Jaqui's Daily Blog

There is almost always a rational explanation for even the most puzzling of circumstances. 


I shall be expounding on this theory shortly but, in order to establish a bit of useful background, you need to know that the Youngest of the Darling Daughters was paying us one of her regular, and most welcome, visits. It was an extremely timely visit, just as November was turning into December so her assistance in helping me usher in the most festive of months was doubly important. 


For starters, she would be with us for the ceremonial turning over of the calendars on the morning of 1st December. Regular readers will know that I never, ever peep to see the next month’s photograph before the due date. This is particularly significant, given that I must admit I do quite often skip to the end of a book to see what happens / who dunnit / and why. Not, I hasten to add, any book which has involved me completely in the fate of its characters so that I need to experience every twist and turn of their lives. Those are the books I simply don’t want to end. There are, however, others where I find it hard to relate to any of the principals and find myself skimming through the chapters in search of an interesting nugget of story-line which might entice me back into the book. 


You will be interested (or, possibly not) to know that the December photograph on the kitchen calendar is an enchanting one of the Twins, Tala and Lilia, appropriately dressed in Father Christmas hats, while the bedroom calendar features the blackbird, one of my favourite garden birds. The caption describes it as the “common” blackbird which I felt was unfair in the extreme. At least the calendar compilers resisted the temptation to have a Robin as the Bird of the Month…


Then we needed to make a start on one of the two Christmas jigsaw puzzles - I’ve been waiting for December 1st. One of the puzzles is a Nativity scene, while the other features Santa seated before a warm fire and a well decorated Christmas tree. We would start with Santa, I decreed.


First, though, we had to shop for curtains, curtain poles, a shelf for the bathroom, a cushion or two and I was glad to have a companion to consult on my choices. She would, I knew, prevent me from dithering which would never do, given my firm desire to have added some finishing touches to my garden-themed hallway by Christmas. Our shopping trip was most successful until we decided to take a break for a well-earned lunch - at which point we discovered that the shop’s café was about to close. Why any food establishment would close at ten minutes to one, we couldn’t imagine - but presumably there must have been a rational explanation. We just couldn’t think what that might be. 


Back home, out came the Santa puzzle, which I had bought from a local charity shop a couple of weeks earlier. When I say, puzzle - well, I’m not kidding. Opening the lid, there inside was a small plastic container, housing a number of jigsaw pieces. Not just any plastic container, moreover, but one on which was stuck a label, in my very own handwriting, which read: “Chicken and Lentil Coconut Curry” accompanied by an October date. How could that possibly be? 


My daughter suggested that maybe I had actually done this jigsaw before and returned it for recycling to the charity shop? She couldn’t imagine, however, why I might have tucked the plastic container inside before returning it. 


Maybe, I pondered to myself, I am turning into a magician, or even an illusionist? You have to admit that the “Chicken and Lentil Coconut Curry” label is a touch of genius worthy of Derren Brown. Possibly not Derren Brown, to be fair, more Tommy Cooper. But without the fez.  I decided not to share this thought with the Youngest of the Darling Daughters because, although I know she loves me, I am not sure she would accept this as a rational explanation and might even start questioning my sanity.


Which was just as well because we eventually realised what must have happened. While we were out shopping, the Really Rather Wonderful Kay was keeping Mr B company - might she have started on the jigsaw, sorted out all the edge pieces and then searched around for a handy receptacle in which to place them? A quick check with Mr B verified the truth of this theory. Puzzle solved. Not the jigsaw, you understand, which is still Under Construction but the other puzzle which had so perplexed us.


Suddenly it all made sense. “Just like that!” as Tommy Cooper would have said…


I’ve been looking absolutely everywhere for it. I really, really need to find it in the next couple of days, I really do…


I haven’t broken it to Mr B that I have lost it. He will say it’s all my fault and that I must have been remarkably careless to let something so Seasonally Important vanish into thin air. I wander about aimlessly, telling myself “It must be somewhere!” and asking myself: “Where did you see it last?” These are the two perfectly sensible comments which used to infuriate my off-spring when they were but young’uns and always losing something. PE kit, school homework book, shoes, this week’s dinner money - you name it, they lost it. “We know it’s somewhere!” they would protest, and: “If we knew where we saw it last, we wouldn’t be looking for it!”


So, I ask myself, given that it must indeed be “somewhere”, where exactly did I see it last? Moreover, when was that, exactly? Ah, therein lies the problem, methinks - it must be, well, nearly a year ago. 2021 may have flown by, month after month vanishing before I’ve even properly registered the changing seasons, but looking back I can appreciate better the Passage of Time. 


