Diary Of A Modern Gran | Granny Goes To London

Lady chasing pram Illustration: Istockphoto

I ring my daughter to see if she’d like an evening walk. The wind has stopped raging and the sea is quite calm. It’s a nice way to catch up. When it’s not one of my granny days, I’m always keen to find out how their day went.

In fact, I’m feeling rather guilty because I can’t do my usual school pick-up because I’m going to a smart publishing event in London (more of which later.)

“Feel like a stroll?” I ask when she picks up.

“Didn’t you get my text, Mum?”

If I was going to have a tattoo (which I am NOT, unlike my youngest) I would have this phrase engraved on my phone arm. How many times do we hear it? Too many in my view. Whatever happened to the good old spontaneous phone call where you could sort out arrangements quickly without sending numerous messages?

In fact, sometimes I toy with the idea of not having a Smartphone at all – except then I’d be bound to miss an urgent message about a family emergency. Do you feel the same?

“Sorry,” I say, noticing the missed call which must have come when I was playing tennis. “Is everything OK?”

“I’ve got Covid.”

Oh no. Not again. My daughter, as regular readers might remember, has low-immunity due to her treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. You’d never know it from looking at her as her treatment means she can run, play netball (player of the match last week!) and do all kinds of other things.

But she has been feeling particularly tired recently and achy too.

In fact, so have I.

Not long ago, Covid would have been the first thing we’d have thought of. Instead, we’d both put it down to our busy lives.

Of course, I go into mother-panic mode, telling her to ring the consultant’s secretary. But she quite rightly tells me that she’s a grown-up woman of 37 and that she can cope. Besides, my son-in-law is able to look after the children, although it isn’t easy (either practically or emotionally) for my daughter to avoid them.

Luckily, my son-in-law and the children test negative. Me too – despite hugging my daughter the last time I saw her. So when I’m back from my work trip, I can help too. On the other hand, my husband has low immunity too. It takes me back to the terrible virus peak. Just as we think we’re getting life normal again, another outbreak happens.

This is why I wore a mask on my three-hour journey to London. Only one other in my carriage was doing so. I hope I’m not storing up germs behind it.

Oh it was lovely to see my youngest son. But it was for a much shorter time than I’d hoped. “I’m really sorry, Mum,” he says, “but I’ve only got an hour. I’ve got to get back to finish some work.”

Of course I understand. He’s a podcaster and is always working against deadlines. I wish I’d known it would all turn out well some fifteen years ago when I was a single mum, nagging him to revise for A-levels!

In a way this helps in my role as a grandparent, too. My experience as a mum has taught me that nagging didn’t really help and that children eventually do things in their own time. And if they don’t? Well maybe that’s the way it’s meant to be. In fact, I think I’m more relaxed as a gran although my family might not agree!

Afterwards I go on to a rather special reception in a smart London square to celebrate the launch of the Oxford Literary Festival which takes place next March. I’ve been invited to speak about my novels and my experience of working in a prison which helped inspire them.

I feel a bit shy when I go into the room but then I start talking to another writer and find out that she is a granny too! Immediately we swap notes and anecdotes. Then someone else joins us and we talk about what our grandchildren are reading. It’s amazing to be part of this wonderful granny club!

I get the last train home instead of staying the night because I want to be back for my ‘babies’.

“Did you have a good time in London?” asks my granddaughter the next day.

“Yes, thank you,” I say. “My taxi went past Buckingham Palace!”

“Did you see the King?” asks George excitedly.

“I’m afraid not.”

His face crumples with disappointment. “Never mind. Maybe next time.”

I’ll keep my fingers crossed!

Ask Agony Gran

“I look after two lots of grandchildren (aged between two and 12). One set is local and the other is an hour away. I offered to help when I retired and both my sons and their partners are very grateful. I love being with my grandchildren but I have just turned 70 and feel very tired. I’m also aware that I may have a limited period of time when I am healthy and mobile enough to travel. Recently, a friend of mine (who is divorced like me) asked me to go on holiday with her. I had to turn her down because I’m needed for childcare. I’ve now been invited on a ‘girls week away’ in the spring but I didn’t know what to do.” Name withheld

Jane says:

I bet this rings lots of bells with many of us. But if you had a paid job, you’d be entitled to leave and your boss would have to cope without you. Of course you want to help your family but perhaps there are some options. Is there anyone you or your children know, who could provide back-up care?

