Jaqui's Daily Blog


It's the Flu Jab Clinic at our GP surgery this morning! Never let it be said that Mr B and I don't lead interesting lives...

We are in "Pink Clinic", an allocation to which Mr B has taken instant objection on the grounds that pink is "girly". I advise him that flu does not recognise gender differences and suggest he just puts up with it but he still makes sure to ask the receptionist whose idea it was to put him in Pink Clinic. The receptionist, sensibly, smiles but doesn't venture an answer. To be honest, I don't think he was expecting one; it wasn't exactly a rhetorical question but it was very nearly so.

A couple of years ago, when we first decided to make an excursion of our annual flu jabs, the GP surgery was decked out in colourful bunting, decorated with pictures of nasty flu bug characters with manic grins on their faces as they surveyed the prospects of getting stuck in to all those forgetful people unprotected by The Jab. Today the surgery is bunting-less and nowhere near as jolly. I can only imagine that the member of staff responsible for decorations has moved on, possibly to another doctor's surgery which is benefiting from her / his innate sense of interior design.

This is what happens when people move on from jobs where they have Made Their Mark. Inevitably they take something with them - knowledge, experience, skill. Or in my friend Ian's case a large crest which at one time graced the Civic Centre where we both worked for more than 25 years. He didn't, I hasten to add, steal it at dead of night as a memento of his years of service. It was actually presented to him at his leaving "do" having been removed during refurbishment of the building and being surplus to requirements.

This week I finally discovered what Ian had done with this unusual gift. It now adorns the front of a quite remarkable tree house which his son Christopher has built in the back garden, a uniquely exciting playhouse for the enjoyment of Ian and wife Sallie's grandchildren.

We have now decided that the Tree House needs to be incorporated into the Council's Emergency Plan (every Council must have one. An Emergency Plan, that is, not a Tree House. Not every local authority is as lucky as that.) Should disaster engulf the Civic Centre in the shape of flood, fire or lightning strike, then the whole staff cohort would have to be rehoused to the Tree House in Ian's back garden. It already sports the Council coat of arms, what more could anyone want?

Back at the GP surgery, flights of fancy are few and far between. Mr B and I join a short queue to see one of the two nurses administering The Jab. I am shown into one treatment room, Mr B into the room next door. My nurse is not messing about: "Are you well today? Are you allergic to anything? Have you ever had an adverse reaction to a flu jab before?" No sooner have I shaken my head for the third time than the needle is plunged into my arm. Job - and jab - done.

I can hear Mr B being asked the same questions next door. Was he allergic to anything? "Only my wife!" jokes the gallant Mr B. He never misses a chance to raise a laugh, usually at my expense. I hear the nurse tell him that he had better hope she won't tell me what he had said. Mr B was unconcerned; meeting me in the corridor outside, he recounts the whole episode while the nurse looks on, presumably interested to see my reaction.

I remind my fella that I am cooking his dinner tonight so he should be very, very careful. I can see the Nurse storing this information away - if Mr B reports in on Monday with signs of poisoning, she will be able to bear witness to One Who May Have Had A Just Cause.

Of course, in the event of an emergency (in the form of an Avenging Angel in an Apron), Mr B can always take refuge in the Tree House...

Mr B and I are reading together Bill Bryson's book "A Walk in the Woods". It's about a long excursion taken by Our Bill and his mate, Katz, along the Appalachian Trail which stretches over 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine. We only read a couple of chapters at a time (I read, Mr B listens) because it's so, so wearying, just tramping along the trail, even if only in our imagination.

I am reminded of watching the film "Lawrence of Arabia" at the cinema before we were married. It was such a long film that there was a break half way through. You should have seen the run on the drinks and ice-cream, everyone was gasping for ice and water after so long living the desert life with Peter O'Toole.

I love books that swallow you up, making you live the life as it were. Even if it means finding yourself grubby, smelly and with only noodles to eat on the Appalachian Trail. "Shall we have a Bit of Bill?" I ask Mr B every day. He always says yes. Generally I reckon it is better to "have a Bit of Bill" after lunch. It's not a good idea, I have found, to set out for a Walk in the Woods on an empty stomach. Over the past few months, we have organised the 2012 Olympic Games with Seb Coe ("Shall we have a Bit of Seb?"); beaten World records with Steve Ovett ("Shall we have a Bit of Steve?"); and time travelled back to 1927, again in the company of Mr Bryson ("Shall we have...?" ) I'm sure you get the message.

