You can tell the new school year has started by the excessive amount of paperwork that is suddenly gathering on every surface in the kitchen; letters about trips and after school clubs and dinner money demands, all waiting for a response (or a cheque.) You can also tell by the fact that the children have got their first colds of winter.
Daughters 1 and 3 are the first to succumb, appearing from their respective schools yesterday scarlet of nose and streaming of eye. My initial reaction was one of solicitous sympathy-- which quickly turned to horrified recoil as I realised I'm going to London tomorrow for three whole days of pretending to be sleek and chic. This is hard enough already. I want to ditch my usual scruffy bag with its permanent collection of Polly Pocket accessories and ancient till receipts, and go minimal with a teeny-weeny handbag containing nothing but a lipstick and a credit card. I want to waft expensive perfume. I do not want to cart around 4 boxes of Kleenex mansize and create a ten metre exclusion zone around me with the reek of Olbas oil, so have been administering calpol at arm's length, guzzling vitamin C and trying not to breathe in too deeply when I hug my patients. I'm sorry to read over on her blog that Kate Hardy is already suffering, and sitting here sneezing I'm resigned to a similar fate....
Spookily enough, this week marks the first anniversary of the day when I heard my first book had been accepted. That was on September 20th 2006, at about 3.45pm, and exactly a year on I'll be having afternoon tea with the very lovely Mills & Boon editor who made that call! I'm really excited-- and not just about the thought of tea and cake (though that does have a strong appeal, of course...) We may have exchanged countless phone calls and emails in the meantime but it'll be the first time we've ever actually met, and the timing seems wonderfully fitting.
Other highlights of the coming trip include meeting up with all the friends I've made in the last year (which seems, in lots of ways, to have flown by-- but on the other hand I feel like I've known these lovely friends for waaaaay longer), and indulging in the sort of food and drink extravaganza that promises to make the last days of the Roman Empire look positively abstemious in comparison. There's also the lure of all those shops, and the prospect of sharing a hotel room with a certain Abby Green, and maybe locking her in the bathroom until she's written the first chapter of my book for me while I raid the mini bar and watch satellite television.
It'll also be a tiny bit weird to step out of my mummy role for three days. I haven't left the children for that long before (though in case anyone from social services is reading this I should probably point out that I'm not leaving them on their own or anything) and I'm not sure how I'll cope, so I hope Abby won't mind if I inadvertently slip back into the groove and cut up her dinner and make her brush her hair. It's the harvest festival at school on Friday morning, and it could take quite a bit of retail therapy to ease the sting of not being able to see daughter #3 being an ear of corn, or daughter #2 singing a song about marrows. However, I'm looking forward to hearing what my husband manages to put together by way of a harvest gift. His will be the one containing the four pack of beer and the family-sized pizza.