Friday, 17 July 2015

39 Years And Still Going Strong

It was 39 years ago when this photo was taken in the grounds of Chatham Registry Office after our short but sweet wedding ceremony and, I'm delighted that we are still together today. So much has happened in those thirty-nine years and it all seems to have passed in a flash. I suppose that's a consequence of living such a busy life - with little time to draw breath.


This week was no exception and on Tuesday, after the long drive back from Wales on Monday, we had some stuff to do in Ipswich so took advantage of an overcast day to go to the tiny Screen 2 at the wonderful IFFT to see Les Combatants. It's a little know film about two young people, Arnaud and Madeleine at the beginning of their working lives. Arnaud has recently lost his father and is helping his brother working in the family carpentry business but thinking about joining the army. Tough Madeleine is also planning a career in the army and the couple meet during a wrestling contest on the local beach where Arnaud has to resort to dirty tricks to save being humiliatingly beaten in front of his friends by a girl. It's a very simple and charming film about two young characters trying to find their way. Is there a softer edge to Madeleine (who blends whole raw mackerel to make herself an energy drink and has a powerful head butt waiting for those who upset her)? And is Arnaud cut out for an army career or simply destined for a life in his home town and family firm? We both loved this film and the IFFT's screening, with no adverts or trailers, made the experience a real pleasure.

Yesterday we went down to London in the afternoon. Our friend Amanda recently broke an ankle and was unable to use her tickets to see Neil Diamond at the O2. Marion has always been a big Diamond fan so Amanda's misfortune was a lucky break for us and we were delighted to buy the tickets from her.

After a look around the Greenwich Peninsular site (which I believe is still being developed and not due for completion until 2040) we headed to Craft which is just opposite the O2. It was opened earlier this year and is a little different to the scores of chain restaurants in the area. (Picture from Daily Telegraph website)

We sat outside for a drink before going downstairs to the restaurant. The restaurant specialises in crafting its food (hence the name) and has vegetable gardens, bee hives and a smoke house on site where they prepare as much of the food as possible. I had smoked eel with a bbq style topping, a fabulous lamb dish and a barley and strawberry dessert. Marion had a pea salad, chicken in broth and a lovely chocolate pud. It's probably about double what you would pay in the Nandos, Pizza Express or Harvester on the site but it's money well spent to be able to relax in comfortable surroundings and enjoy delicious food and excellent service.

There's certainly plenty of fascinating architecture on view on the site such as this building which has a Costa Coffee beneath it.

As for the concert. This was the view from my seat as the woman in front insisted in standing up all the way through. 

When I stood I had a very good view. I was happy to stand for the lively numbers but why some (not many) had to stand throughout beats me. Neil Diamond has an amazing back catalogue of songs and sang all the old favourites and a few new ones. The audience was, in the main, ancient (I half expected a zimmer frame parking area) and if anyone had set up a concession selling cocoa and Horlicks they would have done a roaring trade. It was an entertaining evening although I think many there would have been happy to have heard him sing Sweet Caroline all night. We left just as he started his final encore and managed to get out of the car park and back to Framlingham by 12.30. Had we waited until the very end we could have added an hour to the return journey.

At least when confronted by the woman in front of me's backside, I had a good view of the big screen.

I'll finish now to head into Celebrity Central (i.e. Framlingham - Ed Sheeran, Nicole Scherzinger and Mackenzie Crook have all been here this week) to get some provisions for a 39th wedding anniversary celebration dinner. 

Monday, 13 July 2015

Red Red Wine Makes You Feel So Fine

It's been another busy few days. On Saturday we headed to Kent where, in the shadow of Rochester castle, Paul and family were busy setting up a Mad Hatter's Tea Party in celebration of our granddaughter's third birthday. She won't be three for a couple of weeks but it's not going to be possible to hold a birthday party then so it was brought forward.

It was the perfect location for the tea party and we were blessed with ideal conditions - no rain and the shade of the huge old beech tree took the edge off the heat of the day so the children could play without any risk of sunstroke.

Here's the fabulous Alice In Wonderland cake baked by our talented daughter-in-law.

As soon as the party was over and tidied up it was time for us to drive up the motorway towards Wales. We were visiting old friends David and Janet Wareing in Llangollen where they were holding an afternoon lunch party before the finale of the Eisteddfod- a gig by UB40. We drove half way and stayed at a Premier Inn en route.

