86th Birthday

Dick and Irene Craig
Thu 18 Aug 2011 19:57

It took only half an hour to reach Kesgrave from Saxmundon and to our delight Tom, one of Margaret and Stewart’s sons was visiting them. He had just had an interview for the role of Consultant at A&E, at a local hospital.

After lunch we drove to Sutton Hoo, saw an introductory film about the people who would have been living in East Anglia, during the 6th and 7th centuries, walked around the museum and then to the burial mounds, of which there are around 20, two of which contained ships. The famous ship burial was excavated in 1939. The mounds have been cordoned off but sheep wander in and out of the area at will.

Before we were out of bed next morning, Tom had left to drive to Sheffield where he is currently working in A&E, so was unable to accompany us to Long Melford and Lavenham. The four of us drove to Long Melford and walked past the alms houses and then into the splendid parish church, which looks more like a cathedral, with a magnificent array of stained glass windows. At the base of one such window, is a circle of stained glass, showing 3 hares, each hare has 2 ears but there are only 3 ears in total. Fascinating!

After lunch at a nearby pub, with steak and kidney pudding on the menu, we traveled on to the picturesque village of Lavenham, choc-a-bloc with Tudor buildings.

During the 15th and 16th centuries, the wool trade brought prosperity to Lavenham, the blue broadcloth being exported to Europe and beyond. During the late 16th century, Dutch refugees who had settled in Colchester, made cheaper and lighter cloth, to the detriment of the Lavenham mills.

We bade farewell to Suffolk, along the A12, the M25, onto the M4 and from there into Reading, Berkshire where we met again with our friends Ray and Natalie, this time at his place of work. One of the chaps that work for him had helped us out, trying to retrieve some data from a hard drive, which we had been unable to access.

Managing to leave Reading by 15.30, to avoid the build up of traffic on a Friday afternoon, we headed for Ropley in Hampshire, arriving at the home of Geoff and Nicki, and her two sons Jack and Harry at 6pm. They live in a sprawling old farmhouse with lots of out buildings. Nicki is Master of the Hunt and her passion is hunting; she keeps five horses and two dogs, plus temporarily looking after another two puppies: They are in mid training and only with Nicki and family to ensure that they receive plenty of human exposure.

Geoff, who has considerable experience building and running hotels, was a great help to us, when my daughter Caroline was managing our home in the UK, as a hotel.

Next day, after spending what remained of a very boozy night, having slept briefly in a four poster bed, we drove to Wallington, Surrey and met with an old friend of Dick’s from his teenage years. Oddly enough, Nigel had also been a boy scout and had cooked a meal over a primus stove, in the garden of the house where Dick lived as a boy, in order to obtain a coveted badge, though they didn’t know each other at that time.

After spending the day with Nigel, whose son is an MP for the Kesgrave area where Dick’s cousin Margaret lives, and with whom we had stayed just a few days earlier, we drove to Carshalton.

We had visited Maggie and Trevor on the 10th July, when she had thrown a party in our honour. This time we were able to spend two nights with her mother who lives next door to her and therefore more time in their company.

A fox, with an almost black coat, used to visit Maggie’s garden a year or two ago and she used to feed it with cans of dog food and any suitable left-over food. She would play with it, pulling balls of wool or similar, which the fox chased. She even made a plaster model of it which now adorns her garden. The fox gave birth to four pups and Maggie continued to feed them even after the mummy fox died. While we were staying with her, all four foxes came into her garden together; a sight to be seen. Both Maggie and her mother have a cat but the cats and the foxes are content to co-exist.

Departing Carshalton, we drove to Ifield to visit John, with whom we had stayed on the 3rd August, after meeting him in Bath for lunch. This time we stayed for two nights, visiting Ifield watermill which was put back into working order in 2002, following a Heritage lottery grant.

The mill was powered from Mill pond, created by the damming of Ifield brook in the 16th century, a tributary of the river Mole. The pond is now covered with water lilies.

While watching a man and a woman wearing waders, from the local bird rescue service, using huge nets, in an attempt to save the lives of three chicks, we spotted a heron on the bank. The chicks had somehow fallen over the weir and down the steps below and couldn’t get out of the water below. Mother duck stood on the wall at the top of the weir waiting anxiously for a miracle. Two of the chicks were scooped up in one of the nets and deposited gently at the edge of the pond. Mother duck immediately got into the water and happily swam away with two of her three offspring.

It was very difficult to get to chick three, which kept hiding under the opaque colored water but eventually it was caught in the net and gently released, waterlogged, at the edge of the pond. In its fright, it disappeared under the water but some minutes later it was spotted amongst the lily leaves. Hopefully Mummy duck will find her baby before too long.

It took three hours to travel to Brockenhurst, where we celebrated my Mother’s 86th birthday with my sister and her husband, then Dick and I spent the afternoon with Mother, playing scrabble.

Next day we went to Enfield to meet with our financial advisor. There were considerable delays on the motorway, from junction 10, as far as South Mimms service station where we left the M25. With the economic climate being so volatile, one wonders why this meeting took place, especially as the following day the stock market plummeted to a 2008 low.

Next stop Leigh-on-sea, where we met with my cousin Pete, whom I hadn’t seen for about 50 years, and his wife Anne. Later that day we walked to the sea front pub and it was there, as we sat outside, that Pete’s younger brother Dave joined us, looking very smart in a business suit and carrying a brief case. He had been working in the city and had traveled to Leigh-on-sea, for the sole purpose of meeting us. To return home to Suffolk, he needed to get a train to Southend Victoria where he had to change to Southend Central then change again at Shenfield, again at Marks Tey then complete the journey at Sudbury, from whence he had to get home. The alternative was a very expensive taxi ride home. We felt very privileged that he was prepared to do this, just to meet with us.