Grand-daughter Hazel, when asked by her pals about her plans for this weekend, explained that - having now turned 16 - she would be joining other members of her family on the Annual Jolly Girls Outing.
What did they say about that, I wanted to know. I am the curious type, as you know, and an external perspective on one of our Family Traditions can only be of interest.
according to Hazel, her friends told her that her family was both sad and cool in equal measure. As one explained: "Sad because, honestly, don't you have anything better to do with your life? But cool too - because I really, really want to be part of your
The Jolly Girls - myself, the three Darling Daughters and the two eldest grand-daughters - can quite understand why someone would want to be part of our gang but we are pretty exclusive. I am also
pleased and heartened to announce that since we were joined by the two grand-daughters, the average age of a Jolly Girl has gone down to a quite respectable 40 - the age, you remember, when Life Begins. I suspect that, while the (slightly) older Jolly Girls
will be generally pleased by our new Average Age, the younger element will feel we have not gone nearly far enough.
As well as the measurable impact on our Average Age, the newcomers have definitely raised
the Jollity Quotient. It is true, indeed, that all our Jolly Girls Outings (seven years running and counting) have been exceedingly, well, jolly. We have never before, however, used a mobile phone app to turn photographs of each other into (i) ghastly gargoyles
or (ii) cute animals with pink ears and spiky whiskers. Nor have we been known before to break into a rousing rendition of "We Are The Red Men" - with actions, Brownie-style, of course - in the middle of Pret a Manger where we were enjoying a post-show coffee
before we drove back to Worthing.
We had taken the scenic route to Brighton along the coastal road. This allowed me to show off my local knowledge by pointing out as each seaside segued seamlessly into its
neighbour - Worthing became Lancing, which became Shoreham, which became Hove (Actually) until there we were in Brighton, a City Like No Other. Our driver, the Middle of the Darling Daughters, had turned on the heated seat for me, her front passenger. She
said that, as the Ultimate Jolly Girl, I deserved to travel in comfort. I revelled in my exalted position and my warm bottom.
The day was cold but bright, perfect for an outing, jolly or otherwise. We took
the first of many photographs on the prom, with the sea sparkling behind us. Hence to Smokey's on the sea-front where the Middle of the Darling Daughters had booked a table for six. The Youngest of the Darling Daughters and I chose the same meal - we invariably
do - pleading successfully for an omelette even though breakfast was officially over.
The Grand-Daughters both thought they had chosen small portions wisely - but their plates, when they arrived, were piled
high. The Eldest of the Darling Grand-Daughters asked for a "doggy bag" for the substantial remains of her macaroni cheese - only to accidentally leave it under her seat at the theatre. We had a good time imagining the evacuation of said theatre when this
suspicious parcel was later discovered.
Our seats for "Annie" were right up in The Gallery. I apologised in advance to the Jolly Girls for the long trek up winding stairs - but they were all far more worried
about seeing me safely into my seat, given my notorious ability to fall spectacularly over even the shallowest of steps. You will be pleased to hear that I arrived - and left - with all my bones intact.
yes, and then there was "Annie", of course! For uplifting songs with an optimistic message of triumph in the face of tragedy there are few musicals to beat it. There were a few annoying children sitting in front, behind and all around us - but what else had
we expected? We Jolly Girls were all annoying children once. In fact..."You are going to be annoying now, aren't you?" the Youngest of the Darling Daughters nudged me. She had noticed that I was just opening my mouth to sing along with "You're never fully
dressed without a smile."
I love that song. It should be the Jolly Girls' theme song, don't you think?
In years to come the Jolly Grand-daughters will take
their grand-daughters on the Annual Jolly Girls Outing. They will show their precious girls (I will never know them, of course, but they are already treasured in my heart) my photo and say: "That is our Nanna. She was the Ultimate Jolly Girl!"
And those dear, sweet, jolly girls will look askance at the doctored photograph of me, with my pink ears, pink and white nose and spiky whiskers, and they simply won't know what to say...