Jaqui's Daily Blog

My friends at our fortnightly craft group (sadly suspended for the duration) are always quick to admonish me when I seek to add an additional embellishment to whatever creation I am fashioning under the gentle tutoring of our leader, the Lovely Linda. “Less is More!” they remind me, gently but firmly, as they spot my gaze wandering over the ribbons, the buttons, the tissue paper.

 

They know what they are talking about, my fellow crafters. How many greetings cards, decorated boxes, Christmas tree decorations, painted glass tea light holders have I spoilt (even ever so slightly) because I couldn’t leave well alone? How many of my creations have suffered from over application of silver spray, poster paint or Modge Podge? You might be thinking that I never learn.

 

Today, however, I really think I may have turned a corner. Now, like so many in not-so-Splendid Isolation, I am having to make my own greetings cards; this afternoon, I decided to turn my hand to Easter  cards, principally for the Tremendous Ten grandchildren. You may well be imagining that it would be extremely easy for me to go Right Over The Top, given the multiplicity of Easter symbols.

 

I was rescued from myself by the fact that I am still awaiting delivery of essential supplies - double-sided sticky tape, printed greetings, silver and gold borders - from a Crafty Supplier. What I did have was lots of bits of coloured card left over from the manufacture of my birthday banners, an elderly stick of Pritt stick, a black felt tip pen, some card blanks and some envelopes. I also had a rabbit template, helpfully pinned inside a book entitled “Easter Activities.” Oh, how I love a book which does what it says on the tin! Or, in this case, the cover...

 

The book was once the prized property of grandkids Jack and Hazel when they were but Littl’uns and not the seriously grown-up individuals they have become. Indeed, one of the many treasures I have recently rescued from above, as part of the Loft Clearance Project, is the Surprise Egg Box they made me one Easter approximately fifteen years ago. Here it is on pages 24 and 25 of Easter Activities - and here is their gift to me. It’s painted bright yellow, decorated with colourful butterflies and flowers and tied up with royal blue ribbon. Open the box and inside you will still find empty painted egg shells and several bedraggled looking fluffy yellow chicks. 

 

Any chocolate which might have once been hidden in the painted egg shells has now gone, which isn’t a surprise, given that then, as now, I was Someone Always Thinking About Her Stomach.

 

When I found the Treasure From Easters Past, the Youngest of the Darling Daughters was with me. She advised that it would be slightly ridiculous to actually keep the Surprise Egg Box and suggested I take a photograph (in order to preserve the memory) and then consign the egg box to the recycling bin. Several weeks on and I still haven’t found it in myself to do as she instructed. One day, when I am busily making greetings cards in the Craft Factory in the Sky, one or several of my children or grandchildren will find the painted egg box and wonder why I kept it. When they open the box and see what’s inside, well, I wonder what they’ll say...

 

I have finished making all my Easter cards. Fortunately because of the lack of materials mentioned above, they are somewhat minimalist in design but I feel sure they will be well received, especially with the enclosed promise inviting the recipients to choose their own Easter eggs.

 

Less is more, I keep telling myself. I am even starting to believe it.

 

More or less...

 

Tomorrow evening I have been invited to a party where apparently I will be expected to dance in my doorstep.

 

Don’t worry, it’s a virtual party - you know me, I am generally an extremely obedient person so I won’t be venturing out of my home and so disobeying the instructions from Boris. I mean, he looks Proper Poorly so it’s the least I can do listen, take note and stay home to party.

 

I’m not quite sure if I need to dress up. I suppose it could, at a stretch, be a Fancy Dress party which would present me with quite a problem, not having anything remotely fancy in my wardrobe. Nor do I have that many dresses anymore, my normal Retirement Attire consisting of trousers and tops. Even worse than Fancy Dress would be Smart Casual. I mean, what on earth does that mean when it’s about? Is it not the case that one person’s casual is another person’s scruffy? And one person’s smart is another’s over-dressed? You take my point, I’m sure.

 

Being as this is a virtual “do”, I dare say I can choose whether to party in the living room, the kitchen or - depending on the light - the front garden. Which brings me to another delicate matter - that of background.

 

We are all growing accustomed to inspecting the domestic set-up of the various presenters, personalities and politicians appearing on our screens, from the minimalist to the crowded. I am always particularly taken by art work on the walls, photographs on sideboards and various works of fiction and / or non-fiction on bookshelves. It’s not only the famous, either...

 

My friend Pat (we were at school together so you could say we go back a long way) took part in a virtual meeting of one of her social groups, not realising until she was on everybody’s screens, that they were watching her against a background of the untidiest of bookshelves. Not that I personally think that is anything to be ashamed of, only going to prove that her books are for reading, not just for show. What Pat wants to know is whether it is possible to instal a background and, if so, how to do it. She is pretty sure it can be done as one member of her virtual group was pictured against the unlikely background of palm trees. Moreover, Pat seems to remember a TV personality being pictured against the very same background.

 

This seems worth investigating before I turn up at the party tomorrow. I’m thinking something palatial - think Buckingham Palace - or maybe a seaside scene...

