Sunday, June 07, 2015

Nanny McPhee

It is June and I realise I have not blogged at all in 2015. Which is shameful. All I can say in my defence is that it has been a very busy year.

Anyway. Here I am, with a very overdue post about my amazing mum, Ann Moffatt, who died after a very short and sudden illness last May.

What can I say about my mum? So very very much, and yet I don't think I have enough or adequate words to explain what and how much she meant to me. Or how much I miss her a year on. However old I get to be, I don't think I will ever be done missing her.

However as a start I'll say my mum was like Nanny McPhee , always there when you needed her, though unlike Nanny McPhee always always wanted as well. I am one of eight children and my mother pulled off the extraordinary trick of always being there for each  of her children whenever any of us had a problem. So twenty odd years ago, after I'd had minor surgery the first face I saw when I came round was my mum's. Never mind that my dad had been very poorly and she was undoubtedly worried sick (not that she'd have let me know that) she squeezed out a few hours in a very stressful period to dash across London so she could be with me when I woke up. Looking back now I am astounded by her generosity and nonchalance about what it must have cost her. As the years rolled on, and particularly after my dad died, she made it a point of honour to be there for the births of all of our children. I remember talking to women in my antenatal class about how they were all dreading their mums being around. And all I could think was I can't imagine having a baby without my mum being there.

Because Mother was just extraordinary. She would arrive at the later stages of my pregnancy, make me sit down, cook us meals, and quietly and competently take over the running of the household without ever appearing interfering. At every point in every pregnancy when Mama turned up I would breathe a sigh of relief and welcome her arrival and the chance for me to take a break. She was also brilliantly clear about what she would and wouldn't do - she was there to help, but wasn't up for night duty. Fair enough, these were my babies. She also was deeply restrained about not jumping in and taking over the baby. She regarded her role as looking after me so I could have time with the new arrival. An unusual and I think rare generosity in a grandmother.

And yet when she did look after the babies, she did it with such aplomb and ease I was in awe. We had a family holiday when our second daughter was two months old. She was a colicky baby and difficult to settle. Five minutes under my mother's capable ministrations and said baby was burped swaddled and sleeping happily. Can't say I ever managed to do that as well as she did.

As the children grew, my mother came into her own as a doting loving grandmother, whose house in Shropshire was a haven for us all.  My children have the happiest childhood memories of weekends spent scrabbling up hillsides, playing pooh sticks in the brook and trying (and failing) to beat Gamma at scrabble. ( I think I beat her once in my entire life).

As time went on I was increasingly tied up with not only my children but my in laws. My father in law had a massive stroke just after our eldest was born and needed constant care thereafter. So long before the term was invented Spouse and I were sandwich carers to two elderly parents and four small children. When my lovely father in law died in 2003, we took on the role of unofficial carers to my mother in law. Throughout this period my mother was a constant support. We didn't live close to one another, but I rang her every week (a habit started when I first left home which I never lost. I was heartbroken last year when her illness meant those phone calls came to an abrupt and sudden end). And every week. Mother would patiently listen to my gripes and groans, and be there with good practical advice.

Because that was another thing about my mum. She was and amazingly practical person. Devoutly religious, she always related to Martha rather than Mary. She found it hard to express feelings in words, but boy did she express them in actions. Nearly four years ago when my mil developed leukaemia and was dying, we made the decision to have her living with us. After a single phone call when Mother picked up how stressed I was (empathy another quality)  she rang me and said ,  "I've cleared my diary, I'll be on the next train." And next thing I knew at a point in my life when I was utterly at my wits end, there was my mum in the background doing her thing. Again. It was the same routine as when I was pregnant. She never interfered or judged us, she simply made us dinner, picked the youngest up from school, did laundry, ironing and housework, and quite frankly kept me sane. As a ex nurse her skills came in useful when I didn't know what to do, teaching me how to roll mil in bed and how to lift her out of a chair without breaking my back (towel under the arms and pull. You're welcome. Of course modern health and safety says that's a no no, but like a lot of Ma's old fashioned remedies it damned well worked. She was just incredible . At 81 showing no sign of slowing down at all.

