Jaqui's Daily Blog

Lilia is walking around the house like a Little Lost Soul.

This is nothing at all to do with the fact that she and the rest of her family have just moved into a new home - and everything to do with the fact that her twin, Tala, exhausted by the previous day's excitements, has taken it upon herself to have an extended nap upstairs in her cot. Lilia is lost without her.

Not to fear, help is near - I am ready, willing and able to entertain my youngest grandchild in her sister's absence. After all, didn't I always hanker after being a twin myself? Despite the three and a half years age difference between my Little Sister and me, I constantly endeavoured to present myself as her twin. I vividly remember snuggling down beside her in her pram, pulling the pram blanket up to my chin and beaming at everyone who gazed in at us. It seems unlikely that anybody was taken in by my pretence but I wasn't to know that.

The Middle of the Darling Daughters needs to go shopping for essentials such as voile curtains, a cutlery tray, a kitchen bin, rawl plugs and cable clips. She needs her sister to accompany her because she (her sister) knows where the shops are while the M of the DDs is a New Kid on the Block. They will take The Rascal with them, they say, and there's no reason why I shouldn't come too, bearing in mind that the Trio's father will be home, waiting in for various kitchen appliances to be delivered and lots of odd jobs to do into the bargain.

I look at Lilia, she looks at me. I decide I will stay. It will be an opportunity for perhaps an hour of undivided attention you understand. And I don't often have the chance of someone's undivided attention, all for me.

Lilia is still in her pyjamas because we can't get into her bedroom to find her clothes without waking up the Sleeping Beauty. Still, I put on her socks and shoes and we go out into the garden on an exploration. Lilia's father is busy putting together the slide, the playhouse and the sand and water table. He has found a convenient branch on which to hang the family's pet canary who is singing away at the top of her voice, full of the joys of the fresh air. In the branches of an oak tree in next door's garden, goldfinches gather to ponder on this newcomer to the area.

We explore every corner of the new garden, Lilia and I. It's quite a bit bigger than the garden at her old house and it's going to represent a new kind of freedom for The Trio. At which point it starts to rain, so Lilia, her father, the canary and I all take shelter indoors again.

We find some books to read, in one of the packing cases that has already been opened. Lilia chooses "That's Not My Puppy", followed by "That's Not My Tiger", followed by "That's Not My Bear." I can sense a theme here. We look for the little mouse on every page and I make appropriate squeaking noises. Lilia looks at me in concern; she seems to think I may be in pain. She cups her tiny hands around my face and her big brown eyes gaze into mine. For a long moment, we consider each other - before a deep, throaty chuckle breaks the spell.

Outside I can see the car belonging to the next door neighbour negotiating the drive. I carry Lilia to the open window and we look out to say "hello". I always think it is a good thing to connect with your neighbours as soon as you are able. Lilia proves a past master at the Art of Neighbourliness. She bestows her most beaming smiles upon the little lass with Angel hair who is accompanying her mother home from a shopping trip. Believe me, nobody - child or adult - can hold a candle to Lilia's beaming face. I exchange a few pleasantries with my daughter's new neighbour which mostly concern the going rates of the Tooth Fairy these days. The Tooth Fairy, it seems, will be paying a visit next door before the day is out.

My Son In Law raises his eyes heavenwards. I am at it again, he accuses me. It's just like our holiday last year in Alicante when I managed to acquaint myself with everybody living on the complex by the time the week was out. What is it about me? he wants to know. Am I just plain nosey or what? (He relates the whole episode to my daughter on her return which leads to an interesting debate on who should make the first move when new neighbours arrive - should you introduce yourselves or wait for a call?)

Lilia seats herself astride a chair, takes my hands and makes rowing actions. We sing "Row, row, row the boat" four times, followed up by a selection of my favourite nursery rhymes. The Son In Law suggests I toast a slice of garlic bread for his daughter. I'm not sure if this is because she may be hungry or because he would rather I stopped singing and left any Future Warbling to the canary.

