I love the feeling of anticipation when people I love are coming to stay.
I love thinking about what I can do to prepare
for my visitors. What will they like to eat? What shall we do? Where shall we go? Mostly I know that, when the visitors are the Youngest of the Darling Daughters and her tribe of two, we will get by just famously by simply going with the flow. Going
with the flow is, in many ways, what we do best.
Things change as the grandchildren grow up. When they were littl’uns we had to remember to buy blue
top milk; now green top is the order of the day. It used to be that the park was the Destination of Choice; now it’s the bowling alley or the go-kart track – or, even, shopping. We used to sing along to nursery rhymes when travelling
in the car – now for my stage-struck grandkids, it’s Songs from the Musicals. Once I had to make sure I had plenty of bath toys for the Evening Ablutions; now the main requirement is for a plentiful supply of shampoo and conditioner
in the shower to keep the grand-daughter’s locks in their customary lustrous state.
I have made an apple pie, because I know they love my apple pie. We will
be eating beans on toast for lunch before we head off into town for the six-monthly visit to the dentist. This will be followed, as is tradition, by a trip to Costa Coffee. For dinner it will be sausage casserole and the aforementioned apple pie. Custard
or cream? We bought both, just to be on the safe side.
I have cleared all the junk off the spare beds and, for my daughter’s bed, have fashioned a
swan out of a white towel (as taught me by the room maids at our hotel in Cyprus last year.) I expect you think that is a trifle pretentious but if I don’t keep practising I will forget how to do it and that would be another Life Skill Lost.
And, yes, the penguin will still be dressed up and put out on the doorstep to welcome my visitors.
In the words of my favourite Christmas poem: “Everything changes – but we always do that.”
Today I really thought for a minute that I had lost Mr B.
I know what you are thinking, how could even I manage to lose a
full-grown man, in broad daylight, in a town like Sunny Worthing? Well, here’s how it happened.
Once again, we had two entries in our joint diary for this
morning. I was due at the community centre cafe for a 10 a.m. meeting while Mr B had an appointment with the dentist almost an hour later. No problems, I said airily, we would go to town on the bus separately and once my meeting was over I would
wait in the cafe for him to join me once he was through at the dentist. This shows, I think, that There Are No Flies on Me. If you ever yourself waiting for someone or something, then I would highly recommend a community centre cafe. There
will be constant access to reasonably priced tea and coffee plus lots of reading matter in the shape of fliers and booklets on the Information table and posters decorating the walls advertising everything from rock concerts to ballet for the elderly. Community
centre cafes are also unrivalled for people watching opportunities. The alternative this morning would have been for me to arrange to meet him in the dentist’s waiting room – but this is only equipped with one of those cold water machines.
There really was no competition as far as I was concerned. As regular readers are well aware, I am Always Thinking of My Stomach.
I estimated that Mr B’s dentist appointment would take 45
minutes at the very most. When he hadn’t turned up after more than an hour, I started to wonder where he was. My friend asked, perfectly sensibly, why I didn’t ring him on his mobile so I had to explain (as I know I have explained to
you in the past) that Mr B’s mobile has only one purpose in life which is to act as a paperweight on the yellow post-it note which announces “PUT RUBBISH OUT” and lives on our kitchen work top, next to the kettle. I decided there was
nothing for it, I would have to take a walk round to the dentist's to check he was still there.
At the dentist's, the receptionists confirmed that Mr B had,
indeed, turned up for his appointment – but they couldn’t remember seeing him leave. This was when I decided I really had lost him. Did he have his mobile on him, they asked? I decided not to go into the whole explanation about the yellow post-it
note and the weekly rubbish collection and simply said no. Could they just phone up to the dentist, I asked them, and check if her patient had left and, if so, how long ago? It turned out that Mr B was still waiting patiently in the waiting room on the
second floor for the results of his X-rays.
“I’m so glad I’ve found you,” I told him. I meant it, I really did. He looked up from
the sports section of The Guardian and asked where on earth I thought he would be if he wasn’t here, sitting in the dentist’s waiting room on the second floor. There was no answer to that. I felt a bit silly, to be honest. “At least it shows
I care,” I told the Ungrateful One. He didn’t look too impressed.
