The Great Ingathering

One in, three to go. The great return from summer camps is happening in our household in the space of 48 hours. From all edges of England and Wales and beyond.

It’s always an exciting time, and the washing machine and dryer are particularly thrilled to be able to celebrate nonstop for hours on end.

First returnee gets the chance to have a monopoly over both white goods and the parental audience, but payback comes when they have have to recount the tales of goings-on twice or three times more. Last one in (from Heathrow, Tuesday) will have the audience and full attention from all with no need to repeat her stories but will probably have no voice after weeks of shouting and in any event will be incoherent from sleep deprivation.

Still, there will be a blissful honeymoon period for a few weeks when they swarm around together joined at their hips and appreciating each other’s company before the dispersal effect of the new academic year comes into play.

And I have been delighted and gratified this summer to have received a letter and a postcard. The letter-writer saw letter-writing down as an activity one day and thought it would be a nice surprise for us. It was. I wrote to him once a week throughout his entire gap year without any snail mail in response.

The author of the postcard had been deprived of any opportunity to phone home because I had failed to organise a foreign phone service provider. Oops. Still, I appreciated the card far more. I know all too well what a palaver it is to purchase, write, and mail cards from overseas.

She did however manage to get to a phone once or twice to report conjunctivitis and ear infections, and thus a couple of visits to the doctor.

“Oh, fine, why are you telling us this?” enquired her father.

“I told them you wouldn’t care” she said. Oops again.

The youngest one was provided with stamped addressed envelopes to write to us. She is normally the only reliable correspondent. Not this year. I can only conclude that at 12, she is finally completely free of homesickness of any sort and we can now look forward to a good few years of general non-communication.

And as for me, in addition to getting work ready for an exhibition in September, I have used this time not to read or relax but to get up to date with the washing and the tidying of rooms. I wonder why it is that the only time I ever feel like housework is when they’re all away?

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