Monday, 4 October 2010

My Gap Years

We've done it!  We have finally disgorged our first born, chucked him out of the nest and palmed him off on an unsuspecting University.

He has had around a month to sit about admiring the wallpaper in between his summer job ending and Uni kicking off – his Uni seems to be the very last on the planet to get going – so you might imagine that, in between the socialising, the relentless facebooking and the chauffeuring duties we have demanded of him, he might have given a little bit, just a teensy weensy bit of thought to the adventure ahead.   Don’t be daft.  In that time, he has been fun to be around, helpful in carrying out the odd favour, driving his sister around, fetching her from school after late-finishing rehearsals or netball matches and genially referring to himself as the “house husband”.  Boy, am I going to miss that extra pair of hands to nip out for a carton of milk or some cat food.  And the relentless facebooking has meant that he has been able to make contact with many other prospective Undergrads and has ready-made mates before he even arrives.  His preparations, however, have differed somewhat from some of his peers.

One girl has been so excited by her impending freedom that her facebook status has been a countdown day by day for the past month...28 days till Uni!  27 days till Uni!  Needless to say, my son and his new chums think such a blatant display of enthusiasm is the uncoolest thing on the planet.  On Saturday, when I suggested he might like to think about maybe, just maybe, gathering up some of the clothes and other kit he wanted to take with him, his response was “Yeah, I suppose I could throw some shit in a suitcase.”  He then proceeded to stay up until 5 o’clock in the morning, sorting out the paperwork he has had a month to assemble.  Insurance?  What’s that then?  The Shah ended up arranging it for him (very grumpily) that evening.  I was despatched to Tesco to buy heaps of well, just stuff (I won't bore you with the details.)  I tramped around, smiling grimly at all the other harassed-looking women, marked out as mothers of Freshers by the disinterested-looking teens slouching along three steps behind them.  The women were all trying to look and sound bright and interested and saying things like “look – those are nice tea towels – why don't we get you a set of those?” and the response from the inevitable teenager was the inevitable grunt.

Eventually, it all came together.  We loaded up two cars (why did we ever get rid of the people carrier?) and set off.   Happily, he has chosen a Uni not a million miles away so we were there reasonably quickly.  Bloody hell!  Have Halls of Residence changed since the days of the Shah and me?!  I didn’t go to Uni but I went straight into a Nurse’s Home which was almost Victorian in its set up. I had a tiny room with a cupboard and a sink in the corner and a lovely view over a humming generator.  There were three bathrooms to serve a corridor of approximately 40 rooms –showers that only ever seemed to run cold and baths that nobody cleaned out.  The kitchen was revoltingly Spartan and everything always felt slightly sticky.  It was pretty much pointless keeping anything in the fridge as it just got nicked and it was impossible to tell which one of your 39 neighbours had done it.  The one pay phone (no mobiles in those days) was always hogged by a scrawny girl called Val who spent hours sobbing down it to her boyfriend back home.  The Shah, by contrast, messed up his University application to the extent that he arrived in Wales with nowhere to live and spent the first two weeks camping out on the floor of the Sports Hall until he could sort out a room in a shared house.  Compare and contrast with the student accommodation that is today’s offering.  Our boy is sharing a flat, within a Hall of Residence (are they even called that these days?) which consists of six ensuite rooms with a large, communal kitchen.  The kitchen features 2 labelled cupboards and a drawer for each room, a large fridge and a gigantic freezer, built in oven and all the little extras like a toaster and microwave supplied along with cleaning equipment, ironing board etc.  His room has more cupboard space than our bedroom at home, internet connection, a full length mirror, you name it.  He is in one of several blocks arranged around a central green which features an attractive duck pond.  At least he pronounced it “sick”.  Had he said otherwise, I might have been tempted to smack him one. 

It all seems a million miles from the days when he had to be physically peeled off my leg every morning and dragged howling like a banshee into his Reception class, lunchbox in hand.  His  academic career has not always lived up to expectations – he was the only boy in his first school to have his own behaviour book which had to be signed by the teacher at the end of every lesson.  I have already mentioned his ignominious school experiences, so I won’t go into them again here, but somehow those years which appeared, at the time, to stretch before us forever now seem to have gone by in the blink of an eye. 

But whilst the Shah and I might be able to rationalise it and (eventually) get our heads around his moving on, his sister is feeling the pain much more keenly.  Their sibling rivalry notwithstanding, she adores her brother and hates being what she calls an ‘only child’.  One of her closest friends is in the same boat and they spent yesterday evening texting their woes to each other. 

And so I move into my Gap Years.  Right now, there is a huge gap, a yawning chasm where my funny, handsome, sarcastic (he is his mother’s son after all) boy used to be.  It feels strange – he’s been away from home before for a couple of weeks at a time but this is obviously different.  He says he is coming home in three weeks for a party, but I wonder if the attractions of Uni life might prove too much and he might “ceebs” it after all.

You've come a long way baby!


  1. Oooh I lived in a nurses home too! and my room was enormous but people did nick your stuff (until I bought a second hand drug fridge and kept it in my room)

    Eldest Beautiful Daughter has just gone into ensuite accom @ £93 per week, she has 2 locked cupboards in her kitchen which is grim but a tiny room and she is fairly miserable there.

  2. My room was minuscule and you could hear your neighbour having wild sex when you were trying to get to sleep in advance of an early shift! Poor EBD, I hope she settles in soon. I think a case of the blues is pretty common early on...?


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