Sunday, 27 September 2015

Some Inspirational Events With FramSoc

One of the best things about Framlingham is FramSoc, the society run by Framlingham College. Each term they organise a series of events such as talks, outings and a book club. These events are always popular and have given us the opportunity to do so many things we would not have otherwise done such as punt down the River Cam, meet author Esther Freud and see the Cambridge Floodlights review. This week we've been to two more exceptional events.

On Wednesday it was a talk by the remarkable Karen Hester. Karen's life story (to date -she's still relatively young and I'm sure that there's a great deal more to come) is one that, if I put it in a novel, I'd be accused of making things up. Forced to run away from home at sixteen by a wicked and brutal step-father, Karen joined the army and chose the Transport Corps. Within months she was the youngest person ever in the UK to obtain their HGV licence (a record that she still holds today) and she was on the road to what should have been a dazzling army career. She rapidly rose through the ranks but when she married and became pregnant a few years later the army gave her the ultimatum to either abort the baby or leave the forces. She chose to keep her child and followed her army husband overseas to Germany.

A few years later the marriage, sadly, failed and Karen found herself back home in Suffolk with two children. She had set up a business in Germany but had to liquidate her stock when she returned and she found herself working part time in the evenings as a cleaner at Adnams brewery in Southwold. When she tired of night work and gave up the job a couple of years later her boss didn't want to lose her and offered her a day job in procurement. I won't repeat Karen's entire talk here but suffice to say, she did a very good job and continued to do a good job in every position she was offered in a meteoric rise through the company which has ended (to date that is) with her on the board of Adnams. 

It's little surprise to see what she has achieved as she is a person of rare determination to succeed through natural ability and sheer hard work. I share much of her business ethos - she likes to talent spot from within the business often promoting from the shop floor (nothing gave Marion and me more pleasure than seeing, for example, a schoolgirl office junior become a senior manager, a metal worker become a senior sales executive and a schoolboy shop floor worker end up as Operations Director) ; she doesn't hold with days off for colds (I can count my entire career days of absence on one hand); she was an early adopter of green business practices and she likes to ensure that everyone has good terms and conditions. I'm certainly not the workaholic that Karen is (five p.m was my working deadline) and I certainly didn't end up on the board of a major company but I liked what she said and her life story should be held up to all budding entrepreneurs as an example of what can be achieved if you are determined to achieve it.

I mentioned that Karen left the army because of her pregnancy. You wouldn't expect someone like her to take that lying down and you would be right. Not only has she gone from being a single mum and part time cleaner to the board of a large brewery she also took the army to court and won the rights for women to have children and keep working in the forces - a landmark court victory that has benefited thousands of female soldiers.

I usually write just a paragraph on the blog for each item - there's no way I could do justice to a woman like Karen Hester in one paragraph and I haven't really come close to doing her justice in five!

Our second FramSoc event of the week was a trip to the fabulous Aldeburgh Food And Drink Festival at Snape Maltings yesterday. Here, in warm autumn sunshine, we joined Vivia Bamford, cheesemaker and forager par excellence, for a fascinating walk around the surrounding countryside to discover the natural foods that we usually walk past without so much as a glance. Vivia would give Bear Grylls a run for his money in the survival stakes. She showed us a wide variety of flora that we could use in our everyday cooking as well as several that we should give a wide berth. It was an excellent introduction to foraging and I would strongly recommend anyone around the Framlingham area to check out when Vivia is doing her next one. You can check out and follow her blog here.

In other news I've been doing a bit of metal detecting. I think today's blog is long enough as it it is so I'll leave the finds for my next one.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

On Local Art And Being On Everest

The hectic (but enjoyable) retirement schedule continued this week. 

On Saturday we drove down the road to Glemham to see Cornucopia, the latest exhibition to be held at Jason Gathorne-Hardy's lovely Alde Valley farm. Amongst the exhibitors where Robert Hardy (centre above) whose amazing fantasy animal works sculpted from everyday tools and objects filled one of the barns. His show was opened by Radio presenter Libby Purves who is an avid collector of his work. We didn't buy one due to shortage of space but they are well worth seeing and are on show until 4th October.

The exhibition got us into an arty mood so we drove to Southwold where another local artist  Mark Burrell was showing his paintings in Craft Co. We have one of his paintings and love his colourful fantasy landscapes. We particularly liked two merry-go-round pictures and would have loved to buy one if only we had wall space.

We had a stroll along the seafront at Southwold before coffee and a snack in a really pleasant cafe. It's called Fifty One and is at 51 High St. Very friendly service, with good and reasonably priced home made food made it somewhere we will be going back to again. 

I've mentioned the excellent IMAX screen at Cineworld many times on this blog but on Monday it came into its own more then ever. We went to see Everest, the true story of an ill fated ascent of the mountain in the 90's. The overall IMAX effect made us feel as if we were with the climbers in the ice storms and on the summit - a truly brilliant movie experience. It's a very good film but if you see it in IMAX it's a great film.

We're regularly eating Jamie at the moment (you know what I mean). His Super Food book has some really super recipes and on Saturday Marion cooked this chicken and sweet potato meal including her own home made rye bread. I think you will agree that it looks pretty much like Jamie's version. It tasted delicious.

On Tuesday I had an hour with the detector. I dug the deepest hole I have ever dug and after getting to two feet I had to go home to get a spade. All the effort was sadly wasted as, at almost three feet down I hit something that looks like a rusty old iron pipe. Never mind, keeps me fit I suppose!

Tonight we're missing the monthly quiz as our team mates can't make it so we're going to the college for what promises to be an interesting talk by Karen Hester who started as a cleaner and ended up as an Executive Director of Adnams. Wonder if there will be any samples?

