‘Gran, gran, we’re going south,’ said grandson as we were driving along. He’d got a huge new plastic compass strapped to his wrist, (‘free’ on the front of a Disney magazine, he said). ‘And it’s got an E for Epping,’ he added. Well, great, I was thinking, we were heading for Epping Tesco’s and it’s always good to know you’re going in the right direction. And he had a list, just ‘meel deels and biskits’ – so just a quick in and out then.
They’re back from Barcelona and my daughter had to go to somewhere for work all day – so I had all four grandchildren – whoopee. Don’t get me wrong, one by one they are a delight but with the full set, things can get a bit hairy. Yes, even granddaughter 1 had dragged herself from her pit around 12.30pm to join us. The aim was to have a picnic in the garden at my house but what got her up was wanting to watch the last episode of Humans which I’d recorded for them along with Eastenders while they were away. We made it to Tesco’s to buy the meel deels and as soon as grandson was installed in the trolly seat, granddaughters 1 and 2 disappeared straight into the toilet – great. Granddaughter 3 headed off to the nuts section, de rigeur ingredients in cereal bar creation which are considered a healthy option by granddaughter 2 – she’s into healthy eating big time. To her younger sister this tends to mean using honey instead of sugar but she is trying to keep on message.. ‘Hang on a minute,’ I shouted after her, ‘let’s wait for the others.’ I was marginally worried that granddaughters 1 and 2 might be snatched by an unscrupulous scoundrel lurking near the lettuces but they emerged and the three girls scattered to the four, well three, winds. After peering up and down a few aisles with grandson, and fearing the worst, ‘There they are,’ he yelled, ‘by the meel deels,’ pheeew. Tesco’s had thoughtfully situated this section immediately opposite the superheroes swap cards and childrens’ magazines – ‘We’re not here to get magazines,’ I said a bit grumpily to grandson who was already eyeing up the ‘free’ gifts stuck on the front of them.
Well, three meel deels and a superfood salad for granddaughter 2 later, we arrived at the self-checkouts. Usually, I avoid these accursed instruments of Satan because unidentified objects keep turning up in the bagging area but faced with four enthusiastic helpers, I capitulated. Thankfully, cool and capable granddaughter 1 placed herself in front of the barcode reader thingy which was soon reassuringly going beep beep. But the six remaining arms descended like tentacles into the trolley. ‘Gran, gran, I want to do mine,’ shouted grandson starting to stand up in the trolly seat. ‘Hang on a minute,’ I said (again). Once down, he made a beeline for bagging area and brandished his chicken sandwich over the scanner thingy. ‘Do mine now, do mine now,’ he cried at granddaughter 1, leaping about like Steve in that Deadly Dash game. The other two had armfuls of stuff and were elbowing each other for pole position beside their big sister while arguing loudly. It was like those scenes you see on tele of people at the January sales. I tried a few more ‘hang on a minute’s to no avail as my head went back and fro like one of those spectators at a Wimbledon singles final. ‘Never mind,’ said a cheery Tesco person, ‘not long to September.’ Along with the sarnies and nuts some almond milk had made it to the checkout. ‘It’s good for you, gran, with porridge,’ said granddaughter 3 playing the healthy option card. Some posh water in a classy glass bottle also turned up. ‘I’m going to paint it and hang it in my room, gran,’ said granddaughter 2. Of course she was – her bedroom is an artwork in progress and who am I to stand in the way of creative expression or indeed posh water? And there were three packets of superhero swap cards, hmm, but I guess I got off lightly really.
‘Gran, gran, we’re still going south,’ said grandson back in the car. ‘Yes, we are,’ said I. ‘And gran,’ he said, ‘red rock crabs only live in the Galapagos Islands.’ Gosh, I’ve been around the block a few times and I never knew that. ‘And sly meels live in shipwrecks,’ he added. ‘Do you mean slimey eels?’ I asked. ‘No, gran,’ he said rather sternly, ‘they are sly meels.’ Apparently these portentous pieces of information come from the Octonauts, little round plasticated creatures who travel in an Octopod under the sea like Jacques Cousteau did in the 1970s. ‘The roaring forties are part of the ocean and make really rough water and powerful waves,’ continued grandson with gravitas. Wow – respect! That should come in handy – I learnt yonks ago that the mediterranean has warm wet winters and hot dry summers and it’s stood me in good stead as an icebreaker at many a social gathering over the years, though I fear it might be a bit out of date now what with global warming and all.
At my house grandson headed outside to have his picnic on the grass. The three others disappeared into the front room to have theirs watching the final episode of Humans and catching up on Eastenders. They’d ordered afters so I put the Auntie Bessie’s Home Baked Yorkshire Puddings into the oven, prepped, as they say on Dinner Date, the Bisto chicken gravy and joined grandson outside. Gosh, peace! – I hadn’t expected that! And later, even the cereal bar baking session passed off most professionally with no sticky batter blobs, flour clouds, smashed eggs or the imminent onset of WW3 as in the past. Oh bless and thanks be to Masterchef and The British Bakeoff and that scary Mary Berry! Or maybe they’re just getting older. Meanwhile, granddaughter 1 was going through my son’s long forgotten 60s and 70s LP collection – those were the days – oh yeah, she’s got great taste in music and has a turntable at home to play it on. ‘Awesome!’ she exclaimed excitedly, ‘Echo and the Bunny Men!’ Granddaughter 2 wanted some LPs too, ‘I could decorate them and hang them on the wall in my room,’ she said – of course she could. So even with the full set, things had turned out fine. But as we all piled into the car to go back to their house, I felt a bit worried – I was sure that on grandson’s compass we’d still be heading south.
*Granny on the frontline is Jill Garner, grandmother of six.