Island Blog – Finding me on Sundays

I’m not sure I like Sundays. I notice more things I don’t want to notice, such as nobody here and nothing on the cards and the wrinkles on my fingers and those bone-age knuckles that would need no ‘duster’ to take out a big man, had they the strength. Saturday, now, passes like a slip of a thing when Saturdays were always more of a yahoo. I don’t think that helps.

Sundays in my young past were a hair wash/get ready for school panic; or a back to work dread. Saturdays were always better. No preparation angst rising like indigestion. It was just a yahoo with crazy plans and sauncy clothing and opportunities, even as a daughter/married woman/wife, when me and him would often suddenly book a dinner table somewhere, just because it was Saturday and Sunday gave enough room for the aftermath. Now Sundays offer the same but without the Saturday fun. Doesn’t really work for me. Funny that I am still stuck in that life calendar.

This is my 3rd winter without him. Although I am, mostly, okay about ‘tempus fugit’, it feels like I am fumbling about, my fingers combing through the times, the timeline, and bringing up nothing more than seaweed or old hair as from a drain. Even as I grow into someone I never knew, nor recognise, I have this pull back to the past. Let me go there, let me have what I had; that sort of nonsense thinking. But, nonsense or not, it is how it is. This bereavement/grieving thing has no shape, no tidelines, no dateline. It is the weirdest of all times of my life as it is for anyone else who knows what the heck I am talking about. There is an identity loss, that identity having been set in place decades ago, refined, pruned, nurtured and encouraged to bloom. It will never be easy to ignore that, nor to walk away. New identity? What on earth does that mean? But, we find it, I am sure, because so many have.

And I am ready to love Sundays, to learn and to find a new me, no matter how hard the work.

Island Blog – Tigger

The trouble with me, or one of the many troubles with me, is my Tigger bounce in the early mornings. It’s ridikkerluss. I must have driven my children mad with all that early bouncing, especially on school days. Waking in this ‘darking’ at 3.30, wide awake, excited about nothing and everything, I have to get out of bed. Thank you bed, I say with a reassuring pat, as it’s a bit startled. Most people, I add, would just turn over but I never believed in turning over anything with the exception of new leaves, naturally. I would be marvellous on early shifts in, say, a hospital. I would burst into the ward, my smile leading the way. Good morning! I would sing, as I reinflate the flagging night watch, flip on the kettle, brew coffee and head off to cheer the post and pre-ops, soothe the sad and weary, have a blether with the janitor and make him laugh but not too loudly, naturally.

By 6 I have cleaned the cobwebs and wiped the walls that have been hidden behind the Family Furniture for decades. The walls look startled too, suddenly aware of their nakedness. The cobwebs are all fluff and dark materials; very dodgy, but easily removed with my eco cleaning spray and a determined scrubber hand. Before I wipe them away for ever, I watch the way the webs float and lift as I pass, like wisps of smoke. I check for lodgers, but they have already scuttled off into a safe corner, probably temporarily blinded. I can see where the painter didn’t paint, couldn’t reach behind the Family Furniture. I pause to wonder who will buy these big pieces, who will thrill at the very sight of them, a must-have for the perfect place inside their home. I wish them and the furniture many blessings and a very happy life together. And, good luck polishing those brass knobs. I am done with brass knob polishing for ever. I have also moved furniture, stacked books and it’s not 7 yet.

I blame my mother. She was just the same. I remember us going to visit when the kids were young. I was up early, but himself, who could sleep all night and longer, remained in bed. Mum wasn’t having any of that nonsense and she wheeched off the duvet revealing his naked splendour and tickled his toes whilst singing something nobody recognised. He never got over it, not for years and years. Ah, well, I told him. You are not alone in this. Most people never get over my mother. So thanks Mum for the Tigger in me, the mischief, the fun and the way you were the most impossible woman who ever lived and probably always will be.

Unless I take over that role, of course.

