Jaqui's Daily Blog

New York! New York!


Granddaughter Hazel Bagel is busy sampling all the delights of the Big Apple even as I write. She posts a night scene on Facebook with the caption: "I never want to leave!" Her mother, who started missing her even before her plane took off, responds plaintively: "Please do!" The house must be so, so quiet without Our Hazel.

For those of you who only know of Hazel through the Daily Blog, you should know that she is one of those people whose absence would never, ever pass unnoticed. I won't say she's loud, but...Oh, okay then, she's loud. But very, very lovely with it. Loud and lovely - everyone should have a granddaughter like Hazel.

I can't remember school trips like this when I was Hazel's age. In fact the only one I can recall with any degree of certainty was a coach trip to Verulanium - which sounds exotic enough until you twig that Verulanium was the Roman name for St Albans. Now I have nothing at all against St Albans, past or present, but it isn't exactly New York, wouldn't you agree?

Hazel's trip is rather bitter-sweet for Mr B and me as we have recently had to cancel, on health grounds, our own planned holiday in New York to celebrate your Golden Wedding in June this year. Still, our granddaughter has come to the rescue. She has agreed to act as our own official Virtual Travel Guide, providing us with photographs and a running commentary on all the places we had planned to visit and doubtless a few more besides. We have handed over all the guide books we purchased to plan our visit to help keep her on our track. A quick scan of her itinerary suggests that she will be visiting most, if not all, of the places on our "To See" list.

Our requirement for a photographic record will possibly tax our TripAdvisor who generally captures any event / trip / experience through a series of "selfies", many note-worthy for the way the subjects strike extravagant poses and contort their faces into ghastly grimaces. If we are lucky we might spot the Statue of Liberty in the background.

Mr B and I still laugh about a photographic experience in beautiful Paris with our American friend Wally in the year 2000. After admiring the Eiffel Tower we asked a passing Frenchman if he would mind taking a photo of us. He was happy to oblige so we arranged ourselves in a friendly group, grinning into the camera lens. Then: "Do you want the tower in the background?" the Obliging One asked, perfectly seriously. We tried very hard to respond in like fashion; his wife, however, was doubled up with laughter.

It's become a Family Joke now. As we pose in front of a castle, a stately home, an ancient ruin - one of us will surely ask the other: "Do you want the castle / house / Stonehenge (or similar) in the background?" Like all the best Family Jokes, it always makes us laugh. Also like all the best Family Jokes, not everyone will realise we are joking and will think we really are that deluded.

The first several photos from our Travel Guide have arrived and I have misjudged her. There among the inevitable selfies are some great views of the Big Apple at its most appetising. We can't wait for the next instalment.

If we can't be there ourselves, Our Hazel will be there for us. She will walk where we would have walked; wonder at all the sights we would have wondered at; enjoy all the experiences we would have enjoyed. She will laugh where we would have laughed - and weep where we would have wept. She will crick her neck gazing up at the skyscrapers. She will sing along at a Broadway show. Just as we would have done.

Through and with Our Hazel - Travel Guide Extraordinaire - we will live our Lost Holiday.


Mr B is most insistent that he wants to attend this afternoon's U3A monthly meeting. So much so that I am under strict instructions to gain permission to leave my Military Voices training session a little early so that we can arrive at our meeting in plenty of time.

Last month I was late home from wherever I was spending the morning, which meant that we could not secure (i) a handy parking space at the very entrance to the hall or (ii) a seat on the aisle, four, or at most five, rows back from the front. (My main worry about such a very prominent position is that if Mr B should happen to fall asleep momentarily, the speaker may catch sight of him and be put off his / her stride. Mr B has no such qualms - he will, he says, only be "resting his eyes...")

The thing is, I do know what it is like as a speaker to look up and realise that you have sent some of your listeners to sleep. It happened to me once when I was asked to address a retired businessmen's club. First came the three course lunch, with wine a-plenty. I mention this in partial self-defence though my subject matter was, I fear, as dry as the pre-lunch sherry. I watched in horror as a couple of elderly gents dropped, gently, off to sleep a mere five minutes in to my talk. Don't worry, someone whispered, they never stay awake...

