It seems to me that this Christmas is largely about lists. The first list was my six year old's Christmas list. She has recently become quite adept at reading and writing which has afforded her much greater opportunities when it comes to writing a wish list of presents for Father Christmas. Until this year she would dictate to me and we kept it fairly basic, short, to the point. Then we posted it up the chimney which as we all know is the most efficient way to reach Santa.
This year however she came upon me in the kitchen and hefted the most recent Argos catalogue onto the table, no mean feat considering it is almost her equal in weight.
'I'm writing my list, Mummy,' she informed me, running off to get her felt tips and some paper. 'It's going to be colour coded.'
'Marvelous,' I said. 'Good idea.'
Never one to pass an opportunity for fifteen minutes of peace and a cup of tea I left her to it. Then about an hour later I thought I'd see how she was doing because I have never yet known her to labour so long over anything. Her list was indeed colour coded arranged in neat columns and covered two sides of A4.
'Can I Look?' I asked her, awe struck.
'I'm not finished,' she said. 'I haven't done Elec-tric-al goods yet.'
I scanned the list, noticing it included not only the item, but the catalogue number and the page number too. It started with a 9ct gold teddy bear diamante pendant, moved on eventually to a garden set including chairs and a table and then one washer/dryer machine, a multifunctional kitchen chopping system and finally toys.
As I read it and looked down at her face, shining with so much pleasure and pride and I realised it wasn't the items on the list that drove her to make the list (Although she has been longing for some of the toys) but more the pleasure, freedom and power of being able to write it herself. The joy of creating words, of finding another way to communicate language had inspired her.
I tried to think back to that moment that I must of had, that almost all of us must have had when we have that first thrill and rush of realising what an incredible world the ability to read and write unlocks for us. It must have been a golden moment, even though as a dyslexic I struggled more than most to grasp those tools. And so for me those particular hard fought skills still bring me golden hours every day whether I'm reading a book or writing one and I think they are the greatest gifts that I have ever been given. My daughter felt free when she was writing her list, and I love that she felt that way.
Not sure she'll be getting a washer/drier in her stocking though.
'This is an excellent list,' I told her. 'I'm not sure that Father Christmas will be able to bring you everything, there are a lot of children in the world and he is working on a budget.'
'That's ok,' she told me taking the list back with infinite care. 'He knows what I want most is a trampoline anyway. Now I'm doing Elec-tic-al goods.'
The next list was my list, list of things to do for Christmas. Every year I wonder at the frenzy of activity building up to two or three days at most, every November I swear blind that I am not under any circumstances going to get involved in the melee, that I shall rise about it and every year on about December 15th I panic and make a list.
And then last of all there is the long list. Yesterday I discovered that I am on the longlist for the Romantic Novelists Association's Romantic Novel of the year with my book THE BABY GROUP. I have never been on a long list before, so it goes without saying that I have also never been on a shortlist.
I am very pleased and honoured to make the long list, populated as it is with twenty-one other really great talented writers. Will I make the short list? I don't know, I'd really like to - it would be an amazing thrill and a secret long held ambition of mine. But one thing I've discovered about long lists is that it is probably not the thing to get too excited at this stage. Perhaps simply better to to quietly be pleased that I'm on that list of 22 and try not to think about it any more. If by some miracle I do make the short list then watch this space where I will mostly be jumping around and shouting for joy. If not then let's just gloss over it and act cool like we're not even bothered.
But until we know either way keep your fingers crossed for me!