Jaqui's Daily Blog

I am getting pretty good at Time Management (though I say so myself, as shouldn’t.)

 

This newly acquired skill can be put down to a combination of two different, but related, issues: firstly, the fact that I can’t spend too long away from Mr B these days;  and secondly, on account of the Tyranny of the Whiteboard.

 

Every day, when I venture out - say, to the shops, or the garden centre, to church or to choir - I write on the whiteboard where I am going and (most importantly from Mr B’s viewpoint) when I can be expected back. I generally illustrate my latest outing with what can loosely be described as a drawing, some better than others but none of them exactly Picasso-esque. Despite this (or possibly because of this) all our visitors appreciate my illustrations, especially Mr B who, though somewhat critical of my artistic abilities, always laughs at them. Claire, my lovely “Carers’ Carer” tells me that it is a great example of “carer problem solving in action.”

 

Yesterday is a case in point. I was volunteering on the Summer Reading Challenge desk for two hours from 2 p.m. till 4 p.m. and scribbled on the whiteboard that I would be back home by 4.30 p.m. The theme of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge is Space Chase, commemorating the fifty years since man took his first steps on the Moon. As far as the littl’uns at my table, this is way back in The Olden Days, along with the Romans and Henry VIII of the six Unfortunate Wives. On my whiteboard, I drew a spaceman walking on the moon with a flag marking the historic event. I wrote captions like “moon” and “flag” just in case anybody wondered what was what...

 

Now here comes the scientific art of time management. In order to arrive home by 4.30 p.m. I knew I must time my departure from the library as soon as possible after 4 p.m., scoot across the road (narrowly avoiding oncoming vehicles) in order to catch the Pulse bus drawing up at the bus stop. However, I did have a number of small errands to run, the most important of these being posting a birthday banner and card for Samuel’s Big Day. It was therefore necessary to time my arrival in town so that before I entered the library, I could visit the Post Office and negotiate the self-service machine which is rather like the Spanish Inquisition. Is my package a large letter? Is it a small parcel? Is there anything inflammatory in my package? Are the contents worth more than £20? To which I wanted to respond Yes, No, Definitely Not As I Am Not An Arsonist, and Absolutely Priceless - but, as with many a customer survey, I had to content myself with a simple yes and no to every question. I just about managed to post my package and hare along to the library to make it for 2 p.m. Time management at its best, don’t you agree?

 

Today was even trickier, time-wise. All the way to the Goring Road shops, I studied my shopping list, trying to work out in which order I should visit the shops in order to time my return home for 11.30 a.m. The fact that the bus was later than scheduled didn’t help but I suppose even the best time managers falter occasionally. Should I start with the Card Factory (other shops, it goes without saying, similarly stock all manner of greetings cards) bearing in mind that my mind might be so blown by the mammoth task of choosing cards for all the August birthdays on my Birthday List (Mr B says I send more cards than anyone else he knows) that I will have no time left for essential food shopping? Or do I leave it till last, so that I can calculate more or less to the minute how much time I will have left to choose each greetings card before the bus trundles along. Is there a post box near the bus stop, thus saving me precious minutes racing along to the Post Office to post an important letter? 

 

I phoned Mr B on the way home to update him on my ETA, with a few fully justified excuses why I would be ten minutes later than the time stated on the whiteboard. Engrossed as he was in the First Ashes Test between England and Australia, I doubt he had even noticed that I had been and gone and would shortly be back again.  

 

But give him time...

It’s a time of homecomings for several members of my family and I’ve been thinking of them as they head home by air, sea and motor. Safe journeys, I whisper.

 

The Rascally Trio have spent the last three weeks in the South of France, enjoying an idyllic holiday composed of sea, sand and sunshine. Most days I have been the fortunate recipient of photos or videos showing my sun-kissed Rascals building (and, of course, demolishing) sandcastles, paddling in the sea or swimming in the pool at their holiday villa, dancing with abandon on the sandy beach. Their parents, the Middle of the Darling Daughters and her fella “Rules is Rules” look tanned and relaxed. Considering the M of the DDs nearly didn’t get away at all, having been hospitalised with an inexplicably swollen knee, it is marvellous to see her looking so happy and care-Free. Or, at least, as care-free as any mother can be with a Trio of Rampaging Rascals in tow. But let’s face it, if you have to rampage anywhere, what better place than a wide, sandy beach especially at the weekend when you have the glorious stretch of Pure Pleasure all to yourselves. 

