Jaqui's Daily Blog

Playing games is always an important part of a Nanna Visit as far as my (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys and their parents are concerned. The same applies whether the visit in question involves them travelling to see their Grandad (Mr B) and me or whether I travel to Cardiff on the train. Either way, it’s all about The Games.


On this most recent visit, we found that our time for playing games was a little more limited than usual, with one whole day given over to the Family Beach Day and another to a visit to Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard. Hence the boys and I came up with the novel idea of playing two games at once. It turned out to be an interesting experiment in exercising the brain. Here is how we did it.


We chose two games for our experiment. The first was that age-old card game called Sevens. I’m sure you have all played Sevens at least once in your life but, just in case you have forgotten the rules, all the cards are dealt out and the players take it in turns trying to be the first to use up all their cards by completing sets of hearts, clubs spades and diamonds - starting with the seven of diamonds. What you really, really don’t want to find is that you have a hand full of Kings and Aces - or to be playing against a Cunning Type like Young James who enjoys holding up play by keeping, say, the eight of clubs firmly in his hand. 


Our other chosen game was called “Guess Zoo” for which we all had to wear a coloured headband into which a picture of an animal, bird or insect was randomly inserted. The objective of the game was to guess which animal, bird or insect you were by asking questions to which the other players would only answer Yes or No. Hopefully you now have a brief understanding of both games?


In order to play two games at once, each time a player set down a card he or she had to ask a question. Sounds simple enough, did you say? Indeed it wasn’t - it proved extremely tricky, for a start, to keep one eye on what was happening in in the card game, at the same time remembering the answers to the questions you had asked about your Zoo Identity. What made it even more difficult was that the boys - animal lovers all - didn’t confine their questions to easy ones like “do I have four legs?” or “am I fluffy?” but preferred to query “Am I a carnivore?” “Am I a mammal?” or “Am I am amphibian?” Honestly I had been worrying that Guess Zoo might prove to be a bit young for my boys - I wasn’t expecting it would prove such a challenge for me, struggling to get in touch with my Inner David Attenborough.


The Welsh Boys love an experiment. We found time, even while we were preparing for Family Beach Day, to make fruit lollies using blueberries and raspberries mixed with Greek yoghurt. The idea was to serve them up as a surprise to their cousins and other relatives when we returned to our house from the beach at the day. I was made to promise that I wouldn’t let anyone into the secret -“Cross my heart and hope to die!” I declared, theatrically, only to have Young Sam throw his arms around me: “Please don’t hope to die!” he cried. I need to choose my words more carefully...


The lollies were a great success, despite a few problems turning them out of their moulds. None of the cousins seemed concerned about being served up slightly misshapen desserts and everyone declared them to be delicious. The boys, buoyed by this success, have already decided on further experimentation on their next visit - strawberries and chocolate are top of their list of ingredients though I’m not sure if we will be making two different types of lollies or a strawberry chocolate mixture. 


Given the problems we experienced in playing two games at once, I reckon we should play safe....

When we gathered back at our house for fish and chips at the end of yet another Family Beach Day (a tradition dating back so very many years) we all agreed that we were feeling as if we had had a day in the sun. We were all, to a person (both small and tall, young and not-so-young) rosy-cheeked and sun-kissed.


Yes, I must admit that it was a Windy Miller day and My Boy and the Darling Daughter in Law couldn’t quite believe that nobody had thought to bring a windbreak along to Littlehampton beach. Before our very eyes, they unfolded their famous tent and set it up on the beach where it would provide a cosy retreat for assorted littl’uns over the course of the afternoon. Lilia, aka Contrary Lil and the younger of the Twins by one important minute, suddenly became extremely sociable, cuddling up to her uncle and auntie with great affection. I’m sure this wasn’t completely due to the fact that they were sitting in the tent, out of the wind...


Our 2019 Beach Day attracted an excellent turnout of twenty including all four of my grown-up children, one Son-in-Law (Dunk-em Dave), the aforementioned Darling Daughter in Law, nine of the Tremendous Ten grandchildren (we missed you, Katie!), one boyfriend, one niece, two great-nephews - plus, of course, me, myself and I. Sadly I was unable to book a wheelchair assisted taxi to convey Mr B to and from the beach - but he was appeased more than a little by the fact that there was Test Match cricket on TV and that he would see us all on our return home.


