It is Sports Day at Hook Infants School and an opportunity for Faris the Rascal and the rest of his comrades in Seahorse Class to shine. There to cheer him on is his proud mother, the Middle of the Darling Daughters and
his equally proud aunt, Youngest of the Darling Daughters, known to Faris and His Girls as Kazza. Kazza is also the appointed photographer - as in, appointed because it is always taken for granted that she won’t let any special moment slip by unrecorded.
I do wish I were there, too, but it is not to be. Thanks to our Family Photographer, however, I am sent countless lovely pictures and the occasional video showing The Rascal
running, jumping, hurling plastic javelins, throwing bean bags into a hoop and skipping.
Ah, the skipping. From the short snatch of video I am sent, it seems
that Faris may need a few lessons from Auntie Kazza who, at much the same age, showed everyone how it should be done. It is one of my favourite memories from her childhood, watching her line-up with her class-mates, skipping rope in hand, head bent forward,
shoulders slightly hunched, and bearing a distinct resemblance to Princess Diana in her Shy Di phase. On the sidelines with her father, (Mr B, of course) I worried aloud whether this was going to be a Trial by Skipping Rope for our five year old. “I
mean, can she even SKIP?” I fretted, anxiously.
A whistle blew. Our shy daughter flew from the starting line, her skipping rope swinging in perfect time
with her scampering legs. She left all the other children trailing far behind in her wake. Mr B and I turned to look at each other, our flabber totally gasted. “I think we can safely say she can skip,” said Mr B unnecessarily.
On another sporting occasion, the Eldest and Middle Darling Daughters were running the first and second legs in a three person relay race. Mr B, who has always been a master
of sports day strategy, decided before the event to take matters in hand. For days before the Big Occasion he had the two of them out in our cul de sac practising a fail-safe way of passing the baton without accidentally dropping it. All that training paid
off, by the time our eldest daughter had handed in the baton to the third runner, their relay team was streets ahead of the opposition. All through that vital third leg, the distance between our runner and the second placed girl shortened with every stride:
the race was almost thrown away but fortunately, because of the fine start she had been given, our runner just made it over the finish. Mr B was possibly even more excited than his daughters.
It is easy to tell from Our Rascal’s excited face how much he is enjoying sports day. For my part, I am particularly interested in his technique negotiating the yellow ladder laid out on the grass. Every week, during my Run The
One training, I too have to skip through a similar ladder. First time round, it’s just one foot in each rung, second circuit it’s two feet, third time round we have to do a kind of waltz step in each rung. The secret, according to Cheery Chris,
our ever-encouraging trainer, is to engage our core strength, pretend we have a helium balloon on top of our heads, and to lift our feet up, rather than plodding through the ladder. If it helps, she told us, keep telling yourself “Up, Up, Up!”
as you travel through the nine rungs of the ladder. “Up,up, up!” I gasp as I Trip the Light Fantastic.
Now I can tell, just looking at the photograph
of The Rascal that he is certainly not muttering “Up, Up, Up!” under his breath. Cheery Chris, I am sure, would be impressed with his Ladder Technique. I am not ashamed to say that I could learn a lot, ladder-wise, from my youngest grandson.
That’s not all. Young Faris may have found his feet entangled in his skipping rope, impeding progress - but set free from the encumbrance of the rope, he turned into
Master Super Speedy and won the sprint race. Even from a distance, I am so very proud of him.
Next year, you never know, with the help of some timely tuition from
his Auntie Kazza, he might add the skipping race to his Victory Tally - though looking at his smiley face I can tell that, he doesn’t really mind whether he wins or loses. He is an excellent example to me, his grandmother.
As I tell myself every week as I trail in last after all my fellow participants in the Run The One, it isn’t the winning that matters - it’s the taking part...
Mr B is starting to get a little agitated. This is, unusually for me, an under statement.
We have until 1.30 p.m. to reach
the health centre where Mr B is booked in for a podiatry appointment. Whenever I mention this to people, they say things like: “a poetry appointment?” or “a pottery appointment?” It must be the way I tell ‘em...
In most cases I am able to arrange for health professionals to visit Mr B at home which is a great boon and much appreciated by both the patient and by me. Podiatry, however (and
it may be the same with poetry or pottery, who am I to say?) requires us to turn up at the health centre. It isn’t that far away but will still require me to book wheelchair accessible transport there and back with the local Dial a Ride service - which
I successfully did as soon as we received the appointment letter.
