We are all ready to sing Happy Birthday to Young Morgan (in absentia, of course) when the Birthday Boy’s father notices something amiss.
“James!” he hollers, “You’ve put Mama and Bampi down on the table - pick them up! At once!”
I can tell you are feeling
in need an explanation, or, possibly several explanations. Morgan’s Mama and Bampi (the lovely Welsh versions of Gran and Grandad) have connected up via FaceTime to witness the Cake Ceremony on one IPad while Mr B and I are similarly FaceTiming in on
a second IPad. We can see each other but can’t communicate apart from by waves, smiles and thumbs up gestures. (“I think they want to chat...” comments Morgan.) We - or rather the iPad on which we are pictured - is being held by our son but
Mamma and Bampi have been entrusted to middle son, James, who in all the excitement has put his iPad down on the dining room table thus leaving his maternal grandparents presumably staring up at the ceiling.
I do love it when this kind of thing happens. It makes the event all the more memorable, if you know what I mean. Mind you, I might not be saying that had it been Mr B and me flat on the table, looking up at the ceiling lights.
I do remember another of Morgan’s birthdays where we were preparing to watch the youngest of the (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys open a rather large parcel. The Darling Daughter in Law and I had our cameras ready to record the happy scene, as did Sam
(the Eldest) and James (the Middle) brother. At which point the Birthday Boy trotted off to find his My First Camera. So there we all were, cameras trained on the parcel - but with nobody to open it. It was one of those classic, never to be forgotten, moments.
I don’t think I have ever missed one of Morgan’s birthdays. I might not always have been there on the day itself, I might have missed the actual party - but every
year I was around for at least some of the celebrations. One year I met the family at Legoland for the day; it was supposed to be a surprise but Morgan, five years old at the time, didn’t seem at all amazed to see me turn up - it was almost as if he
expected me. Last year we visited Build a Bear and indulged in Delicious Delights at one of those establishments that are growing in popularity these days and which, in my day, we used to call an Ice Cream Parlour. I have fond memories of all the truly splendid
birthday cakes fashioned by Morgan’s mother and of making sandwiches a-plenty for birthday parties in the Scout Hut, just along the road from his home.
from my sandwich-making skills (I always need to be instructed whether to cut the sandwiches into fingers, squares or triangles) I like to make myself useful at children’s parties by making cups of tea and coffee for the adult guests. I learnt this from
Mr B’s Little Bruv who always makes himself similarly useful at such gatherings. It has the not-to-be-underestimated benefit of helping me to get to know my children’s friends and the parents of my grandchildren’s friends and I would highly
recommend it to others. Mind you, there have been occasions when other guests have taken it upon themselves to be on Kitchen Duty which never goes down too well with me. I always feel challenged on my tea-making skills when my handling of the cups and saucers
comes under scrutiny...
Despite it being a Lockdown Birthday I think it’s fair to say that Morgan enjoyed his birthday. He made his own American pancakes
for breakfast leading his Grandad, when I showed him the pictures, to demand pancakes for his lunch. Fortunately by the time lunchtime came round he had forgotten all about it which, given the current flour shortage, was just as well.
Oh, yes, the Cake Ceremony. Eight flaming candles atop a deliciously chocolatey cake. Among them several of those candles which can’t be blown out - no sooner have they been
extinguished by a fearsome blow than they flare up again irrepressibly. It was even funnier because (I gather) the candles in question were on the cake by happenstance rather than by intention.
My lovely boy, I am so very glad to witness, albeit at a distance, that not even a Lockdown could put a dampener on your irrepressible Happy Birthday celebrations.
And next year - all being well - I WILL be there...
Although I like to think I can be perfectly happy in my own company there is no doubt that I thrive on being with other people. I used to think that an extrovert was someone loud and confident, the life and soul of any
party and wondered why I was classified as one; then I learnt that an extrovert is one who recharges their batteries around other people. That’ll be me, then...
It’s why, in these Lockdown Days when it’s just Mr B and me, I need to find ways of bringing other people into our house without breaking the rules of shielding. It’s taken me a while, but I think I am winning.
You are thinking back, I expect, to yesterday’s Daily Blog where I described our Family Zoom experiences. Surely this is the very best way of bringing people together when you
can't actually meet in person. I am not arguing with that - but a Family Zoom only lasts a short while and I need my favourite people around me all the time. I am greedy like that...
