Jaqui's Daily Blog

Oh, the cakes! The cakes!

Yes, indeed, we are participating in Macmillan's Great Coffee Morning down at the Heene Community Centre. Let's face it, eating cake is in a Very Good Cause, which is my excuse for indulging in Cake Fest - and I'm sticking to it.

"Let them eat cake! " we carol, in our very best impersonation of Marie Antoinette. Though, fortunately, without the impending threat of a guillotine hanging over our heads.

Myra, who is the esteemed convenor of our Singing for Pleasure Choir joins Margaret and me at our table where we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our bacon baps (soft bap for Margaret, crusty for me.) Myra is carrying a bright purple coloured smoothie in a jam jar decorated with a strawberry and a chunk of celery. So very healthy. She informs us that she heard on the TV (or maybe the radio) that just one bacon bap a week increases the likelihood of having a heart attack by 19%. This seems somewhat far fetched but we don't argue. Myra is definitely not the kind of person you argue with, certainly not over something as, well, delicious as a bacon bap.

Margaret admits that this will be her second bacon bap as she visited the café at the Heene earlier in the week. We speculate on whether this will increase her risk of a heart attack to 38% which would have been extremely worrying - except that our bacon baps arrive at that precise moment and they smell so good, and look so tasty.... Besides is it not a fact of modern life that we are constantly being warned that everything we enjoy is Very Very Bad For Us?

Our choir conductor The Redoubtable Muriel comes over to our table just as we are finishing our bacon baps. (We haven't allowed the 19% guillotine hanging over us to stop our enjoyment. We are risk takers. At least where bacon baps are concerned.) Muriel hasn't been feeling well but tells us that we - and the other two choirs she leads - are her "lifeline". I pat her hand and say we are only too pleased to be her lifeline, so much pleasure does she give us.

We talk about pianos. The Redoubtable Muriel's piano was a gift from her parents some seventy years ago - it cost £35 which I suppose would have been a fortune in those days. I tell her about my dear Dad's piano, currently being lovingly cared for by the Youngest of the Darling Daughters and her family of music makers. When she was a little lass, she and my father spent many happy hours closeted away in the room where the piano reigned, taking it in turns to tickle the ivories. "What shall I play now, Grandad?" she used to ask him - to which he would always reply, with a wicked twinkle in his eye: "Can you play - Far Away?!"

As well as conducting choirs, Muriel also gives piano lessons. I toy with the idea of asking if she would be willing to take me on. I've always wished I hadn't given up piano lessons at the age of eight, after taking umbrage when my piano teacher scolded me for not holding my wrists up. Or was it down? Should I have taken piano lessons from Muriel when I was a Little Lass, I doubt she would have put up with my childish histrionics.

There are so many cakes to choose from on the counter, including one specially iced with a message about Macmillans. There are also scones oozing cream and jam. I can't quite decide what to take home with me for Mr B's delectation. I do know, however, that he is expecting a cheese scone with butter and I am not at all sure whether it's a good idea to confront him with Something Completely Different. In the end I play it safe and a large cheese scone is encased in a small cake box for Safe Carriage Homewards.

When I get home, Mr B is waiting for the Ryder Cup to start. I prattle on about cakes and pianos, the eating if bacon baps and consequent life expectancy. I'm not sure he is paying too much attention, being as, even bearing a cheese scone, I am no competition for Team Europe. Though, of course, Team America may well be.

I am not sure if Mr B has yet twigged that we are going to be away this weekend, staying with the Youngest of the Darling Daughters and watching Hazel Bagel and friends take to the stage for the Mayor of Basingstoke's Variety Show on Saturday evening. On Sunday we have a date with the Middle of the Darling Daughters who will want to show her father round her new house. There may not be much time for watching golf until we get home on Sunday evening.

I am rehearsing my arguments for when realisation hits home as it surely will. Sunday evening, I will remind him, will after all be the most exciting session of the whole tournament. Even I will be happy to watch alongside him.

And just to sweeten the pill - how about a piece of cake? All in an excellent cause!

The woman standing at the front of the Pulse bus had a tote bag slung nonchalantly over one shoulder. On both front and back of the bag, the slogan: "This bag is filled with joy!"

