Letter from Felixstowe: The Dreaded Christmas Letter, Part 2 AC (After Clive) or, Separated by a Common Language, or Maybe Just a Comma

Tomahtoh Tamaydoh

Living with a Brit changed everything for me about doing an annual Christmas letter.

The process had previously been straightforward, as described in last week’s post. The focus was simply on content: review the year’s events, decide what to include, type a draft in a Word document, tweak it a bit and print out copies. The process took about an hour, maybe two.

It now goes something like this:

Content – the first step

Clive had never done an annual newsletter before he met me. We agreed from the beginning that we wanted to keep our content positive – not over-the-top, falsely cheerful but not full of personal concerns or issues, of which we have as many as everyone else. We’re a blended family so one of our main objectives is to give more or less ‘equal time’ to each of our families. This has never been a cause of disagreement between us but presents a challenge from the standpoint that we’re both sensitive as to what exactly is included.

Format – newsletter designed by Clive

In our first December together, Clive sat down at his computer one evening and rather quickly created a draft newspaper format. I loved the way he laid out text and photos — so much better and more reader-friendly than the plain Word document I’d always done. We received compliments about it and have continued with that format each year. It’s time-consuming as we first discuss where different text and photos should be placed and then Clive has to fiddle endlessly with margins and spacing to make everything line up.

Photos – but none of us together

Clive on a Suffolk coastal path (photo taken by me)

Clive on a Suffolk coastal path (photo taken by me)

We came to a rather sad realisation this year after trawling through 12 months of photos. We had hundreds of us with various family members and/or individual shots we’ve taken of each other but not one of just the two of us. Goal for 2015: learn how to take a decent couples selfie.

The real fun begins

Having agreed basic content, format and photos, I now thank George Bernard Shaw for the quotation attributed to him, ‘England and America are two countries separated by a common language.’

Language (and spelling)

Because we live in the UK, we agreed we’ll use UK spelling in our letter: colours, centre, organisation. That’s easy enough.

Language and usage cause problems, starting with ‘holiday’ which, in the UK (and Australia) is the equivalent of U.S. ‘vacation’. Clive says ‘Merry Christmas’ while I’m used to ‘Happy Holidays’ encompassing the entire season and everything from Thanksgiving to Hanukkah to Christmas to New Year’s. But a holiday letter is not a vacation letter.

In a sentence about how we hope to see more sights within the UK, Clive insists on ‘further afield’ while I lobby for ‘farther afield’. Our debates on topics like this inevitably lead to dictionary research online and off-line, quotation of various experts to each other, and heavy sighs.

And what about ‘that’ — to me a clutter word most of the time, to Clive an important clarification word. In the first sentence under ‘Content’ above, ‘Clive and I agreed from the beginning that we wanted to keep our content positive’ I would delete ‘that’ while he would keep it.

Then there’s accuracy vs. reader-friendliness. My son’s in Washington, DC. Clive reminds me the BBC refers to ‘our correspondent in Washington’ so we can simply say ‘Washington’ too. I have friends in the U.S. state of Washington so we use ‘Washington, DC’.

The U.S. capital - Washington, DC

The U.S. capital – Washington, DC

Commas, the Oxford comma, overuse of commas and so forth

What is there to say about commas other than we disagree on many of them? Clive uses fewer than I do. By the time we get to the final review and umpteenth draft print-out of our letter, we’re almost – but not quite – too weary to debate about commas. We do debate but then compromise in different sections of the letter – a comma inserted here, one deleted there — and declare it done.

Printing – oh dear

We are not done after all!

The A4-size letter may fit beautifully on the printed page, but I email softcopy of our letter, with a personal note, to U.S. family and friends. The first year I did this, many replied, ‘Great letter but it didn’t print out quite right.’

Aargh! Clive’s final — and most aggravation-causing — task, bless him, is to re-jig the letter to fit U.S. ‘letter’ size paper. This is never a pleasant activity. It requires endless tinkering with margins and text/photo placement, during which time Clive emits a continuous low-volume but just loud-enough so I can hear his irritated mutter about lack of global standards around paper sizes and the U.S. being the only country we know of that uses ‘letter’ size. He eventually gets the U.S. version all neatly lined up and finally, finally — we are truly finished. In the midst of everything else going on in December, this usually occurs a day or two or three after we began.

And that, my friends, is why meeting Clive caused a seismic shift (and multiple controversies) in my once-simple family Christmas letter process.

