Swings, conkers and Sunday in the park with dear George

Grandson George is turning into a person. By which I mean the one-year-old is no longer 100 per cent compliant on all matters. He now makes an executive decision to turn over and crawl away when you’re in the middle of changing his nappy.

Unfortunately, at this time, he is not particularly responsive to reasoning. Why does petulance precede logic in human development.

He has a highly articulate forefinger which he uses to great effect on the television cable box. One moment you’re watching Mr Tumble, the next, a preview of Red Hot Mums.

He does respond to the word: “No,” in that he smiles and carries on regardless.

The glass in the patio doors is opaque from George downwards where he has licked them, splayed his sticky fingers on them or dribbled down them. When we close the sitting room door to stop him going into the kitchen, where the hidden treasures of the bin bag and the recycle bag are a constant attraction, he pings the sprung door-stop. Not just once but over and over.


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He has definite preferences. The board book Bizzy Bear is his favourite, followed by the one with colours, then the one with monsters. He prefers to skim them rather than hear all the words. He mimics a few sounds. He can roar like a lion (“rarr”) and quack like a duck (“ark”) and he does da-da and my husband alleges he called me grandma. If the combination of 15 or more consonants he uttered was indeed “grandma” then George and I are going to need to have a little talk.

He is also keen to entertain in a destructive way. He will sit quietly while you build a construction from wooden bricks to rival, in my humble opinion, anything Sir Norman Foster has come up with in a similar medium and then knock it down. Hammering pegs diverted him for a few seconds until he discovered he could push the pegs through without resorting to a bashing implement. As for the shape sorter, he puts the shapes in through the bottom of the cube rather than faff about selecting the triangular hole for the triangular shape. This seems to me to show genuine problem-solving skills.

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To broaden his horizons we - mummy, daddy, grandpa and me, took him to the park. The children’s playground was a huge success. He chortled with glee on the swings and laughed with delight on the tiny slide.

He was not, sadly, at all impressed with conkers which disappointed his grandpa, who has always collected conkers on his way home from work, through the park.

We reap an enviable conker harvest each year and I have long wondered what (apart from playing conkers) you are supposed to do with them. Some years ago, one magazine recommended putting them in the bottom of the wardrobe to deter moths. This did not work.

My daughter-in-law took some home to put in the corner of the rooms to keep spiders away (she’s read it somewhere). I haven’t tried it but, instinctively, I think it’s unlikely to work.

Searching the net for more ideas, one listed 10 things to do with conkers. My favourite was: “Collect many & bring them into the forest for the animals to eat.” Yes... and where are we collecting them from, exactly?

In 1992, a newspaper came up with 25 tongue-in-cheek ideas. Among them: “Wedge a conker in neck of bottle when drinking Canadian lager - explain that lumberjacks always do this.”

My own suggestion would be to store your conkers in a cool dry place and then, the following autumn, take them back on to the park and, when no-one’s looking, drop them under a horse chestnut tree. Recent news about not taking home too many pebbles off the beach may also extend to fruits of the local government-run forests, it seems, so returning the conkers would at least be mitigating circumstances in the event of a court case.

“Lynne Mortimer, you have pleaded guilty to the theft of 35 top quality conkers and you have asked for 50 other offences, committed over your lifetime, to be taken into account. In sentencing we take into account your guilty plea and your genuine affection for conkers and so we have decided you will attend a Safe Conker course. Now, about those pretty pebbles you collect from the beach...”

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