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I had a cold this week. A big old-school, ‘coad in my node’ comedy one, with the glassy eyes and the red nose and the speech impediment.
I got it from Lachlan who got it from school. He reminded me, with a glint in his eye, how I’ve always told him that it’s “good to share”. That kid is too smart by half.
And, as he had the very same cold days ahead of me, he's enjoyed taking me through the blow-by-blow of what I could expect symptom-wise.
It's not great to start each day hearing, “Today is sinus headache and freezing hands and feet.” But aside from the running commentary, it’s actually been kind of nice to have a cold - Not the sniffly, shivery bit, but the enforced sit-your-arse-down-in-front-of-the-telly-and-do-nothing bit.
Somewhere along the line when I was a kid, I learned “not to waste a day”. This has often resulted in me - wasting so many frickin’ days - being so busy with stuff that never really mattered in the long run.
There's definitely something to be said for plonking yourself on the sofa, drinking tea, and binge-watching the Great British Bake Off while your body repairs itself. And nothing quite as therapeutic as getting teary witnessing someone bravely muscle through the disappointment of a dodgy rough-puff.
This time last week, I myself was muscling through puff pastry (shop-bought. I'm not a lunatic) while constructing a mountain of sausage rolls for the book launch party. Because we’d never had a book launch party before, Mark and I were both very busy ‘not wasting a day’ because we had no idea what to expect. Mark was up to his armpits in spreadsheets and tech, and I was cooking up a storm. ( Not in a charming ‘Bake Off’ way, more in a slightly frenetic, “Holy shit, did a bomb go off in the kitchen?” way. )
We too had to muscle through a dodgy rough-puff moment when I realized I needed him to go to the store for more filling for the pastries, and he wouldn't come into the kitchen because devilled eggs always give him the dry heave.
But we stumbled through. The book party was lovely. Though, if I'm honest, Fiona and Eric's house, where we held the party, is so stylish we could have rumbled up with a bottle of Diet Coke and some Cheetos, and it would still have looked presentable.
And despite my fears, people did turn up. Lovely people. A lot of them. But there's a lot of signing of books to do at book launch parties ( who knew? ) so I didn't get to talk to as many as I wanted.
And there were so many people I would have loved to invite to the party, but for logistical reasons I couldn’t. And besides, they have their own lives, who am I to be all demanding with everybody's time?
So even though it really was lovely, I find myself in a place where - like everything I’ve ever done ever - I’m sure there was a way I could have made it better. Life is like Bake Off, even when you follow the recipe, you’re still not convinced you’ve done enough. There's been so much goodwill towards these daft wee weekly Notes From The Valley, I send out every Sunday. It's been completely humbling. I feel I'll never be properly able to share my thanks.
On the morning of the book launch, I was nervous. Mark was busy packing stuff up and he was nervous too. I knew that, because he kept telling me he was fine and repeatedly asking how I was.
I picked up my phone to check the time, and there was an e-mail from Brian - a friend I know purely from his replies to these Notes.
In one note, a couple of months back, I’d said about how I'd made Fergus the number 21 out of sausage rolls for his birthday. Brian had messaged to say that he loved that idea and had told his wife he was never going to have a birthday cake again.
I opened Brian's e-mail and he’d sent a photograph:
I laughed so loud that Mark ( who was totally fine, and why did I keep asking) hurried into the room, worried I was having an asthma attack.
I showed him the photo, and he laughed too.
And, of course, I could have told that story at the book launch party, had I thought of it. But Mark and I kind of did the same thing as we did for our wedding, which was that we were so busy organizing everything else, that we sort of forgot to pay much attention to the fact that there were speeches and readings to do.
We met in Fiona's kitchen 5 minutes before we were due to speak, and made a plan. Mark made some notes and I settled on a reading and we got away with it. There was a brief hiccup when I couldn't open my own book to find the reading because I had on false nails to make me fancy, and thus had the manual dexterity of Edward Scissorhands trying balloon modeling. But it all worked out in the end.
( I'll post the video later in the week)
All things considered though, it was my first time having a book launch party, and I don’t mind saying, I enjoyed it so much I would have one again.
Lachlan pottered into the living room to check on the progress of my cold. By sheer coincidence, the bakers on Bake Off had just been tasked with making sausage rolls
‘Woah!” He said, looking at the telly, “These sausage pastry things are totally meta.”
“Right!?!” I said - Not entirely knowing what meta means, but deciding to pretend I did, so as to be down with the kids.
“How are your sinuses? Blocked or better?” he said.
“Better actually,” I said.
He nodded, impressed. ‘You’re probably going to be fine by tomorrow then.”
I smiled. “That’s my plan.”
And I snuggled up under my blanket, to watch others trying to achieve great things out of pastry, and getting frustrated with themselves when they did not.
Eventually, Bake Off came to an end and the right person won. (Obviously I can't tell you that in case you get a cold - because it really is the best way to see you through a lurgy.)
And my ‘coad in my noad’ is now pretty much remedied with a lozenge or two. Yesterday though, Mark started sneezing.
“I think I'm getting the cold,” he said, looking at me accusingly.
“Well,” I smiled, “Don’t we always tell the kids that it’s good to share?”
Till next week
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Hello there, NFTV peeps