Jaqui's Daily Blog

Going into town to collect my new specs is a Journey of Discovery.

What's that all about? I hear you ask. Surely I didn't pay out all those pennies without knowing exactly what I was buying? The truth, sadly, is - well, sort of...

The thing is that I am so very, very short-sighted that when trying out samples from the magnificent displays before me in Specsavers (other opticians are, of course, available) I can't actually see what the specs really look like, perched on my nose, until I come to collect them. That's when the new lenses will have been fitted, allowing me to discover, for the first time, whether I have made A Good Choice.

This time around I was seduced by a silvery frame. Partly this was the subtle influence of a magazine which I perused in the waiting area while awaiting my eye test. In one article, an elegant woman of about my age was extolling the qualities of silver to enhance one's skin tone, disguising wrinkles (aka laughter lines) with its soft sheen. There and then I decided I should have Some Of That.

This is not to admit that my skin is in need of enhancement. I mean, it may well be but in our home there is a Distinct Dearth of mirrors, a fact often despaired of by visiting daughters and granddaughters. I didn't actually realise that my face was becoming wrinkled until one day, some years ago now, when Katie my eldest granddaughter (then aged about seven) stroked my face lovingly and asked: "Why do you have stripes on your face?"

So, dear reader, I went for silver. It wasn't until I was seated in the area allocated for Specs Collection that I allowed myself a moment of doubt. I had pushed it to the back of my mind by the time the member of staff returned bearing aloft my new specs. "They're just PERFECT for Christmas!" she exclaimed. I am seriously concerned that I have opted for the spectacles version of a silver, sparkly bauble...

Okay, they are not that bad. Not really...

After all, I remember by myself, it took me months to accept my last pair of specs which were a little larger, a little more boring than I had thought they would be. The process of acceptance was reminiscent of that Almost Love Song from the musical My Fair Lady which starts: "I've grown accustomed to her face..." I love that song. It's the principle that love grows, that simply becoming accustomed to someone isn't something to be decried but something to be celebrated.

My lovely friend Delia has, like me, just collected her new specs. They frame her face perfectly. She clearly didn't allow herself to be Seduced By Silver

What of me?

Well, two days in and I've grown accustomed to my face...


Possibly influenced by a decided chill in the air this morning, I set to work sorting out my winter woolies from my summer shorts and shirts. It never occurred to me that, as a direct result, Mr B and I would spend the afternoon wallowing.

Not that there is anything wrong with a good wallow. I am reminded of that fabulous Flanders and Swann song about the hippopotamus and his mate wallowing in "mud, glorious mud." So much pleasure. Such clever rhymes. "Follow me, follow / down to the hollow / and there let us wallow / in glorious mud!" Okay so those are not among the cleverest but they may serve as a taster.

You are wondering, I can tell, what Mr B and I were doing playing at being hippopotami (excellent use of the plural, don't you agree?) wading through the Sticky Stuff. The fact is that you are taking this hippopotamus stuff way, way too literally. This is the Daily Blog, remember. It doesn't pretend to be logical.

Well, anyway, there I was in our bedroom transferring all my clothes from the drawers in the fitted wardrobe and depositing them in three piles on the carpet. The three piles were labelled (though only in my head) (i) winter; (ii) summer; and (iii) charity shop. Into the third pile went everything I didn't think I would ever wear again. Unfortunately I kept changing my mind about the contents of this pile, mostly on account of the number of Tee-shirts With A Special Meaning.

Here are the tee-shirts from the 2014 and 2015 Summer Reading Challenges. They never really suited me but I can't possibly discard them. Then there's the Open Business School Year of '95 tee-shirt, with my name (somewhere) on the back. The Banana Slug tee-shirt, reminding me of a fantastic Business Exchange trip to California in the year 2000. My Dozey Cow tee-shirt - my daughters actually asked my friend Lorna to use the design - an appropriately dozey-looking black and white cow - on a birthday cake for a Big Birthday. "You're my dearest friend," she wailed when she presented me with my Cow-Themed cake, "I wanted to make you such a beautiful cake!"