 

As I write, they are waiting at Calais for the ferry home. The Youngest of the Darling Daughters has stocked their fridge with gallons of milk and they are looking forward to being home. Ahead, for the Twins, lies their first day at school - a whole new Life Experience. They can’t wait to join the ranks of Ladybird Class at Hook Infants School while their brother is just as keen to reconnect with all his friends in Flamingo Class. Holidays are wonderful, indeed, but being back home with so much going on - well, life moves on, doesn’t it? When you are four, like the Twins, or six like Faris the Rascal, life is one merry go round. With the emphasis on “merry.”

 

Meanwhile, Hazel Bagel, third Eldest of the Tremendous Ten grandchildren is on her way back from a holiday of a lifetime in Australia and Bali, in the company of The Boyfriend, Zac. They have had, she tells me, the “best time of her life” despite a recent argument with a surfboard which left her with a swollen nose and a touch of concussion. The travellers have been away for three long, fun-filled months during which my granddaughter celebrated her birthday in style - in a camper van. I am told that Zac came up trumps in ensuring that she didn’t miss out in any of the excitements which would have come her way had she been at home.

 

Her mother, Youngest of the Darling Daughters, has spent today turning Hazel’s bedroom into a homely haven to welcome her back. I have played a (very) small part in this but I can’t explain because I don’t want to spoil the surprise. (No, don’t expect too much, it’s only me, remember.) Like the Twins, Hazel has a New Life to look forward to as she starts her degree course at Arts Educational School in Chiswick. A new course, a new home from home, new flatmates. Fortunately she knows all the coffee shops in Chiswick from her previous sojourn there - many is the letter she wrote me (always on coloured paper, using multi-coloured pens) from her favourite coffee shop.

 

In the days when My Foursome were littl’uns, I remember returning from seaside holidays full of Good Intentions. Turning over a new leaf seemed so much easier while still wrapped up in the warm glow of a happy holiday. 

 

Mr B always liked to leave for home just as early as possible; I liked to leave it as late as possible. This wasn’t actually because I wanted to linger but because I never wanted to arrive home with time still left in the day to start on the mountain of washing spilling from every suitcase. The mere sight of the washing machine signalled “Holiday Over!” to me so if I could just put it off until the next day..

 

Back to the here and now, the travellers return and I can’t wait to hear all about their adventures. Travel can be life-changing, a happy holiday is life-enhancing. But at the end of the day - there really is No Place Like Home.

I really, really love the Special Occasions when family and friends gather at ours to celebrate. Regular readers will doubtless be thinking that, if the Daily Blog is anything to go by, then we seem to enjoy rather a lot of these. There is, however, a great deal to be said for Visits With No Purpose.

 

The Youngest of the Darling Daughters has just left us to drive home after spending three lovely days with Mr B and me. There was no reason at all for her visit, she just decided to come. Yes, it is true, we did fit in one of our theatre trips to see “Oklahoma” at the Chichester Festival Theatre on Monday evening - but we arranged that to fit in with the Visit With No Purpose, rather than it being the reason for my daughter appearing at our front door on Monday morning.

 

Despite her visit being without purpose, we did pack a great deal in, even without counting our theatre trip. For a start, she accompanied me to my final physiotherapy appointment on Tuesday afternoon and so was able to celebrate with me that my Recovering Shoulder is so, well, recovered that I have now said goodbye to Sweet Sophia the physiotherapist. She has, however, referred me to a local gym where I can continue my recovery which is an extremely exciting development. Because the Youngest of the Darling Daughters was with me, I booked up my initial consultation and induction session first thing the next morning - this is the thing about the Y of the DDs, she is an Ace Motivator. Without her ever saying a word, I knew that she would want me to be following up Sophia’s referral - so follow up I did.

 

Similarly with my daughter’s encouragement, I followed up recommendations for a handyman to come and fit my curtain poles and other small jobs about the house - something I’ve been meaning to do for ages. I just needed a gentle nudge in the right direction. We ordered various items on-line which will be delivered to me tomorrow and have had several plants which were outgrowing their pots moved to their Forever Home in my newly-cleared flower bed by Ken the Gardener. I’d been meaning to ask him to do this for me for simply ages but hadn’t got around to it. The Youngest of the Darling Daughters was my Catalyst for Action.

 

We had a perfectly pleasant time trailing round charity shops in search of items for granddaughter Hazel Bagel’s new flat, finding a long, white mirror which we both agreed was an absolute bargain at £3. We had an enjoyable conversation about how much we would have paid for it (we might have gone up as far as a fiver, last of the big spenders that we are) and the Youngest of the Darling Daughters kindly said if Hazel didn’t like / want it she would give it to me. Which was generous of her, given that I had paid for it, my daughter having no change on her at the time. We had a good laugh about that - but an even better laugh when we came across one of those toy dressing tables, all Barbie pink, which we photographed and sent to Hazel: “Perfect for your new home!” (or words to that effect) we said. Well, it made us laugh...

