Jaqui's Daily Blog

It was just the ticket.

 

Or, to be strictly accurate (and I do strive for accuracy where the Daily Blog is concerned though inevitably an error creeps in every so often when I have to rely on my readers to put me right) it was all about the tickets. In the plural. Very much so, in fact.

 

I think I had better rewind a few days to Saturday afternoon when I accompanied the (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys and their parents to Worthing sea-front where we had promised the boys a visit to the Amusement Arcade on the pier. Mr B had equipped the boys with a pound apiece, to be changed into two pence pieces and fed into various slot machines until such a time as the money ran out. Which, in my experience, it certainly would sooner or, hopefully, later. 

 

Young James, the middle of the boys, had drawn the short straw, joining me in my car for the five minute drive to the sea-front. Poor lad, he wasn’t to know when he volunteered to accompany me that I would be parking so far away, necessitating a long walk to the pier. Bless him, he didn’t complain, listening to me prattling away about the number of pop-up refreshment bars which had made an appearance along the prom over the last several months and offering sensible responses  to my many questions about his Life and Times since I saw him last.

 

So to the Amusement Arcade. As expected, nobody actually made any money. The five pound notes teetering on the very edge of the bottom shelf of every Roll a Penny slot machine all stubbornly stayed exactly where they were, however many two pence pieces came rolling their way. Young Morgan, however, had found a slot machine which issued tickets - dozens and dozens of them. Every one a winner, or so my grandson believed. 

 

I didn’t actually see what happened next as I had to leave the happy scene to get back to Mr B - but when the family returned home Morgan was still clutching a string of tickets. No matter how many convincing arguments we waged about the paltry nature of the prizes on offer, he was determined to return the following day to claim what was his rightful bounty. 

 

We thought he might have forgotten by the next morning but, no, not he. If anything, having slept on it, he was even more determined. His dad suggested maybe I could offer him a pound for his tickets. Morgan eyed me speculatively as I made this generous offer. “Five pounds!” he countered. When I reported this encounter to his father, My Boy was impressed with his son’s negotiating skills. Like father, like son he commented.

 

There was nothing for it but to split up - Morgan and his parents returned to the Amusement Arcade while Sam and James joined me on a sea-front walk. Poor lads, they doubtless must have felt they got the raw end of the deal but they didn’t let on. We would have to be prepared, I told them, to comfort their little brother when he joined us, disappointed as he would surely be with the pay-off from his tickets.

 

Except he wasn’t. It’s true the string of tickets only earned him a very small stress ball but while in the Arcade he had tried his luck on another machine - and struck gold. Have you ever taken a turn on that game where you have to operate a small crane, pick up a toy of your choice, then somehow manoeuvre it into a bin from which you can collect it? Except you can’t, can you? I mean, nobody ever wins at that game, now do they?

 

Oh, yes, they do! For here was Morgan, triumphantly holding aloft a Baby Yoda character, his determination to revisit the Amusement Arcade totally justified. He had made two unsuccessful attempts, he explained, while he assessed the situation and worked out his strategy for success - then it was third time lucky. Except that Young Morgan, of course, didn’t attribute his success to luck but to sheer skill. It was difficult to argue with that, to be honest.

 

One way or another, it was Just The Ticket.

Such a lot can change in eighteen months. 

 

That’s how long it was since Mr B and I welcomed our (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys and their parents to our house. The Pesky Pandemic has such a lot to answer for.

 

That’s what I was thinking as I wandered around the Co-op (other supermarkets are doubtless just as convenient) trying to work out what food I should serve up for my visitors during their stay. Food is love, don’t they say? Would they love me the less should I select the “wrong” breakfast cereal on the basis that this was their favourite eighteen months ago? 

 

Would Young Morgan still be happy to sleep in the camp bed at the end of my bed - or will he consider himself too old these days? Would he still want to climb into my bed first thing in the morning for Early Morning Discussions on Matters of Importance? Such as the unfairness in making him the youngest member of the tribe when, while small of stature, he is mighty of heart and surely has the potential to be Head Honcho?