I used to post a lot of YouTube stuff on my blogs but haven't done recently as there are thousands everyday on Twitter and Facebook and anywhere you care to look. But with my love of movies and Bruno Mars Uptown Funk, I had to post this one.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Back Home

After sitting in the car park to write my last blog post I all but gave up on the internet for the last week of our stay in the caravan in St Andrews. We kept ourselves busy so there wasn't much time to go online even if we had been able to .

I mentioned that we were going to The Rocca Bar And Grill where Masterchef The Professionals winner Jamie works. I assume that he is still there (we didn't ask) as dishes like Marion's lovely starter certainly had the Masterchef look about them. We had a great meal with very friendly and attentive service. We had another good meal on Tuesday at Little Italy. We haven't tried it before but were very impressed. It's a typical little trattoria serving good homely Italian food. It's a great deal different from Rocca but, at a third of the Rocca price for our dinner (a comparable number of courses but less wine) extremely good value for money. We'll certainly be going back to both when we are in St Andrews again.

The big event of our two weeks in Scotland was the second birthday of our granddaughter Melody. Sarah found time from her extremely busy schedule to make a Soup Dragon cake for her Clangers themed party.

It seems only a few weeks ago that we were looking after Rose while Sarah went into hospital to have Melody. It's scary how our life seems to be simply flying past us. 

I found plenty of time to read while we were away and managed to complete the book of the moment and Booker Prize favourite A Little Life. I was reading it as part of an online social reading group and, like most of those involved, I hated it. How it is getting so many rave reviews makes me wonder if it is a major case of King's New Clothes syndrome. It's dreadful. Unless you love depressing reading material don't touch it with a bargepole.

The weather was mixed while we were away but I did get the chance to go on another long bike ride through some lovely forest and farmland in perfect cycling conditions. 

Rose and Melody were, of course, the highlight of the break. I'm waiting for the time when they audition for X Factor and put their singing down to "encouragement from our Nanny and Granddad when we were little."

They certainly know how to belt out their favourites from Frozen.

We're going to miss them and their parents very much but it won't be too long before we get back.

We passed the new Forth Road Bridge on the way home yesterday. It's going to be a pretty impressive structure when it's finished.

We had an uneventful drive in perfect weather until we reached the sign that told us we were back in Suffolk.

We had a couple of hours of exercise classes this morning to try and keep our fitness as we get older and then, to keep us in good health as well, did some shopping for recipes from Jamie Oliver's Everyday Superfood - his latest cookbook. The meals look great and I will let you know how we get on with them. After shopping and a quick coffee we went to Ipswich Film Theatre again for the matinee showing of 45 Years. We were amazed to see a long queue for tickets and the screen almost full. It was a silver haired audience and we were amongst the youngest in it. I imagine that should be no surprise for a highly acclaimed film starring two OAP actors. Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay will almost certainly go on to win more awards for their excellent performances but, for a couple like us coming up to our 40th anniversary, it touches on some serious and quite depressing issues. It's not a barrel of laughs but certainly provides plenty of food for thought.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Here We Are Again

We're back in our caravan in St Andrews for a week or two which means that I'm writing this sitting in the car in the site car park as, as always, WIFI has two speeds at our pitch - very slow and non-existent. The same goes for mobile phone reception which is why we found ourselves sitting in a lay by in the middle of nowhere last night so that we could make a phone call. Connectivity apart, it is lovely up here and we're enjoying the chance to see the Scottish branch of the family.

Before driving up to Scotland we had our last night of the Snape Proms for this year. It was The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra performing sixties hits with three vocalists. This photo from their website includes three of the singers we saw on the night. It was a tremendously entertaining event - great singing, great playing and a fabulous choice of music. The highlight for me was probably the rendition of the clarinet classic Strangers On The Shore but this was just one of many hugely popular sixties favourites. We've been to four of the Snape Proms and have enjoyed them all. Hopefully next year we will get to more.

We didn't find a crock of gold but this beautiful rainbow welcomed us shortly after we arrived on site at Craigtoun Meadows. We didn't know if it signalled a change to dry weather or that more wet days beckoned. Fortunately it turned out to be the latter and we've had three or four beautiful days already which is good news as the Scottish press reported last week that nowhere in Scotland recorded more than six days of unbroken sunshine this summer.

We've already seen Rose and Melody and their mum and dad plenty of times in the few days we've been here. We bought the caravan on the day after Rose was born and, without it, we wouldn't have had the opportunity to see them growing up - such a good buy.

After getting off to a patchy start (like many siblings), Rose and Melody are now the very best of friends and play together for hours on end. No need to guess who is the most mischievous.

Rose loves dressing up. 

While we were at their house at the weekend I was fascinated to see what happens if you don't cut and eat artichokes when they are ready. The resulting flowers are stunning.

Yesterday was so fine that we managed to get out on our bikes for a ride. Although I have been on a number of rides in St Andrews on my own I think it's only the second day this year that we've managed to get out together. We sat and watched surfers and canoeists in the waves on East Sands.

And then took the road behind the famous West Sands. There was hardly a cloud to be seen all day.

Before going back to the caravan we stopped for coffee at the new cafe above the Golf Museum. It certainly is a place with a great view. It was a prefect day and must have been brilliant for the hundreds of freshers who arrived at the university at the weekend. It's Freshers' Week and the town is full of society stands advertising their clubs. I particularly liked the look of the fine cheese and wine society but I would wouldn't I?

Whilst on the subject of food and wine, on Thursday evening we're trying out Rocca Grill. It's right alongside the Old Course and is the place where Jamie, the winner of Masterchef The Professionals works. It should be interesting.