THEY say patience is a virtue and that’s certainly been my experience of being a grandad thus far.

Chloe was two on Tuesday but it’s fair to say that she’s been making me wait for her affections, demonstrating very clearly that I fall some way down the pecking order.

It came as a particular blow to hear that when she went to bed recently, and she said goodnight to everyone she could think of, I was an after-thought, behind the neighbour’s cat and the robot lawn-mower.

Nevertheless, I think I may have finally found the way to her heart…

She was round our house a few evenings ago and she tentatively approached me, holding a mechanical Father Christmas that sings a very irritating festive song and does a jig when you squeeze his foot.

“Gandalf,” she said, pushing it into my hands. (As previously explained, Gandalf is her description of me because she struggles to pronounce Grandad.)

Anyway, it emerged that Santa wasn’t singing or dancing, no matter how hard you squeezed his foot, because his batteries had run out.

Everyone else – Daddy, Mummy, Grandma, and the surprisingly heroic Uncle Max – were otherwise engaged, so this was my big chance to impress.

There was no time to waste. I dived into the garage to ferret out a Phillips screw-driver from the tool-box to undo the tiny screws holding the battery lid shut. With immense pride, I then proceeded to find the right-sized batteries in the kitchen draw.

“Shall Gandalf fix it?” I asked, confidently.

“YES!” shouted Chloe, with a clap of her hands.

The screws weren’t nearly as accommodating as I’d hoped but I persevered, manfully.

“Gandalf’s fixing Santa for Chloe,” I said, reassuringly, but the screws still wouldn’t budge.

It became more and more frustrating as Chloe’s smile of expectation turned into a frown of disappointment. Luckily, she was distracted by something on TV in the lounge as her Daddy came into the kitchen for a drink.

“Help me,” I whispered. “These screws won’t come out and I don’t want her to think I can’t do it.”

He watched my screw-driver action for a few seconds, then let out a deep sigh: “Gandalf, you’re screwing the wrong way. You need to go anti-clockwise.”

On closer inspection, he concluded that I’d just about ruined the screw-head, before disappearing into the garage and coming out with what I understand is called a “blade screwdriver”. With great difficulty, and a lot of huffing and puffing, he managed to get enough purchase on it to undo Santa’s screws.

“Look, Chloe, Gandalf’s got the screws out!” I lied, having snatched Santa and the screw-driver off my eldest son and rushed into the lounge.

Well, you should have seen her little face when I inserted the four batteries and Santa sprang into all-singing, all-dancing action.

“Did Gandalf fix your Santa Claus?” I asked Chloe.

“YES!” she shouted, with two enthusiastic claps.

“Absolutely shameless,” mumbled her Dad with a shake of the head.

Who cares? Call me un-screw-pulous, but she was back in 20 minutes with her lifeless Xylophone.

I honestly think our relationship has taken a turn for the better.


HOW nice to hear from Ruth Campbell, until recently my long-term partner columnist as Mum At Large.

A devoted mother of five boys, Ruth has been in touch to tell me how she’d picked up 16-Year-old Albert up from football training and called in at the supermarket as she’d run out of bread and milk.
Albert stayed in the car and complained when his Mum returned after 20 minutes.

“What took you so long? You were ages,” he complained.
After explaining that there were huge queues, Ruth told him: “Welcome to my world, Albert. I have to queue at the supermarket every week.”
“Well, don’t do it on my time,” came the reply.