Jaqui's Daily Blog

This afternoon at our Nomination Whist group, May announces that it is her birthday this coming Friday. She will be 94 years young and celebrates by winning the first of her games with a whopping 140 points, beating Mr B into second place with just 123 points. Believe me, beating Mr B takes some doing.

I would give a great deal to be like May when I am 94 years old, given that (God willing) I live that long. I love the fact that, after she has parked outside our house and before she sets off down our garden path, she sits in her car to apply a fresh coat of lipstick. Attagirl, May! I remember watching my dear Mum applying her "lippy" and asking her what it was for. "It brightens up my face," she told me. It would make a good advertising slogan, don't you think?

May likes to arrive early at Nomination Whist so that she and I can have a natter before everyone else arrives. Today she tells me about her working days as a nurse and how, the moment anyone hears you are or were a nurse, they insist on coming out with all their ailments in the hope you might have some answers for them. "I always point them in the right direction," May tells me, sagely. I bet she does.

I ask May what is the secret of her long life. I know Young Faris reckons I have reached a Great Age but compared with May I am a Spring Chicken. Hardly out of the egg, in fact. So what do you think May said? Was it all about diet and exercise? Leading a stress-free life? Eating fat-free food? Eating fat-laden food? Avoiding sugar? Piling it on? Something to do with multi-vitamins? No, none of these. May's secret to a long life is quite amazingly simple: wash your hands.

It is, she explains, the only way to avoid infections. May washes her hands at every opportunity, not just the obvious. When she returns home from the supermarket, she tells me, she unpacks all the packets and tins (no Internet shopping for Our May, not as long as she can get to the shops under her own steam) then washes her hands. You never know who has been handling those packets and tins she warns me, the Light of Zeal in her eyes. I am impressed, in spite of myself.

When the children of the Youngest of the Darling Daughters were tiny, she introduced what was called "the soap test." After washing their hands before dinner, for example, they would hold up their hands to be smelt to prove they had used soap, rather than rinsing their fingers under running water. May would have been proud of them.

May is a Gal Who Knows Her Own Mind. I will long cherish the memory of her accosting the Lib Dem candidate in a local election as he crossed garden paths with her on her way to our front door. He was a pale, gibbering wreck by the time she had finished dishing out her views on Politics in General. This was, I must point out, nothing to do with the fact that he was a Liberal Democrat. May would have been equally challenging whatever the political party. Unless there was a Wash Your Hands Party which she would doubtless espouse with open arms (and hands.)

I tell Mr B we need to buy May a birthday card for Friday. He says we should make it a rude one - which he revises to merely "cheeky" when he sees my raised eye-brows. He is right, of course; May loves nothing more than a good laugh. It's why she loves our fortnightly Nomination Whist sessions where there are laughs a-plenty with May leading all the rest. She has always been a bit of a performer, Our May. She shows me a photograph of herself aged about thirty in some Am-Dram production. She looks stunning.


I can't imagine May in a rest home (she would re-organise the place within days) but many people of her age can't live independently any more. Every resident of a nursing home, I think, should have on their bedside table a photograph of themselves as a young person, so that the staff looking after them can see the person they are, beneath the ravages of age.

Happy Birthday for Friday, Our May. You are, indeed, a Legend in Your Own Lifetime.

Margaret Mountford, of The Apprentice fame, says that if we were all to pick up just one piece of litter a day for the duration of her current TV programme, then that would add up to 750 million pieces of litter. That's sufficiently mind-blowing - even without Margaret's head-mistressy voice echoing in my ear - to send me out to search for an old tin can, an empty bottle, a sweet wrapper or something similar which I could dispose of and so experience the rosy glow of virtue.

I share my thoughts with Mr B who keeps very quiet, neither agreeing with the idea nor arguing against it. I have noticed him taking this approach before. There's a legal term I have encountered in the past which states: "the law is silent on this point." Though I am no Legal Eagle, I take this to mean that there is no case law which will either prove, or disprove the point. If I have misunderstood this and you are a real, live Legal Eagle (preferably with wig and gown to prove it) then please feel free to issue a correction. I am very gracious in accepting constructive criticism - gone are the days when, as a sensitive small soul, the merest hint of a critical word would see me in floods of helpless tears.

Anyway, Mr B, like the law, is silent on the issue of litter picking. At least for the time being.

