After my behind the scenes trip to the museum in Chichester (see yesterday's Daily Blog) I couldn't go home without paying a visit to Mr and Mrs Peregrine Falcon, nesting up high in the Cathedral turrets.
The current Mrs PF is not the same Mother of Renown who raised 42 chicks over the course of twelve years. Last year a new couple took up temporary residence at Number One, Celestial Heights and they have returned again this
year. Four eggs were laid, most appropriately over the Easter weekend, and hatching is expected at the beginning of May. In the meantime the current Mr and Mrs PF know a lot about modern marriage and twenty-first century parenting.
Having said that, in comparison to today's loved-up couples (whether consciously or unconsciously coupling) the Peregrine Pair don't appear to be particularly close. Romance doesn't seem to come naturally to them. They are, in fact,
decidedly snappy with each other but then, it's a testing time in any a marriage, is it not? the anticipation of pending parenthood. Mr PF doesn't fly back with tasty morsels to tempt his spouse while she is sitting atop the nest. Nor, on her part, is she
prepared to shoulder all the responsibility of safeguarding their precious nest-full. She is clearly not the type to be a home-bound housewife. Rather, she and her mate take it in turns to head off in search of food, leaving the other in charge of the house
and eggs. This is, indeed, a Thoroughly Modern Marriage of Equals.
The RSPB volunteers who staff the tent in the Cathedral gardens, helping visitors to look through the powerful binoculars trained on the turret
or to view the webcam which is recording, flutter by flutter, Events On The Nest, say it will be interesting to see if this pattern continues when the chicks hatch. Will Mrs PF expect her mate to do his fair share of chick-sitting while she has a chance to
wing it? Or will Mr PF come over all Hunter-Gatherer on her and insist that she stays home alone, with just a brood of hungry, screechy youngsters for company, while he wheels off into the wide blue yonder in search of sustenance and a taste of freedom from
domestic cares? Who has the easier task, I ask you?
The Middle of the Darling Daughters can certainly sympathise, from her position as mum of tiny twins and a two year old Rampaging Rascal. Like falcon chicks,
the Twinkles expect instant gratification where food is concerned and prefer not to nap when their older brother does as this would leave their Dear Mamma all on her own and she might get lonely. On the rare occasions she manages to take wing for a precious
hour to herself, she finds it hard not to think about what's going on back at the nest. Sorry, the home.
In the Olden Days (I remember them well) it would have been considered somewhat unusual to carry on
like Mr and Mrs Peregrine Falcon. Raising the bairns was women's work (and pleasure) while keeping the ship afloat and a roof over the family's heads was a Man's Responsibility. Then we women burned our bras, demanded equality and insisted on Equal Rights
and Responsibilities when it came to foraging for food (aka holding down a job) and sitting on the nest (aka child care.)
There's no going back, of course, even if we wanted to, and the peregrines' partnership is
A Sign Of Our Times.
When I visited the RSPB tent, there wasn't too much going on. Mr PF was off somewhere, enjoying himself and Mrs PF was sitting protectively on the nest, obscuring all view of her four
eggs, for all the world as if she knew about the intrusive telescope trained on her and her family. I watched and waited a while in case something might happen, before heading off to the railway station where (thinking of My Stomach, as ever) I planned to
buy an egg sandwich and a cup of coffee to consume while waiting for my train back home. Friends who stayed on to partake of a rather more exciting lunch in the Cloisters Cafe before making their way to the tent, were fortunate enough to be in exactly the
right place for The Changing of the Guard and so saw both falcons in flight. Just my luck to miss it!
I comforted myself with the thought that there is always another time. At least I tried to. I have never
found this particularly easy as I can't bear to miss out on anything. Yesterday I should have spent the day with the Tornado and the Twinkles but unforeseen circumstances kept me at home. "There'll be another time," the Middle of the Darling Daughters consoled
me - and of course there will be. Lots of other times, in fact. But there won't be This Time and, as I said, I hate to miss out on anything.
