Jaqui's Daily Blog

Mr B is feeling decidedly miserable. He has somehow managed to pull a muscle in his back and, what’s worse, is looking for Nurse Jaqui to wave her magic wand and make it all better. 


He has forgotten that I never was a very good nurse when Our Foursome were small. It was a running joke (well, I think they were joking) that they would have to be on their death beds before they would be allowed a day off school. (As a result, they were the very healthiest of school kids, hardly ever ill - or at least not by my strict criteria...) 


We all know that the best way to make a bad back better is exercise but this, sadly, is not possible for Mr B. I dole out the painkillers, promise him I will buy Deep Heat and a hot water bottle and ask if he feels up to his weekly pamper session. A long soak in a hot bath may well do wonders for his Back Related Problems, we agree. It is unfortunate that he will have to endure a bumpy ride in the Dial-a-Ride bus first.


Every good nurse (in fact, every mediocre nurse) needs Time Out in order to be able to respond appropriately to the demands of a Patient With A Bad Back. So while Mr B is soaking in his hot bath (with added bubbles), I take myself for an amble along Worthing Pier, enjoying the warm sunshine, the sparkly sea, the sight of littl’uns enjoying running up and down the beach pursued by parents exhorting them not to get their clothes wet by splashing in the sea. I buy myself an ice cream (two flakes, please! I ask) and study all the beautiful stained glass windows along the pier. There’s a whole section devoted to the town’s history, with additional illustrations provided by local school-children aged between 5 and 18. Later this year we are hoping to celebrate the installation of a window to commemorate Voluntary Action Worthing, the organisation I was proud to chair until earlier this year. 


Back home, I rub Deep Heat on Mr B’s painful back. Oh, that smell! It reminds me so much of the early weeks of each cricket season in those days when Mr B was an enthusiastic bowler - who inevitably paid the price of rather too strenuous net practice. There are, I know, other proven ointments to rub into poorly backs - some may, indeed, be more effective than Deep Heat - but Mr B is a Creature of Habit and would always rather trust to something Tried and True. I like to think that is why he has stuck by me all these many years. I am, I truth, very trying.


My Little Sister contacts me via FaceTime to find out how we both are. I have just climbed into my car ready to drive home from a fun afternoon playing cribbage, having left my poorly patient at home. I told you I wasn’t a good nurse. My sister says there is nothing like a hot water bottle for the treatment of almost anything; I think she is rather surprised that I don’t own one already. Thinking about it, I am quite surprised myself. I visit the pharmacy on my way home and pay out the princely sum of £4.99 for a small white water bottle. Mr B will be so pleased with me, I tell myself. Hopefully.


So, my fella (like the entire house) reeks of Deep Heat and has a warm hot water bottle tucked, comfortingly, into his back. He says the back is “not too bad at the moment...” This is, indeed, progress.


Maybe, just maybe, I am a better nurse than I thought I was.


Even without a magic wand...

I am reading a book called “Alan’s Big Scary Teeth.”


Alan, in case you need to know, is an alligator (what else? I hear you say) and I am sitting in the dentist’s waiting room which is why my reading material is, well, Tooth Related. 


Alan looks after his teeth rather better than I do. He brushes each one for ten minutes a day. At that rate, I can’t help wondering how often he has to charge his electric toothbrush, always supposing this is possible in the jungle. My toothbrush is always flashing at me from the bathroom windowsill warning me that it needs to be charged up yet again, so I need to know, does Alan (of the Big Scary Teeth) have the same problem?


Once Alan has tended to his teeth, he sets off to scare all the animals in the jungle by flashing his gnashers at them in such an unfriendly way that even the monkeys find themselves falling from the trees at the mere sight of his Pearly Whites.


Alan, however, has a secret: those Big Scary teeth are false! It is at this point in the story that I start to worry for young readers who may be expecting their first visit from the Tooth Fairy and have put their faith in their parents’ assurances that new, bigger (and scarier?) teeth will take the place of the lost ones. I would hate them to be traumatised by Alan’s story.


