Clare Mackintosh: Parting is such sweet sorrow

'Goodbyes are hard, aren’t they?' (photo: AMD Images / Alamy Stock Photo)

'Goodbyes are hard, aren’t they?' (photo: AMD Images / Alamy Stock Photo) - Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

In her final Cotswold Life column, Clare reflects on her nine years with us

Goodbyes are hard, aren't they? What to say, what to leave unsaid; what platitudes to trot out. Let's stay in touch. We can email. It's not that far, really. Does one draw it out or get it over with? Stand on the platform, waving as the train pulls away, or say one's goodbyes at the ticket barrier, brief and painless.

When I was 10, my next-door-neighbour moved away. We had played together every day since we'd started school, alternating between her garden and mine, and separating only for meals - often, not even then. I cried. I wrote long letters with stories from school, and descriptions of our houses so she wouldn't forget. She wrote back with tales of Yorkshire; her new teacher, her new friends. Slowly, inevitably, the spaces between our letters grew longer even than the miles between us, and the friendship was lost. The more goodbyes one says, the more one is anaesthetised to them. A friend in Dubai tells me she is so used to the ever-changing landscape of the ex-pat community that she has a dedicated drawer full of Bon Voyage cards. Good luck with your next adventure. Let's keep in touch. If only all goodbyes were so simple. There are no cards for a loved one who dies; a parent who slips away in the night. We say our farewells in hospitals, in hospices, in houses no longer our homes; where there is always so much more that could be said. Sometimes we are robbed of our goodbyes, by a sudden twist of fate that brings the world crashing to our feet in a phone call, a knock at the door, the sombre face of a surgeon. I'm so sorry. Such goodbyes bring a sharp perspective to the partings of friends, but they are not themselves without pain. The day I left the police I handed in my phone along with my warrant card. I'll send you my new number, I promised my colleagues, my friends. Let's stay in touch. I didn't. I couldn't. It had been my choice to leave, and yet I was grieving. For the people, the position, the future I'd expected to have. I severed the links and cauterised the nerve endings with the pretence of not caring. It was years before I allowed my old life to seep into my new one. Three years ago, we packed up that new life and moved it to North Wales, leaving behind the buttery stone of the Cotswolds for the grey slate of Snowdonia. The children sobbed for their friendships, and I - mindful of my Yorkshire loss - was gentle with their grief. You can email. It's not that far, really. For my part, I hid from the goodbyes. I was vague about our departure date, ducked away from all suggestions of a leaving party, and promised a forwarding address as soon as I have one. We are settled here, despite the occasional pangs of homesickness, and those friendships that counted remain firmly in place. Others exist online, the origin of my status updates of little matter to those scrolling by. It is time, now, to say another goodbye.

I wrote my first Cotswold Life column in the winter of 2010, on maternity leave, with three toddlers at my feet. I wondered how on earth I would find something to say every month, yet somehow those months turned into years, and each time I have found the words. Until now. Goodbyes are hard, aren't they? I don't want to go, is the truth of it. But nine years is a long time, and the toddlers who cared little for the sharing of their exploits in these pages are now teens, with do not disturb on their doors. It is time. Cotswold Life took a punt on a mother-of-three with words in her head and not a scrap of experience to her name. Since then - and in no small way because of it - I have published four novels, as well as a memoir of these very columns (which - it would be remiss of me not to point out - makes an excellent gift for a loved one…) As apprenticeships go, it's been a pretty good one. Now it is time for something new. New challenges, new words, new opportunities for me; and new voices for these pages. I appear to have something in my eye at the thought of saying goodbye, and so instead I will just say thank you. To Cotswold Life, and to you. Thank you so much. Let's stay in touch.

Clare's book - A Cotswold Family Life - is the collected Cotswold Life columns in aid of the Silver Star Society at the John Radcliffe hospital, who support families experiencing high risk pregnancies, and is on sale now.


Follow Clare on Twitter @claremackint0sh

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