Happy Birthday, Mr Original

Mr Original’s bday Skype with most of his Aussies

Happy birthday to Mr Original!

The birthday guy has had a full day of lovely birthday calls, messages, cards, gifts, a ‘full English’ brunch, afternoon tea with cake and champagne and a relaxed binge-watching of the Aussie drama ‘Mystery Road’ which we both enjoyed.

Thanks to all who sent greetings to my hero and role model for living life to the fullest with a positive attitude every day. He’s doing OK with his health issues; my knee has recovered well (I’m still doing daily walkabouts and a ‘maintenance’ level of indoor exercises); and we find ourselves busy with various projects and plenty to do each day despite England’s current lockdown #2. We’re pleased to say our Christmas tree is up and twinkling away as an early treat which will brighten the season for some extra time during this lockdown year.

We send greetings from sunny Suffolk and hope everyone is enjoying autumn or spring, depending on your hemisphere.

Stay safe and well and tickety-boo,

xxxx with love from us to you

Isolating in England: Day 148, My Last ‘Isolating’ Post and a Prayer for Clive

Tree by the sea, missing a ship and Mr Ship Tracker (by me), Tuesday 18 August 2020

Today is my last ‘Isolating in England’ post, instead of day 150.

Last night, Clive was taken to A&E and admitted to hospital with a fever and infection. He’s receiving antibiotics (some via IV), having a number of tests and being cared for by NHS angels. I’ve been able to talk with him on the phone and he says he’s ready to come home, which is right where I want him to be. After 48 hours, he’s allowed one visitor per day, for 45 minutes. I can hardly wait until Thursday, unless we’re blessed with an earlier homecoming.

From my first call to 111, to the Suffolk out-of-hours doctor who then talked directly with Clive when she rang us, to the heroic ambulance team Fiona and Chris, to the senior ward nurse I spoke with midday today and another sweet nurse since then, I am once again thankful beyond measure for the angels of the NHS, and for knowing Clive is in the best hands.

My biggest blessing during lockdown was Clive and our time together, which we agreed was precious. His attentive care after I broke my kneecap is why I was able to recover. Now I want to give him the same attention and loving care as he gave me. We just commented over the weekend that I’m able to do so much more now, and I’m ready and eager to become Mrs Juggler, or perhaps Mrs J without any fancy footwork until a little more time passes.

We continue to be so thankful for our families – my daily Skype call with my son and Clive’s calls with his family in Australia have lifted us throughout this time — and for treasured family and friends near and far who have supported us along the way. Thank you for so many kind offers of help I’ve already received today, and to dear David for taking Clive’s eye drops and phone charger to hospital reception this afternoon. And if I may ask now, thank you in advance for your positive thoughts and, for those who pray, a prayer for Clive. I won’t be posting every day but will be sure to share news of how he’s doing.

We both thank you for a fun (most of the time) 148 days and your many wonderful comments. Take care everyone and stay safe and well and tickety-boo,

xxxx with love from us to you

Blessed Friends in a Beautiful Garden

Part of D&J’s beautiful garden

Happy Friday from Felixstowe. We hope everyone has a great weekend coming up.

Today, thanks to friends David and Joyce, Clive and I ventured beyond our apartment and its immediate surroundings. We joined D&J for a visit in their beautiful garden, our first outing (except for my hospital appointments) since UK lockdown began more than four months ago.

Clive and I both felt nervous as well as excited beforehand. We knew D&J would have everything perfectly arranged, but this was still our first post-lockdown trip in the car and first get-together with another couple in person. Talking to friends from the balcony isn’t quite the same …

Another gorgeous part of D&J’s garden

We walked from D&J’s driveway to their back garden without having to go inside their house. The garden was a stunning summer setting, with comfortable chairs placed in just the right socially-distanced but still-easy-to-converse positions. We raised a toast with Prosecco and savoured a spread of tasty treats, thanks to our hosts’ generosity.

As beautiful as the setting was, and as yummy as the treats were, the main pleasure of the afternoon was D&J’s company. We seemed to pick up right where we left off and the hours sped by as we caught up with each other in person.

Thank you, D&J, for your friendship, your continuing kindness and for inviting us to your garden for our first post-lockdown outing. We couldn’t have asked for a lovelier afternoon.

Blessed with special friends Joyce and David

Two people in need of a haircut

In today’s tree by the sea photo, Mr Ship Tracker says: DFDS Tulipa Seaways is a Ro-Ro General Cargo vessel heading to Rotterdam, Netherlands. It was built in 2017 and its length is 210 metres.

