Jaqui's Daily Blog

Mr B and I are watching the FA Cup Final. I am supporting Chelsea, he is supporting Liverpool.

 

I say that we should really both be supporting Chelsea. After all, at Sporting Memories last week, everybody without exception said they would be with Mr B in supporting Spurs playing in their local derby match against Arsenal at the weekend, even our most fervent of Chelsea supporters. Fair’s fair, I said - surely we should repay the favour? Mr B says all is not necessarily fair in football and he is supporting Liverpool. I can do as I want, he says, but Liverpool will win….

 

Which of course they did, after thirty minutes of extra time and a penalty shoot-out. I had to wait for the Women’s Final the following day for Chelsea to lift an F.A. Cup - I wonder if our Sporting Memories chum will be appeased by this victory?

 

Oh, but the Cup Final isn’t the same anymore! I remember the build-up in the days when my dear Dad was in charge of the TV, watching every minute of the band playing, singing along with the community singalong. Now we just get pundits predicting the score, analysing the team selection, deciding what the outcome for this player or that will be, depending on how they play. I honestly don’t want or need such input - I have Mr B for that…

 

What I do like is the competition itself, the inclusion of the “little” clubs, the enticing prospect of a giant-killing run of good luck. It’s just a pity that we always seem to end up with more of the same. Sorry, Chelsea. Sorry, Liverpool.

 

What is really concerning me at the moment, however, is that the Footie season is coming to an end. Over the last year, since our Sporting Memories Gang started to meet again (as Her Maj promised, you might remember) I have worked hard to develop my football knowledge. I have watched, with Mr B, football matches on TV with much more avid interest than in the past in order to be able to keep up with the conversation on a Thursday morning at Worthing Football Club. I have learnt the names of a good many players, usually those with memorable hair styles. I can generally hazard a guess as to who is at the top and who is at the bottom of the Premier League. I kind of know why it matters to qualify for the Champions League at the end of the season and how a team secures its place there.

 

Only last Thursday, the lovely Rhona, one of our volunteer organisers, praised my sporting knowledge. Okay, so this was because I managed to answer one of the weekly quiz questions correctly before anybody else - the answer was “Stirling Moss” and, to be strictly honest (and I always feel the Daily Blog owes that much to its readers), I had simply called out the only racing driver from the Early Days whose name I knew. 

 

The trouble is, we are now into the cricket season and the main topic of the weekly conversation at Sporting Memories is clearly shifting from football to cricket. I had to keep quiet for, well it must have been at least ten minutes, because I didn’t know who everyone was talking about. I need to know the difference between the “white ball game” and the “red ball game.” I need to try to memorise the names of the whole Sussex cricket team and what they look like - it used to be easier in the far-off days of Colin Cowdrey and Ted Dexter because the batsmen didn’t wear protective head-gear and I could check out their hair styles…

 

Before we were married I used to accompany Mr B to all his cricket matches. I used to help make the teas, like a good girl-friend, and didn’t mind too much when the other wives and girl-friends turned up at the end of the match, all dressed up to the nines, while I looked like Cinderella after a bad day in the kitchen.

 

Mr B always felt I should watch him play and I did my best. One particular match, I watched and applauded every one of the four wickets he took, and the ten runs he scored. So what did he ask me, as he left the field, triumphant?

 

“Did you see that brilliant one-handed catch I took to dismiss their leading scorer?”

 

“Er, what catch?” I was forced to admit…

 

 

Faris the Rascal has made a list of all I need to attend to. It is quite long but, even so, probably not completely comprehensive.

 

I need to locate four new eyes, a couple of buttons and three wigs. I also need to carry out a thorough clean and try my hand at joint replacement surgery. Fortunately Faris thinks I am up to the task…

 

The objects of my attention are the three Flowerpot People who stand guard in our back garden. Faris and the Twins call them “Our People” because they made them. With a little bit of help from Yours Truly. It wasn’t a completely original idea, I found a picture by accident on-line and decided it would be an excellent project for the Trio and me on their next visit. In preparation, I had to purchase six large flower-pots and three flowering plants. I already possessed a whole variety of buttons (collected over many years in my button box), goggle eyes (bought some time ago when I was immersed in a Minion Making Project - don't ask!), small flower pots (used for transplanting sunflower seedlings) and cardboard party cups (left over from somebody’s jungle-themed party.) It’s amazing just what you can lay your hands on when you need to.

