Thoughts about Death: Apologies, Henry Scott Holland, but Death is SOMETHING and Our Loved Ones Are NOT in the Next Room

The first photo I took of Gary, a few weeks after we met

Today marks 14 years since Gary Frank Barnabo, my first husband, died in Sydney, Australia.

In the days and weeks immediately following Gary’s death, I received countless, heartfelt, beautiful letters and notes and cards. A dear friend sent the famous words of Englishman Henry Scott Holland (1847-1918), from a 1910 sermon delivered when Holland was Canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral. (If my friend is reading this post, be certain I loved and appreciated your caring for me, then and now; it’s Holland’s words about which I protest.)

This piece is often referred to as In the Next Room or – horribly, in my opinion — Death is nothing at all. Different versions abound on the Internet; I share here the words sent to me:

Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away into the next room. I am I, and you are you. Whatever we were to each other, that we still are. Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me in the easy way you always used. Put no difference in your tone, wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Pray, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was, let it be spoken without effect, without the trace of a shadow on it. Life means all that it ever meant, it is the same as it ever was: there is unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well.

In particular, this poem’s first two sentences and final sentence grated on me at the time (though I agree with the other sentiments) and still grate on me today.

Seriously, what NOT to say to the recently-bereaved is, ‘Death is nothing at all.’

OK, OK. I think I know what Mr. Holland meant: he’s speaking figuratively, metaphorically, saying the person is in the ‘next room’ of Heaven, or some kind of beautiful afterlife, where believers trust we will meet again in perfect love and joy.

As it happens, my faith is such that I believe, too. I believe there is far more to life on this earth than we humans can ever comprehend.

But I have lost a brother and uncle in an automobile accident, my first husband to cancer, my father to a painful albeit 86 year-old death and too many others to untimely ends — and I know I’m not alone in this — to think ‘death is nothing at all.’

Death is SOMETHING! It is EVERYTHING when it happens. For a time it is all-powerful, all-consuming and all-painful. And, literally of course, the person is NOT in the next room. They are in our hearts and minds but we pine for them. We yearn with all our being for their presence, their voice, their touch but they are not in the kitchen or the loungeroom or the bedroom. They are not there.

We weep. We grieve. We mourn. Two days after my brother Rob and Uncle Ted were killed in an automobile accident, my mother said, ‘Don’t be angry with God (I wasn’t, but she worried). God is grieving with us.’ I believe this. I believe God was grieving with me and Gary’s sons when Gary took his last breath on this earth and in the weeks and months that followed. I believe in the Footprints prayer that God carries us when we cannot walk on our own.

Gary and his sons at Kennebunkport, Maine

I understand the impulse that seems to have swept the world, to rename a funeral a ‘celebration of life’ but, gosh, sometimes I want to scream, ‘We are solemn! We are sorrowful! Life is NOT the same as it ever was! We are grieving this person’s death!’ The societies in which people scream and wail and pound their fists know a lot about how to grieve.

I know, too, that the response to a death depends on many factors, including the person’s age and stage and the circumstances of the death, not to mention the survivors’ relationships with those who have died. Sometimes death relieves suffering and for that reason alone is considered a blessing.

Even then, I assert, death – death from life on this earth — is NOT nothing at all.

I know Mr. Holland believed in eternal life, but he could have acknowledged that in our messy, earthly life, death is a life-changing something! The only ‘nothing’ that comes into it is that nothing will ever be the same again.

For quite a while, all is NOT well. It may be well, even perfect, in Heaven and for that I am thankful. But for those here on earth, even those with a strong faith, it’s not always so easy. My heart breaks for everyone who is grieving and I know that although time does help, it’s not always as much or as soon as some people hope.

Today I acknowledge the impact of a person’s death on his or her loved ones, and give extra thanks for the life Gary Frank Barnabo. I’ve written about Gary before, about our meeting and how lucky I felt throughout our marriage; about the kind of person he was and the gifts he gave to the world; about the tradition I’ve developed to scatter red rose petals in his memory each August 2nd – at Shelly Beach in Sydney, his favourite place, or wherever I may be.

Gary and our son when we lived in Connecticut

This afternoon, I scattered rose petals in the Felixstowe seafront gardens, onto a group of ferns since it was too windy to do much else and Gary loved ferns.

Then I came home to Clive, my second husband, who helped me find joy again, and gave deep and heartfelt thanks for him as well. I gave Clive a red rose for his desk, as always. Red roses for love, for the men in my life.