Tree by the sea and cargo vessel DFDS Tulipa Seaways (by Clive), Friday 24 July 2020

Take care everyone, and stay safe and well and tickety-boo,
xxxx with love from us to you

Isolating in England: Day 110, Masks and Ships

Tree by the sea and container ship OOCL Germany leaving Felixstowe for Gdansk, Poland (by Clive), Saturday evening 11 July 2020

Saturday greetings from sunny Suffolk. We hope everyone’s having a superb weekend so far. Our day was made brighter by Thoughtful John and his fresh croissants and bread rolls delivery! Merci beaucoup, John.

In the past couple of days, England’s news has been full of speculation the government will soon mandate face masks in shops. Masks have been mandatory on public transport since 15 June.

Yesterday the Prime Minister said, ‘We need to be stricter in insisting that people wear face coverings in confined spaces where they are meeting people they don’t usually meet.’ For the first time, he was photographed wearing a mask in public.

First photo of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a mask, in London yesterday (photo BBC/NO 10)

During the eight weeks I had to stay indoors with my leg in a brace, I read countless global news articles and social media posts about masks. They seem to evoke a full range of responses, from raging controversy in some US states to widespread acceptance in countries such as South Korea and Japan. Most of our friends in the US, and many in Paris, wear them routinely, by choice. Without giving it too much thought, I presumed most people wore them here too, as a practical safeguard in addition to hand-washing and social distancing.

Not so. In the past ten days since I’ve been braceless and we’ve gone out for daily physio walks, Clive and I have noticed we’re the only people wearing masks. I started asking friends around Suffolk what they do, and was surprised to hear hardly anyone wears a mask anywhere, though some people carry them in case they need to hop on public transport. One or two do wear them in shops. Everything seems extremely relaxed.

As noted by BBC Science Editor David Shukman: in addition to many people never showing symptoms at all, ‘the evidence has become stronger that in the 24-48 hours before symptoms show, people can be at their most infectious.’ Wearing a mask has a dual purpose: to avoid giving the infection to others, as well as to avoid getting the infection. Currently, we’re the ones who constantly have to take evasive action to avoid being too close to other people. It will be interesting to see how the public responds if the government does mandate greater use of masks. More to come.

Mr Ship Tracker reports: ‘Today, two of the world’s largest container ships were berthed in Felixstowe at the same time. Because they both need a high tide to enter or exit the Port, it often happens that they arrive or exit after dark. The Container Ship Evergreen Ever Govern (bottom of post) arrived early this morning from Rotterdam. She is 400 metres long and has a capacity of 20,000 containers. The other Container Ship, OOCL Germany (top of post), arrived from Singapore a couple of days ago while Mr ST was still in the land of Nod. She is also 400 metres long and has a capacity 21,413 containers. She left early this evening for Gdansk in Poland.

‘In the last couple of months there has been a noticeable reduction in the number of ships visiting Felixstowe due to the impact of Covid-19. This trend now seems to be reversing and if you look carefully at both photos, you will notice a Felixstowe seagull welcoming their return.’

Tree by the sea and container ship Evergreen Ever Govern arriving from Rotterdam (by Clive), 5:23am Saturday 11 July 2020

Take care everyone, and may you all stay safe and well and tickety-boo,
xxxx with love from us to you

Isolating in England: Day 90, Father’s Day, across Time and Dimensions

Childhood Easter, New Jersey

Happy UK/USA Father’s Day. We hope all the dads and their families are having a great day.

In Australia, Father’s Day is in early September. And, just to keep us on our toes, Mother’s Day in Australia and the US is in May, but in the UK it’s in March. After living in all three countries, I think I finally have it straight.

Today, nearly ten years after his death, I remember the man who taught me to work hard, ‘use your head’ and take responsibility; who stayed close to me and my brother despite our parents’ divorce; who cut off excuses with, ‘Boo hoo’ and whose highest praise was, ‘Very good.’ Raised in Iowa during the US Depression, he earned academic and debating awards in high school and college, served in the Army Air Force and became a lawyer and Prosecutor.

When my family and I moved to Sydney for my job, I know my father mourned the distance as much or more than I did. He never criticised, only supported my work and life goals. He made the long journey to see us multiple times, the first for my first birthday in Australia. I’ll always be grateful for his love and support throughout my life.

First visit (1996), for my birthday, viewpoint by Shelly Beach, Sydney

Whatever date Father’s Day occurs in your country, may all the dads, step-dads and father figures enjoy their day. A special prayer for dads separated from their children, those who have lost a child and all the wonderful dads no longer with us. May everyone stay safe and well.

In today’s tree by the sea photo: container ship Eugen Maersk, last port of call Tanger Med II, Morocco. Its length is 399 metres (1, 309 feet).

Tree by the sea and container ship Eugen Maersk (by Clive), Sunday, 21 June 2020

Take care everyone,
xxxx with love from us to you

Isolating in England: Day 37, Brightness

Sunny terrace in the Seafront Gardens, Felixstowe

Wednesday greetings from a bright and hazy Suffolk day.