 

I did have a potential problem because I’d only been able to find two green and one black flowerpot for our people’s bodies - but Faris was mollified when I pointed out that his mother always wore black. It was sheer genius on my part though I say so myself as shouldn’t.

 

That was back in October 2019, since when the Flowerpot People have attracted much admiration from visitors to our back garden. Come Spring 2022 and they were, however, looking a little sorry for themselves - time for a little sympathetic refurbishment. As on The Repair Shop, (one of Mr B’s  and my favourite TV programmes), I knew I must retain the character of the originals. That meant replacing the missing eyes in exactly the same position, even though Faris’s person’s eyes had slipped  down to the bottom of its face when he tried to stick them on. It meant I had to keep the original bodies, faded though they were from nearly three years in the sun, just giving them a good wash. It meant that the replacement buttons didn’t quite match, even though I could have switched them for a whole new, matching set. The Trio need to recognise them as Their People. Just cleaner.

 

The most difficult part of the entire restoration was the joint replacement surgery. The jungle-themed party cups which formed the middle joint of the arms and legs of all three Flowerpot People had completely disintegrated and had to be carefully removed and thrown in the bin. I couldn’t find any party cups quite so, well, jungly, but managed to find pink for the girls and blue for Faris.  Being no stranger to joint replacement surgery (I am more or less bionic and likely to become more so in the next year or so) I knew exactly what amazing difference my efforts would make to Our People; I had, however, completely forgotten how very fiddly it was threading two tiny flowerpots and one party cup together with garden twine to make each limb. That’s twelve limbs in all, don’t you know? I doubt most orthopaedic surgeons get through so many in a day.

 

Now would they ever have experienced finding a tiny snail tucked inside one of the flowerpots while I was washing them. I removed it gingerly, imagining it was obviously long deceased and placed it on the draining board - where it surprised me by emerging from its shell and making its shiny way across the kitchen surface. I did wish the Trio had been there to see it. In their absence, I showed Mr B who demonstrated zero interest, probably because I had interrupted the snooker world championships on the television…

 

The Flowerpot People are completely restored to health. I can’t wait for the Trio’s visit  to see if they approve of my handiwork. I have planted them with trailing petunias because I quite like the idea of them growing their hair long, like modern day hippies. 

 

Or Flower People, as we used to call them, back in the day….

 

  

Mr B has fallen in love again. He is hopelessly devoted to Someone Other Than Yours Truly.

 

Fortunately, his new amour is not another woman but is a fluffy ball of apricot fur with meltingly winsome eyes, who goes by the name of Nola. Every day since she went to live with our eldest granddaughter Katie and her fiancé Nathan, Mr B has been desperate to meet her. He gazes on the framed photograph which graces our windowsill and asks me constantly: “When are we going to meet that dog?!” Yesterday his dream came true…

 

Nola’s owners were keen that she should be mostly house-trained before visiting us but yesterday was the perfect opportunity being Katie’s birthday weekend. In preparation for Birthday Celebrations I had spent a happy, if floury, afternoon baking (i) an apple pie and (ii) a birthday cake. Sunday was actually the day after Katie’s birthday but, as I always say, why have one birthday when you could have two? The Room Outdoors was festooned with bunting, the Giant Penguin was out on the doorstep dressed in a pink feather boa and a birthday hat complete with felt candles, and the champagne glasses were set out on the dining room table ready for the bottle of Prosecco which the Eldest of the Darling Daughters and her fella were bringing (in accordance with tradition.)

 

We were joined by Katie’s sister Eleanor, travelling by train from Uni in Brighton with her boyfriend - making us eight in all, not counting Nola.

 

Did I say “not counting Nola”? How could I possibly say that, given that most of the afternoon was spent watching Nola inspecting our back garden, sleeping on different laps (she sleeps a lot, does Nola), or listening to her latest antics. She was, indeed, the star of the Birthday Show. We all watched adoringly as she performed the various tricks she has learnt so far at Puppy Training including “sit”, “high fives” and “turn round.” We discuss whether dogs can understand words and Nathan tells us that he has heard of one puppy who always sat down when its owner commanded it “Broccoli!” I am told that Nola doesn’t bark much - only when one of her owners isn’t quick enough in doling out the treats after a “performance.” In this, she is not unlike Mr B - though really I can’t talk, can I, as one who is Always Thinking About Her Stomach?

