We arrived in good time and found the campus. The brand new university building with its adjoining townhouse accommodation was an impressive sight. Although all the building work and landscaping was not completely finished, and although there had been some issues over allocating housing to students because of this, seeing the place put our minds at rest. Once it is completely finished the place will be quite spectacular!
Ella was lucky enough to get her choice of accommodation in a lovely townhouse. We were impressed that the university had a team of helpers on hand to advise arriving students on what to do, plus there were porters to help transport the loads of luggage from the car to her door. Fantastic service!
The accommodation itself was lovely. Ella has a fully furnished room with a desk, wardrobe, shelving, drawers and a large 3/4 bed. She shares a shower room and toilet with the room next door and shares a huge kitchen/living area with her eleven flatmates. With three full sized fridge freezers, two full size fitted ovens, two microwaves, two full sink units, toasters, kettles and a load of storage space, there is plenty of room for everyone to cook. The living space has sofas, a big, wall mounted TV and a massive round table and seating. It is more like a holiday home than student digs.
Megan came across to give us a hand moving Ella in, as she has made Manchester her home after graduating. As ever it was lovely seeing her and catching up on all her news. Megan took a career break earlier this year to try her hand in the world of film and TV. In six months she had worked on two shorts (one starring some bloke off of Corrie, which made my mum' day), one feature film starring John Hurt (in which both Megan and Ella had roles as extras) and a CBBC series. It was a real adventure for her, but the 14 hour days, extreme pressure and the hierarchy of the industry made her realise that, although a great experience, it wouldn't cut it as a career choice for her. So Megan set about returning to the corporate world and quickly was approached by the biggest digital marketing agency in the UK who offered her a job there and then. She starts in October! I'm so very proud of her.
Once we had moved Ella's stuff into the townhouse, we took the 10 minute walk to the main university complex and enjoyed a vegan lunch at Falafel, a delicious and healthy fast food outlet serving freshly cooked falafel in a pitta wrap with salad, hummus, tahini and chilli sauce. One of the perks of city life is the choice of fabulous world food on your doorstep! While Ian and Freddy had a play in the park next to the university, my girls and I went for a wander to check out the student union and pick up Ella's Fresher's wristband and help her find her bearings in her new hometown.
A quick spot of shopping at the huge Asda, which is a short walk from Ella's campus, and we had done everything we had to do. I didn't plan how or when we would leave, nor did I want to think about it in case I cried and upset Ella, but it actually ended up so easy. When we got back to Ella's house, her flatmates were chatting and getting to know each other and it was the most natural thing in the world for Ella to join in their conversation. Gone was my timid little girl and in her place was a confident young woman, eager to start this new chapter in her life. My heart swelled with love and pride as we said our good-byes. It was like she belonged there and it would be the making of her. Yes, I shed a tear, but not because I was sad, but because I was so bloody proud and happy for my little girl being given this chance to shine.
As we drove away from Manchester, with my slightly smaller family, Freddy started talking about why he had been so upset over the last couple of days before Ella left. He told us that he hadn't understood what university was. He thought Ella was going to "another country with glowing floors and shiny walls" and that he wouldn't be able to see her. However, he said that after seeing where she was living he now knew that it was "just normal" and that Ella would be OK. In that instant, my calm, loving, well behaved little boy returned and all was good with the world once again.
Now, a few days since Ella left home, I've talked everyday by either phone, text or Skype to both of my girls and I've been enjoying Facebook updates and photographs of Ella's student antics. She has embraced student life and has some wonderful flatmates. There have been big nights out and impromptu house parties. She is making the most of this opportunity and I could not be more proud! Having my third chick fly the nest has not left me bereft at all. My heart isn't emptier it's fuller and bursting with love for them all. My life feels even richer now, knowing I have another grown up child, doing me proud and making their mark. This is what being a mum is all about, raising kids to become confident, happy and fulfilled adults, and right now I am feeling pretty damn content about my life, watching my three big kids forge their own paths in the big wide world.