You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave...

posted on: Sunday, 18 December 2016

This time last year we were in Florida, by night gawking at the mansions in Naples, all lit up with Christmas lights, by day at the beach. My daughter turned to me in the car during our morning commute this week and said 'I am not over Florida yet' which pretty much summed it up. We are not over Florida yet. Something elemental in me: about being young and being there at Christmas-time. In the maelstrom of my parent's divorce, Florida represented goodness and we would go there with my intrepid mum for extended holidays at this time of year. This would result in me coming back to England, aged nine, with a tan and a gold lamé swimsuit and wondering why my British, pale counterparts stared at me during my swimming races. I used to be a good swimmer, before I started to dislike getting my hair wet. Don't get my hair wet.

And so finally the school term has broken up, hurrah, and it's time to chill out. Well maybe not chill out exactly as I have a houseful over Christmas but you know...mentally release from the school rigmarole. I have been trying to get ahead with my work; the MA is really starting to bite this year. It's a lofty academic pursuit after all and whilst it has made me write the book, there is also some heavyweight studying to go with it. I knew it would be tough but the technicality of it, the sheer mental dexterity required is harder than I anticipated. Especially when interspersed with those pesky school runs. I see now that I am 'telescoping' (literary term for when the narrative draws to a close at the end of a book) and everything is heading towards next summer when I graduate. What next? Characteristically of me this is my latest preoccupation.

I think I need to get a job.

The prospect of returning to full time housewifery, with the sign 'writer and MA graduate' blinking over my head may not be enough. I am taking steps already to remedy this and am looking at what would be required for me to teach writing to undergrads. I like academia. I might want to stay. I could do a PhD??!! Dr. Lou.

These thoughts whirl around and my long-suffering husband listens to me percolate; half are shared with to him in a rush at the weekends when we are together and half are dispatched via our endless WhatsApp chats during the week. I love WhatsApp.

I've been Christmas shopping like some sort of woman possessed, again incredulous that the commercial exercise has overwhelmed everything else about this season. I try to keep control. I order online and feel like I am on some sort of strange game show; a virtual equivalent to super-market sweep. Buy, buy, buy. Wrap, wrap, wrap! What a curious first world phenomenon.

Meanwhile my eleven year old son is now chin-height on me and I can glimpse the time when he will be taller than I. And I am tall. Seeing him grow - in fact both of them - is one of the gifts of parenthood. I see now there is this sweet spot at around 12/13 where they become what they are going to be. You see it more clearly. It's just around the corner. And my daughter, whose presence of mind is a marvel to me, has gone out today wearing silver lamé trousers and her Stan Smiths. The lamé runs strong in us.

Our new house build is a year old now and I get to feel pleased every time I come down in the morning, look out of the glass wall and see the sunrise over the fields. Having a glass wall is a circumstance I would recommend. At night it can feel odd - a wall of blackness - but in the day it's like having the outside in. But without the weather.

So all in all I hope this finds you well. All good here, thanks.