Jaqui's Daily Blog

My attention is drawn to a piece of A4 paper affixed to the wall in the Reference Section of our local Library. I have trailed upstairs to see if Emma, worthy project manager of the Military Voices project which has absorbed so much of my time this year, has another recording on disc awaiting my transcription.

To get to the Reference Section I had to pass through the foyer where a great hum of chatter could be heard from what I understand is called the Knit & Natter Club. Libraries have changed out of all recognition from those musty places where any conversation above a whisper was frowned upon and dealt with severely by a stern librarian. Mind you, I do know many people who regret the passing of time - and particularly the passing of Quiet Time, which is increasingly difficult to come by in these Chattering Days.

The members of the Knit & Natter Club were in fine voice and appeared to be having a lovely time. They were seated at two long tables, each one wielding knitting needles and multi-coloured balls of wool. No, no, no - the tables weren't wielding knitting needles, don't be silly. It was the members of the club who were all wound up in wool and knitting needles - and looking extremely happy into the bargain. I would have been tempted to join them except that (i) I didn't have my knitting with me and (ii) I had a prior date for coffee and a chat in The Happy Teapot.

I love The Happy Teapot. Even though I always order coffee there. The Happy Coffee Pot wouldn't have the same ring about it, would it? Teapots, after all, are so round and, well, cheery, especially when topped by a knitted tea cosy. The walls of The Happy Teapot are festooned with inspirational quotes inscribed on pieces of wood, slate or something similar. A new one caught my eye thus morning; it read: "No Rain - No Rainbows." I shall remember that next time I am caught in a metaphorical downpour - or even a real one.

Anyway, I digress. For which I make no apology (or maybe just a token one) on the grounds that digression is what the Daily Blog is all about. The chances of me keeping on one subject throughout are about as great as the Knit & Natter group taking up carpentry or The Happy Teapot adopting a minimalist approach to interior design.

You may recall that today's blog started with an A4 piece of paper on the wall of the Reference Section of the local Library which attracted my attention. Written on said piece of paper was the "Word of the Week", courtesy of that peerless contributor to our native tongue, the Oxford English Dictionary. This week's word is the totally delicious "footle."

Footle means to mess about aimlessly, to engage in fruitless activity, to linger and loiter without intent, to potter. I love it. I'm thinking of re-naming my blog The Daily Footle. Except that I'm not sure if footle can be used as a noun as well as a verb.

I am presuming that the whole idea of having a "Word of the Week" is to encourage its use in everyday life. As always, I am more than ready for the challenge. Starting right now.

"Good morning?" Mr B enquired as soon as he hears my key in the door, my step on the door-mat. "Anything to report?"

Usually I am much more forthcoming but today I have my answer ready:

"Just footling around!" I say.


My Boy thinks that if the three (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys FaceTime me while imprisoned in the back of the car on the journey home from a woodland walk, we will have a better chance of a "proper" conversation.

After all, they will not able to leave me stranded (as it were) on the sofa while they trot off into the kitchen to find the latest "must see" object for my eyes only. Nor will they be able to turn me into a Giddy Goat by carrying the IPad around the house with them, upstairs and downstairs, inside and outside, till I don't know whether I am coming or going.

They are, however, still able to enjoy cutting off the screen from time to time by placing a strategic thumb over the webcam, while they can still delight in turning the camera round so that I have a good view of the back of their father's head while he is driving, or their mother's head above the passenger seat. It is All Great Fun, you can tell.

It was Parents' Evening this week - a marathon session for the boys' parents now that they have three sons all at the same school. Each boy, the Darling Daughter-in-Law tells me, received a glowing report from his teacher, together with "something to work on." I do like this approach. I think I will seek to put it into action at home, of which more later.

But first, the boys. Young Morgan's teacher describes him as being very fond of "doing" things, particularly if this involves The Great Outdoors. He is not nicknamed The Duracell Bunny for nothing. His reading is coming along a treat but he needs to concentrate attention on his writing. He is only four, so I think we should cut him some slack, personally.