It’s still worth it to me. I still love receiving these letters from family and friends and, having saved our own letter each year, love having them to look back upon. Like paper or digital photo albums, together they form a kind of family history – births, deaths, the arc of different family members’ lives. If you’ve thought about writing a letter each year, I encourage you to try it. Ultimately it’s a worthwhile exercise, even if you don’t send it out or you and your spouse aren’t separated by a common language.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

Together on the Felixstowe Prom, December 2014 (photo taken by a friend)

Together on the Felixstowe Prom, December 2014 (photo taken by a friend)

Cheers and thanks for reading. Next week’s letter will be on Christmas Day from Felixstowe.

New Weekly Post – Letter from Felixstowe: Tamaydoh-Tomahtoh & UK Residency

Tomahtoh Tamaydoh

In the beginning of this year, I set an internal goal of publishing at least one blog post per month.

My last post was in April. So much for that monthly objective.

We devoted most of May to visiting the U.S. and most of June to clearing Clive’s father’s house in England. Suddenly it’s the end of July.

On the 8th of this month, I passed my Life in the UK knowledge test, a prerequisite to applying for a residence permit. Three days ago, after a trip to the Home Office in Croydon, near London, my application was approved.

I texted my son in the U.S. and several friends in Felixstowe, a few small words inadequate to express my very deep happiness. No more worrying about visa expiration dates or accumulating stacks of necessary paperwork, only the sweet relief of looking ahead with long-term residency granted. My favourite text reply: ‘Congratulations and welcome to our country.’

Champagne was definitely in order when we arrived home. I toasted Clive, my partner in every step of the process. I toasted life in the UK. And I toasted the Queen, whom I adore.

Chip stand & UK flags, Felixstowe Carnival weekend

Chip stand & UK flags, Felixstowe Carnival weekend 2014

Having missed – twice – my aim of a monthly blog post, I am now, somewhat to my own surprise, going to try a …

Weekly ‘Letter from Felixstowe’ (or wherever we may be)

Why on earth would I think this a good idea, and what relation will it have to my ‘usual’ blog posts? I don’t have all the answers and will learn as I go, but for now my thoughts run as follows:

1 — Clive often said, especially during his consulting days, that ‘past performance is the best indicator of future performance.’  I’m also mindful of the quote (sometimes attributed to Einstein) that insanity or stupidity is ‘doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.’

2 — I haven’t posted here as often as I’d like for a number of reasons, but an important one seems to be that many of my posts are longer rather than shorter – longer than I have made time to write, and longer than I believe some people have time or desire to read these days. My hope and plan is to still write more in-depth blog posts, but without setting particular goals for timeframe or frequency.

3 — in addition to being shorter, a letter format is more conversational and informal than a full-blown blog post.

4 — barring emergency, Clive and I will spend the entire month of August here in Felixstowe, so I’ll be able to see how it goes when we’re not consumed with travel or other urgent matters.

My weekly letter, posted here, will cover the same areas as this blog:

Life in Felixstowe: my life with Clive, centred since the beginning of 2011 in this wonderful seaside town in Suffolk, UK, and our various activities and interests. These include walking, reading, socialising and UK travel, culture, and events.

Paris and my writing journey: reflections around my lifelong love affair with Paris, sharing my love and knowledge of the city, and my writing journey as I continue work on a close-to-my-heart personal project, a Paris-based memoir.

Global families and other travels: reflections around the challenges and rewards of having a global blended family located on three continents – and about our enjoyment of other travels and exploring new places.

I can’t promise Clive I’ll never again say ‘budder’ instead of ‘butter’ or that I’ll always say ‘tomahtoh’ but I can say with heartfelt gratitude thanks, UK, for having me.

Thank you, too, for reading and cheers until next week.

Classical Spectacular at Royal Albert Hall 2012

Classical Spectacular at Royal Albert Hall 2012

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The Dreaded Lurgy

Sydney

Clive introduced me to the term the dreaded lurgyHe first heard it when he was growing up in England and listened to The Goon Show on British radio. The lurgy is a fictitious, infectious condition or disease.

Despite its unsavoury connotations, I love the word (it rhymes with ‘Fergie’) and think it’s a perfect one to describe whatever bug hit both of us this past week. We’ve spent most of our time curled up in bed or running back and forth to the T-word (see Clive’s guest post for more detail about that).