And yet... Maybe the signs were there. As soon as mil got so I'll she needed to go into the hospice, Mother was booking her train home. I remember feeling slightly miffed at the time, I wanted to spend some relaxed time with her, and she as pushing off. But looking back I can see she must have been knackered, but being my mum she could never have admitted it. But still tired or not, when I rang to tell her on 23 December that mil had died and we wouldn't be coming to her at Christmas as planned, she didn't show me any of the disappointment I know she would have been feeling but just let me cry down the phone. And the after the funeral was over insisted I spent a few days with her alone in Shropshire for some much needed r and r. That was my mum all over. Seeing what you needed, even when you couldn't yourself.

She was always a force of nature:energetic, capable, and positive. We all thought she'd go on for ever. I'd always had visions of her dying in her 90s, possibly in her sleep after climbing care caradoc for the last time. So it was a massive shock to discover in February last year that she was suffering from an inoperable brain tumour. I cried very day for six weeks when I found out. How could my stalwart reliable amazing mother be dying. It didn't seem possible, but it was happening and there was nothing I could do.

We were initially told she might have till the summer, but as it happened, the illness took its toll faster than that. I suspect she knew there was something wrong and ignored it, she was ever an optimist. I am immensely grateful she was able to spend her last Christmas in Africa visiting my brothers, and that she got to go to the hospital she nursed in in Kenya in 1957.  I am also pleased I was able to pick her up from that trip and had the privilege of driving her home and hearing her outpouring of joy at what she had witnessed.

Her attitude to dying was typical. She wrote to us all and told us not to be sad, she'd had a wonderful life and was grateful. She spent her last weeks welcoming her family's: children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces and nephews and her friends, refusing to be sad, and telling everyone she was having a lovely time.

Pending those last few weeks with her as much as I could, given the distance involved was one of the greatest privileges of ,y life. As was the moment when(knowing how much she hated emotional outpouring so) I told her I loved her, and she said "well this is the time to say it, I love you too." Words I had never before heard her utter. The night before she died, I spent a few hours alone with her and a hospice nurse, holding her hand, and talking though I have no idea whether she could hear or not. It was one of the most profound and meaningful times in my life, and I am so grateful I could be there. I guess she was listening though, because at 6am I to,d her my brother's plane had touched down from South Africa. Some time afterwards, the nurse told me to rouse everyone as this was the end. Only it wasn't. She hung on long enough  for my brother (and sister who had done an insane midnight drive to pick him up) to arrive.

She died about an hour later, surrounded by her children, exactly as she would have wanted.

A year on, and I am still coming to terms with her loss. But I feel immensely lucky that she was my mum.  She was my rock and,y anchor throughout life till now. I miss her more than I can say. But I'm lucky. Not everyone can saytheirmum was Nanny McPhee. I

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Feeling hot, hot, hot...

(To those of sensitive disposition, look away, now).

It is a truth universally acknowledged by my family that if I sit there, and say "Anyone else hot, or is it just me?" I will get a chorus of "Just you" in response. This has been going on for a few years, so I've got quite used to it.

However of late, my hot flushes, because indeed dear reader, that's what they are, have accelerated up a gear. Where I used to get them once in a while, in the last six weeks I've been getting them every day, several times a day, sometimes several times an hour. It's difficult to know how they rate to other people (nearly everyone I know my age seems to be similarly suffering), but they are becoming noticeable enough to be a nuisance. I have suspected I was heading menopause-wards for sometime, but now, quite frankly, I seem to be hurtling towards it. I did one of those Are You Menopausal tests online, and suddenly realised I had the majority of the symptoms. Some things, like horrendous periods have been going on FOREVER (quite frankly if they stopped tomorrow, it wouldn't be a day too soon. 38 years is quite long enough, thank you.). But others, like blinding headaches (and even a migraine, which I've never experienced before), and a scary level of forgetfulness are new. And as for lack of libido, I thought that was down to general tiredness, until it dawned on me, that I used to at least like the idea of it, whereas now, quite frankly I'd rather have a nice cup of tea. I am most definitely NOT feeling hot in that department.  And there are other, more personal issues, that I had noticed, but seem to have crept up on me unawares.

So yesterday, I took myself to the docs, who confirmed, that yes, I am in the perimenopause stage. And after an examination it turns out I may also have fibroids, and possibly need surgery for another delicate female problem at some stage (I could gross you out, but I won't). Oh deep deep joy. It is so bloody wonderful being a woman sometimes.

Having said that, it was a great sense of relief to discover my symptoms aren't the product of a fevered imagination, but this is actually happening to me. I had visions of being told (in the way that I was every time I went into labour) that it wasn't quite happening.

