Jaqui's Daily Blog

Yesterday my main problem was with the Shaker Makers. I hear what you say but, to be honest, looking after my Little Welsh Boys was a doddle compared with dealing with the Shaker Makers...


We didn't have Shaker Makers when my Foursome were littl'uns. We had rubbery red moulds into which you poured the runny cement, then left them to set before turning them out ready for painting. The Shaker Makers are doubtless much more fun but only if you read the instructions properly.


The Shaker Makers in question were bequeathed me by the Youngest of the Darling Daughters when Team Baldwin grew out of making models and moved onto less serious pursuits. I had forgotten all about them till they fell out of the cupboard in the guest bedroom when I was searching for Something Else Altogether. What fun! I thought (stupidly). We had all the materials we needed to make both a Tardis and a Dalek apiece. What's not to like?


My trouble - or, should I say, one of my many problems - is that I am always in too much of a hurry and consequently never read the instructions in full. It is generally a good idea to read the whole page of instructions, rather than rush headlong into Step One. Especially as, when you arrive at Step Four, you come across an important piece of information concerning the timing of Steps One, Two and Three in relation to Steps Four and Five. I trust you are following me?


Not only that, but I somehow managed to get my tops and bottoms muddled up. This meant that I put far too much warm water into the bottom cup, rather than into the top cup. I should have known something was going on when I couldn't find a filling line. But, being me, I just carried on blithely anyway, assuming that someone on a production line somewhere had forgotten to insert a fill to here line on our pots. By the time I realised my mistake, the boys had poured the powdered cement into the wrong pot.


After putting that small error right, we came across Problem Number Two which was that we couldn't get the two cups to fit together. According to the instructions, we would hear a click when the locking mechanism was secure. Having tried and failed to be sure of this, we decided to take a risk and do a bit of Shaking and Making. Actually this is not quite fair as the Little a Welsh Boys took no part in the decision making. The mistake was mine, all mine...


In my defence, I was sensible enough not to try any shaking indoors. We took to the back garden. Which was just as well because, oh, the mess! The patio is covered in white cement, the garden table likewise. The Middle of the Darling Daughters, arriving with Young Faris to spend a day on the beach with us, comforts me with the thought that it will surely wash off.


At least I have provided my boys with an Object Lesson. Settling down at the table this morning to make robot puppets (as you do) Young James set out all the pieces of his robot and declared, wisely, that he was going to plan everything out before he started. "It's best to plan!" he told me, seriously. He was too kind to mention our sad and sorry experience of the day before but we all knew what he was thinking about.


So, we are left with half a Dalek and a Shaker Maker so cemented up that I can't prise it apart. The boys are keen to try again, especially as I have bought special glow in the dark paint for our Daleks. I will have a lie down in a darkened room while I consider my options...


On the bus into town to buy a Spiderman car seat so that I can transport Young James legally, I happen to glance down at my trousers. Which is when I realise, for the first time, that they are generously splattered with Shaker Maker cement.



All in all, it hasn't been my Finest Hour...

The Great Railway Adventure turned out to be rather more of an adventure than I had bargained for.

To be fair, the first train journey - two and a half hours from Cardiff to Southampton - went swimmingly. The oldest two Little Welsh Boys appeared to be taking rail travel completely in their stride. We had a picnic, played on their Leap Pads, they taught me how to make loom bands ("We'll show you the basics first, Nanna...") and the Stations Game (see previous blog) was an enormous success. Both boys agreed that Bradford on Avon was the best station we stopped at, mostly on account of its World War One Memorial Garden. The white horse at Westbury was much admired - Sam said it looked just as if it might gallop down the hillside - but did not influence Westbury Station's rather humble score.

Pride comes before a fall. We caught our second train and I was congratulating myself on my super planning when: "I think I feel train sick...." said Sam. Bless him he didn't just feel sick, he was sick - twice. There was only one silver lining (and it was a pretty murky one) in that other passengers joining our train took one look at us and moved swiftly on, even though there were three spare seats in our section. Young James had to complete the second station survey on his own and showed his quirky sense of humour by granting the ridiculous score of ten stars to Ford station, even though it had little to recommend it, as stations go.

Mr B (aka Grandad) was there at the station to meet us and transport us homeward. It took a while but by bath time my poor brave, sickly boy was much, much better.

Of course there is still one Little Welsh Boy left at home - much to his chagrin. Young Morgan simply couldn't understand why he couldn't come too. I have been wondering for a while whether the close twosome which Sam and James have always been would find room for their little brother as he grew up. On this Nanna Visit, it was perfectly plain that Morgan has infiltrated the Brotherhood and is more than holding his own. Time will tell, but we might even have a Leader in the Making...

Yesterday, the last full day of my Nanna Visit, we went to the Big Cheese festival at Caerphilly. The Youngest of the Darling Daughters thought this was hilarious, bearing in mind how much I hate cheese. Strange to say, I hadn't actually thought of that. There was a great deal going in, the majority of it not at all cheese-related, including falconry, battle re-enactments, jugglers on stilts, a bubble blowing bicyclist - all against the beautiful backdrop of Caerphilly Castle, the largest castle in Wales, second largest castle in Great Britain. You can tell I always read the explanatory signs.

