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A faint sloshing noise was seeping through the blue squidgy stuff of my earplugs as I lay cosy on the sofa in the dark. I was looking forward to going with some of the family to a festival where my daughter was working the next day and we’d got an early start. Yes, staying over at your grandchildren’s house can be a bit of a mixed blessing. I went into the kitchen and pressed a button on the dishwasher and the noise stopped. But ping! other lights lit up – oh god, what had I done? Would it suddenly explode in the middle of the night? I imagined the whole family huddled together in the garden in their onesies while burly firefighters in huge helmets moved about among the flickering flames. I crept upstairs and, praise be, a light glowed under their bedroom door. I knocked: ‘Sorry, sorry, but I’ve done something to the dishwasher,’ I whispered. ‘Sorry, but I can’t get to sleep while it’s on, I’m a light sleeper, sorry.’ My daughter smiled. ‘Well, I suppose that could be useful in the wild,’ she said. ‘Well, I am in the wild really,’ I replied.
I lead a quiet life and it’d been a bit of a culture shock when I’d arrived last Friday night after picking up granddaughter 1’s BFF en route. My daughter had an evening event at the festival and her partner was holding the fort. But, gosh, boing boing buzz was pulsating out of a tablet (grandson), Friends was full blast on the tele (granddaughter 2) and Catalan radio was on in the kitchen (their dad). ‘Vegorama or Mogul?’ came shouts from behind a laptop where granddaughter 3 was online organising a Domino’s Pizza delivery. Then granddaughter 1 grabbed the tv remote and bursts of heavy rock erupted from the tv as she and her friend zapped through the music channels. It’s all a bit of a blur, but I dimly remember a mattress moving slowly in front of the tele screen dragged by their dad, grandson leaping about to Justin Bieber and the Domino’s pizza person banging at the door. But soon after my daughter arrived we were all cuddled up on the sofa in our pjs, me with a glass of red and a chicken tapa, vegan granddaughter 2 with a giant platter of beans and pasta and the others munching pizza watching celebrity Gogglebox on the tele. What more could anyone want on a Friday night?
The next morning two teenagers, granddaughter 1 and her BFF; a pre-teen, granddaughter 3; one oldie, ie me, and my daughter were in the car at 8.15am – a feat of mega proportions as any mum or dad will know. There was a slight delay while granddaughter 3 disappeared into the house to ditch her trainers for her heelies. Oh nooo, I was thinking, she’ll zoom off into the middle distance only to be grabbed by some unscrupulous person in a spooky clown mask lurking amongst the Halloween pumpkins. Their dad was staying at home with grandson and granddaughter 2 (‘festivals sooo boring’) and us lot in the car set off to arrive in good time for the volunteer briefing – granddaughter 1 and her friend were volunteering as stewards and my daughter had back to back events all day. I told granddaughter 3 to hold tight to my right arm and I ended up sort of hauling her along on her heelies towards the town centre.
It wasn’t long before the circulation in my arm felt as if it was circulating no more so she let go. Good grief, she scooted straight for John Lewis’s to cut a corner. ‘I really love John Lewis’s,’ she said as she glided off. ‘Everything is laid out so nice.’ And so it was – lovely – all the crystal and posh china delicately poised on glittering glass shelves as far as the eye could see. And there she was, whizzing along, arms akimbo on her heelies like Torvill or Dean on ice. It goes without saying that I had visions of a disaaaster darling, smashed glassy splinters raining down from on high, bits of broken Wedgwood flying hither and thither, alarms screaming out and me handcuffed by uniformed security guards as granddaughrer 3 disappeared oblivious towards Starbucks for a pumpkin spice latte, as you do. Yes, I worry too much.
Well, suffice it to say that we cut through John Lewis’s at least four times that morning as I hobbled from shop to shop after her, crying out ‘Wait for me, slow down, be careful,’ etc, etc, etc. But we made it back to the festival intact after lunch and although the flamenco dance class was packed out, granddaughter 3 threw herself into a whirlwind of international quizzes and games including guessing where various recorded voices speaking English came from in the world and two earnest young men with a plastic model of a throat demonstrating how people make sounds – well, there you go, I’m getting on a bit and I didn’t know. Eventually, granddaughter 1 and her BFF, granddaughter 3 and me limped past bouncers into a Wetherspoons pub for supper – me and my partner are partial to their Thursday lunch Curry Club specials (£6.49 incl. glass of something) – but I tell you now, Saturday night at Wetherspoons is like that painting of tortured souls in Hell by that Bruegel bloke or his dad.
The dishwasher was off and I slept well on the sofa that night. In the morning, grandson rushed downstairs in his pjs to give me a hug. ‘Gran, gran,’ he said excitedly, ‘there’s a mattress under mum and dad’s bed and one under my sister’s bed too,’ he paused for breath, ‘so next time you come for a sleepover, we can put them together to make a big bed for you in my room right next to my bed!’ Hmmm, sofa downstairs in relative peace and quiet or mattress on the floor upstairs where a small person gets up in the night to go for a wee? I’ll have to give that some thought.
*Granny on the frontline is Jill Garner, grandmother of six.