Sunday, 31 May 2015

A Week Of Catch Up

It's been a catch up week this week after our fortnight away in Scotland. 

The garden is starting to blossom so Marion has spent a fair bit of time working in it. We decided that the old wooden bench and garden furniture (above) were starting to look decidedly tatty so it was time to replace them. They owe us nothing as we've had the bench for over twenty years and the table and chairs for fifteen plus. But Marion had a brainwave and decided that a coat of Cuprinol wood furniture paint (which is available in a wide choice of colours) might extend their lives.

And she was right. It took us a long time but we're pleased with the results.

The weather hasn't been perfect so it was a good week to get to the cinema. We headed down to Ipswich to see Mad Max Fury Road which has received very favourable reviews from the critics. We couldn't get to a 3D or IMAX screening but normal 2D was absolutely fine. Set in a dystopian future the film is little more than an extended chase from start to finish with almost no time for the audience (or the cast) to draw breath. It's like one of those giant American monster truck shows with a touch of Cirque Du Soleil and heavy rock thrown in as Max (Tom Brady) and Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) flee the clutches of the mad despot Immortan Joe and his band of bald white-faced savages driving across miles of bare and barren desert in a weird and wonderful convoy of vehicles that reminded me of some of those in Whacky Races. It's been hailed by some as a pro-feminist movie with a kick ass heroine but Joe's harem of long legged and beautiful wives who accompany Max and Furiosa in their bid to escape are dressed in a definitely non-feminist way. If you enjoy cartoon violence and action, action action, you'll love this. I hope that the screenwriter was paid by the movie's running time rather than by the word as, if it was the latter, his income from this film would barely cover a box of popcorn. 

Although Marion has had a nasty pain in her shoulder since we got back from Scotland we managed to get to a fair number of exercise classes at both Fram Leisure and Mint Fitness Studio this week. This was a good thing as we were able to enjoy the monthly wine tasting at The Framlingham Wine Shop without too guilty a conscience. It was another enjoyable evening with a regular group of local wine lovers and we tasted (and ordered) a good selection of wines.

On Thursday we went to The Castle Inn for the monthly quiz. There wasn't a huge turnout this month as it's a holiday week and we joined in with another couple as none of our regular team was able to make it. The other couple were extremely knowledgeable so we somehow found ourselves in the unusual position of winning! I'm sure that this is a flash in the pan and normal service will be resumed next month.

Suffolk has a reputation for good food and now that spring is arriving (just about), lobsters are available again and Darren at Framlingham Market saved a couple for me. I wanted to cook something simple but a bit special for Saturday night so I made lobster thermidor (with supermarket chips). It's the first time I've tried this but, apart from the fiddly bit of getting the meat out of the claws, it's a very easy dish to prepare and made a perfect dinner before a night in front of the telly.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Back to A Bright New Hall And Some Dark TV

We're back in Framlingham and finally have access to a WIFI signal after two weeks relying upon visits to Sarah and various St Andrews cafes to catch up on emails and social media. 

We had a great time in Scotland but wished that the weather had been a little kinder. The conditions were nice enough for me to get out on the bike just twice (I'm a very fair weather cyclist) and the new garden furniture which we bought for the caravan deck was barely used.

But we weren't there for sunbathing and it was lovely to see how granddaughters Rose and Melody have changed in the couple of months since we were last there. Melody is changing every day and is a real chatterbox who, after having very little to say just a few weeks ago, is now stringing some fairly long sentences together.

There's no questioning who is the girls' favourite - Marion makes their trips to the caravan an exciting adventure transforming the furniture into all sorts of secret hideaways and Frozen ice palaces.

While we were away, we left the keys to the house with the excellent decorator Gerald Clements who was giving the inside decor a general tidy up and wallpapering the hall landing and stairs.

He's done a great job as usual. If you ever need any decorating done in the Framlingham area, look no further than Gerald.

Being home gave us the chance to watch the new TV. There isn't much UHD content available yet so I subscribed to Neflix which has the best selection at the moment. We tried Bloodline before we went to Scotland and managed to watch six of the thirteen episodes a few weeks ago. We watched the final seven over the weekend. 

