub before taking the baby to the castle - an old Elizabethan fort run by English Heritage. 

On Thursday it was an early drive to Ipswich to catch the train to London where we had an appointment near St Paul's to see Cumberland Place our financial advisors. When we sold the business we handed all the proceeds over to them and they manage it for us. Everything seems to be going well and we've done a lot better than if we had put the funds in the bank despite the uncertainties of stock markets over the last couple of years. After overspending so much on the house in Framlingham our advisors reckon we should cut back on the big withdrawals a bit now but we've no major purchases planned in the near future so that should not be a problem. So, barring catastrophe, we should have more than enough to see us through our retirement and leave a bit to the family.

On Friday we had some time in Cambridge with the family before spending the weekend with them in Framlingham.

I did the modern day equivalent of killing the fatted calf and bought a beef fillet from Hall Farm butchers on the market square and made Gordon Ramsay's Beef Wellington recipe (download it on the BBC good food site). It's a foolproof recipe and the meal turned out very well.

For once, both ovens plus the steam oven and the microwave all got brought into use. We're looking forward to having more guests as we really enjoy using the kitchen and realising its full potential. It was a short stay and Paul and Josephine still have plenty more to see in future visits. They packed up on Sunday and we drove back down to Rochester where I'm now writing this. We're doing another day with the baby today but heading back to Framlingham this evening to get ourselves straight. We've got three days at home ahead of us now but no doubt we'll find plenty to do to fill in the time.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

A Few Hours In The Fields

Ever since we moved to Suffolk I have been itching to try the metal detector on the fields near our house. I've had a few detecting hours with a friend on fields near where he lives but those near us have been full of crops until this week when the harvest got under way. A local farmer has kindly given me permission to try his farm and I hope to get some time out in between child minding visits to Rochester (I am writing from the Premier Inn there this evening). 

This was the result of just over two hours with the XP Deus. There's quite a lot of rubbish there but there are four or five buttons, a lead weight and an old coin.

I haven't managed to identify the coin yet but it is a medieval silver hammered penny and will date from around 1200. Hopefully I will be able to get a positive i.d in the near future. I'm pleased to have found this coin as it shows that the field was in use hundreds of years ago and it could well hold more coins and artefacts from the last thousand years. I'm looking forward to trying again before we head up to Scotland for the arrival of our third grandchild in September.

I also found this decorative cast shell. I don't think it is particularly old but it will look good in the finds cabinet.

Today we headed to Tunbridge Wells to meet old friends Wyndham and Lesley Westaway. We met them in 1986 when we lived in Edenbridge and our children became friends. It was great to hear all about their family - a lot has happened in the ten or more years since we last met. Although we are not exactly on their doorstep now, we are a lot closer than we were in Southport and I hope that we are able to catch up with them again soon.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

A Strawberry Surprise And A TV Disappointment

As one who enjoys his food I've moaned a fair bit over the last twenty years about "what happened to the strawberry?". Fifty years ago when I was a kid they were a delicious summer treat and I can even remember them being quite tasty when we tried out pick your own with Sarah and Paul in the eighties. I think we should have weighed in the children before and after the picking in those days as telltale red smudges around their mouths hinted that not every "that's a booty Daddy" strawberry found its way into the baskets. Nowadays the enormous fruits we find in the supermarket and invariably shipped in from Spain taste of just water and the only way to remove the husk and leaves is to use a knife.

So I had a very pleasant surprise yesterday when I bought a couple of punnets of local strawberries from the Framlingham Greengrocer. Out popped the husks with a simple tug and I was transported back thirty years. It would have been too much to ask for them to taste like they did in 1983 but, amazingly, they did. It's a pity that I bought them to make strawberry smoothies but I'll try and grab some more soon before the season is over. 

I was looking forward to Count Arthur Strong's transfer from Radio 4 to BBC2 - I loved the radio show and I'm a big fan of Graham Linehan who has brought the Count to television. I desperately wanted to enjoy it and have sat through three of the five or so episodes broadcast so far. I sat through them out of a sense of fan loyalty - last week's about a riot raised a smile or two - but even the most ardent fans have a limit and, whilst last night's episode was billed by Graham Linehan on Twitter as his favourite, I had to switch off before the end. Why? It simply wasn't funny. In fact it was quite dreadful and totally predictable - in a hospital waiting room Rory Kinnear's character says to Arthur something like "you can't act - nobody would believe you were a doctor" and we all know what is going to happen by the end. The plots are clever but the hilarity from the studio audience makes me wonder if they were watching something else. I have no idea how a second series has been commissioned  -although reading Twitter I appear to be in a minority. Disappointed. I think I'll start a movement to bring back Jam And Jerusalem the female (and more up to date) equivalent of Last Of The Summer Wine and, in my opinion, cut off in its prime.

