Jaqui's Daily Blog

Mr B has new wheels! Whoop! Whoop! I hear you chorus.


A sleek Jag, you are maybe thinking, just the ticket for a man of considerable style. Or something racy, perhaps. An MG? Or a power car, like a BMW whatever series we’re up to these days - I wouldn't know, myself, because my Grand Old Lady is now 14 years old and pieces of trim keep falling off her.


I am so very sorry to disappoint you, dear readers, but Mr B’s new carriage is a Super Duper wheelchair which arrived in a downpour of rain this morning, delivered by a lovely, smiley man who took enormous trouble to explain the workings of this exciting new toy.


The Super Duper wheelchair - don't worry, I'm sure I'll be naming it soon enough - is self-propelled. This means that, once Mr B gets the hang of it, I won't have to push him around anymore. This, I tell him encouragingly, will be amazingly liberating for both of us. He will be able to wheel himself over to the patio doors to check on my progress tidying up the garden for winter, planting daffodil bulbs and winter pansies. He will be able to pour dire misgivings on my plan to grow Charlotte potatoes in our veggie trough, in time for Christmas. I’ve never grown my own potatoes for Christmas dinner - this will be a “first”, I trill. Mr B looks doubtful. Moreover he will be able to scoff at my new Children’s Garden, planted in a faded toy truck which used to be our son’s pride and joy when he was a toddler. Maybe, now I come to think about it, Mr B should wheel himself somewhere else?


How about the kitchen? He could help wash up or peel the potatoes for dinner, I suggest, winningly. Mr B is unconvinced that this will be either amazing or liberating. However he does manage to negotiate his way into the kitchen, through several doors, with consummate skill. When I congratulate him on his expertise he reminds me, witheringly, that he is not a woman driver. Mr B is not exactly what you would call politically correct…


It is probably true to say that I am rather more excited by Mr B’s new wheels than he is. Except that it is gradually dawning on me that I now need to reorganise the furniture in our living room to make his progress around the house easier. You may be thinking that's no big deal but you haven't seen the “stuff” carefully hidden, out of sight and out of mind, behind the sofa and the armchairs. Books I am going to read now that I have my brand new reading glasses but which have been piling up, enticingly, in one corner. Along with several yellow files, waiting for me to organise my paperwork, a collection of DVDs begging to be watched, my knitting bag with Projects in The Making spilling out if it, on account of the fact that the zip has got caught up in a ball of pink cotton and now can't be closed.


It's all too much, don't you know? Especially as I am still in the middle of clearing out all the kitchen drawers so that the next time I am visited by the Three Rampaging Rascals they will find nothing in the least bit dangerous therein. They will be SO disappointed…


Not so Mr B. It may take time but I reckon he will be Well Up For It, once he realises that he is going to be able to check up on what I'm up to, in the garden, the kitchen or wherever.


Have wheels, will travel…


I have heard - and I reckon you have too - of choirs which raise the roof with the power of their singing. Much as I love our Singing For Pleasure choir, which meets every Friday morning at the Heene Community Centre, I had never imagined we might be able to do likewise.


Yet, when we returned last Friday after our summer break, something was different. The low ceiling which our Conductor, the Redoubtable Muriel, often blamed for our failure to hit all the right notes, especially in the right order, had been removed, exposing a lofty roof, complete with beautiful beams. I'm not sure we actually can take any credit for raising the roof but the roof has, most definitely, been raised. What difference will it make, we wonder? And, most importantly, what will Muriel have to say about it?


I happened to meet one of the Heene Centre’s Board of Trustees at our Trustee Club event on Thursday and was quick to congratulate her on the transformation. “What does Muriel say about it?” she asked, a worried look upon her face. I didn't realise that Muriel’s opinions were so highly valued / feared - outside we choir members, you understand - but it seems the Board of Trustees has been waiting, with bated breath, for Muriel’s reactions on the raising of the roof. Not for nothing is Our Muriel Redoubtable. 


For what it's worth, I happen to think our musical renditions sound so very much better now. When I say “our”, I am talking collectively, you understand, rather than personally as I suspect it would take more than the removal of a ceiling to make me sound less like a Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Muriel is surprisingly non-committal though she does comment that there is quite an echo effect going on. This may, I consider, be helpful for some of the songs in our extensive (if somewhat aged) repertoire where echoes are mandatory, rather than optional. 


