Jaqui's Daily Blog

The Rascally Trio were “desperate” to see me.


That’s why they were pounding at their auntie’s door at nine o’clock in the morning and taking the stairs two at a time to reach my bedroom where I was enjoying a bowl of muesli and my second cup of coffee of the morning. After hugs and kisses (“Please, please, please be careful of Nanni’s knee,” their mother kept imploring them) they took a cursory look at said knee. I think they are all a little disappointed, after I had shown them vivid pictures on the Internet, that the rather impressive knee replacement is covered up and can’t be seen in all its metallic glory. I imagine what a sight to behold I would be, were I to be visibly bionic, what with shoulder, hip and now knee.


The Rascals almost immediately turned their attention to other excitements; these included searching for the cats, Willow and Trixie, who had made a strategic escape as soon as they saw the Trio approaching; and the robot vacuum cleaner which dutifully sets itself off at a particular time every morning and roams about downstairs doing what robot vacuum cleaners do best.


“So who’s the main attraction here?” I demanded, trying to bring their attention back to me. Faris didn’t have to give the matter a moment’s thought: “The Hoover!” he declared.


When all is said and done - I know my place…


After three nights in hospital, I have been ensconced in love at the Youngest of the Darling Daughters house for rest and recuperation. Pure indulgence! I sleep in her bedroom which she has nobly given up to make it easier for me to totter to the bathroom in the middle of the night and every morning we sit together in bed, caressing our first drinks of the day and discussing the day ahead. It is one of my favourite times of the day as we consider Important Matters such as how many pain killers I might need, what clothes I should wear (she has even loaned me a couple of dresses as I packed all the wrong things for my “holiday”) and my progress in getting myself in and out of bed. She is the very best of nurses, the most compassionate of carers, the most entertaining of companions. 


We spent lovely mornings in the back garden, under the shade of a giant parasol, reading, chatting, enjoying the sunshine. We took a trip to the local park to meet up with the Trio, with Son in Law (Dunk’em Dave) giving me a thrill ride in the spare wheelchair we’d managed to bring with us. I hadn’t realised just how fast wheelchair travel seems to the person being pushed, with every bump in the pathway a major hazard. I will be far more sympathetic to Mr B in future.


We watched the final episodes of Neighbours, wondering at how much people had aged over the last thirty years since the Aussie soap was our guilty lunchtime pleasure and I binge-watched the second series of Bridgerton. We completed not one, but two jigsaw puzzles and it was noticeable the way my brain slowly cleared over the days so that I could concentrate on fixing puzzle pieces in place. On occasions my grandson Jack took charge of me, introducing me to his own favourite Netflix programmes in the interests of hauling me up to date. It’s so long since we’ve spent so much time together, this eldest grandson and I - and every moment was precious. Despite the fact that he grows more like his father every day, the two of them always threatening to place hurdles in my way to make my painful progress round the house more “interesting.” We take photos and videos to mark my progress; I’m not sure how fascinating anyone other than my immediate family will find pictures of my truly spectacular bruising, my painful toddles round the house, and my adventures climbing up and down the stairs.  


So yesterday my convalescence came to an end. My daughter packed me into her car, along with two suitcases, my armchair and bathroom perching chair from home, and an accumulation of paperwork, explanatory leaflets and other possibly important information given me on my discharge from hospital. She was to stay overnight to settle me in.


Mr B was oh, so pleased to see me back home after what must have been a long, long two weeks for him while I was being indulged elsewhere. Everyone keeps remarking that I look a lot younger as a result of my rest and relaxation. Perhaps I should have another knee operation sometime in order to cut another ten years off my age? Or, possibly, not…


Today Mr B keeps glancing over at me to make sure I’m still sitting here, in my familiar armchair, same as ever.


I know my place.


The last week, watching the candidates for the position of Prime Minister being steadily whittled down to two, has been remarkably disappointing viewing. Where is Alan Sugar when we need him?


How much more fun (not to mention enlightening) it would have been to put all the candidates through The Apprentice -  billed by SurAlan as the “toughest recruitment process ever.” Having floated this idea to my Facebook friends to general agreement, I decided to try it out on members at last week’s meeting of Sporting Memories. It went down extremely well with suggestions flying in from all present. 