It was (for us) a short drive of only a few hours in the morning to Llangollen. Again the weather was kind and the family was able to enjoy an informal game of cricket on the lawn overlooking the town. We've been to many of these Eisteddfod events organised by David and Janet over the years and can remember when many of these cricketers were toddlers.

Good friend and Martin Scorcese lookalike Mark Jones from Ribchester joined us in the festivities.

As did his wife Nita and some of Janet's ex work colleagues and family.

Marion was delighted when Janet gave her the gift of a magnificent book of the Alexander McQueen exhibition that we went to at the V & A a few weeks ago. 

The party over we all went down the hill to the show ground and the UB40 concert.

We've been big fans of UB40 for years and seen them three times before last night. The last time we saw them Ali Campbell was not in the line up. Now Ali, along with Astro and Mickey Virtue have set up their own band called "UB40 Featuring Ali, Astro And Mickey" which is a bit of a mouthful due, I assume, to contractual obligations and to avoid being confused with the original UB40 who still tour without them. As Ali's fantastic voice and Astro's brilliant rapping have always been the most distinguishing things about the band, this new line up is as close to the original sound as possible and we were back to the glory days as they brought the entire audience to their feet with a set that included new material and, of course most of the favourites, including a final encore of Red Red Wine that bought the house down.  

It was a fantastic climax to a wonderful weekend. Now we're back in Framlingham. We've got a trip to the cinema in Ipswich tomorrow for Les Combattants at Ipswich Film Theatre and a Neil Diamond concert at the O2 on Thursday to look forward to before our 39th wedding anniversary at the weekend and, hopefully, another major event to report next week.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Four Happy Years Of Caravanning

It's been almost two weeks since my last blog. That's probably the longest gap since I went into hospital for the hip replacement four years ago. Regular readers won't need to guess the reason for the long break. That's right, we've been in Scotland again. We've been back at the caravan in Craigtoun Meadows where we pay Caravan Connect about £75 per year for the privilege of sitting in front of a computer screen staring at a page that reads 'you are not connected to the internet' for ninety percent of the time that you are trying to do so. This is interspersed with brief periods when the internet miraculously springs into life and you have to choose between checking your bank statement, downloading your emails, seeing what's going on on Twitter and Facebook or writing a blog. These false dawns invariably result in making a choice of one of the aforementioned, getting as far as the sign on screen and then the dreaded 'you are not connected the internet' returns. I've given up complaining. Every time I do so, Caravan Connect give me an extra month free. At this rate I won't have to pay anything for another five years but that will still mean that every Facebook 'like' will probably have cost a couple of quid.

Anyway, we're back in Framlingham for a few days now and we didn't go to St Andrews to waste time on the internet. No we were there to see the family and, more importantly for granddaughter Rose's fourth (yes FOURTH!) birthday. It's hard to believe that it is four years since me flew up the motorway to Dundee in record time to reach Ninewells Hospital before visiting time ended. We went out and bought the caravan the following morning. Rose is growing up into a very sensitive and very friendly little girl. Last year she was shy and quite reserved but now she's very happy mixing with other children. At a playground last week she asked a much older girl to push her on the swings and then invited her round to her house to play.

We spent a lot of our time in St Andrews helping Sarah and Duncan get things ready for Rose's birthday party. 

This is what took up most of the time. Rose's birthday present was a Wendy House for her to share with Melody. It came in kit form and Duncan heroically built it while I gave a helping hand by holding things in place while he did all the screwing and drilling. We all painted it and, despite some inclement weather, just managed to get it ready in time for the big day.

It was great to spend time with Rose and Melody, who, though two years younger, may soon catch Rose up sizewise.

Rose had a great time at her birthday party. 

She managed to win the 'Mermaid' (sack) race although I suspect there was a bit of running going on in that sack instead of jumping.

Sarah made a lovely Treasure Island themed birthday cake.

Although it involves a thousand mile and (this time) an eighteen hour round trip, we're still pleased that we bought the caravan. It has given us a chance to see two our of our granddaughters grow up. We would not have had that opportunity without it.

By the way. You read all the headlines about the hottest July day ever. This was that day in Scotland.