Excitement knew no bounds among the younger set - the three (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys and the Rascally Trio. The cousins don’t get together as much as they would like but there was an immediate and delightful Cousinly Camaraderie. Sam, Eldest of the Welsh Boys, took his role of looking after the littl’uns extremely seriously, never once straying off on his own teenage business, while Faris the Rascal, accustomed to being the only boy among the Trio, loved being “one of the gang” with his male cousins.


In my early morning discussions with Young Morgan, he had pointed out (fairly reasonably, I must admit) that I would probably spend most of Family Beach Day sitting and talking. I was slightly stung by the criticism, fair as it might be (sitting and talking is, after all, one of the Great Pleasures of Family Beach Day) so when it came to taking a trip along the prom (prom, prom) to the Lions Den playground, I was quick to volunteer to be one of the accompanying adults. Hopefully my grandson didn’t notice that I spent most of the time sitting on a convenient bench with his mother, catching up on all the family news from her end and mine. 


Dunk’em Dave took to the water but was unable to persuade anybody else to join him, not even Hazel Bagel, his water-baby of a daughter - so there was no actual dunking going on. He did, however, manage to hug all the unsuspecting late comers on arrival, ensuring that they ended up a trifle soggy. It’s part of his charm. 


The Middle of the Darling Daughters impressed by actually making her picnic lunch for herself and the Trio on the beach, balancing a container of tuna on her cool-box thus giving the appearance  of a make-shift sandwich shop. With the emphasis on “sand” you understand.


Eleanor, fourth oldest of the Tremendous Ten, had completely forgotten her twin beach chair but made up for it by handing round delicious chocolate brownies to the assembled gathering. She also made us laugh by recounting lessons from her holiday work for a care agency on how to gently support an Aged Person to walk. No, it wasn’t the actual lessons that made us laugh, but the fact that she demonstrated on me...


Lovely Debbie, my niece, turned up with her boys in tow, despite heavy traffic and a poorly daughter at home. As one of the founder members of Family Beach Day she never misses it if she can possibly help it. 


For Zac, The Boyfriend, it was his first Family Beach Day. Aware that meeting our family at full strength for the first time can be a trifle daunting for anybody, however confident, I enquired of him, solicitously, how he was finding the experience. He assured me that he was enjoying himself and that he totally “got it.”


You have to be there, I suppose, to understand. It’s a day. On a beach. With family.


There’s nothing quite like it.




The small, wheel-along travel case was, unfortunately, a bit of a mistake.


Usually when I go away for a Long Weekend, I pack just as much as I can easily carry in my rather beautiful Radley overnight bag, a birthday present from My Boy some years ago. To this I add my splendid backpack (another present from the same source - My Boy is clearly Good On Luggage) in which I Pack all the essentials for a train journey. Purse, mobile phone, newspaper, hastily thrown together sandwiches (usually egg, because everyone always has eggs in their cupboard, now don’t they?) and a good book which I have been longing to tuck into but have saved for this very purpose. 


Then Rosalie, the really rather wonderful person who had agreed to live in and look after Mr B while I was away, suggested I should use a wheeled suitcase - so much easier for me on my walk to and from the railway station - and it sounded like a good idea at the time. I hauled my old wheeled suitcase out of the garage and threw clothes into it with gay abandon. 


I first discovered the flaw in Rosalie’s reasoning when I tried to carry my suitcase across the footbridge over the railway track at our local station. It was SO heavy. As I staggered over the bridge, a young, fit-looking fella, asked if I would like a hand, grabbed my case, ran across the footbridge, placed my case carefully on the platform and then retraced his steps at a run: “Sorry to rush,” he said, “but I don’t want to miss my train..” He just made it, I was pleased to see, feeling quite teary at this sterling example of The Kindness of Strangers. Particularly of a stranger who could well have missed his train through helping me...


At the end of my journey, the Youngest of the Darling Daughters was waiting for me. “What on earth have you got in this case?” she queried. Next time, I told myself silently, I will go back to my trusty fashion of Travelling Light.


Holidays - even a Long Weekend - are all about indulging in things you don’t usually have the chance to do. The Middle and Youngest of the Darling Daughters had put their heads together to ensure that my Long Weekend would be full of such delights. I wasn’t asking for much - a chance  to go to bed early every night and stay tucked up till morning without being called upon for assistance; the opportunity to lie in until after 9 a.m. listening to the radio before rising at my leisure, knowing that breakfast was being prepared for me. 


