My son has bought a flat. In today’s London, given our astronomical property prices, this is a real marker of adulthood.
So my daughter is suitably, and simultaneously, jealous, and admiring. She and her partner are having to consider leaving London altogether, to find somewhere to settle down in.
Of course, his new apartment is not within central London, or even London at all. In fact, it is just outside the M25 orbital motorway, which surrounds the capital.
Here, his one-bedroom home is just about affordable, although at a stretch. He is, however, sacrificing price for proximity.
Nevertheless, it is still within commuting distance; although it will take him two trains to visit his deprived parents.
Now, however, begins for him, the arduous task of fitting out his new domicile. It is, for example, surprisingly difficult to find contractors available to do the work: on flooring, kitchen, and windows.
This is because, there appears to be a shortage, with many skilled workers too busy, or simply non-existent – a combination of Brexit and Covid have made many decamp to their home countries.
The old cliché of the East European builder, with a poor grasp of English but a great understanding of the work ethic, is no longer a reality.
Furniture has been ordered, but this requires someone staying all day in the empty flat, sitting on the floor, looking at their smart phone; because companies can’t give precise times for deliveries. Further physical work is also needed, as there are now several boxes of flat-pack shelves, desks, and cupboards, awaiting our son’s friend to help with the mind-boggling task of assembly.
Acquiring furnishings also entails lengthy searches online for second-hand beds, cookers and washing machines.
In this quest, disappointment frequently ensues, as websites have often not been updated, and the items are revealed as having already been sold.
It’s actually my wife who is most active in this process, actually more active than our son, who is happy for her to do the donkey work.
She has been stirred to this internet activism, an expression of her mothering instinct, out of concern that her son have a lovely place to live in.
It is the culmination of several years during his twenties, when he did a succession of different jobs (call-centres, coffee shops, English teaching), including abroad.
After each one, he would return home, for a break, to reflect and re-evaluate his plans. So, he never really left us; not in any permanent sense.
Now he has a stable job, and consequently is putting down roots. He seems happy and excited. Plus, it’s a proud moment for us.
But we will miss him; and especially my wife will do so. In the last couple of years, she and he got into the habit of doing newspaper crosswords and other puzzles together.
They do this after our evening meal, over coffee. It’s a wonderful time of bonding. But I feel sad. I know that this time, the empty nest will be final.