The tee-shirt with the most poignant memory was one produced for an event I organised years and years ago called Together We Can, bringing together people with disabilities and the organisations which could help them. On the front of each tee-shirt, a series of three pictures signing the words Together We Can. There I was in Littlehampton town centre, wearing my tee-shirt and encouraging shoppers to visit our exhibition in the nearby Tamarisk Centre, when a little lass in a wheelchair smiled up at me and spoke to me in sign language. She mistakenly thought, given the message in my tee-shirt, that I would understand her. I was humbled beyond measure.

I stow away all my summer clothes in one of the drawers under the spare bed in our front room. Come the first Signs of Summer 2017 and I will think about donning tee-shirt and shorts - and I am willing to wager that I will have completely forgotten where I stowed them for the duration of Winter Woollies.

Having cleared out the drawers containing clothes, I was on a roll. Until there, in the topmost drawer (the contents of which could best be described as "miscellaneous" ) I came across a DVD marked "Ruby Wedding DVD." Excitedly I carried it downstairs to Mr B.

Ten years ago! An amazing Ruby Wedding Party. Everyone looks so young. The Darling Daughter in Law - whose birthday, coincidentally, is today - was seven months pregnant with our fifth grandchild. The four eldest grandchildren, who ten years later will provide an emotionally-charged performance of Already Home at our Golden Wedding, star in "When Brian Met Jaqui" - a surprisingly accurate version of our early days considering that none of those responsible for it, including the Production Team, were alive at the time.

We wallow in the memories, Mr B and I. So much joy, so much fun, so many special moments.

There's one particular moment. Mr B and I are dancing (badly - I have no sense of rhythm) together when our three little granddaughters, after a whispered consultation, join hands and dance around us, holding us close in what some country singer, once upon a time, called The Circle of Love.

And so we wallow. Unashamedly.

<p>Let me set the scene:</p> <p><br />The Eldest of the Darling Daughters arrives with her family for what she believes will be a low-key celebration of her forthcoming 50th birthday with Mr B and me. One week early, the first of many fun-filled BirthdAy-Related Events. - but, as I always say, why have one birthday celebration when you could have, well, several?</p> <p><br />Out in the garden, enjoying the late October sunshine, the surprise guests. The remaining Darling Daughters who can generally be relied upon to behave themselves in company. Plus Our Rascal and The Twinkles, who generally cannot. As surprise guests go, our party had everything.</p> <p><br />Katie and Elle, daughters of the Birthday Girl, almost gave the game away when they saw their mum selecting a bottle of champagne from the fridge at home to bring with her. "Will one bottle be enough?" Katie enquired, before remembering that, as far as the Most Important Member of the Party was concerned, one bottle would certainly be enough. "I think I got away with it.." my granddaughter confessed later.</p> <p><br />While waiting for the arrival of the Birthday Party, Rascal and The Twinkles make themselves at home in the back garden, unpacking the box of toys which I had hauled out of the garage and exploring the flower beds, drawn by the colourful windmills still whizzing around in the breeze. All but one of the windmills, I am pleased to report, survived their attentions.</p> <p><br />"Surprise! Surprise!" we all yell, like Cilla Black in manic overdrive, as the Birthday Girl arrives. "Hope you don't mind your day being noisier than you bargained for?!" It was, I think it safe to say, a rhetorical question.</p> <p><br />Champagne corks pop, bringing a comment from our next door neighbour on the other side of the fence where he was also entertaining. We would like to have shared our champagne, in the interests of neighbourliness, but we weren't sure if it would stretch that far.</p> <p><br />The Twinkles aren't the only twins enjoying the sunshine in the back garden. Nestled among the wispy branches of the tamarisk tree, two enchanting baby collared doves. Young Faris is enraptured, continually visiting the tree throughout the afternoon and begging to be allowed to hold one. For hold, read squash? his mother suggests. You can have too much love. If you're a baby dove, that is.</p> <p><br />A birthday banner in red and gold letters; a meal of Madras beef curry cooked by my own Fair Hand, a chocoholic birthday cake - extra gifts for a Darling Daughter. Plus a keepsake present which gave Mr B and me so much pleasure in the planning and design of it. It is a heart shaped print made up of words and phrases summing up our eldest daughter. Katie and Elle particularly like the inclusion of the words "brave" and "sporty", witness (had we but known it) to their mother's unfortunate and painful encounter with a gravel court while playing netball last week. I think she is pretty amazing to still be playing competitive netball at the age of fifty (minus one week.)</p> <p><br />Mr B's favourite words are "very special." I'd originally suggested "special" but for Mr B that wasn't good enough. When our Anne was born she was the very first person he had known who was his own flesh and blood, having been adopted as a baby. Very special, indeed.</p> <p>"Good friend to many." "Wonderful mother". "Darling Daughter." "Always there for us." Coming up with the most appropriate words and phrases carried us pleasurably back through the years since she was born, one chilly October morning in the bedroom of our ground floor flat in Uxbridge. "Just like a skinned rabbit!" my friend and next door neighbour's father commented - and I was so incensed for she was my first born, my pride and my delight.</p> <p><br />Yes, that was my favourite phrase, of the many we chose with such care to describe our beautiful, clever, determined daughter.</p> <p><br />First born. So very special.</p>

