Tuesday, 31 January 2017


Here's the front page of yesterday's East Anglian Daily Times. It tells the amazing story of young local man Mat Bayfield who, while we've all been grumbling about Brexit and Trump, decided to put something positive into his local community and arranged a series of Suffolk walks for every day in January to give people the chance to meet up, take some exercise, chat together and maybe raise a few pounds for Brain Tumour Research. Sadly Mat is a victim of this horrible disease and was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour four years ago.

His initiative snowballed and his series of walks reached a climax on Sunday when no less than five hundred and forty turned up at Glemham Hall for a three mile hike across the local estate followed by abundant refreshments, some jokes from Mat's dad and a performance of folks songs by Mat's band The Broadside Boys.

As we were in Scotland and then Bequia for most of January we were unable to participate in many walks but Marion and her friend Jane did one in Debenham on Thursday and I joined them both at Glemham on Sunday.

I've never seen so many ramblers together.

Mat (apologies for misspelling it as Matt on Twitter) and his girlfriend Kelly gave a moving speech explaining that their main intentions had been community based and the cash received for The Brain Tumour Charity was secondary. But with a total now in excess of £15,000 raised that is far from secondary. There's still time to make a small donation (he's not the sort to expect you to break the bank). Here's a link to his just giving page.

After months with very limited cinema going we're finally back into our stride and, in the middle of Oscar season, there's been plenty of choice. We've managed to see three films this week.

Lion, the story of Saroo an Indian boy who ended up lost over a thousand miles from home and was eventually adopted by an Australian couple is a "nice" film. There is a wonderful performance from little Sunny Pawer as the young Saroo and, as Saroo grows up and Dev Patel takes over the role Patel plays the part with great feeling. I enjoyed it but it was not as moving as reviews suggested.

Unlike Manchester By The Sea which was incredibly moving. Casey Affleck must be a certainty for an Oscar for his intense portrayal of a young man whose one act of stupidity destroyed his life. It's unbearably grim (think I Daniel Blake and double the bleakness) and I can't say that I enjoyed it but it has to be one of the best dramas made for some time.

The last of the three films was La La Land which we've just been to see at the lovely Riverside in Woodbridge. I can't say much about this. It's been nominated for tons of Oscars but, apart from a very charismatic leading couple in Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, I though it was all a bit meh.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

A Postcard From Bequia

I know, I know - it's freezing cold here and the last thing you want to do is look at some smug blogger's holiday photos but come on, we don't go on holiday that much so indulge me for ten minutes.

We were having a meal in a restaurant in Matlock last March when my dear friend Jane told me I didn't take Marion on enough holidays. After words to the effect of "what do you mean? We're at the caravan in St Andrews for eight weeks every year!" I conceded and decided that perhaps Jane was right and our 365 days per year retirement holiday was not enough. So I took heed of her advice (who says I never listen?) and went right out and did what I was told and booked a break somewhere hot and sunny for January. I settled on Bequia - a place that Marion has been interested in visiting for years.

After a comfortable night at Sofitel in Gatwick we got up early and flew to Barbados with Virgin Atlantic. For a bit more comfort and leg room, we chose Premium Economy and got a glass of fizz thrown in. It was a great flight and we couldn't fault the service (or the food and drink). After arriving in Barbados we were whisked through the airport very efficiently by SVG air and, in no time at all, found ourselves in a tiny propellor plane en route to Bequia.

This flight was not exactly Premium Economy and if we had been sitting much closer to the front we could have flown the plane. It only held about twenty passengers but Dawn French and her husband were among our fellow travellers. Yes, I know she won't be blogging that Marion and I were flying with her but, hey, after watching her Thirty Million Minutes at Christmas, she's something of a hero to me now. I avoided the urge to tell her so as I'm sure it would have been the last thing she wanted. At the same time I thought "bloody typical, if this plane goes down, we won't even get in the headlines."

Just over twenty four hours after leaving Framlingham, here we were at our holiday home for the next two weeks.

It was dark but this is what we woke up to in the morning.
And this is the lovely little cottage that was our hideaway at Tropical Hideaway.
We were all set up for two weeks of relaxation.

The island has a lovely bookshop and we bough a few books for the grandkids.

There are still plenty of churchgoers and your typical C of E vicar would be green with envy at the attendances.
We love our daily dose of coffee and cake so we swapped Framingham's The Dancing Goat and made Gingerbread in Port Elizabeth a regular port of call. 
Bequia has plenty of lovely beaches. This one, Princess Margaret Beach, is the most popular, as you can see from the heaving crowds.
It was hard to remember that, at home, everyone still had their Christmas decorations up but this roadside grotto served as a reminder.
We made a point of walking every day and our daily walks from Tropical Hideaway gave us this spectacular panoramic view of both sides of the island. According to the phone we walked 62 miles in two weeks which, at an average of 4.4 miles per day, is not bad considering the heat and the gradients.
We were so lucky to have the use of what a colour travel supplement described as the best infinity pool in the Caribbean.
Granddaughter Catherine wanted to make sure that we were not too hot so she made these fans for us to take away with us.
Panoramic view of the infinity pool.
The local flora and fauna were fascinating although three of these were three too many for our liking.
Marion with her Kindle at the poolside (correction, on one of the underwater bar stools). I managed to finish no less than seven novels in our two weeks - it was that relaxing. Best one? Probably The Essex Serpent although Kent Haruf's Our Souls At Night is magical and A Prayer For Owen Meaney is also very special. 

Tropical Hideaway is home to three beautiful and rare Bengal cats.