A lorry arrives outside, delivering the new kitchen appliances. The Darling Daughters and The Rascal arrive home about the same time. Not long afterwards, the thud of a milk bottle being thrown out of a cot upstairs signals that Tala, the older of The Twinkles, is finally awake.

The Twins are Reunited. Lilia is pleased, indeed, to see her sister and Companion in Crime. My services as Stand In Twin are no longer needed.

Just an Hour With Lilia. How very, very precious sixty minutes can be.

It is undoubtedly true that Young Faris's excellent account of his family's moving experience (see yesterday's Daily Blog) tells a good story.

There are, however, a few additions I feel moved (please excuse the pun) to make in order to ensure that the day's events are also viewed from my perspective. This is important because the Daily Blog is my on-line diary and when I come to look back on yesterday a year, two years, three years from now, I will expect a Full Picture to emerge.

Firstly, yes - the Middle of the Darling Daughters and her husband decided to move themselves. Had I been the type to proffer advice where none is looked for I might have mentioned the one and only time Mr B and I moved ourselves - from the flat where we started out on our married life together fifty years ago to the very first home we owned. We didn't think we had many possessions at the time - but they looked a sorry pile indeed, out in the front garden, soaked by incessant rain as we waited for the hired van to turn up. "Never again!" said Mr B and I wasn't about to argue with him.

The Middle of the Darling Daughters believes in a minimalist approach to furniture, fixtures and fittings so she probably felt confident in her capacity - and that of her super-strong fella who comes equipped with a useful HGV licence - to handle All Things Moveable. This sunny optimism completely failed to recognise the fact that no household can ever be truly minimalist when it includes a trio of littl'uns under the age of four. It took almost five hours to load the hired lorry with all the family's minimal possessions.

Meanwhile the Trio - Faris and The Twinkles - had been collected by their auntie, the Youngest of the Darling Daughters, and transported to her house. Out of Harm's Way, as Young Faris memorably explained. By the time I arrived, her house was in a state of chaotic disorder and The Trio were reigning supreme. The floor was strewn with a strange mixture of multi-coloured dinosaurs and half-eaten fish fingers. My youngest daughter was gratifyingly pleased to see me, though I'm not sure how very helpful I was, apart from projecting my own special brand of encouragement into any stressful situation.

Granddaughter Hazel, her boyfriend Harry and friend Zoë decided to take the Trio to the park for what was euphemistically called "a breath of fresh air." The Youngest of the Darling Daughters and I waved them off ecstatically in anticipation of a bit of a rest and a chance to chat. Our reprieve was short-lived: the Trio and their team of carers were back in no time at all, chased out of the park by a threatening shower. We had hardly had a chance to boil the kettle...

As helpers go, I am not sure anybody would place me top of the list. There was no way I could help unload the lorry while my skills as a cleaner fall far short of the Middle of the Darling Daughter's exacting standards, especially given the dire and dirty state of her new abode. Hence, while the Strong Armed Brigade - grandson Jack and Harry, supplemented by the Youngest of the Darling Daughters who doesn't have strong arms but is possessed of a determinedly helpful heart - went to help out, I was left (kind of) in charge of persuading the Trio to eat their dinner, have a bath and get dressed in their pyjamas. In these pleasant tasks, I was assisted by Hazel and Zoë, meaning we could each give one to one attention to "our" child.

It was inevitable, I suppose, that it was "my" child - the Lovely Lilia - who tipped her spaghetti bolognese over herself, the high chair tray and the floor beneath it, while the other two ate like little angels. And I it was who ended up at bath time soaked through so that I had to change into a pair of my daughter's checked pyjama bottoms. The bathroom floor, to be fair, was even wetter than I was.

The Youngest of the Darling Daughters, returning to collect us all, took pity on me and found me a pair of more appropriate trousers to wear before off we went to introduce The Trio to their new home. Here I need to explain that the Middle of the Darling Daughter's new house is exactly the same as her sister's house before it gained an extension and a conservatory. This meant that Faris and The Twinkles felt immediately at home, knowing exactly where everything was with no need for an introductory tour.

