Grand-daughter Hazel phones me on my mobile. She is stalking the aisles of her local Tesco's in search of dinner.
I rather suspect she has rung me by accident but she
assures me she really did want to talk to me. Do I have any good ideas, she asks me, what she can buy to make a tasty meal for friends Zoe, Tom and, of course, herself? So far they haven't been able to conjure up a single proposal which meets everybody's taste
I don't know why she is asking me. Mr B and I have the "What Shall We Have For Dinner?" conversation every single morning but it never gets any easier. Each of us in turn will put forward a suggestion
which will be pooh-poohed by the other as (i) too filling; (ii) not filling enough; (iii) too bland; (iv) too spicy; or (v) too soon since the last time we had it. Eventually we settle on something we both feel like eating but it is, indeed, a tortuous process.
I have, in the past, wondered aloud to Mr B about maybe planning ahead, drawing up dinner menus for every day for a fortnight, then going back to Meal One at the end of the two weeks. Like School Dinners, I explain.
It probably wasn't the best example. Mr B's memories of school dinners are clearly not of gourmet meals.
So, what to suggest to my grand-daughter? How about the wherewithal for an easy chicken curry? I venture.
Perhaps with garlic bread? "Garlic bread..." muses Hazel. She has to go, she tells me hurriedly, but I have been very, very helpful...
I find out later that she didn't take up my advice in its totality. Her
mother, the Youngest of the Darling Daughters, tells me that the evening meal which had been the subject of so much discussion turned out to be a not particularly appetising or adventurous mix of chicken goujons, potato wedges and pizza slices. Oh, and yes,
there was garlic bread...
It seems that it is my afternoon for phone calls from grand-daughters; the next time my mobile rings it's Eleanor, on her way home from her Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Qualifying Expedition
and phoning from the car to tell me all about it.
I can tell, even at a distance, how happy she is not only to have survived the challenge of spending the night in a "wild camp" with a group of young people
she had never met before - but to have thoroughly enjoyed herself. She is proud to report that on the final day it was her skill with a compass - credit being due, she confided, to lengthy lessons from older sister, Katie, veteran of several D of E expeditions
- that saw her group back on the right forest track. At the final debriefing, I hear, when everyone in the group was asked to describe the strengths of their fellows, every single one mentioned Eleanor's "navigational skills."
I think it is safe to say that she didn't inherit this skill from her grandmother. Though I did learn how to use a compass when I was a Girl Guide, many moons ago. I wonder if I can remember? Is it the kind of skill you never lose, like riding a bicycle?
Mr B says he has seen me riding a bicycle and it wasn't a great display of skill as he remembers it. This does not bode well.
For Eleanor, I gather, the truly inspirational part of the whole experience wasn't
the pitching of the tent, the cooking of the food, the sleeping in the Great Outdoors. No, it was the forest - the stunningly beautiful New Forest, ever-changing but always the same. "It was beautiful enough just driving through it," my Intrepid One reminds
me, "but walking through it all day - well that was something else..."
I am very, very proud of her, I say - but the truth is there is someone even prouder of what she as achieved than I am.
That's Our Eleanor.