 

This afternoon we took an hour out for a trip to the seaside where we were swept along the windy prom (prom, prom), sauntered along the riverside walk, bought a delicious ice-cream each (salted caramel for the Youngest of the Darling Daughters, Caribbean coconut for me) and met a family of swans, five growing cygnets being watched protectively by their parents. We also took in the replacement for the famous Littlehampton Boat Train - it is a sturdy looking truck for sure but it doesn’t have quite the charisma of the boat train. I expect we will reserve final judgement until Family Beach Day in a few weeks time when our littl’uns will put it through its paces.

 

I am not kidding myself, by the way. I know exactly why the Youngest of the Darling Daughters comes so often, for no apparent purpose. She comes to give me a break, to lend her support, to keep me company, to help me get things done, to look after her Dad so I can have a lie-in of a morning, or a quick nap in the afternoon. She comes because she cares. “There she goes!” I say to myself as she drives away, knowing she will be back again sometime soon.

 

Paying us yet another Visit With No Purpose. Bless her...

 

 

 

There is a first time for everything and yesterday I made my first Gluten Free Birthday Cake.

 

That will surprise all my regular readers who know that I have been in the habit of turning out the same Victoria sponge recipe, courtesy of the Divine Delia, on every birthday, for many a year. It was therefore a challenge to realise that I couldn’t follow my normal Custom and Practice for granddaughter Eleanor’s birthday cake, as she can only eat gluten free food.

 

I consulted her boyfriend, Nathan, when the two of them came to visit nearly two weeks ago to ask him if he knew what xantham gum might be; as well as being almost unpronounceable, it sounded extremely unappetising to me. Nathan suggested, sensibly, that I might do better to buy a cake mix...

 

Which I did, but it still left the issue of those two essentials of any self-respecting birthday cake - the filling and the icing - there was nothing for it but to consult the Birthday Girl’s Mother, the Eldest of the Darling Daughters. Over the course of the day before the birthday visit, I sent her photographs of the backs of packets and jars so she could check ingredients for me. We finally settled on reduced sugar strawberry jam for filling, plus gluten free chocolate buttons and fresh raspberries for topping. 

 

Eleanor and Nathan were born on the same day, in the same hospital ward - what are the chances that these two Millennium Babies would meet up at school seventeen years later? Nobody can say they don’t have plenty in common. Today, which is their actual birthday, they are celebrating separately, each with their own families - so yesterday, the day of their visit to Mr B and me, was the perfect opportunity for a double celebration. And (as I suspect you knew I would say) why celebrate one special person’s birthday, when you could celebrate two?

 

July, August and September are particularly busy times for the Making of Birthday Banners but I was pleased to add one more to my 2019 Banner Tally, especially as Nathan had never ever had a birthday banner before - at least not one reading “Nathan is 19”. I hung it across the window in the dining area, a companion to “Eleanor is 19” which was strung across the living room window. What a good thing, I am sure you are thinking, that our main room enjoys what the estate agents describe as a “double aspect.” One of my Tremendous Ten grandchildren, young Sam, becomes a teenager next month. He will therefore receive a special banner, proclaiming “Samuel Teenager”. This will not go down well with his parents, My Boy and the Darling Daughter in Law, who will doubtless protest (with some justification) that birthday banners are not meant to take over living space like a particularly prolific triffid. 

 

The Eldest of the Darling Daughter brought with her plentiful food for our lunch, together with a bottle of rather splendid champagne. This meant that I could spend my time preparing for the Birthday Visit on the priorities - such as dressing up the Giant Penguin, banners, wrapping presents and, of course, cooking that cake (which turned out to be rather delicious. Though I say so myself, as shouldn’t...) 

 

We had a great deal to talk about. Eleanor’s older sister Katie (we celebrated her 22nd birthday in much the same fashion, back in April, though the cake was, well, gluten-y) has just completed her Finals and is determined to enjoy life without studying over the coming month, not giving more than a passing thought to Results Day at the end of August. If - make that, when - she passes those exams, she will probably be one of the youngest fully qualified chartered accountants in the country. I am very proud of her.

