Jaqui's Daily Blog

It is good, don’t you agree, to make people laugh? It suggests you are a person who brings joy to others, who is good to be around, the life and soul (even) of the party.

 

The trouble is, there are times when you make people laugh hysterically until the tears come to their eyes - without ever meaning to do so. That’ll be me, then.

 

This week Mr B and I have had the pleasure of the company of the Youngest of the Darling Daughters who once again arrived at ours to “bubble” with us, as allowed by Boris et al. Although it is but a couple of weeks since her last visit (she is extremely loyal when it comes to bubbling) I still had plenty I wanted to tell her about. Nothing particularly exciting, to be honest, but then what is in these pandemic-dominated days? Just things like my progress on my latest jigsaw puzzle (I am storing up puzzle-related stories for a future blog - just to give you advance warning) and my new shampoo and conditioner which promises to help me grow grey (dis)gracefully. Time will tell.

 

I also wanted to tell her all about the new year-long Healthier You programme I have embarked upon. For some reason I have been made a member of the Greater Manchester Team, despite living on the south coast, but when all meetings are on-line location hardly matters, does it? Our virtual meetings are held fortnightly and between each meeting we participants are encouraged to set ourselves a target - a small, achievable step which by the time the fortnight was up, would have become a good habit. You know it makes sense. 

 

I set myself the target of drinking three large glasses of water a day, one first thing in the morning, one with lunch and one with my evening meal. This, I estimated, would be my two litres of water a day. I’d measured out three glasses of water which filled my Pyrex jug twice over so I knew I was right.

 

The Youngest of the Darling Daughters looked doubtful when I relayed this information to her so I fetched the measuring jug out of the kitchen cupboard and filled it to the top. There you are, I told her triumphantly. Which was when she pointed out that it was a one pint jug - or, to put it another way - a half-litre jug. I was drinking exactly half as much as I thought I was.

 

I managed to conquer my disappointment and thought I had covered up my inadequate measuring skills quite well till it came to dinner time. There we were sitting round the table discussing pizzas (as you do.) I was explaining how Mr B and I generally share a medium sized pizza between us. What I failed to explain was that the pizza we would order would be half a Chicken Feast (for me) and half a Mighty Meat (for Mr B.)

 

Instead I drew an imaginary circle on the table to represent our pizza, telling her: “So Dad will have half a pizza - and I will have half a pizza...” It was, had I but realised it, a case of stating the (insert appropriate mild expletive) obvious. Cue laughter. Much laughter. Not just any laughter but proper tears-in- the-eyes laughter. “We learnt fractions in Infants School!” spluttered my daughter in between gasps. She kept re-tracing my invisible half-circle diagram over and over on the tablecloth and setting us both off into the giggles again.

 

It’s by no means the first time - indeed it is rare that the Youngest of the Darling Daughters and I get together for a couple of days without experiencing at least one bout of helpless laughter. One of us only needs to utter those immortal words “the fire’s gone out...” for us to be doubled up with laughter as we remember Dave Allen’s sketch, an example of comedic genius. Well, most people will find that funny - but lots of the things that make us laugh so long and so loudly would probably have others witnessing our heroics shaking their heads in wondering disbelief. 

 

Laughter really is the best medicine, a true tonic. When shared with a Darling Daughter, it is a gift beyond measure...

The Rascally Trio are determined to make life in our back garden a little more adventurous for our feathered friends. Consequently they have gathered up the most exciting looking sticks used for the Easter Trail and inserted them into the bush which I call “the community centre” on account of the number of birds (mostly sparrows) which congregate there.

 

“The birds will be able to perch on the twigs,” the Trio explain, when I raise doubtful eyebrows, “and jump from one branch to another.” It will be good exercise, they are certain, this trio of active kids who (like the birds, but without wings) never, ever stop flying from one end of the garden to the other. The poor bush looks most peculiar with its twiggy outcrop but then this morning, just as I am about to venture out to remove the sticks, our resident robin takes up position on the longest twig and perches there, trilling triumphantly. Clearly the Rascally Trio know better than I do.

