Jaqui's Daily Blog

Little Miss Curly Head is desperate to gain entrance to the children’s playground, sadly closed as a result of the Pesky Pandemic. “Lift me over!” she commands her poor mother who sighs heavily and casts a worried look in my direction. She is clearly expecting me to shake my head and wag a warning finger...

 

She need not have worried. Not only am I the least judgmental of people but I am also contemplating what the Rascally Trio would have been doing, faced with the same situation. I suspect they would have been casting around for something which might serve as a battering ram to attack the barred gate. Miss Curly Head’s mother gives in and lifts her daughter over the fence and into the deserted playground where she whoops with delight and clambers excitedly up to the very top of the climbing frame. Miss Curly Head, that is, not her mother - honestly!

 

“She should be at school,” her mother tells me, having obviously summed me up as a generally sympathetic listener. “She was due to start in March which obviously didn’t happen and now I’ve been told she can’t start till after half-term. All her friends are at school - she has nobody to play with.” Miss Curly Head appears to be having a Fine Old Time all by herself in the playground. 

 

A member of staff arrives and speaks to the mother. I bury my head in my book, so as not to appear a Nosey Parker. Miss Curly Head is told, in no uncertain terms, that she must leave the playground straightaway or her mother will be in serious trouble. She gives this possibility serious consideration then, extremely reluctantly, allows herself to be hauled back over the fence. Mother and daughter head off, possibly to buy a drink and an ice-cream though I am making this bit up because I don’t see them anymore after they head off into the cafe.

 

Okay, you are thinking that this isn’t particularly interesting (unless, of course, you are Miss Curly Head and / or her mother) but what you need to know is that this chance encounter is, to me, a sweet by-product of a most welcome Taste of Freedom. Here I am, in the local garden centre, sitting at a table in the open space area of the cafe with a blessed hour stretching out before me. I have bought myself a large latte and a similarly over-sized fruit scone and I have the enticing prospect of a new book to dip into. Back at home, the Lovely Kay is keeping Mr B company, while at the same time endeavouring to find various household tasks which I have been neglecting. 

 

It’s my new weekly ritual - two hours of “me time” on a Wednesday, replacing all those little outings which used to keep me sane but which, like the children’s playground, have been decreed out of bounds for the last six months. It was the Darling Daughters who persuaded me that I should introduce some regular Time Out and, obedient as ever, I did as I was told...

 

I send Kay a photo of my extremely large cup of coffee, my half-eaten fruit scone and the book I am reading. She messages back to say that I deserve my treats and that all is okay at home. She and Mr B are watching “a house programme”, she informs me, by which I guess that Mr B is introducing her to Escape to the Country. I send the same photo to my Little Sister who says she wishes that she could be with me - which would be absolutely splendid though I doubt I’d do much reading in her company...

 

 I am thinking that I need to be organised in future, to plan ahead so as not to waste my precious hours of freedom. I certainly can’t afford to fritter the time away. The local swimming pool re-opens on Monday and I haven’t swum for simply ages; will my Recovering Shoulder manage twenty lengths of my faulty breast-stroke? Which of my favourite places shall I re-visit? Should I take a picnic when I go out? Or find a place to eat out at socially distanced tables? It’s all so very exciting.

 

For two hours a week, the world (or at least the part of which I can reach in the time at my disposal) will be my playground... 

It’s been six long months since Mr B and I sat around three tables pushed together in the centre of the bar at Worthing Town Football Club at the start of our Sporting Memories meeting. Oh, how we miss those weekly get-togethers!

 

Our 10 a.m. pick-up by Dial-a-Ride’s wheelchair-accessible bus occasionally arrives a quarter of an hour early which means that we arrive even before the large banner advertising that “Sporting Memories Meets Here This Morning” is pinned up at the club gates. When that happens we have time to share a coffee before everybody else arrives. 

 

How we miss the singing of “Sussex by the Sea” (with slightly amended lyrics) which starts off our meeting. Likewise, we are suffering from withdrawal symptoms now that we can no longer enjoy  the passing of a specially inscribed football from person to person as we are all invited to introduce ourselves and relate for the assembled group our sporting highlight of the week. I always had to use my (admittedly fertile) imagination when it came to my turn; sometimes I was still agonising over what my contribution might be on our bus journey in. Then there was the delight of knowing what delicacies the Really Rather Wonderful Rhona had baked for our delight, to be enjoyed with yet another mug of coffee mid-meeting. Most of all - though on a level with Rhona’s rock cakes - we miss the weekly Sporting Quiz when the combined knowledge of the whole group generally managed both to name all six of the Mystery Faces and to solve almost all the ten questions.

