Thursday, 26 February 2015

La Dolce Vita In Orford

We had a short break this week. I follow lots of local businesses on Twitter and am always looking out for what's happening. So when I saw a tweet from The Crown And Castle in Orford advertising an Italian themed dinner on Tuesdays from Feb through into March I checked it out. 

We've cycled to Orford quite a few times since we moved to Framlingham and have always liked the look of this hotel which stands just across the road from the castle. But we've normally been dressed in cycling gear which wouldn't be quite right for their stylish dining room and bar. Here was a chance to dine there in normal clothes. 

It's only fifteen miles down the road from home but driving home after a four course dinner with a different wine accompanying each course was out of the question and a taxi would put a bit of a dampener on the evening so booking an overnight stay was the best solution.

I booked a "best" room and we were in the large room on the first floor to the right in this photo borrowed from Orford's website. 

This was the lovely view from our room across Orford Ness and towards Havergate Island Nature Reserve. We arrived at three and enjoyed a pot of tea while reading our books downstairs in front of  a roaring fire before getting ready for the meal. The room was spacious, very comfortable and stylishly appointed. The bathroom was luxurious with both a large shower and a super deep bath.

The Italian meal was a great success and we enjoyed, antipasti, scallops risotto  venison, and cheese/dessert with four generous glasses of delicious wines. Marion doesn't drink as much as I do so I was more than happy to finish off the wines that she couldn't manage. The food was excellent as too was the freshly cooked breakfast in the morning. It just shows that you don't have to travel miles to enjoy a short break.

After breakfast we checked out and then had an enjoyable morning exploring Orford's church. 

There are some really interesting and rare brasses on tombs in the church.

The nave is spectacular. 

And there are many more treasures. I couldn't find out anything about this painting but its in the renaissance style and its frame is quite spectacular.

Marion outside the church.

Leaving Orford we headed to Woodbridge, had a stroll round the town and a coffee in the excellent Firestation Cafe and then went to the matinee performance of Whiplash at The Riverside. Phew! What a film! It's extremely tense and brilliantly done. You will already have heard all about it but J K Simmons' bullying music tutor is one of the best characters I've ever seen on screen. It's no wonder that you couldn't get any odds at all on him winning the best supporting actor Oscar - he is that good. (It is a dream part mind). Miles Teller in the lead role is dwarfed by Simmons but that's basically the gist of the story and, as Teller's character grows in confidence, his role in the film does too. This was another Best Film nomination. We've seen five of the eight nominations this year and, although they were all different, the standard has been very high.

We got back home in time to head out to The Railway in Framlingham where we enjoyed fish and chips before competing in the quiz. Our team "The Runners Up" were the runners up (again). It was a good night and a great way to end our short holiday.

This morning we went up to the gym for spinning and "body blitz" to counter the effects of Italian dinners and fish and chips. On the way home I popped into the Post Office to pick up another eBay buy. 

This small tureen from c1825 is beautifully hand painted and elaborately gilded. At the moment I can't identify the maker but if I can pin it down to a top factory (and the quality suggests that it is a top manufacturer's piece), then it should be worth a fair bit more than the low price that it cost.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Busy Days

It's been a whole week since the last blog and that old retiree's cliche about never having enough time to do everything has certainly rung true. That's despite our now having seven days a week at home and not five due to the Rochester childcare situation being resolved.

So what exactly have we been doing to keep us so busy? Well, seven spinning and circuit training classes a week fills in a fair bit of time and, now that the weather has started to improve, our thoughts have turned to the garden.

You may remember me writing about John Ball the local blacksmith designing a garden arch for us. It didn't run exactly as planned for John as the gauge of metal that we chose on his suggestion turned out to be too flimsy and he had to go to a heavier gauge which was difficult to work with.

However, John put in a great effort and yesterday the arch arrived. We need to have it cemented into position but it's going to be a great feature for the garden once the climbing plants start to grow.

