Here's to a Sparkling New Year

The fireworks in London were quite spectacular this year. We saw them on television rather than travel to the capital. 
On Boxing Day morning I spent a happy couple of hours watching the final episode of Downton Abbey. What a great series that's been.

We're off to Florida in a few days to attend the Miniature Art Society of Florida's annual show. - it's the  largest miniature exhibition in the world. I was honoured to have won two prizes - first in the 'Portrait' category, and all five miniatures I entered achieved the 'Excellence in all Entries' prize. - one of which was this miniature depicting The Dowager Countess of Grantham, and so brilliantly acted by Dame Maggie Smith. 

The day after Boxing Day my young friend drove us to Suffolk where she had been spending Christmas with her family. I was invited to join them for a few days. Her mother had booked the pantomime Aladdin for eight of us on Monday afternoon at the Regent Theatre in Ipswich. 

Both Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee were starring in the show - Paul as the Emperor and Debbie as the Spirit of the Ring.

The sets and costumes were really good - as were the performances - especially Wishy Washy and the Genie (played by the X Factor's Andy Abraham.)  After the show Paul and Debbie came out to the foyer to meet and have a photograph taken with the family. Young Rose, an aspiring magician, forgot to bring her latest magic set for Paul to sign, so he signed her programme instead. 
Tuesday marked the birthday of my young friend's mother, so we all went to lunch at The Bistro on the Quay looking out towards Ipswich docks. I didn't take any pictures of the party as I'd forgotten to bring my camera, but this one, thanks to my new phone, is of the scene as we left the restaurant.

A very cold wind was blowing when we visited Sutton Hoo on Wednesday afternoon. 

It was Wednesday 14th June 1939 that a tremendous find, one that would change long-held views of history and amaze the world, was made at Sutton Hoo. The impression of a massive wooden ship measuring about 90 feet from bow to stern, was being uncovered from its burial place deep in the ground. The man who had painstakingly revealed the outline of the ship, helped only by a couple of estate workers, was about to make his greatest discovery. His patient scraping and brushing uncovered a burial chamber deep within the ship. It appeared intact. After many finds, including the remains of a horse and a man laid out on a long rectangular wooden tray, together with a few broken pieces of carved bone, bronze and iron artefacts were found and carefully stored. From the many finds the most recognised image is this great iron helmet. 

Found near the helmet in the burial chamber were the remains of an enormous shield. It's central boss is of decorated iron and cast bronze with animal images, each with eyes of garnet. On the board are exquisitely fine mounts  - one a bronze dragon, the other a bird of prey, fashioned from bronze and gold foil. Round the space where the body would have laid were the richest finds of all: gold and garnet mounts and buckles, once attached to a leather sword belt, and another large gold buckle decorated with entwined animal shapes. 

Soon after the War ended and work at Sutton Hoo resumed, Rupert Bruce-Mitford, Keeper of Medieval Antiquities at the British Museum, was able to fully evaluate the remarkable discoveries, and it was he who first named the king buried there. Evidence from the coins and, curious in a pagan burial, from christening spoons found with the grave goods, pointed to this being the final resting place of King Raedwald, son of King Tyttla and grandson of Kinf Wuffa, who ruled over the East Angles and died in AD 624 or 625. During our visit to this most interesting burial site the wind was howling and bitterly cold, but we could gaze down to to the River Deben where, about 1,500 years ago, people arrived across the sea from Denmark, Holland and Germany. They came up to the Hoo above the river to bury their dead, making earthen mounds for all to see. There warrior kings and battle leaders were buried with much ceremony and great treasures. 
Here is a reconstruction of one of the richly decorated helmets discovered on the site. 

And another helmet - even more richly engraved and decorated.

What an interesting day we had . 
Even though I've not done much drawing or painting over the Christmas period, as I mentioned before, I made several pictures for Christmas presents. This is one I took down to Suffolk for my young friend's brother and his wife. It's a pencil drawing of Rose, their eight year old daughter, surrounded by some of her fluffy toys.