At home I am tapping away at my laptop when my brother contacts me on
Skype. “Did you call me?” he asks. I tell him that actually he has just called me. He looks confused. So do I. We decide it doesn’t matter who called who. This is, after all, the way our Skype conversations always start. Mr B is
trying to watch TV and can’t hear his programme with me nattering away. He turns up the volume – loud - which is my signal to decamp from the lounge, carrying my laptop before me, to continue my conversation where I won’t disturb the Man
of the House any further. I am obviously a liability. I am loud, in the way and lose people even when they aren’t lost. I take up a perch on the stairs, three steps up from the bottom.
“Are you sitting on the stairs?” my sister-in-law wants to know from the comfort of her arm-chair. I tell her yes, I’m on the Naughty Step.
It seems appropriate, somehow.
Every so often it occurs to me that perhaps I should provide you, my loyal readers, with a few updates on progress with aspects of my life which I have shared with you through the Daily Blog.
Jaye, for example, recently posted a comment to ask whether I had managed to solve the puzzle of that CGGECCDDECC song. Apparently, when played, these notes should form a tune which has something to
do with colours. Unlocking the riddle would enable my friend Delia to solve a particularly tricky crossword puzzle. Sadly I am no nearer finding a solution but help is at hand because in the next week or so the answers will be published in the May edition
of Delia’s monthly puzzle magazine. Never was an edition more eagerly awaited. Be sure I shall let you all know because I am quite sure Jaye isn’t the only one who wants to know. Even if she is, I shall still broadcast the answer, for the sake
of what psychologists and agony aunts like to call “reaching closure.”
Next, an update on the palm crosses from yesterday. As I had promised, I was
there at my post at 9.20 this morning, after a brisk twenty minute walk to Church. There were two of us giving out palm crosses, Linda and me. Linda sorted through all the crosses in her basket, taking them out of their carefully secured bunches as she
tried to distinguish between the ones from Tanzania and the ones we carefully fashioned yesterday. I just gave them out as they came, it was a kind of Palm Cross Pot Luck. I like this kind of job, by the way, because you get the chance to meet lots of people
and say things like: “Good Morning!” and “Welcome!” and almost everybody smiles back at you. It’s really rather heart-warming.
about heart-warming, so many people sent their best wishes to Young Faris while he was in hospital. I am pleased to report, by way of an update, that he is back to his normal, Demolition Boy mode and his Mum, the Middle of the Darling Daughters, has never
been more pleased to see him up to all kinds of merry mischief.
Rehearsals for Fame Jr, in which grandchildren Jack and Hazel have lead roles (actually,
the Limelight Theatre Group being what it is, every Limelighter is as important as everybody else which is what I like about it) are reaching a climax as Curtain Up is just two weeks away. Another of my News Releases has appeared in the local press and
this time there was no mention of Horton the Elephant who (some of you may remember) popped up in another newspaper in an article which had absolutely nothing to do with him or any other elephant you might care to name. Hopefully I will be allowed more
space in the papers over the next two weeks to promote the show, just as soon as I can think of a different angle to write about. And, no, Horton is not a different angle – he’s an elephant and he doesn’t belong in Fame. Not now,
The Great War Project is nearing its conclusion with a grand launch of the new website due in June. I will be sad when my part in it is over but Mr B
and I have bought a packet of Flanders Poppy seeds and intend to sow them liberally in our front and back gardens as our own personal tribute to Ernest the Farm Boy and Arthur the Artist and all the others who died in Flanders Fields and elsewhere. (Mr B is
a little less enthusiastic than I am about this idea as he points out that, according to the back of the seed packet, we will be over-run with poppies in a year or two. I tell him I never read the back of seed packets on a point of principle.)