We've also been working on getting our spare bedroom fitted out in readiness for the grandchildren visiting us one day. We've got the furniture and now Emma at Esme's House in Framlingham is preparing a blind and some light shades to finish things off.

I am extremely grateful to our neighbour David from across the road who helped me to put up the bookshelves (well, in reality, put the shelves up for me). 

He was so surprised at my lack of tools that he came back today and gave me this. Thank you very much David (although, to be honest,I was very happy having you do it for me). We'll find out if I have learnt any of David's DIY skills later this week when another shelf arrives for the room and I no longer have an excuse to seek assistance from someone with the right equipment.

I have to finish now as I've booked a surprise night away for Marion. Better get packing.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Well Done FRAm

I've just heard (from a neighbour who attended the Suffolk Coastal planning meeting this morning) that the applications for both greenfield developments in Framlingham, opposed by members of Fram Residents' Association, were turned down. That's a real victory for common sense. The proposals were outrageously large and the arguments so strong against the developments that this should have been a foregone conclusion but at least two committee members voted in favour of the plans. Well done and congratulations to the newly formed FRAm - a battle won but no doubt there will be appeals ahead and the war will continue. This is not the time to sit back and relax though. I've been involved in the fight and ,whilst I look forward to a summer without the upheaval that the developments would have brought to the town, I am sure that there will still be plenty to do.

Planning excitement apart, it's been another hectic week of retirement. We had to take Marion's car to Ipswich for a safety recall so took the opportunity to go to Cineworld and see Selma. It's a brilliant film and well worthy of its Oscar nomination for best film. I'm only surprised that David Oyelowo wasn't acknowledged in the nominations for his outstanding portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr. The film concentrates on just a short episode from the American Civil Rights era and it is quite difficult to realise that, within our own lifetime, people were deprived of the right to vote purely on the grounds of the colour of their skin. It's a very powerful movie and, in my opinion, a better choice for best film Oscar than the wonderful Birdman.

As a Liverpool fan I often wonder what became of ex managers and players. Few more so than the enigmatic Rafa Benitez (below) who steered us to that memorable night in Istanbul and some not so memorable nights elsewhere.

And then I saw the new ad for Grey Goose vodka at the cinema and all became clear.

On Saturday we had another cinema outing. We were in Rochester babysitting and decided that it would be a treat for our granddaughter to take her to see the new Peppa Pig movie. It's not really a movie but a string of cartoons that have already been shown on TV interspersed with introductions from a group of young presenters. There was one new fifteen minute episode but it was a bit of a rip off really to promote it as a Peppa film. Mind you our granddaughter and all the other kids in the audience didn't seem to mind.

When not at the cinema of babysitting I've been preparing an eBay listing to sell this wonderful gnome tobacco jar that I bought on eBay a few weeks ago. He's very rare and, although he's slightly damaged, I have hopes that he will fetch a fair bit more than I paid.

Better sign off now as I need to write a blog for the Residents' Association about today's success.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015


I've just read the agenda and accompanying reports for the meeting of the Suffolk Council North Area sub committee scheduled for 16th February. You can download and read it yourself by clicking this link. 

Included on the agenda are plans for two new developments in Framlingham. The first, South Of Mount Pleasant Farm proposes approximately 100 new homes and the second in Fairfield Road a further 163 dwellings. Each application is accompanied by a comprehensive report from the planning officials involved in the case and each concludes with a RECOMMENDATION.

Within each case officer's report there is the following table:-

As at 31st March 2014, the position for Framlingham was as follows: 
Completions                                                                                                                                              99
Outstanding planning permissions (not started or under construction)                                                   160

Resolution to grant awaiting legal agreement                                                                                           10                                                      
Suggested residual requirement (allocation) 2014 2027                                                                     75-150

This means that, by the council's own reckoning, Fram needs 75-150 new homes in the next twelve years. So, by these measures, either of the proposed plans would be sufficient to fill the town's anticipated new housing needs until 2027.