Now as regular readers know, I am always on the lookout for joy in everything I do, everywhere I go, and in everyone I meet. Sometimes it is harder to find joy than at other times - life is like that - but that shouldn't stop the search. And here, surely, is what I have been looking for - a bag-full of the Joyful Stuff. Presumably at tricky moments, such as when I couldn't get Internet connection the other week, I would have been able, had I owned such a bag, to simply reach inside, pluck out a handful or two and, hey presto, Joy would return to my life.

Was the woman one of Santa's Little Helpers, I wonder, sussing out the situation ahead of time with regard to those for whom Christmas Joy may be sadly lacking this year, who would deserve a bit of joy tucked into the toe of their Christmas stocking. It may be just a tangerine to you, but it's joy to someone. I could imagine her setting off from the North Pole with her bag over her shoulder and Santa's parting words ringing in her ears: "Take the pulse of the town!" he will have exhorted her, little supposing that she would take him literally and catch the Pulse bus into town.

Then I noticed, as she turned to speak to the driver, that her skirt was tucked up at the back. At least it seemed to be, unless she was wearing a strange kind of floaty dress, the skirt of which was high at the back and below the knee at the front. Possible, but unlikely, I felt.

What to do? She was too far away to speak to and might be embarrassed to have attention drawn to a Dress Malfunction. Or, if this happened to be a deliberate fashion statement, how cross would she be to think her hem had been misunderstood. What would I want someone to do, were I the one with the problem?

I decided that when the bus reached the Library, which was my stop, I would whisper softly in her ear as I passed her, preparing to make a quick getaway should she not be happy with my intervention, kindly meant though it certainly would be. I hadn't quite made up my mind what I would whisper when we reached the Library - to find that she was alighting too. I hurried off the bus after her only to notice that someone else had presumably played the Good Samaritan because Miss Joy's dress was floating freely around her knees, both front and back.

I was now close enough to have a better view of her shoulder bag and discovered that, as well as its joyful slogan, it also bore the distinctive logo of The Body Shop. Joy, presumably, is a tub of cocoa body butter and a tube of lotion for tired eyes. Ah, well....

At the hospital this afternoon, Mr B's mobility scooter started sounding off, bleeping away shrilly as we approached the consultant's office. Mr B, who always thinks the worst, was positive this signalled a battery failure. Inevitably this would have been All My Fault as I am In Charge Of Charging. So to speak.

I did what I always do in such situations and pretended it wasn't happening. We turned the scooter off and left it outside while we chatted with the consultant ("also known as God!" Mr B quipped to the technician who had administered the ultra sound tests. She allowed him a small, non-committal smile.) Mr B fretted about how we would get ourselves and the scooter home on an empty battery. I said we would cross that bridge if and when we came to it. Though on an empty battery we weren't likely to be able to cross the road, let alone a bridge. Had Mr B perhaps accidentally pressed a button or flicked a switch? I wondered to myself. Not out loud, you understand, I'm not that silly.

But yes, I was right. It turned out that Mr B had somehow turned on his left indicator. This was nothing short of amazing, given that neither of us knew the scooter had indicators. Live and learn, I always say. It will add immeasurably to the joy of scooting round town, now that we know we can indicate when turning left and right, frightening innocent passers-by with flashing lights and a loud bleeping noise.

On the way out of the hospital I caught sight of a new machine for testing out your heart in thirty seconds. How had mine coped with all the stress? I wondered. Thirty seconds later I had the definitive answer: "Congratulations!" pronounced the machine, confidently, "Your heart is completely normal."

A normal heart indeed, but also a - determinedly - joyful one. Is there a machine that measures joy? I need to know...



Apparently a new research project has just published its findings on Rest. As in, the value of taking time to wind down from the Trials and Tribulations of Modern Life and simply relax.

The report on TV this morning talked to a number of people to find out whether they took time to rest and, if so, how. It was not surprising, given that the interviewees all looked like busy City types hurrying on their way to work, that nobody seemed to be able to fit "rest" into their busy schedules. Among those who did was one woman who declared, impressively, that her main way of relaxing was to run occasional half marathons. Relaxing in my armchair, in my nightie, eating my breakfast of Special K with red berries, I was all admiration - though without feeling any inclination to test out if her Rest Remedy would work for me.

My dear Mum always, but always, used to have "forty winks" every afternoon after our midday meal. Or perhaps that should be "sixty winks" because she would take to her bed for precisely one hour. Not a minute more, not a minute less. We children never questioned this though it hasn't been an example I have ever been tempted to follow probably because (i) I'm not at all sure if I could keep to just an hour; as a result of which (ii) it would feel like a waste of a precious afternoon. The researchers on the Rest Project would disagree with me: their research made clear that an extra hour or two a day in pursuit of Rest add immeasurably to one's wellbeing. Once again, it seems, Mother Knew Best.

