Jaqui's Daily Blog

The Robin hopped right up to the French doors yesterday morning. "Traitor!" I told him.


Where was he, I asked, when we needed him? Where was he hiding on Saturday afternoon when Mr B and I pulled the sofa round to face out into the back garden and, Us Pad at the ready, prepared to record all the birds frequenting our garden over the course of an hour. Yes, indeed, it was the RSPB's Great British Garden Bird Watch. Like the Bake Off but without cakes or pastries and not a soggy bottom in sight.


I swear he blushed, that Robin. Or perhaps it was just the reflection from his beautiful red breast.


To talk about the birds "frequenting" our garden was something of a misnomer. We counted three pigeons, two sparrows and two gulls. Of the common variety. It was truly a pitiful tally. The only positive I could come up with was that it was an extremely pleasant hour, sitting there on the sofa in quiet companionship with Mr B. Every so often he would say something like: "Is that a vulture circling overhead?" Or, his favourite: "I could swear that was a puffin." I am not sure his heart was completely in the exercise - but I know he would have brightened up (like the Robin's breast) had any of our "regulars" deigned to turn up.


No, not even the ever-faithful Mr and Mrs Blackbird arrived. Not a single tit, blue, great, coal or long-tailed. Not even the bovver boy starlings or the strutting magpies. Our garden, usually a haven for bird life, was deserted. I suspect that they realised there were richer pickings elsewhere. Neighbours who had spent hours making bird seed cake out of molten lard, tasty meal worms and other Disgusting Stuff. Me, I just popped into the Pet Shop and bought a coconut shell filled with Something Appetising To A Bird and some suet logs. Obviously I did not lay on enough of a feast to attract guests to my (bird) table. I feel like the fella in the Bible who set out a table groaning with goodies, only to find that no body came. He, of course, went out into the highways and byways to invite the poor and the hungry to his table. It's not so easy with birds, you know. They are not like sheep, they will not be herded. You just have to wait and hope they will come...


Mr B said I could always cheat and submit a return more in keeping with our usual gathering of the Feathered Ones. But, no, I was brought up by parents who considered cheating on a par with theft and murder, and only slightly less heinous than treating another person unkindly. There was no way I could go against such an upbringing.


There was no cheating, either, at the Fish 'n' Chip 'n' Quiz Supper yesterday evening. Apparently the free WiFi had been turned off for the evening to prevent any possible Smartphone Shenanigans. We'd invited avid quizzers Jim and Delia to join us and we were all in high spirits as we drove to Littlehampton and the Fish Factory. We usually do pretty well at Quiz Nights, we reminded ourselves.


All started well. The first round was all about American Presidents. As in, a biscuit you can dunk in your tea? Answer: Lincoln. (Garibaldi was a bit of a temptation but we fortunately stayed grounded in the US of A.) We scored a creditable nine out of ten, only failing on question eight, a cartoon cat. (Answer: Garfield. " Of course, of course!" we shrieked, crossly.)


The second round was almost as good. We weren't too sure when they announced that the theme was "celebrities" but we did pretty well, even though we couldn't remember Katie Price's celebrity name. Was it Morgan? I wondered, though I knew very well it wasn't. Well, Jordan isn't a million miles away. By the time the fish and chips were served we were in fourth place and feeling confident.


After which everything went horribly wrong. The next category was "Sit Coms" which didn't bode well. Now, if it had only been Cookery shows or programmes about Antiques, we might have stood a chance. We scored a pitiful four and a half and that was only because the team on the table next to ours, who were marking our answers, took pity on us and gave us half a point for "Brendan" as the star of Mrs Brown's Boys. Even though we failed to remember his surname. Was if O'Donnell? I had asked my fellow team members. I had mixed him up with Danny, he of the gospel songs. It wasn't my finest moment.


Things went from bad to worse in round four which was "Lyrics". Oh, glory be, it even carried a double score. We managed just one answer - "Imagine" by John Lennon. A glorious two points out of twenty. We didn't even win a raffle prize, Mr B and me - though Delia and Jim made off with a bottle of the Sparkling Stuff.


