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HEADING FOR THE HILLS

LEAVING HOME

I sit here bereft. Maggie, my partner, is equally rudderless and raw. Our son, our second child, seven months old when we moved to Catalonia in January 2001, flew to Amsterdam today to settle into his student accommodation before beginning his university degree.

We are proud, relieved, exhausted, lost; lost for however long it takes to reconcile to some manageable degree. Thoughts dart back and forth through 24 years of parenting.

We were two, then three, then four, then three, now two again. Well, no. Family forever, but it just feels like that right now in the still air and deeper quiet of a home becalmed.

Catalonia, this place, our farm Mother’s Garden, has been about family. We came seeking time, to be. We are fulfilled, fundamentally, to the inevitable point of always hoping it would never end.

Part of our rhythm has been to switch off, to spurn new technology to an important degree. To witness a silent, heads-down family or group of friends all on their devices is sad beyond words. Yet, yet, yet…. In balance, to be able to see and sense and share moments with our daughter while she has been in London, courtesy of an app, is the antithesis.

Further, this watershed pulls us. It forces us to face another truth.

It is time to let go of our home, this kindest of houses, this challenging, fruitful, wild and wonderful land. The sum of it all – the farm with vines, olives nuts and fruits, the characterful masia, the casa rural that has brought the world to us – need new, young life. We need to accept we cannot achieve and sustain all that we could twenty years ago.

Not the right time to make such a decision. I hear you. But we made the decision some time ago, waiting for now, upholding the homestead for the sake of our son and ourselves until this moment.

The biggest question now is how, more than when or, indeed, where or what next.

This place is like a tall ship, a challenge to sail, but it has carried us to countless priceless moments and fulfilments. And the people of The Priorat are so much a part of that journey.

We shall see which way the wind blows, first figuring how to sell.

For the moment it helps to write it down, to tell you.

For our Catalan son embarking on his studies in Amsterdam, the debate on Catalonia will come soon enough, no doubt. He is joining with students from across the continent and beyond to study global politics. The European dilemma of political prisoners is certain to surface. It surely must. But first he will have a question for them. How much do they know – how much have they been told and understand – of what is happening here?

There has been time for us to discuss this, to talk on so many levels of life, feelings and causes, because he has taken a gap year between institute and university. He has worked, pondered, weighed and grown and we recommend such a pause – a chance to take a breath and stand at the crossroads and consider very carefully the next step. Less haste more speed at a critical time of choice in a young life.

……And we have had him home.

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