 

Oh, you want to know about the party. Sorry, I got a bit carried away (nothing new there, did I hear you mutter.) My lovely niece, Debs, has invited all our family and my Little Sister’s family to zoom in on a nation-wide virtual gathering to dance on our doorsteps at 7 p.m. tomorrow evening to the tune of Reach for the Stars. My Boy reckons at the very least we should be able to manage a family party.  We all have just under 24 hours to practise our moves...

 

Incidentally, the best example I have seen to date of a background getting in the way of the message was a couple of weeks ago when the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was being filmed against a background of a row of terraced houses. In the upstairs window of one of the houses, two small children appeared and started waving frantically at the camera. So far, so entertaining - but then the pair of them disappeared for a minute or two before returning with a couple of Pokemon toys which they had dancing in the window (I recognised Pikachu immediately - he is so very, well, yellow.) Poor Mr Mayor, I’m sure your message was extremely important but I was laughing so much I didn’t hear a word of it.

 

Which may just have solved my Fancy Dress problem - I reckon if I want to grab attention, dancing on my doorstep tomorrow evening, I could do a lot worse than invest in a Pikachu outfit..

It’s the beginning of another month - and if I needed a reminder about the strange world of self-isolation in which we are living, it was turning over the page in my calendar and realising that I had not a single forthcoming event to note on it. Our life, according to our April calendar, is one big blank.

 

Even Mr B’s many medical appointments have been cancelled. There is no choir on Fridays, no Birdy Group on the first Monday in the month, no Nomination Whist, no craft, no cribbage, no Sporting Memories. Before I can allow myself to wallow in misery for so many lost opportunities for fun, frolics and the company of friends (both feathered and human) I turn to my latest task which is moving all the many board games we possess from one of the top cupboards in the back bedroom to more reachable shelves in the newly emptied cupboard in the smallest bedroom. This will mean that in future when any visiting grandchildren want to play a game (“we need to play two games before breakfast!” my (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys always remind me - whose idea was that anyway? Oh, yes, it was mine...) I won’t have to balance on the little step ladder to reach up for the Game of Choice. Now all the games, including that regular favourite “My Dog Has Fleas”, are well within the reach of even the Youngest of my Tremendous Ten.

 

It did seem a good idea, while I was relocating the games to their new home, to check that all the pieces of each game were present and correct. Mr B eyed me with something approaching utter bemusement as I played each game all by myself to work out what, if anything, was missing. I now know, for certain, that the Beetle Game is missing one feeler, one eye and one leg. When playing the Shopping Game, anyone with the misfortune to have the shopping list which includes a pair of socks, or the one which lists a jar of jam will never, ever win the game however hard they try. As for the Pick and Mix game where you have to match up the head, body and legs of different characters, I have to report that we have a rugby player with no legs and a cowgirl with no head. I haven’t thrown away the pieces we do have, because you never know, I might just come across a cowboy hat and / or a pair of hairy legs when I least expect it.

 

I am quite proud of my new games cupboard - except that it rather brings it home to me that, for the foreseeable future, I have no children to play with...

 

Being April 1st - April Fools Day - I could have played a trick or two on Mr B but I didn’t think he would appreciate it. My niece, the lovely Paula, played an excellent trick on her young son by telling him that it was back to school today. He was all dressed up in his school uniform, I gather, before she told him he had been fooled. She hasn’t, as yet, reported on his reaction.

 

The very best April Fools Day joke ever, in my humble opinion, was the one once played by the headteacher at the village primary school attended by all my children in turn. In Morning Assembly, he told all the children they had to take off their shoes and socks for an unannounced Foot Inspection. It wasn’t until the last shoe had been removed, the last sock ripped off - that he reminded them all that it was April Fools Day....

 

Now that really was the Trick of a Lifetime...

   

To be fair, I have never thought a great deal about the difference between black rats and brown rats. If I am completely honest, I don’t think about rats much at all, aside from appreciating the actions of the Pied Piper in ridding Hamelin of the pests once join a very long time ago. Mind you, he did then go a bit overboard, enticing all the town’s children to follow him away from their homes to pay back the villagers for their lack of gratitude. Which only goes to show, never forget to say thank you. 

 

But I digress (what’s new? I hear you groan) - this morning I learnt a lot about rats, both of the brown and the black variety, from grandson Samuel via FaceTime. Did you know that in the trenches of World War I It was the black rats who were most feared, feasting as they did on the bodies of dead soldiers. Or, as Sam puts it, “the newly deceased.” He pronounces the word “deceased” with much the same emphasis as Boris puts on the word “disease” in those daily press briefings before the Prime Minister succumbed himself to the dreaded virus.

 

According to Sam the black rats especially enjoyed gorging on the eyes of dead soldiers and, as a result, grew as large as cats. He relates this alarming fact with enormous relish, oblivious to me shrinking in horror. Obviously, FaceTime being what it is, my grandson can only see a postage stamp-sized me in the corner of his screen so he probably isn’t aware of my reaction ...

