Jaqui's Daily Blog

I knew it might be a challenge keeping the Rascally Trio occupied yesterday, given that the weather was not exactly promising. After a long-ish car journey, they would need to run off some of their pent-up energy before letting them loose on Mr B. Once back to our house, however, there was one activity they would certainly be well up for - the making of the Flowerpot People.

 

We have been trying to find time for their manufacture for simply ages but events kept getting in the way. The Trio, like three small but persistent elephants, have long memories and were not about to let me forget about this latest project. “Will we be making the Flowerpot People?” they demanded, via FaceTime, the day before their visit. One way or another, I determined, it Had To Be Done.

 

The Middle of the Darling Daughters, proud mother of the Rascals, picked me up from home and we drove down to the seafront where we unloaded scooters from the boot of the car and set off towards the Lido where I thought we might introduce the Trio to the delights of the Amusement Arcade, which has often been a place of retreat from wintry weather.  It does occur to me that, like most grandparents, I am a Very Bad Influence in a multiplicity of ways. Am I, perchance, introducing the Trio to the doubtful delight of gambling? 

 

The problem with slot machines is that there is no guarantee that the lollipop teetering on the very edge of the bottom shelf of the Push a Penny machine will actually tip over. Nor that, even if it does, that it will be the “right” lollipop according to Tala (elder of the twins by one important minute.) Young Faris, who has the greatest success of the three, is sweet enough to offer one of his own prizes to his sister when he sees her distress at winning the “wrong” lollipop.  His mother and I are very proud of him and I decide that maybe the Trio’s excursion into the den of iniquity which is the amusement arcade is teaching them certain valuable Life Lessons.  Not least that the machine will always, in the end, gobble up all your twopenny pieces and leave you with little more than a lollipop or  two. And then only if you are very, very lucky...

 

While we have been inside the arcade losing three pounds worth of tuppenny pieces (I am, as you know, the last of the Big Spenders) the rain has set in and we have a long, wet walk / scoot along the prom, prom, prom back to the car. Maybe we shouldn’t have parked quite so far away? my daughter and I ask each other. Too late now, as anyone who has gambled on good weather will surely tell you.

 

Still, back at home we had all the excitement of making the Flowerpot People to look forward to. While the Middle of the Darling Daughters cooked lunch for us all, I supervised the Trio’s Flowerpot Person production line. Fortunately, there was total agreement about which of the Trio should have the pink, who the red and who the cerise flowers which would form the Flowerpot People’s hair. I was a little worried that none of the three would want the black flower pot for their person’s body but once I mentioned that their mother liked to wear black, Young Faris immediately laid claim to it, leaving the green pots to his sisters. Despite a few problems with goggle eyes falling off and buttons slipping crazily out of position, by the time the Middle of the Darling Daughters produced our lunch, we had three character-full Flowerpot People to show for our Earnest Endeavours.

 

I love the fact that, despite following the same basic instructions, each of the finished Flowerpot People has an identity all its own.  Faris’s Flowerpot Person, dressed in black adorned with shiny red buttons, has a high, high forehead - possibly indicative of massive brainpower? Lilia’s has a look of sheer astonishment on its face as if it can’t quite believe what has happened to it. Either that, or it really, really needs the loo. Tala has added a white button nose to the two goggle eyes on her person’s face but this doesn’t disguise the fact that it looks more than a little tipsy. We sit the Flowerpot People on three colourful plastic chairs and admire our handiwork. I ask if the Trio would like to take them home but the Middle of the Darling Daughters says, hastily, that it will be much more fun to keep them at our house and enjoy them every time she and the Trio visit. 

 

 It seems I am now responsible for their survival. I’m not sure I can keep them indoors as they take up quite a lot of room though they are excellent, if somewhat silent, company. I sat them in front of the TV to watch the Queen’s Speech this morning and they were admirably restrained in their comments. They will look great outside in the back garden - but I don’t think I can leave them out in all weathers even though they might well scare the living daylights out of our resident squirrel. 

 

I’m getting quite ridiculously fond of them - in all their Flowerpottery!

 

The Darling Daughters often complain that we don’t have enough mirrors in our house. My response is generally to say that this shows that, whatever else we may be, we are not vain. Vanity is a Mirror in Every Room.