We have had quite a long break, from the middle of July to the middle of September, so it's not surprising that we have forgotten some of the songs we have learnt more recently. We floundered our way through the Hungarian Folk Song, for example. “We made a right goulash out of that!” muttered Terry behind me. Made me laugh…


Every time I leave home for choir on Friday, Mr B asks me to “sing one for me”, adding, dourly: “Preferably a Scottish one…” You may deduce from this that Mr B has a particular affection for Scottish songs but you would be very, very wrong. His unfavourite song is “There’s nae look aboot the hoose” but he’s not choosy. Mr B, of course, used to be a member of the men’s section of our choir, where he was renowned for his performance as Harry Hawke (or ‘Arry ‘Awke in his best Somerset) in “Old Uncle Tom Cobleigh”.


There's a bit of a row brewing in the choir about a proposal from the U3A Committee that all those of us who meet in a hall should pay £1 a session for the privilege. Our convenor, Myra, points out that we would be better, financially, if we declared UDI and set up outside the auspices of the parent organisation. Feelings are running high. I do love a good argument. A vote is being taken - it's going to be like the EU Referendum all over again with nobody knowing, exactly, whether it's better to have won or lost. I've lost my voting slip, it's lodged somewhere in my desk diary along with the 2017/18 recycling calendar, the Birthday List and the letter from the GP inviting me for a shingles vaccination. If I fail to vote, someone tells me, censoriously, I will be assumed to have voted in favour. In favour of what, I am not quite sure, not having read the accompanying paper properly. 


On the way out of the hall, I share with the two fellow choristers following me out how much I like our new raised ceiling. They say, sorrowfully, that it's not so good for the hard of hearing - the singing is fine, they concede, but conversation is difficult owing to the echo effect. I am chastened to think I hadn't considered that.


Raising the roof may have suited me - but for my hard of hearing friends I fear it has been, well, goulash…

Mr B and I decide to take a trip to the local pub for lunch. Or, rather, I decided and Mr B, somewhat surprisingly, was Up For It. I did have an ulterior motive, to be honest, because I need to be at the new Trustee Club at 5 p.m. ready to introduce the first in a series of Master Classes to help local trustees ensure their governance arrangements are up to scratch. Lunch at the pub means that I won't have to worry about preparing an evening meal for Mr B before I go out - which would be way too early. Or when I return which would be - yes, you've guessed it - way too late.


It's ages since we last visited The Golden Lion which is our local of choice, based partly on the cheapness of its fare but, even more importantly, on its accessibility. Plus the presence of lots of bar-leaning fellas who always, but always, are ready to lend a hand when it comes to opening doors, shifting chairs and moving out of the way of the Grandadmobile - though the latter is probably mostly in the interests of self-preservation.


Our last visit, accompanied by grandson Jack, was a bit of a disappointment on account of the fact that we were all seduced by the idea of a ridiculously cheap steak meal. As Mr B commented later, you get what you pay for where steak is concerned. Our favourite table was also taken up by a solitary chap nursing a pint of bitter so we couldn't sit there - Mr B said I should have asked the fella to move but, really, it's not the Done Thing, now is it? I mean, this morning on the Pulse bus travelling into town, a man asked a fellow passenger to move his shopping bag out of the luggage bay so that he could perch there - you should have heard the tutting from others on the bus at his sheer temerity. 


I remember, fondly, the days when a trip to the pub meant nothing more energetic than a saunter down the road and back. Now it's a military operation involving driving the Grandadmobile out of the garage, setting the portable ramps in place at the front door, pushing Mr B’s wheelchair down the ramps and into the front garden, helping him transfer from wheelchair to mobility scooter, then removing the ramps until our return home - when we will have to go through the whole process again but in reverse. You have to really, really want to take a trip out…


Once we are seated at “our” table, we can look around and take note of the fact that the customary Thursday frequenters of The Golden Lion are out in force. The guys from the Indoor Bowls Club have taken possession of their usual table over in one corner and are engaged in heated conversation, probably on Bowls Related topics though we are too far away for even my long ears to eavesdrop satisfactorily. A party of Ladies Who Lunch are seated in cosy companionship at a round table just across the way from us. There's lots of chatter in the air.


