Over at the Middle of the Darling Daughters’ place, party preparations are almost certainly in full swing.
I am not
there, being here, but I am pretty sure that I am correct in the above assumption, bearing in mind that tomorrow will see a Gathering of the Clans to celebrate Young Faris’s First Birthday. As regular blog readers will recall, Faris wrote his own Birthday
Blog which meant I didn’t get the chance to reflect, myself, on this his first year. It’s possible, of course, that we would have covered much the same ground...
Wednesday was, indeed, an emotional day all round for everyone who has watched Our Soldier grow and thrive over the last twelve months. And because his Mum, the Middle of the Darling Daughters, has been so very generous in sharing her delight in her
little son through regular postings of the latest photo, funny story, "must tell” moment in her baby’s life – well, lots and lots of people feel they know him, even if they have never met him. ”He’s, like, a famous baby, isn’t
he?” someone remarked to me once. I knew just what she meant.
My main party preparations so far have been to pack our overnight case, wrap up our presents
and stack bottles of lemonade and coca cola left over from Mr B’s own birthday party in the hall where we may well trip over them, but at least we will not forget to take them. Faris’s Mum has been much, much busier - I know because
she has relayed her progress to me, via Skype and the phone over the last few days. Tomorrow we have been asked to arrive early so that we can be of rather more practical help. I do have a few ideas as to how I can make myself useful.
For starters, I am good at making party sandwiches, having been deployed to do so on many an occasion in the past. I do need to be advised, however, by the hostess, whether she
prefers the sandwiches to be cut in quarters, triangles, fingers or – most exciting of all – animal shapes. All of these I can deliver though, in the case of the animal shapes, a cutter is helpful unless one wants to risk unrecognisable animal
shapes appearing on the sandwich plate and small children freaking out at the thought of eating them.
If strictly necessary, I can blow up balloons,
though I don’t like it when they burst on me. There is a critical point, isn’t there, when a balloon reaches its ultimate size? Tie the knot in its neck too soon and the result is a pretty poor imitation of a party balloon; too many
puffs and it will blow up in your face. Out of a packet of, say, twelve balloons, I can usually guarantee that three or four will burst on me. It might be good, perhaps, to delegate responsibility for this particular task to somebody else?
Possiby Faris (see photo!)
Need someone to organise a party game? I am your man. Or, to be strictly accurate (though I don’t like to be pedantic) your
woman. Many’s the game of Okey Cokey I have led at a Littl’uns Party. Though so many people are coming to Faris’s party tomorrow that it will probably be difficult to get your left arm in, let alone the rest of your body...
My main job at children’s parties these days is to take charge of the kitchen and to provide the adults present with welcome cups of tea and coffee. I find this an
ideal task in that it enables me to meet my children’s friends, who will exclaim at my general helpfulness and make me feel a Most Valued Party Helper. At the last party (it was a Little Welsh Boy’s special day) someone else had the nerve
to take it upon himself to try to take over the kitchen instead of me. We dodged around the kettle for a while, got in each other’s way over the placement of mugs on trays and had a really quite serious skirmish over the sugar bowl before we finally
agreed a common modus operandi.
I can’t wait for tomorrow. Almost all my Best Beloved together – and the rest will surely be there in spirit.
It’s going to be a fabulous party.
Okey Cokey or not.
We are waiting in the Car Park at Petworth House where we have arranged to meet our friends, Ian and Sallie, for a visit to the “Constable at Petworth” exhibition. Our timed admission is for 11 a.m. and
it is already five minutes to the hour. Mr B is sure it is All My Fault.
Did I, he asks, confirm by email that we would meet in the car park at 10.40 a.m. Yes,
I say, with as much conviction as I can muster. But did I, he persists, get an email back from our friends confirming that they had received my email confirming that I had received their email confirming the arrangements? Sometimes, I tell him, you simply
have to accept that a line of conversation is closed.
Could it be, he changes tack, that there is more than one car park and we are in the wrong one? Did I ask
this specific question in my email to our friends? I admit I didn’t but point out that, as we are standing right outside the “Way In”, I can’t really see that we can be in the wrong place.
Don’t I have our friends’ mobile phone number? is the next question. I have to admit that I do not. What is the use of me having a mobile phone, complains Mr B (who has a mobile phone but never uses it, preferring
to allow it to sit gathering dust on our kitchen worktop where its main job is to act as a paperweight for the post-it note which reminds us to “Put Rubbish Out.”)
