How many swear words does it take to change a light bulb? Last night I was abusing the new halogen one that was refusing to click into the fitting that the old halogen one refused to click out of. Luckily, Mrs Eddison was too engaged in a phone conversation to tell me to "stop swearing at that reading lamp and speak to your daughter". She handed me her phone.
A discussion was taking place as to whether I could be trusted to be in sole charge of Gracie – our baby granddaughter – for a day during half-term. Grandma would be at work, Daddy would be working away and Mummy would be working from home, so I was the obvious (only) choice. Mrs Eddison was not convinced and cited my inability to change a light bulb without resorting to threats of violence.
When I reminded her of the times I looked after our own children, she reminded me of the three visits we made to A&E with Gracie’s mum. Specifically, the time I encouraged her to climb to the very top of the climbing frame; the night I let her trampoline off the bed; and the day I took the stabilisers off her two-wheeled bike.
Gracie isn’t old enough to do any of these things yet, but, for safeguarding purposes, I’m given strict instructions and a bag of essential items. The latter includes nappies, spare clothes and an extra-large pack of hygienic baby wipes, all of which are needed within half an hour of me being left alone with her.
After successfully cleaning up after what could only be described as the biggest poo-nami in living memory, I am determined that the rest of the day will be a learning success. My intensive programme of activities involves singing (and dancing) along to every song on her Baby Sensory CD, animating Nellie the giraffe and repeatedly building a tower of stacking cups to be repeatedly knocked down.
Parked for a breather
During lunchtime, Gracie feeds the dog cheesy toast fingers, in recompense for stealing his Pedigree Tasty Bites. After this, I wrestle her into her coat and hat, and we set off to explore the great outdoors. This isn’t easy because neither Gracie’s pram nor my arthritis are designed for the rough paths of our local wood – a journey made more arduous by the dog’s determination to take roads less travelled in search of trees less peed on.
Once Gracie has been jolted to sleep, I find a bench to rest my weary ankles. Ironically, it is dedicated to someone who walked these paths until he ran out of breath. I close my eyes for a moment to enjoy the peace and quiet…and wake to the sound of Gracie going through her repertoire of three consonants and a vowel. She is deep in conversation with Mrs Edwards, who goes to Knit and Natter with Mrs Eddison.
Alarm bells begin to ring. "I was just resting my eyes for a minute," I tell her and stroke her Cockapoo for good measure.
"Resting your eyes?" she replies. "You were out like a light bulb."
Steve Eddison writes a fortnightly column for Tes magazine. He is a teacher at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield