Diary of A Modern Gran | Carols From My Handbag!

Lady chasing pram Illustration: Istockphoto

“Gan, Gan,” pipes up my six-year-old granddaughter Rose. “Why are carols coming out of your handbag?”

I’m collecting her from school after picking up four old George from his nursery. I’m clutching his warm little hand tightly while trying to shepherd Rose into the back of the car. At the same time, I am keeping an eye on cars going by.  Oh yes. And I’m humming along at the same time.

“It’s my old school carol service,” I explain. “It’s on YouTube.”

No need to explain what YouTube is to the children. They are far more familiar it than most of my own “I still remember decimalisation” generation!

In fact, I was quite excited when I managed to tune in, despite my lack of technical skills.

This all started when I received an email from my old school the other day, asking if I wanted to listen in to the Christmas concert. Wow! I’d love to do that. (Why is it that you can’t wait to leave school and then get nostalgic for it, the older you get?)

The only trouble was that the concert started at 3pm. Bang in the middle of the school run.

“Were you very old when you were at school?” asks George, chipping into the conversation.

“No,” I say. “And I’m not very old now.”

I may have just started to draw my pension. (Hooray!) But my eyeliner is still as much of my daily “uniform” as my north London brown blazer was, back in the late 60s/early 70s. The only difference is that I’m better at putting on make-up now!

Meanwhile, the carols are getting louder! George has increased the volume on my phone. It’s Away in the Manger – one of my favourites.

“Where is baby Jesus now?” he asks.

I should be used to children’s questions coming when I least expect them but this one catches me on the hop as I negotiate a roundabout.

“In heaven,” I say.

“With God?”  asks Rose.


“And the worms in the ground?” asks George.

“Mmmm,” I say.

This isn’t an “mmm” as in “delicious”. It’s an “mmm” because I’m not quite sure what to say.

“Where does God sleep?” continues George.

“On a pillow,” I say desperately, hoping I’m coming out with appropriate answers.

Before the virus, I used to take Rose and George to Sunday school. Since then, we haven’t been, mainly because my husband has very little immunity with his chemotherapy treatment. Instead, I sometimes tune into the online service.

“Are the pillows made out of clouds?” asks Rose.

Who am I to dent her imagination?

“Maybe,” I say carefully pulling up at a red light. ‘Tell you what, why don’t we sing along to the carols.’

So we do. It’s rather jolly! If only I’d known as a shy young schoolgirl, singing my heart out at the school concert, that my dreams of having a family and writing books would all come true! Maybe I wouldn’t have been so nervous about life.

We’re back at their place now…

All discussions about cloudy pillows and worms are forgotten as Rose and George run in. Rose is particularly keen to show Mummy the card she made at school for the family. It’s rather clever with a moving Father Christmas inside.

“Thanks so much, Mum,” says my daughter. “By the way, did you get our message?”

“No,” I say, puzzled. I usually check my texts although not on a minute-by-minute basis.

“We sent a What’s App on the family group to say we could do pick up.”

Oh dear. It transpires that my son in-law arrived at George’s nursery only to find that I’d got there first.

That’s the  thing about technology.  There are so many ways of sending messages and I frankly find it almost impossible to keep up with them. Give me a good old-fashioned phone call any day!

Still, if I had got their message, we wouldn’t have had that interesting conversation with the children on the way back!

Not long after I get home, the phone goes. “Gan Gan?” trills a little voice. “We’re just testing out Alexa!”

My son-in-law comes on the line. “Thought we check that our emergency routine works,” he says.

Good idea!

My clever techie son-in-law has taught Alexa to ring my mobile when the children instruct it to “call Gan Gan”.

It’s the modern equivalent of ringing the emergency services on the landline (something that the younger generation hardly seems to use nowadays).

The following day, I go round to their place to let in the plumber. The shower hasn’t worked for four weeks and they’ve “only” got the bath. (When I was a child, we had a rubber hose contraction to wash our hair which we pushed onto the bath taps. It seemed to work perfectly well!)

Not that I mind. I actually rather like working at my daughter and son-in-law’s home. It’s very peaceful and I can get on with work at the same time.

But I speak too soon…

“Do you know where the water gets turned off?”  asks the plumber coming down the stairs.

Oh oh!

I make a quick phone call to my daughter. Luckily she answers. Apparently it’s in the street under a tile marked “Water”.

