Jaqui's Daily Blog

Our Jack, the oldest grandson, set off for Uni today. It's the beginning of a new era and it's gong to be awesome.

Mr B and I phoned him yesterday evening to wish him well. I told him I thought he could not do better than to follow the lead set by his uncle, My Boy, in remembering three small words that would be his guaranteed gateway to friendships.

I still remember it: transporting our Youngest to university in Cardiff. Because he was the Fourth in Line, I was better prepared in terms of gathering together items which would make his new residence feel like home. A smart new duvet cover, a colourful rug, posters for the walls. All pretty humdrum stuff compared to Jack's inventory - of which more later.

How proud I was of My Boy when, after unpacking his belongings, he caught sight of another newbie looking a trifle uncertain. Hand outstretched, my lad advanced on the stranger: "Hi, I'm Steve!" he announced with just the right mixture of confidence and concern. Ice broken. When, I marvelled to myself, had he grown so mature, so self-confident?

Anyway, this is the story I relate to Jack. Three little words. Not a lot to remember but they can go a long way when you are venturing into The Unknown. Obviously I don't mean that he should introduce himself as Steve, don't be silly. "Hi, I'm Jack!" should do the trick. Jack explains that he has been in contact with some of his future mates already via Facebook. Ah, the world has changed indeed! Maybe those three little words will be Surplus To Requirements. Jack, however, is not the kind of grandson to rubbish his Nan's suggestions. He listens politely and says he will, of course, remember...

Apparently the car was packed already, in preparation for an early start this morning. Included among the items vital for wellbeing were the weights which we bought him last Christmas. These weighed the car down (if you'll excuse the pun) in no uncertain manner. Other essentials included his ukelele - let's hope his neighbouring students are also of the musical variety.

Our parting present to Jack was a trifle unusual - a gift bag full of nuts and seeds to help in the making of his morning smoothies. I managed one of my silly rhymes to accompany our present:

"Seeds and nuts, nuts and seeds!
What every morning smoothie needs!
A taste of home when you're far away,
Bright-eyed and ready for the day.
(Or, sometimes with a head quite sore
From too much "fun" the night before?)

We knew that spinach would only wilt
And juice would likely just get spilt
And, even worse, I'm just supposin'
Summer fruits would not stay frozen.
How on earth could we engender
The perfect mixture for your blender?

Seeds and nuts, nuts and seeds
What every morning smoothie needs!"


Jack diplomatically refrained from commenting on the rhyme but was most appreciative of the present itself. My reasoning was that, when you are a long way from home, for the first time in your life for more than a single week, it's good to start each day with something familiar, something homely, something, well, smooth...

For the Youngest of the Darling Daughters I know it will have been a painful day. She will be driving back home from York as I write and I would be surprised if tears are not flowing. I've had the same experience four times over - and it never became any easier. Your child might have reached the Giddy Heights of eighteen years old, but you still feel in your heart that you have a lot of mothering left to do.

Time is a kind master in this respect: my Darling Daughter will find that her mothering will still be called upon ten, twenty, thirty years on. That's why I'll be here for her today, or tomorrow, or next week or whenever she needs to chat, to mourn, to laugh, to cry. I will know, at least, not to make glib pronouncements about hardly knowing he's gone - because the gap he will leave in his close and loving family will be huge.

I'm not sure, in this case, that a silly rhyme would be altogether appreciated...


So there is this fella, hankering after the love of a (presumably) good woman. He obviously thinks he is God's gift to women because he expects the Object of His Affections to gaze into his eyes and plant kisses in his wine glass. Moreover when she returns the roses which he has made bold enough to send her, he keeps them for himself, savouring the fact that their fragrant scent is hers.

"I reckon he's a stalker!" declares my friend Sue, who sits next to me in the second row of the Alto Section.

You must admit, it could well be the plot of a hard-hitting drama on Channel Four (no, I'm not talking Bake-Off, please don't be silly) involving a heartless Hunter stalking his innocent prey, plying her with wine and roses and not taking "no" for an answer. In actual fact the words were penned by Ben Johnson, back in the seventeenth century, in a song which those of you who have reached my Great Age may remember singing at school. It's called "Drink to me Only With Thine Eyes."

