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Ah me, it’s the lot of a grandparent helping out with childcare to be drawn into the enthusiasms, nay passions, of their charges. Since all the stuff in the news – no, not about the election – but, more crucially for the nation, about Zayn’s departure, grandson (aged 4¾) has been in One Direction overdrive. ‘Gran, gran, come and see,’ he cried as I arrived at my daughter’s house early the other day. He was watching 1D on Youtube in his Ninja Turtle pjs and his breakfast of Coco Pops Mini Crocs had gone soggy. Oh yes, he’s also into the Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles (known as TMNTs in the business) with the same level of devotion as a directioner. The turtles don’t sing exactly, but they do have a song dedicated to them – not quite 1D’s ‘You don’t know you’re beautiful’, perhaps, but catchy enough for my daughter to learn it off by heart. ‘Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles (x3), Heroes in a half-shell, Turtle Power!’ she sings, punching the air with her fist. And what a masterstroke to name the four encrusted ones after medieval artists – Leonardo, Rafael, Donatello and Michelangelo. Was this for educational reasons, a preparation for the future study of Renaissance art perhaps? I can foresee a bewildered teacher trying to hold forth in class on the Sistine Chapel as grandson argues (he’s quite assertive) that makeovers of chapel ceilings are much more likely to be the work of Peter Andre’s 60 Minute Makeover, or indeed of granddaughter 2, than of the ninja turtle, Michelangelo, who is, in any case, ‘a party dude’. And if there are some guys with the same names as the TMNTs, then their parents would certainly have named them after the four fighters for justice rather than the other way around.
The One Direction lads were also teenagers when they started out but the monikers Harry, Zayn, Louis, Niall and Liam don’t quite have the same ring to them, do they? But, even so, the five of them more or less survived. But, alas, since a couple of weeks ago, sadly not intact. Yes, Zayn has thrown in the towel, something that any self-respecting ninja turtle would never, ever do. And, lo, throughout the land the streets are echoing with sobs and the Easter Holidays will be remembered as the time the world changed forever. But, hey, on the plus side, they say chocolate is therapeutic in times of extreme emotional distress and maybe tweenagers can take heart from 1D’s erstwhile peers, the TMNTs, who have always been but four and it hasn’t held them back, has it? But then again, maybe four will be five once more. Yes, weep no more, oh directioners past and present, granddaughters 1, 2 and 3’s little brother is ready to leap into the breach – he’s practising for the replacement auditions and can give a word-perfect rendition of ‘Everybody wants to steal my girl’ with sincerity that is palpable. And he fits the spec perfectly except he’s not a teenager yet – but that wasn’t a problem for Jimmy Osmond, was it?
His big sister, granddaughter 1 (aged 15), might well not approve, though, since she thinks the poor lads were horribly exploited. These days she’s into cool bands such as Bring me the Horizon (known as BMTH in the business) who sing uplifting songs such as ‘Drown’. But back in the day it was the fresh-faced five 1D lads she followed and she confesses to having a soft spot for them still – they were her first love after all. Well, I’m getting on a bit and, aesthetically-speaking of course, now they’re in their hunky, grungy twenties, even I can understand their allure. In her 1D phase, granddaughter 1 and me went to Westfield Shopping City where she wanted to go for lunch at Nando’s (the fav restaurant of Niall or Louis) but sadly the queue was of biblical proportions, like the animals lining up for the ark. So we ended up in TGI Fridays (the fav restaurant of Harry, Liam or Zayn) and over a lunch of Handcrafted Monster Burgers and Crispy Fries she regaled me with stuff about the fab five including what their blood group is – a vital piece of information were I, perish the thought, to be confronted by one of the lads who’d been hit by a bus.
I don’t think grandson knows the ninja turtles’ precise medical details, but he certainly knows their moves which, when you think about it, are quite similar to those of 1D cavorting about in their videos. And he can do a mean impersonation of each of his hero’s expressions. The thing is, though, that for me, even with my varifocals in place, it’s difficult to tell one from another although the party dude, Michelangelo, always has his head cocked to one side – maybe it’s due to a life in the fast lane. And I got to thinking: ‘Who on earth would have sat down around a table and come up with the idea of four green teenage amphibians named after Renaissance artists and mutant to boot who do jujitsu taught them by a ‘radical rat’ called Splinter? Were they on something? Simon Cowell, of course, is a similar creature to Splinter, but he can hardly be called ‘radical’, can he? But he did come up with teaming up five callow teenagers into a boy band and look what happened to them.
I’ve an idea – perhaps there’s just time for the current government to make a play for the hearts and minds of the nation. If they want kids to learn up to fifteen poems off by heart for English literature GCSE, why don’t they engage the recently depleted One Direction to set poems by Keats, Wordsworth and the like to music? By singing along, children would, like my daughter and the anthem ‘Turtle Power’ before them, commit them to memory. And it would give a much-needed boost to the now but four, sob, 1D lads’ obviously ailing careers. Meanwhile, round at mine the other day, grandson whipped a tiny photo out of his pocket and waved it under my nose – it was of the fab five. ‘Look, gran, look – that one’s Zayn,’ he cried excitedly before breaking into a chorus of ‘Little Things’. Perhaps he thought I didn’t know who Zayn was – hmmm, chance would be a fine thing.
*Granny on the frontline is retired and lives with her partner half an hour by car from four of her grandchildren and two days by plane from her other two grandchildren who live in Argentina.