The Empty Nest: A bitter-sweet time for a parent

Empty nest

WARNING: Children of mine (and you know who you are) should refrain from reading any further as they are guaranteed to find it mind-cringingly embarrassing.

I’m the proud father of two wonderful grown-up kids. And there’s the first amazing thing: they’re grown up. When they’re little you just can’t imagine them ever being adults. But, believe me, it happens. You just have to wait long enough. What’s more, notwithstanding the cultural and economic changes that are conspiring to shift the trends of children staying with, or returning to, parents, ours have, in fact, gone. Left. Departed the parental home. Creating, in the process, the proverbial Empty Nest.

For us it’s been a long transition, beginning with our eldest heading off to university over four years ago and ending in the last three months with our youngest getting married and our already-married eldest moving away after getting a new job. So now we’re delighted that they both have a spouse, their own place and their own lives in another part of the country. We’re proud. We thank God for them. It’s sweet.

It’s also sad.

The pride and the sweetness are tinged with, with…emptiness. That’s the thing about empty nests, I guess.

In no way whatsoever do we wish they were still here, not really. Nor that they were young again; God forbid 🙂 To say we are thrilled by who they’ve grown up to be and the lives they’re building is an understatement. When I think of my achievements in life, having raised those two is right up there with getting married, becoming a Christian and getting Francis Rossi’s autograph. And we know that the job of a parent doesn’t end here; it just evolves.

For some reason the cereal and orange juice last a lot longer. The bath plug hole doesn’t clog with long blonde hairs any more. We don’t have to shut the bedroom door. The nest’s not empty at all; it still has the two of us, living a new season of life. But now and again it hurts. I’m assuming this doesn’t continue indefinitely. If you’ve been there maybe you can let me know.

Now when we visit we’re guests in their homes. But when they visit they’re still coming home. Back to the old nest, where once they were children.

Why I won’t bother with a teapot any more

Why use a teapot? Purists may try to convince me otherwise, but as far as I can see it’s all about getting more than one cup out of a tea bag. (Mind you, based on the “one per person and one for the pot” mantra even that doesn’t apply.) When you make tea in a pot you have to wait five minutes for it to brew. You give it a stir, take the bags out to stop it getting too strong (or do you pour everyone half a mug – who uses teacups these days? – then top the pot up with boiling water, wait a few minutes and pour everyone their second half. And when you’ve drunk your tea you’ve a teapot to rinse and clean. Even now I can hear the cries of, “Oh, no dearie, you mustn’t put your teapot in the washing up water!”

All to save the cost of a few tea bags.

Well recently I guesstimated just how much the teapot ritual was saving me.

  • About twice a week we’ll want two cups of tea (either for me and my better half or, if it’s an unscheduled early morning, just for me). The teapot way does it with two bags. The nasty, modern way of one bag in each mug takes four. That’s two extra bags per week for 52 weeks, or 104 bags a year.
  • Five times a year, oh, what the heck let’s say 10, we have guests and need to make four or five cups at once. We’ll probably use three bags to it with a teapot – or five to do it the non-pot way. So that’s also two extra bags a time, making 20 bags per year.
  • I make that a grand total of 124 bags per year. Let’s go mad and say it’s 150.
  • My favourite PG Tips Pyramid Bags can be had for under £5 for 240 – much less if they’re on offer. Let’s call it 2p per bag, making my tea pot labours worth about £3 a year.

I can afford that.

So no more waiting for the pot to brew. No more rinsing. From now on it’s one bag per mug and that’s why I won’t bother with a teapot any more.

P.S. I have to confess to the occasional non-pot “transfer-bag-between-mugs” bag-saving tactic. This too shall be consigned to the past.

Blog migration in progress…please wait…

Having decided that Posterous wasn’t treating me well (and who knows what its future is anyway), I set up shop here on WordPress and have now brought over all my old stock from Posterous. Please bear with me as I edit, categorise and generally spruce up these older pearls of wisdom, humour and inspiration.

In the meantime, please feel free to browse, handle and even purchase. (Sorry, been watching too much Mr Selfridge recently.)

Woman and Van: An epic journey

WARNING: The title of this monumental tale may contain a teensy-weensy bit of exaggeration. The van bit is certainly accurate, and the woman most definitely so. That a journey was involved is beyond all reasonable doubt. Sticklers for appropriate adjectives, however, may just find themselves compelled to object to the term “epic”. Should this apply to you, may I refer you to the response given at the end. Thank you for your attention.

Go South, young man

Heeding the advice of that well-known Chinese proverb, “When in doubt, move to Surrey.”, my daughter and her husband recently relocated to a well-known commuter town within spitting distance (should you feel inclined) of the M25. (In order to protect her privacy from snoopers, cheats, fraudsters, ne’er-do-wells and cut-throats, I will not divulge the precise location, save to say that it begins with Wo and ends with king.) To effect this move at minimal cost a self-drive Iveco Daily van was hired. There was a sole named driver (again to keep costs down), my good lady wife.

