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It is Thursday 2nd June 2022, late morning. 

The sun is shining outside and, due to an annoying headache, I have succumbed to the lure of the TV coverage of the Trooping the Colour. Already I’ve tired of the commentary, although I suppose it is soothing in a particularly British sort of way. A bit Welsh perhaps?

Despite the nationalistic empathy with all this pageantry, I just had a fleeting thought (possibly treasonous) that the horses and riders aren’t one hundred percent in time with the band and a Russian-style strut-past would be much more impressive. OK, I realise that rather than ‘impressive’, the straight-legged marching is more ‘intimidating’ and our uniforms are much nicer. There’s something about a red tunic and a furry black bearskin isn’t there? And perhaps my criticism is unfair, watching as I am through one eye and a few fingers pressing on the other eyebrow to ease the headache.

I do, in fact, have a small feeling of personal Jubilee smugness. In preparation for our street party which is scheduled for Saturday, I spent most of yesterday afternoon preparing my contribution – a ‘guess how many sweeties in the jar’ variant with a royal theme. Rather than use an actual jar, I have used a food storage box and attempted a Union Flag design. I was pretty pleased with myself for sourcing a variety of red, white and blue confectionary, although the blue was not really of the correct hue if we are being picky.

The smugness is tempered slightly by irritation at my ham-fistedness and short-term memory failure which contributed to the need for a full two-and-a-half hours to count the sweets into the container. You try manhandling 801 mini white marshmallows individually from a plastic packet into the display receptacle whilst wearing unfortunately oversized disposable hygiene gloves, without them pinging around from the ‘uncounted’ area of the box to the ‘already counted’ area, or – when I reached the top ‘decorative’ layer – bouncing out of their allocated spaces into the blue or red areas. Once again, I found myself regretting my shortness of finger which resulted in the ends of the gloves flapping unhelpfully, creating their very own tiddlywinks effect with the already bouncy marshmallows. At one stage, I felt I was beginning to master a more controlled technique, but realised I had forgotten how many sweets were already sitting in the ‘counted’ area and control gave way to the usual level of swearing. Mr J had fortunately absented himself for the duration.

What a ridiculous way to spend an afternoon – and strangely reminiscent (not in a good way) of my lego-washing experience.  Do I never learn?

The top layer of my sweary sweetie box

It is now Sunday 5th June 2022 and I am calmer, and considerably more tired.  Our street party has been and gone.

Saturday began in rain-soaked trepidation, with anguished pleas for cars to be moved from the designated party area where we had secured an official street closure, and calls for more gazebos to protect us from the apparently inclement weather. We jollied each other along that the weather would improve – but no-one was completely sure and we wanted to be prepared. I’m not sure anyone had anticipated the wind which seemed to funnel down the street alarmingly – and the collective initiative to collect and deploy assorted weighty items from gardens and sheds paid dividends later when the occasional hurricane-force gust funnelled along the Avenue even when the sun was shining. (Who knew that the rubble sacks lurking at the bottom of our garden could be so useful?)

I reckon about 200 people attended the party, including all age groups, people of many ethnicities, newcomers and long-timers in our street.There were also visitors from the neighbouring streets, one of which is never allowed to have its own street party because it is a key route for emergency vehicles heading to and from the hospital. We are a generous bunch.

The closed part of the street was beautifully decorated with an assortment of bunting, much of which had been hand-sewn by one of our neighbours and sold to many residents in aid of Ukraine, so we could feel even more generous and marginally less Little Englanderish as they fluttered madly in the Force 7. In fact, in addition to our very own two strings of bunting and to continue this nautical theme, Mr J adorned Jillings Towers with two strings of signal flags (from his boat) spelling out ’70 Years HMQ’, it being difficult to find a more appropriate phrase which used no more than one type of letter or number as his set contains just one of each. Of course, I was none the wiser (this not being one of the many languages I pretend to understand) and made him promise me that the second word was not ‘off’! 

And so the rain ceased, the wind reduced to blustery rather than gale force and proceedings commenced. As on previous occasions, the Bake Off was a very popular and much-subscribed attraction. I had even surprised myself into entering one of my very few reliable recipes, which remains on a piece of lined paper in my mother’s handwriting, folded neatly into my ancient childhood recipe book. It is very simple, the only cooking required being the melting of butter and chocolate drops before stirring all the other ingredients in. There is a very satisfying stage which involves biscuit smashing, at which I have a decided skill after many years of practice and there was almost no wastage or crumbs liberally strewn around the kitchen (which is what it was like the first few times I used the recipe) this time.

Norbiton Wall – I believe less is more when it comes to decoration

My mother called this concoction the Great Wall of Ripley, but extensive Googling in recent years has failed to unearth an actual origin for this name. Rather than try and explain any of this to neighbours (and judges), I changed it to a more local name. Of course, being a 21st century ‘aware’ person, I also wrote a careful note saying it contains nuts and copious amounts of alcohol. (Actually, I noticed there were quite a few happy red-faced children around by the late afternoon who had doubtless not bothered to read the tiny label. Hic! Fortunately their parents assumed it was over-exertion on the bouncy castle and I’m hoping no further action will be taken.

Two brave ladies had volunteered weeks ago to be Bake Off judges, then spent the intervening time trying to get out of it. But on the day, they womanfully chomped and masticated their way through two table-loads of beautifully constructed and decorated patisserie (and my Norbiton Wall), some of which had been prepared by children as young as 41⁄2. Once the judging was complete, the neighbours swooped in and polished off quite large quantities of sponge etc, although at the end of the day there was still enough for those of us who had volunteered to clear up to snaffle the odd plate into our fridges. I am therefore experimenting to see how much I enjoy having a large slice of cheesecake with fresh blueberries and raspberries at every mealtime and at strategic points in-between. Seems to be going well so far.

My own stall of Guess the Number of Sweeties attracted a steady custom. Guesses were free and the prize was the sweets themselves. Nearly 80 people entered and the guesses were wildly different, ranging from 90 to 4800. Two people cleverly guessed 1952 and 2022 – although unfortunately for them I hadn’t gone down the clever route. I’m not sure counting beyond the 1165 that were (probably) contained in the display would have done a great deal for my mental health. Anyhow, someone was duly proclaimed the winner, after I had quadruple checked my mental arithmetic to find the nearest guess. I had my moment of glory at the microphone, just before the Street Jubilee Quiz began. 

I ducked the quiz and grabbed a Pimms as my own prize. I could now be off duty until clear-up time.

We also had a couple of live bands, and a good soundtrack prepared specially by one of the residents who has ‘done the sound’ for many well-known 1980s bands (although I now forget which ones, but I definitely recognised all the name-dropping and was duly impressed. He also ‘did the sound’ for our street singalong attempt during one of the lockdowns when we were still going outside once a week to thank people and wave at each other – so he’s a good sort.)

Two days on now, and lethargy has intervened. In fact, along with the permitted lethargy, there has been a small burst of activity in preparing for our annual opera picnic trip which is threatening to be thundery and wet this time, and a trip to Cornwall for more walking which has entailed booking not only the train and the accommodation, but also the restaurants which I am informed are likely to be full if I just rock up on the night. Such is the thriving Cornish holiday scene.

I have packed away the bunting, finished all the leftover food (the cheesecake happiness experiment was successful and I am most definitely less cheerful now it is all gone) and miraculously purchased a new frock – and a shed-load of cheese – for the opera. 

Happy Days. Long may she reign over them.






Follow one crying eye on