Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Blog 54[3]...Durham in a day...

Blog 54 [3]…Durham in a day…

On Saturday morning myself, the ‘Hubby’, the ‘Intelligent-one’ and the ‘Cutie-pie’ were up very early…5.00am to be exact and then dressed and breakfasted and wrapped up warm and sitting in the car along with a picnic lunch. Ooh I hear you wonder… ‘Fishing trip?’ no…University trip! Ah yes it has come around now, that time of our lives for the fleeing of the nest is well under way…first the ‘Bridezilla’ and now the ‘Intelligent-one’ is planning his escape…thank goodness the ‘Cutie-pie’ is still too young to be thinking of going anywhere further than the end of the garden without me!

We had arranged for the ‘Bridezilla’ to swap cars: yes you’re right the Kia is a lovely little car but the operative word is little and the thought of piling the four of us and a picnic and pillows [I’ll explain in a minute…] and laptops and Game boys etc. into it for a few hours’ journey brought back memories of the Skegness trip and I wanted to arrive calm and fresh not squashed and sweaty. So, after an extortionate insurance payment for safety’s sake…I would not let the ‘Hubby’ take her car and risk anything happening to it whereby she would need another car and we’d be left in lumber…oh I do wish I could switch of all the what-ifs whenever we need to plan something but it’s just in my make-up…we were set! We had packed a picnic on Friday night and then it was bed early. What we didn’t plan on was the ever changing weather…I’d sorted waterproofs but hats and gloves? No! Winter woollies in September? We awoke to a blanket of pure white ground glistening in the lampposts’ rays! So a mad dash around the house for gloves, hats, scarves…the first frost of the year…typical.

Now, it has become almost a custom with our boys ever since their early childhood the different way in which they cope with a car journey any longer than a trip to the supermarket; so it came as no surprise to see the ‘Cutie-pie’ snuggled up in his quilted eiderdown and his pillow behind his head; with his fully charged Gameboy, selection of games and snacks all to hand. The ‘Intelligent-one’ on the other hand simply zipped up his jacket, pulled his deer-stalker hat over his earphones, wedged his hands in his pockets and slept; oblivious to anything or anyone around him.
As for me? Well, I always get lumbered with the role of the navigator: difficult job due to needing reading glasses for the map and distance glasses for the road signs and all too often the ‘Hubby’ will shout “What does this sign coming up say?” and by the time I have swapped my glasses the sign has long since passed! It’s the same with roundabouts…I’ll say third exit and he says “Which one?” as he takes the roundabout at 100mph and expects me to point him in the right direction whilst sliding against the passenger door, glasses falling into the door drawer and as I rectify the situation he has passed the roundabout, taken the wrong exit and is motoring in the totally wrong direction…and as happened on Saturday…was stuck behind a tractor whose driver thought he was the only person out and about at that time of the morning and he had all the time in the world to sit in the middle of the road as he drove at less than 5mph! 

I have to say though that even though it was frosty as the sun came up the scenery became breath-taking. The motorway gave way to country lanes, stone houses puffed the first fire of the day through their chimneys, white fields were dotted with sheep, the most brilliant blue of skies appeared above us and warm pinky streams of cloud touched the hills as the day began to break. I was imagining the people in the cottages sitting in their pyjamas in front of range cookers or curled up by wood burning stoves, their lamps sending warm glows across their kitchen floors as they started their weekend…whilst I sat shivering despite the ‘Bridezilla’s’ car heater on full blast because I had put my summer shoes on, without socks, whilst I packed the car, then dashed about like a headless chicken making sure I had printed off the full map and directions and then jumped in the car totally oblivious to the fact that I had my winter coat and gloves on BUT still had my sandals on…by the time my ice cold toes started to shiver we were half way down the motorway and too late to go back for my socks and boots! [So much for last week when I wondered if my grandma turning up in her slippers would run in the family…!]

Nonetheless, it was an important day and we were on time. The ‘Intelligent-one’ had booked the four us in for a course on what his Degree would entail…of course being so keen he had booked us in for the very first talk of the day at 9.30am…then we were to attend a lecture for Parents on admissions and finance [the cause of many a sleepless night…!] at 1.30pm…announcing that he had allowed us plenty of time to go sightseeing through the town …ha! Sight was a good word if you can picture me in a winter coat, woolly hat, gloves and summer sandals! Also, unthinkingly, I had packed the picnic in the rather large cooling picnic box…yes one of the larger ones you can buy so that I can get ALL the food we are capable of consuming once we are in fresh air packed nicely! What I should have done was pack it all separately into 4 back packs because unbeknown to me we were not parking in a car park at the University…oh no… the directions led us straight to a Park and Ride facility where we picked up a bus to the campus…minus the picnic box…who the hell wants to carry that around all day!
All the ‘Hubby’ could say was:
“Thanks son, that’s better than looking for parking…”
and all the ‘Cutie-pie’ could say was:
“There’d better be a coffee shop…I just fancy a mini-hot chocolate with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles…”
And all the ‘Intelligent-one’ could say was:
“We could walk it you know, it’s only about 20 minutes from here…”
and all I could think was ‘Dear Lord, let my toes defrost without dropping off…’

So, we arrived at the University and I was blown away by the size of where my ‘Intelligent-one’; my first born, could be going to be living and studying this time next year and for a full three or four years to come. In fact I was more than blown away, I was overwhelmed…I had to fight a very strong urge to grab him, wrap him in my arms and run all the way back home. It suddenly hit me that all this was very real and as I stood in awe of this fantastic building, amongst groups of excited teenagers and their fathers I noticed that for the most part all the mothers seemed to be walking about with a smile pasted on their faces…I was not alone in this incredible tug of love…yes we have to grow up…yes we have to move on…yes this is what life is all about…but I wanted to shout ‘No! No! No! Not yet…he’s so young, so unprepared…I’m so unprepared…can we come back in 10 years time please?!’

We were greeted by a fantastic duet performed by musical students playing the accordion, young people handing out goody bags and students with large white foam fingers pointing the way around the campus. After registering we made our way into the first lecture hall. At this point I was calmer but feeling excited at the same time, if that’s possible to imagine! We sat down in rows and I felt as though I was back at college…many, many years ago. I produced my note pad and pen and sat eagerly awaiting the imparting of the Head of Department’s knowledge…and then IT happened! Just like when I was at college the strange sensation of being unable to keep my eyes open and concentrate at the same time flooded over me…is it the warmth of the room? Is it the sheer effort of intense listening? Who knows…but it’s spooky…I was transported back to those long days of studying and trying desperately to write every single word that comes out of the lecturer’s mouth! I used to completely nod off, head resting on my left hand, pen wavering about the note page in my right hand…to all intents and purposes I appear to be enthralled but in actual fact I’m a million miles away…the notes from college were often useless…being just lines of scribble…and the notes I wrote on Saturday are neither ‘use nor ornament’ as grandma used to say! It’s a dreadful sensation: I’m in a deep sleep whilst still sitting up, I don’t snore or dribble, my head stays still but for a few moments I’m gone! Then I float back to civilisation and am fine! I’d forgotten all about this affliction until the lecturer began to talk…and I was helpless!
“That was informative…good advice…” announced the ‘Hubby’ totally unawares of my morning nap.
“Oh …er yes…” I trilled in reply whilst making a mental note to study the University web site for information.
Moving on we then had a snack of hot drinks and cakes to sustain us for the walk into the town…which actually was much nearer than we realised and we found the Student’s Union at the corner of the main road, about five minutes away from the main university building. In this place we stumbled across a very young but confidant Student Ambassador who introduced us to the mine field of accommodation…ye Gods my baby could be sharing a room with a stranger…having to make his own breakfast…responsible for his washing…all just too much! They live in the halls of residence; now known as colleges, for the first year…Phew! Everything is within walking distance. Then they move out…WHAT? Why? In the second year, they are given support to find somewhere and people like them to share accommodation…[the cost of which is akin to our monthly mortgage payments]…they have to find their own lettings…oh no not the ‘Intelligent-one’ he’d leave it until the week before term starts and then announce he’s got nowhere to live and can we book him into the Hilton…!
So in an effort to 'calm the mother' they decided we should explore the Cathedral on the hill and off we set, following the other hapless and now distraught looking parents…yes I wanted to say to them; “Mmm you too eh? Not so smug looking now are we? Thought it’d be exciting eh? Heartbreaking … and bank breaking more like…”
As I stepped onto the entrance to the bridge, my feet were totally numb by now and then this numbness very quickly shot through my body…I stopped…rooted to the spot as we had approached the bridge through a beautiful walk way of trees I had been totally unaware of the height of the bridge…the sheer drop down into what had once been the moat and safety measures for the historic buildings ahead…yet another affliction in my ever increasing repertoire of fearful things along with deep water, driving over bridges and being near sandcastles [I’ll explain that in a minute…] my fear of heights. Wouldn’t you just think that after 30 years of being together the ‘Hubby’ would have stopped and held my hand? No. Did he even realise that I was not walking beside him? No. Luckily for me the ‘Cutie-pie’ wanted a sweet from my handbag or I’m sure I’d still be standing there…he turned, saw the look of horror on my face…tried unsuccessfully to disguise his giggle and turned towards his father and brother…
“What’s up with the mother?” He asked
“Her feet are cold…” stated the ‘Intelligent-one.’
“Oh hell, we’re too high for her…” at last…noticed by the nearest and dearest.

[Right the fear issue…well if I am walking on a bridge I have an overwhelming longing to throw myself over the sides and fly…if I am walking in a building with a high roof I have a tendency to fall to one side…as if I’m being drawn into a hole…if I am on a beach and someone has spent hours building fabulous sculptures out of sand I get the uncontrollable urge to kick it all down…Why? Who knows but if you are working these impulses out please also consider why on earth do I get an urge to shout something rude when I’m in a room full of adults? Luckily I’ve never had that problem with children otherwise my teaching career would have been very short indeed…]

Well, the walk across the stone bridge was akin to the fear of walking the plank…but it was worth it. Winding cobbled streets, ancient buildings; quaint shops...the Cathedral and Castle are a world renowned heritage site: previously unbeknown to me; it has the most stunning city panorama…a fabulous place to explore. We walked around the streets and in through the Cathedral doorway that opened out onto a beautiful lawned area flanked on all four sides by the Cathedral. As we walked along the flagged Cloisters the ‘Cutie-pie’ announced that it was just like 'Harry Potter' and at any moment 'Dumbledore' could come flying in through the doorways. The smell of ancient wood, the sound of shoes tap, tap, tapping, the magnificent stone archways then all gave way to the most serene and incensed filled, candle-lit sight: the inside of the Cathedral with outstanding stained glass windows. Pure magic.
There was a fabulous sense of history as well as a wonderful feeling that actually this would be a great place for the ‘Intelligent-one’ to come and live; to study and explore.
My feelings of apprehension were slowly giving way to a feeling of pride, of safety, of knowledge that he would enjoy this time, this place, this history.
[Of course the height of the ceiling was too much for me…I lit candles and knelt to pray whilst the men folk oohed and ahhed about the architecture, I shan’t bore you with the details but I stupidly looked into what I thought was a glass case…mmm well apparently it’s a special mirror that reflects the ceiling for those of us who cannot look up…what about those of us who faint by looking down at something that is up? Work that one out and you get a gold star!] 
All too soon the perfect day came to an end and we retreated to the car and our driving foibles…except that I was relieved of my navigation duties as the journey home was better signposted!
Ah home…warmth, calm, all of us together for a Saturday night supper…happy days…then the peace was shattered as the voice of the ‘Intelligent-one’ called…
“I’ve booked us in for the Warwick University Open Day…”
… mm…let’s get the directions printed for that one…mustn’t forget to use the back packs…oh and I‘d better get my boots out ready…don't want to be caught out twice now I do?

Blog54 [3]
Copyright©GML 2012

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