 

Since COVID-19 and the Lockdown put a stop to our weekly pleasures, Rhona has ensured we stay in touch by sending us, each month, four copies of the “Sporting Pink” so that each week we can test ourselves on our sport knowledge. This is greatly appreciated by Mr B and me but I’m afraid it just isn’t the same without all our knowledgeable companions contributing their two-pennorth...

 

Take this morning, for example. Of the six Mystery Faces, I only recognise one, a rather young Billie Jean King. To be honest, it’s the specs with the frames turning up at the sides that give her away - I think I actually had a pair a bit like them once upon a very long time ago. Mr B’s answers are as follows: “Picture B - he’s that American, you know, the athlete, can’t think of his name. D is the cyclist, the gold medallist - whatsisname; A - that’s the Paralympic chappie, you know who I mean, it’s on the tip of my tongue...” When it comes to calculating his score, I give him the benefit of the doubt and award him five out of six, on the basis that he did know who they were. I score 1 out of 6, thanks to Billie Jean.

 

Worse is to come when we tackle the 10 questions in the Quick Quiz. “Which Dutchman beat Gary Anderson to win the PDC Darts World Championship in 2017?” I ask, in my best quizmaster voice. “I’m trying to remember!” he grumbles, “It’s, erm, it’s Van der Something or Other.” I allow him one third of a mark for getting the “Van” bit right. It seems that this week’s quiz compiler may well hail from Holland as the next question concerns the names of the Dutch twins who played for Glasgow Rangers in the early 2000s. Mr B earns another third of a point for Frank and Ronald de Boer, having correctly guessed that they had a “de” in their name. 

 

I follow this up with: “Who was the first goalkeeper to score a goal in the Premier League game during Everton’s 3-2 win over Aston Villa in October 2001?” Mr B scowls in concentration: “I know this one! I know it, it’s on the tip of my tongue, it’s oh, Bloody Hell!” Even without checking the answers on the back page, I am pretty sure the goalkeeper in question is not Mr Bloody Hell. 

 

Mr B scores a point for knowing that the Alexander Stadium, home to athletics club Birchfield Harriers, is in Birmingham, and another for naming Bath as the first English club to win the Heineken Cup in 1998. I surprise myself by knowing the answer to question 5, concerning how many rounds make up an amateur men’s boxing match. In all, Mr B ends up with 4 out of 10, while I excel with 1 out of 10. “Shall we try Spot the Ball?” I ask, tentatively, but Mr B has decided he isn’t playing any more.

 

Such a spoil-sport!

Grandparents, on the whole, will do absolutely anything to avoid disappointing their grandchildren.  No Nanni / Nanna / Nanny / Gran / Grandma (please delete as appropriate) wants to see a small sad face looking back at her because of something she has, or hasn’t done.

 

It’s the reason Mr B (Grandad to the Tremendous Ten) takes so seriously the ceremonial gifting of one pound coins to the Rascally Trio whenever they leave after a visit to ours. The Trio don’t, at the moment, have any in-depth knowledge of monetary values but pound coins are infinitely suitable, being of a good size to fit in a small fist as well as being, well, gold...

 

It is, therefore, the first thing Mr B asks me when I tell him a visit is planned: “Don’t forget I’ll need the coins!” Which sends me first to my purse, to check whether I have any change and then, almost always, down to the garage along the road. There I will carefully choose something costing exactly one pound so that I can proffer a fiver and receive four pounds in return. That’s one for each Rascal and one for luck, don’t you know? Hopefully next time they come, the lure of golden bounty will take their minds off the fact that their cherry stones, planted with such earnest care and great expectations, are still refusing to grow...

 

When the four oldest grandchildren were young’uns, their Grandad was renowned for always, but always, booking the very best seats in the house for the annual trip to the pantomime. In order not to disappoint, he would book up the following year’s panto even before the curtain fell for the final time on the current run. Sadly, now that I am in charge of booking tickets, my (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys have had to make do with whatever seats are still available when I come to book. Fortunately, because they have had no experience of their grandfather’s superior booking powers, my feeble-by-comparison efforts do not disappoint.  

