Sometimes a gran has to be inventive. You see, at my son’s house the tv and the internet were cut off (it’s a long story) just before Christmas so for entertainment we’re watching old DVDs and downloads on pen drives instead. But Thomas and the Magic Railway, and even Miss Marple and The 4.50 from Paddington can lose their allure after a few re-runs.
Last week, I woke up to the sound of ‘dee dum dee dee dee’ of the tv going on. It must be around 9am, I thought, and looked at my watch – no, 6am, oh god – and where was my granddaughter? ‘Are you ok,’ I asked her once downstairs. ‘Yes, I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep,’ she said. ‘Did you have a bad dream?’ ‘No, gran,’ she replied and told me she was ok. I went back up the wooden stairs, but then I heard ‘Move, that’s my place’ from her little brother – uh oh, him too – they were going camping at the eco-house that night so maybe they were excited.
Down I went again and his mum appeared half asleep. ‘Go back to bed,’ I said to her, ‘you look exhausted.’ She and my son are teachers but it’s the summer holidays now in Argentina so every day they’re slapping mud and hay into the walls of what will be their new home.
My granddaughter had put on a film and tiny sausages in parachutes were falling from the sky – no, I haven’t gone dulally as parents and grandparents acquainted with The Secret Life of Pets will confirm. Then ping x 7 went the bread machine and it started whirring. A policeman had brought it round last week – for eight years my son has paid 100 pesos a month to a constable at the gate for the police to protect the house from burglars (don’t ask). My son’s name goes into a prize draw and he’d won something for once. His wife was pouring stuff into it the night before. ‘Is that going to whirr all night?’ I’d asked grumpily – I’m a light sleeper. ‘No,’ she said, ‘it’s coming on in the morning, so we can have fresh bread for breakfast but not too early so we can have a lie-in.’ Hmm.
I looked through the small window and the dough was blobbing a bit – 2hrs.45 till it was done. My granddaughter was playing solitaire on my laptop with one eye on the film. Well, there’s no FireBoy and WaterGirl without the internet but, hey ho, solitaire, aka patience, with real cards was ok for us back in the day, didn’t it? Then ‘Noooo,’ she shrieked, ‘gran, my brother’s kicking me.’ Ssshhh, I said and told him to stop so he started prodding her. ‘It’s my turn on your computer, gran,’ he shouted. ‘Shhhhh,’ I said, ‘you’ll wake up mami and papi. You can have the laptop when your sister’s finished this game.’ A bored grandson wandered over to the now silent bread machine and peered through its little window. ‘It’s not doin’ nuffin’,’ he said. ‘If you watch carefully you’ll see the dough rise,’ I said, ‘it’s very exciting.’ But he’s no fool.
‘I want to watch Thomas and the Magic Railway,’ he announced loudly as The Secret Life of Pets finished. ‘Nooooo,’ shouted my granddaughter, ‘I hate it’ – arrgg, me too, I was thinking. ‘Ssshh,’ I said ‘I’ll try to find something you both like.’ ‘I’m hungry,’ said grandson. ‘Well, yummy bread’s cooking in the bread machine,’ I said, ‘but it’s not quite ready yet.’ He decided to wait – he loves the bread machine bread. But, bloody nora, 2hr.1 was on the dial and there was no sign of any action.
Their DVD/pen drive player is old and low tech – the pen drive rests on three wooden dominoes and a torn off folded piece of paper. It’s sort of bilingual – the display lights up and says ‘Hi’ but then comes ‘No hay disco’, then ‘Waitting’ [the DVD player claims to be bilingual] and you ‘waitt’ for some time. My son is rather random at storing stuff on pen drives, e.g. you get Marx lesson plan (Yr5 Thurs) before Mary Poppins (1964). This time, as I pressed the button to go down the list, oh joy, it jumped right past the film his two children had agreed on. ‘You’re doing it all wrong, gran,’ said my granddaughter. ‘I’m going to get papi,’ said my grandson. Nooooo – it was only 7.30am. A Road Runner film came on. ‘A Road Runner runs fast along roads and beeps,’ explained my granddaughter – oh god, I know of old what a so-and-soing Road Runner is. My grandson then did a fairly accurate impression of said creature, rushing about, elbows flapping and beeping at full throttle. ‘Sssssshhhh,’ I said.
My granddaughter gave my laptop to her little brother and there was peace as he played solitaire and she watched. Then, ‘Put the red 5 on the black 6,’ she said. ‘I know,’ shouted grandson. ‘Sssshhh,’ said I. But what was that other noise? ‘Is one of the dogs snoring?’ I asked. ‘No, gran,’ said my granddaughter, ‘it’s the bread machine’. Then it went silent. I gazed through the glass – the dough looked a bit lumpy, but otherwise inert.
‘Do you want to play Cluedo, gran?’ asked my granddaughter. ‘No,’ I said. ‘Why not?’ she asked. ‘Because it’s 8 o’clock in the morning,’ I replied. Well, she’d beaten me twice the day before – I’m rubbish at Cluedo. ‘I’ll play,’ said grandson. ‘No cheating,’ said his sister. ‘I beat gran and I didn’t cheat,’ he said proudly and loudly. Hmm, I thought but ‘Ssshh,’ I said. ‘Why don’t we play Whisper Cluedo?’ I suggested. ‘I’ll start,’ announced my granddaughter. ‘No, I’ll start,’ screamed grandson. Well, that didn’t work, did it?
My son and his wife emerged groggily from their bedroom as the smell of bread baking began to fill the air. I peered through the little window again – the dough was still just so-and-soing-well sitting there and the screen said 1hr.11. And we were still waitting.
*Granny on the frontline is Jill Garner, grandmother of six.