Time is often described by Buddhists and fantasy writers of a certain stripe as being a wheel. A constant, unending revolving reel of events that, whilst discrete, are connected. One leads inexorably to another. The other is shaped by the first. And so on, and so on.
That which was will be. That which will be, was.
Say that after a few drinks.
And indeed, as a recipe for karmic recompense it makes sense. If you do this thing, or follow this path, there will be consequences.
Where the theory falls down somewhat is in the attitude of grandparents. Most significantly, all the rules and regulations viz-a-viz your childhood have been cast aside with the gusto of a fat man forcibly removing any elderly relatives standing between him and the lone plate of cake at the wedding buffet of health freaks.
When my brothers and I were lads, and like many people of my generation, our food supply was coloured by whatever fad diet happened to be in vogue that month. From cabbage soup (shudder) to turkey bacon (an affront to both turkey and bacon), we tried it all.
Mum must have read somewhere that courgettes were a superfood (although, I think this was before superfoods existed; we just called them veg) and the key to getting healthy and slim. So it went that a large number of my meals included piles of boiled courgettes.
Now courgettes can be very delicious, perhaps if they are fried in a little olive oil with some shaved garlic. Or as the basis for a tomato rich ratatouille. Or stuffed with a deeply, savoury ragu. All great.
Courgettes, boiled until yellow, do not appear on any list of ‘1001 things to eat before you die’.
To be fair to my mum, her aim was always a laudable, if slightly soggy, effort to provide healthy foods. So we’d grow up big and strong and not have scurvy.
Not so with the boy. Oh no, now it’s his turn it’s all treats and nice stuff.
Take the other day for example. We all piled out to the pub for lunch and the boy, being both male and my son, instantly noticed the food on the table. With a similar approach to a wolf singling out the weak of the flock the boy stood next to his Nanny and started pointing at chips.
‘Nuh’ he said with eyebrows raised.
‘Do you want a chip?’ said my mum.
‘I’d like a chip’ I said. I was ignored. Possibly because I had my own chips and was quite obviously taking the piss.
‘Who wants a chip?’ said my mum, picking one from the small metal buckets they were served in and holding it out to him.
‘Nuh’ said the boy. He gently reached out his tiny little hand and curled his tiny little fingers around the chip. Then like a steel trap, his arm snapped back and the chip went hurtling into his mouth. He chewed for a while and then slowly extended his now empty hand for another.
This went on for quite some time. I believe he finished the majority of my mum’s chips.
What a tinker.
This sudden dietary laxness is only a small symptom of a wider issue.
Basically, children can do what the bloody hell they like when they’re at their grandparents.
Parents, by their very role, are required to be both good and bad cop. To set boundaries and limits of behaviours. To not cave just because their son has decided that he wants to eat toothpaste and they’ve taken it away and waaaahhhhhhh wah wah (pause for dramatic effect) waaahhhhhhhhhh, etc. etc.
Grandparents don’t have to. They can be a permissive treat dispensing machine, always ready to give the little one a cuddle or take them to the park and then, when the nappy has been filled, or the wailing gets too loud, they can hand them back and head on home.
I’m sure as the boy grows he will become ever more aware of this, using it to his mercenary, chip-acquiring advantage.
And that’s fine. For whilst I am sat watching in amazement at my mum’s resolve crumbling like England’s batsmen, I know that it is exactly what would have happened around 31 years ago when my grandparents were slipping me illicit fried foods.
The lifecycle of a grandparent is therefore one that starts a generation before, hatched by grandparents of yore, and having lain dormant for half a century in a cocoon of adult responsibility, emerges fully-formed, mischievous and ready to hand out sweets.
It is also beautiful to look at.