In the Twinkles' bedroom a collection of soft toys decorated the windowsill, in Faris's room, a parade of enormous dinosaurs. The Rascal selected a book for me to read before he went to sleep. Appropriately, perhaps, it was all about Christmas. The season of gifts and merriment.

Downstairs while the littl'uns slept, we ordered a takeaway curry and toasted the family's new life in Prosecco supped from polystyrene cups. The Middle of the Darling Daughters said she felt like a student again. It was almost midnight before her sister and I, plus Jack and Hazel, wended our way back to the Youngest of the Darling Daughter's house. It had been a long, long day.

Ah, yes, in case you hadn't quite twigged it - two of my Darling Daughters now live in the same village, within a ten minute walk of each other. They have always been each other's biggest supporters but now they will be geographically close as well as emotionally. When the Empty Nest Syndrome strikes at one sister's heart, she will be ale to hug her tiny nieces and nephew and revisit old times. When coping with a Trio of Rampaging Rascals has the other sister tearing her hair out, there will be a sisterly Rescue Remedy just down the road.

Me? I rather fear I'm not as much help to either daughter as I used to be. I'm so very glad that from now on - rather like The Twinkles - they will Always Have Each Other.

I would have preferred, given the choice, to be allowed to help Mummy and Daddy to carry all our possessions out of our old house and into the removal lorry. I am sure I could have been helpful because, as you know, I am much, much stronger than the average three year old.

Yes, indeed, this is I, Faris, aka the Rampaging Rascal - though I have stepped down from much of my rampaging, now that I am almost grown-up. Just occasionally, mostly for Old Time's Sake, I indulge in a Minor Rampage. This is (i) to keep my eye in; (ii) to keep The Parents on their toes; and (iii) just because I can. Nanni understands this last reason as "Because I Can" was one of the mottos she adopted on her retirement. Frankly, in Nanni's case, I think it isn't altogether appropriate as, in my humble opinion, there are far more things Nanni can't do, than things she can do. Especially where anything like a Rampage - minor or otherwise - is concerned.

Apparently the reason why I couldn't stay to help load the removal lorry was that I, together with The Twinkles, needed to be Out of Harm's Way. No, I have absolutely no idea who or what Harm is, or what number in Harm's Way he lives. All I know is that Auntie Karen and my cousin Hazel arrived bright and early yesterday morning - presumably while Harm was still a-bed - and drove me and The Twinkles off to her house, where Nanni was to join us later on.

Nanni, incidentally, had an explanation about Harm and his Way. She reminded me how sometimes I get an "Ouch!" - say, when I trip over my dinosaurs scattered all over the floor - and occasionally I get a "Big Ouch!" as in when I had to have my jabs. One in each arm, would you believe it? Next time Mummy says we need to go to see the doctor, I'm going on strike. Anyway, Nanni says that if I find myself in Harm's Way, it may result in a "Massive Ouch!" I've decided I'm not going to go there..

Now here's a strange thing. At home it only takes one person - Mummy or Daddy - to look after the three of us perfectly adequately with meals, snacks, stories and the occasional Dinosaur Fight thrown in. Yesterday there were no fewer than six people on Trio Duty. That's two people per one of us which is clearly ridiculous. Anyone would think we were a handful. Or, three handfuls.

One thing I knew about our move was that in my bedroom there would be Seriously Big Dinosaurs. It was quite late, well past our bedtime, before we finally made the short journey from Auntie Karen's house to our new home. And, yes, on the windowsill in my bedroom were the largest toy dinosaurs you have ever seen, to match my dinosaur duvet . Frightened? Hey, no, not me. I took them all to bed with me, knobbly as they were.

