GRANDMOTHER Jane Jackson is wrapping her Christmas presents. It's a scene
being repeated in households across the land as the countdown to the
festive season begins in earnest.
No surprise, either, to discover the gift is one destined for her
There is one significant difference, however, which sets Jane Jackson
aside from the majority of doting grandmothers.
Jane, you see, will send off her present aware of the heartbreaking
reality she will not hear from her grand-daughter.
No acknowledgement, no Christmas card, no contact.
Why? Because the relationship which once existed between the girl's
mother, her former daughter-in-law, has disintegrated.
So Jane Jackson is left to yearn for the little girl who was once so much
Jane has been married to husband Marc for 36 years and home is a
comfortable semi-detached in Henleaze, Bristol. It's the house Jane was
born in and both her sons were, too.
It's her oldest son, now 31, who is pivotal to the heart-rending story
which unfolds as we talk.
"He was married in the north-east of England. They had been married about
three years but the relationship was breaking up," says Jane.
By then, though, the couple had a daughter. She is now eight years old.
"My son was working up there and moved into a very small bedsit to be near
his daughter. The daughter and her mum stayed in the house they had
"It became very clear he needed to be back down here because of the stress
of the situation, so he came.
"At that time he had very regular contact with his daughter. When he moved
back to Bristol, as he doesn't drive, travel was a big issue.
"But his daughter used to come down and stay, partly with him, partly with
"His ex-wife had another partner quite soon after the marriage break-up
and it became clear to us that, while our grand-daughter was with us, that
she was having a drip-feed or alienation of her family down here.
"The last time we actually saw her (19 months ago) she said she had been
told to 'Dump her family in Bristol.' She said she did not want to do that
Jane stresses that in all the time since the marriage failed her son has
never stopped paying maintenance for his daughter, But the situation up in
the north of England was changing. The little girl's mum had another baby.
There was some friction, too, when Jane, worried about the
grand-daughter's hearing problems, contacted the child's school. They, in
turn, told the former daughter-in-law about Jane's telephone call.
This appears to have been the catalyst which has caused Jane so much
For, in Easter 2007, she would see her beloved grand-daughter for the
"There was no hint that it was going to be the last time," she says.
"I cannot possibly describe the devastation it causes because being a
grandparents is the proudest moment in everyone's life.
"We had such fun together and it has all been snatched away."
of course, Jane Jackson has not let things just lie there like that.
"We have taken solicitor's advice about it. They said we could apply for a
custodial order but it is extremely costly and if the mother should decide
she is not going to comply, the courts, on the whole, do not follow it
up. It's very rare that they do so."
The upshot is that Jane, undaunted, continues to send her grand-daughter
letters and cards and presents. They come back as returned mail.
"I just know she has not seen them and we know she never got her previous
Christmas or birthday presents."
Her experience reinforces her belief that the time is ripe for a new
Charter for Grandparents.
On the day we met she had written to Prince Charles. She's already penned
letters on the same subject to every MP and Prime Minister Gordon Brown is
going to get a Jane Jackson missive, too.
"My plan is to set up a support group for grandparents like me in
Bristol," she explains, revealing that, currently in Britain, an
astonishing one million children are denied any contact with grandparents.
"I find that figure obscene."
Jane Jackson says she knows that there are circumstances where some
grandparents do undermine the parental role, "So there are cases where
that is an issue. However, I have had so many e-mails of support for my
cause over the last few days. One was from a 79 year old lady who has not
seen her grandson for seven years and thinks she will die without being
We need to follow France, where it is enshrined in law that children continue a relationship with their grandparents after a separation/divorce."
For now, though, Jane Jackson is thinking of Christmas and the heartache
her grand-daughter's absence will have on her life. The little girl's
father, she says is totally heartbroken. He has taken the decision not to
pursue things through the courts, lest it turns out to be damaging for his
Jane Jackson, though, is battling on."I have just bought her Christmas present.While my son has set up a website in her name and there are messages on it which we hope, one day,she will find."
There's also the little matter of this year's Christmas tree.
Every year we have a Christmas tree in our garden for grandparents to write messages to their grandchildren, you can email Jane with your messages.
*IF you are interested in Jane Jackson's campaign to establish a local
support group for grandparents in a similar situation to hers then contact