Friday, 26 September 2014

Family Walk

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On a Sunday afternoon, I used to say cheerily to the twins,
“Who’s coming out for a family walk then?”
Neither was enthusiastic.  In fact, they’d do pretty much anything to get out of it, only just short of cutting their own leg off with a blunt handsaw.
The other day, I came in from work:
“Hi, would you chaps like a little walk in the woods?”
“Yep. Fine.”
“Sure.  Just a mo. While I put my boots on.”
What was going on?  Were they being ironic?
Sadly not.  It was a sign of the times – family walks are now in such shortage that it is possible to be nostalgic about them and to look forward to them as rare and special occasions.
Sure enough, we had a rare and special family walk and I took some nostalgic photos.

Maybe we’ll do it again during the Christmas hols.

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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Scottish Independence

Separation threatens.
I feel like a mother polar bear standing on one piece of an ice floe as her baby floats away on another. 
I recall the horrible time when Pascoe was only seven.  We were boarding a London tube train and he hung back.  Suddenly the doors shut and I was swept away. 
“Wait there!” I mouthed, and signalled through the window to my tiny son, his eyes enormous with fear as he was left behind on the platform.
And today?
In January, Pascoe went to Scotland to undertake his PhD, Edinburgh to be precise. 
He is asserting his independence as a young adult, living many miles from us.
His quest for autonomy is mapping precisely onto Scotland’s own rites of passage.
However, I have to say that although he enjoys substantial devolution, he has never attempted to cut all ties.  He agrees that our family, spread from Cornwall to London to Northumberland, to Edinburgh is better  together.
So Scotland, don’t go.  Don’t make me take a passport and foreign currency when I visit my son.
Stay with us.

Monday, 15 September 2014


All those worries we had about a year ago.
Would our twins feed themselves a balanced diet?
Would they attend all their lectures?
Would they hand in their assignments on time?
Would they resist getting completely slaughtered on the horrendous pressurised freshers’ drinking events?
Would they manage their finances sensibly?
You are probably expecting me to say that it was all fine, that they accomplished everything that we hoped they would.
But the truth is, I don’t know. 
I know they passed their end-of-year exams respectably, that they appear to be in good health and that they have good friends.
But the mistakes they’ve made, I don’t know about.  And that’s how it should be, surely.
The defining feature of being an adult is the power to decide who you enlist to help sort out your problems. 
There have probably been times when they locked themselves out, or were nauseous after one too many, or needed something to eat but their cupboard was empty.   Possibly all of these on the same night.
But they got through.
What will they do now in their second year?
Will they start to form ideas about their future careers? Will they take on new responsibilities within their universities?

I don’t know, and that’s just as it should be.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

And they’re off

As I write this, we’re driving down the M4 with a boot stuffed full of I’m-not-sure-what.  
Actually Nigel is driving, not me.  Typing on a laptop while coasting at seventy would probably be frowned upon by the traffic police.
Every so often, we pass a car where the back window is stuffed with duvets and cheap saucepans and a bike hangs off the back.
“There’s another one,” we chorus.
Another student going to university for the first time.  This is a big weekend for freshers.
Just a year ago, that was us.
Next year, we thought, we won’t have to take Perran quite so early because he’ll be a second year.
In fact, however, we’re travelling on the same weekend again.  I glance into the back of the car and catch sight of a brightly-coloured throw from Marrakesh, an earthernware plate from Spain.  Perran has had a good summer.
But although the car is very full of Perran’s belongings, Perran is not with us. 
He couldn’t wait to get back, and took the train earlier this week.  We’re just making sure his gear catches up with him today.

I guess you’d call that a successful launch.