“Can you come round,” asks my daughter on the phone. “We’ve got some exciting news!”
There’s a lift in her voice which I haven’t heard for some time during lockdown. All kinds of thoughts are zooming through my mind as I pedal madly round to their house.
“Look what I got in the post,” says Rose as soon as I go in the front door.
She is clutching a letter written on beautiful heavy writing paper with Buckingham Palace stamped at the top.
Yes. Honestly! It’s a letter from the Queen. Or to be more precise, from one of her ladies in waiting who has been instructed by our Monarch to write to my little granddaughter. How cool is that?
Regular readers might remember that during lockdown, Rose suddenly announced that she wanted to write to the Queen. At the age of four, she is now writing words down on her own. So she sat down at her little writing table where she makes up stories and asked the Queen how she was during this difficult time.
My daughter sent it off. For the address, she just put Buckingham Palace, London. Rose was convinced the Queen would write back the next day so she’s been waiting for the postman ever since. We all explained that she was extremely busy. To be honest, none of us had high hopes. Elizabeth 11 had enough on her plate, surely? Especially at her age.
But then came the letter!
My goodness. I’ve never seen my daughter and the children look so excited…
Of course they’d rung Daddy who was at work to share the good news. I was a little worried that two-year-old George might feel his nose was out of joint but luckily he didn’t seem to quite understand that he’d been left out of the equation.
The lady in waiting hoped that little Rose and her family were doing well. How incredibly kind and thoughtful.
“I want to write back and thank her,” says Rose immediately. So she did. Obviously we’re not expecting another reply.
“Why not,” says my husband who is tickled pink by all this. “This could run and run. We can claim that Rose has a royal pen pal!”
It certainly brought some light to this “new normal” which we are all facing. I don’t know about you, but now that my sore throat is over and I’ve been given the all-clear, I am now helping out with the children on certain occasions. Actually, it’s odd in all kinds of ways. I’m still not giving them big hugs or cuddles. I’m horribly aware that any of us could be carrying something which we might pass on without knowing. I’m also aware that little ones might infect us. It’s a tightrope.
All we can do is be sensible. So I wash my hands as soon as I go into the house. Yet I am handling jigsaw pieces, touching the door handles and sharing the same air.
But how wonderful it is to be near them! I feel as though part of me has been restored. Yet at the same time, they have changed so much. Their development has come on in leaps and bounds which wasn’t always obvious during our FaceTime chats. George says much more than he used to, including the phrase “That’s mine!” Rose has become a young girl, ready to start school.
Part of me feels blessed. Yet another part of me feels cheated. Nothing can bring back those early years. So my heart goes out to one of my granny friends whose grandchildren live in Italy. “I know we could fly out now,” she says, “but my daughter wants me to wait a bit. Just to see how it all goes with foreign travel.”
Meanwhile, I have to say that I’m also trying to get my confidence back when it comes to childcare. Two days ago, I had them on my own for five hours while my daughter had an important outside work meeting. This was the longest since lockdown.
“I’m really nervous,” I say to my husband.
“Why? You used to have them for 11 hours a day twice a week.”
“Yes. But I’m out of practice.”
It all comes back though…
The funny thing is, it was rather like having a new baby. You think you don’t know what to do but it just comes back. However, I’d forgotten how tiring it is! Not just answering constant questions but also making sure they don’t have any falls in the garden.
The children are also getting back their confidence with me. They formed an even stronger bond with their parents during lockdown, even though they were a very tight knit family before. So I wasn’t very surprised when, after my daughter had been gone for about two hours, Rose suddenly fell to her knees and began crying for Mummy.
“It’s alright,” I said. “She’ll be back soon.”
“Want her now,” she weeps.
Luckily, I had brought bribes with me. That old fall-back – chocolate buttons. Yes, I know. But they worked. I knocked back a couple too for Dutch courage. That worked as well!
But what probably got us through was the knock on the door.
“Maybe it’s another letter from the Queen,” says Rose hopefully, her tears now dry.
Goodness! That would be quick.
But it’s my husband. He’s bearing gifts too. In pre-lockdown days, I would always buy the children comics. It was our little weekly treat. And guess what! My husband has one in each hand.
“You’ve got to spray them first,” I tell him.
So we wipe them down with an anti-bacteria spray. The children love them.
Slowly but surely we are easing back into the new normal. At the same time, we all have our eyes and ears alerted for any fresh developments.
Meanwhile, thank you so much for all your wonderful emails. Many of you have shared personal stories which I obviously wouldn’t reveal in this column. But one of the amazing things which has come out of these corni virus times, is the warmth and generosity of the human spirit. I feel as though I have made some wonderful friends with you all and I hope you feel the same.
Please let me know what the “new normal” is like for you. Email me at email@example.com.
Jane’s new book… out now!
Hope you don’t mind me mentioning this but my new Penguin thriller launched at the end of May! It’s called I MADE A MISTAKE and is about Poppy, a mother of teenagers and her live-in mother-in-law Betty who is a young 70 year old. The two of them are like mother and daughter. But each has their love secrets. Betty’s go back to the 1960s. It’s on sale at supermarkets, bookshops and online. Here’s the link.