Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Busy Times

You may have noticed that it's been very quiet on this blog for a week. After going to Cineworld in Ipswich to see Her on Monday it was time to prepare for the visit of our daughter Sarah and her two daughters Rose and Melody. Sarah teaches baby yoga and enrolled on a course in London to qualify to teach toddler yoga too. So we booked an apartment in Vauxhall which was the nearest accommodation we could find to her classes in Stockwell Green and headed down to London to help out.

The apartment run by Think Vauxhall was well fitted out and very handy being right next to Vauxhall Station but the area is not particularly nice. We spent most of our three days of helping walking the mile and a half between flat and classes to deliver and collect the grandchildren as Rose was involved in a couple of the lessons and Melody is breast fed so we needed to be nearby when she was hungry. We were fortunate to find a Portuguese cafe near the yoga studio (there's a big Portuguese population in the area) and the owners were very welcoming and accommodating as we sat for long periods over a couple of cups of coffee.

We spent a bit of time in the excellent Clapham Mary Seacole library.

Rose had a couple of interesting journeys on the underground.

On Sunday we found ourselves with a couple of hours free so we headed off to the South Bank. Marion took Rose on a merry-go-round but a few minutes later we found that Sarah's class had ended an hour earlier than expected so it was back to Clapham before driving home to Framlingham.

It's the first time that Sarah and her children have visited us here in Framlingham. We've had a couple of relaxing days. We've had a look around the shops and had coffee in The Crown and The Lemon Tree and hopefully if the weather stays fine it will be a trip to Southwold Pier tomorrow. 

But the kids have been happiest being dragged around the wooden floors on blankets. Great fun and It's keeping the floor nice and clean too.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Wet Wet Wet

I grumbled about the weather on Friday and there was no let up by the time we were due to head to the excellent Crown for our Valentine's day meal. I phoned around for taxis but couldn't find one available at short notice - so we walked. I arrived at the hotel dry from the waist up thanks to a waterproof coat but with legs wringing wet. I stood by the fire doing my best Vic Reeves leg rubbing impression before heading into the restaurant. We had a very pleasant evening. We chose the "indulgence" menu. Unfortunately with our shrunken appetites since dieting, it was a case of the "over indulgence" menu for us and we were unable to manage all that was offered (the second of two puddings was a step way too far).

I said that there was no hope of Framlingham Town's cup game against Ipswich Valley Rangers being played but my neighbour Bernard's management of the pitch was so good that the surface was playable. The weather ranged from hurricane to calm but at half time the heavens opened with a vengeance and the stand was no shelter from the driving wind so another soaking ensued. The young Framlingham team put on a spirited display against a more experienced Ipswich side and went ahead early in the second half with a well taken goal from Danny Smith who, at sixteen, looks to be a great prospect. I was impressed by the team spirit with Matt Aldis and Boardsley catching my eye. Sadly the lead was short lived when the Rangers equalised with a penalty (above) and the game was over when a freak free kick from the touchline was tipped by the keeper into his net. It was an unlucky end to The Castlemen's cup run and I felt that they were well worth a draw. They all deserved a medal for playing in the conditions.

On Saturday night we headed up to the college for a concert organised by Spice Of Life. It was billed as Modest Ike and Polly Gibbons but the star of the show was Polly's pianist James Pearson (hope he doesn't mind me using his photo from his website). He is the Artistic Director at Ronnie Scott's and he was absolutely tremendous. Polly Gibbons entertained us with some great jazz numbers and Modest Ike and his band were amazing musicians although I have to be honest and say that whilst I appreciated their talent I wasn't very keen on the songs.

Yesterday we headed to Suffolk Showground for another antique fair. It was much smaller than the one we went to in Norfolk but there were some nice bits and pieces. I bought a couple of bits but I don't think I've uncovered any treasure.

Today we're off to spend some of our Tesco club card points at Pizza Express. At four times the points value it's a great offer and Pizza Express do some low cal meals so we won't over do it. After that it's Her at Cineworld. Looking forward to it.

