Jaqui's Daily Blog

"There can't be anyone in the country who doesn't want Leicester City to win the Premier League," gushed a radio presenter this morning. Oh, really? Tell that to Mr B, why don't you?

Mr B, as regular readers will recall (or not, depending on how interested they are in the Beautiful Game) is a Spurs supporter. Along with his son, his eldest daughter and several other close relatives. As everyone knows, supporting a football team means never giving up, not until the last goal has been scored (or missed), not until the final whistle is blown. Where there is life, there is hope.

In the interests of solidarity, I watched some of the Manchester United versus Leicester City match this afternoon. In between planting out the sunflower seeds which were a gift from Sweet Maree, a member of our Nomination Whist group; filling two more green bags with twiggy garden stuff; and eavesdropping on our next door neighbours who were enjoying the company of visitors out in their back garden. In my defence, my eavesdropping was of the Benign Variety, I was just so glad to see this lovely couple entertaining in their new home, showing it off so proudly to their company.

I was prompted to tinker about in the garden by the sunshine - but also because I felt inspired by a garden I passed on my way to Church this morning. It was a riot of bluebells and bright red tulips, dancing in the shadow of a spectacular magnolia tree. This garden would have scored 10 out of 10 had I been playing the Gardens Game which my Little Sister and I used to enjoy on our way to school, marking each garden we passed out of ten. We knew how to create our own entertainment in the Olden Days, you know.

Our garden boasts only a couple of clumps of bluebells plus the odd stray tulip - but our amazing tamarisk tree could give any magnolia a run for its money. It's not in full bloom yet but it is already looking Absolutely Fabulous. When I decide to repair indoors and put my feet up for a bit, I can see it perfectly from my armchair in the living room, gladdening the eye. "Are you watching?" Mr B keeps asking me. I drag my eyes from the garden, the birds on the feeder, the newly planted sunflower seeds and fix my attention once more on the television screen. "Of course!" I say.

Next door are having a barbecue. No, I haven't been spying on them but the smoke is drifting across our garden from theirs. I love the smell of a barbecue, especially when I don't have to cook. In our family, the very best barbecuer (is there such a word? If not, I have just made it up in the interests of enriching the English language) is my Son in Law, husband of the Middle of the Darling Daughters. He is amazingly methodical in his approach, never burns anything and cleans up with similar efficiency when the cooking is done. Because of this I can easily forgive him for not being prepared to cook sausages or pork steaks.

Our neighbours on the other side are conspicuous by their absence. This is a source of great disappointment to me as Young Vinnie, he of the inquiring mind and indefatigable energy, had informed me they would be celebrating Easter Bulgarian-style. I was hoping at the very least to hear the sounds of an egg-fight drifting into our garden like the smoke from the other side. Incidentally my loyal Blog readers have been quick to tell me that it is not only in Bulgaria that Easter is being celebrated today but also in Greece and Cyprus. Where else, I wonder? Be sure to let me know.

Spurs will be playing tomorrow. Mr B says they are in for "a very, very, difficult game, away to Chelsea..." He is trying not to sound too optimistic, I can tell. He will probably want me to watch the Big Match with him and I expect I will. This is what marriage is all about, celebrating success together, mopping up the tears if things go wrong.

Yes, I know, it's only a football match. Will you tell Mr B that? You're braver than I am, that's all I can say...


Did you know that tomorrow it will be Easter Day in Bulgaria? I do like it on the (rare) occasions when the Daily Blog comes over all educational.

I owe this latest insight into Matters Bulgarian to six year old Vinnie who lives next door and is a Constant Mine of Information. His mother is Bulgarian which is clearly a considerable advantage where Repeat Easters are concerned. Why have one Eggy Celebration when you could have two?