Thank you for reading and may all those who are grieving eventually find peace.

London Diary: A Few Days of Walking, Shopping and Time with Clive’s Son

Statue of William Shakespeare in Leicester Square, London

Clive’s son, Jason, had a business trip to London and arranged to spend the first couple of days with his father and me in Felixstowe.

With Jason’s blessing, we decided to tag along to London. Our goal was to maximise the available time with Jason, meeting him for one or two evenings if he was free, and maybe taking in a West End show. Otherwise our days would be clear and we always have a list of galleries, shops and sites we’d like to see in London. Using accumulated hotel points, we booked four nights, Tuesday evening through Saturday morning, the longest we can recall staying there.

Tuesday: Evening on Piccadilly

After a wonderful time in and around Felixstowe, the three of us took the train to London on Tuesday afternoon. We arrived to a beautiful evening and, after checking in to our respective hotels, reconnected for dinner.

The streets of London were buzzing as always at peak hour, with pedestrians rushing to and from the Underground, taxis speeding by and flags promoting the West End flying overhead.

Evening on Piccadilly

Wednesday: Books, Shopping and Miles of Walking

While Jason worked all day, Clive and I enjoyed a slow start in a crowded café. A stroll to Clive’s favourite men’s shop, Charles Tyrwhitt on Jermyn street, followed; Clive wanted to buy a few replacement collar stays but the lovely young saleswoman gave him six at no charge.

Then came my favourite part of the day: a visit to Waterstones on Piccadilly, one of London’s best (and biggest) bookshops. I especially love their lower-ground floor travel and travel narrative section, with guidebooks, classic fiction, nonfiction and memoirs shelved together by location (similar to the also-wonderful Daunt books on Marylebone High Street). I could spend hours in this section alone, though we also had a look in a few other equally-enticing areas on different floors.

Jason texted Clive while we were having lunch in the Waterstones café, letting us know his work colleagues were taking him out to dinner that night.

In the afternoon, we headed out for my shopping chore, selecting new jeans at Long Tall Sally, a wonderful shop on Chiltern Street. A customer here once complimented Clive for accompanying me on my clothing search. This week, I worried it would take a while to try on endless jeans (oh, the uncommon delight for a tall woman, when they are ALL long enough!), so Clive was happy to camp out in a nearby café. I could always text him if needed.

Eventually I chose two pairs of jeans; the staff are so helpful and make the process as easy as possible. It’s always quite an experience, to have virtually all the staff and other customers my height or taller. Figuratively I’ve looked up to many women in my life; physically not many.

Purchases complete, I met Clive at the café and we walked more miles, until we were both desperate to find a bench. Thankfully, London has many lovely parks and squares and soon we plonked ourselves down in Berkeley Square.

Benches in Berkeley Square

Since Jason wasn’t available for dinner and our feet and bodies were worn out from all our walking, we treated ourselves to … a trip to M&S Food, a selection of salads, breads and cheeses and a tasty hotel room picnic.

Thursday: Fortnum & Mason, More Books and ‘An American in Paris’

Before going out this morning, we booked tickets for tonight’s performance of ‘An American in Paris’ at the Dominion Theatre, a new venue for us. Clive originally suggested this musical, after reading rave reviews about it several months ago, and of course I eagerly agreed.

Again we walked for miles, beginning at Fortnum & Mason, my favourite London department store. I love its ground-floor coffee, tea and chocolate displays; its stationery section with turquoise leather desk accessories; the store’s atmosphere, which I find classy but much less over-the-top than Harrods; the tearooms (where we split an order of scones, jam and cream); the location on Piccadilly across from the Royal Academy and the turquoise carry bags which say, ‘By appointment to her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’.

A few little surprises for my son’s upcoming birthday, from Fortnum & Mason

Two steps from Fortnum & Mason (and not far from Waterstones) is Hatchards, London’s oldest bookshop, which oozes character and atmosphere and *always* warrants a visit. How heavenly it was, to have time for a lovely browse on several of its well-stocked floors. Apologies for the lack of bookshop photos – too busy with the books!

En route to pick up our tickets and suss out the exact theatre location (knowing it’s in the midst of the huge construction works around Tottenham Court Road, for the new Crossrail train and underground line), we paused for some people-watching in Leicester Square. A statue of William Shakespeare, shown at the top of this post, stands in the centre of the square.

