Jaqui's Daily Blog

Our pizzas are delivered by Marsha the Sensible.

 

That is according to Domino’s Pizza’s Track Your Order function (other Pizza delivery companies are, of course, ready, willing and able to take your order.) I know all about tracking my order, having been introduced to this exciting concept by Eleanor, Fourth Eldest of my Tremendous Ten grandchildren when she was staying with her Grandad and me a while back.  Because she took possession of the IPad to order our delivery, Dominos Pizza now believes I am Eleanor - and, to be quite honest, I am not inclined to disillusion them, as I rather enjoy Being Eleanor. 

 

The occasion is our latest Footie and Pizza Evening with The Neighbours. Brighton & Hove Albion aka The Seagulls ( you can tell I am getting into the action when I start calling the local football club by its nickname) are playing West Ham, who are forever blowing bubbles for some reason which escapes me. Not that I have anything against bubbles, you understand, but I generally save them for bath time with the youngest of the grandchildren.

 

“Our” Team are playing in a fluorescent yellow kit which I find slightly disconcerting at first because, let’s face it,  have you ever seen a fluorescent yellow seagull? No, me neither. However, it does make up somewhat for the fact that Brighton’s goalie, whom I nicknamed Dayglow Dave last season, has now departed for Pastures New. For pastures, read pitches. We now have a whole team of Dayglow Players, brightening up the pitch. At the very least, they should be able to see each other coming. Or going. West Ham don't stand a chance, dazzled as they are by the Yellow Peril.

 

We order our pizzas. Jackie, who lives next door, knows how to unlock special offers on-line which means that we can order extra drinks and end up paying less than we would without them. I am not sure how she does this but I am All Admiration. One day I will work this out for myself but for the moment I am still remembering the time when I managed to order a Chicken Feast pizza without either chicken or sweet corn - in fact, just a pizza base with a tomato sauce topping. It was not my Finest Hour, pizza-wise.

 

The match starts and I keep one eye on the IPad so that I can ensure everybody is on track with our Pizza Progress. To be honest, everybody else is concentrating on the game though they do humour me when, from time to time, I read out the latest Pizza-Related joke, in the interests of entertainment. For example, why didn't the cheese join in the dancing with the other toppings? Answer: because it was too mature! I do hope you laughed? Even just a titter or two?

 

Marsha the Sensible arrives on the doorstep when I am talking to the Middle of the Darling Daughters, who has phoned to check arrangements for a weekend visit with the Rampaging Rascals. I am not sure what my poor daughter makes of the conversation going on at the other end of the line as I quiz Marsha on why she is sensible. Marsha appears a little put out to hear that she has been categorised as “sensible”. She can't remember what soubriquet she had previously been afforded but it was obviously more, well, interesting than “sensible.”

 

The Seagulls are triumphant. It's their first Away Win since they were promoted into the Premier League and they are delighted with their clean sheet. I know just what they mean, it is one of the best moments of my week when I tuck myself into a bed made with snowy white, clean sheets. 

 

I love our Footie and Pizza Evenings. I love to see Mr B so animated by the combination of good company and football. I love the fact that our neighbours seem to enjoy the evenings as much as we do. I love the fact that I don’t have to cook, that our food is delivered to our door by someone sensible. Like Marsha.

 

Up the Seagulls! 

 

 

I hadn't heard about Brian the Storm until friends started messaging me asking whether Mr B was on the rampage and should they call out the emergency services? Yes, indeed, Brian is Mr B’s first name and this isn't the first time it has been taken in vain.

 

Many of you will remember Brian the Snail, of Magic Roundabout fame. He was never as woolly as Dougal, as way-out as Dylan or as, well, bouncy as Zebedee but he had his fifteen minutes of fame every day on children’s TV in the Sixties and Seventies and, along with the rest of the characters, had something of a cult following among university students of the day.

 

Then there was a TV advert which Mr B hated with a deadly hatred. It featured (I think) a girl on a swing, volunteering the information that: “You know EVERYTHING, Brian!” I can't remember exactly what clever clogs Brian and his admiring friend were advertising - can anybody help me out? Mr B says he would rather the whole sorry episode were consigned to history.

