Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Tuesday 28th November 2017

A DODGY few days for grandparents, who have been accused of causing everything from obesity to cancer by spoiling the nippers rotten.

It’s high time somebody stood up for grandparents, for where would we be without them? Instead of finger-wagging chastisement, their value to society should be lauded.

A study by the University of Glasgow of 15,000 three-year-olds found those looked after by their maternal grandmother were 20 per cent. more like to be on the chubby side. The conclusion was that when the older generation “demonstrate their love” with goodies and extra portions, the health of their grandchildren may be suffering.

It’s really rather offensive to categorise grandparents as indulgent and misinformed, using food as an emotional tool within their relationships with grandchildren. Absolute nonsense. The world would be in one heck of a mess without granny and grandad. They are increasingly involved in children’s lives as more mothers choose to work and childcare costs rocket. In many families it’s the grandparents who are effectively raising the kids.

At the 2015 election David Cameron promised to double free childcare from 15 hours a week to 30, yet only this week came new figures from Ofsted that more than 1,000 nurseries and childminders have gone out of business since that Tory manifesto was published.

In the UK grandparents are estimated to save parents billions every year in childcare costs. So what if they give the kids the occasional treat? Isn’t that what grandmas do? There’s a special bond between grandparents and grandchildren which I suspect the academics at the University of Glasgow may not comprehend. Exactly how many grandmas and grandads were questioned as part of their study?

At least the study acknowledged the “significant” roles in supporting grandchildren and improving their emotional wellbeing. In this have-it-all day and age I strongly suspect it’s the grandparents who often provide much of children’s moral upbringing and furnish the essential balance in their young lives.

I regret having had virtually no grandparents. In my father’s case, his mother and father were dead long before I was born. All I have of them is a faded photograph. My grandfather, a stern Methodist preacher, all in black with a flowing white beard: his wife, hair in an austere-looking bun, for all the world looking like an elderly version of Queen Victoria.

My maternal grandfather died in his 30s, victim of what today would be termed an industrial disease. He worked in a factory where there was noxious dust which gave him cancer. No compensation in those days. Five children had to go out to work and my grandma somehow managed.

As a youngster, we used to spend our annual holiday visiting granny. She was kindly, old-fashioned and spoilt me rotten. Most of all I remember she had a budgie which defeated all her attempts to make it talk. These are the little things you remember with such fondness.

When the study’s lead author, Dr. Stephanie Chambers, refers to grandparents having an “adverse effect” on youngsters’ health, with issues including treating, overfeeding and lack of physical activity, it’s a cold and negative reflection of relationships which are generally warm and caring.

There’s so much of value about the grandparents’ role. They deserve better than the guilt trip this latest study throws in their direction. Enemies of a generation of children or national treasures? I think I know where readers’ views lie.


HARRY Thirkettle. Does the name mean anything to you? Dr. Thirkettle is the chap who recently came up with the idea of people putting beds in their homes at the disposal of the NHS for 50 quid a night to relieve some of the pressure on overflowing hospital wards.

He is chief medical officer of CareRooms, the organisation behind the scheme, and a part-time A&E doctor. His idea received short shrift from fellow medics and the media, but was it worthy of more consideration?

After all, that ghastly “bedblocking” description continues to plague hospitals. It’s a killer and a waste of NHS funds. Surely the rooms-for-patients study merits more than dismissal as an unworkable concept.

Yes, I can think of a dozen reasons why not. Insurance, safeguarding, vetting of homes, visitors, after-care, catering just some of them. However, Dr. Thirkettle argues that many patients would prefer a couple of nights in a comfy bed to a stay in hospital while recuperating from minor surgery such as knee replacement.

It might appeal to only a small number of patients, but nobody is suggesting that the beds would be more than a transitional part of recovery, a couple of nights perhaps, not some long stay for a seriously ill patient.

Opponents have been quick to draw a grim picture of the exploitation of sick patients as home owners look to make a quick profit from their misfortune, but Dr. Thirkettle’s proposal advocates nothing like that. These would be patients with minor ailments who ideally would prefer to complete their recovery at home under an efficient after-care service, but for various reasons need that halfway house.

Put it this way, if you’ve just had a minor op, would you fare better in an over-worked hospital with superbugs flying around, or enjoy a couple of nights’ rest and recuperation where you’ve got a bed and en-suite bathroom all to yourself.

Critics of the scheme are appalled at thoughts of the NHS contracting out patient care. But with hospital beds at a premium, surely it’s worth an independent study before it’s dismissed as a non-starter.

There will be ex-nurses, people qualified in caring, who might welcome the opportunity to offer their skills to a harassed NHS by putting their spare room at the disposal of someone who is almost ready to be discharged but just needs that extra few nights to make the step from hospital to home. Not such a daft idea after all.


I RECKON I’ve been to most places up north, but I confess Tan Hill and its famous inn have thus far eluded my attention. I’ve not been there, but then again neither has Waitrose, and the supermarket is using the snowbound scene in its Christmas TV advert.

Tan Hill is somewhere between North Westmorland — with an 11-mile drive to the nearest town, Kirkby Stephen — and the Yorkshire Dales. Look it up on the map and you will see what I mean. They boast that the inn, 1,732ft above sea level, is the “top of the world”. Everest is higher, but then again it hasn’t got a pub on the summit.

As the major stores join battle for the prize of the most watched Christmas advert, Waitrose’s use of Tan Hill is an example of creative marketing. Its nearest store is at Hexham and Tan Hill is not even on the company’s delivery route.

But still, don’t let a touch of reality spoil a good advert for the inn where Ted Moult — my mother’s favourite — made that classic 1980s feather-at-the-window film to promote Everest glazing. Moult, a Derbyshire farmer, became a popular TV and radio personality after appearing first on radio’s Brain of Britain in the 50s. Farmer Ted appeared in the very first Countdown on Channel 4, but ironically it was his Tan Hill advert that most people remember him for. He came to a tragic end in 1986 when he took his own life after a difficult period for farming.

I’m definitely feeling the urge to follow in the footsteps of a whole army of celebrities who have visited Tan Hill Inn, from Arctic Monkeys to Jeremy Clarkson. But, having seen the snow on Waitrose’s exercise in nostalgia, I think I’ll leave it until the summer.


ADVENT is a season observed in many Christian churches as a time for waiting and preparation for the Nativity.

Greggs could hardly have been more crass than when it pictured Three Wise Men surveying in wonder a large half-eaten sausage roll in the crib where one would have expected to see the baby Jesus. But the company might unwittingly have done vicars everywhere a big favour.

I imagine Greggs’ blunder has figured in sermons up and down the land with a message about the real meaning of Christmas. The North East firm’s blunder attracted worldwide publicity, and so did Jesus, as it happens.

And was it that much more offensive than those calendars with windows hiding chocolate and booze behind them? They are also about commerce rather than a religious season. At least Greggs got Jesus on the telly and the front pages for Christmas. Who would care to deny that God moves in mysterious ways?