Jaqui's Daily Blog

The Middle of the Darling Daughters has sent out an important message to all the family.


The Rascal, aka Young Faris, Blogger Extraordinaire, has to find and take to school photographs showing his parents and grandparents enjoying days at the seaside. As a family, we are well up for the challenge as there is nothing we like more than a Family Beach Day. What’s more, a love of the seaside stretches back through the generations so I am desperate to find photographs of my parents - and, even, my Grandad - so that Our Rascal can report to school with pictorial evidence going back further than any of his school mates. And you thought I wasn’t competitive!


I remember Katie, the Eldest of our Tremendous Ten grandchildren, being tasked as a school girl with researching an ancestor. She looked to me, as the self appointed Family Historian, for help so I told her about my grandfather, John Campbell Dawkins, who served in the 1914 -1918 War, earning the distinction of being termed an “Old Contemptible.” Because I don’t believe in doing children’s homework for them (I am mean like that), I explained that she would have to find out for herself exactly what an Old Contemptible was. 


Not only did she unearth the facts, she was also delighted to tell me that she had found a picture of the 1914 Star he would have been awarded and, having carefully written up the story of her great-great-grandfather, was proud to find that she had gone further back in time than anyone else in her class. I felt proud by association.


I tell the story because it explains why the whole family is now competing to find the best old photographs of seaside days. It’s a pity, I think, that cine-film will probably not be admissible in evidence as I have some fabulous footage of my parents on holiday in Cliftonville in the 1960s, showing a deckchair assistant dancing sedately with holiday-makers at the Lido. It’s a Picture of the Times and rather precious.


My Foursome are agreed that a photograph of the four of them running into the waves sums up, more than anything else, the sheer joy of being at the seaside, on a long, hot, sunny day when the summer holiday stretched out before them seemingly endlessly. I always have to stifle a laugh at the Youngest of the Darling Daughters conscientiously wearing her orange swimming hat, while her siblings alongside her are bare-headed and free from care. 


I am waiting for the same daughter to complain about the fact that, as our seaside photographs mark the passing of the years, she can be seen wearing every one of the swimming costumes passed down in turn by her older sisters. Did I ever buy her a new swimming costume, she needs to know. My best line of defence is to divert attention to the photograph of me, aged about seven, wearing my brother’s swimming trunks, held up by what looks like one of those snake belts that were so popular in Years Gone By. It wasn’t a good look.


I am gripped by the past. I need to find the photograph of my Dad and Grandad on the beach, both in stifling collar and tie as was the custom in those days, eating ice-creams. I need to find the photograph of us all with our best and biggest sandcastle. I need to find that photograph of …


Houston, we have a problem! Nostalgia is going to lead me to turn out cupboards where old photograph albums are stored, to drag out of the wardrobe the box of ancient snaps, all stored higgledy-piggledy with no sense of date, time, or place. There will be photographs strewn all over the bed, the floor, the table, the kitchen surfaces. 


Oh, I DO like to be beside the seaside! 


I decide it would probably be an excellent idea to send the Middle of the Darling Daughters an explanatory email. Otherwise, she will receive a small parcel from me containing five caterpillars and some caterpillar food - and decide that her mother (that’ll be me, then) has finally taken leave of her senses. As in, any senses she, aka I, had left. 


I have taken possession of a Live Butterfly Garden. Without the butterflies. It was given me by the really rather wonderful Kay, who helps me keep my house in order. Kay is moving house and needs to de-clutter; coming across a Live Butterfly Garden in the process of de-cluttering, she knew exactly the person to hand it on to. Yours truly, who else?


As it happens, I know about Butterfly Gardens because Margaret, who is a member of our Nomination Whist Group, bought one for her granddaughter last year and showed us photos on her mobile phone of the miraculous transformation from caterpillar to chrysalis to Painted Lady Butterfly. I was thinking that I must try it out for myself but then, as happens, I forgot all about it until yesterday morning when Kay unpacked a bag of bits and pieces for me including a magazine, a plastic container full of adornments for my Fairy Garden, a DVD about princesses for the Twinkles, an Angry Birds sun hat for The Rascal (“give it to a charity shop if your daughter doesn’t want it”) - and the Butterfly Garden. Did I want it, even though I would need to go on-line to buy the caterpillars? Of course I would!