I hope it's more upbeat than the BBC's Call The Midwife. Marion enjoys this but I have to admit to only half watching it whilst being distracted by Twitter or something else on the laptop. Last Sunday Marion was in floods of tears over a tragic death in the show and this week the tears returned with a storyline about a disabled couple, she with Downs syndrome and he with cerebral palsy. I don't know about you but I don't want television to make me cry. Please lighten up Beeb. Let's have more laughs like that absolutely brilliant Inside Number Nine (below). Last week's episode A Quiet Night In had us both in fits.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Say It With Showers

I was going to walk down with Marion to The Dancing Goat this afternoon for a coffee and a cake. We've been there a lot lately as we find it very cosy and the coffee's very good too.But I'm afraid that, even the thought of The Dancing Goat's delicious home made cakes and their new wood burner couldn't get me out of the house this afternoon. I'm as upbeat and optimistic a person as you could ever meet and I know that most of the country is in the same boat (no pun intended) but even I am running out of positive spin to put on the situation other than "at least we're not flooded".  We've got dinner booked at The Crown for Valentine's night so we'll have to go out later but instead of a nice dress I think that Marion will be kitted out in wellies and a sou'wester. 

For a (rather unusual) Valentine's gift I bought Marion this lovely little driftwood art sculpture of the owl and the pussycat from Theatre antiques in Framlingham. It's a delightful little item and both owl and puss are beautifully painted and full of character. I've been trying to work out who the artist is but despite manipulating in photoshop (see below) I haven't been able to decipher it.

If you can read it please get in touch as I would love to see other work by the artist.

I also bought two tickets to see King Lear at The National Theatre as another Valentine gift. Now if you know how much I love King Lear you will appreciate what a selfless and loving gift this is.

Once the weekend is over it's going to be all systems go in preparation for seeing our Scottish granddaughters. This new buggy arrived from Amazon yesterday along with various other baby and toddler necessities. We're meeting Sarah in London on Thursday and staying with her to babysit while she completes her Baby And Toddler Yoga instructors' course  in Brixton. She's then going to join us and see Framlingham for the first time so we're looking forward to showing her around - Marion's on Amazon now looking for a canoe.

I had planned to go and watch the big match here in Framlingham tomorrow.It's the quarter final of the Bob Coleman Cup and the Castlemen are playing Ipswich Valley Rangers. I somehow doubt that the match will be on. My neighbour Bernard keeps the pitch in fantastic condition but I somehow doubt that even he could pull this one off.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Buddy Can You Spare An Hour

Being retired and still fairly active we're in an ideal position to help in the local community. And what better way to do so than the Framlingham Hour Community which was last year voted the best Rotary Club community project in the country. We have nothing at all to do with the Rotary Club or any other associations but it is a very good idea as it puts those in need of help in the town in touch with those who are capable of offering it. There are a fair number of elderly people in Framlingham and many of them are for example housebound, struggling to get to the shops or having trouble keeping on top of their gardens. The Hour Community will ask for a volunteer to help them out with an hour or two of their time.

It's not confined to helping elderly people. Anybody who needs help can ask for it and the coordinator Angelika will do her best to oblige. It's not onerous for volunteers. Marion and I have not been called upon to give endless hours but it is important that everyone in the community is aware that it is available. This week we were put in touch with an elderly person who was struggling to complete a complex government form. It was quite a daunting bit of paperwork but we managed to do it with her and take a big weight off her mind. If you are in Framlingham and would like to help or need help just click here or Google Framlingham Hour Community and you'll find the contacts you need.

Last night we headed up to the college for a talk titled "A Love Affair With Churches" given by the Rev Roy Tricker. You may wonder why we , as non believers, would want to attend a talk on this subject but whilst we may not be in touch with God we do appreciate both history and beautiful buildings and Roy is an excellent and passionate speaker. He has the presentation and delivery style of Brian Blessed so there was no need for a mike. He's not into powerpoint presentations so we were entertained by an old fashioned slide show in which he explained his lifelong love of churches supported by photographs of some hidden treasures that are there to be found within just a few miles of here. It was an extremely entertaining talk and we bought his book 100 Years, 100 Treasures which highlights one unique and individual treasure for each of a hundred churches in Suffolk. We look forward to getting on our bikes and looking for some of them.

