I am writing this on Saturday and it’s Miss F’s 18th birthday. It’s hard to believe that it’s eighteen years ago today that a tiny scrap wrapped in a towel was handed to me and I was left to get on with it. It wasn’t an easy birth – five days in labour culminating in a hasty emergency C-Section – and I can still remember the overwhelming relief when she was finally in my arms because there had been a few moments when her heart stopped, and I was convinced she was dead. Mind you, there were times throughout the last days of labour when I wished I was dead.
It’s been a long and at times rocky path we’ve travelled together. We’ve coped with being a single parent family and the financial hardships and the negative stigma attached to that. I think I’ve done a good job. Parenthood doesn’t come with an instruction manual, and you only know if you’ve done it right when it’s too late to go back and do it again. But, when I look at the confident, strong, hardworking, and kind young woman Miss F has become, I’m quietly smug that I did a bloody good job. Mind you, I had good material to work with.
And now she’s 18, an adult, poised on the edge of the rest of her life. In three weeks, she’s off to university – now that, I really can’t wrap my head around – and my role in her life will change from a supervisory and managerial one to that of a freelance consultant.
It will also mark a massive transformation in my life as well in that for the first time in eighteen years I will be alone and able to do whatever I want, whenever I want – funds allowing of course. What do I anticipate will occur? Well, my shopping and eating habits will change. No more will I be catering for the needs and whims of a lactose intolerant and quite picky teenager. I can eat what I want and I’m planning to go back on the every other day diet which is the only weight loss regime that ever worked for me. I will generally be eating a lot healthier because I will only be cooking for myself.
I think my utilities and water bills will decrease, at least, I hope they will. I will also have an awful lot more spare time. Time, I plan to fill with writing, reading, working on my writing career, expanding my reach on social media, maybe even exploring other hobbies such as returning to amateur dramatics. Who knows?
Of course, I will miss her dreadfully. Without her presence, I know the house will feel empty and quiet and I must adjust to this new way of life. But I am sensible enough to accept that this is a necessary and healthy change and adapt accordingly. Plus, I have always been very self-sufficient. Being the victim of extreme bullying all through school, I learnt to do without friends and to enjoy my own company. Don’t get me wrong, I am looking forward to having more time to spend with friends but being alone doesn’t scare me.
So, what has happened over the past week? As you know, I took Miss F and a friend to the zoo last Sunday and we had a wonderful time – I hope you enjoyed the pictures of the animals. It doesn’t feel like a week ago. I had so many plans for this holiday and haven’t achieved any of them. A combination of tiredness, unexpected distractions, and Miss F being home and needing my attention has filled my time. I did get the bathroom deep cleaned and freshened it up by changing the accessories from lime green to charcoal grey, which has changed the look of the bathroom incredibly. I made a few phone calls and sent a few emails that I’d been procrastinating over.
Thursday was results day and what a rollercoaster ride of emotions that was. Every single student in the country expected to get their results that day – except those who had taken my daughter’s course. For some reason, the governing board City & Guilds announced that they would have to wait until the 18th of August to get theirs. No reason was given, and it defied all logic as to why they were making them wait. It seemed deeply unfair, but then City & Guilds have been absolute a-holes about everything to do with exams this year.
Miss F was annoyed about this but resigned to waiting. Thursday dawned, and she received an email telling her that she could access her grades via the college’s website. Confused but excited, she assumed that City & Guilds had changed their minds, went onto the website, and clicked on the portal to be given her grades. It took her straight back to the home page. She clicked again. Back to the home page, she went. Round and round she went, her angry frustration deepening with every rotation. She checked the college Facebook page. Yes, everyone else was experiencing the same problem. It’s a glitch, the college announced. We’re working on it.
Thirty minutes ticked by. It’s fixed, declared the college. Miss F tried again. Round and round the merry-go-round she went. She looked on the Facebook page again. Everyone else was getting their results. She messaged her tutor. He replied that as she wasn’t allowed to see her results until the 18th access was being denied to her. Miss F asked if he knew her grades. Yes, he did but wasn’t allowed to tell her them. She checked on the UCAS website. It told her that her university application had been successful. She then received an email from the university itself. Congratulations, she had passed her exams and they looked forward to seeing her in September.
Miss F boiled over in a fury at the stupid unfairness of it all. UCAS knew her grades. The university knew her grades. Her college knew her grades. Even her tutor knew her grades. Everyone knew her grades except her and there was no reason to keep them from her. She fumed and fretted. Yes, she knew she’d done well enough to be accepted to the university of her choice, but she wanted to know her grades. Eventually, her tutor emailed her. This is ridiculous and unfair he said. I’m not supposed to tell you, but here are your grades. In seconds, Miss F’s frown of despair turned into a beam of delight. She’d passed with a distinction star – the highest grade it was possible to get and the equivalent to an A* in A ‘Levels.
So very proud of her. But she deserves this. Over the past four years, I have watched her work her little socks off – first at her GCSEs and then at her animal management diploma – totally focused and utterly committed to that one goal – going to university to learn how to be a zookeeper. The past eighteen months have been tough ones for all students everywhere. What with home-schooling, lacklustre tuition, and generally a below-par level of education, to achieve the results she has is testimony to how hard she has worked.
So, next stop university! There is a little under four weeks before she goes and so much to do between now and then. She has everything she could possibly need and I think she will be the most well-equipped university student ever – with the stuff she is taking ranging from a first aid kit to a garlic press to a reed diffuser! As we couldn’t afford to do everything in one hit, Miss F began a university wish list last summer and for each birthday, Christmas, and Easter festivity ever since this list has been sent to all who buy for her, amended, and added to over the year until her university “bottom drawer” was full to bursting of everything she will need or want over the three years she will be away.
Since Christmas I have added one store cupboard essential each week to my shopping list so now, she has all the condiments, sauces, and basics like pasta, baked beans, and tinned tomatoes. That first shop can work out expensive, so it made sense to spread the cost. For Christmas I bought all the cleaning and household products she would need, with friends and family buying her towels, bedding, saucepans etc. I don’t think we’ve forgotten anything! She has a LOT of stuff to take. On top of all the above, there is her new TV, a printer, her PS4, a rug, laptops, lamps, and, of course, all her clothes. Will I be able to fit it all into a Nissan Micra? I think I can, but as I would rather know sooner not later if I can’t, we will be doing a dry run beforehand and locating all her university stuff from the various cupboards, drawers, wardrobes, and under the bed and packing it all in the car. It will take a whole day I imagine, to pull everything out, carry it downstairs, pack the car, unpack, and carry everything back upstairs, but it must be done. If it proves impossible to get everything in there is a backup plan, I will hire a small van. Obviously, this will take time and is not something I want to be panicking about on the morning of the 8th – her moving in day!
A funny thing happened a week ago last Friday. Being very tired I had gone to bed reasonably early and fallen asleep quickly, only to be woken at 3am by the sound of someone in the street below trying to get into a car. I have Ninja hearing when it comes to people mucking about in the street, especially if it sounds like a car is involved because there’s always the fear it might be my car. I lay there, listening intently. Yes, someone was trying a car door handle repeatedly. I crawled out of bed and looked out of the window. Down below was a young man trying the passenger side door of a parked car which I thought belonged to Chris and Celia – my next-door neighbours but one. The car was clearly locked but it didn’t stop him from trying the handle over, and over, again.
“Let me in,” he kept saying. “I wanna go home, I’m cold, let me in!”
Although August, it was a chilly and damp night and I wondered why he was clad only in a pair of shorts – no wonder you’re cold, I thought. Then the moon came out from behind some clouds, and I saw that far from wearing shorts and a t-shirt he was actually butt naked apart from a tiny pair of black underpants that were halfway down his arse.
Umm … I had questions.
I watched him for a bit longer, now fully invested in this drama. Click, click, click, he kept trying the handle. Staggering, he would fall into the car, and it was clear he was absolutely lollied!
“Let me in!” he kept begging some imaginary person. Did he think someone was in the car? Did he think it was a taxi?
I pulled the window up and leaned out.
“Mate, are you all right? Do you need me to phone for an ambulance? Do you need me to phone the police?”
No answer … click click click … stagger sway lump onto the side window of the car …
“Mate, are you on your stag night?”
It suddenly occurred to me that this was just the sort of thing men did to the groom on his stag night. Get him drunk, remove all his clothes, and then abandon him in the middle of town to make his way home. Haha. See you in the church tomorrow, or maybe we won’t.
He continued to ignore me.
“Whose car is that?” I shouted. “Get away from the car, I don’t think it’s yours. And you shouldn’t be driving in that state, anyway.”
A bedroom window suddenly rattled up two doors down and Chris stuck his head out the window.
“Oi, you! Get away from my bloody car!”
He was also ignored. Chris looked at me.
He’s been doing this for about ten minutes now,” I said. “Do you think we should call the police?”
“Celia already is,” he answered. Of course, she was. I think she has the station on speed dial.
We waited and watched as the naked man continued to jiggle the door handle, fall softly into the side of the car, rub his nipples, and complain piteously how cold he was and that he just wanted to go home.
Not more than five minutes later, a police car pulled into the road, followed by a van, and seven burly police people in flak jackets got out and ambled over to the drunk.
“Is this your car, sir?”
“No, it’s bloody well not, it’s mine!” This was from Chris.
The police looked the drunk up and down as he continued to try and get into the car. You had to admire his persistence if nothing else.
“I just wanna go home,” he informed the police.
“And where is home?”
“Right. Are they your glasses on top of the car?”
“Then put them on and you might be able to see that this is not your car, nor is it a taxi, so will you please stop trying to get into it, sir.”
A policeman shone his torch onto the top of the car and there lay a pair of glasses. Very carefully, the man took them and put them on.
“Why did you take them off?”
“They were dirty.”
“Right. Are these your clothes on the pavement?”
“Why did you take them off?”
“They were dirty too.”
“Hmm, yes, that is a lot of sick. But you need to get dressed now, please. Put your jeans on.”
The man tried. To his credit, he did try. But after a few minutes it was obvious they were asking the impossible. I then had the amusing experience of watching three burly policemen snap on latex gloves and attempt to dress an extremely drunk man in vomit splattered clothes. It was like trying to dress a mannequin.
“No, wrong leg … other leg … that’s it. Now your top … no, you’ve put your head through an armhole, back out … no, this way … follow the sound of my voice.”
The drunk picked up his socks and they all looked at them.
“I’d just … put them in your pocket if I were you, mate.”
“It’s my birthday today.”
“Is it? How old are you?”
There was a general round of grunts and exclamations of disbelief. I must admit, he didn’t look 18, more 28 or even 38, but it was hard to tell in the moonlight.
Then, to my surprise, after checking he had his wallet, they set him loose into the town and told him to find a taxi – like any self-respecting taxi driver is going to let him into their cab reeking of sick and unable to say anything other than I wanna go home and let me in I’m cold.
I had thought they might chuck him in a cell overnight and let him sleep it off. A couple of years ago a young man went missing in town on a night out. A huge search finally concluded that he’d got into a large bin to sleep it off and ended up shredded in landfill. A truly gruesome end to come to and one that could have been avoided if his friends had taken care of him and made sure he got home. I think women are better in that respect than men, I’ve been on a few nights out where a friend has been very much the worse for drink, but I would never have let her wander off on her own. It would have been pay a taxi to get her home or get her back to mine and into the spare bed, rather than leave her alone, senseless, and vulnerable to being mugged or worse.
So, the drunk wandered off into the night and I hope he made it home. The police spoke to Chris, checked there was no damage to his car and left. Going back to bed, I heard a bucket of water being thrown over the side of Chris’s car. It’s ironic though, two vehicles and seven police to deal with one pathetic, naked drunk. When we had a knifeman roaming up and down the street inviting us to “come out to play” the police didn’t arrive until an hour later when the man had gone. What’s the betting if I phoned to say my house was being burgled, I’d be lucky to get a single bobby on a bike.
That’s how things roll in my shire … never a dull moment.
Sadly, Miss F had to work on her birthday – the restaurant was so short-staffed they wouldn’t let her have the day off – but it was only a five-hour shift. I am picking her up at five o’clock, we will swing by the supermarket on the way home and pick up our shopping which will include a big birthday cake and lots of cider for her. This evening we have my favourite niece and her husband coming over for a big Chinese takeaway and a games night. It was what the birthday girl wanted, so it’s what she is going to get.
I’m ready. The house is clean, and the table is laid. All I need to do is get changed and put on some make-up and then let the evening commence.
Hope wherever you are you are enjoying your weekend and I look forward to chatting with you next Sunday.