Jaqui's Daily Blog

When Mr B needs something, he expects the domestic equivalent of a "blue light" service. In other words, immediate response to an emergency. From me. There not being anyone else around to be a First Responder.


I do, however, know a little about the Emergency Services and the fact that they have to prioritise according to the level of the emergency in question. Where Mr B is concerned, I am a One Person Blue Light Service and I, too, have to prioritise.


If it is a real emergency, perhaps involving burnt toast and the likelihood of a conflagration which could render us homeless, then I will be onto it. Pronto. If not sooner.


If it is a lesser emergency, say mislaid reading glasses making it difficult for Mr B to play Poker On-Line, then I will take an executive decision that dealing with the matter in hand can wait until I have finished my shower, cleaned my teeth and pulled on some clothes. Prioritisation is the Name of the Game.


The third category is rather more complex and this is the category into which today's emergency falls. Mr B needs me to find a particular missive from British Gas. I know I have put it somewhere safe but I don't know where. It is in one of four possible places. Prevarication is called for.


"No worries!" I say. As the Emergency Services know full well, reassurance is key. "I know where it is," I add, crossing every finger and every toe. Incidentally have you ever tried crossing your toes? All I can say is - don't even think of moving. Regular readers and close friends and family know that I - like George Washington - cannot tell a lie. I do, indeed, know where this letter is - but as I said it is in one of four possible places. I need a little time.


I tell Mr B I will find the Piece of Paper but in my own time. This is a Risky Strategy but Mr B appears to have bought it. He turns his attention elsewhere while I surreptitiously, all the while pretending to be otherwise occupied, methodically go through the possible places. I find it in the second Possible Place - Mr B's own cash book. I could be forgiven, I tell myself, for shouting my success aloud but I choose the safer path.


"Here it is," I say nonchalantly, dropping it in his lap, for all the world as if I had immediately laid my hands upon it. Mr B takes it for granted that the Piece of Paper ( please note that it has now acquired capital letters) has been located. Emergency, such as it is, over.


It's basically all down to British Gas. They send me a letter inviting me to book an appointment for my annual boiler service. If I do this on-line I can get a two hour slot, rather than waiting in most of the day, plus 200 Nectar points. What's not to like? I go on-line but due to problems at their end, I can't book a service. I am given a number to ring...


The Voice tells me that my conversation is being taped "for training purposes." I have a horrible feeling that the resultant dialogue might end up in a "Dealing With Difficult Customers" course. It should be a simple process, to book an appointment for a boiler service but it isn't. I do my best not to get over-heated (like my boiler) but I find myself turning into the Difficult Customer as Ms Officious on the other end of the line implies that it is somehow my fault that British Gas's website is experiencing technical problems. Would that I was so powerful.

 

Mr B, hearing the despair in my voice, insists on taking over the phone. Issues escalate. The training course on Dealing With Difficult Customers goes up a level. We still haven't booked a service for our boiler.


I suggest to Mr B that we have Time Out. It's a bit like the Naughty Corner except that there is no blame attached and it's all about taking a breather to assess the situation and decided upon future tactics. Yes, I imagine that is exactly how Young Faris uses his time in the Naughty Corner. Part of our assessment involves the Finding of the Piece of Paper.


We will try again tomorrow. We have the evidence aka the Piece of Paper. We will keep cool, calm and collected.

 

Let's face it, it's not exactly an emergency...

There is a large notice posted on the door of the supermarket Nail Bar announcing that it is "Closed for a Private Party."


Nosy as ever - what is it about the word "private" I don't understand? - I peered in. A party of little princesses, each dressed in their finest party dresses and wearing silver plastic tiaras on thief carefully coiffed hair, were being treated to a kind of En Masse Manicure. Everyone appears to be having a great time. The mother of the Party Girl has certainly nailed it this year.


I wonder what party games they will play when their painted nails are all safely dry? Pass the Nail Polish, perhaps? The party cake will be in the shape of a bottle of Pale Pink Glitter Polish and it will be cut into pieces with a silver nail file. No prizes for guessing what will be in the girlies' party bags.


