One of the best things about retirement has undoubtedly been the making of so many new friends.
It comes, I suppose, with
all the fresh activities I have taken up (Mr B says I buzz about “like a blue-arsed fly”, which is incredibly rude and probably slanderous.) However, it is true, as every Agony Aunt would tell you, that taking up activities which interest you is
the very best way of meeting people with whom you have something in common. It’s the stuff of which new friends are made.
Much as I love and appreciate all
my new friends, there is a special place in my heart for the old ones – the people who have been my friends through thick and thin and can still find room for me in their lives. A couple of days ago we paid a visit to two such friends who still
live in the village where we brought up our family, all those years ago. It was a day steeped in nostalgia.
It didn’t start too well in that we had
decided to take the cross-country route, forgetting that this would mean negotiating the roads in the company of lorries, tractors, caravans, buses – in short, all the slowest, most-difficult-to-overtake vehicles to be found on our highways and by-ways.
Mr B’s patience, never his strongest point, wore thin very, very quickly. I kept offering him another Werthers Original to calm him down but it was a somewhat fraught journey and I was relieved when we entered the village of Staplehurst and slowed down
to see what had changed and what had stayed the same.
Here’s the library with the village sign outside – the sign designed by our next door neighbour.
I have a bronze copy of it, a gift from my Church when our family left the village more than 27 years ago. The shops may be different but The Parade itself looks much the same. Here’s the old Primary School, now the Village Hall. Outside, tall and flourishing,
stands the tulip tree which my Brownies planted in 1978 to mark the founding of our Pack, the 3rd Staplehurst. Ever democratic, I had allowed my Brownies to choose which type of tree they wanted to plant. I should have known they would opt for
something inappropriately, but magnificently, exotic....
Now here we are at our friends’ house but we sit outside in our car for a few minutes, looking
at the house next door but one, the house where we used to live. Mr B observes that the tile which had been missing all the time we lived in the house has been replaced. So have the windows and the front door, plus we can catch a glimpse of a conservatory
at the back. But mostly it looks the same and if I screw up my eyes, I can almost see my foursome on the front door-step, all dressed up in their Silver Jubilee tee-shirts. Time has not just stood still, it’s gone into reverse.
Across the road from our cul-de-sac is the George V Playing Field, where the children of the village congregated on those long, sunny afternoons after school and in the holidays –
you may want to read The Way We Were for a trip back into our past. When the Youngest of the Darling Daughters was 13 she was employed by the Parish Council as a litter picker and her “patch” was the playing field. Woe betide the brother
or sister who dropped so much as a crisp packet on her territory”.
We settle down with our friends for an afternoon of excellent food, titbits of village
gossip, the proud sharing of photographs / anecdotes of our various grandchildren – and many a reminiscence. “Do you remember...?” one of us will start and we are off and away again.
It seems the old Primary School may well be facing demolition, so that a brand new, modern village hall can be built on the site. It’s what the village badly needs, it’s progress – but I am remembering
all those Brownie meetings in the old School Hall all those years ago, when I could literally feel the friendly ghosts of a century of school-children crowding the room and watching the antics of a new generation. I wonder what will become of the tulip
We take the motorway as we head for home. Not such a beautiful route but there’s a not-quite Full Moon to light us on our way. I’m remembering
the long three weeks after a painful shoulder operation when my right arm was strapped against my chest and my lovely friend and neighbour called round every day to cut up my dinner for me so that I could eat it more easily. Plus the day I was suffering
from flu, skulking on my sofa and feeling sorry for myself when she arrived on the doorstep, bearing the most delicious honey and lemon drink I had ever tasted.
was the lovely holiday we shared in Broadstairs when Mr M took on the Donkey Man for allowing his animals to foul the beach where the children were playing. I still have a copy of the poem I wrote about their encounter. I remember the parties, the weddings,
the anniversaries we have celebrated together – and I remember the day before we moved, when we shared a bottle of champagne and cried because we would miss each other so very much.
Make new friends but keep the old, says the ancient rhyme. Never was a truer word spoken.
Hallo, everyone. This is Faris. I have taken over Nanni’s blog for today as I think she deserves a rest. Well it can’t be too difficult, can it?
What do you think of the photograph I have chosen to illustrate this, my first ever blog? It’s the photograph in my passport and Nanni says it is much, much better than hers. I wouldn’t want to hurt her feelings,
but I have to say that this is very true. I understand that I need a passport for when we go to a place called Abroad. We haven’t been to Abroad yet but I am sure I shall like it. Apparently it is warmer than Worthing.