I need to go on looking and I might need some help…


The fact is, I am searching for some Christmas Spirit. It is November 28th and if I don’t find it by Wednesday I will be in trouble. With myself, you understand. Also, quite probably, with the Twins, Tala and Lilia, who fervently believe that it should be Christmas all year round and have been singing Jingle Bells since Christmas 2020. They do have a birthday in early December (how can they possibly be seven years old already?) and making birthday banners and cards has employed me gainfully, thus leaving little time for Christmas preparations. Now, however, banners and cards are all packed up, ready for a trip to the local Post Office so I have no excuse. 


I try a bit of on-line Christmas shopping. I would much prefer roaming the shops in search of the perfect gift but it’s not easy to get out for too long these days. I shall have to hope that when my purchases turn up they are not (i) smaller; or (ii) larger; or (iii) less exciting than I imagined them to be from the various website photos. I have the same problem, I have to tell you, with my weekly on-line grocery shop. I like to think that the arrival of parcels at my door will help engender some Christmas spirit? Though, possibly, they will merely serve to remind me that I am only half-way though my Christmas gift list. 


Then yesterday - a breakthrough! I have mentioned before my plans to install a potted Christmas tree in the Room Outdoors, one that I can plant out in the garden after the festive season. There it will grow and thrive until next Christmas when it will be called upon to do its Seasonal Duty once more. It will be a hark back to the past and the years we spent in our very first house. Every year, we planted out our little tree, every year Mr B would dig it up and carry it ceremoniously into the house, with a trail of little ones following behind him in paroxysms of delight. Strange to tell, when we moved house, the Christmas tree died. Perhaps it knew we were leaving?


Back to the present and looking on-line at potted Christmas trees, they all appeared to be extremely expensive. Had I been full of Christmas spirit, I would undoubtedly have dismissed such thoughts as worthy only of Scrooge. I dithered and dallied, not wanting to shell out so much money, but not willing to give up on my idea.


Walking back from the local shops, toting three heavy shopping bags, I saw them. Several perfectly formed potted Christmas trees outside the florists - not too small, not too large and affordable too. Exactly what I was looking for though, laden down with shopping bags I couldn’t quite work out how I would carry one home with me. “You don’t deliver, do you?” I asked, more in hope than expectation.


Not really, said the friendly shop assistant, but didn’t I live just round the corner? She would be happy to deliver, on her way home from work. 


It was such a kind gesture, an act borne out of true Christmas spirit. She was as good as her word, too, and my little Christmas tree is now in its place, in one corner of the Room Outdoors where Mr B and I can see it from the living room. What’s more I seem to have discovered my Christmas spirit.


It was right there, under the Christmas tree. Where else?   



Oh, dear, it seemed that I had got my wires crossed…


What’s new? I hear my regular readers mutter; isn’t it the case that the Crossing of Wires has provided copy for many a Daily Blog and is likely to continue to do so? In this case, however, I have to explain, we are talking about real wires.


No sooner had Jim the Decorator packed up his ladder, his paints, his brushes, his rollers and departed our house and our hallway, it became apparent to me that, before I could move the small hall table back into position, I would have to attend - somehow - to the complicated tangle of crossed wires leading from a trio of Communication Devices.


There they were, the three of them perched on the newly stained windowsill, while below on the floor was a mess of wires, some leading to an extension lead of magnificently unnecessary length which, if plugged into the socket on the wall, could easily power up three times as many devices. Other wires had ended up in the socket itself - but which wires? 


Just to complicate matters further there was another wire which snaked all the way up stairs to some kind of power point but didn’t actually lead anywhere at the hall end, its sole purpose being to add to the Crossing of Wires. I don’t think I have enough knowledge of All Things Electrical to disconnect it without advice from a Higher Power. As in, a qualified electrician. 


If there is one positive to come out of our Watery Emergency two months ago, it is the opportunity to sort out the many messes caused in the process of normal life. As each of the devices was added to the hall table over the last few years, nobody - that’ll be me, then - bothered to make sure the wires from each were, well, tidy. The time had come, I told myself bravely, to tackle the Crossing of Wires.


How difficult could it be? I wondered. I am always having to press the pause button on my latest knitting project in order to de-tangle balls of wool which have become inextricably entwined in the depths of my red, spotted knitting bag. Hold on a minute - think about that word “inextricable” meaning “impossible to disentangle or separate.” How often do I give up and break off the jumble of wool so that I can get on with the job? Not something I will be able to do with my entangled wires. I decide to inspect the problem at close hand.


