New Year’s Day was quietly momentous for us as it saw our eldest son setting off for England where he starts work next Monday. He obtained his Master’s degree in the summer, after two hard years of study, and then began job-hunting. He didn’t manage to find anything locally in Limoges, where he was living, or further afield in the rest of France. We suspect the looming spectre of Brexit played a role here, since whilst employers are fine with taking on French or non-British European staff, those whose status will suddenly change to that of a Third Country National, something which will definitely cause extra paperwork and aggravation, obviously aren’t quite so appealing. Posts on forums that we’ve spotted suggest other British youngsters in France have gone or are going through similar difficulties in finding work. Yet another side-effect of Britain’s grotesque lurch towards populism.

Benjamin about to defend his thesis in June Benjamin about to defend his thesis in June

Benjamin thus turned his attention to the UK, and Manchester in particular for reasons of the heart! He quickly found a post that calls on his bilingualism in French, and his fluent German. I imagine British employers are rubbing their hands with glee at the wave of bilingual youngsters forced to return to its shores from whichever country where they’ve been living with their immigrant families. A microscopically thin silver lining for the vast, louring black cloud of Brexit perhaps?

We’ve always encouraged our children to travel, to not be held back by wanting to stay near family, to make the world their oyster, and, although it’s bittersweet, we’re proud to see Benj leave to make his own way in the world. But it has to be said that we’d rather he wasn’t in Brexit-shackled Britain. We can only hope things won’t be as bad as so many of us fear.

Travelling light Travelling light

New Year’s Day is jour de l’argile – day of clay – in the French Republican Calendar. (I’m fascinated by this alternative calendar that post-revolutionary France adopted for twelve years.) That’s very appropriate, since clay can be shaped, and we can all do something towards shaping the way the coming year turns out for us. Benjamin is shaping a new life in England for himself, while we’re reshaping the nest he’s left. No one’s in it permanently any more: our daughter only returns occasionally from her study-and-work-related flights to various countries and continents, and our youngest has leapt out too and is settling into university life. Chris and I have plans for the next stage in our own lives, but whether they’ll take their final form this year or not remains to be seen. For the time being they’re still just a lump of clay in our hands.

Good luck with how yours shapes up in 2020!

Proud parents! Proud parents!