Friday, 20 February 2009



If you’d told me ten years ago where I’d be spending this Friday afternoon I would have laughed. Laughed at you that is, rather than laughed at the event. However having an eight year old son does at times change one’s entertainment choices. So Friday lunchtime saw the Troy family get into my car for the short journey across to Felixstowe and its Spa Pavilion. And what were we going to see there? None other than the Chuckle Brothers in “Chuckle Trek, the Lost Generation”. Now this viewing did come with a recommendation – from Mrs Troy no less, who had previously taken Troy Junior last year to see the Chuckle Brothers at the Ipswich Regent Theatre. She came back full of praise for them. I’ve watched them a few times with Troy Junior on the TV and must admit I have chuckled at them more than I expected.

It was a beautiful spring-like afternoon at Felixstowe. The Spa Pavilion sits on the seafront at Felixstowe and today the sea was calm and the sun was shining. It looked quite tropical in fact:

We had a picnic lunch, skimmed a few flat stones into the sea then bought some popcorn and settled down in the auditorium. I looked around, the average age was seven or eight, with a sprinkling of dads and many more mums. The lights went down and various space theme tunes were played and the show began. I won’t spoil the “plot” but Capt. James T Burke of the USS Exercise is short of crew. The Chuckle Brothers, Paul and Barry, are beamed up onboard, they boldly go where no one has gone for some while, they cause mayhem along the way but ultimately defeat the enemy robots lead by Dark Wader. It did what it said on the tin – we chuckled. In fact we laughed a lot, both the kids and the parents. It was very silly but in a pleasingly silly way. At one stage they invited three fathers and one mother to join them on stage. Mrs Troy and I slid down in our chairs whilst Troy Junior pointed to us. We were relieved not to be chosen. With the slapstick that followed we were increasingly relieved. At the end of that scene, when they said the four volunteers would each be getting a Suzuki moped, surplus due to the recession, we were disappointed rather than relieved.

Troy enjoyed himself, Mrs Troy enjoyed herself and Troy Junior enjoyed himself. What a pleasant way to spend a school half-term afternoon. If you are looking for a matinee show to entertain your young children you could do a lot worse than to boldly go along to watch the Chuckle Brothers. They are doing a nationwide tour.

Saturday, 14 February 2009


Do you make much of a fuss about Valentine's Day? We don't normally in the Troy household. Perhaps that comes of being together now for over twenty years. At the start of our relationship Mrs Troy actually got an artist to prepare a handmade card for me which I still treasure. I was going to photograph it and show it here but rather frustratingly I can't find it. But I do treasure it, honest!

More recently though we haven't exchanged valentine cards or even wedding anniversary cards. It all seems so commercial and the money saved can be put towards a nice meal or the latest Ipswich Town football programme. You may have gathered from reading previous posts that Troy is not one normally to "splash the cash". There is however one thing that I do like more than not spending money and that is buying A Bargain. During the week I was reading my Daily Telegraph when I came across a Marks & Spencer advert for their "Valentine Collection for her". This large advert showed a collection of valentine gifts - a card, a real red rose, Belgian chocolates and some heart motif lingerie for £20. I did a double take. That seems a Real Bargain for £20 I thought and given that it was M&S I was confident that the quality would be fine. So I resolved to surprise Mrs Troy this Valentines Day. Thursday morning saw me going through Mrs Troy's lingerie drawer to make sure I would be buying the correct sizes for the underwear. An alternative, which I first favoured, would have involved lining up several sales assistants in the store and by use of my outstretched hands ascertaining the correct size. However on further consideration I did not think that M&S would encourage, or even approve of this approach.

So armed with the correct sizes I then ventured into the M&S store. If any of you have seen the hilarious Father Ted sketch when the priests find themselves lost in the women's lingerie department then you know how I was feeling. But needs must, so I ventured in bravely. The heart motif underwear along with the cards, roses and chocolates were on clear display. I quickly fumbled my way through first the bras and then the knickers (so no change from usual there then), found the correct sizes and then took the collection to the "Pay Here" area. I did feel self-conscious handing over the bra and knickers. "Do you want a gift receipt so you can bring them back?" asked the assistant. "Just for the underwear" I replied "I don't think she'll be bringing back the chocolates!" I joked with the stern faced assistant. I then brought them home and photographed my bargains. Here they are:-

I then had to wait impatiently until this morning to surprise Mrs Troy. But surprise her I did. First the card, followed swiftly by the rose. "Oh" she said, in a surprised voice. Then came the chocolates and finally a small bag containing the underwear. Think of gobsmacked and then go a level higher. "I haven't got you a card because you said we wouldn't bother" she chided me whilst hastily trying on her new lingerie. However shortly afterwards she handed me a card. Apparently she had bought a card just in case I gave her one (and yes, I mean a card!).

