Jaqui's Daily Blog

We arrived a little late at this morning’s Sporting Memories due to a few transport problems but I had alerted our leaders in advance that we would be late just in case they might worry about us. Why I imagined they might worry about our apparent absence I don’t know but better safe than sorry, I always say.

 

Then when we arrived it was to find, planted in the midst of the area where we gather, one of those transportable bars serving Stella Artois which (I am led to believe) is reassuringly expensive. Nobody knew why it was there in our midst and it did make it difficult to see each other round it - but it did, of course, lead to some hilarity about the nature of future meetings. What’s more, our leaders had been asked to supply some photographs of our gathering for publicity purposes. What everyone would think, seeing us apparently crowded around a bar at ten o’clock in the morning, we could only guess at. Membership numbers might soar, we reckoned.

 

We are well aware that our little gang doesn’t tend to operate on the more structured lines of other  Sporting Memories groups. We tend to simply sit around and chat about anything and everything. Mostly sport but we do stray (more than occasionally) into other areas of general and / or particular interest. We never quite know, on arrival each week, how the conversation will flow. Though flow it most certainly will. Even without Alcoholic Assistance.

 

The only regular feature of our meetings, as I have mentioned before, is my reading aloud the match report written by the Middle of the Darling Daughters, on the latest outing by the Mighty Lions under 9 team. Grandson Faris the Rascal is one of the Lions’ most determined players. This week I even had a photograph of the whole team to show. Last week the Mighty Lions won their match 12-0 so this week they were playing in a different, more challenging league. This, I explained, was because they are involved in a developmental league structure so teams can find themselves playing up a league or down a league depending on their success or otherwise. I wasn’t completely sure to be honest that I was explaining this properly but everyone thought it was a really interesting idea. Maybe, we thought, we should suggest it to the FA? We all reluctantly agreed this was a suggestion that was Certain To Meet With Failure.

 

To give the impression that we do more than sit and chat, one of our leaders produced some bowls and set up a few action shots for the camera. It looked so much fun that we all decided to take a turn, including Mr B hurling each ball from his wheelchair towards the end of the room with considerable gusto if little sense of direction. I can't scoff, having sent each of my missiles crashing into table legs. I pretended that I was aiming for a deflection but nobody was fooled. We then took photographs of us around the portable bar, with one of our leaders pretending to pull a pint and me pretending to be crashed out on the other side of the bar in a drunken stupor. I am assured that these photographs will not be sent off to be published but will only grace the pages of our own, private scrap book. Hopefully…

 

When it came to the time for our regular refreshments, everything became even more surreal. Rhona produced a tin of home-made gingerbread men / women / people - every one of them suffering a disability. Some were without a leg, some without an arm, some were actually headless. This didn’t stop Mr B eating his way through several - almost enough for half a football team though, loyally, I stopped counting after his first few forays into the biscuit tin.

 

As for the rest of us, well we too did our best to put the poor things out of their misery…

 

When it comes to pleasant surprises - well, I like them as much as anyone else. When it comes to holidays, however - I’d rather have all the fun of expectation. Oh, the anticipation! The build-up! The deciding what to pack! The selection of guide books - my family always used to laugh at the fact that I always had a guide book to hand, wherever we went on holiday. Looking forward is so much part of any experience.

 

Sadly it is many a year since Mr B and I were able to go on holiday. Just one of those things and we are fortunate to have a wealth of holiday memories to look back on during the cold, dark, dismal months of January and February. Up until last year I was able to get away for three or four long weekends every year while a lovely live-in carer took charge of Mr B’s every need. That came to an end last August when I lost her….

 

No, indeed, I didn’t actually lose her, that would be beyond carelessness. Rather she was offered  a new job which took up every weekend - it was an offer she couldn’t refuse. My last weekend break was back in August and I am feeling the strain.

 

To the rescue comes the Middle of the Darling Daughters who has decided that “respite at home” is the way to go. On Monday morning, having delivered the Rascally Trio to school, she will drive down to spend a few days with her father and me. She will be working from our home, rather than her own home, while allowing me to spend time doing whatever I feel like. Long lie-ins every morning, afternoon naps, and a chance to do some of the things I never get a chance to do. 

