Having spent most of the previous 18 months preparing in one way or another, we finally delivered our youngest child to Liverpool University in mid September 2016.
I filled the cupboards of his frankly lovely student digs, fussed about and ensured that he had everything he could possibly need. I cried when we left, he hugged me, told me he loved me while patting the top of my head, then instructed his father to take me away.
Over the next week, I found little things on Amazon he might like and enjoy and lovingly packed up little care packages to send on pretty much a daily basis. A mini whiteboard, retractable keyring, chocolate, Mugshots – anything to fill the void of not being needed on a daily basis any more. I had visions of my darling child returning long haired, bearded and all skin and bones by Christmas. As it happened I needn’t have worried; he returned a couple of times before Christmas, beardless and not too long haired and only a few pounds lighter before Christmas due mostly, so he told me, to the vast amount of walking involved in university life.
As a couple, the OH and I had talked about our later years; mostly about whether we would we still like each other when the children that had lived with us for 30 or so years had all left to start their adult lives.
“We had slipped silently into middle age”
For a few years now, we had been taking breaks and holidays as a couple again and a year before, almost to the day, we had taken an autumn mini break – staying at Bryn Dinas Camping Pods for a few days. While touring the beautiful Snowdonia National Park, we saw many motorhomes and campervans either parked up in the campsites dotted liberally along our route or in the car parks of the attractions we visited. At this time of year (early October) as it wasn’t the school holidays, these vehicles were almost all two-up, with people who were in our age bracket. And so it dawned on us – we had slipped silently into middle age and not even noticed.
“Cracking day out there, tea love?”
We were in a viewpoint car park, early one morning when the obsession really started. It was our last day in the camping pod and we had made an early start to have a full day in the Park before heading home. The Snowdonian scenery is just breathtaking and on a crisp, frosty, sunny morning like this, the mountains looked almost magical. It wasn’t yet 9am and as I took photos of the views, the occupants of the only other vehicle parked – a beaten up old motorhome – were stirring. The door of the vehicle flew open and a chap stretched and yawned in the doorway, blinking away the sudden brightness of the sun. Disappearing inside, I heard him say, “Cracking day out there, tea love?”
I looked at my other half, patiently waiting for me to finish snapping, and I knew he had heard it too and was thinking the same thing. We climbed back in the car and started a conversation that would last for hours. By the time we were home, long after dark, the seeds of a plan was in place.