Jaqui's Daily Blog

It seems that our choir conductor, the Redoubtable Muriel, is intent on making sure we have our Five A Day.


Hence we start off our weekly singing session ( having first exercised our vocal chords) with the apple trees which lean down low in Linden Lea, followed by a spirited rendition of Strawberry Fair and an equally riotous version of Cherry Ripe. Whatever next? Sue and I ask each other, trying to think of other Fruit- Related songs in our red files. Sue suggests Coconut Calypso which is quite inspired in my opinion, especially as the best I can come up with on the spur of the moment is Yes, We Have No Bananas - which isn't even included in our song files. I wonder why not?


Muriel is vexed at the thought that this is our last choir session until the middle of September. Who was it, she asks, somewhat querulously, who decreed that we U3A members - all of whom left school more moons ago than we care to calculate - have to follow school term dates and take a long Summer Break? She is willing to wager that none of us will be jetting off to holiday destinations during this period of high cost when hotel swimming pools will be packed with over excited kiddiwinkies and there won't be a sun bed in sight without a towel, a tube of sun cream and an unread book artistically arranged upon it by Someone Unknown.  


As regular readers know, in most things I am Firmly On Muriel’s Side. When other choir members tut in disapproval as our conductor makes us sing a particular phrase over and over again until we get it right, I am All Obedience. As Muriel is always keen to point out, the whole principle behind the University of the Third Age is that we never stop learning. If this means singing the third line of Haste Ye Nymph over and over again until we are Note Perfect, then so be it.


I am, however, in two minds about the Summer Break Business. Where I do agree with Muriel is that six weeks without song is far, far too long. Yes, yes, I know there's always the shower but that's a lonely business. I will miss my Musical Pals so much. At the same time I am quite looking forward to an August free of regular commitments. Much as I love our Nomination Whist group, it will be something of a relief not to have to carry two card tables and six chairs out of the garage and set them up, ready for play, in our living room over the month of August. Our biscuit barrel will doubtless empty over the course of the month which can only be A Good Thing in terms of Temptation to Snack. Usually it is full of biscuits left over from our fortnightly card session, a constant source of Sugary Naughtiness. 


You are thinking, I'm sure, that my diary for August must be uncharacteristically empty - but I have to say it is filling up most satisfactorily, even as we speak. There are the weekly Summer Holiday visits from the Middle of the Darling Daughters  and her Trio to be factored in - next week I have pencilled in a trip to Brooklands Park. Oh, the Paddling Pool! The playground! The ducks on the lake wanting to be fed! The Mr Diddley train to transport us all round the lake, on the lookout for pirates and other Fearsome Fellas hidden on the central island! There will be a picnic and ice creams and plenty of rolling down grassy slopes. No, I won't be indulging in any rolling myself - except in spirit. Ah, yes, very much in spirit.


Plus at least once a week, if not twice, I will need to be on duty at the Animal Agents desk to meet littl’uns taking part in the Summer Reading Challenge. I will be listening to them telling me about the books they have read and rewarding them with stickers, some of them Extremely Smelly. The stickers, not the children, for heaven’s sake.


And I haven't even mentioned the Annual Family Beach Day when anything up to twenty of us will gather on Littlehampton beach for a Jolly Day Out with buckets and spades (sandcastles for the building of), surf boards, crabbing nets, and my Union Jack picnic  bags (for added patriotic effect.)


I feel sorry for Muriel who, Redoubtable as she is, is quite bereft at the thought that all three of the choirs she so conscientiously puts through their paces are taking the summer off. I rather feel that, at ninety-plus years old, she relies on us as much, if not even more, than we rely on her. 


All I can say is that the weeks will soon pass. September will arrive and everyone will start making vague references to Christmas.  Muriel will refuse to allow us to sing Christmas carols until the very last week, insisting instead that we master the intricacies of Purcell's Oh, Prithee John. We will sing our hearts out and make it up to Muriel for deserting her over the summer.