It is rare that I find the time for a manicure. I used to call in very occasionally to the Beauty Salon at the Health Club when I was still a member there. I always forgot how long it took my newly polished nails to dry so by the time I had (i) found my card in my purse and handed it in payment; (ii) bought myself a skinny latte in the cafe and carried it to a vacant sofa; and (iii) arranged myself and my bags comfortably on said sofa - my once beautiful nails were invariably scuffed and not-at-all-lovely. I hope the nails of the Little Princesses fare better than mine.


I haven't completely missed out on the fun of a Nail Polish Party - I had a most enjoyable experience the afternoon before My Boy's wedding when the Bride-to-Be, her mother, her bridesmaids and I all enjoyed the attentions of a couple of manicurists in a Cardiff Nail Bar. I seem to remember that they had a kind of drying machine so my nails did not suffer their normal fate.


From this many of you will deduce that, despite my Great Age, I am still something of a Novice in all matters Nail-Related. In fact, as I mentioned in a recent blog, I've never been too clever on the make-up front. Somehow or other I missed out on the School-Girl Experimental Make Up Lessons. What was I up to, I wonder, while all my friends were practising with the mascara and the eye-liner?


On our Beach Day last week, while lining up at the Fish 'n' Chips stall for some chips to share for our make-shift lunch, the Youngest of the Darling Daughters and I found ourselves on the end of a question by the Chip Maker turned Quiz Master. What, he asked us, was the most popular cosmetic product? Quite what this had to do with fish and chips was beyond us but we were too polite to say so. I ventured a guess at lipstick but my daughter was absolutely certain I was wrong. "Mascara!" she stated, emphatically. So what was the answer? I asked the fishy one. He shrugged his shoulders and said he didn't have one, it was just an interesting conversation. I rather think not.


We posed the question to the Middle of the Darling Daughters when we arrived back at our Beach Camp on the sand. She agreed with her sister. Mascara has it! Unless, of course, you know differently...


Through the mists of memory, I remember watching my dear Mum apply her make-up. A dash of powder from an enamel blue compact with swans on the front of it. An outline of "lippy", pressing her lips together and surveying the result somewhat critically in the mirror. What was it for? I recall asking her, twisting the lipstick in my hands. "It cheers my face up," was the honest answer.

 

So there you have it. It must be why, without thinking, I answered the Chip Man's question the way I did. Mascara undoubtedly emphasises the beauty of your eyes. Nail varnish adds glamour and elegance, a well-groomed look that the Little Princesses in the supermarket Nail Bar are just beginning to appreciate. But lipstick?


Well, it cheers your face up, doesn't it?


That's the unvarnished truth.

 

My Boy has texted me a slightly blurry photograph of two small boys standing a trifle self-consciously on a steep pathway. I can imagine him stationing them in position, saying "I just need to take a photo for Nanna..." They are too far away for me to see the expression on their faces but I suspect they are asking: "Why??"


I show the photograph to the Youngest of the Darling Daughters who is staying overnight. "Clovelly!" she exclaims, instantly. Of course it is! The memories come flooding back...


We are sitting in one of the World's Worst Traffic Jams. By "we" I mean two cars-full of eager holiday-makers, one car carrying Mr B, me and our Foursome; the other transporting my sister, her fella and their three littl'uns. We have rashly promised all seven small fry that we will be enjoying a Devon Cream Tea once we get to our destination.


OK it's not as bad as Operation Stack, causing havoc on the Kent roads this weekend. But, try as we might to circumvent the traffic ("I'm sure we've been this way before! Yes, we have, there's that man outside the hardware store, looking at us askance as if tourist traffic never, ever comes this way...") it was hours before we parked up at the picturesque and world-famous village and set off to find a quaint Devon tea-room for our promised Cream Tea.