Sam, the eldest, was praised for his creative writing. Now why doesn't that surprise me, given that Sam the Storyteller has been finishing off my bedtime stories for me since he was four years old? He needs to work, however, on curbing his inclination to fidget. Ah, bless him, he is so like me! I'm a fidget, too. One idea, apparently, is to give him a length of string to keep his fidgety fingers busy while listening to his teacher's Words Of Wisdom. I'm not sure, as a fidgeter myself, that a piece of string would be sufficiently, well, absorbing. Maybe he could doodle, I suggest? I remember a former colleague of mine who drew the most magnificent doodles on his weekly Corporate Management Team agendas and swore by the Art of Doodling as an aid to concentration. Sam's parents are inclined to disagree on the (doubtless sensible) basis that the doodling would simply take over, being, in effect, another form of story-telling.

James, in the middle, is a lovely, helpful boy, according to his teacher, always ready to assist in tidying up. This is not exactly a trait any of us have noticed at home and we are inclined to think that he could transfer some of his Inner Tidy Upper from school to home. I am so busy absorbing this thought that I miss hearing what it is that James needs to work on.

I'm rather glad I no longer have a teacher to instruct me on deficiencies to be tackled. I do, however, have Mr B who has always been vocal on the subject and doesn't need to wait until a half-yearly Parents' Evening to explain and instruct. These are the issues on which, in the words of many a school report, I Must Try Harder.

Firstly, I need to stop mumbling. Apparently. I, for my part, don't think I do mumble though I admit I do, on occasions, mutter under my breath. Muttering under one's breath is extremely annoying to the person who is the subject of the muttering but muttering is not mumbling. Mumbling is accidental, muttering is on purpose and can be argued to be therapeutic. Even the saintliest among us surely resorts to the occasional mutter, wouldn't you say, and I have never claimed to be a saint. Far too much polishing of the halo and mending ripped wings if you ask me. You can just tell I am not a Domestic Goddess.

Secondly, according to Mr B, I need to stop dashing about, here, there and everywhere. I need to sit quietly and just be. He does have a point and provided I can manage it without either muttering or mumbling, then it could be A Good Thing.

Though, like Sam the Storyteller, I may need to invest in a piece of string to stop me fidgeting...


In the greetings card section in Tesco's superstore I meet up with Jane and Ian. They are looking for fancy paper in which to wrap a gift for their new-born great-niece. I am searching for similar wrap for a gift for my new-born great-nephew. We marvel at the coincidence.

Jane and I agree we are somewhat disappointed at the lack of appealing Baby-Related gift wrap. Ian, however, who is considerably taller than either of us, has used his Great Height to look along the top row of gift wrapping paper and has come across some which will suit either boy or girl. What's more, he crows, it's down to 75p for two sheets of paper and two gift cards. The paper is decorated with smiley clouds and the words "Hello Little One." The gift cards are individual smiley clouds. We could buy three for the price of two but we are not sure we are going to be welcoming that many newborns to the world in the foreseeable future. It also appears that it is take it or leave it so into my basket it goes. All I need now is a card and a present.

Jane and Ian's great-niece was born in Sunny Cyprus so they are combining their first visit to make her acquaintance with a fortnight's holiday. My great-nephew was born in Ilkley which is doubtless a Beautiful Birthplace - but not exactly a holiday location.

His name is Alfie Jack which must have made my sister, his proud Nanna, smile with delight - the Alfie books by Shirley Hughes were her favourite bedtime reading for her trio when they (including baby Alfie's Dad) were littl'uns. If you have never read an Alfie book then this is all you need to know about him: "He is an ordinary little boy. He has a mum and a Dad and a little sister called Annie Rose. He has no magical powers and does not go on fantastic journeys into space or anything like that. But some very exciting and interesting things happen to him all the same." I am quoting from Alfie's World which sounds like exactly the same world into which new-born Alfie has arrived.

Alfie Jack's auntie, my niece Debbie, is quick to point out that he and I share something quite special - a nickname. Years ago, Debs christened me AJ - short for Auntie Jaqui. I embraced my nickname with pride, even when a chain of American style diners opened up across the country. After all, I was the first, the Original AJ. Now there is another, younger, undeniably sweeter, version. I am delighted to say.

