David Randall: Baby Jack's arrival makes me a grandad

Musings on the milestones along the way to old age

Related Topics

Age, in my experience (I'm 59), does not so much creep up on you as – at increasingly regular intervals – leap out from behind a hedge and go "Boo!" when you least expect it. That first jolting moment when your doctor suggests a full health check ("just to make sure there's no nasties, old chap"); the day you realise that your mouth is now a knacker's yard and not a healthy colony of enamel; the first of your children's weddings; the sudden death from a heart attack in a Norfolk pub of the best man at your own wedding; and the news, given to me late last year, that you will be a grandfather.

"It's wonderful," goes the compilation of what old, experienced hands told me as we waited for the birth, "Better than having your own children... You've got real time to spend with them... All the fun and none of the worry... Power without responsibility... Best thing that ever happened to me..."

I was not entirely convinced. After all, you can kid yourself about a lot of things as the years go by – that you can still run for trains, play 18 holes of golf without a buggy, and that those grey hairs actually look more sun-bleached blond in a certain light), but the arrival of a third generation defeats any attempts at self-delusion. In a year or so's time, a little person will call you Grandad. There is no arguing with that. No amount of wearing leisure shirts outside your trousers and gelling your hair will hide it. You are now, in his mind and everyone else's, the sort of cardiganed old sort who hands out Werther's Originals. It's like getting your first mailshot from a funeral director.

He arrived on Tuesday (courtesy of a magnificent performance by my daughter-in-law, Alison, and two vigilant and constantly encouraging midwives at Mayday University Hospital in Croydon), his name is Jack, all was well, and, by the standards of babies, looked remarkably acceptable. His father – not normally noted for his sentimentality – could hardly take his wondering eyes off him. And my previous, silly, ambivalence about becoming a grandfather was forgotten in the two hours after the birth it took my wife and me to ring everyone we had ever met, and scoot up to the hospital, cameras in hand.

Before we left, I had done something which may be thought surprising, and yet within which I think lurks one of the real significances of what had just happened. I went upstairs to my home office, logged on to my Ancestry family tree, and added Jack, the first of our new generation. Nor was this spontaneous. Throughout the seemingly interminable months of pregnancy (why does it still take nine months, for heaven's sake? Isn't it about time modern medicine streamlined the process?), I found myself looking forward to the moment when I would be able to slot Jack's name into the long record of fertile (but otherwise undistinguished) Randalls. He was not just a new life, but a continuation.

This summer, prompted in part by recent family deaths and the imminent new arrival, we had journeyed down to Devon to explore my wife's roots, and to Wiltshire to fumble around in mine. Several hundred years ago, my ancestors infested North Bradley, near Trowbridge, and it was here that my great-great-great-grandfather was born, out of wedlock to a weaver's daughter. It was he who came to London as an apprentice cordwainer, and founded the line whose latest manifestation is young Jack.

We went to the ancient church of St Nicholas, and, encouraged by a woman who changed the flowers, hit upon a plan. This winter, we will bring Jack here to be blessed in the church where his great-great-great-great-great-grandfather was baptised exactly 200 years ago. We hope, when he grows up, that the knowledge of this will make Jack realise that he is part of something bigger than himself – even if it is only our family.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions