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

EDP Norfolk - - Talk Of The County -

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

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