It's a sort of Florida Keys Dallas about a hotel owning family. When black sheep prodigal son Danny (played brilliantly by Ben Mendelssoh) returns to the hotel for a family reunion it's the catalyst for a family meltdown of stratospheric proportions. There's a dark reason behind Danny's Machiavellian character and through flashback and flash forward the plot unravels like a dark almost Shakespearian ( Marion's words) tragedy. This is television at its best. The UHD made it exceptional but this dark masterpiece would keep you enthralled even if you watched it on your iPad in low resolution.

On the lighter end of the TV spectrum we also caught up with Peter Kay's car share on BBC iPlayer. This series was an absolute delight. The relationship between Kay's supermarket manager John and Sian Gibson's lonely shop assistant Kayleigh who are thrust together due to a company car share scheme, is one of the best pairings since Del Boy and Rodney. Much of the action is shot through the windscreen of the car as the gloriously naive Kayleigh and her patient driver chat about the mundane world they inhabit against a background of banal local radio and drive time traffic jams. The conversation (so genuine and affectionate) is interspersed with the occasional fantasy music video making this both original and extremely funny. I loved it and hope that Peter Kay comes up with a second series very soon.

I'll end now as we're heading out to Framlingham Gala. Let's hope the sun shines on this family orientated event.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Back In Fife

We’re back in Scotland again and that means that, yet again, there’s no WIFI. This is becoming increasingly frustrating as, whilst I usually moan but am at least able to check the emails, this time there is no signal here at Craigtoun Meadows at all so I am writing this offline on the assumption that normal substandard service will be resumed at some time in the near future.

On Thursday I got up at 5 and drove to Rochester. This was the view of the cathedral at 7.15. I was too early to go to the family’s house for my babysitting stint so I headed to a local coffee shop for a bit of breakfast. It was full of UKIP supporters enthusiastic about their chances of victory – Ha! I had a lovely day looking after our granddaughter. We played with lots of games, read plenty of books (I love those Julia Donaldson ones) and had a hearty lunch before Paul came home and I drove back to Suffolk.

It was a late night watching the election results before the drive up to Scotland and, whilst this may lose me some readers, I was very happy with the outcome. I think that David Cameron is a decent man and Osborne has been an extremely sensible and prudent chancellor. I feel sorry for Nick Clegg though and would not have been upset if the coalition had continued. As for Ed – it’s ludicrous that the poor bloke’s future should have been influenced by a flipping bacon sandwich – the internet has a lot to answer for.

We’re so obsessed by image aren’t we? When I heard about that website that would estimate your age I (like many others I guess) immediately and vainly logged on and posted a recent photo expecting some flattering result.


We’ve come back to Scotland now because we’re having a lot of decorating done at home in Framlingham. I know it’s only two years since the whole house was done but we’ve decided that the hall, landing and stairs, which were painted, would look better wallpapered. So the excellent Gerald Clements and his blokes will be doing that for us as well as touching up a few scrapes and knocks and repainting the downstairs ceiling which has developed some cracks in the new plaster.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I had done a few hours of detecting in the last few weeks. This is what turned up. There seems to be an awful lot of lead scrap in the field. Although the other finds don’t look much, there is a medieval buckle, a medieval rivet and a medieval strap end amongst the finds as well as a post medieval spur fragment, five musket balls, a thimble, three Victorian pennies and a gold coloured bottle top that for five seconds had me thinking I had struck lucky. I’m looking forward to harvest time when there will be much more land available to search.

We also went to a great evening at Framlingham College where we were given a talk by Esther Freud who has recently published her novel Mr Mac And Me which is set in Walberswick at the start of the first world war. The Mr Mac of the title is Charles Rennie Mackintosh who did indeed stay in the village at the time and the novel is narrated by the son of the landlord of The Blue Anchor which was on the site of The Anchor where we went for lunch with Paul a few weeks ago. It’s an interesting story and it’s good to learn some history of our new home county.

My own novel, which is also narrated (partly) by a boy, is still selling but I haven’t had any reviews on Amazon for a few months now. I’m doing a price promotion for a week in May and hope that it might result in a couple of fresh reviews appearing on Amazon. I’ve got plenty of ideas going on for a second novel but haven’t found time to sit down and push on with it yet.