More captivating than the street performers and jolly tourists were three little girls in pink princess dresses, though unfortunately they were feeding the pigeons – urrgh!

The mother attempted a selfie photo with the girls but the youngest pushed them all away, insisting with indignant shouts that she could figure out the selfie stick by herself. I tried to be discreet in snapping a photo of the little miss.

Girl with selfie stick at Leicester Square

On our trek up Charing Cross Road to the theatre (I can’t write that street name without saying Helene Hanff’s 84, Charing Cross Road is one of my favourite books of all time), we OF COURSE had to stop for a browse at Foyles, yet another large, excellent bookshop. We found seats in the Level 5 café, downed cool drinks and Clive kindly minded my bag so I could come and go unencumbered on my expeditions throughout the store.

Finally we made our way to the theatre, picked up our tickets, made a quick turnaround at the hotel to drop off our bags and headed out again to meet Jason for an early, pre-show dinner.

Picking up our tickets at the Dominion Theatre

After catching up on Jason’s day over dinner, we walked back through Leicester Square and I snapped this father-son photo on our way to the show.

Clive and Jason at Leicester Square

As for ‘An American in Paris’, it’s a terrific musical with beautiful, clever Paris set designs and amazing ballet and dance numbers. My favourites were when the two leads, the young lovers, danced with each other. We felt a few of the dance numbers could have been shorter, but still thoroughly enjoyed and recommend this show.

Friday: Farewell at Paddington Station

After our two long days walking, shopping and theatre-going (no galleries this trip, unusual for us but the bookshops were calling), Clive and I had a slow start on Friday.

We spent the morning strolling around, ending up in Green Park where we found a bench and sat and read for quite a while.

Clive with the mapbook, planning our next move, Green Park

Jason texted that afternoon, saying he was finished with work and could meet us an hour earlier than planned. We met late afternoon at a café in Paddington Station, for this trip’s last get-together.

Saying good-bye is never easy and the older we get, the more emotional Clive and I become about it. It was difficult for this dad to say farewell to his boy. We’re already looking forward to the next visit.

Farewell at Paddington Station

Get-togethers with loved ones always pass too quickly. My strongest memory of the past week is simply the sight of Clive so happy to be with his son; a close second is the sound of their voices chatting away. Sometimes ordinary one-on-one conversations, especially with adult children, are the most extraordinary gifts. Thank you, Jason, for making the effort and taking the time to include us in your business trip to England. And thank you too, Jennifer, for holding down the fort while he was away.

I think we met our goal of spending as much time as we could with Jason and, during the days, enjoyed the rare luxury of a slower pace and time to browse, walk and enjoy London’s green spaces.

After a good-bye wave as Jason’s train left Paddington station, we opted for another hotel room picnic and a quiet night in the room. I know Clive was reflecting on their time together as we packed our backpacks and he tracked the first leg of Jason’s flight.

As at last night UK time, Jason is safely home in Australia and we are back in Felixstowe, looking forward to our next family visit, a trip to New Jersey to see my mother and son. Until then we are beside the sea, and our dear little tree, in England.

Home to our tree by the sea, Felixstowe

Cheers and thanks for reading. Whether near or far, wishing safe and happy travels to all.

Oh the Relief: Cool Temps, Cool Art and Cool People in Paris

Musée Marmottan, Paris

Like everyone else in Paris, we eagerly anticipated last evening’s break in the canicule, or heat wave, and the heavenly arrival of cooler temperatures.

The heat was still ferocious when we walked around on a few midday errands; a blinking sign above a pharmacie showed 39C/102F. I told Clive that was because it was directly in the sun and he replied, ‘So are we.’

39C outside the pharmacie

We celebrated the evening’s falling temperatures by heading out for a stroll and a final visit to the other Pissarro exhibit at the Musée Marmottan. This small museum is a longtime favourite and the advantage of going on their late-night opening is – in addition to last night’s cooler temps – the relative lack of crowds or groups.

Thursday night at the musée – everyone gets their own painting to view

How restful and soothing, to contemplate la bergère, the shepherdess, one of my all-time favourite works of art, along with so many of Pissarro’s other pieces, from rural scenes to urban Paris, from summer to autumn and winter and sunrise to high noon to sunset. Always, the Marmottan’s lower-level Monet gallery (superbly air-conditioned) is a feast for the eyes and the heart.