Mr B and I talk about Family Matters. About the Youngest of the Darling Daughters’ plans to give me a weekend away with my sister and brother in law while she and her husband take over the care of Mr B. We are both looking forward to it. About how much Jack and husband girlfriend Zoë seem to have enjoyed the views over London from the top of The Shard. About Our Rascal falling ill after just three days at “Giant School.” We even talk about Christmas, for heaven’s sake. 


Mr B predicts, gloomily, that it will rain on our way home. It doesn't. I am pleased, indeed, that Someone Up There is looking out for us. Okay, it does start to rain soon after we arrive back which means I will doubtless get very wet waiting in the rain for the Pulse bus to transport me to my evening meeting - but, hey, I’ll settle for that.


On the way home, Mr B spots a menu board outside a local café advertising liver and bacon. If they will allow us to re-arrange the tables so we can get the Grandadmobile inside, then he reckons we should try it next time we feel like eating out. We pick up a menu from a table outside so that he can peruse it at his leisure. Just in case there is something even more appealing than liver and bacon on offer.


The way to Mr B’s heart is obviously through food. While I, as you all know by now, am Always Thinking About My Stomach. 


We are so well suited, Mr B and I. Stomachs United!

The Youngest of the Darling Daughters arrives for our latest Theatre Date. Usually we enjoy lunch before we take our seats in our Theatre of Choice but this time we have booked an evening performance at Brighton’s historic Theatre Royal - so instead we enjoy a home- cooked sausage casserole, prepared with my own fair hands (though my daughter did chop the onions, so sparing my tears.)


We consult Google Maps and synchronise our watches. We need to leave just after 6 p.m. we agree. Mr B says he will be perfectly happy in our absence, given that he will be able to watch the latest instalment of Doctor Foster without me interrupting with what I would call pertinent, but he would describe as ridiculous comments on who is doing what, to whom and why. If you have ever watched Doctor Foster (she never seems to actually examine a patient - honestly, it really is that realistic) you will understand what I mean.


We are off to see Driving Miss Daisy starring the legends that are Dame Siân Phillips and Derek Griffiths. The Youngest of the Darling Daughters remembers the latter from Play School - he has such a lot to live up to…


However, my dear daughter has first to drive me to our destination. Honestly, Driving Miss Daisy was an absolute doddle compared with driving me through the congested streets of Brighton. “I really don't like this!” she despairs, as we find ourselves trapped behind yet another bus or lorry, trying to follow the instructions meted out by a dispassionate voice on Google Maps who never once apologises for leading us astray. 


Mr B, at his most righteous, will tell us later that he told us to take the seafront route, on the basis that we will, at least, know where we are going. I can't remember this helpful advice but that's not to say he didn't proffer it. Why, oh why, didn't I hear him? 


One torrid drive later we park up in a nearly empty car park where a notice tells us that three hours’ parking will cost us £15. We are too weary - and too grateful to have arrived in time - to protest too much. The theatre is just around the corner and we have superb seats - third row back and centrally placed. It is sad, we feel, that the theatre is only about a third full - we contemplate, silently, that we could have turned up on the night and claimed tickets for half the price we paid.


The Youngest of the Darling Daughters has a preference for musical theatre but is perfectly happy to watch a play - though she admits she can't quite get used to the fact that nobody bursts into song at important moments. Driving Miss Daisy is funny, thought-provoking and deeply poignant, especially in the final scene where I sit in Row C, seat 6, grizzling away, the Usher Gene in full flow. I hope if I ever live to be 92, someone will feed me Thanksgiving Pie (or its British equivalent) with just as much love as one-time chauffeur Hoke showed Miss Daisy.


Returning to the car park, we are delighted to discover that the evening charge is just £5. Fantastic! We will return home via the sea-front, we say - but Fate (aka Google Maps) intervenes and we find ourselves, to paraphrase Robert Frost, on the Road Most Travelled By. Which makes all the difference, as Mr Frost would rightly say. My daughter introduces me, courtesy of the car’s CD player, to the song which closes the first half of the musical Dear Evan Hansen. So very uplifting, we agree. We almost always agree on such important issues, my youngest daughter and I. Not to mention the little issues…


I love driving with this daughter of mine. In Days Past, with two littl’uns (now all grown up) in the back seat, we progressed through animal songs, to the hits of McFly, to the Best of the Musicals. We have driven to ballet exams, swimming lessons and various exciting Days Out. I will always be grateful and glad to be invited to sit there in her front passenger seat.


