Jaqui's Daily Blog

There was a TV programme where the main character always referred to his wife as ‘Er Indoors. As far as I can remember, we never actually saw his Other Half, being as she was always, well, Indoors. 

 

I’ve been reflecting on the fact that my life is increasingly being lived indoors, as my poor Mr B’s failing health makes it difficult to leave him for very long at a time without someone willing to pop in to make sure he is okay, cook him lunch or just keep him company. I am lucky enough to have many lovely family, friends and neighbours, ready, willing and able to call on to enable me to enjoy special outings (our forthcoming Jolly Girls Outing being a prime example) - but, blessed as I am, from day to ordinary day it’s mostly down to Yours Truly.

 

As the days start warming up with the welcome arrival of Spring, the garden will come into play - the garden being as near as you can get to being Outdoors but Indoors, if you know what I mean. Till then, I need to fill each Indoors Day with rewarding activity. Did one of you mention housework? Really, does anyone ever go to bed thinking: “What a lovely day I have had, doing housework - and tomorrow, lucky me, I’ll be able to get up and do it all over again!” If you are that Person in a Million, I do apologise and you can visit me to do my housework any day you like. 

 

Anyway, I am rethinking how to make the most of A Life Indoors and I am arriving at some Most Interesting Conclusions. 

 

In a book I am currently reading, one of the characters spends every Friday afternoon baking. Okay, she might not be the best role model as she gets stabbed to death on the Metro in the first chapter but let’s set that minor matter to one side, for the moment. I also recognise that I am no Domestic Goddess, á la the Delicious Nigella, but I have always found the act of baking rather comforting, even therapeutic. Why shouldn’t I create a regular Friday afternoon pastime for myself? Mr B will be delighted and I, as you all know, am Always Thinking of My Stomach.

 

I started yesterday afternoon cooking what my dear Mum always used to call “Maiden’s Prayers.” No, I have absolutely no idea why they were so named; I tried googling it but the only recipe I could come up with involved gin and Cointreau. Yes, indeed, I was tempted - but only for a brief moment. I taught all my Foursome to cook Maiden’s Prayers, only now, in retrospect, wondering if I might have taught them to cook something more useful, dishes which would serve them well as they became adults with families to feed. Ah, well, je regrette rien. As somebody once said. Or, even, sang.

 

Next Friday afternoon, I am going to try my hand at recreating my Mum’s famous ginger cake, having found a scrap of paper on which the recipe is written in her own, beautiful handwriting. It will be a Labour of Love. It is true that the woman in the book whose Friday baking habit gave me the idea used to make whole batches of cakes and biscuits which she then dispensed to the poor and needy. This is an extremely worthy idea but I am not totally convinced that my baking skills are good enough yet for the results to be inflicted on others. However practice makes perfect, don’t you know? 

 

My other Indoor Activity is one I’ve been meaning to take up ever since I retired over five years ago - scrapbooking. People even gave me helpful books to get me started. Now with Time Indoors on my hand, I am well away. I have almost finished a scrapbook of our Golden Wedding (only twenty months late) and am up to date with another volume detailing The Story of the Jolly Girls to date. I am going to take the latter on our Jolly Girls Outing next weekend so that everyone can see it and (hopefully) marvel at my skill. Mr B thinks I am mad, given that the scrapbook in question is pretty large and I will need to carry it on the train, to lunch, to the theatre and back again. He is probably right (he usually is on such matters) but I can be stubborn like that.

 

Ah, yes, the original ‘Er Indoors was the wife of one, Arthur Daley of Minder fame and the unspoken inference was that she was a fierce and formidable woman.

 

Touché! 

 

I am afraid you are going to be extremely disappointed. You are looking forward to hearing all about yesterday’s rampages when the Middle of the Darling Daughters and her Rascally Trio came on a half-term visit. You are thinking back to the yesterday’s weather, which it was wet, cold and throughly miserable, making a trip to the beach more or less impossible except for the Totally Misguided. What did I do with three young Rascals, confined to the house, like a trio of caged tigers?

 

I have to say that, unbelievably, there was absolutely no rampaging. The Trio have never been so spectacularly well-behaved.  For a start, nobody went upstairs, even though all three know that Upstairs is definitely the most exciting place in our house, with maximum opportunities for wreaking mischief and merry mayhem. Nobody pressed the red button on Mr B’s community alarm in order to have one of their regular chats with the lovely (and endlessly forgiving) people at the other end of the line. There was barely a minor disagreement, let alone a sibling battle. How could this be?

