A LONG time ago, when I still just a mere dad, an old man told me about the magic of being a grandad.

“It turns your life full circle,” he said. “Cos I’m a grandad, I can roll me trousers up and go splodging in the sea. I can shout ‘boo and hiss’ at the baddies in the panto. I can play with train-sets – if I didn’t have grandkids, they’d lock me up.”

He was dead right, of course, but what he missed out was that you get to go conkering.

Our eldest, Christopher – otherwise known as The Big Friendly Giant – called on Saturday to tip us off that he was going to a wood in our village with his little girl, Chloe, to hunt for conkers.

Judging by the noises in the background, Chloe, who’ll be three in a couple of weeks, was excited by the prospect, but not nearly as much as her dad.

When my wife and I got to the wood, they were already hard at it. Chloe was carrying a blue bucket, so big she could probably have squeezed into it herself had she so wished. The BFG was armed with a large stick and taking great delight at throwing it into a tree to knock off as many conkers as possible.

It seems like yesterday that he was a little boy, running around with his brothers and sister, while I showed off my stick-throwing skills. Now, he’s a dad himself, consumed by the same primeval instinct to be the heroic hunter-gatherer for his family.

“Look at this,” he gushed, showing us his stick. “It’s a fantastic stick for conkering – absolutely perfect.”

While my wife helped Chloe fill her bucket, I felt compelled to have a feel of my 29-year-old son’s impressive stick. He was right, it was perfect: gently curved, well-balanced, and a nice weight – heavy enough to do some damage, but still light enough to get plenty of height. (By this time of year, the conkers on the low-hanging branches have already gone so height’s important in a stick.)

“Aye, it’s a good ‘un, son,” I heard myself mutter. I nearly asked him where’d he’d found it but then I remembered we were in a wood.

Come to think of it, we have similar conversations about stones when we’re having skimming competitions down by the river.

“What do you think of this one?” he’ll ask.

“Very nice,” I reply, stroking the smoothed edge of a pebble.

I digress. Before too long, Chloe got a bit bored with conkering, and wanted to play on the nearby slide and swings.

Then it was time to go home, and show her Mummy the collection of conkers in her big blue bucket, so we said our goodbyes.

“Come on, then, Chloe,” said the BFG, tucking his stick under his arm for safekeeping. “I’m not losing this,” he said, giving it a little pat.

I knew where he was coming from – good sticks don’t grow on trees.


“I WENT out and collected these for Chloe,” said Ralph, one of my tennis buddies when he turned up for a game the other evening.

He proceeded to give me a large carrier-bag containing hundreds of conkers.

Ralph hasn’t got any grandchildren yet – I’m sure it was very thoughtful and selfless of him.

CHLOE was round our house on Sunday.

“Can I have a little cuddle?” I asked.

“No, Gandalf,” she replied.

She must have noticed the crestfallen look on my face because she fired a question back at me: “Big cuddle, Gandalf?”

“Oh, yes please,” I replied.

“No!” she said. “Not one of those either!”

Then she ran off.