Jaqui's Daily Blog

Angela tells us, a trifle dismissively, that she doesn't need to see our appointment letter and there is no need for us to report in. We are to take a seat and wait to be called.

I know her name is Angela, incidentally, because I heard her introducing herself on the telephone to a patient who shall remain nameless. As he had not turned up for his appointment on May 5th, she told him, she was just checking that she had sent his letter (presumably the one that he would not have needed had he remembered to turn up) to the correct address. I took this as a rather diplomatic way of making it clear that the appointment had been missed, thus inviting a sincere apology. This did not work for, as far as I could tell from the one-sided conversation, the gent on the other end of the line was in a belligerent, rather than an apologetic, mood. I think she was just too subtle. There is a time and a place for subtlety but this was not it.

We are at the hospital eye clinic where Mr B is to have his annual retina check. I am here as his somewhat annoying guardian angel just in case his eye-sight becomes so blurry after the administration of eye-drops that he won't be able to find his way back to the bus stop. Mr B sits down and I systematically read all the posters and notices decorating the walls before moving onto the leaflets in the leaflet racks. I would like to claim that this shows (i) my thirst for knowledge or (ii) my desire to access help and information for the patient but, to be honest, I am just trying to keep my own eyes open. We had a long session at choir this morning, preparing for the concert we are giving next week - of which more in tomorrow's blog. I bet you can't wait.

A woman turns up, to be told by Angela to take a seat and wait to be called. "Don't you want to know who I am?" the woman enquires, quite reasonably in my opinion. Angela, in response, returns to her computer. That'll be a "no" then. At this point Mr B is invited into the surgery to have drops put in both eyes. I can hear him joking with the doctor somewhere along the corridor. It's good, I think to myself, that he is in a jovial mood. However he returns a few minutes later, complaining bitterly that his eyes are stinging "like hell." After five minutes or so the doctor emerges to look meaningfully into Mr B's eyes to check if his pupils are dilating (I hope you are impressed with my ophthalmological knowledge) and asks if Mr B can remember needing two lots of eye drops last time. Mr B replies, rather too firmly, that he didn't.

Another patient arrives and goes straight to the reception desk. Same question, same response. "Why have a receptionist at all?" the newcomer queries, querulously. I shrug my shoulders in silent sympathy and compare the size of Mr B's pupils with those of the woman sitting next to me. It's okay, I did ask first. I wouldn't have just stared into her eyes without so much as a by-your-leave.

I notice that there is a sign on the wall asking us all to keep quiet as this is "a working environment". Which I take to mean that we are not to disturb Angela with idle chatter while she is putting missives into envelopes, highlighting whole sentences on pieces of paper and telling everyone who arrives that she doesn't need to see their appointment letters or know their names. It seems a pity because it may be idle chatter to Angela but it's an important sharing of experiences to everyone waiting in the clinic for their names to be called.

Fortunately Mr B doesn't need more eye drops and the doctor eventually pronounces that his retinas are hunky dory. Which isn't exactly medical jargon, let alone what the doctor actually said, but I'm sure you will allow me a little poetic licence. We walk across the road to the bus stop where we have just six minutes to wait for our transport home.

"Well, that was relatively painless," I say, cheerily. Mr B glowers at me through his well-dilated pupils.

"Speak for yourself!" he grumbles.

The Eldest of the Darling Daughters has printed out a Healthy Living programme for me. Well, actually, it's for Mr B even more than for me, but he is unlikely to try anything so, well, healthy, until I have tried it first and vouched for its effectiveness. I am therefore giving it a test drive.

What attracts me to the programme is that it is based on habits. Both good habits and bad habits. As in, forming the good and breaking the bad. So far, so haven't we all heard this before. But the difference, according to the E of the DDs, is that you don't try to change everything all at once. So you don't move on to the next habit until you have mastered the one you're working on. It only takes 21 days to form a new habit apparently, after which it should be automatic, part of "what you do." And one habit at a time, that's the idea.

My daughter explained that the first bad habit she had decided to break was drinking too much coffee - her newly established good habit is to drink but two cups of coffee a day and both of these before lunchtime. I think of the delights of meeting up with friends in coffee shops all over Worthing and suggest that maybe I could leave this particular challenge till later - like when I've got into the habit of habits, if you know what I mean. Though perhaps I could exchange my delicious latte for a Plain and Ordinary Decaffeinated. Perhaps I'll think about that one for a bit. While hoping that a better idea comes winging my way.