 

Next time they come to visit, they will be startled to find that we now have a rather enormous mirror on the wall in our living room. You can’t miss it - it really is a Mega-Mirror. The Mega Mirror isn’t actually new; in fact up until about eight years ago it held pride of position above the fireplace. I was never completely happy with it there, always aware that I should have asked Mr B to hang it landscape, rather than portrait but, as he had expended considerable effort putting it up in the first place, I deemed it inadvisable to ask for it to be repositioned. I am quite sensible like that. Don’t strut the small stuff, someone once said, even if the small stuff is a Mega Mirror.

 

Before I retired, seven years ago (how long!?) we gradually decorated throughout the house, with the living room the last to receive a makeover. Down came the Mega Mirror, to be replaced by a rather splendid canvas of a jazz band which we had bought, in anticipation, some months before. It set off perfectly the set of jazz players which Our Foursome bought me on my fiftieth birthday and which have played merrily away on the hearth ever since. Fancifully I like to imagine that the three musicians on the hearth have somehow escaped from the picture above the mantelpiece to carry on making music for us.

 

The displaced Mega Mirror was tucked away in the spare bedroom and more or less forgotten about until yesterday. That was when Handyman Chris came to call to attend to the fitted cupboards in one of our bedrooms and I had the idea of getting him to hang the Mega Mirror in the living room at the same time. Handyman Chris, who is the most obliging of fellas, was happy to, well, oblige.

 

I asked Mr B to keep an eye on work in progress from his wheelchair, on account of the fact that, with his keen printer’s eye, he would be sure to note if the Mega Mirror was even the slightest bit wonky. Let’s face it, a wonky mirror would aggravate us every time we looked at it - as it is, Mr B can confirm that it is perfectly aligned in the centre of the wall. 

 

The Mega Mirror has had two quite unexpected benefits for me. Being the size that it is, and in the position it is, it is impossible not to look at myself literally dozens of times a day as I move about the living room. You might think that must be most disconcerting and, indeed, it is - except that I am finding it makes me straighten up, lift my head high, and walk that much taller simply because I can’t bear to see myself slumping about like a Very Old Person.  

 

Similarly I find I have to smile when I see myself in the mirror. As I have told you before, I am not one of those lucky people blessed with a smiley face - the kind of face which looks as if its owner is smiling even when he or she is not. I can look decidedly miserable even when I’m not. Now, with the help of the Mega Mirror, I have more or less attached a smile to my face. Who would have thought a mirror could make such a difference?

 

No, you won’t hear me chanting “Mirror, mirror on the wall / who is the fairest of them all?” like Snow White’s wicked step-mother. I have always held the opinion that it is better never to ask a question unless you are certain that you will receive the answer you want. Certain politicians might like to ponder on that. Incidentally why are the step mothers in fairy tales always wicked? I’m not a step mother myself, but as far as I know wickedness isn’t nor ever has been, in the job description...

 

 Mirror, mirror on the wall - am I standing straight and tall?

One of the newest members of our Singing for Pleasure choir tells me that she thinks the group should be renamed as The Happy Hour. This is because, she says, every time she enters the hall at the Heene Community Centre where we meet, everyone is smiling, chatting and making newcomers feel welcome. I am lost for words, so happy has she made me.

 

Did I tell you that our conductor, the Redoubtable Muriel, has called it a day at the grand old age of 95? While we search for a new conductor we are relying on our stalwart pianist, Morag, to take us through our paces but today, in Morag’s absence, we were led by One of Our Own. Also known as Pat.

 

It was Pat who had chosen the songs we would sing today - a selection from pages 9 to 21 in our red files, plus three songs from our music selection and four strays from earlier pages. Introducing one of these - “Kalinka” - Pat explained that she had chosen this particular song because it brought to mind the memory of hearing the Red Army in concert. Her family were all seated in the front row, heads upturned to watch the performance which was, it went without saying, unforgettable. We did our best to do “Kalinka” justice but we are not the Red Army. I can only hope we didn’t tarnish the memory of that concert. 