You may, at this point, be silently commending me for my patience – but the thing is, I have been mistakenly telling him, all the way in the car, that we are going to an Exhibition of paintings by Turner. In short, I have the wrong artist and
he has been quite seriously misinformed. So far he hasn’t twigged this, possibly because, a bit like me, he doesn’t know his Turner from his Constable.
Our friends arrive at last, just as we have taken our seats in the courtesy bus transporting us the 700 yards up to the House. I wave regally at them, rather in the fashion of the Queen, as we pull away – they yell that they will meet us
at the entrance to the exhibition. All is well that ends well and we are just in time for our 11 a.m. admission. “You see, no panic,” I tell Mr B.
This highly cultural outing has taken the place of our usual monthly “Meals and Wheels Club.” Regular blog readers may remember that the idea of this highly exclusive club with a membership of just four, is that one couple provides the meal
each month and the other couple uses their wheels to get to the hosts' house. Sometimes we call it the “Wheels and Meals Club” to avoid getting mixed up with the WRVS operation but it’s a fine distinction.
The Exhibition is completely Sold Out and the room in which the paintings are displayed is absolutely packed. I find a large print guide which is extremely helpful as it saves me having to try to push
my way near enough to each picture to read the small print alongside. The paintings on show are all of Sussex scenes, many familiar to us – how fascinating to read that Constable didn’t much care for Arundel Castle. Obviously he preferred
the humble windmill, judging by the number of his paintings in which they appear. My friend, Sal, is less than impressed and points out that virtually every painting features a gloomy, grey sky in the left hand corner. It can’t always have been
like that, not every time Constable took out his trusty sketch pad, she protests. This hadn’t occurred to me until then but she does have a point. The Constable lovers all around us look crossly at us for our temerity in finding fault. They
probably think we should have gone to the Turner Exhibition instead.
Next we visit the Library, which is not usually open to visitors. This is where Constable,
Turner and other artists gathered at the invitation of the 3rd Earl of Egremont to paint. Not for nothing did they call Petworth the “Art House”. Lying several deep on various cupboards are tantalising folders containing (we are
told) countless unspecified engravings and sketches. There they are, gathering dust like Mr B’s mobile phone and – again, like Mr B’s phone - sadly in need of attention. Sal says she will write a letter suggesting that the whole collection
of books and engravings be handed over to the National Trust forthwith and efforts made to catalogue and digitise them.
We wander back to the car park through
gardens strewn with daffodils and repair to a 17th century pub called The Grove Inn for lunch. It seems most appropriate to eat there as one of the paintings we saw in the exhibition was of this very building, though we didn’t know this
when we agreed on it as our lunch venue.
The next meeting of the "Meals and Wheels Club" will be at our place. It won’t be half so grand and there
won’t be any works of art on display. Not a Constable in sight
Nor even a Turner...
Today I am a whole One Year Old! What an eventful year it has been...
This is Faris, by the way. I have taken time off from ripping the paper off strange-shaped packets and
trying to chew it into soggy balls before Mummy catches on to what I am doing, to write the Daily Blog. On such a Momentous Occasion, it is the least I can do and, let’s face it, writing about my first year would doubtless make Nanni cry and that will
I gather that is what you do, on your birthday – you look back on the past and remember everything that has happened to you along the way. Grandad was 70 a couple of months ago, I don’t know
how he managed to find the time to look back over so many years. One year of remembrances is plenty enough for me.
When I was first born, I didn’t know too many tricks. Not like nowadays. Nowadays
I try to produce a new trick every day. As a littl’un, before I grew up, I did have one very good trick, which always produced a favourable reaction - I used to lie with my arms and legs all stretched out straight, just like a soldier. “Our
Little Soldier!” Mummy and Nanni would cry. It was worth it just to give them a bit of pleasure. Nanni knitted me a soldier, one like those who march up and down outside Buckingham Palace. I haven’t ever been to Buckingham Palace
myself but my Daddy drives past it in his black cab lots of times. I expect the Queen gives him a wave when she sees him. It’s only polite, don’t you think? I keep my soldier in my cot, he lies there with his arms and legs all straight, just
like I used to when I was young.
When I was small, I spent a lot of my time in the jungle. Not the real jungle, don’t be silly, it was a play mat with animals hanging from jungle trees above
my head. This was in the Olden Days when I could only lie on my back but, despite this limitation, a proper little explorer I was. In no time at all I could swipe at my favourite toy, Monkey, Monkey, with one or both of my arms and bring him tumbling down.
Considering what a bad time I gave him, I’m really pleased to see that a sugar craft version of my dear old pal had pride of place on my birthday cake today, along with a candle in the shape of a “1”, presumably just in case Mummy forgot
how old I am today.