Rather less successful was the news imparted by our leaders that they had been asked to introduce more active sport into our weekly meetings. Mostly, regular readers may remember, we choose to exercise our tongues in constant, lively chatter - plus we do saunter to the bar area halfway through our session to collect coffee / tea / hot chocolate / herbal tea according to preference. Rhona pretended not to hear the protests as she unrolled a kind of mini putting green, positioning three golf balls at one end and holding out a putter by way of invitation. It seemed rude not to accept the challenge - especially as nobody else seemed inclined to do so. 


However I digress (a common feature of the Daily Blog) - I was talking about The Apprentice and the race to Prime Minister. Wouldn’t it be excellent, I suggested, if all the candidates had to be put up for the duration in a country house - Chequers might do nicely - and be woken at Silly o’clock each morning by SurAlan’s secretary advising them that the cars would be outside in twenty minutes to take them to some unknown destination. Which candidate would they leave to sleep on in innocence while the remainder applied make-up, blow-dried their curly locks and (if female) donned killer heels?


The Sporting Memories crowd was definitely up for the challenge. Everyone had a suggestion to make, the more outlandish the better. There would have to be a cooking round, where candidates had to invent, cook and serve up a dish - humble pie would seem appropriate. Plus a round to test their ability at selling goods which nobody wanted while dressed up as a lobster or something similarly fishy. One of the Gang suggested that when it came to sending them all abroad, Rwanda would be the Destination of Choice, where each of them would have to purchase items on a prescribed shopping list for the least amount. Sitting round a table at La Cabana, the least successful in each round would lick their wounds and blame each other for their own deficiencies. 


Best of all would be the round where the final four or five have to present their Business Plans and be quizzed mercilessly by SurAlan’s trusted confidantes, who would doubtless uncover every flaw in their CV, probe every extravagant claim, and insist on a stringent financial examination of their costings. 


The final two would then go head to head organising a party (beer, curry, champagne, sandwiches, birthday cake etc) which should be the very essence of fun while being both work-related and in line with all Covid rules as per 2020/ 2021. 


Apart from anything else, wouldn’t it be so much better not to have to listen to Graham Brady telling us when each candidate has been “eliminated” - he can’t help it, bless him, but he is a bit, well, boring in a 1922 Committee kind of way. Instead we would have SurAlan pointing an accusing finger at first one, then another, and proclaiming “You’re fired!” Or, if he were minded to be a little kinder on occasion: “It is with regret - you’re fired!”


It’s not going to happen, of course, so I’d better dream on. Which reminds me - I actually potted two out of three of Rhona’s golf balls, finding the centre of three holes. If I hadn’t been so overcome by my own success after the first two found the hole then I might have made it three. 


There’s a lesson there for all of us…

In exactly two weeks time, I have an exciting theatre date.


Okay, shall we dissect that statement? It is certainly a date, marked in bright red pen in my 2022 desk diary - though sadly it isn’t a date of the romantic variety. As for being exciting, well I’d probably prefer it not to be too exciting. I’d rather it were humdrum, run of the mill, over in little or no time. As for the theatrical venue, it won’t be the heady atmosphere of the Old Vic I shall be experiencing but the distinctly disinfectant aroma of the operating theatre.


Yes, my Problem Knee is about to submit itself to the skill of the orthopaedic surgeon. As was the case for my Problem Shoulder and my Problem Hip - both of which are Problems No Longer - the auspices are good; in two weeks and one day’s time it will all be over. My Little Sister’s fella, coincidentally, is having the exact same surgery ten days before me. We have established a Knees Up Club, formed exclusively of the two of us and have already enjoyed ourselves comparing notes on the thoroughness of our pre-op assessments.  


While I and my Problem Knee are inescapably absent from home, Mr B is being looked after by a Guardian Angel. Which is the name of the care agency providing live-in care for my own Very Important Person - I must impress here that other care agencies are surely every bit as compassionate (though it has been quite a challenge finding one to provide short term live-in care.) I haven’t met our own Guardian Angel as yet, so I can’t testify to the feathery quality of her wings or the shininess of her halo but I’m sure she will be appropriately angelic by nature. More to the point, she hasn’t yet met Mr B who isn’t convinced that he needs a Guardian Angel at all. It will be interesting to check out how bedraggled her wings, how crooked her halo at the end of her two weeks looking after Mr B…


There is such a lot to think about when inviting someone into your home to live in while you are away. How to explain that in order to turn on the oven, it is necessary to hold down two buttons on the timer (which I have usefully marked with a red felt tip pen) until the fan oven kicks in. Or that should you need to open the door of the tumble drier (kept in the garage) you will need to use the handle of a tea spoon to prise it free. I have helpfully left the tea spoon I use (slightly bent from its heroic efforts) on top of the tumble drier where I hope our Guardian Angel will find it. I comfort myself with the thought that any care workers specialising in live-in care must be used to such domestic idiosyncrasies. Mustn’t they?


