Jaqui's Daily Blog

"There's s a fine, fine line..." sang my Hazel Bagel, there in the spotlight on stage at Basingstoke's Haymarket Theatre.

And it had been a fine, fine line, indeed, between my getting to see her and not on a day in which everything seemed to go wrong around breakfast time. The original idea had been that Mr B and I would both be in the audience to see our granddaughter in her very last performance for youth theatre group, Bats NextGen. I had hired a wheelchair from Shopmobility, the Youngest of the Darling Daughters had booked a wheelchair space and accompanying seat for me at the theatre, and our ever-obliging Son in Law was standing by to do the heavy work of pushing. Not only that but a table had been booked at nearby Zizzi's for family and friends to get together between the matinee and evening performances. What could possibly go wrong?

Except that sometimes, just sometimes, all my elaborate planning turns out to be a Step Too Far for my poor Mr B who, when it came to it, really couldn't manage to summon up the strength for the journey. I would have to go alone, he begged me, he couldn't bear it if I missed out as well.

As you know, I am one of those people who can't bear to miss out on anything. Even small things, let alone major events in the lives of my Tremendous Ten grandchildren. Had I not already had to miss out on seeing Our Jack as a tap-dancing Sailor Henry in the University of York musical theatre company's production of "Anything Goes"? Such a very long way to travel, no one to look after Mr B overnight - one might say that anything (or anyone) might go but not me. Now it looked as if I might miss out on Hazel as Kate Monster in Avenue Q.

An hour later, it was all sorted. I'd prepared a hasty lunch on a tray, filled a flask with coffee and our lovely neighbours were all primed and ready to pop in during the afternoon to check all was well. I could be back home by 6.30 p.m. if I got a move on...

At the end of a trouble-free journey (I'm reckoning I deserved a break) I arrived at the home of the Youngest of the Darling Daughters to find that I would not, after all, miss out on seeing the Rampaging Rascal and The Twinkles who would be calling round for half an hour. Half an hour is better than no time at all, don't you know? Plus Jack was home on a flying visit to watch his sister on stage so I could catch up with him too. My last couple of letters to him have had to be hand-written given that I am experiencing Printer Related Problems - had he been able to read my truly appalling handwriting, I queried. He said, loyally, that only a couple of words had been completely indecipherable. I hope they weren't, well, important words.

Oh, what a fun show is Avenue Q! If you haven't seen it, then think Sesame Street with multiple messages. This was, of course, the School Version so considerably tamed down from the show you'll see in the West End. Tender plant that I am, I probably enjoyed it all the more because of that. It was also a special production in that it was the last with this youth theatre group not only for Hazel but for several of her fellow performers, all heading off to Pastures New once their A Levels are done and dusted. I'm pretty sure none of them will end up on the British equivalent of Avenue Q, talented lot that they are.

Rather than think of poor me sitting all alone at the matinee performance , my daughter, son in law and his mother decided, as one, to book extra tickets so we ended up Quite Some Party. I don't think they needed much persuading, to be honest.

On stage, most of the Principals had the additional complication, besides singing and acting, of manipulating large puppets and trying to make the audience believe in their alter egos' characters rather than their own. Thus Hazel's puppet was a hairy monster, albeit a feisty and lovable one. I never imagined a monster could make me laugh and cry but in Hazel's hands, Kate Monster did both.

There was no time for Zizzi's after the performance if I were to be home by 6.30 p.m, so I resolutely forced myself not to think about what I would be missing. In the car park, I phoned Mr B to let him know I would shortly be on my way. Hazel took over the phone: "You'll be able to see the show because it's being filmed. Plus, when I see you next, I'll give you a Special Performance," she told him, adding, "I love you SO much!"

It's a fine, fine line - but I think I can safely say, we walked it rather successfully.

Mummy seems to be spending an inordinate amount of time on the phone lately. No, I am not at all sure what "inordinate" means but I rather think it is Birthday Party Related.

It is, indeed, that time of year again. Ever since The Twinkles celebrated their second birthday in December, I have been counting down the days till it would be my turn to be the Birthday Person. It seemed such a long time to me. Nanni says when you reach a Great Age the time goes much more quickly; she finds it hard to believe that it is almost March. I can only hope she gets her act together before next weekend when I am counting on her to be planning all manner of she-Nanni-gans to celebrate the fact that I will be four years old and therefore Almost a Grown Up.

