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It’s been a tricky couple of days. Yesterday’s winds prevented us from going out to the cinema to see the very appealing movie ‘What We Did On Our Holiday’, which I really wanted to see and last night was, well, the last night. Maybe it will come round again in a couple of months. We like to go to the delightful small independent cinema in Aldeburgh, on the coast about ten miles east of home. This gorgeous little place has the air of an intimate movie club where it appears that all the movies are selected for you alone. If you happen to be in the area the list of films being shown over the next two months or so can be seen here: http://bit.ly/1rurg3B

But as I said, the storm winds blowing on the east coast were pretty threatening and our route takes us along too many tiny country lanes lined with some mighty trees that I’m sure wouldn’t hesitate to fall on us if we ventured out. And how stupid would we feel if we ended up dead for a movie? You don’t really have to answer that.

The other matter that made yesterday less than perfect was the news that our beautiful village pub, The Crown, has been put up for sale. It closed in August while we were holidaying in America. Devastated doesn’t quite do justice to how I felt, I don’t mind telling you. But sadly, I have to admit it was kind of inevitable.

It was bought just over a year ago by a guy who promised to be our salvation, and before that it was owned by an imbecile. But at least the imbecile kept it open for five years or more, despite a list of scandals and cock-ups that would make you gasp.

The current owner made a wonderful job of refurbishing the interior, including a Suffolk pamment floor, opening new fireplaces and furnishing throughout with beautiful antique tables and chairs. That’s his trade actually, antique furniture restoration. But sadly not a publican. He’s a well meaning guy with boundless enthusiasm for country pubs and real ale, but not for giving the customers what they want.

You can get frequent glimpses of the place on a new BBC4 sitcom shown on Thursday evenings called ‘Detectorists’, as the pub was chosen as one of the interior locations when filming began in the summer. We were all very pleased at the time. But now it’s all a bit mournful seeing our pub on TV as it used to be, filled with jolly customers (well, maybe jolly is pushing it a bit in this case. They are detectorists after all).

Anyway, after opening the pub last summer we found that he had no enthusiasm for selling food, essential in a rural pub, and only sold beer that he liked, most of it hoppy yellow stuff that tasted of kumquats. He refused to sell Guinness or any well known brand of lager or cider, which alienates half his potential customers at a stroke. So slowly trade drifted away while the owner ploughed on regardless, refusing to see the folly of his ways. Eventually he was left with no customers and common sense prevailed when he closed the doors after just one year of trading. Daft, really.

So now he’s trying to sell it for the ridiculous sum of £550,000, having bought it for £350,000 a year ago, and that was probably too much. I think the poor guy might have to take a loss. Ho hum.

Still, tomorrow my good friend and I may well venture off to find a local pub that’s open and discuss the meaning of life over a pint or two of Earl Soham Victoria. Lovely beer.

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Autumn Leaves

Well the winds outside our window are picking up, and I guess this is the early part of the remnants of hurricane Gonzalo, which has caused a fair amount of destruction on the islands off America’s east coast, and is apparently heading this way. The trouble is that the leaves are still green on the trees here in the UK, which makes them top-heavy and likely to fall if the gusts get big.

A few years ago I was helping friends cut down a poplar plantation just down the road, and the work was started a bit late in spring, which meant that no matter how we cut into the trees the major influence controlling the direction in which the trees would fall was the wind, simply because they were in leaf and therefore top heavy. That was a tricky job, but I learnt a great deal about the influence of the seasons.

Right now we’re getting autumn winds. Quite right too. They’re nature’s way of blowing the dead leaves from the trees. They’re not unseasonal, unlike most of the weather we’ve experienced in recent years due to the very obvious effects of climate change. However, what is different is the fact that the leaves should be golden brown by now. It’s October. The Germans call it Goldener Oktober, I do believe. But the only trees turning at the moment are the horse chestnuts, which really should have changed in September. They’re always the first to go.

