Jaqui's Daily Blog

I decided not to wear a hat today. Mr B thought this was a very good decision but then his idea of dressing up is to wear a blazer over his normal clothes.

When we arrived at the Drumhead Service commemorating Armed Forces Day, it was noticeable that there were nowhere near as many hats as I remembered from last year's splendid occasion. There was one quite startling creation which would have matched my outfit rather well. I pointed it out to Mr B who said that, had I dared to don such headgear, then he would have refused to accompany me. I thought this was a trifle harsh, personally, but then Mr B is a Man of Strong Opinions.

One of my reasons for not wearing a hat was that I knew I was going to have to load and unload the mobility scooter from the car. It was gong to be tricky enough wearing a dress rather than my customary trousers (lots of graceful bending of the knees would be called for in order to preserve my dignity) - a titfer would definitely be A Step Too Far and would doubtless be knocked flying as I reversed down the ramp. You will be pleased to hear that I did remove Mr B's Jolly Roger pirate flag from the back of the scooter. I may not have worn a hat but I did know about Observing the Proprieties.

I had timed everything to perfection, though I say so myself as shouldn't, so we were in our seats (Row E - I on the west side - thank heavens for the sea which helped ensure I could work out my west from my east) five minutes before the 10.40 a.m. deadline. Mr B, in the olden days, would have insisted on arriving at least half an hour beforehand but nowadays he is happy to leave such timing decisions to me. Except when we arrive late, in which case, quite rightly, it will be All My Fault.

The rain stayed away, though rumbles of thunder reverberated around Steyne Gardens where we were all assembled - the Great and the Good. Plus Mr B and me. I had brought my umbrella along - the stylish one with pictures of good old London Town on it - but it wasn't needed. Better safe than sorry, I always say. Okay, maybe not absolutely always - but always when I have remembered my brolly.

The Drumhead Service is always poignant - but never more so than today. For a start, it is almost exactly a hundred years to the day since 366 men from the Royal Sussex Regiment died in a fierce diversionary battle a day before the Battle of the Somme started in earnest. The day is known forever in our county as "The Day Sussex Died." The two drums making up the altar, as is traditional for a Drumhead Service, were - fittingly - drums of the Royal Sussex Regiment.

We sang hymns with Sussex connections, including "Jerusalem" penned by William Blake, some time resident of Felpham just along the coast. My friend Rachel was one of a group which fought long and hard to raise funds to buy Blake's Cottage for future generations.

Then, most moving of all, a presentation of the Legion D'Honneur - France's highest decoration for civil or military valour - to John Sandles, a Royal Navy veteran of D Day. On this day, just a few days after the EU Referendum which saw Britain vote to leave Europe, we sang God Save The Queen - followed by The Marseillaise. French Consul Captain François Jean spoke, in French and in English, of the many battles in which French and British soldiers had fought - and died - side by side.

Our two countries, he avowed, would always stand side by side, would always be friends. Poignantly, he thanked the British Armed Forces for giving back to France its liberty, its dignity and its honour.

And I thought: "Lest we forget..."


Our quarterly U3A Convenors Meeting was at a different venue to usual. It seemed strange to be walking into the Heene Community Centre without my Birchgrove Primary School bag housing my red choir folder and bottle of water, in preparation for a session of Singing for Pleasure. I wasn't sure the Convenors Meeting would be half as much fun.

To be honest, I wish I'd brought the bottled water with me. The room where we convened (if you'll excuse the pun. And even if you won't) was very hot, very stuffy and very crowded. Luckily for me, I had been saved a seat near the front by friends Jim and Delia - that is, Delia of cribbage and the delicious biscuits, rather than Delia of the Victoria Sponge cake recipe which I now use for all my birthday cakes. By this I mean birthday cakes for other people's birthdays, you understand, not that I have birthday cakes in the plural for my own birthday. I find it rather worrying that I am only two paragraphs into today's Daily Blog and already I seem to be doing a lot of explaining. This may, or may not, be down to Muddled Thinking on my part. As I used to tell people who attended my training sessions on Writing for the Public: "clear writing is clear thinking on paper." Sometimes I think I would do well to listen to myself occasionally.