On top of jet lag, which would have caused us to wake up well before dawn in any case, having the dreaded lurgy ensured we were wide awake to watch Sky UK (manhunt in Northumbria) and SBS (two World Cup semi-finals) on television, seeing these events live while most of Australia was sleeping.

The lurgy had been going around Sydney; a close friend here had it, as did Clive’s son, daughter-in-law, and two grandsons before we arrived home. The only thing we were thankful for this past week was that we’re past the age of having young children to parent when we ourselves felt awful.

We’re all better now, tackling the coming-home tasks that await returning travellers. Having diligently kept up with e-mails and personal business while we were away, everything is now backed up and a bit out of control, thanks to the lurgy.

The word just makes me smile. It’s onomatopoeic too: ugh, yucky, lurgy. You have to hear Clive say it in person, with an English accent, of course: the dreaded luuurgy.

I apologise for the unanswered e-mails and lack of blogging and comments in recent days.  I’ll remedy that soon; it’s good to be back online.

Cheers and here’s to your good health, all!

True Love Is Making the Vegemite Toast

'Veggie Toast'

Sydney 

In ‘Spot the Odd One Out’, I received some wonderful comments about the contents of our breakfast in Paris.

Paris Breakfast

The mystery item was, of course, the little jar of Vegemite. I’m coming to the end of a jar of it in Sydney, so this seems an appropriate time to follow up on my earlier post with my own opinion of this iconic Australian product. 

If you’d rather just have the executive summary of my view, which is no doubt obvious from the title of this post, it’s the following: it’s about love, or I wouldn’t make Clive his Vegemite toast every day. 

Of course, I start the day with ‘A Nice Cup of Tea’ delivered to me in bed. Clive also makes the first part of our breakfast, since I have ‘issues’ with exploding porridge in the microwave. Then, I make our toast, mine with peanut butter, his with Vegemite. 

What Is Vegemite, Exactly? 

Wikipedia describes Vegemite as a ‘food paste’. It is made from ‘used brewers’ yeast extract’, a by-product of beer manufacturing. I suppose many food products are made with ‘used’ ingredients, but the word does nothing to reassure me. 

A Sensual Experience 

Vegemite provides quite a few sensual experiences, all of them unpleasant for this writer. 

Firstly, I find the sight of Vegemite completely off-putting. Its colour is dark brown and without becoming crude, I trust it is obvious what it could be said to resemble. The bright yellow and red label comes across to me as trying to fool us, saying ‘Look! This product is bright and delicious!’ But inside, it is still a mysterious dark brown substance. 

A New Jar of Vegemite

When you open a new jar of Vegemite, you see a smooth surface. I can hardly stand to look at it. 

As the contents gradually get used, the visual image goes from bad to worse. The rim of the jar becomes streaked with brown and the inside gets all smeary.

A Used Jar of Vegemite

More repulsive to me than the sight of Vegemite is its smell. It gives off a strong, putrid (to me) odour which I cannot bear – in the jar, on toast, or on anyone’s breath. Fortunately, the aroma doesn’t waft very far on its own; you have to be close to Vegemite to smell it.

When I took the photographs for this post, I had to lean over to get the camera close to the jar. I was inadvertently hit with a strong whiff of the stuff, but usually I can avoid smelling it. 

Vegemite’s texture is thick and grainy, much thicker, for example, than peanut butter. Vegemite must be kept refrigerated after opening, so when you go to spread it, it tends to glom onto the knife in cold, sticky blobs. On the rare times I get a spot of Vegemite on a finger (shudder shudder), it will not simply rinse off under the faucet; you have to scrub it off. Admittedly, peanut butter wouldn’t easily rinse off, either, but then again, I would just lick peanut butter off my finger. 

The All-Important Taste Test 

I could probably overcome my revulsion to the sight, smell, and texture of Vegemite if I thought it tasted good. In France, I’ve had horrifically runny, smelly cheeses that surprised with their fabulous taste. This is, however, not the case for me with Vegemite. 

I asked Clive what he likes about Vegemite’s taste. He described the high salt content as giving it flavour, and especially, even though it contains no beef, that it has a beefy flavour. He didn’t have Vegemite as a child growing up in England, but thinks he had a ‘head start’ because his family did eat a similar product, Marmite. 

Clive says Vegemite is definitely an acquired taste, and as many Aussies have told me, most people spread it too thickly the first time they try it, which puts them off it for life. 