 

While she is away her fella “Rule Is Rules” will be in charge of the Trio. She will exchange the demands of her Rascals for those of her Demanding Parents. I’m not exactly sure which environment will be the more demanding….

 

It isn’t the first time my Middle Daughter has come up with a novel solution to my Holiday Problem. A few years ago, pre-Covid, she decided to make the long school summer holidays special by allocating one day a week for a “Holiday At Home” experience for me with her and the Rascals. On sunny days, the seaside; on rainy days, the cinema. There was a memorable visit to the Sea Life Centre at Brighton where I remember Tala (elder of the Twins by one important minute) being mesmerised by the (fairly ordinary) fish in the very first tank we came across and could hardly be persuaded to move on to far more exciting Fascinating Fishy Types in Bigger Tanks.

 

So now I am planning my few days’ Respite At Home next week. I am going to the cinema with a lovely friend to see West Side Story. I expect I will weep but what can you expect from one who cried at “Hotel for Dogs”? 

 

What else? I hear you ask. Well, I still have plenty of time to plan. Even if my plan is to do nothing at all. It’s the anticipation. It’s the anticipation! It’s the build-up!

 

Now where can I lay my hands on a useful guide book? 

 

 

 

 

I do know - of course I do - that Christmas is well and truly over and everybody is turning their thoughts to spring, to summer holidays, to the days getting longer minute by minute. However, if you will excuse me, before we completely move on, I do have to inform you that I am getting seriously worried about Father Christmas….

 

Three days ago I took down all the Christmas cards which have been festooning our walls for ever so many weeks. I completely understand why many people these days have decided to stop sending such festive greetings but I stalwartly refuse to join them - the giving and the receiving of Christmas cards (complete with short but sweet messages from the senders) are one of my greatest pleasures at this time of the year. Every card received reminds me of, not just a person or family, but a time shared, memories of years gone by, of holidays where we met over a hotel restaurant table or a swimming pool, of places we have lived over the course of our marriage. My heartfelt thanks to everybody who took the trouble to send us greetings this year.

 

I was faced with a bit of a problem on account of having had the hall, stairs and landing redecorated following our unfortunate Watery Emergency. Usually I can pin up lines of Christmas cards around the walls of the hall - but this year I really couldn’t bring myself to stick drawing pins into the pristine, newly papered and painted walls. I had to resort to putting up a couple of lines over the kitchen window; viewed from outside it looked a bit like lines of washing hanging up to dry.

 

But I digress. Let’s get back to Father Christmas. Every year when I gather up all our Christmas cards I can’t help myself carrying out a little bit of customer research by arranging small piles of cards based on subject matter. There’s a pile for ones depicting Christmas trees, one for religious themes of the nativity, the Wise Men or wintry scenes of churches lit by candles, one for robins. Then there are what might be called “general cards”, others with snowmen as their subject. I even have a small pile of cards with penguins decorating them. I have seven very beautiful hand-made cards which are especially appreciated, knowing, as I do, the time and effort expended on them. One of my friends, who makes all her cards, has just embarked on the task of making her 2022 Christmas cards. I applaud her most sincerely. 

 

Now here’s the thing. Of all our cards, only five depicted Father Christmas! Five! What is happening to the Big Man in the Red Coat that he is so far behind the snowmen, the robins, and Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the Wee Donkey?  

 

I turned to Faris the Rascal’s school production, via a YouTube link sent me by the Middle of the Darling Daughters, for reassurance, only to discover the play was entitled “Santa’s on Strike.” Oh, my goodness, what is the world coming to, I despaired. Actually it wasn’t as bad as I thought - Santa was, indeed, considering industrial action but trusty Rudolph (he of the red nose and excellently portrayed by my Rascal) had other ideas. Rudolph and Santa’s helpful elves (clearly having forsaken all those shelves they have been sitting on throughout December) persuaded the Reluctant Red-Coated One, to visit a number of families who demonstrated that the True Spirit of Christmas was alive and well, resulting in a belated change of heart. Rudolph, bless him, went through the entire pilot’s lift-off procedure, ensuring that the world’s children were not, after all, disappointed.

 

Which makes me think that perhaps Father Christmas isn’t in trouble. Maybe it’s on account of my Great Age that folk have stopped sending me cards with Santa on the front and have chosen robins, snowmen, fir trees and snowy scenes instead? 

