The Empty Nest – ‘Vows made in wine’

Family Check:-

Eldest:- no crisis – working hard with a large weekend work event looming.

Middle :- slight crisis – dealing with awkward passengers on flights can take some getting used to.

Youngest:-  no crisis – enjoying double duvet he persuaded me to buy him.

Me :- slight crisis – caught Middle’s cold so feeling sorry for myself while, of course, struggling on.

O.H:- minor crisis– too much work, too little time and having to fit in extra chores while I’m on a go slow.


‘Fancy coming wine tasting?’ a friend asked. Good idea I thought. Just the sort of random thing empty nesters can do on a Saturday morning! It is also O. H.’s birthday in December. I never know what to get him so a surprise tour around a vineyard and a slurp or two afterwards would make a perfect present. ‘I’ll book it. We’ll meet at 11am.’

It’s always a pleasure when someone takes charge and organises you, (see last week’s post on Acts of Service) so I paid up and left my obliging friend to it and promptly forgot all the details other than noting the time and date in my diary.

Imagine my frustration when O.H. announced two days before my ‘surprise’ that he and a few mates were going wine tasting at the local Majestic that night.

‘How lovely,’ I replied, successfully masking my annoyance.

Our Saturday morning arrived. I prepped OH that we were about to do something exciting (although not quite as exciting as it would have been if he hadn’t just done it, and no, I won’t bear a grudge). I looked for my friend’s email with the venue details. I looked through my phone messages. I could find nothing. The clock was ticking, the engine running and we needed to get going. I turned to trusty google and typed in ‘Wine tasting in Ditchling.It’s such a small place there couldn’t be more than one. Ridgeview Wine Estate  popped up. Tours starts at 11am. That was the right time. Perfect, must be the place. It was a bright, sunny, autumnal morning so, sat nav programmed, and we were off.

Sitting outside at 10.55 I messaged my friend.

‘Where are you?’

‘5 minutes away.’ Came the reply.

O.H. and I went into the reception area where Hannah, the tour guide, wrote down our name and reassured us that our friends’ late arrival would not be a problem as they could be directed out into the fields where we were now going to start the tour.

I listened to Hannah’s very interesting account of the history of the vineyard, watched the vines stretch out before me and nodded understandingly when she made an informative point, but by the time she explained about using large candles to protect the vines from frost I was starting to get concerned. It was 25 past 11. Where could they be? I kept glancing towards the entrance. They were walking.  Had they been knocked down by a car and now on their way to hospital? (I’m not a writer for nothing – no simple explanation for me,  I don’t do things by halves.)

After a while Hannah led the group from the fields towards the buildings to continue the tour inside. Lingering to the back of the group I surreptitiously rang my friend’s number. Her husband answered.

‘Where are you?’ I asked.

‘In the fields. Follow the buildings to the end and come and join us,’ he replied. I agreed and hung up. Perhaps there was a later tour and they had joined that?

O.H. looked at me. I shook my head.

‘I haven’t a clue what he means. He says they’re in the fields. But we’re in the fields!’

‘Perhaps we’ll meet up with them somewhere inside.’

We quickly ran to catch the group in a room full of large, shiny vats full of wine. I shoved my phone into my pocket just in time to catch Hannah explaining about the different processes the wine went through. We proceeded into the next room holding more machines for corking the bottles.

Half an hour later, after a few more rooms, we were seated in the most important one – the tasting room. Our friends still hadn’t materialized but this was the bit we were all waiting for.  I had given up looking for them around every corner. They were grownups. They would be fine.

Laid out on the table were 5 sparkling wines. We learnt that Downing Street had proclaimed Ridgeview as an official supplier and that the Queen served up a bottle or two to the Chinese premier. If it was good enough for them it would be good enough for me.

We started with this: –Cavendish  Ridgeview’s traditional blend.


A rich golden colour with exceptionally fine bubbles. The nose is expressive with hints of red fruits.

I, of course, smelt it, swirled it round the glass and… only took a sip and poured the rest into O.H.’s glass. Well, it was his birthday treat – someone had to be the responsible adult and drive us home.

Next came this:-


Bloomsbury Ridgeview’s signature blend ‘A light golden colour with a fine, persistent mousse. Citrus fruit aromas with hints of melon and honey.’

By the time we got on to Ridgeview’s Blanc de blancs:-


100% single estate Chardonnay from our original vineyard,’ the sun was shining, the chatter in the room was LOUD, we had bonded with the delightful couple on our table who were on a weekend break from their young family and we’d bought a couple of bottles for Christmas morning.

