Jaqui's Daily Blog

Fame! Apparently it can enable us to live forever. Or, some say, we can all enjoy a rather more modest fifteen minutes of it.


I will get to the point shortly (I usually do - sometimes it takes me longer than other times) but for the moment I will concentrate on the moment I entered the hall at Heene Community Centre where our choir meets every Friday morning for an hour and a quarter exercising our vocal chords. I was carrying, as usual, my Choir Bag which is decorated with charming self-portraits of the reception class at Birchgrove Primary School in Cardiff “where every child is a star.” Sam, Eldest of my (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys, is featured on my Choir Bag though, being now a pupil at senior school, he won’t thank me for drawing attention to his drawing of himself at the age of five, sweet though it undoubtedly is.


Lots of schools find the production of tea towels, shopping bags and the like a very useful way of raising much needed school funds. I have been the grateful recipient of many such items, including a kind of stocking for the storage of carrier bags which bears a portrait of my oldest grandson. When I tell you he has now reached the Great Age of 21, you will realise the sheer longevity of these precious gifts.


I can never bring myself to use the many decorated tea towels I have been given over the years as I can’t bear the thought of drying my saucepans on a beloved grandchild’s sweet face so these are all kept as pristine souvenirs. My Choir Bag, however, has seen many years of use, while whenever I head out to the shops these days I take with me a bag on which (if you study every face carefully) you will find Faris the Rascal. It is quite superbly capacious. The bag, the bag - not my Rascal’s face.


In my Choir Bag you will find my red file containing all the songs we sing - we have an extensive repertoire, many of the songs bringing back memories of school-days. Some say that we should sing more modern songs but I rather like the Trip Down Memory Lane each Friday morning.


We have a new member of the choir! Even better, she has the most beautiful voice. Best of all, she is sitting with us, in the Alto (aka Failed Sopranos) Section, even though, by rights, she should be seated over the other side of the hall, among the True Songbirds. Our conductor, the Redoubtable Muriel, can’t quite believe her ears - she keeps looking over at us, clearly wondering from whence the wonderful sound is coming. My friend Sue and I beam back at her; no longer will our conductor be able to shake her head and despair of the fact that we don’t seem to be able to sing with conviction. We have a Secret Weapon and we are determined to keep her.


In a couple of weeks time we will be without both our conductor and our pianist - it seemed we might have to miss a few sessions. Then to the rescue came one of our members who thought she might be able to tinkle the ivories though she didn’t want to actually lead the session. Rashly I suggested that we could work as a team - she could play the piano and I would play at being Muriel. Not that I would be able to lead us in our vocal exercises, you understand, or do any conducting. This would be (i) difficult with my Recovering Shoulder; (ii) an act of pretentiousness on my part; and (iii) likely to cause great confusion all round. Especially to me.


What I was going to say, before I interrupted myself, was that on my way in, a choir member nabbed me to comment on my Choir Bag. I was about to point proudly to the self portrait of my grandson when she trumped me. She had a similar bag, she told me - but hers included a portrait of herself! She had worked in a particular school and one of the pupils had captured her forever on canvas.


And I was thinking - those tea towels, shopping bags, carrier bag holders, they last forever, don’t they? The grateful recipients, usually loving grandparents, would never, ever throw them out. 


Fame is your face on a tea towel - captured forever.

It’s Valentine’s Day - and I can feel the love!


A whole area of St Paul’s Centre has been taken over this morning by lots of young parents with their babes - almost all of whom are being carried in capacious and comfortable-looking slings, either strapped on their parent’s back or front. A helpful type is demonstrating the best way to wrap a sling around one’s body, enfolding small infant without dropping him or her. A sign indicates that this is a Sling Library. Whatever next, I wonder? Not one of the babies is crying, they are a Contented Lot - as I said, I can feel the love and, it seems, so can the littl’uns. In fact I feel a bit out of it, not having either a baby or a sling. I did, of course, sport a Robot Sling for six long weeks but that was not the same thing at all, at all.


I am here, sans baby, to meet my lovely Carers’ Carer who for a precious hour will listen to me warble on, pose gentle questions to set me thinking and won’t mind at all if I sniff and snuffle a bit. I show her the book, Be With, that I was telling you all about in a previous Daily Blog and she reckons she can use some of the ideas that inspired me most in a group session she is running about helping caregivers to manage stress. I’m pleased to think she will be sharing the love, too.