The Twinkles are too young to be bothered that I didn't turn up.
The Tornado (aka the Rampaging Rascal) will just be happy to see me when I do turn up, bless him. I think he sees me as a kind of time traveller who pops up like a bad penny every so often when he least expects me.
As for the peregrine falcons, to be honest, they can take me or leave me. There is no doubt at all that they are more interesting to me than I am to them. I know my place. As do the Totally Modern Marrieds at Number One, Celestial Heights.
To read the newspapers you'd think that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were the only couple expecting a Happy Event. But we know better. Four times over. Don't we?
Up on the third floor of the Novium Museum in Chichester, we merry band of Questers are busy Handling Objects.
Our enthusiastic and knowledgeable guides, Portia and Catherine,
have shown us what happens to rare objects which come into the Museum's care - how they are documented, treated if necessary for nasty bugs, and carefully preserved in appropriately acid-free bags, tissue paper and cardboard boxes. Other objects, which might
be classified as interesting but not rare, find themselves being handled and exclaimed over by groups such as ours.
Some of the objects we passed around our circle were exact replicas of the Real Thing - such
as a clever set of Roman tools, including a set of tweezers, an instrument for cleaning dirt out of Ancient Nails, and one for removing ear wax (from Ancient Ears.) The Ever Busy Joy (she who gave me the knitting pattern for my woolly Christmas puddings and
put me to shame by spending the whole train journey from Worthing to Chichester working on her latest crochet project) is laughing at me across the room and pretending to attack her ears. Her husband, who happens to be sitting next to me, confides that she
has a bit of Ear Trouble. Presumably so did the Romans which only makes them seem rather more like us and not so very distant.
Talking of Romans, there is also a piece of Roman crockery to handle. It's nothing
special, Catherine tells us - but decorating the rim are the thumb prints of the potter. There is something quite awe-inspiring about putting your own thumbs in the very prints made by a craftsman of days gone by.
We all laugh at a toy Pop-eye who looks a trifle deflated. "Give him some spinach!" one of our number implores. We all laugh and ask if there might be an Olive Oyl hidden in the depths of the museum's storage. Sadly, not.
We gasp over the delicacy of a lacy baby's Christening gown, shudder a little as we try to fit a Second World War gas mask over our faces, and screw up our noses at a bar of Lifebuoy soap, still in its box, still smelling somewhat obnoxious but, according
to the back of the packet, wonderfully effective for a fair complexion. None of us feel inclined to put its claims to the test.
One of the Handling Objects is an old Oxo tin, something I remember well from
my childhood. A typewritten note on the lid tells us that these tins made handy lunch boxes for the children of the Forties and Fifties. Feisty Jean, my friend from the Birdy group, has an even better story to tell. District Nurses, she informs the group,
used to ask patients to save these tins which could then be packed with dressings and bandages and put into a hot oven to sterilise the contents. This is news to our two guides. Catherine says it is one of the aspects of group visits which she enjoys most.
There is always someone with new information to share.
The Novium is a splendid museum indeed and, while apparently there are Chichester residents who bewail the passing of the old museum with its higgledy-piggledy
display of artefacts, I love the modern display cases, the light and the space. I particularly like the humorous touches in many of the captions - the very opposite to usual starchy captions you find in most museums. Who said you can't be old and funny too?
On the ground floor you can look over into the site of a Roman Baths - the caldarium or hot room in fact: pictures of Romans enjoying the baths are projected onto the surrounding walls, for all the world as if we are
watching ghosts at their leisure. How clever to incorporate an archaeological site into the very heart of a museum. Once covered by a car park, now revealed for all to see and marvel at those clever Romans.
a floor and there's a lead coffin lining, dated from about the fourth century AD. The occupant apparently was a very old man with bones affected by arthritis but surprisingly good teeth. Plus there's a Municipal Moon Lantern, dating back to the mid 17th century,
which used to be carried in Mayoral processions - bringing up the rear, while a Municipal Sun Lantern led the way. I wonder if any civic dignitary has ever thought to revive the custom, using the original as the pattern for two new lanterns to light the way
to the Guildhall?