 

Has the passage of time lessened their delight in traditional offerings such as Ready Jelly Go traffic light jellies (recipe on my Cook Book page!) Will James (the Middle Boy) remember that he and I always formed the “Jeb-Jab” team for the purposes of family games, based on our initials in case you are wondering. Would Sam, the Eldest, now tower above me?

 

I don’t know why I worried. From the moment the family decamped from their car (I was quite proud of the fact that I’d remembered to leave my car further up the drive so there was room for theirs) it was just like old times. Yes, it is true that Sam is now clearly several inches taller than me - but his growth spurt meant that he was able to help his dad retrieve our two seater sofa from the garage so that everybody had somewhere to sit. Young Morgan clearly expected nothing less than his favoured sleeping spot at the end of my bed and determined to continue my education into All Things Pokemon with early evening lessons, followed by even earlier morning tests on what I had learnt so far. I was invited to take a different toy to bed with me each night - I felt like a Wanton Woman.

 

Time was short so, as usual, we had to pack a lot in to our days. A trip to Clip and Climb for the boys was followed by Adventure Golf for all six of us. My Boy suggested we pay for four and take turns at each hole but where was the fun in that? I had been secretly longing for an opportunity to take in this particular course with its jungle animals, devious twists and turns and loudspeakers at the start of every hole, making me jump with unexpected sound effects, from elephants trumpeting to the noise of a jeep engine trying unsuccessfully to fire up. The Darling Daughter in Law was in excellent form, winning our family competition by two strokes; her master stroke was when she accidentally hit her golf ball into a stream - only to find it carried along by the current, ending up scoring a hole in one. I now have a new Profound Saying should anyone find themselves faced with an impossible challenge. “Take the water route!” I will tell them. They won’t know what I’m talking about, of course, but I will sound very wise. Or, possibly, not.

 

Our lunch barely escaped ruin because everybody thought somebody else was in charge of the cooking but I like to think that my apple pie saved the day. Plus, after a trip to the sea-front with a diversion into the Amusements on the Pier (of which more in tomorrow’s Daily Blog - believe me, you won’t want to miss it) we had Afternoon Tea in the Room Outdoors to look forward to, a belated birthday present complete with festive fizz. 

 

Such a joyful day. Everything changes - but, somehow, everything stays the same…

 

 

 

The Youngest of the Darling Daughters arrives like a Ministering Angel. She has plenty of other pleasurable activities with which to fill her day off work but she has chosen to make the 150 mile round journey to check out for herself my protestations that I am feeling “a bit better.”

 

She takes one look at me and pronounces her withering verdict - I am looking, she tells me, “fragile.” It’s quite a good word to describe how I feel; I’m definitely not as poorly as I was a few days earlier but I do feel as if I have been broken into fragments and then somehow pieced together again. Not repaired in the loving, expert fashion of the professional craftspeople on The Repair Shop (one of our favourite TV programmes) but in the manner of a well-meaning, but untrained, wielder of super glue. Should somebody pick me up and drop me, I would doubtless shatter into a million pieces. This obviously will not happen as nobody would even attempt to pick me up, let alone drop me. 

 

The Youngest of the Darling Daughters declares that I need feeding up. Have I been eating properly? she wants to know. I tell her I haven’t been feeling hungry - I have been cooking for Mr B (can’t let a man starve, whatever else’s afoot) but I just haven’t felt like eating the fruits (or even the meat and vegetables) of my labours. My daughter says she is taking me out to lunch…

 

We head down to Sea Lane Café which opened up only the previous day, after a COVID-related closure. How fortunate for us! We find a table overlooking the beach and my daughter places a menu in front of me - choose something you really, really fancy she says and don’t even think about a healthy option. I think back to past meals in the café with the grandchildren over the years and opt for sausage, egg and chips. “Don’t worry if you can’t eat it all,” advises my daughter, solicitously, “Just eat what you can…” I admit I am not feeling very hungry but promise to do my best.

 

Our plates arrive. My meal is simply enormous, two fat sausages, a deliciously runny fried egg, a generous helping of chips and a side salad of respectable proportions. “It doesn’t matter how much you eat, just please eat something,” pleads my Ministering Angel.

 

Quarter of an hour later and she is staring at my plate incredulously. It is empty bar two slices of tomato - and she knows they are only still there because I don’t like tomato. “How on earth did you do that?!” she wants to know. Considering I wasn’t feeling in the least hungry, I have managed to polish off the entire meal. This, we both agree, can only do me good…

 

I feel so much stronger, so much less fragile, after Sausage-Gate. Back home, I am encouraged to sleep off my lunch while the Youngest of the Darling Daughters dances attendance on Mr B’s every whim. By the time she takes her departure (“I can’t believe I’m saying this but I’d like to get back in time to watch the football…” she explains) I feel sure I am finally on the mend.

 

It’s not simply the sausages, to be fair. Mostly it’s the company, the support, the ready sympathy, the hugs. I can’t help thinking of all the people who’ve been Proper Poorly over the last eighteen months and not had anyone to give them a hug. I’m not even thinking here of the seriously ill, the dying, the sufferers of Coronavirus; I can’t even begin to imagine their pain. No, I’m thinking of those of us who’ve fallen ill with some minor, but unpleasant ailment and been told to rest up, drink plenty of water and wait to feel better, without so much as the benefit of a healing hug. 

 

You can’t get a healing hug on prescription. You need a Darling Daughter…

 

 

I cannot help thinking that possibly - just possibly, you understand - my local newsagents has Lost the Plot.

 

I am reluctant to make such a judgement, based as it is on observations of the display shelves while waiting my turn at the counter, because I, too, feel as if I have Lost the Plot over recent days. I have, in fact, been Proper Poorly which is why there hasn’t been a Daily Blog posted for a good few days. Did you miss me? Please say you did, my self-esteem is currently fragile as I come to grips with the fact that, faced with being laid low by a nasty bug, I am not the heroic, indomitable character I like to kid myself I am. 

 

Anyway, back to the display shelves in the local newsagents which was where I was (if you remember) before I chose to digress. No, I wasn’t on the shelf, I was in the queue - don’t be silly.

 

So there on the shelves towards the back of the shop, lots of brightly coloured garden toys - think giant skittles, water pistols, blow-up paddling pools, beach balls, all things summery. So far, so seasonal. I contemplate whether, once I’ve paid my paper bill, I should saunter over to the display to see if there is anything which my (Not So Little) Welsh Boys might enjoy messing about with when they come to visit. Then, as I move a fraction closer to the start of the queue (still observing social distancing) my disbelieving eye is caught by something orange and bucket-shaped. It is, I kid you not, one of those receptacles littl’uns carry expectantly door to door on Halloween night. Which is, if my memory serves me right, right at the end of October....

 

While I am still adjusting to this bizarre discrepancy in the Order of Things, I suddenly note that peeking out over the pile of Halloween baskets are a goodly number of reindeer headbands. What is more, baskets and reindeer antlers are all balanced on a sizeable display of Christmas gift wrap, greetings cards, and other items generally not to be found in any self-respecting shop until, well. Halloween. The world, I told myself, had gone quite, quite mad...

 

Tala, the Elder of the Twins by one important minute, would beg to disagree. She would like it to be Christmas all year round. Correction: Tala actually believes it IS Christmas all year round. Out with her much-beloved auntie (aka the Youngest of the Darling Daughters) the other day she picked a stalk of grass and was taught that age-old nursery rhyme: “Here’s a tree in summer / Here’s a tree in winter / Here’s a bunch of flowers / And here’s the April showers.” It is a song with actions, involving stripping the grass of its fronds to transform it from summer tree to winter tree; gathering the greenery in one hand to form a “bouquet”; then throwing the tiny pieces over the nearest person’s head to mimic April showers. Did you ever play that game in childhood? 

 

Tala plucked another blade of grass and studied the tree in summer. “It looks just like a Christmas tree!” she commented. Predictably.

 

You may well be wondering how I can possibly describe this charming scene when I am very much absent. The answer is by the power of my daughter’s mobile phone with its inbuilt camera faithfully recording for me the sweet voice chanting the nursery rhyme and showing my granddaughter stripping the grass of its feathery outcrop and showering it over her head. It’s almost like being there...

 

That said, there is no substitute for “being there” and, oh, the disappointment of having to defer our long-planned visit by the Welsh Boys and their parents last weekend on account of (i) me being Proper Poorly and (ii) one of the boys being told to self-isolate. Never mind, all being well we will get together this coming weekend. Instead of our Merry Meet-Up being all over now, it is still ahead of us, positively bristling with the joy of anticipation. 

