Jaqui's Daily Blog

“It’s the last day for you today!” I informed the lights on my (small but perfectly formed) Christmas tree as I switched them on early this morning.


Unfortunately Mr B chose that moment to wake from his slumbers and immediately decided I was talking to him. Oh, the panic on his poor face as he wondered if I had somehow turned into a Prophet of Ultimate Doom. Or, perhaps, whether I was planning to shop him off to the Home for Hoary Retired Compositors where he would have to live out the rest of his life discussing lower case, upper case, ens, ems (good Scrabble words, incidentally) and other unfathomable printing terms with former fellow inky devils.


I quickly reassured him that I was, of course, talking to the Christmas lights but, if anything, the look of alarm on his face deepened as he considered the worrying fact that these days he was totally dependent on one who was even loopier than he had feared.


Yes, with the help of several readers, I have confirmed in my own mind that my Christmas decorations should come down tomorrow on the Feast of Epiphany. Mind you, my friend Jude (we used to work together many moons ago, it’s still one of my favourite times, work-wise) tells me there is a custom she learnt of as a child that, should anyone fail to take down their decorations on the due date, then the only way to avoid bad luck is to leave them up until Candlemas on February 2nd. Sadly, she says, her mother wasn’t having any of it - and I suspect Mr B would be firmly on her mother’s side...


 For some reason, I woke this morning more energised than for some time and decided, before the feeling wore off, that I should take the bus to the Goring Road shops where I would be able to visit the post office and despatch a parcel to my nephew and his family, a present for the beautiful baby who made her appearance on the very last day of 2018. I had spent ages in M&S making my choice then worried over it when my Little Sister told me she was sensibly sending a voucher for an up-market baby wear company on the grounds that young parents these days have very different ideas about what constitutes a Best Dressed Baby. I enclosed the gift receipt in my parcel and hoped for the best...


At the bus stop, I meet one of my favourite couples - I have, I know, told you about them before. They walk slowly, oh so slowly, to the bus stop, arm in shaky arm, as much to shore each other up as out of affection - though indeed the mutual affection shines out of them. They try to take a trip to town on the bus every day as it takes them out from the confinement of their “four walls.” Neither of them is wearing a hat on this very chilly morning so I am worried about them but their smiles are as bright as winter sunshine as they see me approaching.


We discuss our respective Christmases; wish each other a Happy New Year; have our usual, unproductive chat about how very helpful a bus shelter would be for them; and wonder, idly but without rancour, whether we will be in Europe or out of Europe come the Spring. We agree, philosophically, that one of the best things about living to a Great Age (me) or an Even Greater Age (them) is that you learn from experience that events come and go, while what goes round, comes round and generally it will All Turn Out Alright In The End. Somehow.


Oh, yes, and we share a few words on the weather. It’s a north wind blowing, they tell me. I am about to break, impulsively as ever, into that song about the north wind, the snow and the poor robin hiding his head under his wing, poor thing - when the Pulse bus saves the day by arriving before I can open my mouth. Mr and Mrs Stalwart indicate that I should get on the bus ahead of them, given how slow they will be - which I do, reluctantly, thinking how very rude and uncaring I will appear to the bus driver.


Just look at that! I have written a whole Daily Blog about Nothing Very Much At All. 


So, what’s new? did I hear you say....

When do you have to take down your Christmas decorations? I really need to know.


I do realise that many of you have already packed up Christmas 2018 in your loft. You have put your Christmas tree out at the end of your drive to be recycled by your ever helpful local Council. Poor Christmas tree: after weeks of being made to feel special, festooned with shimmering baubles and glittery garlands, it now finds itself devoid of decoration and awaiting collection with the domestic rubbish. Oh, how are the mighty fallen! I am rather glad that my (artificial) tree is small and perfectly formed - and that it will live to serve another year, enlivening my lounge with its presence.


No, what I really need to know is: when is Twelfth Night, when decorations must come down for fear of bad luck in the year ahead. Not that I believe in bad luck, you understand - I don’t throw salt over my shoulder if I happen to spill any on the table, for example. I would walk under a ladder if by doing so I would avoid a deep puddle - wet feet would be such a misfortune, don’t you know? In fact, I am not at all superstitious. Touch wood.