I looked at my phone for news of our friends. Nothing.

‘Are we in the right place?’ O.H. whispered in my ear. I hadn’t confessed to my attempts at retrieving the email, nor my googling the vineyard.

I quickly sent a text.

‘We’ve just finished the tour. Where are you?’

Court Garden Vineyard’  came the answer.

We finally caught up with our friends in the The White Horse, Ditchling. And, after comparing wine tasting tour notes, I can now recommend two vineyards in the South Downs area.


PS – Just a heads up for anyone looking for something unique – check out HUX – a new boutique specialising in handmade bags and accessories.


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The Empty Nest -love me -love me not.

Family check:-

Eldest:- no crisis – in fact she is positively sparkling – see below.

Middle:- mini crisis– feeling tired and unwell with demands of new job.

Youngest;- no crisis – just been home for a week feeling like a pig in muck.

Me: – major crisis – Middle has been home and baking;  quiche, sticky toffee pudding, bread, muffins. Too much temptation in the house, holiday is looming and beach body is so far beneath the surface it has been suffocated.Will have to contend with old wobbly model and hope.

Other Half; – mini crisis – too much work, too little time – beach body hidden as well but not nearly as worried about exposing it to others as me.

Love is in the house.

Eldest has a new beau. But this one is different. She’s all excited and has a smile that stretches from here to NZ. I always knew this day would come but…


…love is a tricky thing.

For a few lucky ones it can start in teenage and flourish until old age but for most it is a long and hazardous path. You think you’ve caught it then something happens to shatter it into a million-tiny darts that pierce your heart so you think you’ll never heal. I am no expert – I had my heart spectacularly broken in my twenties, then fell in love again with Eldest’s father, realised the relationship wasn’t going to work in my thirties and dived headlong again when I fell in love with O.H. No holding back for me – if at first you don’t succeed – this is the last time though. O.H. must put up with me to the end!

Eldest, 26yrs, is at a time when she is swimming along. She is cutting strong, bold stokes though her life.

Middle, 21yrs, although recently started new job flying the skies as cabin crew, is still floundering at the water’s edge. Is this going to be a career? Should she try other things? She has a hankering to go back to the mountains where she was extremely happy as a seasonaire, only time will tell.

Youngest, 18yrs, is only just taking his foot out of the baby pool. 8 weeks into his first semester at University, this adult shite is scary.

But Eldest is ready for lurve.


So with that in mind it pays to remember a few basics. You may not know but there are love languages – ways to express and experience love, and it’s helpful to make sure you and your partner are on the same page. It may have come from your childhood or be inherent but before you dismiss this as tosh, indulge me and keep reading.

The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate – Gary Chapman. ‘to discover another person’s love language, one must observe the way they express love to others, analyze what they complain about most often, and what they request from their significant other most often. People tend to naturally give love in the way that they prefer to receive love.

So the five ways, in no particular order…

  1. Acts of Service (devotion). This is me. Make me a cup of tea or randomly complete something on my to-do list and I’m putty in your hands. O.H. knows that fixing anything broken or putting out the bins will always give him a favourable reaction.
  2. Words of Affirmation. Praise is always nice to hear but some people thrive on it.
  3. Quality Time –undivided attention. I overlap here with No. 1 as spending time with loved ones floats my boat.
  4. Physical Touch – isn’t all about the bedroom. Along with Quality Time, this is O.H. I didn’t know it, kept making him a cup of tea in my Acts of Service mode when all he wanted was a hug. I could have saved a lot of effort.
  5. Receiving Gifts. Don’t mistake this for materialism. The perfect gift or gesture shows that you are cared for. These are nice but the lowest on my list. Doesn’t mean to say they’re not what makes you feel loved.

So can you see – if you respond to touch and your partner keeps buying you gifts you may not feel loved, he would have spent a lot of money and you won’t deliver. Doh – no one wins. This simple questionnaire will establish which kind of action makes you feel loved and if you are reading your partner’s signals correctly. Your love language test

So, for you empty nesters who may be facing this next stage in our development, when new love is in the air with your daughters, I’ve devised a questionnaire. Feel free to use it.Whilst I don’t advocate exams conditions, I do suggest offering the prospective candidates a beer beforehand to steady the nerves.

Please answer each question. ‘Yes’ or ‘no’ or ‘always.’ If you are unsure about any questions, take a deep breath and move on to the next one.  Leave time to go back and check your answers as all must be completed.  Please use pencil.

