Follow one crying eye on


An increasing number of my friends are grandparents. Whilst some are older than me, and some I have only known since they welcomed grandchildren into their lives, I am seeing more and more of my contemporaries or younger friends embracing this new familial state. In fact, my younger brother has been a grandfather for more than a year now – a source of great amusement to me, especially when in cruel joshing mood after he’s somehow pointed out – for the millionth time – the fact that I am two years older than him, in a more advanced decade and clearly ancient. “Yeah – GRANDAD!”

I’ve never been a particularly maternal type, and surprised myself (in a good way, as it turns out) when we decided to have children, so I feel no pressure or desire to become a grandparent anytime soon. Of course, there is an innate feeling that our family ‘line’ should be continued somehow and my son appears to be the last male Jillings in our particular branch, but there’s no visceral yearning, as others seem to experience. I remember my own mother’s concern when I was in my early twenties lest I not produce an heir, and my Nan suggesting to me, aged 21, that I should produce a great-grandchild for her even if it meant having it out of wedlock! (I mean, the very thought!) I’m afraid I let my Nan down completely, and made my mother wait. 

I suppose the danger, if that is not too exaggerated a term (it is!), is that by the time any grandkids of mine appear, I will be too old, frail and/or untrustworthy to be of any help in their care. Arguably I am already untrustworthy, but I still reckon I could knuckle down and deal with the basics. Isn’t it like riding a bicycle? (Mind you, I was never much good at cycling, except when on autopilot on the way to my college boathouse on freezing mornings across Midsummer Common with my hands tucked into my armpits – ah, those are hours I won’t get back! Not sure that’s a good example. Could I change a nappy with my hands stuffed under my armpits?)

Today’s pressures on young folk are different than in my childbearing days. I guess it’s not quite so impossible outside the capital, but for my own offspring the likelihood of being able to afford a suitable home in which to raise a child seems increasingly remote. And I know that having a lovely house to put the baby in is not the be-all and end-all, and with love and all that it can still be perfectly feasible in a rented property etc – but it must make the decision a little trickier.

And, the mention of property problems leads me seamlessly to a recent example of a warning to prospective parents. Caring for one’s children, even after they are all ‘growed up’, doesn’t actually stop. It is not only puppies that are for life and not just for Christmas you know!

And so it is that Daughter J has returned to the fold for some temporary respite from the iniquities of London singles flat-dom. In layman’s terms, this means her landlord has kicked her out because her flat is being renovated (long story, not her fault in any way nor indeed actually the fault of the landlord) and she has been unable to find alternative accommodation in time to avoid potential homelessness.

Whilst we are of course always accommodating (literally now, it seems), she most definitely did not wish to come home. She has not lived with us since she left school aged 18 ten years ago, and a return to the awfulness of suburbia was not a welcome prospect. But needs must, and I am pleased to report that her out-of-practice parents have swung laboriously into action to address the situation. This has variously involved the following:

  • Mother J steeling herself to drive from home, which is of course practically out in the sticks despite being within a ‘free transport for elderly residents’ London (nay Royal!) borough, to Daughterly flat in North London to pick up Daughter, cat and assorted belongings. Apart from the ridiculous queues of traffic on the Euston Road (meaning that Daughter J telephoned in case her driver had somehow got lost or been in an accident – haha, how tables can be turned sometimes), and the irritating complete blocking of Fulham Palace Road on the return journey, leading to a diversion which – according to the ageing in-car SatNav – involved trying to cross the Thames via Hammersmith Bridge which everyone else in the universe knows has been closed for decades now (just as well Mrs J knows alternative routes from this part of town, from aeons ago when her mode of transport was generally the back of a motorcycle! – good job she paid attention back then), all went well, and unaccustomed chauffeur-ly self-confidence knew no bounds for at least three days afterwards.
  • Father J taking a break from marathon chocolate egg demolition on Easter Sunday to drive once again across the metropolis (a MUCH easier day for traffic flow, it seems… just sayin’) and facilitate multiple trips to the corporation refuse tip (or whatever they politely call it in Islington) before bringing a car-load of too-good-for-the-tip items back to store in the least decrepit of his several suburban garden sheds.
  • Mother J once again venturing to an obscure part of the capital, this time to Wapping on her more familiar choice of transport – the rail and tube network and good old Shanks’ pony – to oversee the financial side of a Big Yellow Storage situation. Note: It is splendid to own all one’s own furniture for a 3-bedroom flat at the tender age of 28, but less convenient when the flat in which it has been accumulated is no longer available to one. 
      • In order to spice up the proceedings, the Big Yellow episode was initially treated as a race – Mother J whisking herself from a civilised luncheon with friends in Richmond all the way to London Bridge Station where she emerged into bleak drizzly daylight to battle her way on foot through the teeming tourists on Tower Bridge before waltzing in a windswept fashion past queues of encouragingly stationary traffic…just in time to see Daughter J’s removal van approach from the opposite, and less congested, direction and turn into the Big Yellow car park up ahead.  Hmpph – defeat conceded, but a close-run thing and many more miles covered. She gave a cheery wave (with a hint of hysteria which may have set the tone for what followed) through the windows of Reception as she passed by and Daughter J returned a broad triumphant grin as she confirmed to the quizzical chap behind the desk that “Yes, sorry, that’s my mother!”
      • Big Yellow employ some interesting people. This one was clearly keen to alleviate his bureaucratic boredom and sensed some fun to be had with the two apparently highly-strung giggling women who had presented themselves at his desk. Oh, the bantz! Completely inappropriate flirting and joking all round as the Ts & Cs were confirmed, a sturdy padlock purchased, procedures and rules explained and finally the bill presented to Mother J for payment (another long story, but Daughter J has plenty of £££ but no functioning payment card – another reason for hysteria, no doubt). One of Mrs J’s many random pieces of plastic was inserted in the proffered machine, the pin accepted and the terminal returned to the Big Yellow man. Who looked back with concern and announced “Card denied. Insufficient funds!” Apparently the Motherly physog was a picture at this juncture, as she strove to understand how this could be. The customer print-out was presented in evidence – but the hysteria was doing its worst and the fact that this was a proper receipt for the transaction just transacted went completely unnoticed. Another credit card was plucked from the small selection of otherwise useless Oyster/Nectar/Organ Donor cards about the Motherly person as Mr B Yellow patiently asked if she would like to pay twice. The penny (or rather, several hundred £s) dropped – “Ok, this is WAR!” may have escaped those normally mild maternal lips. Pretences of amusement were suitably maintained, but this was a killer blow to the parental ego. Sigh! How many future Christmas dinner tables will this story grace?
      • Skittishness was rapidly reinstated, and two variously-aged and over-excited females were later to be seen careering up and down the Big Yellow corridors, ‘helping’ the removal guys with the lighter loads and the emptied trolleys. (Mother J drew the line at taking a ride on the trolleys, even though it was briefly mooted. It is approximately 40 years since she was last to be seen screaming down a corridor astride such a vehicle – which, it is recalled, did not end well – so it seems that she has at least learned SOME lessons in life.) 
  • Adjustments are now being made to daily life as Jillings Towers embraces its new lodgers – in particular, the feline one who doesn’t understand why there are people other than his adored mistress lurking around this new abode. There has yet to be found a comfortable arrangement to suit all parties. After an encouragingly uneventful first week, most recent days have ended with some form of cat-poo incident. If only we could read his inscrutable little mind. I imagine he thinks the same of us. (No, actually, this cat does not possess much thinking matter at all, bless him.) Most internal doors are now firmly closed and all inviting surfaces covered with protective materials – adding to the mismatched quirkiness of our interior decor. Good excuse, I suppose.
    The most travelled this indoor cat will ever be.
  • Although the demanding shift pattern of Daughter’s work means that the non-feline occupants of the Towers are mostly like the proverbial ships, there have been a few occasions when a tough day has resulted in some supportive discussions, late night issue-resolution chats and unaccustomed general shoulder-providing with varying degrees of success. 

So, have we learned any new parental lessons, apart from the ‘for life, not just for Christmas’ thing which arguably we already knew?

Hmm. Yes. Firstly, that having a ‘fast’ programme on the washing machine and a ready supply of cleaning materials is a VERY GOOD THING.  Again, arguably, we were aware of this from the nappy days. And a new one on me – after her long emotional roller-coaster of a day at work and tricky journey home, a reminder to beloved Daughter that “there’s that jelly rabbit you made yesterday in the fridge. That’ll cheer you up!” doesn’t always help. Who knew?

Perhaps I should write a book. 






Follow one crying eye on