“She’s twelve now. Don’t you think it would be a good idea if Cassie could try to lose some weight before she hits her teens?” said Dorothy, noticing her plump granddaughter red-faced and out of breath as she carried the shopping bags up the hill.
“It’s her glands, Mum,” said her daughter Katherine. “She’s always had problems with her glands.”
Dorothy bit back her reply. What she had wanted to say was that the only gland to blame for Cassie’s excess weight was the one in the middle of her face that she kept filling with cake and crisps. The contents of the shopping bag bore testament to the family’s diet: frozen pizza, sausage rolls, lemon gateau … Dorothy sighed as Cassie emptied the bag on the kitchen table.
“You could all do with cutting back on the junk food,” she said.
“We can’t all afford to buy that organic stuff like you,” retorted Katherine. “You’re forgetting that I have three children to feed, and no man to provide for us. The cost of food goes up and up each week.”
“All the more reason to stop buying what you don’t need, dear. Darren could also do with losing a few pounds, and Amber is chubby for her age.”
“Amber’s just a toddler, and Darren’s only got a bit of puppy fat. I think it’s cruel to put children on strict diets. Anyway none of them really like vegetables.”
Dorothy knew that no matter how she tried to get her daughter to see sense she was wasting her breath. Katherine herself was a large woman, looking older than her thirty-one years. She’d suffered with diabetes since her early twenties and now had to inject herself with insulin. Dorothy wished Katherine would stop blaming everyone but herself for her weight problems, sort herself out, and take responsibility for feeding her children a healthy diet before they too ended up with diabetes. It was horrifying that a disease which had been rare in Dorothy’s post-war childhood was now commonplace and becoming more so with each decade.
“I’d better be on my way,” said Dorothy. “I’m going out with the Ramblers this afternoon, we’re walking along the canal to Goytre Wharf. It’s a nice day, why don’t you all come?”
“No thanks, Mum. Anyway, what about your arthritis? Your feet must be in agony after such a long walk.”
“Since I got those supports from the podiatrist I’m much better. I’m determined not to let a few creaky joints stop me from getting out in the fresh air. Your Dad and I have started jogging too, we do about half an hour on Sunday mornings. And I go to Zumba on Tuesday nights. People of all ages and sizes join in. You should give it a try.”
“Think I’ll pass. Exercise is boring.”
As she walked back down the hill Dorothy couldn’t help thinking that staying in and watching TV had to be more boring.
The walk to Goytre Wharf was every bit as lovely as Dorothy had anticipated. The canal was full of ducks and ducklings, and they even saw a heron standing on the opposite bank. However it took off like a dart as soon as it sensed their presence. Dorothy returned home a little weary after her twelve mile trek, but full of the joys of her afternoon out.
“That’s a walk I wouldn’t mind doing again,” she said to her husband Richard as she prepared their dinner.
“I’d enjoy that, love. I could take my camera.”
Their conversation was interrupted by the telephone. It was Katherine.
“I’m at the hospital,” she said. “I’ve had a hypo, a bad one. Trouble is, they need to keep me in for a few days. The kids are with my friend Mary at the moment, but can they come and stay with you until I’m back home?”
“Of course, Kate,” said Richard, a frown crossing his face. “What’s Mary’s address? We’ll pick them up shortly.”
Dorothy shook her head sadly when she heard what had happened.
“I was just talking to Katherine earlier about diet and exercise. Maybe this will shake her up a bit. It’s bad enough that she’s so unhealthy, but I worry about those children.”
“At least they’ll get some proper home cooking for the next few days,” said Richard with a smile.
However Dorothy and Richard hadn’t expected their grandchildren to be such picky eaters.
“What’s this green stuff?” said Darren, suspiciously poking the spinach on his plate.
“I don’t like carrots,” added Cassie.
“I don’t like the brown stuff on my potatoes,” grumbled Amber.
“That’s their skins, dear. They’re good for you, full of vitamins and fibre.”
“Sounds disgusting,” said Cassie. “I’m not eating any.”
“Nor am I,” chorused the other two.
“I want some crisps,” whined Amber.
Dorothy knew she was facing a battle, but it was one she was determined to win. The following morning she filled five bowls with wholegrain cereal and chopped fruit.
“Breakfast’s ready, kids,” she called up the stairs.
“I never eat breakfast,” replied Cassie.
“Everyone in this house eats breakfast,” said Dorothy firmly. “If the three of you don’t come down this instant there’ll be no television tonight.”
“That was yummy,” said Darren, spooning the last of the milk into his mouth.
“It was okay,” said Cassie resentfully, but Dorothy noticed she’d eaten it all. And so had Amber. She sent the two older children off to school with packed lunches.
Mealtime wasn’t the only battleground with the grandchildren as it turned out. They had a habit of staying up far too late watching television.
“At home we have TV in our rooms,” said Cassie. “And Darren has an X-Box too.”
“Bedrooms are for sleeping,” said Richard. “Amber should be in bed by seven o’clock, but you two older ones can stay up until nine.”
“That’s not fair!” shouted Darren. “I’ll miss Supernatural!”
“You can stay up a bit later on Friday and Saturday night, but on school nights you need to get to bed earlier. You need plenty of sleep for your brain to take in all that education.”
“Thanks, love,” said Dorothy when the kids were finally in their beds. “I couldn’t manage without you.”
“I suppose that’s part of the problem with Kate,” said Richard. “She’s on her own.”
“I still think she needs to try a bit harder. She’s making a rod for her own back letting those three do as they please.”
Two days later Katherine was released from hospital and the children went home. Dorothy rang her daughter the following day to make sure she was all right.
“Much better thanks, Mum. By the way, what soup were you giving the kids? Amber says she won’t eat that muck out of a tin any more. She says she wants proper soup like you make.”
“I’ll bring you the recipe later,” said Dorothy, pleased that she’d made an impression on Amber at least.
“And perhaps you could bring me some of your cereal. They seem to have all gone off chocolate pops.”
By Karenne Griffin
Last Modified on: 05-11-2015