We give each other a hug (more love!) and I head off to Marks and Spencer’s to scan their Valentine’s Day Dine in for Two offer. Other stores are undoubtedly making similar, loving offers but Mr B has seen the M & S advert on TV and has kept drawing it to my attention. Nothing else will do. When Mr B sets his heart on something, there’s no stopping him. It was the same the day we met more than 55 years ago outside Woolworths in Sittingbourne High Street. Can you imagine a more romantic setting? Possibly, I hear you say...


In the newspaper today it suggests that couples wishing to spice up their love life this Valentine’s Day should take up board games like Scrabble or Monopoly. Just an hour of Battleships or dominoes will apparently create a surge of oxytocin, which is described as the “cuddle hormone.” All I can say is that the researchers (okay, they were from an American university which may explain things) haven’t studied the effects of playing board games on Mr B, aka Mr Uber-Competitive. There is no way we would be cuddling up after a hard-fought game of Monopoly on account of the fact that Mr B will never, ever, agree to let me off payment when I land first on Mayfair with his three hotels, then on Park Lane (ditto) even knowing, as he does, that this will bankrupt me and leave me destitute, with only a Get Out Of Jail Free Card to my name. Mr B will be crowing, I will be sulking - oxytocin will be in Short Supply.


So, no, we won’t recover the cribbage board from the sideboard this evening - but we will Dine In For Two. Fingers crossed that I will cook the steak to perfection, remembering that Mr B likes it ruined. Or, rather, well done. I will light the Yankee Candle which Our Boy gave me for Christmas (it’s nearly burnt down to nothingness but I reckon it will last the evening) and we will gaze at each other over our heart-shaped salmon terrines. Though not for too long, because it’s difficult to eat without paying due attention to one’s plate. Especially for one who is Always Thinking About Her Stomach.


On the mantelpiece, in its place of honour, our single Valentine’s card. Mr B (who never forgot a Valentine’s Day once upon a time) can’t get out to buy me one now, so every year I buy one for the two of us.


Sharing is caring (as the Middle of the Darling Daughters is always reminding the Trio of Rampaging Rascals....)


Feel the love!


It is the end of a Beautiful Friendship.


My truly delightful young physiotherapist is moving on to Pastures New. I will not be seeing him anymore. We have shaken hands and wished each other the best of luck in the future, he with his career, I with my once Problem, now Recovering Shoulder. What shall I do without him?


It seems, however, that he has already thought of this. He is referring me for a course of hydrotherapy - how splendid is that? I am already trying to remember where I last saw my swimming costume and wondering whether it will still fit me. I am also recalling previous hydrotherapy courses I have enjoyed in my lifetime. 


After the first operation on my Problem Shoulder in 1979 I was fortunate enough to have twice fortnightly sessions in the hydrotherapy pool at the Middlesex Hospital in London. This necessitated a 50 minute journey by train there and back twice a week which was quite a commitment. It was worth it, I must tell you, for the way after each session the physiotherapist would wrap me up in a cocoon of soft towels and leave me to d

ry out naturally; I almost always fell fast asleep on the bed and dreamed beautiful dreams. It was sheer luxury and being pulled about in the pool for forty minutes was a small price to pay for it.


Fast forward to my second course of physiotherapy at the local hospital after surgery number two on the same Problem Shoulder which didn’t give me the same feeling of being in a luxury spa but was nevertheless very effective in getting my arm moving. Now I’m onto Version Three - what should I expect this time, I wonder?


In the meantime, while waiting for my first hydro appointment, I have nine new fiendishly difficult exercises to carry out every day. Being, as you know, the Obedient Type, I will not flinch (or at least not too much) but I am struggling a bit on the Apparatus Front.


When the Middle of the Darling Daughters started school, she would come home full of the news that Class One had had “Operations” that day. It was her elder sister who put me right - for “Operations”, read “Apparatus” - it was P.E. , always my middle daughter’s favourite subject at school. Apparatus may be grand, like wall bars or vaulting horses - or something very simple, like a mat or a hula hoop. 