So why, you ask (trying to get me back to the point, no doubt) was Mr B so keen to take his (preferred) seat in St Mary's Church Hall this afternoon? Well, it might just have had something to do with the title of our speaker's talk: My Life as a Playboy Bunny. Mr B was all agog. However much she rabbited on, he was determined to be all ears.

First I had to locate the refreshments for him - a cup of coffee and a cheese straw. I thought Mr B would be so pleased with his cheese straw but later, at home, he expressed a view that in future he would prefer a jammie dodger. It just goes to show that you can live with someone for close on fifty years and still get it wrong occasionally.

Refreshments over, we were warmly welcomed by our Esteemed Chairman, Avril, who reminded us all that we should have bought lemons today, it being Shrove Tuesday, known to many as Pancake Day. Mr B looked over at me sitting by his side, a question mark in his eyes. I shook a reluctant head before whispering guiltily: "We can always call in at the garage on the way home...." Mollified, he turned back to the Main Action - our speaker. "Do you reckon she really was a Bunny Girl?" Delia, who was sitting the other side of me, wanted to know. I really, really hoped so or Mr B would go home a Disappointed Man. And it might take more than a pancake to cheer him up.

Regular readers will remember me writing about my use of props when telling a story to the two and three year olds at Young Faris's pre-school Playgroup last week. My props included two crowns (one for the king, one for the queen); a Princess doll; Doodles the dog (who had escaped from quite another story); a pink unicorn; Fireman Sam; a knitted nurse; and some castanets. I was interested to note that our Erstwhile Bunny Girl - for, oh yes, she was the Real Thing, Bunny Bianca no less, bunny ears and all - adopted the same approach. I do have to admit that her props were much, much more interesting than mine.

Her actual bunny ears! Her red velvet croupier's uniform! Her cuff-links embossed with the Playboy Bunny logo! Her service awards presented each year by the Bunny Mother! The Bunny Mother's job, incidentally, was to check that every Bunny Girl was perfectly dressed - white bobtail fluffed up, false eye-lashes carefully applied. Any wardrobe malfunction would see money docked from a Bunny's pay packet. If this sounds harsh, in other ways the company did well by its employees with a non-contributory pension scheme and an enlightened approach to maternity leave and returning to work.

One of the fascinating items circulated was the training book for the course on which trainee croupiers were introduced to the rules of roulette. My favourite, however, was a bank note produced by the Bank of Larry Hagman, he of Dallas fame. On the front the inscription "This bank note is not worth the paper it is printed on"; on the reverse "In Hagman We Trust". Larry Hagman was one of Bunny Bianca's favourite visitors to the gambling tables.

Back in the Seventies, the record for winnings on a single day was £750,000 - think what that's worth in today's money. The biggest loss was a staggering £450,000. Did Bunny Bianca feel sorry for the big losers? someone at the front asked. Our Bunny didn't hesitate. Not at all, she said, they all had more money than sense. Mr B, who has more sense than money, nodded sagely.

The speaker at next month's meeting is talking about English Country Lanes. I fear that, where Mr B is concerned, Bunny Bianca may be A Hard Act To Follow.

Storm Imogen is currently wreaking havoc across our area. Doubtless sooner or later she will blow herself out, run out of steam, or whatever else storms named Imogen do and make way, at some so far unidentified time for a new storm brewing.

Mr B is convinced that Imogen's successor will be named after me. Storm Jackie / Jacky / Jacqui / Jaqui will be a Force to a Reckon With. Don't take my word for it, just listen to Mr B...

I think it is only on recent months that we have started naming our storms. We took our leaf, of course, from America where every self-respecting hurricane has had its own moniker for ever so long. I'm not sure it's a good idea, this Naming of Storms - and this from one who is well-known in the family for naming everything, from cars to Christmas turkeys. The whole family remembers Tonka the Turkey for his massive girth. No, I can't remember what he tasted like but I am sure he was delicious and Did Not Die In Vain.

When the Youngest of the Darling Daughters was travelling Australia on a year out between University and the World of Work, she spent Christmas on a sunny beach. We read her letter home out loud on Christmas morning, every one of us in tears till we came to her post-script: "What's the turkey called this year!?" Cue much laughter. Despite the tears still running down our cheeks.

