Jaqui's Daily Blog

Young Sam is back from a Wild, Wet and Windy Cub Camp weekend and has remembered his promise, bless him, to contact me via FaceTime and tell me all about it. I am delighted to report that the rain - while dampening everything else - has not succeeded in dampening his spirits.

The second most important piece of news he needed to communicate was that, in the absence of his Sixer he, as the official Seconder, or Second in Command, had been made Leader of his own Merry Band of Brothers. This information was only dwarfed in importance by detailed descriptions of the Food. It seems that the eldest of the (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys takes after his proud Nanna in Always Thinking About His Stomach.

The most exciting element of the breakfasts provided was that the Cubs added sugar to their Rice Krispies. The son of a dentist, this was clearly a pleasing novelty to Young Sam though I suspect it will not be repeated at the breakfast table at home. Pain au chocolat also appeared regularly on the menu along with baked beans and chicken. Those Cubs might have got wet but they weren't going to starve.

Ah, yes, the wet. My Boy reports that every single item of clothing and kit was totally soaked when our Young Adventurer returned - apart from his wash bag which contained a bone dry toothbrush and unopened tube of toothpaste. "Like father, like son!" My Boy adds.

He is referring to his own first Cub Camp when, worried that he might feel homesick, I wrote a cheery, funny letter and hid it in his soap dish where I assumed he would find and read it at bedtime on his first night away from home. Did he like his Message From Home, I asked him on his return. He looked blank. A quick check showed that the contents of his wash bag had never been touched, the soap dish containing my letter so carefully written to make him laugh, remained firmly closed. Like father, like son indeed!

My grandchildren love hearing tales of their parents' early life and I'm lucky to have several years' worth of newspaper articles I wrote reporting on our daily life with which to regale them. You can sample them too, if you like, by clicking on The Way We Were page on this website. Not all my tales are as scurrilous as that of the soap dish.

When the Middle of the Darling Daughters was teaching at her first school, I once went to spend a day with her in the classroom - and her pupils were desperate for any priceless nuggets of information I could pass on about "Miss Ball" when she was their age. Oh, the stories I could have told them! You will be pleased to hear that I buttoned my lip and told them, with a teasing grin, that they would have to ask "Miss" themselves. The Middle of the Darling Daughters, when I reported back, said I needn't have been so coy: she always told her pupils that there was absolutely no mischief they could get up to that she hadn't tried out herself when she was their age.

That was also the day when two of her pupils were charged with taking me round the school and its grounds. It was a pretty big school but our expedition seemed to take a very long time. It was only when we came to a hall which I was sure we had passed before (indeed, I thought we had passed it before the first time round but couldn't be sure) that I realised the little monkeys had been leading me a Merry Dance in the interests of missing a Maths lesson. Gullible that I am, I had obliged.

Today I had an adventure of my own when I picked up our new car from a garage in Portsmouth. This may not be any big deal to you but I'm not the best at driving an unfamiliar car around a city I don't know. I was therefore inordinately proud of myself when I managed to locate a garage where I could fill up with petrol, find myself on the motorway out of Portsmouth and drive all the way home without mishap.

Our new car will carry a wheelchair or a mobility scooter and will represent Freedom on Wheels for Mr B. We will be able to have adventures again.

Though, given our Collective Great Age, methinks we will give Cub Camp a miss...

I would be the first to admit that I have come ill-equipped, clothes-wise. The Darling Daughter-in-Law says she can't understand why, given that every weather forecast for South Wales has predicted heavy rain. You'd think, given these dire warnings, that I might have packed a Wellington boot. Or two.

My excuse, such as it is, is that I had to make a super quick change in the time between arriving back from the home of the Youngest of the Darling Daughters and catching the train to Cardiff to visit my (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys. Excuses, however, don't count for much when you are standing in a soggy playing field watching Young James playing football for Heath Park Rangers under-7s. My poorly shod feet are getting wetter and wetter - though it hardly matters when my grandson scores his best ever goal. So proud I am, that wet feet are but a minor inconvenience.

I am also proud of Coach Steve (aka My Boy) whose constant encouragement from the sidelines undoubtedly helps his team to victory. I remember his father (Mr B to you) having the same effect on the Staplehurst Monarchs team he coached all those years ago. Coach Steve, as well as being encouraging, is very, well, loud - which personally I think is a considerable asset in a football coach trying to persuade five small boys to play as a team.

