Bags bursting with contents lie strewn across my hallway. A full-length mirror is propped precariously up against the hall wall. A pile of four pillows and duvet are unceremoniously dumped in a corner. A crate of kitchen utensils are balanced on my dining chair. In the lounge a bag containing two (now defunct) laptops lies on the floor. There are jauntily stacked piles of DVDs and CDs here and there on the floor. The kitchen cupboards are bulging with two of everything - gravy granules, flour, jam, herbs sauces, rice, pasta, teabags, coffee. Absolute chaos reigns. The interior of my house looks like a cyclone has hit it. The reason? Kay has moved back home and brought with her eight years' worth of gathered essentials (and non-essentials) of independent living to merge back into my house.
It is hard to believe that it has been eight years since my one and only child, Kay, left home to go to university up in Yorkshire. Ever since that tear-stained day, she has lived away from home - predominantly six years at uni in Yorkshire, for one year working in Maidstone and for the last year in another part of London close to the hospital where she works. Six months after she left home, Greg, my husband died, and I have been rattling around this big house for over seven years on my own. Until now. She has come home and I must adapt to sharing my home once more.
A few weeks ago, Kay finished her two years - first in Maidstone and then in London - as a foundation doctor or houseman, as it used to be called. That is the period between graduating from medical school as a young doctor and starting to specialise, gaining experience in different disciplines. She now has to start three years of core training in an area she wants to specialise in. As yet, she is still not 100% certain what that will be, but does not have to commit at this stage, as she will have more placements in various fields to narrow her choice down further.
However, she is young compared to her peers. First she is the baby of her year, as her birthday comes at the end of the academic year (July) here in the UK. Also she got into medical school straight from school, whereas many applicants for medicine fail to get in first time and go off to do another degree first before trying to get into medical school again. Kay is currently 26, whereas many of her peers are in their late 20s or even 30s. Therefore she has decided she can afford to take a belated gap year to see a bit more of the world, while she still can, before she gets sucked into the career ladder.
Her aim is to work as a locum doctor for the next six months to squirrel away enough money to fund the ensuing six months of travel. She and her boyfriend aim to visit various parts of Asia and then go on to cover large parts of South America. By living at home, she can save the £800 per month she has been paying for one room in a flat-share in central London for the past year. As a locum, she is not tied to one particular hospital as she was before, so can travel in any direction from my house to a variety of hospitals on an ad hoc basis.
It is lovely for me to have some company at home and it is great for her not to have to worry about shopping or cooking or the laundry. Don't get me wrong, she has offered to do all three, but she is busy with her work (and has a big exam to do in the next few days as part of her membership to the Royal College of Physicians) and I am quite happy to have someone to look after, so it suits us both. Someone jokingly said they wondered who would crack first. It won't be me, I am certain.