But, here's the point - we took part and we had fun. Taking part is, indeed, what it is all about. At the Quiz Night, as for the RSPB Bird Watch. The Quiz Night raised £857 for Cancerwise - well done to my friend Emma who organised it. We won't know the result of The Bird Watch till March but it's safe to say that over seven million birds will have been seen and recorded.


Just not in our garden.

There was a bit of a rumpus at choir yesterday.


It was the first choir session of the NewYear for Brian and me because, as regular readers will recall, last week our car broke down on the way. There was no Viva, Viva La Musica for us last Friday.


However that was all in the past and, arriving at the Community Centre half an hour before start time, we had the pleasant surprise of a refund for our missed meal. This didn't make up for our lost lunch completely (everyone said the food was the best yet) though it certainly helped. Judith reported that, though the food was excellent, the restaurant was a trifle chilly. "You should have put a jumper on," lectured Myra, who always has an answer for everything. Even when she quite obviously doesn't, if you know what I mean.


A little earlier, while we were all waiting in the cafe for the Ballet School to vacate the hall where they dance and we sing, Myra had complained bitterly about "the idiot" who had parked too close to her. "Well, that was me, actually!" said Bold Beatrice. I'm not sure I would have been so honest. Myra was completely unabashed. If the cap fits....you could almost hear her thinking. Fortunately there was no opportunity for a potential argument to escalate because at that precise moment a dozen little lasses in royal blue leotards burst through the door, a colourful signal that we could now gain entry to the hall and start setting the chairs out.


The rumpus started a little later just as we had all taken our places. I sit in the second row of the altos, next to my friend Sue where we frequently set each other off with the giggles at the antics of our fellow choristers. Our conductor, The Redoubtable Muriel, had climbed onto her wooden podium and was standing legs apart and arms akimbo, waiting for us all to stop the chatter. Just as she was about to call us to order, a woman wearing a grey wooly cardigan whose name I didn't know (the name of the woman, not the name of the cardigan - please keep up) stood up and made her way to the front. She had Something To Say, she announced self-importantly. Well, we all sat up and took notice, in case we were about to hear Something to Our Advantage.


Mrs Grey Cardigan cleared her throat and declared herself less than satisfied with the songs that we sing. Did we not all agree, she said, looking round at us all through challenging eyes, that we should sing more modern songs, like those by Lennon & McCartney or Elton John? OK, she conceded, these songs were still the best part of forty years old but they were of "our era" rather than that of our parents and grandparents. There was a spell-bound silence as we all glanced at The Redoubtable Muriel to see how she would respond.


The thing is, this has been a discussion point ever since Mr B and I joined the choir, just over two years ago. But never has it been so, well, openly raised. Ian the Engineer once managed, on a Questers behind the scenes visit to the local Library, to find the words and music of Abba's Thank You for the Music and, through careful negotiation, had this added to our repertoire. We already do sing the Beatles' When I'm Sixty Four - although we are thinking of changing the words slightly to recognise the fact that virtually all of us are past the magic age and dangling grandchildren on our knees, as envisaged by the song writers. We even sing the Rhythm of Life though Muriel really doesn't "get" the words at all. "Flip your wings and fly to Daddy," she intones, "What exactly does it mean? "

 

Mrs Grey Cardigan's challenge was the main topic of conversation for the Bacon Bap Brigade in the cafe afterwards. Most of us were on Muriel's side, while at the same time debating how we might infiltrate some more modern music into our song books. "I like the songs we sing!" I'd told her after our session closed - and she said she was quite prepared to consider more modern songs provided they met her two criteria - a good (singable) tune and words with real meaning.


The challenge is on!

 

 

Tuesday was Democracy Day - where better to find myself than at the seat of British Democracy, the House of Commons. Yes, I admit, I am a Name Dropper - but I don't do it that often. Or, when I do drop names, then they are worthy, but hardly famous, types. Though the likes of Tall Margaret, Lovely Linda, Scottish Jean and Delia of the Warm Heart may well be achieving fame of sorts through the Daily Blog.


