Jaqui's Daily Blog

Halfway through this morning's Voluntary Action Worthing Board Meeting I call a "comfort break". After an hour and a half of spirited debate, we need a breather before we tackle the rest of the agenda.


On my way to refresh my coffee cup from the flask at one end of the (extremely long) table, I turn on my mobile phone to check my messages. Immediately there is a loud "ping", heralding the arrival in my in-box of an important announcement from something called Subway Surf, inviting me to take full advantage of "Terrific Tuesdays." I have no idea who or what Subway Surf is and why it is so important that my Tuesday is Terrific.


Then I remember that grandson James had borrowed my mobile for entertainment purposes in the car on the the way back from the Family Beach Day. I check my phone again and, yes, there on the home screen is an icon I had not noticed before: Subway Surf it says, underneath a picture of a cartoon character who might be a boy or, then again, might be a girl. I ask Cath, who has joined me at the flask end of the table, if she has ever heard of Subway Surf. She says she has though she doesn't imply that I am missing out on anything through my ignorance.


I have mentioned before, in passing, the way my worlds sometimes collide - so that when I am totally immersed in a particular activity, like this morning's Board Meeting for example, Something Unexpected will happen to remind me of another of my Many Worlds which requires my attention. Today I should have been at the U3A Enrolment Morning, taking charge of the Nomination Whist table. My task, to encourage new members to join our group and explain what Nomination Whist actually is. However with only one spare place up for the grabbing, it would not have been the must productive of mornings. Certainly priority needed to go to the Board Meeting.


I could have left the job to Mr B but he has caught my cold and is not a Happy Bunny. Besides his explanations of how to play Nomination Whist, detailed as they are, would be more likely to put off prospective players than encourage them.


To the rescue came my friend Delia (she of the cribbage group, rather than she of the Victoria sponge recipe) who said she would handle all comers for me. I am very much in her debt. She has already helped me out with my laundry when my washing machine Died The Death, now she has rescued me again. I hope one day soon she will ask a favour of me as I owe her. Twice over.


Incidentally, when the Nomination Whist Group meets tomorrow, for the first time since July, we will be Comparing Sunflowers. Regular readers will remember that we distributed seedlings among group members some weeks ago; tomorrow we need to check on how they are all faring. Because Pat had nowhere to plant hers, she adopted one of the seedlings in my Wall of Sunflowers. She chose, for some reason known only to herself, the weediest looking specimen but, whatever her reason, it has paid off. Her flower is in full bloom, she will be delighted to learn tomorrow afternoon. Fittingly, as Pat is of an inquisitive nature, her sunflower is peeking over the fence into next door's garden...


Young Morgan aka The Duracell Bunny has the latest sunflower to bloom. "Sunshine on a stick!" was the appropriate description of my friend Linda, leader of the Birdy Group. Morgan's father says he hopes this sunflower will follow the example of the DB and stay up as long as he does.


On the bus on my way home from my meeting, I am scanning Mr B's newspaper which I have helpfully picked up for him on my way to the bus stop, when a heartfelt exclamation from the seat behind me draws my attention to what's happening outside.

 

"The seaside has died!"

 

Alas, alack it is true. The artificial beach in the centre of town, with its Sunny Worthing deck chairs, cut-out beach huts and seaside attractions is being cleared away, marking the end of the school holidays and, presumably, our summer. How very sad!


Hopefully the deck chairs have gone into storage, ready to be resurrected next year when the town beach will live again for another summer. Rather like my sunflowers whose seeds I plan to catch in brown paper bags (apparently plastic bags simply will not do) so that next year we will have a Recycled Wall of Sunflowers.


All I need to do now is to work out how Subway Surf fits into the general scheme of things and all my worlds will be in order...

 

I am not, by nature, a particularly nosy person. At least I don't think so. Certainly back in the day when I was a Working Gal, I always seemed to be the very last person among all my colleagues to hear about the latest office gossip.


Mr B says that writing the Daily Blog almost every day over the last three years has made me nosier than I used to be, given the need to acquire some nugget of interest to write about every single day. There may be a germ of truth in his accusation though I prefer to say that I have simply refined my natural inquisitiveness. "Nosiness!" mutters Mr B, who always calls a spade a spade.