I am taking the Butterfly Garden with me when I visit The Trio and two of my Darling Daughters for a very welcome sleepover next week. While Mr B is in the capable, caring hands of the Lovely Louise, I will be chatting, sleeping, drinking coffee in the conservatory and generally doing Nothing Much At All. It will be Bliss. Hopefully the caterpillars will have arrived before me so we can introduce them to their Garden together. 


Some days are particularly happy days. Yesterday was one of these. I didn’t have Great Expectations first thing in the morning when I tumbled downstairs feeling weary before I even started the day, owing to being up twice in the night for an hour a time. Wednesdays are like Piccadilly Circus in our house, never more so than on the fortnightly Nomination Whist sessions. There’s a constant flow of people up our garden path, all most welcome, you understand, it’s just there’s, well, rather a lot of them.


Yesterday Ken the Gardener added to their number, his first visit of the year - and with him, the happy times started. What’s not to like about a freshly mown lawn, a warm and sunny garden, a chat about the very best shrub or tree to plant in the bare patch in the garden? I am quite cheered by the time Kay arrives with her bag of goodies to maintain the Feeling of Goodwill pervading my very self. Before she left, two hard-working hours later, she had helped me carry the spare chairs and card tables out of the garage to set them up in the living room, ready for the afternoon. 


Nomination Whist is always fun. “I love this moment,” I told the other four players on my table as we prepared to deal out the cards for the first time, “Nothing has gone wrong yet….” Cue such loud laughter on my table that the other six players on Mr B’s table complained that there was far too much hilarity going on. They paid us back in spades (and hearts, diamonds and clubs) before the afternoon was out.


But what’s this? Maree is unwrapping something from a carrier bag secreted in her handbag - it’s a chocolate trophy inscribed “Jaqui - Champion” and is in honour of my all-time best performance, back in February, before Mr B fell ill and we had to curtail our Whist sessions for a while, when I scored a remarkable (for me!) 157. I am lost for words which, as you all well know, is not like me at all.


So, all in all, a happy day. A freshly mown lawn, a sunny day, a bag of goodies, a promise of butterflies, a chocolate trophy. Could anything go wrong on a day like this?


The Youngest of the Darling Daughters is delighted that I have had such a good day but is concerned that, given the part I am expecting the Trio of Rampaging Rascals to play, there may be Trouble Ahead.


“I pity those poor caterpillars…” she mourns.


Mr B tells me that I need to search out his Tottenham Hotspur flag, a gift from our friend Sue (known to Mr B as Spurs Sue, which he would claim is a compliment.)


He is thinking, I am sure, that our next door neighbour will almost certainly turn up on our doorstep tomorrow evening sporting a Seagulls shirt - the Seagulls being the nickname of Brighton and Hove Albion FC. Normally, this would not present any kind of challenge, as we have been happy, over several thoroughly pleasant Footie Evenings with the Neighbours to support the Seagulls. I have learnt the names of many of the players (particularly those with distinguishing characteristics such as beards, strange hair-dos and the like) and have been vocal in my backing for what is, after all, our local team.


Tomorrow, however, is Crunch Time when the Seagulls will be playing Mr B’s team, Tottenham Hotspur. Hence his urgent demand that I find his Spurs flag; failing an appropriate team tee-shirt to don, he will resort to a bit of Blatant Flag-Waving. I’m just hoping we will all be on speaking terms by the end of the evening.


Hopefully, we now have enough neighbourly history behind us to weather the storm of a football match, which is, after all, only a game. Though Mr B is quick to remind me of the legendary Bill Shankly’s timeless quote: “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you it’s much more serious than that…” Oh, dear me.


Yesterday morning, very early, the Eldest of the Darling Daughters and granddaughter Eleanor were watching the England netball team make history by beating Australia in the Commonwealth Games netball final to take well-deserved gold. Eleanor’s sister Katie was woken up at 5 a.m. to witness the joy of the winning team. Mr B, too, watched the final from his armchair in front of our TV - “Nice one, Grandad!” Katie congratulated him when she heard.


The Eldest of the Darling Daughters, who still plays competitive netball long after most have given up, pleading aching legs and running out of puff, pointed out that there would have been a riot in a football match, had a penalty been granted in the dying seconds of a match: “love how netball players respect the umpires and accept their decisions without ugly scenes,” she commented. 