 

I had decided against a trail of sticks and stones, opting instead for a number of clues to be solved, ending at the garage door behind which three Easter eggs lurked. My reasoning was that the moment the littl’uns arrived in the back garden they would immediately see the signs and want to follow the trial and devour the chocolatey feast they would find at journey’s end - when their mamma, Middle of the Darling Daughters would want them to sit down with their lunch boxes and eat their sandwiches first. This delaying ruse worked - to an extent. While sitting at the garden table investigating the contents of their lunch boxes, Faris’s sharp eyes managed to pick out at least four clues, which I had hidden (but clearly not well enough.) I told him he still had to solve the clues or might end up missing out on vital information regarding the Final Reveal.

 

I had several activities planned - a hunt for eggs in the front garden, the trail in the back garden, the planting of this year’s sunflower seeds and the traditional potato and spoon races. I also asked if the Trio might like to set a sticks and stones trail for their mother and me - which led, in turn, to the installation of play equipment for the sparrows and (more painfully) the acquisition of a splinter for Tala, elder of the Twins by one important minute. Provided one is prepared to overlook that unfortunate event plus (i) a missing egg in the front garden, bringing the total to 17 rather than an easily divisible 18; (ii) sunflower seeds drowning in compost having been watered rather too enthusiastically by the young gardeners; and (iii) most of my clues having been solved before the trail even started - then it was a most successful afternoon. Lilia won my own prize for solving what turned out to be the most difficult clue - still waters run deep in my youngest granddaughter. We took turns wearing the Easter Bonnet which I had fashioned for the Giant Penguin - for some reason I am wearing it in most of the photos snapped by my daughter to record the happy occasion.

 

A short trip to the beach to play in Shark Park, followed by fish fingers and chips with an Easter cake as “pudding” and our lovely afternoon drew to an inevitable close. We even managed to locate the missing egg in the front garden before the last goodbye.

 

We haven’t seen the Rascally Trio since Christmas Eve - more than three long months; it’s even longer since we saw the (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys. Coronavirus has such a lot to answer for, doesn’t it? Like so many grandparents, Mr B and I can’t help worrying that, while our older grandchildren have years of shared adventures to keep us in their thoughts, our precious young’uns might forget us. Not, I hasten to say, that they will actually forget us (I’m sure I can count on their parents not to let that happen) but I can’t help fearing that, because of our enforced absence, we might just cease over time to matter so much in their lives. 

 

Each of the Trio has made us an Easter card, all three beautifully decorated with Easter bunnies, chicks, rainbows, eggs, trees, suns and hearts. Inside her card, Tala has written stoutly: “I love you forever. I won’t forget you.” 

 

The wisdom of a six year old. Bless her.

I have it on excellent authority (as in, the Middle of the Darling Daughters) that granddaughter Tala, elder of the twins by one important minute, has Easter at Nanni and Grandad’s completely sussed. I mean, I know I am predictable but, well, really...

 

Tala has a pretty phenomenal memory. It probably comes from having a London cabbie as a father. It is a proven fact that learning The Knowledge (that incredibly difficult test before a London cabbie qualifies to drive a black cab) increases the size of the hippocampus. That’s the part of the brain concerned with learning and memory, don’t you know? No need to thank me for this priceless piece of useless information - I do like the Daily Blog to come over all educational every so often. 

 

I can’t imagine Tala, at the tender age of six, has heard of the hippocampus - if she has, then she probably thinks it’s the same as a hippopotamus. What she has absorbed is a faultless memory of Easters Past.

 

Apparently, walking to school with a pal, my granddaughter was holding forth at some length on the coming weekend’s activities. Her mother couldn’t help but eavesdrop on the conversation. So like me, she is. Every year, Tala informed her friend (who may or may not have been excited by the revelations) Nanni set out an Easter Egg Trail. When she (as in Tala, not Nanni - do try to keep up) was small, the trail was made up of multi-coloured mega blocks. More recently, arrows and other signs made of sticks and stones have led the way to the hidden cache of Easter eggs. However -

 

“The Easter eggs are always hidden in the same place!” our fearless reporter concluded, triumphantly. 