In a few weeks time it will be firework night here in the UK. Remember, remember, the fifth of November… Well I remember ten years ago we were watching the firework displays wrapped up in scarves, woolly hats and thick coats with two pairs of socks. It was always freezing. Cups of soup were served, and we’d make the soup last as long as possible just to keep our hands warm. Breath was properly steamy. These days we wonder if it’s even worth wearing a coat.

This weekend, the middle of October, just a week or two before the clocks go back, and the sun is shining, pub gardens are still full and the east coast towns here in Suffolk are enjoying a late run of trade. It’s hard to knock it.

But tomorrow evening the TV news will be full of stories of early hurricane damage. Sensational images of a cheap wooden fence blown over in Farnborough, a tree fallen on a car in Kirby Lonsdale, tiles missing from a roof in Romford, and a mountain made out of a molehill in Minehead.

I’ll admit that I certainly didn’t fancy taking the dogs out this afternoon, and they may be lucky to get a walk at all tomorrow. We are surrounded by oaks and ash trees in full leaf just itching to fall on me. And Tuesday will be even worse.

Anyway, sleep well.

Life is sweet.

October 18, 2014

photoFor Mo and I Saturdays are usually a bit foodie. Nothing posey, you understand. No pithiviers or mille-feuille, no foams, nothing of that sort. Just well sourced, chasing-round-the-county, deliciousness. Nothing is ever planned. We might start in Framlingham market to buy bread, although not today as I’d bought wood fired beer bread from The Station pub yesterday. And as this was looking like the last warm and sunny weekend of the year we decided to take a drive through a leafy lane or two.

Our first stop was nearby Friday Street farm shop to get some vegetables, and next door we bought a couple of sparkly-eyed mackerel and some skate wings at Maximus sustainable fishing. A cold bag was packed with some ice as we knew we were not going home too soon.

Orford is a beautiful fishing village about a half hour’s drive from homeIMG_0158 and we’ve been going there for over forty years. And in the town square is a favourite old restaurant, The Butley Orford Oysterage, that has really not changed in any significant way since we first went there in the early seventies. The place is, and always has been, simply decorated (perhaps decorated is too strong a word) with a sort of cream paint and green dado rails. Tables are marble topped on iron legs, and chairs are basic; the kind that scrape on the quarry tiled floor and give up a noise that makes your fillings drop out.

But the food, oh yes, the simple fare of half a dozen Butley oysters, some griddled squid and prawns, with chunks of fresh bread. That’s it. No girlie vegetables here. No concessions to your five-a-day health Nazis. A bottle of light, Italian red wine. Perfect. Then a gentle walk along the coast path with a warm south-easterly breeze on our backs going out, but a much brisker wind in our faces on the return.

Dog-sitting does, of course, restrict the time we might normally be out and about, but so what. Home to take them for a walk, and then a leisurely couple of hours in the garden before a magnificent but light supper of griddled mackerel on griddled beer bread with tomato, mozzarella, avocado and spring onion salad. It’s been a griddlely kind of day.

Good night and sleep well.

Life is good.

October 17, 2014

Life is good. No sooner had I set up my MacAlfa Romeo Monza poster mini for an afternoon’s work than I received an order from Sweden for a poster through my Etsy shop. This is another of my occupations, and in this instance it involved repacking my computer and returning home for an hour this morning to print out a large giclee print of the art deco style Alfa Romeo poster that I designed a couple of years ago. It was no hardship.

These posters are my legacy. I have little else to pass on, and I certainly do need to press on with more designs as I’ve been otherwise engaged on a long-term writing project for the last two years (more of which later, I’m sure). But last week I took a welcome break from writing and completed a design that’s been sitting on BDLC2_smallthe back burner for a very long time. It’s a second version of my Bal De La Couture poster, following on from the 1927 poster completed a few years ago, the new design is for the 1928 event, but visually following similar lines and colours. I’m very fond of these designs but I can’t say that they’re selling like hot cakes. Probably something to do with key wording, as my automobile posters sell quite well.