My first action was, admittedly, an inaction. I have kept on display every single greetings card I have received since the start of Lockdown. That includes my Mothering Sunday cards, Easter greetings, cards from people wishing us well. Among them are
several home-made cards from the Rascally Trio, which are especially sweet and a beautiful “for no particular reason except to say I love you” card from the Youngest of the Darling Daughters with a kingfisher on the front. I have a long string
pinned across one wall, over our large mirror, on which I have hung all the cards where I can easily see them. The other day the string snapped under the weight of so much goodwill, sending all the cards cascading over the living room floor and giving Mr B
a nasty start. I can only thank my lucky stars that this didn’t happen overnight when the start would have been even nastier.
No need to worry, the
cards are back in their rightful place; in fact, I reckon I am going to have to start a new line of cards sometime soon. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas...
On the doors, I have pinned all the drawings and letters from the Rascally Trio; on the kitchen wall, a laminated poster labelled “Sisters” which my brother in law Baz gave me years ago and which displays photographs of my Little Sister
and me from childhood to adulthood.
Out in the back garden are four large flower pots containing sunflower plants, one plant for each of my Tremendous Ten
grandchildren. I talk to them every evening when I water them, giving especial attention to granddaughter Eleanor who needs to play catch-up with her sister and cousins. I have great faith that she will grow and thrive under my Tender Loving Care. Decorating
the lilac tree which we planted for our Golden Wedding nearly four years ago now are coloured cardboard rabbits, each one carrying the name of a family member. At the insistence of my Little Sister, I have added two extra rabbits to those of our immediate
family, one for her and one for her fella.
There have always been photographs all over the house - now joined by the truly fantastic Lockdown 2020 poster whose
arrival I told you about in a previous blog. It seems important, however, to keep moving the photographs around because otherwise, don’t you know, one becomes too accustomed to them and run the risk of ceasing to really notice them. So I play a kind
of Musical Chairs with my family photos - though without the music or the chairs. You could call it Non-Musical Windowsills, though, as far as party games go, I can’t see it catching on.
Like every other grandparent, I long to hug my grandchildren. I do, however, have to quibble with the unspoken suggestion that they are far and away the only precious people in our lives. What about our own children, grown
up as they may be?
The three generations of my family are here, all around me, as I write today’s Daily Blog. I adore all my grandchildren, I yearn
to hug them - but well before the first of them was even thought of, I held their mums and their dad in my arms.
I can’t wait to hug them too...
It is rather too early to describe our family Zoom meetings as a regular feature of our Lockdown Life. We have, after all, only managed to get together (virtually speaking) on two occasions though we do all seem to have
got the hang of IDs, passwords, gallery view (so that we can see everyone all at the same time) and side-swiping (if somebody drops out of view.) This is, indeed, progress.
We haven’t yet tackled anything as organised as a quiz, we don’t have an agenda, and people do keep changing the start time to accommodate more important issues such as the daily walk or their allotted time slot at Click and Collect. I’m
not grumbling, you understand, but as the organiser, or “host” of the gathering I haven’t yet managed to find out how to alter the start time without setting up a whole new meeting. This means that on any given Saturday afternoon, I may have
two, three or even four meetings set up, only one of which will actually happen.
There are a few weekly recurrences. I will spend a good half an hour before the
Appointed Hour trying to position Mr B in his wheelchair and myself next to him on an adjacent dining chair so that we both appear in view on the IPad, (propped up on the table against a pot plant and standing on a packet of Krave cereal.) Despite all my efforts,
only half of Mr B’s face appears on screen for most of the time. We need to take a leaf out of the book of granddaughter Katie and her boyfriend, the Dependable Nathan, who sit, side by side, perfectly framed centre screen.
The Rascally Trio climb all over their mother’s lap in a bid to be seen and spend most of the time pulling faces at cousins Jack and Hazel - though, of course, this being a
Zoom meeting they could be making faces at any or all of us. The Youngest of the Darling Daughters is flanked on either side by her off-spring, while the (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys drop in every so often over their father’s head to wave briefly
before heading back to their gadgets, secure in the knowledge that, for the duration of the Zoom meeting, their dad will be too busy chatting to nag them to get off them. The Eldest of the Darling Daughters has her phone on portrait so resembles a postage
stamp and we look out for granddaughter Eleanor to make an appearance. Maybe next week? The In-Laws seem to think, quite mistakenly, that this family gathering is not for them - Dunk’em Dave does make an appearance, “Rules is Rules”
can be spotted roaming in the background and the Darling Daughter-in-Law joins in as and when. We need to get them more involved as they might introduce a note of sanity into the proceedings. Though, in the case of Dunk’em Dave, there won’t be
much of that...