After the match, the Duracell Bunny (Morgan, the Birthday Boy) decides we need to take a Walk in the Woods. He is determined to be the Leader, assisted by two red figures from one of the Transformers he received as a birthday present, whom he consults at every branch in the path to ensure we are still headed in the right direction. The two figures are All Powerful, apparently, despite being small enough to fit easily in the pocket of Morgan's raincoat. (He is well protected against the elements. "I'm Super Dry," he keeps telling me, adding solicitously: "You're Super Wet.")

It is fortunate, indeed, that Sam, the Eldest of the (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys has not had to rely on me to pack his kit for his first ever Cub Camp but has been superbly equipped by his parents. Over 130 Cubs are spending the weekend in 43 tents, engaged in a wide variety of activities. Sam has promised he will send me some sketches though I'm not banking on this, on account of the fact that his sketch book is likely to get as soggy as my shoes, given the wetness of the weather.

Yesterday, of course, was the Big Day, being Morgan's fourth birthday. There were lots of emergencies throughout the morning, mostly involving storms with trees being struck by lightning and bursting into flames. It was just as well that Fireman Sam, along with Elvis, Tom Thomas and the rest of the Tonypandy Fire Crew were on hand to deal with the situation. Again and again and again. You may have been told that lightning never strikes twice but believe me it does in the Duracell Bunny's imagination.

There were cards to be opened, presents to be unwrapped, toys to be assembled, photographs to be taken. We fitted in a trip to a gym called, appropriately, Somersaults. No, I didn't. Turn somersaults, that is. I am always aware of my limitations. We also played Hide and Seek in the park where I learnt another of the Facts of Life, namely that it is easier to find effective hiding places when you are four years old than when you have reached A Great Age. There are only so many trees you can hide behind, even in Heath Park. Morgan's maternal grandparents, Mama and Bampi, arrived to join in the celebrations including the ceremonial singing of Happy Birthday in both English and Welsh. The cake, another splendid concoction by the Darling Daughter-in-Law was in the shape of a fire engine. I was on tenterhooks lest it be called out on a shout to a Storm Emergency during our singing...

On platform 2. at Cardiff railway station we await the arrival of the 15.30 train to Southampton Central. We take photographs of us looking sad at the Parting of the Ways. It doesn't take much imagining. From seat B29 I can wave at my Leaving Party out of the window; the Duracell Bunny blows kisses, his brother pretends to be crying to see me go. I try not to look and feel too sad - after all, in just two weeks we will all be together again for the Royal, sorry, Golden Wedding Party.

A dear friend of mine, soon to be a grandparent for the very first time, was asked by the parents to be what her expectations of being a grandmother were. I pondered for a while on what my own answer would have been, if asked about my hopes for my relationship with my Truly Tremendous Ten grandchildren. Finally, I came up with just two things: I want them to know me - and I want them to know that I love them.

If I am lucky enough to be granted those two great gifts then everything else - the long journeys, the happy birthdays, the sweet-but-sad farewells, being a proud spectator at a football match or a musical theatre performance, building sandcastles, blowing bubbles in the bath, playing endless games, the funny, the poignant, the inspiring, in fact every heart-stopping, heart-lifting happening - is, quite frankly, a Glorious Given.

I dare say they were both wishing they had never approached me with their expectant clip-boards and eagerly poised pencils. Well, they did ask for it, didn't they? My feedback, that is, on improvements needed at Fareham railway station...

Don't get me started! I almost said - but then I reckoned that they had asked, after all, so they were entitled to my opinion. Humble or otherwise.

The two researchers had picked a really bad time to quiz me to be honest. I'd just trailed all the way over the footbridge to Platform 3 to buy myself a regular latte, carried it carefully all the way back again to drink it in the soul-less waiting room, then visited the Ladies to freshen up only to find it was out of order (it's always out of order) so that I had to make my weary way over to Platform 3 again to avail myself of the facilities in the Disabled Loo. Which appeared to be the only loo in the whole station which wasn't, well, disabled.

The girl with the clip-board looked meaningfully at her male companion. I guess they had heard this Sorry Saga many times over. The fella gives me a confident smile and assures me that they (whoever they are - the Loo Leprechauns?) will be attending to the problem imminently. If not, indeed, sooner.

He might have thought he had concluded our discussion somewhat successfully - but I wasn't finished, oh dear me, no. Whenever I booked tickets to visit my family in Cardiff, I explained, I always sighed the very deepest of sighs if I found I had to change at Fareham. On a day like today, with almost an hour to wait, Fareham is just about the worst station to be stranded.

Why did Fareham only boast a Cafė Express on Platform 3? Why could there not be a Pumpkin Cafė (other autumnal vegetables also acceptable) with seats and tables and a chance yo peruse today's newspapers, a pleasant place where one could spend a productive three-quarters of an hour or more with a coffee and a doughnut while writing the Daily Blog? You can provably tell I was warming to my theme.

Mr Clip-board said triumphantly that, if I happened to visit Fareham station in a month or so I would see considerable improvements with a "retail outfit" soon to be incorporated into the waiting room on Platform 2. If he meant "coffee shop" I wish he'd just said so. But I didn't want to appear even more curmudgeonly than I had already so I told my two inquisitors that I would look forward to that immensely. I promise you I said it with a smile and not a hint of menace in my voice.

An hour later, on board the train and winging my way (metaphorically speaking, trains having wheels rather than wings, don't you know?) I suddenly remembered the last time I was sitting in the waiting room at Fareham station when a couple of guys came in to discuss possible alterations. I think I may even have blogged about it - station waiting rooms always provide excellent material for blogs of a Random and Rambling Nature. Now how long ago must that have been - I reckon it was when I was travelling to Center Parcs to meet up with the (Not So Very Little) Welsh boys and their parents. If that's correct, then it's taken them quite some time to get from then to now. I think I will not hold my breath.

I'm not really grumpy, though I may sound it. Yesterday evening Mr B and I watched grandchildren Jack and Hazel performing in a superb production of Legally Blonde. I'd spent most of the afternoon sitting with Jack and the Youngest of the Darling Daughters on her brand new Super King Size bed, watching the film version of Legally so as to acquaint myself with the storyline. Hazel found the sight of us so hilarious that she filmed us sitting there engrossed in the film as she threw herself onto the bed beside us, posting the resultant clip on Instagram where hopefully it will vanish in seconds. Mr B had refused to join us, preferring to soak up the delights of Escape to the Country. Sensible man, there really wasn't room for another, even on a Super King Size before.

Today, after driving Mr B home and ensuring he has all he needs for a couple of days "Home Alone", I am off to Cardiff. Tomorrow the Duracell Bunny will celebrate his fourth birthday - and I, of course, will be there.

I'll be there despite the distance to travel, the uncertain weather, the (fortunately unrealised) potential of delayed or cancelled trains following yesterday's one day strike, even the deficiencies of Fareham railway station.

When the Duracell Bunny beckons, there go I.

Mr B called me in from the kitchen to watch its final death throes. It was, at one and the same time, a moment both majestic and poignant.

To the fellas from the tree company called in by our new next door neighbours it was just another tree to be felled. It wasn't the only one, either, for their Tree Tally for Today also included a towering Leylandii and an invasive elder tree. Boy did they have to work hard! The Tree Gang not the trees.

We inadvertently caused the Tree Men some additional problems which they could have well done without. My car (aka the Grand Old Lady) was collected by the garage yesterday but had to stay overnight while a part was ordered. This meant that the car belonging to the man who had collected my car (I do hope you are keeping up?) stayed on the road outside our house all day yesterday and all day today. The Tree Men therefore had to park their lorry a little way up the road, necessitating difficult trips transporting branches and bits of tree trunk from garden to lorry. I apologised profusely but there was nothing I could do.

I did feel I needed to watch the felling of the old cherry tree. It's been a long time dying, that poor tree, slowly strangled by creeping ivy. Before our new neighbours moved in, the guy who was renovating the house (I kept looking out for him on Homes Under the Hammer but he never showed) chopped back most of its branches leaving it still standing but horribly mutilated. It was not its Finest Hour.

Nevertheless the cherry tree had enjoyed many a Finest Hour in its time. Our previous neighbours, John and Joyce, called it their "bedrock." I didn't understand this completely until I attended Joyce's funeral (John having died many years before) and heard each of her grandchildren talking about the special occasions they had enjoyed in their grandparents' back garden, with the old cherry tree the focal point for picnics, birthday tea parties, Easter egg hunts beneath its spreading branches,

So it was in honour of John and Joyce and the life they built around their bedrock that I wanted to mark the passing of their cherry tree. That's why I was glad Mr B called me from my labours over the kitchen sink to watch. I only just made it. The Evil Deed was over in no time at all. John and Joyce would have been weeping; I confess I, too, had a tear in my eye. The Pigeon Family, who took up squatters' rights on the cherry tree some years ago, are completely bemused. Coo - er! they can be heard to call.