I slept in granddaughter Hazel Bagel’s bedroom which is possibly the most inspirational bedroom anyone could imagine. There are plaques hanging on every wall, proclaiming “Never let anyone dull your sparkle”, “Follow your dreams”, “Do what you love every day.” It’s like waking up each morning bathed in sunshine, expecting another sparkling bright day. I gather Hazel feels she may have grown out of these Inspirational Reminders - but I’m hoping that, if so, she will pack them away safely somewhere in a memory box. Then one day when she is strutting her stuff, wowing the crowds in a West End Stage, she can revisit the Girl With The Dreams she once was.


I never get to go out for an evening meal these days - so my daughters have booked (i) a table at a local hostelry and (ii) grandson Jack to keep the Rascally Trio in order while we are out. I order sea bass which is one of the most expensive dishes on the menu and a floater coffee afterwards because I assume we will be sharing the bill. My daughters think differently. 


I never get to see the littl’uns in their own home. So we have a lovely afternoon at their house where they show me the books they have borrowed from the library for the Summer Reading Challenge. Tala’s two books are about cats and kittens. I learn quite a lot about the feline character which stands me in good stead when back at Kazza’s house where kittens Willow and Trixie reign supreme over the household. 


On my very last morning we have brunch, the Youngest of the Darling Daughters, the Eldest of the Grandsons and I (I never have brunch) and then, guess what we do? - we head to the cinema where we lie back in comfy, reclining seats  to watch Toy Story 2. Which is all about Love and Loyalty, don’t you know? 


Back home I come across the following: “The most beautiful things in life are not things. They’re people and places and memories and pictures. They’re feelings and moments and smiles and laughter.”


Which, now I come to think of it, perfectly sums up my Long Weekend




I am walking to Wellworth Park in the village of Hook to meet the Rascally Trio and their proud mamma, Middle of the Darling Daughters. We have a date with the slide, the trampoline, the roundabout and swings. Not to forget the “wonkey donkey.”


I am here in Hook staying for a few blessed days of rest and relaxation with the Youngest of the Darling Daughters and her family. Because both these daughters live within a fifteen minute walk of each other, this means that, as their visitor, I get the Best of Both Worlds. As in, fun and frolics with the Rascals sandwiched between instalments of blissful peace and quiet in my home from home with their auntie, known to the Trio as Kazza. 


We have arranged to meet at the park and even before we arrive we can see the Trio racing towards us. Faris the Rascal is astride his new bike wearing an awesome silver cycle helmet through which his sweet but mischievous face can only just about be seen. Tala, Eldest of the Twins by one important minute, is clad in jeans and tee-shirt, the perfect garb for a playground workout. Her twin, Lilia (aka Contrary Lil) is dressed in her flowing Elsa princess dress, possibly the most unsuitable outfit for the occasion. While her siblings are riding bikes, she has insisted on taking her scooter, which she resorted to carrying shortly after setting off for the playground, clasping it possessively to her front.


Oh, what fun in the playground! I particularly liked the fact that among the many new pieces of equipment installed in the park is one of those old-fashioned horses with seats for five on the back (see photo) of the kind my own Foursome used to ride on Many Moons Ago. The old ones are the best ones, I tell my daughters. Though I must make an exception for the Wonkey Donkey, a comical beast on a spring, which appears a much better, safer design than previous versions. I don’t  even try to sit on its deep seat as I am pretty sure I won’t be able to extricate myself. How embarrassing it would be to have to be hauled, unceremoniously, from a Wonkey Donkey by my grandchildren ...


After an hour in the park, we head back to Kazza’s house where I have a surprise for each of the Trio in the shape of three of those incredibly expensive children’s magazines with plastic toys fastened alluringly on the front cover. I know, I know, I really shouldn’t be adding to the Single Use Plastic Mountain but it’s not like I buy them every week and we did need to keep the Trio occupied.


I am a little worried because, of the three magazines, two look particularly exciting while one looks rather, well, worthy. To explain, on the front of Young Faris’s magazine is all the wherewithal to make three toy lollipops while the toys on the front of Lilia’s include something called Unicorn Slime. This (so her mother informs me) is every four year old’s current “must have.” By comparison, the toys on the front of Tala’s magazine are all Medical Related - a plastic stethoscope, thermometer, doctor’s watch and a tube of unspecified medication. “Nanni picked it specially for you!” Kazza cunningly tells her niece - who immediately decides that her magazine is by far the best of the three.