There were many to choose from, all quaint and picturesque - and all, due to the lateness of our arrival, closed. It was Disaster in Devon. Mr B and Mr S set off to find a solution. There is no getting in the way of fulfilling a promise, not where these two are concerned. One shop owner was outside her emporium, closing up. Was there any chance, they asked, hopefully, of a Cream Tea? She answered swiftly in the negative then, screwing up her eyes, asked nonchalantly: "How many for?" Eleven, came the answer. "Come right in!" she beckoned us. You would be mad, she was doubtless telling herself, to turn down one last Cream Tea, for eleven people, at the Close of Play.


I seem to remember that the scones were plentiful, the jam delicious and the bowls of clotted cream positively brimming over. Appetites satisfied. A promise kept. By the skin of our teeth.


That's just one of countless memories of Summer Holidays spent with my sister and her family and, because My Boy's photo has led me into Reflective Paths, I have been indulging myself. What about, my memory prompts me, the time we were searching, unsuccessfully, for a traditional Ice-Cream Parlour? We had to make a slight concession but ended up in a suitable establishment, ice-cream sundaes for the enjoyment of. When we came to pay, sharp eyes were quick to note the bowls of complimentary mints by the check-out. Outside, Mr B and Mr S drew their hands from their pockets to display a collection of mints. As one, the seven children did like-wise. Only my sister and I, honest to the last, had Nothing to Declare.


Not all my memories are Food-Related, possibly because in those far-off days of young motherhood I was too busy to be Always Thinking About My Stomach. One Summer we had booked six-berth caravans next to each other on a beautiful camp-site. I seem to remember that in the original booking details we were next door but one - but we suggested to the camp-site owner that this would be very unfair on the poor hapless holiday-makers who Came Between Us. He hurriedly agreed.


At breakfast one morning we were shocked to our boots by thundering noises on the roof of our holiday home. It was as if the sky were falling in on us. A quick and fearful look out of the window showed us our second family hanging out of their windows in fits of merry laughter. The toe-rags had thrown stale bread onto the roof of our caravan and the sea-gulls were tripping the Not-So-Light-Fantastic above our heads. Try as we might - and we tried, we tried, oh, how we tried - we couldn't come up with appropriate retribution.


On one holiday the men-folk went fishing, leaving my sister and I to entertain our Collective Brood. High on a hill, a photographer was making a short film to illustrate a book on playing Chess. Our children, all but the very youngest, were prompted into action. "Move!" the film-maker would command, at which instruction all the children were expected to move into a new position on the giant chess-board. Except that Our Debs was always just a second or two later moving into place than all the other children. Over and over again they practised until in the end the film-maker instructed all the children, save Debs, to wait for his command then to count to two before moving. It worked like a dream - and the resultant action was for all the world like a scene from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. But without the Mad Hatter.


The men returned and we waved them home as their fishing boat drew into its moorings. Ashore they came, carrying their catch which included a Dog-Fish of such repellent appearance that nobody could bring themselves to cook or to eat it. I have drawn a Discreet Cloud over the way we disposed of it.


Somewhere, in a dusty archive, there must be a copy of that film of our Little Gang on a hillside going through the Moves to Check-Mate. Or perhaps an illustrated book? My sister and I have individually searched many a library over the years in the hope of stumbling across a pictorial record of our distinctly surreal experience.


Every family has its own store of holiday memories like these. A fortnight away slips by in a flash, sunny photographs of children swimming, building sandcastles, playing French Cricket on the beach are stored away in photo-files on computers or even in proper albums, you know those ones with pages and a hard cover.


The very best holiday album, I have found, never needs backing up or indexing, never gathers dust and, what's more, the images never fade.


That'll be the one tucked inside my head.

 

I didn't expect to have to write Nanni's blog for her today - but bearing in mind that my special Auntie Karen was staying overnight with her and Grandad, I am given to understand that they will have been far too busy chatting to do any hard work. As Grandad (a Man After My Own Heart) often says: there is no danger of their jaws rusting.


