FOUR FINGERS AND THIRTEEN TOES Every beginning has an end (Part Two) … … Into, rather than back to, the future
When I left Part One of this “Every beginning has an end” blog back in August 2016, I really didn’t think it would be nearly five months before I would have time to revisit the story and bring this theme to its conclusion.
So, here we are all these months later … in the UK, still musing over what Brexit will bring for us, and for our “cousins” over the pond, what life will be like with a new, different and rather unique President.
However, bring this story to end, I must and so here goes …
You may remember that in September 2013, there was a slight melt-down in the Moriarty-Simmonds household when James trundled off to University. However, I have to say, things quickly settled into a round of him coming home, and going back, until April 2016 arrived with us. Preparations then had to be made for the grand exodus from Southampton, with the return of two cars full of rubbish (sorry … student possessions) which had been amassed over a three year photography course.
Remember the chaos which ensued when we tried to get all the outgoing stuff into a Chrysler Voyager? Well, the car may have changed, and (for convenience sake) I stayed at home to create more space for said stuff, but it (the stuff) seemed to have multiplied to the “Nth” degree. Like dehydrated space food, the returning possessions filled one car, and spilled over into another, and by the time everything had been unloaded at this end, the garage looked like a furniture shop, and the spare bedroom, looked like Armageddon had already taken place and, the possibility of the room ever returning to a bedroom (in my lifetime), seemed distinctly remote.
That said, it was great to have James back home, and ready to face the world of the Post-Grad with gusto. There was of course, just a small matter of the final results.
Having produced some really interesting pieces of work, based on the pursuit of excellence in disability (taking his inspiration from Steve) James concentrated firstly, on the provision of accessible vehicles, and for his final major project, produced a study based on the concept of life with prosthetics, under the title Ex Nihilo – By any means necessary (https://www.solent.ac.uk/news/school-of-art-design-and-fashion/2016/life-with-prosthetics-in-pictures) (Ex Nihilo translated from Latin means ‘out of nothing’). These pieces, taken together with all his other work, saw James being awarded a 2:1 degree – with which we were delighted.
The period between the results and the graduation ceremony were peppered with job applications and interviews. The skills of interview technique and preparation, were honed during the four weeks leading up to a memorable graduation day.
The day before graduation, we decamped to the Holiday Inn in Southampton , which had been our refuge from day one of our “Solent faze” – and so it seemed fitting that we ended this episode where we started. However, what most readers don’t know is that back in September 2013, when James moved to Southampton, the said hotel was my solace and refuge, as I struggled with an unfortunate stomach upset (most uncommon in our family) and, of all the ironies, James had the most awful upset stomach on the day of his graduation. He mustered through the morning, and went to find his cap and gown, had the “official” photographs taken, and rather gingerly made his way to the Guildhall where the Southampton Solent Graduation ceremonies were to take place. Within minutes of taking his seat, he was forced to retreat to the back of hall, where he spent the afternoon in the capable hands of a member the St. John Ambulance Brigade. He returned to the main hall just in time to take to the stage and receive his degree (https://livestream.com/solentuniversity/graduation2016/videos/129731674 – scroll to 43.46 – to see a very peaky Graduand being greeted by the Vice Chancellor).
Despite everything, we had a wonderful day, and were delighted to see our young man pass yet another milestone in his life.
The summer continued, and we managed to organise a short trip to Le Touquet in France for the latter part of August into September. We suggested that James might like to take advantage of his parents’ generosity and tag along for a final foray of parental supported vacation. The offer was met with approval, and thus started the final stages of “Every beginning” having an end.
Plans for the holiday were well in hand. Steve had booked a different hotel to the hotel we had used for previous stays in Le Touquet, and opted for Le Grand Hôtel. Overlooking the Canche Bay, this particular hotel is renowned for its quirky art collection, and so (well meaning) he thought it would make an interesting location for a couple of days away. As an added bonus, we were also invited to Ed and Claire’s wedding (Ed being the third person in our Memorial trio) which we planned to attend en route to France.