 

One very special Christmas scene doesn’t appear on any of my greetings cards but was sent to us by Tala (elder of the Twins by one important minute.) It is entitled “Nanni and Grandad at Christmas” (see pic above) and I have chosen it to illustrate all the letters I have sent, thanking people for their Christmas gifts. It shows a Christmas tree with Mr B, sitting in his favourite armchair, waving his heart in the air enthusiastically. I am by his side, my own heart exposed for all to see. I love the fact that we are displaying our hearts so prominently. 

 

Love is all around - and not only at Christmas…

And, just like that, Christmas is over…

 

Gifts have been exchanged, exclaimed over, captured for posterity in photos on mobile cameras. I have even already received two sweet thank you letters, reminding me that I need to spend some time writing my own Epistles of Appreciation. I did manage to make a list informing me to whom I needed to give thanks for which present - with the unfortunate exception of the two gifts, from two different friends, which were given to me in the same Christmassy gift bag at the bottom of which I found the two labels which had somehow both become detached from the presents. Meaning, of course, that I don’t know which friend gave me which present. The potential for embarrassment when it comes to my thank you letters is considerable.

 

The Youngest of the Darling Daughters and her family succumbed to the pesky pandemic and spent a Covid Christmas, one to be remembered for all the wrong reasons. At least, I tried to comfort her, they were all four in the same boat so nobody had to spend Christmas Day in not-so-splendid isolation from the rest of the family. It was small comfort, I fear, and I missed them terribly on Boxing Day which has been, for some time, their day to visit us. 

 

I cannot grumble, however, because my Christmas was notable for the fact that, aside from the Poorly Ones, I saw almost all my family over the festive period. I managed four Christmas feasts (“Winner, winner, Christmas Dinner!” became my rallying cry); two pantomimes (why have one panto experience when you could have two? as I always say. At least, at Christmas…); played various games without winning any of them; and managed to weep happily through any number of classic festive films. 

 

For two nights I was able to share my bedroom with Young Morgan, which meant not one, but two, fascinating Early Morning Conversations, one in bed, one over breakfast. I never have to think up ways to initiate a conversation with this grandson, I just stay quiet until I hear him say: “Nanna? SO….” At which, off he goes. On the first morning we covered music, the second World War including evacuation (“I think I would have been frightened but excited at the same time,” he muses while spooning generous portions of fruit and nut Mini Weetabix into his mouth), slavery and the play his class performed during Black History month. On the second morning, an even more challenging conversation focussed on Lego, of which I am decidedly not an expert. I was relieved when he moved onto Cubs and the possibility of setting up a fifth “Six” to accommodate more Cubs. Would he like to be a Sixer? I asked him. Morgan sniffed; apparently, he said, he wasn’t considered old enough. The outraged sniff said all that needed to be said - couldn’t Akela (or whoever) understand that, in his own mind’s eye, he was every bit as old as his teenage brothers?

 

I did notice, however, that at the panto, during a singalong version of The Twelve Days of Christmas involving items including randomly directed water pistols and a string of loo rolls hurled into the audience at frequent intervals, Morgan completely reverted to his actual age - that’s the Magic of Panto. Mind you, my all-time favourite panto moment with the boys came one Christmas some years ago. Their Dad, the Darling Daughter-in-law and I were sitting in the row behind the three boys when, at the end of the show, fake snow - as soft, cold and wet as the Real Stuff - floated down from the ceiling. We three adults held outstretched palms on high to catch the flakes, wondering at the sheer magic of it. In front of us, the three boys were hurriedly pulling on their hats, coats and scarves to protect themselves from the “weather”!

 

Last year, Mr B was in hospital and completely missed Christmas, New Year and his birthday. I refused to take down the festive decorations until he was safely back home with me - so Christmas lasted until the middle of February. I don’t think I’ll go that far this year but I’m not ready, quite yet, to let go of the magic of Christmas - not till Twelfth Night.