I love delving into the past. I could stay here all day but I have to be home for Mr B who is still not at his best. He would have loved the museum too.
One day, like the gas mask and the Oxo tin, some of the everyday objects in our homes today will end up in a 22nd Century Museum and a future Portia and Catherine will be passing them round a circle of latter day Questers with inquisitive minds. I have
had a quick look around my house and, with half a mind on Popeye, I have settled on the Giant Penguin who sits on our door-step to welcome visiting grandchildren. He is a bit, well, flatter than he used to be, having been sat on, stood on, used as a bridge
between two strategically placed armchairs and generally mistreated by a succession of young'uns over the years. Nevertheless he would grace any collection, I reckon, though he'd have to come with a Health Warning:
Handle with care! You never know where he's been...
Mr B has sprained his ankle.
We are not quite sure how he incurred this injury but the best we can come up with is that he twisted his ankle while trying to get out of
the car, on account of the fact that I had parked too near the kerb, making his exodus more tricky. I knew it would be my fault.
The trouble is, the ankle is every bit as painful as if he had sprained it while
skiing off-piste down a mountain, or abseiling the face of the Spinnaker Tower - but it doesn't have the same ring about it. Sympathy is therefore somewhat muted. It reminds me of my most Ignominious Ankle Injury.
It was many years ago now but the events are still painfully clear in my memory. I had been attending a parish council meeting in my role as Intrepid Local Reporter and Mr B was outside in the car waiting for me at the end of proceedings. In my haste
to join him, I leapt over a low brick wall - only to discover, too late, that there was a steep drop on the other side. Mr B described it to our friends thus: "It was like the Grand National - she fell at Bechers Brook first time round!" Emboldened by the
mirth which this shameless account of my misfortune always engendered, he would add, soulfully: "They shoot horses, don't they?"
Bearing this in mind, and recognising that memories ((especially painful ones)
can run deep, I think I have been most understanding of his current situation. An Administering Angel, that's me. I have kept his ankle wrapped up in a cold poultice (one of the Twinkles' muslins, steeped in icy water), run his many errands without demur,
and always been ready with a sympathetic murmur as and when the occasion demanded. A veritable Florence Nightingale. But without the lamp.
Because he was indisposed, I had to attend today's two important engagements
alone. The first was the Questers' quarterly meeting where I sat next to Margaret who commiserated with me on the grounds that, she said, all men make bad patients. Loyalty to the Injured One made me explain that Mr B had been a most Patient Patient, all things
It's a funny thing but, even though unaccompanied by Mr B, I was still aware of his presence, warning me not to volunteer for anything else, or I would have to answer to him. I could almost hear
him telling me to sit on my hands, should I feel inclined to raise my arm in response to a request for a volunteer. I resisted right to the last when I did say (whisper it who dares) that I would be prepared to organise a behind the scenes visit to Fishbourne
Roman Palace - but not until sometime in 2016. I think that's far enough in advance to hardly count. I will break it to Mr B gently. In other words, he will read about it in the Daily Blog...
In the afternoon,
I took myself off to our monthly cribbage afternoon at the Delightful Delia's. Alone, again, naturally. I think I know a song about that. During the coffee break, half way through the afternoon, Colin entertained us to a series of magic tricks. He should be
on the television, I told him. I kid you not, he was amazing. I wish I could explain each trick to you but one followed another so speedily that I could hardly tell where one began and another finished. On his last trick, he counted out five one pound coins
and asked if anyone present would be prepared to wager that the top card on the pile in front of us was not a Jack of Hearts. We weren't daft, no, not us. Our money stayed in our pockets. It was, indeed, a Jack of Hearts. Whew!
Once, a long long time ago, I organised a conference for local government marketers at beautiful Barnsgate Manor Vineyard. Sitting around a long table at lunchtime, we were unexpectedly entertained by a wandering conjuror who had a selection of magic
tricks quite literally up his sleeve. I found out later that he had been commissioned by another party celebrating at the Vineyard that day - we were the lucky recipients of free entertainment. None of the delegates at the conference knew this, of course,
so I gained a welcome, but totally undeserved, reputation as an Ace Organiser of Conference Entertainment.