Things get worse. Alan loses his false teeth when he falls asleep in his warm, mud bath after a day of scaring the wits out of other creatures. Now when he heads into the jungle, the other animals hoot with laughter at the sight of him, all gummy as he is. The monkeys still fall from the trees but this is because you can’t hold your sides laughing and stay safely swinging from branch to branch. (Try it if you like, you will find I am right about this.) I can imagine the little ones with their gappy grins reading this and worrying what they look like, instead of carrying the gaps where their baby teeth used to be as a badge of honour, a sign of growing up. I really think Alan’s Big Scary Teeth should come with a Dental Health Warning.


Anyway Alan’s false teeth are found and returned to him on the condition that he no longer uses them for scaring his fellow animals but for more practical purposes, like gardening and cooking, for instance. Useful pursuits where a handy set of teeth, even false ones, may come in handy. Or toothy. But Alan’s scary days are not completely over - he is still allowed to use his Big Scary Teeth as props when telling frightening bedtime stories to the jungle animals, presumably sending them to their beds scared stiff and leading to many a nightmare. 


At this point, before I am too traumatised myself, I am called into the hygienist’s surgery. By way of a delaying tactic, I tell her I have been reading the story of Alan and his False Teeth. I do get the feeling that she hasn’t actually read it herself but then a hygienist’s life is a busy one.


This isn’t my usual hygienist who couldn’t fit me in this time round - so we need to get acquainted before I let her loose on my teeth. Fortunately there is a splendid conversation opener there on the wall of her surgery: a massive painting of flamingoes. Apparently when she had to move from a treatment room on the second floor to this one on the first floor her one condition was that she could bring her flamingoes with her. I have to say that the flamingoes are far more relaxing to gaze upon while having my teeth attacked by some kind of ultrasonic gadget (I can’t help thinking about the new Doctor Who with her sonic screwdriver) than the brightly coloured illustrations in Alan’s Big Scary Teeth.


Mr B wants to know, when I arrive home, how I fared in the hygienist’s chair. I think about flashing my big, scary teeth at him, as Alan would undoubtedly have done, but I don’t want him to fall out of his wheelchair like the monkeys out of their trees.


I keep my mouth shut. Better safe than sorry. Alan would do well to learn from me...

At the bus stop I meet Mrs Chatty. No, that isn’t her actual name, not as far as I know, in fact she might well be Mrs Garrulous - but that sounds a little unkind, and the Daily Blog makes a point of being kind at all times.


Were Mr B at the bus stop with me, instead of back at home watching Saturday Kitchen Live to see whether the viewers will vote for the guest personality to be cooked Food Heaven or Food Hell, then he would doubtless comment that Mrs Chatty’s jaws won’t rust. In fact, even I can’t get a word edgeways. Which is, as you know, very unlike me.


I pride myself on being a good listener but it really was extremely difficult to piece together the story Mrs Chatty had to tell, especially as I needed to keep a weather eye open for the Pulse bus bearing down on us in order to hail it with outstretched arm and sunny smile. The smile probably doesn’t make much difference but if I were a bus driver (Mr B would groan at the very thought) I would like to be hailed with a sunny smile. 


Fortunately I was in a good mood, so I was receptive to my fellow passenger’s saga. Only a few minutes before I had not been a Happy Bunny, having discovered that my Visa Debit Card appeared to have gone missing from my purse. Has something similar ever happened to you? It is the kind of discovery that strikes fear into one’s heart and sends it plunging into one’s boots (feel free to insert other appropriate cliches.) There was no point in alarming Mr B until absolutely necessary, I told myself, trying to remember when I had last used my card. Might I have left it behind at the newsagents when I paid the paper bill yesterday? 


So there I was in a long queue at the newsagents, waiting to ask the all-important question. If my card was not in their safe keeping, I told myself, I would head straight down to the bank to cancel it, after which, being cash-less, I would have to use the reward money I have been accumulating while shopping at the Coop and at Boots to buy everything I needed for today. 


Do you ever have conversations with yourself? I find myself a very satisfactory conversationalist, being as I always agree with myself. I invariably feel a great deal better when the three of us (Me, Myself and I) have sorted out exactly what we are going to do in Potentially Disastrous Circumstances. 


As it turned out, my card had been kept safely for me and was returned forthwith by a sweet shop assistant who sympathised with my plight and said the same thing had happened to her only the other day. I’m not sure if she said this just to make me feel better, if so, it was kind of her.


