I'll admit it, I've been out of circulation lately. For days and days I've thought, "I must write a blog post" and somehow never got round to it. I've realised that blogging is a habit, and once you get out of it, it's all too easy to let it go. I have a new admiration for those of you who post lively, informative, insightful, stylish views every other day - and I still love to read what you write, but have found it hard to follow your example.
For the most part, my excuses are sound. I had a first draft of a novel to deliver by the start of February, and I managed to do that. I had a few weeks' grace, when I thought I deserved some time out, away from anything connected to writing. I saw friends I had neglected while I was immersed in my book and my mother's final months.
Meanwhile the sitting room was disappearing under sequins and bits of painted set and emergency singing rehearsals for the mid-Feb village panto, orchestrated by the Panto King himself, still laughing raucously at his own jokes and inviting the world and his friend for drinks, tea and cakes.
A very eccentric British indulgence, the pantomime. A bit too much, I fear, for the French friends to whom I sent some photos. It seems to have confirmed to them how mad we are, and the response has been muted, to say the least. Was it Trevor in his signature panto role as Giant Underpants that horrified them? (Those red-striped pants have drooped rather off-puttingly since their first outing in Jack and the Beanstalk as few years ago...but they brought the house down). Perhaps it was our friend Richard, back by popular demand as The Dame (here, Widow Twanky, with a cheeky little song that included the immortal line..."I miss the hanky-panky, that came with Mr Twanky...")
Or was it our neighbour John? Here in fine form as James Blond ("The name's Blond, James Blond") having just arrived by parachute to save the day - this was very much an original panto - for his big number, Blonds Have More Fun. Though he got his biggest laugh the night he forgot to put the blond wig on for one scene!
The panto performances were still going when I got an email from New York from my editor saying that she'd read the first draft - and the news was good. There were points to address, but as a whole the verdict was better than I'd dared hope. I enjoyed myself very much at the last night party.
Then it was back to work on my book, with a deadline for the second draft. It might seem as if the fact of an author being sent back to re-work parts of a novel isn't good news, but I can assure you it is. It means the editor and publisher are willing to invest time and care in your novel, in order to make it the best it can be. The worst thing an author can hear from a publisher at this stage is, "Fine. Let's send it straight to copy editing." I have been there, and I can't bear to open the book that resulted, with its fundamental flaw clear and present.
Rob went to France for a while, but I stayed here working. I like being on my own, with freedom to organise my days as I want them, especially now daughter Maddy is in Madrid on a gap year before studying Spanish and Portuguese at university.
I also decided that I would take a few risks this year. I agreed to speak at a literary festival hosting some big names, though the idea terrifies me. For me, there's something strange about writers being expected to be able to speak engagingly and confidently when the reason (perhaps) they became writers was because they expressed themselves best silently, on paper. I have done talks about writing before, but always to small groups. But I managed to stand up and give a tribute to my mother at her memorial service, and if I can do that, I can surely do this.
So there we are, more or less up to date. I may go quiet again for a while, but I'm still here reading blogs, with renewed appreciation.