My oldest grandson, Jack, and I are in the mobile phone shop.
Well, it’s not exactly “the” phone shop,
more “a” phone shop. Worthing town centre boasts a considerable number of mobile phone shops, rather more than any self-respecting town centre needs, if you ask me. Which, obviously nobody has. I don’t venture into phone shops on my
own very often. I find they are mostly staffed by Bright Young Things who eye me condescendingly and gabble away about apps and other things which are currently beyond my comprehension but which I’m sure I could grasp if they’d just spend
some time with me.
In Jack’s company, it’s a wholly different experience. He takes me round the shop, introducing me to each and every phone and explaining their best and worst features,
as he sees it. A shop assistant approaches and asks, deferentially, if we need any assistance. Jack waves his hand in a polite but distinctly dismissive gesture, saying, airily: “We’re fine, thanks!”
I nod my head in humble agreement, till I catch sight of myself in the mirror just behind the display of Samsung Galaxy S3s and realise that I look a bit like one of those nodding dogs people
used to place in the rear windows of their cars. I stop nodding. The shop assistant backs away with a “Call me if you need me” and we turn our attention back to the phones on display.
I observe that these so-called smart phones seem to be getting bigger and heavier these days. Jack says this is all the better for playing games – he fiddles about with one of the display phones and brings up a tennis
match as an illustration. He commands the ball in digital flight through a series of infinitesimal flicks of the finger. I watch in awe.
When did he get
to be so clever, so assured, so – grown-up? I marvel.
In the sports shop, he spends ages choosing a new pair of shoes. It took us a long time to find
a shop assistant to help us but once we had secured the services of one, he hovered around us, refusing to let us out of his sight, apparently on account of the number of shoe boxes (3) which we had requested. He obviously thought we were plotting to make
off with at least one pair of Duffers of St George. Jack was unconcerned and determined not to be hurried. Choosing shoes wasn’t just a question of appearance, he told his mother, who was clutching a pair
of something called Converses which she thought would be just the ticket, they had to be comfortable too. I wish I had been so sensible when I was 15, cramming my poor toes into unsuitable shoes which would ruin my feet forever.
It’s reassuring that when we order lunch at the lovely Sea Lane Cafe, Jack reverts to the boy I have always known and orders chicken nuggets and chips. He also, predictably, hands his side salad
over to sister Hazel. We eat companionably, congratulating ourselves on the fact that we have secured a much-sought-after table near the window where we can people-watch to our hearts' content. Jack says that, when patronising the Sea Lane Cafe in future,
we should always eat our lunch at around 2.45 p.m. when the majority of diners have left. At the end of our meal, the Youngest of the Darling Daughters and I are full up (or, as my mother would have said: “f’lup.”) but the kids reckon
they could make room for pudding. Their mum says no way but I make up my mind to look out for the ice-cream van.
It had been a dull and cloudy morning but
now, as we set out for a short walk, a weak but willing sun emerges from behind the clouds where it had been skulking. The sea is the palest of silvery blue, shining and beautiful, stretching out to the distant horizon, a dark blue line far, far away. There
are people on the beach, searching the rocks for seaside creatures. We look at “Isabel’s Seat” and wonder who she was. A few benches along and we find “Janet’s Seat.” We decide they must have been sisters. Hazel
says she would like to be remembered with a bench when she dies and we have an interesting, if slightly macabre, discussion about donating our bodies to medical science when we pop our clogs. It’s a very grown-up conversation, I think and find myself
wondering yet again - what is happening to my Young Ones? When did they get to be so grown-up all of a sudden? And without my permission, too. I am relieved to see the bright red ice-cream van parked on the road ahead – it is just the diversion
“Ice-creams?” I ask. As if at the sound of a starter gun, my oh-so-grown-up grandchildren go racing towards the bright red
van like a couple of overgrown puppies.
Some things never change.