This is Faris, of course, aka The Rampaging Rascal, taking over the writing of the Daily Blog for today. I haven't checked if this is okay with Nanni but I am sure she will be duly grateful that she can leave it to me to express my Many Opinions so that she doesn't have to struggle to think up any of her own. Besides, as far as I am concerned, she needs to be spending any spare time she has, between looking after Grandad and general larking about (of which she appears to do a great deal IMHO), preparing for next Saturday when she will be hosting the first day of my Birthday Weekend. There's no need to be sorry for her, you know, she will be In Her Element. Whatever that may be.

Going back to where I started this Blog, there's Mummy on the telephone again. She says she is talking to Poppy's mother and telling her that Sunday's birthday party is off, owing to the fact that I have not been on my Best Behaviour. It is at least the fourth time she has made the same phone call and I am starting to Smell A Rat. It is, after all, a bit late in the day to start cancelling arrangements for my Birthday Bounce Party, especially when I have invited all the most Tigger-ish of my friends.

I discussed all this with my friend Poppy at pre-school playgroup earlier this week. We were holding court at the water table at the time which was enormous fun, though somewhat wet. Poppy, who is pretty clever for a girl, told me she couldn't remember my mummy calling her mummy even once, let alone four times. She thinks it is possible that my mummy may be making pretend phone calls. I am shocked beyond measure. Though I do also have a certain sneaking respect for my mummy for even thinking up such deviousness.

She has also made similar phone calls to Nanni, suggesting that she should take my birthday present back to the shop unless and until I stop Rampaging. To be honest I'm not too worried because I can't imagine Nanni doing any such thing, not when she has so many other things to think about. I've also noticed that Nanni doesn't always do as she's told. She is a lot like me in that regard.

Among our plans for the Birthday Weekend is a trip to the theatre, just the two of us, to see a play called "Monstersaurus." We are going into town on a bus and Nanni is getting very excited about this because it will be my first time accompanying her on her bus. Me, I am more of a Cabbie Type but that comes of having a Daddy who is a London cabbie and knows his way all around London, the back streets and all. If ever I take a ride on a roundabout, I make sure to ride in the black cab if there is one. Let others ride on the double decker bus or the fire engine - it's the black cab for me every time. One day when I am older, say five years old or so, I may become a cabbie, like my Dad. It's a toss-up between that, a lifeguard on Littlehampton beach or, possibly, a doctor.

"Monstersaurus" should be good though Nanni, being Nanni, may find it a bit scary. It's a very good thing I will be with her, don't you think?

Tala and Lilia say: We aren't going to see the Monster Roaring Show because we aren't three years old already and the theatre won't let us in. We think this is Age Discrimination but Mummy says we will have a good time while our brother Faris and our Nanni (who is Faris's Nanni as well as ours - she really needs a few more pairs of hands) are at the show. We will be there for all the rest of the Birthday she-Nanni-gans in any case, including the Blowing Out Of The Candles. We are practising singing Happy Birthday though we much prefer Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Wind the Bobbin Up both of which have much better actions.

We played Pass the Parcel at our birthday party but Mummy said "Never again!" on account of none of us being prepared to play the game. As in passing the parcel, you understand. She definitely meant it, too.

At least until the next time...


I am rather concerned about my animals' welfare.

I can see puzzled frowns on your faces: you are wondering just when I introduced four legged friends into my home and what does Mr B have to say about it?

Not to worry, all will soon become clear though first of all you need to know that I actually have my own small-holding on which I am raising a rabbit, a pig, a horse and two owls, one blue and one ordinary coloured. Quite a menagerie, I am sure you will agree. An eclectic mix, one might say.

My very own small-holding was created for me by my (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys when they came to stay last weekend. In between fun and games, visits to the seaside, scooting along the prom, prom, prom, playing crazy golf and losing all their pennies in the amusement arcade, they returned to Blockcraft, their favourite game on my IPad. When I say "favourite game" I mean the only game, not being myself the Gaming Type.


Blockcraft, in case you aren't aware, is a kind of poor man's Minecraft. No, don't ask me, I'm interpreting Sam's words. Sam says that Blockcraft is more basic than Minecraft which requires more imagination of those playing it. He doesn't actually say that this makes it more suitable for one of my limited ability but the thought is definitely there, if unspoken.

