Friday, 20 December 2013

A Musical Week

With the the local bush telegraph alive with sightings of Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift around the town (give the lad a break he's no doubt come home to see his mum and dad for Christmas) it's appropriate to give the blog a musical theme today.

This week we've had some contrasting musical entertainment within five minutes walk of home. On Wednesday we went along to St Michael's Church to hear local choir The Phoenix Singers perform their seasonal concert. We're not in the slightest bit religious but we like a good tune and enjoyed joining in with the rousing choruses of popular carols. There was a good variety of songs from traditional carols through to White Christmas and The Little Drummer Boy both sung solo beautifully by a young man with a fine tenor voice. The songs were interspersed with festive readings of passages from classics like The Wind In The Willows and Paddington. After the show there were mince pies and tumblers of mulled wine and we blew the caution of our diet to the wind and indulged with one of each. I'll be glad when this diet is over. I've lost almost a stone in the last eight weeks but Christmas is not exactly the best time to be abstemious.

In a completely different musical vein our local,The Crown, hosted local singer songwriter Lucy Sampson and her three man backing group last night for an evening of her own songs plus some great covers thrown in for good measure. Amazingly The Crown didn't charge for admission and it was nice to see a good mix of local people enjoying the performance. We hadn't heard Lucy sing before but she's a very talented musician with a powerful voice - a great night.

Here's a taster.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Crash Bang Wallop What A Picture

We went to Ipswich the other day to see The Hobbit part two which is subtitled The Desolation Of Smaug although I think 1000 Ways To Kill An Orc might have been a better name - I don't think it would be possible to slaughter any more of the poor creatures in a couple of hours. 

We went to an IMAX screening and it really does make a massive difference for movies of this size. The sound is immense and you leave the screening literally exhausted and with your ears ringing from the effects of the ceaseless crashing and banging.

I like Martin Freeman but I loved reading The Hobbit and I don't think Freeman looks anything at all like the jovial little burglar that Tolkein left in my imagination. I'm not sure that anyone who has read the book could picture Bilbo as he is portrayed here. That apart, the film is fairly faithful to the plot (sadly for Marion who hates spiders and sat for over ten minutes with eyes firmly shut and asking me if the giant arachnids had gone yet). 

Despite the multi million pound CGI I found some parts of the action scenes jerky but there is so much action in the film I won't complain. There's not a great deal to the story - Bilbo is the burglar who has been picked by Gandalf and the dwarves to steal the Arkenstone from under the mountain where it is guarded by the dragon Smaug. En route they come across plenty of danger resulting in spectacular fights and flights and, as it is part two of three, we end, as expected, with a cliffhanger and have to wait until next Christmas to see what happens next. 

Director Peter Jackson has thrown in a dwarf/elf/elf love triangle that would probably have JR Tolkien turning in his grave but there's nothing wrong with a bit of romance and it was a welcome distraction from the incessant fighting. The critics have been fairly harsh on the film but if you want a couple of hours of action I think you'll enjoy it.

The movie ends with local boy Ed Sheeran's excellent I See Fire. I can see a future trivia quiz question asking what links Framlingham to The Hobbit.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Festive In Framlingham

I wrote last week that, after a delayed start, we were getting into the Christmas spirit here (or at least Marion was). Marion loves Christmas and loves thinking about what to buy for everyone and she puts an enormous effort into making things very Christmassy. She's been incredibly busy but finally finished wrapping all of the presents last night. I'm very lucky - all I have had to do is sign a lot of labels. We got the last of the presents this morning as we drove out towards Orford to pick up some special local delicacies that we're including in a couple of the presents.

I say we got the last of the presents but that's not quite right. We ordered three very nice and quite expensive presents on the internet in October and November. I can't say what they are in case the recipients read this. Despite promise after promise none has arrived. There are two companies involved. Before ordering from the first we phoned and emailed to check that the item was in stock but after paying and receiving confirmation we were then told the item was not in stock but a special order and had to be made BUT "don't worry, you'll definitely have it for Christmas". The second is a new product that we paid for in early October. We were quoted 19 November for delivery but email after email has come telling us that it has been delayed but "don't worry, you'll definitely have it for Christmas".