By 8:30pm, when we exited the museum, the outside air was downright cool. We opted to take the bus home and thoroughly enjoyed sitting on a bench by the bus stop and luxuriating in the beautiful fresh breeze while we waited.

Welcome clouds and a fresh breeze outside the Musée Marmottan

This morning brought a wonderful treat, when we met writer Linda Spalla and her partner and fabulous photographer Bernie Verdier.

I recently contacted Linda, after reading her delightful memoir (which includes Bernie’s fantastic photos), Bernie’s Paris: Travel Stories with Love. I highly recommend this couple’s great story of love and Paris, where they’ve spent every summer for the past 14 years. Linda also writes a daily blog post from Paris (found at the same author link above) which I look forward to every day. Over coffee and pastries, the four of us shared a few Paris stories, a little of our respective histories and a lot of smiles and congenial conversation (so busy talking I forgot to ask for a photo!). Thank you, Linda and Bernie for getting together with us today, especially after your busy week with family visiting!

We wrapped up our final day in Paris this trip with – bien sûr – a visit to our local café for a late lunch and good-byes to ‘Vlad’. All afternoon we felt a buzz in the air; we think it’s a combination of Friday and looking forward to the weekend on top of the blessed end to the canicule.

As our friend David noted in an email, it’s ironic we came to Paris this June to avoid the summer heat. The canicule was quite the experience and not one we’re keen to repeat. That said, Paris in the heat is still Paris, and that’s more than enough for me.

Café in the sunshine Paris

Au revoir to our home away from home for this trip and à bientôt à Paris.

Cheers and thanks for reading. More from our home by the sea in England.

Coping with the Canicule: Summer Scorcher in Paris

This person had the right idea: blessed shade in the arms of an ancient tree, Jardin du Luxembourg

The canicule, or heat wave, continues in Paris. Temperatures as high as 36/37C or 97/98F (38C/100+F in some parts of the city) are supposed to break tomorrow evening, Thursday, around 5pm – less than 21 hours from now, not that we’re counting or anything.

Following our strategy for handling the heat, outlined in Searching for Shade in a Paris Heat Wave, we’ve managed to get out and about a little in the past two days. Riding the bus and metro and being outside for even a short time has been energy-draining and extremely uncomfortable, especially for this cool-weather-loving couple.

A fabulous exhibit (and deliciously air-conditioned!)

I can’t recommend highly enough Pissarro à ÉragnyPissarro in Éragny, Nature Regained (thru 09 July at the Musée du Luxembourg). In tandem with Camille Pissarro, le Premier des Impressionnistes (thru 02 July at Musée Marmottan), you can really feast your eyes and spirit on the beauty of this artist’s work.

Pissarro à Éragny is a stunning display of the great Impressionist’s depictions of the countryside around his village of Éragny-sur-Epte, with fields and orchards, farms, workers, homes and gardens, sunrises and sunsets. Many of the works are from private collections and museums around the world, including a couple in Australia.

I don’t often buy an exhibit’s heavy catalogue containing every painting displayed, but there were so many paintings I loved and could have looked at all day in this exhibit that I splurged on the full catalogue. Heartfelt thanks to Clive for lugging it around in his backpack for the rest of the day in the heat.

After the musée, where to but the adjacent Jardin du Luxembourg, one of Paris’s best and most beautiful gardens. There we found a shady spot to catch our breath and regroup before continuing on.

Trees and shade in the Luxembourg Garden

In addition to the exhibit, we’ve made our way to a favourite papeterie (stationery shop) or two, enjoyed one lunch at a regular café stop and disliked another (very ordinary slap-dash salads) at a brasserie we tried for the first time today. We did have a productive trip to Office Depot so all was not lost, except a few gallons of perspiration as we walked part of the way.

A simple Parisian café, sometimes the best

And no matter the weather, a coffee and pain au chocolat at our local café, along with a warm greeting from the owners and friendly chat with ‘Vlad’, never disappoints.

Morning treat at our local, Paris

Depending on your hemisphere, today is the longest or shortest day; here in Paris, the summer solstice includes Fête de la Musique, a city-wide music festival. Groups of all sizes and styles perform all night long, in every arrondissement, or district, in venues ranging from street corners to concert halls.

