(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.




We had a lovely family Easter.   Two grandparents (dwedfully old, as Dana says), three ‘children’ (in the prime of life), their charming spouses, and four grandchildren (dwedfully young, I might say), and a passing-through dog.   It was noisy, chaotic and fun.


 I heard that my children had had a discussion about the religious significance of Easter and realised that because I was so profoundly irritated by my father’s wish to impose his religious views (which were decidedly eccentric) on us, while I had certainly not troubled my children with  my views (or indeed any creeds) I had, in my silence on the  subject, left them woefully uneducated on these matters.   Yet another failure in parenting…


Elisabeth and Robert w ere our hosts (how nice for it no longer to be always us) in their newly refurbished house, and we had all brought contributions to the feast.


At family gatherings there is  always a complicated mixture of feelings:  love and irritation;   pride and worry;  pleasure and fatigue.   But when you come away, back to the peaceful oasis of your own chamber, and discuss events with your own partner, with all his good sense and sound judgement, who also uniquely, loves everyone that you love, you realise how blessed you are.   Your children are the  real riches of your life, and are making their own way;  their chosen partners bring into your life the different habits of their family’s lifestyle;  and that great promise for the future, your beloved grandchildren, each so very different, grow and prosper.

There’s the stylish Alexandra with her various artistic and musical talents;  the beautiful Erin, so practical and competent;  and the unique and fascinating Dana with her lovely eyes, her astonishing memory and her penetrating intellect.


Then there’s The Boy, who was proudly wearing a lovely Postman Pat jumper knitted by his other grandma.    He found himself in possession of a small, silver-paper wrapped, chocolate egg.   I watched him assess and consider the people around him to whom he could apply for assistance, and whether they could be trusted to remove the paper but not eat the egg.   Other children he rejected out of hand.    His grandfather he considered for longer, but obviously regarded the risk of him eating the egg was too great.   Finally, he entrusted the egg to me, but stood with his nose about 2 inches away from it, anxiously supervising my efforts.   I handed him the egg, and then pointing to his mother, said, Ask Mummy if you can have it now.    Ewan is a smart boy.   He knew his mother would be concerned about his diet; whether he would eat his dinner;  other tiresome Mummyish issues.   He popped the whole egg in his mouth and munched on it with great satisfaction before I could even turn him in the direction of his mother.   Oh the pleasures of being young!


I’m (I imagine) a logic and order kind of person.   I don’t really want to care strongly about people because each person you love you offer as a hostage to fortune.   You can see so much about them of which you can never speak, yet at the same time much is hidden from you,  for who can truly understand the heart or desire of another?   When you love someone, you are forever vulnerable.


Yet what is life without love?   Love is the blood that fires the body.   Love is the water that makes the dessert bloom.   Without love, there is only desolation.


May the blessings of Easter, with its great themes of love, redemption and new beginnings, encompass and comfort every one of you.     And may your supplies of chocolate never run out!