Monday, 31 January 2011


Top photo is of a small oak folding gateleg table. Second picture is of the same table folded flat. It's also known as a coaching table, because it could be put into the bottom of the coach (not a stage coach, but the family carriage) when they went a-picnicking. It would have been made-in England of course- a few years either side of the year 1700.
Friend Brenda called in this morning and had a coffee with us. This afternoon we went into Ipswich (on the park and ride 'bus, using our senior citizens' bus passes) to see the film 'The King's Speech'. Everyone has been telling us how very good it is, and we had to agree with the majority verdict - worth seeing; and as it also dealt with the abdication, made us appreciate the more 'our own dear Queen's ' long, long service. During which, in my opinion, she's never put a foot wrong. I hope she lives at least as long as her mother did, and after that I don't suppose I shall much care about what's done with the monarchy.
Must get on with a bit of work now, so - Goodnight All.
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Saturday, 29 January 2011


I took the above photo on 1st September last year. They are ripe sloes - small bitter blue plums. Last weekend our visitors, Ed and Jo, enjoyed the occasional glass of sloe gin, and I promised to let them have the recipe. I'm putting it on blog because it may be of general interest. I was given the basic remedy several years ago by an old friend who lived in Lavenham and made the best sloe gin I ever tasted. I'd originally intended to give his remedy verbatim, but it takes a bit of understanding, and I've altered (and, I hope, improved it a bit, over the years). Certainly I've made it easier to do. In the past we've always tried to pick sloes after the first frost (which was thought to improve the taste) ; then we washed them, and pricked each individual sloe with a silver fork (it had to be silver according to my Lavenham friend) as any base metal tool tainted the gin. Now, however, we pick the sloes when they are ripe (with a blue bloom on their skins), wash them, and put them (in a plastic bag) in the freezer. This means that they've had a frost on them, and it also means that when we take them out of the freezer and thaw them, the skins are cracked and there is no need for the pricking the skins business.

Recipe for Sloe Gin:-


You will need large glass containers. I use three large, ex sweet shop jars. Obviously - wash them out well first. We pick five to seven pounds of sloes.

We fill each jar about a third full with ripe sloes. Then pour on enough Dry London Gin to cover the sloes (in practice just over a litre).

Put in about eight to ten ounces of white granulated sugar - (this can be adjusted upward later -after two or three months- when doing a quality control test /sampling a little for sweetness -to your own taste) .

Then put in eight cloves (I pound these up a bit in a stone mortar first). Then put in eight blanched almonds. I then screw the jar top on tightly. Every so often- about once a fortnight- give the gin a good stir with a wooden spoon. About six months later (usually about June time, and only then if the sweetnes is about to your taste) strain carefully (through muslin) and bottle the resulting gin. As it is popular stuff in the family I've bottled it in half bottles this last few years. Don't drink it before Christmas as it really does improve with age (but often doesn't get the chance). If you can keep some for three or four years or so you will appreciate the difference. It's the best winter warmer I know.

Your Exceeding Good Health !

Mike.Posted by Picasa

P.s. Treat it as a liqueur. It's more potent than it looks or tastes.

Thursday, 27 January 2011


I think I may well have put up a photo of this amarylis last winter when it was last in bloom. Well, Ann's bought it through the summer and it's in bloom again. There's another bloom coming up as well. I don't really know how Ann does this. It involves cutting the flower stems hard back when they've finished blooming, then laying the pots on their side in the potting shed for the summer. No, I've just checked with her and she says not the potting shed but the scullery, and let it dry out rather all summer. Seems to suit it, anyway. We've had more colourful ones but we like the frilly edges to the petals of this one.
Been pottering in the workshop all day. On Tuesday Ann and friend Sue drove over to Thetford. Partly to visit a mutual friend who is now in a care home there, and partly to pick up a musket and sword that I've recently bought. Spent this morning cleaning them (the musket and sword that is) and one or two other bits of stock. This evening I've been wrestling with a recalcitrant clock movement, and I'm about ready for bed. At the moment feel that the clock is winning, but we'll have another bout tomorrow when I'm refreshed by sleep.
Good night all.
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Tuesday, 25 January 2011


Very quick blog as I'm already late for bed, and we've an early start tomorrow. So - supper, main course above, salmon steak with a sauce of pesto and pine seeds, and roast vegetables. Followed by a pudding (below) of plum crumble and cream. Also photographically followed by several spare photoes that I had no intention of including. Oh well, I haven't time to sort it out tonight, so - Goodnight All.