Now it's my turn to think up the entertainment programme for the next five days.

It probably won't involve train travel....

Have you noticed that when setting up camp on a beach, everyone has a different modus operandi? My Boy, father of the three Little Welsh Boys, approaches the task with masterly precision. First the windbreak must be hammered in, followed by erection of the small tent (for provision of shade, shelter and storage) and the ceremonial laying of the groundsheet complete with pegs to anchor it into the sand. Finally the fold up chairs are unfolded and added to the tableau. It is most admirable and the complete opposite of his father, Mr B, for whom setting up on the beach involves unfolding a chair and settling in it to study the sporting section of the Daily Mail.


My task while all this assembling is going on is to supervise the boys changing into their bathers and keep a watchful eye on Young Morgan who is wielding a fishing net with dangerous intent.


Ogmore beach is beautiful in both its guises. When we arrive, the tide is almost completely out and the sand stretches seemingly endlessly about us. The beach is littered with rocky outcrops as if some giant hand has plucked mighty handfuls and scattered them carelessly about


By the time we leave, six hours later, the landscape has completely changed. The tide is in, the beach almost covered and we have decamped to the safety of the rocks. It is all very, very beautiful. We keep saying we should think about leaving but it is, indeed, one of the loveliest parts of a day on the beach, the late afternoon with the sun still shining but lots of the visitors departed.


In between arrival and departure, we enjoy a picnic, build a boat, fashion weird sand sculptures, go body boarding or paddling according to our age and ability, explore the rock pools and generally do everything that needs to be done in order to satisfy the criteria for a Day on the Beach.


Sam goes body boarding with his Dad and manages a 25 metre swoop through the waves. "I didn't realise it could be so much fun!" he tells us. General verdict: awesome.



The parents and nephew of the Darling Daughter in Law arrive to join us mid afternoon. We make up a jolly party. We watch as the sea engulfs our boat and demolishes our sand sculptures. This is the deal about beaches: there is always another day, another sandcastle, another boat to build. Think how very crowded every beach would be with sandy edifices were it not so.


In the car on the way home, the boys are singing along with their father. Young Morgan is determined to keep up. I can hear him singing: "can't sing, can't dance but who cares? She walks like Rihanna..." Whatever happened to The Wheels on the Bus? I wonder.


I ask the boys if it's been a good day and they answer me by singing the song from The Lego Movie which we watched the night before. "Everything is awesome." What did Morgan reckon?


"Awesome!" agrees the Duracell Bunny, sagely.

With two small boys (aged 5 and 7) coming to stay for a week next week, I think it is safe to say that I will not have much time for anything which isn’t (i) playing a game; (ii) making up stories; (iii) racing about on a beach or playing field. We may well cook but it will be more likely to be juicy berry lollies, Sparkling Rocket Cakes and Ready, Jelly, Gos (see my Cook Book page) than meat and two veg.


In short, I need to get everything that I would normally do next week done by the end of today. It’s a challenging thought.


I took my Challenging Thought with me on the bus to town. Sometimes I find this is the best course of action, faced with a Challenging Thought. A ride on the bus gives ample time to consider all aspects of the challenge and to decide which, if any of them, simply have to be tackled and which, if push came to shove, could possibly be delayed, deferred or simply forgotten about.  It’s a bit like that advice on dealing with piles of paperwork – place it on a To Do list, file it away, or put it in the waste paper basket. The trick is to dispose of most of it in the waste paper basket and transfer hardly anything on the To Do list. No, I was never any good at this myself, but I don’t see why that should stop me passing it on, just in case someone might benefit from the advice.


I had to catch the earliest possible bus to get me to the Library on time for my stint on the Summer Reading Challenge desk.  You see, my life is full of challenges.  There was no time to think at all this morning with around forty to fifty children clamouring for attention at the Mythical Maze desk over my two hour session.  Over 430 kids aged 4 – 12 have so far registered at Worthing Library – that’s already about 80 up on last year and we are only into the second week.  One child has already finished the whole challenge despite the fact that the long summer holiday still stretches out in front of her. I awarded her a gold medal and a certificate with all due ceremony. They should employ me at the Commonwealth Games.  We didn’t sing the National Anthem though. We were in a Library, after all.  I kind of wanted to ask whether it might not have been more fun to spin the challenge out a bit (there are no extra prizes for being first to finish) but I didn’t want to rain on her parade. Another little lass described at great length the events of the three books she had chosen to tell me about. On the floor at her feet another fifteen books which she had also finished reading.  She could have finished the challenge there and then but gathered up her books and told me she would be back next week, presumably with another shelf full of books to show me.