Island Blog – Two Ways of Looking

I have weird taste in breakfasts. Where most good folk are chomping on muesli, yoghurt and fruit, I hanker for poached egg over warmed avocado and chopped banana with lemon juice, salt, pepper and herbs. Sometimes I tuck into last night’s leftovers. I don’t have a sweet tooth, in fact teeth play a lead part in my breakfast choice because it takes me a whole lot of work, and time, to sort them out after muesli. I also eat very early, long before the sun is up so that lunch is often required around 11 am. Living alone, this is not a problem at all. Who cares when I eat? Who will notice? Only me and that’s just fine.

There are times, I confess, when I think enviously of those who sleep for 7 wonderful hours and who, on waking, can sip tea or coffee, read in bed, pondering the day from the warm snuggle of a duvet for another hour or so. These people sleep, I understand that, whereas I can manage a few short hours at best, waking into darkness and with no desire to remain in bed for another second. I am way too excited about the day ahead, too curious to see what awaits me downstairs. Did I wash the supper dishes? Did I buy something online, something I absolutely do not need at all? As I rise, I laugh at myself, at those questions. Washing dishes after each meal was a big issue when I cooked meals for large numbers of hungry people, most of whom were in my own family, but not now. One plate, one pan, one knife, one fork. I can barely see them on the draining board. Back in the years of manifold dishes there would have been a crockery crash had I not washed up after every meal. But it does think me because I know how easy it is to not bother as a live-alone person ages. There is nobody here to judge my standards after all. Ah, no, that’s not true because there is me and I am the strictest judge of self. My standards are always in need of improvement, and I have vowed as I watched other live-alones get sloppy that I would never allow that in myself. So, the dishes are washed, the floors swept, the bathroom clean, the rugs bashed to death and if the dog starts to smell, she is dunked in a bucket and scrubbed to a shine.

In short, it is exhausting being me. I often wish I could lower some of my standards, not one of which I expect to see in another living soul. Quite the opposite. Was I reared to be so damn critical of myself, allowing no laxity? Very probably. But surely at my age I could be less driven? It seems that I am fated to run all the way up to the end. I can’t even sit still for long, the dance in me is too dancey. I am curious about what might be around the next corner and I just have to find out, even if it is only another corner, which it often is. This doesn’t slow me down at all and when I think of this condition, this endless curiosity, I can see it two ways. Fidget, restless, too imaginative, hyperactive, or really alive, curious, interested, imaginative, mischievous, fun, inspiring.

I pick the latter.

Island Blog – Fallout

I refuse to fall out of love. Just saying. We need to be in love, always and forever because it thrills us into life and fire and fun and music and hope. There are a million drudge days, ordinary greys than never lift into geese, tired times, hopeless fear, no tomorrow in sight. We all know these. But I am a thrust light in the dark and even for me. I will rise. So will you. It’s not an ‘if you want’ thing. It just comes unbidden.

There are times I hate that thrust light. Times I want to hide shadow like and hope nobody sees me. Then I wake one morning and that damn light is beckoning me towards hot tea and a morning I have never seen before. Life moves us on in a kindly and patient way. It might piss me off but it still moves me.

I refuse to fall out out of love. With life.

Island Blog – Outfit, Outflit

One morning I awaken with a lightness in my step once I have connected my feets with the new carpet, found my ground and elevated into my height. I know it isn’t a dizzy height, but it is mine and I know where I start and where I end and that is completely fine with me. It is also reassuring, because the frocks in my wardrobe only fit the me I know and were the me I know to grow or diminish overnight, we would both be confounded, the frocks and me. Thankfully, this scenario only belongs in one of my fiction stories, the ones where worlds merge because some eejit has found a portal into another one and gone through leaving everyone else behind wondering whether or not said eejit will be home in time for tea. I have yet to be that eejit despite locating portals all over the place. Moving on.