The Van

Star of the show

I hereby now present for your wonderment and appreciation the unexpurgated itinerary of The Day A Lot Of Stuff Was Picked Up, Placed, Transported, Picked Up And Put Down Again.

06:30 Get up. (Hardly unusual, but as Julie Andrews says, one must start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.)

07:40 To Leicester by car.

08:10 Collect the monster truck, sorry, large-ish van, from the nice man at Europcar. Woman takes wheel and heads back to home town eating a Yorkie bar and chatting on the CB radio. Man, meanwhile, skulks back to home town in humble car and restores sense of manliness by using self-service petrol pump.

08:45 Iveco Daily arrives at parental home. Woman reports van as being laughably easy to drive. Substantial G-Plan wardrobe loaded.

09:30 Van & car arrive at daughter’s home. After thanking God for lack of rain, snow, fog or other pestilence, loading operations begin. Woman, as usual, excels at packing, arranging, padding and otherwise handling practicalities of said loading operation. Condensation dripping from cold steel roof of van is regarded with scant concern.

10:45 Sat-navs set for W*ki*g, vehicles great and small hare off down the M1.

13:00 After crawling through Saturday shopping traffic, keys are duly collected and vehicles assembled at new residence for disembarking of worldly goods.

14:15 Disembarking of worldly goods completed. Bean bag found to be wet from condensation drips. Van, woman and accompanying man depart for the suburbs of London. (Did I explain that my son and his wife were also relocating on the same day? No? Yes. From the London borough to sophisticated Guildford.)

15:08 Van enters relevant housing estate then encounters absurdly restrictive traffic-calming posts in road. Left-hand side of road presents impossible angle so van opts for right-hand side, thence leading to a successful negotiation with millimetres to spare. Prayer of thanks duly offered, swiftly followed by expressions of incredulity at said traffic-calming.

Since, I fear, the concentration may be waning (whether yours or mine I leave you to judge), let me take you through the remainder of our day at a somewhat brisker pace.

17:00 Boxes, shelves and exercise bike, etc. installed. Van departs, avoids evil metal posts, heads off up A3.

18:05 Second unload of the day begins. Tragic damage to flat-packed furniture is discovered.

20:00 Woman bids fond farewell to van after refuelling. Walks away shaking head and muttering something about a “big 10-4” and vowing to acquire HGV license within 2 weeks.

20:37 Son & spouse transport woman and accompanying man to daughter & spouse’s new home for lasagne previously prepared by the same van-driving furniture-packing woman.

And so the day ends. Next day new lives begin.

Woman. Van. Efficiency. Sorted. Shattered. Goodnight.

Note to readers who object to the term “epic”: Sorry you’re unhappy. You’re wrong.

The Wrath of God: This time it’s personal

Wrath? Really? I mean, who talks about that any more?

Well there's me for a start. And the script writers of The Wrath of Khan (a.k.a. Star Trek II) and Wrath of the Titans (a 2011 film apparently not worth watching). So that's at least three people. Then there are the authors of at least 11 books of the Bible that mention wrath (mostly God's but occasionally a person's or maybe a nation's – can a nation collectively feel or exhibit wrath? Don't know; discuss…).

Admittedly those Biblical authors aren't what you could meaningfully call contemporary, being long dead and all. But, as you may know, we Christians hold the Bible as being the word of God that “speaks” today. Soooo, making a heroic leap of logic, there's a sense in which those writers are “of today” and therefore can justifiably be numbered among modern folk who talk about wrath. (If you say it fast and don't think about it too much it makes perfect sense, honest.)

I put it to you, therefore, that, yes, some people talk about it. That does not, however, make it popular. Not being popular, however, does not make it irrelevant. No indeed. If that were so, then long division and headlice would also be irrelevant. No, siree, one cannot sideline the wrath (or anger, if you simply must) of God (yes, I'm operating on the premise that He exists) based on the fact that it's not trending on Twitter. It, like long division and headlice, is an uncomfortable fact of life. In my opinion.

The sermon I heard last Sunday actually took the wrath of God as its theme. This is an occurrence almost as rare as a fall in the price of petrol. It may also be as rare as hens' teeth, although I have no corroborating evidence. It was good to be reminded, after 30+ years of Christian living, just why I needed saving, what I was saved from and how much God still detests with a passion (putting it mildly) the sin (a.k.a. wrong stuff that offends God) you'll still see in me if you watch me long enough. Yep. New nature and presence of the Holy Spirit notwithstanding, this born-again, redeemed, forgiven guy still screws up. And when he does, it offends my creator. Personally. Personally and specifically. What I specifically do, specifically and personally offends the omnipresent creator of the universe.

And I brush it off with, “Sorry, Lord.”

Sure, I can ask and expect forgiveness – but only because when the Lord looks at me He sees the goodness of Jesus. It sure ain't down to what a cool dude I am.

“Sin” is also unpopular as a word and a concept. As an activity of human beings, on the other hand, it's pretty much top of the charts. 'Cos that's how we is born, folks. And God hates it vehemently. Not conceptually or generally, but specifically and personally. I need to remember that.