Not that I am completely sure what that means. I know sharks have jaws because I own a shark back-pack. It has reins attached and for quite some time I resisted wearing these on the grounds that I am not a donkey. Then, quite recently, it dawned on me that by wearing the reins I wouldn't have to hold hands with an adult whenever we were out and about. Contrary to what I had first thought, the reins afford me rather more freedom to rampage. Who'd have thought it?


We all travelled down to the beach in Littlehampton yesterday in our big car, all seven of us. Auntie Karen had to fold herself up really small in order to fit into the back seat, especially as she had to share the space with the Big Purple Buggy. Nanni said that, in the interests of fairness, maybe she should sit in the back seat on the way home but both Mummy and Auntie Karen said "No way!" Neither of them offered an explanation but I knew it was because, whatever she says, Nanni simply isn't as bendy as Auntie Karen. It isn't her fault, it's all down to her Great Age.


It was a bit of what we call a "Windy Miller" down on the beach so we had to pin the blankets down with our picnic bags, the towels, the coffee flask and the Twinkles' sun tent. Nanni said the sea was coming in. Coming into what? I wanted to ask but didn't. I understood later when the sea tried to come into our camp and we had to retreat up the beach to safety. That took some doing, what with the Big Purple Buggy, the beach mats, the sun tent, the towels, the picnic bags. Oh, yes, and The Twinkles. We couldn't leave them behind.


While the sea was busy coming in, before we had to beat a hasty retreat, Nanni and I were able to re-create the "Oh, no!" game which we played on holiday in Ally Canty. We didn't have a watering can so when Mummy took me to the beach shop and said I could choose a new bucket and spade, all I wanted was the small, blue watering can. Mummy thought I would prefer something a bit more Sandcastle-Related but as far as I am concerned sandcastles are for Nanni to build and for me to demolish. The small blue watering can, on the other hand, held all the promise of my favourite seaside game.


When my cousins Jack and Hazel were younger, they came on lots and lots of Littlehampton Days. They particularly liked climbing on the big anchors marking the path to the car park. Auntie Karen showed me how to climb them and Mummy took pictures. Nanni said it probably made Auntie Karen feel nostalgic. I am not exactly sure what that means but I am guessing it is another word for sea sick.


All along the prom (prom prom) children were drawing pictures of themselves with coloured chalk. Nanni, who is possibly the nosiest person I know, asked a man in a yellow jacket what it was all about and he explained that the children were taking part in Chalking on the Prom, part of an Arts Weekend. Nanni wanted me to lie down on the prom so she could chalk around me - which made Mummy laugh at the very thought that I could be persuaded to lie still for long enough. She knows me so well, but then that's mothers for you.


One of the highlights of of day was The Twinkles' first ever ride on the Boat Train which runs along the prom. Because there were not very many people on the train, there was room to stow the Big Purple Buggy in one carriage and we all piled into another one. As I predicted in a previous blog, the Double Adorability of The Twinkles resulted in waves from almost every person we passed. Nanni, who loves nothing better than a waver, was in her element with Lilia beaming away on her knee and Tala sitting opposite on Auntie Karen's knee, taking everything in. We all had to have photos taken with the Boat Train before we left - Nanni says this is something called Tradition. Jack and Hazel have had their photos taken with the Boat Train ever since they were the same age as I am. Nowadays, Nanni says, she has to bribe them with hot doughnuts before they will agree to pose for the camera. I rather think I may be missing a trick...


Nanni's big surprise was that the Twinkles have now had their names added to the slat on Littlehampton's famous Longest Bench. We had a bit of difficulty finding it on account of all the chalking going on but there it was. It reads:


"For Faris, Tala & Lilia Adli. Let the seaside adventures begin!"


And so say all (three) of us!

 

 

Masterchef Canada has started on TV. Mr B and I are hooked already.