So this is what we need - a touch of Netball Niceties to diffuse any potential of passions running high in our living room tomorrow evening. Just in case this isn’t enough, Jackie Next Door and I are giving advance consideration to pizza toppings on the basis that food is a Great Leveller. Though neither of our menfolk will probably be prepared to accept a levelling off on the football pitch. This is the problem with football, you see. You might think that a draw would be the best outcome to a tricky situation but then nobody will be happy. It’s a conundrum, that’s what it is.


Everything will turn out just fine. Matt will turn up in his Seagulls tee-shirt, Mr B will Fly the Flag. We will eat pizza and drink beer, wine, whisky and soft drinks (though probably not all in the same glass.) I will comment on the players’ fluorescent football boots, the more outlandish of their hair-styles and their sportsmanship. Everyone else will ignore me, out of either kindness (our neighbours) or irritation (Mr B.) One team will probably win and, if they do, the other team will lose. We will be either good winners or good losers. 


It’s going to be yet another enjoyable Footie Evening with the Neighbours. We will, I am quite sure, still be friends at the Close of Play.


I just hope the result isn’t determined by a last second penalty decision…


We are now ballerinas!


No, that’s not Nanni, using what she calls “the Royal Wee” (which we both think is a little rude, if not treasonable) - it’s Tala and Lilia, also known as The Twinkles. Or, as of yesterday, the Twinkletoes.


We have joined a club called JD Dance. We don’t exactly know what JG Dance stands for, our best guess is that it is Jolly Good Dancing which is, of course, what we aim to be doing, once we have got the hang of it. Our cousins Jack and Hazel used to go to JG Dance until Jack went off to Monsters Inc University and Hazel joined Hearts Head. We don’t know why they decided to go so far away when we live just round the corner, you would think they would want to stay and play with us. Still they did come home for the Eats-ter holiday and we made sure to keep them entertained so that they would know exactly what they would be missing when they left home for the new term. 


As well as ballerina-ing, we will be learning something called jazz and tap. Our Grandad, who knows a thing or two, says that if we are to learn tap dancing then we must be careful not to fall in the sink. Everybody laughs when he says this but we can’t understand why, we think it is very sensible of him to prepare us for Unexpected Eventualities.


Nanni says that when our Mummy and her sisters were little, they used to go to ballet lessons. They even passed a couple of exams though Nanni says our Mummy never earned top marks for turnout as she always arrived for her exams with sticking plasters on both her knees, presumably covering up a Big Ouch or two. We know all about that, the Big Ouch, we mean.


Nanni also says that when Mummy and her sisters were learning to be ballerinas, they were taught about “good toes” and “naughty toes.” Good toes were pointed and naughty toes were, well, not. We are not sure we agree with this, being as a toe is a toe, but we are not going to worry Nanni by arguing. Like, would it be worth it? Over a toe? Naughty or not?


We are still a bit hazy about the whole Ballerina Business. For example, when we are really good, apparently we will be able to go on points. Probably not yet, we think we will need to be at least four years old or so. No, we don’t understand what happens when you go on points but we are thinking it is possibly like the ballet equivalent of a Reward Chart. Mummy is a Great Believer in reward charts which she cleverly draws up herself so that each of the three of us can earn rewards, or points, for different things. 


Faris, who is Our Hero as well as our Big Brother, has decided that for now he would rather be a gladiator than a ballet dancer so he and his girl-friend Charlotte recently went to a Gladiator Day. We are not quite sure what a gladiator is but Lilia thinks there is a possibility she might want to be one of them, instead of a ballerina. Mummy says Lilia is a Reluctant Ballerina. This may, or may not be to do with her toes. Nanni always says “each to his own” which is one of those annoying Nanni-isms which means absolutely nothing to anybody. However, we do believe in Equality - you have to be a twin to really, truly, understand about Equality. So, if Lilia wants to be a gladiator, like Faris and Charlotte, then that would be perfectly fine - though, bearing in mind she is already a princess (did you know that? She is absolutely certain that she is a princess so it must be true) we need to check out whether princesses can be gladiators. If we knew what a gladiator was, it might help.  


For the moment we will carry on being the Twinkletoes that we are. 


Everybody now: “Good toes! Naughty toes!”


I am having trouble in the kitchen. 