If you were given very expensive silk lingerie or were taken on a romantic weekend to Venice please do not comment to this effect. Mrs Troy is happy so please don't spoil it.

Friday, 6 February 2009


Today's posting is mainly of photographs. They are of a very unusual place called Freston Tower which stands on a hill overlooking the River Orwell close to Ipswich. The property is owned by the Landmark Trust. This is an organisation who restore interesting old and unusual properties and then rent them out as holiday lets. Once a year they have "Open Days" when the public can view several of their properties. We've never stayed in any of their properties as the rents are expensive, although I'm sure they are fully justified as these old buildings must be very expensive to restore and maintain. So if you are feeling flush I would recommend you investigate them further for an unusual long weekend or week's holiday in the UK.

The header photo on my blog is taken from close to Freston Tower. In fact the full photo, rather than the cropped down one, looks like this:

The tower actually looks nicer from the front where there are bow windows to virtually every floor.

Each floor comprises one room. There are no doors on the rooms (except the bathroom!) and there are stairs leading up and down from each room like this:

This is one of the bedrooms:

You can see how small the rooms are by the fact that the end of this bed is visible in the photo of the stairs. I was actually standing on the stairs to take the photo.

Here is the cosy living room, which, like the other rooms, has triple aspect windows with marvellous views:

There is also a roof terrace, safe for children, with wonderful views over the Orwell Estuary if you have a good head for heights.

If you Google "Freston Tower" you will learn more about it. I think it is wonderful that the Landmark Trust has preserved it and that they organise free Open Days for public viewing. I'm sure you'll agree this unique building is worthy of a visit. And if you ever decide to rent the property for a week, or part-week do let us know - we are only about 15 minutes from it and we'll bring a picnic round to share with you on the riverbank!

Finally my thanks to fellow Suffolk blogger Liz for inspiring me to do this posting. She told me that she had visited Freston Tower on an Open Day five years ago but she had quote "forgotten to take my bloody camera".

Tuesday, 3 February 2009


It was towards the end of last week that the early warnings of severe wintry weather first came to my attention. It became rapidly obvious that we could expect blizzard conditions and a whiteout during Monday. I had booked my sports car in for its annual MOT and service on that day so I call by the garage on Saturday to reschedule. "Let's see what happens first" they responsed, "They usually forecast it to be much worse than the reality". So we left it that I would phone them on Monday if I needed to cancel.

Sunday evening we had light snow showers and there was a light covering of snow. By Monday morning a little more snow had arrived and our side roads had a thin compacted layer of snow on them. Several neighbours set off to work but then returned home. We live over the brow of a hill and it is the first few hundred yards that cause the problems. Mrs Troy, despite buying a 4x4 for these very conditions, decided to get the bus to work. I walked Troy Junior to school in about one to two inches of snow.

Looking at the 24 hours local weather summary on the BBC Weather website I could see that heavy snow was being forecast for the Ipswich area from midday to six pm. Accordingly I cancelled the car MOT and service. I may have got the car there but would I be able to collect it and get it home later? Certainly not if the forecast was correct.

Shortly after midday it began to snow lightly but the snowflakes were as small as washing machine powder and as dry. Only a relatively small amount actually settled. Going down to the school after 3pm I noticed the snow was turning to light sleet. After collect Troy Junior we hurried home to build what in my childhood was called a snowman (but now I had better say snowperson). The snow was wet and melting. We built a tall thin snowperson, added a mouth, nose and eyes and then on closer inspection found that we had actually built a snowdog. Here it is, with Troy Junior hiding behind it:

The sleet turned to rain. This morning most of our snow has gone taking our new pet dog with it:

Growing up in Yorkshire between the mid 1950's and mid 1970's I remember what blizzards and severe snowstorms were really like. I remember the snow lasting for days. I remember the buses still running and providing a public service unlike London on Monday.