We think once we have reached the end of the Appalachian Trail - which, at two chapters a day, will take us about ten days in all - we should organise a trip to the cinema to see the film. Robert Redford plays Bill and Nick Nolte is Katz. I imagine every fella of a certain age, finding themselves featuring in a film of their life, would choose to be portrayed by Robert Redford. Even though he must be a lot more grizzled than he was when, guns blazing and accompanied by the equally splendid Paul Newman, he charged out into an ambush at the end of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" to be freeze-framed for eternity. Robert Redford is actually ten years older than I am and even older than Bill Bryson - but I doubt if Our Bill was too bothered when told which famous actor would be immortalising his journey on the cinema screen.

I check out local cinemas but it seems we may have Missed Our Moment. Mr B says not to worry, he will order the DVD from the Amazon Jungle as soon as it is released and we can watch from the comfort of our arm-chairs. It's not quite the Jolly Trip Out I was imagining but I suppose it will save some pennies.

I remember reading Bill Bryson's "Notes From A Small Island" years ago on a beach in some foreign Holiday Land. I was chortling away somewhat loudly to Mr B's (i) embarrassment and (ii) annoyance; I was, he complained, drawing unwelcome attention to myself. Tables were turned when we exchanged books later in the holiday and Mr B found himself beset by involuntary guffawing and consequently (as I took pleasure in pointing out) "drawing attention to himself".

On a Business Exchange Trip to California in 2000, Mr B and I were driven by our host, the Inestimable Wally, all the way from San Francisco to Alamein and back. We enlivened the journey by listening to Bryson's "Down Under" on the car's cassette recorder (remember them?) Travelling through America listening to tales from Australia was both highly entertaining and somewhat disorientating.

Bill Bryson has a new book out. It's called "The Road to Little Dribbling" and Mr B and I can't wait to read it because apparently it includes Our Bill's description of his travels on the 700 Coastliner bus which travels between Brighton and Portsmouth, with our home town of Worthing along its route. Mr B and I once travelled on the Coastliner between Worthing and Chichester, a journey of such tortuous length that Mr B ( as in, my Mr B, not Mr Bryson) has threatened to divorce me, should I ever make him join me on the 700 again.

We can't wait to read what Our Bill makes of it.

My own Mr B could certainly write a book about it. It would probably be a horror story...

The first person I saw as I dawdled into the Children's Library yesterday was David. He greeted me like a long lost pal.

We only see each other for seven weeks a year, for the duration of the Summer Reading Challenge but, despite the great difference in our age - David being decidedly young and I having reached a Great Age, we have grown quite fond of each other over the last four years.

How had he enjoyed this year's Record Breakers theme? I asked him, as we helped ourselves to orange squash and a Celebrations chocolate. Or two. It had been pretty good, he conceded, in fact a whole lot of fun, as per usual. Especially bearing in mind the fact that I had talked him into it.

That is so true. David is the only person who has been volunteering on the annual Summer Reading Challenge longer than I have. This was his fifth consecutive year on the Challenge and my fourth. Last year he said he was going to hang up his boots, figuratively speaking, but I knew, in my heart of hearts, that he would regret it if he bowed out. I can be very persuasive when I set my mind to it. This year, however, David's mind is made up. 2015 will be his Very Last Year.

About twenty of us were gathered in the library for a Celebration Event organised by the Children's Librarian, the unfailingly cheerful Frances, and her cohorts Laura and Becca, to thank us for volunteering. Hence the orange squash and tin of Celebrations chocolates. There were biscuits, too, but I was very good and withstood the temptation. I could almost hear my dear Mum's voice in my ear, warning me: "You'll spoil your dinner!"

I looked around to see who else was there. Some of the youngsters I didn't recognise as they had volunteered at other local libraries but there, waving at me from the other side of the room, was Poppy in her uniform, obviously having come straight from school. Emily came to sit next to David and me, and there was Tashi in the row in front. No sign of Imogen, whispered David. I craned my neck but, indeed, there was no sign of Imogen.

Frances kicked off proceedings with some facts and figures. David and Emily both smirked at me: they know how much I love the statistics. Why else would I while away any quiet times on the Record Breakers desk adding up the number of "finishers" and arriving at complicated projections of the final total based on the books read by each child and the weeks remaining?