The key to enjoying Vegemite, says just about everyone, is to spread it thinly. 

How to Make Vegemite Toast 

My first boss in Australia told me most Americans spread Vegemite like peanut butter, much too thickly. Clive says, ‘That’s fatal.’ The first time I tried Vegemite, it was spread thinly but the taste still put me off it for life. 

Butter is always spread first, then Vegemite. Apparently the heat of the toast, perhaps mixed with the grease of the butter, helps the Vegemite ‘dissolve’ and become more easily spreadable than it would otherwise be straight from the fridge. Sometimes Clive will have a cheese and Vegemite sandwich on bread, and in that case, the Vegemite also becomes easier to spread once it’s combined with butter. 

I always place the Vegemite jar on the kitchen counter so it’s as far away from me as possible while still within arm’s reach – not right under my nose and on the opposite side of the cutting board from the peanut butter jar, so no contamination can occur. Naturally I use two separate knives for Clive’s and my toast, and immediately after spreading the Vegemite, the knife goes as far back in the dishwasher as possible. 

Then, voilà! Veggie toast!  

Veggie Toast (slightly blobby, tsk tsk)

As much as Aussies diminutise words, ‘veggie’ as a noun usually means vegetable. Aussies never say ‘Veggie’ for Vegemite on its own, but as an adjective, ‘Veggie’ with ‘toast’ is a common expression in spoken conversation and on menus and cafe blackboards. 

There’s no equivalent to Vegemite in the U.S., as far as I’m aware, although it’s widely available in England and, as KimB noted (thanks, Kim!), at WH Smith in Paris. 

Vegemite in Song 

A famous Australian advertising jingle sung by children in the 1950’s went as follows: 

     We’re happy little Vegemites

     As bright as bright can be.

     We all enjoy our Vegemite

     For breakfast, lunch, and tea. 

[Note: ‘tea’ is supper, or dinner – for more on the subject of ‘tea’ vs. dinner, see ‘Sunday Roast: A Proper Dinner’.] 

Probably better-known to my northern hemisphere friends is the Men at Work song ‘Down Under’ which includes: 

     I said, ‘Do you speak-a my language?’

     He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich. 

Vegemite sandwiches are a school lunch staple here, similar to peanut butter and jelly (American ‘jelly’ = English/Australian ‘jam’) in the United States. While I obviously don’t like Vegemite sandwiches, I have adopted the language enough to say ‘busy little Vegemites’ when Clive and I talk with his grandsons, or reflect on how much we have to do.  

But those are just words. For true love in action, it’s making the Vegemite toast. Maybe I’m a ‘happy little Vegemite’ after all.

Here’s the 1950’s commercial (found on the Internet): 

   

Cheers and happy eating, whatever your preferences may be.

Tea vs. Coffee: Amazing Water Usage

teapotboat1Sydney, Thursday

The day after I posted about a nice cup of tea, the Economist published a daily chart showing the water needed to produce various consumer goods.

According to ‘Thirsty work’, 1,120 litres of water go into producing a single litre of coffee, while only 120 litres go into making the same amount of tea.  That includes everything from growing to final packaging.

I understand water is needed for wine, apple juice, orange juice, and beer.  But I was surprised to learn a significant amount is also required to produce hamburgers, leather shoes, and microchips.

Australia has many drought-stricken areas, as do other parts of the world.  I know water is a precious resource.

But I still love my coffee.

A Nice Cup of Tea

teapotbooksandtea1Sydney, Tuesday

What is it about tea that makes it special?

I am a coffee-holic.  I love coffee, love that Sydney is a world class coffee city, and love to sit at Paris cafés with un petit café noir (or two).


Yet something strange has happened to me since I met Clive.

SInce I started living with a BritI’ve developed a fondness, and appreciation, for a nice cup of tea.

teapotallsortsA Morning Cuppa

Clive brings me a cup (mug) of tea in bed every morning, a luxury I’ve never had before and for which I am wholeheartedly grateful.

I used to start the day with coffee, but Clive changed all that.  He starts with a cup of tea with milk, but I still have mine ‘black’.  I can’t quite come to grips with the taste of milk in tea.

I’ve also learned that when someone says, “Would you like a cuppa?” they mean tea.  If you want coffee instead, you’d say, “Could I have coffee, please?”

