Saying goodbye is never easy. Saying goodbye four times over is, well, four times as difficult.
Today we held a Farewell Lunch for the four amazing staff who have given
so much over the years to Voluntary Action Worthing, the organisation I am privileged to chair. As the one responsible for collecting contributions from my fellow Trustees and organising our Fare-thee-well-fest, it fell to me to somehow manage the delicate
balance between sadness and thanksgiving.
I had booked a table at a local restaurant called Food. As regular readers know, I do love a shop, a company, an organisation, a restaurant which delivers exactly
what it says on the tin. If food is what you are looking for, then Food is as good a place as any to go for a varied, reasonably priced lunch menu. No, just in case you are wondering, I don't get paid for such endorsements, as many a blogger does. I prefer
to be able to speak as I find. Without fear or favour. Which is a bit like delivering what it says on the tin if you come to think of it.
I arrived early having stopped off at Marks & Spencer to pick up
four bunches of roses. The sales assistant on the checkout had a terrible time trying to prise the sticky price labels off each bunch. Conscious that time was ticking by I tried to assist but this proved to be less than helpful as we both got into what my
dear Mum used to call a "two and eight". That, should you not know, is Cockney rhyming slang for "state" - my Mum was a closet Cockney, born within the sound of Bow bells, though she would have much preferred to be Scottish. She satisfied her Inner Scot by
calling everyone "lad" or "lass" and quoting at length from Rabbie Burns.
To return to the checkout at M & S, each bunch of roses had not one but two price labels on it. Moreover somebody unknown had gone
mad with the glue stick. While the shop assistant approached the whole Label Removal Business in a logical order, taking each bunch in turn, my more haphazard methodology meant neither of us could be sure that every label had been successfully removed so each
bunch had to be checked twice over.
At the restaurant I asked if my four (unlabelled) bunches of flowers could be hidden somewhere until after our lunch. A helpful waitress stowed them behind the bar for me
where I expect they got in everybody's way as they hurried from kitchen to bar to table. When we finally presented the flowers at the end of our meal, I was charmed to discover that somehow I had managed to buy exactly the right colour roses for each person
- white for Cath, coral for Lucy, yellow for Natasha, pink for Julia. "You must know us so well!" they all exclaimed. Was it more luck than judgement, I pondered, or could I possibly be possessed of supernatural powers? Am I - just the teensiest bit - psychic?
Oh, for goodness sake, I said psychic, not psycho. Perish the thought!
I had spent the previous evening wrapping up our gifts. I am not the Best of Gift Wrappers. Every Christmas I promise myself that next
year I will go on a course to learn how to make my presents look elegantly beautiful. Every year, come present wrapping time, I am forced to resort to my usual default position which mostly involves Lashings of Sellotape, bringing protests from small people
(and their parents) who struggle to unwrap my carefully chosen (but carelessly wrapped) gifts.
Placed on the restaurant table, the four parcels actually did look pretty special though I say so myself as shouldn't.
I can thoroughly recommend silver and gold paper to disguise any inefficiencies in the Gift Wrapping Department. It was, however, the gift inside which would count and how I had agonised over the inscription to be engraved on each glass plaque.
There was so much I could say about Julia, Cath, Lucy and Natasha. About hard work, about loyalty, about always going the extra mile for the organisations which make up Worthing's voluntary sector. There were
so many ways I could sum up the dedication and the contribution our very own Fab Four have made to community life in our town. And what about all the amazing comments from the people they have worked with and for, the organisations they have helped over the
years - could I perhaps borrow some of their words of much deserved praise?
In the end, I decided to keep it simple and each personally engraved plaque bore the message: "Thank you for everything you have
done for us."
Wouldn't you agree that's exactly what it says on the tin?
The Middle of the Darling Daughters - who is, without doubt, the artistic one in our family - is busily painting dinosaurs on the walls of Young Faris's bedroom. He is beyond delighted.
For myself, I am not sure I would be overly keen to tuck down at night in the company of prehistoric monsters but then, as regular readers know, I have always been a Wimp of the First Order. The Rascal is made of sterner stuff and considers the Tyrannosaurus
Rex, the Diplodocus, the Stegosaurus and others among his very best friends. His favourite TV programme is "Andy's Dinosaur Adventures" and if you look closely at photographs of him, you will almost always spot a plastic dinosaur clutched in his hand. I am
talking about photographs of The Rascal clutching a toy dinosaur, not Andy you understand. Andy may or may not be a Rascal but I couldn't possibly say, not having made his acquaintance apart from fleetingly on the TV screen.