Even if we take the worst case scenario (from the planners' point of view) and reduce the outstanding figure due to a possible reduction in one already approved development and take the high end of their required target as follows

As at 31st March 2014, the position for Framlingham was as follows: 
Completions                                                                                                                                              99
Outstanding planning permissions (not started or under construction)                                                   100

Resolution to grant awaiting legal agreement                                                                                           10     
Sub Total                                                                                                                                                  209
Suggested residual requirement (allocation) 2014 – 2027                                                                       241    

Total for plan period 2010 2027 (figures rounded)                                                                                450

You will see that the (worst case) new housing forecast to be needed in 12 years is 241 and yet the planners are recommending 263 to commence in the immediate future. Two hundred and forty one homes in twelve years would be twenty per year - a sensible and sustainable number. As each twenty was built the town would adapt to integrate the growth but to put three major building projects (these two plus one already approved) on three of the five roads into the town is a recipe for total chaos, inevitable noise pollution and traffic congestion. 

Framlingham is heavily dependent upon tourism and visitors' experiences of a visit would become memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Approval of both plans would increase the town's population by 30%. Imagine increasing any town or village by such an unmanageable amount (that would be the equivalent of  40,000 new homes in a town the size of Ipswich)  - total lunacy.

I've no problems with the development at a sustainable and sensible level but increase any community at this rate and it will be destroyed.

We've got an appointment that we can't cancel on Monday 16th but anybody who agrees with the above and has the time should show support for FRAm (our residents' association) and attend the planning meeting. It starts at 9 a.m.

Friday, 6 February 2015

No Films But A Wonderful Curious Incident This Week

I realise that this has looked a bit like a movie fanatic's blog recently but, after three films last week, we didn't manage to get to the cinema at all this week. We've been keeping very busy though and spent Monday and Tuesday in Rochester on our final childcare stint for a while. It was a hands-off babysit as we helped ease our replacement into the job. As we drove away on Tuesday afternoon it was sad to see an end to what turned out to be a totally unmissable period of our lives. 

We've managed to get to three spinning classes and three circuit training classes up at Fram College and are starting to feel the benefits. I've lost about 8lbs since Christmas, my blood pressure is nice and low and I feel much fitter. Spinning is hard work and about ten of us cover around 30kilometres in the forty-five minute session of sprints and climbs (this photo is one from the internet but the classes are very similar at FramLeisure). The circuit training provides another hour or so of intensive exercise and we are both feeling well on it. It's not easy to get up at six-thirty on an icy morning to participate though.

Although we are into keeping fit, we didn't get involved in any of those dry January shenanigans. I imagine Richard and Sarah at The Framlingham Wine Shop were cursing whoever came up with that idea but on Wednesday evening it was business as usual at their regular wine tasting session which is great value at £10 per head (deductible from any purchases). We tasted eight very good wines with some nice cheese and enjoyed the company of half a dozen other local wine lovers. I look forward to tasting most of them again when the order is ready.


After yesterday's exercise classes we headed off to Ipswich and onwards to London for a matinee performance of The National Theatre's production of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time. Marion and the kids loved the book when it was first published but I didn't read it and went to the play with only an inkling of what it was about. The book is now a set GCSE text and there was a high percentage of teenagers in the packed Gielgud Theatre's audience  They were not disappointed. It is a beautiful study of a teenager on the autistic spectrum. It's visually spectacular and moves at a frenetic pace on an almost empty graph-paper set that the actors transform into a tube platform, a railway station, a police station,a garden, an escalator -anything and everything in the blink of an eye. We were at the very front of the stalls and were totally immersed in the action as the two hours passed by in a moment. I am sure that the many kids in the audience will not only have come away from the play with a better understanding of the text but also a clearer view of the difficulties faced by both the sufferers of autism and Aspberger Syndrome and those who care for them. The cast is wonderful and Abram Rooney in the lead role was outstanding. 