The challenge in terms of physio exercises is finding a piece of equipment at home which can take the place of the equipment in the hospital’s gym. Take the pulleys, for example. Well, no, that’s the problem, the pulleys can’t be taken out of the gym and the average household doesn’t generally come equipped with pulleys. I am sent home with a stretchy band which I am to drape over the top of a door, which I must then close on it to hold it fast so that I can, well, pull on it. It doesn’t work; I try it in every door in the house but the stretchy band just comes loose in my hands without so much as a gentle tug. I think about tying it to the curtain rail but I can’t reach it without standing on a step ladder and even then I am not sure I can balance and tie the stretchy band in a secure knot with only one arm. 


After wandering around the house for a while I hit upon the door knob on the hall cupboard which I can just about reach with my good arm. Job done! I have also purloined Mr B’s now discarded walking stick for two of the exercises and have found that a couple of sheets of kitchen roll are ideal for sliding my arm up and down the living room door.


Next I have to find something I can loop over my left shoulder and use to pull my right arm up behind my back. Yes, I know, it’s like being a contortionist. My lovely physiotherapist thought a towel would do the trick but it simply didn’t work. A belt! I thought - and raided Mr B’s wardrobe, only to remember that the Youngest of the Darling Daughters and I had disposed of all her father’s old belts on our recent Clearing Out The Wardrobes Mission. Why is it that as soon as you dispose of an item you haven’t used for ages, you immediately find a use for it? Without much hope I turned to my own wardrobe, on the floor of which I came across a narrow navy blue belt which I never knew I had. It was, you will be pleased to know, Just The Ticket.



You know what they say - Necessity is the Mother of Invention. 


Who needs “Operations” anyway?

Young Faris the Rascal positions himself and his street scooter in front of his mother and demands: “What are the rules?!” Tala and Lilia, the Rascalettes, stand by, listening expectantly. When, I wonder to myself, did my Trio of Rampaging Rascals decide to adopt adherence to rules as an approach?


We are on the deserted tennis courts at Field Place (one of Worthing’s many “hidden gems”) - three full-sized courts marked out in red and green with white lines, a veritable Scooter Heaven. We have already spent a happy time in the playground where we met young Olivia of the Infectious Giggle whose favourite lunch box treats, she tells me, are the cheese sandwiches and raisins. (As you know, I do enjoy engagng in such Meaningful Conversations with the people I meet, young and old alike.) We had moved on at the suggestion of the Middle of the Darling Daughters, whose arms were aching at having to push one twin after another on the swings: “Faster! Faster!” they cried. Repeatedly. The empty tennis courts next to the playground would be an ideal spot for the Trio to let off some of their fearsome energy, she said. Hence - the Rules.


Rule One, she commands, is to scoot all round the tennis courts, without crossing any white line. Faris immediately sets off at a fair pace, followed by Tala (elder of the twins by one important minute, you may remember.) Lilia the Contrary also sets off - but straight across all three courts, crossing white line after white line. Rules, it appears, don’t count for much as far as the youngest member of the Trio is concerned. So it continues, through Rules Two to Ten. My favourite Rule is when they are asked to scoot to the furthest corner and do five press-ups before scooting back. I’m pretty sure both Faris and Tala only do two press-ups rather than ten - it seems they are not averse to bending the rules when they think they might be out of sight. Lilia - well, do you need to ask?


Back home we return to the jigsaws I bought from the charity shop that very morning and the Tweenies book bag in which all the characters from that once popular children’s TV programme live, along with six story books plus Noddy and Big Ears for good measure (and added Plot Potential.) As usual, everyone wants to be Doodles the Dog - but Rules Are Rules Which means taking turns to play Doodles. The Youngest of the Darling Daughters (yes, she has come too, she hates to miss out on anything. Just like me) takes charge of the jigsaws while I am in charge of the Tweenie Toy Bag. It seems a fair division of labour.


I’m enjoying the fact that I can now hug my Rascals with two arms, having dispensed with the Robot Sling since I last saw them. You will not be surprised to learn that I made up for lost time. 


We feast on my famous (though only in the family) curry which goes down exceptionally well. Pride, however, goes before a fall - and the jelly I have set in a rabbit-shaped mould refuses to turn itself out so that I am forced to present a Right Royal Mess to my small fry, who are unfortunately expecting a “surprise” because that’s what I told them to expect. I forgot that rule about the perils of Raising Great Expectations.