 

Was it anything to do with the influence of Lenny the Ladybird? Regular readers will know from my last blog that Lenny had been entrusted to Young Faris’s care for the duration of half-term by the teacher of Ladybird Class. I was very keen to meet him though I did get the impression that I was keener than he was. I looked after him, I truly did. I made sure he had a seat at the dinner table, that he sat on my lap with his Temporary Minder while we all three read Faris’s school book together. I even invited him to play Tummyache with us, even though I felt it might be a little politically incorrect bearing in mind Lenny is, when all is said and done, a bug.

 

To explain, Tummyache is a great game which involves players putting together a meal of main, two sides, a dessert and a drink. The first person to complete their tray of food by finding five appropriate cards is announced the winner. Except that several of the cards show food contaminated by creepy crawlies, tadpoles, spiders, bugs and - yes, indeed, you are there before me as usual - ladybirds.

 

Young Lilia was entranced by the game, being particularly fascinated at the thought that she might eat spiders which would, she told me - velvety brown eyes gazing earnestly into mine  - involve a visit to the doctors. Both she and Faris decided that the healthy options didn’t appeal and insisted on creating a meal of bug-infested, potential tummy-ache inducing, dishes. 

 

When it came to the Real Deal Meal, the Trio (plus Lenny) sat round the table to eat a rice dish prepared by their mother. It was, Faris assured me, full of vegetables - the eating of which has contributed to the fact that he has definitely grown in recent weeks. 

 

After dinner, we played a variation on Sleeping Bunnies, involving not just rabbits but tigers, puppies and even sharks. When I say “we” played, the Twinkles did all the hopping, crawling, jumping about while I did most of the singing and Faris kept me on the right track by reminding me which animal came next. Lenny didn’t play - we had forgotten to make up a verse about sleeping ladybirds…

 

At which point the Trio’s father decided it was time to sit down quietly and watch a film. The Trio obediently lined up their plastic chairs in a row (with a seat, of course, for Lenny) in front of the TV. Our living room was immediately transformed into a cinema. All we needed was the ice cream and the popcorn.

 

Did you see who I slipped into the narrative there? The Trio’s father, He Who Must Be Obeyed, who combines total love for his little family with a firm view on Good Behaviour and the Absence of Rampaging.

 

Perhaps it wasn’t Lenny the Ladybird’s influence after all…

 

I am feeling somewhat challenged. All on account of a rather special visitor I’m expecting tomorrow.

 

He won’t be alone, of course. He will be accompanying the Middle of the Darling Daughters and her trio of Rampaging Rascals. But, you see, while I know exactly what the RRs will enjoy (turning out the kitchen drawers, flushing the loo, weighing themselves over and over again on the bathroom scales - you get the idea) I have no idea at all how to entertain their companion.

 

He is only staying with the family over the half-term holiday so it is beholden on me to Make An Effort. I would like him to go home / back to school full of stories about the fun time he had at Nanni and Grandad’s House. Okay, I accept we are not his grandparents, not being red, round and spotty, but I’d like to think we might bond over the course of his visit and become, well, kindred spirits. If, that is, it is possible to be a kindred spirit with a ladybird…

 

Yes, Lenny the Ladybird is coming to visit. Mr B and I have seen pictures of him on Facebook so I am pretty sure we will recognise him, being - as I said before - red, round and spotty. That’s Lenny who is red, round and spotty, not Mr B and I - I really shouldn’t have to explain, now should I? I did have to check (my entomological knowledge being as sparse as the spots on a less colourful beetle) whether a Ladybird could be male, being a lady, don’t you know, but it’s fine. After all, whoever heard of a lordbird? 

 

From what I can tell, Lenny is on loan from Ladybird Class at Hook Infants School and has been living the high life at the home of the Rampaging Rascals. Now it’s up to me to make his day tomorrow. Does anybody have any ideas?

 

The Middle of the Darling Daughters says not to worry, the whole idea is that Lenny will participate in all the same activities as the Rascals - but I don’t think he’ll be able to open the kitchen drawers, flush the loo or weigh himself on the bathroom scales. What do ladybirds do with themselves anyway?

 

I remember the Ladybird Summer in 1977 when swarms of the Spotted Ones terrorised us. Lenny is obviously far too young to have been alive way back then and I am not one to visit the sins of the fathers on their sons. Plus I’m sure Lenny won’t be a terrorist. Will he?

 

I try to think of All Things Ladybird Related. There’s that song, isn’t there: “Ladybird, Ladybird, fly away home/ your house is on fire…” Oh, maybe not. I don’t want to be responsible for giving the poor beetle nightmares. We do have a Ladybird Game in our games cupboard, too. Maybe I should retrieve that from the cupboard to help Lenny feel at home? Plus there’s my ladybird egg timer. I could put that out on the doorstep, along with the Giant Penguin, to welcome him.  