I was at the House of Commons for the launch of a report on the future of local infrastructure, representing Voluntary Action Worthing, the organisation I am privileged to chair. I was accompanied by my VAW colleague, Natasha, and a very jolly time we had too.


We met up on the train. I phoned ahead to tell Natasha that I was in the second carriage, near the back. I had intended to hang out of the window when the train reached her station, but this is a bit more difficult on modern trains. It is fortunate that the Old Gentleman didn't have this problem when he waved back at the Railway Children. The story might have never reached its satisfactory conclusion ("My Daddy, oh my Daddy!") had the train in question not been a good old Puffing Billy with windows which you pulled down with a leather strap. Yes, indeed, I am showing my age...


We had worried rather about what to wear, given that it was an extremely cold day. Wrapping up warm while at the same time looking appropriately elegant for the grand surroundings of the Terrace Pavilion was a Tall Order. Natasha, who has much more style than I, changed out of a darling pair of pink ankle wellies into smart heels; I stayed true to my long boots with the wedge heels because I knew I had to walk from Victoria and back and I didn't want to totter along. Tottering is not a good look.


There was airport style security to negotiate in order to gain admission to the House. I, of course, distinguished myself by setting off the alarms as I passed through. I explained about the artificial hip and shoulder to the sweet policewoman on duty. "Show-off!" she laughed, as she expertly frisked me for hidden weapons. Of which, I hasten to assure you, there were none.


We were early for the Main Event so the charming receptionist on the desk in the Great Hall (no photographs, please) suggested that we take up places in the Public Gallery to listen to the debate. Mr B and I did, once upon a time, take our children to listen to a Commons debate on the basis that we should introduce them, young as they were, to the Principles of Democracy. I seem to remember they weren't that impressed but perhaps they were just too young?

 

To be honest, Tuesday's debate wasn't exactly scintillating until a bit of a scrap developed over whether the Scottish National Party, given Scottish independence in some future referendum, would become a member of NATO and a seat of nuclear power. Too many ifs and buts as far as I was concerned - and, anyway, Natasha was nudging me and telling me it was time we made our way to the Terrace Pavilion.


For One Who Is Always Thinking Of Her Stomach, the reception had much to recommend it. It was reminiscent of last weekend's Jolly Girls Outing with an afternoon tea of finger sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream plus a selection of delicious cakes. All that was missing was the Jolly Girls themselves.


A scan of the room suggested that Natasha was one of the youngest in the gathering and I was one of the oldest. We therefore covered all the bases perfectly. Both of our MPs turned up in response to my emails, though they didn't stay long. To be an MP, I have decided, one must perfect the art of being seen to be present before vanishing into thin air, all the while giving the impression that you are on your way to some Even More Important Event.


I think we did pretty well, Natasha and I, at networking - aka nabbing poor, unsuspecting people and making them talk to us. All while balancing a plate consisting of three finger sandwiches, a scone and an eclair with a cup of coffee.


The speeches were good. Lots of people took photographs, holding their mobile phones high above their heads to capture the scene. I tried to do the same but ended up with a hazy shot of the backs of people's heads.


As we left, there was a display of country dancing going on. It seemed somewhat incongruous in the Seat of Democracy but who am I to argue? We parted outside the House, Natasha making for Westminster tube station while I set off to walk back to Victoria Station.


I am glad I went with Natasha. It was so much more fun than going alone. If there is ever a next time, I will be the one wearing pink ankle wellies. At my Great Age, I think I could probably just about get away with it.


Even in the Venerable Seat of British Democracy.

 

This afternoon, at our Nomination Whist group, the conversation turned to Burglaries I Have Known.


I missed out on the start of the conversation as I was out in the kitchen making the tea. Half way through our session, once we have finished the first of the afternoon's two games, we have a short break for tea, coffee and biscuits. It is quite a challenge, out there in the kitchen, trying to remember who has tea, who has coffee, who just wants a glass of water, who takes sugar and who doesn't. I do have a crib sheet with everything written down: "Pat - tea, weak, with only a dribble of milk and no sugar." "Ted - coffee, strong, dash of milk and a spoonful of sugar." You get the picture, I am sure.