 

Now, however, Brian is cooking up a storm and everybody is battening down the hatches. How do you batten down a hatch? And where will I find a hatch to batten down, in the event of Storm Brian making his presence felt outside as well as inside?

 

Mr B wasn't born a Brian (snail or otherwise). His birth name was Stephen but his adoptive parents changed his name to Brian. A few years ago, I travelled to the Family Records Centre, based in Islington at that time, to find his original birth certificate, armed with the vital information about his birth mother’s surname. In those days, filling in the form to request a certificate required you to provide details of your relationship to the person whose birth certificate you wished to purchase. Writing down that I was the wife of Stephen Kidner, I felt like a bigamist - or the woman caught in adultery. 

 

Yesterday I went to the funeral of my lovely friend Olga. Whose name wasn't Olga at all, but Irena. Because we had been friends for only a couple of years, the story of her life and times - beautifully and emotionally told by her daughter to a backdrop of wonderful photographs taken through the years - was something of a revelation to me.  Except that everything I learnt about the Olga I never knew was exactly what I would have expected from the Olga I did know. 

 

Here is Olga on her wedding day to her dear Bruce, whom she cared for so lovingly; here she I taking part in the Annual Boxing Day dip in the sea with her colleagues from Worthing Hospital - who but Olga would have thought up something so crazy? Here she is playing the ukelele, a pastime she took up only recently but which she embraced with great gusto. “Why don't you join the ukelele group?” she used to exhort me, “It's SUCH fun!” 

 

Here she is in a happy family group with Bruce, her daughter and her three much-loved grandsons. There are beautiful photos of her with each one of her dear boys. They didn't know her as Irena, or as Olga. 

 

She was their Babcha. 

 

Of all her names, I suspect it was the one she loved the most.

Tony, my best friend forever from Dial-a-Ride, who drives Mr B and me to Guild Care for my fella’s weekly pamper session, took a different route to usual last Friday morning. Not much gets past me, nosey person that I am, so I made sure to ask him why.

 

It turned out that it was partly our fault. Instead of our usual Tuesday morning date, which I had to cancel because I was, if you remember, proper poorly, here we are heading into town on a Friday morning. Tony explained that if he followed his usual Tuesday morning route, he would feel as if there were three more days until the weekend. I kind of understood where he was coming from.

 

It was strange for me, too, being at Guild Care on a Friday instead of a Tuesday morning. For starters, some of the Usual Suspects were absent being Tuesday People rather than Friday People. One of the familiar faces sitting at our usual table had a little pile of cakes in front of him. What’s with the pastries? I needed to know. It turned out that every Friday afternoon the children of his next door neighbours would ring on his door bell - and he would greet them with cakes. He is a bit of a curmudgeonly type so I saw him in a completely different light - just because it was Friday.

 

 Most importantly, however, on Friday morning the staff at Guild Care organise a quiz. You know me, I can't resist a quiz. I didn't intend to participate but Mr B was still being pampered and there was a spare piece of paper on the table in front of me. Plus, I knew the first question so I was hooked.

 

We were on question 25 when Tony arrived to transport us home, Mr B having joined me at the table. At what racecourse was the Irish Grand National held? Mr B said one thing, Tony another. Loyalty made me write down Mr B’s answer. I still couldn't work out the connection between a Staffordshire town and a root vegetable, nor name the sitcom in which the actors kept their own names. We had to leave before the answers were read out and the results announced - a generally unsatisfactory state of affairs but then there was always Google, don't you know?

 

Over the weekend, with the help of my brother in law, we solved the question of the Staffordshire town and the root vegetable. Leek! Did you guess, you clever things? Meanwhile Google proved Tony right on the Irish Grand National. I'm still torn on the sitcom - could it be Hollyoaks? 

 

Yesterday Tony arrived as usual to drive us to Guild Care. Like me, he had been agonising over the answers to the quiz questions all over the weekend. He was pleased to hear that he had scored one over on Mr B where the Irish Grand National was concerned and delighted to learn the  answer to the Root Vegetable Related question. This is the thing about quizzes, the questions wriggle themselves into your head and refuse to be dislodged.