I part company with Jane and Ian. They head off to the homeware section while I make for the fish counter to buy cod loins, Mr B's Dinner of Choice for today. We will meet again over the brussel sprouts before our shopping trips are done. On my way, I stop to choose a gift for Alfie; the choice of baby gifts is, fortunately, more extensive than the selection of appropriate gift wrap. I dither for ages before I make my final selection.

The lass on the check-out exclaims rapturously over my gift choice. "I want one for myself!" she tells me. I don't like to say she seems a little old, bearing in mind my gift is clearly labelled as intended for someone of "0 Months." Hopefully it will be just as well received by its new owner.

So it's welcome to the world, Alfie Jack. What a lucky lad you are! A proud Dad, a beautiful Mum, a Big Sister who can't wait to introduce you to Life As She Knows It. Plus a Nanna who will love to read you stories about your namesake, Alfie, the ordinary boy to whom exciting and interesting things happen.

Hello, Little One. From one AJ to another. With love.


I am Singing For Pleasure this morning so I make a flask of coffee for Ismail, the hardworking gardener, so that he won't be neglected in my absence. Mr B would, of course, do his best to keep him well-served on the Coffee Front but it is unlikely there would be much left in the mug by the time he had struggled to the end of the garden.

Ismail has been joined by Arthur who is retired but joins the party whenever a Rotavator is required. It appears to be a case of "Have Rotavator, Will Travel." I am extremely pleased to see Arthur and his Rotavator because I know Mr B was very keen on ensuring the ground in our garden was well prepared before turfing. I leave Mr B, Ismail, Arthur and the Rotavator to it while I set off for singing and the Heene Community Centre.

Presumably in anticipation of Hallowe'en, someone has blown up a number of orange balloons, decorating them with grinning faces and balancing them along the top of the piano. Our Conductor, the Redoubtable Muriel, removes them, tucking them for safe keeping along the barres affixed to the wall behind the piano, where the sweet would-be ballerinas line up to practise their pliés in the hour before our choir session starts.

Terry has done his usual stalwart job putting out all the chairs. Because Hope still Springs Eternal, he has set out eight chairs in the Men's Section even though four is the most fellas who gave attended so far this term. Long gone, sadly, are the days when the Men's Section numbered nine or ten and the Redoubtable Muriel beamed upon them for their hearty singing and great attitude. We need a Recruitment Drive, my friend Sue and I agree. We are not exactly sure how we would do this so we turn to more riveting subjects such as comparing Stories of our Grandchildren and commenting on the row about Convenors' reduced fees at Tuesday's U3A AGM. That one will Run And Run.

While we are warming up with our vocal exercises, the three Hallowe'en balloons dislodge themselves and waft across the room. Several hands go up in the air as people try to reach them to bat them back. Muriel, who has her back turned to the escaping balloons, can't understand why so many people are waving wildly at her. It is a while before Order Is Restored.

Olga is having more trouble than usual finding the correct songs in her red file. She has spread music, song sheets and files all around her feet in a crazy mess of paper. We sing "Loudly Proclaim" with patriotic fervour while Olga scrabbles around for the words. Muriel asks us to turn to the page where we will find "My Love's An Arbutus". Sue and I exchange grins - we have a long attachment to this song for reasons too complicated to go into here.

If you were being compared by your True Love to a tree, which tree would you choose? Not many, dare I suggest, would go for the arbutus tree. While we are singing (some of us sweetly, some of us squeakily) about its snowy white flowers and ruddy red berries, I am reminded that I had once thought of planting one in our garden, in honour of Singing for Pleasure. Thinking about the space vacated by the Enormous Bush Which Had Taken Over The Garden (see yesterday's Blog) I reckon I need to revisit the idea.

The common name for the arbutus is the Strawberry Tree. A strawberry is not quite a vegetable, to be fair, but perhaps, in the Spirit of Compromise, it might satisfy my requirement for a replacement shrub in our garden as well as Mr B's longing to grow more vegetables.

