Cardiff awaits this weekend with the loss of our son.
I’ve always been a hands on dad, in the best possible way. Bringing up the two children in partnership with my wife.
There’s no state of tiredness as overwhelming as being a new parent. I remember it well, even though it’s 18 years since James Stuart Walton came into being. It crystallises too because I was newly married, adjusting to that and battling illness, both mental and physical.
It was a difficult period of our lives.
I eventually took time off work as an undiagnosed food allergy saw me emaciated and wasted, with a mind as broken as the body that was being fed gluten.
It meant though that my 10 stone, 6 foot 2 frame, I kid you not, would have bonding time with his newborn son in the rural delights of the Staffordshire Moorlands.
We used to walk most days.
Impulsively I bought an all terrain buggy which was useless. But rather than admit it, I pushed and pulled up hill and down dale in Waterhouses, our home from 1999 to 2001. It was a strange period, made even stranger by local peculiarities. One was that the village shop owner had an Athena type poster of Iain Duncan Smith behind the till. This repulsed this 35 year old teacher every time I went in for milk.
It was very Royston Vasey.
The car, our Golf GTi, was traded in for a slow cumbersome Honda CRV. This had the boot capacity of a Boeing 747, perfect for that buggy, travel cot, nappies, toys etc, which we’d load to travel to and from Doncaster to see family.
When we talked.
That’s another story too for another time, perhaps.
Luckily, in 2002, as James turned 3, I was miraculously rescued by the NHS. I went to the doctors (when we’d left Staffordshire to be nearer my parents and siblings) and was told in no uncertain times that I looked terminally ill. I had a sickly pallor, a concentration camp physique (I kid you not) and was detained in Scunthorpe General for tests.
It was coeliac disease – gluten destroying my villi and making me vomit and have diarrhoea daily, with depression and anxiety always lurking in the corner.
We moved again in 2008 to Norfolk, after I was much better and had resumed teaching for 12 unbroken years, with daughter Ruby coming along to replicate the exhaustion in 2006, prior to moving to the county of tractors.
Norfolk is Marmite
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Norfolk. I love what I do now, but I hate what some people in this place did to me, but, with hindsight, it worked out for the best.
We’re anchored in Norfolk, we’re settled and even though we’ve moved twice here from Gorleston to Bradwell, it feels like home generally.
The climate you see and lifestyle is excellent. There’s little crime, little sense of threat, and the pace of life is gentle and relaxing.
Norfolk is now home.
On Friday though, it feels like the wheel has turned full circle and we pack the X3 this time (self employment has been kind) and head off with son James to Cardiff and university.
He did brilliantly in his A levels and managed ABC (easy as 123) in tough subjects. Namely, English Literature, French and History and is doing a joint French-English degree.
It makes us burst with pride that he’s excelled in his parents’ specialism – his mum, my wife, is multi-lingual and I speak Yorkshire with a smattering of street English so he’s done well.
Instead of nappies, travel cots, buggies, this time it’s filled with books, clothes and shoes for the torturous journey to Cardiff, Wales.
I wonder too if he’ll return to Norfolk, his home for 11 years, or will he like so many we know, settle elsewhere?
We shall see about Cardiff.
We know though that he will do well in life, wherever he settles, and will be as supported as much by us in adulthood as he was in childhood.