Diary Of A Modern Gran | Eaten Up By A Tent!

Lady chasing pram Illustration: Istockphoto

“I hope you’ve shaved your legs, Mum,” my daughter says to me as we drive to the spa.

Whoops! Actually, I haven’t. I hope she’s joking. After all this is meant to be my birthday treat.

Usually, when I see my daughter, she’s going out of the front door and I’m going in, to look after George (6) and Rose (7).

We’re always saying that we don’t have enough time for “mother-daughter chitchat”. And that’s why she’s booked this lovely afternoon treat at a spa, forty minutes from home.

But oh dear. When we get there, we can’t find two poolside beds next to each other. Then a kind man sees our quandary and kindly offers to move places. If he is reading this, I’d like to thank him. Actually, I hope he isn’t reading it because of the leg shaving reference!

The irony is that my daughter and I spend most of the time talking about the children!

It’s hard not to. They’re at the stage where they are growing up fast. They say and do such funny things! Everything they do is a delight although we talk as well about Rose who simply can’t fall asleep until 9pm or even later. (Any ideas on this one, someone?)

Let’s just say that after the steam and sauna room, we both come out, feeling very relaxed.

But then on the way out to the car, I make the mistake of checking my text messages. Did I mention that our house had a flood the other week? It didn’t seem that big to me but there are all kinds of things which need sorting out. There’s a message from our insurers telling us about the next stage. I can feel my back tensing already.

Ping. Another text, but this time it’s on my daughter’s phone. “Brilliant,” she says handing it over. Yes! My son-in-law, who is looking after the children, has succeeded in persuading Rose to take off a plaster that’s been on her arm for the last three weeks. She has still steadfastly refused to let anyone remove it.

This gets me going down memory lane.

“Do you remember when you had a splinter in your knee,” I ask my daughter? “You were about six and you refused to let us remove it.”

“I think so,” she says.

Well I do and I bet her dad remembers, too.

We were both really worried about it. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if my daughter still has it in her knee to this day.

Meanwhile, it’s just as well that my daughter had a bit of a rest at the spa because she doesn’t get any sleep the following night.

My mobile goes just as I get back from my very early morning walk (something I do every day with another granny friend). “George has a temperature, Mum. Is there any chance you could come and look after him when I take Rose to school.”

Of course. This is the whole point of being Granny-round-the corner. I remember all too well taking a sick child in the back of the car for the school run – my three seemed to take it in turns to be ill – because there was no one to leave them with.

So I pedal around madly to find a poorly George on the sofa. I know children do often go up and down very fast but he does have quite a high temperature. It turns out to be tonsillitis. But he’s a lot perkier the next day, even though my daughter keeps him at home. With this new hybrid way of working, partly from home, and partly from the office, we all muck in to help out with childcare.

This includes taking Rose to the dentist.

Already? It doesn’t seem long since last time, but apparently it’s six months. “The last time we came,” I said to the dentist, “you were dressed up as Snow White.”

“So I was,” she smiles. “We do that during school holidays.”

I must say, I wish our dentist would do that. In fact, I think it would go down a treat with adults, don’t you?

On Friday evening, it’s my zoom chat with some old school friends. One of them is the sailing granny I mentioned before who has just finished first in one of the clipper races.

“Your grandchildren must be really proud of you,” I say.

She laughs. “I think the younger ones assume that all grandparents do it. The older ones followed me on Facebook and thought it was really cool.”

My friend was widowed a few years ago and now signs up for adventures on a fairly regular basis in between her part-time work as a dentist and helping out with the grandchildren. She is an inspiration.

Meanwhile, I had my own adventure this week. I nearly got eaten up by a tent. I’m not actually joking.

It started when my old bike finally came to bits because I hadn’t covered it properly during the last winter.

My friendly repair man told me it was dangerous, so I bought another cycle on Facebook. But to be honest, I haven’t really bonded with it.

I miss the other. So then a friend happened to mention that she was selling hers and I bought that. The other one can be a spare when my eldest comes back in the holidays.

This time, I’m determined that I won’t let either go to rust. So I decide to clear the shed which is chock-a-block with old paint tins – kept in case I need to remember the shade in certain rooms – and quite a lot of outdoor children’s toys which my grandchildren no longer need.

I know I’m always telling my husband of the hoarding, but I too find it difficult to get rid of things like this wonky old plastic goalpost that never worked properly in the first place – what if George still needs it? – and a rugby ball, which is severely beaten up on the outside, but still works.

And what’s this at the back? Oh yes. Not just one pop-up tent, but two. I’m beginning to remember now. I bought the second because the first didn’t stay up properly. But in fact neither of them were able to sit on our small lawn for very long. So I put them at the back of the shed. If I get them out, it will make room for the new bike.

