Jaqui's Daily Blog

Missing the Bus But Not The Celebration

I just missed the bus into town.


When I say “just” what I mean is that the Pulse bus rounded the corner and headed towards the bus stop while I was crossing the road, waving wildly at the bus driver to indicate that I really, really needed him to stop for me. Some of the bus drivers, in this situation, take pity on me and wait while I huff and puff my way to the bus stop. “Thank you SO much!” I gasp, as I clamber aboard and rummage in my purse for my bus pass. Generally they are kind enough not to raise so much as an eye brow as I hold them up for even longer.


Yesterday’s driver was having none of it, sailing past me without so much as a backward glance. Studying the timetable at the bus stop I was pretty sure he was two minutes early. Though, to be fair, my watch might have been a little behind time. It hardly mattered, either way; what did matter was that I was almost certainly going to be late.


I hate being late. I have Mr B to thank for this, he who would always turn up super early for every occasion. This wasn’t out of politeness, I have to tell you, but because Mr B was ever hell-bent on getting - and keeping - the Best Seats in the House. Almost always, I would grumble about our early exit from the house, not ever joining a queue but actually forming it - except that he was generally right. Witness the day England was playing the Aussies at cricket in a preseason friendly at beautiful Arundel Cricket Ground - we were there so very early that there was virtually nobody else around when we took up our places (carefully researched by Mr B to afford the very best view of play) with three whole hours before the start of play. Yet it was such a lovely day - and sitting there on a blanket on the grass with the Sunday newspapers and a flask of coffee was a splendid way of spending a morning. Even before the cricket began.


I have therefore learnt from the Master the Art of Arriving Early - hence being late sits uneasily with me. It wasn’t that there would be any retribution as a result of my late arrival - I wouldn’t be given lines to write (“I must not blame the bus for making me late...”) or consigned to detention. Nobody would award me a black mark or tell me I must do better in future. In fact, everyone was surprisingly pleased to see me and the fact that I was late giving people to think I might not be coming at all, seemed to make their pleasure at my appearance even more genuine.


“Sorry I’m late!” I gasped as I ticked my name off the attendance list. Frances, the Lovely Children’s Librarian, pointed me in the direction of the tin of Celebrations chocolates (other tins of chocolate covered sweeties are presumably equally delicious) and bade me take my seat.


In case you haven’t guessed I was at the local library for the Thank You Celebration event for volunteers on the Summer Reading Challenge. There we were, volunteers all, to receive our Space Chase certificates registering the number of hours we had given over the course of the long summer holiday. I managed twenty, which wasn’t as many as last year but still enough to be proud of.


Nearly fourteen thousand children across the whole of West Sussex took part in this year’s challenge. At the very busiest of times I felt as if they were all queueing up to see me, to tell me about the books they had read and to receive, with undisguised delight, a reward of smelly stickers. I was just one of nearly 400 volunteers aged between 14 and 86 - this was my eighth year on the Summer Reading Challenge desk and it’s my favourite volunteering experience, not least because the library staff go out of their way to make us feel valued and appreciated. “We couldn’t manage without you volunteers!” they tell us. 


People often ask me about volunteering and how to decide where they should give their time. My advice is always to think about what you love and how you can bring the love to your volunteering. My brother-in-law, for example, who loves bird life and the wild beauty of Hengistbury Head volunteers in the local visitor centre there. One of my friends enjoys walking and is a dog-lover - so she volunteers as a dog-walker for an animal charity.


Hence, for me, it’s the annual Summer Reading Challenge which is all about children and books - two of my favourite things - so, yes, I’ll be signing up next year.


Provided they’ll have me...


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Latest comments

23.04 | 20:15

lovely and heartwarming - an inspiration to us all x

09.03 | 12:07

Love this story told as ever beautifully.x

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

07.09 | 13:17

I have broad shoulders x

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