I expect you think it must be easy, given that I have it all written down - but there is an important variable I haven't mentioned which is the question of who is sitting on which table. We have two tables, the dining room table which accommodates six players and a card table around which four people can gather. We choose who sits where by drawing numbers out of a little basket which Avril made for me. So, you see, in consulting the list of "who drinks what", I also have to work out which drinks go on which of the two trays. I do hope you are following all this but don't worry if you are not. It is, after all, incidental to the main topic of today's blog, which is burglaries.


As I said earlier, I missed out on the start of the conversation. When I entered the room, bearing aloft a plate of biscuits for each table (having remembered that Delia really, really loves her All Butter Shortbread) it was to hear Avril saying: "I've only once come close to burglary..." Honestly, I nearly dropped the biscuits. Was it possible that Avril was a would-be burglar? When did she come close to such a deed? And what stopped her?


The truth was somewhat more mundane. Apparently lots of houses in her cul de sac were burgled but she escaped. I was a trifle disappointed, if I am honest. I had a great mental picture in my head of Avril in a stripey shirt, with a black mask over her face and a swag bag slung over one shoulder. I have always had, as you may have guessed, a Vivid Imagination. If you knew Avril, you would understand just how vivid...


Pat told us a great story about a burglary at her house. Someone had broken into her garage and made off with a set of door knobs. She wasn't too worried because she had bought the door knobs only to find they didn't fit her doors, so they were only in the garage waiting for her to take them to the charity shop. Then, guess what? One day she arrived home to find that someone had broken into her garage again - and returned the door knobs. One packet had been opened, indicating that the burglar had tried one on his / her door and found it didn't fit. Hence they had been returned from whence they came. Such a good story, we hardly knew whether to believe it or not.


Margaret had the scariest of Burglary Experiences to recount. Someone broke into her house while she and her husband were in bed. Her son, hearing something untoward, had called out and the burglar had fled, taking with him a glass vase from a windowsill outside Margaret's bedroom - which was how she knew how close he had come. We all shivered over our Twix finger biscuits at the very thought.


This led to a discussion about whether or not we would disturb a burglar at work. I recalled the days when Mr B worked nights and I was Home Alone with four littl'uns. I would never have been able to sleep had I thought about it too much so I didn't - but I do remember deciding that if I did happen to hear burglars ransacking the house downstairs I would probably leave them to it. Which is extremely cowardly but, possibly, sensible in the circumstances.


Mr B is positive that we have had a break-in without knowing it. He points to the fact that his mobile phone is missing and has been missing for several months. However, as I have pointed out every time he raises the subject, his mobile is so ancient that no self-respecting burglar in his right mind would steal it. What is more, it's Pay As You Go so the damage to our pocket is minimal. Plus, Mr B never used his mobile anyway, even when he knew where it was. I think his main concern is that he used to use his phone as a paperweight to hold down the yellow post-it note on the kitchen surface, the note which reads "PUT RUBBISH OUT ON FRIDAY". Without the weight of the mobile phone holding it down, the post-it note keeps drifting onto the floor where it runs the risk of being swept up in one of my regular morning Clean Sweeps.


I am quite sure that, if a burglar had effected an entry, found the phone on top of the post-it note and made off with it then, like Pat's burglar, he would certainly have returned it, once he'd used up all the credit. Unless, of course he is using it as a paperweight for his own Rubbish Reminder.


You can never tell with burglars...

I really can't understand why boys aren't allowed to go on the annual Jolly Girls Outing.


This is Faris by the way. Even though I am still a bit miffed at missing out on the Jolly Girls Outing, well, I can't stay cross with Nanni for long. Not when she plays the "Knock on the Door" game with me endlessly (I'll explain later) and is such a butterfingers. She broke a mug this morning, not the first time she has broken something in our house. She doesn't even throw things, like I do, which would be some excuse, but we still have breakages when she is around. I am surprised Mummy trusts her with The Twins, I really am.