But next time, we'll take the seafront route..

Saturday was a Day of Two Birthdays. One of the Birthday Boys was celebrating his 80th birthday, the other his 9th. No difference between them, then - because both are very, very special to me.


My Boy, father of the Middle of the (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys, messaged me to say that, down there in Deepest Wales (well, okay, in Cardiff) Young James was about to open his presents. If I cared to FaceTime them, they would sit Mr B and me at one end of the dining room table (virtually speaking) so that we could witness the fun. I'm just out of the shower, I messaged back, can you give me ten minutes? 


Answer came there none - except that a few minutes later, FaceTime was calling me. The Great Present Opening Ceremony simply couldn't wait for me to dry my hair. I could see myself on the corner of the screen, all wet and bedraggled. Fortunately I long gave up the Sin of Vanity as a bad job so I soon forget about my alarming appearance, being carried away by the thrill of being part of the celebration. 


The Welsh Contingent have an exciting birthday weekend ahead of them, what with swimming and white water rafting. “Sadly,” confides Young Morgan, aka The Duracell Bunny, “I'm not allowed to do that…” I express my regret, despite the fact that you couldn't get me anywhere near  white water, raft or not, if you paid me. 


My thoughts return throughout the day to the fun my young Birthday Lad and his friends will be enjoying - though I do have other Birthday Related Activity to keep me occupied. Some time after 1 p.m. my brother Tony, his wife, daughter and son-in-law will be arriving, as will my Little Sister, Maggie, and her fella, Baz. It was Tony’s 80th birthday on Thursday and my sister and I are determined to help him celebrate in style. 


We have been concocting our plans as if for a military operation. We kept messaging and telephoning each other to share progress. My responsibilities (aside from hosting the occasion) included the crafting of the traditional birthday banner - Tony is 80, it reads, what else? - the cooking of the beef stew with herby dumplings (I forgot to add the herbs so we had to make do with herbless dumplings. Nobody seemed to mind / notice / care two hoots), the sourcing of an appropriate gift and a bottle of champagne. My sister had the rather more glamorous jobs - the making of her legendary pavlova for our dessert; the baking of a magnificent birthday cake; and providing the birthday balloon and a packet of table tinsel. She apologised, in advance, for the fact that I will be sweeping up sparkly “80” tinsel for weeks, if not months to come. I am not bothered, I tell her, it will remind me of this special occasion.


Everything goes splendidly; the Birthday Boy seems thrilled with each surprise, even the chocolate champagne bottle with the slightly melted top. Yes, we did have the real thing too. We talk about Times Gone By when we were littl’uns and I tell my brother how it wasn't until I grew up that I realised how very seriously he took his role as the Eldest Child. He nods, solemnly. Not for nothing, I congratulate myself, the inscription under the “New Arrivals” section of the framed 1937 poster we have given him: “Tony Usher - the best of big brothers.”


My niece’s husband, Mark, proves himself ace at transferring Mr B from armchair to wheelchair and vice-versa. Could I possibly keep him? I ask my lovely niece who explains, regretfully, that she still has need of him. Ah, well, you can't blame me for trying…


We crack open the fizz. We turn down the lights and my sister carries in her fabulous cake, decorated with candles and chocolate buttons iced with our brother’s name. His real name is Leonard but hardly anyone ever calls him that. Everyone chuckles at my story of being sent on an errand from the Infant School to the Junior School: “I didn't know you were Leonard’s sister,” the teacher said. To which I replied, gormlessly: “Neither did I!”


After our guests have departed, my sister and her fella insist on helping to clear up. They are determined not to leave me with any mess. Well, apart from the sparkly tinsel, that is.


We FaceTime the other Birthday Boy so that Maggie and Baz can sing Happy Birthday to him in their own, special, deliberately tuneless manner. I think he is, well, impressed. Sort of.


At the end of a truly splendid day, I feel confident in saying that a great time was had by all.


After all, why celebrate one birthday, when you could celebrate two?

Latest comments

03.07 | 22:43

Wouldn't have missed it for the world. xx

12.06 | 02:31

I love that you talk to your plants ... I used to on my allotment ... seemed perfectly rational !

05.06 | 22:01

Sounds like a perfect day Jacqui, happy birthday for tomorrow, love Val xx

07.12 | 15:48

what details have you got on your mysterious Wilde?

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