Coming of Age

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My granddaughter flew from Dublin to Bristol recently on her own, unaccompanied, knowing nobody on board. She’s twelve. It was a coming-of-age challenge and it didn’t confound her in the slightest.

I can’t say the same for the rest of us. My wife and I, and her parents, pretended we were ready for this, that it was something we would’ve done at the same age given the chance, and a lot of other blather that added nothing to explaining our angst.

My granddaughter breezed through as if it was a bus ride. It looks like she’ll be a regular visitor on her own from now on.

I tell this story because that one trip opened up a whole vista for me, uplifting the normal in an exciting way. We went to Hay-on-Wye to hear Chelsea Clinton speak about her new book. We listened to poetry. We went hunting in the second-hand bookshops and filled the car boot. We went to Avebury on another day and discussed history. We went shopping and brought back stories that strangers shared. Somehow it felt special as if we were living, as the poet Brendan Kennelly wrote:

We are living

In ceiling, floor and windows,

We are given to where we have been.

This white door will always open

On what our hands have touched,

Our eyes have seen.


I’ll harvest poems from my notes of the few days.


First published in Swindon Link