 

While searching through old photo albums for pictures of Graduation Ceremonies I Have Attended (see previous blog - though only if you can be bothered, of course..) I came across the photographs of the new born Eleanor, resting in her mother’s arms in the hospital where she was born. Her mother, it has to be said, looks amazingly glamorous for one who has just given birth. Big Sister Katie, then aged three and a half, looks as if she is trying to come to terms with the seismic shift in her life which has just taken place. 

 

A few pages on, and there is a photograph of the two girls with their mother, planting a tree. Nineteen years ago, Kent County Council had the really rather wonderful idea of gifting a tree for every Kent child born in the year 2000, to be planted in White Horse Wood. There are over 20,000 trees in this beautiful country park - and one of them is a silver birch planted for our Eleanor to mark her birth. 

 

The silver birch is a tree native to Great Britain, a beautiful, vigorous tree which is happy wherever you plant it but loves the sunshine. 

 

The perfect tree, in fact, for Our Eleanor...

 

So according to an informal customer survey I carried out yesterday (the hottest day for, like, ever), the coolest local shop was the butcher’s. Unfortunately there is only so long one can spend examining the refrigerated display, pretending to agonise over Sussex lamb chops (on offer at £7.99 for six), chicken breast fillets or award-winning sausages of various recipes. I just had to move on...

 

The hair salon was not exactly cool, what with the hair dryers on full blow, but I’d already rearranged my appointment once so there was nothing for it but to go with the flow. The sweet lass who washed my hair (“please tell me if the water is too hot, I can’t tell myself, not wearing gloves, but if I don’t wear gloves I ruin my hands and then I wouldn’t be able to wash your hair”) is trying to introduce her partner to healthy eating. She has stocked her fridge at home with salad and other healthy options but when her partner arrived home, he looked in the fridge and complained that there was “nothing to eat.” There is something very comforting about lying there, with your head over the wash basin, having your head massaged (“Would you like conditioner? Yes? Amazing!”) and listening to somebody else prattling on about their life - especially when it is far too hot to enter into a debate about healthy eating and the Power of Vegetables.

 

Once my hair was, once again, under something like control I was tempted to return to the butchers on the excuse of checking out the price of eggs - but, no, I had told Mr B I would be back before 2.30 so I needed to get moving. Only slowly, you understand, account of the heat...

 

You are wondering, aren’t you, how Mr B enjoyed the Sporting Memories Club - I am sad to inform you that we didn’t get there, it being Just Too Hot. Never mind, there is always next week...

 

My dear Dad used to love long, hot summers. He did have a business reason, as well as a personal preference as every Sunday afternoon he would take to his ice cream tricycle and hit the roads, peddling (and pedalling) for all he was worth. As I remember, the top seller was an ice cream sandwich - two thin wafer biscuits enclosing a small oblong of ice cream. There wasn’t that much choice, not in those long ago days.

 

I will always remember my Dad turning up at the hospital where I was recovering from an operation to remove my tonsils with ice creams for every young patient in the ward. For one day only he was Everybody’s Hero and I basked unashamedly in his glory. If you seek popularity in a hospital ward full of children with sore throats, a father offering free ice creams takes some beating.

 

I’m keeping Mr B hydrated with ice lollies as he simply won’t drink water. He is convinced that ice lollies are a naughty treat so is more than happy to oblige me. In this, he is rather like the partner of the sweet girl who washed my hair - he would reject anything that reeked of “healthy” out of hand. I wonder what he would do if KFC suddenly became a Healthy Option. 

 

The Darling Daughters kept messaging me yesterday to make sure that we were both keeping cool; all those warning messages on TV and radio were stressing them out. I had to tell them about the butchers and assure them that I would take refuge in the cold meats section if things got really bad...

 

Apparently it is going to cool down now. Everybody says so, which means it can’t simply be a matter of wishful thinking. I will be able to hide my legs under trousers again and visit all the local shops, not just the butchers. 

 

I’m also thinking how lovely it would be, to be visited by an ice-cream salesman on a tricycle, selling wafer ice cream sandwiches.

 

Especially if the Coolest of Ice Cream Salesmen just happened to be my dear Dad...

Latest comments

12.08 | 09:53

Very nice, really i appreciate....well done.

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thanks

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21.05 | 10:09

I'm needing to find information about the usher family tree for my aunty, her great grandparent where Thomas and Phoebe Usher would I've been researching

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21.05 | 10:03

Hi Karen,
I'm helping my aunt with her family tree her maiden name was usher. do you have any other information or found anything about the usher family

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18.04 | 17:19

Oh that's such a good read Jaqui! It's great to see it through your eyes, and you capture it beautifully... and you will indeed look like real athletes too!

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