I consult my Little Sister when she contacts me via FaceTime so that we can discuss our personal Christmas Experiences. She tells me she will be taking down her decorations tomorrow, which is January 5th. I explain that I have always thought that January 6th was D Day (as in, Decorations Down Day.) Because my Little Sister and I never, ever argue (we never have, in all our lives - not many sisters can stake such a claim) we both accept that the other may, indeed, be right. Which doesn’t actually resolve anything.


None of this would have been a problem had the Youngest of the Darling Daughters, visiting us on Wednesday, found time to divest our living room and hall of seasonal decorations. Bless her, she simply ran out of time, having made up beds, cooked meals, filled the dishwasher and washing machine, hung up wet clothes on the drier, cleared the fridge of out of date food, helped me order Mr B’s birthday present on-line and listened to me endlessly chuntering on about my Life and Times. To be honest, I was secretly pleased that the decorations (including my small but perfectly formed Christmas tree - do you think I am protesting too much!?) had to stay in place for a few more days. Our living room will look SO bare without the strings of cards, the candles on the mantelpiece, the red lights glimmering on the tree.


I take to my Best Friend Google for a definitive answer to the D Day question only to find that Confusion Reigns. Some say January 5th, others swear the Decorations Down Day is the following day. One source informs me, very precisely, that I need to do my Decoration Duty by midnight on January 5th. Which is January 6th in my book - not that I will be packing up my baubles at midnight when any self-respecting person would be tucked up in bed. 


Did I ever tell you that I was born at two minutes to midnight on 6th June - and that the clock was wrong? This interesting fact has entered into family folklore, owing to the fact that my dear Mum was always certain that the clock was not just wrong, but was also slow - meaning that I was actually born on June 7th. Apparently the midwife who attended my birth was having none of it.


Perhaps this explains why I am prepared to stretch the truth about Twelfth Night. My tree (please add description) will stay in place until Sunday when I will strip it of its baubles and remove, with many apologies, its many branches. I will then store it, plus all the other decorations, in a spare room until such a time as we welcome a visitor prepared to clamber up into the murky heights of the loft for me.


Then - and only then - will Christmas be Officially Over.

Time was when Mr B and I partied with the very best of them on New Year’s Eve. These days, we watch the fireworks on TV and slip off to bed as the last strains of Auld Lang Syne ring out. Sad or what?


While waiting for the clock to strike twelve, I message the rest of the family to see if they are having a more exciting time than I am. There is no response from the Middle of the Darling Daughters signalling that she probably tumbled into bed shortly after the Rascally Trio stopped Rampaging for the evening. They were doubtless, all of them, tucked up in their respective beds dreaming up fresh mischief for 2019. The Trio, that is - though I wouldn’t put it past the Middle of the Darling Daughters to come up with some notions for Merry Mayhem of her own. 


The Youngest of the Darling Daughters confesses that she, like her father and me, will probably head off up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire (as my dear Mum used to say - I didn’t understand this quaint saying for simply years) though her offspring are both out partying. The Eldest of the Darling Daughters says she is doing a jigsaw, all on her own, though she will probably fetch herself some Prosecco before the night is done. “Wow, we sure know how to celebrate!” comments my youngest daughter. I feel a warm sense of companionship with my family, based on nothing more than our shared lack of anywhere to go, this New Year’s Eve.


But, hey, Our Boy is “out out” with the Darling Daughter-in-Law, thus valiantly and single-handedly upholding the family’s reputation as ace party-goers. “Don’t worry, girls - I’m dancing the night away!” he informs us. Apparently to the Grease Megamix which has been the theme tune to many a family gathering in the past. Though not for me tonight, of course.  


When celebrating New Year’s Eve with the oldest of the Tremendous Ten grandchildren in years gone by, we used to play a game called That Was The Year That Was. All that was needed was a sheet of large and colourful wrapping paper and a roll of sticky labels on which all participants were required to record memorable moments from the past year, if possible with appropriate illustrations. 


The game usually started quite slowly, as I remember, with stickers simply commemorating all the birthdays celebrated during the year - but then gathered pace as the memories started to flood back, the funny, the sad, the trivial, the momentous. Bit by bit, every inch of the wrapping paper would be covered, while our illustrations developed from stick people to the equivalent of Banksy. Somewhere, in certain of my memory boxes (I have one for each year, dating back to the Millennium) you will find a That Was The Year That Was chart. 


