We had Ewan (nearly 3) staying with us for two days (one night) last week. He was very good, and enjoyed exploring Wisley. He examined flowers and statues. He lay down on his tummy to look into a pond, but sensibly ran away quickly when the resident swan came to see him off. He liked the novelty of his pick-your-own-child’s lunch (though I’m not sure his parents would have entirely approved of his choices which however did include an apple). The following day we went, in great excitement, to the Bluebell railway, where we watched a steam train set off, taking a load of children and their gasmasks, to be ‘evacuated’. We climbed the bridge, went to the shop, had tea, explored the engine-shed and jumped in all the puddles.

He’s very good to me, carefully removing any toys in my path. If I’m shaking a bit when reading him a story, he volunteers to turn the pages for us. When I sat in my wheelchair at one point at Wisley (because no seat was available) he got tremendously excited, and rushed to adjust the pedals for my feet, and then I realised to my horror, John being absent for a few minutes, that he proposed to push the wheelchair and despite my explaining that it was not necessary for him to push, I was just having a little rest, he was standing on his tiptoes behnd me struggling to get the brakes off. Fortunately he could not do so! He was quite disappointed when John returned with the drinks.

But it doesn’t do to get too chuffed over a grandson’s affection. I called, ‘Ewan’ up the stairs and he mistook me for his mother. ‘It’s Mummy!’ he said, in tones of great delight. “It’s not Mummy,’ John corrected him. “It’s Granma!’ ‘Only Granma!” Ewan muttered to himself in tones of disgusted disappointment, not intending me to hear.

But who can ever be compared with Mother, except of course, eventually, Wife?



We were in Wisley last week on the kind of glorious day that makes you glad to be alive. Many trees were in blossom, so you didn’t know where to feast your eyes.    It had been the kind of week where problems which you knew were lurking in the undergrowth like snakes in the grass had risen up, hissing, at your approach, but we had despatched them all for the present anyway. John, helped by Robert, had finished the roof of his office to everyone’s satisfaction. So we sat, tired but content, in the sun.

Ewan who is far sighted, came hurtling across the grass, shouting Grandpa!    Sarah, Rory, Julia in the pram, and Sarah’s parents followed in due course at a more sedate pace.

Greetings and coffees sorted out, Julia was unwrapped and laid carefully in my arms.  She was wearing a little beige wool knitted coat that I had bought with Carolyn in a craft fair in Balcombe.   I sat watching fleeting expressions drift across her pretty face as she floated slowly up to wakefulness.   She opened her eyes – still a baby turquoise – frowned – and focussed on me.   I quite clearly saw her think, “Who on earth is she?”   So I told her who I was, gave her my names and my credentials and I saw her concentration as she listened.   Then I paused.   There was a short space of silence, and then, to my complete delight,  came forth a reply, as surprising at her tender age as if the Sphinx had spoken to a tourist.   She blew bubbles out of her mouth and uttered a few little squeaks.      Then I told her how pretty and clever she was.   When I stopped, again bubbles and squeaks.  We repeated this sequence four or five times, with her listening carefully, waiting for the pause, and then singing her little song.   She certainly understod the ebb and flow of conversation better than many an adult.

Thn suddenly, her face looked anxious.  This stranger was entertaining, but what if – her face crumpled- Julia and she were the only people in the world?   Where had Daddy gone?   She wanted Mummy’s lovely face. mummy’s warm arms, familiar comfort and food.      But the stranger was calling for Mummy, and she was handed over, and then all was well in her little world.

Julia, I thought, I’ve met you.    I trust it’s the start of a long and fruitful conversaton.