Worthing is where we are off to today, my Very Merry Mummy and I. It’s where Nanni and Grandad live and it is by the seaside. I knew where we were going as soon as my VMM started talking
about the “fresh sea air” and walks along something called “the prom, prom, prom.” She also started packing up some of my toys and books for Nanni. I don’t know why because you would have thought that at her age Nanni would have
her own toys and books at her house. I’ve only been born just over ten weeks and I have lots of both. Possibly Nanni just doesn’t look after her possessions very well.
My Very Merry Mummy’s favourite book is called “My Baby: Week by Week.” It tells her what I should be doing and by when. So far I have managed to meet all expectations so she feels perfectly justified in calling me
“Perfect Baby.” The only bit in the book I am not sure about is where it says how many wet and how many dirty nappies I should be getting through every day. I think this is a bit too personal, if you ask me, but my Very Merry Mummy seems
to find it both useful and reassuring in equal measure.
My first, really important achievement was learning to smile. I had been practising for ages, you have
no idea how many muscles it takes to smile. It really, really annoyed me when people gazed down at me in my Moses basket and commented, in that annoyingly knowing voice some grown-ups have: “Wind!” Wind, indeed. That was me, practising.
Then when I did manage a full-blown smiler, guess what my Very Merry Mummy did? She cried. Buckets. I don’t think I shall ever understand Women.
obviously a long time ago, when I was young. I have grown up a lot since then and now get to wear big boy’s trousers and something called dungarees. My Very Merry Mummy takes photos of me almost every morning and sends them off to people in Our
Family so that they can see how quickly I am growing. I probably don’t change much from day to day but, if you saw me when I was young (about five or six weeks ago) then you would surely see the difference.
When I get to Nanni and Grandad’s house, I will be able to lie on my green blanket with the floppy-eared dog on it. This is good because I will be able to practise my judo moves. My Ever Devoted Daddy (EDD) says
that one day I could be a judo champion. It doesn’t say anything about judo in “My Baby: Week by Week” but then the book only goes up as far as six months and I imagine you probably have to be nine – maybe even ten - months
to become a judo champion...
Well, we are nearly at Nanni’s now. We have had a bit of a nightmare journey because the M25 turned into a car park. I
don't know how that could have happened but then I am not absolutely sure what the M25 is. I am just letting my Very Merry Mummy get on with the driving so that I will be as fresh as a daisy when we arrive in Worthing. (Incidentally, on the way home, my Very
Merry Mummy will dress me in my sleepsuit and something called a grow-bag. Anyone would think I am a tomato plant. Or a runner bean.)
So, this is me, Faris Juba,
signing off. Hopefully I can blog again another day to give Nanni a bit of a break. I hope your life is as full of fun as mine is.
Lots of very best love
(aka Perfect Baby)
“Is that a trail of – blood?” one of our number asks, in a trembly voice.
All three of us
turn our eyes in the direction she is pointing. There stretched out in blobs along the aisle of the Church is a distinctly suspicious-looking trail of reddish-coloured liquid. I feel as if I have stepped into a real-life game of Cluedo but without
any obvious murderous implements. Though now I come to think of it, being a Church, there are any number of handy candlesticks...
I am here on “Church
Watch” and this, my second session, is already promising to be even more exciting than the first. I am, however, not entirely convinced about the blood because it certainly wasn’t there a few minutes ago and surely we would have noticed someone
being murdered before our very eyes? Could it be drops of water spilt by Edie, who is arranging flowers in memory of her husband’s birthday? I take a tissue and dab at one of the splashes of liquid – it is, indeed, water rather than blood.
The wooden floor of the aisle has given it a reddish tinge, hence the understandable mistake.
We are all immeasurably relieved as there can be few things worse than finding yourself at the centre
of a murder investigation when you thought you were spending a quiet afternoon greeting any visitors to the Church who might turn up in the course of the afternoon. Especially when you have tampered with the evidence by dabbing at it with a tissue.
After all that excitement, we settle down with the Concise Crossword in today’s copy of the i newspaper. We are
struggling with 4 down “disentangle” – 9 letters, when the Church door is pushed gently open and a woman enters. We have a visitor! I rise to greet her, thankful to see that the watery trail has dried up beautifully while we have been decoding
our crossword so the Church does not, any longer, resemble a crime scene.
