Wednesday, 31 October 2012


I do wish I had taken a 'before' photo of this clock dial. It represents a good day's work. I was asked to restore the dial a week or so ago and finally got round to it yesterday. When I first saw the clock, all that could be seen of the dial centre were the figures one to twelve, obviously badly repainted a long while ago, and shakily done at that. The nice thing about restoring a painted  (long case) clock dial, is that when the 'repainted' figures are removed (using a mixture of methylated spirits and cream of tartar), the dial carefully cleaned and then dried, the dial is then 'lit' (I find TWO angle poise lamps perform this miracle) and then the original figures, the datework, second dial, and any maker's or retailer's signature become immediately visible. These are transparent and just very slightly proud of the dial. It is then the restorer's job to replace all the black that was once there using (in my case) Indian ink (Windsor and Newton's is probably best) and a series of mapping pens with different sized knibs.  I would love to know what the original dial painters used for the black dial paint, probably a gum arabic/soot mix; whatever it was it almost invariably fades in sunlight.  A friend of mine ( a fellow horologist) used to theorise that between the wars when painted dial long case clocks were of very little value, every small town had an elderly man who (for a consideration) would repaint the figures on a faded grandfather clock dial. To do this he used a half inch brush, an old tin of black paint, and a shaky hand.  I am glad to report (if you are reading this, Tim) that the dial is now as near to the original as I can make it.
One last item of interest is that the ORIGINAL dial painter had made one bad mistake, which was almost immediately corrected, but is still visible when the dial is 'lamped'.  I don't think it will show on the photograph, but the cross stroke of the X in the IX (nine) was put in the wrong position at first.  Ah well - no one's infallible.

Sunday, 28 October 2012


First frost of the winter this morning. At seven o'clock the slates on the roof of the opposite house were white with frost- half an hour later there was bright sunshine, and the frost had gone - then half an hour after that it started to rain- oh well - English weather.
This afternoon had two nice telephone chats with our eldest daughters. 'Phoned Sarah for help with the Telegraph Prize Crossword of yesterday, and, with her help, finished it.  Then Ruth 'phoned from Sweden to tell us of a 'Tsunami' that had occurred in her kitchen, and which, with the help of her eldest daughter, she had cleared up, and eventually found and cured the cause of.  Well done, Ladies!.

And above is the 'last rose of summer' -well not quite, but more or less. It's from the bush that grows around the back window of the kitchen.

Bit early, but- Goodnight All.

Thursday, 25 October 2012


Been a full day. Woke rather later than we'd intended (well, 7.55a.m. to be honest), and remembered that we both had to be at the surgery around tennish. As soon as Ann had finished in the bathroom I leapt into the shower, where about two minutes later I heard the 'phone going, and about thirty seconds after that Ann came in, thrust the 'phone at me, and said "It's Terry, she's having trouble with one of the clocks". I don't know if you've ever  had to advise a lady how to deal with the strike work on a three hundred year old loop and spurs clock whilst in the shower, and not even wearing your hearing aids, but it isn't easy. It wasn't so much being in the shower - after all Terry is a retired G.P. so probably isn't too bothered by  disrobed, elderly gentlemen, so much as the fact that nothing I suggested seemed to work. "Tell you what, Terry," I said, "we've got to get into the surgery. We'll go in the car, then nip round to see you when done".  Terry lives about three/four miles out of town. We got there at about eleven o'clock (note the low cunning of this:- Eleven a.m. which is of course, to the civilised, coffee time), to be met by Terry with a huge grin "I've done it!" she said. "I poked about till the bell rang, and I've cured it."
"Is that the way you used to treat your patients?" I asked "Poke them about till they squawk, then declare them cured ?"
"More or less," says Terry "Anyway, now you're here, come in and have a coffee". Which we did, together with the added incentive of a piece of shortbread apiece. Perhaps should have said earlier that the above photo is of Terry's home, which it is always a pleasure to visit. Have to creep like this to ensure the continued supply of coffee and shortbread, especially as Terry reads this blog.

