AT the grand old age of 60, I do my best to stay fit. I run round the village most days. I do the five kilometres of the Parkrun on Saturdays. I go to the gym at least once a week. And I still play tennis regularly.

But nothing – and I mean nothing – is harder on my knees than playing dollies with my five-year-old granddaughter.

Her beloved Ganma is usually the clear first choice when Chloe’s round our house and wants to play with her dollies. But my wife was busy cooking Sunday lunch, so the responsibility fell to me.

“Gandalf, will you play dollies with me?” I was asked.

“Oh, yes, I’d love to,” I replied, dredging up as much enthusiasm as possible as I got off the settee.

Now, the big trouble with playing dollies is that the action all tends to happen at ground level. For example, the first task was to build a den for the dollies under the table in the back garden.

When you’ve had three knee operations, and there’s not much cartilage left in either of them, it’s not easy crawling on a stone patio to get under a table to build a dolly den.

That said, it was a good den, with lots of cushions inside, and an overhanging blanket for the outside wall and door. The mummy dollies, Elsa and Anna, along with their children – Elysa, Annya, Rapunzelly, and Arieola – looked very cosy, but my knees were already starting to suffer.

“Right, Gandalf, the dollies have had a nice rest now, so shall we take them for an adventure in the playpark?” she suggested.

I was desperately hoping the playpark might be up on a table-top, with a comfy seat, but it wasn’t. It was on the other side of the garden, and the dollies – all of them less than a foot high – had to “walk” there across the grass while Chloe and I crawled alongside them.

My poor knees screamed for mercy, but it didn’t stop there: “Gandalf – Elsa and Anna have asked if the kids can have a boat ride across the fishpond?” she announced.

The fishpond is surrounded by the same hard stone that we have on the patio, and I had to kneel on it while I guided one dolly after another across the water in a Tupperware box.

“This is such fun, isn’t it Gandalf?” Chloe smiled.

“Yes, it really is…such fun,” I groaned through gritted teeth.

“Right, they say they want to play giant snakes and ladders now, Gandalf,” she added.

“Do they really?” I asked, bracing myself for more pain.

It turned out that ‘giant snakes and ladders’ involves laying a blanket on the lawn, and covering it with straight sticks for ladders, and curly sticks for snakes. Naturally, it’s played from a kneeling position but at least it was on grass rather than stone.

When the time came for her to go home, I hobbled stiffly to the door to say goodbye, grabbing a couple of Ibuprofen on the way through the kitchen. She ran back, gave me the biggest cuddle ever, and said: “Thanks for playing dollies with me, Gandalf.”

It’s painful being a grandad – but it ain’t half worth it.


CHLOE’S dad was a bit surprised when Chloe turned to him and asked: “Daddy, can we read The Bible together?”

Then she added: “No, I don’t mean The Bible – I mean The Beano.”

CHLOE was at the playground and enjoying herself on the swings.

"You'll be able to swing as high as me when you're my age," the little girl next to her announced.

"I'm already five and a half!" Chloë told her.

"Well, I'm six and three inches," her new friend revealed.