I expect you want to know more about the JGO? Well, both of the Aunties turned up at our house on Saturday, together with Katie, who is the eldest of Nanni's grand-daughters. Apparently, you have to be sixteen to be a Jolly Girl so Katie qualifies easily. You also have to be a Girl, which is my main bone of contention. Though, to be honest, the kind of places they go on a Jolly Girls Outings are a bit girly. Like the ballet, for example. Or lovey-dovey plays. On Saturday, they all went off in Auntie Anne's car for an Afternoon Tea at Cannizaro House, leaving The Twins and me in Daddy Day-care.


Daddy Day-care was excellent right up until the moment when Daddy decided to cut my hair, using his new clippers. I was not amused. Usually we go to this shop where I sit in a racing car while my hair is being trimmed. That isn't quite as exciting as it sounds because the racing car doesn't actually go anywhere, however loudly you shout: "Brrrm! Brrrm!" Believe me I have tried. It was still more fun than sitting in my high chair while Daddy wielded his clippers. You should have seen Mummy's face when she arrived back home with the rest of the Jolly Girls to find me sitting there, with curly clumps of hair littering the floor around my high chair.


Nanni ruffled what was left of my hair and called me "Tufty". She also reassured me that my hair will soon grow. She meant well, I know, but let's face it Tufty is a squirrel and not a particularly intelligent one at that. I tried not to be offended, I really did. The Jolly Girls all had a glass of something called Prosecco to finish off their outing in style. I just had my usual bedtime milk. Presumably because I don't qualify as a Jolly Girl. See what I mean? I would say it's discrimination but I don't know exactly what that means.

 

Nanni stayed on for a couple of days after the JGO. We played this game where I go out into the hall and wait for Nanni to knock on the door, then I fling the door open and Nanni says: "Good Morning, Master Adli!" Or Good Afternoon, as appropriate. We played it over and over again. The best bit was slamming the door though Nanni kept holding onto the door handle to stop the door banging too much which spoilt the fun a bit. She also helped me make a musical instrument out of an empty coffee tin and a milk bottle top, like on CBeebies. There was another musical instrument on the CBeebies show which had all kinds of crockery hanging from a line. You hit the cups and mugs with a wooden spoon to make an excellent crashing sound. Nanni didn't suggest we made this one. I expect she thought she had created quite enough breakages for one weekend.

 

I am contemplating starting a Campaign to allow boys to be Jolly Girls, just for the duration of the annual Outing. I will recruit Grandad, Uncle Steve and Cousin Jack to the cause plus I am sure I can count on the Little Welsh Boys to mount a rearguard action down there in Deepest Wales. All I can say is: Look out, Jolly Girls.....

 

Tala and Lilia say: We don't know why Our Hero (aka Faris) is so het up about the Jolly Girls. Of course, we are fortunate because, being girls and also pretty jolly considering we are only six weeks old, we will be able to be Jolly Girls ourselves one day. We didn't quite catch exactly when we would qualify but we think we need to be a bit older, maybe sixteen months or so. We can't wait. We quite like Faris's new haircut though we are rather glad Daddy didn't turn the clippers on us. Not half as glad as Mummy, though.

 

Our main problem at the moment - though we really don't like to complain - is that absolutely everyone is trying to coax smiles out of us. We have obliged a couple of times but then we feel bad in case we have disappointed someone by not smiling at them. It's not easy to smile to order, for example when you are hungry, or tired or need someone to thump you on the back so that you can give a satisfying burp and start hiccuping. Plus we keep forgetting who we have smiled at and who is still waiting. It's a bit stressful, as you can probably imagine.


We have therefore made a pact (as twins do) to get to grips with this Smiling Business as soon as we can.


It will, after all, stand us in good stead when we eventually qualify as Jolly Girls...

Latest comments

10.12 | 20:15

Oh how lovely for you all ,my grandson loves his sister, and she loves him. She really giggles when she hears him

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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

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18.11 | 21:21

Get well soon xxx

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16.11 | 22:52

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

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