One of the unexpected delights of growing up has been becoming an aunty.
Much about growing up is not very delightful – handling bad drivers, the tax man and having to get out of bed at 7am in order to toil.
So in this hotbed of evil, I consider my nephew and the blonde curls at the back of his head as a little golden island of warmth.
Last weekend I decided to make the five hour drive to visit him in all his two-and-a-half- year-old glory.
At first he didn’t want to say hello, but merely zoomed around me at high speed giggling.
But he soon began to take a direct interest when he realised I might potentially have a present for him.
Luckily I did, knowing fine well that when I was little I fully expected every visiting adult to have a gift for me and that now I am the adult, I’ve got to honour this time-honoured contract.
I bought with me a bow and arrow set and a small kite.
Before long this was developed into a sport which will no doubt be included in the Olympics at some point in the near future.
It involved me running at high speed from one end of the garden to the other in order to get the kite in the air, while my brother stood in the vegetable patch firing the bow and arrow at the kite.
My nephew, being too young to handle either, was nevertheless overcome with the excitement of running behind me like a small tugboat and screaming: “One, two, three, go! at random interludes.
By teatime, while we sat around the sandpit eating icepops, it was felt that the afternoon could be counted as a resounding success.
After a curry we put the telly on and watched him try to eat a yoghurt with his foot.
The rest of my trip passed in a gentle whirl of playing with toy cars and fire engines, reading King Rollo storybooks and playing monsters with the help of a sleeping bag.
Throughout which I marvelled at what a lovely dad my brother is – full of fun and patience.
The only minor moment of anxiety came when my nephew showed a great reluctance to sing me his flying saucer song.
Everyone else in my family had heard it except me.
I felt hopelessly cast-out by the giant missing hole in my brain where my nephew’s song should have been.
After much gentle, humbling pleading and cajolling he finally relented and I was welcomed into the fold.
It was a very good song, about aliens visiting earth, and the last alien deciding to give up on space travel in order to settle on planet earth.
Come home time I wasn’t keen to leave – hanging out with a small child who spontaneously gives you hugs while putting his hand in your mouth is just too rewarding.