We decide that I am sufficiently recovered to join the rest of our cribbage group for an afternoon of cards. Everyone is pleased to see me and keen to hear the tale of my trip to hospital. I try to keep it short because, heaven knows, we have enough ailments between us to keep a doctor busy for a week. That's what comes of reaching such a Great Age. I enjoy the afternoon but play very, very badly. In the second half of the afternoon I am playing against Ann who is a Cribbage Novice and we keep making basic mistakes, as in moving each other's pegs around the board - so although in theory I win both games, I wouldn't guarantee that this is the correct outcome. It is a good thing Indeed that I wasn't playing Mr B who would not have found this quite as funny as Ann and I did.

We drive home in the dark and have parked the car when I remember I haven't picked up today's piece of litter. I head out to the road and peer about in the darkness looking for something to pick up. All I can find is a Kit Kat wrapper. Still, that is better than nothing and I hope Margaret would be proud of me.

Mr B has forgotten all about Margaret's Challenge to the Nation and can't understand why I have come back into the house clutching a Kit Kat wrapper. He says he is not at all sure that I have my figures right and we have a discussion about the current population of the British Isles. I tell him that, according to Margaret, we as a nation drop 30 million tonnes of litter a year and spend a billion pounds clearing it up. Mr B is silent on this point, as the lawyers would say. He looks at the Kit Kat wrapper now in my hand, soon to be in the bin. Silence, on occasion, speaks louder than words. Nor, it must be said, does he trot outside to pick up his own daily piece of litter. It looks as if I might have to double my efforts if we are not to let Margaret down.

I quite enjoy litter picking, particularly along the beach with the sea-gulls for company and the horizon to gaze upon. Give me a pair of gardening gloves, a plastic sack and one of those useful "grabbers" and I am in my element. I still have my "grabber" from the days when I was recovering from hip surgery. The grandchildren's favourite game when they came to visit and check on my progress was emptying out all the Bananagrams tiles onto the floor and seeing who could pick them all up and deposit them in their banana shaped bag the fastest.

Margaret Mountford is bossy but for all the right reasons. Her TV programme is called "Don't Mess With Me" which has exactly the right mixture of menace and merriment about it. In case you don't have the time to watch it, not being retired like me, I will keep you posted on developments, in particular whether I have remembered the figures correctly, what pieces of detritus I have rescued from the road outside our house, and whether Mr B is still remaining silent.

I am all ready with my response, should he question my devotion to Bossy Margaret's call.

"Don't mess with me!"




Given Mr B's deadline that we must have all our Christmas presents bought and wrapped - plus our Christmas cards written and posted - by the end of November, I have spent the afternoon in Gift Wrap Land.

It's not a place I would recommend visiting too often, only when absolutely necessary. It's not, like, a holiday location where you can rest and relax with a Piña Colada every afternoon. Gift Wrap Land is a land of Sellotape and scissors, of star-shaped tags and glitter, of gift wrap and writing paper. This afternoon, our lIrving room became Gift Wrap Land, just for an hour or two or three.

I have been promising myself for years that one day I will sign up for a course on Perfect Gift Wrapping. Picture the scene: the family arrives downstairs on Christmas morning (Santa having "been") clutching presents from their stocking / sack / pillow-case to see even more gifts stacked under the Christmas tree. There amongst them will be my presents, looking for all the world as if they have been gift-wrapped at Harrods, with glittery bows and colourful labels written in a fine, italic hand. Everyone will want to open my presents first of all, so splendid do they look....

Uh-oh. Houston, we have a problem. My superior gift wrap may well raise undue expectations about the present within. It will be a classic case of style over substance. Perhaps I should stick to my usual style of gift wrapping - clumsy corners and lashings of Sellotape.

I think the Royal Family have the right idea. Apparently it is their custom and practice to search out the most useless presents with which to delight each other. So, for example, Prince Charles might buy his mother (that's the Queen, don't you know) a bread bin and she might reciprocate by buying her son a clothes prop. I think I may suggest this to the family though I am not sure it will go down too well,especially with the Young Ones who won't want to go to school and tell their friends that their grandparents gave them a lemon squeezer for Christmas.

The living room floor is littered with gift wrap and tags, Christmas cards, address labels, and the tools of the trade - scissors, sticky tape, pens and pencils. So impressed is Mr B with this hive of industry that he says he will cook the dinner, even though it is definitely my turn. I consider whether I might actually have the better deal - then I look at the Christmas card list and count up just how many have to be written.