Vinnie tells me that his mother has cooked twenty-nine eggs to mark the occasion. There were originally thirty eggs, he says, but one cracked. I can't imagine what Vinnie's mother is going to do with the twenty- nine eggs. It seems rather a lot to eat, don't you think? Later on I check out with my Best Friend Google who informs me that there is a tradition in Bulgaria to paint and decorate eggs which are then used in egg fights, rather like our conker battles. I shall listen out tomorrow for sounds of warfare coming from next door.

I telephone eldest granddaughter Katie to wish her a Happy Birthday. Yesterday, working girl that she is, she had to take cakes into work for all her colleagues, a tradition I remember from my own working days. Apparently the doughnuts were the most popular. Today she and her family have been at the Point to Point races and, guess what, Running in Heels (that's the name of the horse by the way) was racing again. He fared no better this year than last year, when Mr B and I were there to cheer him on - but at least he was memorable. Even if for all the wrong reasons.

Mr B took to the streets of Worthing town centre on a mobility scooter this morning, courtesy of the really rather wonderful folk at Shopmobility. Possibly a busy Saturday, in a crowded town centre, wasn't the best of days to put the Shoprider through its paces. It was almost as stressful as Running in Heels.

It wasn't helped by the fact that major works are underway to redesign the main thoroughfare. Pedestrians were being diverted along a narrow uneven path which was nowhere near wide enough for baby buggies, wheelchairs, or kiddies on scooters let alone Mr B, regally riding his Shoprider. Next time, I reassured Mr B, we will venture out on a Tuesday afternoon. He raised his eyebrows at me but didn't quibble about there being a "next time" which I took to be a positive.

So, all in all, it hasn't been a particularly eventful day. Nothing earth-shattering has happened which is doubtless a Good Thing. Katie has enjoyed her nineteenth birthday, Running in Heels didn't win its race, Mr B has taken to wheels, our next door neighbour has cooked - and presumably decorated - twenty-nine eggs and Vinnie is looking forward to a Bulgarian Easter Day tomorrow.

That's what you call Great Eggspectations.




There is something therapeutic about cleaning.

I know what you are thinking: who is she kidding? After all, I have never exactly pretended to be God's gift to housework. And yet, and yet...

Here is Mr B, snoozing gently in his armchair. Here am I with nothing in particular to occupy myself. Which isn't quite accurate as I could make a long list of Things Which Must Be Done Sooner Rather Than Later. What I mean is, there is nothing in the diary this afternoon, once I have returned from Friday morning's Singing For Pleasure choir session.

Malcolm is back in the Men's Section, after several months away working with his wife as chalet hosts in some extremely beautiful ski resort. He has lost a lot of weight and is as brown as a berry. He shows us photographs over coffee in the community centre café once we have finished singing our little hearts out. We are preparing for our next concert so today's choir session involved going over and over some of the songs we shall sing in an vain attempt to satisfy our conductor, The Redoubtable Muriel. It is quite a relief, when the Bacon Bap Brigade assembles afterwards, to relax while listening to Malcolm telling us what hard work the last few months have been. There are few things more pleasant than listening to somebody else's account of their Hard Life and feeling grateful for small (and great) mercies. It was the Experience of a Lifetime, Malcolm tells us, which I guess is code for "been there, done that, don't have to do it again, thank goodness."

I can't quite see myself as a chalet maid. I'm sure I'd love the scenery but I can't ski so there would be no thrilling respite from the cooking and cleaning for me to look forward to. Still, there's plenty to be done at home, without having to stir from my kitchen. I shall play at being a chalet maid this afternoon, wielding a dish cloth while singing "High on a hill was a lonely goat herd" from The Sound of Music, a film much beloved of the Youngest of the Youngest Daughters when she was but a littl'un.

I start with the fridge, which has been desperately trying to attract my attention for a good few weeks. I remove all the shelves to wash them, knowing even as I do so, that I won't remember when it comes to replace them which shelf goes where and which way round. This is always the problem with cleaning the fridge and goes some way to explaining why I don't tackle it as often as I should. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

At the very back of the fridge I find a tin of pilchards. I am cock a hoop - this find will make Mr B's day. Plus we won't have to have the usual "what do you want for lunch?" discussion tomorrow morning, I believe this is what is described as a win-win situation. Or, put another way, it's the Power of Pilchards.

