Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The End Is In Sight

Five weeks to the day since Marion came home from her yoga class feverish and shivering, I am delighted to report that she is finally well again. She's not totally fit as the swine flu took a hell of a lot out of her and she still finds walking quite exhausting but the cough has gone, her complexion is back to normal and her energy is gradually returning. She's had a very peaceful ten days here in the caravan in St Andrews and is feeling very relaxed.

The weather has been kind during our stay and while much of the country suffered from storm Katie over the weekend this was the huge queue outside Jannetta's ice cream parlour on Easter Monday.

While Marion has been on the mend and putting her feet up with a good book I've been out on the bike four times so far. I've done some nice rides and travelled a fair distance. I managed to take a route along a road that was washed away two years ago during a heavy storm. It was my first time on this cycle route since that fateful night which saw a house on the road collapse.The new road (minus house) means that this waterfall is visible for the first time. 

What is also visible to the cyclist is roadside litter. I commented on Twitter on the trash along the verges on the A1 on the way here but when you are on a bike the amount of rubbish is more obvious and I am staggered to see how much detritus is ejected from cars. The moment you leave a built up area it seems to be open season for litter louts and even the most remote country lanes don't escape it. I have no idea who it is that is chucking such an amount of garbage but they clearly have no love for the countryside. Judging from the amount of fast food packaging, beer bottles and Irn Bru cans I can only deduct that it is an army of obese idiots who don't own a bin at home.

Living in Framlingham we are very lucky to be in one of the loveliest parts of the country. Having a caravan in St Andrews makes us doubly lucky and yesterday we were able to spend an hour with our Scottish granddaughters in the grounds of the ancient cathedral.

It's a wonderful place for children to explore in safety.

It's hard to believe that it is almost five years since Rose arrived and we bought the caravan

And two and a half years since little Melody joined us.

We're heading back to Suffolk at the weekend. We've lots of things on in the next few weeks. It looks like an eventful spring ahead of us and I'm delighted that it looks like Marion is going to be well enough to enjoy it.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Convalescing In St Andrews

We’re up at the caravan in St Andrews after an uneventful and easy eight-hour drive yesterday. After Marion’s recent illness I was reluctant for her to share the driving but she insisted so we went to the excellent Farm CafĂ© at Marlesford at eight in the morning to make sure that she had a substantial breakfast to fortify her for the journey. She drove for the first four hours and, although she was shattered when we arrived at Scotch Corner, she had no problems. I think that we can consider the swine flu finally beaten now and this next couple of weeks will be a bit of convalescence for Marion.

When we arrived at the caravan we were greeted by some beautiful flowers and this cake decorated by the girls for Marion’s birthday. We popped in to see the family for an hour when we were unpacked. It was great to see them again – so many changes in Rose and Melody in just ten weeks.

On Friday evening we went to FRAm’s quiz at St Michael’s rooms and our team, Danbury Metal Detecting Club, actually won. It was a great all round performance. I hope that it raised a good sum towards the legal fees for the Fairfield Road and Mount Pleasant appeals. The target of over £24,000 is now almost in sight.

Saturday saw us saying goodbye to the car. We bought it shortly after we arrived in Suffolk and it’s been extremely comfortable to drive. We really need a decent car with a bit of luxury for all the miles (and hours) we do travelling to Scotland and to Kent so we’ve bought the same again and look forward to picking it up when we get back.

I bought Marion this giant urn for her birthday. It’s been in the window of H-P’s Emporium here in Framlingham for a few months and Marion was always admiring it. It’s a super shop and the owner Sara is incredibly helpful and wrapped it beautifully for me so Marion got a nice gift to unwrap instead of something that looked like a dog’s dinner.

I also bought Marion this oil painting by Lowestoft artist Mark Burrell. She loved it when we went to his exhibition in a Southwold Gallery last year so I contacted him after the show ended and he agreed to hold it for me until her birthday. We’ve got two of Mark’s paintings now and it makes a nice addition to our somewhat quirky art collection.