Childhood Associations
teapotcupcakeIn my rather sheltered New Jersey childhood, I only had tea in two situations.

When my brother or I were sick, which was thankfully not often, our mother would give us tea with dry toast.  It sounds awful now, but it seemed to work and I still think of that combination as comfort food for an upset stomach.

The other time I had tea was when, as a teenager, I had painful menstrual cramps.  My mother had me lie down with the heating pad and brought me hot tea, sometimes with lemon.  The heat inside and outside my abdomen did help, and to some extent I still associate tea with ‘medicinal purposes’.

teapotvanIt’s an English Thing

From reading books about faraway places like England, I pictured tea-drinking as something done by prim and proper ladies sitting in a circle, putting their pinkie fingers in the air when they sipped from fine china cups.

By contrast, in the U.S., my own grandmother was always very proper.  But when she played bridge with her friends, they sat at a card table, drinking ginger ale and cream soda, never tea.

On my first trip to London when I was a single working woman, my friend said, “We must have high tea at the Ritz.”  It was a lot of fun, and the tea was served with cucumber sandwiches.  I still thought of tea-drinking as a female activity.

Real Men Drink Tea
teapotpom
It wasn’t until 1995, when we moved to Australia, that I met men who drank tea.  I’m sure it’s partly the English influence.

Our best friends in Sydney are tea drinkers, and never use teabags, only loose tea.  They would be horrified at the ancient, yellowing box of Lipton teabags found in my mother’s cupboard last year.  A box of teabags in my childhood home lasted for at least several years.

When we visit Clive’s father in England, the first question he asks after hugging us hello is, “Will I put the kettle on?”

teapotrecordsKettles, Kettles Everywhere

In my past life, ‘Polly Put the Kettle On’ was only a nursery rhyme.

Since being in Australia, and meeting Clive, ‘putting the kettle on’ has an entirely new meaning.

In 1998, when I bought my apartment in Paris and told my Aussie tea-drinking friends we had little in the way of furnishings, their first question was, “But at least you have a kettle?”

It wasn’t until 2006, when Clive and I went to Paris together for the first time, that we purchased a kettle for the apartment.

When I met Clive in 2005, getting a kettle for my house in Sydney became a priority.  And last year in New Jersey, when we were clearing my mother’s house, Clive took one look at the ancient little pot she used to boil water on the stove and said, “We have to get a kettle.”

I’ll Put the Kettle On

teapotgardeningI’ve noticed over the years that in many British movies and TV shows, whenever two people, often policemen, visit a home to deliver bad news, the roles are split such that one person gives the message and the other says, “I’ll make some tea.”

When Clive and I visit England, his family and friends always, always say, “I’ll put the kettle on.”  All hotels and B&Bs come with kettles in the room, and when we return from a day out walking, we often have a nice cup of tea.

teapotbooksSoothing

Clive uses the word ‘soothing’ for a cup of tea, and I have come to see it that way, too, similar to but much nicer than the ‘medicinal purposes’ of my youth.

In times of stress or worry, there is something comforting about putting the kettle on and having a cuppa.  It’s a way of being in the moment and savouring a simple pleasure.  I understand the appeal of the Japanese tea ceremony, in preparing and serving tea peacefully and mindfully.

When Clive’s little grandsons stayed with us, the older one asked, “Why do you take Carolyn a cup of tea every morning?”

Clive said, “Because she likes it.”  Then the little guy carried it in to me himself.

I know how lucky I am.  Now, it must be time to end this post and put the kettle on. 

teapot_steaming_md_gry1 

[Note:  all teapot photographs except the steaming one above are from Tony Carter Pottery in Debenham, Suffolk, England.  We visited this village and pottery cottage last year, and of course, while there had a nice cup of tea.]

Tony Carter Teapot Pottery, Debenham, Suffolk

Tony Carter Teapot Pottery, Debenham, Suffolk

How I Met My Valentine

cc_heartSydney, Saturday

Valentine’s Day seems an appropriate time to reflect on how glad I am I met Clive, and how lucky I feel to have him in my life.

As I wrote in Living with a Brit, we met in September, 2005.  Most of our family and friends know how happy we are together, but (until now) not everyone knows we met via the Internet. 

Not Afraid of the Internet

When I put my toe into the waters of online dating, I was nervous about meeting men again after being widowed, but I wasn’t afraid of the Internet.

