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‘Gran, gran, can you get me the Papillary Sundays Attack dvd for Christmas?’ cried grandson running towards me as I arrived to babysit the other Saturday evening – he’s in festive season mode big time already and it all came out in a rush. But, hells’ teeth, what was he on about? I am a bit deaf, but it sounded rather medical and alarming – coronaries on a Sunday after eating a roast dinner? I know that primary schools are into promoting healthy eating, but is this really the way forward? A bit scary for a five-year-old, I was thinking. He saw my face and slowed down: ‘Papa Louie has to be rescued from the sundaes, but Penny’s got the ability to wall-jump and we’re not allowed to download it because it might break the computer,’ he explained helpfully. Well, I was beginning to get the gist – just – though best not to ask perhaps. Grandson can be quite enthusiastic about computer games.
But sometimes these days I feel as if the world has moved on so far that I don’t understand a word of what the grandchildren are saying. Grandson was still in full flow: ‘And Utah has the ability to swim-boost and Papa Louie has the ability to glide,’ he said – well ok, I could get my head around the last bit – after all didn’t Mohammed Ali say he could ‘glide like a butterfly’ or was it ‘float’? Oh well, same difference. ‘And Peggy has the ability to double jump,’ grandson continued, and he gave an energetic demo on the sofa. ‘And gran, gran, there’s a new level, Zone X.’ Wow, fantastic – so there’ll only be two more, Y and Z – thank god for that. Or, oh no, would it count back to A? – that’s twenty-four levels and, let’s be clear here, he’d expect me to watch him doing each and every one. But, hopefully, Zone X is the final one though in the olden days it would’ve been Zone Z. Ah me, I was brought up in an orderly world and it’s all double dutch to me and I don’t have the ability to do that.
We settled down to watch the XFactor – the theme was love and heartbreak – well, at least I understand a bit about that. But could I recognise any of the songs? Could I hell – these days they all warble about so much the melody is mangled, the lyrics lost. As Cheryl often says: ‘You smashed that vocal to pieces.’ Yes, they did and not in a good way. But, hurrah, Yesterday – I know that one defo and Che was going to sing it. ‘Is he called Che after Che Guevara?’ I asked granddaughter 2. ‘He’s Che Chesterton, gran,’ she said as if I’d completely lost the plot. Then he opened his mouth and it was like he was chewing the tune very, very slowly and swallowing the words one by one like those celebs eating maggots in a bushtucker trial.
The tv screen was on and the volume up of course, but at the same time both granddaughters 2 and 3 were each gazing at small screens with those incessant circular tunes from hell and beyond going round and round and mingling with the mangled music on the tele. Something on a laptop was going boing boing boing in front of grandson – it was enough to send a granny up the wall (but not into wall-jumping quite yet).’What are you doing?’ I asked granddaughter 2. ‘I’m temple-running,’ she said, in a matter of fact way – bloody nora. Grandson rushed up. ”You’re an awsome temple-runner,’ he said to his big sister, ‘and that’s the awesomest temple-running cave I’ve ever seen’ – he’s obviously an expert. ‘And what are you doing?’ I asked granddaughter 3 who was poking her finger at the screen on my phone. ‘I’m voting for Anton and Reggie and Bollie,’ she said. Well, I know who they are, sadly, but at least they’re not into melody mutilation. ‘Is that going to cost me?’ I asked a bit grumpily. ‘No, gran, don’t worry, it’s free if you’ve got the app,’ she said. Fine. But now I’ve got the XFactor so-and-soing app and the I’m a Celebrity one’s turned up too – great – it sends me IAC updates, e.g.: ‘Ferne McCann, scream or reem?’ What in hell’s name is that all about?
Bedtime for grandson arrived with storytime attached – Heckedy Peg. Aaahh, I know it well – a much-loved book handed down over the years from sister to sister and now on to grandson. Ok, I was thinking, I’m on firmer ground here and it was lovely and quiet upstairs in his bedroom. Off I started and all was well, although we made slow progress since grandson insisted on finding and naming each child in each picture and there are seven of them – Monday to Sunday (inclusive). We got to the bit where Heckedy Peg asks the children to light some straw for her pipe. “’Oh no,’” I read, “’Mother told us not to touch the fire,’ cried Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday etc etc etc and etc.” I paused for breath. ‘Gran,’ announced grandson solemnly, ‘fire is a split digraph.’ Pardon me? He saw my face (again) and went on to explain: ‘The word ‘fire’ is a split digraph because it’s not f-i (pron. f-ee) because that wouldn’t be a word and the e is silent or it would be fir-ee and you spell that with a y (pron. y-e),’ he said and to stress the point he crossed his thumbs to form a y. Blimey!
Well, you live and learn. But I don’t think I’ll be getting into swim-boosting or temple-running any time soon. I might have a papillary attack.
*Granny on the frontline is Jill Garner, grandmother of six.