My £75 sub to Caravan Connect WIFI has expired and I’m umming and aaahing about renewing it. The service was totally unusable last time we were here so I’m not sure of the point. On the other hand, if it has, by any chance,  improved I can use WIFI from the comfort of the caravan and not sitting in the car outside the caravan site reception piggybacking onto their BT WIFI as I am now.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

A Slow Recovery But At Least It's A Recovery

Marion's illness is now entering its fourth week and, though weak, she is making good progress so we decided that she was well enough to venture out this week. I do some business mentoring for Suffolk Chamber Of Commerce and I had an appointment with a client on Monday in Bury St Edmunds so Marion joined me and did a bit of shopping while I had my meeting. After that we went to the car dealership and ordered a new car. I mentioned last week that I was unhappy with the service I got in Ipswich. The Bury St Edmunds franchise (which is in no way related to Ipswich) made us very welcome and in less than half an hour we had signed up. The salesman was delighted to help us and I can't understand why Ipswich were so unhelpful as I imagine that the commission on a vehicle at the price we paid would be quite substantial. After we got home, Ipswich phoned and left a message to say that they had some details for us if we would phone back. I didn't phone back and they haven't tried again. They must have more customers than they need.

After we bought the car Marion said that she felt up to going to the cinema so we headed to Cineworld in Bury for Hail Caesar. We've been looking forward to this movie since we first saw the trailer and Marion was not  disappointed - she loved it. For me it was a bit of a let down. The vignettes and pastiches of 1950s Hollywood's golden times of musicals, westerns, and war films were absolutely brilliant. Channing Tatum's scene as a tap dancing sailor was fabulous and Ralph Fiennes was on top form as a camp director. One scene in which he attempted to get a young cowboy actor (Alden Ehrenreich) to enunciate his lines in a new role as a high society beau was laugh out loud hilarious. My problem with it was that, despite such  brilliance in many areas, the story didn't hang together for me and I found myself getting bored waiting for the next pastiche to arrive. It's a good film and a must see for any film buff but, loving the Coen brothers' previous work so much, I was a bit disappointed.

With Marion on the mend but still taking things slowly I've had a few more hours in the fields with the detector. You can stop reading now if this doesn't interest you but if you are interested, here are the finds that have turned up this week.

Nice 17th c bag seal castle and CN for Civitas Norwich
Damaged toy gun or 'petronel' from the 17th or 18th century

The Finds Liaison Officer tells me this is a medieval vessel mend.
Some fancy buttons 18th and 19th century

And a few more of this week's buttons
This week's scrap lead
It's a struggle to lift the lead scrap box now
A hammered silver coin. Almost completely devoid of detail. A friend and I keep a running total of our hammered coin finds in a friendly annual competition. They all count.

18th century Prussian Thaler 
Post medieval spur fragment probably 17th century
Various weights dates unknown

Medieval strap end

William III shilling in terrible condition
Victorian florin 1899
Spindle whorl (date unknown)

Post medieval buckle

Tudor period buckle

Charles I rose farthing
And a couple more
Tudor period buckle
Yet more musket balls

I've got scores of them

The finds liaison officer at the Portable Antiquities Scheme reckons this is a medieval spout.
Very early pewter military button. Royal Ordnance c1780-1820

Lead cames for window glass

Good Tudor rose horse decoration probably 18th century

Tudor period spectacle buckle

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Progress At Last

Firstly i would like to thank everybody who has sent Marion goodwill messages during her fight against the nasty illness that she's had for the last three weeks. The house is full of lovely flowers and cards and they have really cheered her up. Many many thanks to everyone who has been in touch. Without social media she would have had to suffer in silence but Facebook and this blog have ensured that most of her friends are aware of her suffering. I don't want to go on about if for ever but it's been a real experience. I've done some research on swine flu and there's an outbreak in Mexico at the moment. There have been 945 reported cases as I write and, of these, 28 have died. That's a 7% mortality rate which makes it a pretty scary illness. She's definitely on the mend now but I don't think she'll be her old self for at least another two weeks. Every hour that she goes without coughing is a bonus. 