  1. Will you cherish her? All parents want their offspring to be loved. I am no exception. There is always an ‘adored’ and an ‘adorer’ in a relationship. Nothing wrong with ours being the adored.
  2. Do you love your family? A man who loves his family tells you a lot. Victoria Beckham said it was one of the first thing she noticed about David and look at those two lovies.
  3. Do you make her laugh? Always useful, especially in times of hormonal meltdown.
  4. Do you earn enough/willing to work hard to look after her? I’m not saying our offspring can’t look after themselves but nobody likes to think of their children struggling. The odd adventure is always good for the soul.
  5. Will she beat you at scrabble? If he is clever he must remember nobody likes a show off.
  6. Will you share her at Christmas? Christmas manoeuvres between families is always tricky. Whilst I appreciate he will want to see his mother (if answered truthfully to question 2), I would like first dibs if possible.
  7. Will you willingly swap the side of the bed you sleep on, even after many years, if she asks? Women are rare jewels. Who knows why we randomly might want to swap sides but we need to know our man is accommodating with this and other random whims.
  8. Will you promise to talk to her? Communication is key in my book to a successful relationship. A grunt while watching the footie does not bode well.
  9. When on a night out and she offers to drive home will you insist, even though it’s not your turn? This is a trick question to see if he’s been truthful with No.1 and really means to cherish her and not just answer the questions to please you.
  10. Will she sometimes have the last word? I am married to a ‘Mr Right’ and it can be infuriating (because he often is).

…and don’t forget to discreetly place an eraser beside them so they can rethink any answers that are not ‘always’.

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The Empty Nest –the  charms of teenage.

Family check:-

Eldest:  no crisis –planning girls sleepover for Middle and Me at her place.

Middle:- no crisislooking forward to above.

Youngest: -mini crisis got to make his way home from Uni at the other end of the country- alone.

Other Half: – no crisis – too much work – not enough time but will have whole weekend free when I’m away so he’s booked golf for Saturday and tennis for Sunday, (as you do).

Me: -No crisis– will have 2 out 3 chicks for a weekend.

I’m trying to treat my empty nest symptoms like an addiction.

Firstly, I must wean myself off contacting Youngest. I am doing him no good to be forever asking how things are going. The first week I messaged him every day.I didn’t get a reply every day but he kindly tolerated my constant questions with infinite patience about whether he had made any friends and was he eating enough. From then on I backed off -slowly. I can now proudly report I only ask about his welfare now and again. Oh… ok…a small lie… every-other-day now and again.  But I am getting better if I don’t have a reply – I don’t threaten to cut off his inheritance and I don’t visualize him lying in the gutter somewhere with blood streaming from his temple.

A mother’s guilt. Always there. Always whispering. What could I have done differently to make him more prepared for the world?

I did try and be stern.

Once when he was about 13 we were swamped with Middle’s girlfriends. Giggly, floaty, fragrant creatures. I would NEVER admit to having favourites but boys, whilst being highly amusing, are just from another stratosphere. Youngest had returned from playing tennis, red faced and sweaty, laid on the sofa (it was four hour’s worth of running around) and tried to charm his way round each girl who passed his throne to:-

a) turn the TV on for him,

b) pass him a chocolate muffin which is only five feet away in the kitchen and

c) get him a drink.

I’m pleased to say that all resisted his charms. So rather than rise from his prone position he had gone without and fallen asleep. On awaking he turned his attention to me, saying that if I loved him I would run around and do his bidding. I reiterated that ‘did love him and that is why I wouldn’t be performing any subservient tasks, because he was in training. No woman wants a slob for a mate and that, as I’m keen to see the back of him one day, it’s in his best interest if I don’t.’

The right approach? Agreed?


He wouldn’t think so.

But my addiction is entirely my own fault. I must knock this chunk of guilt right off my damn shoulder. He didn’t get treated any differently to his sisters – they’ve coped. So will he.

Youngest is due home for a ‘reading week’ and about to take the Megabus for the first time.

Our conversations now go like this:-

Youngest :‘I’ve prepared myself as much as I can for the journey; 3 bagels, pot of pasta and multitude of snacks.’

Food always was his priority. Having a full larder is the way to his heart- but what a load of crap he’s eating.

Me:- ‘Sounds great. I’m off to the shops to fill the fridge for your arrival. Anything you want to eat?’

Youngest:- ‘Really nice dinners, variety of vegetables that aren’t over/undercooked.’