I told Colin he should certainly put his name forward as an act for our up and coming U3A "soirée".
Our Chairman, Myra, is on the lookout for talent and keeps threatening that she will have to cancel the whole event if enough would-be entertainers don't come forward. Colin says he has already volunteered his services.
All I need now is a miraculous remedy for Mr B's poor ankle. A wand waved above it, a murmured Abracadabra. Mr B rising from his chair and hot-footing it across the room without so much as a wince or a whimper.
Now that would be magic!
The cherry tree in next door's garden is not looking its best, I fear.
You may be wondering why I am bothered about a neighbour's tree but this particular tree has (i)
always lent welcome shade to our garden and (ii) has been home to countless Small Feathered Friends. Even more importantly, this is a Tree With History.
I am not suggesting that Bonnie Prince Charlie hid in
a hole in its trunk on his escape to his homeland. But our former neighbours, now both departed to meet their Maker, used to call it their "bedrock." By which, as I understand it, they meant it represented the very foundation of their life together. You don't
mess with a bedrock.
It wasn't until quite recently, when I attended the funeral of the lovely lady who had been our friend and neighbour ever since we moved into our house nearly thirty years ago, that I
began to understand why she and her husband had cared so much for the cherry tree.
Every one of their grandchildren who spoke so movingly about their love for their Gran and Gramps mentioned the tree. It was
at the base of the tree where, at the end of many a family romp round the garden, the picnic would be laid out. It was in its branches that the Easter Bunny would hide the chocolate eggs for discovery once all the clues in the annual Easter Egg Hunt had been
deciphered and solved. Of everything blooming in the garden, it was the cherry tree which they all remembered. It summed up for them long sunny afternoons, home-made cakes, strawberry teas and the unconditional love of grandparents.
So you can doubtless understand why I am so sad to see what has become of the family's bedrock. Our new neighbour is busy refurbishing the house, either to rent out or to sell on. We keep expecting him to turn up on "Homes Under the
Hammer" explaining his plans for this des res or to see Martin or the Lovely Lucy trotting up next door's garden path with a TV crew in tow. It hasn't happened yet, but if it ever does, Daily Blog readers will be the first to know.
As well as interior work, the front and back gardens are also experiencing a makeover - hence attention to the cherry tree. We have been aware for some time that it has been failing and our friend and Tree-Man has done his very best
over the years to nurse it along, rather as one might nurture a failing, frail but precious elderly relative. He has done his best to keep on top of the ivy which has been slowly and inexorably throttling the life out of its host - but our new neighbour has
decided that Enough is Enough and has chopped back the cherry tree's branches with a scary vigour.
Mr B says we will plant a replacement cherry tree of our own. It will, he admits, not be of the flowering
variety as he has always wanted to grow a tree which would carry his Favourite Cherries of All Time - Kentish "naps". Only a Man of Kent would name one of its most famous cherries after a French Emperor. I have warned him that we will need not one, but two,
trees in the interests of propagation. I have also warned him that our Feathered Friends will almost certainly eat all the cherries (aka naps) before we get to them. Mr B is undaunted. It is one of the things I love about him that he will never allow reality
to destroy his dreams. Cherry ripe, anyone?!
I know what it is like to have a tree that is special. We planted a white lilac tree to mark our Silver Wedding. It flourished for many a year until a crafty fox
chewed away at its bark and killed it off. I was devastated - though fortunately not superstitious enough to believe that this unfortunate train of events might be symbolic in terms of our marriage. No crafty fox has been nibbling away at our partnership.
We gifted several members of our family with white lilac trees to mark nuptials or special anniversaries. All of these, as far as we know, are flourishing - indeed my sister and her fella send us
a photo every year of their tree in bloom. My happiness at seeing their splendid tree is always tinged with sadness at our a Tree That Is No More. Perhaps, I suggest, we could plant a new white lilac tree in our Golden Wedding year? Always supposing there
is room in the Cherry Orchard...
