Apologies for not having returned to say thank you to everyone who's emailed me in response to the previous post and shared their happiest holiday memories and favourite destinations. Reading them has been a real pleasure, and yesterday I finally got round to picking out the names of five people to receive books. Well done Alison, Sue, Katie, Denise and Holly, and *thank you* for your lovely emails. Florence was the most mentioned holiday destination and also one of the most evocatively described, so going there now feels like a matter of urgency, especially as Autumn has arrived with a vengeance here, hurling leaves against my window and making it necessary to wear thick jumpers and have the lights on all day.
Not that I'm going anywhere if I can help it until I look a bit more respectable. Last week I went down to London with daughter #1 and a friend as she'd been commended in the Foyle Young Poets of the Year competition and was invited to attend an award ceremony followed by a day of exciting poetry stuff at the Southbank Centre. Of course, maternal pride aside, I was thrilled because it was an excuse to meet up with London girls Natalie Rivers and Heidi Rice for lunch and gossip.
It was a glorious sunny day and we sat in the cafe at Tate Modern and looked out across the river as we had a lovely long, leisurely lunch. After we'd reluctantly said goodbye to Heidi and sent her back to her glamorous Southbank office Natalie and I wandered in the sunshine in the direction of St Pauls, where we had a cup of tea in the crypt and listened to a school choir singing in the cathedral above. So far so fabulous. After that we were heading back in the direction of the Southbank centre to meet the daughter when it all went a bit pear shaped. The traffic, being central London, was dire and I walked in front of a bus that was stationary - but couldn't see the courier cyclist hurtling along on its pavement side.
Oops. The rest is a bit hazy, but let's just say lots of blood and an ambulance were involved. Luckily the cyclist wasn't hurt and was extremely nice, picking me up (from which we can deduce he was extremely strong too) and insisting on giving us his name and phone number. Not that I was in much state to take it, but thank goodness for Natalie who was calm, competent and utterly magnificent in a way I just know I would have failed to manage had the roles been reversed (which in itself would be unlikely as she's far too sensible to throw herself into the path of an oncoming bike in the first place.) She kept me calm, fed me chocolate, waited while I was being stitched up, made lots of contingency plans with Heidi for collection of children, then escorted us all right to the platform at Euston station when it was time for our train home. I'm thinking of taking her everywhere with me in future, just to be on the safe side. She's an absolute goddess.
Here's what I looked like yesterday. Shame Halloween isn't for a few weeks...