Off on another jet-setting break on Sunday (well, only to Yorkshire and Northumbria, actually, which is probably just as well, given the current problems with flying!) - isn't life great when you're retired from The Day Job! Sometimes I almost feel guilty that we are starting to have such fun in our lives, popping off for short breaks (and long breaks!) whenever we fancy it - but then I think: Nah, to be honest I don't feel guilty at all! While I'd never want to imply that we had a tough time when we were younger, we did choose to have three children quite close in age when we were averagely young (for those days) - and so we never had much in the way of holidays, and certainly never went abroad until when the kids were a bit older we started going to caravan camps in France. We didn't used to have a car, or a lot of the mod cons we now enjoy - but that wasn't unusual back then. So now we haven't got to worry about the '9 to 5' and we've still got reasonable health and fitness, we're going to do our best to enjoy ourselves before we get old and decrepit! Yay!
We'll be staying for a couple of nights with an old schoolfriend of mine, and her husband, who we haven't seen for quite a few years so we're looking forward to getting together again. Jen and I were only at school together for one year - when we were about 13 - but it's an age when deep friendships are forged, and when her family moved back 'up North', my other friend Sue and I continued to get together with Jen during the summer holidays. I think it was a good experience for all of us - travelling between Essex and Chester by coach, staying with each other's families for a couple of weeks at a time. My best memory of those years was the evening we travelled from Chester to Liverpool for a night at the Cavern Club! No, the Beatles weren't performing there then, they'd recently become famous, but I was a huge fan and it made a great impression on me, just being there!
From Yorkshire we're going on for a few days of exploring the wilds of Northumbria - just cos it's there! and we've never been there - and then staying another night in Yorkshire on the way home to Essex, getting together with my 'penpal' Dawn and her husband. This is where the 'writing' part of this blog post comes in!
Dawn and I met back in 1993 (I think that was the right year anyway!) when we both won first prizes in the Writers' News short story awards. I think it was their first year of running their competitions. Anyway, up till then I'd only written children's stories - but I entered a story in the adult story competition and won first prize. Dawn, it turned out, had already been writing short stories for the women's magazines, but had entered the children's short story competition - and won first prize in that! We were invited to an awards ceremony in London and presented with shields and cheques, and it was while we were chatting over a glass of wine afterwards that we discovered our 'role reversal'. Dawn very kindly gave me the contact details for 'Woman's Weekly', and I began to submit stories to them straight away - being lucky enough to get an acceptance very quickly, which really got me started on my writing career.
We've kept in touch ever since - by letter to begin with, and then when we both got the internet, by e-mail. In those days I didn't know any other writers, and it was so good to be able to share hopes, dreams and frustrations with somebody else who understood. And it still is! Because we go back quite a few years now, we've shared the ups and downs of our writing careers with each other and Dawn has always been so supportive. When I got the contract for my first novel she was so excited for me - and when she acquired a really good agent I was over the moon for her. Whenever we've had disappointments we've been there with the sympathy and understanding. Nowadays I've got lots of other writing friends - through the RNA, blogs, Facebook and the lovely group of Essex writers I meet up with - but the 'pen friendship' with Dawn has always been a bit special.
This will be the first time we've met since that awards ceremony in 1993 - and as Dawn said to me in a recent e-mail: Do you think the husbands will get a word in edgeways?!? (Husbands? Oh, are they going to be there too?!)
Charlie the Cat is sadly being sent off to his Holiday Home (local cattery), but we know he'll be looked after and as he'll be 14 this year, was very ill last year but has this week been pronounced to be 'in the best of health' by our vet, we think he won't suffer any harm!
On the writing front I'm still waiting to hear about my feature on novelists who start off by writing short stories ... and still waiting for any luck with the new novel ... but have had one short story acceptance and one 'please change a few things and then we'll have another look', recently.
So it could be a lot worse, couldn't it.
I'll report back on the trip after next weekend and meanwhile hope you all have a good week.