The Twinkles have butterfly duvets in their cots and our Cousin Elle has made matching butterfly bunting to decorate their bedroom. Nanni helped out by doing all the boring bits - she and Elle called the butterfly bunting their "holiday project". One day when I am bigger, maybe four years old or so, I will tackle projects with Nanni. So long as she does the boring bits, that is.

I expect you want to know if I will miss our old house. I thought I might but then, as Nanni says, it's only our house we've left behind.

We've brought our home with us.

The Duracell Bunny, aka Young Morgan, informs me that he won't be able to go to bed without Terry.

I am sympathetic; what is Terry? I ask. Is he, perhaps, a teddybear or maybe a toy puppy dog? Morgan gives me a look of patient forbearance, as befits a Nanna With No Idea. Terry, he informs me, is a pterodactyl. But of course, surely I should have guessed that, knowing as I do, the way Morgan and his older brothers choose the most obvious names for their toys.

Terry the Pterodactyl is something of a surprise, being a soft toy with flappy wings, so ideally huggable at bedtime. He was discovered, the Darling Daughter in Law tells me, on a stall at the School Fair. BNWT - which, if you follow e-bay transactions, you will know stands for Brand New With Tags. Nobody else has ever loved him, hugged him, tucked him under the bedclothes. Until rescued by the smallest of my (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys, he was an Orphan. Without even a name. Terry or whatever.

We decide not to take Terry to the beach with us on Family Beach Day as Young Faris, who is Mad on Dinosaurs, might well take a fancy to him. Instead Morgan is in charge of Saurus, the roaring dinosaur which Faris left behind in a restaurant where he had to be retrieved from an umbrella stand by my friend Pat. I want my two littlest grandsons to form a firm friendship which will last them through all their lives - I am hoping that the return of Saurus will mark a shift in their relationship which at the moment can best be described as "wary."

It's a record Family Beach Day with around thirty of us assembling on Littlehampton Beach armed with chairs, rugs, picnic baskets, cool boxes, flasks of coffee, beach towels and a small tent (for shelter and / or storage purposes.) You could say we are Extremely Well Equipped.

Mr B and I have to park a little further out where I unload the mobility scooter from the back of our car and fasten the Jolly Roger flag to the back. Scooting along the prom (prom, prom) to meet up with the rest of the Family Gang, we spot grandson Sam coming to meet us - an act of kindness which earns him the first of many rides on his granddad's scooter.

The Jolly Roger flag attracts plenty of attention. One small boy, not of our party, approaches Mr B with an expression of awe on his face. "Are you REALLY a pirate?" he wants to know. Mr B is not about to disappoint him. All he needs, I ponder, is a parrot on his shoulder and some pieces of eight in his pocket. As it is, he has easily attained Cool Grandad Status among the small fry.

Family Beach Day is a tradition going back over ever so many years. This year every one of my four children and ten grandchildren are All Present And Correct. How very special is that? Everyone agrees that this year is one of the most relaxed ever - though the Middle of the Darling Daughters, mother of Faris and The Twinkles, may well agree with the sentiment while disagreeing with the actuality...

My sister has bought one of those sandcastle moulds which comes with a castle and a turreted wall. She nearly bought four - but that's another story. The resultant castle is splendid indeed and can be seen from far off, at least until the tide comes in. Morgan and I concentrate on drawing letters in the sand - he is off to school in September so being able to spell his name will be a good start. He probably won't need to be able to spell Nanna - not immediately, anyway - but I write my name alongside his anyway. We jump from letter to letter. At least, Morgan jumps while I follow somewhat more sedately.

We gather the children together for a Team Photo. Considering how many of them there are, our gathering efforts are pretty successful. Nearby four very elderly people are sitting on the wall eating ice-creams - they look as if they have stepped out of an advertising poster boasting the attractions of the seaside for young and old alike. With their permission, we take a photo of them too. One day, several Family Beach Days from now, we will look through our 2016 photos and wonder who on earth they are.