Next I turn my attention to the larder. This cupboard was created when we removed our Old Faithful boiler and bought a new boiler which was housed elsewhere in the kitchen. I love my larder though Mr B is not so keen on it, on the grounds that he can never find anything that he wants. I therefore devote time (oh, well, okay I make a few instant decisions) on a new arrangement of larder staples: cereals and things Mr B will want to access on the top shelf; cooking ingredients on the middle shelf; and tins on the bottom shelf. The only Flaw in My Reasoning, as far as I can see, is being unable to read Mr B's mind. I have, nevertheless, made a start which can only be a Good Thing and ought to be commended. In my humble opinion.

My third and final foray is into the cupboard under the sink which is home to an amazing number of cleaning products which I can't remember ever using. I take everything out, wash down the floor and walls and consider, for the briefest of moments, pruning the many bottles, sprays and cartons - before replacing everything. Just in case.

I have been overtaken by Cleaning Frenzy. Tomorrow - the microwave!

You have to agree, this gal knows how to have fun...

We sit out in the back garden, sipping wine and pretending that it is just a bit warmer than it actually is. The sun, after all, is making a great effort on our behalf and the least we can do is enjoy it. From the kitchen wafts the unmistakable smell of roast lamb.

When young colleagues at work used to bewail the fact that they had to cook a roast dinner with all the trimmings for their in-laws (or, possibly more stressful, their prospective in-laws) I used to reassure them that, compared with all the exciting meals they were in the habit of cooking up for their Nearest and Dearest without so much as turning a hair, the traditional roast was a Complete Doddle.

I think of that now, sitting and chatting while keeping one weather eye on my watch so that I don't forget exactly when to par-boil the potatoes, when to put them in to roast, nestling snugly round my Truly Splendid Leg of Lamb, when to turn them over, when to put the Yorkshire puddings in to cook, when to boil the vegetables, when to make the gravy...Put like that, it sounds rather more complicated than it is.

There's nothing like a traditional British meal. Fortunately the fellow members of our Meals and Wheels Club (so called because we take it in turns to provide the lunch, while the other couple does the travelling) also like their meals tasty but not necessarily, well, fancy.

I remember taking my dear Mum to visit a rest home in our town to see if she thought it felt like home. The proprietor, presumably hoping to impress me, launched into a detailed description of a typical week's meals - lasagne, moussaka, you get my drift, I'm sure. "I like good, plain, British food!" my Mum declared stoutly, bless her. Funny how some people become more outspoken when they reach a Great Age. I love the story of my Mum visiting a gift shop in Wales and being horrified by the tea towels bearing the message: " Keep Wales Tidy - throw your rubbish in England." My sweet, mild-mannered mother went all round the shop turning the tea-towels round so that nobody could read the scurrilous message.

Out in the garden, the tamarisk tree is just starting to turn a hazy pink. By the time of our Golden Wedding Afternoon Tea party it should be at its most beautiful. Meanwhile our lilac tree, after only nine days in our garden, seems to be making itself well at home, sprouting merrily. Ian tells us that he has built a fruit cage of quite tremendous proportions in their back garden. Raspberries will doubtless be on the agenda at a future Meals and Wheels meeting. Sallie is preparing for a Wild West birthday party on Saturday which sounds like tremendous fun as well as a lot of hard work. If anyone can pull it off, it's my friend, Sal. Mr B says maybe we should buy ourselves a greenhouse? I do like Conversations of a Random Nature.

Yes, the lunch went well, thank you. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. I noticed that Mr B, who had raised a quizzical eye-brow at my idea of cooking Yorkshire puddings on the basis that these delicacies generally accompany roast beef, rather than lamb, still managed to help himself to three of them. Not that I was counting, you understand.

