The morning after I’d finished my exams I was woken by a phone call from Wendy to say that Teresa had gone into labour and was in hospital in Aberystwyth. Jock was already there but Wendy said she and John were going to drive over to see them anyway. I wasn’t sure what to do. I would have liked to be with them all but I knew Teresa didn’t like a fuss and anyway there wouldn’t be anywhere for me to stay. Laura and I had stopped with them for a weekend the previous summer so I knew the size of their place. It was a two bedroom cottage and if John and Wendy were stopping there would only be the sofa in the lounge for me. I’m not sure why I thought that would be a problem as I could sleep anywhere. I so much didn’t know what to do with myself I phoned Sophie at work and arranged to meet up for lunch. Afterwards we went back to my place and spent the afternoon in bed.
We were still there dozing when Wendy called to say that Teresa had had a baby boy and that he and Theresa were absolutely fine. She suggested I should come over the next day. I’d already worked our my route. I’d have to catch the train to Shrewsbury and change there for Aberystwyth. They would pick me up from the station.
Sophie left for work next morning and dropped me at Crewe station on the way. It wasn’t a long journey and I was still so exhausted after my Finals that I slept most of the way. John picked me up in Teresa’s car and took me straight to the hospital. The maternity ward was brand new, everything shiny and clean looking. Teresa looked tired but so happy. It was a real privilege to see the new baby at my sister’s breast, a new generation of Smiths! What could be more uplifting? Jock was there too with a big grin on his face but he looked exhausted as well. We all had to leave before I had the chance to hold my new nephew as Teresa needed to rest.
Teresa came back home the next day, the baby in his new car seat all wrapped up in a lovely blue blanket Theresa had knitted for him with a hood and ears. My sister was very clever with crafts. We took it in turns to hold the baby who was now called Oliver. John refused to hold him saying he didn’t want the responsibility. I took a turn but I can’t say it did much for me. He was soft and warm but he seemed so helpless and, if I’m honest, rather ugly. I thought he looked best at Teresa’s breast. This was Wendy and John’s first grandchild and Wendy looked ecstatic.
Next day my folks said I could go back to Cwm Dinas with them while I sorted myself out and had a rest. Although I knew Sophie would not be pleased and I would miss her, I thought that was a cool idea and took them up on the offer. Only when I arrived I was not so sure I’d made the right decision. John was anxious to know what I planned to do now I’d finished college and kept on about it. I wasn’t ready to talk about it and resented his assertiveness. Wendy was more understanding and told John to let me have some space. She fussed over me a little but not in an unpleasant way. I just sat in front of the TV for most of the evening. I didn’t take much notice of what was on as I felt in limbo land.
I should have been relieved that my finals were over at last but now I had to face up to a new set of problems: I had to find work; where I lived was not secure; I needed a car; I needed money. And whereas before everything was mapped out now everything was uncertain. It was all a very unsettling. I realised I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do with my life. I wasn’t even sure where I wanted to live. The thought of emigrating was quite attractive, particularly to New Zealand, but I didn’t think I could leave my family. I even considered doing VSO. But I realised that was just postponing the decision so when I came back from wherever I’d been sent I’d be in exactly the same position then as I was now. And, of course, Sophie had become another factor in the decision, an important factor. I hadn’t let her know I was even vaguely considering VSO or emigrating as I didn’t want to upset her unnecessarily but I did want to keep all my options open. I had made one positive move before I left Crewe – I had signed on at the Job Exchange to obtain job seekers allowance. This would at least allow me breathing space so I could continue living in my shared house for a while. Hopefully that would allow my mind to settle until I had some idea of where I wanted to be or until something came up. I thought I might see if Cannon Pet Supplies would take me back while I applied for permanent jobs. That way I’d have more money, wouldn’t be beholden to the state and, most importantly, could continue seeing Sophie.
After a few days at my folks home I caught the train back to Crewe. It lovely to be in my own place and to see Sophie again. Although I’d only been away less than a week I’d really missed her. She suggested I needed a holiday and thought that would help clear my brain. I thought she could be right, however her idea of a holiday and mine were miles apart. She proudly showed me on her laptop a 7-day package holiday on Mallorca for £500 including flights. It looked frankly awful – a vast building with hundreds of balconies, overlooking a pool, in the middle of similar vast hotels in a resort called Magaluf. I’d heard of this place and it certainly didn’t appeal to me. I tried to be tactful but failed miserable and Sophie became angry and upset.
I said “From what I know you’ve only been on package holidays and on your father’s yacht. I think you should expand your horizons, try something different. I bet you’ve never been camping. That’s fun and also nice and cheap.”
“How is camping going to expand my horizons? My horizons don’t need expanding, thank you very much. You arrogant pig.”
“Sorry Sophie. That was awful of me. We have to find something that will suit us both, don’t we?”
After we’d both calmed down and accepted that we would have to compromise and after a lot of further discussion Sophie did agree to a cycling holiday in Devon, staying in bed and breakfast places. I knew that wouldn’t necessarily be cheap but at least Sophie would be doing something a bit more adventurous and I knew I’d enjoy it. My parents generously put £200 into my bank account towards the holiday as they knew I was not exactly flush and we booked up the trains and accommodation for a couple of weeks time.