Lastly, I have posted off an Easter card to my three Little Welsh Boys, enclosing a fiver apiece so that they can Buy Their Own Easter Egg. Last year we sent them those
chocolate bunnies, you know the ones wrapped up in gold paper with a bell on a red ribbon tied round their necks – but they were all damaged in the post. My Boy reckons I have hit upon a great idea and says his boys will love the idea of BYO.
I fear they will head straight to their favourite shop, Poundland, where they will be able to buy not one but five eggs apiece for their money. This will equate to an almighty
hoard of no fewer than fifteen eggs between the three of them which will not please their mother, who happens to be a dentist, one little bit.
not quality, will be the name of their (Easter Egg) game.
The Churchwarden sounds very jolly on the telephone. Is it possible, she wants to know, that I could be free to join a band of merry volunteers in the Church Vestry making up palm crosses for Sunday’s Palm Sunday
I regret to say that my initial response is a little non-committal. I have put it in my diary, I tell her, cautiously. The clever clogs among you will
have noted that I didn’t exactly say yes, nor did I exactly say no. The thing was that there were two entries in the diary for Saturday morning, the other being Mr B’s appointment with the chiropodist. What I did not know was whether
he would be expecting me to hold his hand for him. Or even his foot, perish the thought. Whatever, I felt I needed to consult with He Who Must Be Obeyed before I could confirm or deny my attendance on Cross Making Duty.
I ask the Jolly Churchwarden who else will be on duty. She says that so far I am the only person who has answered her phone call. Everyone else has been out, on the phone to somebody else, or unobtainable.
Now I come to think of it, maybe that jolly note in her voice is born of desperation.
As it turns out, Mr B and I reach a wholly amicable agreement whereby
I will spend most of Saturday morning in the vestry before catching the bus into town to meet him outside the chiropodist, after which we can have some lunch, do some shopping and compare notes on our mornings. I suspect mine will be a lot more fun than his.
I walk to church, looking out for bluebells in all the front gardens. Don't you just love bluebells? In my handbag I have secreted a pair of scissors, palms for the cutting
of. I will have to be very, very sure not to forget them at the end of the morning session or I shall incur the wrath of the Guardian of the Family Scissors who will say (with some justification) that I shouldn’t have taken them out of the house.
In all twelve of us turn up. The Jolly Churchwarden sees me coming up the churchyard path and unlocks the door to let me in. Because our little party is going to be
tucked away downstairs in the Vestry she is worried about leaving the door unlocked in case we have unwelcome visitors. Sad but true. As each person arrives, he or she announces: “I really, really can’t remember how to do this!”
Fortunately we have Peggy to help us all out – she has been making palm crosses for more years than she cares to divulge. I, with just one year’s experience under my belt, find that I soon remember exactly how to make them and before long
I am even helping others to master the tricky business. I feel quite proud of myself.
Apparently at tomorrow’s service not everyone will be fortunate enough
to receive one of the 350 super duper palm crosses fashioned by our fair hands this morning. Some people will find themselves in the possession of much smaller crosses. It would of course, be un-Christian in the extreme to complain but it is possible
that some may do so. If this happens then we need to tell them that their cross comes from a supply of ready-made palm crosses ordered from a farm enterprise in Tanzania, so assisting in its long-term sustainability. I have been allocated the job of
handing out crosses outside the Old Palace (where, weather permitting, we are meeting up to process to the church for the Palm Sunday service) so I need to have my explanations ready.
The Jolly Churchwarden brews up coffee and presents us all with hot cross buns. This is an unexpected pleasure. We stop struggling with our palms and spend a happy ten minutes sipping coffee and nibbling buns. We all agree that it
is a pity shops sell hot cross buns all year round, rather than just in the week before Easter. I tell the story about my dear Dad, at one time a baker’s roundsman, who was allowed to bring home any buns which remained unsold at the end of Good
Friday. No other family in our road has as many buns as we did. Someone mentions that Marks & Spencer are selling chocolate hot cross buns this year. Opinion is fiercely divided on whether this is an exciting departure or A Step Too Far.
At 11.30 a.m. I decide that I need to leave if I am to walk to the bus stop and catch the bus in time to meet Mr B outside the chiropodist. The baskets of completed
palm crosses are full to bursting so I think we are all but finished anyway.