Ok. Good. Crap food for the journey is a one off. He’s concerned about his diet. I’ll stock up on plenty of green vegetables to get his immune system up.

Youngest:- ‘Oh, and maybe some steak. Oh, and smoked salmon.’

Steak! Smoked salmon! He’ll get sausages and tuna.

Me:- ‘You’re pushing it. Posh boy.’

Youngest:- ‘Barely slept last night cos I was worried about the bus. Got up at 3 am and thought I had to start getting ready so put my clothes on then fell asleep again.’

Aww cute. I’ve nagged him so much about not missing the bus he’s having sleepless nights.

Me:- ‘Best get a snooze on the bus then.’

Youngest:- ‘Won’t be able to, it’s soooo uncomfortable.’

Oh no, he needs to toughen up! He’s going to have many, long, bus journeys over the next four years… Perhaps I can get him a travel pillow. Stop it woman! You’ve just said he needs to toughen up.

Me:-‘If you want to travel, like your sisters, you’d better find a way to sleep anywhere.’

Youngest:- ‘Who said I want to be a traveler. I quite like being a posh boy.’

Youngest and posh are the last two words you would put together and expect them to stick. Still, it seems I have some work to do before I get last chick out of the nest for good. I’ve obviously feathered it too well.

I must also continue with my rehab programme – ‘My name is Teresa and I’m a member of Parents Anonymous. I am addicted to my children but I’m making progress – slowly.’

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The Empty Nest – she’s 21!

Family Check:-

Eldest – mini crisis – where to put next tattoo. Having a small one myself I can’t complain. My thoughts are that placement is essential. It shouldn’t matter but it can affect job opportunities – and… she’s too young to worry but old, crinkly, tattooed skin can lose its charm.

Middle:- no crisis– looking forward to up and coming birthday.

Youngest- no idea if any crisis – had limited contact.

Memajor crisis –trying to book Middle’s 21st birthday celebrations.

Other Half – usual mini crisis – too much work – not enough time and wanting to get in the garden to tidy up veggie patch but being dragged round the shops by me to choose a sofa.

For the last 20 years the 5th November has been a special celebration for us. No, not because of bonfire night, but because it is the day that I produced Middle (who aptly shot out like a rocket, but perhaps that’s too much detail).

We usually spend the evening with 30,000 revelers who brave the cold, autumn air to watch the biggest celebrated 5th November event in the world –  Lewes Bonfire Night.

For anyone who hasn’t witnessed this spectacle don’t be put off by scaremongers who tell you it is dangerous, too crowded or wild. You will see families with young babies enjoying the revelry and I have taken various children over the years, always counting them out and counting them in again with none lost, injured or scarred to date. ( I would recommend taking some ear plugs though as often firecrackers are let off right in front of you. Although leaping a foot in surprise does give you an added vantage point.)

For such a huge amount of people packed into a small town, there is usually very little hassle. Yes, you get jostled. Yes, there are drunken revelers vying for a good spot to watch the bands, magnificent costumes and large effigies that are pulled up and down the streets and yes, one year a woman turned into Miss Trunchbull and told me off for pushing (in a crowd of 30,000)! But the party atmosphere is enticing.

This year Middle wanted to do something different on the 5th.  So I got the jungle drums beating and sent out a request for a family gathering.  I’ve learnt a sure way of securing the offsprings’ presence is to offer to pay. To offer to pay for a birthday meal and night in London is guaranteed to bring the chicks roosting – maybe not as far as the nest but definitely in the vicinity. Result!– I get my desire to see them all and Middle has a birthday to look forward to.

To do list:-

Book hotel: check. Have you tried staying at this chain? The Hub. Small rooms, fantastic beds but not outrageously priced. Perfect for a quick stay in London. They’re popping up all over.

Book restaurant: check. Our favourite of the moment is Brasserie Zedels Wonderfully opulent, staff who are attentive but not overbearing, delicious food and again, not outrageously priced for London.


You won’t be disappointed.

Book pre-dinner drinks for meeting place. Nearly unchecked. My first choice the Skygarden couldn’t accommodate the 10 of us for a cheeky early evening cocktail, even with plenty of notice, so I returned to my favourite  Bar American. Even when put on the spot, they delivered spectacularly.

So the stage was set with all the ingredients for a great night of celebration.