Our visitor is from Hamburg in Germany. I help her light a candle and she says
we all need to pray for World Peace. There is no arguing with that. I’m glad she wanted to light a candle – I had been gently reprimanded at the start of my “Watch” by the Church Watch Co-ordinator, who told me I had lit too many
candles and might stand accused by the Rector of wasting wax. In my defence I had only lit candles which were already partly burnt down, I didn’t start off any new ones. I thought my candles looked beautiful and welcoming – but all but three or
four were blown out by the CWC. Now a new candle burns brightly on the iron stand and lightens our darkness.
Before our visitor leaves, having bought a couple
of postcards, she tells me she will be coming back to Evensong this coming Sunday to hear our choir sing. She hopes she will see me there and wishes me “God Bless.” I thank her for coming to visit our beautiful church. Returning to
the crossword, the word “extricate” springs suddenly into my mind. Clue 4 down – solved! Then I remember that I forgot to ask our visitor to sign the Visitor’s Book. I am crest-fallen at my failure. My first visitor and I’ve
fallen at the final hurdle.
We discuss whether we should invest in a “Church Watchers’ Box of Tricks” for the benefit of all the Watchers. Contents
would include puzzle books, a dictionary and thesaurus, sharp pencils, a rubber (we keep having to scrub out wrong answers and the crossword is looking very messy.) Also inside our Box of Tricks would be plastic mugs, tea bags and sachets of coffee for use
with the flask of hot water which we will remember to bring along. You can tell we are starting to feel a little thirsty.
A couple who are running a stall
at the forthcoming Church fete come in to check on donations so far received, which are stacked up on pews at the back of the Church. They find a bottle of Famous Grouse whisky and suggest that this is too valuable to be left out in full view and should
be locked away for safety in the Vestry. We think what a great addition it would make to our Box of Tricks. Only joking!
Hey up – another visitor!
This is what you call a busy afternoon by Church Watch standards. Our second visitor wants to see the Rector to discuss his son’s Christening. I ask how old the little lad is and he tells me he is 20, which isn’t exactly what I am expecting
him to say. Apparently he and his family have spent most of the time since his son was born travelling the world and now they are finally settled it seems the right time for a Christening. One of us asks what the Not So Little Lad thinks about
it all but it seems he is happy enough. We direct our visitor to the Rectory and tell him he will be assured a good reception there.
What an interesting afternoon we have had. We have entertained
two visitors, kept each other company, made plans for the future and, what is more, solved the Mystery of the Trail of Blood.
Now if I could only work out the
answer to 13 across...
Considering the number of visits I pay to family and friends over the course of a year, you would have thought I would have the Art of Packing off to a tee.
Not so. Rare is the trip when I do not either (i) forget to take something really important or (ii) leave something behind me. On our return from Wales yesterday, for example, My Boy texted me to say that Mr B had left his dressing
gown behind and that it was far too heavy to post. Mr B, of course, decided that this was All My Fault because I had been the person on Packing Duty, which seemed a little unfair as it was his dressing gown, not mine. This morning he had to resort to wearing
my red fleece over his pyjamas – I have offered him use of my white, fluffy dressing gown but he says nobody in their right mind would walk about looking like a polar bear every morning. Methinks a quick trip to Marks and Spencers may be called for in the
not too distant future.
The most spectacularly unfortunate example of Leaving Things Behind was undoubtedly when I left my handbag and its entire contents at the home of the Youngest of the Darling Daughters after a visit. As handbags generally do,
it had just about everything in it from money to house keys, from bank cards to motor insurance and the proximity card which would allow me access to the office where I then worked. I was quite lost without it until it was posted back to me, at great expense.
The Y of the DDs always checks now that I have my handbag with me before I leave her house for home. It’s not going to happen again, not on her watch.
At least if I leave something behind it can be posted back to me. Forgetting to take something in the first place is marginally worse, in my opinion. Last weekend we forgot two things, both of which had unfortunate consequences.
Firstly we forgot to buy the three 1.5 batteries for Young Morgan’s birthday present. This meant that we were unable to see the dinosaur (you remember, the one which I mistook for a hippo) in action. Young Morgan forgave us – he was far too busy climbing all
over the box to worry about what was inside. His father, however, muttered that you’d think we would know by now. You would, you would, I quite agree. It’s the same with the wrapping up of presents – I always use yards and yards of sellotape, so much so
that tiny fingers find it impossible to undo my parcels. It has often been said (as in, on every Small Person’s Birthday) that I Never Learn.