Sam and brother James set me up on Blockcraft at least a year ago when I visited the family at their Cardiff home. My "village" included a number of block-like buildings, patrolled by a couple of block-like people. Long after my return home, even to the present day, I would receive plaintive messages complaining: "Come back to Blockcraft! Your people are missing you!"

Last weekend, the boys took their block-building activities to a whole new level. They built me a stable block and - wait for it! - an amphitheatre. You don't get many of those in the average village, now do you? It was when they diversified into the Animal World that I started to worry about my capability as a farmer. Especially when they headed for home, leaving me in sole charge.

Yesterday the lovely Kay who helps me keep our house in some kind of order, brought her son with her on her weekly visit as he was on half-term holiday. He would be no trouble, she assured me, as he would be perfectly happy playing games on his laptop. It occurred to me, however, that he might just be able to help me out...

We had such a good time, my new Best Friend and I. He helped me earn more gems by watching short videos, all of which appeared to be advertising different games which I was encouraged to download though I managed to resist the temptation, one game being more than enough for me. I will be able to spend my gems on new buildings including, excitingly, a lighthouse and any number of famous buildings like the Arc de Triomphe. Choices, choices, choices...

In return, I was introduced to his Game of the Moment which was called something like Floppy Sword Fights. The hero of this game doesn't run or walk, or even plod aimlessly around the screen like my Block People. He flops. Wherever he goes, he flops. Every time he meets up and kills a foe, the sword he is carrying gets longer. If, however, he gets killed himself, he falls to pieces and has to be re-spawned. I bet you are ever so impressed, are you not, with my Command of the Lingo?

"That's ridiculous!" I kept exclaiming, every time the Floppy One's sword extended to even greater lengths, "Totally ridiculous!" My young friend obviously liked the sound of this: "Ridiculous!" he agreed, "Totally ridiculous!"

Well, he didn't want to go home. Couldn't he just stay here, he begged, while his mum was working in other people's houses? Kay said really she should be paying me for child care but, as I pointed out, I was now quids in on the gem front and well on my way to affording the Golden Gate Bridge.

Ten minutes after they left, a ring on the door bell. There was my young friend, holding out a bunch of daffodils. "Thank you for having me," he said, a trifle wistfully, I thought. I told him he must come again, if only to help me with the pig, the horse, the rabbit and the two owls.

Two hours of fun, we had, my Young Friend and I.

We must do it again sometime. For the sake of the animals.

My lovely sister arrived carrying a beautiful bunch of tulips, all the colours of the rainbow. Her fella, my equally lovely brother in law, arrived with a screwdriver, a wooden pole and associated fittings.

He was here to do my bidding on the DIY front, he announced. I was to put him to work on all those small jobs which I was having difficulty in doing myself. No job too small, no task too fiddly. Everyone needs a handyman like Baz.

Did I have any screws about the house or, perhaps, in the garage? he asked, then - taking a look at my somewhat vacant face - followed this up by asking was there a hardware shop in the vicinity? Well, we needed to pay a visit to the local chippie for our Fish 'n' Chip Lunch and there was, indeed, a hardware shop just round the corner. We stopped long enough to take a food order from the rest of our family: "Are you a haddock?" "I was sure you were a cod." "Mushy peas, anyone?" "Who's up for sharing picked onions?" I'm sure you get the message. My sister endeavoured to collect everyone's Fishy Wishes on a blue post-it note which I had to keep safe in my coat pocket till we reached the chippie. It would never have done, now would it, to mistake someone for a cod when they were, indisputably, a haddock?

Later, after we had enjoyed our lunch, my own personal DIY Expert (obviously I had to share him with my sister but then we shared everything as littl'uns) set to work, fastening a hook on the back of the boiler cupboard door so that I could hang up my 2017 His and Hers calendar and replacing a flickering lighting tube above one of the kitchen units. We then repaired upstairs to turn out two boxes of tools kept in Mr B's wardrobe in search of another screwdriver. Having spent the princely sum of £1.99 on a packet of six screws from the hardware shop, we now discovered a veritable treasure trove of screws of all sizes, together with a drill, a set of pristine spanners and any number of helpful tools, the names of which escaped me. I will know where to look next time...

My new bird house, a present from the RSPB for renewing our joint membership, is now proudly in position on the back fence and there are useful bars in the airing cupboard and the boiler cupboard on which I can hang towels and tea towels. What's more the brass knocker has been screwed back onto my front door which no longer sports draughty holes where it used to be. Mr DIY is pleased with himself and I am grateful indeed for all his endeavours.

