“Gan Gan,” trills the little voice down the line. “Would you like to come bat hunting with us?”
Did I hear right? If there are two things I’m scared of, it’s bats and the dark. (I still sleep with a torch in my hand even at my age!)
As for bats, they’ve always sent shivers down my spine – and that was before all the theories about how the virus started.
But I don’t want to miss out on an outing with my grandchildren. My son-in-law is out at a work evening “do” and my daughter has enrolled us all on a “bat evening” organised by a local forest school.
If you’re short of things to do with your grandchildren, do check out forest schools. Quite a lot have sprung up all over the country. Basically, they seem to be open air educational groups, teaching children of all ages about nature in a play environment to build knowledge and confidence. Sounds great!
“What do I wear?” I asked my daughter.
“Something warm,” she says.
Sometimes I feel that our mother daughter roles reverse as we both get older. I’m always asking her for advice.
George is the best-dressed of us all because he opts for his batman mask!
We set off in a jolly convoy following one of my daughter’s friends through some local roads which I know and then onto a network of wafer-thin country lanes that I don’t know. My heart is thumping although I am trying to look brave. Then we stop.
“Are we nearly there?” asks Rose holding my hand as we crunch our way across bracken and twigs.
“I’m not sure,” I say doubtfully.
Then a lovely sight meets our eyes. I am back in Arthur Ransome country (remember Swallows and Amazons and peat fires?) There’s a fire crackling merrily with a grill over it for safety and someone toasting marshmallows. There’s hot chocolate and a mud kitchen and swings and lots of grandparents as well as parents whom I recognise from pre-virus playgroups.
How lovely to see everyone again!
Then the bat part begins. First we have a quiz which I was a bit nervous about as I’m usually hopeless at general knowledge questions. But this one is good fun! What is the smallest species of bat? Do bats only live in old buildings? How do they find their way around? Do they poo upside down or the right way up? This last question caused much merriment as you can imagine!
I should also say that we were divided into two teams: adults and children. The children won of course, but only by one point!
Then off we went to find some bats! The forest school leaders (one of whom turns out to be someone who’s an early morning sea swimmer like me) have some “find-a-bat” sets with dials which you turn to tune in to their frequency so you can tell if any are about.
“Where are they?” asks Rose excitedly as she holds it to her ear.
“Can I have a go?” pleads George.
Like the kind big sister she is, she hands it over. I am constantly amazed at how lovely they are to each other. (I have to say that my sister and I used to squabble quite a lot when we were growing up although we’re best friends now.)
Suddenly there’s a little black thing fluttering overhead. It almost looks like a piece of black tissue paper. But it’s a bat!
“We’ve seen one!” says George jumping up and down in his bat helmet.
We have indeed. And I wasn’t scared one little bit!
By then it was nearly 8pm – time for bed. We drive home through dark woods feeling exhilarated. What an adventure!
If you feel like checking out forest schools in your area, go to https://forestschoolassociation.org/what-is-forest-school/.
Ask Modern Gran
Every week, we answer a family problem involving grandparenting. After all, a problem shared is a problem halved. You don’t need to give your name. If you would like some advice, just send an email to email@example.com.
DAWN FROM YORKSHIRE is the mother of three teenagers from Yorkshire asks: “My parents have never seemed very interested in being grandparents. They live a long way off so we’ve only seen each other about twice a year. But my children are now at an age where they are aware that their friends have hands-on grandparents and that they don’t. Do you have any suggestions on what I can do about it? I’ve never been very close to my parents myself.”
JANE CORRY, MODERN GRAN says: “You don’t mention whether you’ve had a frank discussion with your parents about this. Maybe they are feeling left out too. I understand that it might be difficult to talk to them about this as you say you’ve never been close. But if your children are now teenagers, perhaps they could do the talking.
“Why not suggest that they pick up the phone to their grandparents once a week or so? Some of us prefer a face to face chat than an email. (I know I do!) If your children say they don’t know what to talk about, get them to tell their grandparents about what they’ve been doing and also ask what their grandparents have been doing in the last week.
“Questions about the past (what was life like for them when they were children) often go down well too. Then they could build on these regular phone calls to suggest a visit. If your children are teenagers, they might be old enough to go on a train without you. I find that one-to-one visits to my elderly father and his wife are better than big family gatherings which wear them out. In fact, one of the most successful trips was when my youngest took his grandfather out to the pub for a drink!
“That was some years ago (my dad is housebound now sadly) but he still talks about it with relish. Good luck. Let us know how you get on.”
Let’s Celebrate Grandparents’ Day Together
October 3 is Grandparents’ Day 2021. Thanks to those of you who sent in photos and stories about your grandparents. There’s still time as we’re going to be running some more next week. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, here’s a selection.
“This is me and my grandmother Doris. We weren’t allowed to call her ‘granny’ because it made her feel too old. We lived with her until I was 12 and then we moved round the corner. I adored her. She lived until her early nineties and saw all three of my children.” Jane
I don’t remember granny – she died when I was fourteen months old. But everyone says she was lovely and very kind. Apparently I used to like playing with her reading glasses. I’ve still got them in a case next to my bed to keep some sort of memory of her. This picture was taken just before she died. I’m the baby! Lucy, mother of two.
“This is my gran, pictured on my wedding day, 30 years ago. I loved spending time with my gran and grandad, and for some of my childhood they lived just across the road from us. I have lovely memories of cooking and baking with gran, she made the best pancakes!” Allison
“My great grandma holding me was referred to as ‘little Nan’. Her husband was a good foot and a half taller than her and a miner all his life. My grandma Kay behind her, inherited her tall stature from great grandad. She was a very independent lady who loved to travel and often did so on her own even into her 80s when she was rowed just her and the boatman down a river in Brazil. Even though she lived outside Sheffield, she knew the streets of London like the back of her hand and liked to walk around the city. She married Grandad in 1923 when he was a professional footballer and survivor of WW1.” Julia
Send a pic of your grandparents along with a few details and we’ll happily include it in next week’s column. Email your photos to email@example.com.
Grandparent of the Week – Alison, 70
Alison, 70, is a French and Spanish teacher, married to Peter. They live in Bristol and have two grandchildren Isla, 4 and Finlay 2, who live in London with Alison’s son and his wife.
“We’re going up to London to see them this weekend – the first time in 2021 because of Covid. A few weeks ago, we had a lovely bucket and spade family holiday together in Devon. We also did an adult zoom class online and Isla managed to last the whole session! When they come to Bristol, we love walking through magical woodlands and having picnics on logs.
“I never expected that being a grandparent was so amazing. Even now it feels like a huge treat to be with them. I have to pinch myself that it’s real! We’re known as Granny and Papa.
“I have a heart condition so I can’t run or scamper around. Instead, my line is imaginative play! Sometimes we play doctors and nurses. I’m always the patient with an imaginary wound and they make me better! We also do jigsaws and memory games and puzzles.
“I adore reading to them. I choose books where the main character warms your heart and where the underdog finds the way. I like stories which are well illustrated with an individual style and where everyone learns something, including the adult.
“My son Angus and his wife are very good at sending pictures of the children playing in London parks and passing milestones like Isla learning to ride a two-wheel cycle and Finlay mastering his scooter and balance bike!
“It’s wonderful to glimpse flashes of my son in our grandchildren. They have the same keen enthusiasm and sociability. Do I see myself in them? Maybe in Isla’s determination! My granddaughter and I also share the same birthday – on Christmas Eve!”
Jane Corry’s new Penguin family drama, THE LIES WE TELL, is 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 at https://linktr.ee/thelieswetell.