Perhaps we've just been lucky with the weather here? So now, and purely in the interests of meteorological research, I find myself asking my regular army of female bloggers with their wide geographical base these simple questions :-

Did you get the six to eight inches you were promised on Sunday night? Was it an anticlimax for you? (And please, these are innocent questions so no need to be smutty).

Sunday, 1 February 2009


It’s been an eventful week so I’m belatedly now getting round to posting about an absolutely wonderful event I attended last Monday.

Ages ago I’d pre-booked a cheap hotel (Travelodge at £19) in Portsmouth and bought a ticket for DJ and Chopper’s joint book launch party. When I booked, Mrs Troy wondered why I wanted to travel all that way to an event full of people I’d never met. However the wonder of blogging is that you already feel that you do know quite well the fellow bloggers you actively follow and do really want to meet them in Real Life. So I travelled down the A3 for the first time (marvelling why they had built a chicane called Hindhead in the road just to delay my journey) and finally checked in to the hotel about 6.30pm. I got a quick but tasty takeaway pizza from the nearby Pizza Hut then got changed and went in search of “Rosies Winebar, Elm Grove”. It looked straight forward on the map but I managed to get hopelessly lost in both Portsmouth and Southsea. I would never normally stop and ask for directions but as it was after 8.10pm I made an exception and thus turned up at the event at 8.19pm. Events were scheduled to kick-off at 8.20pm!

After a very hasty hello and hug from Denyse, I sat down next to Carol, Leigh and Helen. “Hello, I’m [real name]” and polite smiles were returned. “But you’ll know me better as Troy”, prompting huge grins and handshakes. Then a lady approached me and said “it’s £1 per strip”. Well I thought, this sounds like an interesting party, I can’t remember the last time a lady said that to me. I passed on these thoughts to Carol, Leigh and Helen which broke the ice! I’m normally very shy when meeting people for the first time. Then DJ did her introductory talk and introduced a very nervous Chris.

After a witty few words, Chris read the prologue to his book. Then Denyse did a really heart-warming talk about her Asperger’s Syndrome and how she struggles hard but generally succeeds in masking her symptoms in everyday life. She then read an excerpt from her book. I hadn’t read either book yet as the intention was to buy them at the launch, or, being from Yorkshire, first hopefully win them in the raffle!

Next up was a performance of “Shrek Rap”. Now the only time I’ve heard rap music previously it has left me totally cold so my thoughts were “this could be really dreadful but at least it will be short”. The performer Darren had some magical (or perhaps just technical) gadgets to build up live his backing tracks then he launched into the rap. Now I have a choice of words to describe the performance; Brilliant, Awesome, Outstanding, Inspiring; all these fit the bill. Afterwards I was able to read and marvel at the lyrics written by the talented Casdok. I encourage you to visit her blog for more background to this moving musical masterpiece.

Then the raffle was drawn and inexplicably tickets 111-115 were ignored. Still the £1 was for a good cause (charity not a strip). Then the book signing started although people leaving early to travel home got get their's first. This gave me the chance to chat further with Carol, Leigh and Helen. Now Leigh had previously commented elsewhere that she found the "Wordless Wednesday" captions written by “Who’s This Then” to be wittier than those of Troy (I know, unbelievable!). I was eager to put her straight on this matter and think ultimately I succeeded. We then all assembled for a group picture.

It was then my turn to buy THE BOOKS. First I sat next to Denyse and had a lovely chat with her whilst she wrote a nice personal message in her book for me. Photos were taken (see her blog). Then I was finally able to properly introduce myself to Chris (Chopper) and he too signed his book for me. What a delightful couple they make and I’ve subsequently learnt that since the book launch they have got engaged to be married. Truly they will be the King and Queen of bloggers.

During the course of this magical evening I also managed a brief chat with Lady In Red, Joe Stein, Darren Callow and the Crafty Gardener but have realised since, to my disappointment, that there were several other bloggers I missed getting to meet.

For all too soon there were only a handful of us left in the room. It was well past eleven o’clock and it was time to depart. Lots of nice hugs and smiles and fond farewells and then I was off into the night to find the hotel. Typically, the trip back there was easy and short, perhaps I ought to reverse my car to events in future (well not all the way from Ipswich!).

It just leaves me to thank Denyse and Chris for a truly marvellous evening. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world and am so pleased to have met them, and everyone else mentioned in this posting, for the first, and hopefully not the last time in Real Life.