From Terry's motored on to our favourite hostelry, where we stopped for a light lunch of (I think Italian pancakes and ricotto), with salad. Followed by marmalade pudding and custard in my case and pear creme brulee in Ann's. Not that it mattered who had what for pudding, because, by mutual consent, we swapped over halfway. Then motored home because we were due to take tea at around four with an old friend and Ann wanted to change, which she did into the above outfit. Tead with Sylvia as stated, exchanged all the parish news (not all of it good, I'm afraid) then home, changed into partial scruff, and must soon get stuck into some work.
Bit early to do this, I know, but I wish you all a very good night.

P.s. Do not altogether recommend Terry's method of dealing with antique orloges. Rather, should you be so fortunate as to know, and be in yelling distance of, an honest and reliable antiquarian horologist, place matters in his hands, and wait until you are suffering a quinsey, or a dose of the megrims, THEN send for Terry, and place yourself with confidence in her hands.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012


Been  a long day. Went to early service this morning at seven thirty. Got home about nine and changed into my workshop scruff. Spent the rest of the day in the workshop doing various odd jobs. Went well UNTIL- after a quick cuppa at five o'clock this afternoon,  came back downstairs and decided to do a necessary bit of adjustment to the clock on the right of the picture. All three are Black Forest Clocks, which was where they were made - all three of them with the English market in mind. They used to be called Dutch clocks, which is thought to be a corruption of 'Deutsch' clocks. The movements run in  wooden plates, and have wooden wheel arbours, and a painted wooden face and side doors. A good deal of the strike work is made of fairly malleable iron wire. They are not highly accurate pieces of horology, but in their day they were a clock that any farmhouse kitchen, and indeed a good many of the more prosperous cottagers, could afford. I've always rather liked them, in fact I was once referred to as the only clock-bloke in East Anglia who would touch Black Foresters, for  a great many horologist dislike them intensely. In fact an old friend of mine used to refer to them as 'those %^&!!!******* Black Forest toyshop clccks'. This afternoon I knew just what Peter meant! I spent (well - 'wasted' would be more the mot juste) about an hour and a half on that clock, steadily getting the strike work more into alignment, then bending one  of the lifting pieces just that soupcon too far (don't know why I'm using French terms - just to annoy the German clocks probably- and we'd be back to square one - most uncooperative it was being, and I was thoroughly frustrated by the time  Ann called me up to supper.  Given that these clocks are largely made of wood, I suppose the survival rate is surprisingly high. In fact, if many of them behaved like the one I was competing with this afternoon, then the survival rate is astonishing! I think a great many clockies who were tried as high as I was would have placed the clock in the middle of the workshop floor and got his revenge by jumping up and down on it!!!!!
Oh well. Thank you for listening. I feel better for a quick rant!
And of course for a good supper followed by a good game of scrabble.
Goodnight all.

Monday, 22 October 2012


Been a pleasant, sociable sort of day. Spent this morning in the workshop, tidying up. Our old friends Jacques and Henriette came to lunch.  They are bulb dealers who started life in Holland (natch), and have spent most of their adult lives in Lincolnshire and Norfolk. They'd driven down to South Suffolk to collect a couple of pictures from a fellow dealer in Long Melford, then motored over to us, partly to have lunch and partly to collect a clock that I've been fixing for them.  Ann gave them chicken and celery soup with  bread rolls baked with chopped olives in them (all of which she made this morning), followed by a very decent cheese board, then coffee. I'd put a bottle of Piesporter in the fridge a couple of hours before they were due, and it went very well with the soup and the cheese. After lunch I went and collected Jacque's clock from my workshop and packed it. I  then took the above photo of the clock, with Jacques and Ann looking at it

Henriette asked if the photo was alright, and I said that I thought it could do with just a touch more glamour in it, so she came and sat on Jacque's lap while all three of them admired the clock, packed up ready for its journey. As they'd got a two hour drive ahead of them back to the North Norfolk coast they left just after three o'clock. Thy're ten years older than we are, and I find that reassuring, and hope we've got the same amount of energy in ten years time.
After they'd gone Ann needed to buy vegetables, and I had one or two things to do in town, so we drove into town, then on to our favourite farm shop, where we bought vegetables and I took the below photographs showing autumn colouring.  We then decided on a cuppa in the farm shop cafe. As we were about to leave the manager came over and dropped a bag of four large scones on our table. She said to Ann "We baked them this morning, so they'll freeze alright."    What a nice thing to do; can't imagine it happening in a large town.
As we got home the mist was thickening. Hope Jacques (still not sure of that spelling though) and Henriette got home alright.