Mr B would love it if only I would stop flitting about and join him for a regular dose of Daytime Television. It's easy to scoff at daytime TV but for those like Mr B with limited mobility it's Worth Its Weight in Gold, taking viewers out of themselves and into any number of new worlds without even having to move from their armchairs. . Mr B is an armchair expert on antiques, for example, because of the sheer number of programmes he watches about exciting discoveries in people's lofts or bargain buys at boot fairs or charity shops.

This morning, taking to heart the advice from the Rest Project researchers and aware that I would be out, flitting about, all afternoon, I sat down to watch a new programme called Street Auction, starring lovely Paul Martin who seems to pop up everywhere these days. No rest for him, that's all I can say.

In Street Auction, Paul (with the help of ace recycler Iryna) galvanises a community to raise money for a worthy unsung local hero or heroine by holding a street market, with the most valuable items either sent to a sale room or put up for auction on the street. It's amazing what people donate. I would be seriously worried if the lovely Paul decided to knock on my door, especially with a television camera there to capture my discomfiture at my failure to find anything remotely sale-worthy.

The main problem with Street Auction is that it moves me to tears. I've only just dried my eyes at the end of the latest series of Long Lost Family and now the Usher Gene is overflowing once more. I sit, grizzling away, as Paul steps down from the podium where he has been auctioning off a teddy bear, a set of three china dogs and somebody's statue of a gorilla, to break the happy news to the unaware recipient that enough money has been raised to create a beautiful garden for her and her children. Mr B looks over at me sniffing away and raises an eye-brow. He knows only too well what I'm like.

"Give it a rest!" he advises me.

I think it was the two tone winklepickers which flummoxed me.

I mean, I have nothing against Exotic Footwear provided I am not expected to totter around in five inch heels or squeeze my size six feet into skinny ballet pumps. Theresa May can keep her leopard skin kitten heels, too. The question being, are the said leopard skin kitten heels befitting, footwear speaking, for a Prime Minister? I shouldn't worry about answering, this being a rhetorical question.

Who wears winklepickers these days? In fact, are they still called winklepickers or has someone come up with another,equally appropriate name? I resort to my BFF, aka Google, who tells me that winklepickers are the shoe of choice for non-conformists, the longer and sharper the toe, the greater the status of the wearer. In case you want to know (and even if you don't - you can skyways skip this bit, if you prefer) winklepickers take their name from the process of prising that popular seaside snack, winkles, out of their shells with the help of a pin, the sharper and more pointed the better in terms of efficient winkle picking. I do like it when the Daily Blog cones over all educational every so (not very) often.

A fond and funny memory crosses my mind. My Boy, aged about five, being instructed by his Grandma, Mr B's mother, on the art of winkle picking. Winkle in one hand, pin in the other, he pauses with a worried frown on his bespectacled face: "Will it - struggle!?" he asks.

But I digress. Which is obviously not a problem, this being the Daily Blog where digression has to be taken for granted. I do usually manage to get back on track before the end of each day's epistle. Though there's always a first time....

Where was I? Oh, yes the winklepickers. As I said before I have nothing against Exotic Footwear - I just didn't expect them to be gracing the feet of the landscape gardener who arrived on our doorstep yesterday to provide us with a quote for some turfing work in our front and back gardens. I was so diverted by his footwear, imagining him operating a rotovator and getting his toes tangled up in its digging mechanism. Or laying turf ("Green side up!) and tripping over his pointy ended shoes every time he had to change direction.

Mr Winklepicker took a look around our gardens - the new fence, the new driveway - and commented that we had clearly been busy with major improvements. You could see the pound signs whirling round his head as he came out with a stonkingly high quote without even producing a tape measure. Presumably he (i) decided we could afford it and (ii) didn't want to get his winklepickers dirty, tramping in the mud. Mr B tried out his famous "we are just poor pensioners living on the breadline, having to choose between heating our house or eating breakfast" line but Mr Winklepicker didn't appear convinced.