By the time I arrived home after a bit of last minute shopping and another bus ride I was wilting. Not quite so much, however, as Mr B’s sunflowers which looked as if they were at death’s door. I alerted him to the fact that, as Chief Person In Charge of the Watering Can, he appeared to be failing in his duty towards his plants. To give him his due, he roused himself from his position as Number 1 Armchair Spectator of All Things Sporting and trotted off to find the watering can. I think he is more excited by the result of our (mostly) friendly sunflower competition than he lets on.  His sunflowers perked up no end as a result of his tender ministrations; nevertheless I am a bit worried that he won’t keep a close eye on them while I am in Wales over the next few days. (For those of you who might be even slightly interested all four sunflowers are now over seven foot tall, my two are still spindly, Mr B’s are of sturdier stance. No flowers yet but we are hopeful. At least, I am hopeful, Mr B hasn’t expressed an opinion. He would probably find it quite amusing if they went on growing, flower-less.)


I have completed all my correspondence, posted off birthday cards to every one of my friends and family with a birthday over the next ten days and warned anyone who might be expecting me somewhere next week that I won’t be there. My ruck-sack is more or less packed and I just need to transfer my rail tickets from the drawer in the little chest in the hall to my handbag. I am more or less ready and it is only half past eight.


I google “sunflowers” just for the sake of it and follow what I believe is known as a “thread”. Someone is concerned that their sunflowers are very tall but with no sign of flowers. The response is that it is possible that her sunflowers are “stressed.” Oh, for goodness sake, that’s all I need, stressed sunflowers. I trot outside to have a word with them, as is my usual early evening custom.  They are uncommunicative in the extreme but that’s nothing unusual. I tell them I will be home on Monday and they are not to worry in my absence. Wait till they meet the Little Welsh Boys! Stress? They don’t know they’re born. Or planted, perhaps.


Me? Well, not being a sunflower and so not expected to bloom, so to speak, I’m not stressed at all.


Wales, here I come!

I am writing this blog in front of the TV waiting for the Opening Ceremony of the Commonweath Games to begin.


Mr B, who as you all know is the World's Most Fervent Supporter of All Sports, is in his element. I, for my part, am sitting here contemplating on the fact that I am the least sporty person I know. Why is this so?  And is there anything I can do about it, given what Young Faris likes to call my "Great Age."


I was quite a good runner in my youth. However, sadly, I always came second in our Junior School Sports Days to one Rita Hayworth. No, not that Rita Hayworth, how old do you think I am, you cheeky things? There was one race I will always remember because I beat Rita Hayworth into second place. Just. Unfortunately because it was such a close finish, and because Rita always won, the teacher in charge awarded first place to Rita. The thing is, you do know when you are the first to break through the finish tape. So I am quite sure I won. I don't blame Rita Hayworth (who was, if I remember right, a skinny lass with nothing going for her apart from her flying feet) and it was my first lesson into the subject of The Unfairness of Life. It has not scarred me for life, let's face it, though the fact that I still remember it, sixty years on, suggests it rankled slightly in my childish heart.


Then there was the story of the Butlin's Chase. I am pretty sure I have told you this story before but a good story can bear the re-telling, I always think. We were at Billy Butlin's Minehead Camp and my proud parents (who obviously believed whole-heartedly that I had beaten Rita Hayworth) persuaded me to enter the four mile race. Well, mostly down to my extreme stubbornness and refusal to give in (traits which have landed me in lots of trouble over the course of my life) I won the race. It was, however, the aftermath of this not-so-very-famous victory which was the most amusing. Everyone wanted me in their team after that. Rounders? Team games? Cricket? I was never in my life in such demand. Sadly nobody had checked whether I could actually catch or throw a ball with even a modicum of accuracy. They soon learnt. Poor things.


You will gather from this that I have never exactly covered myself in sporting glory. I might now be comforting myself with the thought that I am now a bit past my sporting best (whatever and whenever that was - presumably breasting the tape ahead of Rita Hayworth) but I seem to have a lot of friends and relatives who are running half marathons, cycling over their age in miles, or deciding to try their hand at the triathlon just for the sake of it. Try as I might (and, as you well know, Mr B says I am very trying) I can't see me developing so much as a single sporting bone in my body at this late stage.


It turns out that Mr B has the right approach after all. You don't need to be able to run to appreciate an ace sprinter flying round the track or the endurance of the marathon runners. You don't have to be able to swim like a fish to celebrate the achievements of the experts of the breast stroke, the free style and the butterfly. Judo, boxing, gymnastics, every sport on the Commonwealth Games programme. Just watch and marvel.


Let the Games begin! 


Latest comments

09.07 | 16:37

Jaqui, You have every reason to be proud. Our family were deeply touched and impressed by your portrayal of our relation - 'Arthur the Artist'.

07.07 | 01:35

I would be interested in the book by your mother about WWII. :)

04.07 | 11:52

I am not in a dog campaign - my ambivalence is being sorely misused by my daughter in her ongoing 'Dogfermee' marketing. I prefer my dogs hot and in a bun

22.06 | 20:03

What fantastic news!! Please pass on my congratulations and best wishes to mum and dad to be xxx love Val xxxx

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