One minute your bouncing them on your knee and checking your back for tell-tale trails of baby sick and the next….

Yesterday I began the tour of Universities with my eldest so she can chose where she would like to apply. Fittingly we started in Manchester, the place where I placed my hat for three years when I was about her age.

I wasn’t sure how it would be. A lot can change in almost thirty years. Piccadilly station felt vast and unfamiliar and the route that they set us down to Oxford Road wasn’t one that I had ever walked before. Then the Gothic main building appeared before us and I was suddenly more confident.

It’s big business these days, Open Days. I went to a few back in my time. Manchester with my parents, I think and the remainder on my own. That was how it was done back then. There was very little sign of prospective students on their own this time round. Everyone had a parent in tow. It felt a bit like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory except that the prize was a glittering academic career rather than a gobstopper.

We found our way to the first venue and sat in a lecture theatre waiting to be told why we should choose to spend our £27,000 with them rather than any other institution. Research funding and student satisfaction surveys were mentioned as was the impressive selection of libraries that Manchester boasts.

Then we got to the meat – the course. I don’t know about my eldest but I was transfixed as I listened to the options, the transferable skills, the expertise of the lecturers. They made it all sound so enticing. If I could have, I would have signed myself up on the spot.

But I’m 47 not 17. Did I feel that way when I was in the game myself? To be truthful, I can’t remember but I suspect not. To me, my university study was a means to an end, three years that I had to get through in order to move on, that would take me ever closer to my dream. Study for study’s sake was not something that even crossed my mind. Why would it? I had known nothing but study in my short life up to that point.

I seem to be discouraging my off-spring from vocational courses. I want them to follow their hearts. There is something truly magical about chasing an idea down a rabbit hole with scant idea of where it might lead you. I’m not saying that vocational courses don’t offer you that it’s just that it’s harder to see the hole.

Next week it’s Birmingham and no doubt I’ll feel same, not that my feelings count for much this time round. I have no regrets about the way I played my own cards. The decisions I made were the right ones for me at the time but if I were leaving a note for my younger self……..