I think it's safe to say that we won't be gracing Mr Winklepicker with our custom. It's not so easy, however, to choose between the other landscape gardeners arriving one after the other to quote for the work. Do we go for Ismail, whose newspaper advert extols the fact that he is "hard-working"? Or Gary who wears a tee-shirt proclaiming that he is an "Awesome Gardener"? Awesome? Hard-working? What a choice. Both wear sturdy, sensible boots, too, so I can't differentiate between them based on their footwear. Plus Russell is coming round tomorrow. He may be awesome and / or hardworking. Or something else altogether.

Mr B says I need to Talk Turf. I need to discuss the quality of top soil (well, it wouldn't be top, would it, if it were less than top notch?) I should be checking out equipment to be used, particularly whether a rotovator will be involved. Mr B is very keen on a rotovator bring involved.

Me? I'll settle for an awesome, hardworking type in builder's boots who will provide quality at an excellent price.

Let the Turf War commence..


Our Jack, the oldest grandson, set off for Uni today. It's the beginning of a new era and it's gong to be awesome.

Mr B and I phoned him yesterday evening to wish him well. I told him I thought he could not do better than to follow the lead set by his uncle, My Boy, in remembering three small words that would be his guaranteed gateway to friendships.

I still remember it: transporting our Youngest to university in Cardiff. Because he was the Fourth in Line, I was better prepared in terms of gathering together items which would make his new residence feel like home. A smart new duvet cover, a colourful rug, posters for the walls. All pretty humdrum stuff compared to Jack's inventory - of which more later.

How proud I was of My Boy when, after unpacking his belongings, he caught sight of another newbie looking a trifle uncertain. Hand outstretched, my lad advanced on the stranger: "Hi, I'm Steve!" he announced with just the right mixture of confidence and concern. Ice broken. When, I marvelled to myself, had he grown so mature, so self-confident?

Anyway, this is the story I relate to Jack. Three little words. Not a lot to remember but they can go a long way when you are venturing into The Unknown. Obviously I don't mean that he should introduce himself as Steve, don't be silly. "Hi, I'm Jack!" should do the trick. Jack explains that he has been in contact with some of his future mates already via Facebook. Ah, the world has changed indeed! Maybe those three little words will be Surplus To Requirements. Jack, however, is not the kind of grandson to rubbish his Nan's suggestions. He listens politely and says he will, of course, remember...

Apparently the car was packed already, in preparation for an early start this morning. Included among the items vital for wellbeing were the weights which we bought him last Christmas. These weighed the car down (if you'll excuse the pun) in no uncertain manner. Other essentials included his ukelele - let's hope his neighbouring students are also of the musical variety.

Our parting present to Jack was a trifle unusual - a gift bag full of nuts and seeds to help in the making of his morning smoothies. I managed one of my silly rhymes to accompany our present:

"Seeds and nuts, nuts and seeds!
What every morning smoothie needs!
A taste of home when you're far away,
Bright-eyed and ready for the day.
(Or, sometimes with a head quite sore
From too much "fun" the night before?)

We knew that spinach would only wilt
And juice would likely just get spilt
And, even worse, I'm just supposin'
Summer fruits would not stay frozen.
How on earth could we engender
The perfect mixture for your blender?

Seeds and nuts, nuts and seeds
What every morning smoothie needs!"


Jack diplomatically refrained from commenting on the rhyme but was most appreciative of the present itself. My reasoning was that, when you are a long way from home, for the first time in your life for more than a single week, it's good to start each day with something familiar, something homely, something, well, smooth...

For the Youngest of the Darling Daughters I know it will have been a painful day. She will be driving back home from York as I write and I would be surprised if tears are not flowing. I've had the same experience four times over - and it never became any easier. Your child might have reached the Giddy Heights of eighteen years old, but you still feel in your heart that you have a lot of mothering left to do.

Time is a kind master in this respect: my Darling Daughter will find that her mothering will still be called upon ten, twenty, thirty years on. That's why I'll be here for her today, or tomorrow, or next week or whenever she needs to chat, to mourn, to laugh, to cry. I will know, at least, not to make glib pronouncements about hardly knowing he's gone - because the gap he will leave in his close and loving family will be huge.

I'm not sure, in this case, that a silly rhyme would be altogether appreciated...


Latest comments

10.07 | 20:20

Fantastic blog! Xx

08.07 | 00:24

Phew - not a mention

13.05 | 23:05

What a lovely day and all sly story

16.03 | 22:49

Of course they will and remember the photo on the side board that will be there for ever to remind you of the wonderful day & THAT special outfit !

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