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Granddaughter 3 (aged 8) is the quintessential Queen of Sleepovers – she has a vast library of DIY Sleepover books, including one with a wipe clean panel so you can use it again and again. Hurrah! She makes sleepover lists of things to do, places to go, lists of food for breakfast, lunch, supper and a midnight feast, and files them in folders. She has been known to draw up an agenda in duplicate which both of us sign on a slopey dotted line and keep one each. This time she’d made a Sleepover Planner with 23 items in timeline slots written in glow-in-the-dark ink. That girl thinks of everything!
Scheduled to arrive to pick her up at 10.30am, I arrived promptly – no granddaughter 3 or bags by the door as usual. She had gone to the library with her mum and toddler boy to register for the Creepy House Summer Reading Challenge. Of course! She is a big fan of forms and plans of all sorts and this summer you have to progress through a haunted house (there is a fold-out plan) by reading six books. You also have to fill in each title (there is a form) and rate each one. Arriving home, she placed six books plus plan and form in her overnight bag. Toddler boy trotted up with his Peppa Pig backpack donned like Dora the Explorer on a mission. ‘Bye, mum,’ he said cheerily. An image of driving him home in the middle of the night when he missed his mum and dad flitted through my mind, but his mum explained it was his sister’s turn with gran. ‘I’m not liking anything, mum’, he sobbed. Oh dear.
On The Planner we were to be at the supermarket from 11.30-11.40 to buy a) a meal deal for lunch (chicken and stuffing sarnie etc), b) treats for the midnight feast (9pm on The Planner) and c) ingredients for sparkly cake pops (don’t ask). Rather longer was spent than anticipated. Were we falling behind schedule? I worried. Once home, she unpacked and amongst the books and clothes was a beautiful stone she had painted and a fossil rock which she carefully placed on the chest of drawers. The meal deal was eaten and we walked to my local library (as per Planner) and she chose a book to take out. Gosh, that makes seven.
The next thing on the list was to catch a bus – she’d asked my partner to check his bus timetable app so we were in good time. Like many children of her age, she loves all things bus-related and had slotted a few bus rides into The Planner. ‘It must be very exciting to be a bus driver,’ she said, ‘I’d like to be one when I grow up.’ She paused for thought. ‘But learning to drive a bus must be very difficult.’ ‘Yes,’ I agreed. I know I couldn’t do it.
Then there was a visit to a café where you eat cake, drink 7up, decorate a plate or a mug and they fire it for you. We had a great time choosing colours and devising designs and she painted her name on the side – beautiful. Bus ride no.2 took us to a village bookshop and, as a treat, we bought a book. That makes eight – wow! Then to the bus stop for bus ride no.3 – my phone is app-less so we waited and wilted in the heat as she held out for a double-decker. By 10pm, we had bought and eaten Kfc, watched Tooth Fairy and Mr Stink, read two books, written two reviews, and there was just the Midnight Feast to have, scheduled for 9pm but it mattered not, we’d had a fantastic time.
Sleeping in the same bed, I spent the night dangling over the edge of the mattress – it was still very hot and at 5am I was looking up a recipe for tortilla on the internet. Granddaughter 1 is now vegetarian -‘It’s about the world food supply, gran,’ she told me sagely. It was my birthday weekend and her family were arriving – my daughter’s partner is Catalan and was going to cook paella which contains chicken and fish. And Day 2 on The Planner said that Granddaughter 3 was to make Sparkly Cake Pops from a recipe in her Jacqueline Wilson mag. This requires: a) making two cakes; b) smashing them all to pieces; c) mixing cake crumbs with Betty Crocker icing; d) hand crafting them into balls; e) dipping them in white chocolate dyed pink; f) sticking them on to old lolly sticks. To finish off this most healthy of snacks you decorate them with sweeties. But, oh calamity, no lolly sticks – straws were too bendy, tooth picks too pointy. Like any self-respecting temperamental celeb chef, she stomped off. Three cheers for paper doilies from the 1950s! on a plate with a doily the Sparkly Cake Pops looked most professional. Later, I even got a ‘That’s really cool, gran’ for the way I turned over the tortillas (well, I am the coolest gran on the planet).
So The Sleepover Planner was a triumph! Things done were ticked, things undone left for next time. I remember a similar one she had made which ended: 4pm Gran takes me home, 4.30pm Gran says goodbye, 4.35pm Gran cries. Well, not quite, but I do miss her when I get home.
It’s granddaughter 2’s sleepover turn next. She’s not into lists or forward planning – she’s a spontaneous, seat-of-the-pants, suck-it-and-see kinda gal. When I ask her what she’d like to do she just shrugs and smiles enigmatically. Oh gosh! Fearless and experimental, she’s the inventor of The Fruit Game (not yet an Olympic sport) in which (in bathing suits) we hurl a banana or orange at each other over a spinning garden sprinkler: you drop the fruit, you run to the sprinkler and count to 10 (slowly). Yes, you get very wet and yes, the fruit gets very mushy (we eat it later as smoothies). And no, in case you’re asking, The Fruit Game it is not simply a summer pursuit – in winter the sprinkler is replaced by a bowl of cold water (we wear raincoats) in which you immerse your face and count to ten (while holding your breath). Afterwards, she sometimes has a hot bath with homemade exploding bath bombs (don’t ask).
In a book entitled Unbored: the essential field guide to serious fun, reviewed on this website, one of the suggestions is to make ‘seed grenades for guerrilla gardening’. Well, that certainly sounds like our kinda thing…