Leisure, Sunday Photo

Lady Bird

It is Mothers Day today and my daughter took me to see this lovely film. I made it almost to the end before bursting into tears.  It’s a lovely take about a girl growing up with a mum who did not have the best upbringing herself and who finds it hard to show her love.



Do not say we have nothing (Madeleine Thien)

This book was our Book Group pick this month. It starts in Canada with the arrival of a Chinese teenage coming to the home of a second generation Chinese girl (10 years) and you would be forgiven for thinking that the story is going to be one of the integration of an outsider into “normal” society. Instead you are taken into a rich, complex, gripping reflection on China’s cultural history, told through the eyes of a group of young people whose talent for music takes them into the Conservatory.

I had Wiki open next to me for the first few chapters to help me work out who was who, who was real and who not, who was related to whom and how. It helped.

I was a new mum in 1989, thought myself politically aware and vaguely interested in the Tianenman Square protest as it happened (April – June) but had no idea of the lives of people involved, the cultural forces at work in China, the grip that the Gang of Four held on the minds and dreams of the people over such a vast area.

Madeleine Thien is a brilliant writer. Her words sparkle across the page. The clash between East and West, Right and Left, parent and child are all explored with wit, affection, intelligence and compelling insight.

It made me want to weep for the loss of dreams, for the awful, awful turning of the cultural wheel. The death of dreams, the dreadful stasis of fear. The mob, the overwhelming mob.

It is a long book and needs to be read when you really have time to get going with it (book group members who can only snatch 20 mins or so for themselves found it a little daunting) but it rewards the investment.

Awards and honours

  • 2016 Man Booker Prize, shortlisted.
  • 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize, won.
  • 2016 Governor General’s Award for English-language fiction, won.
  • 2016 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, longlisted.
  • 2017 Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards – Writing with a Sense of Place, won.
  • 2017 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, shortlisted.
  • 2017 Rathbones Folio Prize, shortlisted.

Food, Leisure

Mistley thorn (Sunday Lunch)

This pub / restaurant in Mistley sits a little away from the causeway, on the main road through the village. It’s menu is on the pricey side, and I will never mind making that choice if the food is excellent.



This however  was a mixed bag. The roast beef dinner was lovely – the meat beautifully cooked, melty and lovely. The veg was nicely cooked, the gravy not quite enough. But the Yorkshire (green inside, if you can believe that!) was inedible. I saw several go back.

For pudding I opted for the american pancakes with toffee sauce but was told they kitchen had run out.

Run out.

Its flour, eggs and milk, and children learn them as a first ever lesson at school.

(lesson learned – sometimes when a menu says these things are cooked at the place, it might not have been recently.) I opted for the rhubarb jelly with vanilla ice cream, thinking it a poor second place to pancakes, but I was delighted with it. The jelly was a delight, so wobbly the whole table giggled, the ice cream was soft and lovely and the shortbread biscuits were yummy.


At £9 a glass of red was a raising of the eyebrow (only flippin Malbec ffs, not a chateauneuf!)


So I may not go again, but I might. Its a bit far to go to be disappointed but when they get it right they get it very right indeed.


Food, Leisure

Thatcher’s Needle, Diss

Yesterday I met an old friend in the Thatcher’s Needle, Diss. It is a very convenient place for us, half way between the two and cheap food. Word to the wise here – there may be no bad choices in that cheap food will keep you alive, but sometimes being kept alive is not the main reason for eating.I decided on the Chicken Club (forgive the fuzzy photo!)

What arrived was disappointing. A decent sized dinner place, half of which was chopped undressed salad greens (not a problem, nice to have salad with a club sandwich).

Let me describe the club.

Each slice of bloomer bread was half the plate. Each, just in case there was any moisture in them to help you eat, had been lightly toasted. Not enough to go brown, just enough to go dry.

It was unbuttered, again not a problem in itself.

On top of the first slice was one rasher of bacon, and one slice of tomato. about half the bread was bare.

Then the middle slice of dry bread

Between the second and third slices of dry bread were two thumb sized pieces of chicken, each about a quarter of the size of the slice of bread, and each topped off by a small Midget gem lettuce leaf (like one leaf taken from the middle of a midget gem lettuce.)

I asked the manager how this could be eaten as was and he apologised, saying that they should have been some mayo. He took it back to the kitchen and it returned with, I kid you not, one tiny smear of mayonnaise on each slice of bread.

Luckily there was plenty of mayo on the table, so I slavered it on – enough to make the bread edible. I think I missed the meat as it was so small.

No bad choices – I knew it was cheap –  but the next time I will be asking my mate to meet elsewhere.

(Oh, and in case you were wondering, the staff were really nice. Helpful, polite, apologetic and charming. Clearly this is how Marstons make enough money to keep paying them.)

My mate had a baked potato with tuna filling, which she ate without complaint.


Red Riding Hood – Rock n Roll Panto

Every year for the past 18 years the Wolsey theatre in Ipswich puts on a Rock n roll Panto. This year it is Red Riding Hood. I went to the late show last night (9pm curtain up to 12.15) and it was a complete riot. The caste were on for the second time and were clearing having a good time. They only have a couple more to do until the end of the run and it is sold out).

Voices were strained – they have done over 90 shows (!) but the singing was brilliant for all that.

Literally laughed til I cried a couple of times, possibly at bits that were unscripted.

It had everything you would want a Panto to have – plenty of contradictions of statements issued by the caste (“Oh no he didn’t!”) and indications of danger of which caste members were unaware (“Its Behind You!”)

The Dame was a delight, as raucous as a late night show allowed, the audience joined in right from the start, the musicianship was en pointe and the set was astounding.


Still not sure what Jack Frost was about but he had us in fits.


Go every year. Bit of a brightener in January.


Choose Theatre

I love the theatre. I am part of an amdram group that put productions on a couple of times a year. Our next show will be the 100th show!

I used to do leading lady parts, but now I am consigned to the older, housekeeper, mature wifey, comic roles. Not that I mind, less to learn with all the fun of the rehearsals and productions. One of our cast even wrote us a play that we did last year, and it was really well received.

Chelpin Players

I usher at our local theatre, the Wolsey, and get to see all the shows for free!

Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

The Mister and I also go and see several West Ends shows a year, although I also go with my daughter and other friends occasionally.

Here are some I have seen:

Would you recommend any?

Friendship, Interests, Leisure

Book Group

I joined a book group about six years ago. There are about a dozen women in it at any one time, and we each host every month (except august, when the group go to the Theatre in the Forest to wach the Red Rose Chain do some Shakespeare, and December, our Xmas meal.


We have tried various ways to choose a book:

Each host chooses their own

All picked from one Mann Booker list

Pick a genre out of a hat and choose from that

All picked from shortlisted prizewinners of literary prizes

All picked from a selection of lists, winners only


Generally we found it just better to let our Book Club Leader (a very organised lady called Sarah) make up a huge list from a mixture of the above and we pick from a hat – throwing back immediately any that we veto.

Whoever is hosting provides nibbles (cold cuts, cheese, breads etc) and drinks, and we spend about an hour discussing the book, led by questions from our host. We are not exclusively female, just no man has yet asked to join.

It is a great group, meeting every month and always open to having authors visit us (Ruth dugdall has already done so)

We were even featured in our local press:

Link to East Anglia Daily Times


book group