But I do intend to return next year to my market stall in Framlingham, which I gave up a few years ago, or perhaps more accurately it gave up on me. I think this fashion poster might do quite well in that environment. But four or five years ago sales dwindled to zero for a run of several weeks, and I could do no more than crawl home to lick my wounds. It hurt. Since then I’ve struggled to find the necessary cash to renew my market traders licence, and also I no longer have a car that I can load with the stall and stock. But next year both of those issues should be resolved and I’ll get back to those lovely social Saturdays amongst the brilliant stall holders on the hill.

I have to say that I was probably a bit ambitious with the size of postersphone photos April 2008 027 that I hung in my tiny eight foot square stall, as so many people would say, “They’re really nice, but too big for my house.” That may have been a load of rubbish, but they did look a tad large. Ho hum.

But that’s the future and today is now. For mid October the weather is tranquil and I’m off to enjoy a teatime drink with a good friend to celebrate his birthday. We’ll meet up in The White Horse, a couple of miles from here, and get a couple of pints in before I get back and cook dinner for my sweet wife. As I say, life is good.

It’s a living.

October 16, 2014

I’ve spent the greater part of today packing our possessions into the car and transporting them through four miles of meandering, single-track lanes to a delightful cottage on the outskirts of a beautiful village in the loveliest part of Suffolk. My wife Mo and I will be living here for the next three weeks, looking after the house and three small long-haired dachshunds, while the owner, I’ll call him Justin, is working in Uzbekistan selling oil pipelines.

When Justin returns we’ll head back home for three weeks or so until the next tour of duty. It’s a living, and I love it.

It’s one of a number of occupations that bring in a trickle of income and prevent my brain turning to mush. For slightly less than thirty pounds a day I am required to do no more than feed and walk the dogs twice a day, and clear up the occasional indiscretion left on the living room floor. The cottage is warm and cosy, with a glorious garden of around a quarter of an acre stretching away to a wild flower meadow and bordered by high hedges on either side.

When we first came we found the trio of little shit machines to be undisciplined, ill tempered and sullen. The deeply unpleasant next-door neighbour, a crusty old lady who fancies herself as some kind of dyed-in-the-wool countrywoman, but is in fact an opinionated old busy-body who moved up from Essex in search of peace and quiet, hated them, perhaps not without good reason, for their incessant barking. She has, for good measure, a foul-mouthed thug of a son who arrives once a week to mow the extensive lawns surrounding her ugly little bungalow, and to hurl disembodied abuse over the hedge. Her unyielding, relentless complaining to Justin made his life a misery, as if his life wasn’t made awful enough by the death, just over a year ago, of his beautiful wife, Carla. For some time that was the downside of this idyllic commission.

But we’ve been coming here for nearly a year now, and in that time the dogs have transformed themselves into adorable, fun-loving companions.

Please take a little time to listen to this radio broadcast on the literary station Radio Litopia in which I propose and discuss my darkly controversial theory that when writing The Great Gatsby, F Scott fitzgerald knowingly plagiarised (there is no gentler way of putting it) Le Grand Meaulnes by Alaine-Fournier. You can read my essay, “The Great and The Good” in full here: http://bit.ly/14WEgHw

on this day…

April 20, 2012

On this day one hundred years ago my father, William Louis Philpot, was born in East London, son of Charles and Selina and one of ten children. His was a close family although widely spread around London, but we visited frequently during my childhood. The picture on the left was taken at my Uncle Fred’s magnificent tent near Maldon in Essex, probably in 1951. From left, Uncle Fred, Aunt Flo, Aunt Dolly, Mum and Dad. In front, cousin Henry, cousin Madge and me.

Dad died on June 5th 2003 at the age of ninety-one. Happy birthday Dad.

 

Generous he was and caring,

Never asking

but ever offering.

 

Quick was his eye to make a smile,

Ready his hand to stand a drink,

Sharp his mind to turn a card,

Slow his pen to select a horse.

 

Good was his day;

A good day to spend a pound,

A good day to sit with friends,

A good day to raise a glass,

A good day to share a joke,

A good day to share.

 

An independent man he was.

A man of means he was.

A lovely man he was.

A well loved man he was.

 

And now well loved he is.

William Louis (Bill) Philpot. 20 April 1912 – 6 June 2003