I found myself in real trouble the year I named the birds in the Eldest of the Darling Daughters. Well how was I to know that the very morning after the christening, a marauding cat would send one feathered friend to the Great Nest in the Sky. "He was my lucky bird!" wailed grand-daughter Eleanor. Some bird. Some luck.

Anyway, enough of birds. Let's get back onto safer ground - like storms and hurricanes.

At Ieast my name would be a fitting one for a storm. It means "the Conqueror". Enough to strike dread into any weather forecaster's heart. Imogen, incidentally, just means "maiden." I don't want to upset any Imogens who may be reading this but, really, as a name for a storm Imogen simply doesn't cut the mustard.

What can you expect of the Man at the Met Office responsible for the names of the storms so far? I seem to remember commenting at length in a previous Daily Blog on Storm Barney - naming a storm after a purple dinosaur is Just Plain Wrong.

I discussed the Naming of Storms over the lamb chops and Lincolnshire sausages with our local butcher. I'm not sure how we got onto the subject but possibly it was because I noticed the shop awning was tucked away for safety against the Imogen threat. The butcher said he didn't think the next storm would be called any variation of my name because he had read that, in the interests of gender equality, storms were given female and male names in turn.

Clearly I had to check this out and, guess what, the public has apparently voted on their favourite stormy titles. Maybe you already knew that? How did such an important piece of meteorological information pass me by? Why didn't someone tell me? What's more it seems likely that the next storm will be named - Jake.

Yes that's right, Jake - also known as one of the four Tweenies, the others being Fizz, Bella and Milo. The Tweenies who, with their dog Doodles, have been much beloved of pre-schoolers.

Not content with misappropriating my favourite purple dinosaur, the Met Office has now plundered The Tweenies. Are there any depths to which it will not sink?

All I can say is: look out for Storm Teletubby.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.



The problem with a reputation is that it goes before you. It colours people's perceptions of who you are, what you do and what drives you...

Take Young Faris, our very own Rampaging Rascal, and the Case of the Missing Car Keys. Yes, indeed, the keys in question were mine. Who else's did you reckon? Whose Daily Blog is this anyway? However, let me get back to the point (though so when did that ever bother me, I distinctly heard someone mutter...)

There is nothing I enjoy more than time with a Darling Daughter or a Long-suffering Son. One or other of them will always be there for me, their Errant Mother. They will think up small, but important, ways to let me know they are looking out for me. The loan of a book from the Eldest of the Darling Daughters ("not sure about it, but look forward to hearing what you think!"); advice on the renegotiation of my Sky package by My Boy at the appropriate time; the a bi-monthly lunch and theatre date with the Youngest Darling Daughter (Aw, Billy Elliott - we sat companionably in the Dress Circle with tears streaming down our cheeks); the fact that when the Middle Daughter transports me anywhere in her car, she always, but always, turns on the heated front passenger seat. By these gestures, a mother knows that she is Truly Loved.

Staying overnight with the M of the DDs after my Billy Elliott trip, my car keys inexplicably disappeared. It was a good thing, indeed, that I was travelling home by train. I am ashamed to admit it crossed my mind that the Rascal probably had something to do with their disappearance. In my defence, he had enjoyed tipping out the contents of my handbag and secreting a few odd pennies in the back pocket of his trousers. That is, however, absolutely no excuse for Jumping to Conclusions.

The Rascal's mother turned over the house from top to bottom. No keys. She asked the Rascal if he knew where they were. He didn't. Which is where reputation comes in, with its blind assumptions. Keys Missing. Rascal. Put two and two together and make half a dozen. Well, maths was never my strongest subject; it came from being put up a whole year in Infants School on account of my reading ability with no thought given to my inability to make sense of numbers. My reputation, you see, had let me down.

The Middle of the Darling Daughters said that generally if Faris had hidden something he knew very well where it was. I am always incredibly impressed by her ability not only to recognise every expression on her little son's face but to screw up her own face in a passable imitation to demonstrate. Such is love, don't you agree, to be able to read a Rascal so completely that you know if he is proud, or excited, or worried. Or whether he has, in fact, hidden his Nanni's car keys...