Easier said than done. As soon as I yanked the first one out – totally ruining the good work that my chiropractor did on my back yesterday – it enveloped me like a pair of bright blue plastic arms. Help!

Somehow I managed to untangle myself, but then I tried to get it into the car to take it to the tip. But, much to the amusement of passers-by on the pavement, the pop-up tent fights back!

It’s no good. I can’t manage. I’ll have to plead with the refuse collectors to take it away.

So much for a relaxing Saturday morning. Then I remember. Our town Christmas lights are going on this evening and there are steam train rides down the high street. I text my daughter and son-in-law. “May I come with you,” I ask?


It’s brilliant. But as I queue up with little George (who’s better now) and Rose, someone taps me on the shoulder. “You’ve got something sticking out of your pocket, love.”

It’s a tent peg…

Ask Agony Gran

“I find Christmas very hard because my only grandchild lives a long way off with his parents. I’m usually invited there every other year and my son-in-law’s parents go there for the alternate years. There isn’t room for all of us to stay at the same time. It’s not my turn this year and I’m already dreading the thought of being on my own.” Name withheld

Jane says:

That must be very hard. I do sympathise. Two ideas came to mind when I read your email. If you can afford it, how about going to a hotel or bed and breakfast near them so you can join them on Christmas Day? Of course, you’d need to run this past your daughter and son-in-law but do explain that you feel very lonely on your own at Christmas.

On the other hand, it might be that they feel your grandson needs one to one time with each set of grandparents. So if they don’t sound very enthusiastic about the idea, try not to feel too hurt. Instead, ask around your friendship group and see if there are any others who will be on their own? Maybe you have a neighbour in the same position?

Another answer is to make up you mind to enjoy the day. Get in some special treats: these don’t need to be expensive. It might be your favourite meal or some nice bath oil along with a good book and a film. Hopefully you’ll be able to speak to your grandson on Christmas Day and maybe see him on Face Time or Zoom?

I’d also suggest planning a trip to see them as soon as possible, or arranging a date for them to come to you. Good luck.

Family News

Anyone who is severely immunosuppressed and over 50 is eligible for the shingles vaccine. Until recently, only those over 70 are also eligible but now those turning 65 and 70 will also be able to receive it after their birthday. Those in between 65 and 70 will apparently be called up at different stages.

We’d like to hear your views on this. Please email us at moderngran@dcthomson.co.uk.

The Funny Things They Say

“My eight-year-old grandaughter loves to help me dust my dressing table once a week. She’s fascinated by the photographs I have on it as well as my make-up.  ‘Nanny,’ she said last week. ‘Please can I try on your dipstick?’

“Of course, she meant lipstick…”

Cathy, Harrogate

This made us smile. Thank you!

Last Week’s Diary – Your Feedback

Divorce And Grandchildren

“I also find it hard when my ex-husband and his girlfriend visit our grandchildren. I don’t think there are any easy answers apart from putting the children first. However, I did feel grateful to read about someone else who feels the same as me. Thank you.” Name withheld

Grandparents Live Longer If Their Grandchildren Visit

“In last week’s column, you asked if Zoom calls counted as visits. Well they certainly bring light into my life! My teenage grandchildren live in New Zealand. We email regularly and have a family Zoom once a fortnight. I’m in my mid-seventies and am, touch wood, healthy. So maybe it works!” Sylvia, Kent

Grandparent Tip

“I keep any old woollen gloves where the fingers have worn away. Then I cut them into fingerless gloves, stick on some smiley stickers and use them to play puppets with my grandchildren.” Avril

Great idea, Avril. Thank you.

Where To Take The Grandchildren

Why not head to the Teddy Bear Museum, Dorset? You’re never too old to love a bear!

You’ll find it at Eastgate, Dorsetshire DT1 1JU. Tel: 01305 266040.

This is a lovely exhibition of teddy bears – some of whom are as big as people! A lovely, fun, family museum.

Children’s Book Of The Week

Book cover of Adventures Of A Christmas Elf

Adventures Of A Christmas Elf by Ben Miller. Simon & Shuster, £9.99 (but at the time of writing, available for £4). Ideal age, seven years upwards.

Father Christmas needs a holiday. So the elves step in to help…

If you’d like to get in touch or share your favourite books or days out, please email us at moderngran@dcthomson.co.uk.

Coming To Find You book cover

Jane Corry is a journalist and award-winning author. Her latest novel is Coming to Find You.

When Nancy’s brother goes to prison for murder, she runs to the old family holiday home Tall Chimneys to hide from the press. But the home has its own secrets, going back to the Second World War. This Sunday Times bestseller is published by Penguin, £8.99. Available in print, digital and audio. Published by Doubleday from December 19th in Canada and the USA.