Matthew Munson: Living through extraordinary times


Who else feels like they’re living through historical events that future generations will study at school? Brexit, a global pandemic, war in Ukraine, a cost of living crisis, the death of a monarch … they’re not exactly little things, are they?

I tried to explain to Bryan this week – as we discussed what happened next after news filtered through about the end of the second Elizabethan era – that not all decades (or even years) were as era-defining as this one. I was about to point out that my own childhood wasn’t as eventful, then realised that I was born in 1981, two years after the start of the Thatcher premiership, and was 16 when Tony Blair came into Number 10 – so there certainly were pockets of intensity. Bryan just takes all of this in his stride; he asked how many Prime Ministers there had been in his lifetime (four) and seemed shocked when I told him that there had been just two when I’d reached his age thirty years ago.

But I like the idea that my grandchildren (should Bryan decide to become a father) will be studying the early section of the 21st century with a sort of detached fascination and saying to me, “Granddad, tell us where you were during the Covid pandemic.” Indoors, mostly, but I’ll try to be a bit more interesting than that.

Bryan is settling into secondary school life well enough; he has figured out where the loos are (a brief but pressing concern), how to get from his form room to at least two-thirds of his lessons without needing to ask someone and can remember most of his teachers’ names without needing to check his planner. Homework has come as a bit of a surprise, but there’s not too much of it right now, and I’m encouraging him to do little bits every day so it doesn’t feel too overwhelming.

I love seeing Bryan embark on a new adventure; I’ve been a tad emotional about all these changes, but now I’m better – I’m happy to see Bryan starting to spread his wings. He is soaking all these opportunities up like a sponge, and to stand alongside him is a joy and a pleasure; he amazes me with his ability to adapt and his desire to figure his place out in the world.

I made a vow to myself that I would give Bryan the space to do what he wanted with his life, and not place any expectations on him as to what I thought he should do; if he wants to be a nuclear physicist, a shopkeeper, a wildlife conservationist, or a street cleaner, I want him to see that all of those jobs are important – and that I will love him whatever he wants to do with his life.

We will have had a predominantly relaxed weekend by the time you read this; a dance lesson (for Bryan, naturally – the prospect of me dancing should send shivers down everyone’s spine), a visit to family, and an hour’s fun at the Clip & Climb up at Westwood. I’m a great believer in the simple pleasures in life; it’s nice to get away and do different things every now and then, but it’s nice to just slow down, treasure the small moments, and just catch up on different things at home. I didn’t appreciate that all the time when I was younger, so it’s nice to understand how that works now I have a child of my own, and to see how it benefits him.

A positive note is that our home redecoration is now complete; I’ve done very little of it myself, it should be said – my DIY skills are minimal (and so when I managed to build a couple of flat-packs, I was incredibly impressed), but our flat has been revitalised by some new furniture and a paint job throughout.

I work from home, and I can’t tell you how lovely it’s been just at the tail-end of this week to enjoy a home that is entirely fresh and new – actually, I can tell you how lovely it is – lots, as Bryan might say. He got to have a big say in the design of his room, and that helped him claim the space and feel even more proud of it. I’m proud of the whole thing, and now we can settle down for the next few years, both personally and – let’s hope – for the country. We can but hope, right?