On 26th September, 2005, I was plunged into a whole new world – the world of Planet Grandma!
For six months the anticipation had built and built as our family awaited the arrival of the first member of a new generation. The practicalities of cots, buggies and sterilisers had been dealt with. The questions had all been asked: Would it be a boy? Would it be a girl? Who would it look like? And silent prayers for a healthy child and its safe arrival had been repeated with increasing frequency as the time grew nearer.
But no amount of preparation could have readied me for the swelling tide of emotion as I set eyes on my first grandchild: a staggeringly beautiful, pink and bald bundle to be named Annabel. Even now, over eight years later, I remember her exact warm, weight as she snuffled softly in my arms.
I hadn’t had to suffer the discomfort of the heavy, distended bump, the swollen ankles or the indignity of the regular prodding by doctors and midwives – nor, horror of horrors, had I endured more than twenty four hours of labour to bring forth this tiny, precious new life – yet, in the moment, my eyes laid eyes on her, my world was transformed.
At the tender age of 49 (!), my place in the family hierarchy had just shifted invisibly, imperceptibly. My perspective was changed forever. No longer was I the mother with direct responsibility for the child in my arms – I was one step removed. A step, that I’ve now come to realise has given me space, to think about all sorts of things from babysitting to baking, from population growth to the unfortunate death of Marius, the giraffe whose only sin was to be a man-made genetic inconvenience.
A bit like Neil Armstrong, “one small step for man, one giant step for mankind,” I’ve found myself in a different landscape but, unlike an astronaut shooting through space, my journey has taken longer and covered more personal ground.
To be honest, I’ve dithered along the highways and byways of life, and fretted over the rights and wrongs of forging my very own blog for so long that Annabel now has two brothers and a sister – and the four of them have a two year old cousin! And so the family grows and, as it does, my place own place within it feels increasingly and scarily matriarchal.
With some similarity to the Dowager Countess of Grantham, played by Maggie Smith in the hit T.V. series Downton Abbey, I may not always get everything right but I do have insight, grown from hard-won experience, together with strong motivations driven only by love. In Episode One of Series 4, Maggie Smith twitches her nose like any primordial female protecting her family and states with bold certainty, ‘It’s a Grandmother’s place to interfere.’ She’s absolutely right! There are certain times when a grandmother feels the burden of responsibility and is driven to act. For me, that time is now.
Over the last few weeks as the nation has witnessed first the absence of action, followed by the belated political posturing and feigned concern of our political elite, I’ve despaired. Just like many British rivers, my growing unease has finally burst its banks. The storms and destructive seas of Wild Wednesday (12.2.2014) did not only cause chaos and distress to flood struck victims, they also served to whip up my own emotions to the point where I can no longer remain silent.
I’ve tried the traditional way of doing things, writing letters, and sending these ‘snailmail,’ to newspapers such as The Sunday Express and The Sunday Telegraph, complaining about the irresponsibility of publishing columns which wilfully mislead the public. Of course, men like Christopher Booker of The Sunday Telegraph and Neil Hamilton of The Sunday Express are entitled to their opinion. But when such newspapers give a platform to views that influence public opinion on key issues such as fracking and climate change, allowing men like Booker and Hamilton to barefacedly ignore or ridicule scientific reports, then this is a dangerous route to take.
So, my twentieth century means of airing my views has failed. But, in my frustration, I desire more than ever to express my concerns. I’m just another ordinary grandmother in the autumn of my life; an ageing ‘technophobe,’ to whom concepts such as the Blogosphere and Twitter are a mystery. However, I’m finally ready to take ‘baby steps,’ to try and make my voice heard for my grandchildren’s sake. As Miss Maudie comments in To Kill a Mockingbird “it’s just a baby step – but it’s a step.” She’s reflecting on Atticus’s brave defence of the falsely accused Tom Robinson, a black man facing the injustice and prejudice of a white court.
It seems that on all the big issues that have challenged society and required change, there has always been a battle between progressive thought and self-interested parties anxious to preserve the status quo. But whilst informed and selfless people are prepared to fight for what is right, there is always hope. With regards to current issues such as climate change, casino banking and growing inequality in our society, change won’t be achieved overnight – but with a growing momentum of people, especially grandmothers, who believe it is possible to build a better and more sustainable world – we might just avoid hitting the (melted) iceberg!
Regardless of class or tribe, grandmothers have long overseen the common good. Unlike the world of politicians and cynical sound bites, their instinct is to protect future generations and their intentions are pure. So if you think like me, please let your voice be heard – or at least join me here at Planet Grandma where I intend to post a weekly blog.
Maybe, finally, I should ask for your patience with the appearance of my blog whilst I wrestle with the intricacies of the WordPress ‘dashboard’ – which was something I believed only existed in cars …..