Comment: There's no one quite like grandpa

These days they don't get round to thinking about having babies until they are almost pensioners
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WE ARE a grandfather. I thought I'd never say that. Over 10 years I've waited. Had the tree house ready, the camp in the garden built, the battered Beatrix Potters neatly laid out, the old Spurs programmes lined up, but of course these days they don't get round to thinking of having babies till they're almost pensioners, unless you are the Beckhams. Then a baby almost becomes a fashion accessory. Becks and Posh's parents must be ever so pleased that little Brooklyn arrived when they themselves are still so young to enjoy him.

Which of course I am, really, hence I bounded off last week to catch my first glimpse of my first ever grandchild. They timed it badly, having this baby, as we are at present living in Lakeland. If only they had waited for that half of the year when we live in London. So thoughtless.

When we live up here, we always make a vow not to go anywhere near London - ugh, nasty place, full of Nick Leesons - but so far this summer I've twice had to break my rule. I had to go to Tobago, on a job, and that was bad enough. I had never appreciated all these years being based in London, what an advantage it is, being based in London.

Poor provincials have their journey doubled, just getting themselves to Gatwick airport. Took me forever, to drive to Manchester, then get the plane down, then have an overnight at Gatwick. I was knackered before I'd even got on the BA plane to Tobago. Which then went via San Juan.

I was determined this time not to have an overnight, but getting there and back in a day from Penrith depends, of course, on Virgin trains being on time.

It was so strange, arriving as a day tripper in London, seeing all the Londoners, how scruffy they all look in Camden Town and Kentish Town, so deprived, poor things, so unhealthy. I mean, how can anyone live there?

We went straight to the Royal Free Hospital, which wasn't much better, so full of people, many of them definitely unhealthy, and up to the fifth floor to the maternity ward.

I had my video whirring, the moment I stepped into the ward, and got some excellent shots of a cleaner, vacuuming the floor. Great sound effects as well. Then I found the right bed and the right baby.

Amelia Louise she's called; nice name, huh? We're going to call her Amy. My wife, who is totally tone deaf, and knows only two tunes, one being the National Anthem, insisted on singing a song called "I'm in love with Amy". Which will sound hellish on my video.

The baby was born three weeks early, weighing 5lbs 4oz, in such a hurry to see the world she couldn't wait. Jake, our son, the proud father, and Rosa, our daughter-in-law, yes they are married, quite unusual these days, let me hold little Amy. I was so scared I'd drop her, or lose her in my shirt and shorts. Aren't little babies so sort of, well, little? It's always a miracle, every time, seeing humankind in miniature.

Yes, the shorts. They won't appear on the video. When I gave the camera to our daughter Flora, who was also there, cooing by the bedside, she said: "I'm not taking you in those shorts. I'll shoot you from the waist up only." My wife then started: "I told him not to. Coming to London for the day in shorts. He just looks ludicrous."

But it wasn't my day. It was Amy's. I have captured her for posterity, just three days old. Such a shame she never opened her eyes, but she did do a lot of premier-league yawning. I took all our own three children, at the same age, but I had a silent Super-8 thing in those days which came in three minute films which then had to be sent away to be processed.

When I tried to splice them together, I always seemed to burn huge holes in vital bits, so Jake at three days looks as if he's been born in the middle of a lightning storm.

Modern camcorders are brilliant, catching every thing, and you can play it back at once, which I did on the train home observing Amy's every movement, every sound. Shame about the vacuum cleaner, but I can edit that out later.

The film will be totally, completely boring to everyone not directly related to Amy, a sort of stupefyingly surreal film, with endless close- ups of nothing at all happening, like one of Yoko Ono's films from the Sixties. The one she did of a match being struck, then shown in slow motion. That was my favourite. And it did have a moral. You see it striking into life, flickering, then fading. As we all do. Jolly significant, that.

The film of Amy is equally significant, to me. I have always yearned to be a grandfather, for the obvious soppy, romantic reasons. I wanted to see them, play with them. But I also wanted proof that life goes on. That's significant.

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