As always, I am concentrating on the future. I am endeavouring to fill my diary with really exciting dates so that I will have plenty to look forward to. An appointment with the hairdresser has never been so keenly anticipated. A regular lunch out with two lovely friends - don’t worry if I’m still hobbling, they will collect me and take me home and ply me with wine in between times. Best of all, the Youngest of the Darling Daughters and I have booked seats to see Charlie Stemp light-foot his way through the musical “Crazy for You.” If you’ve never seen Charlie Stemp - well, when it comes to a tap dancing knees up he is without an equal. Hopefully by the beginning of September, I will be back dancing in the aisles.


Knees Up, Mother Brown (or, even Ball…)




Wimbledon Fortnight. What does it mean to you, I wonder? Strawberries and cream, washed down with Pimms, while basking in the sunshine on Henman’s Hill?


For Mr B and me, this year’s Wimbledon has been rather special. Let me explain…


There can be no argument, these days, that Mr B’s short term memory is not what it was. My dear Mum, faced with similar issues all those many years ago, used to refer to her “forgettory” - I always admired her cheerful acceptance of the relentless advance of age and her ability to find just the right word to describe its impact. Mr B hasn’t yet come up with such an apt description (at least not one I can repeat in the Daily Blog) but he doesn’t allow himself to be unduly bothered, provided I am around to remind him, over and over again, what we are going to have for dinner….


For the last fortnight, however, it’s his long term memory which has come to the fore - we have been wallowing in the past. As in 1958, 1959 and 1960 when Mr B was a Wimbledon ball-boy, scooting across the net, scooping up the ball in one hand without losing a stride, making sure the greatest players out on court had each ball bounced exactly into their outstretched hand as they prepared to serve. 


I must have watched more Wimbledon tennis this year than I have for years - going right back to when our Foursome were young and I spent Wimbledon fortnight while they were at school, knitting their winter school jumpers to justify my otherwise lazy afternoons. Instead of knitting, we’ve been chatting - there really has been so much to talk about.


That smart new uniform the ball boys and girls are wearing this year, for starters. Mr B reminds me (he has told me before, but I never fail to enjoy the story) that he and his fellow ball-boys (no girls in those days, I fear) from a Dr Barnardo’s school in Hertford, wore green and purple shirts and shorts which they had to return at the end of the fortnight. As for trainers - or plimsolls as we called them in the Olden Days - well, they had to provide their own. The training was long and arduous and only the very best were picked. Even today, Mr B tells me, it remains one of the most special experiences of his long life. “How old am I now?” he asks me. “Did you know me when I was at Wimbledon?” (Answers: (i) 78 and (ii) hardly - I was just 10 years old when he graced the courts for the first time.) I like to imagine Mr B reckons I have always been in his life for all the most significant moments - but I rather think I am being fanciful.


In 1958, his first year as a ball-boy, he was on Court 18 and for him Wimbledon only lasted for a week - he was back at school when Ashley Cooper beat Neale Fraser on Centre Court to lift the trophy. On Court 18, he says, the ball-boys had to earn their £2 10 shillings pocket money - they even had to alter the score board as each match progressed. In 1959, aged 15, he was promoted to Court 8; that was the year Alex Olmedo beat Aussie Rod Laver in the final. Rod Laver, in Mr B’s opinion, was the GOAT (Greatest of All Time.) It was while we were watching Rafa Nadal at this year’s Wimbledon when we had the discussion about the GOAT - Mr B would like to see good old Rod, in his heyday, playing Nadal, or Djokovic or Andy Murray. 