 

Like Halloween and Christmas, now you come to mention it...

 

Rather as I always like the Daily Blog to come over all educational from time to time, so I am partial to introducing an element of learning into various outings. Give me a trail around a park and I will follow it. Show me a treasure hunt in a museum and I’ll be right there with my virtual deer-stalker on. Take me to an ancient site on a far-distant Greek island and I will come armed and ready with my guide book, ready to point out ruins of historical interest to my Nearest and Dearest. Even if they aren't particularly interested...

 

Before the Middle of the Darling Daughters had children, we used to meet from time to time in London for a Mother and Daughter Outing. Each outing had as its focus an art display, a museum exhibition, a sculpture garden or something similar. What actually happened, of course, was that we would meet at Victoria Railway Station. “I’m you know where, with you know what!” my daughter would message me as my train drew into the station - this cryptic message translates as “I am outside the Ladies Loo with 20p" (or whatever the current fee for spending a penny.) Before we headed off for our destination, we would treat ourselves to a cup of coffee and a catch-up, even if we had only chatted on the phone the previous evening. Once we reached the museum / art gallery / whatever we would search out the restaurant, sample the coffee, then whisk round the  exhibition in double quick time so as not to miss out on lunch. And, obviously, we always had to share a last cuppa at the station before we went our separate ways. How I loved those “educational” outings!

 

The pandemic has put paid for the time being to the OMO, a relatively new initiative founded by granddaughter Eleanor and me. OMO stands for Obscure Museums Outings and sadly to date we have only managed one outing, to the Florence Nightingale Museum to see an exhibition about the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1918. Little did we know, as we toured this excellent and informative display that not so very long hence we would be experiencing the horrors of a pandemic for ourselves. I remember this OMO, not only for its educational value, but for the lovely picnic lunch we enjoyed in St James Park and our trip past Buckingham Palace to see if Her Maj might be at home (she wasn’t.)

 

This week I booked for the Youngest of the Darling Daughters and I to visit beautiful Highdown Gardens, one of the best-kept secrets in Sunny Worthing. The gardens have just reopened after a long closure, partly caused by the pandemic but also for significant work funded by the National Lottery. We took a picnic and planned to complete our visit with a trip to the neighbouring Tea Room. You will have started to see a pattern here, I’m sure.

 

We could have simply meandered around the gardens, enjoying the flowers, the birds, the butterflies, the new visitor centre and sensory garden. It would have been quite enough, you might think. But, no, being me we had to follow a Kids Tree Trail, challenging ourselves to find and marvel at nine different trees of significant interest. The explanatory leaflet was set out in such a way that we could have cut out the nine cards and played Top Tree Trunks, each tree being given ratings for its (i) maximum height; (ii) circumference; (iii) unusual bark; and (iv)lifespan. You will be pleased to know that I didn’t go quite that far but I am happy to disclose that the top rated tree for maximum height was the Gingko at 28 metres; the greatest circumference was boasted by the Holm Oak; the most unusual bark belonged to the Paper Bark Maple; and the Gingko once again came out on top for lifespan. As I said at the beginning of today’s Random Ramblings, I do like it when the Daily Blog comes over all educational...

 

Next time we visit the gardens, we plan to challenge ourselves further by following the Plant Hunter’s Trail which has no fewer than fifteen specimens to spot and wonder over. When I say “we”, I haven’t exactly involved the Youngest of the Darling Daughters in the decision-making but I doubt it will come as a surprise to her.

 

She knows me so well...

Latest comments

30.03 | 17:40

I'm a young entrepeneur who is willing to start a business to offer retired people the opportunity to live an amazing life.Please emailme,I'd like to ask a few?

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09.03 | 16:42

Penguin outfit for 2022.

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24.02 | 19:21

Thank you, Carol, for your lovely messages. I am very proud of both my much loved Middle Daughter and her Knowledge Boy! Thanks for reading my random ramblings

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23.02 | 10:12

And of course, I know that Knowledge Boy (KB) is a cabbie - but had forgotten just what this entails! Great to be reminded just how much knowledge a KB needs!

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