Talking of reputations, as part of our New Year's Resolution to make life easier for ourselves, we have embraced on-line grocery delivery. Every Saturday evening I receive a text telling me who will be delivering my order and - note this - which van they will be driving. So far my groceries have been delivered by Piotr in Onion van, Roger in Cabbage van, Tony also in Cabbage van, Said in Lemon van, Mohamed also in Lemon can, Warren in Apple van and finally, today, John in Onion van. I can't vouch for the vans, whether fruit or vegetable, because it's always been too dark when they've pulled up outside our house. But Piotr, Roger, Tony, Daid, Mohamed, Warren and John have all been unfailingly polite and helpful. When it comes to building a reputation, they are the tops.

This morning, unpacking my overnight bag I came across my car keys. I think I may have hidden them there out of Rascal's way. "Call off the search!" I text my daughter.

Not a word of reproach in response for casting aspersions on her son. "Yay!" she texts back.

I think I owe my Rascal an apology.



According to Mummy, I had my wires crossed again. Considering I am not allowed to open the kitchen drawers where all the interesting wires, computer leads and various cables are kept, I think this is either (a) a bit rich or (b) extremely enterprising of me.

Yes, indeed, this is Faris, once again taking over the Daily Blog from my Nanni, on account of her being in training somewhere between our house and hers.

As I have told you before Nanni is unpredictable in as far as Arrivals and Departures are concerned. So I thought she was arriving yesterday morning which is why I kicked up a Right Royal Fuss when Mummy said I was going to play-group as usual. I didn't see why The Twinkles should have all the fun and I was pretty sure Nanni would have missed me desperately. Owing, however, to the Crossing of Wires, it turned out that Nanni wasn't arriving until almost my bedtime. We had just long enough for me to turn out the contents of her handbag (which is one of my favourite tricks) before it was time for me to don my dinosaur pyjamas and head up to bed.

Then today, guess what? Nanni came to play-group with me. Now that I was not expecting. She is, by my reckoning, several years too old for play-group, having reached what I consider A Great Age. But she was most insistent about it, so all I could do was to hope that she didn't do anything too embarrassing while she was there. It would have been too much to ask her not to do anything embarrassing at all - this is Nanni we are talking about, after all. My cousin Hazel probably finds her even more embarrassing than I do: "Social suicide!" she mourns when Nanni does one of her Look at Me Jumping Up and Down manoeuvres.

It turned out that Nanni was today's Story Teller, it being National Story Telling Week, don't you know? Being Nanni, who never does what you expect her to do, she didn't arrive with a picture book under her arm - she came with a Story Bag. What's more, quite a lot of the things in her Story Bag had been purloined from our toy boxes. That's what I call Taking a Liberty. Nanni said they were something called "props" and she promised to put them all back after Story Time. To be fair, she was as good as her word.

I think my friends enjoyed Nanni's story. I was quite proud of her, all things considering. Everybody stayed sitting down, which was a miracle, and almost all of them joined in the actions. The props went down well too, especially the crowns which Nanni had borrowed from Auntie Karen. She had obviously raided Auntie Karen's toy box as well as mine. Incidentally, I wonder whether my Auntie Karen ever wears her crowns? Perhaps when she wants to feel important, though I can't imagine when that might be.

I did think it was a bit thick when Nanni pretended as part of her story that my Fireman Sam was afraid of climbing ladders. Nanni said this was called "poetic licence", whatever that means. The Playgroup Leader took photos and afterwards she gave me a sticker for bringing my own Story Telling Nanni to Playgroup. I shall have to bring her again sometime if I am going to get stickers for it. Whoops! Nanni's back! I think she wants to tell you something...

I loved telling my story. The pleasure was, indeed, all mine. However my absolute favourite moment came when a dear little lass sitting in the front row who happened to be wearing the Queen's crown, jumped up and placed it ever so gently on my head. "I think you should wear the crown," she said, gravely. I have experienced many a special moment as a Story Teller in my time - but this was one of the sweetest.

I wore my crown with pride.

Latest comments

03.01 | 07:41

I love to read "your ramblings" Health and happiness for 2016 Hilary's mum cx

31.12 | 18:28

Loved reading today's blog...inspirational Jacqui☺️ Happy new year to you all, val xxx

23.12 | 14:55

Hope you both have a wonderful Christmas with your family. Best wishes from Roland and Shirley. x

26.11 | 02:26

George could learn a thing or two from you Jaqui!

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