 

So there you have it, dear reader. Come Easter Sunday, do I hide the Easter eggs in their customary place or do I break with tradition? 

 

In a spare moment I headed up to the jungle at the bottom of the garden to find sticks and stones. I am thinking that maybe I could combine with some written clues? This, of course, will require rather more thought but it might add an extra dimension to the activities. As well as giving Tala something new to tell her pal.  

 

I’m now thinking of having a Front Garden Hunt and a Back Garden Trail. In the front garden, I will hide the small chocolate eggs I have purchased from the local Co-op (other supermarkets have certainly hatched similar treats); in the back garden I will lay the Trail, using a combination of sticks, stones and (possibly) written clues, leading to the discovery of the three Easter Eggs hidden somewhere different from previous years. In between I am planning to invite the Rascally Trio to plant this year’s sunflower seeds. I have bought a packet of Giant Sunflowers which should please Young Faris who still believes that Big is Best. Presumably, on that basis, Giant must be even better than best. Also - and not to be forgotten - there’s the annual potato and spoon races to prepare and I need to dress the Giant Penguin in appropriate finery. An Easter Bonnet, maybe? I know from the Trio’s proud mamma that on every visit the main topic of conversation in the car on the way down is what the Penguin will be wearing. Presumably Tala can still remember from last time around?

 

I was starting to wonder why I set myself up to fail every time. Have I fixed the bar just too high? Will I ever learn?

 

Then I suddenly remembered my dear Dad who never failed to make the most ordinary of activities special. When my Little Sister and I were small, Friday night was “Surprise Night” - we looked forward to it all week. The “surprises” were always the same - Tiny Tots magazine for me, Chicks Own magazine for my sister plus a few sweets each. It never varied, as far as I can remember but Friday night was always, but always, Surprise Night. All these years later, I never forget the thrill. 

 

I’m hoping our Easter Fun will be every bit as special for the Rascally Trio, even if I do hide their eggs in the same place as always. And when they hold their eggs aloft in triumph, I know just what I’ll say:

 

“Surprise!”

 

It was what you might call an Early Doors Day - a day when absolutely everybody turned up early. “Manic Monday?” commented Donna, Mr B’s sweet carer, who arrived in the middle of everything. She knows that manic mornings are a feature of our life.

 

Our first Early Doors caller was the District Nurse, visiting to apply tender loving care to Mr B’s legs. She did, to be fair, telephone first, presumably to make sure we were actually out of bed. (We were. Just.) Provided she didn’t mind that we were still in our pyjamas, I decided we could handle it. Better an early visit, than her turning up in the afternoon when our visitors were due...

 

Mr B was not too impressed, having to finish up his breakfast before her arrival and, worse still, not being able to request second helpings but an hour later when the nurse departed, I was feeling pleased we had fitted in her visit. 

 

Half an hour later, Donna was here as usual and I was upstairs doing my daily exercises when the door bell rang again. It was Steve the Plumber who had turned up to service the boiler at least an hour earlier than expected. Ah, well, I thought, what’s the harm in another Early Doors caller - so in he came while I silently congratulated myself on my adaptability...

 

Even the postman turned up earlier than usual, bringing an unexpected bonus in the shape of a letter accompanying a cheque for £42.26 to repay a discount we should have been awarded back in 2013 on a home insurance policy. We’ve long moved onto a different insurance company, but it’s good of them to remember us, isn’t it? Plus the second letter I opened informed me that there would be no increase this year on the cost of Mr B’s community alarm. It makes such a change from our usual Monday post of catalogues and letters from charities asking us to increase our donations. 

 

Maybe it’s the gradual Lifting of Lockdown today that is behind all our Early Doors callers? Perhaps they have all risen with the lark, full of the joys of a spring day, and decided to get going a bit early as a result. Everyone has a spring in their step

 

There was a very good reason to be pleased that all our callers had been and gone earlier than expected - we were welcoming visitors in the shape of the Eldest of the Darling Daughters, her fella and granddaughter Eleanor for a picnic in the sunny back garden. Now I didn’t have to worry that our picnic would be disturbed by the nurse, the boiler engineer or the postman. We  celebrated the Easing of Lockdown in style - visitors had brought with them a bottle of bubbly, making our afternoon extra special. The popping of a cork was an appropriate accompaniment to a catch up chat - how many other families, I wonder, were meeting up today, like us, after long months apart and settling back into that easy familiarity which comes from so many shared years past.

