On Monday I was sitting at work, head in hands, as I stared at my computer screen and the numbers on it that would not add up. I have been working single-handedly on a proposal for the past few days; it’s worth 2 million English pounds and would mean a huge amount to the charity I work for should it be successful. No pressure! By Monday, I was at the final hurdle, but unsurprisingly budgets are not my forte, and after strategising and finding estimates and carefully crafting paragraphs to answer pernickety questions for five long days, I was ready to throw my computer out of the window. December is turning out to be a bloody rubbish month, I was thinking, as I furiously jabbed buttons on my calculator. It’s hard to let the joy of Christmas light up your soul when you spend the majority of your days working out percentages, isn’t it? But then I stopped and thought about it and realised that actually December has been a pretty fantastic – if busy – month outside of my working life. Here’s why:
1. I have discovered Anthony Trollope. Who knew a 1000 page novel could be so much fun to read? I am giggling away on the bus in the morning and lapping up every juicy detail like a greedy child. I have missed my stop once already this week while reading the exploits of Alice Vavasor and Mrs Greenow and Lady Glencora; this is brilliant stuff! I am annoyed that I hadn’t started reading Trollope before and now I can’t wait to steam through the rest of the Palliser novels. Can You Forgive Her? is meaty Victorian saga at its best; highly recommended!
2. I got to see the lovely Claire and Simon and watch a preview showing of The Descendants, a new film starring George Clooney. He plays a workaholic husband and father whose wife is left in a coma after an accident, leaving him to parent two difficult daughters who have become strangers to him, as well as cope with some startling revelations about his marriage in the process. It’s set in Hawaii and looks like typical lightweight Hollywood fare on the trailer, but don’t be fooled by this; it’s actually a very moving, well acted and thought provoking film, and I loved it. Definitely one to go and see! It was also good fun to catch up with Simon and Claire, enjoy a delicious pumpkin thai curry at Rosa’s in Soho, and see inside the Twentieth Century Fox London HQ – not as fancy as I was expecting, but who doesn’t want to work in an office with its own private cinema?!
3. I celebrated the birthday of my gorgeous oldest nephew, George (pictured above with his brother Freddie…and my lipstick smeared all over his lips!), who turned 5 and had a party for all his little classmates in the village hall last weekend. My sister and I decorated the hall with jungle themed banners and balloons, and a talented lady came to paint the children’s faces. Georgie was an elephant, his little brother Freddie refused to have his face painted at all, and instead covered it with chocolate and other sticky messes that ended up on Aunty Rachel’s nice clean top, and his littlest brother Albert slept through it all on his Granddad’s lap. It was hectic but fun, and I still can’t believe the little baby I saw at one day old is now 5. How time flies!
4. I have benefitted from the generosity of some lovely friends. The ever generous Darlene sent me The Unborn Dreams of Clara Riley, and through Simon, Wayward Girls and Wicked Women, both of which I can’t wait to read. Poor Simon lugged a huge bag of books all the way from Oxford to London, and there was one for me in there, as a completely unnecessary thank you for having him to stay in my supremely comfortable bed (obviously not with me in it!!) – Passionate Kensington by Rachel Ferguson, who some may know as the author of Alas, Poor Lady. I can’t wait to read more about one of my favourite areas of London, through the eyes of such a talented author. Such a thoughtful gift! Finally, from my dear friend Ellen who I had to leave behind in New York, arrived Michael Holroyd’s A Book of Secrets, which features Vita Sackville-West, and sounds fascinating, and a brilliant catalogue of all the booksellers in Britain in 1951. I wonder how many are still open?
5. I had the best post-budget writing Monday night treat with my flatmate – we stuffed our faces at my favourite burger joint this side of the Atlantic, Byron – which, incidentally, serves hands-down the best pickles I have ever tasted – before watching Hugo, the first 3D film I have ever seen (yes, yes, I am a neanderthal) and which was wonderfully charming, inventive, moving and completely inspiring. It gave me a much needed boost and reminded me how important it is to believe in myself, and my dreams. It has also given me the kick up the arse I need to actually get around to booking a mini break to Paris and see the beautiful city Hugo depicts so magically for myself next year.