I don't think I can be blamed for thinking that someone in the railworkers' union has hacked into my desk diary, ascertained all the dates when I am planning to let a train take the strain (anyone else remember that advert?) and organised rail strikes accordingly.

Even as I write, I have to admit, most humbly, that my inconvenience is as nothing compared to that of many poor souls known to me who rely on trains to get them to and from work. Really I shouldn't be complaining at all. But of course, being only too human, I am.

Yesterday was the long-arranged date for our Merry Band of Questers to pay a "behind the scenes" visit to Chichester Cathedral. Most of the fifty plus of us who signed up for this trip planned to go by train - until the news of the pending rail strike. This left my friend Shirley, who was organising the trip, with the unenviable task of arranging lifts for everyone without the necessary wheels to get to Chichester. As one who has organised many a Questers trip and so know full well the logistical nightmare involved in matching willing car drivers to would-be passengers, the least I could do was to offer to put my Grand Old Lady and myself at her service - and that of my passengers, Carol, Mary and Julie.

So far, so good - until Mary telephoned to warn me that the long stay car park where I had intended to park was closed for something called the Sloe Fair. This would mean, it went without saying, that all the other car parks in the city centre would be chock-a-block. Just my luck. The Sloe Fair, I am reliably ably informed, is a mega funfair. As it is, therefore, all about amusement and merriment, I feel inclined to forgiveness, whatever the inconvenience.

In such circumstances, I always find, it is best to set forth with sunny optimism that Everything Will Turn Out Alright. This is the complete opposite of Mr B's approach to potential problems which is to Always Imagine The Worst. It is a long-held theory of mine that everybody in the world more or less fits into one category or another.

Mr B avows that his approach means one is always prepared for any eventuality. Then if the Worst of one's fertile imagination does not come to pass, there is a wonderful sense of relief. My argument is that this involves fruitless hours of worry, possibly over nothing at all. Whereas I say that, if all turns out well, then the worry has been for nothing while if the worst comes to the worst, well it will just have to be dealt with anyway. I hope you are following all this, it being another manifestation of the glass full / glass empty debate. But without glasses, of course.

Mary, Carol and Julie all met up at Julie's house so that I only had one pick-up point - which was both kind and thoughtful of them. Into the car they piled, waving aside my apologies for the fact that I had failed to give my Grand Old Lady a bit of a spring clean in anticipation of carrying passengers and off we went.

What a merry crew we were! Mary was on a mission to lobby the Powers that Be over a list of improvements to our home town so we spent most of the journey putting the world to rights. Or at last, that small part if the world where we live. So excited were we by the prospects that I'd forgotten all about the potential parking problems until we drove into the city to find lots of notices declaring, bossily: "Car Park Full". No worries, I cried, heading for the only other car park I was pretty sure I could actually find. My passengers clearly trusted me implicitly.

