Well I can't be entirely free with my words in this post as I know that our daughter, Frances, sometimes visits her father's blog and on this occasion I am mainly writing about her.
At seven thirty this morning, we were in the car heading west from Sheffield along the Snake Pass that snakes its way over the Pennines to Glossop and Manchester beyond. It was a lovely summer's morning with a blue sky reflected in the unrippled surface of Ladybower Reservoir and heather blooming purple on the hills.
Frances's flight was scheduled to depart at 10.50 from Terminal 2 and I wanted to make sure she was there on time. Destination - Birmingham, Alabama for a year of study, living and partying at Birmingham Southern College. It's part of her degree course in American and Canadian Studies at The University of Birmingham in England's West Midlands. She will share a small apartment on campus with two American girls and hopefully the placement will provide a great foundation for her final year dissertation.
The last week has been a week of goodbyes, meals out, gatherings for drinks and a full scale farewell party at Vodka Revolution in our city centre. There have been photographs on Facebook, leaving cards, texts, phone calls and gifts. Frances is a very popular young lady because she is a loyal friend, someone who won't let you down, somebody who will listen and yet a real party animal too. She likes to have a good time and she is no sheep.
Bizarrely, before she left she had to complete a three hour on-line alcohol education examination which is an entry requirement for all new students at Birmingham Southern College. Fortunately, she passed with a score of 83% during a week when, rather ironically, she was testing numerous alcoholic products.
Shirley and I love Frances to bits. She is the best daughter you could ever imagine and we are so proud of her - not just because of her academic achievements thus far but because of the person she is - kind, caring, funny, determined, reliable and independent. We are both going to miss her like hell even though she will be back at Christmas for two weeks.
After she had checked in, I stood with her as her mother shot off on one of her inconvenient visits to a public convenience. I reminded her that there will be times of self-doubt and loneliness in the USA, times when she will miss her friends and family like mad, times when she'll wonder what she is doing there in a foreign culture. I urged her to ride those times, to be patient, to look forward, to make the most of the experience, to have fun. However, she'd probably already weighed up those considerations anyway - I have great confidence that this will be one of the best year's of her life.
She rode up the escalator towards the departure gates. Shirley was tearful so I put my arm around her and there at the top of the moving staircase we saw our Frances turn, smile and wave. We waved back and then she was gone.... And if you're reading this darling daughter, have a fantastic experience, make new friends, laugh, dance, absorb, be yourself. My love for you is unconditional and forever but I am so pleased you're there.