As for our former neighbours' bedrock - well, all is not lost. From where I sit, writing today's Daily Blog, I can see a few sprigs of cherry blossom, valiantly blooming amid
the stark, bare branches of what is left of a once-splendid tree.
As befits a bedrock, it is the triumph of hope over adversity.
Next year Mr B and I will celebrate 50 years of marriage. A Golden Wedding - that's for Seriously Old People, is it not? Though, as Young Faris would undoubtedly remind me, I have reached A Great Age. So, theoretically,
anything is possible.
I still remember our fifth anniversary when we somehow managed to find a willing baby-sitter (worth their weight in gold) and took ourselves off to what we then considered an extremely
swanky restaurant. I can't recall exactly what we ate but I imagine we had prawn cocktail for starters, steak and chips for our main and, of course, Black Forest Gateau for pud. That's what everyone ate on a special night out in 1971. As an anniversary present
I gave Mr B the wedding ring I couldn't afford to buy him on our Wedding Day. I think I might have raided the Family Allowance (or "Fammy Ally" as I called it in those far off days) in order to buy it.
the table next to ours a couple were celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary with family and friends. Ten years! A lifetime, I was thinking. Now we have been married almost five times as long as that couple. I like to think that they enjoyed a fabulous
Golden Celebration themselves in 2011.
Then there was the couple we shared a table with on our honeymoon (at Butlins, Bognor Regis - we knew how to live, way back then) who were married on the same
day as we were. I wonder if they are making Grand Plans for a celebration next year? If so, I wonder what they will be doing and where they will be going? I hope they are still as happy as they were when last we saw them.
Yes, indeed, there is over a year to go but Mr B and I have already started making plans. We have booked a "Holiday of a Lifetime" travelling to New York and back on the Queen Mary 2, sketched out plans for a Celebratory Lunch for our family and closest
friends, and tentatively pencilled in a garden party with strawberries and cream for all our many local pals. Let's face it, when you have something to celebrate it's worth pushing the boat out.
the basis that Anticipation is Almost as Special as the Event Anticipated (a Golden Rule which I have just made up, in my head, all on my own) we are going to have a great time over the next thirteen months. Today we made a start by buying three guide books
on Visiting New York - Mr B says his head is aching already. The Lonely Planet informs us that coming to New York from anywhere else for the first time is "like stepping into a movie; one you've probably been unknowingly writing, one that contains unimagined
possibilities." So I could be Helen Mirren, perchance? And as for Mr B....
I also went on-line and signed up as a Friend of Central Park, which doubtless means I will receive several emails a week about events
across The Pond. It will help my acclimatisation, I tell Mr B. He reckons it will simply clog up my in-box.
What I must not forget, in all my Anticipatory Excitement, is that there are several Red Letter Dates
to be celebrated this year, long before we find ourselves in 2016, our Golden Year. The Eldest of the Darling Daughters and her fella are celebrating their Silver Wedding. Both our eldest grand-daughter and our eldest grandson will come of age this year. Each
of these special events must be celebrated in style.
This time next week our grand-daughter, Katie, will kick off her eighteenth birthday celebrations at our house. It will be the second birthday we have celebrated
at ours in just over a month, the first being Young Faris's second birthday. There are, it is true, some subtle differences between a 2nd birthday and an 18th birthday but there are some common elements. I suspect I don't need to tell Katie what these will
be. She knows me so well.
There will, however, be a few surprises because that's what birthdays are all about, especially when you are brave enough to trust your grandparents to host an occasion.
A fella by the name of Ted Berrigan (no, I'd never heard of him either) put pen to paper to write about "Things to Do in New York". Here's what he wrote: "Celebrate your own, and everybody else's birth."
I think I'll start now, if it's all the same to you.
Make your own website like I did.
It's easy, and absolutely free.