JANE FRASER LAST LOOK
I’ M not terribly good at babysitting; as a matter of fact I have done so only once, when my daughter paid an emergency visit to the hairdresser, abandoning me and her children in a coffee shop, and I counted the minutes with panic and pursed lips until she returned.
It’s not that I don’t love the little boys to bits and it’s not that I don’t want to see lots and lots of them; it’s just that, due to no fault of my own, the little patience with which I was born has disappeared, along with my reading glasses and the front door keys, which keep losing themselves.
On the other hand, their other grandmother is a saint, as I keep telling her.
I wonder how my grandsons will remember me when I’m gone. My grandmothers were the proverbial chalk and cheese. They never spoke to each other because one was Irish and gave us dripping on brown bread as an afternoon treat, and the other was English and drove herself into the city to consult her stockbroker; she travelled the world with large trunks of clothes and three hatboxes.
When we went to visit Irish Gran she played gin rummy with me and my brothers for our pocket money, which she eagerly swooped on, and once she came along on holiday to the coast where, aged at least 200, she allowed us to bury her up to her neck on the beach. She bet on the horses and went to church on Sundays wearing green.
I remember going with Grand, as we called the other one, to the airport to pick up my uncle, returning to South Africa from a prisoner- of- war camp in Italy. She nodded at him and he gave her a peck on the cheek; there was little to show that this was the woman who had sat up night after night twiddling the knobs of the old brown wireless, hoping to hear her son’s name broadcast as still alive. On the way home I sat in the dickyseat, my legs hanging out the back of the car.
If a grandmother allowed a child to drag her feet along the tarmac today she would be taken out and shot at dawn. Only a saintly grandmother will know the effort just to get two small children in and out of the car. There are the safety capsules into which you need to know how to stow them, you need to be a locksmith to work out the seatbelts and you need a huge car for the stroller which, for some reason never quite explained, is the size of a space rocket; steering it through a suburban shopping society is a bit like playing Russian roulette, only worse.
So if I cark it in the near future I will not have figured strongly in their lives.
I think I’ll be better with them when they’re older and I can teach them my old tricks, such as peeling and eating bananas with their toes, short- sheeting their parents’ beds and rolling each other down the road in an old tyre. Fun beckons.