There was a lot to take in at this morning's meeting on account of the fact that our U3A Open Day is looming large. Roland, who is in charge of All Things Open Day Related, had printed off beautifully colour coded plans of the community centre rooms we will be taking over for the day, plus programmes explaining what will be happening when, and where. Our Nomination Whist group, for example, will be Stand number R15 in Room 1. Also with me in Room 1 will be the Mah Jong group, two Backgammon groups, the Bridge players, three Cribbage groups, Rummikub and Mexican Dominoes, plus three Scrabble groups. Hopefully it is a large room...

As well as staffing the Games Room, I will be singing in the choir for 15 minutes from 12.45 on the day and have offered to help out my friend Shirley on the refreshments rota. Convenors are being asked to arrive at 9.30 a.m. to set up their stands. Fortunately as all I have to bring with me is a pack of cards, a couple of score sheets and a card marking whether hearts, clubs, diamonds or spades are "trumps", I shouldn't need to do too much loading and unloading. Which, all things considered, has to be A Good Thing.

At every Convenors Meeting, a couple of us give a short talk on the groups they organise. This morning it was the turn of the Lovely Linda who organises our Birdy Group. It was not going to be easy, she said by way of introduction, to talk for five minutes. Birds is birds, as we always say on those days when our feathered friends stubbornly fail to show themselves as we strain our binoculars on every branch of every tree waiting for a sighting.

After the meeting, I went to collect my car so that I could give Jim and Delia a lift home. Unfortunately I had forgotten that Mr B's rollator was taking up most of the rear seat so poor Delia had an uncomfortable ride home, perched on the wheels. Jim, meanwhile, realised why Mr B takes such great issue with my driving as I took my passengers all around the houses trying to find the way home. My dear Dad used to call this "taking the scenic route" and I rather think I have inherited his innate ability to find the longest way of getting from Point A to Point B.

Back home, later in the day, Wales takes the football equivalent of the scenic route before beating Northern Ireland by one goal to nil in Euro 2016. Mr B and I watch the match together, though I have to keep nipping out into the kitchen to check on the jacket potatoes cooking in the oven, to prepare the salad, to make a salmon and spring onion filling for said potatoes. Mr B can't understand why I couldn't leave all this until after the match - but we have to eat, now don't we?

Down in Wales, My Boy and his family are watching the match in a local hostelry. What the Duracell Bunny, Youngest of the (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys makes of the match has not been recorded, his main contribution to the conversation being to comment that "these chips are the best food in the whole world!"

I am pleased to hear that he obviously takes after his proud Nanna. Like me it would seem - and whatever the distractions of Euro 2016 and Gareth Bale's top-knot - the Duracell Bunny is Always Thinking About His Stomach.

The Darling Daughter in Law says she has been watching way too much football in recent days. I know just what she means - and, let's face it, there's a lot more to come, even if the England, Welsh and Northern Ireland teams decide to do a Brexit.

To be honest, I also feel I need to shoulder some of the blame. Not for Brexit, you understand, but for the fact that the Darling Daughter in Law's home has turned into a Euro 2016 Zone. She is, after all, married to My Boy who has inherited his love of footie from his father. Known to you all ad Mr B.

I, too, live in Football Land at the moment but then I do accept that Mr B and I possibly have football to thank for the fact that we are together. It could have been that, after meeting outside Woolworths on that auspicious day in December 1963, we might have gone our separate ways, never to set eyes on each other again. However among my friends it had become our practice of a Saturday afternoon, after we were thrown out of Pelosi's coffee bar (on account of the fact that none of us seemed inclined to buy a second cup of milky coffee after nursing our first cup for an hour and a half) to make for the local football stadium where we could get in free after half-time. It was somewhere to go, it was free, the football was kind of incidental.