Ah, yes, the letter. It is quite a bossy letter, as letters go. It tells us that podiatry is
a “limited service” and that if we are DNA at our first appointment we will be immediately discharged without further notice and probably excommunicated as well. No, I made that last bit up, but you doubtless guessed that. As well as being discharged,
a letter will be sent to us and to our GP so that everyone is absolutely clear that we are on the Naughty Step and Not To Be Trusted. Incidentally, just in case you can’t work out what DNA means, it stands for Did Not Attend and is not to confused with
the DNA which determines our genetic make-up. Although one could possibly make an argument for a connection.
Given all this, you can understand why I am getting
so fidgety when our transport hasn’t turned up on time, rendering us very likely to be labelled DNA. If I’m fidgety, believe me, Mr B is approaching stratospheric levels of Fidgetty Activity. I telephone Dial A Ride to check on estimated time of
arrival and get the distinct impression that we have somehow been forgotten - you can tell, can’t you, by the awkward hesitation, the humming and haa-ing going on at the other end of the line? I am assured that transport will arrive and we will not be
DNAd. I don’t tell Mr B my fears as it would only make matters worse but I try to telephone the podiatry department to explain the situation, to apologise in advance if we are late, but to provide earnest reassurances that we will be there as soon as
possible. Except that there is nobody there to take my call as everyone in podiatry has gone out to lunch. Or, quite possibly, DNA in the first place.
Trevor turns up. No, I have never met Trevor before but I am sure you will appreciate why he is my new BFF. He is driving a bus from a completely different organisation and is candid in admitting that he had been called in a panic to fill the gap. He is confident
that, with five whole minutes to spare, he can get us - and Mr B’s feet - to our appointment on time.
He is as good as his word. Or, at least, we arrive
in the car park only a couple of minutes late and I hare inside to check us in while Trevor is unloading Mr B and wheelchair. We even have time to catch our breath and take in our surroundings (there is a colourful Disney cartoon on the wall of the waiting
room, which seems most appropriate bearing in mind that most of the time I feel as if I am living in Mickey Mouse Land.)
The podiatrist is the sweetest young woman,
not the least bit likely to strike anyone off the list for being a little late. She takes great care over Mr B’s poor toes, offers us some sound advice and tells Mr B she will see him again in a few months time. When we emerge from her surgery, we have
but a minute to wait before Trevor arrives to transport us home.
All is well that ends well. I feel perfectly content with life, the trials of earlier in
the afternoon are forgotten. Some people would dwell on it, I’m sure - but not me.
I guess acceptance of small surmountable problems and contentment with
my lot is all part of my DNA...
Faris the Rascal (he is, as you know, the Eldest of the Rascally Trio) tells me that, come September, he will be a Flamingo. As in, Flamingo Class at school, you understand.
Does this mean, I want to know, that he will have to dress in pink and stand on one leg? The Rascal immediately demonstrates his ability to balance, flamingo-style, for my benefit. I reflect on the fact that, when required
to do the same as part of my training for the Run The One, I generally find myself clutching onto the climbing frame to keep myself upright. It’s a very good thing that I am not, nor never likely to be, a member of Flamingo Class.
This fascinating conversation is being carried out thanks to FaceTime which has stepped into the breach after the visit to ours planned for yesterday had to be sadly aborted when
the Middle of the Darling Daughters was alerted to a warning symbol on the dashboard of her car indicating a problem with “engine management.” She telephoned me, all apologies, to say she really felt she had better drive home rather than risk further
travel - and I was quick to agree. There will always be another time, I said. Faris was particularly disappointed because he was looking forward to making the Flowerpot People but: “We can make them next time we come,” he reassured me. Bless the
boy, he was more concerned about my disappointment than his own.
Still, with the help of FaceTime today I was able to show him and the Twins all the materials
I had gathered together for the manufacture of the Flowerpot People - the terracotta pots for their heads, the green or black pots for their bodies, the google eyes, the buttons, the arms and legs made out of small pots strung together with green string. Plus
the flowers to be planted in the top flower pots, in three different colours.
“Can I talk to Grandad now?” asked the Rascal, obviously having run out
of things to say about the Flowerpot People.
Grandad, known to you all as Mr B, was watching cricket - England playing India, in case you need to know -
but was pleased to take time out to talk to the Rascal, even though, unlike me, he didn’t have any props to show off.