 

In case you are thinking that the Birthday Girl might have been somewhat upstaged by Nola, I must reassure you that we did not miss out on any of the traditional celebrations. It was a pity that cloudy skies and showers drove us indoors after the Supping of Prosecco, but there was no dampening our spirits. We enjoyed a picnic lunch, followed by apple pie and cream; opened numerous presents; and sang Happy Birthday with such gusto that Nola woke from her slumbers and surveyed the candle-lit cake with something akin to wonderment. 

 

One of Katie’s presents from her sister was a plaque on which she could keep track of how many days it is until her Wedding Day next year. 343 days to go as of yesterday, just 342 today. What a great present! Let the Countdown begin!

 

According to something called the Urban Dictionary, the definition of the name Nola is that she gets whatever she wants, when she wants it. She is very outgoing when she knows people but may be shy when she first meets them. She isn’t afraid to be herself. She is fearless and brave while at the same time kind-hearted. Most of that rings true, though she wasn’t the least bit shy when she met us - much the opposite in fact. 

 

Oh, and if the Urban Dictionary is to be believed, she “only likes certain people”. 

 

I can only hope it’s not unrequited love for Mr B…

As regular readers know so well, I have a habit of introducing family traditions which then rule my life for the rest of my days. There is an expectation built up which I cannot disappoint. 

 

Sometimes I seek to draw a line based on the age of the recipient. So, for example, where Christmas tree decorations are concerned, 21 was the cut-off point. I still feel guilty every Christmas when I buy or make tree decorations for all the younger grandchildren but not the older ones - though I remind myself that, this way, every grandchild will eventually receive the same number of baubles. I was cheered when our Katie, on buying a house of her own with her fiancé Nathan, had 21 decorations with which to decorate her tree on her very first Christmas in her new home. It seemed to prove my point.

 

Which brings us to Easter and yet another family tradition. No, I’m not actually talking about the Easter Trail, though we did have not one, but two of them, too. Last weekend we were visited by two Darling Daughters and their families. My special surprise was the arrival of granddaughter Hazel Bagel, who wasn’t expected but was doubly welcome. As was her brother Jack who was expected but is always, and always be, very welcome. 

 

Nor did I have to worry over much about feeding the five thousand (okay, the eleven) because they brought everything with them for a massive family barbecue including a sack of barbecue coals. Our ancient barbecue was rescued from the end of the garden and the Great Feast was prepared. 

 

The two Sons-in-Law put themselves in charge of the barbecue but hit a snag when the coals simply wouldn’t catch light properly. Did I have, I was asked, a hair dryer? I scuttled off to find my trusty hair dryer while the Barbecuers Extraordinaire tried to work out where to plug it in. I kid you not, it took three extension leads and a hair dryer to fan the flames sufficiently to create the required heat. (Incidentally, for a good week since when I have dried my hair, wet from the shower, there is the unmistakable smoky smell of burning charcoal - it’s a reminder, of (smelling) sorts, of a special day.)

 

My Easter Trail wasn’t my best effort but then I had only had three hours from the time my Little Sister and Co left, at 9 a.m., till the next party arrived at 12. To be fair, my Little Sister had suggested one clue, in rhyme no less, which I did include, though I couldn’t quite manage to keep up her poetic turn of phrase in the remaining nine clues. Plus, as I told my Little Sister when she messaged me on her way home to ask me how my trail was coming along, it was, and always would be, All About The Eggs. 

 

The Trio almost came unstuck on the first clue “A Flowery Welcome” - in fact the whole party, adults and all, were scratching their collective heads for some time.  Obviously my new front door mat, with its profusion of poppies and other blooms, hadn’t properly registered with my visitors. Once the Trio had solved all the clues and claimed their eggs, I set them the task of fashioning a trail for their cousins Jack and Hazel. Who are, obviously, much too old for Easter Trails but, thankfully, not for Eggs. The Middle of the Darling Daughters agreed with me that it was good for the Trio to be the ones setting the clues, as well as the ones answering them.

 

It was at this point in the proceedings, after the Trails and the Food, that my daughter reminded the Trio of the other special Easter Tradition - the potato and spoon races. I introduced these more than twenty years ago, when the four oldest grandchildren were but littl’uns. Potatoes seemed to be a rather inspired alternative to eggs - and so a tradition was born. 