I consult the four oldest grandchildren to see if they remember the game. Eleanor describes it as a  “brilliant game” while Katie makes me smile when she tells me that she always thinks about it every year. I wonder, somewhat whimsically, if she will play the game with her children and grandchildren one day. Possibly on a tablet, or its future incarnation rather than on a sheet of wrapping paper...


The best thing about a Quiet Night In on New Year’s Eve is waking up, fresh as the proverbial daisy, on the first day of the year. No tired eyes, pounding headache or overpowering desire to pull the duvet over one’s head and sleep till early afternoon. Up I rise, determined to start the New Year as I mean to go on. You must admit, I can put together a very convincing argument. Indeed I have almost convinced myself. Except that, to be honest, I am a bit like Eliza Doolittle. 


Given the chance, I could have danced all night...

Yesterday I said goodbye to the Robot Sling.


The surgeon who operated on my Problem Shoulder (she said it wasn’t easy, but I had warned her she was trying to put right fifty years of Shoulder Related Issues) thought we should conduct a short Throwing the Sling in the Bin ceremony - which we proceeded to do, right there in her consulting room. She pointed out that there appeared to be traces of several meals visible on the sling; I felt somewhat ashamed at my obvious slovenliness until I reminded myself that eating meals one-handed with one’s dominant arm in a sling is not the easiest of activities.


There aren’t many positives to wearing a sling for six weeks - I can think of only two. Firstly the Robot Sling has been a very visible reminder to Mr B that I am (i) not allowed and (ii) not able to respond to many of his requests. Fortunately I have been allowed to carry a mug of coffee in my right hand which has been a source of succour to us both in these challenging days.


Even more importantly, bus travel is quite a revelation when wearing a Robot Sling. I have only attempted it twice, to be fair - once to the local shops and once to the pantomime (oh, yes, I did!) - but it was quite an experience. To start with, on each occasion the bus driver waited until I was safely seated before starting up his engine again. This does sometimes happen when we passengers are fortunate enough to have a driver who is particularly friendly and - most importantly - on time, rather than running late. Even better, on standing up to alight from the bus, fellow passengers all seemed to have my welfare at heart: “You need to move so that this lady can get off!” they all loudly castigated the poor young mums trying to make room for me to wriggle past their baby-laden buggies.


Yesterday I was waiting at the bus stop for the Pulse bus to the hospital when my friend Ian drew up in his car and asked where I was going. In no time at all I was ensconced in the front passenger seat and on my way. This is another positive about wearing a Robot Sling - it’s like a silent plea for assistance. He didn’t need to wait for me, I reassured my kind friend, as I might (like Captan Oates) be some time - but he said what else did he have to do? This was a question I was unable to answer but it was, I admit, good to have some company while waiting, first for X-rays, then for the consultant. There was a TV in the waiting room but it was playing kids’ cartoons with the sound off. Have you noticed just how many animated films there have been on TV this Christmas? I never thought I would be quite so pleased to see a return of Homes Under the Hammer and Escape to the Country.


As regular readers know, I am an inveterate People Pleaser. I often wish I had been born a rebel (Cockney or otherwise) because then I wouldn’t have cared so much if I let people down. Yesterday was a case in point - I was so very sure that Ms Tigger (as I call my consultant because she is so very, well, bouncy) would be pleased with my progress over the past six weeks. Haven’t my offspring all been assuring me that I have been making amazing strides in my recovery? Haven’t I believed them implicitly, not least because I, too, was pleased with myself? Unfortunately She Who Knows Better was not at all pleased with me - she would be contacting my physiotherapist, she assured me, to order him to push me much harder. I did try to jump to his defence - he had assured me that it was “very early days” I explained - but Ms Tigger was having none of it. I am, officially, on the Naughty Step.


Today I have put this disappointing verdict into perspective. I have a new exercise to perform which will, I am sure, put me back on track. 


What’s more, in all the photos from Christmas 2018, I am sporting the Robot Sling, in all its meal-spattered messiness. Now, as we enter 2019, I am rid of it.


As Someone Far Greater than I once memorably pronounced, I am Free At Last...


“Do you think you could stop snoring, Nanna?” Young Morgan implores me, “It’s distracting...”