This event is considered either wonderful or horrible; it depends on who’s talking. I’ve read of unruly noise torturing residents until dawn and of those who thoroughly enjoyed seeing musicians in a variety of settings. A park near us reportedly drew 7,000 attendees at last year’s Fête de la Musique concert. We debated on and off about checking it out this year (from the edges – I don’t like crowds in any weather), but the prospect of heading back out in the canicule and walking around with a lot of other people just didn’t appeal. Maybe next year.

In the meantime, wherever you walk in Paris, there’s bound to be a pretty patisserie nearby.

Patisserie in pink, Paris

Thinking of our U.S and UK friends and family who are also coping with the heat and we hope and pray you’re staying cool and well.

Thanks for reading and more soon from a cooler – we hope! – Paris.

Searching for Shade in a Paris Heat Wave

No takers for benches in the sun, Square Barye, Paris

So much for our plan to visit Paris in June and thus avoid both summer hordes and summer heat.

The City of Light is sizzling in a canicule, or heat wave. Today’s temperature reached 34C/94F and is expected to rise over the next three days.

As I wrote last year about Paris in August, what we like least about the summer season anywhere is soaring temperatures, especially when we’re away from our tree by the sea and Felixstowe’s wonderful coastal breezes. In Paris we’re moving slowly and doing our best to get things done while avoiding the worst heat of the day.

Yesterday, Sunday, we happened to take a bus that stopped just off the Champs-Elysées. We walked across the Rond Point intersection, where late this afternoon there was an incident involving a van targeting police officers. We had no idea this was happening, as we were out and about in other parts of the city. It wasn’t until we received several text messages (sincere thanks to those who sent them) that we heard the news. Thankfully, no officers or bystanders were injured, though traffic was reportedly stopped for some time. On Sunday morning, there was nary a car or pedestrian in sight.

Sunday morning at Rond Point, Champs-Elysées

The reason we were in that area was to attend church at Scots Kirk Paris, a lovely small venue where we enjoyed meeting the congregation, being introduced during the service and, over coffee and tea afterwards, learning more about the church’s interesting history in Paris. We plan to return.

Our strategy for handling the canicule is to get out early – we always advise arriving at exhibits when they open anyway, to avoid crowds – walk and sit in the shade as much as possible, come back to the apartment during the worst heat of the day (feet up, fan on, shutters closed), venture out later if and when the temps decrease a little, and buy and eat ice cream. Best flavour so far: lemon meringue!

Excellent free exhibit at Hôtel de Ville, Paris – air-conditioned, too!

Strolling along the Seine offers some chance of breeze and shade, as does finding a bench in a park and/or a spot under the trees. Today it was a challenge to find a bench in the shade – no takers for those in the sun, as shown in this post’s header photo.

Along the Seine, Pont Louis-Phillippe, Paris

A bend in the Seine and shade under the tree

On Ile St-Louis, I snapped a photo of Clive, with the bridge named Pont Marie behind him. It wasn’t a planned photo; we’ve walked across Pont Marie many times. Today we just paused as we were strolling along enjoying both the river view and the flower baskets on the other side of the street, and I said, ‘Let me take your photo.’

Flower baskets on Ile St-Louis, Paris

The Pont Marie holds many memories for me with my late husband Gary and our son, over the years when the three of us came to Paris as a family. (I write about those years, and this place, in the memoir I’m continuing to work on.) Today when I looked at the photo of Clive and that special bridge, my heart filled with emotion and gratitude for both men in my life. It’s a darn good photo, if I may say so myself.

Clive and the Pont Marie, Paris

As for tomorrow and the next few days, we may surrender to the heat and scale back a few of our planned outings.

Cheers and thanks for reading. A bientôt and stay cool!

Paris Arrival: Vlad in the café, Ben on his hillside and sizzling summer everywhere

View from the metro: Eiffel Tower & the Seine

What a pleasure it was today, after recent long-haul flights, to travel by train to Paris.

Special thanks to dear friends Fiona and Joyce, who dropped us at Ipswich station this morning for our train to London. Smooth connections via the Underground, Eurostar and metro had us looking out at the streets of Paris late this afternoon.

View from the metro, Paris

After dropping our things at the apartment and doing a few settling-in tasks, we went out again, first to our local café, bien sûr. There we paused for a kir (white wine and cassis) and a chat with our favourite waiter.

A welcome kir in Paris

Café reflections, Paris

Delighted to have seen ‘Vlad’ and confirmed he’ll be working this week, we moved on to shopping and walking, topping up our Navigo passes, accumulating various groceries (eg vegetables for Clive’s delicious beef/veggie stew he plans to make, despite the hot summer temps) and pausing to say hello to Ben, or more accurately, the statue of Benjamin Franklin on his petite Paris hillside.