As I say, The Rascal is delighted with Work In Progress on his bedroom walls but has requested inclusion of Andy and also of a volcano. Where the volcano fits in, I'm not absolutely sure but I can't imagine there is another three year old anywhere in
the world with a volcano painted on his or her bedroom wall. My daughter's friends are full of admiration for (I) her artistic ability and (ii) the fact that she would even consider such a major undertaking with three tots to occupy her time - she is Wonderwoman,
they tell her, truthfully. She says not to speak too loud or The Rascal might hear and insist on also having the Wonderful One With The Red Boots painted on his wall. I mean, she might well hit it off with Andy (making a welcome change, I imagine, from the
dinosaurs) but I'm not sure we should be encouraging cavorting on The Rascal's bedroom walls.
The (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys have jungle creatures decorating their bedroom walls, lovingly stencilled by
the Darling Daughter in Law. Hazel Bagel, when small, used to have a rainbow canopy over her bed. There used to be glow in the dark stars on the ceiling of Eleanor's bedroom - I know for a fact that they do glow in the dark as our granddaughter has given up
her bedroom for her Grandad and me on many a (star-struck) occasion.
I wish I had been even half as inventive and / or artistic when my Foursome were littl'uns. They were different times, way back then, of
course. I remember cutting out the animal pictures on the front of empty packets of baby cereal to paste onto the wall above the Eldest of the Darling Daughters' cot. I can't quite imagine the so-called JAMs (Just About Managing) of today thinking that was
in any way appropriate decor for a nursery. Mind you, Mr B and I used to consider our first born an infant prodigy for her ability to distinguish her panda from her bear and her elephant. Every night at bedtime we would lift her up and quiz her on her animal
frieze. She was spot on every time. It's possible she was indoctrinated, poor thing.
Out to the post box in the gloaming of early evening, on a mission to catch the last collection with grandson Jack's weekly
letter, I almost toppled over a young lass setting up her camera on a tripod. Ever curious, I asked what she was photographing. It turned out she was in the first year of a photography course at a local college and had decided for her latest project to capture
the twilight on film. I gazed up the road ahead in the direction in which her camera was pointed and tried very hard to imagine what the resultant photos would look like. The sunset had, indeed, been rather beautiful but now the sun was most definitely down
and the stars were not yet glowing in the dark as they used to do on Eleanor's bedroom ceiling. The young photographer, however, seemed to be seeing something completely different from me. I could tell she was a True Artist.
That's what differentiates an artist from the rest of us. Where I saw a dark road, the young student could picture, through her camera lens, a composition entitled "Twilight." Where many would see a bedroom wall, the Darling Daughter in Law saw a jungle
and The Rascal's mum saw dinosaurs.
Do you reckon it's too late for me to locate my Inner Artist?
The Bacon Bap Brigade is discussing music and membership. But not necessarily in that order.
Regular readers will recall that the Bacon Bap Brigade meets in the Heene
community centre café immediately after our weekly Singing for Pleasure choir session. This week we have finished ten minutes earlier than usual because our conductor, the Redoubtable Muriel, is feeling just a bit fed-up by all the shenanigans which
have dominated our proceedings thus far. At least, she doesn't exactly say this is the reason, claiming instead that we all appear to be weary which is becoming obvious in our failure to (I) concentrate on what she has been telling us and (ii) sing as if we
mean every word. Better to finish early, she tells us, stepping down from her wooden dais with an air of finality.
Personally I would prefer to carry on singing until our usual stop time because I feel I have
been concentrating and I was definitely singing as if I meant every word. Though, to be honest, the Gloucestershire Wassail is not my favourite Christmas song. Witness verse 2: "And here is to Cherry and to his right cheek / pray God send our master a good
piece of beef." Followed by verse 3 which begins: "And here is to Dobbin and to his right eye / Pray God send our master a good Christmas pie." Do you see what I mean? The tune is decidedly jolly, which makes up for quite a lot, but now wouldn't you struggle
to mean every word?
