A Top Ten Tapestry, Parts 1-5

Along the seafront, Felixstowe

Felixstowe Suffolk UK

Many of you reading this understand the physical and emotional demands of an overseas move – or any move, for that matter — and, once it’s complete, the endless stream of tasks and adjustments that follow in its wake.  When your new home requires some renovation, the situation becomes more challenging by the day.

Clive and I made a conscious decision that we’d try as best we could to balance our daily life here in Felixstowe. More specifically, we don’t want to spend every waking moment (and no doubt Clive’s dreaming moments) on renovation projects, but rather balance that work with other time spent out and about, appreciating the people, places, and events in our new part of the world.

Without further ado, and with thanks to those who have e-mailed to make sure we’re OK (we are!), here are Parts 1-5 of a ‘top ten’ tapestry of what’s been happening in our S~F~P life.

1.  Settling In

Clive and our new (used) wheels

My word for 2011 was, and still is, Settle. The days of manic March, when we took ownership and had our floor picnic with parsnip crisps and champagne, seem so long ago. Since visiting our families in Australia in April and the U.S. in May, we’ve enjoyed over six weeks in our own bed, or to be precise, our surprisingly comfy double air mattress which rests upon a sea of book boxes as its base (book boxes to be unpacked when study renovation is complete).

Clive has found and read — in various not-always-obvious places in our apartment building – meters for water, gas, and electricity.  We’ve done all the usual change-overs for billing with utilities and local council tax. We’re more or less keeping up with desk piles, changes of address, and remaining mail from Australia (thanks to invaluable assistance from Clive’s busy son and daughter-in-law).

And, after driving our rental car all over Suffolk and Essex counties to test-drive all manner of used Vauxhall, Ford, VW, Mazda, Honda, and Peugeot, we settled on a Ford Focus Zetec (there seem to be zillions of them here) with low mileage and an excellent price negotiated by Clive. Finding car insurance proved tricky with two Aussie licenses, but after shopping around and doing more negotiating with various agencies, Clive was successful.

2.  Daily Life

Our frequently-used rice/slow cooker

Listening to BBC Radio 2, especially Ken Bruce in the morning, is a pleasure, at home or in the car. We bought a combined DVD/VCR with hard disk and Clive connected it to a spare laptop so we can use it to watch BBC World News and other HD television.

I continue to enjoy shopping (and eating – my latest favourite food item is Cornish Cruncher mature cheddar with balsamic onion), visiting new supermarkets, and going local when we can, from nearby farm shops.  Supermarket labels usually state country of origin – much is from Europe – and sometimes a specific farm in the UK.

We searched all over for a combined rice/slow cooker.  After examining shelves full of slow cookers, rice cookers, and steamers, we finally found one that will do all three, as well as porridge. While rice and pasta are enjoyed at Indian, Asian, and Italian restaurants here, it seems many people are more inclined to have potatoes at home.

On Sundays, we attend the church in which Clive spent his formative years. It’s been an interesting and positive experience for both of us, one I may write more about in a future post. I haven’t attended church regularly in a very long time (nor has Clive), and not at all since 1995, when we moved to Sydney.

We’ve also joined the Felixstowe Library. Hooray for books, in whatever format we may read them!

3.  Renovations

The skirting boards arrive -- to be cut in the garage

Most of our renovation projects are to modernise our apartment.  Clive’s begun in the loungeroom, with new skirting boards (baseboards in American English), new doors, and a lot of painting.

These projects and their literal and figurative ups and downs warrant a category of posts on their own, but for now suffice it to say we are well-known at the local HomeBase shop (the UK version of Aussie Bunnings or U.S. Home Depot).

Clive occasionally says we’re doing the slowest renovation in the world, but the pace is part of the effort we’re making to get out and do other things, too. He’s doing a masterful job and maintaining heroic equilibrium when things go wrong, as they inevitably do when you’re working on an ‘older’ property.

4. Friends and Family

Early days -- good friends and making do with borrowed chairs

A key part of our ‘don’t let renovation rule our lives’ strategy is to make time to get together with family and friends. Clive’s father, whom I wrote about in Musings about Memory in Suffolk and New Jersey’, is almost 92 and still in his own home, though he doesn’t get out as much as he used to, and we visit him regularly.

Generous friends invite us to share their traditional Sunday dinners, where we marvel at the array of fresh vegetables and homemade treats such as rhubarb and ginger crumble.  With others we share an afternoon cuppa in their beautiful garden, sometimes accompanied by a friendly blackbird. We try to return the hospitality as best we can and everyone is wonderfully uncomplaining about our lack of a sofa or two (to be purchased sooner rather than later but not quite yet).

One of our favourite activities to do with friends is to explore the sensational network of public footpaths  and seemingly endless variety of walks available to everyone.  

 5. Walks

The River Alde, near Iken, Suffolk

We’re so fortunate to have the above-mentioned friends as local tour guides (and sources of other helpful information).  There are so many beautiful walks in Suffolk alone, we can’t imagine how we’ll ever try them all but we know it will be thrilling to discover each one.

I hope to post more about individual walks as we experience them. We’ve loved walking in and around Felixstowe; alongside nearby rivers – the Deben, the Orwell, the Stour, and the Alde – and through varieties of woodlands, meadows, and fields. We’ve visited the first thatched church I’ve ever seen (at Iken) and also come across a beautiful and thankfully-friendly horse on the footpath.

In many instances, a local pub is easy to find on or near a footpath. More on that in my next post, which will complete this ‘top ten’ tapestry.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this update from Felixstowe. Still to come:  Top Ten Tapestry, Parts 6-10.

A horse on the footpath, near Iken, Suffolk

Cheers for now and more soon.

7 Responses

  1. Is there anyone still attending Bethesda Baptist Church that Clive remembers from the late 50’s/early 60’s?

  2. Hello Martyn,

    Yes, Clive remembers quite a few from those earlier days. The group photo I shared on the ‘Manic March’ post shows a number of them 🙂

    Cheers and thanks for stopping by.

    FYI here’s another link to that earlier post: https://mysydneyparislife.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/manic-march-from-felixstowe-to-sydney/

  3. Hi Carolyn & Clive,

    It is nice to get a progress report. Wishing that life is going smoothly and pleasantly for you both.
    Goodness; your days are full! But, that is to be expected when begin you settle in a new place. I am confident that it will go well.

    Please take care and hugs to you both.

  4. Any names, Clive, from BBC?

  5. Sounds like things are moving along nicely. And anyway the fact that you’re moving slowly with the renovations means that you’re doing them right!! Sounds like you are building a wonderful life for yourselves there. Love the new header!!

  6. xpat92, thanks for your good wishes! You understand about moving, clearing-out, settling-in and all that involves 🙂 Hope your own days are going well with similar activities.

    KimB – *great* to see you! We are excited to be here — hope you’re well and maybe our paths will cross in Paris one of these days.


  7. Love the last photo with the horse . . .so gorgeous. Keep me posted about your arrival plans. Life is much more manageable now with only one job. It’s amazing what a difference having weekends makes. : )

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