Yesterday afternoon we had a fairly civilised conversation (aside from the face-pulling, but then what would our Zoom meetings be without that
distraction?) covering home schooling, whether and when schools should reopen, Jack’s new job and plans for Young Morgan and Dunk’em Dave’s birthdays next Wednesday. That was until somebody asked me how we were getting on with the new Sky
remote control and the whole discussion descended into extended laughter at my expense.
I was explaining that, so far, I haven’t tried out the voice activation
button except once, in error, when Mr B accidentally pushed the blue button and a disembodied voice asked us what we wanted to do. These days I’m not used to being asked what I want to do so I couldn’t think of anything to say. Everybody else seemed
to find this extremely funny, apart from Mr B who took it as a personal affront. I left my seat at the table to go and fetch the Offending Article which I then waved at my family to illustrate the existence of the blue button (as opposed to the red button
which we are always being exhorted to press. I never do that either. I mean, who knows what might be expected of me?)
The Eldest of the Darling Daughters
told us the story of how her fella, who hails from Up North, once tried to get their TV to tune into a rugby match featuring Bath (rhyming with math) rather than Bath (to rhyme with laugh.) We all had a good laugh at this - though it did strengthen my view
that I would be best to experiment with our new toy at some time when Mr B is snoozing peacefully in his armchair, unable to bear witness to any, shall we say, issues I may experience.
All too soon we had to wave goodbye. The forty-five minutes had passed in a flash. Between now and next week I will have to master the voice activation button on the remote control before setting up another family pow-wow.
This may take some time...
It may be because just at the moment the only travelling I am able to do is from the patio doors to the bottom of the back garden.Or perhaps because I have been chatting to my Little Sister, via FaceTime, about the holiday
our two families took together back in 1977 all the way down to beautiful Lydstep Haven. Whatever the reason, I have been pondering on Journeys I Have Undertaken.
the first page of the diary I kept, chronicling the events of that 1977 holiday, I have reported on the preparations our family made before setting off. The most evocative of those far-off days when life was comparatively simple is the description of the children’s
“journey boards.” I had forgotten all about these until I opened up the diary but now I remember that they were an essential element of any long journey we undertook.
Basically each journey board contained a list of things to look out for along the way. A dog on a lead, a woman with a shopping basket, a man with a walking stick - these were just some of the “sights” which would earn a point on somebody’s
journey board. We must have left behind some majorly puzzled people wondering why the mere sight of them provoked such excitement among the occupants of our car. According to my diary, the Eldest of the Darling Daughters managed to earn points for 62 coaches,
46 petrol tankers, 43 pillar boxes (though she was pretty sure she missed lots of these) and 11 dogs (of varying sizes and breeds) on leads. For all you younger readers, the journey boards were the equivalent of the IPad, the X-box and the PlayStation which
keep kids occupied on long journeys these days.
It was not until the following year that Our Foursome discovered Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat,
the Eldest of the Darling Daughters having chosen this as an outing for her twelfth birthday. All four were transfixed by the story; Our Boy, then aged five, confided “It’s exactly the same story as Mrs Gassion (his Reception class teacher) told
us!” We immediately bought a cassette of the show and from then on every long journey we undertook for several years to come was enlivened by Singalong A Joseph. The Middle of the Darling Daughters has been known to despair that her street cred among
her pupils when she was still teaching in a large comprehensive school in Merton was sorely dented when they somehow discovered that she could sing the whole musical word perfect. Ah, Joseph, you and your Dreamcoat helped us out on many a long, long car journey.
You were even better at tackling the Youngest of the Darling Daughters’ car sickness than barley sugar...