Having read a lot of this online, apparently for a lot of women, there is a mourning period as they realise the reproductive stage of their life is over. I can honestly say I don't feel like that at all. I am of course immensely fortunate that I have children, so I might feel differently if I didn't, but for me, though there are the inevitable thoughts about aging etc (and I do hit 50 next year, which feels qutie a milestone), it feels a bit like a liberation. For the first time in my working life my reproductive abilities won't be an issue AT ALL. I think that's something to celebrate, personally. I've also had stonking support from people on Facebook - some of whom I don't even know. And everyone has such good advice. Plus I've realised that so many people I know are either going through it, or have been through it, it's just another part of life's rich pattern.

At the moment my GP feels it's too soon for HRT, and I honestly don't think my symptoms are such that I need it anyway. (I might feel differently in a few months of course.) And citalopram which I take for anxiety, is apparently very helpful (I suspect that being on it has held at bay some of the palpitation/anxiety issues that some women go through..) I also feel much calmer then I have done in  years, which is another bonus, as I have suffered quite badly fromhormonal lows, and it's nice to resort to a less stressful modus operandi.

It seems to me, that (so long as I continue to be lucky and things don't get worse), this is potentially a good time in my life. My children are getting older, I don't have a lot of the responsibilities I used to have, and soon I will be free of the monthly torment that every woman has to endure. What's not to like?

I appreciate this might not be the way other people feel about it. But apart from maybe getting the heat away from my face and back in the bedroom, I'd say, so far, being perimenopausal actually feels quite empowering.  I could do with more energy (maybe that will come back? she says hopefully), but in the main (which might be weird of me, as I'd always thought it would seem a negative thing), I feel quite positive about it. So... exhaustion aside, I'd say it can't happen a day too soon. In fact... bring it on, menopause, I'm ready and waiting for you.

(With HUGE gratitude to all the lovely FB friends who've offered support and advice. It is great to tap into the fount of female knowledge.)

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Coming Home For Christmas

So tomorrow is a very exciting day. The third and final part of my Hope Christmas trilogy is published. Thanks to very lovely people on the internet, it seems to be doing rather well in the Kindle chart, which is very pleasing and wonderful.

I thought I'd mark the moment by talking a little about where the inspirations for this series have come from. Of all the eight books I've written, these ones are closest to my heart, featuring an ongoing theme of motherhood, and what it means to be both a mother and daughter.

When I first started writing Last Christmas in 2008 (Yup, scarily, it has been that  long), I was a very frantic mother of four children ranging from 6 to 12. Plus I was taking on an increasing level of responsibility with my mother in law. To say my life was busy, is putting a bit mildly. So an obvious inspiration for the book, came very directly from my own experience. I had the idea of a character who wrote a blog like I do, but unlike mine, hers was totally fictional. Cat Tinsall (who ISN'T me, but I understand her very well) created an online persona called The Happy Housewife who dispensed helpful advice to stressed mums, while ironically her own domestic life was somewhat more chaotic then that. This being a Christmas book, I also drew heavily on many years of experience sitting through nativities for Marianne's thread of the story, which was putting on a nativity in Hope Christmas, my fictional town/village in Shropshire.

Hope Christmas is based on a real place: Church Stretton, a town you'll find off the A49 between Ludlow and Shrewsbury, nestling between the Long Mynd on one side, and Caer Caradoc, Ragleth and other hills on the other. My parents moved there in 1988, and I married there in 1989. Throughout  my adult life it has been my go to place for R&R, and when the children came along, it's a place they've grown up in which allowed  them more freedom then they could ever have here. All the walks I have sent Marianne on, are based on walks we've done, and particularly, in this the last book, I have included personal touches from our favourite walks.

Hopesay Manor, the home of Ralph and Michael Nicholas is based in part on Plowden Hall in Lydbury North. Although I stole the peacocks and the lawn from Walcott Manor.

I had only intended to write  one book about Hope Christmas, and I genuinely thought that when I got to the end, that was going to be it for Marianne and Gabriel and Cat and Noel. But I found myself drawn back to their stories, and I also wanted to tell Pippa's story. I know many people who have children with special needs, and I know how hard the struggle can be to get the required help and support a family needs to cope. (Never more so in these days of austerity measures). I wanted to tell such a story, and show that a special needs child can be a joy too. So I wrote about Pippa's struggles to get respite care for her daughter, Lucy, who has cerebral palsy. I loved writing Lucy, her character shone through, and she is a pivotal and vital part of her family.