I decide on an outfit. It is quite a sassy one for me, given that I have chosen full flowing billow-skirts for a longtime. It is cooler this morning, circa 10 degrees and I needs must address the coolth #scottishword. Pantaloons of a black and white scarpy slash pattern, elasticated just below the knee; long tee-shirt beneath longer frock in an arguing design; overlay, a thin unequally hemmed jersey, also not matching and a wrap-around tartan knee-length skirt fashioned from almost the same amount of fabric required for a kilt, which is, for the sassenachs, about 20 yards in old money. I need safety pins to secure the connecting lengths having lost weight since being widowed. I blame Himself for that. The finishing touch is a bead belt, hip hugging yet loose and well, quite the thing. I pose before my old cracked mirror and think, Yes, You Will Do, and scoot down stairs for a boiled egg.

It takes only 30 minutes for me to realise this outfit is not a long term thing. The bead belt keeps shucking up to my waist and I can bear nothing around my waist. Then the safety pins ping apart and stick my skin. I sit down to eat my breakfast and the skirt tangles with my body. The underneath tee rumples quietly beneath the frock and I now look like an un-made bed. I tolerate and breathe deeply. I know, as does my sassy outfit and my mirror that I will be seeing no-one today, not one soul and that this is all about me and how I feel about me, but that is not what confounds me, is not the thing that twirls me fastly back upstairs to wheech the whole thing off in a rather dramatic fling and to begin all over again with a more considered approach. No. It is that moment I need a pee. The undoing process of wrap around skirt, safety pins, layered tee beneath frock and pantaloons, no matter what the flaming pattern, all conspire to confound and I know when I am beat. T’is now. My dressing up is not working today.

It thinks me, reminds me of happy happy girl days and my absolute favourite of all games. Dressing up. My mum had a chest, or trunk filled to busting with outfits and these outfits were not made of paper or plastic. They were sewn quality and lasting and beautiful. I was Gypsy, my favourite, and mum would darken my face to a Norfolk tan with her powder (she was able to take dark, unlike freckled white skin me) and affix the hoop earrings somehow and I would flash my eye whites into the moment and dance and jingle the bracelets and anklets for hours. I also recall being the fairy, the clothing white and laced and cotton and fitted and beautiful and with wings. There was a sailor outfit but I ignored that one. I became the gypsy then, or the fairy. My friend Angela had to be queen and as I was not even remotely interested in being a monarch there was no contest. I remember watching her walk across the grass on a summer afternoon, straight-backed and completely absorbed in her queen-ness whilst I finagled around the shadows planning gypsy/fairy anklet jangling mischief. It worked for a long time. I think it still does.

So, after the wheeching myself out of the conflictions of an outfit that looked frickin great as long as I would spend the entire day standing still before my cracked mirror, I move towards my frock wardrobe with both interest and trepidation. I don’t want to lose the devil-may-care-let’s-astound-the-wildlife thingy but I do want to be able to move freely. Moving freely is a big thing for me. If I feel contained at any point on my body or in my mind I have this desire to explode. I haven’t done it yet and it could be messy but I am super aware of the exploding gene that figgles about in my DNA and which, if DNA could encompass feelings, would show in my ancestry, I am certain. So, choosing not the sameold and yet poking about with fingers of curiosity, I locate a layering option. Let’s try you, I say, kindly, because I am aware that this particular underlayer has not seen light of day for a while. It is quite hard to get it right for my mood, I say, muffled beneath the foof of the material as it falls over my head and lands around me. We look at each other, the underlayer and me. We agree. Okay so far. I go back again to the dark depths of the wardrobe and flip the hangers along. No, no, maybe but no, hmmm, okay, how about you? I can hear the excited squeak and I love it even as all my abundant frocks know the rules. I hate to disappoint but this may not be your day. Once selection is made I can go about my business. I still will meet nobody, and the frocks know this but together we swing through the day, through the ups and downs and all is well in our world.