It’s all wonderfully simple. He does the job in twenty minutes. “Thank you,” I say, pressing a tip into his hands. I am suddenly filled with the joy of Christmas because I know how pleased my daughter will be. It sounds like a small thing in today’s times but it’s small things which make up the bigger picture, don’t you think?

It’s now time to nip off for the school run. It’s the last day of term. How I remember those days! Not just in my own childhood but also with my children’s. They were a real rite of passage with the excitement of the holidays stretching out before us.

But this year is different, isn’t it? Not as bad as last year – or so we hope. But still full of uncertainties.

My eldest son was due to come down from London by train but now we are concerned about the number of people on board. So instead, his dad is going to drive him half-way and then someone else is going to pick him up. The youngest is staying in London because his partner is working in a restaurant. Hopefully we’ll see my sister but we’ll all be doing our flow tests first. I’ve also cancelled a biggish outdoor event I was going to, just in case.

You’re probably having to take similar precautions and making difficult decisions. But let’s remember. We are all in this together. The virus has caused immeasurable tragedy. Yet it has also brought out love, kindness and reconciliation amongst many.

So let me wish you a warm happy Christmas with your families. See you again next week. Please excuse me now. I’m going to listen again to that school concert on YouTube. And this time, I going to sing along really loudly because no one else is around.

It’s a great way to feel positive!

Agony Gran – My Christmas Is Cancelled!

Every week, we try to help you through a problem in your lives. This week’s question comes from Yvonne in Manchester.

“I was going to visit my son, his partner and my five grandchildren. But my son has rested positive for Covid – even though he has no symptoms – so they’ve had to cancel. I’m relieved he doesn’t seem ill although I am worried in case the others get it. At the same time, I feel very alone. I was so looking forward to seeing them. Now it’s just going to be me in the house.”

Jane Corry writes:

“Oh, Yvonne. We do feel for you. Of course you are worried about your family. But you must also be very disappointed about not seeing them. On top of that, it’s very understandable that you don’t want to be alone at Christmas. Do you have a friend whom you could ask round instead? (It might be sensible to do a flow test first.)

“There is another alternative. Remember the line ‘I wish it could be Christmas every day’? Well it can be. Lots of families are going to be celebrating Christmas on a different day because of the virus.

“Meanwhile, here are some ideas on what you can do on the 25th.

“Maybe you could buy yourself some nice goodies to eat and curl up with a film or two. Talk to your family on the phone or on Facebook. Go out for a walk if possible. Pot some late bulbs for the spring. Do something you’ve been meaning to do for ages. Buy a craft kit in advance. Buy a good book or get one from the library. Check out the TV schedule and turn on the radio too. Before you know it, the day will be over and then you can look forward to seeing your family again. Good luck. We’ll be thinking of you.”

If you’d like to share  your problem with us, please email moderngran@dctmedia.co.uk. Let us know if  you want to be anonymous.

Funny Things They Say

Thanks to Miriam who sent this one in.

“Shall I try to turn on the television?” I asked my six-year-old granddaughter. (I can never get the hang of their complicated remote.)

“No,” she said, wearily. “You can’t. Give it to me and I’ll do it.”

Grandparent of the Week – Linda, 67

Linda and her husband Colin have four grandchildren aged 15, 11, 8 and 5.

Linda, grandparent of the week“We have two daughters who have a boy and a girl each. Both sets live about an hour away and we see them about every couple of weeks. Sometimes they come to us and sometimes we go to them.

“We love playing board games together like Scrabble. The older ones play chess with my husband – I’m not so keen!

“When they were smaller, we used to take them to farmyards and rides and that sort of thing.  Nowadays, the 15-year-old is always in the library. She loves having her nose in a book! They’re all different! Our five-year-grandson is physically on the go all the time!

“It’s lovely to see some of our traits in them. I like to do arts and crafts and the girls do too. I’m about to start teaching our eight-year-old how to knit. Two of our grandchildren do martial arts. They haven’t tried it out on me yet!

“Grandchildren keep you young, don’t they? But they are also a responsibility. When I’m driving them somewhere, I’m particularly aware of that. Sometimes they have sleepovers. The 11-year-old is very good now but when he was little, he wouldn’t brush his teeth!

“They’re all coming to me this Christmas. We’re going to do all the prep work on Christmas Eve and my son in law will do the roast. Afterwards, we’re going to play silly games like charades. I can’t wait!”

Love reading?

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.

The Lies We Tell cover