Jaqui's Daily Blog

We had formed a kind of production line at long tables set up all along the church aisle and manufacture was in full swing. I hadn’t known, when I set off for church as usual on Sunday morning, that I would find myself sitting at a trestle table, juggling small wooden figures, paper bags, sellotape and small chocolate figures of You Know Who. 


We were a captive audience as, if we chose to stay for a cup of coffee and a biscuit after the morning service (and, obviously, as one who is Always Thinking About Her Stomach I would always be one of the first in the queue at the coffee machine) we were honour bound to drink it (or, in the case of the biscuit, munch it) while sitting at a table as part of the Nativity Production Line.


As part of a forthcoming Festival of Nativities, the plan is to make every child visiting the church a gift of a wooden nativity scene. They will have to assemble the nativity themselves so inside the gift bag they will find (i) a base; (ii) a manger; (iii) a Joseph; (iv) a Mary; and (v) a donkey. Hence my job, and that of my fellows, was to take a pack containing the wherewithal for three nativity scenes, and divide the wooden pieces into three sets before filling gift bags and sealing them with sellotape. Always remembering to include a small chocolate Santa figure in each bag. 


All along the table could be heard calls for help:


“Does anybody have a spare donkey?”


“This packet only has two mangers, I’m one short!” And my favourite:


“I seem to have two Josephs and only one Mary!”


One of the issues is that it is extremely difficult to differentiate between Joseph and Mary except that Joseph is very slightly taller. Though even that is not easy to see, considering both wooden figures are kneeling down...


I don’t have too much time to play with as I have promised Mr B he can expect me back by 11.45 a.m. I have, moreover, written it on his whiteboard and, as regular readers know, there is no arguing with a whiteboard. Had I known in advance that I would be required on Important Nativity Related Business, then I would have stretched my projected absence to 12 noon but, as it was, I was on Borrowed Time.


How many gift bags could I fill, I wondered, in the twenty minutes at my disposal? Compared with the rest of my family, I am not in the least competitive - but present me with a challenge, as in how many bags can I fill with donkeys, mangers, Josephs and Marys, and I am On Fire. Not literally, obviously, but you should have seen my fingers flying. I was fortunate in having a helper who took on the fiddly task of sealing all the bags with sellotape. Had I had to apply the Sticky Stuff, I reckon my productivity would have dipped alarmingly.


I felt quite guilty quitting the production line at a little before 11.45 a.m. especially when my Sellotape Helper accused me of “chickening out” but I did feel as if, in the time allowed, I had done my level best.


On the way home my thoughts turned to my dear friend Steph who organised several Nativity Festivals, the last of them only months before she died, far too early, far too young, still so much missed. Her favourite exhibit was a miniature nativity scene carved inside a real walnut. It was so very beautiful, so detailed, so, well, tiny...


Now that would have been a real Sunday Morning Challenge.


It’s the Middle of the Darling Daughters’ birthday today - and she is feeling Proper Poorly. Which is extremely unfair as I am sure everyone who has ever had to take to his / her bed with a hot water bottle on their birthday, instead of partying till the early hours, will surely agree.


She phoned me this afternoon to tell me not to phone her, as she would still be in bed, hopefully asleep. I was at my monthly cribbage group (though we were taking a short break for coffee and some of Delia’s delicious biscuits so I didn’t have to interrupt play. Like rain.) It was pure luck that I actually heard my mobile phone ringing from the depths of my handbag. Mr B complains that I never answer my phone, especially when he is calling me. I tend to respond by asking him how that can be when these days he never, ever phones me. He says he has given up phoning me because I never, ever answer. This is one of those arguments which goes on and on, round and round, never reaching a satisfactory conclusion.


When I hear that it is the Birthday Girl on the the other end of the phone, I ask my cribbage buddies to join me in singing Happy Birthday which, bless them, they do with gusto. If you are thinking that it was quite rash of me to make such a request, you have to remember that otherwise I would have had to sing all on my own, with everyone round the table gazing at me, mystified. My daughter seemed pleased with our rousing chorus, saying it was the first rendition of Happy Birthday to which she had been treated all day. 