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Sunday, 23 January 2011


As you'll have gathered from yesterday's blog, we've had three house guests this weekend, Ed, Jo, and Darcy. The above picture shows
Ed opening a geocache he'd just found. No, before this weekend I'd never heard of a geocache either. It's a sort of computer based treasure hunt which they'd been telling us about. Jo had found that one was hidden a very few miles from us, so we went off and found it. Not real treasure but some interesting things in a tub. We put them back in, added something of Jo's, then left it for the next finder, who may take something out, but is expected to donate something else. This is a game played by 'with it' young technocrats- like us-
S Q (you'll have heard of lol which stands for 'laughs out loud'; well my S Q stands for smiles quietly). Well I think it's far more befitting our time of life than cackling out loud. So there.

Above photo shows Jo, Ann, Ed, and Darcy, out for a walk. And yes, I did go too. Who do you think took the photo?

The above photo shows Little Wenham Hall. It is one of the earliest houses in England, and dates from 1275 (A.D. of course). It's a few miles from here, and quite near where we had to go to find the geocache (have to keep using that word so I don't forget it before I've impressed the grandchildren with it). It's been a lovely weekend .
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Saturday, 22 January 2011

Saturday 3.

After supper Ed and Jo joined us in a four handed game of scrabble.

Quick snap of Jo and Ann after the game - just to prove to myself that I've remembered how to put several (well, alright then, two) photoes on the same entry.
Goodnight everyone.
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Saturday 2.

I'm sure you will have noticed by the way, that Ed has been teaching me how to publish more than one photo per blog entry (successfully so far). Above is a photo taken by Ed, of your blogger at work.

The ford at Kersey. We walked around here with Ed and Jo this morning.
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Saturday 1.

This weekend Ann's youngest brother's youngest son, Ed, his wife Jo, and Darcy, their black labrador bitch, are spening the weekend with us. Ed, by the way, is also my Godson. This is Ed and Darcy by the river.
Darcy meets a friend (who behaved rather like Mr. Darcy in the television version of Pride and of Prejudice).
Portrait of Darcy.
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Tuesday, 18 January 2011


I spent yesterday repairing the above flintlock pistol. It was made in London, circa 1780, and is one of the earliest pistols made specifically for duelling purposes. Being English it has clean unfussy lines, and very little decoration. Colonel Peter Hawker said in his 'Instructions to Young Sportsmen' of 1807 :- "The French pieces are tinselled off very pretty, but ours do the more execution." His opinion was, perhaps, a shade biased, but I couldn't better it as a comparison of French/English weaponry. The above piece is not of great value, having had two centuries of use. It is very worn and has had a good deal of repair. BUT it is now in good working order; and its owner was pleased to have it returned to this condition. It has always had a pure beauty of line, it is now once again a viciously effective weapon. Or would be if it were not against the law to use it. The state of the law at present is that 'bone fide antique firearms may be kept for ornament or curiosity' but may not be used. Still, it gave me a very satisfying day's work, and its owner a good deal of pleasure.

Must record an incident this morning. When we were breakfasting Ann said, "What's that bird on the honeysuckle ?" It had its back to us, and I realised that we were watching a very well coloured gold crested wren. It buzzed the five goldfinches around the bird table, which flew away in terror. As I thought about getting the camera it flew away. Ann then said "it had black markings around the gold crest". So we looked it up, and I'm about ninety percent convinced (more than that if I'm honest) that what we'd seen was, in fact, a fire crest. We've been very privileged.
Good night all.
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Sunday, 16 January 2011


Yesterday afternoon (as per usual) walked to scrabble club. The usual four at my table, Phyllis, Hilary, young Kev, and meself. We're all about evenly matched (except that Phyllis is marginally the best player of the four of us, having played, and won, at County level). During the first game Phyllis put down 'antiques' onto an S, and from the top right triple score square, scoring 106 points, which included the extra fifty for using all her seven letters, and eventually winning easily. The second game I won by two points from Kev (but all four of us being within twenty points of each other). But the third game was the best when things got totally out of hand. Hilary (a long retired hospital matron) picked out four tiles and became really excited. "Seven letter word coming up ?" I asked. "I think I've got 'cholera'" Hilary replied. "I thought you were looking a bit peaky" I said, and at the same time Kev muttered "You should wash your hands more often". At these attempts at schoolboy humour we all fell about laughing like children, to the extent that the players at the other two tables crowded round to see what was so funny, and old Arthur had to have the joke relayed down his ear trumpet (not sure he got it, or if he did he didn't seem to think it terribly funny). When the four of us had calmed down a bit and examined the situation, it turned out that Hilary had got 'cholera' but it couldn't be fitted in on the board, and eventually Phyllis won the game by a very few points. I do enjoy playing scrabble with people I know well.
This morning as we were leaving the house to walk to Church Ann spotted that groups of snowdrops were in bud in a corner of our garden near the kitchen door (see above photo). It's always cheering to see the first flowers of the year. Makes me feel that spring can't be too far off (I hope).
Goodnight all.
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Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Wednesday 2.