Along with Pippa's story, I returned in A Merry Little Christmas to Cat's ongoing struggles as her mother, Louise develops further into alzheimers, and Marianne and Gabriel still have to contend with the ongoing problems created by Eve, Gabriel's ex wife, which also spills over into Coming Home for Christmas.

It was at this point in the writing, my personal life became rather embroiled in this series. As Last Christmas came out in 2009, we were having a really tough time with mil, who ended up in hospital for several months, including over the Christmas period. Real life was imitating life rather too well, as she was often very confused and it was a deeply distressing period. As it happened, Rosemarie didn't have alzheimer's, but her health declined steeply after that, and she ended up having carers four times a day. By the time I came to write A Merry Little Christmas three years ago, she had been diagnosed with leukaemia, and alot of that book was written sitting by her side, in hospital, while she dozed. Needless to say my delivery dates got shot to pieces when she  died just before Christmas 2011. With a massive amount of support and understanding, somehow that book got finished, and I dedicated it to Rosemarie's memory. Like my own mother, she was a great supporter of my writing, and I am only sorry she never got to see the last two books.

When I came to write Coming Home for Christmas, I rather thought things would be ok. And they were for the first draft, written this time last year. I got through the first draft pretty quickly for me. And I thoroughly enjoyed reintroducing Ralph and Luke back into the narrative. I also had alot of fun with the local protestors who are trying to stop Luke's company building a luxury spa in the woods. I channeled alot of my favourite film, Local Hero, into that storyline, and it was great fun to write, particularly the protest scenes.

However, at the point when I came to do the rewrites, my beloved mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer out of the blue. I spent several weeks trekking up and down to Shropshire, trying and failing to find moments to tackle the rewrites on the train. Church Stretton has never looked more beautiful to me, then it did this Spring, and I wove as much of that as I could into the story, when I finally got my head together to write it.

Once again, my editor at Avon offered me stonking support - though she must have been tearing her hair out at moments when I sailed very close to the wind in deadline terms.

And here it is, as much a love letter to a place that has been in my heart and soul for 26 years,  as a homage to the two wonderful women I was privileged to have as my ma and ma in law.

I don't know yet whether there will be any more Hope Christmas books, but I think for the time being, I am done with Cat, Noel, Marianne, Gabriel, Pippa and Dan. Like them, my children are growing up, but while that is a change that sometimes makes me sad, I will enjoy their journey into adulthood. And who knows, maybe when I have grandchildren (not too soon I hope!), so will Cat, Marianne and Pippa.

In the meantime, I have a short enovella telling Mel's story coming out soon, and you never know, if I fancy it, a few more Hope Christmas characters may get to take centre stage for a change...

And I am also delighted to announce that these very lovely bookbloggers are hosting a blog tour of Coming Home For Christmas.

Thanks for coming with me on this journey, it's been a bit more epic then I imagined six years ago, but I hope you'll think it's been worth the ride.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Slipping through my fingers...

Thirty years ago this weekend, I left home (not actually for the first time, as I had had a previous four month foray doing voluntary work), but this was the more permanent departure as I was off to uni. At the time I can remember being very ambivalent about the whole thing. I wasn't sure I was doing the right course, I was keen to leave home, but also anxious to stay, and my nerves weren't helped by my having the one and only proper row I ever had with my dad the night before. It was a long drive to Liverpool from North London, and when we got there (after I had spectacularly got us lost, causing much paternal melting down in the car), my parents didn't hang around long. I can still remember that feeling of dread, as I walked back down the corridor to see every door closed, and it suddenly dawned on me I KNEW NOBODY, and I didn't have the nerve to knock on anyone's door to say hi. As it happened, several of us did the same thing and kept popping our heads out of our rooms, till we managed to open doors simultaneously. This resulted in me going for an exploratory walk with four people whom I don't think I spoke to again for the next three years. When we got back to our rooms we stupidly didn't arrange to meet to go into dinner together, meaning I had to brave the dining hall alone. I can remember the horror of standing nervously clutching my food tray, in a room of 300 or so people ALL OF WHOM SEEMED TO HAVE MADE FRIENDS ALREADY, and wondering what to do. To my relief I walked past the table of the brother of a school friend, who kindly took pity on me and asked me to sit down with his group. I didn't speak to them much afterwards either, but I was grateful at the time. My time at Liverpool could have been horrendous if that start had been the way it continued, but fortunately for me, I somehow managed to meet the girl who not only became one of my best friends and flatmates, but was the means of introducing me to my husband. And thereafter (despite a very homesick first term) it was all plain sailing.