The Rascally Trio, in case you are wondering, were all downstairs in Daddydaycare and almost certainly being so well behaved that you, my regular readers, wouldn’t recognise them. Daddydaycare believes that Rules Is Rules. Yes, I know, it’s ungrammatical in the extreme, but Rules Are Rules, while grammatically correct, doesn’t have the same ring of authenticity about it.


The Trio are always extremely well-behaved when their father is in charge. There is no Rampaging of the type that occurs when they visit their Grandad and me. I suspect this is because while there is (loosely speaking) such a thing as Nanni’s Rules, all three Rascals know that Nanni’s Rules are breakable and that the miscreants will always be loved and forgiven in the usual way. Nevertheless when you are in bed, feeling Perfectly Horrid, it is doubtless much better to know that peace and quiet reigns downstairs.


I still remember one particular birthday when I, like my daughter today, was Proper Poorly. We were out in Florida, staying in a place called Pleasure Island on the Gulf of Mexico and some Americans we had met at our hotel had recommended for my birthday lunch a restaurant famous for its fish dishes. My dish of mussels was delicious, indeed - but I ended up with a bad case of food poisoning and spent the rest of my birthday feeling thoroughly miserable and wanting to go home. Not a single mussel has passed my lips since that fateful day...


I am just glad that we were able to provide the Birthday Girl with an early celebration on Saturday. When she looks back on this year’s anniversary, hopefully that is what she will remember.


That and the Cribbage Chorus, of course. 


There were strange goings-on in the kitchen yesterday.


We were celebrating the birthday of the Middle of the Darling Daughters. Okay, we were a few days early but that means she will be able to celebrate all over again on Tuesday. And, as I always say, why have one birthday celebration, when you could have two? Or, in the case of my lovely brother-in-law, Baz, who will be seventy tomorrow, several...


The Youngest of the Darling Daughters was staying for a couple of days so was able to help me with the most important of preparations. Such as pinning up a birthday banner over the front door (“I’m not sure how long it will stay up,” she warned me, nursing the sore thumbs with which she had pushed the drawing pins into place) and dressing the Giant Penguin for his chilly wait on the door-step. She also suggested we try to remove from view anything which might suffer from the attentions of the Rascally Trio though, to be honest, that was always going to be an impossible task. Rather, we thought, we would take them all out for a walk along the prom, prom, prom before the skies darkened, to run off some of their quite fearsome energy.


The Rascals had had the same idea. Could we please go to the Lido, they clamoured, and play on the slot machines? Such a bad influence I have turned out to be - plus a forgetful one, completely failing to remember that our last visit ended in tears. Still it was a bit chilly to be out on the seafront for too long, so the Lido it was where Young Faris approached the task of mastering the Art of Tipping with a keen, forensic eye, unlike Lilia ( aka Contrary Lil) who seemed to be engaged in her own personal challenge of disposing of her pounds-worth of twopenny pieces as quickly as possible.


She did, however, win a lollipop which was promptly confiscated by her mamma, who has heard several alarming stories from other mothers who have had to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre to dislodge lollies from their little ones’ choking throats. The fella at the kiosk was happy to exchange the lollipop for a unicorn key-ring for Lilia before unexpectedly producing a second unicorn for her twin: “I have twins, too!” he explained, knowingly. It was, indeed, an Act of Random Unicorn Related Kindness.


There were a few tears when we left but they were soon dried as the Trio set to the task of collecting stones from the beach to be decorated when we arrived back at our house as “presents for Mummy.” For some reason it was my youngest daughter and I who were charged with carrying  fists and pockets full of stones back to our parked car. The actual decoration of the stones kept the Trio gainfully occupied while their tea was being prepared and I’m sure their mother will be delighted with her present once she recovers from the fact that the party bag in which they were wrapped fell apart as she picked it up, depositing several of the very largest stones on her big toe...  


Those of you who have been paying attention may now be wondering what happened in the kitchen. After all, that was how today’s blog started, you are thinking. Thank you for waiting, is all I can say.