 

I am doing my bit to help Sam’s parents in the home schooling of their three super-active lads while they (as in, the parents) are trying to work from home. My job is not to play at being teacher, no fear! I see my task as getting Sam to talk about the task he has been set - to write a war poem - and hopefully to transfer his ideas into words. It’s quite a tall order for a thirteen year old, I reckon, given that Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg and the like were at least writing from desperate experience unlike anything that has touched the life of the Eldest of my (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys. I am oh-so-thankful to say...

 

In order to switch the conversation away from rats (black and brown alike), I tell Sam about the Richardson brothers - Albert the Gardener and Ernest the Farm Boy - whose stories I studied for the Great War Project some years ago. Albert returned home from the War To End All Wars but his younger brother was lost somewhere in France where he lies in an unknown grave. Both boys wrote back regularly to their “dearest mother”, telling her nothing about the horrors they had experienced but reassuring her that they were perfectly fine, that the war would soon be over, that one day soon they would all be home together again. What would Sam write back to his parents in the same situation, I wondered? “I’d probably tell them not to worry,” he said, thoughtfully.

 

Sam reflects that Albert and Ernest remind him of the brothers in Michael Morpurgo’s beautiful book “Private Peaceful.” Such a sad ending, we reflect - and I am reminded of the visit Sam’s Grandad and I paid to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire some years ago where there is a poignant memorial called Shot at Dawn dedicated to those poor shell-shocked soldiers who were executed for cowardice as an example to others. This particular memorial is situated at the very edge of the Arboretum, at the place where the dawn rises first. Maybe Sam might visit there one day, I suggest.

 

Somehow along the way, Sam’s poem takes shape until he declares himself well pleased with what he has done. Which is, in my admittedly random opinion, what learning should be all about. I reckon it’s time, I tell my grandson, that he has a well-earned rest.

 

Sam wants to repeat the experience again another day. He says I can be his own Personal Tutor though I’m not sure I am qualified for such an honourable position. What subject shall we tackle next, I wonder? 

  

Hopefully one that is not in the least bit Rat-Related...

The District Nurse telephones to tell me that she is self-isolating so the nursing team is even shorter on the Staff Front than usual. Would I be able, she asks, to re-dress Mr B’s big toe myself if she talks me through the process? Well, you know me, always happy to oblige - besides I have watched all the nurses through many processes in the past so I like to think I have a smidgen of knowledge...

 

“And remember,” she concludes, having taken me step by step through the Dressing of the Big Toe, “don’t take any flim-flam from him...” I am enchanted - I think it may be the first time I have ever heard anyone actually use that word in real life. Flim-flam means nonsense, bunkum, bosh - oh, my word (if you’ll excuse the pun) she knows Mr B so well.

 

I approach my nursing duty with some trepidation, first struggling to haul the box containing all the various dressings from its regular home in the cupboard under the stairs. In case you are thinking this is a rather inconvenient place to keep such vital supplies, you need to understand that it is about the only place in the entire house which hasn’t yet been discovered by the Rascally Trio. They would have a field day among the bandages if they ever discovered the hidden treasures under the stairs. 

 

I do my revision by reading the entries in the yellow file in which the nurses record the detail of every visit. Each entry begins “consent gained.” I look at Mr B, he looks back at me. How far do I have to go, I wonder, in order to “gain consent.” I tell him I have been asked to bathe and dress  his big toe and is this okay with him? He looks at me in what appears to be silent horror - which I decide to take as consent being as he hasn’t exactly said anything to the contrary.

 

As I gently remove the existing dressing, I remember the nurse’s words and warn my patient against flim-flam. Unfortunately Mr B interprets this as a verdict on the state of his toe and immediately wants to know what action I plan to take to address the flim-flammery issue. I adopt my best Florence Nightingale voice (or what I imagine that might be, not knowing any better, don’t you know?) and assure him I have everything under control. Here’s the thing - the more assured one sounds, the more the patient feels reassured. Unless the patient happens to be Mr B, that is...

 

Why hasn’t a “proper nurse” come to tend to him? he wants to know. I do my very best to look offended. I am not keen to tell him that it is all down to the Coronavirus because I am doing my best to stop him worrying too much about something over which we have so little control. “They obviously trust me,” I tell him airily - which does absolutely nothing to convince him. Nevertheless he submits to my tender loving care, albeit with poor grace.

 

Have you ever tried to dress a big toe? It isn’t the easiest, let me tell you. It is fortunate that Mr B isn’t in any position to carefully study my bandaging skills. “All done!” I tell him, hopefully. 

 

I decide I should probably make an entry in the yellow folder to record my actions though as there are only two lines left on the page I can’t go into the kind of detail which I feel my nursing skills warrant. I sign my name with a flourish in the column headed “signature”.

 

It’s the one thing I feel completely confident about...  

 

Latest comments

01.01 | 01:17

Penguins forever.

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23.12 | 08:22

Wonderful as usual.
Happy Xmas Health and happiness for the new year Cx

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15.12 | 21:35

We really did have the most splendidly perfect pre-Christmas weekend!! What date did you say it will be next year?! 🤗😍😘

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13.11 | 09:24

As I rapidly approach retirement I'm glad I just read this. Sound words!

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