I did wonder, only this morning, does everyone else have this much fun in such ordinary moments?

Island Blog – My Home, Music, Changes and Fun

Today the sun shone like it was in a competition. Brazen, warm, loud in the sky. The pufflet clouds moved around it, I think deliberately, because it showed them in their best light. Edges like fire and brimstone, smokey dark below. Quite the picture.

I did a bit of this and that. I lifted some paintings to the walls of the rooms that used to be his and are now not his anymore. His bedroom, a tangle of hospital bed, aids, plastic receptacles etc, all gone now. There is a king sized double for visitors, a new carpet, a blackout blind and curtains. In the office, now not the office but instead a wee kiddies room, a new carpet flats the boards, soft and cool and slightly sea coloured. I joined an online church group and it was very lovely indeed. Then I marched out, plus wee dog, to corral some beech leaves, soft limbs, gentle emerald leaves, for preservation. I watched my old and ferocious mother-in-law do this thing. Glycerine and water mix, pop in the limbs and wait. The stalks draw up the mix into the leaves that take on a shine and are preserved for ever. ish. I can hardly believe I am truly becoming Granny at the Gate, and if you haven’t already read my book then do it now. The replication of a life in every single sense (only I am never ferocious) is bizarre. God bless you old girl for your powerful spirit. It lives on. As you can see from your vantage point.

As I re-designed the rooms that were his, I felt a falter. Although he is gone and this lovely home is now mine, there is yet a sense of notmine. It never was when he lived. It was his or it was his mother’s and I find it quite hard to brush that legacy away. As I arrange for my friend, an antique dealer, to come when he can to remove the old maple dresser, the mahogany thingy full of ancient leather bound books, I get the whiff of traitor around my person. This would never have been countenanced when he lived. Now he lives not. Now this is my lovely home and I crave white space, minimalism and the moving on of old, maybe valuable stuff, that will bring money in for my kids. For our kids.

I chose music that kept me in the bubble of me and him. Sibelius, his favourite. The Swan of Tuanela, Valse Triste, and Grieg, Peer Gynt. I played them loud as I worked. Then I brought in my favourite, thinking, this is my house now and my music is also important. Beethovens’ 6th, the Pastorale. These have been on a loop all day as the sun beats in and the birds sing like they were the choir for the Second Coming.

A good day. A day of change, of down and then up. And I look around my lovely light, bright, open home and say to myself, How fortunate am I. How lucky, how glorious is this island place. And my neighbours have just come back, all children and garden talk and fun.

Island Blog – Words and Showing Up

When I was a student, I learned how to write good English, to enunciate clearly and to employ slang or swearwords only in the playground or in whispery corridors. Now, still a student, still learning, I play with my words. Words are like music, they sound soft or harsh, harmonious or discordant, resonant of the very thing they describe. Onomatopoeiac. My dad would have a fit at some of my words. I think he considered loose language to be a sign of laziness, an unwillingness to search for and then to produce a word most fitting. He had a zillion words in his mouth and was never short of just the right one, bringing in a goodly measure of humour and exaggeration, just like a pro. Once, with his head inside the drinks fridge, he announced that ‘we are perilously low on lemonade’. He could spoof it anytime he chose. I think I get my passion for word invention from him, from Roald Dahl and from other great storytellers who lifted words up for scrutiny, oft times laying them down again, all tapsalteerie, just for effect.

To play with word assemblage is to dance with fairy feet over the rules of engagement. Words have double flipped over the generations. Some have been lost, new ones found and elevated to dictionary standing. Playing scrabble with me is never going to please a dictionary pedant. In fact, no dictionary pedant would even consider it. There is only one person I can play scrabble with and that’s my youngest son who has more crumjumbling words in his head than anyone else I know. The game invariably dissolves into hysterical laughter as one or other of us attempts to explain the meaning of whatever word we have just laid down on the board.

