Monday, 17 September 2012

Lipstick, literature and a lovely weekend.

Back at my desk and feeling rather deflated (though sadly only in an emotional rather than a physical sense) after a weekend of brilliant company, amusing conversation, culture, champagne and shopping. Friday saw the annual Mills & Boon Author lunch, always a full-blown lipstick-mascara-heels event and a big gold-star date on my calendar. Travelling down on the train I tapped away at my laptop, enjoying the illusion of being a proper Professional Person, while trying not to bounce up and down on my seat with excitement at the prospect of seeing everyone and a whole day and night of behaving irresponsibly with Abby Green.

Cool professionalism was further undermined on arrival in the room where the lunch was being held (feel the urge to refer to it as 'luncheon', which tells you what kind of room it is) by the pink goody bags at each place setting. As someone who, over the years, has spent vast amounts of cash and many late nights putting together pink party bags for mini-guests at endless birthday parties this was a most pleasing manifestation of karma, though I have to confess that nothing as generous or exciting as Laurent Perrier champagne, Hotel Chocolat Kir Royale chocolates, candles or pink moleskine notebooks (with M&B logo) have ever appeared in a party bag of my creation.

It was a fabulous day, ending with a lovely, champagne-hazy evening at the M&B Author Toast (complete with dainty canapes, but no actual toast) during which conversation embraced such highbrow topics as The Actor Most Suited to Playing Christian Grey (Henry Cavill, obv) and Preparations for Childbirth (which I'm not going to mention, for fear of attracting the wrong sort of visitor via Google Search).  The following morning I met Daughter #1 from the train at Euston as she'd been shortlisted in a poetry competition in Peterborough that evening, which was a fine excuse for a day in London first. Given the purpose of the visit and her literary leanings she was keen to make a pilgrimage to Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey, which supplied the cultural element of the weekend. Not only is she a talented poet, but she also has a prodigious skill in getting me to part with large amounts of cash, so after lunch I found myself in Topshop with my credit card in my hand. Seriously, the girl's a genius.

The evening's poetry event was hugely enjoyable and inspiring, not only because Sir Andrew Motion was the judge and gave a reading, but also because hearing the variety of styles and approaches to the theme in the shortlisted poems was so interesting. Also on the judging panel was the super-cool Mark Grist, writer and performer of one of my favourite poems of recent years. Check this out...

(I like a man who even knows about the works of Jilly Cooper, 
never mind re-enacting the raunchy bits...)

Anyway, yesterday was spent sitting on draughty branch-line stations in the syrupy autumn sun and waiting for delayed trains and missed connections to get home. The days when this would have been an endurance test of endless games of I-spy and Hangman are still fresh in my memory, but it was actually a joy to spend time with lovely daughter #1 and talk about things we never get a chance to at home, where conversations rarely progress beyond the number of wet towels on the bathroom floor or the whereabouts of my Touche Eclat.

Back at home the fridge was full (of slightly random items ordered by Him in the online shop) the fire was laid, and there was plenty of time to unpack, hug daughters 2 and 3 and chill the goody bag champagne before DOWNTON ABBEY.

(And that, ladies, is a whole new avenue of joy and the subject of a post all of its own...)

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

New term. New Start. New shoes.

Daughter #3 left for her new school very early this morning (at least 20 minutes before her older sisters, who both go to the same place) looking unrecognisably smart and grown up in her new uniform and shiny shoes. Watching her go, I experienced one of those crystal-clear flashbacks that occur often in books but rarely in real life, of watching her walk down the lane to nursery in the autumn that she was 3 years old, wearing her purple coat and holding her daddy's hand, looking up at him. It caught me so off-guard I had to blow my nose hastily on a tea towel.

So the plan was that the moment the daughters were all out the door I'd be up to my office like a rat up a drain, typing away frantically and trying to get down all the fabulous, sparkly words and ideas that have glittered in my head all summer when I've been far away from a computer. Instead I spent the first hour wistfully sorting washing and feeling teary-eyed and nostalgic for the happy weeks of freedom from routine and time spent with lovely people. This year we timed our own prestigious Family Olympics to coincide with the similarly-named event in London, although as a member of Team GB I have to report that we didn't do nearly as well as the official team, despite my own gold-medal performance in the Sock Sorting event. After that, with scarcely a washing-machine-cycle's turnaround, we went off to St Ives, where the evenings were warm, the sea was clear and the surfers were plentiful. We'd chosen a house right in the centre of the town so the teenagers could come and go (and stay in bed) as they pleased, which seems to be the Shape of Holidays to Come. Am fleetingly sad about the passing of the sandcastle-building years, but on balance think that the going-out-in-the-evening and drinking-wine-on-the-beach years will have much to recommend them.

Back home again, the days settled into an easy routine of waking early and writing before the daughters roused themselves from their beauty sleep. I've been writing something a bit different which has been both challenging and fun, which I usually find a contradiction in terms. (Not sure whether the fun element was due to writing in bed, which adds a certain holiday atmosphere. Also, on the downside, a certain amount of toast crumbs. Impossible to write without devouring mini-breakfast, to boost creative energy levels.) The afternoons were given over to entertainment and adventure, and a good deal of extremely messy baking, so that the kitchen has become so covered in drifts of icing sugar it looks like Miss Havisham's dining room. It was only the prospect of cleaning it that finally sent me hurrying upstairs to blow the dust off the computer and locate the 'on' switch... (after which I spent a pleasant hour browsing the internet for new shoes - which are surely an essential compensation for the end of summer and onset of autumn?)

Hope everyone else has had a lovely summer and made a few more memories to add to the precious store we each carry with us. If there are any that you'd like to share I'd love to hear them...