More importantly, I am concerned that we are finishing earlier than usual because I have promised to buy my friend Avril a bacon bap and mug of coffee for when she finishes her Short Mat
Bowls session at 11.30 a.m. At this rate, I ponder, both coffee and bap will be stone cold by the time she emerges from the main hall to join Margaret, Zoe, Zoe's husband Richard and me at the convenient round table we have managed to grab. I could, of course,
wait before placing my order but if I do that the queue at the counter will be three times as long.
Margaret and I are trying to persuade Richard to join the choir. Zoe, while informing us that her husband
has a far better voice than she does, nevertheless doesn't join in our general pleading, doubtless knowing that it is a Lost Cause. We press on regardless, Margaret and I, being aware that the Men's Section is sadly depleted from the days when they sang in
strength and were undoubted Teacher's Pets. Since those giddy heights of tunefulness, we have lost several men which may be considered either unfortunate or careless, depending on your point of view. A few, like Mr B, have left due to ill health. Some have
left to join other, more challenging choirs where they sing in parts and read music. My dear friend Ian has gone onto even higher things, joining the Celestial Choir where, I have no doubt, he is winning favours with the heavenly Powers That Be by turning
up early to every choir session to help put out the chairs, as he used to do for us every week without fail until he fell ill. All in all Fings Ain't WhatThey Used To Be in the Men's Section.
We relate this
sad story with feeling, Margaret and I, but I can see from the steely smile on Richard's face that it is no good. I have seen exactly the same smile on Mr B's face when I am trying to persuade him of the value of a particular course of action which he is determined
not to accede to. Kindly, apologetic but determined to stand firm, that sums it up perfectly.
Olga arrives at our table to try to drum up support for the Ukulele Group. We cannot imagine, she tells us, just
how much fun it is. Margaret inspects her beautifully manicured nails and says she doesn't think so. Avril, who has joined us and is tucking into her bacon bap has nothing to say. I hide my nails, which are not beautifully manicured, under the table and fix
a grin on my face which I hope resembles that Apologetic But Determinedly Steely smile of refusal which Mr B and Richard execute so very well. To be honest, I would actually quite like to join the Ukulele Group if only because it would be an entertaining topic
for inclusion in my letters to ukulele-playing grandson Jack, away at Uni. I am sure there's plenty of mileage, word-wise, in a ukulele but I fear there are just not enough hours in the week for every new pastime I would like to take up.
Next Saturday morning I will line up with the rest of the choir to entertain visitors to the community centre's Christmas Fair. We will all wear our red shirts with black trousers or skirts so that we will look like a Proper
Choir. I will sing my heart out, Dobbin and Cherry and all because - with all due respect to the ukulele - there is nothing quite like singing to make the spirits soar.
It was one of my friend Ian's favourite
songs and he it was who introduced it into our choir's repertoire. I think of him every time we sing it.
"Thank you for the music."
Everything was going swimmingly until I pressed the emergency button.
This is Faris speaking, just in case you were worrying about Nanni being in an emergency. The fact
of the matter is that there was no emergency. Until I created one.
I am sorry to keep you in suspense but first of all I need to tell you about the rest of the day. Nanni calls this "putting things in context."
I haven't the faintest idea what she is talking about unless it's something to do with putting everything back in toy box before we left for home. Auntie Kazza couldn't work out why there seemed to be more going back into the toy box than I had tipped out
all over the floor shortly after our arrival.
It would have been altogether more understandable had Daddy been with us because when he clears away he hoovers up everything that he sees and stashes it with
Maximum Efficiency wherever he sees fit. Nanni says last time he came with us, after we left, she couldn't find the table cloth, the place mats and the coasters anywhere till she thought to check the toy box. And there they were! When it comes to Putting Things
in Context, that is, in the toy box, there is nobody quite like my Daddy.
The Twinkles (aka Tala and Lilia) and I have a new favourite word - danger! Mummy uses it quite a lot, I don't know why. Nanni says
it is a deterrent which I imagine is just another, longer, more complicated word for danger. I believe in using simple words but to great effect. Nanni likes using long words, she especially likes trying to get the three of us to copy what she says. We do
our best to humour her, she is our Nanni after all and we only have one of her. Which is probably A Good Thing.
Anyway, the thing about danger is that, if you don't heed the warning signs, you could find yourself
experiencing The Big Ouch. One of the first things I did when we arrived at Nanni and Grandad's house today was to investigate the kitchen drawers to assess how much danger was lurking within. All I can say is, there was a lot. It's amazing, really, that Nanni
is hale and hearty, given the sheer amount of danger with which she surrounds herself.