All seemed to be going swimmingly, until James’ job applications, resulted in an offer to attend an interview, with the Taylor and Francis Group – a company specialising in the publication of academic journals – covering a whole host of subjects from Medieval History through to Theology and Science. Not a sniff of photography in sight, but nevertheless an interesting platform from which to launch a post graduate working career.
The only problem was that the interview fell during the period we were due to be in France. Undaunted, we suggest James try and reschedule the interview for a time after we returned from France, but to no avail. Now, in fairness, lesser souls might have said “stuff the interview, I’ll go to France” but not James. Never one to shy away from a challenge, he decided he would go for the interview and travel to France afterwards. At first glance, this does not appear to present too many problems, but the logistics of getting to Le Touquet without having to write a script akin to Trains, Planes and Automobiles, did seem a bit like using a sledge hammer to crack a nut, and so we set to, and found what seemed like the ideal solution …
In deepest Kent, there is a small airfield, near Lydd, which does daily flights into the small (but perfectly serviceable) airport at Le Touquet. All James would need to do was attend the interview, drive from Oxfordshire to Kent and get the early morning flight to Le Touquet. He could then pick up a taxi to the hotel – which was about ten minutes by car from the airport, and be there in time for breakfast. Simple.
Well, it would have simple but for one slight problem. On the day Ed and Claire were due to be married (over the August Bank holiday weekend) a lorry crashed into a bridge on the M20 – the gateway to Dover and the EuroTunnel – closing the motorway, and causing all sorts of chaos for travellers hoping to travel from the UK to France for the weekend. But there was nothing to be concerned about … James, Steve and I would attend the wedding; Steve and I would travel on to France via the northern portion of the M25 and back down the other side to avoid the problems on the M20. By the time James needed to get to Kent a couple of days later, no doubt the motorway would be open again, and so problem was solved.
We had a great time at the wedding, and on cue left to start our onward journey. We travelled along portions of the M25 we’ve never covered before, fleetingly saw part of Hertfordshire, Essex and Kent that have not previously figured on our compass, and ultimately got to Le Touquet and to the sanctuary of the hotel. However, despite all the reassurances that a call centre can give, supported by a call to the hotel reception before we left, we discovered, on arrival, that our accessible bedroom was far from accessible. I know this is a story echoed up and down the land from disabled people and disability groups from all corners of the globe, but the owner of this hotel was himself (apparently) disabled. I can certainly say that if what we were confronted with was accessible, I can only conclude that the owner must have been a member of Pod Clock’s family (of the “Borrowers” fame). Small isn’t the word for it, but for one night we made the best of it. Wacky does not even touch the decor. It was strangely intriguing and not hard to imagine the hotel being full of well-heeled Brits in the 1920’s. But sadly it was not for us.
Our ultimate destination was the Novotel at the other end of Le Touquet which, at first glance, resembled an inner city block of flats, which had somehow lost at least 6 of the upper tiers in an airbrushing exercise that had gone catastrophically wrong … Anyone who has seen the hotel will know just what I mean!! However, they say you should not judge a book by its cover, and that proved to be the case. The Novotel certainly didn’t have the quirky charm of Le Grand Hôtel, but what it lost in kerb appeal, it more than made up for through the uninterrupted views of the coast which stretched for miles each way – and certainly for more than the eye could see. Added to that, the staff were the most helpful we have met for many a year, and so based on that assessment, we shall certainly return.
We decided to warn James that our hotel had been changed, and not to worry if he turned up at something which might be mistaken for a classic 1970’s hospital, but, that he would be pleasantly surprised when he got inside. We were told he was all “briefed and researched” ready for his interview, but that the M20 had still not been fully reopened. He had however, made plans to stay locally the night before his interview, and then travel to Kent in the early hours of the following morning.