 

It's the same every night when I listen to “The Bag” on BBC Sussex, a general knowledge quiz hosted by Paul Miller. There are six questions to be answered every night: if you score two or fewer then you find yourself outside on the virtual Naughty Step. My problem is (i) staying awake long enough to hear the answers and (ii) remembering the questions so that I can Google the answers in the morning.

 

Apparently, so I am reliably informed, I won Friday’s quiz. I had impressed everybody with the breadth of my knowledge which, given that the majority of my worthy competitors have memory problems, is not quite as splendid a compliment as you might imagine.  However, because I had left the building before the results were announced, I had forfeited my prize - not that anybody round the table could remember exactly what I had missed out on.

 

I am not in the least bit bothered because, after all, I'm not in it for the prizes.

 

Just for the glory.

 

 

 

“Would you like a large gin and tonic?” asks Mine Host, as I struggle through the back door with my bags, baggage and a bunch of white roses. He explains - should explanation be required - that the Youngest of the Darling Daughters has given him explicit instructions to “spoil me rotten.” 

 

I settle for a mug of coffee, my Beverage of Choice after a long car journey - and sigh with contentment. While The Cavalry (see yesterday's Daily Blog) are holding the fort at home, here am I wallowing in the Lap of Luxury.

 

My sister Maggie and I have been looking forward to my mini-break at her place for several weeks, ever since the Youngest of the Darling Daughters came up with the idea. Earlier in the week, feeling proper poorly, I messaged my sister to warn her that I might not be able to make it. Fortunately by Thursday I was able to follow this up with a triumphant: “I’m coming!” I'm not sure which of us was the more pleased.

 

We are determined to fit as much as we can into our two days. While at the same time making sure that we don't miss out on those long and earnest sisterly conversations which have been part of our lives since she was a baby in her pram and I, from the height of my three and a half years, sought to introduce her to Life As I Knew It. 

 

We meet up with friends on Friday evening for a trip to the cinema to see Victoria and Abdul. I am told that we have exactly the same laugh. Maggie says she must have copied me, her being the younger sibling. We laugh a lot during the film (I wasn't expecting it to be so amusing) and spend a lot of time discussing, on our short journey home, how Victoria was one of those women who always needed a man in her life, the more handsome and / or charismatic the better. My sister hastily reassures her fella that he is more than enough for any gal. 

 

Saturday we head off, walking boots on our feet, binoculars around our necks, to walk over beautiful Hengistbury Head. I collect a colourful sheet entitled Autumn Scavenger Hunt from the Visitor Centre where Maggie's Baz is a much-valued volunteer. The sheet contains twenty pictures of birds, butterflies and plants which I need to spot and, being me, I am up for the challenge. I tell Maggie and Barrie about a similar leaflet I picked up on a trip we took with our Merry Band of Questers along the Chichester Canal - we had a choice between an adults and a children’s hunt but my friend Penny and I both opted, without discussion, for the children’s version on the grounds that it was (I) more fun and (I) not so challenging that we wouldn't have time to enjoy our cream tea. 

 

Off we go! Little egret - tick! Robin - tick! Wheatear - tick! Spider web - tick! Goldfinch - tick, tick! The Fly Agaric - which is the red and white toadstool of fairy tales proves elusive - could I possibly substitute the umbrella mushroom which is less colourful but decidedly individual? By the time we reach the Beachside Restaurant where we order fish and chips all round, I've ticked at least half of the boxes and made a not inconsiderable list of all the birds we have spotted which didn't feature  on the Scavenger Hunt. There's a celebration going on in the restaurant where not just one, but two, babies are marking their First Birthdays among family and friends. On his way out, Baz is offered a slice of birthday cake but is forced to decline because, even one possessed of the cheek of the devil can't exactly ask for another two slices for Maggie and me.

 

We take the Noddy train back - it's the last train of the day so more and more passengers are crowding on. Somebody starts a Mexican Wave in an adjoining carriage and everyone raises their arms in salute. We don't actually rise to our feet, being so crammed in that this would be impossible. Not to mention dangerous. Wavers to the manner born, we set about encouraging all our fellow passengers to wave at every passer-by and almost everybody waves back. We are, indeed, a Jolly Crowd.