Yes, the conductor of our Singing for Pleasure Choir, the Redoubtable Muriel is back in Fine Form, determined that she will make us really think about the words we are singing - and so will put each song over with greater meaning. I'm not sure she would approve of Sue's interpretation of Ben's poetic plaint.

It's Autumn so we need to sing Autumn Leaves. After all, says Muriel, it's a beautiful song and we only get to sing it once a year. It's all about the memories of lost love: "The wind of forgetfulness blows them into the night of regret..." we sing. I have a lump in my throat. Despite (or perhaps because of) this, Muriel doesn't think we are putting enough feeling into the words. She decides to demonstrate. "But I miss you most of all, my darling.." she sings at full throttle and with a theatrical flourish.

"It must be the romantic in you," suggests Myra, slyly, from the front row of the sopranos. Muriel, who is still single at 93 years young, reminds her that romance has passed her by - "but not passion, oh, no, not passion!" she adds with feeling. The five gents who make up the Men's section make whooping noises. I think it's fair to say that, at least momentarily, the spell of those Autumn leaves of red and gold drifting by the window, is well and truly broken.

Here's another song we used to sing at school - Linden Lea.

"Let other folk make money faster in the air of dark-roomed towns;
I don't dread a peevish master, though no man may heed my friend.
I be free to go abroad, or take again my homeward road
To where for me, the apple tree do lean down low in Linden Lea."

I rather think the author of Linden Lea was retiring in style. A bit like me. Muriel tells us the story of the man who came to pick the apples off her tree for her and, somehow or other, the discussion moves onto pear trees and this year's poor pear harvest. You could say it was a Fruitful Conversation, though not particularly musical.

My friend Margaret had picked a rich harvest of blackberries which she had gifted to Kevin who manages the community centre café. While sitting over our bacon baps after choir, he arrived at our table bearing a blackberry and almond cake, still warm from the oven, for Margaret to taste. With true generosity she shared it with me and it was Truly Scrumptious. I know a song about that, too, now I come to think of it.

There's an ongoing debate - occasionally descending into good-natured argument - about the fact that we don't sing enough modern songs at Singing for Pleasure. Rock Choir, we most assuredly are not. Me, I am unashamedly in Muriel's camp, word loving person that I am.

The last song we sing today is a new one, a round with music by Purcell - who is, of course, famous and so to be treated with respect and awe. We have only managed the third verse so far, the heartfelt words of which go like this:

"Sir, tut tut, I scorn your charge, you are a lunatic at large, so eat your words, your temper keep and go, go along."

I do so love a song that you can really sing with feeling...


In the course of a few hours today I heard the "Christmas" word no fewer than three times.

I mean, come on everyone, I love Christmas as much as, if not more than, anyone else but I'm not sure I want to be thinking about it before the end of September. The sun, after all, is still shining - at least it is down here in Sunny Worthing. It was still warm enough not to wear a jacket or even a cardigan when we headed to town for appointments at (i) the Memory Clinic (yes, we nearly forgot!) and (ii) the chiropodist. In short, it is far too sunny and far too warm to start talking about Christmas.

The first person to mention Christmas was the nurse at our GP surgery, calculating the date twelve weeks hence when I will need to return for my next B12 injection. "December 15th!" she told me, scribbling the date on a label to be stuck in the relevant page of my diary, "Just in time for Christmas!" How exciting, a festive jab!

The second person was a workman in the town centre whom I overheard explaining to a colleague where the Christmas lights will be plugged in to ensure that this year's municipal Christmas tree can sparkle with the best of them. This is what vines of eavesdropping. It also means that someone, somewhere in the Town Hall is already issuing festive instructions. Santa, eat your heart out...

The third person was the receptionist in the dentist's who, taking my £3 in payment for 20 tiny brushes to clean in between my teeth, commented: "They look like Christmas trees, don't they?!" Hmmm, yes, they do actually now I come to think of it...

And this is the trouble. No sooner do you start hearing the Christmas word than it sort of wriggles its way into your head and lodges there like a troublesome song. You know the kind I mean, you hear it on the radio and find yourself humming it all day, even though it's quite the most irritating tune ever composed. Most Christmas songs come into this category of course.