In the meantime I am delighted to predict that my August is set to be The Best Of Times. 


The first thing I noticed about Nanni was that she wasn’t wearing her glasses. She looked, well, different.


However I tried her out with a few typical actions - like opening the giant bubble wand she gave me and spilling the water all over the floor - and she responded just as she always does when faced with Disasters of a Watery Nature so I knew it was Nanni, even without her specs.


This is, of course, Faris aka The Rascal for reasons I personally have never been able to fathom. I understand Nanni promised all you regular readers that I would write today's Daily Blog and, like Nanni, I would never want to disappoint you. This is one of bthe very few ways in which Nanni and I are alike - in other ways we are very different. I am strong, she is, shall we say, not. I like creating mayhem, Nanni likes observing it. Preferably from afar. I am determined, Nanni is easily swayed. Particularly by her grandchildren, of which I am proud to be one. Not that either of us had too much choice in the matter so I can only say it is a good thing it worked out so well. My mummy always tells Nanni “We are so glad that you are ours, and we are yours.” And so say all of us.


On Sunday, we - Mummy, the Twinkles, cousin Jack and I all travelled down to Nanni and Grandad’s for the first of this summer’s Seaside Days. I need to make the most of the freedom because in September I am going to Big School. Nanni wonders if Hook Infants School is ready for me. I don't see why they wouldn't be, I’m not asking for anything they wouldn't have already. I'm going to be in Ladybird Class. I did have a few second thoughts about this in that I would probably have preferred to be in something like Bumblebee Class, something with a sting in its tail, don't you know? Then I met up with some of the other girls and boys who will be in my class and decided that, if we really had to be in a class named after an insect, then Ladybird Class would do very well.


It was complicated getting to the seaside because Nanni wasn't driving on account of her Pirate Eye. So Mummy dropped Jack and me - with our scooters - at Littlehampton and drove back with The Twinkles to collect Nanni. We had a fine time, Jack and I, especially when we popped into the beach shop where I spotted an Object of Great Desire. In other words, a Monster Truck. Oh, how I wanted one, with its big wheels and push-along handle. I haven't wanted anything so much since, well, the last time I set eyes on an O of GD. Which must have been at least a day ago. If not two.


Mummy said if I kept asking for the Monster Truck, there was no way I was getting it. This seemed to fly in the face of one of Nanni’s sayings (apparently, her Daddy - who was my great grandad - used to say it all the time) that “those who don't ask, don't want.” I am conveniently forgetting the first part of the saying which was “those who ask, don't get.” I believe this is called Selective Memory a practice in which I am particularly proficient, though I say so myself as shouldn't. 


We certainly packed a lot into our day. The tide was out (no, I’ve no idea where it had gone. Shopping, maybe?) so we  played in the sand and Nanni wrote our names out with a stone and tried to get us to jump from letter to letter. Honestly, she does have the strangest ideas. Then Tala, Lilia and I all went in the sea where Lilia had the good idea of taking all our clothes off, in order to test out Mummy’s theory that she only needed to bring one beach towel because we would only indulge in a bit of paddling. 


After that we all had to be changed into dry clothes which was, to be honest, a bit of a palaver but, hey, we needed to be clean and dry for our next activity which was scooting along the prom (prom, prom.) We used this exercise to test out another of Mummy’s theories which is that, when I go to Big School in September, the Twinkles will be more than up for scooting there and back.  I mean, Tala and Lilia are Ace Scooters but, in the interests of testing the Scoot To School theory, we all three decided we would prefer to walk, so the grown-ups had to carry the scooters and helmets all the way to the Lion’s Den playground. Nanni sort of explained the reason why the playground was so named which was something about men who were lions but not lions and, donated money for the playground on account of that being something men / Lions are kind enough to do. I didn't quite understand what Nanni was talking about but the playground was great fun so I say, thank you, Lions. Whoever or whatever you are.


We took the boat train back. Nanni said we needed to wave at everyone we passed: “We are wavers!” Mummy announced to nobody in particular. I did notice that Cousin Jack didn't do too much waving. I wonder when I will be old enough not to be a waver - maybe five years old or so?


For now, I am prepared to wave with the best of them and hopefully negotiate my way into Mummy and Nanni’s good books. We are, you see, coming back to the seaside, maybe as soon as next week.


And I still have my sights firmly set on the Monster Truck…

High up on the roof of the Chichester Festival Theatre a solitary Fiddler is playing. Below, milling outside the theatre in the warm late afternoon sunshine, we theatre goers listen spell-bound. It is the perfect introduction to the production we are about to see. Fiddler on the Roof, that is, what else?


The Youngest of the Darling Daughters and I had booked our tickets some months ago but at the time I didn't realise I would have another visitor in the welcome shape of grandson Jack. Could I wangle another ticket for him, I wondered, so that he could join his mother and me on our latest Theatre Date? On-line booking wasn't promising: the Tuesday evening performance, being Press Night, was fully booked. However, the sweet woman in the Box Office, whom I telephoned first thing on Monday morning, was cautiously encouraging - nothing doing at the moment, she confessed, but she suggested I should just keep trying, hoping to strike it lucky with a return ticket.


Well, you know me. Persistence is my middle name. You thought it was Anne, didn't you? Throughout Monday, I phoned the Box Office until finally, at 7 p.m. I struck gold. There was a ticket available on the back row, slightly to the side of the stage but no restricted view. Would I like it? At just a tenner? My excitement when I related my success to my grandson was at fever pitch.


He so deserved a treat, my Jack. His three day stay with his Grandad and me could not have been more different from those Days of Yore, when the activities on offer would include go-karting, swimming, the Amusement Park and a thrill-packed ride on the Action Boat. This time round, I warned him, the greatest excitement I could offer him was helping me transport his Grandad to the dentist on Monday afternoon. Almost as thrilling would be the trip via Dial-a-Ride to Guild Care where his Grandad would enjoy an assisted bath. Jack was quite unfazed and Stalwart in His Support. Bless him!


Could he help me, I asked, work out the Scores on the Doors for the final meeting of our Nomination Whist group where I would need to announce the player with the highest average, the most improved, the highest score? I produced a large sheaf of score sheets and explained we would need to add up each player’s scores since the beginning of 2017 before working out their averages. “I’ll set us up a spread-sheet!” Jack announced. Now why didn't I think of that? This is another thing I love about Jack - he never patronises, never makes me feel even a little bit foolish. He simply, matter of factly, sets about getting things done.


We did spend a lovely chilled evening watching “Apollo 13” and sharing a bottle of rosé wine which he had bought for us. My previous attempt to supply a bottle of the Pink Stuff, understanding it to be his Wine of Choice, went badly wrong when the wine I purchased on the advice of a young shop assistant (“It’s a young person’s drink,” she told me - so how could I resist?) turned out to be too sweet for either of us. Since when, incidentally, did my grandchildren (at least some of them) become old enough to buy the wine?


Jack arrived on Sunday with his aunt, the Middle of the Darling Daughters - I would tell you all about our Seaside Day with The Trio but Faris has indicated that it is high time I handed over the Daily Blog to him again so I will leave you to look forward to that undoubted treat tomorrow.


You can probably tell why I so much wanted to secure that elusive ticket for my Jack. It was a very small thank you to him for helping me out so cheerfully and for looking out for his Grandad. Not to mention the pleasure of listening to him singing to himself as he prepared for bed each night, sending me to bed happy in my turn.


Fiddler on the Roof lived up to our Great Expectations with the cast receiving a well-deserved standing ovation at the end. The opening number, as you may or may not know, is the rousing “Tradition.” The Youngest of the Darling Daughters tells me this song always reminds her of me, with my long-time habit of creating and maintaining family traditions. Though, unlike Teve, I don't go around stamping my feet and waving my arms in dance.