We are taught not to exaggerate, not to overstate with words and yet where’s the fun in rules like that? Sounds very beige to me and I love colour and lift, nonsense and musicality. Life is tough enough already. We do well to remember that having fun is good for our health. And, in that, I take courage and inspiration. Could be the lyrics of a song, a line snatched from Twitter, Facebook or Instagram; could be a flow of words from a passerby #therearelessofthosefornow; could be a crash landing in my own head whilst buttering a salmon steak. Could come from anywhere but if there is music in it, then it grabs my attention and I take a good look see.

This morning, around 5, the sun cast red across the sea-loch. A fingermist hovered over the still waters, tree reflections shimmying like dancers. The goddess of the breeze obviously thought it was her turn. Tickling the surface with her fingers, she lifted the runnels and rivulets into bubble swirls and sent them all on a trajectory for the wide open maw of the Atlantic Ocean. Gulls dipped, oystercatchers twillopped overhead in a cacophony of oystercatcher-ness, and one lone young whitetail soared like a big showoff almost level with Cirrus, although, of course, he was nowhere near those ice clouds. It just looked like it from down here, from stuck down me, gravitously cemented to Mother Earth with my neck a paperclip as I watch and watch till, with barely a wing beat, he slides 10 miles to the other side of my looking. A lift of light and the starlings arrive like a football crowd to the bird table. There have to be 15 of them, babies open-beaked and squeaking, parents madly gathering seed, feeding, gathering seed, feeding and on and on till Lady Night finally says Enough! Sleep!

I remember it well. And I am glad I do. I have known the times of overwhelming, my times of flight, high as Cirrus but not quite, my lifts, my joys, my swollen ankles, my sleepless nights, my troubled days, my moments of supreme peace, my ages of gloom. All of these colours, all of these states of being, these words are me, are you too. It is how and who we are. It bothers me (for about 3 seconds) that the greatest requirement in this life is to keep showing up, first, to keep learning, second, and to keep applying said showing up and said learning, ad infinitum for all eternity, forever and then some.

Easy Peasy.

Island Blog – Chaste with Cheese

This morning I heard a different goose sound. It wasn’t the scrabble babble of greylags, all talking over each other and yet still managing to fly in formation, the ones who are here every year to breed. No, this was two geese making what sounded like gentle conversation; one waiting for the other to finish before responding. It leapt me out of bed in what once was a trice and now takes a bit longer so that my limbs can catch up with the trice thing. I saw them. A pair of geese from the Branta genre, black geese, Canada geese as far as I could tell. I have never seen them before here and it thrilled me to my toes. I watched them swim together through my binoculars and verified my sighting. How completely wonderful that they have chosen to come, just when we are all wondering how on this good earth we are going to manage with in-housing, not to mention those of us who might have chosen option B, had we had the choice. I’m sure you have seen that YouTube funny. If not, take a peek. But, option B or option A aside, there is life growing on outside our windows, unaware of our collective need to see life in the face of death.

Meanwhile, her indoors is making cauliflower cheese. I am aware that at some point, cheese, along with other important will run out somewhere. It might be here, so I am chaste with cheese, flavouring the sauce with chopped spring onions, red pepper and coriander before adding about half the cheese I would have lobbed in during times of abundance. I am chaste with loo paper too and that won’t surprise you. Someone, somewhere has bought up the lot and good luck to them and their associated familial bottoms. We have a saying in the north. If you run out of loo paper, just grab a handy scotsman. I thought that was a rather unpleasant idea on first hearing it, even if I did laugh so as not to look stupid, until I realised it meant the newspaper, which, on reflection, sounds equally as unpleasant. Let us hope it won’t come to that. I don’t really fancy finding editorial print on my bahookie.

