Part memoir/part short story
It was raining heavily. So what, you might say but for someone still stuck in the Eighties, babysitting requires mastery of new technology not to mention the bravery of using public transport.
They did offer to collect me but their town house sits resplendent, devoid of parking and one journey out of Band D on a Friday evening ensures a lost spot for the weekend.
Why don’t I drive, you may ask? I hold a blemish-free licence and a not-too-old car but these days I easily decline. Driving is no fun anymore. Drivers are getting younger, have less hair and shiny heads which dazzle one in the headlights. This same breed drives faster and switches lanes without warning. Tailgating is illegal but how does one shake off these nuisances when they persist in filling the rear mirror?
The one-way system in the town centre requires three circulations before I find Linden Gardens. Finding no parking space, I am unable to turn back and am then required to drive headlong into a maze of narrower one-way streets, with those irritating small humps every five metres and myriad No Entry signs.
Even if I do, on a rare occasion, find a space near enough to their home, parking is not a straightforward ‘jump out and slam your door’ job, as completing the scratch-off details on their residents’ parking permit is impossible if you have a) forgotten your glasses and b) forgotten the permit. No wonder I have little compulsion to use my car,
The first time I used the train, I arrived bright-eyed and fresh at the station, marvelling in my discovery of stress-free travelling, only to be confronted by an ‘Office Closed’ sign. How, I screeched at the blank glass, am I to get a ticket? No problem said the greasy-haired cyclist leading me to a large machine on the platform. Having disclosed my destination, name and address (now sure to be burgled and bereft of my analogue tv), he forces cash from my hand, feeding it into the contraption’s hungry jaws. “How much?” I squawk as the ticket drops down minus any semblance of returned loose change.
“It’s cheaper online” he says as he pedals away.
My heart sinks at the reference to technology. At this rate, the car could return to favour, but, no ……, the prospect of driving headlong onto the pier haunts me.
This time, despite the rain and the dark of winter, I have conquered the internet but am informed my ticket can only be collected from the same self-service machine. There is no escape. Neither is there a manned office, a guard with a flag (as in olden times) or the greasy haired cyclist of last week. However, I manage the ticket machine, the trip and the taxi ride to be met at the door by the departing parents keen to see the start of the show. I hear words like oven, microwave and dishwasher as Hannah provides a lightning tour of her new kitchen, a wall of white behind which these items lurk. Then it’s mobile numbers, Sky, baby alarm (she won’t wake up they say), automatic sliding doors, windows, kitchen cupboard doors and entry phone each with its own separate hand control – “It’s all very simple” Hannah assures me, and they are gone.
I am left in a sparsely but expensively furnished room with a blank TV screen, a white wall at one end behind which somewhere is my dinner and the curtainless wide patio doors. Another door leads to the hallway and the baby’s bedroom. Baby will not wake up was manna from heaven to my ears. I attempt to locate my lasagne using the remote control on the breakfast bar. After several failed attempts at tracking down and starting the microwave, the oven is purring and the dishwasher door is opening and closing only not slow enough for me to grab a cup and plate. I give up the idea of eating and try to obtain BBC 1 via the TV remote. What I get is not BBC 1 but a recording of Deal or No Deal, my television pet hate. My attempts to change channel result in volume overload and unbeknown to me the baby alarm can work in reverse – not a good thing with an eight-week-old. Blaring TV, crying baby and failed attempts to stop oven and dishwasher working in tandem result in an element of panic during which I pick up the wrong hand control which operates the sliding patio doors.
As I said it was raining heavily and little did I know that the control for the doors also activated the windows (open) and the interior lights (off) – easily done without my glasses to read the display. I decamped quickly to the nursery where for I sang nursery rhymes and was rewarded with a smile. The simple things in life don’t change do they?
This poetry collection spans sixteen years capturing the experience of a first-time grandmother on her sometimes wobbly journey in her new role. It includes many facets of unmissable moments and childhood milestones, some humorous and others more poignant, even sad. Such treasured times can easily be forgotten so the book acts as a nostalgic memoir. Touching and funny in turn, readers will be reminded of the joys of witnessing childhood development and the effect on their own lives. Even those yet to reach grandparenthood including fathers, aunties and primary school children have already enjoyed reading this book. Grandma’s Poetry Book makes an ideal gift for new grandparents, birthdays, Christmas and Mothers’ Day and many readers have returned to buy more copies for friends and relations. Each poem has its own laugh-out-loud illustration by an artist who has been likened to E H Sheppard.
Some comments have included ‘Pam Ayres meets Winnie the Pooh’, ‘made me laugh, made me cry’, ‘charming book’ and ‘every grandparent should have one’.
Our new book, Should I Wear Floral? And other poems on Life Love and Leaving will be out shortly. Follow me on twitter @dinahcas and on Facebook – Di Castle – Writer to hear of updates and see sneak previews of illustrations and poems.