My first foray into the world of Internet message boards was several years earlier, when I found a site dedicated to U.S. college athletic recruiting.  I found another mother whose son was in the same situation as mine, and we corresponded regularly via e-mail.

On one of our family home leaves, we arranged to get together face to face.  I was at my mother’s house, preparing to drive to the meeting, when she asked, “How did you meet her?”  I said, “We met through baseball.“

My son, who overheard the conversation, piped up from the living room, “SHE MET HER ON THE INTERNET.”

“Oh, dear,” my mother said.  “You’d better give me her name, address, and phone number.”

rose_21Internet Support Groups

After my husband died, I found a grief support group on the web.  We formed a global community, and I’m still in touch with some of the friends I met there.

I‘m relatively new to blogging, but it seems to me there are many similarities with message boards and support groups:  communities of interest and understanding; sharing of common passions and concerns; and communication, support, and connection via comments to one another.

My Internet Dating Experience

Books have been written on this subject, and I read many of them before I put my profile on a dating site.

Because of my prior Internet experience, I was overall positively predisposed to ‘the type of people you meet online’.  I thought my instincts were good, and knew there were certain types of men I didn’t want to meet:  those who weren’t emotionally, physically, or financially stable, not to mention those who smoked or might lack kindness, intelligence, and integrity.

We All Have Our Stories

global_hugI’m aware many people, including some regular readers here, have met their partners online.  Clive and I have had fun sharing our respective experiences with each other, and reflecting on our individual paths that ultimately connected.

My preference was to wait to see who contacted me, although some of my female friends said, “But you can be in control, if you contact them first.“  It may sound old-fashioned, but I wanted to meet men who I knew had at least some interest in meeting me.

My Two Cents’ Worth

From my limited experience, I developed two basic guidelines for anyone contemplating Internet dating:

1.      Meet in person as soon as possible.  E-mail for as long as it takes to agree to meet, but don’t spend a lot of time on the phone if you can avoid it.  My very first Internet date was with a man with whom I talked on the phone for over an hour, yet within a few minutes of meeting face to face, I knew he wasn’t for me.

2.      Avoid any whiff of real estate issues.  I met one man unwilling to disclose his living situation, and another who lived with his ex, her new partner, and the 32 year-old child of him and his ex.  I was amazed at how frequently these types of issues occurred, which to me suggested broader financial concerns and/or a general lack of stability.

Hi!

rose1My two cents aside, I did find mostly nice guys out there, and realised everyone was looking for the same thing:  love, companionship, and someone with whom to share all or part of one’s life.

Like most online daters, I received my share of winks, smiles, and e-mails, and developed a response process with which I was comfortable.
I ignored winks and ‘form letter’ e-mails, and responded to those that contained something personal about my profile and the sender’s personality or interests.  I had several enjoyable dates with pleasant guys, but no sparks flew.

One night I almost deleted a message attached to a profile I hadn’t looked at because the photo was hidden.  The message included a link that opened the photo.  It said, “Hi.”

“Hi?”  You must be kidding, I thought.  If he couldn’t be bothered to write something more, I should delete it and not reply.  But I looked at the profile (and photo) and thought, hmmmm.   We liked many of the same things and he seemed articulate, intelligent, and amusing.

Hi There

heart_roseA few days later, I sent back, “Hi there.”

Shortly thereafter, I received a detailed e-mail that began, “Well, thus far we have both been very economical with our words.”  It went on from there, I responded, and our communication was underway.

We didn’t meet in person as soon as we might have because I had a business trip to Singapore.  Mr. Detective guessed I worked for Optus Telecommunications, which had been bought by SingTel, but this was incorrect.

On our first date, we met for late morning coffee at Manly Beach.  What we both thought would be a one-hour introduction turned into an afternoon spent walking and talking along the beachfront and on the pedestrian Corso.

Champagne and Ice Cream

Three months after our first meeting, we co-signed an agreement to buy an apartment together.  This required each of us to sell our existing homes, and do all the necessary tasks to merge our lives and households.

Various friends and family members asked us, some diplomatically, some less so, if we knew what we were doing.  Yes, we said.  We did.

We celebrated our purchase by opening a bottle of champagne outside our new building, sitting on a bench overlooking Sydney Harbour, and toasting ourselves and the future.  Then we walked down to Manly Beach and revisited the site of our first date by having ice cream on the Corso. 

c__c_sold

Happy Valentine’s Day, with all my love, to Clive.