Along with being chaste around everything, I find I am cleaning more things and more often than I ever have in my life. I don’t think I ever scrubbed the latch on the front gate, nor the door handles and knobs, light switches and taps. I would have given them a cursory wipe whilst cleaning the room, but not like this. I count 67 hand washes a day, and that doesn’t include washing up or squishing soft suds through a woolly. At first it felt very odd and quite tired me out, but now it’s a habit. Washing himself, however, is not quite so straightforward. I tell him, You need to wash your hands. I washed them on Wednesday, he said, his feathers somewhat ruffled.

Being profligate is not something we can be any more and that is no bad thing. I had no idea I was so tally ho with pretty much everything from cheese to loo paper…..until now. Now I could sit with my old ma and agree on half a tomato each without rolling my eyes once. I get it. And, I think, I hope, that it will become the norm not to waste as much as we all did before. It isn’t being parsimonious, more respectful of whatever we handle, cook, use in our daily lives. It might mean we learn how to repair things like paddling pools and socks and broken wings and in this learning we will honour what we need instead of grabbing what we want without a backwards glance. Perhaps we will become kinder to each other, more ready to keep in regular contact, less fond of staying late at work in order to gain an A+, whilst a grudging E- awaits us at home.

And Mother Nature is smiling wide. Because we are not tramping down the grasslands, wild flowers can grow, bees can visit, birds can nest and the whole glorious circle of what life should and could be, is turning us into mindful humans. Let us find the fun in-house, around our children, through contact with friends and family and let our minds be wide open. One day, when we can open our doors without having to scrub someone else off the handles, when we can walk out free once more, let us take what we have learned, and are still to learn, out into a brave new world.

Island Blog – Fun

So, yesterday was all about love and cards and flowers and romantic dates. For some. Me……..? Well, I busied myself with the craft of housekeeping and caring right up to the evening, my favourite time of day (or is it night?) when the northern hemisphere teeters on the cusp of transition. It’s time for a shower, to put the tatties on to boil, to gee up the woodburner and to check the garage door is shut against Dennis. He could flip that old thing into matchsticks, taking out several solid things in passing, the way he is growling behind the sky.

On this cusp, after delivering a meal to himself as he sits encased in his pyjamas, his ears clamped shut inside the headphones, some TV series playing out on his screen, silent mouths moving in a dialogue to which I am not privy, I return to the kitchen, light myself a candle or two and pour a glass of wine. Happy Valentine’s I told myself and myself smiled. I love myself enough not to bother about such lovey dovey nonsense. I could clean the faces of the kitchen units; I could have another shower; I could sweep up the crumbs or I could go to the pub. Which is what I did. The kitchen unit cleaning thing almost got me. I had tunes playing and candles flickering shadows up the walls and it all looked rather pretty until I put on my specs and noticed that there was more to cleaning the units than I had thought heretofore. Some reddish blobs had the chutzpa to stick themselves right across one door and there was much dust along the horizontals. Blow that. This is not evening work. It was a quick shift into a jacket and boots and off I toddled, giving Growling Dennis a quick and filthy look en route.

It was fun. Fun is what I love best and the one thing that isn’t always available here unless I fun the flames of it all by myself. I’m pretty good at it, though I say so myself. By the time I left, I had hugged old mates, commiserated, reassured, discussed the excitement of historical geology and understood better the palaver involved in building a new house on an island already drunk on rain. Conversation and communication in a life that has lost so very much of both are as welcome as 12 red roses any day.

When I was a recalcitrant and bloody-minded teenager I sent myself valentine cards. It saved anyone else the bother, after all, and guaranteed that I wasn’t the sad girl without a boyfriend, horribly visible in the school playground, awash with shame and certain that she has terrible breath. Nowadays I believe boyfriends are highly overrated. It all starts out rosy but mostly that’s where it begins to stop. I heard of someone who was incandescent about not getting a card from her husband. I held in a smile because if that is how he feels about her then its better out in the open. Others keep the flame burning, I know that. I met a couple of them last night, still dancing and planning to dance right up to the end of love.

And I smiled at that too.