There are, of course, all kinds of house rules which my Tremendous Ten grandchildren understand they are expected to obey when visiting their Grandad (known to you all as Mr B) and me. You will also know, because I have told you before, that every one of them knows full well that anyone disobeying the rules will, of course, be loved and forgiven in the usual way...


Mr B’s Little Bruv, Mr H (they are like peas in a pod, don’t you know?) telephones us to ask if we would like a visit at the beginning of March. Did he really need to ask?


Mr H and I have something in common: we both have a Problem Shoulder. In fact, I have told him, we should form a Problem Shoulder Club - I actually know a few more potential members, including grandson Jack. Mind you, now that we have both gone “under the knife”, Mr H and I, we have graduated from the Problem Shoulder Club to the Recovering Shoulder Club. It’s a bit like moving from Cubs to Scouts, I suppose, though never having been either a Cub or a Scout, one could say I don’t know what I’m talking about. Not that, I hear you say, that has ever stopped me pontificating in the Daily Blog on Matters Of Which I Know Very Little.


Mr H says he will find somewhere local to stay but I say, oh, dear me, no - you must stay with us. Mr H explains that he will have his dog, the beautiful Laurel with him but I say this makes no difference, I am keen to make Laurel’s acquaintance. It is all settled.


I am thinking it will be interesting to see how Mr B responds to Laurel’s presence. I have long thought that he would find a dog a great comfort. I pass this thought on to him when I inform him of the forthcoming visit. I really do believe, I tell him earnestly, that he would love to have a dog, an ever faithful companion, always there for him. Mr B responds, slyly, that he thought that was what I did. I am moved almost to tears.


Alright, so I don’t have a soft, furry back to stroke, or long ears to fondle, or a long, pink tongue to  lick his hand lovingly - but I can do a reasonable impersonation of Man’s Best Friend. “Woof, woof!” I say. Meaningfully.


Today is my hospital appointment so that my consultant (you may remember I call her Tigger because she is so very, well, bouncy) can check on my progress almost three months on from my operation. She seems quite pleased with me though she says she always wants more. She sounds like Mr B or, possibly, Oliver Twist, the two have much in common. She shows me, on request, my X-rays before and after and my MRI scan. I thought it was the least I could do to ask to see them, so proud she is of her handiwork. Or shoulderwork.


Best of all, I have made such satisfactory progress that she gives me clearance to return to using our Ambiturn at home to transfer Mr B from place to place. For the last three months the poor man has had to stay put in his armchair unless we have a visitor prepared to operate the Ambiturn. It hasn’t been much fun for him and he hasn’t complained. Well, not too much anyway.


This evening, for the first time in three months, I was able to use the Ambiturn to transfer my fella from armchair to wheelchair so that we were able to eat our dinner together, up at the table. We had fish and chips and shared a bottle of rather good wine. It felt like Old Times. 


I have been reading a wonderful book called “Be with...” You are probably wondering what that’s all about - it is written by Mike Barnes, a Canadian who is a carer - or caregiver, as they term it in Canada - for his mother. Personally I love the term “caregiver” with its equal emphasis on care and giving; I think we should adopt it in this country forthwith. The book takes the form of letters to other caregivers and the idea is that the reader doesn’t necessarily read it straight through but dips in and out of the book, with each “dip” discovering a new insight, a source of inspiration or comfort.


In one letter, he talks about all the myriad jobs which fall to the caregiver: dispensing medication, washing and dressing, dealing with finances and legal matters, arranging paid help, arguing with the authorities, doing the laundry, the shopping, the cooking, engaging in the ongoing conversations with doctors, with nurses, with physiotherapists - all of these matter and matter a lot. They keep the wheels on the care bus, you might say.


But what matters much, much more is simply - being with... 


Latest comments

08.02 | 17:40

Agree with the very last line.Enjoyable game and obviously we can discuss this at our next birdie outing x

24.01 | 18:27

So glad you got so many domestic issues sorted. There are days when I wish I had a couple of darling daughters. I have a darling son but he is a long way away

19.11 | 22:40

I'll be thinking of you. Good luck. Love from Pat.xx

19.11 | 18:19

Good luck Jaqui from us both. Hope all goes to plan. Kindest wishes, Roland & Shirley x

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