We thought it might be an idea to give Grandad a bit of a break from the Merry Mayhem we had created, so we visited the
Park on the Beach where we could play at pirates to our hearts' content. Then we came home and had pasta and jelly. No, not both at once, don't be silly. After that we took our Sticky Selves up to the bath where we did an excellent job of flooding the bathroom
floor. We don't do things by halves, my sisters and I. Nanni would expect no less of us.
So far, so run of the mill. The grown-ups had their dinner which was what Nanni called a "Cheat's Roast Dinner" because
she asked Auntie Bessie to make most of it. No, I don't know who Auntie Bessie is, but hopefully Mummy will invite her to the Twinkles' birthday party next week so that I can make her acquaintance and find out how she started out on the Cheating Business.
We were getting ready to go home when I noticed the button on this machine on the telephone table in the hall. I hadn't noticed it before but it was glowing red as if to say: "Press me!" So I did. Well, how was I to
know it was Grandad's emergency lifeline button to be used if he gets himself into trouble? I mean, I am always getting into trouble but nobody has suggested I should have an emergency button to press.
seemed I was in everybody's bad books - but when it comes to keeping a cool head, I have to hand it to Nanni. A voice boomed out from the machine asking what was wrong and could they help. You could tell they were all ready to send out an ambulance which,
to be honest, would have been extremely thrilling but probably would have made me even more unpopular.
Nanni didn't hesitate for a second. "Just testing!" she answered the voice, quick as anything. I rather
think we got away with it.
That's my Nanni, there is nobody quite like her for dealing with an Emergency. Especially One That Never Was.
Mr B and I would agree that one of our most frequent "debates" is over shopping. I kid you not.
When I was a Working Gal, all those years ago, Mr B used to do all our
shopping. Honestly, he knew the price of a loaf of bread or a tin of baked beans. Not that many people do, in my opinion. He knew all about consulting those notices written in small print and placed below eye level underneath each product on the supermarket
shelves, identifying the price per 100 gm. You would never, ever find Mr B buying a 400 gm jar of coffee if he could buy two 200 gm tins for less. I think Martin Lewis, that esteemed financial expert who is on our TV screens again tonight, would have done
well to employ Mr B as his Man in the Supermarket.
These days, the shopping business falls almost entirely to me, though occasionally the former Super Shopper will accompany me on his mobility scooter generally
when he has it fixed in his head that he fancies a couple of avocados, a handful of figs or a packet of walnuts - and doesn't quite trust me to source his requests. Especially when I insist on Shopping Local.
like using the local shops. I do, as regular readers know, rely on the Man from Ocado in his fruit or vegetable decorated van to fetch and carry all the heavy stuff - but a daily trip to the local shops to pick up meat from the butchers, bird seed from the
pet shop, greetings cards from the Guild Care charity shop is part of my routine. When rain threatens I pay a quick visit to the café where I can pick up a cup of coffee for £1.50 and read the Daily Mirror - which always reminds me of my Mum and
Dad as it used to be their Newspaper of Choice.
As an impressionable seven year old, I remember our class being set the task of writing a newspaper article about a missing child being found and returned to
her parents. "I can tell your parents read the Daily Mirror!" my teacher commented disparagingly, nose wrinkled up in disdain. Looking back, I am horrified to think how a thoughtless remark like that could affect a child's view of his or her parents.
Still, I digress. While I like to Shop Local, Mr B still worships at the Shrine of Tesco. Whenever I return from a shopping trip and have to confess that I have been unable to source his latest request, he will shake
a Sorrowful Head and say I should have gone to Tesco's.
It is possible, therefore, that Mr B may be welcoming the news today that supermarkets are contemplating the introduction of slow lanes at their check-outs
especially for those who have reached a Great Age and like to linger over their shopping for a companionable chat. He is probably reckoning that the opportunities this initiative will provide for shameless eavesdropping - in the interests, you understand,
of gathering choice material for the Daily Blog - will prove quite irresistible.
What he has failed to realise is that, if driven to visit any large supermarket, my modus operandi is to go armed with a list,
to home in on each item on my list, add it to my basket, then head for self-service where, if I can manage not to introduce anything unexpected into the bagging area, I can pay up and exit in record time.
shopping, Jim, but not as Mr B knows it...
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