There he is! Statue of Benjamin Franklin in Paris

Ben is looking wonderful and his summer flowers are really in bloom. A pigeon perched on the back of Ben’s chair and refused to budge while I was photographing the great American.

So there they sit, gazing out at the Paris evening, with the tip of the Eiffel Tower visible above the Palais de Chaillot behind them.

The temps are supposed to rise and rise and rise this week, and the streets and cafes are packed with people enjoying the long summer evenings.

Shady side of the street, Paris

Tomorrow France votes in the second round of its legislative elections. Clive and I are looking forward to attending a morning service at a church we haven’t visited before.

Busy summer evening at Trocadéro, Paris

Cheers and thanks for reading. Hope everyone in areas affected by the heat can stay cool and comfortable. A bientôt from Paris.

What’s On in (My) Paris: June 2017

June Sunday on the Champs de Mars, Paris

Happiness is booking your next Eurostar (or ferry or flight) to Paris.

In just over a week, Clive and I will make a short visit to our home away from home. We decided to bring our July trip forward to get ahead of the summer crowds.

As always, part of the pleasure for me is the anticipation, which includes reviewing my Next Paris list – actually a running, pages-long Word document – of what we might do and see while we’re there.

Of course in Paris, as elsewhere, one of the best experiences is to make unexpected, new discoveries while simply strolling and being a flâneur. Still, to make the most of our time there, I enjoy looking over my notes and preparing a flexible starter list.

Always time for café sitting – especially where Vlad, our favourite waiter, works

Exhibitions with near-term closing dates head the list. My top four this month:

* Musée Luxembourg – Pissarro à Eragny (Pissarro in Eragny, nature regained, thru 09 July)

* Hôtel de Ville, whose free exhibits are usually excellent Le Gouvernement des Parisiens: Paris, ses habitants, l’État, une histoire partagée (link in French; The government of Parisians: Paris, its inhabitants, the State, a shared history, thru 22 July)

* Musée de la Vie Romantique – Le pouvoir des Fleurs (The power of flowers and a contemporary journey of crafts, thru 01 October but summer’s a nice time to visit this museum and its courtyard)

Clive at a table, reading in the courtyard/salon de thé of the Musée de la Vie Romantique

* return to Musée Marmottan, a frequent destination, for Camille Pissarro, le Premier des Impressionnistes (thru 02 July); not specifically for ‘my’ bergère, or shepherdess, as she lives at the Musée d’Orsay and can be seen there, but to soak up once again the many other pieces on loan from private collections and faraway museums we may never visit in person.

me and my girl, Pissarro’s bergère, March 2017

Additional exhibits if we have time (wishful thinking): Grand Palais, Rodin: The Centennial Exhibition (thru 31 July) and/or Jardins (thru 24 July); Quai Branly, Picasso Primitif (thru 23 July); Orsay, Portraits by Cézanne (thru 24 Sept.).

After exhibits, we juggle old favourites with new places, whether bookshops and papeteries, cafés and restaurants, parks and squares or walks along the Seine, on new streets or through new quartiers.

Summer on the Seine, Paris

For our vie quotidienne (daily life), we’re after a new shredder (an important household item!) and I want to have a large, non-standard-sized print from Sydney framed at BHV. On our last visit, I talked with a woman in the BHV art department and she assured me I could select the frame, leave the print there and pick it up on a future trip. Clive and I never mind a visit to BHV.

Surf’s up: Clive carrying our table-top ironing board home from BHV, 2009

Above all I anticipate the joy of just being there, waking to the lilt of French conversations rising from the courtyard – though no joy in the wake-the-dead crash of glass recycling bins – the aroma of Clive’s freshly-brewed coffee with morning baguettes and croissants or maybe a pain au chocolat, and the knowledge all of Paris is just outside the door.

Ben Franklin and his summer flowers, Paris

There’s never enough time for do everything and see everyone we’d like, especially since we value our ‘couple’s time’ as well as reconnecting with our dear neighbours and old friends, and sometimes meeting new ones, too. Not fitting everything in gives us a great reason – not that one ever needs a reason – to return to Paris.

Summer in the Luxembourg Garden, Paris

For now, back to pondering the possibilities and enjoying early summer in Felixstowe.

Thanks for reading and à bientôt.