It is true that almost every week it will be possible to find, at some time or other, a version of the Competitive Cookery Concoction which is Masterchef. We have almost finished watching Celebrity Masterchef in which lots of celebrities whom we had either never heard of, or who had faded into dim and distant memory, battle it out among the frying pans and blast freezers. I'd never even heard of a blast freezer before I watched Masterchef. Live and learn, I always say, and if you can freeze a strawberry jelly along the way, well, what's not to like? By the end of this week we will know who will be "crowned" Celebrity Masterchef. Will it be Rylan whose claim to fame is starring in a reality programme? Or fragrant Kimberley, she of the annoying transatlantic accent? Or earnest Sam? Or, our favourite, the other one, you know the one I mean, but I have momentarily forgotten his name as well as how he earned his celebrity status. I would ask Mr B but he is having a shower.


As well as Common or Garden Masterchef and the Celebrity version, there is Masterchef - the Professionals where real chefs, sous-chefs and the occasional pastry cook put their careers on the line. I will always remember, with horror, the poor guy who was lambasted by the judges for unhygienic kitchen practices. Poor guy came on Masterchef in search of fame and fortune and possibly lost his day job as a result. Be careful what you wish for, that's all I can say.


Being careful what you wish for, incidentally, is the back story to the Limelighters' latest production Into the Woods. The Limelighters, regular readers will recall, are members of a youth theatre group of which grandkids Jack and Hazel are founder members. The first half is a kind of fairy tale fantasy, involving Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack (of beanstalk fame) and Little Red Riding Hood. By way of a warning, the telling of the tales owes more to the original Brothers Grimm than the sweet Disney versions. By the end of the first half, Rapunzel and Cinderella have both nabbed and wed their True Loves, Jack has become a multi-millionaire and Little Red Riding Hood and her granny have been rescued from the Greedy Wolf with the large ears, eyes and mouth "all the better to hear / see and eat you with!" Then comes the second half and everything goes horribly wrong. As I said, be careful what you wish for.


The contestants on Masterchef Canada know exactly what they wish for and they're not about to listen to any Wise Words of Caution from the likes of me. One young lass has even decided to forego her own sister's wedding in order to continue on the programme and have her dishes critiqued by the judges. As always on Masterchef, there are three judges, including a kind one, a steely one and one in the middle. Every so often, the steely one relents and dissolves into slush, like my stewed apple when I have left it on the stove too long.

 

It would not be Masterchef if there wasn't at least one Usher Gene moment per programme.The Usher Gene, I need to explain for newer readers, is possessed by female members of the Usher family (of which I am one.) Among the most prominent characteristics - the ability to find room for "just one more" object in any cupboard, fridge or larder, no matter how crammed full it might appear to Mere Mortals unpossessed of the Usher Gene; and a propensity to weep copious tears at heart-tugging moments in any book, film or TV programme.


I thought Masterchef Canada might have missed a trick on this but then, at the very end of the first programme, the judges invited one of the hopeful contestants to fetch his family in to hear their verdict on his culinary offering. In trooped his wife and two totally adorable boys insistent that their Dad was the best cook in the world. Well, those judges were hardly going to break bad news in front of them, were they? This wasn't going to be the Grimm version of a fairy-tale.

 

One of the judges called the older boy over and handed him a white apron with the Masterchef logo embroidered upon it - the physical proof that a contestant has made it into the next round. "Go, give that to your Dad!" said the Steely One. I blubbed. Mr B looked at me askance. He will never understand the Usher Gene.


Masterchef Canada is set to run for several weeks so I imagine there will be many more Mystery Box challenges, team challenges, visits by famous Canadian chefs whom Mr B and I won't know from Adam and Usher Gene moments to savour.


Like all the very best recipes, Masterchef delivers exactly what I'm wishing for.

 

Latest comments

16.07 | 06:31

How they are going to laugh and enjoy these wonderful blogs. Nanny you will be with them for ever! C

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17.03 | 22:51

How lovely Jacqui

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12.02 | 22:18

Eat all day at Bill's sounds just the ticket!

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06.02 | 23:43

Please send you and Brian's current email to me. Thanks

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