The back garden looks rather different now. There's still a lot of clearing to be done before we can see the wood from the trees...or rather, there's still a lot of wood from the trees to be cleared before we can see where we go from here. It will be a challenge.

I'm particularly worried about our forthcoming Golden Wedding and the Afternoon Tea to be held in our garden. Friends in whom I have confided suggest that bunting can hide a multitude of sins. I remember the party we held to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee - we returned from a holiday, a week before the party, to find that a leaky water pipe had rendered our living room ceiling a mouldy mess. Union Jack bunting worked wonders disguising the devastation on that occasion. Our lovely neighbours call round to discuss how we can work together to disguise the worst of the impact. 

The Rector also calls round this afternoon to talk through with us the Order of Service for our Renewal of Vows. We talk about how to make sure Mr B is comfortable and won't need to be on his feet for too long. It's going to be a lovely, totally relaxed occasion, with so many family and friends around us. Less than three weeks to go now!

Our special day is going to focus on Love, Family and Thankfulness.

Three things the old cherry tree knew all about...



The Youngest of the Darling Daughters, reading my account of our unexpected meeting with the Duchess of Cornwall and other Royals at the Buckingham Palace Garden Party, commented tellingly: "It was Disney all over again - but this time you were the Special Family!"

It is possible that you are struggling to make the connection between The Magic Kingdom and a Royal Garden Party so let me enlighten you. Back in 2009, Mr B and I were privileged to be invited to join the Y of the DDs and her family on a Once in a Lifetime holiday in Orlando, Florida. My daughter, determined as ever, was not inclined to miss a single opportunity for some or all of us to have our photos taken with every Disney character we met - or chased after. Mostly we obliged her, even Jack who, at eleven years old, was just at the age to consider mutiny. You will be interested to learn that, despite the gargantuan meals which are the norm in Florida - indeed, in the good old US of A as a whole - we spent so many happy hours visiting every imaginable theme park that I lost two pounds in weight.

One day we happened on a pavilion where all the main Disney characters were gathered in separate photo booths - Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto - the Youngest of the Darling Daughters was positively delirious with Disney Delight. We would only have to queue up once and, when we reached the head of the queue we would move from one booth to another, meeting and being photographed with each character in turn. If we agreed to this (she is a tough negotiator, the Y of the DDs) she would not make us stand in another photo queue for the rest of the holiday. I have a feeling we were quite near the end of our fortnight away so it wasn't that good a bargain - but good enough for the Pictorially Challenged.

After an hour and a half we reached the head of the queue - but, just at that moment a family swept ahead of us, ushered by a smiley Disney employee. As they grouped themselves before the camera, all the characters gathered around them. There are no flies on my youngest daughter - swiftly she approached the member of staff to ask if we could also have our photo taken with Mickey, Minnie and Co. The answer was no. But why, if the other family were so honoured, why not us? the Persistent One wanted to know - which was when the member of staff made a colossal mistake.

"Well, you see," she explained, "They are a Special Family!" It was an unfortunate statement.

The Youngest of the Darling Daughters was incandescent with rage: "But we're a Special Family too!" she argued. Sadly to no avail.

Of course, as we rationalised the situation later, we could not tell what made the other family, well, special according to Disney Dictates. They did have, among their number, an elderly gran in a wheelchair...

There's no doubting we felt special, Mr B and I, standing in line at the Palace like a guard of honour. On wheels. I'd like to hope there was nobody standing on the lawn asking: "So what makes them so special...?" Though of course there might well have been.

"We owe it all to Shopmobility!" I told the Really Rather Wonderful Adrian when I called in to see him this morning. No, I haven't taken up with another fella - Adrian is sourcing a nearly new mobility scooter at a knockdown price to go with the new car. I have told Mr B that, once we are all sorted, he will be viewed as "Cool Grandad" by our Truly Tremendous Ten grandchildren. He says that Time Will Tell.

Of course, for our Royal Line Up to warrant true Disney status, the Duchesses of Cornwall and Gloucester plus Princess Alexandra and assorted equerries and ladies in waiting would have had to group themselves around us, smiling cheesily for the cameras and doing what I believe is termed "Jazz Hands."

Now that really would have been something special...


Latest comments

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 !

03.01 | 07:41

I love to read "your ramblings" Health and happiness for 2016 Hilary's mum cx

31.12 | 18:28

Loved reading today's blog...inspirational Jacqui☺️ Happy new year to you all, val xxx

Make your own website like I did.
It's easy, and absolutely free.