I took the two girls I look after to their grandparents this afternoon. It’s an old house with a large garden, like somewhere you might find an unusual wardrobe. The grandparents grow their own vegetables – I’m a great fan of their peas – and have two large friendly dogs. I stood by and watched the girls compete for attention with handstands and roly-polys on the immaculate lawn, with the plastic horse and two bags of swimming kit.
The house has an old fashioned dining-room with high ceilings and paintings of the children, when they were children. Of course, I’m entranced by the artworks. It’s rare to see someone’s house with painted portraits on the wall. It echoes back to a time when people had houses with picture rails. The magic continues with a collection of holiday treasures: Kenyan wooden heads, African masks, glass dishes and a puppet witch that hangs from the lampshade and had something, although I’m not sure what, to do with chocolate. Shelves heaped with travel books line the walls in the basement.
Young and fashionable was my first gut feeling. My brain questioned if this were possible. I describe the couple as young, but what does it even mean to be young? In spite of their appearance, the numbers don’t add up. However much they might want to feel young, we can’t both be young. And yet, they certainly seemed young as they rushed around the house getting ready for their trip out to Barcelona, hopping over the Playmobil pirate ship when necessary. To my surprise, delight and envy, these grandparents have recently come back from climbing Mont Blanc. Next week they’re going on a kayaking holiday. I’m in awe. There are many people my age who could benefit from a little more such youthful zeal.