Concrete reasons to return
It’s empty nest month, but ROWAN MANTELL is still mixing metaphors and counting on hatched chickens coming home to roost
MY FIRST ever visit to Norfolk was for a university open day. It was raining, the buildings were grey, the walkways were grey, the famed big sky was just another chance for Norfolk to do more grey. And I thought that if I loved it in the rain then it would be even better on sunny days. And it was, although the campus concrete was always shades of grey, which, 30 years ago, wasn’t as risqué as it sounds.
I met my husband here and instead of heading back west we got jobs, then a house and then babies.
And now this could have been our empty nest month, with the final baby off to university.
We should be rattling around in a home which once held five, marvelling at the way a week’s shop now lasts a month and wondering how soon is too soon to pack up his stuff and move (or was that just my parents?)
Or we could turn his room into an Airbnb (ideal for anyone keen to cohabit with a drum-kit, mountains of wild camping equipment, foothills of dusty football trophies, and a timeline of childhood from soft toys to hard drink).
This is unlikely to happen as our inability to get round to household stuff is legendary, as in the legend of the people who moved into a house more than 20 years ago and a surveyor suggested they should consider a new kitchen. They considered a new kitchen. And dismissed the idea for two decades. The characters involved bear a striking resemblance to real people.
Real people who know any rattling around won’t last long enough for them to get round to subduing the strains of On the Ball with tones of Farrow and Ball.
Our latest student has already benefited from the bedroom merry-goround which sees each child move into a bigger room as the preceding one staggers off with books, bedding, clothes, kitchen equipment and, mainly, fancy dress costumes. And then staggers back again and tries to fit it all, plus extra fancy dress and eventually work clothes, back into the not-so-empty nest.
The pull of Norfolk is so strong its children always come back.
It turns out our littlest chick wasn’t bird-brained and is following his sister and brother from school (comp in Eaton, not pomp in Eton) to Oxford.
And, instead of spending empty nest month wondering how that happened, I should be thanking the teachers who did their jobs so impressively and the leaders of sports clubs and scout and youth groups who are not even paid to look after and inspire children but do it anyway.
This time I must remember not to be so excited about the whole quads and gowns thing that I forget a teenager is leaving home. Even if that home is a little substandard and rattly right now.
I hope he has a ball. And returns to tell us all about it and sort through all that football stuff.
The pull of Norfolk is so strong its children always come back
Above: Shades of grey at the UEA