Imagine my delight to be positively invited to indulge my Inner Nosiness. Our new Rector, a mere strip of a lad with all the energy and enthusiasm of Youth, has invited the entire church congregation to come and "Snoop Around The Rectory." Nothing, but nothing, will be out of bounds. As invitations go, it is quite impossible to resist. There is to be a barbecue! And a bar! Plus we are all requested to bring puddings to share. I had put my name down on the list to provide an apple pie but a few days ago I slashed my thumb quite badly trying to slice a mini baguette. I don't think I should mix pastry with my plastered thumb. So I buy two packets of Mr Kipling's assorted fruit pies and hope I will be able to slip them onto the dessert table without anyone noticing.


In Church yesterday, Our Host asked us all to pray for good weather. This morning he, I and all the other 154 people who had accepted the kind invitation, awoke to grey and threatening skies. Nevertheless I set off along the road at the appointed time, leaving Mr B in front of the TV watching the One Day International between England and the Aussies. Not even the prospect of a snoop will entice him away from the match.


On my way I met a threesome coming in the opposite direction - was I headed for The Rectory? they enquired. I don't know how they guessed - perhaps it was the packets of Mr Kipling's assorted fruit pies clutched in my hands? On hearing my assent, they explained that there had been a change of plan and Plan B meant we were now all meeting up in the church. Hiding my disappointment at not being able to snoop, I accompanied them to the revised venue, consoling myself with the thought that perhaps it was just as well that over 300 muddy feet were not going to be tracking through the newly decorated Rectory...


The Church was buzzing; every pew was occupied. Drinks were being dispensed just below the pulpit and a trestle table in the bookstall area was groaning under the weight of delicious desserts (plus, of course, my pies, which I have hidden behind the strawberry gateau and a plate of enormous meringues.) Outside, under a sheltering gazebo, a barbecue had been set up, the smell of cooking sausages, beef burgers and chicken drumsticks wafting tantalisingly into the church. This was a Right Proper Party. Plan B was a rip-roaring success.


Here was Pam, from the Birdy Group; here was Jane with her lovely dad, Norman; here was Brenda, fresh from the success of a rearranged Picnic in the Park; here was - oh, just so many people to meet, to chat to, to talk about the snooping to come..


For yes, you will all be delighted to hear, we didn't miss out after all. After the raffle (I won a box of chocolates - and I never, ever win raffles!) we were all invited to walk down to the Rectory. The Snoop was Very Much Still On. Our Rector's mother whispered something in his ear: "She has just asked me if I've made my bed!" he announced in mock horror.


When I thanked him at the end of my visit, I reminded him that he had asked us to pray for good weather today. Him Upstairs had had a better plan, I suggested. "Yes, indeed," our new, keen, young and very brave Rector conceded, "He's always doing that..."


You're wanting a full report on my visit, I can tell. But...


I may be a Snoop of the First Order - but I never Snoop and Tell...

 

Grand-daughter Hazel phones me on my mobile. She is stalking the aisles of her local Tesco's in search of dinner.


I rather suspect she has rung me by accident but she assures me she really did want to talk to me. Do I have any good ideas, she asks me, what she can buy to make a tasty meal for friends Zoe, Tom and, of course, herself? So far they haven't been able to conjure up a single proposal which meets everybody's taste buds.


I don't know why she is asking me. Mr B and I have the "What Shall We Have For Dinner?" conversation every single morning but it never gets any easier. Each of us in turn will put forward a suggestion which will be pooh-poohed by the other as (i) too filling; (ii) not filling enough; (iii) too bland; (iv) too spicy; or (v) too soon since the last time we had it. Eventually we settle on something we both feel like eating but it is, indeed, a tortuous process.


I have, in the past, wondered aloud to Mr B about maybe planning ahead, drawing up dinner menus for every day for a fortnight, then going back to Meal One at the end of the two weeks. Like School Dinners, I explain. It probably wasn't the best example. Mr B's memories of school dinners are clearly not of gourmet meals.


So, what to suggest to my grand-daughter? How about the wherewithal for an easy chicken curry? I venture. Perhaps with garlic bread? "Garlic bread..." muses Hazel. She has to go, she tells me hurriedly, but I have been very, very helpful...


I find out later that she didn't take up my advice in its totality. Her mother, the Youngest of the Darling Daughters, tells me that the evening meal which had been the subject of so much discussion turned out to be a not particularly appetising or adventurous mix of chicken goujons, potato wedges and pizza slices. Oh, and yes, there was garlic bread...


It seems that it is my afternoon for phone calls from grand-daughters; the next time my mobile rings it's Eleanor, on her way home from her Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Qualifying Expedition and phoning from the car to tell me all about it.