Yesterday evening we went to Framlingham College for the FramSoc supper. Marion wanted to give it a try and she survived being out for over three hours. We had an excellent dinner with each course accompanied by decent wines. Although we went on our own we were put on a table with some good company and enjoyed the event. Marion was shattered when she got home but at least she got out.

I've sent my new novel to six people who kindly offered to give it a try and let me know what they think. My first feedback included "I laughed out loud" and "I couldn't put it down" which is brilliant but it was from a close relative so I have to be conservative and not get carried away. The other five readers include two friends and three people I don't know at all so their feedback is eagerly anticipated. I've got an idea for my next novel so I may get cracking on that this week.

I don't want to be a moaner but what is going on with students at the moment? Hardly a day goes by without me reading, hearing on the radio or seeing on the news an item about students at various universities wanting to ban visiting speakers or tear down a statue. I would assume that, to be accepted at university one needs a modicum of intelligence and common sense and that includes an ability to listen to what other people have to say even if you disagree with them. By all means disagree but please let them have the chance to speak. Banning everyone you don't see eye to eye with is the sort of thing that you might expect of a fascist or an ISIS supporter but it's not what I I want from the people who will one day be running the country. It's that sort of attitude that could result in a buffoon like Donald Trump becoming president of the USA.

While I am on my high horse I might as well stay on it for a minute. My car will be three years old in June and I've been thinking of changing it. I got a call from the Ipswich dealership telling me about some fabulous offers they've got on this month and inviting me to make an appointment. I booked for 12.30 on Saturday and arrived at the dealership dead on time. After asking me to wait in a waiting area for five minutes a young man came to see me and said that his appointments were running late but if I just gave him a few details he'd sort a car out for me and email me the details. Now I don't know about you but this, having made a forty minute drive (and with a forty minute drive back home in prospect) to effectively answer a few questions I could have answered over the phone, was not exactly great customer service. Buying a new car should be a pleasant experience - a look around what's on offer, the latest designs, new features, colours and a bit of a haggle on price before making a decision. I'm not buying a new kettle or steam iron, the car is a pretty significant expense and I would expect a little bit of effort to be made to sell it to me. Oh well, it's their loss. I phoned the Bury St Edmunds dealership before I left and I'm going to see them on Tuesday. As for the details Ipswich email to me, there's a file called "trash" in my email app.  

Thursday, 10 March 2016

A Swine Of An Illness

The doctor phoned this morning and told Marion that he had her test results. They confirmed the dreadful illness that she has been suffering from for the last few weeks as swine flu. As I've already said on an earlier blog, I have never seen Marion so ill in the almost fifty years that I have known her and seeing how seriously debilitating it was I now understand how people died from flu epidemics such as the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic (seriously). I am pleased to say that she has started to slowly recover and today, for the very visit time in two weeks, she left the house and walked into Framlingham where she enjoyed a cup of herbal tea in warm sunshine outside The Dancing Goat (whose takings must have plummeted recently).. 

Not only was it good for her to get a bit of fresh air, it was also nice for her to chat to several people we know who passed by. She has not spoken face to face to anybody other than me and medics for fifteen days. She felt tired by the time we walked home but her spirits were raised by a lovely delivery of flowers from our dear friends Jane and Dave and a potted plant from neighbours David and Valerie.  The warm messages that Marion has had from so many people have really cheered her up.  

You may think I'm making big fuss about a touch of flu but this was honestly something else.

While Marion has been convalescing I have been working on my second novel. It is now complete at 82,300 (ish) words and I asked people on Facebook to volunteer to test read it and give me feedback on how they feel about it. I have had a great response and am now eagerly awaiting their opinions. The book is intended to be an easy read so I hope that they will be able to get through it quickly.

I visited an artist in Lowestoft yesterday with a view to him designing artwork for a cover. I will wait for the readers'  feedback and any amendments suggested before deciding whether to go ahead and self publish (which will need a cover) or try to get a real publisher this time.


Friday, 4 March 2016

Marion's no better.