Mr B, on the other hand, went to watch the match. And I was there. He immediately jumped to the conclusion that I was a football fan. You couldn't blame him, not really. It was Misrepresentation of the Highest Order.

I wasn't exactly immune to the excitements of the Beautiful Game. I was, after all, the daughter of a father who loved Family and Football, above all else. I knew what it was like to have to hush during Sports Report on the radio when the scores were read out every Saturday. My sister and I played this great game where you had to guess the score from the intonation of the presenter's voice. Then Our Dad would huddle over his Littlewoods pools coupon working out whether he had won anything. "One day," he would tell us, "Our boat will come in..."

I never quite understood it at the time, the connection between Sports Report and this mythical boat, which I imagined as something grand and golden, with sails billowing in the wind as it made its stately way into harbour. Dear Dad, his boat never did come in.

He was convinced that, even if his boat never made it to land, Mr B and I would one day win the Pools. He was very certain of this - so sure, in fact, that I sometimes wonder why we never "do" the Pools. Though I think these days you don't sit down with a coupon and an HB pencil, the end of which must be sucked in concentration as the score draws are predicted. I'm sure it's not the same.

So I'm not going to win the Pools. Plus the odds on winning the Lottery are decreasing every time they change the rules. I never even win a prize in the U3A monthly raffle. What chance does our boat have, against all the odds?

Then I think about our fifty years of marriage. I think about our great Foursome and our Tremendous Ten grandchildren - and decide that our boat really has come in...


As everyone who knows me - whether as family / friend / reader / occasional Dipper Into The Daily Blog (please delete as appropriate) - is aware, I am renowned as one who is Always Thinking About Her Stomach.

Imagine my excitement, therefore, when I heard that the theme of our latest Voluntary Sector Forum held yesterday and which I was to chair, was to be - yes, as usual, you are there ahead of me - "Food." I was licking my lips at the very thought of it. I was, I must admit, just a tad worried when I was told that we were meeting at a new venue, a place called The Empty Plate Café. Empty plate? What, really, truly empty?

It was certainly my day to feel humbled. Firstly I discovered that the Empty Plate Café is just a few streets away from my house. How can I have lived in this town for more than thirty years and still need to refer to my trusty book of local maps to find my way around my very own neighbourhood? To be fair, the Empty Plate Café has only been open a few weeks - but I should have known the location of its base, the Lovett Centre. I think maybe I should buy myself a bicycle and go cycling around, covering a number of local routes each day until I know my neighbourhood like the back of my hand. It would be a bit like when the Son In Law was studying for The Knowledge in order to qualify as a London black cab driver. Only not nearly so onerous. Mr B thinks the idea of me on a bicycle is only slightly less scary than the thought of potential team changes which Mr Hodgson might make before England heads into its next match in Euro 2016.

There is, I note on arrival, food set out on a table and coffee is being served. I set off towards the coffee station but there are just so many people to talk to on my way across the room that it is looking as if I might have to call the meeting to order and start chairing before I can grab a cuppa. All of a sudden, the Lovely Lucy appears at my elbow with a cup of coffee just for me. Bless her, she knows me so well.

Then came enlightenment on the philosophy behind the Empty Plate Café. It is the first Pay As You Feel Café in West Sussex, taking food donated from stores like Morrisons, Marks and Spencer and Tescos and turning it into delicious meals for customers who may or may not be able to pay the going rate. It's aimed particularly at the young, the old, local families, homeless people - at anyone who may be having to choose between heating their home, paying a bill, or cooking a meal. Mark, the modest mastermind behind the project, thinks nobody should have to make that choice in this day and age. He wants to ensure they can enjoy a delicious, hot, wholesome meal while at the same time he is cutting down on perfectly good food going to landfill.

