AS she hurtles towards her fourth birthday, it is fast becoming clear that our little grand-daughter, Chloe, is a bit of a gossip.

She’s good at lots of things – ballet, growing carrots in Ganma’s vegetable patch, and testing the Sunday lunch Yorkshire puddings, among them – but she’s pretty rotten at keeping secrets.

Take Ganma’s impending big birthday, for example. Chloe’s dad, Christopher – otherwise known as The Big Friendly Giant – has bought his Mum an inflatable blue canoe, and it’s meant to be a surprise.

Yes, I know it sounds like an odd present to give your mother, but he’s already got a canoe of his own, and he decided it would be nice if she could join him when he goes paddling down the River Tees on the picturesque stretch between Croft and Neasham.

The big mistake in his grand plan was telling Chloe. When she was round our house for Sunday lunch a couple of weekends ago, she waited until her Daddy was out of the room and revealed all in a stage whisper: “Ganma, I’m not supposed to tell you this, but Daddy’s bought you a blue snoo for your birthday!”

Had it not been for the family conversations surrounding the Big Friendly Giant’s “snoo”, Ganma may have struggled to know what one was, but she was instantly able to work it out.

“Ok, I’ll forget you told me,” replied Ganma, doing her best not to laugh, and immediately reflecting on whether she really wants a blow-up boat at her age.

That should really have been that, but the plot thickened a few days later when Chloe couldn’t resist telling her Daddy that she’d spilled the beans.

“Daddy, I told Ganma you got her a blue snoo for her birthday,” she revealed, leading to a fatherly lecture about the importance of not giving away secrets.

However, it didn’t end there. The following week, during another visit to our house, Chloe couldn’t resist sticking her oar in again. She took Ganma to one side, cupped her hand over her mouth, and explained: “I told Daddy that I told you that he got you a blue snoo for your birthday.”

Ganma smiled and, showing admirable restraint, replied: “Oh, I’d forgotten about that, Chloe.”

Days passed before Ganma and I took Chloe to Skipton for a treat, featuring a boat ride on the canal, complete with afternoon tea. Perhaps it was being on the water that jogged her memory, but Chloe snuggled in close and asked: “Ganma, you forgot Daddy got you a blue snoo for your birthday?”

“Yes, I’d forgotten,” Ganma assured her.

“Oh, Good,” sighed Chloe before returning to her cakes and sandwiches.

At the end of the day, when we dropped her off back at home, the words came tumbling out like water flowing into an empty lock: “Daddy, Ganma’s forgotten that you’ve got her a blue snoo.”

It doesn’t even end there because another generation has now been drawn into the great canoe conspiracy. When the BFG took Chloe over to see my mum – Great Grandma Margaret, or just “Great Margaret” as Chloe’s re-named her – the three-year-old announced to the 89-year-old that she had something to tell her: “Daddy’s bought Ganma a blue snoo, but don’t tell anyone – it’s a secret!”

HALF a century ago, when I was little more than Chloe’s age, I was also guilty of letting a big cat out of the bag.

I was due to start Catholic school and, one day, two nuns arrived at the house to discuss the arrangements with my parents.

My Dad’s face fell as he saw the sisters coming down the garden path. He turned to my Mum and said: “You keep them talking on the doorstep, and I’ll sneak out the back door and nip up the road for a bet and a pint.”

With him hiding in the kitchen, by Mum opened the door but before she could say a word, I’d jumped in front of her. Looking up at Sister Mary Ursula and Sister Mary Stanislaus, I blurted out: “My Daddy’s scared of you and he’s going to sneak out the back door for a bet and a pint!”