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The very occasional joy of tidying

, On Friday morning, I woke up feeling like tidying up. This, sadly, doesn’t happen anything like enough for my liking, so I abandoned my plans and spent an hour and a half before anyone else was awake doing what I call stealth sorting out where I can the get dust cleared off old things that we haven’t used long enough to get them covered in dust and then have then sorted out, boxed up and in the back of the car, all ready to go and the house aired so it doesn’t affect my allergy-prone husband and son. They also can't argue with me, which they will, because they're terrible horders. (While I, of course, treasure memories, which is something else entirely, and at least I'm trying to improve which has to count for something.)

As I worked I thought about how much stuff you accumulate after living in the same place for thirty-seven years, and what a wrench leaving it would be. I found some CDs I really, really want to play again and smiled at the good memories they brought back. (Yes, I am that retro and I like it that way and have no intention of changing.) I found some CDs of children’s songs that we played in the car when the children were small and I hated. Maybe it’s cruel to send them on to plague another parent of young children? Well, they don’t have to buy them, do they? And someone might well love them and help a good cause.

So I cleared and then I swept and mopped up the dust bunnies and the windows are wide open to air the house because the start of the school holidays in the UK heralds the season when I become aware that there are only seven weeks before autumn starts drawing in, so all the dust bunnies need to be gone by then.

As I worked, I thought about the women I write about and who have become friends in my mind. Amy, of course, whose next adventure will be out in September. Lavinia, the ghost of Lavender House, whose story will be told in Love Always, again out in September, and writing as Eleanor Neville, Kim Stannard, who becomes Kim Kinsella, spy mistress and mum and inveterate matchmaker. I’m going back to the 2000’s for that one because that’s when it happens and she’s a wonderfully complicated character because she’s been shaped by past trauma. Has she overcome it? No, and I don’t think she ever will. Has she learned to use it to say ‘not on my watch’ and do all she can to stop other people going through it and help them if they have to?’ Very definitely, and I like to think I’ve done the same thing in my own life. I wrote those books a long, long time ago and sold them twice, so knowing they’ll soon be published is very, very special.

So now, as I settle down to editing a short Amy story for the Christmas collection (more about that another time…) I’m aware that this clear out is a way of saying goodbye to a stage of my life and a very big hello to another one that is turning out to be amazing. And my living room has clean floors and loose covers. The other ones are blowing on the line. Through the open window, I can hear the seagulls calling. Later on, I’ll go for a walk down to the Quay. And, overwhelmingly, life is good… Not perfect because there are still health problems in the family, but they only make me so aware of how lucky I am.

What are you grateful for? Are you so organised that you never have to have a clearing out binge? Or so good at life that you aren’t constantly doing it? If so, please, please, please could you tell me how? And that gives me an idea for a story about someone who makes her living sorting out other peoples homes, maybe when they’ve died. And I’m already guessing that it’s so much simpler to do it for someone else… So really, I’ve been working all along and I’m doubly virtuous and just a little bit smug.

Today’s picture is of my kitchen mantelpiece. It’s a hideous thing but it’s part of the house’s history and I haven’t worked out what to replace it with, so it stays for a while longer. The ornaments have a story behind them because they are things I fell in love with when we honeymooned in Cornwall all those years ago but I couldn’t afford them because inflation and interest rates were high. (And doesn’t that sound familiar?) So now I can, thanks to my lovely readers and eBay meant I could gradually find them and there they are as part of my goal to make sure that the only memories on display in the house are the happy ones. And I hope you make happy memories this week, or if you cant, that you can draw upon memories to comfort you in dark times…

Have a good week and take care till we meet again.


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