In 1960, when the list of boys selected for the team of ball-boys went up on the school noticeboard, Mr B felt sick to the stomach when he couldn’t find his name. Turning away from the notice board to hide his disappointment, a friend punched him on the arm and called him a “lucky xxxxxxx!” He had made it onto Centre Court, no less. Neale Fraser and Maria Bueno were the winners that year - and Mr B served up tennis balls to both of them in their respective Finals. He wasn’t a fan of Bueno, but he loved Darlene Hard who was especially sweet to the ball-boys - and his favourite was Karen Hantze (later Susman) though I am pretty sure that was a schoolboy crush as she was only a couple of years older than he was in 1960. Mr B says he couldn’t possibly comment…


In 2010, the Middle of the Darling Daughters contacted the Powers That Be at Wimbledon and wangled a Centre Court invitation for her Dad and me to mark fifty years since his ball-boy days. We had an amazing day; watched, among others, Serena Williams at full power; and met that year’s team of ball boys and girls, all drawn these days from local secondary schools. Mr B told them they would savour the memories of their Wimbledon days forever - bless them, those boys and girls listened to him rabbiting on with utmost politeness and respect. I like to think in fifty years time they will remember him telling them that and know he was right.


Thank you, Wimbledon 2022, for giving us such a truly special week, not only of superb tennis, but of lots easy conversations about a place that means so much to Mr B - and, consequently, to me.


Game, set and many, many matchless memories…

I feel I am entitled to a little respect - surely that is the least anyone deserves. Unfortunately there are some who are treating me with utter disdain, refusing to listen to me, let alone obey me when I make perfectly reasonable requests of them.


No, I’m not talking about Mr B - he is undoubtedly a Lost Cause. He has also developed a belligerent attitude towards anyone who displeases him - usually people we don’t actually know in person but who pop up on the TV to explain their cause / fight their corner / defend the sometimes indefensible. “Shoot the lot of them!” is one of Mr B’s favourite phrases, along with “Tell them to bxxxxr off!” Being mostly confined to an arm-chair / wheelchair, Mr B can probably be forgiven an occasional outburst of rage. It is fortunate that those he verbally attacks are in no position to answer back. “You don’t like him / her much, then?” I will enquire, at my most moderate - which always makes him respond with a wicked grin.


No, my problem is with the two cats who have made our back garden their personal playground. It used to be just the one - a handsome fella, white with black and ginger patches - who always made off in a hurry at the sight of me advancing down the garden, making shooing noises like some demented witch. Now he has been joined by a Comrade in Paws - a small tabby - and together they seem to believe themselves absolutely invincible. In vain do I storm down the garden, waving my arms like a windmill in a force 9 gale. The pair of them stop, for a brief minute, what they are doing, cast condescending eyes upon me and return to checking the bushes, presumably for birds. I am so close to them that I can see the white cat is wearing a small bell around its neck which, I concede, may help warn off any feathered friends - but the thing is, Mr B and I gain immeasurable pleasure watching them on the bird feeders, eating us out of house and home (the sparrows don’t appear to be bothered about the cost of living crisis.) I don’t want them warned off by the Feline Duo, and winging away in search of less hazardous gardens.  


It isn’t only the puss cats, either. Last week during my Wednesday Time Out, I took myself down to beautiful Field Place Wedding Garden, armed with Richard Osman’s “Thursday Murder Club” and a small picnic-for-one. How lovely it was, sitting there in the shade, enjoying the spectacular roses lining the route along which many a bride (blushing or not) will be making her way to her true love this summer. I was joined by an extremely large sea-gull whom I named Hector for no particular reason except that it seemed to suit him somehow. 


Well, I had that one wrong, didn’t I? Hector, the Greek scholars among you may recall, was a Trojan prince and fearless warrior, his name synonymous with bravery, courage, honour and nobility. There was nothing the least bit noble or honourable about Hector the Sea-Gull. Immersed in my book, I’d finished my egg sandwich when I heard a strange, scraping noise - and looked up to see Hector making off across the Wedding Garden, dragging the brown paper bag containing my (naughty-but-nice) Danish pastry behind him! The absolute cheek of it! No respect, don’t you agree?


Mr B wasn’t at all sympathetic when I told him the story of the Danish pastry but that was probably because I hadn’t thought to buy him one - though, as I pointed out, Hector would doubtless have made off with his too. He is, however, as concerned as I am, about our feline trespassers though his answer is somewhat robust: “Throw a bucket of water over them!” he tells me, crossly.


I can’t do that - my cat-loving grandchildren would never forgive me.


But, wait, I have the answer - no need for violence, I shall set the Rascally Trio on them. Faris, Tala and Lilia will smother those cats with such an excess of love that the poor things won’t know what’s hit them. They will be off over the garden fence and away before you can say “Dick Whittington!”


I almost - but only almost - feel sorry for them…

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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