I decide that I will tackle one page per evening. In this way I will easily meet Mr B's deadline. I look at the cards we have bought and try to decide which card we should send to which people. I remember (too late) that last year I promised myself that we would choose just one card to send to everyone. I need to write this down somewhere so that I remember it for next year. You heard it here first.

Several people have changed their addresses since last year; some people have added to their families; sadly, others have died. I hate crossing names off the Christmas card list, it's like losing them all over again.


Oh dear, I need to write Christmas letters to enclose with certain cards - but I can't really write this until The Twins are born. There is no way our Christmas Letter 2014 can omit this most important event of the year but it means there is a little pile of unsealed cards awaiting insertion of my letter when written.

Mr B says he will handle the sending of e-cards to our Friends Overseas. Part of me wants to argue that there are some special people who warrant a "proper" card, sent courtesy of Royal Mail, whatever the cost. Then I look round the living room at the mess I have created in just one short afternoon.

I decide that perhaps, all things considered, I should be Grateful for Small Mercies.


We pulled the curtains very early this afternoon. It wasn't all that dark but it was very, very gloomy so shutting out the weather and pretending it was later than it actually was seemed A Good Plan.

It did mean that I was no longer able to keep a watchful eye on next door's black and white cat who has been prowling round the bushes looking for any birds silly enough to leave the safety of the high branches. I always have my armchair in the perfect position for a good view of the garden and all that is going on out there. In the sweet days of spring, the sultry days of summer, the fruitful days of autumn this puts me firmly in pole position. Like Nico Rosberg, except that it didn't do him too much good today (of which more later.) Sadly the view from my armchair on wet wintry days like today is, like, wet, wet, wet. Like the pop group but less tuneful.

Incidentally, why would anyone call a pop group Wet, Wet, Wet? Do you think it's meant to be ironic? I've never been too good at irony myself (or ironing for that matter but I do need to keep to the subject before I lose my train of thought so please forgive me for leaving this hanging in the air, a particularly annoying non sequitur.) This is the reason I don't resort to the use of irony in the Daily Blog. Or, if I do, it is purely coincidental.

To return to the weather. Do I have to? It really has been a shocking day. Mr B headed manfully off to Tesco's and returned wet, wet, wet and, no, he wasn't singing. He was not a Happy Bunny. Still, all was not lost because this has been a great day for televised sport, mostly from sunnier climes, hence bringing a bit of welcome warmth into our day.

I was particularly interested in the Grand Prix from Abu Dhabi but for all the wrong reasons. Regular readers will remember that last week I was watching the rugby in the hope of seeing some good pictures of the Gamesmakers' Choir. I love the way these volunteers from the 2012 Olympics have been keeping the spirit of the Games alive through song. Today I was watching the build-up to the Grand Prix in the hope that there might be a mention of another British team of world beaters - that's Team Colossus, a team of students from Robert May's School based in Odiham, Hampshire, the worthy winners of the F1 in the World Schools Championships. The youngsters were out in Abu Dhabi today, watching Lewis Hamilton take the title. I know Our Lewis was the main story but I do think the programme makers missed a good story about the bright future for British F1 if Team Colossus have anything to do with it.

Team Colossus is a pretty good name, don't you think? Better than Wet, Wet, Wet any day. Possibly one for a future team on The Apprentice to adopt. I shall write to Lord Sugar and suggest it. Along with suggesting that the pupils from Team Colossus might be a better investment than his latest crop of would-be entrepreneurs. I should perhaps explain that my interest is because two of my grandkids, while not part of Team Colossus, are former or current pupils at Robert May's School. Even grandparents are entitled to feel proud by association, don't you know?

Once I realised that there was not going to be any mention of Team Colossus I didn't sulk for long. I decided to watch through till the end, in between making up my knitted reindeer. If the stitches are a little uneven in places, this marks the exciting moments in the race. I always forget how long it takes to make up one of my knitted characters. Our Lewis crossed the finishing line to a display of fireworks which completely overshadowed the chequered flag while I was still stuffing antlers. If you have never stuffed a knitted antler - and I suspect not many of you have - then you need to know it requires enormous patience and judicious use of a knitting needle to tease the stuffing inside the long, narrow opening.


The televised sport goes on and on. We are now watching Hull versus Spurs. If Spurs don't pull back from the jaws of defeat, then Mr B will be miserable all evening so Something Needs To Happen. Hull are down to ten men which may help. This is, I admit, unsporting in the extreme but my whole evening depends on Spurs winning. You can't really blame me, can you? Unless, of course, you are a Hull supporter, in which case I send you my grovelling apologies.