One final word, whilst on the subject of books – young Dominic Weatherby, a student at Fram College and, like me and Marion, an avid film fan, has been selected to attend the global youth leaders’ conference in Washington DC. He has to fund the journey himself and, as part of his fundraising drive, has produced this recipe book which is filled with great movies and cuisine to accompany them from all over the world. It’s packed with great recipes and you can help Dominic achieve his dream by buying a (very inexpensive) copy here.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Gyms And Gadgets

It's been a week of exercise and toys for me. 

We joined Fram Leisure on a fitness class membership a few months ago and we were really enjoying regular spinning and circuit training - it was doing us good. Unfortunately our three instructors all left within a few days of each other and the available classes dried up. We both felt our fitness levels dropping within a week of stopping the exercise and were desperate to get back into our schedule. 

There was an alternative - Mint Fitness set up by one of our old instructors Becky - but it was an extra ten minutes drive and we were already paying Fram Leisure.

But fortunately, after several weeks of being unfit, our saviour arrived in the shape of new instructor Camille who has moved to Suffolk from France. 

Suddenly we have not just one or two but well over a dozen classes to choose from and we've certainly taken advantage of the new schedule. I managed to fit seven classes in between Monday and Thursday alone and Marion did a fair few too (as well as yoga elsewhere). Camille is a very professional trainer and we both really felt the benefits of the sessions that we had.

With no classes on a Friday at Fram Leisure we decided to try Mint Fitness out. Becky has set up a super little studio which is extremely well equipped with top of the range spinning bikes along with plenty of other high quality fitness paraphernalia. We had a thorough and challenging circuit class with Sophia followed by a very enjoyable and invigorating spinning session with Becky. We'll certainly be back and hope that Fridays at Mint will become an additional and regular feature of our exercise regime.

In the time when we haven't been exercising it's been a week of gadgets. I don't know if I mentioned in an earlier blog but when we took robot lawnmower "Mo" out of hibernation in February to renew the blades and check everything was functioning, the electronic display kept showing an error message. It was under guarantee so I drove it back to Mow Direct near Norwich and expected a speedy repair. Sadly the repair bamboozled their technicians (I don't think they have had many robots to repair) so they sent it back to the suppliers. The suppliers were equally flummoxed so they had to consult at length with the Italian manufacturers who, over the following two months, sent almost every component imaginable over to the UK before the UK suppliers gave in and sent Mow Direct a new one. "Mo 2"  arrived on Friday and is now ready to perform its daily trim. Although Mow Direct had the machine for over two months the service was good and they kept me fully in the picture on progress (or lack of it).

There was another minor problem (I was going to say disaster but there are so many real disasters around at the moment that that was an inappropriate choice of words) on Tuesday when the Nespresso milk frother packed up and started flashing red. A quick check on the internet told me it was an unfixable problem so, as it too was under guarantee, I telephoned Nespresso who sorted it out immediately taking the original unit back the following day and getting the replacement to us by the weekend. I'm so pleased that they did this efficiently as Marion loves her daily cappuccino.

And on Thursday the new UHD curved TV arrived. The old telly sold on eBay and just an hour or two after the high bidder (at a reasonable £160) collected it, the new one was in place. Getting a new TV nowadays isn't quite what it once was and, whilst it was ready to watch quite quickly, it's taken me a couple of days to get it connected properly to the sound system and internet and to calibrate the smart remote controller. I found a website suggesting the perfect picture settings and, once they were input, the picture is quite staggeringly good. Just one setback though, it appears that "something" is interfering with the WIFI on my laptop. The phones and iPad and ethernet connections are all working perfectly but this laptop (plugged into ethernet at the moment) drops the WIFi constantly. I'm sure I'll sort it out soon.

I did manage to sort out the Skype straight away and up popped my mum from her iPad. 

Another busy week beckons. The audiologist is tweaking the hearing aids tomorrow, there are more exercise classes on Wednesday, on Thursday I'm heading down to Rochester to babysit for a day and then on Friday we're driving to St Andrews for a couple of weeks in the caravan and seeing the Scottish branch of the family.  

Before I finish I must mention The Station. It's one of Framlingham's pubs and (according to the newspaper I borrowed this photo from) Ed's local. We joined a couple of friends for a meal there on Friday evening. The food, wine, service and beer were all extremely good and I'm sure we'll be back there very soon.