Diary Of A Modern Gran | Granny Squints For The Camera

Istockphoto © Lady chasing pram Illustration: Istockphoto

“Can you stand there please, George?” asks the photographer. “And Rose, do you mind standing on your brother’s left? Sorry, my left – not yours. And Gan Gan, could you look as though you’re putting presents on the tree please?”

Wow. It’s not always easy, photographing children, is it?

For many years, I’ve been writing features for a national newspaper about bringing up children. I started when I was pregnant with my eldest and he’s going to be 40 next week!

I’ve got stacks and stacks of photographs that were taken by the newspaper over the years to illustrate my features. They range from “how to get your toddlers to eat solids” to my experiences of bringing up my youngest as a teenager on my own.

They are lovely reminders of how they have grown.

But my latest role as a granny has reminded me of how tricky it is to get children to do what you want in front of the camera!

I have to say that Rose and George are seasoned performers. But this week, they are feeling understandably over-Christmased. And it hasn’t even begun yet!

“Can you pretend to open a present?” asks the photographer whom we’ve known for years and is brilliant at his job.

Open a present? Both sets of eyes widen. They’ve been wanting to open them ever since my daughter painstakingly wrapped them last week in preparation for December 25th.

“Please don’t touch,” she’s been saying but now Rose and George are being given an open invitation! Just as well my daughter is in the kitchen and out of earshot.

So they go right ahead and put those little fingers inside the beautiful wrapping which my daughter has been sitting up all night to do.

Oh dear. That will definitely need wrapping again…

“Don’t look inside,” I say. “It’s one of your surprises.”

“Can we have a bit more of a smile please?” asks the photographer.

George, who has a great sense of humour, immediately starts pulling funny faces. “Maybe not quite so funny,” says the photographer who is about to become a grandfather himself next week. In fact, by the time you read this, he may well be one!

We have a little break to give the children a rest and he asks me what it’s like to be a grandparent. “It’s amazing,” I say, “but it’s also exhausting and worrying and brilliant all at the same time. In fact, it’s almost impossible to describe the love you feel for your grandchildren.”

Then I ask him for some tips on photographing children. “You just have to keep taking the shots until you catch the right second,” he says. “Keeping a sense of fun is important and also getting them asking them to do different things so they don’t get bored.”

As he speaks, Rose and George are leaping around on the new sofa (it’s actually second-hand from Facebook but looks brand-new). I managed to find a throw which matches the colour identically. Hopefully it might be a protection from anyone who defies the ‘No eating on the sofa rule’!

“Could we have one more go at a Christmas tree picture?” asks the photographer. “That’s great, children. Gan Gan, could you stop looking quite so anxious?”

I’m afraid that’s just my face! I always seem to have a slightly worried look when someone takes my picture. I’ve never been very good at it – the best thing is to catch me unawares. Even then, I can sometimes look like one of those pictures in a fairground mirror.

Ping! It’s my iPad, which has suddenly decided to send me some photographic memories from eight years ago when my husband and I were travelling round Canada. It was before his back operation so he was able to walk properly. That was just two months before Rose was born. In fact, I remember being worried in case she was born early.

All this fills me with nostalgia. I have to say that I’m in two minds about the memories which my clever iPad seems to put together without me asking. It’s wonderful to have them, but sometimes they can be quite painful. Do you agree?

Perhaps it’s because there are too many photographs nowadays. I expect like me, you have old photograph albums which your parents put together over the years and which are now part of your treasured possessions. Yet because there are few of them, they are more manageable. I also love the handwritten captions underneath. They mean so much, don’t they?

In fact I’ve decided that this weekend I’m going to download some of the photographs from my phone and get them printed out. Then I’m going to stick them into some proper albums with my own captions.

Meanwhile, if you’ve got any tips or stories on photographing your grandchildren, do let me know by emailing us at moderngran@dcthomson.co.uk.

During the week, I was interviewed on the phone for a Canadian radio show about grandparents. It’s called ‘Go To Grandma’ and is hosted by the wonderful author and media personality Kathy Buckworth who is a grandmother herself.

Kathy was talking to me about my new latest novel Coming To Find You which was published by Penguin earlier this year in the UK and is now coming out in Canada and the States on December 19.

She also wanted to talk about grandparenting world-wide. Kathy had been reading last week’s column in My Weekly about birthday parties, and we both agreed that there seems to be a trend for going back to old-fashioned games. Some of you feel the same, judging from the emails you sent (see feedback below).

Meanwhile, if you’d like to tune into Kathy’s radio show and podcast, go to  www.zoomerradio.ca. There are lots of interesting subjects such as how to manage if you’re a long-distance working grandparent.

Agony Gran

My three grandchildren and their two sets of parents are coming to me for Christmas lunch. We take it in turns and to be honest, I’m a little worried about it. We don’t have much room in my house and the children always run wild. Their parents seem to think that they can just dump them while they sit down in the living room and relax. Last Christmas, I found two of my grandchildren rifling through the drawers in my bedroom. They made a real mess. I’d like to try and set some rules but when I try, their parents tell me that it’s Christmas and I should try to relax. Have you any tips? Name withheld

Jane says:

I wouldn’t be surprised if there are quite a few heads nodding while reading this. But I can see both sides. We do get used to doing things our way and it’s not nice when someone starts going through our things.

But at the same time, it’s Christmas. The usual behaviour rules can often go out of the window because of the general sense of excitement that can overtake us at this time. Obviously, we are all very conscious that there are some terrible things happening in certain parts of the world right now. In fact, perhaps that can help us get a different perspective. We are lucky to have our grandchildren and families. Does it really matter if on one day of the year they go wild? There are plenty of other days when we can stick to routines.

So if I were you, I’d put away all your valuables. Make it clear that certain rooms are out of bounds.  Prepare some activities in advance like a treasure hunt, pass the parcel and funny games depending on the age range. I’d also give each child a job to do whether it’s laying the table or folding paper napkins.

And then I’d factor in a quiet time after lunch, when the children can watch a film. You might enjoy it too! Let us know how you get on!

Your Feedback

Christmas Parties

“I’m so glad you mentioned traditional games in your column last week.

“My son and daughter-in-law started doing them for their third child after years of entertainers for the first two. This was because it got too expensive but actually we all have much more fun playing pass the parcel and statues!” Julie

I Dress Up Too

“I dress up at my grandchildren’s parties and help to organise the games! I’ve even done some magic tricks from a book. It’s great fun – I recommend it.” Leslie

Love this idea, Leslie. I might try it myself!

The Funny Things They Say

“I’ve ordered quite a lot of Christmas presents for my family through Amazon. It saves me trailing round the shops.

“The other day, my five-year-old grandchildren was with me when I had a delivery.

“‘Does Amazon get a Christmas present too?'” he asked.


You sound as though you have a very caring grandson. How lovely!

Family News

What do children like best at Christmas? A recent survey shows that the top three favourites are time off school, opening presents and being with family.

What’s Your Name?

A glamorous granny

“I met up with an old schoolfriend during the week whom I hadn’t seen for a while. She’s just become a new granny.

“What do they call you?” I asked.

“Glamma,” she replied.

What a great name! It suits my friend too as you can see from the picture.

What do your grandchildren call you? We’d love to know. Email us at moderngran@dcthomson.co.uk.

Grandparent Tips

With so many awful things happening in the world right now, my partner and I have decided not to give each other Christmas presents. We are going to make a donation to the Red Cross instead. When my teenage granddaughter heard about that, she said she’d rather give the money we would have spent on her present to the charity too. I am very proud of her. Linda, London

Where To Take The Grandchildren

Thanks to Jean who suggested this. Her choice for a day out is Big Fun, Hull Indoor Play Centre.

“It’s got something to do for all ages. My grandchildren love it. It’s also nice to have somewhere dry to go when it’s raining.”

Children’s Book of the Week

The Boy Who Slept Through Christmas book cover

This week’s book of the week is The Boy Who Slept Through Christmas by Matt Lucas. Illustrated by Forrest Burdett. RRP £12.99.. Published by Farshore. For seven to ten year olds.

Scan the QR codes as you sign along!

A heart-warming story about Leo who loves Christmas. However, this is his first one without mum. Everything has gone wrong from the cake to the decorations. And then he sleeps through Christmas Day itself. But all is not lost…

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 19 in Canada and the USA.