Saturday, 20 October 2012


First of all my apologies for not blogging of late. The reason being that a rather nasty tummy bug (to use a medical expression) has been rife in our town for some days. I have had it, but am glad to report that I think I'm past the worst, and even gladder to report that Ann seems to have escaped it. Because of this I have been unable to get out and about and take photies, so, once again, am having to fob you off with ancient ones. The top one was taken by sister Margaret, I think, in the high summer of 1970, and features your blogger, a shooting stick, an English flintlock long fowler, and our first English Setter, Humphrey. Maggie carefully posed the photograph (it isn't in any known shooting season - save possibly wood pigeons), but couldn't get Humphrey to participate - he would keep looking in the wrong direction. You will notice that Maggie has even managed to give him a halo, or possibly a thought bubble - if the latter there should be a big question mark therein followed by "What the Hanover do these idiots want me to do???"  I don't think it could have been a 'thought bubble' - he wasn't much given to deep thought, but on the other hand, although a perfect gentleman, I really don't think he qualified for a halo. We shall now, of course, never know.

This lower (black and white) photo is of daughters Ruth and Sarah; I think it was Ruth's first day at school, so would have been taken in early September, also in 1970. I think it's always been a favourite of mine.

Sunday, 14 October 2012


This morning (a lovely sunny one) we set out to walk to church, and Ann took a snapshot of the garden which still has a lot of colour for mid October.

 Above - autumn colours in the town centre.

Although the hanging baskets along the High Street have now been taken down, the ones on the Guildhall still remain, and are still colourful. They were chosen in late spring to fit in with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Celebration, and still show as red, white and blue flowers.

After the service, at which Ann served, we have tea / coffee at the back of the Church, and this photo shows Iris pouring coffee. She makes the best biscuits in the W........ No, mustn't exaggerate, Michael!... well anyway the best in East Anglia that I know of; the two plates in the foreground show a selection of Iris's specialities.

Yesterday, shopping in town, Ann saw that our butcher was selling bacon wrapped haunch of venison, and bought some. As the photo shows we had some of it for supper, pot roast. It was delicious!!!!  or , as the Victorians might have said - singularly toothsome.
One slightly odd thing I want to record of today- went for a quick zizz this afternoon, slept deeply  for over an hour, then spent the rest of the day (before supper) in my workshop. Also spent the rest of the day knowing that it was now MONDAY, and Ann had to convince me that it was, in fact, still Sunday.

Goodnight, dear readers (still sounding a bit Viccy - must be that venison!!!!!!).

Wednesday, 10 October 2012


Been a good, busy day. At 7.30 a.m. to early service, then on to Doctor's appointment - usual six monthly check up, blood pressure, heart, etc.   My Doctor is a good chap, but an awful worry-mutton. Still, good to see him; he was looking quite well.  Took above photo of our Church tower and steeple when walking back to the car. From this angle the steeple always looks rather twisted. If you embiggen it you will see what I mean, I think.

Then motored over to Ely. Above snapshot showing beginning of autumn colours taken en route, somewhere near Lavenham.

Met up with Barbara and Alan on waterside at Ely. Does anyone remember that in the seventies a good many people said they  intended, when they retired, to drive overland to India, or even further east in a Landrover or similar. Well, Barbara and Alan were the only ones to do that, or nearly that. When they  retired about ten years or so ago, Alan used part of his retirement package (not sure if that's the right term) to buy a rather handsome mobile home, in which, every year since, they have driven south every late October, to Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, and other sunny, southern,  countries. Should perhaps digress slightly here and explain that from birth Ann and Barbara were next door neighbours (this means in Norfolk fen terminology that they lived in farmhouses about 400 yards from each other, but were, even then, 'next door neighbours'), and were 'best friends'. So every year since their retirement, we have met up once every summer. As I've said they head south in late autumn, and usually return to their permanent home about April/May time. Unusual lifestyle, but it seems to suit them. We had lunch at the Boathouse in Ely (which I thoroughly recommend), caught up on all the family news (from both sides - theirs and ours- only ours takes longer as we have a good many more descendants than they have), then walked along the river to the Waterside Antique Centre, where, I'm glad to be able to report, I purchased half a dozen pieces of stock.  We  took our leave of them until next year ('if spared' as my grandmother would have said) at about 3.30p.m.,  had a final look round the antique centre, then had a pot of tea and a scone apiece at a nearby tea shop, and started for home ourselves.