 

Oh, yes, there were three more Early Doors callers I haven’t mentioned yet. I noticed them when I was out in the back garden making picnic preparations - shifting the garden table and chairs onto the lawn so that we could observe social distancing; unearthing the seat cushions from their long winter sojourn in the garage; making up our own picnic rolls. There they were - amazingly, three beautiful lilies who, growing in a sheltered corner, had escaped the frosts and were starting to bloom. 

 

Quite ridiculously early - could it be that they, too, were celebrating the Easing of Lockdown?

I’m singing to myself the song Fagin sings in the musical “Oliver” - do you know the one I mean? It goes something like: “I’m reviewing the situation...”

 

No, I’m not actually thinking back over a life of crime and deciding whether I should go straight for once. I am - as I have often told you - extremely law-abiding. Almost (but hopefully not quite) to the point of being boring. However, since I took possession of a video monitor, provided for me free by the (very generous) Carers Trust West Sussex, I am regularly reviewing the situation downstairs where Mr B sleeps from upstairs where I sleep. It’s becoming slightly addictive. Every time I am woken in the night by a call of nature, I switch on the video to check whether Mr B is awake or not. Similarly, a quick check early in the morning tells me if it’s worth risking turning over in bed and trying to snatch another half-hour in bed. “I’m reviewing the situation...” I hum to myself. 

 

While we are talking monitors (though I concede I am stretching a point) I am reminded of a visit I paid with the Eldest of the Darling Daughters and her girls to the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. It’s an amazing museum and I recommend it to anyone who was once a child. Like, well, all of us. There was, indeed, something for each one of us - I was marvelling over Muffin the Mule, my daughter was chortling over the model of a typical boy in the 70s wearing the self-same jumper her younger sister used to wear, while the granddaughters were reminiscing over the Teletubbies and looking up on google, for my benefit, what the Sun Baby looks like, now she is all grown up. 

 

We eventually reached the displays about Education with newspaper reports from 1971 when Margaret Thatcher, then Secretary of State for Education, decreed the end of free milk for schoolchildren. The Eldest of the Darling Daughters signalled that she had something important to share with her girls. I was expecting some kind of statement on the politics of the day - but, no, my daughter was keen to tell her girls that she used to be Milk Monitor at school. This was a position of great authority (she informed her daughters) on account of being given the responsibility of inserting drinking straws into the silver bottle tops before the milk was given out.   It was, she said, nostalgically, just about the most important task allotted to a monitor, far exceeding (presumably) the Blackboard Monitor or the Ink Monitor.  ( On a point of order, I invented the last two, not being able to remember the exact conversation.) Her girls regarded their mother with something akin to horror. Was it really true, they wanted to know, that schools in the Olden Days, actually gave glass bottles full of milk to five year olds? Oh, my dears, it was such a dangerous world back then...

 

Mr B no longer regards the monitor with suspicion. It has taken a while but he now recognises my voice when I enquire after his well-being in the middle of the night. Just as well, as it happens. I still laugh at the memory of the parents who, having installed a baby monitor in their toddler’s nursery, responded to his cry by calling him over the monitor. There was a short silence before the little lad, in a worried voice, responded tremulously:

 

“What do you want - Wall?” 

Latest comments

30.03 | 17:40

I'm a young entrepeneur who is willing to start a business to offer retired people the opportunity to live an amazing life.Please emailme,I'd like to ask a few?

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09.03 | 16:42

Penguin outfit for 2022.

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24.02 | 19:21

Thank you, Carol, for your lovely messages. I am very proud of both my much loved Middle Daughter and her Knowledge Boy! Thanks for reading my random ramblings

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23.02 | 10:12

And of course, I know that Knowledge Boy (KB) is a cabbie - but had forgotten just what this entails! Great to be reminded just how much knowledge a KB needs!

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