We took our coffee back into the garden to finish our meal once more in the Great Outdoors. Next time the Meals and Wheels Club meets at ours, we may even be able to have the whole meal outside. I have a couple of months to think about what I should cook next time around.

It will almost certainly be nothing particularly adventurous, just good, plain, old-fashioned British food.

My dear Mum would approve.

My fellow researcher on the Military Voices Project telephones me to warn me that he is running about ten minutes late. Just time for a quick cup of coffee, I tell Mr B, who mutters something about me Always Thinking of My Stomach. It's only a cup of coffee, I say, wounded, it's not as if I'm devouring a croissant. There wouldn't be time for that, I think. Longingly.

Peter, my Partner in Crime, and I are heading back to the home of the Navy Man whom we interviewed a couple of weeks ago. We didn't have time on our first visit to capture on the project tablet all the photographs and documents he has kept all these years so today we are back to finish the job.

On the way over to neighbouring Littlehampton, we agree our roles. I am to be the Official Photographer, for no other good reason than that we will be using my I-Pad. Regular readers will be amazed, recalling that I am not the best of photographers, what with my shaky hands and inability to frame a shot. However, when it comes to the allocation of duties, Possession (of an I-Pad) is Nine-tenths of the Law. Whoever made up that particular law didn't have me, or our project, in mind.

Peter, for his part, is to make a note of the subject matter of each photograph in turn, numbering them from 1 onwards. Which was an excellent plan except that any of you accustomed to taking photographs with an I-Pad will know that generally you find you have taken at last three or four photographs of each subject. Peter's careful numbering was never going to correspond to my photographs.

We are welcomed back like long-lost relatives. Coffee is produced. On the dining room table, two albums of photographs and an envelope crammed with documents detailing one man's service. Our man's service details were recorded on vellum - smooth and warm to the touch. We are shown the corner of the front page, marked with a dotted line; if a man were dismissed the service for bad conduct or whatever, the corner would be torn off, we hear.

As we turn the pages of each album and I snap away merrily (hoping that I look rather more confident than I feel) our Navy Man continues with his stream of stories. If only we had still had the voice recorder with us!

Did you know that a "tot of rum" - the daily rum ration doled out to sailors until 1970 - was an eighth of a pint? That's quite some tot, don't you think? If you were a Petty Officer, like our man in his latter days in the Senior Service, you took your tot neat. Lower ranks had theirs seriously diluted with two parts of water to every part of rum. I am learning such a lot from the Military Voices Project - though perhaps not enough about battles and manoeuvres, victories and defeats, as opposed to the (to me) fascinating minutiae of daily life. Like details of the daily rum ration. Live and learn, that's what I say.

As we are leaving, our fella's wife tells us that we have done her husband so much good, listening to his story and taking such an interest in everything he has to tell us. It's especially good for him, she says, to have male company. I take this on the chin, which is no more than you would expect of me. We talk about it on the drive home, Peter and I, both of us recognising that the older you get the less people seem to listen to you, the more dismissive folk tend to be of past experience and expertise. We like to think that, for a few brief hours, we have transported our Navy Man back to the days when he was in the prime of life. It's an unexpected extra benefit of the project, we agree.

Our hosts are keen that we come again. Any time at all, they say. Next time we come, they tell us, they will open a bottle of champagne so that we can share a toast with them to mark their recent Diamond Wedding Anniversary. Or shall we open one now? they ask, hopefully. They really don't want us to go.

Maybe we can go back when we have written up our case study? No, not for the champagne - sparkling idea though that may be - but for another instalment of Life On The Ocean Wave circa 1950.

Told, with inimitable flair and exquisite attention to detail, by a Storyteller Par Excellence.


Latest comments

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

23.12 | 14:55

Hope you both have a wonderful Christmas with your family. Best wishes from Roland and Shirley. x

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