And, lo and behold, as we drove into the car park, there, right near the entrance, a solitary parking space. Optimism rewarded! We had arrived, parked safely and still had time for a reviving cup of coffee (all that putting the world to rights was thirsty work, don't you know?)

Oh, yes, the Cathedral! I know it quite well but this was a "behind the scenes" visit, you remember, taking us up into areas not usually open to the public. I mean, quite literally, up. The Song Room where the thirteen young choristers and thirteen adults who make up the Cathedral's renowned choir, practise, was reached via forty-two uneven and winding steps. So, too, the Library with its collection of ancient documents which we itched to touch but, we Questers being generally law-abiding souls, we didn't.

The library, we were told, was an addition to the building after a fire in the twelfth century ripped through the wooden roof of the previous structure. The source of the fire, would you believe, was the annual Sloe Fair, a celebration lasting several days in the twelfth century and still a local event in 2016. Way back then it almost destroyed a Cathedral; today it's still causing havoc though fortunately these are only Parking-Related Problems.

On second thoughts I rather feel the Sloe Fair has a lot to answer for...

My attention is drawn to a piece of A4 paper affixed to the wall in the Reference Section of our local Library. I have trailed upstairs to see if Emma, worthy project manager of the Military Voices project which has absorbed so much of my time this year, has another recording on disc awaiting my transcription.

To get to the Reference Section I had to pass through the foyer where a great hum of chatter could be heard from what I understand is called the Knit & Natter Club. Libraries have changed out of all recognition from those musty places where any conversation above a whisper was frowned upon and dealt with severely by a stern librarian. Mind you, I do know many people who regret the passing of time - and particularly the passing of Quiet Time, which is increasingly difficult to come by in these Chattering Days.

The members of the Knit & Natter Club were in fine voice and appeared to be having a lovely time. They were seated at two long tables, each one wielding knitting needles and multi-coloured balls of wool. No, no, no - the tables weren't wielding knitting needles, don't be silly. It was the members of the club who were all wound up in wool and knitting needles - and looking extremely happy into the bargain. I would have been tempted to join them except that (i) I didn't have my knitting with me and (ii) I had a prior date for coffee and a chat in The Happy Teapot.

I love The Happy Teapot. Even though I always order coffee there. The Happy Coffee Pot wouldn't have the same ring about it, would it? Teapots, after all, are so round and, well, cheery, especially when topped by a knitted tea cosy. The walls of The Happy Teapot are festooned with inspirational quotes inscribed on pieces of wood, slate or something similar. A new one caught my eye thus morning; it read: "No Rain - No Rainbows." I shall remember that next time I am caught in a metaphorical downpour - or even a real one.

Anyway, I digress. For which I make no apology (or maybe just a token one) on the grounds that digression is what the Daily Blog is all about. The chances of me keeping on one subject throughout are about as great as the Knit & Natter group taking up carpentry or The Happy Teapot adopting a minimalist approach to interior design.

You may recall that today's blog started with an A4 piece of paper on the wall of the Reference Section of the local Library which attracted my attention. Written on said piece of paper was the "Word of the Week", courtesy of that peerless contributor to our native tongue, the Oxford English Dictionary. This week's word is the totally delicious "footle."

Footle means to mess about aimlessly, to engage in fruitless activity, to linger and loiter without intent, to potter. I love it. I'm thinking of re-naming my blog The Daily Footle. Except that I'm not sure if footle can be used as a noun as well as a verb.

I am presuming that the whole idea of having a "Word of the Week" is to encourage its use in everyday life. As always, I am more than ready for the challenge. Starting right now.

"Good morning?" Mr B enquired as soon as he hears my key in the door, my step on the door-mat. "Anything to report?"

Usually I am much more forthcoming but today I have my answer ready:

"Just footling around!" I say.


Latest comments

04.10 | 07:06

If it's still there at the weekend I will be selling the tooth on eBay with plastic case.

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

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