I do now have a confession to make. I have already bought six Christmas presents. In my defence, they are tickets for our Jolly Girls' Outing to see Matthew Bourne's Red Shoes at Sadler's Wells and they needed to be booked before time ran out on me. This year Eleanor, the third eldest granddaughter, having just turned Sweet Sixteen, becomes a Jolly Girl and will join my three Darling Daughters, her sister, her cousin and me for this annual jaunt which is our Christmas present to them all. Obviously I have to tag along, being (according to the Middle of the Darling Daughters) the Ultimate Jolly Girl so I have to gift myself a Christmas present. I must remember to send myself a thank you card.

Maybe, just maybe, it's time to start Making Things For Christmas? Should I think about updating the Christmas card list in a bid to ensure that the majority of our cards plop onto the correct door mats come December? Is it possible that, if I allow a little more time for thought, I might manage to be a good deal more imaginative about the presents I purchase?

Oh dear, oh dear. I have mentioned the Christmas word sixteen times in one Daily Blog.

I should - probably - be ashamed of myself...

All over the country students are returning to the universities of their choice. For many, including my eldest grandson, Jack, it is a whole new adventure.

His mother, the Youngest of the Darling Daughters, is not sure how she is going to fit all his possessions into the family car on account of the fact that the whole family, plus Jack's beautiful girl-friend Zoë, are all accompanying him on his trip Oop North. It will be a full-scale Family Send-off.

Mr B and I are also returning to university - in our case, the esteemed a University of the Third Age or U3A. The U3A doesn't have lecture halls or a campus, a library or a Student Bar - but, like every university across the world it is All About Learning. Indeed, given that the majority of its members have, like Mr B and me, reached A Great Age, it is a sterling manifestation of Lifelong Learning. As such, I am proud to count myself among its (aged) students.

We have had a bit of a break during August but now it's September, Autumn is approaching, all our activity groups are welcoming back their members, new and old. The monthly meetings have started again, too. We weren't able to get to last week's meeting as I had a prior appointment but the general view - as imparted over coffee and biscuits at Delia and Jim's cribbage group yesterday afternoon - was that we had had a Lucky Escape. Apparently it was really, really boring.

This is a pity, because most of the talks at our monthly meetings are entertaining, if occasionally for the wrong reasons. I still remember the guest speaker whose trousers kept slipping down so that he had to hoist them up between slides. No, sorry, I can't remember anything about his actual talk. My mind wad Otherwise Occupied, one might say. I dare say not all the lectures Jack and other students will be required to attend will be totally fascinating, it's the law of averages.

Because I wasn't at the meeting I missed all the controversy over the Book and Jigsaw Table. This was a pity because I do like a Bit of Controversy, especially when it isn't a case of Life and Death. I'm not that shallow, you know. What's happened is that, while in the past the Book and Jigsaw Table was run on a kind of informal "swapsies" basis, with a little bowl in which to place voluntary donations, now there is a standard charge of 50p per book. Or per puzzle. Should you be generous enough (or should you, more likely, be needing to free up space on your bookshelves) as to bring along several books / puzzles for the table, you would still need to pay out 50p to help yourself to the latest Jack Reacher adventure should you find it lurking beneath several back copies of Saga magazine and three volumes of a series on The Way We Were.

Julia, who is on a rota of helpers on the Book and Jigsaw Table says she is Using Her Discretion. I do love a rebel, don't you?

So, the Autumn term is underway. Last Friday was the first session for our Singing for Pleasure Choir. We started the term with a swing - lots of rousing choruses à la Last Night at the Proms. Without the flags and the bobbing up and down, on account of the fact that the majority of us have knees which aren't quite Up To Bobbing.

The Birdy Group has met once, though because of the weather our meeting was bird-less. Nevertheless the coffee and the company were first class. Members of our Nomination Whist group will reconvene at our house next Wednesday and the following Wednesday I will be coming all over crafty at the Lovely Linda's arts and crafts group.


You may be querying how much actual learning I am doing but I am stoutly of the opinion that everything can be a Learning Experience if you only put your mind to it.