Above photo taken yesterday. Handsome old pub on the same road (A140) running north.

Got up early this morning to go to early service, where Ann was deaconing, and I read both lessons. After church spent the rest of the morning in the workshop. Sandwich lunch then we both decided on a ten minute nap. Ann woke me with a cup of tea two hours later; I thanked her kindly, took a sip, and went straight back to sleep for another hour. Just hope I sleep tonight. Still, if I don't I can lie and read (re reading Vanity Fair - lovely stuff). I've been trying to break meself of the nasty, middle aged (well, bit more in my case, but you know what I mean), habit of the afternoon nap, but I went deep below the surface this afternoon. Oh well, nearly bedtime now, so I must go and try to sleep again.Goodnight all.
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Wednesday 1.

Yesterday we drove up to Norwich. Actually we killed half a dozen birds with one stone. We drove up to Beccles first, passing the remains of a small town (above) which stands to both sides of the main A140 road. We had only a post code to get to the first call, which is a few miles north of Beccles. Our Satnav took us to the post code address, which, as so often happens in country postcode areas is an area rather than an address, then abandoned us. We tried all the available natives we could find in the area (yes, both of them), but nobody knew our man (who makes small replacement castings of early gun parts, among other things). In the end he found us. We'd stopped in a farm yard, when the door marked Dairy opened, and a man came out and said, "Are you Mr. .........?" I admitted the charge, and he explained that most of the farm buildings are rented out to small industries (which we'd already explained to the two natives, without any positive response). Business was done, then we drove on to Norwich, to visit friends of ours with a nightmarish problem : They live on the ground floor of a lovely Edwardian house near the centre of Norwich, and had been away for Christmas, as had the owner of the floor above them. He had also been away, had turned off his heating, but didn't turn off his water, so that, when our friends returned, and after the very cold spell around Christmas, they found their lovely flat was DEVASTATED. Many of the pipes in the flat above had burst, cascading into their flat. The plaster work, electrics, and carpets were all ruined, the doors, and everything in the fitted kitchen, were badly warped. Their sitting room and bathrooms were the only ones inhabitable, so they're camping out until repair work can be started. They'd more or less completed clearing the flat the day before, so we took them out to lunch to (hopefully) cheer them up a bit, and although they neither of them felt much like eating, they did, in the end, and at our urging put away a very light lunch. As I said, a nightmare.

Did some shopping in Norwich. Ann bought a pair of Hotter shoes (offputting name for shoes, I'd have thought- might just as well call them sweaty shoes, and have done with it- mustn't be curmudgeonly, Michael, especially as they are rather nice shoes) and a handbag.
On our way home we stopped off in Stowmarket to deliver some of the metal parts we'd bought near Beccles. Then on to our friends' house (Jill and Keith) to pick up a brace of pheasants. They'd told us they wouldn't be in, but also told us where the pheasants would be hanging. In the event they'd got back earlier than they'd expected, so we had a latish tea with them. Finally arrived home about seven.
A good, full, day.

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Sunday, 9 January 2011



Above is a picture of Assington Workhouse taken from the car as we drove into Sudbury yesterday. I was consulted about the contents of the place, and shown round it, when an old inventory turned up a few years ago. It was built (possibly using an older timber frame) in 1783 at a cost of two hundred and twenty nine pounds, sixteen shillings, and a penny, to house (from memory) just over thirty paupers, and held, according to the inventory more spinning wheels (for the paupers to work at)than beds for them to sleep in. When I looked over it a few years ago it was almost derelict, and had just been bought by a couple who planned to turn it into a spacious, and handsome, home. I think they must have run out of time, money, and enthusiasm (not necessarily in that order) because it is now more or less derelict again.
Both yesterday and today have been lovely sunny days; though last night we had a hard frost and I think another's due tonight. Family service this morning, which means the choir didn't have to robe, although I was asked, at short notice,to read the Gospel. After lunch changed into me scruff and spent the afternoon in the workshop. Ann called me up to supper at about 6.30 p.m. (sausage casserole then stewed apples with cloves, and custard), after which I sat down and finished yesterday's Telegraph prize crossword - a stinker. By the way, if you're reading this, Stig, how did you do at it? I ask because, although I'm fairly sure of the answers, I'm not entirely sure of the reasoning behind one or two of them.Since then I've been doing a bit more pottering in the workshop (and forge). Time for bed now though, so -Goodnight All.
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Saturday, 8 January 2011

Saturday 2.


Ann has just finished knitting me a long red scarf, which she is modelling in the above photo. It is nearly seven foot long !!! So I shall be warmly wrapped for the rest of the winter. Must go and do some work now. Goodnight all.
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Saturday 1.


