Diary of A Modern Gran | The Wrong Bag

Lady chasing pram Illustration: Istockphoto

I’ve got a new job! Well sort of. Actually, it’s my daughter who has one. After a break during the virus, she has gone back to work two days a week. And I’m in charge of afternoon pick-ups from nursery and school respectively.

Actually I’m really pleased. It’s so lovely to hear my grandchildren’s little stories about their day. And it’s also nice to be needed! The timing is good too. I can work in the morning on my new novel which comes out in June, We All Have Our Secrets, then walk the dog and get to school on time.

Regular readers might remember my previous confessions that I wasn’t always spot on when it came to collecting my own three some thirty plus years ago. I was always trying to cram too much in with work deadlines and dodging sheep on country lanes.

Nowadays, I am ‘super-careful’ to be early. (You can see how I am picking up the youngsters’ lingo!)

So far, so good. At least so I thought until yesterday…

I don’t know what your weather has been like but here, it has been tipping down – cats and dogs style – when I went to George’s pre-school. I was the first one there! Now which one is his lunch bag? They are all left in the waiting area for carers to select the right one but it’s clear to see which is George’s. There’s only one with Spiderman motifs!

Then the door opens and a helper shepherds out my grandson. “Gan Gan,” he says with a beam and a hug. He’s wearing his coat and clutching his little rucksack. Bending low to protect ourselves against the rain which is getting even harder, we dive for the car. Goodness, it’s hard to strap him in when the wind is like this!

Off we set for Rose’s school. “Did you have a lovely day?” I ask.

“Yes, thank you,” he says. How polite! Then he utters those immortal words. “I’ve got the wrong bag, Gan Gan.”

What? Did I get it wrong about Spiderman? It turns out that he is referring to the rucksack. “I should have my tractor bag,” he says.

Instead, we have a rather fetching Paw Patrol design.

Oh dear. I wonder how serious this is in the scheme of things. Does it mean he can’t do his homework? Does he even have any homework? Am I in trouble? Will I come bottom of the class?

I’ll have to ring nursery. But I can’t do that while I’m driving and – help! – there is nowhere to park at Rose’s school. Why is it that it’s more difficult to find a space when it’s teeming down?

Yes! I’ve spotted one. I might be too scared to drive on motorways (the mere thought of joining one sends me into panic mode) yet I’m not bad at reversing into small spaces.

But there’s no time to ring nursery because I need to join the queue for Rose’s pick up. “I’m soaking wet, Gan Gan,” says George.

I’m so impressed with his vocabulary that I pause half-way through easing his little anorak onto him. (As instructed, I take their coats off in the car although I always let mine wear theirs when they were young. Apparently this new rule is something to do with safety belt efficiency. Who am I to argue?)

We’re running late now although I’ve no idea how as I started in such good time.  Out of precaution, I pull on my mask even though we’re outside. Snap! The elastic has gone. Never mind. I’ve got loads of spare masks in my pocket along with dog bags (clean) and tissues (also clean) plus hand sanitiser. (Now there’s a business to have gone into!)

Rose is waiting with her teacher and she runs towards me. There’s nothing like that hug at the end of the day. The three of us head to the car like drowned rats. But there’s a treat in store! I’ve always been addicted to magazines, long before I became a journalist myself, so I’ve bought them each a comic.

“You’re the best Gan Gan in the world,” says George as he rips the freebies off the cover. Rose is enchanted with hers with the free doll on the front although she’d rather have George’s dinosaur camera.  “You’ve got to lend it me,” she instructs him. “It’s part of the deal.”

“What deal?” I ask, glancing in my rear mirror.

“Just a deal,” she says firmly.

That one is clearly heading for Dragon’s Den! Oh goodness. I’ve forgotten to ring nursery about the bag. I call as soon as we’re back. It’s all right. The mistake has been discovered and George’s bag is in custody at nursery until it can be collected tomorrow. It reminds me of the time that a writer friend picked up the wrong laptop from one of those trays at the airport before the virus. It was only when she got back she discovered the mistake. The poor thing was in a terrible state as hers had her novels on it. Luckily the other person got in touch (I’m not sure how) and everything was sorted.

By now I’m feeling exhausted…

“I’m hungry, Gan Gan,” says Rose. My ‘promotion’ means I’m in charge of tea but it’s not quite ready. So I give them healthy titbits while I get cracking. There’s just one problem. Despite intensive training from my grown up children, I still can’t work out how to turn on the television. This isn’t as daft as it sounds since it involves three handsets, two of which have buttons which are so well-worn that they don’t work very easily.

“Never mind,” says Rose. “We can pretend.”