 

With or without the water pistols and string of loo rolls…

I reckon Her Maj had it right when she pointed out that to say Christmas is all about the children is only half the story - it is actually about we grown-ups somehow connecting with the child inside us. I’ve never had any difficulty with this, personally, though Mr B occasionally complains that I am for ever going OTT. At Christmas-time, I stand unashamed in my festive hat, all prepared to be a child again. If I do have to act like a grown-up, as in when I need to cook the dinner, then I can rely on my Imaginary Child to keep the festive feeling alive while I prepare sprouts and Baste the Bird.

 

Last year, with Mr B seriously ill in hospital, it was difficult to locate my Inner Child on Christmas Day. This year I had no such trouble, being joined on Christmas Eve by the Rascally Trio and their proud mamma, the Middle of the Darling Daughters. First of all was a trip to the panto (“Oh, yes there was!”) Interestingly, the Rascals had never been to a panto before so when their mother and I started on the “Oh, yes, we did” / “Oh, no you didn’t” routine, along with assorted assertions that “He’s behind you!” they surveyed us with puzzled looks, clearly thinking we were quite, quite crazy. It didn’t take them long to get the message. Then it was off to Soft Play for the Trio while I returned to keep Mr B company - the idea being to run off excess energy before the Christmas Eve bedtime rituals. We are talking about the Rascals’ excess energy, you understand, Mr B and I were still looking for ours, somewhere under the Christmas tree.

 

Before our Christmas Eve dinner, there were name cards to fashion so we all knew where to sit, plus a secret stocking for their mother. I had made the mistake of asking the Trio for ideas about appropriate gifts - “just small presents,” I urged them. “She likes jewellery,” they said, “And perfume…” Fortunately by the time they came to wrap up the (small) gifts, they were far too excited by the prospect of using the greatest possible ratio of sellotape to wrapping paper to start calculating the cost. It is, I told them as they pushed each gift into the stocking, even more fun to give than to receive. They eyed me, askance, eyes swivelling from me to the presents nestling under the Christmas tree. I WAS joking, they didn’t quite ask me…

 

Over Christmas Eve dinner, we invented new names for Santa’s reindeer - Starry, Sprinkles, Jingles and Snowy were my favourites. This game quickly descended into nonsense as the Trio arrived at ever more comical names, including Cupidy, Stupidy, and Mooney. My Inner Child delighted in the ridiculousness of it all.

 

Christmas morning they were up with the lark but weren’t allowed to wake me until 7 a.m. Then I insisted we all trail downstairs so that their Grandad didn’t miss out in watching the fun. Even then they couldn’t start on the Great Unwrapping because their mother thought she should make some coffee to sustain us through the next half-hour. While we waited for the kettle to boil, I introduced the Trio to a great new game I had invented called “Shake, Rattle and Roll” which involved shaking each present in turn to see if it rattled or rolled. I’m good at inventing new games, though  I say so myself as shouldn’t. My game, excellent though it might (or might not) have been, came to an extremely abrupt end when the Trio’s mother came back into the room, bearing steaming mugs of coffee, and announcing: “Ready, Steady, Go!”

 

All too soon, sacks emptied, new clothes donned and the presents under the tree distributed (to great acclaim, I’m pleased to say) it was time for them to go - home to their father, more presents, another Christmas dinner. It was extremely quiet without them, I feared that my Inner Child had disappeared in the car along with them.

 

Until, that is, I opened the present from my brother which included a letter and the words of a poem our dear mother often read to us, especially at bedtime. It’s by a largely forgotten Scottish poet called Alexander Anderson (1845 - 1909) and is called “The Bairnies.” It begins: “The bairnies cuddle doon at night / wi muckle fraught and din” and tells the story of a mother desperately trying to get her three children to sleep before their father arrives home from work. Her attempts to persuade young Jamie, Tam and Rab to “cuddle doon” is just like trying to persuade Lilia (younger of the Twins by one important minute) to go to sleep on Christmas Eve before Santa heads down our chimney.

 

“It’s a poem full of love, just like Mum,” my brother writes - and even as I read (through teary eyes) the words on the printed page I can hear my dear mum’s gentle voice re-telling the story to my Little Sister and me.

 

I am (oh, yes, I am) a child again…

 

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

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07.09 | 13:17

I have broad shoulders x

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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.

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30.03 | 17:40

I'm a young entrepeneur who is willing to start a business to offer retired people the opportunity to live an amazing life.Please emailme,I'd like to ask a few?

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