As it turned out, I managed to keep going until 2 am (for a girl who likes to be in her PJ’s by 10 pm that is a major achievement), the birthday girl ended up having many in-depth conversations she can remember nothing about with her hangover the next morning but  ‘had the best birthday weekend anyone could wish for’, and our numbers swelled as the evening progressed by the unexpected but wonderful arrival of more friends…

…although we didn’t quite make it to our usual 30,000.

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The Empty Nest- Where’s the laundry fairy when you need her?

Family check:-
Eldest minor mini crisis – presentation at work – always scary but good for development.
Middleno crisis – having an excellent time in Jo’burg bonding with elephants.
Youngestminor crisis– girlfriend is visiting and laundry needs to be done.
Other Half usual mini crisis – too much work – not enough time and wanting to get in the garden to tidy up veggie patch but being asked (?) by me to organise new flooring.
Me – major crisis – accounts week. Need to stop being distracted by the Internet and knuckle down otherwise no one will be paid.

Two Skypes to Youngest  in 3 weeks – pretty good going I reckon. Knowing he had 14 pairs of pants with him and the deadline for laundry was looming it was a pleasant surprise to see in the background of the screen the airer we had squeezed into the car. And it was covered in clothes.
‘Done some washing then I see,’ I try to casually remark.
‘Yeah. Lights and darks.’
Result! First lesson on sorting laundry into similar colours accomplished.
‘Powder’s expensive.’
‘But I packed you some.’ I replied. ‘Tablets, in case the machines don’t take liquid easily. I left it on your shelf.’
‘Oh, those.’ I could see in his eyes the penny drop. ‘I thought they were for the dishwasher.’
It’s at times like this my heart sings. Where would I be without these gems in my life? Why Youngest thought there would be a dishwasher in his student accommodation I don’t know.
Is it my fault? I’ve made him too comfortable?  Whatever.
Note to self: don’t be complacent and think laundry lessons for Youngest completed – revise basics:-  ‘washing detergent comes in many forms.’


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The Empty Nest – Bobble Head

Week Two

Family Check:-

Eldestno crisis – excellent, if busy week at work contributing to major work event.

Middlemini crisis – first trip was a success, learning to live out of a suitcase and adjusting to new lifestyle as cabin crew. Arrange to meet her for cinema trip when off duty.

YoungestMajor crisis. Locked himself out of room at Uni  –  only limited contact, all about money. His lack of it, not mine.

Other Halfusual mini crisis – too much work – not enough time and wanting to join mates for golf but being asked (?) by me to fix car.

Meno crisis – attended excellent cinema evening learning much about fraud in the wine industry.

I must confess to feeling odd. Not sad-and-crying odd like a friend who keeps looking at her daughter’s empty bedroom, nor a-nothing-to-do odd like another friend who has lost her purpose now her son has gone to Uni. I have more than enough to keep me occupied. Day to day I work running our construction company with Other Half; for the other moments my latest manuscript is calling me after completing the Curtis Brown Writing for Children’s course and all the usual boring, house stuff is still following me around to which I’ve added decorating rooms and cleaning out cupboards just for the hell of it. The dog still needs to be walked daily, tennis played and attempts at getting fitter tried.

Discombobulated. That’s how I feel. A wonderful word and favourite of my late father’s.

I’ve been feeling menopausally odd for a while now. To quote a dear friend who invented the term, I often have my bobble head on. It feels like my brain is filled with a fluffy cloud. Sparks of electricity, like a lightning storm, are trying to make contact and get through but there are vast pockets of…nothingness. Ask me a question and I try and retrieve the answer but can’t quite bring up the right file from the backroom in my brain. Last time I felt like this was when I was pregnant so it must be hormonal. I am at that age. Usually my bobble head results in nothing too harmful. I’ve put strategies in place. I check the bank payments three times to make sure I’ve not added an extra 0 to someone’s bacs payment and recheck any orders I make to prevent the guys on site who wanted a tonne of sand ending up with a skip instead.

But for all my efforts the odd faux pas does sneak in. My latest involved suitcases. I went out to buy this:-suitcases



and came home with this:-



In the context of world problems it is minuscule but I have no explanation for it. The assistant asked me what colour I wanted and I pointed to the lime one, paid for it and came home proudly announcing I’d done the deed only for OH to question my choice of colour when the blue one I wanted to match it with was sitting upstairs.

