Thanks and ducks

This year, I will be writing and sending Christmas cards. Last year, I didn’t send any. Last December was spent trying to sail ‘Else’ round from North Devon and then make her habitable in time for Christmas. In the middle of the trip the storm surge flooded the studio and the rest of the month passed in a blur of gales, mud, and moving possessions from studio to dry store, then from houseboat to tug boat. In the middle of all that the car broke down. Somehow, Christmas happened as it tends to do, I muddled through and life gradually improved.

curlew sketch


My neighbours yesterday – curlew and lapwing at the edge of the tide

One year on and life is more organised. I am warm and dry; so is my boat and my studio, so far. There is, of course, no room for a Christmas tree on board, for which I am grateful, though I’ve strung lights across the boat to cheer up the winter sky.

else christmas lights 14


I always used to enjoy using Christmas cards as my seasonal decoration; they filled the house, taped to every doorway and up the bannisters. It was like being surrounded by friends, every card a reminder of someone connected with my life, even if I couldn’t work out who they were from. Was it just me or does everyone receive at least one card simply signed ‘Geoff and Susan’ or something similar and you think ‘Who on earth are Geoff and Susan?’ There is no clue from the postmark, no chatty annual newsletter inside. You stick the card up with the others anyway, but never find out who they were.


Sending a card is a conscious acknowledgement that someone is part of your life, even if you don’t see them very often (especially if you don’t see them very often). I now know that if, one Christmas, you don’t send any at all, nothing dreadful happens; the Christmas elves don’t come and arrest you in the middle of the night. Anyway, nobody goes through their cards to see if they received as many as they sent (do they?). When it comes to cards, the tangible is far superior to the digital, though all are welcome – but you can’t fill your cabin with e-cards. Having moved home five times in the last three years, my incoming card count has shrunk drastically for the simple reason that very few people have an address for me any more, but that’s fine. I don’t have room for many though I appreciate them all, real or digital – and I never did find out who Geoff and Susan were!

What I also want to do this year, in writing cards and in posting this, is to thank everyone who has given me a helping hand or words of encouragement over the past few years. I apologise to everyone I wanted to keep in touch with but didn’t. I consider myself fortunate in having so many positive, varied, wise, slightly bonkers, interesting, noisy, quiet, creative, practical, weird and down to earth friends, and my life is the richer for it. So whether you get a card from me or whether you don’t, thank you to everyone who’s helped me out, joined in some dubious adventures, shared a bottle of wine, and told me ‘you can do it’ whenever I thought I couldn’t.


As I write this, sitting up in bed with a cuppa on a damp winter morning (with the electric blanket on – oh yes! So much for being a ruffy tuffy sailor) there is a rhythmic tapping noise echoing round the cabin from outside the boat. It took me a while to work out what the noise was, but I now know its the ducks having their breakfast on the tasty weed that covers Else’s hull. Thanks, ducks!

christmas quacker

Have a Christmas quacker…

4 thoughts on “Thanks and ducks”

  1. Geoff and Susan says:

    Merrypy Xmas -please send your new address…..:)

  2. Geoff and Susan says:

    Whoops! Sorry about the spelling – must be the sherry! Hic!

  3. Tony says:

    Dear Julia,

    Well done on coping with floods and mayhem last year. I hope this year will remain peaceful and be wonderful.

  4. Else en Edgar says:

    Dear Claudia,
    here on Windbreker in Holland we always have a little Xmas tree on the aft deck, where i can see it from the galley and it welcomes us coming on board, and the passengers on the pontoon!
    At first I decorated it with a string of cotton red/white kitchenrope with corks of winebottles on. So no harm done when it would blow from the tree and go over the side…. no plastic stuff anyway!
    But with the screwcaps on the winebottles these days, I now made a cotton string with tiny xmastree-glassballs. Given not enough room to swing around, so they will hopefully last! And of course there’s a string of little lights outside and inside (hooray for LED!) and our cabin is also full with cards and little decorations….. Merry Xmas on board!

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