 

Except that this year I had completely forgotten all about the potato and spoon races. To cover my confusion, and with every finger and toe crossed, I consulted the cupboard in which I keep my vegetables - where I found three absolutely enormous potatoes. I do mean enormous. Hopefully not only would they save my face but they would also be a subject of considerable hilarity. 

 

So it proved. The potatoes were so large that they only just fitted into the ladle, the serving spoon, and the extra large mixing spoon. Moreover, they were so large that they mostly stayed put, however fast the runners raced. A race around the tamarisk tree, followed by a hop, skip and a jump to the skipping rope which doubled as the finishing line. When everyone managed to complete the course without dropping their enormous potato we decided to time everybody, including me. I, in recognition of my Great Age, was allowed to take a shorter route but still managed to take several seconds longer than the slowest of the Trio.

 

The Trio, I have to tell you, all have quite amazing memories. Hence when next Easter comes round and I have only normal-sized potatoes on offer, they will be most put-out.

 

It will be an ENORMOUS disappointment…

 

Outside in the Room Outdoors, two heads are bent over the newspaper, a picture of intense

concentration. My brother Phil is busily instructing my Little Sister (who is, of course, his Little Sister too) in the Secrets of Sudoku. There is something inexplicably lovely about those two heads so close together, the furrowed brow (of my Little Sister) and my brother’s pen, carefully pointing out which number goes where. 

 

One brother, two sisters - we were three-quarters of the way to a full Brothers and Sisters Day. Only the unavoidable absence of the eldest sibling, brother Tony, stopped us being a Full House. 

 

I made up for this somewhat by occasionally calling Phil by his brother’s name. This wasn’t an unusual slip-up on my part - my Foursome will tell you that I often called them by each other’s names. I was the model, I think, for a particular picture showing a mother and her little daughter, engaged in some domestic activity. “Am I a good mother, Mary?” asks the mother. To which the daughter replies, simply: “My name’s Susan…” Yes, dear reader, that could have been me…

 

My brother lives in Scotland so we can’t meet up very often but he is, indeed, the perfect house guest. He gets up early in the morning and makes himself and Mr B the first of many cups of coffee. My brother is the only person I know who drinks as much coffee as Mr B and me. “No need to apologise,” I say, when he says yes to yet another cuppa, “ We’re having another one ourselves anyway….” 

 

When he has finished his coffee, he walks down to the garage to buy a newspaper for Mr B and for himself. They read the same newspaper and share that urgent need to buy a newspaper wherever they are. Mr B was the same on holidays abroad - paying quite excessive amounts for an English paper two days out of date. “I need to check that nobody important has died while we are away…” he would explain. I rather think my brother would understand…

 

My Little Sister, meanwhile, is proud as punch that she has managed to organise our mini reunion. It’s just a pity that her fella, my lovely brother-in-law, manages to come over Proper Poorly, having to take to his bed for the whole of their second day. This means they must stay another night - and I feel selfish for welcoming the fact that I have my sister and brother here for another full day. My Little Sister, incidentally, cannot be classed as a house guest. Whenever I have most needed her - when Mr B was taken into hospital, when I was recovering from my shoulder surgery - she was there. “On our way!” she would message me. Never was a message more gratefully received.

 

In the evening we watch CODA, that film which won all the Oscars, about the child of deaf adults. We sit, side by side, on our two seater sofa and weep at the same critical moments. We can feel each other sobbing without having to look at each other. There are few things more companionable than weeping together over a book, a film, a television programme, knowing that we won’t laugh at each other however much we are asked: “Are you crying yet!?” by the less emotionally involved among us. 

 

Next time around, hopefully, we will be a full house and our elder brother will be able to join us. We each of us have our own families now, special in every way to us. We have shared a lot of family news over our two days together. But these are my First Family, the ones I grew up with, the ones who have known me longer than anybody else. There is no dissembling with them - they remember the little girl I was and watched me grow up.

 

Brothers and Sisters - if you haven’t seen yours for a while, give them a call. Tell them you love them. 

 

If you are lucky, they might explain the Secrets of Sudoku to you…

 

Latest comments

23.04 | 20:15

lovely and heartwarming - an inspiration to us all x

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09.03 | 12:07

Love this story told as ever beautifully.x

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10.11 | 21:31

What a super account of a special event. I loved meeting you last night and seeing your creation come together. I’m so pleased you got so much from the activity

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07.09 | 13:17

I have broad shoulders x

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