 

It had me thinking, however, about the way a song, a tune, a lyric can bring memories flooding back - memories which are almost always wholly personal. So it was for many of the songs we sang this morning.

 

“Catch a Falling Star” was one of the songs hitting the charts in October 1957. Perry Como sang it along with “Magic Moments” which was on the B side of the same record. Okay, I accept that you have to have reached a Great Age to know about A sides and B sides. To be honest, if you are too young to have heard of them I shouldn’t worry over much. I have to say (with apologies to poor Perry) that neither song would have fixed itself in my memory were it not for the fact that the record was released when my Little Sister was confined to hospital for what seemed like endless weeks to me.  Forbidden to visit her on account of my tender age (our Dad did arrange for me to be lifted up once at the window of her hospital ward so that I could see her tucked up in bed) the songs took on a new meaning for me. 

 

A change of pace - we are singing “I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside.” It could well be our Family Anthem, I think. Indeed, lines of the song are inscribed on three of the wooden slats which Mr B and I purchased for our Tremendous Ten grandchildren on Littlehampton’s longest bench. And we still always refer to the “prom, prom, prom” when taking a walk along the seafront.

 

Pat thinks we might like to try out a round? We are well up for it especially when it turns out that the round in question is “Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree”. I am immediately transported back to my days as Brown Owl of the 3rd Staplehurst Brownie Pack, sitting in a Brownie Ring on Pack Holidays, looking round the circle of bright, shining faces and feeling that rush of intense happiness that comes with knowing that this is one of life’s unforgettable moments.

 

We sing “Lullaby of Broadway” which was the very first song I learnt when I joined the Singing for Pleasure choir seven years ago then Pat announces our next song will be “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” - a nod to the fact that the latest news suggests a possible breakthrough in Brexit negotiations following a meeting with the Irish Taoiseach (I always pronounce his title as “Tea shop”. You know it makes sense.) That particular song will always remind me of a concert we gave to a home for retired ex-service personnel when our rendition brought tears to the eyes of one Old Soldier in our audience. I am choked up just thinking about it.

 

I’m not the best of singers - in fact you might describe me as musically challenged - but I do know that every song is a precious memory for somebody.

 

That’s the Power of Song.

 

When it comes to the monthly outings with the Birdy Group, one never really knows what to expect.

 

Depending on where our ramble takes us, the time of year and (of course) the weather, we may enjoy amazing sightings. Every so often we are fortunate enough to catch sight of a kingfisher - sometimes one will even pose on an overhanging branch so that even the one of us with least aptitude with the binoculars (that’ll be me, then) is able to see and enjoy it in all its splendour. Other times we have to be content with a selection of sparrows, crows, pigeons and magpies - all the while reminding ourselves that every bird is beautiful in its own way. Even the much-spotted LBJ (which stands, you understand, for Little Brown Job.)

 

I remember when I first joined the Birdy Group some years ago, our then leader gave me a lift home from my first outing, all the way bewailing the fact that we hadn’t seen any really “interesting” birds. She seemed to feel it was somehow her personal responsibility that we might have been disappointed by our morning’s tally of Birds Spotted. I was swift to console her with the reassurance that “Birds Is Birds.” Yes, I know it’s ungrammatical but I do firmly believe that occasionally it is okay to break a grammatical rule in the interests of added emphasis.

 

I once gave a talk to the local branch of the Plain English Society about the campaign I was leading at the Council I worked for at the time about using plain English in our communications with customers. I think it’s safe to say that it was an argumentative meeting. Mr B accompanied me and I asked him later which side he thought had won the argument. He said, loyally (and probably inaccurately) that he thought the honours were about even. As I recall, the members of the esteemed society took especial exception to my suggestion that we were “writing for the customer” - what I should have said (apparently) was that we were writing “to the customer.” My thoughts about being allowed to break a grammatical rule if you knew exactly why you were doing it and for what reason amounted to the equivalent of treason...

 

Anyway, I digress. Birds being birds, we never know when we turn up on the first Monday of each month, what we will be fortunate enough to see. Mostly we are perfectly happy with the pleasant ramble and the ever joyful company. 

