Having a ball

Friday 29th July 2011

CART-wheels were once part of the repertoire. I yield to the goading, produce something resembling a buffalo in a ballet class, avoid damage to elderly joints, come up smiling.

“Good. Well done, Granddappy.”

Is there a word for when children pat their elders on the head: a sort of rôle-reversal version of patronising?

“Hand-stand? Forward roll?”

“No way. I could try a sausage roll. Isn’t it lunchtime? Why did the garden fence? Because it saw the window box.” May not have the athleticism of youth, but the old fella can still execute a tidy distracción doble.

The girls go back to bouncing on the trampoline. I find pasta, recalling childhood summers of swings and rounders, of worn lawns, of clambering into next doors’ garden to retrieve hits for six.

Over lunch we play Suitcases, packing as much as we can beginning with the letter P: pineapple, porcupine, Paris, people (to stroll about on the boulevards), pickles, porridge, pizza, a piano…

“Granddappy! There won’t be room for a piano as well!”

“Yes, there will. It’s a baby grand.”

My oldest granddaughter, dry of wit, hopes there’s still enough room in the suitcase for a pin. Her sisters sprawl on the lawn, cartoon cat and mouse. Who needs videos or Alton Towers? This is as good as it gets.

Of all garden toys, my favourite must be the Velcro tennis ball and mittens.

Now I’m a coach, throwing catches, lobbing it against walls and on to the sloping roof, to skirling giggles when it lands with a plop on a tummy in the hammock.

And this is something I can still do well: chucking a ball about. Reflexes reasonably sharp; hand-eye radar on full alert; the satisfying slap of sphere landing in palm. Even the frozen shoulder is forgotten.

Until, of course, she hurls an excited sling-shot up into the clouds, way out of reach, and over the fence into the garden of the couple next door who’ll both be out at work.

It matters not, for we have but an hour left. Drinks, biscuits, a flopping on the sofa.

“Now, let’s count up to one together.”

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