It was probably a bit daft to squeeze in one last camping trip before school started again: certainly the wise people at the Met Office suggested as much, as did the (very tiny) Voice Of Reason inside my own head, whispering stuff about the need to organise school shoes and PE shorts and track down a whole raft of 6th form text books. But one of my greatest skills is ignoring the voice of reason, so the last Friday of the holidays saw us heading off in the direction of the Peak District, in a car stuffed with waterproofs, hot water bottles, thick socks and wellies - because (*nervous laugh*) we're not completely without sense.
When we got there, the campsite looked like this. At a weekend. In the summer holidays. (*more nervous laughing.*)
Of course, it rained. Quite a lot, as it happened - mostly on the morning we were trying to pack the tent up; a task which took on an interesting 'It's a Knockout' aspect with the addition of gallons of water pouring over the whole proceedings. But in between downpours it was almost freakishly hot and sunny. Well, for Derbyshire anyway, which, happily, is a county generously endowed with pubs in which to dry off. We shopped for new term supplies in beautiful Buxton, and sampled water from the famous spring. It was warm...
Let's just say I was a bit more enthusiastic about the Bakewell puddings in Bakewell. Unsurprisingly, perhaps.
In line with this summer's 'misery tourism' theme we had to make a trip to the Plague Village of Eyam, where we spent an afternoon utterly engrossed in the tragic events of 1665-66 and looking at yet more graves. Honestly, what kind of childhood am I giving my poor daughters?
Before we headed home again on Tuesday, Chatsworth was on the itinerary. Of course, we couldn't have foreseen the torrentialness (if that's not a word, it should be) of the deluge in which we took down the tent, nor the extent of our bedragglement as we trudged - in wellies, gently steaming as we dried out - around the most magnificent house in England. Given time, Daughter #1 might possibly forgive me for making her spend her summer holidays visiting the dead, but showing up at Mr Darcy's house looking like refugees from Glastonbury may take therapy. The house guides were very kind, possibly because we looked like people who weren't really used to being Indoors, and the wallpaper was lovely, but a bottle of water cost £1.50, which made me think rather more kindly about the warm, free water in Buxton. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a large fortune probably got it by fleecing tourists.
Back at home it was all hands to the laundry pile as the countdown to school ticked into the final hours. (Actually, that's just wishful thinking. I tackled the laundry pile heroically and alone.) Once all three daughters had been pushed out of the door, more or less clean and ironed on Wednesday morning, I had just one day to transform myself from weather-beaten tent-dweller to the kind of person who wouldn't be thrown out of a smart restaurant in Charlotte Street.
With the dirt mostly removed from beneath my fingernails, headed excitedly down to London to meet up with a group of fellow Presents authors. Lunch was in honour of visiting Australian writers Annie West and Trish Morey and was champagne-fuelled, delicious and an absolute riot of non-stop conversation. It was heaven to be in heels rather than wellies, eating perfect food cooked by someone else, in the company of wonderful, inspiring women. More efficient people than I took photos (or charmed passing businessmen into taking them, Presents-heroine style.) As the day gave way to evening and the time of my train home approached, neither the flow of conversation nor champagne showed any sign of abating and I dearly wished I could have stayed. Luckily it's a mere seven weeks to the annual Mills and Boon Author lunch... Better get some writing done before then.
What's everyone else been doing over the summer, and how are we all feeling about the onset of Autumn? And is anyone all fired up to get their entry off to New Voices? Let me know if you are so I can cheer you on!