I could have just waited for Frances to inform us that a staggering 13,000 children across the whole county of West Sussex had taken part in the Challenge, almost 1000 of these registering at the Worthing Library where I was based. Over 50% completed the Challenge by reading six books over the course of the summer holidays. Four hundred young people - and yours truly - volunteered to help listen to the littl'uns tell us about the books they had read in return for amazing rewards. Like smelly stickers.


After this our certificates were presented. One lassie had totted up an amazing 72 hours. I was all admiration. Poppy had volunteered for 49 hours. I caught David looking at his certificate: could he really give all this up? I asked. He ignored me. Politely.


Next, a surprise. Frances invited us all to help ourselves to Record Breakers' medals and glow in the dark wristbands. "Wow!" I told David, "Now that must be worth a Second Chance." Or even a Sixth Chance, in David's case. We had given the wristbands out to every youngster who signed up for the Challenge. "I understand," I told every child I signed up, "that they glow in the dark...." Except that they don't. I tried mine out in the darkness of the front bedroom when I arrived home after the Celebration Event. I do hate finding out that I have unintentionally peddled a Great Big Lie.


Frances let us into a secret. The theme of next year's Summer Reading Challenge. We have all been sworn to secrecy so my lips are sealed but I could see that David was almost as excited as over-excited me. It's going to be amazing!


"So, who thinks they will be volunteering for next year's Summer Reading Challenge?" Frances asked us. I am pretty sure that my hand shot up before anyone else. I looked at David. David looked at me.

Then, very, very slowly - and, yes, a little tentatively - David raised his hand In the air...


Little things please little minds, or so they say. Which is probably why this morning I found myself getting extremely excited about a - tablecloth.

My meeting at the office of Voluntary Action Worthing (VAW) was due to start at 10 a.m. which meant catching the 9.30 Pulse bus. This would not normally have presented me with a problem except that, when I rolled downstairs this morning, Mr B greeted me with the most welcome news that he had, after all, been able to record the first episode of Masterchef Australia. When the Middle of the Darling Daughters texted me yesterday to inform me that one of our favourite cookery programmes was once again on the starting line, I didn't read her message until the first episode was well and truly over. This is a consequence of not being a teenager and so not being totally wedded to my mobile phone, as in stringing it on a chain around my neck or tucking it in my breast pocket so that I pick up every text just as soon as it pings into my message box.

Mr B, however, came to the rescue by searching out a repeat broadcast and recording it. Which was excellent news but meant that, instead of getting ready to go out, I settled down to watch the "top fifty amateur cooks in Australia" battle to make it through to the last 24. If it wasn't for the timely interruption of the gasman, returning to fit a bracket on an external pipe (the need for which four previous gasmen had completely failed to identify) I would have been still sitting there in my comfy armchair, sobbing away, when the Pulse bus sailed round the corner without me.

Incidentally, if you are wondering about the sobbing, I have to explain that when it comes to tugging on the heart-strings, Masterchef Australia is in the same league as "Long Lost Family." I am a Sucker for the Sob Story - it's all down to the Usher Gene. Regular readers, especially those similarly afflicted / blessed with the aforesaid gene, will be nodding knowledgeably.

I made it to the meeting right on time, despite calling in at the Fabric Shop for wool, polyester filling (for the stuffing of Christmas toys as yet unmade) and buttons. On the counter, a pattern for Frozen fancy dress costumes - it will be two years before The Twinkles are old enough to wear even the smallest size but at £2.80, this looked like a bargain to me. It also didn't exactly look like a "sweet and simple" pattern but I am bound to get better with practice between now and 2017. I imagine Frozen won't have melted into oblivion by then?

We only had half an hour to go through the "crib sheet" of planning for the AGM but fortunately we are all fast talkers. It's going to be an amazing, inspiring event, showcasing all that is best about the voluntary and community sector in Worthing. What's more, we have a tablecloth! Lucy and Cath unrolled it to show me it in all its splendour. It's white with the logo of Voluntary Action Worthing emblazoned on the front and it is to grace the top table where I will sit to chair proceedings. I will feel grand. Lucy is a little worried about our tablecloth getting dirty as, although it does come with laundry instructions, she is not too sure how it will survive washing. Nobody, but nobody, is to be allowed to drink red wine while sitting at the top table, she says. Do you think she means me?

So there you have it. Our new tablecloth has already given me a warm and fuzzy feeling of wellbeing and it hasn't even been laid across a table yet. Mind you, if you think I am thrilled to bits with a tablecloth then you haven't seen how frantically excited the Masterchef contestants are at the mere prospect of receiving a white apron with an "m" for Masterchef embroidered upon it. Oh, the glee! The ecstasy! The hugging of spouses, parents and assorted children who have been waiting in the wings to hear whether the "signature dish" has been good enough to merit the award of an apron.