My Boy has the brilliant idea of phoning up the local chippie to order our fish and chips, rather than have to stand in a long queue for ages as in past years. Somehow I find myself charged with the task of coordinating everybody's food requests. I don't have any paper on me so I have to use the back of the envelope containing Katie's birthday banner which her Mum has just returned to me. My older grandchildren look on askance at my failure to employ the new technology which is literally at my fingertips (or thumb tips - why does noone ever talk about thumb tips?) had I only thought about it and which would have made my talk so much easier. The Middle of the Darling Daughters finds herself in charge of placing the order - and attempting to negotiate a good price, given our Great Number - over the phone. I think I had the easier job, all things considered.

We leave the beach at the end of the day with lots of hugs, kisses and promises to share photographs of our Happy Day. That's when we remember that we failed to capture a photo of all of us together on the beach. It's too late, we wail, because some of us have already headed home.

There's only one thing for it - we will all have to come back for another Family Beach Day next year...


That's a date, then.

My dear friend Sue has just become a grandmother for the very first time. I am SO very pleased for her.

Arriving to pick me up for a visit to her health club for Coffee and a Chat yesterday, she simply couldn't wait in the car outside for me - as I opened my front door, she was literally dancing along the garden path, her Big News spilling out by way of greeting.

You might say that it isn't exactly an exclusive club, there being lots of grandmothers around. But that, you see, is to miss the whole point which is that every grandmother is totally unique. As far as her grandchildren are concerned anyway.

I can remember how I heard of the births of each and every one of my Truly Tremendous Ten grandchildren. Some arrived early, some late, one arrived by prior appointment. Two should have arrived by prior appointment but decided to be contrary and arrived early. I was in a hospital waiting room for two births, in bed for one, at work for four and in a car heading for the hospital for three. All I can say is that I was there just as soon as I could be. Sue's granddaughter was born in Cyprus so she and the new Grandad are frantically trying to book flights out there to see the little one as soon as possible. There's an indefinable something about a newborn. It only lasts such a short time and it's not to be missed.

One of the most important decisions a grandmother has to take concerns the name by which she will be known. Some grandmothers, it has to be said, hold very firm views on this. My dear Mum was known as Nanna by some of her grandchildren and Grandma by others and as she grew older, she struggled to remember who called her what. In her later years I used to buy and post birthday cards for her - but she always wrote them herself: "With best love from your loving Nanna or Grandma" she would write. Better safe than sorry.

Five of my grandchildren call me Nanna, four call me Nanni, one - my eldest grandson - called me Nanny from the moment he could speak. I remember one friend, on becoming a grandmother, shuddering at the thought of being called Nanny. "How dreadful!" she tutted. I kept quiet - but hugged inside me the sweet joy of a tiny two year old introducing me to his friends: "This is Nanny," he explained matter of factly. "Hello, Nanny!" his friends all responded cheerfully.

In more recent years I have become a kind of adopted grandmother to the young members of the Limelight Theatre Group of which grandchildren Jack and Hazel were founder members. They call me "Nanna Baldwin" despite the indisputable fact that my surname isn't Baldwin. Similarly the Darling Daughter in Law tells me I am an honorary Welsh Nanna, despite the fact that I was born and bred in England. You could say that I'm an Extremely Adaptable Grandmother.

Adaptability is a Splendid Trait in a grandmother especially when the age-range of your grandchildren stretches from nineteen months to nineteen years. It takes considerable skill, you know, to switch your conversation from the might of dinosaurs to the joys of clubbing, while taking in a bit of PokemonGo along the way. There is, too, a balance to be struck between trying to be too trendy - and sounding like something out of the Dark Ages. I rather think I may teeter on the tightrope of acceptable grandmotherly behaviour from time to time - but my grandchildren are far too tolerant of me to point this out.

When Sue first heard she was going to be a grandmother, she asked my advice on how to handle such immense responsibility. I said all I ever wanted was for my grandchildren to know me - and to know that I loved them. I could, on reflection, have put it far more simply by borrowing the words of The Beatles:

"All you need is love."

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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