The bungee generation

When the kids move away their mum says 'hurray'! But then they come back again...

I would be grateful if you would read the following in a whisper as I wouldn't want anyone to think I am anything other than a doting mother.

But. They've gone.

My son and his girlfriend moved in with us, you may recall, for two months last September.

They are part of the boomerang generation although, considering the impact and regularity of the return, they might be more accurately termed the bungee generation.

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Together they run and act in a theatre company which performs outdoor Shakespeare productions around the country to much acclaim but not much money - hence they moved in with the parents. They have been working as temps during the day and doing the admin and publicity for their company in the evenings.

They sit side-by-side on the sofa in companionable luvvie-ness with their laptops, occasionally sipping tea from their giant mugs.

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“Do you remember when we used to be like that?” my husband says, smiling across from his armchair.

“What, in the old days when we got to sit on the sofa?” I reply from my armchair.

We were never like that, of course, because there were no laptops. The pinnacle of technology when we were 25-year-old newly-weds was a black and white portable television we rented from Radio Rentals for something like �6 a month.

Playing Scrabble was pretty exciting, especially if you used up all your letters on a triple word score. We developed a special rule of our own which basically allowed cheating.

“If I had an 'e', I could use up all my letters.”

“I have an 'e'.

And the deed was done. In this way we racked up some impressive if, slightly fraudulent scores.

“What else did you do in the old days?” Do I hear you cry? No. I don't think I do. It was more like: “Don't go on about the old days for heaven's sake!”

After 23 years of raising kids, we finally tasted the sweet freedom of having the house to ourselves and we liked it. We never planned to have children in our 50s. To be fair, it hasn't been too bad - at least I know they're warm, safe and, most of all, well-fed.

For it is the perennial cry of the mummy stereotype: “Are you sure you're eating properly?”

No son or daughter living away from home will ever convince their mother that their diet is adequate while they fail to cook what their mother cooks.

At college in Kent, our son's varied weekly dinner menu was:

Monday: short pasta; Mars bar

Tuesday: long pasta; Kit Kat

Wednesday: flat pasta; Twirl

Thursday: tubular pasta; Snickers

Friday: spirally pasta; Yorkie

Saturday; curly pasta; banana (well, it is the weekend)

Sunday; quill pasta; Twix

Do university students ever eat vegetables?

“What about roughage, darling?” I would inquire gently

“Roughage? You should have tasted that �2.99 bottle of Merlot I drank last night - now that was rough.”

So I would rather he was at home than overdosing on durum wheat, whatever that is.

But now they're away it is quite nice to be able to watch CSI: Crime Scene Investigation without causing a stampede from the sitting room.

I thought I had been reasonably discreet (Lynne? Discreet? Don't make me laugh. Ed) about their lengthening sojourn chez nous but I may have let it slip.

A neighbour from across the road popped over: “They've gone, then?”

A friend from the other side of town rang: “Have they gone yet?”

The milkman asked if I would need as much milk now they're gone.

It's a trial separation at the moment as they're in London rehearsing for the next two or three weeks. And yesterday marked an important milestone in the reclamation of the annexed territories as I folded the last pile of newly-laundered towels and put them in the airing cupboard.

It's reassuring to know we have been harbouring meticulously clean people but it is the first time in six months the radiators have been free of towels.

There are now enough to run a line of towel bunting across the front of the house to celebrate freedom week.

One small tie remains - the Lesleys/Leslies and it brings me out in hives just thinking about them.

The Lesleys are sea monkeys. A packet of these dried creatures were a joke Christmas stocking present from our son's prospective mother-in-law. After the contents were sprinkled into water, they turned into tiny swimming things; so small I couldn't see them.

Then the one called Lesley ate all the others - but not until she had allowed one of them to impregnate her. Suddenly there were dozens of much bigger Lesleys and some ate others and some got pregnant.

It was like watching evolution in action.

Unfortunately, apart from having an incredibly rapid life-cycle, they are quite the most revolting things I have ever seen. They are transparent and shrimp-like with multiple frond-like limbs. If Darwin had encountered them he might have withheld his theory in the hope it wasn't true.

“When they've gone,” I said sotto voce to my husband, “I'm going to flush the Lesleys down the toilet.”

“They have already asked me to look after them while they're away,” he said quietly, patting my hand.

So he is now the official keeper of the Lesleys and receives regular text messages instructing: “Feed Lesleys today.”

Now there's an idea… what if I text: “Kill the Lesleys”?

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