It would be much easier, I can see, if each device had only one wire leading from it. The Sky box, however, which links us to broadband and our telephone, has three cords, one blue, one grey and one white. I am scared to unplug any of these, fearing the disaster of being cut off from the outside world. The telephone (a new one as the old one was damaged in the Watery Emergency) has two leads, one grey and one black; Mr B’s community lifeline has two leads plus a short grey one which doesn’t appear to go anywhere but may be (I surmise, not knowing what I am talking about) an aerial of some kind. Just to make the Untangling Task still more tricky, all three devices appear in some way to connect up to each other. Hence the Unholy Web of Wires which I am seeking to disentangle…


I try for a fruitless half an hour to simply separate the wires by threading one over another. It is impossible without unplugging certain devices at the mains. When I disconnect the telephone, the community alarm goes berserk: “Warning!” it shrieks at me, “The telephone line is disconnected!” I know that, I tell it silently. It keeps on yelling at me till I plug it back in.


There is nothing for it, I will have to unplug everything, remove the ridiculous extension lead completely, buy a couple of double or triple plugs and start from the beginning again. I shall pray that in doing this the WiFi will not take offence and that connection will be restored without further ado once I’ve untangled every wire and plugged everything in again. I will have to shut my ears to the warnings being yelled at me by the Community Lifeline and hope that Mr B doesn’t awake from his slumbers and add his protests on my clear and obvious inefficiency. 


So far, so good. Everything seems to be working (fingers crossed). I am endeavouring not to feel too self-satisfied as everybody knows that Pride Comes Before a Fall. I have moved the small table back into the hall and placed the three devices on it where they look suitably smug. The redundant wire leading down the stairs I have rolled up and tucked behind the table where it doesn’t show. Well, not too much, anyway. 


Now to tackle my knitting bag…


Granddaughter Hazel (known to me since babyhood as “Hazel Bagel” for absolutely no sensible reason that I can remember) has been destined for the stage since she could chirrup the words of her favourite nursery rhymes. Over the years since, she has taken on many a starring role in amateur productions, from Dorothy (of Wizard of Oz) to Scheherazade (of A Thousand and One Nights), from Sandy (in Grease) to Cinderella (from Into the Woods). Not to mention the Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, alongside her brother Jack, as Joseph. Now there was a Proud Grandmother Moment if ever there was one!


If you ask her about her chances of starring roles in the professional theatre and how she thinks she will fare in the competitive world of show business, she will respond simply that she honestly doesn’t mind what part she plays - “I just want to be on that stage!” There is no arguing with that, is there? It also explains why she gave her all in professional pantomime a few years ago, when she made an unforgettable appearance as a burger bun. Regular readers may recall that I wrote all about it at the time, here on the Daily Blog. If it is, indeed, possible to shine as a burger bun, then (rather appropriately named) Hazel Bagel certainly did.


Yesterday afternoon I was in the Andrew Lloyd Webber Theatre in Chiswick to watch my Golden Girl take part in her latest theatrical experience. What are you going to see? everyone asked expectantly when they heard I was off to the theatre. I could tell they were thinking Les Miserables or something equally heart-tugging. Oh, no, I replied, nothing so predictable - I was off to see Spongebob the Musical, no less.


My older grandchildren all used to love watching Spongebob Squarepants with me when they were littl’uns. I used to tease them by calling the star of the show “Squarebob Spongepants” causing them to howl with disapproval. To be strictly honest (and I do like the Daily Blog to be truthful at all costs) in the beginning I just managed to get the name wrong, and not on purpose - but it became another of those jokes that grandparents love to make to wind their loved ones up.


Spongebob the Musical is all about ambition, love, friendship, determination, courage, persistence, community - it is also completely, delightfully, deliciously bonkers. It’s set in the watery depths of Bikini Bottom, a community suddenly under threat from volcanic eruption. This threatening scenario unleashed a regular tsunami of talent from the third year students of the prestigious Arts Ed, hoping to impress any theatrical producers or agents who might be in the audience. My Little Sister who was with me (along with her fella, her son, and Hazel’s proud parents) was so convinced that the man sitting next to us was an agent that she spent much of the interval commenting most favourably in a penetratingly loud voice about a particular member of the cast. I’ll let you guess who that was…


There actually was - I kid you not - a burger bun among the cast but for once Hazel missed out on the opportunity to reprise her role in panto. Probably best not to run the risk of getting type-cast, I hear you say. Especially playing a burger bun which could be somewhat, well, limiting. She did, nevertheless, demonstrate her versatility by playing, alongside attempting to rule the roost from the top of a step ladder as the Mayor of Bikini Bottom, a number of ensemble roles including a pirate, a cowboy fish and - most memorably - a sardine. I told you it was bonkers.