Took the above snapshot of sunlit Suffolk fields and woods, from the nearside car window, when nearing home at a little after five o'clock in the late afternoon (note the  length of the  shadows on the fields). Altogether it's been a lovely relaxed day.

Goodnight All.

Friday, 5 October 2012


About ten days ago I recorded going to London to view Christie's Arms and Armour Auction. Yesterday we motored over to Manningtree Railway Station to buy a day return ticket to Liverpool Street Station (in London, Lori) for today. We then went on to Mistley for lunch at a little restaurant we like. Took the above photo from the restaurant looking over the river Stour to Suffolk.  

The small house pictured above also backs onto the Stour, and is a few yards from the restaurant.

We parked nearby, and found ourselves next to the small (but very sporty looking) Lagonda pictured above.

This morning Ann drove me over to Manningtree Station (she needed the car for today - organising the Ansell Club Luncheon for the elderly of our town), and I caught the train to London. At Liverpool Street Station I got on a Circle Line Tube train to South Kensington, and walked round to Christie's saleroom in the Old Brompton Road, where I picked up the one item for which I'd been successful in bidding. I then popped into a coffee shop opposite the sale rooms for a quick sandwich and coffee, and a few minutes later found myself in conversation with the new Arms and Armour Director, who I knew vaguely, but it was pleasant (and potentially useful) to get to know him a bit better. Then spent a useful half hour in the V.and A. before returning by tube and British Rail to Manningtree Station. I 'phoned Ann by mobile 'phone from the train, and she picked me up at the station, and ran me home. Been a busy, but oddly relaxing day.

Goodnight all.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012


Spent today in Long Melford, at the monthly antique fair there. I took the above photo to illustrate the beginning of autumn colouring in the trees.  At about three o'clock this afternoon, Ann grabbed the camera and rushed outside to take the below picture which show much the same view but with a rather dramatic skyscape.

  Below is pictured a small item of furniture we purchased this morning, not as stock, but as a nice item to keep. Adrian, the dealer from whom we got it said "If it were Welsh it would be a coffor bach. I think it's English so it's a small mule chest. It was made about 1790, I think."  I think I agree with him on every detail, and although there has been a certain amount of restoration done on it over the last two centuries, we still think it's a nice small item of country furniture.
 The bottom picture shows me leaning on it just to give an idea of scale.  It's nice to find something we both like, for ourselves.

We got up early, 5.45 a.m., and are now both fairly nack......... er..... fatigued, so I'm going to knock off.
Goodnight all.

Tuesday 2.

Sorry. The above photograph should have appeared in the previous blog entry regarding the name Jn. Spendlove in the arch of the dial of the small lantern timepiece.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012


Above and below - last night's supper. Ann said that the cheese souffle must be photographed as it came out of the oven, as after that it might sink. It didn't though (well, not noticably) and below picture shows my half of  it on my plate, steaming away surrounded by broccoli and baked vegetables. DEELISH!!!

Below two photos show the clock I have been working on over the last few days. It is a very small single handed timepiece-alarm ( the chapter ring is only  four and a half inches in diameter). It was made by John Spendlove of Thetford in Norfolk around 1760. It is a very good example of a small English lantern timepiece.  It had had a mishap (fallen from a wall). So I had to reshape several parts, and completely rebuild one. Been satisfying work, but took rather longer than I'd reckoned.

The bottom picture shows an enlargement of the arch with Mr. Spendlove's signature thereon. Odd thing is that Ann had an elderly great aunt who had married a Mr. Spendlove from Norfolk. It's nice to think that the clock maker might have been a distant connexion. I must return it to it's owner now. It still lives in Norfolk.