I can tell, even at a distance, how happy she is not only to have survived the challenge of spending the night in a "wild camp" with a group of young people she had never met before - but to have thoroughly enjoyed herself. She is proud to report that on the final day it was her skill with a compass - credit being due, she confided, to lengthy lessons from older sister, Katie, veteran of several D of E expeditions - that saw her group back on the right forest track. At the final debriefing, I hear, when everyone in the group was asked to describe the strengths of their fellows, every single one mentioned Eleanor's "navigational skills."


I think it is safe to say that she didn't inherit this skill from her grandmother. Though I did learn how to use a compass when I was a Girl Guide, many moons ago. I wonder if I can remember? Is it the kind of skill you never lose, like riding a bicycle? Mr B says he has seen me riding a bicycle and it wasn't a great display of skill as he remembers it. This does not bode well.


For Eleanor, I gather, the truly inspirational part of the whole experience wasn't the pitching of the tent, the cooking of the food, the sleeping in the Great Outdoors. No, it was the forest - the stunningly beautiful New Forest, ever-changing but always the same. "It was beautiful enough just driving through it," my Intrepid One reminds me, "but walking through it all day - well that was something else..."


I am very, very proud of her, I say - but the truth is there is someone even prouder of what she as achieved than I am.


That's Our Eleanor.

The Eldest of the Darling Daughters and I are sitting outside Costa Coffee in Worthing town centre. The sun is shining and there is a saxophonist playing in the background. Soon my daughter will be on her way home, at the end of what we have been calling her "mini holiday" with Mr B and me.


We have, indeed, shared many a table over the last few days. There was the lovely lunch in the Hare and Hounds at Sway where the E of the DDs was sensible enough to order a healthy chilli salmon fillet on rocket with new potatoes, while My Stomach made the mistake of making me order chicken and ham pie. The pie crust alone almost covered the entire plate. Mr B had liver and bacon, in case you need to know.


We liked the Hare and Hounds, which came highly recommended by our daughter's manager at work, because of its unusual horsey decor. Loo seats decorated with Pony Club style caricatures; bar stools with legs made of intertwined horse-shoes - you can probably imagine the kind of thing. And, yes, the chicken and ham pie was as delicious as it was enormous.


We had dropped grand-daughter Eleanor off at the start of her Duke of Edinburgh bronze qualifying expedition in the New Forest. We are very proud of her because she is joining a group of other youngsters none of whom she has met before. That takes courage, especially when, at just fifteen, you will almost certainly be one of the youngest in the group. With her hair in French plaits (so that hopefully it won't need any attention over the following two days) she looked like a modern day Heidi and about twelve years old.


Before heading home we stopped at Lyndhurst where we visited the New Forest Museum and learnt lots of Interesting Facts We Didn't Know About New Forest Ponies. We were especially struck by the fascinating snippet of information that they have their tails cut in different ways to signal which commoner owns them. No, I don't think any of them had their tails in French plaits.


Our next meal was scrambled eggs and chopped spring onions around our dining room table that evening which was notable more for the chat than the menu. I always think conversations flow so much more easily over a meal, don't you? The bottle of wine may have helped too...


Another day, another Place to Visit - this time the very beautiful Parham House, with its delicious lunches served in a fascinating old kitchen; amazing Long Gallery with its high roof decorated with painted leaves; totally charming Wendy House; and colourful gardens - including, you need to know this - a Wall of Sunflowers which apparently featured on Gardeners World recently. Sad to say, no TV producer has yet approached me to film my own Sunflower Wall which, despite the Slimy Slug Invasion, is still valiantly standing tall. If somewhat sparse.


We were half-way through our tour of the house when my mobile phone rang - My Boy wanting to tell me that he had just built a fantastic sandcastle with the help of my sister, with whom he and his family are spending the weekend. This building project, he explained, had made him think of me, hence the phone call. Unfortunately this rather sweet explanation cut no ice with an officious guide who descended on me like an avenging angel to tell me to turn my phone off. I was extremely apologetic (I would not have been pleased with myself, had I not been myself, if you know what I mean ) though my apologies were not accepted - we slunk off into the next room, my red face, my daughter and I.


You will be pleased to hear that we recovered my equanimity over a shared Cream Tea, conveniently pushing to the backs of our minds that we would be heading out for a curry that evening.


Mr B and I always treat the older visiting grandchildren to a curry meal out when they come to stay so that was a "must" for a Darling Daughter's mini holiday. Just because you are grown up doesn't mean you can't be royally spoiled.


