My two grandsons are staying with us here in Provence for a week. Roman soldier Catriona flew from Marseille to Stansted and back in a day to get them out. Oscar, aged 11, is a regular summer visitor and knows the ropes. Klynton, ten, is here for the first time.
Klynton is what used to be described as ‘a bit slow’. At school he stays two years in the same class to everyone else’s one. He is a cheerful, polite lad with a phenomenal memory for football statistics. He can hardly dress himself but can tell you that last season Sadio Mané scored 11 goals with seven assists and is 29 years old and 175cm tall. Also, he tells me, he hasn’t seen his grandad for two years and one month.
Normally Klynton leads an orderly life centred on a shared bedroom in a very small house in Basingstoke in which there is no hugging. Led by a weary Catriona, the two brothers came crunching up the path at midnight dressed head to toe in Primark. Klynton’s T- shirt said ‘Global’; Oscar’s said ‘Future’. Our first cuddle for more than two years in the warm darkness was a clumsy one.
Today is the third day of their week-long visit, which has coincided exactly with a heatwave. During the day Klynton bears the 40ºC of heat stoically under a broken Panama hat with a paisley-pattern headband.
Factors here other than the heat which are most surprising to Klynton are that people speak a different language; that Grandad is bald and plays blues harmonica into an amped microphone with his eyes closed, moving his body ecstatically; that otherwise Grandad prefers to lie down if possible; that apparently all of Grandad’s friends live in enormous villas with private swimming pools set in botanical gardens; and that the ants are so big.