Number 1 child and I have been having some long conversations about where my life is going, or more accurately, what I am going to do once the final two children have (hopefully, in the nicest possible way) left home in September. You will know if you've read my ramblings before that this will bring to a close nearly 29 years of nurturing, herding, ferrying, chiding, washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning and attempting to share life's important stuff with four sometimes affectionate, once-in-a-while listening, mostly entertaining and occasionally blow-me-down amazing children. And whatever else I may or may not achieve in my life, the stand-out is always going to be them - unless they turn into axe murderers, in which case I shall deny all responsibility and blame their father!
We've had a whole week of school goodbyes, doing things for the last time and joining in a wonderful celebration at Ripon Grammar School for their final hurrah. Last Thursday evening we watched videos of them as first years on their maiden school trip to France, getting to know one another and themselves, and being generally hilarious and we could see the 11 year olds turned into now 18 year olds before our very eyes. Last day over, they just had to turn up for assembly on Friday and say goodbye to the staff - some loved, some perhaps less so, all of them patient and generous with their knowledge to the end. And now all that remains is the hard slog of too many exams, too close together in some cases, before the big summer of freedom and (worryingly) results day. Did I shed a tear? Well, nearly, but I know I already have Olympic status for being an embarrassing parent so I held it all together as best I could.
Child 1 thinks that what I need to see me through the next twelve months is a bucket list - not, of course, because I plan to depart this mortal coil, but because I should set myself some targets that might stop me from whining too much about the lack of smelly washing, loud music, television on in several different rooms - often with no one watching, dirty cups and plates scattered all over the house and those familiar sayings: "There's nothing to eat", "I haven't got a shirt" and "Can you take me to...?"
So I am currently applying myself to the construction of a bucket list. Whether I shall achieve all this lot in the twelve months beginning September 2014 remains to be seen but this is the current status and I am happy to consider any other reasonable suggestions... In no particular order:
1 Improve my golf. I am a disaster on a golf course and, as I am no quitter, in the words of Magnus Magnusson, I've started so I'll finish. Well, at least attempt to achieve a standard where I am no longer an embarrassment to myself and others.
2 The Grand Slam Plan. This is the big one so it might not be achievable in year one of the next 29 year phase of my life but this has been on the books for some time. Tennis mad, we have been to Wimbledon, Roland Garros and Flushing Meadow, scenes of three of the four Grand Slam events and only Melbourne remains unvisited. Can we do it in 2015? Well, that may depend on other items further down the list...
3 Find an agent for my novel, The Rule of Three. Please!
4 Actually write the novel that's currently in draft format in my head, provisionally entitled Murder in Law. This may possibly fill the 4.30pm - 6.30pm period each day which is the time I think I may miss the children the most. Since this is a crime novel which is a new genre to me, shall we push the victim down the stairs, drown her or give her an overdose?
5 Accept all those lovely invitations to visit friends which we have till now refused because of homework, exams etc. If you asked us before and we said thanks but no for the above reasons we are now available and would love to come!
6 Return to Dorset. A modest flat in a picturesque village within sight of the sea close to the setting for the recent crime thriller Broadchurch was the venue for many holidays as children and now I would like to go back and see it all again. Intrepid granny, you have been warned!
7 Autumn Internationals at Twickenham - nailed! Not sadly, the All Blacks or Australia or South Africa but Samoa at the home of English rugby and a jolly good excuse for a weekend in London.
8 Turn the garden into something other than the National Collection of Dandelions (described as such by the singing, dancing doctor and never forgotten!) If we're really lucky it will have stopped raining by September making it possible to garden in something other than a sou'wester - or not.
9 Hay Festival. I have been involved in the Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival (http://harrogateinternationalfestivals.com/literature-lecture-series/) for the last two years and we've had some great names including Michael Palin, Joanne Harris and this year, Kate Adie and Sir Ranulph Fiennes. But I'd like to go to the Big Daddy of all literature festivals and that is Hay so, maybe next year?
10 There's a long list of places I'd like to go to from the Norwegian Fjords to New Zealand. Too many to list here but if there's a 5* gap year opportunity, I'm on it!
Finally, there was another goodbye last week that can't go unheralded. Watching Toulon play Saracens in Saturday's Heineken Cup, I was interrupted by number 3 having a brief respite from A level revision. He looked at the screen and then looked at me: "You can't cry about Jonny Wilkinson when you didn't cry when we left school this week!" Well, I wasn't actually crying (again!) but it was a big moment when Jonny kicked the drop goal for Toulon because, frankly, no one kicks a drop goal like Jonny. Without doubt, an icon for sport, a humble, hard-working man and a credit to Toulon, Newcastle Falcons, England and the Lions. And, hand on heart, I can't honestly name a sporting great who has achieved more without once personally or on the field of sport, let the side down. There's a lot to learn from him. One final battle to win: the Top 14 Final against Castres and, if Toulon win, it will be the perfect fairytale ending for Jonny. And even if they don't, I'm definitely hoping for 'Arise, Sir Jonny' in the next honours list. Allez Les Rouges!