It’s sensible to have someone in reserve anyway in case you’re ill. In fact, I wonder what you’ve done when you’ve had something like ‘flu? Did you continue to go in and help, feeling that you ‘should’ even though you’d also be spreading germs?

One of my granny friends, who needed rest time after an op, asked a member of staff at her grandson’s school to help out in the holidays. The arrangement worked very well.

If you or your children can’t find back-up, can they take holiday leave so you can go on this spring trip? I’d suggest talking to them about it as soon as possible so you can all start making arrangements.

You need a break too. Time doesn’t go on for ever. Good luck.

Family News

The Princess of Wales visited the Barnet Baby Bank last week which helped to highlight its important work. Baby banks distribute nappies, clothes and other essentials to families as well as pooling other resources. There are more than 200 baby banks worldwide.. For more information, visit http://www.babybankalliance.org/

The Things They Say

“I have just given my four-year-old granddaughter an advent calendar. She calls it her ‘event calendar’. Perhaps I should get her a diary instead!” Gillian, Penzance

Grandchildren’s social lives are so busy nowadays that their own diaries might come in very handy!

Grandparent Tip

“I’ve bought some ‘old-fashioned’ paper chain kits. My grandchildren have already started making them. I’ve also been telling them about Christmases when I was a child while we work.” Irene

We love this! Thank you.

What You Said About Last Week’s Diary

Pop-up Tents

“Your description about the pop-up tent made me laugh. We bought one for the garden but it kept blowing away in the wind. So we brought it inside as a den. Our grandchildren loved it!” Sam from Lincoln


“I am upset about the shingles jab too. My surgery says it doesn’t know when my age group will be called up. (I’m 68.) I rang a local clinic that does private vaccinations and was told the cost of the two jabs would be over 400. I can’t afford that. I just hope I don’t get it as chicken pox is doing the rounds at my grandchildren’s school. The government says the vaccination is available for the over 65s but this feels misleading because we’re being called up at different times. My surgery says I might have to wait until I’m 70.” Name withheld

Another reader agrees.

“This is a subject close to my heart, so I really would encourage people to get the shingles vaccination, if possible, long before they reach 70.

“William, my husband, and I caught shingles when we were both 68. We never did find out where we caught it. He got it first. I knew nothing much about shingles until then, though I knew it was related to having chicken pox as a child.

“He had three tiny little blisters at waist height near his back bone. They were about the size of apple pips, but definitely shingles. I checked it out on the internet. I took a photograph so that he could see them. They were irritating but not too bad. No more appeared and they did not last very long.

“My dose was in another class altogether. The blisters were bigger and there were lots of them. They were itchy and very painful and I have a high pain threshold. William drove me to M&S where I purchased soft loose pyjama tops and pull on pyjama trousers in the sale. I lived in them all day for a time.

“William also took me to the doctor who said that as new blisters were still appearing he could give me something to help. I don’t remember what it was. Apart from that, when it came to the discomfort and pain, it was down to calamine lotion and paracetamol. He suggested that when I had recovered, I should have a shingles vaccination, as it could happen again.

“I did recover, but it took a long time. I had sleepless nights when I could not get comfortable and had pain for most of the day. I sent an email out warning my old school friends in our reunion group, suggesting they should get the vaccination.

“My advice, don’t wait until after your 70th birthday. Even if you had chicken pox as a child, go for the vaccination. You might get off with a couple of tiny blisters or you might get the full-blown experience. One quickly forgets how bad a dose was and it took me some time to get round to having the vaccination. However, I am now protected.” Thelma

Where To Take The Grandchildren

For a really interesting and informative day out, head to The Powell Cotton Museum, Quex House and Gardens, Kent CT7 0BH. Email enquiries@powell-cottonmuseum.org.

You’ll find lots of exciting events and exhibits about nature, textiles and arts. There are also ‘school-loan’ boxes for teachers to use in classrooms. What a good idea!

Children’s Book of the Week

Complete Greek Myths book cover

Complete Greek Myths By Henry Brook, Anna Milbourne and Nathan Collins. Usborne, £20. For 10-year-olds upwards.

A comprehensive book for all the family. We can see this coming in handy for school projects and general knowledge. Could also make a good Christmas present.

We’d like to hear from you about your experiences as a grandparent.  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.

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