Out in the kitchen was the birthday cake I had lovingly baked and decorated. I was quite proud of it, though I say so myself as shouldn’t (as my dear mum would doubtless chide me.) As I was sitting in the living room, warming up with a mug of coffee, the Twins came running in, taking me by the hands and dragging me off to the kitchen to “come and see what we’ve done!” They had, it transpired, turned their own hands to cake decorating, inserting giant chocolate buttons into the icing on top of the cake so that it resembled a kind of round hedgehog. It was, I assured them, amazing. With their brother we added those birthday candles which spell out Happy Birthday before I returned to the living room and my coffee.


Some time later, after they had eaten tea, it was Time for Cake so off we went, the Trio and I, to light the candles while the Youngest of the Darling Daughters placed herself in charge of Turning Off the Lights. This was when I discovered that Persons Unknown had rearranged the candles on top of the cake so that it now read “Pry hab pithy da”. It would have been rude to rearrange, I felt, so we lit the candles anyway and between the four of us ceremoniously carried the cake into the living room in a kind of crab-like shuffle. We reached the Birthday Girl on the last note of Happy Birthday but before she could take breath ready to blow out her candles, all three Rascals blew in unison. The candles flickered valiantly under attack but were soon extinguished. Predictable, according to the Trio’s mamma...


It’s always fun when the Trio come to visit and never more so when there is something special to celebrate. As for their mother, all I can say is “Pry hab pithy da” to you, my darling girl. You know it makes (kind of) sense...


There is nothing quite like the feeling of accomplishment when one has completed a whole number of tasks on the never ending “To Do” list. When I say “one”, I am talking about myself, of course, but if you are also feeling quietly accomplished, like me, then I am really pleased for you.


We are only three days Into this week but I have already booked the annual service of our home security system; had my double oven cleaned; taken delivery of (i) all our Christmas cards and (ii) the Middle of the Darling Daughters’ birthday present; ordered labels to be affixed to said Christmas cards, once I have managed to get round to writing them; and requested a larger recycling bin from the local council. I have been to the dentist where the hygienist praised me for my More Rigorous Use of a Toothbrush; had my regular B12 injection to gee me up; and ordered and taken possession of a new Ambiturn to replace the old one on which the brakes appeared to be failing with the potential of consequent risk to Mr B’s health and safety. I have also made an excellent start on the long job of rehanging pictures on our walls which have remained startlingly blank since we decorated quite a few years ago.


If you have been concentrating (and I don’t blame you at all if you have allowed your mind to wander) then it might just occur to you that almost all the alleged accomplishments listed above are generally down to the hard work of A N Other while I have done little that is more strenuous than lifting the telephone to my ear and pressing a few buttons.


So the fact that my double ovens (why have one oven, when you could have two?) are shiny clean owes nothing to me but everything to the fella who toiled over them so assiduously yesterday afternoon. It’s the postman I have to thank for delivering my parcels, and cheery chappie from the NRS Community Equipment service who ensured Mr B’s future safety by arriving on the doorstep with a new Ambiturn this morning, collecting the old one without complaint . It was a nurse who gave me my regular injection and - if I am being completely honest (which, as you know, the Daily Blog always tries to be) - it was my new electric toothbrush which deserved the hygienist’s praise. You wouldn’t believe the difference in power between my old toothbrush and my new one. 


How about the recycling bin, you ask, surely that was an accomplishment arranging for a larger receptacle for all our recyclables? What you don’t know is that it’s Him Next Door who kindly wheels out our bins (refuse one week, recycling the next) on the due morning each week as he sets off for work. On recycling week, the poor man has had to deal with a full bin plus an overflow of materials into any number of additional boxes. It seemed the very least I could do to simplify the process, given that my gratitude - like my recycling bin - runs over.


Hanging the pictures? That is the kind of accomplishment which makes a real, very visible difference - surely I can be proud of that? Except that it was the Really Rather Wonderful Kay (who helps me keep my house in order) who suggested I let her loose with hammer and nails. All I had to do was to wander around trying to decide which picture should be hung where - then indicating the rough position with my index finger. Kay, being a bit of a perfectionist, took this as an indication rather than an exact position and carefully measured each wall to ensure each picture was centrally sited.