Mr B and I are alike in that we are both Creatures of Habit. This new approach to good health should therefore suit us both. All we need to do is to select our habit. It doesn't need to be the same habit, I suppose, but it might help, particularly by introducing an element of Marital Competition. Mr B likes nothing better than to beat me at an activity, especially if it involves a pack of cards. Which is neither here nor there in terms of what we are talking about today.

Most of our habits, however, can't really be categorised as either "healthy" or "unhealthy". For example, when we return home from a trip out and see that there is no flashing light on the telephone indicating a missed call, one of us will always, but always, say: "Nobody loves us!" To which the other will reply: "Good job we love each other." Likewise, when staying in a hotel, away from home, we always say: "Let's hit the breakfast trail!" once we are both showered and dressed. These are just two examples, there are many, many more but I don't want to bore you with our idiosyncrasies.

We almost always go to bed at the same time because this enables us to listen to "The Bag", a general knowledge quiz on Paul Miller's late night show. We tend to wake up at the same time, too, as in far too early to get up - though Mr B will rise and shine anyway and head off downstairs for his first coffee of the day, leaving me to turn on "Wake Up To Money" on Radio 5 which I know will be guaranteed to send me straight off to sleep again at the first mention of quantitative easing.

I take myself off into the garden because I generally find I come up with good answers to problems when I am communing with nature. Plus I have just bought some green sacks, available from the Borough Council, and need to bag up all the garden greenery I tidied up yesterday. Why have I never used green sacks before? What an amazing amount of weeds, pruning, grass clippings and other Green Stuff each bag holds. I have been converted and am now a Paid Up Member (80p a sack) to the Green Sack Brigade. Seriously, this could become a habit.

Gardening. That's a healthy habit, isn't it? And I'm growing vegetables, they're healthy too? All I need to do now is to to grow and eat my five a day for the next 21 days.


Except, oh no, what's this? Yet another expert says 21 days to form or break a habit is a vast underestimate - it takes 66 days at least. Concentrating on just one habit at a time means it will take me a whole year to tackle just five and a half habits. Will this be enough to improve my Health and Wellbeing? Presumably it will depend on the scope and breadth of each new good habit. And what is half a habit when it's at home?

Don't get me wrong, I am prepared to give this a Healthy Living Lark a good tryout. It worked for the Eldest of the Darling Daughters, so why shouldn't it work for me?


I just can't see me making a habit of it...



My sister and I live around 80 miles apart - but on a day like this I can guarantee you will find us both, out in our respective gardens, talking to our tender seedlings.

Yes, Maggie and I are definitely two sprigs off the same branch (I hope you are appreciating the way I am carrying through with the horticultural analogy - it must be the influence of the Chelsea Flower Show.)

In Maggie's case, it is her newly planted marigolds receiving her words of encouragement and advice on growing big and strong; in my, rather more prosaic case, it is the lettuces and beetroot. But I am prepared to wager that the words we are using will be much the same.

My beetroot have, indeed, had a head start on Maggie's marigolds so it is not surprising that they are bigger. However there is no question that marigolds are more attractive than beetroot. There's nothing particularly beaut about beet.

Our friend Avril gave us the beetroot plants when they were just tiny seedlings. I have tended them lovingly, so much so that when Avril came to inspect them last week (she likes to keep an eye on her vegetable off-spring) she was a little put out to discover that ours were thriving rather more than those they'd left behind them. I can only presume that Avril has not been talking to her beetroot. As regular readers may recall, I am not that fond of beetroot but Mr B loves it and is already looking forward to feasting on a Little Gem lettuce and beetroot salad. His keen expectation has not, as yet, prompted him to add his voice to mine in regular conversation with the growing plants but of and when they make it into the Great Salad Bowl of Life, he will doubtless claim some of the credit. He believes, for reasons best known to himself that watering is more important to Vegetable Wellbeing than chattering.

Recently the neighbours living at the bottom of our garden (no, they're definitely not fairies, they looked very substantial when they came round to discuss the work to be done. And not a wing in sight) had a new fence erected which has tidied things up on our side no end. With a little bit of work, I reckoned this afternoon, I could clear the back border ready to be planted with beautiful shrubs and hardy perennials. Off I went with the zeal of a true gardener, or at least with a good pretence at being one. Half an hour later it was clear that I had seriously underestimated the work involved. In short, I found myself hacking through a veritable jungle. All it needed was a monkey or two swinging from the tree above my head and the picture would have been complete.