Just in case anyone is worried that the food donated for the café's use is past its best, Mark has set out fruit, vegetables, bread so we can see the quality for ourselves. I love the story of two particular donations - jars upon jars of mayonnaise, with months to go before the sell-by date but unsellable because their labels carry the Christmas greeting "Ho! Ho! Ho!" Similarly jars of Nutella carrying the exhortation "Enjoy Pancake Day!" All put to excellent use at the Empty Plate Café. In the kitchen, Mark and his fellow volunteers - yes, they give up their time and their cooking skills for no monetary reward, just think of that! - are preparing hot meals for the happy diners who will be queuing up outside to take over the tables when we leave.

While I am still digesting all this information, more speakers stand up to tell the assembled audience about other fantastic "foodie" projects which are underway locally including one designed to help local fishermen and another to create a food network. Every one of our speakers has so much energy, so many ideas, such infectious enthusiasm.

And, I have to admit with utmost humility, none of them were Thinking About Their Own Stomachs...

It's the first day of Summer. Inevitably, some might say, it is tipping it down.

If I had not had to go out, then I would have stayed safe (and dry) indoors with Mr B. We would have pulled up the drawbridge and watched contentedly from Indoors as the rain poured down Outdoors. We would have told each other that the rain would be good for the garden and, in particular, for our sunflowers which are growing apace but will welcome a drenching.

But, no, I had an appointment in town for my six-monthly visit to my very own Tooth Fairy who goes by the name of Julie and is the very best kind of Tooth Fairy though I must admit I have never actually asked her how much she pays per tooth and what she does with all those milk teeth she must have amassed over the years.

Standing at the bus stop, sheltering under my umbrella, I couldn't help noticing that there was nobody else around. Not a single, solitary person braving the elements did I spy in the ten minutes I waited for the Pulse bus. Even the birds were sheltering somewhere out of sight and sound. Fortunately, my stylish umbrella kept most of me dry - it is decorated with scenes of London Town, like Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament and was a present from my Little Sister and her fella so is Doubly Special. I kept a Weather Watch out for other people's brollies on my trip to town but nobody had an umbrella half as stylish as mine.

When the bus eventually turned up, there were only three other passengers on board; usually I would expect it to be at last half full at this time of day. All of us looked kind of huddled up and, yes, wet. The driver welcomed each one of us on board with a sympathetic nod. There were the usual comments about it being good weather for ducks, despite the fact that there wasn't s single duck about, not as far as I could see, anyway. I wonder why we come out with these apparently sage sayings? Aren't we fortunate, in this country, to have a guaranteed topic of conversation on which everybody can express a view? Without fear of contradiction, without rancour, without any requirement for a referendum on which to gather National Opinion.

In the waiting room, my umbrella drips all over the floor, forming a small pool. It reminds me of those days waiting with my grandchildren for the dentist's summons when their main form of entertainment was the cold water dispenser. Mopping up the watery evidence was all part and parcel of a dental appointment. When my Tooth Fairy emerges to welcome me into her Inner Sanctum, I apologise for the state of the waiting room floor but she dismisses my concerns with a wave of her wand. Or, should I say, her arm.

I am in luck. Because of the weather two people have cancelled their appointments with the hygienist so I am able to kill two birds with one stone and check in for one of them. It means a twenty minute wait but I'm perfectly happy taking up my seat in the waiting room again reading the newspapers and keeping an eye on the floor which is gradually drying out. Outside the rain keeps pouring down.

A fellow patient dashes in - she has left her umbrella behind. If it hadn't been raining, she tells me, she might well have reached home before realising she was without it. Her umbrella, I notice, is small and navy-blue. I'm sure it does a reasonable job keeping the rain off her head but it isn't a patch on my umbrella.

Home again and the rain gradually clears. We even see a glimpse of sunshine.
And Tim Peake, returning from his amazing six months on the International Space Station, eats pizza, drinks cold beer - and says that one of the things he has missed most is the rain.

You never know how precious something is until you have to do without it.

I wonder if Tim would like to borrow my umbrella? So long as I get it back, of course...

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

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