“What do you think I grow on my allotment?” I ask three-year-old George.
“Jelly?” he suggests, hopefully.
What a brilliant idea! Perhaps we should experiment with jelly beans. It could be an update on Jack and the Beanstalk.
“Actually,” I say holding his little warm hand in mine as we walk through the park on the way to my patch, “I’ve got beetroot and carrots and broad beans and mint and parsnips.”
“But no jelly?” he asks.
I hate to disappoint my grandchildren. So I try to distract him. One of the reasons I wanted to take George to my allotment to show him where our food comes from. I’ve got this ghastly feeling he and his sister might assume it is grown in a shop.
There’s another reason too. That’s right. Nostalgia! I have fond memories of shelling peas with my grandmother in her back garden and being amazed at discovering these little green balls in what she told me were called “pods”. (Now ironic that teenagers use this word all the time now when talking about podcasts!). So I want to continue this tradition with my grandchildren.
“We’re also going to meet my new scarecrow,” I say.
“What’s he called?”
“He hasn’t got a name yet, I thought you could help me think of one.”
George’s little brow furrows. “I don’t know.”
“Maybe we’ll think of one when we get there,” I say.
We cross the little bridge and play Poohsticks en route. Then we turn the corner.
“Wow!” says George, his eyes widening. “It’s a jungle!”
In the last year, George’s language has come on leaps and bounds. I’m so impressed by the last word that I always fail to take in the significance of what he’s saying. But he’s right! It does look like a jungle.
Since I was here last – just three weeks ago – everything in my allotment has shot up in height. One of my lovely neighbours had been watering it for me when I was away but I could hardly ask her to weed it as well.
“Look,” I say. “These are beans. You can pick one if you like.”
I help his little hand to pull one of the stem which is taller than both of us…
“Smell this,” I say picking a piece of mint.
“Mmm,” he says, wrinkling his little nose.
“And do you see those green plants with white flowers? There are potatoes underneath. They’ll be ready soon.”
“Can we eat them?”
“Maybe in a few weeks.”
Then a thought occurs to me. “But you mustn’t eat anything that’s growing without checking with Mummy or Daddy first,” I say.
Good. Because his mummy once had an incident with berries which she’d picked in the garden which resulted in me taking her to hospital. It turned out, after they’d made her sick, that she hadn’t actually eaten them. But it was one of those heart-stopping moments that stay with you for life.
“And here,” I say, “is my new scarecrow.”
The two of them look at each other.
“He’s got a funny face,” says George.
He has. I bought him, unseen, on the Internet during one of the lockdowns after his predecessor had become demolished during a storm.
“I like him,” declares my grandson. From the scarecrow’s expression, it appears the feeling is mutual.
“What’s that?” he points.
“It’s a courgette,” I say.
I planted it from seed – the first time I’d done this. In fact, I have to say that small achievements like this have really helped me during the last year and a half. It feels like something positive.
“It looks like it’s ready now,” I add. “Would you like to pick it?”
George is very excited about this. As he holds it like a prize, I get a twinge. Little Rose is missing out on this. Perhaps I should have said earlier that I’ve got George on my own while Rose is at school.
Usually I would be writing at this time but I’ve got a couple of weeks’ break before the next stage in my novel for 2022 and I’m using my “holiday” to spend more time with my grandchildren. It’s lovely for me to have this one-to-one time with them and it also gives my daughter a couple of hours to do things like tidy the house.
We amble home, George on my shoulders because he’s too tired to walk. Bang goes all the goodness from my chiropractor appointment yesterday! When we get back to our place, I show him how to open the pods with clean fingers and put the broad beans pods into an old white ceramic pudding bowl which belonged to my mother. I tried to explain this to George.
“Your great-granny was called Sally,” I said. “Can you say that?”
“Sally,” he repeats.
It brings a lump to my throat. How my mother would have loved to have seen her great-grandson using her Christmas pudding bowl for shelling beans. Maybe she can.
Later, we go and collect Rose from school. I’m hoping that George doesn’t say anything about the allotment. They are both the age where they both love each other but also have a few arguments.
But instead, their attention is diverted by an end-of-week school sale of ice lollies! Luckily I’ve been warned about this because they’re only taking cash. No one seems to have cash any more because of the virus so I have to dig deep into an old handbag to find a pound coin!
Maybe it was the flavourings or maybe it was the after-school energy but I have to say that the two of them are as high as kites when we got home!
“Please don’t jump on the sofa,” I beg. “It’s very old.”
“But I want to,” says Rose. I give up. But I do wonder when children learned to call the shots!
More magical moments
The following day, I play hooky again from my word processor and go to the beach with my daughter and George while Rose is at school. As a mother, I used to feel really guilty about working, even though I was home-based. I feel the same now as a granny which is why I am making the most of these magic moments.
“Look, Gan Gan,” he says as we build a sandcastle. “I’ve buried my digger.”
But then we can’t find it! (It’s very small.)
“Never mind,” I say. “Someone else will find it in a few days – or even years’ time.”
In fact, this has given me an idea for the children’s story I’m writing!
Then George and I play a game with sticky pads which catch the ball.
“Well done,” says a surfer walking past with his board under one arm.
“It’s the over sixties playing the under sixes,” I joke back.
Next week I’m going to have some one-to-one time with Rose. It’s actually really nice to do this. In fact, I’ve tried to do the same with my grown up children too.
In a few days, my youngest son and his girlfriend are coming down from London to stay. I’m so excited! Yet I also feel so sad for his girlfriend and her family because, with the current restrictions, she hasn’t been able to go to Germany to see them for two whole years. I’m going to do my best to make it up to her.
The next day when I see George, he is jumping up and down with excitement. “I’ve thought of a name for our scarecrow,” says George. “It’s Funny Face.”
Sounds perfect to me.
Meanwhile, I’m off to scour my gardening catalogues for some jelly beans!
Grandparent of the Week – Elaine, 73
Elaine, 73, lives in Devon near her two granddaughters, Rosie (5) and Flo (3)
“Isn’t it fun to have an organic treat?” I’ll say.
“Then I’ll ask her how her day went. Sometimes she doesn’t want to talk and that’s fine. We should all be allowed to be quiet if we want. And sometimes she chatters away.
“Flo is delivered to me by the childminder on certain days of the week. Both my son and daughter-in-law work.
“I love watching the children grow and their characters develop. It’s also lovely to share my interests with them. I’m fascinated by insects. When Rosie was younger, she got really scared by a magnetic blue beetle. I put the beetle on my finger and she looked him straight in the eyes.
“He is gorgeous,” I said. “He doesn’t deserve to be screamed at. He’s really interesting. Just look at his coat!
“Then she bonded with him. We go for long walks along the river nearby. The other day we counted twenty different kinds of wild flowers.
“I’m known as Grandma, by the way. And I love it. It’s a whole new world.”
Jane’s New Thriller
Jane Corry’s new Penguin family drama, THE LIES WE TELL, is now number 6 in the UK best-selling paperback chart. It tells the story of Sarah who will do anything to stop her teenage son from going to prison. Even if it means breaking the law herself. You can buy it from supermarkets, bookshops and online https://linktr.ee/thelieswetell.
Also available for 99p on Kindle for July only.