Less pleasantly memorable was the fact that our
holiday journeys always started so very early. Mr B who, as the driver, had the final say on Time of Departure, liked to get on the road well ahead of any traffic which might also have dared to travel the same route as us. When I say “early”, I
mean Stupid O’Clock - on our 1977 holiday we were up at 3.30 a.m. and on the road by 4.30. Generally we fared well over the early miles but inevitably got caught up in traffic somewhere along the way. We would then invariably arrive at our holiday destination
several hours before we were able to collect the keys to the caravan which would be our home for the next week or fortnight. While Mr B caught up on his sleep in the car after his long drive, I would find myself in charge of four manically excited young’uns,
determined to explore every inch of the beach, and generally attempt to cram every holiday activity they could dream up in the four hours before we could claim our holiday base and start unpacking.
I am reflecting that, given the latest guidance which suggests people will not be able to travel on holiday this year - and maybe next - to far-flung and exotic locations, many families will be following in our Seventies footsteps.
More and more will Holiday at Home. They will be arming themselves with barley sugars, packing their cars with camping gear and buckets and spades and setting off early in the morning in a bid to “beat the traffic.” It will be just as it was for
us in 1977.
Whether journey boards will catch on is quite another matter...
I am now something of an expert on Pluto.
No, not the planet, knowledge of which might prove useful in the unlikely event
I should I ever be offered a job by NASA - but Pluto, the dog.
For a start I didn’t realise that Pluto is one of the “Sensational Six”,
the biggest stars in the Disney Galaxy. Well, we tried - we really tried - to come up with the other five but we could only come up with four. As in, Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy. It turns out that the one we couldn’t think of is Daisy Duck. I mean,
really - could anyone describe Daisy Duck as “sensational”? Apologies to any of her fans...
When I say “we”, I am talking of grandson Morgan
and I who have once again been tackling on-line Lessons in Lockdown. We were getting on famously learning all about Stonehenge (regular readers will be pleased to hear that we seem to be managing to synchronise the playing of our videos now) when My Boy (Morgan’s
dad, working from home) dropped in to see what we were doing. He sternly reminded us both that we were supposed to be engaged in composing a description of Pluto, paying particular attention to capital letters, full stops and paragraphs. Stonehenge could wait,
he said. Which, bearing in mind that the earliest stones have been standing there for 5000 years or more is probably inarguable.
We turn our attention to
the task set by Morgan’s school and I make a few helpful suggestions, completely failing to pick up on the fact that the character study is not supposed to actually name the subject but to be descriptive enough for the reader to guess his / her / its
identity. “I think you’re missing the point, Nanna...” Morgan chides me. I love the way he so clearly sees me as one of his classmates.
Here are the things I didn’t know about Pluto. I didn’t know he was originally called Rover and that he has a kid brother called KB. I hadn’t actually cottoned on to the fact that he is the only one of the Sensational Six who doesn’t
dress as a human and who prefers not to speak. This has made him, according to Wikipedia, “a pioneering figure in character animation by expressing personality through animation rather than dialogue.” I probably realised he was pretty old, especially
for a dog, but I didn’t know he made his first appearance in a film ninety years ago. Now you know as much as I do and for homework you might like to watch “Lend a Paw” which won an Academy Award in 1942....
One of the tricky things about on-line lessons is when it comes to the actual writing down, using pencil and paper. I can’t, for example, look over Morgan’s shoulder and check out his capital
letters, full stops and paragraphs, his command of which, he assures me, is exemplary. Morgan doesn’t lack self-confidence. He is also participating in our lesson wearing a yellow plastic bow (as in, bow and arrow, not the beribboned variety) on
his head, like a kind of pirate’s hat which makes it difficult for me to concentrate on the Peculiarities of Pluto. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
After we have signed off with our usual applause for each other (deserved or not) and high fives, I decide to complete the Stonehenge activity set by BBC Bitesize and try to fashion a model of Britain’s most famous Ancient Monument using Mini
Weetabix (from the larder cupboard) and sticky Sellotape pads (from my craft cupboard.) It is very, very fiddly but I am rather pleased with the result and send a photo, via WhatsApp, to my classmate. Morgan fails to respond but his older brother, James,
informs me that he loves it.
The original stone circle has lasted around 2,500 years and counting; my mini Stonehenge crumbled and fell into biscuity pieces after
just one day. I had to deposit it in the bin, yet one more symbol of our modern day throwaway society.
I’m thinking maybe I took BBC Bitesize a little too
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