 

On Sunday afternoon, I leave for home after a morning spent with my sister poring over our shared family history. In my car, a rather special souvenir from my mini-break in the form of a stone circle, created by Baz from a coat hanger and those stones you find on a beach with holes in them. Did you know the holes are formed by creatures called piddocks? And don't you just love it when the Daily  Blog comes over all educational?

 

I have fastened my circle of stones on the garden fence where I can see it from the house. Every time I look at it, I will remember my special weekend - the scenery, the birds, the chat, the fun and the laughter.

 

Time with my Little Sister - so very, very precious.

 

If you have ever watched Masterchef Australia, you will remember the team relay challenges where one member of the team has, say, twenty minutes to start cooking a Dish of Choice before handing over to the next member of the team without any opportunity to tell him or her what to do next. The only thing the first cook can do is to leave clues - a chicken cooking in the oven (quite a giveaway, that) and the ingredients for a delicious sauce. Which, inevitably, the next team member will see as the wherewithal for a stir fry while completely ignoring the delicious smell emanating from the chicken cooking away merrily in the oven. Even if you don't watch Masterchef Australia, I am hoping you can picture the scene.

 

Now switch to my home on Friday, where I was preparing to head off for a mini break with my Little Sister (of which much, much more in tomorrow’s Daily Blog) leaving the Youngest of the Darling Daughters and her fella, Dunk’em Dave (so known from his exploits on Family Beach Days) to look after Mr B in my absence.

 

I had written a two page epistle entitled Looking After Dad in which I tried to think of everything the twosome (aka The Cavalry) needed to know without scaring them off altogether. However, in order to avoid driving to my sister’s in the dark, I had to leave before The Cavalry arrived. Hence the need to leave a few clues, á la Masterchef, around the place. 

 

So, for example, I hadn't charged up Mr B’s toothbrush, so I left it charging in the kitchen where I felt sure it would be easily spotted. My lovely friend Eleanor, who came in to keep Mr B company after I left, spotted it straightaway - not so my daughter. She did find the little tub in which I dispense the many different tablets throughout the day and faithfully recorded the times she had doled out paracetamol on the post-it note provided. 

 

What really stumped her was trying to open the tumble drier. Fearful that the washing would be consigned to the innards of the drier for all eternity, she was forced to ask me when I phoned home what she should do.  I had left a clue, I told her - had she not spotted the spoon left on top of the drier which she could use to prise open the door of said appliance, the handle of which had been wrenched off some months ago? It was, to be fair, not the easiest clue to solve.

 

On my return home on Sunday afternoon, I found The Cavalry well in charge. There was a sausage casserole in the oven for our dinner and three helpings of lasagne in the fridge for future meals. The kitchen looked sparkling clean. Dunk’em Dave had been true to his name, visiting the local tip where he dunked - sorry, dumped - a small pile of items I had accumulated outside the back door. He also re-arranged the beds in the small bedroom, creating much more usable space. 

 

It was only after they had ridden, sorry driven, off into the darkness that I realised quite how much they had done for me while I was away. There was a pile of neatly ironed clothes on my bed, the laundry basket was emptied of the washing which was now clean and drying on the clothes stand, the fridge had been cleaned. Most importantly, of course, Mr B was perfectly happy to have enjoyed their excellent company.

 

I feel so very much better for my mini-break - refreshed, re-energised, ready for (almost) anything. Even Mr B says he can see the difference. I don't think I realised just how much I needed this short time away. Not away from Mr B, I tell him hastily, just time away from all the responsibility of full-time caring.

 

It wouldn't have occurred to me to call in The Cavalry - but they came riding to my rescue anyway.

 

Bless them. 

Latest comments

15.10 | 11:13

I don't remember seeing this first time round.... but thank you for sharing with me. You write beautifully, and brought a tear to my eyes. Lots of love xx

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10.10 | 21:37

Jaqui I think your grandchildren are very lucky. You have spurred me on to write a letter to Amelia who like Hazel is away from home for the first time. 💕

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03.07 | 22:43

Wouldn't have missed it for the world. xx

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12.06 | 02:31

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

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