There are a few subtle differences. Only one Masterchef contestant will still be wearing the white apron, come the end of the competition. Our tablecloth, by contrast, has longevity written all over it.

Or it would have if there was room on it, given the amount of space taken up by our logo and the words "Voluntary Action Worthing."

It is unlikely in the extreme that I would ever find myself wearing a white Masterchef apron.

But show me a table and I'll have it covered...


I have always loved the moon.

As children, my Foursome were accustomed to me pointing out a beautiful crescent moon or a stunning full-sized variety. I still do it now and - mostly - they humour me. It has, therefore, been good to find that a large percentage of the country has joined the Moon Appreciation Society, thanks to the Super Moon phenomenon in the early hours of this morning.

I think my own tender feelings towards the moon hark back to childhood. My dear Dad used to tell me that, during the long war years when he was out in the deserts of North Africa with the Eighth Army, he used to write home to my Mum reminding her to look out at the moon every night. Because it was the same moon they would be gazing on, however far apart they might be.

The night my lovely Mum died there was a full moon hanging so low in the sky that driving home from work I felt as if I was driving right into it. I didn't know, as I drove towards it, wondering at its beauty, what I would wake up to the next morning - but in later days it comforted me to think that the splendid moon was lighting my Mum's way home.

Mr B and I decided that we needed to see the Lunar Eclipse and Super Moon. After all, this serendipitous juxtapositioning of Heavenly Activity will not occur again until 2033 and who knows whether we will still be around to bear witness. The last occurrence was in 1982 and I like to think that we were excitedly training our eyes heavenwards way back then but the truth is I can't remember. We must have been. Mustn't we?

Inevitably much discussion was needed around how we would wake up in time. Mr B said he was sure to be up anyway at three in the morning. He is Sleepless in Worthing. I was just as sure that I wouldn't. We could have set the alarm clock but then we would almost certainly forget to re-set it, meaning that we would be woken up at 2.30 a.m. every morning for at least the next week. I checked the night sky before I repaired to my bed and it looked as clear as my windows will be once the window cleaner has called next Thursday afternoon.

At precisely 2.17 a.m. I awoke from dreams of moon-ships and astronauts. Mr B, hearing me moving about upstairs, called up to ask if I wanted to see the moon. Indeed, I did.

Downstairs Mr B had the patio doors wide open, all the better to see the show. I hastily pulled on shoes and my red coat (yes, my polar bear dressing gown would have been warmer but I'd have to trek all the way upstairs again and I didn't want to miss anything.)

As it happened - and as you will know if you, too, were up moon-gazing - the actual eclipse took its time. I made us mugs of decaffeinated coffee for us to sip as the Earth's shadow moved against the face of the moon. It was, if truth be told, a little spooky.

I understand why Man wanted to challenge himself to capture the Moon but at a time like this morning, I rather wished we hadn't, that we had left it to its mysteries and the possibility of being inhabited by the Clangers. Yes, indeed,we watched with bated breath in 1969 as Neil Armstrong climbed down from the lunar module and spoke the very first words from the Moon. "What did he say?" we asked each other, straining our ears to hear properly. Something about small steps and giant steps? Now, all these years afterwards, everyone knows exactly what Neil the Moon-Man said at that most historic of moments. Fortunately somebody was listening properly.


We watched, companionably, as the last sliver of moonlight disappeared into the shadow, as the moon turned red and the hundreds of stars splashed across the night sky, applauded silently. Oh, the stars! What a starry, starry night, it was!

I didn't wake up until nine o'clock this morning. I might have stayed in bed longer but the gasman was coming to service our fire and boiler. He phoned me while I was still eating my Weetabix, to say he was about ten minutes away, having just completed his first job of the day. He sounded extremely chirpy. I can't imagine he stayed up until four in the morning to watch the moon's incredible performance.

Mr B shows me the newspaper which reports that, according to the superstitious, a Supermoon can cause temporary insanity.

Guilty as charged! I'm Mad About The Moon...

Latest comments

31.07 | 11:57

Wow! Sounds wonderful

16.07 | 06:31

How they are going to laugh and enjoy these wonderful blogs. Nanny you will be with them for ever! C

17.03 | 22:51

How lovely Jacqui

12.02 | 22:18

Eat all day at Bill's sounds just the ticket!

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