My dear Mum, like me, adored all her grandchildren - but she always reminded us that we children came first. She had carried us for nine months, given birth to us, looked after us when we were sick, celebrated our successes, wept with us over our disappointments, let us go with love when we flew the nest, welcomed us back with open arms whenever we came to visit. I feel just the same.


Precious time with my first-born. Priceless.

 

A really organised person, I am sure, strips the bedclothes off the beds thirty seconds after her visitors have waved goodbye and headed off home. Me? No, I am afraid I am a bit of a slob where Bed Stripping is concerned. I wait for the next set of visitors to descend before changing the bedclothes. After all, it might turn out that the next visitors are the same as the last visitors (please keep up, won't you?) in which case they won't require a change of linen unless they've stayed for a week. And I would have stripped the beds, washed, ironed and remade said beds all for nothing.

 

I am ashamed to admit to such slovenliness but this is the Daily Blog and my readers are entitled to expect total honesty from me.


Today, however, I need to change the linen on the beds in both spare rooms in honour of the Eldest of the Darling Daughters and the Third Eldest Granddaughter coming to stay. As I pull back the duvet on the single bed, last occupied by Young James, I find a sweet cuddly toy nestled beneath the covers.


It is a skinny, cream-coloured bear with beady black eyes, a bright pink nose and a felt heart attached to its front declaring "Special Mum." As James, by no stretch of the imagination, can be considered a "mum", special or otherwise, I conclude that the loving bear must once have belonged to the Darling Daughter-in-Law but gifted to her son for some reason. Possibly, I muse, she had suggested that it would be better to take this particular teddy, rather than a much-more-treasured toy with him on the family's recent visit just in case it was left behind in the packing. If this was, indeed, the case then it shows great prescience on the part of the Darling Daughter in Law.


We made a similar decision when James's Dad was about his age now. We had already lost - and replaced - one cuddly rabbit and couldn't face the trauma of another Tragic Loss. We were bound for France, staying at hotels on both our way down, and our way back, to and from the Dordogne. Too many opportunities to lose our son's most treasured toy (most treasured, that is, after his Martin Chivers Super Football) and I was not confident that my school-girl French would be up to to the challenge in a local gendarmerie, should it become necessary to report it missing. In its place, therefore, our son insisted on taking a rather large, golden elephant who went by the less than original name of Babar.


I still recall returning to our rooms in a rather special hotel in Vichy. Our nightclothes had all been laid out in readiness for bed - the sleeves of Our Boy's Thomas the Tank Engine pyjamas, however, had been wrapped, lovingly, around his elephant. Mr B remembers this hotel experience for a different reason: the French maids in their tight black skirts, lacy aprons and crisp white hats. I remember the old-fashioned, open lifts, all black wrought iron and creaking lifting gear. Each to his own reminiscence.


We still have Babar the elephant, Our Boy was amazed to discover. He was even more amazed to hear that the rabbit is still with us too, though hidden away in the loft somewhere. He declared his intention of venturing into the loft on his very next visit to reclaim the Lost One. This particular bunny has great sentimental value: when its owner had to wear a plaster over one eye in a bid to force a lazy eye to work, imaginative measures were called for. Hence, as immortalised in song:


"Lazy eye, doesn't want to work,
Lets the other eye do all the work,
So he's got a super patch -
And Bunny's got a patch to match!"


My Son and I burst into song in unison. We were word perfect, almost forty years on. The Welsh Boys looked at us, singing away, as if we were quite, quite mad.


When I was Brown Owl (Brown Ale, the dads called me) of the 3rd Staplehurst Brownie Pack, I used to take the Brownies on Pack Holiday every year. A week or so before each holiday, I would hold a meeting at my home for all the parents to go over arrangements. Among other things, I would explain that every Brownie should bring a cuddly toy with them. Even if they did not need the comfort of a toy in bed at night, the fact that everyone brought one meant those who would not be able to sleep without a furry friend would not feel embarrassed.


At which Mr B, listening in unashamedly to my homily, piped up: "But this year I'm not wearing those floppy ears!"


Mr B. My very own Teddy Bear.

Latest comments

31.07 | 11:57

Wow! Sounds wonderful

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16.07 | 06:31

How they are going to laugh and enjoy these wonderful blogs. Nanny you will be with them for ever! C

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17.03 | 22:51

How lovely Jacqui

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12.02 | 22:18

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

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