All is well in the world. Spurs have won, not quite in the style of Lewis Hamilton or Team Colossus but a win's a win for a' that. Did you like the way I seamlessly segued into Scots dialect? I have been trying for ages to (i) use Scottish dialect and (ii) somehow introduce the verb segue into the blog. Whatever the state of my stuffed antlers (and to be honest they look a bit wonky, even before I attach them to the reindeer's woolly head) I have succeeded in something.

What is more - tomorrow is undoubtedly another day. As Annie (of Annie fame) put it so very well: "The sun will come out tomorrow....just you wait and see!"

Bless you, Annie. I am with you all the way!


Before my "Get Up and Go" inexplicably got up and went, I was a busy, busy bee. Far too busy, Mr B used to grumble as I set off on the Pulse bus for yet another adventure. How are the mighty (or, should I say, the busy) fallen!

As regular readers will know, I spent a day in hospital this week, taking in blood like a Regular Vampire. I know quite a bit about vampires and werewolves and the like having been introduced to the genre of vampire fiction by my older grandchildren. It is perfectly possible, I must concede, that this is no longer the big deal it once was. Vampires may well be so last year. Whatever, there is no doubting the restorative powers of a good dose of O plus blood so God bless the blood donors, say I. The Eldest of the Darling Daughters and My Boy - both long-time blood donors with badges to prove it - are quietly happy that they are part of the band which helped out their "'Opeless' Mother".

My friend, the lovely Lucy, messages me to say that at least my sense of humour appears to be undamaged. Perhaps of all our senses, the sense of humour is the last to leave us. I am reminded of Spike Milligan who wanted the inscription on his gravestone to read: "I told you I was ill." What style! (The Lovely Lucy, by the way, is not to be confused with the Lovely Linda who runs the Birdy Group, bringing me together with a dozen binocular-wielding bird-lovers like Scottish Christine, Witty Jean and Tall Margaret. I am hoping that by now you are starting to recognise the rich cast of colourful characters who people the Daily Blog though I am prepared to accept that one day I should put together a glossary. I shall put it on my To Do list for when I am allowed to be busy again.

Now that I am well on the Road to Recovery, Mr B is reminding me that the Christmas Deadline is fast approaching. For all of you who imagine that the last day for seasonal purchases is Christmas Eve, I have to tell you that Mr B has his own personal deadline by which time he expects all our presents to be purchased and our Christmas cards written and ready for posting. This deadline - wait for it - is the end of November. Which is just ten days away. I wondered if it might be possible to squeeze out an extra day but recourse to that popular rhyme which starts: "Thirty days hath September...." confirmed my worst fears. Ten days it is.

One of the jobs I can do, which doesn't require too much energy, is to ask family members for lists of acceptable Christmas presents. Unfortunately most of them respond to say that it is only November 20th and they haven't even begun to think about Christmas so can I just stop hassling them, just because I haven't anything better to do with my time at the moment? OK, they don't actually say that, all of them being far too kind and generally fond of me, but I am pretty good at reading between the lines.

The exceptions to the rule are the oldest of the Not So Very Little Welsh Boys. At their After School Club a few days ago, they spent a happy time with their classmates drafting lengthy Christmas Gift Lists of quite magnificent proportions. However, in between the requests for I Pads and X Boxes and other Things Technological, doubtless influenced by their classmates, Young James had requested a puppy, while brother Sam had gone one better and asked for "a new baby brother."

Their father, My Boy, reading through both lists when he picked the lads up from school, told them in no uncertain terms that they had more chance of getting a puppy for Christmas than a new baby brother. At which, I am told, both boys went dashing down the road calling out to all their friends that they were getting a puppy for Christmas... I have no idea how (or if) My Boy wriggled out of that one.


Now if I wanted to be a really, really popular grandmother, I know just what I should buy them for Christmas. My Boy and the Darling Daughter in Law would, in all probability, never talk to me again.


I am sorry, Sam and James, but that really would be a Price Too High to Pay.



Latest comments

23.11 | 21:24

For once I have to disagree with you - Hull being my local club! Still I hope you are feeling much better - and will sacrifice a Hull win if it kept Mr B happy

18.11 | 21:21

Get well soon xxx

16.11 | 22:52

Aww. Thank you Jacq ui. This was a fab surprise!

04.11 | 07:33

Just love it Jacqui....what talented grandchildren you have.

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