We keep telling the suppliers that we don't want them "for Christmas" but before we head off north where the recipients will be but nobody seems to be able to say exactly where the goods are and when they will be with us. As both are specialist items we can't just cancel and reorder from elsewhere. All I know is that it this had happened when we were in business we would have bent over backwards to make sure that our customers knew exactly what was going on and when it would be put right. With just two days to go before we head off I'm pretty sure that two people on our list will be without presents which is a real shame after we put such a lot of effort into getting something special for them.

Marion always has a second smaller Christmas tree on which she hangs all the baubles and decorations made by our kids when they were little. She's now adding ones made by the grandchildren and was thrilled to get a beautifully painted pair of birds from Catherine yesterday.

Here's one of them. Catherine is so artistic for just just under eighteen months old. I'm sure that she'll end up doing something very creative.

We're also looking forward to getting this bauble which Sarah had imprinted with baby Melody's footprint. There will soon be so many that we'll need to buy a bigger tree next year.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Fifteen Minutes Of Fame

Andy Warhol famously said "In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes".  And whilst we haven't exactly had world fame we've had our moments of glory; most noticeably our 1988 episode of Treasure Hunt which has been shown around the world and is still available to watch on YouTube and, not forgetting of course, my ten minutes with Lars Tharp on The Antiques Roadshow.

Earlier this week it was Marion's turn in the spotlight as the latest edition of Ideal Home magazine hit the newsstands and there was a nice photo of her in the ensuite bathroom. After spending twelve months doing up the house our interior designer Jemima suggested to a journalist friend that they might want to run a feature. We were surprised that they chose the smallest room in the scheme to run with but it's a good photo.

And last night we hoped that it would be son Paul's chance to be in the limelight as A League Of Their Own, the show that he created for Sky was nominated in the British Comedy Awards. Like all proud parents we were glued to the set hoping the prize would go to him and his colleagues but, alas, they were pipped by the excellent (but obviously not as good) Would I Lie To You. After the disappointment we spent the rest of the evening looking out for him in the audience. He had a good seat and we spotted him plenty of times.

Behind Paul Whitehouse.

Getting out of Jack Whitehall's way to the stage.

And standing to applaud our favourites from Moving On. 

Never mind son. We're certain that we'll see you up on the podium one day.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Getting Into The Christmas Spirit

When we took Mum back to Edinburgh last week the city looked like a big Christmas card. It's a lovely place at any time of year but with the huge Christmas market and adorned with hundreds of lights and scores of trees it was particularly appealing.

Being up in St Andrews means that our house in Framlingham will be looking very unfestive at the moment. We usually enter into the Christmas spirit with gusto (at least Marion does) and by now the home is normally brimming with lights and the other paraphernalia of the season. We'll have some catching up to do when we're back on Thursday to bring it back to Marion's exacting standards but I'm sure that it will look very Christmasy by this time next week - by which time we'll be getting ready to head back to Scotland for the big day itself.

Rose and Melody went to see Father Christmas in Dundee at the weekend. Last year Rose queued to see him but when it got to her turn she took fright and went back to her mum and dad but this time she sat alongside him and had a chat although she didn't tell me what they spoke about.

Yesterday Sarah and Duncan were putting up their tree and decorations so we went round to help. There was no mistaking the excitement on Rose's face as she did her bit and then, prompted by the new, festive, look of the house, burst into a chorus of "Happy Birthday".

I'll finish today with a photo for my mum. I forgot that I had taken this one. 

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Four Generations Together

My mum joined us here in St Andrews on Sunday. We invited her up north to spend a couple of nights in the Old Course Hotel and give her the chance to meet her latest great granddaughter, Melody,  for the first time. 

We took her for afternoon tea at Rufflets Hotel just outside town. The spread was enormous. Rose chose this lot although, I hasten to add, she didn't eat it all. 

In fact the hotel provided so much that we took this lot home with us.

Melody is growing fast and Mum was very happy to meet her.

And Rose loved playing with her and showing off her talents at jigsaw puzzles.

Mum will be 88 in a couple of weeks. She's doing very well. If I get down on the floor to play with the grandchildren it takes me half an hour to get back up again. We're taking her back to  Edinburgh today to catch the train back home. We hope that she's had a good time. We enjoyed having her here.