If you’ve ever walked into the Fairfield Community Hall, chances are you were greeted by a lovely gentleman whom I recently had the pleasure of interviewing…

AF: So thank you for meeting with me today, I really appreciate it! Would you mind giving me a little introduction as to who you are?

RP: My name is Roger Parsley. I’m 60 years old. Mainly spent my life working in retail. I come from this area. I was born in Hitchin and lived in Letchworth and Stevenage, and then Fairfield and now Stotfold, so I’ve not travelled very far!

AF: Ok! Home-grown boy!

RP: Yeah, real Hertfordshire! I’ve been married 38 years, 39 in May. I’ve got two children, both in their 30s. My daughter Hannah has two children – two months and 14 months. And my son Ben has got Evie by his first marriage, she’s eight years next month. And he’s got three with his new partner – well, he’s got two and one in the pipeline! All within a year or so of each other. So we’ve gone from one grandchild 18 months ago to, by this summer, six!

AF: Oh my gosh – that’s intense! How are you enjoying being a grandfather?

RP: Love it!

AF: Yeah? What is it that you love about it? Because obviously, that’s not the phase of life that I’m in yet, so what can you tell me?

RP: You seem to have more time to take it in. You dip in and out, so you’re not under pressure all the time and also, as they all say, you can hand them back. So if you do get tired and ragged if you’re helping out, there’s always someone coming along to take them back off you, whereas when you’re a parent…

AF: The ultimate responsibility lies with you.

RP: Yes. If you’ve got the relationship that we’ve got, especially with our daughter and the two little ’uns, then you get to enjoy and spend a lot of time with them and watch the highlights and soak it up, but you don’t have to carry the load.

AF: Right. Do you think that allows you to appreciate children more?

RP: Oh definitely! Well… I don’t know about “more”, because we both knew from the start that we wanted children and that was the main thing we wanted in life: a family. We weren’t so bothered about careers and all that. We wanted a nice little family unit.

AF: How old were you and your wife when you had children?

RP: Let’s see… Ruth would have been 22 when she had Ben, which would make me 25, and then two years later for Hannah.

AF: Especially in today’s world, that would be considered on the young side, to be married and having children.

RP: Yeah, Hannah is 35 and she’s only just had her two, so she started 10 years later than we did. I think in those days we decided – cause we weren’t on particularly well paid jobs – it was the case that you either had children now and do things yourself afterwards, or you do things now and have children later, and we wanted the children first. There were a lot of things we wanted to do *with* them rather than, you know – we weren’t into going off skiing and stuff like that! A lot of people do, they go off and have their skiing holidays and do all of that sort of thing first. Not that we’ve ever skied! Ha ha! But we wanted to take them with us through life.

AF: I get the sense that adolescence and childhood seems to grow longer and longer as each generation comes of age… What do you think about that? Do you think that’s true?

RP: Yeah, I don’t think any of us, at my age, envisaged still being at home into our 30s, and not having moved on – even if it was going off to the forces or something like that. But I think now, both emotionally and financially, that’s the default with the youth of today. I think they don’t mature as quickly. I think a lot of it is financial and it’s not as easy to go off and do things under your own steam on the money a lot of kids make right after school, with the debts that they incur when they come out of university. So I think the burden, financially, is greater. But I think we’re also geared up all the way through childhood to be – you know, you used to get to 18, you get a job, you start looking for a partner – I mean, you used to be able to get council homes then. So, you meet the right girl, put your name on the list – and that’s what we did. We got a council home in Stevenage because she lived there and we both worked there. You don’t get that anymore. There’s not that natural progression anymore, so I suppose it had to change. And the people who are always going to have your back and inconvenience themselves for you are your parents. So that’s what’s happened.

AF: You mentioned to me that you’re a local boy, and you’ve never lived anywhere else. If you could live somewhere else, where do you think it would be?

RP: California!

AF: Oh, I like how quickly that answer came!

RP: California or the Florida Keys.

AF: Oh my gosh, the Florida Keys have so many of those little midges that bite you! I’d choose California.

RP: Yeah, Santa Barbara or San Diego, or something like that. We both love America to bits and we’d both live there in a heartbeat – IF we had proper medical!

AF: Good lord, don’t even get me started on that! Ha ha! Well, thank you so very much for meeting with me today, Roger! 

RP: I really enjoyed it! That’s one thing about working here: people go in and out all day, but it can feel a bit solitary. It’s quite nice sometimes to have a chat!

Amber Fortier moved to Fairfield Park in 2017 with her husband and three young children. She is originally from New York.