To my amazement, she draws up two chairs so they make a little studio. “This is the weather news,” she says. “Outside it’s raining lots and lots.”

“What about a traffic report?” I ask.

“There’s been an accident but everyone’s all right,” she says brightly.

Wow! I’ve always been amazed by my granddaughter’s imagination but this is incredible.

“Can you give us the latest news about Mr Johnson?” I ask rather naughtily.

I’m not sure if she knew who I was referring to but she didn’t bat an eyelid.

“Mr Johnson is swimming,” she says.

Now I’m not a political person but I have to say that I thought this was an interesting answer.

Then George takes a picture of his sister on my phone and manages to send it to my tennis WhatsApp group. After that we all have tea although they don’t want a story and we can’t find the family iPad because Mummy has taken it to work so they tune into Hey Duggee on my mobile instead.

By the time the “boss” comes back, I’m exhausted even though I’ve only been doing this for two hours!

Maybe that’s why I make a mistake. Yes. That’s right. You’ve guessed it!

“Mum,” says my daughter on the mobile when I get home. “I think you picked up the wrong bag when you left.”

So I have! Better get round there fast before Rose and George find my laptop with something rather special on it. I don’t want them to press “delete” by mistake.

This “something special” is a sixtieth birthday poem which I’m writing for my little sister. There’s six years between us and I can clearly remember the day she was born. As a child, I always wrote poems for our parents when it was their birthdays and I would coerce my sister into playing a tune on her recorder to accompany me!

Now it’s her turn to be celebrated. I’m going to do my flow test and get on a train and visit her tomorrow. I can’t wait!

Maybe one day, Rose and George will write birthday poems for each other. I’d like to think the family tradition will continue.

Do you have any birthday traditions in your family? If so, do let us know by emailing moderngran@dctmedia.co.uk. We’d also love to hear about lost and found bag stories. Have a good week!

Share A Problem With Modern Gran

“I’ve had my booster jab for the virus but I am still nervous about seeing my grandchildren. They don’t live near me but are planning a visit at half-term. I’m scared in case they pass something on to me without realising. After all, they’re in school every day and are mixing much more than I am. I’m too worried to tell my daughter this in case she thinks I don’t want to see them. We’ve had a tricky relationship in the past.”

Anonymous from London

Jane Corry says:

“I do sympathise. Many of us are worried about being infected by the virus even if we’ve been triple jabbed. And you’re not alone in worrying about catching it from grandchildren. I get nervous too when one of mine sneezes or coughs. But if I were you, I would try and talk to your daughter about your concerns. Tell her that you really want to see them but you’re worried. You say you’ve had a tricky relationship with her in the past but hopefully, she will understand this. The virus has made a lot of us become more understanding.

“Would you feel more reassured if they took daily tests before coming to see you – and that you did the same? Or would you feel happier waiting until Easter or even the summer when we might know more about the situation? I’m afraid there are no easy answers. But my advice would be to do what you feel most comfortable with. If you decide not to see your grandchildren face to face, you can still keep in contact regularly with Facebook, other forms of social media (ask your grandchildren for help with this if you need to) and letters and phone calls. Good luck.”

Grandparent of the Week – Sue

Sue and her husband Andy have 11 grandchildren, the 12th is due in August!

Sue's husband with grandson

Andy and grandson

“Our youngest grandson is five and the eldest is 16. Our youngest granddaughter is two and the eldest is 19! I had to think there for a minute! Sometimes it’s hard to keep track. We’re always happy to see the grandchildren and hear about their varied interests and what they have been doing. With the older children we keep in touch with phone messages and a family WhatsApp group.

“They are from our three sons. One lives locally and we often see them a couple of times a week. The second lives further away but we see a lot of him and his family. And the third are fairly nomadic at the moment so we see them less frequently than usual. There are seven of them and they are home-schooled. They do some amazingly creative things, they’ve been used, from a young age, to work with wood, making models and lots of sewing, especially small clothes out of felt for their small Sylvanian families.

“When we’re able to take them out, we love going down to the beach and walking along the river, pointing out birds and flowers. Sometimes I take chalk pens and they will find a pebble, think what it looks like and make it into whatever the shape suggests such as a car. The children love to go out with my husband on the boat and fishing. When they come here we sometimes do cooking together and do things in the garden.

“One of the lessons I’ve learned with small children is to look at what they are interested in and give them the materials they need. I used to be a nursery school teacher so that helps!

“We’re in tune with the parents’ rules and boundaries. One of my grandsons is coming over shortly and I will check how much screen time he’s allowed.

“They all call me ‘granny’. My husband is ‘grampy’.”

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