In the end I decided to ask Mr B for his opinion on whether I could count any of these activities as “accomplishments.” And here I must apologise sincerely and profusely to any of the several people who have been helping me get things done. I hope you all know how much I appreciate / respect / love (please delete as you feel appropriate ) your efforts on my behalf. So here’s what Mr B said, somewhat predictably:


“Why have a dog and bark yourself?”

The little lad in the doctor’s waiting room is the chatty type. Indeed, his mother confides that he never, ever shuts up (her words, not mine.)


Me, I like Chatty People on the whole - provided they occasionally allow me to get a word in edgeways. I like to think I am a good listener but even the best listener finds it difficult to keep schtum all the time. This afternoon was a case in point when the guy who came to clean my oven (I know, I know, I am very lazy) poured out his heart to me. Not being (or aspiring to be) an Agony Aunt, I simply didn’t know how to steer him towards the job in hand, as in, the cleaning of my oven, and away from the difficulties in his personal life. “Shall I make you a cup of coffee?”I interjected as he finally paused for breath - but it turned out he had brought a flask along....


Anyway, I digress - let’s go back to the doctor’s waiting room where I am, well, waiting and filling in the time by chatting to the little lad sitting across the room from me. Then, in the midst of our somewhat one-sided conversation (my new best friend does most of the talking, having rather more to say for himself than I) we are interrupted by the arrival of a mobility scooter, expertly driven by a rather splendid elderly fella with curly, grey, springy hair reaching down below his shoulders. 


My small pal clearly feels the new arrival will be a more interesting conversationalist than I have so far proved to be so he turns his attention to the newcomer. “Why are you driving that?” he demands. Most of the occupants of the waiting room look up from their mobile phones to listen to the answer...


The Splendid Gent eyes the Inquisitive One impassively, then replies seriously: “Because I can!”


And in those three short words he catapults me back seven and a half years to the day I retired from work, cantering off the corporate carousel and declaring to everyone who cared to listen that my new mantra, by which I would shape my days as a Lady of Leisure, was “Because I Can!” I even wrote out a list of all the places I would go and the people I would visit in the days stretching out, seemingly endlessly, in front of me.


Life, as it happens, doesn’t always turn out the way you think it will and Mr B’s failing health over the last six years or so has threatened to turn “because I can” into “sorry, I can’t.” Very few of the ideas on my list of people and places have been ticked off, even though it was, to be honest, a fairly modest little list. I sit in the waiting room feeling just a little bit sorry for myself...


You will be pleased to hear that I quickly pulled myself together, reminding myself sternly that being sorry for oneself is Not A Good Look. Besides, think of all the things I can -and do - enjoy...


I can still do my best to create a little bit of magic when the younger grandchildren come to visit - for example, the Rascally Trio are coming this weekend and will want to check on the well-being of the Flowerpot People since I consigned them to the back garden. (The Flowerpot People, not the Trio, don’t be silly.) I can still enjoy the company of the older grandchildren, especially when they remind me and their Grandad of all the fun we have had over the years.


I can take a precious hour or two out to sing in the choir, to attempt new crafty stuff, to try to win at cribbage, to ramble through beautiful countryside with my binoculars trained, unseeing, on the trees where the birds twitter audibly at my inability to spot them without help from my fellow birders. Thanks to so many kind and caring friends I can manage the occasional longer outing and three or four times a year, with the help of a live-in carer, I manage a weekend away where I spend my time sleeping in late of a morning and being royally looked after by one of my Foursome.


I can sit with Mr B in the evenings watching TV and enjoying a glass of wine just like in the Old Days. We can laugh over the comedies, puzzle over the crime dramas, pretend to be antiques experts, challenge ourselves to become millionaires, and kid ourselves we might try to improve the plating up of our dinners as we watch Masterchef Australia. 


Life is what you make it, somebody very wise once said. So very true, that is, and all the more so if, like me, you do your best to do whatever it is you do with joy.


Because I can...

Latest comments

13.11 | 09:24

As I rapidly approach retirement I'm glad I just read this. Sound words!

25.09 | 13:00


25.09 | 12:59

Not helpful at all was trying to teach my daughter how to do it and was dreadful

12.08 | 09:53

Very nice, really i appreciate....well done.

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