After a while I fancied myself in The Twinkles' Jungle Gym. I started to hum loudly, to the consternation of a small blue butterfly who clearly had considered I was an extension of the buddleia and wasn't expecting a rendition of Spread a Little Happiness, there in the overgrown border. I gathered lots of dead twigs and branches and made them into a small wood pile. I picked up bits of cement post, the odd household brick - how long must it have been, I asked myself, since anyone had tackled the Jungle at the Bottom of Our Garden. The somewhat shameful answer was at least 29 years, that being how long we have lived here.

I was starting to flag in my endeavours when suddenly, hidden behind a particularly thick bush, I spotted a patch of bright blue. There in the border, brave survivors of my garden jungle, a small bunch of quite beautiful bluebells. A surprise made all the more wonderful by its unexpectedness and the probably quite unwarranted feeling of being rewarded for one's efforts.

"So there you are then!" I whispered, "Fancy seeing you here!" The bluebells danced in excitement at hearing my voice.

It may just have been the wind of course - but I reckon I know better. And my sister Maggie would definitely say the same.

It's official! The title of Most Over Active Pensioner has been awarded to - 68 year old Phillip Howells. You thought it might be me, now didn't you?

Mr Howells, however, has completed 168 Marathons (and we are not talking chocolate bars here) and is apparently determined to complete something called an Ironman Challenge before he hits the Grand Old Age of 70. I can only bow before such an excellent example of Over Activity. It does slip into my mind that it is somewhat strange that a man who walks everywhere should win a competition sponsored by Senior Rail Card which is all about train travel but I let the thought slip out again, just as quickly as it slipped in because I don't want to be accused of Sour Grapes.

Most people reckon I am inclined to be over active but I certainly can't compete with Mr Howells or, indeed, any of the other finalists who include 69 year old Gerry who has sailed across the Atlantic and plans to do likewise around the British Isles; Linda, who has climbed Sydney Harbour Bridge (why?); triathlete Karrie who has plans to cycle 1000 miles in 19 days; and keen trekker Jane who enjoys climbing in the Himalayas. What an example to us all!

No, to be honest, I am not planning to even attempt to emulate these amazing retirees because, as everyone knows, I have (i) absolutely no head for heights; (ii) an unfortunate tendency towards sea-sickness; and (iii) an inclination to wobble dangerously on anything with two wheels. I do like to think, however, that it is possible to be over active rather less strenuously, much more pleasurably and, above all, with far less pain.

For a start, how about a busy afternoon making pirates out of wooden spoons, bits of cardboard, and "precious jewels" with the Little Welsh Boys? This required exquisite attention to detail, the ability to react swiftly enough to head off any danger of felt tip pens marking the newly acquired coffee table, and preferably three pairs of hands - one pair to hold a wooden spoon steady while cloak, eye patch, dagger and parrot are attached, another pair to rummage in The Making Box for the left-handed scissors, and a third pair to stop the Duracell Bunny winding up the Pritt Stick to its fullest extent thus risking the whole gluey column toppling onto the floor and under his feet. Fortunately I was well in touch with my Inner Pirate, having spent the morning playing Walk the Plank with the Duracell Bunny while his brothers were at school.

As far as swimming is concerned, well the Over Active Ones should try bath-time with the Rampaging Rascal. Mostly this consists of acting as target practice while the Champion Thrower hurls at me, in turn, the three yellow ducks, the blue dolphin, the pink octopus, the yellow starfish and the creature from Octonauts whose name I have forgotten but whose spots change colour when it gets wet. It's when he starts on the sponges that I have to start leaping about trying to catch them before they drop, wetly, on the bathroom floor. I think it's fair to say that the Rascal and I get along swimmingly.

I am always available to "help" with homework or test examinees before their next Ordeal. Sorry, exam. I spend ages slaving over the knitting needles to produce characters of woolly charm. Postman Pat? Delivered. Bob the Builder? Constructed. Frosty the Snowman? Built. Father and Mrs Christmas? Presented with much love and many kisses.

Even away from grand-parenting duties, I am Activity Personified. Nobody takes the Pulse bus into town quite so often as I do. Nobody else frequents local restaurants, cafés and other such establishments to meet friends for lunch or coffee and a chat as regularly as I do. Nobody else, I feel sure, spends so much time on the telephone to family members.


