Nothing can beat an old-fashioned letter

Dear Readers,Just as I'd sat down to my rissoles the postman rang, twice - he always does you know.

James Marston

Dear Readers,

Just as I'd sat down to my rissoles the postman rang, twice - he always does you know.

In my little box marked Marston at the entrance to my "Maison Bourgeois" - a name for a certain type of block of flats that has always amused me - I discovered my mother had sent a bag of goodies, I suspect to ensure I phone.

Inside were some DVDs, an Anglian Water bill and a Galaxy Bar - I've been stuck with Milka ever since I've been in France - so you can imagine my excitement.

My friend Beverely, she's the one who plays tennis and has her own menagerie of animals including chickens because she enjoys fresh eggs, had also put pen to Basildon Bond and her latest missive had also landed in my box.

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Beverley informed me of some of the latest goings on in my home village of Icklingham in the west of the county where I spent my boyhood and that her husband's going to Norway, though I think it's temporary, and have I been watching the tennis?

Obviously, I wrote by return saying how kind of her it was to write and hoping that her husband enjoys Norway (temporarily) and that it's been snowing in Toulouse, where I have an apartment with street views (immediate) and ceilings (high), and that I haven't been watching any tennis as they are fixated with rugby in this part of France and tennis doesn't get a look in from what I've seen. From then on I told a bit about what I'd been up to, eating Galaxy and rissoles mostly.

This all took forever as you can imagine. Anyway, after four pages of writing about myself I signed off with "Must close as it's time for my sherry/horlicks/breakfast/bed/massage" or some such excuse.

I always find a letter so much easier when it comes to ending a conversation don't you?

Thankfully, however, I have been encouraged by Beverley's letter and my weeks of writing to people with news, gossip and fascinating stories about me are obviously beginning to pay off.

Friends from across Europe are now beginning to take the hint and realise that writing is far more preferable, elegant and distinctly cheaper than texting half finished sentences or emailing a most uninformative "Hi haven't seen you for ages, we must catch up." style of message.

Writing a letter does insist on a level of thought almost unheard of in the world of modern communications. And, of course, once you've received one you feel a bit duty bound to write back.

My chum Deborah, she's the one who does a nice toad in the hole and has a chaise longue in her front room, has also written and a Felixstowe friend Dean, he's the one whose theatrical, has done the same.

Not to mention my friend Brenda, she's the one who's busier than ever since she retired, and also lives in the Edwardian Spa town of Felixstowe, where I once lived, as regular readers will know, in a small flat with sea views (distant).

Naturally I've written back with all my latest. Problem is I'm spending so much time with a fountain pen I haven't done much else.



I read with interest, thanks to the marvels of the web, that HRH The Countess if Wessex has been in Suffolk. Now I know she's not Camilla, my favourite royal, but Sophie looked like she was having fun and that helicopter was very smart.

I expect she got a great welcome from those at Ipswich's Thomas Wolsey School not to mention Ipswich Waterfront where she had a look round. God bless her.

Toulouse is a bustling city and there's almost always something going on.

This weekend the city's Asian communities were out in force to celebrate Chinese New Year. As I happened to be passing through the main square I noticed some people moving very slowly around on a stage while holding one leg off the ground. They were drawing a little bit of a crowd. I managed to get some pictures mostly because they were moving so slowly.

Hasn't the weather been ghastly? I see that winter has been biting back in the UK. Here in France we have had snow again. I'm totally fed up with winter. Snow brings nice pictures and traffic chaos. Here in France I notice they tend to grit the city centre roads after the snowfall which can make the streets of Toulouse somewhat treacherous.

Let's hope that's the last of it.

Progress is being made with my application to join the French social security system - an uphill struggle akin to driving to the top of Mont Blanc in a battered Morris Minor with no snow chains.

During my latest visit to the social security office of the Haute Garonne - the region of France in which I live, where I spoke to a lady called Yvette proved fruitful. I started my latest interaction with the might of the French state by telling Yvette that I had lived here four months and how much I was enjoying living in France and isn't it a lovely country. The French state, her honour flattered, smiled on my hyperbole and doors began to creak open, once I had handed over my birth certificate - a pre-requisite of significant significance here, a document I wasn't sure I ever looked at the UK.

Yvette said: "But Monsieur, this certificate doesn't tell us the names of your parents and does "Certificate of Birth" mean certificate of birth?"

"No but yeah but no," I replied with my most elegant Vicky Pollard French, "Perhaps things are different in the UK. How very strange." I said, wrenching back my certificate of birth/birth certificate while looking as puzzled as I could. "France is so much more thorough, ha ha ha." I added.

Evidently finding me humorous Yvette replied: "Ha ha ha. It's not grave. It's good. Perhaps this certificate English birth just might work after all. That is to say, I'll just take four copies" - more wrenching - "just in case. There it is."

"By all means, Vive La France." I replied.

Apparently, I will be issued with an attestation, whatever that is, before my details are sent to the office of national statistics, the headquarters of which, Yvette kindly told me, is in Nantes. Then, after detailed discussion, deliberation, debate, and further discourse with other people, something else might happen. In the fullness of time, in due course.