Sad though I was not to see the
Rascally Trio yesterday, I think they may just have been in the best place, in their back garden splashing about in a Rascal-sized paddling pool. I’m sure it was cooler than it would have been modelling Flowerpot People in our back garden. I need to
invest in a new paddling pool if we are to have a Long, Hot Summer...
The Middle of the Darling Daughters tells me that the photographs of the Trio romping around
in the pool don’t tell the whole story. What with the complaints about being too wet (isn’t that the idea?) or getting splashed (ditto) or nobody obeying “The Rules” (there are no rules, not in Paddling Pool Land) you understand.
Back at home, I was trying to find ways of keeping Mr B cool and hydrated, recognising with regret that a paddling pool would have been a Step Too Far. The fan we bought
last summer was dragged out of the garage and proved to be worth its weight in whatever gold I paid for it - but getting Mr B to drink enough water was a challenge. Then I remembered - out in the freezer was a box of fruit lollies bought with the Rascally
Trio in mind. They were Just the Ticket.
Don’t worry, my Rascals - next time you come, we will make the Flowerpot Men for sure. The freezer will be replenished
with more fruity lollies. We will practise being flamingoes standing on one leg.
It will, as always, be SUCH fun...
The radiographer emerges from the X-ray suite, calling for “Sheila Ball.” Nobody answers. In fact, there is only one woman seated in the waiting area, wearing a not-very-becoming hospital gown - she happens
to be me.
“Are you Sheila?” the radiographer enquires, obviously assuming I am deaf, demented or - quite possibly given my Great Age - both. I tell
him that my surname is, indeed, Ball but I am Jacqueline, not Sheila. At which he refers once more to the notes he is holding only to realise that the name written thereon is not Sheila, but Jacqueline. “I can’t think what I was thinking of!”
he apologises as he ushers me into his very own Torture Chamber.
He extends a welcoming hand: “My name’s Paddy...” he tells me. Reader, I couldn’t
“I shall call you Geoffrey,” I told him, grandly - though with a twinkle in my eye. It is clear we are going to get along famously.
When I refer to his “Torture Chamber” I am exaggerating, of course. It does seem, however, that every time I turn up for a follow up appointment with the surgeon
who operated on my Problem Shoulder, she first sends me to have numerous X-rays which require me to assume increasingly contorted positions, some standing and seated. “You are not going to like me for this,” says Paddy / Geoffrey kindly but I reassure
him that whatever it is, it will not harm our blossoming friendship. Apparently my surgeon has made her wishes clear and “whatever she wants, she gets.” I think it is a Fine Thing to have a surgeon who strikes fear into her colleagues’ hearts
but is unfailingly kind to her patients.
After bidding Paddy / Geoffrey a fond farewell, I return to the Fracture Clinic as directed and place the yellow
card I had been given into a slot outside the consulting room. “Do not on any account leave the hospital,” the yellow card nags me. I wasn’t going to, anyway, but being bossed about by a yellow card is enough to make anyone feel a little
bolshie. Still, you know me, I am Ever Obedient so I take a seat in the waiting area. Homes Under the Hammer is playing on the TV.
When I am finally ushered
into the consulting room, I find out that all the hospital’s systems are down - I blame the heat, personally. This means, my surgeon tells me as she bounces into the consulting room, that my X-rays have not been forwarded from Paddy / Geoffrey so she
can’t check that everything is still in its correct place. I am pleased to confirm that this is not Paddy / Geoffrey’s Fault. I obey instructions to make windmill movements with my arm and am informed that there has been a 20% improvement in range
since six months ago which is extremely encouraging, especially as it hasn’t been that easy to keep up enthusiasm for my exercises so many months on.
readers may recall that I call my surgeon Tigger because she is so very, well, bouncy. Not to her face, you understand, she might not realise that I mean it as a compliment. She is the polar opposite to Mr B’s neurologist, whom we have named Mr Bow Tie,
who sits behind a desk and almost dares you to query his pronouncements. Tigger, like Mr Bow Tie, oozes self-confidence which is just fine - nobody wants to trust someone lacking in confidence with a scalpel, now do they? - but she definitely has the Human
Today, Tigger surprised even me with her Tigger-ishness. I was explaining my progress with various physiotherapy exercises (I wanted to tell her about my
Reward Chart but I thought she might laugh at me) when all of a sudden she leapt onto the bed, laid down with her knees bent and proceeded to demonstrate how to perform the exercise which I have dubbed “Beans in Bed.” I was momentarily speechless,
partly because an unfortunate image flickered in my head of Mr Bow Tie doing likewise across his posh desk but mostly because it isn’t the kind of behaviour one expects from an esteemed hospital consultant.
