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Grandparents often feel that they somehow failed as parents and hope to compensate with the next generation, but confronted with the reality of nappy stench, they flag a little. The authority will rest with the mother of the baby who can, if necessary, fire the Grandma. And Oma and Opa will feel less exploited, less manipulated.

The exchange of money sometimes poisons relationships but in this case I think it clarifies matters.

The proposal now is that families should receive a weekly €350 childcare allowance – basically a tax rebate – which they use to pay Oma and Opa.

The result will be a surge of helpful oldies, freeing mothers to return to work. The first is naturally how does the state intend to pay for this?

Grandparents may have outdated ideas and they may not be able to play football in the park, but at least they do not have eating disorders.

They know when a child is sick or just pretending; they know the difference between a Big Mac and a bowl of homemade vegetable soup.

And, most important, old people themselves are no longer being seen as a separate species in Germany.

It turns out, to the general amazement of urban planners and property developers, that they like human contact, that they have money and indeed are about the only Berliners willing to spend it at the moment.

Have you noticed how old people have been replacing car showrooms on West Berlin's once-proud boulevard Kurfürstendamm?