Maybe I’ll solve my confusion by focusing on redefining my role. After 26 years hands on bottom wiping and knee plastering, I now see it more as part- time life tour guide; there to point out interesting possibilities, listen to the after-adventure tales and smooth over any problems. That’s all very well but as I’m realising we usually get one of two offspring having a crisis but (thankfully) not too often or all three at the same time. So, it’s now my time. But what does my time mean exactly? What do I want to achieve in these coming years? First on the list is finding a way to tame this bobble head. The energy is there it just needs connecting properly to make the sparks fly.

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The Empty Nest – Fresher’s Flu Strikes

Week One

Family check:- So much easier to keep an eye on things these days. As number 5 of 6 children, how my mother kept her empty nest symptoms under control without the aid of the internet I don’t know.

Eldest – No crisis – thankfully (me not her, as she would be off again tomorrow if possible) returned from travels around the world and happily working in central London.

Middle – Mini crisis but containable – just started new job as cabin crew out of Heathrow. New job nerves.

Youngest – just started first semester at University at the other end of the country. Probably having multi crisis daily.

Other Half – usual mini crisis – too much work – not enough time.

Me – major crisis – working out how a creature this small



Cannot successfully get its arse over a litter tray this big.




One week down and Youngest is still alive! Just.

I know this because:-

  1. He’s asked for more money.
  2. Eldest confirmed it and…
  3. When we did eventually Skype (apparently freshers’ week is just too busy to find 10 minutes) he was sneezing into a tissue.

Fresher’s flu is apparently all it’s cracked up to be.

‘Use the paracetamol I packed for you,’ I offered. ‘And the antiseptic throat spray.’

‘Oh,’ came the reply. ‘I found the paracetamol. Where’s the throat spray?’

Now it’s beyond me how he can open the Tupperware medicine box I lovingly supplied to retrieve pills without seeing the small green bottle nestling beside it. But then Youngest’s thought processes are one of life’s mysteries to me. Apart from some plasters, antiseptic cream and cold relief powder there weren’t many other ailments I thought he would get in the first few minutes except his signature sore throat so the box was half empty. (I purposefully left out supplying the condoms – there are some things a boy must be responsible for himself.)

I’m still amazed we got him to Uni. Not because I didn’t think he’d make the grades but having had Eldest and Middle super organised needing little assistance navigating their way through the Ucas process – (but then, I may be biased, but that’s girls for you) I dipped my toe into the Ucas water, just to see if Youngest would be ok.   On touching the edge I was awash with confusion. Woah… So many forms, so much information. I couldn’t find a course entitled ‘How to navigate your way through Ucas’.  I think this would be an excellent addition followed by a Masters in ‘Student Finance’. Hats off to those of you who made it though and out the other side. Knowing to leave Youngest to his own devices would mean his staying at home for the next four years, I had to plunge in. Some might call this helicoptering mothering, I call it self-preservation.

Thankfully Youngest knew what course he wanted to take. I despair for those parents whose offspring have no idea.

We made our choices.

His father and I took Youngest to one Uni.

His father drove him to another.

Was it unfair to insist he got himself to his third? The last weekend before he had to make his final decision? Even if it meant flying up north? Alone?  If he’s ever going to be pushed out of the nest, a good way to start is to travel. Ok, I confess, he may have gone on his own but I did organise the journey for him – buy the tickets, print out city maps to plan how he would get from the airport to the Uni and supply my credit card ( for emergencies only, NOT a  cheeky Nandos). I know, I’m weak and can hear you tutting and shaking your heads. But to my dying day I will still ask how much should I do? I know in my day we packed the car and took ourselves off without a backward glance but he’s my baby

Anyway, even with the railways trying to thwart best laid plans by cancelling trains Youngest made it to Scotland and back with only an encounter with the Hare Krishnas to worry him. (Fair enough, he reasoned it was easier to give them a couple of pounds for their dodgy CD to get them to leave him alone than listen to them.)

So with firm and reserve choices of courses made, he then had to decide on accommodation. When I say he, you know I mean, I, had to prompt him before the deadline ran out. How difficult is it to choose 5? Well, it didn’t seem to matter as in the end he didn’t get any of his 5 wishes. After contacting the Uni he was offered 3 more, each had drawbacks.

But here he was. On the other side of the screen. Snotty, headachy and sniffing. Should I drop everything and rush to his side to nurse him? Get a grip woman, I could hear Eldest saying. He’ll be fine. He refused to show us his (untidy) room (nothing changed there then) and continued to lob tissues at the out-of-view waste paper basket while regaling how the offered food was either stodgy or watery and how he couldn’t abide Pot Noodles at the weekend like his flatmates. No worries I reply. You can make a wonderful roux sauce.

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