How not to be a (step) Grandfather

2014-02-03 11.27.06


7pm and Lois, James and Julie has gone off to Stratford to see Paapa Essiedu as Hamlet, leaving me alone in the house with four little grandchildren to look after, blithely thinking that would be a doddle for an experienced paediatrician like myself.


As I took the pants that Phoebe had just wet out to the laundry, and sent her up to get a clean pair, Maya came wandering down the garden telling me that Toby had got his head caught in the hammock. True enough, he had managed to poke his head through a hole in the aging hammock at the end of the garden, and was quietly turning blue.

Toby rescued and the hammock consigned to the dustbin, I started to tidy up the chaos in the kitchen, leaving the girls to play quietly outside on the trampoline – only to be interrupted by two cheerful Pentecostals, wanting to know if I’d been saved, and to invite me to a Salvation Mission at Nexus college down the road. I politely thanked them for their concern and assured them that I didn’t need saving (except perhaps from four demanding grandchildren!)

Phoebe appeared with her second pair of wet pants, then joined the other two on the trampoline, and I got on with tidying the kitchen.

My tasks complete, I went out to tell Phoebe that it was time for her to go to bed, only to be greeted by Talia telling me that Phoebe had now done a wee and a poo in her pants. Still, she seemed content enough to go up to the bathroom, clean herself down with a flannel and get herself off to bed with a fourth clean pair of pants.

I thought I would do the decent grandfatherly thing and read Maya and Talia a bedtime story. With fond reminiscing about Christopher Robin, or Swallows and Amazons, I was horrified to find myself confronted with one of the Secret Kingdom series:

As the three girls spun closer and closer to the ground, Summer caught her breath. The land of the Secret Kingdom was normally so beautiful, with lush meadows, tall mountains, sandy beaches and glittering seas, but now it all looked dark and desolate. Instead of the wonderful creatures who lived there, all they could see were big, ugly trolls marching across the land with heavy clubs swinging in their hands…

As I read through first one chapter then another, I found my eyelids drooping, my mind wandering and my words getting more and more muddled.

The girls looked across the lake, and there they saw the ugly Queen May-lice being carried on a chair by two ugly trolls. They looked horrible. Their bodies were big and lumpy and their arms hung down so their knuckles nearly rested on the floor. Their names were Boris and Nigel and their heads were huge, with bristly, green hair…

Finally, honour served, without too much adulteration of the scintillating story, I packed the remaining two girls off to bed, poured myself a glass of wine, and settled down to write a blog…