Today we're in Rochester again for a spot of child minding. On Monday we took granddaughter Catherine to the swings near the castle. If it stays dry today we may head out to look around Upnor - we haven't been there yet.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Out And About In Suffolk

We're back in Rochester as I write. We're getting to know the best times for the route and the best routes for each time so we've managed to keep it to under two hours for the last few journeys despite it being rush hour when we were travelling. We've seen some pretty long delays on the opposite carriageways so I'm probably tempting fate writing that and we'll be stuck in a jam on the way home tonight.

We managed to get more use out of the bikes at the weekend and rode down to Earl Soham on Saturday and visited the village fete. I was lucky in the tom bola although I'm  not sure if lucky is the best word to describe a slightly used gift set of Tweed perfume and talc. The cakes and refreshments were delicious and the fete was blessed with sunny skies dotted with a few cotton wool clouds - a quintessentially English afternoon.

Sunday saw yet more clear skies so we headed out on the bikes again. This time we experimented with a route to Snape Maltings. We thought it might be too far but it was only fifty minutes before we rolled into the maltings' courtyard and had a look around the vintage fair that was being held. We like Snape Maltings - there's a great food hall, some good home furnishings, an award winning cafe and a good antiques centre as well as the concert hall, walks and boat rides along the river and a very good art gallery. It's well worth a couple of hours visit.

After leaving Snape we headed back home by the same route. We were amazed at the number of bikes on the road and soon realised that we were caught up in an event as we came across stewards directing the traffic. 

We stopped and asked a steward who explained that it was the Suffolk Coastal charity bike ride and about 1500 were taking part with a choice of two routes - 35 or 60 miles. They must have raised thousands for their chosen charity St Elizabeth Hospice. We were pleased that we kept pace with the group of cyclists that we were amongst. Some were clearly pleasure peddle pushers like us but many had the full lycra gear on and some pretty snazzy bikes. If the ride is repeated next year perhaps we will  take part.

We're going to be in Kent three times this week so we've not much time in Framlingham although we are looking forward to seeing an old colleague who is visiting on Thursday.

Friday, 2 August 2013

The Big Match

Our local team Framlingham Town FC or The Castlemen was celebrating 125 years of existence yesterday and nearby Championship giants Ipswich Town kindly sent along a youth team for a presentation match sponsored by our friendly local The Crown Hotel.

It was a glorious evening and the carnival atmosphere was bolstered by the MC playing Bob Marley tracks over the PA. With Bob jamming and a sunset like this I felt that one of the killer bees from the beach bar in Nevis would have been more appropriate than my half time cup of tea. 

I didn't win the fantastic raffle prize of a wheelbarrow full of drinks and I had to smile when the PA announced that parked cars were blocking the road and a pea viner was unable to get past - this never happened at Anfield.

No I didn't know what a pea viner was either but I imagine that the cars backed up behind it had plenty of other names for it by the time it eventually got moving about half an hour later.

As for the match, the Castlemen put on a brave display but the very talented young Ipswich side didn't give them any time on the ball and camped out in our half for most of the game. This free kick was as near as we came. 

We did have a couple of corners but Ipswich rubbed it in with a final score of 7-0. Youngsters eh! Don't they realise that when you come to celebrate a team's 125th anniversary you aren't supposed to try and score 125 goals? And perhaps you might just let one slip in instead of making a respectable 0-5 score turn into 0-7 with two goals in injury time.

It was good to hear my neighbour Bernard being praised for his work on the pitch and I have to say the playing surface was as good as any that you're likely to see. Well done Bernard - ever thought of a robot mower?

Thursday, 1 August 2013

On Our Bikes

I knew that our buying bikes in the middle of a heat wave would put a jinx on the weather and, sure enough, whilst the glorious days continued after we bought them, the rain set in as soon as they were delivered. But I'm glad to say that we couldn't make any excuses not to use the bikes today as there was not  a cloud in the sky from the minute we got up - we were even able to breakfast in the garden.

As it was Marion's first outing on a bike this year we decided to take it easy and planned a short ride through local villages ending up at the often recommended but yet untried White Horse at Easton for a sandwich. 

Our first stop was at the beautiful and ancient church in Parham which is huge inside for such a small village. It indicates that it was once a more heavily populated place. 

Unfortunately I underestimated our cycling speed and we arrived at the picturesque Easton too early for that sandwich so headed off to Earl Soham via Kettleburgh and Brandeston.

I tried to take an action photograph of Marion cycling by riding ahead and holding the camera out and pointing it behind me but ended up with a shot of myself. However it worked on the second attempt.

I wouldn't recommend doing this on a busy road but with a clear road ahead and no traffic about I don't think that I was putting any lives at risk. 

From Earl Soham it was back to Framlingham via quiet lanes. 

It looked positively continental on Market Hill when we arrived so, instead of continuing home, we popped into The Crown for a well earned cider and a very tasty fish platter. 

We cycled for  about two hours - not exactly the Tour De France but good enough for a healthy work out and not too much to put us off doing it again very soon.