Sunday, 1 February 2015

A Funny Thing Happened On My Way To The Field

It's de rigueur in metal detecting circles that many (if not all) of the best finds turn up at the least expected moment. Turn to The Searcher or Treasure Hunting magazine or log onto any of the scores of Metal Detecting forums and you will read tales of how Johnny Diggit was off to relieve himself behind a tree when his detector gave the sweetest of signals and a magnificent gold coin surfaced (perhaps dropped by a Roman taken short two thousand years ago in exactly the same spot). More often than not, Billy Nofinds was rueing a completely unproductive day when he reluctantly headed back to the car weighed down with a collection of shotgun cartridges, tin cans and ring pulls still swinging his C-Scope when, lo and behold, up popped a find to rival the Staffordshire Hoard. 

It doesn't usually happen to me ( okay, I once found a buckle on the way to pick up my cheese butties), but it did on Friday. My local landowner had suggested I might like to try my luck on some local pastureland before the grass grew too high. I'm going through a post Christmas weight loss regime so decided to walk the kilometre or so to the field rather than drive there. I thought that, instead of sticking to the dangerous main road, I would get there via several of the many footpaths that criss cross our locality. To save time when I reached the pasture, I started to set up the detector whilst walking along the first path. I have permission to search all of the local fields and, although they are planted with crops at the moment and consequently out of bounds, searching the paths is not a problem. Before long I was digging up various scraps of metal and the odd button when, suddenly, the detector gave the sharpest of signals just beneath a tree.

And up popped this pretty little rose gold Victorian wedding band. It was hallmarked in Birmingham in1903 and is nicely engraved with flowers. It's only 9 carat gold and not a particularly valuable item but it's the first gold ring I've found in all the years I have been detecting (other than one I found whilst looking specifically for it on behalf of its loser). Sadly, entangled deep down among the tree's roots, it was lost many, many years ago and a card in the Framlingham Co-op won't find its loser. I carried on along the path. It was much further than I had anticipated and by the time I reached the field that I had planned to detect on, it was almost time to head back. I swung the detector there for ten minutes with no luck before, not wanting to be late, I took the path home.

So next time I read about finds being made on the way back to the car, perhaps I won't dismiss them as mere detectorist's license. After all, I've now found gold before even getting to the field.

Whilst on the subject of finds, I've been having another try at trawling eBay for unusual or interesting bits and pieces. Last week I found this fabulous 19th century Bohemian tobacco box made by Brothers Urbach of Turn Teplitz. It's not in perfect condition as the gnome has lost his pipe stem but he's a very rare, if not unique, humidor and I suspect that a collector will pay a lot more than the £25 he cost.

I was quite excited when I found this item listed on eBay as a "Stoneware carafe/vase" and a price of £5. I knew that it was a spirit flask moulded with King George III and Queen Charlotte. 

This was the last example to hit the market and it sold in Mar 2005 for £1,050. As the bidding deadline approached, the price on eBay was just £15. With seconds to go I put in a bid of £315 and eBay showed me as high bidder for £17. I thought my luck was in when suddenly, with one second to go, the price jumped to £325. Just one other bidder had recognised the piece. There were no other bids. I'm sure that he or she was delighted to win it for £325 and I imagine that the seller who listed it for a fiver was thinking "WTF"!

Treasure apart, we've continued our busy cinema schedule and yesterday headed to the excellent Aldeburgh cinema and joined a packed matinee audience for Testament Of Youth. What a wonderful film! It is such a moving tribute to the youth of 1914-1918 who gave their lives without questioning the futility of what they were involved in. It's beautifully acted, beautifully filmed and tremendously moving. I'm not hugely emotional but I challenge anybody to see this and leave the cinema dry-eyed. Having seen Taron Egerton for the first time on Thursday as East End wide boy Eggsy in Kingsman, it was quite a surprise to see him here again in a completely different role as Vera Brittain's sensitive and upper class brother. Look out for him in future. I see him becoming a major star.