My stab at a pic for a Bounty advert.

Half expecting Jack Sparrow and crew to sail into the bay.
Thanks to Alastair at Fram Leisure we coped well with our daily walks up the hill back to the cottage but, with no exaggeration, this gradient was close to 1:2 (and in thirty degrees).

Bequia's beaches are unspoilt and uncrowded (apart from the one day when the cruise ship arrives in town).

On our balcony at sunset.
A view from Gingerbread
Now that really is an infinity pool.
Panoramic view.
Although we were on a self-catering break, the owners of Tropical Hideaway were experimenting with the demand for cooked breakfasts. Well that was an offer we weren't going to refuse so, on most mornings, I tucked into a delicious happy meal to set me up for the day. Marion opted for the lighter options.
It was cooked by the lovely Shelina.

We rewarded ourselves for our daily long walks by stopping at one of the island's superb restaurants for a rum cocktail and a light lunch.
Our walks were also rewarded with endless scenery like this.
We decided that, if Tropical Hideaway were booked up, this plantation house is where we'd book in future.

We visited the turtle sanctuary which has relased many thousands of turtles back into the wild after raising them for more than four years.
A quick dip before cocktails at Sugar Reef
A brilliant Creole band that played at The Fig Tree when we had a night out.
I didn't want to miss the Manchester United game but this is what was on screen at Papa's Bar for the last five minutes.
Although the view from Papa's was some consolation as we waited for confirmation of the final score.

We experienced some glorious sunsets.
And plenty of glorious days too.

So that's it. Hope I haven't bored you too much. Thanks Jane for telling me to take Marion on holiday more. One of the best bits of advice I've had in a long time.

Thanks too to Martin and Julie Mansfield (sorry for pinching your photo from your website) who have created the most magnificent small complex of holiday properties in a truly exclusive and fabulous location. Their story is an amazing one of incredible ups and downs but you'll have to go to Bequia and let them tell you all about it. Check them out here.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Happy New Year

My blogs were not as frequent as I would have liked in 2016 so I must try and do better in 2017. I know that everyone says that 2016 was a dreadful year and, yes, a lot of famous people died, the USA voted for an imbecile as president and people here, unfathomably, voted to leave the EU and with that I lost a bit of my identity. But, all that sadness apart, it was a good year for me and for Marion.

We saw our grandchildren grow and thrive and it was absolutely fabulous for us to have them all together for the very first time here in Framlingham. I do hope that we can do this again very soon.

That day alone was enough to make 2016 a good year.

We also got together with friends in the best self catering holiday house in the entire Lake District (as agreed by both The Sunday Times and Cumbria's Tourist Board)


I'm still working on an excuse for us to get back to Waternook again this year.

Our lovely friends Dave and Jane Haworth took us for a wonderful hotel break to celebrate our Ruby Wedding.

The summer in Framlingham was glorious which meant plenty of metal detecting when the harvest was in. We made the most of the weather with walks and bike rides aplenty.

Sadly we said goodbye to our lovely old neighbour Wilfrid, one of the very last German Prisoners Of War to survive here in the UK (only one, who died shortly after, outlived him). I wonder how Wilfrid would have felt about Brexit.

After a few false starts we've gradually begun to make new friends in Suffolk and we were invited to a great party the Friday before Christmas and had fun dancing into the early hours.

One of my people of last year has to be Jurgen Klopp who has brought some joy back to watching Liverpool. Having watched the joyless performances since the start of the decade I began to despair that my team would ever return to its glory days but in Klopp we've finally got a manager who "gets" Liverpool again. The vociferous Framlingham Branch of the LFC supporters club now meets regularly at our house to watch the matches (now in UHD courtesy of Sky Q). 

Another person of 2016 has to be Gary Lineker whose tweets have been a touch of compassion in a sewer of ugliness. I've just deleted my Twitter "Idiots" list as the daily bile poured out by Trump, Farage, Banks and Paul Nuttall from UKIP was doing my blood pressure no good. If you are on Twitter do follow Gary. Other Twitter favourites of mine are Sid Siddiqui, Mary Beard and Eddie Marsan. Each is an oasis of goodness in a desert of hate.

I told you in my last blog about this super (but badly cracked) Spode honey pot I found on eBay and wondered how much it might fetch.
Here's the result. I'm very pleased with that (as long as the buyer is happy when he gets it).

My new novel has some eBay links and it's been a really impatient time for me as I finished it in the summer, had it professionally edited and proof read and then tried to get a publisher. I've only approached two potential agents so far. One rejected it, the other has not replied but the agent recommended by my editor is not accepting manuscripts at the moment. I'm happy with the book, it's ready to go and maybe when we get back from our holiday (off to Bequia for two weeks) I'll go down the self publishing route again if he's still not looking for new writers.

We had a wonderful Christmas in Rochester and then again in St Andrews. It was over twelve hundred miles driving but worth it to spend time with our family. 

In my last blog I said that it had been a good year for finding treasure. After I wrote that I had my final outing with the detector for 2016 and some great finds turned up.

This is probably an escutcheon for a keyhole but it's an old one
A late medieval sword belt fitting
An unusual fob watch key
Excited to find this. Although damaged it is a Colchester type Roman fibula - only the second Roman find I've made around here
And finally. What better way to end the year? A Portuguese gold half escudo 
John V dated 1736 and in nice condition.
So that's a bit about 2016 - a year that saw us married for forty years and retired for six whole years. 

I hope that 2017 brings happiness to everyone who reads this.