Which is a long-winded way of explaining why I am feeling both relieved and contented waiting at the bus stop and listening to Mrs Chatty holding forth. I will tell you her story as far as I can make sense of it...


Mrs Chatty had lots and lots of stuff, much of it brand new, which needed to be taken somewhere. No, I never gather what kind of “stuff” it was (although I am reminded several times that most of it was brand new) and where it needed to be taken but there was enough of it to fill a minibus. A friend had been going to provide transport but couldn’t - “That’s a long story so I won’t bore you with it,” says Mrs C. 


A minibus was hired and Mrs C had to sit in the front seat with the driver because the “stuff” (most of it brand new, remember) took up all the space in the back. Mrs C and the driver had a great laugh and a chat, apparently. I wonder if he managed to get a word in edgeways? When they arrived at their destination (where? where?) the driver kindly helped unload everything, placing each item exactly where Mrs C wanted it and earning himself a good tip. Then, on the way home...


At which point the Pulse bus arrives and we both clamber aboard. Mrs C is only going a couple of stops along so she alights from the bus before I do.


“Really good to talk to you!” she says. 


I open my mouth to respond in kind - but too late, she is gone already. Sad to say, I will never know the end of the story...


I tell Mr B that I am going out for coffee with my friend, Sue. Which Sue, he wants to know.


Mr B says I have far too many friends called Sue but I don’t agree; as far as I am concerned one can never have too many friends and if a goodly number of them happen to be named Sue, well, what’s the problem with that? Mr B says that, despite the fact that I do try to differentiate between the Sues, for his benefit e.g. there is Spurs Sue and Choir Sue and Chatty Sue to name but a few Sues, he still finds it difficult to tell one from t’other. It does occur to me that so long as I know Who’s Who, or, should I say Who’s Sue, it doesn’t really matter too much but he does like to feel involved in what I am up to, so I keep quiet. 


I tell him that Sue and I are meeting in a town centre hotel which is an unusual venue for me, being more of a community café gal myself. Still, when we arrive at my friend’s Venue of Choice, I do find myself enjoying the peaceful setting and the view out over Steyne Gardens. There are four comfy chairs around the table in one corner where we head - including one armchair that looks a bit like a super comfortable throne. Would she mind, I ask Sue, if I take that seat? It will make me feel positively regal and, you know, everyone can benefit from a touch of regality. Especially one as very non-regal in every respect as I. 


Coffee with a friend (whether named Sue or not) is one of the Pleasures of My Life. It costs no more than a cup of coffee (with the possible enticing addition of a toasted tea cake if my resolve is weak) and doesn’t take me away from Mr B for more than a couple of hours. It gives my jaw a chance to keep moving, so avoiding the possibility of rust, and there is always so much news to share, opinions to air, jokes to giggle over and views to explore. I am thinking that, in addition to my Tiny Tasks List carefully written into my diary every day, I should consider setting myself a Daily Pleasure. Most of these, I can’t help thinking, will involve coffee in one form or another.


I imagine you are probably keen (or, even more probably, not keen) to know whether I am keeping up with my Tiny Tasks. The answer is yes. And no. I am now into my third week and have generally ticked off a small number of Tiny Tasks each and every day except Sunday which, as you know,  should be a Day of Rest. The trouble is, looking back through my daily tasks list, there is just so much repetition. Every Tuesday I post letters to the two grandchildren who are away from home at University. Every Wednesday I jot down that I must put the bins out. Every Thursday I remind myself to bring them in. Reading through the whole three weeks’ entries, I can’t help thinking how very boring my life appears to be, if judged solely on Tiny Tasks Completed.  


My other venture, On Being Prepared For Christmas, is doing very much better. I have found a plastic box in which to store all the cards, presents and birthday banners completed to my November 20th deadline. It is still possible, I suppose, that my surgery date may yet be cancelled once more, but for the moment I am happily In Denial. I have sellotaped a sign on the side of the box, labelling it “The Being Prepared Box” and most days I manage to finish something else to add to its contents. Mr B is almost as perplexed by my Being Prepared Box as by my sheer number of friends called Sue. “But why?” he asks, when I show him my box with its orange label. You would think, wouldn’t you, that he would realise that it is a good example of something doing exactly what it says on the tin. Or, at least, on the orange label...


