Updated: Sep 22, 2022
It's the end of an era. No, I don't mean the lately departed monarch, nor the recent change of Tory leadership, which for me is no change at all.
No, the era I'm refering to is the cozy existance between me and my daughter, for this weekend she finally flew the nest, off to University in London to begin studies at the London College of Fashion. Three years of impending anxiety for me, of adventure for her, and hopefully a future career as a (sustainable & ethical) apparel designer ahead. Naturally she'll be back during the holidays (erm…. I hope!), but so many of her things were shifted I have to say there's not a great deal left behind. I’m immensely grateful to my brother who provided the wheels - his car was packed with everything daughter could possibly need to set up student life, and we drove down to the big smoke on Friday. It all reminded me of when I left home for my arts degree course in Manchester back in the day, such a difference! Back then, all I had was a small, tatty old hand-me-down suitcase containing a few changes of clothes, a sketchbook, toothbrush and a couple of books, my parents saw me off at the local station and that was that. Being a student is very different experience today, much more care expected, and given. Of course the costings are different too - daughter has a student loan, I had a grant.
Who knows, daughter may move back into the parental home after graduating, but as a fashion designer I doubt there’ll be much to interest her in Norwich other than affordability. Norwich is a wonderful, historic city to settle in and raise a child, but perhaps not the best starting point for a career in the fashion industry. All that’s in the future - for now, she’s just waking up to life in London, though not completely alone as she’s in a shared student accomodation, and hopefully under the protective shell of the University. On her first day in college she’ll be meeting Grayson Perry. How damned exciting, she’s going to have a blast - I’m so jealous!!
I’m especially keen she has an easier time with the places she lives than the mixed bag of grotty bedsits and shared Manchester slum houses I had as a student. She’s on the very top floor of a multistorey student block - the “penthouse suite” as she describes it, though her room is tiny, and kitchen shared with five other students, some of them on her course. All very smart, she’s already mixing with the community, she’ll be safe for now!
It’s a major turn-around point in my life too, a time for reflection and adjustment. Today marks the first time I’m living entirely alone in many decades (just me and the cat). Since daughter and I returned to the UK after my late wife’s passing, raising and caring for her has been my overriding incentive, it’s one of the reasons we shifted home so many times until settling here in central Norwich, it’s the thing that kept me focused on illustration work - obviously I love what I do, but it’s the struggle to maintain a comfortable home for my daughter as a single parent that fuelled and kept me centred. When we arrived she was just 4 years old and spoke only Japanese, which changed very quickly as she adjusted to UK life, in fact for several years she rejected Japan as it brought back painful memories of her lost mum. Every decision I’ve made in the UK has been with my daughter at the centre. As she matured from child to adolescent and now dynamic young adult, we’ve supported each other, she’s grown to guide my decisions as much as I have hers. The home we have is as much her creation as it is mine.
And now, suddenly, she’s off, effectively fledged the nest, I’m back to my own, solo thoughts and conundrums…. my daughter gave me purpose - so what will happen to motivation? To ambition? To confidence (already on a low ebb thanks to the pandemic)? Time will tell, but now, at the start of this period of adjustment, the new rules must be laid, and stuck with.
No more of the same-old, same-old. There is much to be done, key things for me now are to avoid traps of solitude and indifference. Find the energy, keep on moving, keep on grooving! And above all, stay healthy! Nomatter where they live or how they develop, our children always need their parents.
Thankfully, I still have the cat!
I can’t pass this weekend without offering some words regards that other ending era. Having republican views for most of my life (not the US political party I should clarify!), I’ve been silent on social media and kept well out of the whole media thing - I’ve avoided the news, especially TV coverage, and only listened to music on the radio, it’s been a remarkably quiet house these last days, a media black-out of anything royal. Partly this is due to a morbid dread of state-ceremony mourning. There’s a reason for this - when I was 6 years old I watched Winston Churchill’s coffin-on-a-gun carriage funeral on TV, it was my first experience of funerals, it was confusing, all I understood was that someone was dead, their lifeless body was on that gun carriage, and all the adults were miserable. For some reason it terrified me then, and I think left an indelible mark. Such doleful state events (especially the sight of gun carriages draped with flags) all these years later still give me a foreboding that goes right back to those childhood memories, I just can’t watch.
The other, easier explanation is that I just don’t agree with monarchy in this day and age, for all the reasons, I don't need to go into them here. Absence from the UK for over 20 years only served to deepen my convictions regarding this, I never once gave a thought to royalty while I was in Japan, even Diana’s passing was something very far away and utterly irrelevant to my life in Tokyo. Many illustrators have shared their tribute images, or dug something out of the archives. I have not. The only time I can recall drawing Elizabeth II was a purile satirical cartoon in the early ’80’s, long since forgotten. Someone said “I’m surprised you’re not interested in the royal family, considering you like history so much”. Argh!! It’s precisely because I study history that I stand against the idea of monarchy today.
But hold on, I'm talking about the institution, not the person. I am affected by the passing of Elizabeth II, I was saddened to hear the news, whether you’re for or against the idea of monarchy there’s no denying Elizabeth was always there in every strata from UK currency to government, the ultimate celebrity, and she performed the role to perfection. I’ve no antipathy towards the late Queen at all, I acknowledge the love for old Liz, and send my thoughts to all those for whom this occasion brings pain, sadness and perhaps memories of their own loss. She did what she did with aplomb and I will miss her presence.
I respect the woman, but not the role. Rest in peace Liz.