I also forgot to take my swimming costume and towel which meant I was not able to join the family in the pool yesterday. This was not totally down to me as I had not been pre-warned that a Family Swim might be on the cards, though
perhaps I should have guessed. Still at least I was able to keep Mr B company in the spectator area at the side of the pool. He bought me coffee and a delicious piece of shortbread which went some way to temper my disappointment. I am, as you know by now
and as Mr B is wont to remark, Always Thinking About My Stomach.
Actually much as I would love to have been in the pool, splashing around and pretending I was an ace swimmer, from our prime position at the side of the pool we were able to see so much. We could see James, our Middle-Sized Boy,
venturing down the water chute for the first time – and all on his own too. We could see the very new baby, with his / her anxious parents, taking to the water for the very first time. Most of all we could see Young Morgan, in his inflatable baby swim ring,
paddling across the water for all he was worth, with his mother trailing along behind him. Young Morgan is a Boy Who Knows Where He is Going.
I had the pleasure of drying and dressing him. He endured my fumble-fingered efforts with the buttons and the press studs with sweet sufferance. Then we joined Mr B (aka Grandad) on the pool-side and played the Guardian Angel
Game. Over and over again. I would tell you about the Guardian Angel game but it would take up a lot of space and if you don’t have one (a Guardian Angel, that is) you wouldn’t be able to play anyway.
Though I am pleased to be home after a weekend away, it’s tinged with more than a touch of sadness. How I will miss my Little Welsh Boys! Fortunately, if there is one thing I won’t be forgetting, it’s all the fun we have had.
Just as every time I set off for home, I leave a little bit of myself behind...
As soon as we arrive at the home of my Little Welsh Boys we kind of surge into the back garden on a wave of hugs and kisses. Sam, in particular, is desperate to show off his magician’s act which he is practising
ready for the next day’s Birthday Party. My Middle-Sized Boy, James, has something completely different to show us.
“It’s my pet,”
he tells us, tipping something small and green out of a tiny conical box. It is at this point that I become aware that the small green thing has legs which are waving frantically in the air. Sam (who knows about these things) looks up from his
box of magic tricks to inform us that the small, green thing is, in fact, a shield bug. We are far too impressed by his intimate knowledge of the insect world to query this – besides, now I can take a closer look (James having tipped the creature into
the palm of my shrinking hand) the insect’s green back does, indeed, look shield-shaped.
James’s Mum and Dad have been trying unsuccessfully
to persuade their son that his pet would fare better out in the garden, rather than in his present “home”. James, however, believes that Love Conquers All and is equally sure that the shield bug is perfectly happy to be singled out for special
attention. He carefully takes his pet back from me and I pretend to be sorry to give it up.
“I am now going to shrink this rabbit!” The
Magician thinks we have spent too long admiring the shield bug and is claiming our attention. “Shut your eyes!” he commands. We dutifully close our eyes (we are very obedient grandparents, Mr B and I.) “Abrakazam!” pronounces
the Magician with theatrical flair. We open our eyes to see that the large sponge rabbit with one ear which our Magic Man had been holding is now a small sponge rabbit with two ears. We clap enthusiastically. I ask if I could be the Magician’s
Assistant tomorrow. “You could make Nanna disappear!” Mr B suggests. The Magician gives me a long, speculative look before giving his verdict: “We haven’t got a box big enough,” he tells us reluctantly (but firmly.)
We are, of course, here for Young Morgan’s first birthday and it is fun all the way. There’s a party tea for family and friends in the garden on Sunday, while
today (Monday) which is the actual birthday, we are going swimming. The Birthday Boy is a little bemused by all the goings-on, especially when he is required to wear a hat with a figure “1” on it while eating his breakfast. He is not one
to stay sitting around for long but is constantly off in search of mischief. Every so often he stops to pick something up off the ground and put it in his mouth. His mother tells me if I hold out my hand and say “Ta!” he will usually give
up whatever he has put in his mouth – unless it happens to be chocolate. I try it out and it works like magic. Abrakazam! you might say.
James is in
despair. His pet has disappeared. We tell him that it has doubtless made its way back into the garden where it will live happily ever after. James is not convinced.
I say to Young Morgan, who has picked something up off the stair and put it immediately in his mouth. He gives me an angelic grin, removes the object from his mouth and carefully places it in my outstretched hand. It is the shield bug. I think I shriek and
drop the bug but, to be honest, it’s all a bit of a blur...
Morgan takes his very first step today, in the swimming pool car park. I miss the Historic Moment
because I am attacking James’s dirty hands with a wet wipe. We all give him a clap because, like all one year olds, he likes applause.
to you, my bonny boy. May you live long and prosper.
Which is more than can be said for the shield bug...
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