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I’m reaching the empty nest stage quite late in life, being 71 next week. My wife Janet and I are not fully there yet, but the return to university this week for our youngest means that we’re rattling round the house during the day. Our eldest has found pastures new, leaving just our daughter with us and then only evenings. And our family dog, Timmy, is nearly 15, has cancer and a failed kidney. He still soldiers on, leaving an acquaintance observing how he doesn’t want to leave us, but sadly we know that very soon he must. I’ve lost my sister and my Mum over the last few years, my Dad having gone in 1998. In that under-rated Dylan song ‘Nettie Moore’, he sings of there being no-one left here to tell. There still is, but nobody who shares with me where it started.

There’s an old joke from a Rabbi saying life begins when the kids leave home and the dog dies. Rob Brydon and his wife in the advert go on a cruise looking forward to the glazed scallops for dinner that evening. I know I’m fortunate that such pleasures might still await, and if they do, I must make the most of them as gifts freely given. Yet I wish Dad was at the end of a telephone to talk to on a Saturday as the football finishes; that I was looking forward to visiting my sister’s beautiful garden as the Autumn leaves turn to flame; that my Mum was still here to ask the recipe of that suet crust we used to have on cold winter days. Most of all I wish it was ten years ago and summer, with Janet, the three kids,the dog and me piling into the old Espace around a picnic box full of sandwiches, sausage rolls, pork pies and cake, for a day out at Nicky Nook, Timmy unable to contain his joy at the prospect.

I swear that at the first glazed scallop on that luxury cruise, I’m going to think of that day with my eyes full of tears.