Playing such a multiplicity of roles meant our girl had to master a bewildering number of fast costume changes, for example, kicking off the Mayor’s red stiletto heels and covering the smart red Mayoral suit with a flowing sardine robe. No wonder the next time the Mayor appeared on stage she looked a trifle flushed.


I loved every minute of the show. I loved dear, hopeful Spongebob who doesn’t know how to prove to his employer that he is more than a “simple sponge” and Sandy Cheeks the squirrel who finds herself targeted by some of the fishy community for being a land-based mammal. I loved the pantomime antics of Patchy the Pirate, the desperation of Squidward to prove herself to her (unseen) mother, the villainy of Sheldon Plankton. Most of all, I loved the unfailing energy of the whole company who never seemed to miss a beat, or an opportunity to demonstrate the sheer joyful silliness of a show starring lobsters, crabs, jellyfish, plankton, and a sea snail who miaowed like a cat. 


Long live SquareBob SpongePants!


Or words to that effect…


I have come over all green.


Not to worry, I am not about to rehearse all the arguments at Cop 26. I have, it is true, been trying to engage with my inner Greta Thunberg but I’d hate anyone to think the Daily Blog was just a lot of blah blah blah. Life is so, well, contradictory sometimes isn’t it?


Take my new, green world. Okay, not the whole world - just my hall, stairs and landing which are currently being redecorated following the Watery Emergency of six weeks ago. What colour was I thinking of for the walls? I was asked. 


Now thereby hangs a tale. Some years ago when the Truly Talented Sue redecorated our hallway, I really, really wanted it painted green. It was Mr B who persuaded me that a more neutral colour would be better. He is generally right about such matters so I compromised by insisting on a green stair carpet - it seemed like a win -win situation that satisfied us both. Except that when it came to a major redecoration, my heart reverted to its original idea. What could be better than a hallway which felt like an extension of the garden the moment a visitor walked in? Especially as there is a rather lovely view of the back garden from the hallway (if you care to look.) I am fanciful like that. Mr B having rather lost interest in matters of internal decoration these days, it was up to me - so I voted Green. Think “How Green Was My Valley” and you will get the idea.


Yesterday Jim the Decorator, having spent a hard day at work stripping the walls of the old wallpaper and another day and a half of equally (but possibly more rewarding) hard work pasting up the new wallpaper, started painting the walls in the colour I had chosen, which goes by the name of Willow Tree. It is, indeed, green. Very green.


I don’t know if I am the only one who feels this way but I am always beset by doubts when I embark on significant purchases or major changes to house and garden. Have I paid too much? Is it really what I want? Most of all - have I chosen well?


I even harboured doubts in the beginning about the Room Outdoors in case it might take up too much of the back garden and spoil our views from the living room. Now even Mr B is keen to point out to All And Sundry that it has been one of my most successful initiatives. Even now, when approaching winter has put a stop to evening meals outside, he comments on it every night as the starry, starry lights which I have strung across the balustrades flicker into life. Come next month, I have told him, I am going to have a real, live rooted Christmas tree in a pot standing in one corner of the Room Outdoors where we can see it from indoors. Mr B is not completely convinced but I’m sure he will love it when it’s in place.


He is even less convinced about my garden hallway. I could see it on his face when I wheeled him into the hall to inspect progress after Jim the Decorator had tidied up for the day. Wait till we have curtains up at the windows, pictures back on the walls, perhaps a bright door-mat adorned with poppies on the threshold, I explained (as convincingly as I was able.)


Slightly unsettled, I went to bed and dreamed of my five year old self in a hospital bed waiting for an operation to remove my tonsils. I wasn’t worried about the operation because I didn’t know it was going to happen - I was more bothered by the fact that the nurses insisted on the side rails on my bed being raised, as if I were a baby. Oh, the indignity! But now, over the passage of time, I find myself recalling that the walls of the ward were all painted green. I may be imagining it, but wasn’t there a colour called, at the time, “Hospital Green?” I wake from my nightmare and peer out of my bedroom door onto the half-painted landing….


It’s fine, just fine. My Garden Hallway is taking shape, thanks to Andy (who gave us our ceiling back) and Jim the Decorator who is bringing colour to my life. It doesn’t look in the least bit like a hospital ward. 


How Green is my Hall-way!

Latest comments

10.11 | 21:31

What a super account of a special event. I loved meeting you last night and seeing your creation come together. I’m so pleased you got so much from the activity

07.09 | 13:17

I have broad shoulders x

09.08 | 07:45

I love it, what a wonderful read on a very wet Monday Morning. Well done and I love the idea of the Grandmother's Book, an idea I shall definately borrow.

30.03 | 17:40

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