 

On Monday, however, the Lovely Linda (current leader of the Birdy Group) wanted to warn us that we might see more than we wanted. We were taking a slightly different route she explained as we gathered at the entrance to the beautiful Burpham parish church - one which she and fellow member Bas had sussed out for us a couple of months earlier. On that occasion they had been surprised (understatement of the year) to come across a party of male naturists dressed only in their hiking boots with rucksacks on their backs. Smothered giggles indicated that we were all finding it impossible not to conjure up a picture of the scene. I rather wanted to know if they were bird watching but such information was sadly not available.

 

We all decided however that, it now being the month of October, we would be unlikely to spot them again unless they were extremely hardy types though it just goes to show, doesn’t it, that you never know what you might see when you are out with the Birdy Group?

 

My best sighting of the day (naturists not being around) was a heron sitting on a gate. For this I was indebted to Eagle-eyed Cindy, the newest member of our group, who was sweet enough to spend ages helping me to train my binoculars in the right direction so that I could claim to have seen it when we gathered round a table in the local pub at the end of our amble to help Linda compile a list of Birds Seen.

 

Mr B, when I returned home to relate the story of my morning out, wasn’t as impressed as I hoped he would be. Nothing less than the sighting of a Golden Eagle would do for him. Which, given where we live, is just about as unlikely as could be.

 

And that’s the Naked Truth.

There was a long, long queue snaking out of the GP surgery and along the road. You wouldn’t think, would you, that so many people would be so excited at the thought of claiming their annual flu jab?

 

In previous years, there has been no such problem. On arrival, you took your place at the end of a small queue and in no time at all a nurse was asking you if you were feeling well today before plunging a needle into your bare arm without waiting for an answer. Done and dusted in minutes.

 

Yesterday something had clearly gone amiss. The staff on duty, trying to appease an imcreasingly restless crowd, said it was all the fault of the very many people, who had turned up before their appointment time. I had a quick look round to see if I could spot the naughty ones who were trying to jump the queue but most people appeared unmoved. I, for my part, felt quite virtuous having turned up at 10.35 - the time of my appointment - on the dot. Indeed, I had actually wasted a few minutes beforehand in the Guild Care charity shop where I picked up a 63 piece dinosaur puzzle for the Rascally Trio (£1.50 - I am, as regular readers well know, the Last of the Big Spenders.) Which meant it wasn't wasted time at all.

 

“Did you see me come in?” a gent standing by the counter (“We are not open for prescription requests,” a notice on top of the desk proclaimed, unhelpfully) asked of the queue in general. Everyone looked away but I decided to let him into the queue in front of me as I was pretty sure he had been standing there as long as I had but had somehow lost his place. In any case it could count as my Act of Random Kindness just in case I couldn’t find a more worthy opportunity over the course of the day...

 

At this point the queue started moving slowly forward and some time later I emerged from the surgery with a sore arm and a printed sheet informing me that I now had a 60% chance of not falling victim to the flu this winter. I decided not to think too much about the 40% chance I now had of actually succumbing to some unknown virus. Life is too short to worry unduly, I always think.

 

Outside the doctor’s surgery, a parking inspector was having a field day pinning penalty notices into the windscreens of cars parked outside, their owners, almost certainly, having been caught in the Flu Queue for more than the sixty minutes of free parking allowed. Passions will run high, I reflected as I made my way back to my own car, safely parked outside the fish and chip shop.

 

My sunny disposition was in no small part due to the fact that I was looking forward to a Footie Afternoon with our Next Door Neighbours. Brighton versus Tottenham Hotspur - it promised much. I prepared a vegetarian buffet for when the half time whistle blew - a small thank you to our lovely neighbours for the many rubbish and recycling bins they have wheeled out for us every Bin Collection Day, the verges they have mown for us, the jokes and the laughter they have shared with us over the garden fence. 

 

Mr B had his Spurs flag draped over one side of the mantelpiece but, in the interests of impartiality, I hung a mask of former Brighton player, Bruno, over the other side. I know, don’t ask.. 

 

Mr B was amazingly sanguine about the result (Brighton won 3-0, in case you need to / don’t know) and there was no crowing from the opposition. It was all very civilised, considering.

 

Not at all like the Flu Queue at the doctor’s surgery...

 

Latest comments

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