Remember my bit of stupid reversing? Well yesterday we headed down to Essex to pick the car up.

And hey presto it's as good as new again.It's a pity that I can't say the same for the bank balance but I think I've learnt my lesson. 

There's a busy couple of days ahead. It's Valentine's at The Crown tomorrow night. We're looking forward to another great meal from Chef Matt Ransome. On Saturday night there's a concert at the college with local musicians Modest Ike and Polly Gibbons. It should be a great evening as we've checked them both out on YouTube and they're both great acts.

Monday, 10 February 2014

I've Got The Bargain Hunting Bug Back

In the 90's when eBay first started up I used to spend a lot of my spare time visiting junk shops, antique fairs, auctions, car boot sales and flea markets and buying stuff. Some of it I kept and some I resold online. I was fairly successful and I soon registered the hobby as a business to make it easier to sort out the tax position. When the whole world and his dog started selling on eBay things became less successful and I wound the business down and sold most of the residual stock. I had had a great deal of fun, made five or six spectacularly good buys which brought big profits and more than a few spectacularly bad ones which brought big losses (fortunately the good far outweighed the bad).

I've never lost the interest in antiques but in the past few weeks we've found ourselves at home a bit more than usual and with the weather being inclement we've been watching episodes of Antiques Road Trip and Bargain Hunt  with the affable and irrepressible Tim Wonnacott. And it revived memories of the caricature I bought for a fiver and sold for over £2,000 and the broken teapot that fetched in excess of £1,300 and it's given me the bug again.

So off we went yesterday to Norwich to the Aztec fair at the Norfolk Showground. There were hundreds of dealers there but we struggled to spot any bargains. 

However, as someone with the buying bug, I couldn't go away empty handed and bought this lovely little cup and saucer for £50 to save a wasted journey. It was made in about 1770 at Derby porcelain factory owner William Duesbury's Chelsea factory and I think it's a super little item and in fine condition for 240 years old. I've also bought three or four bits and pieces on eBay and in total spent about £130 that will be my starting stock. I won't buy anything else now until I've sold the bits I've got. Will I build it up or will it be money down the drain? I'll let you know in a few weeks but at least it should be a bit of fun until the weather improves and we can get out on our bikes again.

At least the weather has been perfect for movie fans and today we went to Ipswich to see Dallas Buyers Club at Cineworld. Matthew McConaughty has been nominated for an Oscar for his role as Ron Woodroof a tough and homophobic Dallas cowboy who is shocked to find that he has AIDS and is given just thirty days to live. Unwilling to curl up and die he does everything in his power to try and get hold of drugs and medications that will help him and eventually becomes a crusader on behalf of himself and other AIDS sufferers to distribute unapproved medications by way of a "buyers club". Along the way he comes into contact with plenty of gays and his attitude to them changes as he strikes up a friendship with transgender Rayon played by Jared Leto (also Oscar nominated). It's based on a true story (although I believe that the story has been heavily altered) and it's yet another fabulous performance.

In the last few months we've seen Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips,  Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf Of Wall Street, Bruce Dern in Nebraska, Christian Bale in American Hustle and Chiwetel Ejiofor in Twelve Years A Slave as well as McConaughty today. It's a really close call for the Oscar as all were excellent but I think that McConaughty will just edge it.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Back From The Long Haul

I said when I last blogged that I hoped it wouldn't take a miracle to salvage our night away from home. We were staying in Dunwich at The Ship and had booked the last available room which (though described to me by email as "lovely") was far from perfect.