I mention this as tomorrow it's no 1's turn. I am quite baffled as to a) how it can possibly be thirty years since I set off on my own adventure when I am still only in my twenties and b) how my baby can possibly be old enough to leave me. Mixed up with that of course is all those maternal feelings of sadness at losing her - she's great company and since the summer, has been around all the time. Suddenly not to have her to drink tea or watch Game of Thrones with on my days off is going to be very strange. But at the same time I am so thrilled for her too. She's worked so hard, and done so well, and Cambridge quite frankly are lucky to get her. She's excited about going, just as I was, and it's churlish for selfish maternal reasons to want to keep her by my side.

Because the thing about motherhood, which struck me very early into my experience of it, is that from the very beginning we are letting our children go. For that first nine months  it's just us and the baby, before we have to share our precious bundle with anyone. And when they're born, though they might start off by our side, it is really not too long before they've moved from the bed, to a moses basket, from the moses basket to a cot, from there to a separate bedroom. Every part of their growing up means they leave us a little more: they go to nursery for a few hours, to school for a whole day, to secondary school where they take themselves. And inevitably comes the day they leave us for good. I remember my mother saying very clearly to me at the same period in my life: You need to spread your wings. She and my father were exceptionally good at letting us go and as a consequence I never looked back. But I always came back, because though I'd left, the older I got, the more I cherished what I'd left behind.

So I know that though my job is nearly done, it's not completely over. It's a new beginning, and chapter in our lives. Aside from the fact I shall probably be kicking her out of the door again in her twenties, it's time for me to let go and for us both to go on another new and very different adventure.

And I really can't wait to see where it takes us.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

And I would walk 500 miles...

A very very important thing is happening to our country this week. Or if you like to our kingdom. Though it feels old fashioned to call it that. So maybe better to say the islands we live on.

Whatever side of the Yes/No Scottish debate you're on, and whether you're north or south of the border, after Thursday I suspect nothing will ever be the same, even if the status quo remains unchanged.

As it happens I have shamefully never been to Scotland, though my maiden name of Moffatt is Scottish through and through,  but such a long way back I have no family there, to my knowledge. A bunch of them went out to Ireland in the 19th century and settled there for a bit, before finding there way here. Therefore like the majority of the people in the British Isles, though I consider myself English, I also boast Irish/Scottish and probably some Welsh heritage. I think it's what makes us so great that we all come from such a ragbag of different ethnicities. Throughout our long history new peoples have come and conquered and usually moved west, and so most of us can claim a reasonable diversity of culture.

Which is why, though none of us in England have a say in the matter (though quite why ex pats can't vote I don't know, they can in normal elections, so why not in this, extraordinary one?),we all feel inextricably linked to what is going on up in Scotland. Until relatively recently, though I feel very strongly that actually the union is better together (sorry crap phrase, the No campaign has been woefully inadequate),I don't feel it was my place to voice those feelings, as it was up to the Scots to decide. Except, if they decide yes, it will impact on all of us south of the border, and nothing will ever be the same again. I really really don't want to think of a nation that I consider kin to become foreigners overnight.

Now I don't want to get into the politics of this, because it is by all accounts quite rough and ready on both sides (one aspect of the campaign that I have found deeply depressing is how far both Yes and No campaigners will go to bribe the electorate to vote their way), but what I do want to do is send Scotland a love letter. And say this...

We don't always see eye to eye, but we've been united as a kingdom since 1603 when James VI of Scotland also became James I of England. That's a very very long time. Ok, it took us till 1707 to become politically united, but that still means we've had a joint parliament for over three hundred years. Three hundred years in which we've really benefitted from having you on side.

In literature you've given us Robbie Burns, Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. We would have neither the television,( John Logie Baird)or penicillin (Alexander Fleming) without you. Scotsmen and women have gone out in the world and made their name in engineering, politics, business. For a small country you've always punched well above your weight.

More recently in sporting events Andy Murray has made up for years of personal disappointment by winning Wimbledon, both as a Scot and a Briton (unlike our dumb media, to me  he's Scottish/British whether he wins or loses), and Chris Hoy is just inspirational. I'd have been sad to lose him from the British team in the Olympics in 2012.

