Friday, January 07, 2011

Belshaw's World - bittersweet moment when young leave the nest

Note to readers: This post appeared as a column, the last for 2010, in the Armidale Express on 29 December 2010. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because the Express columns are not on line. You can see all the columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010

I hope that you had a happy and peaceful Christmas.

Looking back, this is my third post Christmas column.

The first, Christmas in New England, was a nostalgic look at Christmas’s past. The next was equally nostalgic.

Nostalgia seems to grow with age. There is simply more to be nostalgic about!

Each Boxing Day since the girls were very young we have gone to see a movie. The Kings Speech was this year’s choice.

This is a remarkably good movie.

At its first public showing at the Toronto International Film Festival, the audience stood and applauded at the end. In Sydney, they clapped.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, I won’t give the full plot away.

The film stars Colin Firth as King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as speech therapist Lionel Logue who helped George VI overcome a totally debilitating stammer.

The film begins with the future king’s excruciating closing speech at the 1925 British Empire Exhibition at Wembley.

Nobody expected Albert Duke of York to become King. He was just a younger brother. Still, he had public duties to perform and so went to Logue for help.

The film takes some dramatic license with the story in that its primary focus is on the period before and immediately after Albert became King.

Checking the story, it appears that the first major speech that the Duke of York gave after beginning treatment with Logue was much earlier, the 1927 opening of the Australian Parliament. He delivered this without a stammer.

I can forgive this license.

Bertie, as Logue called him, took the throne from a sense of duty. War quickly followed. There he and his wife achieved almost iconic status by sharing the experiences of Londoners during the blitz.

Logue continued to provide support throughout.

As I started writing this story after the movie, my wife was learning Danish. This must seem a strange, unrelated, segue. Not so.

The reason why Christmas is so often wrapped in nostalgia is that it reminds us of things past or passing, of traditions such as our Boxing Day film.

In mid-January, eldest leaves for six months at the Copenhagen Business School. This is her first time away from home for an extended period, and there is much excitement.

Helen is trying to pack as much into the trip as she can, visiting New York on the way across and then returning via South Africa. While in Europe, she hopes to use Denmark as a base for some European touring.

She has saved hard for the trip, working night shifts at a nearby pub.

The hours are long, and she has to watch how much she earns because she doesn’t want to lose her Youth Allowance since she will need this while she is studying.

It’s complicated, actually.

Twelve months ago Helen worked extra shifts at the pub to fund a trip that she and sister Clare wanted to do in Asia. Without realising it, she went over the income limit and lost YA. She then had to re-apply on return, leaving her without income at a critical period.

After some hesitation, my wife has decided to visit Helen in Copenhagen, hence the Danish.

I admire Denise’s facility with languages. She has a very good ear for sounds, and can pick the basics up quite quickly.

For Helen’s father’s part, I would love to go but can’t afford it.

For the first six months this year I chose to work full time on my book, and then looked for contract work to give me an income while still allowing me to write. This proved more of a battle than I had expected.

Have you ever noticed that those who pontificate most about work force flexibility and the need to keep older people in the workforce are all in permanent jobs? The on-ground reality is quite different!

I am going to miss Helen.

I know that things have to change, that my girls have to spread their wings. Yet after all those years in which I was the primary child care, I find the adjustment remarkably difficult.

May 2011 be a good year for all of us.

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Marcova said...
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