Hello. It's been a while. How are YOU? I'm good. Very good. Our baby is four months old, and at last, at LAST, it feels like we've turned a bit of a corner. Our house is still unequivocally ruled by its tiny emperor, but maybe we're just a bit more accustomed to his demands. He smiles all the time, giggles soundlessly but no less joyously, and kicks his legs with delight. A tough little cookie from the day he was born 4.5 weeks early, his build now matches his spirit, he's got the thighs of a Prop Forward, and is long as a bean (one of the long ones, that is). But at night he still sleeps curled up on our chests, just like in his newborn days, legs tucked up, head burrowing, while his rejected, pristine Moses Basket mocks us from the corner. Still, waking up kissing your baby's head is a grand way to start any day.
Calvin Jack is not a daytime napper, nor does he care for being set down on his own, but I'm lucky enough to have my husband at home with me all day, and that's meant I've been able to start writing again. Two weeks ago I blew the dust off the manuscript of my third novel, and managed to finish the first draft. What luxury, to sit with a coffee and my laptop and get down to work. And the other Friday I went out after dark for the first time since our mite arrived. The occasion? An evening with Tim Winton at the splendid Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath. I wrote about Winton's surf novel, Breath, last spring, after reading it on a snowboarding trip, and I loved everything about it. His coastal memoir Land's Edge is a real work of beauty, and his brand new novel Eyrie is a piece of slow-burn brilliant fiction. Tim is one of my favourite writers, so as soon as I knew he would be over from Australia and hitting the west country the date went in my diary. It might have been my first night out since CJ's birth, but it was also HIS… Calvin Jack attended several book events while in the womb (he was with me on stage in Edinburgh in his very early days, as I rolled on tides of sea-sickness) but this was his first proper, and the wee man acquitted himself very well. He enjoyed a bit of quality aeroplane action, drooled all over Tim's arm (a mark of appreciation, surely, and earning him the nickname Drooler in our book's dedication), and didn't actually scream the house down. My husband was on jiggling and joggling duty for the night - my immense gratitude to him - as it meant I could sit with a glass of wine and listen to the Aussie Sage talk, only occasionally hearing Calvin's snicker rising through the floorboards. We drove back to Bristol with our babe finally conked out and snoring, and a bag full of signed Winton books and Staff Recommends from Mr B's.
These last months have been the toughest of my life, no question. If I find myself saying 'nothing prepares you for it', it's generally with a wry smile and good humoured disbelief, but WOW, is that misleading. Nothing was exhausting until this. Nothing was relentless until this. Nothing was hard until this. And nothing was heartbreakingly beautiful until this. After three and a half months of intense cave-dwelling, getting out to see Tim Winton, in the lovely surrounds of Mr B's, was the very best re-induction to the outside world. And sitting down to write again, Winton's words buzzing in my ears for inspiration, feels like even more of a privilege than it did before. My third novel is now with my editor, and I'll be working on the next draft through the summer. It's due for publication in August 2015, by which time CJ will probably be toddling about, and will doubtless have drooled over plenty more authors. Right now that feels like a distant sort of future, which is just as it should be, so I'm going to enjoy where I am just now, today, this very moment. Logging off, and playing with our beautiful boy.