IN the main, this column tries to take a light-hearted view of the world, reflecting on the silly, funny things that makes family life so magical.

But this week has a different feel because it’s important to underline why so many people feel let down by the revelations about the “one rule for us, another rule for them” partying culture at the heart of the Government.

I should start by acknowledging how incredibly lucky I’ve been during the pandemic: lucky to have a garden; lucky to live near open countryside; and especially lucky that my family – including my 90-year-old mum – have remained healthy.

The impact on others has been much, much greater. I know people who were unable to be with loved ones in their final days. I have a friend who faced the news of a cancer diagnosis on her own while her husband had to wait outside the hospital in the car park. As a journalist, I’ve written tributes to front-line workers, who died as a result of caring for others. And I’ve been touched by the aching sadness felt by their friends and colleagues who were unable to say a proper goodbye due to funeral attendances having to be restricted.

But, in amongst those profound tragedies, there are also millions of relatively minor everyday experiences that have affected people – not least grandparents – as we tried our best to obey the Government’s rules.

Take, for example, the egg hunt my wife and I arranged for our little granddaughter, Chloe, at Easter in 2020. It was just as the first national lockdown was at its height when, unbeknown to us, they were having a booze-up 300 miles away in Downing Street.

Chloe was only three at the time, so couldn’t understand why we could only watch from a distance as she followed the trail of clues we’d laid amongst the trees that led her to a white chocolate lamb and bag of mini-eggs.

All she knew was there was something called “cowonaviwus” that meant we couldn’t give her a hug or get up close for a chat.

We had to sit on a nearby bench while she shouted: “Ganma! Gandalf! I have something very important to tell you! The Easter Bunny left me this wickle wam and lots of eggs!”

And that social distancing had to remain for months. During the daily walk Boris Johnson allowed us for exercise, my wife and I waved from the road while Chloe stood on the safety of her doorstep.

The bouncy castle party we’d planned for the summer, so she could have fun in the garden with her friends, couldn’t go ahead. While they had their garden parties in Downing Street, Chloe’s had to be cancelled.

And, just last month, we had to miss out on seeing her perform in her first nativity play because Omicron, a new variant, had resulted in her school taking a safety-first approach and deciding the show had to go ahead without an audience.

I know these things might seem trivial in the great scheme of things. They are by no means the biggest pieces of the jigsaw. But they matter too – because mums and dads, grandmas and grandads, know they will never get that magical time back.

That’s why the anger runs so deep.


THANKFULLY, life is starting to get back to some kind of normality and it was a pleasure last week to speak to the members of Great Ayton Women’s Institute.

Thank you to Beryl Frank who passed on an amusing conversation between her friend Glynne Johnson and her grandchild.

They were in the car when they passed a cemetery and the little one asked: “What’s that?”

“It’s a cemetery,” replied Glynne.

“What’s a cemetery?” enquired the child.

“It’s where the bodies go when people die,” Grandma explained.

A few miles passed in silence before another question came from the back seat: “So grandma, where do they put the arms and legs?”