WITH our first grandchild lighting up our lives, the wheels continue to turn full circle…

Chloe has reached the grand old age of 22 months and, as every grandparent will understand, it’s a source of great excitement every time she visits.

We took her for a walk through the village last week, ending up at the railway bridge, just like we used to do when our children were small.

“Would Chloe like to see a big train?” I asked.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” she whispered, breaking out into a smile.

It’s at times like this you realise how much the world has moved on. In the old days, when we were merely parents, we had to just wait for a train to appear, not knowing how long we’d have to stand there, and desperate to avoid disappointment.

Nearly 30 years on, we’re blessed with mobile phones to check the train timetable, and we could see that a London-bound train would be leaving Darlington station in precisely seven minutes and 32 seconds. Not too long to wait.

Chloe got more and more excited when she saw it coming, although it was a bit of a let-down when the driver failed to acknowledge our waves by tooting his whistle.

It didn’t seem like five minutes since I was holding up her dad to look over the same railway bridge when he was a toddler. Christopher, alias the Big Friendly Giant, is six-feet-three now, and built like a brick engine-shed, so there’s more chance of him holding me up these days.

Way back then, he was a huge fan of Thomas The Tank Engine and loved anything to do with railways. However, he struggled with his pronunciation and used to call his favourite little tank engine “Tosser”.

There were many times when I’d take him for a walk to watch for trains and, on one occasion, when he was about three, we’d waited longer than usual.

At long last, the signals changed, we heard a rumble start to build in the distance, and then we saw an old freight train approaching. A bit disappointing that it wasn’t a super-fast express but, by then, any train would do.

“Ooh, look, a train’s coming!” I told him, lifting him a bit higher so he could see more clearly.

He suddenly got very excited, started pointing, and yelling at the top of his voice: “Tosser! Tosser! Tosser! Tosser.”

As luck would have it, a man was out walking his dog on the trackside path at that precise moment, and I have to say he didn’t look too pleased.

“I’m really sorry, he doesn’t mean you,” I found myself explaining, none too convincingly. “There’s a train coming…and he’s trying to say Thomas.”

Chloe is a Thomas The Tank Engine fan too but, so far, she can only say “choo-choo”. Long may it last.


As kids wait anxiously for their exam results, here a few real-life answers from schools in County Durham, as supplied by former Education Director Keith Mitchell.

Q: What are steroids?

A: Things for keeping carpets still on the stairs.

Q: What is the most common form of birth control?

A: Most people prevent contraception by wearing a condominium.

Q: What is a fibula?

A: A small lie.

Q: How are the main parts of the body categorised (eg abdomen).

A: The body is consisted into three parts - the brainium, the borax, and the abdominal cavity. The brainium contains the brain, the borax contains the heart and lungs, and the abdominal cavity contains the five bowels, A, E, I, O and U.