On top of all that my favourite TV show has had not one but two Scottish actors playing the Doctor, but also it's head writer shares my surname. I like to think we must be somehow related in the distant past.

There is something about Scotland and the Scottish that is part of our national identity, and we will all be the poorer if you go.

Scotland the Brave, it's your decision, but I'd walk 500 miles to stay by your side and really really hope on Thursday you say no.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Well, THAT didn't go according to plan...

Oh dear. I have now been back at work for over five months, and haven't blogged at all.

There are a lot of reasons for this.

Firstly the complications I referred to in my life in April were that my beloved mother was dying. She was diagnosed with terminal brain tumours in February, and though we thought she might get to the summer, she went downhill very fast, and died at the beginning of May. Subsequently, my first few weeks at work involved trekking back and forth to Shropshire on my days off, pretty much abandoning my family for weeks (although actually they all seemed to cope pretty well without me). Then we went straight into exams. I'm very very proud of my daughters who both did extremely well in incredibly difficult circumstances.

So it's been a funny old time. And I also had to do the rewrites on my new book, Coming Home for Christmas, the last in my Hope Christmas stories. This was particularly poignant for me, as I had written the whole series with motherhood very much in mind, and the first two books were affected  by my lovely mother in law being ill and subsequently dying, and this time it was my mother's turn. Hope Christmas is based on the town of Church Stretton where she lived, so this last book I have invested with love, and put in tiny little details about places we walked as a family as my tribute to her.

I will be writing about my mum at some time, but still assimilating my thoughts, and need to check that my family don't mind.

But in the meantime, here's the cover of the new book. I hope as life starts to calm down a little, I'll be able to blog again sooner.

And if you're interested, the book is out on November 6th.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

A Very Big Change

I haven't blogged for a while, because quite frankly there is an awful lot going on in my life at the moment, but I wanted to write today, because the times they are a changing for Maniac Mum... For a while now I don't think this blog fits my life anymore. My children are getting older and are active online. They certainly neither want or need me to blog about their doings in the way I once did. And since no 4 went to secondary school in September, I have found myself rather at a loose end (well not completely, I have written two books since then!), in the sense that I have very little structure or purpose to my day anymore. For fourteen years I had to get out of the house in the mornings to do the school run, and now, I don't really have to leave the house AT ALL if I don't want to. Which might sound idyllic, but really it's not.

So I decided in the autumn I needed a part time job. Part time jobs not being very readily available usually in publishing (which is all I really know apart from writing), I scrabbled around trying to see if I could get into teaching on a creative writing course as a regular gig. Needless to say, I failed dismally in that regard, (one university I applied to a) told me I couldn't teach for them because I don't have an MA, b) offered me the chance to take their MA (the course I was suggesting I teach on!) and c) I realised they wouldn't let me on their MA anyway because I don't have a 2.1) so I signed on with a job agency. To my amazement a part time job came up immediately. I didn't get that one, but after a bit of faffing about, I did get the next part time job that came up.

I have to admit to freaking out totally when I was offered the job. My life is pretty complicated right now, and I have two children about to sit vital exams, and I feel I am deserting them a little in their hour of need. Plus I haven't been out to work in an office for SIXTEEN years. I'm not sure I know how to talk to people anymore.

And of course, there's my writing. I will now only have two days a week to fit that in. Getting a job right now might be completely insane.

But on the other hand, I have always squeezed the writing in around family life anyway. I don't write every day, and I am totally undisciplined about it. Going back to a nine to five job, I hope will inject some much needed order into my working life.

Plus, I am a gregarious person by nature and since losing the school run, I have been going slowly demented as I have so few people to talk to in the day (apart from the lovely people on Twitter and Facebook, who do keep my sane). I am looking forward to engaging with real people in real time again.

And then of course, for the writer, this is an absolute gift. When I left work in 1998, we didn't even have email. No, really, we didn't. They were talking about getting it. In my first year of freelance I corresponded entirely by fax and snail mail. Unthinkable now. I've just had to sign a long declaration of Dos and Don'ts about use of the internet in office time, which made my head spin.

Everything is so different now in the workplace, and I think that will be quite fascinating to discover. So I'm  going to start blogging about that, as and when I can fit it in, and I might just find myself writing a going back to work as a middle aged mum kind of story.

Whatever happens next, it's a new chapter, a big change and with some trepidation, I am looking forward to it immensely.