For the last eight months every Thursday and Friday I've been looking after my grandson, who is now about twenty months old, while his mother works. It's an extremely rewarding but also an extremely exhausting experience.
When you have your own children you are so preoccupied with the struggle for survival that you don't have the same opportunity to savour and reflect on the child's development. You're walking around half asleep, concentrating on getting through the day. But as a grandparent, you have the chance to see a process that you've already lived through once, only this time in much finer detail.
My grandson was a little reluctant to start walking. He needed a certain amount of encouragement to get up off all fours. But once he had done so, he discovered that he loved the freedom and power that walking gave him. Just a couple of months after he walked for the first time I found him walking around our house with his eyes shut, just for the hell of it. A few days later he had graduated to walking round and round in circles until he got so dizzy he fell over.
I find that wholehearted delight in learning a really beautiful thing to watch and really inspiring. It reminds me of how, when I first started writing I got really excited every time I learnt a new technique. Like the first time I came across a story written in two entirely different voices. It was The Collector by John Fowles, a story about a young woman who is kidnapped, half of which is told from the woman's point of view and half from the kidnapper's. I was so excited that I immediately had to write my own story using two narrators, each with an utterly different take on the story.
Thirty years later there are still moments like that for me, moments when you are writing just for the hell of it. Eyes shut, dizzy with delight, hardly able to believe that this is what you get paid for doing.