Young Faris, having made his lollipops, is desperate to get his hands on some Unicorn Slime, while Contrary Lil is equally determined to keep hold of it at all costs. Oh, the negotiation! The endless bargaining! I am seriously considering sending a whole consignment of Unicorn Slime to Number 10, Downing Street to assist our Prime Minister in future negotiations with Michel Barnier...


Meanwhile every member of the family is being subject to a thorough examination by Dr Tala, has his or her heart checked, temperature recorded and ointment carefully applied to his or her “ouch.” We are all pronounced fit and well, which is a great relief to everyone. Would you like to be a doctor one day?” we ask her. She gives the question due consideration before replying earnestly: “Maybe - otherwise I’d like to be a penguin...”


Love, love, love that girl of mine!


You won’t believe this but I have joined a gym! Yes, indeed, at my Great Age. 


I did once have membership at a local health club way back when I was a Working Gal but I reluctantly had to surrender my membership when I retired as I couldn’t manage to justify the expense per visit. Especially when I only ever used the swimming pool where I would swim up and down very, very slowly (the poor lifeguard had to keep jumping to his feet for a better view, in order to assure himself that I hadn’t actually died in the water - yes, I really was that slow) before thankfully making my way into the café for a restorative skinny latte. And, occasionally, a bun. 


My new gym isn’t one frequented by the fit-looking lads and lasses of the Lycra Brigade. No, it is one designed precisely for people like me with rickety joints, dodgy knees and Recovering Shoulders. It doesn’t have to be a shoulder that’s Recovering, I guess it could just as likely be a knee, or a hip or just about any part of the body you care to mention. It is, however, an exclusive club in that you have to be referred for membership by a Medical Professional. Which, in my case, was Sweet Sophia, my physiotherapist. Was this something I would be prepared to consider, she asked me at my last appointment? Well, you know me, I hate to disappoint - so of course I said yes. It was worth it to see her pleasure as she skipped off to fill in a referral form for me.


Hence it was that the other day I found myself wandering the streets in my car looking for the Rowans Gym. It was surprisingly near home, I could easily walk there and back so long as I still had enough puff  left to carry out my exercise programme when I arrived. Yes, indeed, I even have an exercise programme, compiled by my new personal trainer, Marie. At least, I have half an exercise programme, we are going to work on the second half next week. It will involve much stretching, apparently. Which is good because everybody needs to be stretched, don’t you think?


Marie is an extremely perceptive person. She observes that I still instinctively protect my Recovering Shoulder when, for example, using an arm to push myself up from a low chair. She watches me as I clamber clumsily aboard exercise bikes, treadmills, and rowing machines and is quick to veto machines which look as if they will do me and The Recovering Shoulder more harm than good. She tells me that she thinks the rowing machine is going to be my best ally in my Fight For Fitness. Eat your heart out, James Cracknell. What I particularly love about the rowing machine is that there is a strategically placed grab rail on the wall next to it to help me haul myself out of the low seat when I’ve finished pushing and pulling. You wouldn’t find that in the usual type of gym, where everybody is fit enough to spring onto or off of every exercise machine with nonchalant ease.


What’s more, there are classes I can join. There’s yoga, Pilates, Boxercise, table tennis, Bootcamp and something called Strong and Steady, described as an “entry level class specifically designed around improving strength and stability.” Marie tells me it is particularly good for those who have a tendency to fall or are afraid of falling. I am not sure if this includes the likes of me who has made a practice over many years of falling up (and down) steps and stairs. I also like the sound of the Chair Based Class, not necessarily because it is chair based, you understand, but because the blurb informs me that it is “followed by a drink.” Designed to appeal to the coffee drinkers among us. I tell Marie that I plan to give all the classes a try, to test out which I like the best. She nods, approvingly and I bask in her approbation. Such a Teacher’s Pet, I am.


Mr B suspects that I am looking for Blog-worthy material, hence my sudden enthusiasm for joining a gym.


Perish the thought...


Latest comments

12.08 | 09:53

Very nice, really i appreciate....well done.

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21.05 | 10:09

I'm needing to find information about the usher family tree for my aunty, her great grandparent where Thomas and Phoebe Usher would I've been researching

21.05 | 10:03

Hi Karen,
I'm helping my aunt with her family tree her maiden name was usher. do you have any other information or found anything about the usher family

18.04 | 17:19

Oh that's such a good read Jaqui! It's great to see it through your eyes, and you capture it beautifully... and you will indeed look like real athletes too!

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