 

We will be sorted at mealtimes anyway because the plastic table and chairs set I bought for the Trio has four chairs - Lenny will be able to sit on the lime green one, which is the chair that none of the Trio like, preferring the primary colours sported by the other three chairs. Obviously this does depend on whether Lenny is the picky type but I haven’t been furnished with that information. 

 

The reason I am so keen to do my best by Lenny is that I can imagine how hard it must be to spend a whole week with aliens. That is, of course, alien to a ladybird, you understand. However he isn’t quite alone in the world - Lenny has a girlfriend. Well, she may not actually be a girlfriend, more likely a ladyfriend. Her name is Lily and she is spending half-term with one of the Rascal’s classmates. I gather the two ladybirds will be getting together sometime over the holiday which I find quite reassuring. They will be able to share notes on their Half Term Experiences before they post them on BugAdvisor. I hope Lenny will be kind to me in reporting my efforts on his behalf.

 

Mostly I’m happy simply because I feel it will be so good for them to get together, in all their red, round, spottiness.

 

Don’t you agree?

Despite the news that engineering works will be causing problems with rail journeys, the Youngest of the Darling Daughters and I are perfectly sure that we have A Plan.

 

We will drive (or, rather, my daughter will drive and I will try to remember the easiest route) to Barnham where we will park in the station car park before catching the train to Southampton Central. According to The Plan, there will be plenty of time for coffee before we head to the Mayflower Theatre where we have £22 tickets in the Balcony to watch “Fat Friends.” At the end of the performance we will repeat the whole sequence in reverse, arriving home in time to order pizza for Mr B and our son-in-law, Dunk’em Dave, who is keeping Mr B company while we two Jolly Girls are out enjoying ourselves. So well prepared are we that we have made ourselves an egg sandwich each to eat on the train, even though we know we will not be particularly popular among our fellow passengers, egg sandwiches having a distinctive smell all of their own.

 

All went swimmingly until we parked in Barnham station car park and looked round for a parking machine. You’d think it would be easy-peasy, now wouldn’t you? Plus we had more than twenty minutes to spare, which amounts to All The Time In The World. Doesn’t it?

 

Ten minutes later, we - this is a Royal We, meaning the Y of the DDs - had endeavoured to pay by mobile phone, following the complicated instructions on a rather small notice we eventually located on the station wall. This apparently simple matter was anything but, requiring first registration, filling in address details, choosing and confirming a password, inputting the car’s make, model and registration number and, even after all that, needing more information before we (Royal or otherwise) could pay our £5.20. At this point we spied a rail employee and asked if there might be an “ordinary” parking machine somewhere in the car park. He pointed two machines out to us and (spotting that we were looking a trifle foolish) suggested we might have missed them because our view had been blocked by three Rail Replacement buses.

 

Five minutes later and we are still trying to pay for our parking. After entering details of the car (see above, the Daily Blog tries not to repeat itself, unless for poetic effect) the machine flatly refused to accept the proffered card. Second time around, success - but now we had eight minutes to find the entrance to the station, buy our tickets, make our way onto the (correct) station platform and board our train. We made it with just three minutes to spare - my daughter commented, sympathetically, that I was literally shaking.

 

“Shall we have our egg sandwiches now?” I asked, somewhat pitifully (I am, as you know, Always Thinking of My Stomach, especially in stressful circumstances) - but my daughter thought we should wait another quarter of an hour at least. I nodded obediently; sometimes it seems as if we have changed places, my children and I. 

 

It was raining as we collected a takeaway coffee to revive us on our walk to the theatre. There we joined the queue to have our bags searched (I was so very thankful we had finished our egg sandwiches on the train) as we entered the building - only to find that the queue to collect tickets from the Box Office was outside. My daughter left me inside in the warm and dry while she went back outside, queued up, collected tickets and then had to join the end of the bag search queue once again. 

 

You will remember me mentioning a few paragraphs back (if you’ve been paying attention - though I wouldn’t blame you if you’ve dropped off) that our seats were in the Balcony. This turned out to be up a flight of 84 steps, which was Some Climb. By the time we took our seats in Row D (reached by going down another steep flight of steps) there wasn’t too long till Curtain Up. “We’ve arrived!” we congratulated each other and the Youngest of the Darling Daughters doled out the Werthers Originals (my choice) and the Minstrels (her choice.)

 

“Fat Friends” was not as memorable as the reviews suggested it would be, though there were some keenly funny observations which would be familiar to anyone who has ever attended a slimming class. Not our favourite of all the many shows we have watched together, this Darling Daughter and I, but then it’s always the company that counts. And there is no better company, in a car park, a queue, a theatre, or wherever than the Youngest of the Darling Daughters.

