here yesterday afternoon. The eldest is the one learning conjuring tricks from the Senior Cat. The younger two, twins, do some old-fashioned craft project.
The twins are a boy and a girl. The boy is like a jack-in-the-box. He springs out of his chair. He is constantly on the move. He talks - a lot. His sister is much quieter. Give her something to do and she sets about it quietly and methodically.
I get out of the house while they are here. It is not because I dislike them - I do like them - but because they have come to see the Senior Cat. They don't want me in the way. They never want to leave and the question at the end of every time they are here is, "When's next time?"
Their mother says they look on the Senior Cat as their grandfather - and yes, he spoils them the way a grandparent would. They get biscuits and cordial for afternoon tea instead of the usual piece of fruit. There is always something to take home = something they have made themselves. They are not aware of it but they have managed to learn a new skill.
"You're not really old are you? I don't want you to be old," the boy twin told the Senior Cat.
Most grandparents of children that age are much younger than the Senior Cat. Many of them are more like parents. They are taking on the responsibilities of parents. They sometimes see children to school. They often pick them up in the afternoons and ferry them to after school activities, supervise homework, provide the after-school snack and even the evening meal. They will baby-sit and childmind so that the parents can go out - and not always because they want to do it but because there is an element of emotional blackmail there, "If you really loved me then you would look after the children."
That's bad enough at times but, this morning, I came across another way of abrogating your responsibility as a parent. There is a suggestion that the "clubs" could provide child care services in return for a tax break on their "pokie" machines.
Pay for your childcare by gambling?
I think not. It is an appalling message to send to parents, to the children when they are sufficiently old enough to understand and to the community at large.
I can't help wondering what will happen to some of these children. Their grandparents are more like parents to many of them. Their parents are the people they see briefly - and the people who are already indicating that they have no intention of doing what their parents do for them.
Most of these children will never get to really know a Senior Cat. I think they need one.