 

The annual summer holiday week with Team Baldwin used to be a highlight of our year and at the end of each glorious stay I was expected to produce a summer holiday song. Oh, the sleepless nights I spent as each holiday drew to an end, trying to compose a song which would adequately sum up all the fun we had had, at the same time providing an accurate record of the week’s main events. Somehow, by hook or by crook, I always managed to pull it off, enabling us to end the holiday with a tuneful rendition of my own version of “Didn’t we have a lovely time” or “Wouldn’t it be luverly.” To be strictly honest, Jack and Hazel eventually grew out of my summer songs and flatly refused to perform them any longer. It was very disappointing...

 

Regular readers will know that each year I plant sunflowers for my Tremendous Ten grandchildren, hoping against hope that they will grow tall and stately before bursting into bloom. Generally speaking, they like to follow the progress of their sunflowers and, barring the occasional mishap as when this year a gust of wind felled one mighty plant and beheaded it, my efforts have not disappointed.  I am rather thinking my wall of sunflowers will never be regarded in the same way since the recent visit by two of the Darling Daughters to a local field of quite spectacular sunflowers. I haven’t seen them for myself but the stunning photographs tell the whole story. There is no way I can compete.

 

My grandchildren’s faith in my not-so-green-fingers will be dashed. What a disappointment we will be, my sunny summer sunflowers and I...

 

 

 

 

It is, apparently, 113 days until Christmas. At the time of writing, that is. Alarmingly, should you be catching up on the Daily Blog following a short (or long) absence, that number may well be far fewer. Every day makes a significant difference.

 

 

 

Believe me, I am not trying to (I) scare you; (ii) irritate you; or (iii) introduce a note of festive-related panic into your life. I am merely stating a fact and one, moreover, of which the Twins, Tala and Lilia, appear oblivious. With 113 days to go, the pair of them are completely obsessed with Christmas. 

 

 

 

Every picture they draw me these days incorporates a Christmas tree, complete with baubles dangling from the end of every branch and a star on top. In a nod to 2020, both add rainbows to their drawings. I am impressed that they remember so much about Christmas trees until I recall that these are two members of the Rascally Trio, all of whom possess the most amazing memories.

 

 

 

Certainly, judging by our recent conversations, they can remember every detail about previous Christmases they have spent with their Grandad and me. “Will we be coming to your house at Christmas?” they ask continually. It is a question clearly expecting the answer “yes.” 

 

 

 

I decide it would be sensible not to share with them the joke currently doing the rounds on social media. You know the one I mean - the one that informs the reader that Christmas 2020 will be deferred until the middle of January, given the requirement for Santa Claus to quarantine for fourteen days on entry to the country. Being pedantic, and bearing in mind that the Big Man visits a great many countries over the course of his annual gig, he will be lucky if he doesn’t have to go into splendid isolation many times over. It may, indeed, be next Christmas before he gets round to us. What does this mean for Christmas 2020?

 

 

 

The Twins have no such worries - they have great faith that all will be well Christmas-wise but, just in case, they need to ensure that I am equally well prepared.

 

 

 

Back in March when we all went into Lockdown, there appeared to be every expectation that, as in the early days of the Great War, it would all be over by Christmas - and we all know what happened, or rather, didn’t happen, back in 1914. Today it seems we may have to prepare for a different kind of Christmas...

 

 

 

A trip to the pantomime, for example, has long been part of the festive programme for all our grandchildren at one time or another but checking with something called the “Big Panto Guide” it seems there are no pantomime performances planned across the whole of West Sussex where we live. Oh, no there aren’t! The Guide, moreover, provides a dispiritingly long list of cancelled panto performances across the country. Where is Jack’s magic beanstalk when we need it?

 

 

 

Will we be able to have our usual family gatherings around the dining room table, with Christmas crowns and crackers to pull? Or will we all have to sit in chilly splendour outside in the back garden, socially distanced and wearing masks decorated with pictures of Santa? Will we all have to bring our own turkeys to the feast? 

 

 

 

I am trying to think of Christmas traditions that can be made Covid Secure. Will it be safe, for example, for the reindeer to share a carrot or will we have to leave each of them a specially labelled carrot bearing their name? Will we even be able to remember all their names? 