If necessary I will warble the final two lines to Mr B:

"But unranging, unchanging, you'll still cling to me
Like the evergreen leaf to the arbutus tree."

I fear the romance will be lost on him. I know just what he will say:

"What's wrong with runner beans?"

Now you see it, now you don't!

The somewhat overgrown Choisya bush in our back garden has bitten the dust. Mr B has Won The Day.

We have been debating over the fate of the Choisya bush for at least a year, if not two. Mr B has steadfastly maintained that it is now far too large and is on the point of taking over the entire garden. I, in its defence, produce the evidence of its shiny, evergreen leaves, its white starry flowers, its delicate fragrance. I quote from my much-leafed (if you will excuse the pun) manual, The Tree and Shrub Expert, by the esteemed Dr D G Hessayon. According to this complete guide to the selection and care of trees and shrubs for your garden (as in our garden) Choisya is "one of the candidates for the title of ideal Garden Shrub." Mr B says, be that as it may, it is Still Too Big.

Enter Ismail, who won the Turf War (see a previous blog) fair and square and so will spend the next few days in our gardens, front and back, laying new lawns. Ismail describes himself in his adverts as a "hard-working landscape gardener" which immediately won my heart. I do like a hard worker. He arrived today just after 8 a.m. to tackle the overgrown bush which I have reluctantly agreed must come out.

Mr B says we will be able to put the enormous space vacated by the bush to good use. The trouble is that Mr B's idea of putting garden space to good use differs somewhat from mine. While I am thinking shrubs and flowers, Mr B is Thinking Vegetables. He is dreaming of rows of runner beans, cabbages, potatoes and cauliflowers taking over the border and turning it into Veggie Heaven.

I thought I might have satisfied his Inner Vegetarian when we bought a smart, home-made vegetable trough from a friend of Ted and Margaret's. We grew lettuces, beans and tomatoes thus summer which could be considered a healthy eating success. Ted and Margaret, who are members of our Nomination Whist group, like to check up on our Trough Progress when they visit for the fortnightly cards session. You can tell they still feel slightly proprietorial towards it, as you tend to do when someone has made a purchase on your recommendation.

While Ismail was dealing efficiently with Choisya Removal I took myself to the garden centre to buy daffodils, snowdrops, primroses and winter pansies. Yes, I realise I am a little late but I need to do things in order. Turf first, planting second. What I was really looking forward to was a Solitary Wander among the A -Z of shrubs to see what would be my Replacement Shrub of Choice.

Solitary Wanders are also excellent for contemplating one's blessings. So I am eagerly anticipating the delivery of my new mobile phone, organised for me by My Boy. "I like doing things like this for you," he told me on the phone last night - so I said I was sure I could think of other tasks, just to keep him happy. He said he thought sorting out our Broadband provider and my new phone contract was quite enough for now.

Then there was granddaughter, sixteen year old Eleanor, who, on hearing I needed cataract surgery, had immediately carried out some on-line research on my behalf. She telephoned to inform me that cataract surgery is the most common operation carried out across the whole of the UK, with no fewer than 300,000 procedures a year. Plus her singing teacher had had the same surgery and said it was the best thing she had ever done. Ah my sweet Elle, how thoughtful you are to seek to reassure me by putting everything in context.


There is a lot of choice at the Garden Centre. Once I have selected my bulbs, I drift around the conifers, the fruit trees, the roses, looking for the ideal plant to fill in the gaping hole in our garden border before Mr B fills it with vegetables. I narrow it down to three or four possibilities.

My problem is that I rarely stray from my previous paths. That's why, regular readers will recall, I always arrive home from my Autumnal Visit to the Garden Centre bearing daffodil bulbs and winter pansies. Every year without fail.

It should therefore be no surprise to anyone that me, that having studied all the alternative replacement shrubs, I have finally made my Choisya....

Latest comments

04.10 | 07:06

If it's still there at the weekend I will be selling the tooth on eBay with plastic case.

10.07 | 20:20

Fantastic blog! Xx

08.07 | 00:24

Phew - not a mention

13.05 | 23:05

What a lovely day and all sly story

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