My friend Sue and I enjoyed such a lovely chat over coffee, deciding that we had even more in common than we had thought. We would have to meet again, we both agreed, because there was so much more to talk about.


Everybody needs friends in their lives. If they happen to be kindred spirits, so much the better.


They don’t have to be named Sue..


As fashion statements go, it could hardly be bettered.


I mean, how many women have you seen wearing a real, live bird in their hair while out shopping? No, me neither. But there she was at the counter in the Fabric Shop (Mr B’s unfavourite emporium because it is so difficult to wrestle me away from its many delights once I have set foot inside) causing me to stop in my tracks and nearly drop all the balls of green wool I was carefully carrying to the check out.


I didn’t recognise the species of bird, it looked vaguely like a budgerigar but then again it didn’t, not exactly - so, curious as ever,  I was bold enough to ask. It turned out to be a green cheeked conure which to be honest I’d never heard of. Its owner told me that the green cheeked conure is a native of South America and is a member of the parrot family. She didn’t explain what I really wanted to know, which was why she was wearing it on her head and I wasn’t quite brave enough to query her choice of headgear. 


“What do you think its name is?” a mother asked her small daughter, who was staring, fascinated, at the spectacle before her. “Bird!” responded the littl’un, definitely. I was reminded of my (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys who, at the same age, invariably gave the most obvious names to their toys. As in, Floppy for a toy rabbit because it was, well, floppy. You get my drift, I’m sure. Anyway, while Bird would have been a totally appropriate name for the green-cheeked conure, it turned out that its name was actually Nix. Or it might have been Nicks. Take your pick.


While we have never, as a family, owned anything as exotic as a green-cheeked conure, we did once have a much-loved budgerigar who went by the name of Jody. Despite the fact that my hair in those far off days did quite often resemble a bird’s nest, Jody never rested atop my head that I can remember. He much preferred, when released from his cage, to fly straight up to the book shelves where he invariably perched on Mr B’s collection of Wisden’s Cricket Almanacs, working his way from volume to volume, assiduously pecking away at the dust jackets with her sharp beak, oblivious to (or possibly simply ignoring) Mr B’s frenzied protests from below. 


Among the toys in his bird cage was a small plastic budgerigar on a spring whom Jody clearly imagined was real. He would chat away incessantly to this companion, never seeming to notice that the Yellow Plastic One was so very unresponsive. I still feel guilty about the time I borrowed the plastic budgie for a while. The Middle of the Darling Daughters had been entered for a ballet exam and needed a bird cage for her set dance. Mr B set to with a wire coat hanger and pliers and fashioned a pretty reasonable cage. All it needed, I said, congratulating him on his endeavours, was a bird inside. Mr B, considering his job done, said he would leave that up to me. You can imagine the rest. Jody squawked ferociously as I removed his playmate and I don’t think he ever quite forgave me, even though I did return it to the cage once it had served its purpose. I can’t recall how well the Middle of the Darling Daughters fared in her ballet exam, but never let it be said that her father and I didn’t rally round to support her. Even our pet budgie did her bit.


When Jody went to meet his Maker, we buried him in a shoe box with the plastic budgie tucked in beside him. Inseparable even in death. It was one of the saddest days in my children’s lives, their first experience of a death in the family.


Green-cheeked conures can live for up to twenty-five years. Maybe we should have invested in one of them instead? I could have gone shopping wearing him on my head.


But no, there was only ever one Jody. We didn’t buy another bird. He may not have been a fashion statement but he was, quite simply, irreplaceable. 


Latest comments

24.09 | 18:00

I’m glad you liked it, Sally. Jaqui x

24.09 | 08:25

Beautiful piece. Thank you. Sally

30.08 | 19:32

P.s. I absolutely adored Gipsy Tart, and, yes, my son has his work cut out!!

30.08 | 19:26

I too went to school in Kent where my Aunt worked as a dinner-lady. I got seconds sometimes thirds of my favourite pud, the said Gipsy Tart. My son’s a dentist!

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