December update – Lights, Strictly Christmas and action

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I’ve been busy interviewing, writing and bringing up my (not very small) babies… and I’ve got the lurgy. Here’s a taster of what my diary has been filled with recently.

My daughter celebrated her 18th birthday last week. It’s true to say I have no idea where the time’s gone since she was born. It barely seems two years since I was asking myself how my son had reached 18. I can’t say I don’t feel my age since bits of me are creaking and, with the lurgy, croaking, but 18 years? Really? I’d better get used to the idea my baby is all grown up, however, she’s interviewing for a place to study medicine at various universities around the country – another pull on my time as well as hers.

The night before her interview at Liverpool University I whizzed along to Waddesdon to see the Christmas lights at the Manor. This is one of my favourite invitations of the year. Waddesdon Manor ‘s current series of Christmas themes is the great European cities settled in by the Rothschilds’ banking sons – last year was Frankfurt, this year, Paris. Waddesdon Manor really is magical any time, but with the bachelor’s wing specially decorated for Christmas (the planning takes months) and the trees outside spectacularly lit it’s well worth a visit. I went on the guided tour with an acquaintance who also happens to be the marketing director at another of the nation’s grand houses. I’m sure she won’t mind me mentioning she was more than a little wistful when she saw how beautiful the Manor’s Christmas decorations were, and she had to have two buns at the press tea to make up for it.

Galloping through to December I found myself interviewing Fern Britton (that’s the Ready Steady Cook Fern, not the other one, in case you’re one of those people who get Fearne Cotton and Fern Britton muddled). It required a quick turnaround with only a day’s notice. I was busy all morning and into the afternoon, but Fern and I arranged to meet at the Iain Rennie Hospice at Home office at 5pm – it’s a charity she’s supporting with her renewed enthusiasm for cycling. I sat in the car park waiting for a while, then knocked on the door and met up with the IRHH’s PR officer, Gemma.

As we made a cup of tea, Fern arrived and what struck me was her poise and elegance and down-to-earth entrance. She parked her little run around in the car park and skipped in from the rain. Everybody complimented her on her looks – she was glammed up thanks to the make-up artists at the BBC, where she’d spent the afternoon recording the trailer for Strictly Christmas. There was no mistaking the subtext in the comments – she’s lost stones in weight and every woman in the office noticed. Fern was candid enough to tell me about her battle with the bulge in the interview. I’ll post it here just as soon as it’s published.

Within days of interviewing Fern an e-mail inviting me to interview House of Commons Speaker John Bercow turned up in my in-box. I’ve been chasing this interview for several months, but with the election and his busy schedule there’s been no space in his diary for me. I always approach my interviewees with an open mind. That’s not to say I don’t read up on them before I meet them or I give them an easy time, but there’s also no point standing on the sidelines with an agenda and if you want a fair interview you have to be an impartial observer. I did ask John Bercow for his views about the HS2 Link (which will affect many of his constituents adversely) and question why there was such a furore over the omission of LibDem and Labour candidates from the Buckingham ballot paper last May. I hope my interviews give you the feeling you were in the room with us and that the questions I asked were those you wanted answered. You can let me know what you think of the interview when I’ve posted it, but in meantime it’s on hold for a couple of months until the magazine that is paying me for it can fit it in.

In the run-up to Christmas I’m writing an article for The English Home which has been fun, though with my lurgy flattening my senses, I’m feeling slightly worried about when I’m going to chase up all the loose ends. The deadline is next week.

It’s been a busy month, so I’ve had little time for fiction writing – I know there are people out there who say you should make time if you want to be a writer of fiction. I assume these people don’t have five children at home and have a living to earn and a household to run at the same time. Or maybe they have a wife. I have been working on Fallen, since my other fiction has taken a bit of a back seat at the moment. I have taken to reading a couple of light (if there is such a thing) crime novels while I get over my ‘flu-like lurgy. They’re not my usual thing, but I thought I ought to get a bit more of a handle on the genre if I’m writing what seems to be shaping up into a crime mystery sci-fi thriller. I’ll post the next instalment of Fallen soon, I promise.

In the meantime I wish you a Happy & Healthy Christmas. Now where’s my box of tissues?

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