NATURALLY, we have been desperate to hear Chloe’s first word. Would it be Daddy, Mummy, Grandma or, being the eternal optimist, might it be Grandad?

Well, we finally have the answer as our beautiful grand-daughter approaches her first birthday on October 23.

I am able to announce today that the first word Chloe has uttered in her short life – at least within my earshot – is fsssssssssssh. Yes, that’s right – fsssssssssssh.

OK, I confess I’d have preferred it to be Grandad, but fsssssssssh is a decent compromise because it has emanated from our fledging relationship. You see, whenever she comes to our house, I immediately take her out into the garden to see the eight goldfish in our new pond.

It used to be nine goldfish but regular readers will know that “James Pond, Bubble-0-7” mysteriously disappeared shortly after he and his mates took up residency with us.

Anyway, I always carry Chloe out to the garden pond and, as we peer into the water, I shout: “Hello, fish – are you there fish?” Then, when one pops up to the surface, I add: “Hello, Mister Fish – it’s lovely to see you Mister Fish.”

OK, I completely accept that this is sexist because I have no way of knowing if any of them might be a Mister Fish or a Mrs Fish, but I can’t help myself. I am also very aware that the neighbours behind the hedge probably think I’ve lost the plot.

Nevertheless, the point is that when Chloe came round the other day, she beat me to it by pointing out to the garden and saying fsssssssssssssh. The “i” will surely come later but, for now, it’s just fsssssssssssssssh.

“Did you hear that? Did you hear that – she just said fssssssssssssssh!” I found myself blurting out to the rest of the family.

Off we went, out into the garden, and she repeated it three times: fssssssssssssssh, fssssssssssssssh, fssssssssssssssh. Then, she wanted to dangle her feet in the water, with me holding her tightly round the waist, and she said it again but with more emphasis: fssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssh.

Oh, I never thought I’d find such joy in hearing a baby’s first word but being a Grandad is proving to be a truly magical experience which I thoroughly recommend.

And things are already moving on apace. A week after beginning her vocabulary with fsssssssssssssh, Chloe has added a second word. When she turned up at the weekend for her latest visit, she greeted us with a little wave and a clear-as-a-bell “Hiya”.

Then, when we went out into the garden and I dangled her over the garden pond, I was thrilled to hear her very first sentence: “Hiya fssssssssssssssssssssssssh.”

I could barely contain my excitement but I have to confess it’s all made me even more desperate to hear her say “Grandad”. All very selfisssssssssssssssh of me, I know.

• I’M deeply grateful to Leita Prior, who runs the Durham Talking Newspaper for the visually impaired, for getting in touch to say how much her listeners love recordings of Grandad At Large.

However, she added: “You haven’t mentioned the fish for a while and the members would like an update.”

Well, there you go Leita – please let me know how this latest fishy column went down with your listeners.

Yes, yes, I’m fssssssssssssssssssshing for compliments….


I RECENTLY spoke to the DIDO (Days In, Days Out) group in Ferryhill and a member called Esme passed on a little story about the time she was working as a primary school teacher and being observed by a school inspector.

She had ingeniously devised a game where members of the class had to use letter-cards to make up three-letter words and think of a sentence containing their word.

Esme thought it was going quite well when a little girl came up with the letters S-I-T and formed the sentence “WE SIT ON A CHAIR.”

She was even more encouraged when another little girl picked the letters B-I-G and declared: “I HAVE A BIG BROTHER.”

She thought the inspector would continue to be impressed when a little boy selected the letters G-E-T. Sadly, her hopes came crashing down when he promptly recited the sentence: “I AM A SILLY GET!”