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  • Writer's pictureMike Gould

Separation on a sunny afternoon

My elder daughter and her boyfriend have been visiting this weekend, and have just jumped on the train back to London, to a different life. Earlier in the week, I saw our younger daughter after work and a further week or so back, our son paid us a fleeting call. I'm not the first parent to lament the separation which growing-up brings. Better writers than me have written of the breaking of the invisible umbilical chord which comes with seeing your children step into their own futures, but that doesn't make it any easier. Strangely, I find it more difficult now than I did when they first stepped away from us properly as they trod the path from home to unfamiliar towns and university halls.

This clearly has something to do with my own mortality, but rather than see it with sadness and regret, I choose to count myself lucky that we have such bonds as a family that we can simultaneously wish them well in their independent adulthood, and cherish even more deeply the time they spend with us.

On the walk my wife and I did with our daughter and her boyfriend this afternoon, along the South Downs Way near Jevington, East Sussex, we came across a field of black cattle - like ink drops on the lush hillside. I think they were bullocks, and of course the smaller ones were curious and looked us with the large doleful eyes of little children. It is a measure of our simultaneous connection and disconnection with our land and agriculture that we snap pictures oblivious of their fate. Do they kill them immediately? Put them out for breeding? I have no idea. Like everyone else on the same hills, walking dogs, flying kites, grimly urging mountain bikes up the escarpment, the landscape is there as a sort of canvas over which we skim, breathless and enervated by the momentary sense of the sublime.

The South Downs Way, near Jevington, East Sussex

It seems to me that we live in a state of watchful hopelessness, unable either to know the world around us or to save our own children from growing-up, whether they want saving or not! There is nevertheless peace and harmony to be had, naive as it may be in current times, on a breezy sunlit hill high above the sea.

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