Nanni has made me a birthday banner. She makes them for all her grandchildren when it is their birthday. Mine says: “FARIS IS ONE.” I like that –
it’s clear and easy to understand. You can’t argue with a banner like that - though I have to admit I was so excited with it, that I ripped one of the “S” letters right in half. Daddy had to stick it together again. Now the banner’s
pinned up high above the window where even I can’t reach it.
By the way, Nanni recycles all the letters from other birthday banners. You may think this is because she is too lazy to make a new one for every
birthday but she says she likes to think that everybody’s birthday banners include letters from everyone else’s banners.. She didn’t have to make a single new letter for my banner, every single letter was second-hand – I mean,
Now, here’s the Big News. On Saturday I am having a Party. It is going to be the Best Party Ever. Mummy said so, therefore that must be
right. Lots and lots of people are coming, including my best friends Oliver and Harrison and my fabulous cousins. Mummy says it is going to be something called Organised Chaos. I am not sure what this means – it could be a present, or a party game,
or even some kind of food? Whatever it is, I am sure I will love it. I surely am the luckiest boy in the whole, wide world.
Obviously because this is the first birthday I have ever had, I am still learning
the ropes. By the time I am two, I will be super proficient at the Birthday Business, just you wait and see. In the meantime, I am just going to enjoy every single minute of the Organised Chaos.
Whatever it is...
Scottish Christine has offered to give me a lift to Pulborough Brooks, the venue for this month’s Birdy Group meet-up.
name is not actually “Scottish Christine”but I call her that to differentiate her from all the other Christines we know. Christine must have been a popular name among the Classes of the Forties. Among the other Christines of our acquaintance is
“Choir Christine”, who is a member of our Singing for Pleasure Choir. Unfortunately she is one of two Christines who sing in the Choir, but I have resolved this little problem by calling the other one “Marine Christine” because
she organised our recent visit to the Portsmouth base of the Royal Marines Band. It’s easy when you know how.
Also accepting a lift from Scottish Christine
was Lovely Linda, who has said she will always give me a lift whenever I need one (presumably if Scottish Christine is away or indisposed.) She is sitting in the passenger seat and directs Scottish Christine the long way round to Pulborough Brooks, on the
basis that if we take the short route we will come up against lengthy delays caused by (i) flooding and / or (ii) road works. I sit in the back seat, spared any responsibility for navigation, and enjoy the ride.
We battle through a short, but sharp, shower on the way and study the clouds overhead, trying to decide whether our two hour walk will be rain-free or wet and windy. In the event we are blessed. The rain holds off for
all but the final quarter of an hour and as we are already well on our way to the comfort of the coffee shop by the time it starts to fall, we all think ourselves lucky.
It has been, a splendid morning. For a long time, we watched a kestrel hovering above us, seeking out prey, then swooping down on some unsuspecting creature in the undergrowth. Above it, an aeroplane, silent in the distance, making
its way to Gatwick. I stand admiring these two birds in flight – one natural, one man-made, and marvel at them both. So transfixed am I that I stumble over my sturdy walking boots and nearly end up in a ditch running alongside a field. It
is a tumble worth taking because there beyond is a herd of fifty, sixty female deer (as in “doe, a deer, a female deer”, you know the song, I‘m sure.) I have never seen quite so many bunched together as if waiting in line for their Zumba
class. A truly magnificent sight. They seem to sense us watching, for they move off slowly, in formation but without any urgency. They know we are admiring them, I am sure.
There is lots of water at Pulborough Brooks but had our visit been timed for a couple of weeks earlier, it would have been even more awash. The ducks are having a field day – wigeon, pintails, shelducks and all the usual suspects.
The Highland cattle are looking a little raggedy but still magnificent. The pheasants come out to watch our progress.
All around us the harbingers of Spring. I
love that word. Harbingers, I mean – through Spring is a lovely word too, of course. Signs of new life are all around us from the primroses struggling to be seen amid the grassy banks to the catkins hanging from the trees like lacy curtains across
the blue sky. Every year, Spring arrives like a miracle, a sudden and welcome surprise. It happens every year but it never fails to fill me with awe.
And up in Ilkley, Yorkshire, in the early hours of yesterday morning another birth – a baby daughter for my dear nephew and his lovely wife. Like the catkins and the primroses, Isla Poppy has arrived with the Springtime,
a new and precious life to be celebrated.
Congratulations, Chris and Emma on your very own Springtime miracle.
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