Post Style: The World According to Sid Langley

Article excerpt

Evelyn Waugh was asked to keep an eye on his six-year-old son Auberon for a few minutes one afternoon. Mother and servants were seeing to some pressing domestic task and needed the child out of the way. But the literary giant refused point blank.

Not because he was over-busy on a new book or because there was a fascinating talk by an eminent academic on the Home Service or a concert on the Third Programme.

His reason? "He is not yet a fit companion for me." Obviously the lad was not able to swap Latin epigrams or play chess to Grandmaster level, discuss how Herr Hitler had certainly got it right and how these Yids and Blacks were ruining the world for all civilised people.

The story came back to me at the weekend as the new century slowly gathered pace around me.

I am sitting on the second or third tread of our open-plan staircase. On the step above me is my granddaughter Jessica, 14 months old. A totally fit companion for me.

I like sitting on our stairs. They've taken a fair hammering since we moved in - the first residents - 24 years ago.

Jess likes sitting on our stairs. It means she can peer through the slatted wooden side-rails and look down at whoever is in the sitting room. It's a life-sized version of the peep-o books she likes so much.

Of course, she can't be allowed on the stairs on her own (there's normally a safety gate) and I invariably accompany her.

Today we keep halting to perform a few experiments with a toilet roll and a small jar of Vick, the dark blue one with a green lid. As the adult, I have to make sure the lid stays on the Vick and that not too many strips of loo paper are floated on to the tea drinkers below.

Jess, for her part, is showing me how the jar will drop into the centre of the loo roll. With quite a thump on our uncarpeted wooden treads. You drop it in and it vanishes.

Then, when you grab the loo roll and lift it up, the jar - or one uncannily like it - appears again, all shiny blue. She looks at the jar and looks at me with the faintest hint of a smile.

And the amazing thing is, she seems to be telling me, is that this happens every single time! Look I'll do it again. The jar goes in, the loo roll comes up and there it is again. And it's always worth a smile, this tiny blue miracle. …