I know we were only staying in a pub and couldn't expect The Ritz but small touches like the state of our window weren't exactly conducive to relaxing and luxuriating in the room which, though I mentioned it was cold, did eventually warm up when we closed the door to the passageway to the bathroom. To be fair to The Ship, the evening meal was excellent, the service and atmosphere in the bar was warm and friendly and the entertainment put on by classical/jazz keyboard player Jack Pescod together with violinist Hannah Voat was lovely. Add on the fine breakfast in the morning and the break was not a total failure. But I do feel that one of the most important parts of a hotel or inn break is the room and I am afraid that that was a letdown.

We weren't going to let that spoil the day so we had a look at the fabulous beach and look forward to returning to Dunwich in warmer days to walk along the coast and explore the beautiful heathland. After that it was off to Southwold for a quick and bracing walk along the pier before heading into town and having a look around the shops.

We've been meaning to have a look around the clothes shop Collen and Clare in the middle of Southwold for some time so now was a chance. They had some great clothes in there and Marion bought this super casual coat for spring.

As the diet is now reaching its conclusion we went into Two Magpies bakery and felt that we could get away with a pain au chocolate with the coffee. It's a good job we ordered only one between us as it was enormous. I can highly recommend this little bakery. The food on offer was amazing, the coffees were great and the service was outstanding.

From Southwold we headed back to Framlingham via Snape Maltings and had a look around the gallery. We were taken by this large ceramic sculpture of a cormorant by Mary Wyatt. We didn't buy it but I found it hard to believe that the artist could produce such a fine piece of work for less than £400 - my photo doesn't do the detail in the work justice.

Whilst on the subject of ceramics we found this large jug in The Theatre in Framlingham today. It's by celebrated Suffolk artist Tessa Newcomb and at just £80 I thought it was quite a bargain so it's now brightening up our dining room.

It's good to see the Lemon Tree has reopened in Framlingham. We usually pop into The Crown on Saturday morning and do The Times jumbo2 crossword but as The Crown and Dancing Goat were both full today we gave The Lemon Tree a try. I wish the new owners every success. It's got good access for the disabled and for push chairs so I imagine it will fill a gap in the market for young mums and dads with kids as well as the regular Framlingham coffee drinkers. It will be interesting to see if they eventually reopen in the evening.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

A Long Haul Break

We've come away for a night and, as I write we are a whole twenty minutes away from home in an attic bedroom in The Ship at Dunwich. So why are we sitting in a fairly spartan pub bedroom with the wind and rain lashing down outside when we could be sitting in a comfortable lounge in front of a roaring log burner? Well, I read in Suffolk Magazine that The Ship was having a music night on 6th February and there were special rates for accommodation. Having never visited Dunwich before I thought it was something different and an opportunity to visit the area so why not give it a try. But at the moment it's looking like my plans for a bit of a mid week treat are teetering on the brink of falling flat. I'll reserve judgement until tomorrow when we've had the meal, music and breakfast and maybe then things will look a bit rosier. Let's hope it doesn't take a miracle.

I mentioned miracles because last night we were at Framlingham College where FramSoc were hosting the highly eminent Cambridge Professor Sir Colin Humphreys who gave a short lecture on miracles from the bible and their explanations from a scientist's viewpoint. Sir Colin was a charming and affable speaker and his investigation of the crossing of the river Joran by the Israelites resulted in a fascinating and perfectly plausible explanation for the event. So too did his research into Moses producing water from a rock in Sinai. However, when he came to The Resurrection and Christ's walking on water he could offer no scientific clues to these events and it was clear that he was satisfied to be a believer in these phenomena without any scientific proof - which I , as a non believer ,found a bit of a letdown. However, it was certainly another stimulating evening provided by FramSoc and it was well attended by plenty of local people.

It would have taken more than a miracle for there to have been more than a lone survivor in the situation that the characters in Lone Survivor our movie choice this week found themselves in. On a clandestine mission into Taliban territory four US Navy Seals are on a hillside waiting to carry out their instructions when they are interrupted by an old goatherd and two boys. They are faced with the moral dilemma of either killing three civilians and being branded war criminals or letting them go and aborting their mission and trying to return to safety. Marion says she would have chosen option one whereas I would have gone for option two. Neither choice was exactly perfect for the soldiers and I doubt that the outcome would have been a lot different whichever way they chose as within a few hours they are surrounded by scores of heavily armed Taliban.

It's a very powerful war film with near constant action as the band of four brothers in arms attempt to escape against impossible odds reminiscent of The Alamo and Zulu. If you enjoy action films then this is one for you but, for all the action, the movie really hits home when photographs of all the Americans killed in this real life event (in happier times with their wives, friends and families) fill the screen in some truly moving closing credits.   

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Busy Doing Nothing

We're having a couple of weeks off from our hectic schedule of driving from one end of the country to the other. The caravan site in St Andrews closes its doors for the whole month of February so we can't head to Fife for another three our four weeks and our son is visiting family in LA so we won't be visiting him in Kent for a while. So it's the ideal time for the bump on the new car to be repaired and we drove it down to the Mercedes body shop in Essex on Thursday to have it sorted out. 

If it wasn't for the damp patch above the lounge window, everything would be just right for a relaxing few weeks but as I write, the plastering expert Tony is chipping away outside in an attempt to discover the cause and hopefully effect a remedy. The builders made a temporary repair to a crack in the render and since then the wallpaper has dried out and despite some torrential rainfall the water ingress appears to have stopped.

On Friday we had some friends round for a meal. I think it was a success and the smoked salmon with prawns followed by home made chicken pie, chocolate dessert and cheeseboard went down well with them. As did the wine. I felt a little embarrassed to be depositing so many bottles in the bottle bank on Saturday morning. I put a nonchalant "haven't emptied these since Christmas" look on my face as the bottles kept coming and coming. We ended the night well into the small hours.

With no plans for Saturday and Sunday nights we had a marathon session with Series 2 of The Bridge and got through seven episodes before finishing off the final three last night well after midnight. This really is a classy series. The leads Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia are outstanding and their relationship is what makes this such a compelling drama. As with all television crime drama (Silent Witness, Morse,Midsomer ) I have an issue with the number of victims but the beauty of this one is that the motive was unclear right until the excellent finale. If you haven't seen it, you can still catch up on iPlayer and, if you've got a spare ten hours or so to kill, it's a perfect distraction.

I haven't had the chance to get out with the metal detector for a few months now but I had a letter from the Lowestoft Coroner's office yesterday notifying me that the silver brooch I found in the summer has been declared "Treasure" and they will be holding an inquest. It's not a valuable item but it's over seven hundred years old. If the farmer agrees, I will donate it to the Colchester museum who have expressed an interest in acquiring it. But on the subject of the hobby, I saw this advert in The Searcher magazine. It's wrong on so many levels implying that if you go fishing you might catch a fish but if you go detecting you can run away to Las Vegas on the spoils. I've been using a detector for twenty five years and if I sold my finds (which I wouldn't) they would not cover the cost of the detector let alone the fuel and other travel expenses incurred over the years. If people are encouraged to go detecting for financial gain, most of them will be disappointed but, more importantly the damage to our heritage will be enormous with the finite supply of metal artefacts ending up on eBay. Most of the detector users I have met are decent and sensible people but unscrupulous use of these machines is a very very bad thing.

And speaking of eBay, I've not been selling on it for three years now but was asked by one of the family if I could help dispose of an unwanted Christmas present so I've given it a try and, whilst listing the item, decided to try selling an old jug that I found in an Antique Centre near Dundee last summer. I'll see how well those two sales go before deciding whether or not to start selling regularly again although  I'm not sure that I can be bothered with all the bookkeeping for the taxman and the packing.

This weeks film is Lone Survivor starring Mark Wahlberg. There aren't very many war movies around these days. When I was growing up there was nothing else (apart from cowboys). So we're off to Cineworld in Ipswich later. I'll let you know what I think.