 

 Today, our visitors cleaned the outside of our patio door and windows, clambered up into the loft to store all the Christmas decorations, coloured my hair (I am a new woman!), cooked dinner and cleared up afterwards, leaving my kitchen sparkling clean before they headed off home. 

 

I am truly blessed.

 

I have said it before and (at the risk of being boring, which would never do) I will say it again. There is a very good reason why patients are called, well, patients.

 

Standing at the bus stop at what was to me an unearthly hour, I practised being patient. This turned out to be necessary because the 8.07 Pulse bus failed to turn up, leaving me to worry whether I would make it to hospital in time for my appointment with Someone Important in the Orthopaedics Department. There was, I then decided, no point in worrying, buses being buses, don’t you know? It started to rain and a fellow passenger came charging along the road. I knew she was a fellow passenger because she kept stopping to look over her shoulder to check whether the bus was coming up behind her - I recognised this behaviour, being guilty of it myself. “Have I missed the Pulse?” she asked me, breathlessly. I thought of remarking that, if the Pulse had arrived on time, then I would have been on it - instead I asked her if she would like to share my umbrella and get out of the rain.

 

For a split second she looked as if she might refuse what I liked to think of as my Act Of Random Kindness, then she thought better of it and moved closer. I think she probably took a look at my umbrella and recognised it as being a Most Superior Brolly, decorated as it is with pictures of London landmarks. I am extremely attached to my brolly, a present from my Little Sister and her fella, though I am always afraid I will leave it somewhere when I take it out and about with me. 

 

The 8.17 Pulse arrived, followed immediately by the 8.07. You may wonder how I am so certain about the order in which the two buses arrived at our bus stop but that’s because our driver made sure every passenger knew, when they climbed aboard his bus, that he was the one who was On Time, it was the Other Fella who was running late. The two buses drove in convoy into town, occasionally one bus would overtake the other bus, depending on which was flagged down at which bus stop or forced to stop by inconsiderate passengers wanting to alight. 

 

As it turned out, I arrived at the hospital in plenty of time - enough time, indeed, to admire the model penguins on parade in the small courtyard, all kitted out in knitted hats. As in, the penguins were wearing the hats, not the courtyard. For goodness sake.

 

In no time at all I was having X-rays taken, after which I met the Really Rather Wonderful Ms K who put my poorly shoulder through its paces. “Well, that’s rubbish!” she commented, each time my arm didn’t manage to do either her bidding or mine. Occasionally she rang the changes: “Total rubbish!” she would say, cheerfully. Her unusual bedside manner boosted me no end. I mean it, it did - there’s something totally refreshing when a doctor tells it as it is, but with more than a hint of humour.

 

Could I, she asked, keep my legs straight, bend over and put both hands flat on the ground? You know me, I’m very obedient, so I did my level best. “That’s a Fail then!” remarked the Wonderful Ms K with a twinkle in her eye. 

 

Apparently the good news is that something can be done about my Problem Shoulder. The Not So Good news is that it will mean more major surgery. Ms K is keen to investigate my notes where she hopes to discover more about my shoulder’s chequered history over the last fifty years since I first dislocated it playing badminton. In the meantime, she wants me to have MRI and CT scans. Why have one scan, I always say, when you could have two? (I mention the badminton, incidentally, because I am probably the least likely person to have ever suffered an injury while engaged in Sporting Activity. It marked my first - and last - venture onto a badminton court.) 

 

So far, so speedy but it was a different story in Pathology, where I had a long wait for a Vampire to take my blood. The wait, however, was somewhat enlivened when the nurse whose job it was to check everyone’s name and date of birth before entering the Vampire’s Cave, confessed she couldn’t always remember her own name. As a result, every patient, when called, asked the nurse what her name was before she could ask them the same question. It doesn’t sound quite so funny, written down like that, but when you are number 44 on a long list, every little helps.

 

I treated myself to a coffee and a Danish pastry in the hospital café before I headed home on the bus to tell Mr B the news. I thought I deserved a treat for being such a very patient patient…

 

Latest comments

10.02 | 07:56

Jacqui. So sorry yo hear you are now on the hospital treadmill. Chin up. Have you been in touch with Crossroads Care? They will help when you need support a5 ho

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06.02 | 10:03

Nice memory was not aware of your blog then as i said yesterday love the memories.x bas

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21.01 | 16:24

I read this book recently for our book club. We all loved it too.

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02.01 | 21:23

Going by our experience Mr.B. will soon be very hard to winkle out of said chair, so comfortable is it!

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