A day with the young and the old

I continue to delight in seeing my granddaughter Catrin whenever I can help out her parents with some childminding. She is now nine months old and at nursery and sometimes – like this Tuesday – I collect her from nursery and look after her for a couple of hours till her parents return from work.

On Fridays, Catrin doesn’t go to nursery but spends the morning at a swimming class which she absolutely loves. This morning, I collected her from her class and looked after her for a while. Her little cheeks were red and hot and I learned later that her first tooth has appeared.

We finished up at the Royal Festival Hall where I bought her a banana. As usual, I sliced it up, mashed it, and served it to her with a spoon. But this time I kept half of the banana unsliced and gave her the chance to eat it herself.  She adores banana and clearly delighted in the opportunity to feed herself.

“I can feed myself, granddad”

Sitting next to us on the couch was an old man and I engaged him in conversation. He was a Russian who was 75 years old and, as I asked him about his life, a remarkable story was revealed.

He was born in a town called Rostov-on-Don in the south-west of the Soviet Union. In 1942 – when he was just five years old – the German army was sweeping through the Soviet Union and the local authorities were gripped with Stalinist paranoia.

One day, the KGB picked up his father who was never seen again. A few weeks later, they came for his older brother who similarly was never heard of again. So the family fled Russia. They travelled through Azerbaijan and eventually reached Iran where they lived for a while before moving on to India where they witnessed the slaughter between Hindus and Muslims with Indian independence. Finally the family managed to reach Britain where they made their home.

It was magical to see fresh-faced, nine month old Catrin and this 75 year old man with a troubled life etched on his face looking at each other and smiling together.


  • Jared

    OK, now that is an amazing story. I had the chance to visit Russia for a month after graduating high school in 1989. It was an amazing experience and something I think a lot of people should get to do (experience other cultures). Seeing how other lived in a different part of the world really shaped the way I see people and other cultures today.

    On a recent trip to Belize I met a man who’s trying to encourage a new… trend I guess or process for non-profit organizations. It’s known as PhilanthroTourism; just imagine that if on a vacation you spent just an hour or half day donating your time to a needy local cause.

    Sorry, I digress. 🙂

    Great photo, what a cutie! I’ll bet the contrast of Catrin sitting next to that old man was a touching image. so many things to see and hope for in that contrast.

  • Roger Darlington

    Yes, Jared, Catrin really is a sweetie and I feel so privileged to spend time with her. Meeting the old Russian and hearing his story was amazing.

    I agree with you about experiencing different cultures. I’m guessing that you’re American and of course most Americans have never left the USA. I’ve been fortunate to visit 56 other countries.

    I love the PhilanthroTourism idea.

  • Jared

    Wow, 56 other countries. That’s pretty cool.


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