It's happened. He's arrived, a little later than scheduled after having us all on tenterhooks for about a fortnight. Samuel, our first grandchild. I can now appreciate Margaret Thatcher's triumphant glee when she told the world "We are a grandmother!"

It's a major milestone in your life. You raise your children until they grow up and leave home. And then you enter a sort of limbo. Oh, you busy yourself with plenty of things. There's lots to do, fun to be had in your new-found freedom.

But sophisticated though we might pretend to be, we are subject to the basic instinctive rules which govern the behaviour of all animals. Our prime purpose is to oversee the development of our young to the stage at which they are capable of looking after themselves. And then we must let them go.

But when they've gone, that instinct doesn't disappear. It just gets shunted into a siding where it waits for another lot of young to come along.

And that's what has happened. A new generation has begun. Our daughter and her husband have produced a son and turned this pair of middle-aged rock 'n' rollers into doting grandparents. All those feelings of pride and protectiveness which we felt when we first became parents more than 30 years ago have reawakened.

He's beautiful. He's sturdy. He's bright and alert. His head swings round to follow sound. His eyes track movement and light. His limbs and back are strong. He cranes his neck already, not content to let his head lie against your chest. He's the finest baby in the universe!

I watch his mother, the lovely young woman who not all that long ago, it seems, was a sturdy baby herself, pick him up and nurse him with confidence born of the awakening of the maternal instinct. She doesn't handle him like a fragile flower. She understands, after all those hours in the delivery room, that babies are made tough. They have to be to force their way into the world.

She hands him to his father, who holds him with a gentle firmness. They have both taken quickly and easily to parenthood.

And the woman who shares Priestley Towers with me has taken quickly and easily to grandparenthood. She has come into her own. She knows the ropes. It's as if it was only yesterday that she was dealing with our own babies.

When it's my turn I hold him, his head in the crook of my arm, my hand supporting his back, looking in wonder at the delicately-veined lids covering his sleeping eyes, and I can't help thinking of all those children born to hardship and neglect.

No chance of that for Samuel, mercifully. This is a blessed child. He has loving (though sleep-starved) parents, four besotted grandparents, four proud great grandparents, and several delighted aunts and uncles.

I feel a gentle tremor as he sighs. His hands flex and a frown passes swiftly across his face. Silently, I wish him health, happiness and success in whatever he chooses to do or be. Because his life is a blank page. He can write anything he wants on it.

Who knows what things he will do, what sights he will see in this fast-changing world of ours. The future is always uncertain. But for the moment, for all of us, life is sweet.

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.