I protest that I am not, in actual fact, snoring - rather, I am snuffling. Morgan gives me one of his old-fashioned looks, of the kind he bestows on me when I insist on adding a few “Whoo-hoos” to the lyrics of George Ezra’s “Shotgun”, one of my grandson’s favourite songs. He used to tell me off, in no uncertain terms, now he simply points at me accusingly every time I whoo-hoo.


In my defence, I was awake very early this morning and hadn’t quite fallen off to sleep again when Young Morgan appeared at my bedside, like the Ghost of Christmas Present. Wearing his brand new Pikachu pyjamas, in case you need to know. I think I could be excused a little snuffling as he tucked himself (plus Terry the Pterodactyl) into bed beside me.


Regular readers know that Early Morning Conversations with the Youngest of my (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys are one of my greatest pleasures on the boys’ visits to ours. The trouble is that I am finding it more and more difficult to understand what on Earth he is talking about. I don’t think that this can totally be laid at the door of my Great Age; more, it’s that, since the introduction of Pokemon into his young life, he has a completely different idea of what constitutes a legend. As a result, I am struggling to differentiate between Legendary Birds, Legendary Beasts and Legendary Titans. They all have such odd names, too. How does he ever remember them all? What’s more, how does he expect me to know my Regirock from my Raikou? 


Then later this morning, desperate to have a last bit of fun with Morgan and his brothers, I wave a pack of playing cards at them and trill: “Anyone for Sevens?” Everyone is more than happy for me to join in their game but Sevens isn’t exciting enough, apparently, compared with engagement in the “catastrophic Korblox war against the Redcliff Kingdom.” No, me neither - but I am put in charge of a character called The Overseer. You doubtless think this is a tribute to my unquestionable leadership qualities but I rather think the boys feel the Overseer is the least charismatic of the four characters. On his behalf, I must mention that he has one All-Seeing Eye, which gives him the gift of prophecy. (I read it on the back of the box in which he and the other five Roblox characters arrived - I always think a bit of research will pay off in the long run. It may, of course, be a Very Long Run.)


I didn’t need the gift of prophecy to predict that the final days of our Christmas 2018 would be great fun. The Eldest of the Darling Daughters and her family arrived first on Friday, bearing gifts and a selection of party food which we were invited to wash down with champagne. That was all very civilised, you are thinking - which it was until the arrival of the Welsh Contingent, introducing a note of Merry Mayhem into the festivities. How good to have five of the Tremendous Ten grandchildren all together, if only for a short while before the E of the DDs and Co had to depart.


Over the following days, we took in a trip to the prom (prom, prom) so Morgan could try out the roller blades which were our present to him (he was a little wobbly but this was nothing to do with him, apparently, but solely due to the fact that the surface of the prom was “a bit rough.”) and took in a pantomime (Oh, yes, we did!) The panto, Aladdin, starred Lee Somebody Or Other from Steps and I disgraced myself in the eyes of the Darling Daughter in Law by not realising that the medley of music which marked the show’s finale was all from the group’s extensive repertoire of hits. Oh, Tragedy!


Our own family finale on Sunday was the last Christmas Dinner of 2018, roast lamb and all the trimmings cooked by My Boy, with Christmas crackers and everything. “It’s Christmas all over again!” I declared, theatrically. The boys were quick to find the obvious flaws in this over-the-top announcement: 


“So where are the presents?” they countered, broad grins on their faces as they waved their Christmas crackers at me. 


Then all too soon, they were gone, waving out of the car windows at me as they started out in the long journey home. Back indoors I went, feeling somewhat bereft. The sight of my Christmas tree, still glowing merrily at me, was a welcome  and cheery sight. I have to tell you that the (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys share the stoutly held opinion of the Trio of Rampaging Rascals that my tree is too small - but honestly I reckon what it lacks in stature it gains in stickability. Every year, without fail, it emerges from the loft, small but perfectly formed.


It’s almost, dare I say it, Legendary? 


Latest comments

19.11 | 22:40

I'll be thinking of you. Good luck. Love from Pat.xx

19.11 | 18:19

Good luck Jaqui from us both. Hope all goes to plan. Kindest wishes, Roland & Shirley x

16.11 | 11:06

Will you be OK for the op? If you care for someone like you do, there isn't anyone to care for you. So glad that Kay and Louise were around that day.

15.11 | 22:04

Hope you're OK. xx

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