Mind you, Scottish Christine (fellow member of the Birdy Group) puts me to shame on the learning front. She has joined a Science group, freely admitting that most of the topics discussed at its regular meetings go right over her head. Sometimes, she says, she feels as if she has, herself, fallen into the Black Hole on which occasions she just sits quietly and listens.

I think I should take a large leaf out of Scottish Christine's book. Listen and learn, that's the name of the game.

Like Our Jack - and countless other uni students of all ages - I am looking forward to listening, learning and having fun in the new term.

Last week was, to put it mildly, a trifle stressful. No, let's be honest, it was very stressful. And, in the end, much of it was All My Fault.

I was reading somewhere, sometime, something about The Blame Game and how we will do almost anything to avoid being on the losing side. It's so diminishing, don't you think, to admit you are wrong? Though I suppose it is also Human Nature to seek to place blame elsewhere.

If you are a regular reader of the Daily Blog then you will have read about my problems last Monday when the Great Switch Over from one broadband provider to another took place. These Alarming Problems appeared to be resolved by the welcome attentions of the engineer from our home security company and the Really Rather Wonderful Anne-Marie from Careline. Unfortunately, despite their help, by Friday we were still without our broadband connection, despite several frustrating phone calls to the Man in the Sky. No, I'm not talking Divine Intervention here - though it might have helped.

Anyway, after five days without access to the Internet, I finally did what I should have done days earlier - I went back to the beginning of the Set Up Guide (a small booklet entitled "Hello" which, you must admit, is friendly if nothing else) and started reading it all over again. I didn't tell Mr B I was doing this because he was even more stressed than I was and he would undoubtedly have been full of Doom and Gloom. There is only so much Doom and Gloom anyone can shoulder in any one day. Or, even, any one week.

I was about to excuse myself by saying that two pages must have somehow got stuck together - but that would be playing the I Wasn't To Blame Game and I have determined not to partake in that game anymore. The fact is, I'd somehow not studied all the pictures properly and had jumped to a mistaken conclusion over what to plug in and where. I'd become discombobulated over the instructions of how to trace where the phone line entered my house from the street. This was completely unnecessary as I was lucky enough to have a "pre-filtered socket." If I had only realised how lucky I was, and, indeed, what a pre-filtered socket was when it was about, I would have saved myself - and Mr B - much grief.

This is why, when you take an exam, your teacher always tells you to read the questions through thoroughly before starting to answer them. You know it makes sense. But when you are sitting there in the exam room, with all your fellow examinees already madly scribbling away on your right hand side, your left hand side, behind you, in front of you - well, every instinct tells you to pick up your pen and start scribbling too. More haste, less speed. You might be forgiven for thinking I should have learnt by now, it being a very long time since I left the classroom.

I'd like to say that everything is now sorted but I still have to work out what to do with (i) the Micro-filters and (ii) an Ethernet cable, neither of which I have ever had the good (or bad) fortune to possess before. I did manage to make a wired connection to Mr B's beloved Mac this afternoon which pleased me no end and as a result (rather like Mr B's computer) I was sufficiently fired up to suggest that perhaps now was the time to connect up the Sky Box but Mr B says he is not ready for such cyber adventures.

I admit my mistake to My Boy who calls me a "silly girl." I debate with myself whether to be offended but decide that Life Is Too Short, especially as I know he is, as always, Firmly On My Side. The Youngest of the Darling Daughters says, loyally, that she wouldn't have known what to do either and gives the distinct impression that she, too, wouldn't recognise an Ethernet cable if it jumped out of the toaster and hit her on the nose.

I decide I should read through the remainder of the "Hello" booklet, just in case there are any tips and tricks I may have missed in my haste to get connected. There's a whole section called "Other Stuff" which includes an Icon Guide, a page about using my equipment safely and another page about recycling. There is also a section entitled Advanced Users which starts: "If you are n advanced user and wish to update your preferences or your firewall...." I decide, on balance, to give this section a miss.

I'm sure you don't blame me...

Latest comments

10.07 | 20:20

Fantastic blog! Xx

08.07 | 00:24

Phew - not a mention

13.05 | 23:05

What a lovely day and all sly story

16.03 | 22:49

Of course they will and remember the photo on the side board that will be there for ever to remind you of the wonderful day & THAT special outfit !

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