Let’s have more of it! I say. I only wish granddaughter Eleanor, who has just completed her first year of medical studies, could have come with me today. I’m sure she would have been inspired.
I return home on the Pulse bus, determined to put the bounce back into my exercise regime and so get back in touch with my Inner Tigger...
I am onto my fourth leg before I start to have doubts. Will the Rascally Trio be as keen as I hope they will be to make Flower Pot People when they visit on Saturday morning? What with the temperatures set to soar, won’t
they much prefer to cool themselves down amid the leaping water fountains at Splash Point? Or even to empty the water butt in the back garden and water all the thirsty plants? Have I, indeed, Set Myself Up To Fail?
I blame the Facebook post which showed a trio of flower pot people dressed as a Beaver, a Cub and a Scout. Such an amazingly inventive idea and one which (I assumed in a fit of misguided self-confidence) it should be easy
to copy. I forwarded the image to the Middle of the Darling Daughters to suggest this new idea for occupying the Rascals on their next visit. She was, as always, Up For It.
So I have purchased six seven inch flower pots, three terracotta colour for the heads, one black and two green for the bodies. I searched through my sewing box to find the packet of goggle eyes which I bought when I was in my Minion Making phase (I
had to buy a packet of twenty which was far more than I needed for my one-eyed Yellow Ones - but I knew they’d come in useful one day.) Meanwhile there are buttons a-plenty in my Button Box to decorate their jackets. Tomorrow I will choose three flowering
plants for the Rascals
All that was left was to fashion the arms and legs - which proved a little more complicated than I had anticipated especially as I couldn’t
find any teeny tiny flower pots (as per the original models) for the purpose. Instead I had to wash twenty four of my smallest plant pots which I hoped would do the job, with the insertion of cardboard party cups in each limb. The Lovely Kay, who helps me
keep my house in order, thought I would do better to use two party cups for each arm and leg pointing out that this would show off the animal design on the cups to greater effect. I do usually take Kay’s advice (she is, after all, excellent at reading
meters, filling the dishwasher with salt and all manner of other tasks I find tricky on account of the Recovering Shoulder) but in this case I stuck to my guns because otherwise my project would have to be called Flower Pot and Party Cup People. Which doesn’t
that the same ring about it, don’t you agree?
This doesn’t help my dilemma about the appeal of my latest project to those I am hoping to delight. I
decide to head into the kitchen to experiment with making a recipe cooked up on last night’s Eat Well for Less programme in which Greg Wallace and the Other Guy (whose name I forget), had set themselves the challenge of making a small girl love vegetables.
The little lass in question rather reminded me of myself when she screwed up her nose in disgust at the thought of Green Stuff on her plate. I’ve never been much of a fan either but I am much taken with the idea of chopping up and cooking lots of veggies,
smothering them in tomato purée and so disguising the fact that I am consuming four portions of my Five A Day almost without noticing.
Because I wasn’t
paying rapt attention to the television during the programme, my memory of the actual recipe is a trifle sketchy to say the least but by the time I have chopped, cooked, tasted and served up my Veggie Concoction I am quite proud of myself. Mr B says not to
give him too much dinner as he isn’t that hungry. Is there any more annoying comment when one has worked so hard to indulge one’s Inner Vegetarian? What’s more the kitchen looks an absolute mess, especially as one surface is covered with
arms and legs still to be assembled - and I have to be out early tomorrow morning for a hospital appointment so somehow everything must be in as near a pristine state as I can manage before I head up to bed.
What to do about the Flower Pot People? Then I have it - the Middle of the Darling Daughters believes strongly that preparation is everything. Her Trio never go unprepared into any new situation whether that is a visit to
our house or the Twins‘ venture into Ladybird Class when they go to Big School in September. I am always amazed at what good parents my children are, especially bearing in mind they were brought up by me. (I always trot out the excuse that I was very,
very young, practically a child bride, etc etc..)
“Can you show the Trio before you come?” I message my daughter. “Let me know if they
sound keen on the idea, won’t you?” If they don’t, then I shall just have to make the Flower Pot People for myself, I suppose, there’s no point in wasting all those arms and legs...
Still, as the Beavers, Cubs and Scouts would say, it’s best to Be Prepared...
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