ALEXANDRA

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(The photograph, courtesy of John, shows Alexandra in Switzerland at the wedding of Rory and Sarah, 2011.)

My grand-daughter, Alexandra, is 17 years old today. I don’t quite know how she managed to sneak past me to this mature age for it seems just like yesterday that she was born.

I would not really regard myself as a strongly maternal woman, and because grandchildren came to me early in life, I did not have to yearn for them but was thrust unready into the role. I now have seven grandchildren, four girls and three boys; but there is no doubt you have a special relationship with your first grandchild.

Alexandra being the first born occupies the same position in the family hierarchy that I did.

She referred to John and me as ‘the Grandmas’ and to herself and her two younger siblings as ‘me and the sisters’. (Her English is better now of course.)

Alexandra is tall and slim, beautiful after the Irish fashion with dark hair and eyes the colour of the Atlantic. She has a natural edgy stylishness. She has many talents. She can draw very well. She has a good voice and it was a pleasure to listen to Carolyn Hulatt give her an impromptu lesson on singing during the rehearsal for Elisabeth’s wedding. She is musical and plays the French horn for one of the Glasgow orchestras and also the double bass. She is clever.

Alexandra is insightful and shrewd. She has word skill and can be wounding: she generally knows where the weaknesses lie. But she is not wantonly cruel and can be very kind.

She spent a lot of time with us in her childhood. The first time she went abroad she stayed at the Antwerp Hilton and was sensible enough even as a toddler to befriend the doorman and came and went with great self possession. She and Joanna came to Northern France with us and to Portugal. She came away with us in our caravan in the UK on numerous occasions. Once when she was staying with us we had a flood, and we escaped with Anne Hall to the welcoming hospitality of the house of Barbara, Anne’s mother in Somerset. We had a lovely visit, but the pressure of being the only child clearly got to Alexandra for she complained to me, “There’s too many grandmas and not enough children.”

I don’t keep in touch with my grandchildren weekly (though they’re welcome to talk to me whenever they like) but when we are together I look forward to Alexandra coming to see me when we fall easily into conversation as though we had left off the previous day. What she has to say is always thought provoking and interesting. I like talking to her.

Walk in the light, Alexandra, and may your birthdays be joyful and many.

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DRIVING IN WINTERt

We’ve had here in the UK the worst week of weather in what has been a very mild winter. In the previous five years we have scarcely had a day with ice on the roads. The Northern parts of the UK had some snow but our news is very Southern dominated.

So this week we have had people who spent 13 – 20 hours stuck on blocked roads. Hundreds of schools have been closed. People have been advised not to present at hospital. Hundreds of buses have been cancelled. Most trains have not run. Thousands of planes have been grounded. Food is running out in supermarkets.

The general call has been, Stay at Home, Do Not Go To Work. If You Set Out In This, You Risk Death. It is no wonder the public becomes alarmed and stays at home. Weather forecasts are frightening in the extreme.

Yet what has actually happened is that we had some nights (here in the South) the temperature fell to about -2 or 3 degrees; there was a cold wind, for about 2 hours it snowed and left about 1 – 2” of snow, a few roads were blocked by drivers who got stuck on hills and other drivers couldn’t pass them. This is hardly the worst winter since records began. (Conditions have been much worse in other parts of the country.)

We need to treat winter with respect. We should carry a snow shovel, a blanket, some food and drink, and a mat to go under our wheels all the time. It’s not going to take up that much room.

Perhaps people should have to do some winter driving on the equivalent of a dry ski slope in order to pass their test.

We should not go into Panic mode whenever we notice a snowflake!