OUR grandson knocked over a vase of flowers while he was staying with us last year - well, it was silly of me to have left it at child height.

He spread his hands in a sort of shrug. "No worries," he said. His accent was pure Australian.

No, Jonah hadn't been spending hours stuck in front of Neighbours. It's just that one of the helpers at his nursery comes from Australia. In fact, the staff at his nursery come in all shapes, sizes and colours, with accents to match. He seems to like them all. What matters to him is that they're kind and cheerful and ready with comfort if he falls over and hurts himself.

I read somewhere that children are 'colour blind' until they're about two - that is, they can't tell whether anyone's skin is black, brown, white or yellow; everyone looks the same, in that respect at least.

I don't know how the experts can possibly know. Isn't it more likely that it's not until children are two years old or so that they begin to understand how their parents feel about people whose skin colour differs from their own? In which case, I hope our grandson stays colour blind.

That's one thing London has in its favour - it's a cosmopolitan city with a huge variety of people of different origins all living close together. When you've been in London for a bit you stop noticing what colour anyone is and it's strange coming back to somewhere like the North-East. For a while, until you get used to it again, everyone seems rather uniformly - well, grey.

But to get back to the toppled vase. It was a minor thing, only a little water spilled. Nothing to worry about, as our grandson said. And I didn't.

When our children were small, I have a nasty feeling it would have been a different story. I fear I'd have told them off for being careless, or at the very least muttered something irritably under my breath. It would have seemed like a big thing. When you've two small children under your feet, a house to run, a husband to care for and a part-time job, it's irritating to be faced with an extra, unnecessary bit of mopping up.

And I was a young mum, too - younger even than my son and daughter-in-law are now. Young people are naturally impatient.

One of the best things about being a grandparent is that it's as if you've been given a second chance. And it's come just as you've perfected those reserves of patience gathered over a lifetime. By now (hopefully) with the wisdom of age you've learned what's important and what isn't. And an accidentally-toppled vase doesn't even feature in the list of life's misfortunes. It's not that you don't have any worries. It's just that you know now that an awful lot of things just aren't worth worrying about.

Besides, in the end it's not you who has the ultimate responsibility for your grandchild. So the time you spend with him when he comes to stay is a precious interlude. You clear everything else out of the way so that you can focus all your attention on him. Freezer and fridge are stocked up with suitable foods, toys and books put ready, places to visit inspected for child-friendly attractions. All the everyday activities are put on hold. You're not going to waste your time doing unnecessary cooking, cleaning, tidying up when you could be reading stories, singing nursery rhymes, kicking a ball around the garden, drawing people or animals to request, taking him for his first ride on a steam train: simply enjoying life.

As for worrying: before he comes to stay we inspect house and garden for danger points, put anything that might harm him out of reach. But once that's done, all that remains is to make sure he has the best possible time while he's with us.

Now, when Jonah comes to stay, he runs into the house and knows exactly where to find the toys he enjoyed playing with last time he was here. It's as if he'd never been away.

And so what if he runs over our new carpet in his muddy wellies? Or spills food and drink on the floor? All right, we try to encourage him to take care of things, to tidy up after himself, but in the end his happiness matters more than messy carpets. And if he's happy, then we are too.