At least not when anyone is watching…




It's the holiday season! Friends and family are jetting off to amazing destinations where they will eat, drink, sunbathe and be very, very merry. I wish them all the happiest of holidays.


I love seeing those aerial maps, courtesy of Facebook, showing where my friends are travelling and the route they will be taking to get there. I love seeing the photographs of the places they visit, even those pics of their feet sunbathing beside the sparkling waters of a hotel swimming pool, knowing, as I do, that I would never take such a photograph myself, my feet being by far my Most Unattractive Feature.


I especially love it when they are visiting a country, a city, a region where we once holidayed. It gives Mr B and me an excuse to wallow in nostalgia, remembering hotel rooms we made our Home From Home; pools we  swam in; ancient ruins we explored. It used to be my custom and practice to bring a table cloth back with me from our holidays. I still love laying the table with my cloth from Rhodes, decorated with olives or my Sunflower Tablecloth from Croatia. Memories are made of this. Mr B doesn't quite get the whole Tablecloth Fetish but in this, as in so much more, he is prepared to indulge me.


Holidays - at home or abroad - are not on the agenda for Mr B and me these days but the Middle of the Darling Daughters has come up with an ace scheme for ensuring we don't miss out. One day a week throughout the summer holidays she plans to bring her Trio - aka The Rascal and The Twinkles - to spend a Jolly Day Out with Mr B and me. It will be like those wonderful summer holiday weeks which Team Baldwin and their Mum used to spend with us - except that we will spread out the fun over several weeks. I am making plans already for Seaside Days, visits to Arundel Wildfowl Trust, paddling in the pool at Brooklands Park, fish and chips on the beach, walks along the riverbank; and boat rides in search of water voles. We will ride on Littlehampton’s famous Boat Train, climb aboard the Best Roundabout in the World and scoot (endlessly) along the prom, prom, prom. It will be SUCH fun!


Today saw the launch of the Summer Reading Challenge in libraries across the country and I was there in Worthing Library this afternoon, wearing a magician’s hat with Mickey Mouse ears. It could have been worse - my sweet Fellow Volunteer wore a red fish on her head. “Do you get paid  to wear those hats?!” Someone’s Mother asked us. A little lad called Milo, aged about two years old, took great pleasure in alternately grinning at us - and sticking out his tongue at us. I think it's safe to say that he, at least, appreciated our efforts.


More than a hundred children signed up for the challenge today. The on-line registration worked splendidly, proving my earlier fears unfounded. “What's the secret password?” we asked the children, being rewarded by excited whispers. No, of course I'm not telling you - it's a secret! 


Over the next seven weeks, I and my fellow volunteers (all of them young enough to be my grandchildren) will encourage littl’uns aged 4 - 11 to enter new worlds, some familiar, some foreign; some fun, some sheer fantasy as they read their way through their six books. It's the Land of Books - and, what do you know, it costs absolutely nothing to travel there.


Destination Imagination. 


Margaret, who is tiny and very sweet, always asking after Mr B’s health and wellbeing whenever I see her, has sliced her thumb in a car door. Yes, indeed, it is every bit as horrible as it sounds.


When I arrive at the Heene Community Centre this morning for our Singing for Pleasure session, poor Margaret is sitting in the foyer looking visibly shaken, with several members of Centre staff hovering concernedly about her. I decide to hover, too, though I am doubtful what I have to offer in terms of help - however I don't feel I can just walk on by without at least demonstrating (i) concern and (ii) sympathy. Mary, who is another member of our choir, is also hovering but she, unlike me, is Hovering With A Purpose. She will, she says firmly, drive Margaret to the doctor’s surgery where hopefully a helpful nurse can inspect the Wounded Digit and decide on medical action. Mary doesn't live in Worthing so confesses she doesn't know where the surgery is but she is sure she will find it. Mary is, in my opinion, a Modern Day Good Samaritan.


I’m still not driving since Operation Eye Eye, so I don't have my car with me. All I can do is offer poor Margaret a thumbs up - only afterwards worrying that this might have been a little insensitive. Margaret gives me a weak smile as she is helped out of the Centre and into Mary’s car.


My friend, Sue 1 (as opposed to Sue 2, who sits next to Sue 1, who sits next to me in the second row of the Altos, aka Failed Sopranos - would a diagram help, do you reckon?) is sitting at the table usually occupied by Myra taking our fifty pence pieces. Myra has had a family bereavement - my heart goes out to her - so Sue has kind of volunteered to stand in as Chief Collector of Money. Volunteered in as far as she didn't say no, when asked. Happens to me all the time.


The unfortunate thing about Sue’s new, albeit temporary, role is that we don't get to sit, chat and generally put the world to rights in the quarter of an hour or so before our esteemed conductor, the Redoubtable Muriel orders us to rise to our feet for our weekly vocal exercises. Sue has to stay at her post until we have completed warming up our vocal chords, in case any late-comers arrive; only after that is she able to take her seat next to mine and we daren’t chat between songs for fear of bringing the Wrath of Muriel down upon us. 


It would have been good to have our usual helpless  giggle over Muriel’s latest Nature Lesson, composed, you understand, to force us to sound all our consonants. “The trees have never, ever been so ginormous, luxuriant and beautiful.” We repeat after Muriel, conscientiously. Some people get their ginormous mixed up with their luxuriant. Muriel says it is true, isn't it, that the trees have never been as old as they are now? “Rather like us!” I mutter, sotto voce. Though not sufficiently sotto as to miss Terry’s sharp ears in the far corner of the Men’s section who comes back with a swift and witty retort. There's always lots of laughter on a Friday morning at the community centre.


Muriel says we will sing three songs which chart the course of a love affair. Considering she has never married and is now well into her nineties, it seems safe to assume that Our Muriel is a romantic. First we sing Cole Porter’s “Let's Do It” with its clever lyrics (my favourite: “Goldfish in the privacy of bowls do it!”) and Rita wonders aloud whether Mr Porter has got together in heaven with Victoria Wood who adapted his song to create the memorable Ballad of Barry and Freda. It's a sweet thought. Eric in the Corner starts singing: “OAPs in community halls do it,” to which Jay responds “Just give us a chance!” We follow up with “Love Walked In” to mark the blossoming of the love affair, then Muriel points us to page 26 and “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off.” Maybe she isn't a romantic, after all.


Sue 1 says next week we will be able to catch up on all our news, once she has handed back her responsibility for all things Cash Related to Myra. I will look forward to that. We finish by singing “Sussex by the Sea” with considerable gusto. It's a good way to draw our regular Friday morning singing to a rousing close.


I phone Margaret to find out how she is. She still sounds a bit shaky. She spent half an hour at the GP’s surgery before being sent to A & E, where she spent another two hours waiting for a doctor to patch her up, at the same time saying she should have been treated back at the surgery. Being Margaret, she apologised. 


Next week is our last Singing For Pleasure session until September. Myra will be back at her table collecting our fifty pences; Sue 1 will be back in the second row of the Altos, sandwiched between Sue 2 and me; brave Margaret will surely be there with her sore thumb all bandaged up. 


We will sing as if nobody is listening. 


Which might be All For The Best, all things considering.


Latest comments

03.07 | 22:43

Wouldn't have missed it for the world. xx

12.06 | 02:31

I love that you talk to your plants ... I used to on my allotment ... seemed perfectly rational !

05.06 | 22:01

Sounds like a perfect day Jacqui, happy birthday for tomorrow, love Val xx

07.12 | 15:48

what details have you got on your mysterious Wilde?

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