Never doubting his ability to get up early (ROFL!) we reminded him of the need to be at the airport well before take-off, and to allow plenty of time, as the M20 detour would undoubtedly add time to the journey.
Now, I’m not sure if it is generally a man-thing, but the need to use the loo on numerous occasions during a long journey seems to beset both old and young in our family, and it is my guess, that such urges did contribute to the long and tiresome journey to Kent which James ultimately had. However, after waiting for more than an hour past when we should have got a call to say the “eagle had landed in Le Touquet”, Steve called the airport only to be told that James had got stuck in traffic somewhere around the Maidstone area, and that James was about thirty minutes off the airport. There are probably several advantages to a small airport, but in this instance, it was that the flight time wasn’t set in stone, and so long as the other passengers on the flight weren’t too worried, they would hold take off until James arrived. We understand that what later ensued was a James Bond style dash across the carpark – a sprint through passport control and across the tarmac onto an oversized washing machine with wings! The flight successfully crossed the channel, and made it into Le Touquet airport, where seemingly there was no abundance of taxis. Consequently, a still rather breathless twenty-one year old (I gather no sooner are you airborne than you are ready to land) had to share a cab with an older lady and her not quite so old daughter – who had an apartment in Le Touquet and a chap from Kent on a golfing weekend. A cosy and eclectic taxi journey is how he later described it. And thus on arrival, James had successfully completed yet another life affirming experience to chalk up on the board of adulthood.
We had great time over the remainder of the holiday, quality time with James, and an opportunity to reflect on the immensely busy year that we had already had.
On our return journey, we called into Lydd, collected the car, and proceeded along the tortuous M25 – otherwise known as Britain’s biggest carpark.
At some point, Steve saw James was indicating to pull into a service area, and my theory about the need for boys to stop on long journeys appeared to be confirmed. However, on this occasion, the theory was disproved. A couple of calls to James’ mobile, had to go unanswered until he could pull over, and whilst we twiddled our fingers in the carpark, James embarked on what seemed to be a never-ending phone call, the result of which, was him proudly announcing he’d got the job with Taylor and Francis – and they wanted him to start in a ridiculously short time frame.
So much for our peaceful and relaxing holiday. We returned home, and promptly had to start organising a move to Oxfordshire. At the end of September, James started his new job, and all credit to him – found lodgings in the area until he could find somewhere more permanent, which he eventually did.
In December, the garage began to look less like a warehouse, the Armageddon effect in the bedroom appeared to be receding, and once again, the size of the Chrysler Voyager came into its own, for a heavily laden trip along the M4, but this time with a left turn towards Oxfordshire, rather than right, towards Southampton.
The rented Bachelor pad into which the contents of the Voyager was emptied, is about the size of a postage stamp; is on the first floor (so we’ve had a FaceTime tour – and that’s about as far as we will get); budgeting for adults (rather than for Students) is proving a little challenging – but we are getting there – and the world of work is presenting new and exciting challenges, which sometimes can’t just be overcome with the help of a generous helping of the James Moriarty-Simmonds charm, that had previously worked!
And so where is the beginning of this story, and more importantly, where is the end?
It’s quite clear really … During the first week of September 1999, a little boy who had only just passed his fourth birthday, marched into his reception class (and into the Wendy House – I think life in small rooms has so far been a hallmark of James’ accommodation away from home!). There started the beginning of a new and interesting chapter of life skills and development. This chapter would see him pass through primary school, progress through Senior school, become a Student, and ultimately leave his education behind with a degree, having achieved a standard that will stand him in good stead for the future.
During the first week of December 2016, that same little boy, now a young man aged twenty one, embarked on another new beginning. This new beginning may be a little more permanently away from home, but he leaves, strong in knowledge that …
… “Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts” (Oliver Wendell Holmes Senior).
May there be many more beginnings, that continue to have many, many happy endings.