In London, a new resident will soon move into Downing Street.

At time of writing, the PM, Boris Johnson, hasn’t been seen in public since Monday morning. Reporters speculated as to whether the PM would appear at today’s Prime Minister’s Questions. Some thought there might be a health concern, about having to stand (or repeatedly get up and down) for over an hour in the middle of the House of Commons.

Turns out the PM has a great reason to skip a few more official engagements: this morning, his fiancée, Carrie Symonds, gave birth to their son.

Carrie Symonds and Boris Johnson (photo BBC/Getty)

What a joy and blessed relief this birth must be to the family, after their recent weeks of critical health concerns. We wish the precious new bundle a happy and healthy future.

From 0 to 100 …

Captain Tom, who captured the heart of the UK and many around the world, is set to be recognised tomorrow with an RAF Spitfire flypast on his 100th birthday.

The RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF), based in Lincolnshire, will perform the honours. The flypast was originally proposed by the heritage group Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar.

Captain Tom and a Spitfire (photo ITV)

A Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar spokesman said, ‘Getting a Spitfire overhead for Captain Tom was always the primary goal.’

The RAF’s BBMF apparently has six Spitfires. The heritage group will fly its Spitfire on a circuit near its airfield tomorrow night, to coincide with the UK’s weekly Clap for Carers. A great result for all.

The Spitfire holds a revered place in the history and hearts of the British people. May tomorrow’s weather cooperate, and may Captain Tom have a beautiful 100th birthday.

Bright and hazy

After a trace of morning rain, today’s walkabout occurred in mainly bright sunshine and haze. More rain may come later, but so far we haven’t had much.

Our tree by the sea is showing a few exciting whispers of white on its ‘candles’. We’re looking forward to the upcoming blossoms.

Whispers of white

May our spirits be bright, even in rainy, hazy weather. May the new baby at Downing Street, and his parents, be well. And may we all stay close to home.

Stay strong and safe, everyone.

Tree by the sea, Wednesday 29 April 2020

With continuing prayers for peace and everyone’s good health.

Thank you for reading and bon courage to all.

Isolating in England: Day 21, Post Box Walkabout

Mailing a card to Paris

Tuesday greetings from our place to yours. Today dawned cool and cloudy on the Suffolk coast, with temps around 8C/46 F. It’s warming up, though, and the sun’s making its return.

‘Sunny in the east’ is how UK weather forecasters often end their reports. This always tickles me and Clive. We love the Suffolk sunshine, but right now some rain for the growing things would be good. None is forecast for the next two weeks or more.

Flowers on today’s walkabout

The UK’s coronavirus death toll has now passed 12,000. Lockdown continues with no change. Last night in France, President Macron announced their current restrictions will continue until 11 May.

With no hope of returning to Paris in the near term, today we snail-mailed a 60th anniversary card to our dear friends and neighbours. Their health is fragile, particularly his, but all being well they’ll mark their special day in early May.

‘Pillar box’ at Cobbold Rd & Constable Rd, Felixstowe

Next collection: Wednesday

The red, cast-iron post box, in varying shapes and sizes, is a British icon. About 115,000 can be found around the country today. They’re considered by many, including us, to be a heritage asset.

The first ‘pillar boxes’ were erected in 1852 in St Helier, on Jersey in the Channel Islands. Their creation was recommended by novelist Anthony Trollope (1815-1882), who at the time worked there as a Post Office Surveyor.

Notice to the public on the first use of letter boxes, Jersey Times, November 1852 (British Postal Museum & Archive 2015)

Looking up one Felixstowe street …

… and down another.

You can trace British history back in time based on a post box’s ‘royal cypher’ or monogram. Each new reign brought a different emblem for the monarch.

Royal cyphers (British Post Office Museum)

Edwardian Felixstowe & Edward VII royal cypher (under years and years of repainting)

When I have errands to do at the shops (or, when the shops reopen again), I use the post box by Barclays Bank on Hamilton Road.

Post box and sadly empty bench

Next collection: Tuesday

Deserted today but normally-bustling Hamilton Road, the main shopping street

Olympic Gold

We moved to England in early 2011, and in 2012 enjoyed watching and being part of the nationwide buzz during the London Summer Olympics and Paralympics.

To celebrate Britain’s gold-medal winners, Royal Mail painted 110 post boxes gold in the winners’ home towns and cities across the UK.

The northernmost gold box is in Lossiemouth, Scotland; the southernmost in Penzance, Cornwall.

King George VI post box in Penzance (photo BBC)

The gold post boxes proved popular with athletes and the general public alike. After the Olympics, a decision was made the boxes would remain gold permanently.