The Jolly Churchwarden thanks me for coming and tells me I will have my reward
Golly gosh, and I thought the hot cross bun was reward enough....
This morning’s presentation to our Choir Conductor, the Redoubtable Muriel, simply couldn’t have gone better.
readers will remember that I had been prevailed upon to organise a collection among our choir members so that we could mark Muriel’s ninetieth birthday in a truly fitting manner. Yes, I did say, ninety. Ninety years old and still driving from Hove to
Worthing every Friday morning to take us through our vocal paces in a bid to turn us into a More or Less Tuneful Choir.
She really is a remarkable woman, hence my apt description of her as “redoubtable”
which means (according to the Thesaurus) formidable, impressive, terrible, mighty, fearsome. Muriel is all of these things in turn, depending on whether we are (i) failing to pay attention; (ii) chatting among ourselves instead of listening to her instructions;
(iii) forgetting what she taught us last week; or (iv) pronouncing “amour” as “a-more” instead of all Frenchified. She spends an hour and a half scolding us, threatening us, occasionally praising us – all the time listening,
listening, listening to pick up even just one person singing the wrong note. That’ll be me, then.
I was gratified that, due to the generosity of my fellow
choir members, I collected an impressive £125 which enabled us to buy Muriel a completely over-the-top orchid floral arrangement to accompany a cheque for £100. One of the more curmudgeonly of our choir members (there are a few, though mostly we
are all sweetness and light) moaned that I should have asked everyone for a fiver a head rather than a minimum of £2 but, as I told him (holding my ground because after all who was doing the collecting anyway) it’s impossible to know how everyone
is placed and some people might not have been able to afford a fiver. He harrumphed a bit and said £100 wasn’t much these days which I thought was a trifle hurtful, all thing considered. Mr B said he would take him on for me but I said I
didn’t think fisticuffs would be seemly, not at our age, not in the hall at the community centre, not when we were just about to start singing “Lilies and roses, made into posies, the Country Gardens come to town.” To which Mr B said
he wasn’t thinking fisticuffs, more a verbal riposte. I suggested perhaps not.
That was last week. Today was the Day of the Presentation. Here is how it
happened. Muriel arrived a few minutes before 10 a.m. and busied herself, as usual, discussing the morning’s play-list with our pianist. At exactly 10 a.m. she stepped onto her podium and beckoned for us all to stand for our vocal exercises. At which,
as one, we rose to our feet and burst into song – “Happy Birthday”. Her face was a veritable picture. It was, indeed, the very happiest of moments.
I had brought along the Us-Pad with the aim of capturing the happy scene in photographs but I have to say the photographs I took leave a lot to be desired. The first one shows Muriel being presented with the Over The Top Orchid which is so large and
so over the top that Muriel is completely hidden behind it. I mean it, you can’t see Muriel at all, just her legs. The next one is a little better, showing Muriel with another choir member who was celebrating her eightieth birthday the same day,
and our choir convenor. It is, unfortunately, a trifle blurred, which is about par for the course with my photographs. I tried to take a few photographs of Muriel in the centre with choir members grouped around her but because the hall is so small
and the choir numbers so many, I couldn’t get everyone in. Plus, trying to organise our choir (as Muriel knows to her cost) is a bit like herding cats. I wanted to make sure that Mr B was in the photo but when I reviewed my efforts later I found
that he was gossiping away in the background and not paying the least bit of attention either to me (which was normal) or to Muriel (which was unforgivable.)
actually knew the name of the Over The Top Orchid which, she explained, was the Orchid Gloriosa. She had always hankered after one but they were just too....and here she tripped over the word “expensive”, bless her.
I checked it out on the World Wide Web later and discovered that the Orchid Gloriosa (aka the climbing lily) is guaranteed to create “a bright and joyous atmosphere”.
I no longer think our floral tribute is over the top – rather, I think it is totally appropriate and, quite simply, Rather Splendid.
Just like Muriel.
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