I've been delaying this blog in the hope that I would be able to report that Marion is well on the road to recovery and feeling well again but I'm sorry to to say that nothing could be further from the truth. I've known her for almost fifty years now and cannot remember her ever being so unwell and that includes a bout of pneumonia in her thirties. Doctors won't prescribe anything so she is having to fight off the "virus" on her own. She is spending long periods coughing continuously and has not eaten properly for over ten days. I'm pleased to say that her temperature has finally returned to normal today after days in the region of 39 degrees but she has had hardly any sleep and is feeling very weak. Thank you to all those who have written expressing concern and wishing her a speedy recovery. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this weekend will see an upturn.

It's such a pity that she has been unwell this week as there has been no less than three events that she would have loved to go to.

The first was a lecture by John Sheeran at Fram College on Wednesday. I went on my own as there was little that I could do for Marion. I've been to a few of John's lectures when he held them in St Michael's rooms here in Framlingham. He is a wonderful speaker on art and has a marvellous ability to infuse his audiences with his love of the paintings that he discusses. This lecture was on the masterpieces at the Met Museum in New York. We've been to that museum and seen a number of the paintings that John highlighted but he was still able to show elements of the pictures and interpretations of their meanings that are easy to miss. We hope very much to be able to take in a couple more of his lectures that he is running around Suffolk during the spring months. You can check out his website and lecture dates here.

I know that I've mentioned it before but ,before John's lecture, two local young men Henry and Sam spoke about their mammoth track to Kathmandu to raise awareness for their Charity Annie's Challenge set up when Henry's sister was diagnosed with an incurable brain cancer. They invited the audience to join them in their challenge and, whether this be by simply donating or by walking some of the way, it is something that Marion and I will be keen to be involved in. You can check out the website here. Please watch the video appeal on it. I know that some people sometimes think that challenges like this are a bit of a holiday for the person seeking sponsorship but I can assure you that this is no holiday and will be a gruelling challenge for the young men. They raised a great amount on Wednesday.Let's hope that they raise much more in the forthcoming twelve months. 

Speaking of gruelling challenges, the second event that Marion has missed due to her illness  was the FramSoc book club. A Brief History Of Seven Killings won the Booker Prize but our members were not all convinced that it was worthy of it. Nobody could argue that it is not a brilliantly written piece of work and, at almost seven hundred pages long, a modern epic but seven hundred pages is a lot to invest your time in and, when it is page after page of drug fuelled violence or drug fuelled sex, however clever the multiple viewpoint and convoluted plot is, it starts to wear you down. One of the ways to differentiate between the story's narrators is which of the Jamaican curses, bumbaclot, rasclot, bumboclot or rasscloth they use as their swear word of choice (google them) and that pretty much sums up the book. It is coarse and it is foul but it is also a fascinating insight into Jamaican politics from the sixties through to the end of the twentieth century with a bit of CIA spy stuff thrown in. I love Bob Marley's music. The book is heavily influenced by and centres around an assassination attempt on Marley in the 1970's. I don't believe that the book does any favours to Marley or to his poetic lyrics. Although other members of the book club would disagree, this is not one that I would recommend.  

I do a little bit of voluntary work here in Framlingham by helping elderly people. It's usually just a bit of shopping for the Hour Community but today I took an elderly lady to a local care home to discuss the possibility of her husband becoming a resident. He has dementia and it is a struggle for her to cope. When we arrived, Imogen Sheeran (wife of art lecturer John) was setting up for a talk for the residents on jewellery making. I took the opportunity to buy Marion this lovely necklace. Imogen explained how the beads are created naturally in China using real mussels to create the mother of pearl. Marion was very pleased with the necklace but, sadly, it didn't cure her. 

Tomorrow night we've booked for the third event of the week. Slice Of Life Framlingham are putting on a show about Jane Austen which is being performed by an actress from The Archers. Marion loves Jane Austen, The Archers and Slice Of Life so it will be a huge disappointment if she misses it (which is 90% likely as I write). I really hope that she is on the mend soon. I'll keep you posted.