This is what retirement is all about and, while heaping congratulations upon Mr Howells and his amazing record of marathons (he plans to complete 333 before he hangs up his running shoes. No, I don't know why he picked on that number, it's not exactly round, is it?) I would like to hear a cheer raised for all the other Over Active Pensioners (OAP stands for "Old And Proud" according to grand-daughter, Katie) who reckon that it's not all about swimming, running, climbing bridges or scuba diving.

Retirement - it's not a sprint, it's a marathon...

I spent yesterday afternoon in the company of a good many Super Heroes and a few (by comparison) Fairy Princesses.

There were pirates, knights in shining armour, a couple of Supermen, a small but dynamic Buzz Lightyear and, of course, the Birthday Boy dressed as a Power Ranger in red, white and gold. Had I not known he was a Power Ranger, having been introduced to this strange breed through watching countless of their escapades in the company of the Little Welsh Boys, I might have thought he was either Benny or Bjorn from Abba, in those long ago days when pop stars actually dressed up in the kind of costumes you now mostly find in The Disney Store.

Either way, Our Morgan looked completely adorable. His mum, the Darling Daughter in Law bewailed the fact that he had intended to go to the party dressed as a knight but high jinks on the previous day meant that the body armour was rather too grubby for a party. "He looked SO sweet!" she lamented. I'm not sure knights are supposed to look sweet, but I did know what she meant.

The party was being held in the Scout Hut just along the road which had the advantage of proximity but the disadvantage that all three boys wanted to take themselves along to the hall to "help out" on frequent occasions throughout the lead up to "lift off." Sam and James, in particular, were busily making something called a Flower Cake of which they seemed extremely proud though what it had to do with the party preparations was a trifle unclear. First of all I thought they meant a Flour Cake, which did have a certain ring of authenticity, but no, it turned out to be a kind of wreath of grass, interwoven with purple flowers. I could not help noticing very similar flowers growing in the hedges of some of the gardens along their road as I trotted along to the Scout Hut but I chose to avert my eyes. What you haven't seen, you can hardly comment upon.

One of the best parts of my grandsons' parties is that I get to meet up, three times a year, with their parents' friends and see for myself how their own little ones are growing up. This party, I also met some new Mums and Dads, parents of Morgan's nursery friends. I look forward to meeting up with them at future parties now that I have had the pleasure of making their acquaintance.

Parties in the Scout Hut follow a tried and tested formula. A bouncy castle, diddy cars for scooting madly around on, party tea, birthday cake (another triumph for the Darling Daughter in Law in the shape of a splendid Power Ranger helmet this time round) and, of course, the ceremonial singing of Happy Birthday which always brings an enormous lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. As I was still recovering from the previous day's sickness bug, I was even more prone to the Usher Gene than usual, especially aware that I simply wasn't able to be as much of a Party Helper as I like to imagine I usually am. Though possibly the main Party Organisers were thanking their lucky stars at my uncustomary Stance of Non-Intervention.

Yesterday we also played our family's favourite party game "Tommy!" (all you need is a plate and a tube of Smarties - the old games are definitely the best games), Statues, and Pin the Tail on a Donkey. The Birthday Boy, I couldn't help noticing, managed a bit of judicious peeping under the blindfold while his papa was momentarily diverted by someone almost running a diddy car over his big toe.

Back home we trundled with all the party remnants plus a box full of presents from Morgan's very generous guests. These would all wait to be opened until Wednesday, which will be the actual birthday - but the presents from Mr B and me were to be opened immediately. I was so excited to watch my little Power Ranger open the knitted Minion which I had knitted him and carefully enveloped in a protective covering of bubble wrap. Morgan was ecstatic: "Paper to pop!" he exclaimed, grabbing hold of the bubble wrap and leaving the poor old Minion abandoned on the floor. Note to other grandparents: if you can't decide what to buy your three year old for his / her birthday, just give a large sheet of bubble wrap. It will surely be received with quite disproportionate rapture.

The following day, as in today, I have to report that the Minion discovered his Purpose in Life - to be rescued over and over again from a burning castle by Morgan's collection of fire engines. Every Minion will have its day, as so will every Birthday Boy and Girl.

As for Young Morgan - regular readers know him as The Duracell Bunny because he never, ever stops - well, I am extremely biased of course but as far as I am concerned he is definitely One in A Minion.


Latest comments

17.03 | 22:51

How lovely Jacqui

12.02 | 22:18

Eat all day at Bill's sounds just the ticket!

06.02 | 23:43

Please send you and Brian's current email to me. Thanks

10.12 | 20:15

Oh how lovely for you all ,my grandson loves his sister, and she loves him. She really giggles when she hears him

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