 

 

 

I think I must take a leaf out of the Twins’ book and assume that Christmas, when it comes, will be as special and as magical as always. 

 

 

 

You know it makes sense...

 

 

 

It’s back to school this week for hundreds of thousands of children. There are so many mixed emotions - excited, worried, relieved, doubtful - and that’s just the parents. Among those of our family starting at a new school are grandsons Faris (now a Junior School boy) and James, joining his older brother at high school. I’ve been busy making “New School” cards for them and others of my acquaintance.

 

Ken the Gardener and I were discussing the whole “Back to School” business this morning over mugs of coffee, while his lawn-mower stood expectantly in the back garden. My Foursome always scold me for taking up with idle chat the valuable time of the many people who come to help us. I am, they remind me, paying for their time which includes all the many wasted working minutes we spend in discussion of this and that. I am completely unrepentant because, in my mind, chatting has always been one of life’s pleasures - even more so in these strange Coronavirus Times, when hardly anybody seems happy to stop and pass the time of day with a natter.

 

Ken and I have both been watching the news programmes on TV showing the new way in which classrooms will now be set up. No more sitting round large square tables all facing inwards; in future the pupils will sit, two or three to a table, all facing forwards. That is, of course, far from a new way of working - Ken and I both remember sitting at desks, in rows, facing front where the teacher and the blackboard claimed our full attention. It’s back to the future as well as back to school, we agree.    

 

Then we are in fits of laughter as we remember the dreaded blackboard rubber. Teachers in what my grandchildren like to call “the Olden Days” didn’t tend to wander, encouragingly, around the classroom checking on their pupils’ progress - should any children appear to be day-dreaming, several well-aimed pieces of chalk would wake them instantly from their reverie. Should they be seriously misbehaving, it would not be unusual for the chalk to be followed by the blackboard rubber...

 

I am still laughing when I headed back indoors (leaving Ken to tend the lawn and the flower borders) so I had to explain myself to Mr B and the Delightful Donna, his carer. Donna wants to know if either of us ever had the cane - I am pleased to say that, goodie-two-shoes that I was, the worst punishment meted out to me was being made to stand in the corner, my teacher telling me that I was “getting as bad as my brothers...” I had no idea what she meant by that. Mr B confesses to having been caned on a couple of occasions, though he can’t remember what naughty deeds brought this about. He does recall that it hurt...

 

Nobody made us wash our hands and none of us carried hand sanitiser around with us. I am not at all sure hand sanitiser had been invented when I was at at school. At my Junior School, the loos were housed in two separate brick buildings at one end of the playground; in the depths of winter the pipes froze and in the summer - well, let’s not go there. The most exciting thing that ever happened in my Junior School days was when one of the Big Boys (who must have been eleven years old, so virtually grown up in my eyes) set light to the boys’ toilets. It was the talk of every classroom for months. 

 

It would have been impossible for our classes to be divided into “bubbles” in the interests of social distancing - there were fifty children in my class all through Junior School. That was just one of the results of being a “baby boomer”, born in the years immediately after the Second World War. We did have our fears of illness though - my greatest fear as a small child was catching polio and having to be encased in an iron lung, photographs of which I had seen in the newspapers. An effective vaccination programme has ended the scourge of polio in all but three countries across the world - therein lie our hopes for defeating COVID-19.

 

There is another family member going back to school this week - grandson Jack, taking on his first teaching post. I can assure his new pupils (not that any of them are particularly likely to read the Daily Blog) that he will be the very best kind of teacher, kind and caring when needed but well able to check the unruly.

 

He won’t need a blackboard rubber either...

Latest comments

22.08 | 02:02

Karen,

I'll be able to help you with information on the usher's as Thomas Henry Usher is my aunt's ancestor as well can you please email me so we can talk

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22.08 | 02:00

Hi Karen,

I thought I would try again to see if I can get a response from you again please email me so we can talk further. My email is: lol-emma@live.com.au

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08.08 | 22:28

Hello Najla
Your daughter’s already loved toys are being loved all over again by my trio. It’s destiny, indeed... xx

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08.08 | 15:07

Hi Najla, how lovely to hear from you. I can assure you and your daughter that the princesses and the poo have gone to a very good home!

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