Today we motored over to a local Golf Club, in the restaurant of which the Annual Lunch of our Mothers' Union was being held. Do I hear some pedant (probably Crowbard) murmur "Ah, but you're not a mother, Mike" ? And, of course, technically he is right, but there two answers to confound this putative pedant. The first is that members of the Mothers' Union do not have to be mothers nowadays. And the second answer would be "No, but Ann is, and members of the Mothers' Union (in our branch anyway), are allowed to take partners to the Annual Lunch. So there! participating pedants. It was a lovely lunch, probably the last Christmas lunch I shall have this Christmas. The main course was a choice of beef or turkey (or a slice or two of both) with all the usual accompaniments. Ann had a little of both, and I had beef (a generous serving thereof). Pudding was a fruit salad (Ann), whilst I had the other choice- an individual Christmas pudding with brandy sauce, with a spray(?) of redcurrants across the top, which looked very festive. The above photo shows, left to right, Sandra, Jackie (with whom we lunched on Thursday), Joyce, and Ann, enjoying their coffee after the meal. We broke up at about 3.30 p.m., motored into Sudbury to do a little shopping, and arrived home just before five. More in a min.
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Friday, 7 January 2011



I took the above photo back in September a few miles south of Birmingham. The bird to the left is a jackdaw, and is, I think, mother ofthe bird on the right. The younger bird is presumably a partially albino jackdaw. I can't remember having seen one before, but perhaps it's the usual colouring of young jackdaws ? I'd be interested if anyone can tell me about them, or the likelihood of albinoism.
Yesterday we had lunch with our friends Martin and Jackie. They live in a lovely -originally small- Tudor cottage a few hundred yards from us. Over the years Martin has enlarged and extended the cottage and done it so well that the joins are invisible - it's a welcoming little house. Jackie gave us a lovely lunch; the main course was a large fillet of salmon baked (?) under a covering of cous-cous, pine seeds, and herbs - delicious.
Went to Cafe Church this morning, lingered over coffee and a croissant, then spent half an hour or so tidying and rearranging the second hand book stall. Ann went off to help organise and serve lunch to the Ansell Club. This afternoon friend Brenda called to pay Ann for some thermal underwear that Ann had (at Brenda's request) brought back from Sweden for her before Christmas. By a minor miracle I was able to find the receipt for it. Pushing ten now, so I'd better knock off.
Good night every one (which sounds like children's hour circa 1950) .
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Wednesday, 5 January 2011



Just had a busy day at Long Melford, marred only by the announcement before the fair begun, of the death of fellow dealer (and old friend) Richard Temple. Had known Richard, and his wife Dorothy, since the mid nineteen sixties, so that his death, though not unexpected, was a bit of a blow. He was a good, straight, dealer, and his knowledge would always be given freely, and could be relied upon. He will be much missed.
At the fair bought an 1823 pattern English cavalry sword, the scabbard of which needs some repair, and a couple of battered but fairly early (circa 1700-1720) English brass candlesticks. More work for the long winter evenings. Friend (and again - fellow dealer) Liz Alport came to dinner last night, stayed over and also came to the fair.

P.s The above photo shows your blogger (last weekend) indulging in the ancient and popular English sport of hogging the fire. Or unpopular if you were one of the persons who'd not managed to get near the fireplace!!!!!
Got to take down the tree and Christmas cards now - it being the Twelfth Day of Christmas. So - Goodnight All.
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Monday, 3 January 2011

Monday 4.

It soared away over the housetops to the applause of all. It remained in sight for some five minutes or so, and eventually 'went out' about half a mile away over fields. We set out for home at about six o'clock and got home two hours later. We were talking about this Christmas over a scrambled egg supper, and agreed that it had been an excellent one, spread over ten days. Not perhaps as intense as when our children were young, but easily as enjoyable for being more relaxed and spread out. After a good start to the New Year, we wish you all a healthy, happy, and prosperous (had to correct that word - I'd started to make it 'preposterous') one.
We also wish you a very good night.
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Monday 3.

The throng got back to Sarah's at about 4p.m. and had a cup of tea and finally cut the Christmas cake I illustrated on the blog for Thursday 23rd December. After tea Sarah and Mikey decided to launch a paper hot air balloon to celebrate, see picture above. It was an outstanding success - see next entry.
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Monday 2.

Sarah (back to us, in centre of above photo) put on a large buffet lunch which we all enjoyed. At 12.30 Ann took three of our daughters, our son, his partner Jude, son in law Mikey, nine grandchildren, one step granddaughter, and a grandaughter's boyfriend, off to the pantomime, whilst I stayed at Sarah's, cleared up the lunch detritus, then continued to fix their grandfather clock, which has only a minor problem, but is taking longer than it should (a horrible thought strikes me that perhaps I am slowing down a bit ??). I don't accompany the hoard (well, alright, the semi-hoard) to the pantomime because (being a bit deaf) I can't hear much of it at all these days. More in a min.
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