Island Blog – Little Fires

I believe that grandparents have a gift. One that is gifted to them. They also have a gift to give, through translation, nothing lost, unless they choose to ignore the opportunity it brings them, and by extension, the generation below and the one below that.

On the first gift, I can say it comes as a surprise. This gift is one of a second childhood. Not physically, of course, but in a renewed lease of life. From banging on about arthritis to clambering over a fence with a cackle of glee; from medication programming to random acts of play; from soup at midday on the button to fish finger sandwiches just because we’re hungry – with ketchup, naturally. The awakening of the sleeping child is painless. Sparkles return to rheumy eyes and stolen carrots from the veg counter at Tesco’s are an absolute must. An old woman who has plodded, fallen- arched, and for many years, up one aisle, politely rounding to the next, might suddenly find herself speeding up for a swing-wheelie at the top. The giggles of the little ones egg her on and she just can’t help herself. Her mind is full of naughty ideas that came from nowhere. After all, these half-pint charges of hers have been sternly groomed for a perfect public face and mummy never does any of these things.

As mummy, we don’t either. Many of us are so caught up in right and absolutely wrong that we contain, without intending it, the free spirit of our children until their bodies can barely bend at all. And here comes the second gift, the one given. With granny we can fly and fly high. My granny was like that and we all adored her. The mischief in her eyes set little fires in our own and although she was in all ways the perfect lady, she showed us a side of her true self that my mother rarely saw as a child. I feel sad about that and wonder how much, and how often, I contained my own children in boxes at least two sizes too small for their exuberant personalities. But how else to protect, teach and develop a child into the adult we want them to be, hope they will become? This, in itself sounds like a box, but only to my granny ears. So is it just that we can ‘hand them back’ or is it that second chance to what, make amends? My own children, now parents, are not always delighted at granny’s antics. Initially I faced a few stern reprimands on my behaviour, feeling like the child in trouble and most uncomfortable. Can I say God or should I pretend he doesn’t exist? Can I answer questions on where babies come from, asked by a ten year old, or should I say “Ask Mummy’ thus making it very mysterious and serious? I get my nickers in a right knot at such times, and dither like an old woman who never thought an original thought, or was never allowed to.

9 grandchildren in, I now am more relaxed about the nicker knot thing. I pause a lot after a question is asked. I might distract, as I would a puppy chewing on a cat, suggest some toast or a bounce on the trampoline. I might answer the baby question, but vaguely, with something safe, like ‘Mummy’s tummy’ and leave it at that . As to God, I might say, some believe he exists, some don’t, and round with a question for them. What do mummy and daddy say? Always a safe bet, that one.

I don’t remember my mum having any bother with dithering. She just answered as she saw fit, no matter what parental bans we had put in place. And blow it. Thats what she said. She had no intention of bending to our whims and I cannot imagine ever being brave enough to challenge her. In my day and with my mother, challenge was verboten. However my generation have been confounded with all the new information about parenting. Strait jackets were out, for starters, and choices offered to small people on the best dinner plates. My own children, and I have heard them all employ this, would ask their 3 year old what she would like for supper. I managed to keep my snort silent, although it gave me indigestion and required my scrabble into handbag depths for a Rennies. Now, I am used to it. I remember, once, tapping a child on the leg when her tantrum threatened the entire neighbourhood, and being strongly warned never to touch a child again in anger. It wasn’t anger, I began to say, but said no more after making eye contact with the parent in case. The Childline number is readily available, after all, and there are posters in every school in most of the rooms, and at a child’s eye level.

However, the joys of playing hooky with grandchildren are the best. Naughtiness and mischief fan the embers of my internal fire any time I am with them. And I am reminded, often, of the gift I have received and the gift I can give – that reconnection with my own childhood and the chance to be the child free, the child outside the box, setting all the other children free from their own boxes and, together, heading off into a fantasy world of mischief and fun and laughter.

I am going to have to live for decades more, it seems.