The day was not, of course, all about Baz's DIY efforts. Getting together with my sister, her fella and their son made for a day full of chat and laughter. Sharing the news, sharing the love.

It's hard to ask for help but I've found friends and family are not just wiling but positively eager to help. Our Boy, on his latest visit, found a computer expert to sort out our Technology Related Problems. Each of the Darling Daughters in turn has made their contribution, whether holding my hand, metaphorically speaking, when I underwent eye surgery; accompanying Mr B and me on a hospital appointment; gifting us a new wireless printer and being prepared to drive down to see us when needed with a Rampaging Rascal and a couple of Twinkles in tow. Kind friends have kept Mr B company when I was out, cooking him lunch or dinner, playing cribbage with him or just chatting.

Please just ask, everyone says, we're happy to help. And it makes me wonder if we - by which I mean you, me, all of us - should be prepared to ask for help more often?

Like Mr B and me, you'll find how wonderful it is to get by with a little help from your friends.

Or, in our case, such a lot of help, so very much appreciated.

The Duracell Bunny, aka Young Morgan, has only been home a short while but already he is on the phone to me. I guess he knows I am missing him - and his brothers - big-time.

Apart from reassuring me that the drive home has been relatively uneventful, the main reason for the call appears to be Career-Related. In short, Young Morgan has decided that he wants to be Spider-Man when he is older. Leaving aside the obvious issue about whether there is likely to be a vacancy for this somewhat singular position, I feel clarification may be needed on how much older is older. Morgan explains that he will be able to take up the job when he is fourteen years old. Or, possibly, thirty.

This seems a fairly large Age Discrepancy to me but there is no time to explore the matter further because the Spider-Man in Waiting is busily outlining the main criteria required of the post-holder, of which the two essentials are spider wings and spider thread. There may well be other criteria, both essential and desirable - if I were to find myself on the interview panel, I would definitely be testing out the applicants' head for heights and sheer stickability - but the Duracell Bunny is doing what he does best I.e. going on, and on, and on, without stopping.

I tell my young grandson that I have a vague understanding of what Spider-Man does, in that he is one of the Good Guys. Young Morgan confirms the truth of this somewhat simplistic statement and tells me, with considerable relish, how as the spidery one he will be able to wrap "evil people" and anything he doesn't like, in his webs. I say I trust I am safe from such treatment? Morgan doesn't consider this worthy of an answer. Hopefully, that's a yes, then.

Changing tack, the Duracell Bunny turns the conversation onto the subject of when he will see me again. If he can't come to my house, he says, then I will need to come to his. I remind him that I have to stay home to look after his Grandad. "Just bring Grandad with you!" he commands, with a four year old's logic. I wish, oh I wish, it were that easy!

Young Morgan is not the only person telling me what to do. I'm thinking of my new Smart Meter, which takes enormous delight in telling me how much I am spending on my gas and electricity day by day. I am getting so neurotic about it that I keep turning its face to the wall, like a naughty schoolboy sent to stand in the corner until he sees the error of his ways.

Then there's Miss Fit (the poor man's Fitbit) who is constantly nagging me about my failure to tot up 1000 points a day. When my (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys were here for the weekend they helped me out by donning the gadget and taking it in turns to run circuits of the tennis courts while we were having our sandwich lunch in the sunshine. Okay, okay, it's cheating and I try never to cheat - but at least it got Miss Fit off my back for one day only.

This morning when I consulted the app on my mobile phone, I was seriously worried to discover that I had apparently only had two and a half hours of restful sleep. That was until I made the bed and found Miss Fit snuggling at the bottom of the bed where I had presumably accidentally kicked her in the middle of the night.

To be honest, when it comes to being ordered about, I'd opt for Young Morgan every time. Sooner or later I will wean myself off the bossy Smart Meter and nagging Miss Fit. Morgan, on the other hand, has me wound round his little finger and fastened tight.

I am hopelessly trapped in Spider-Man's loving web...


Latest comments

07.12 | 15:48

what details have you got on your mysterious Wilde?

01.12 | 23:56

And so say all of us!!!

29.10 | 22:07

Your words are true magic and like us Adam has a great future ahead of him.
He has a mesmerising presence on stage and a voice to match

04.10 | 09:06

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

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