25 September 1998



RETIREMENT, moving house and divorce are supposed to be the most stressful things anyone can go through in their lives.

Id like to add something else – waiting for A-level results. I can now say with some conviction that doing (or trying to do) three of these things at the same time is quite likely to end up with you considering the fourth! Though I suppose, strictly speaking, that were only doing two at once.

Weve found a nice house – not exactly what we were looking for but we like it anyway – so amid all the usual doubts weve started to pack boxes and make lists.

Im a great list-maker. The first is usually a list of all the lists Ill need. The major one this time is the ever growing list of all the people well need to inform, from friends and family to the tax man and ERNIE. Yes, we do have a premium bond. Just the one. Not surprisingly, in 40 years it has never won anything.

Through the blur of travelling to see houses, talking to our estate agent, solicitor, bank (most important), auctioneer and so on, seemingly ad infinitum, Ive been tiptoeing carefully around Emma, who has been likely to fly off the handle at the slightest thing no matter how trivial.

It came as a temporary relief when the big day arrived. Three Cs and a D; very respectable, but oh dear, she needed a B for the course shed set her heart on, and the leaflet said not to telephone the university before Monday.

Four more days of not knowing either way was more than flesh and blood could be expected to stand. I dont know about Emma, but I was quickly turning into a

nervous wreck. Luckily the powers-that-be took pity on us and there was a letter in Friday mornings post confirming her acceptance at Liverpool University.

It wasnt until that point that it dawned on me that this was just the beginning. Now, on top of helping to organise farm sale and house purchase, I also have to help fill out university forms, accommodation letters, applications for bank account, students union, railcard – the list seems endless.

Then theres trips to get photographs taken, to buy new shoes (practical as opposed to the wardrobe full of fashionable) and to get teeth checked and hair cut. In between all this of course, everyday life goes on.

I can only think I used to have an awful lot of spare time to sit around doing nothing in particular. Either that or theres something that isnt getting done and if thats the case I just hope it isnt something vital.

The "For Sale" notice has now gone up and Fred is sorting out all the stock for the farm sale, laying out the deadstock in neat rows in the paddock ready for the auctioneer, and fussing round the sheep to make sure theyre at their best. I think his sense of humour is beginning to suffer a little, under the strain. He went off to pare the sheeps feet and my comment that it was easy – they have a pair at the front and a pair at the back, didnt even raise the usual groan. Or maybe its just that my chronic jokes arent very funny.

Anyway, Michael and Emma will both be off to their respective universities soon, we will have moved house, hopefully the farm will have been sold, and Fred will have retired. So that will only leave one thing to worry about. How is Fred going to fill all that spare time?

Does anyone want a hand with their sheep?

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