Way back in 2006, I wrote about despatching my eldest daughter off to university.
It was a difficult moment for me as the father/daughter bond we had established was very strong. There is no doubt she was ready to leave the nest and go out into the big, wide world and broaden her horizons. Nevertheless, it felt like a defining moment in my life and it broke my heart. Simply put, it was the end of an era!
As the children grew, what leisure time I had I dedicated pretty comprehensively to them. We used to have an old Volvo estate and, along with various “borrowed” children, we would pack them on board for holidays by the seaside, or maybe camping, perhaps cycling across the moors, but always as a group.
From breakfast until bedtime we would pack as much into our days as possible. Swimming, crazy golf, building dams, cycling, country shows, ice cream parlours ... anything to keep busy. There was always an urgency to do plenty. Car packed to the roof with kids and dogs and camping gear we would arrive at some sleepy unsuspecting venue, open the tailgate and a chaos of dogs, children and laughter would pour out. Happy days!
As the girls grew older, restaurants would feature rather than hot dogs and beans in the tent but we always stayed together and continued to squeeze in plenty of activities. Once, memorably, we went go-karting, water skiing and quad biking all in one day before the hair straighteners came out and, looking like goddesses, they heeled up for a waterfront evening meal.
That changed when the eldest went to university, as I knew it must. It is a natural progression. But university life involves bringing home washing, popping back to scrounge a bit of cash off the bank of dad and, of course, long, long summer holidays. In the meantime, she has trekked through Vietnam, swum with dolphins, chucked herself out of an aeroplane, and worked in Australia, and recently returned to university to complete her MA degree. Always there has been the time when she would come home. The absences were finite.
She has been home all summer, and we have managed to annoy each other successfully and so the fledging instinct has once more come to the fore. This time she is career-bound for London, a place of horror for me, a fine city, but only to be endured in small doses. Yes I know about the museums (yawn), the sights (seen them), the theatres (been to some shows), the street cafés and such. There is so much to do. But I have always found it an awful bad tempered, crowded, rude sort of a place, best got out of promptly, and judging by the M1 on Friday night many Londoners agree with me.
But it is her life and her choice and London contacts will always help on her CV, but this is another of those moments that mark the end if an era. She will probably do well and I wish her luck, but this time I don’t think she will be coming back!