No, for once this is nothing to do with my lack of culinary expertise; the fact is that several of my kitchen appliances are staging a mutiny. 


The cooker started it. For some reason the timer (which I have never used in anger, so to speak) has decided to go off whenever it feels like doing so, often in the middle of the night. What’s more, I can’t turn on the fan oven or the traditional oven (why have one oven, I always say, when you could have two?) unless and until I activate the timer which then, after say ten minutes or so, bleeps loudly and turns the oven(s) off. Cooking has thus become a kind of battleground between the timer and me. I will leave you to guess who is winning. 


If this were not enough, the dishwasher has now decided to join the conflict, on the cooker’s side. It has decided not to stop when its cycle is finished but to carry on, endlessly, as if even the eco-cycle isn’t long enough for any self-respecting machine. I didn’t quite realise it had joined the mutiny until Mr B called me downstairs at two in the morning and I found it was still washing the dishes. The dishwasher that is, not Mr B, don’t be silly. 


Then, did I mention the printer? Okay, you are quibbling at the printer being included in my list of Mutinous Appliances but it is an appliance and it is positioned, for easy access, on the breakfast bar in the kitchen. It has decided that it is not prepared any longer to print out documents sent to it via my IPad. This is a cruel blow, indeed because I was sure, until the moment it turned on me, that I could count it as an ally.


The washing machine and the microwave, for the moment, are remaining neutral, a little bit of Switzerland in the midst of my own personal War of Attrition. So is the fridge, which is fortunate as I am not prepared for another Cold War. Incidentally, I understand that a war of attrition is a military strategy consisting of belligerent attempts to win a war by constant attempts to wear down the enemy (that’ll be me, then) to the point of collapse. 


I have been trying to use peaceful means to bring about a reconciliation between my appliances and myself. For example, I have bought four new print cartridges at enormous expense to bribe my printer to come on side. Print cartridges, as everyone knows, are more expensive, in volume terms, than champagne. It’s enough to turn anyone to drink, don’t you think? The printer accepted my advances but then reneged on the deal and refused to enter into negotiations, citing connection problems. 


I tackled the dishwasher problem in the only way I know how - I turned it off at the mains. I have always found that turning equipment on and off again is a good First Point Of Attack. At the time of writing I haven’t yet turned the dishwasher on again so I can’t tell you if this course of action has proved successful or not. I have loaded it with our dirty dishes from today’s breakfast, lunch and dinner just to show it that I mean business. It is important, when faced by Mutinous Appliances, not to show any signs of weakness. I really need to start it up again but I’m not sure I have the stomach for the fight this evening. Maybe I should wait until after breakfast tomorrow, making a Dawn Raid to catch it unawares? 


I thought I would use a scientific approach on the cooker, so I looked up the on-line manual which sounded as if it might be helpful had I only been able to follow instructions. I will try again sometime but for the moment I have reached a cease fire of sorts, enabling me to keep the oven working for the duration of cooking time. The cooker, however, still likes to fire a shot across the bows by bleeping noisily in the early hours of the morning if I am ever forgetful enough to turn it off at the mains before I go to bed.


I am thinking that the first signs of kitchen shenanigans dates back to the evening when, returning from visiting Mr B in hospital, I found my electric toothbrush singing at me. I kid you not - it was flashing away while charging, as it does, but singing along in time to the flashing. To say this was unnerving is an understatement. Fortunately My Boy was with me at the time and worked out that the music was actually coming from the bluetooth speaker which, from its position just behind the toothbrush, had picked up the music from his mobile phone. 


It was, however, a sign of things to come, a first indication that I am no longer in control of the battleground that is my kitchen. I need to make it clear, through rousing speeches delivered from the kitchen floor, that I will never, ever surrender.


In short, and not to put too fine a point on it, I’m desperately trying to get in touch with my Inner Churchill…

Latest comments

11.04 | 14:05

Now I want to learn the art of towel folding!

22.03 | 22:20

I had to look up ambiturn. Power to you Jaqui. And our good wishes to Mr. B. Please mind your back and give yourself a break now and then.

16.03 | 08:26

Do so hope he's home soon. Take care of yourself as well as Bri-anne. Love to you both. xx

10.02 | 07:56

Jacqui. So sorry yo hear you are now on the hospital treadmill. Chin up. Have you been in touch with Crossroads Care? They will help when you need support a5 ho

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