Royal Mail and Historic England, a government heritage-protection organisation, issued a 12-page policy report in 2015, documenting the history of post boxes and their commitment to retain all of them.

In addition to these official groups, there’s also an independent Letter Box Study Group, which claims to be ‘the recognised authority on the history and development of the British roadside letter box.’

Clive and I always enjoy spotting these unique and historic icons when we visit different parts of the UK. Here are a few:

Cotswolds 2007

Iken, Suffolk 2015

Cavendish, Suffolk 2016

Possibly the prettiest post box location in Felixstowe is on the seafront, in the Town Hall Gardens. We don’t use this box often, but occasionally it features on this blog.

It’s also where Clive took a photo of me with a certain young man I can’t wait to see in person.

With my son in Felixstowe, 2015

The Trollope Society says a fictional character named Miss Stanley, in Trollope’s novel He Knew He Was Right (1869), loathes the post box innovation:

‘(She) had not the faintest belief that any letter put into one of them would ever reach its destination. She could not understand why people should not walk with their letters to a respectable post-office instead of chucking them into an iron stump as she called it out in the middle of the street with nobody to look after it.’

With UK and France post offices operating on reduced hours and with some branches closed, I find it more miraculous than ever that we can drop an envelope into an ‘iron stump’ in Felixstowe and our friends will in due course find it lying outside their door in Paris.

May we keep in touch with loved ones, no matter the methods we use. May governments act wisely on behalf of their citizens. May we follow our respective countries’ guidance for the greater good, and unless we’re an essential worker, may we stay close to home.

Stay strong and safe everyone.

Tree by the sea (getting greener), Tuesday 14 April 2020

With continuing prayers for peace and everyone’s good health.

Thank you for reading and bon courage to all.

Isolating in England: Day 18, Friday Flowers

Flowers from today’s walkabout

Friday greetings from the North Sea coast.

Today’s photos are from today’s walkabout. More about this below.

This afternoon, Downing Street reported the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has been ‘able to do short walks, between periods of rest, as part of the care he is receiving to aid his recovery.’

We’re thankful the PM came out of the ICU last night, and pleased to hear this latest progress.

The Suffolk Wildlife Trust has encouraged people to appreciate flora and fauna close to their own homes.

According to today’s Ipswich Star, ‘the lack of constant noise from vehicles and planes has allowed people to hear bird song again … walkers can linger a little more comfortably when going along pavements and verges to enjoy the perfume of spring flowers and the exuberant fresh, green growth appearing on the trees and hedgerows.’

With this in mind, Clive and I tried to notice our street flowers – or pretty weeds? – on today’s walkabout.

I found I was likely to stroll past some of the beauty, while Clive noticed different colours and features I would have missed.

As a spokeswoman for the Suffolk Wildlife Trust says, ‘Despite the worry pervading all of our lives right now, nature can reassure and inspire us.’


Our friends D&J, cycling by last evening, paused for a chat outside our building. This wasn’t our first social-distancing conversation since lockdown, but the first time they’ve been on their bikes.

Sadly keeping our distance

We wish it were over coffee at Caffe Nero, or dinner at the Alex, or on a walk to Felixstowe Ferry.

I don’t know how people who live in the same town as their parents or children and grandchildren resist the urge to hug them in person. With great admiration and a huge well done to so many we know around the world who are doing this.

Keep up the cycling, D&J! We look forward to our next sidewalk catch-up.

May we stay close to home now so we can reunite with friends and family as soon as possible. May the PM, and everyone suffering with Covid-19, recover. May those caring for them stay safe and well. We wish a happy and blessed weekend to all.

Stay strong and safe, everyone.

Tree by the sea, Friday 10 April 2020

With continuing prayers for peace and everyone’s good health.

Thank you for reading and bon courage to all.

Letter from Paris: Bonne Année and Happy 2015

New Year's Day 2015, Paris

New Year’s Day 2015, Paris

Instead of sending cards at Christmas or Hanukkah, Parisians send best wishes, or meilleurs voeux, for the new year.

The greeting Bonne Année is generally held back until the clock and calendar officially turn over to the 1st of January. However, our dear elderly neighbours, who invited us for a petit apéritif at 5pm on New Year’s Eve, ended our visit with many bises (double kisses) and Bonne Années.

We’ve been blessed with fine weather this week in Paris. The city is beautiful for walking virtually any day of the year but particularly so when the sun shines. We only had a short time to soak it up but feel we made the most of it and couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity.

Tomorrow it’s back to England where a busy new year awaits.

Wishing you all a très bonne année filled with health and happiness.

The wheel of time keeps turning, as does la Grand Roue at Place de la Concorde, Paris

The wheel of time keeps turning, as does la Grand Roue at Place de la Concorde, Paris

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