Now read this …

Something very odd is happening. It is Day Two of the summer holidays, a moment when, for many years past, I have been an exhausted wreck already doodling ‘3rd September’ on the telephone pad and looking yearningly at the Back To School pencil case displays in the supermarkets.

But today, here I am in front of the computer, with my little dears upstairs. Reading! OMG!! Yes, I know, it’s tempting to assume they have been sucked up into an alien spaceship overnight, where they are rapidly putting the would-be new rulers of our planet off the idea of invasion far more effectively than any nuclear deterrent ever could, leaving two little dopplegangers pretending to turn the pages chez moi. But no, I checked them thoroughly for signs of strange flourescent glow when I saw them briefly at breakfast hours ago, and both looked pretty normal. They both felt like doing a bit of reading, they said.

Of course, this is wonderful, and gives me a tremendous glow of parently pride. There they are, the darlings, expanding their minds, widening their horizons and vocabulary simultaneously, and all I had to do was to drag them through Jolly Phonics, the Oxford Reading Tree, the interminable Rainbow Fairies series, by way of Horrid Henry, Harry Potter and Twilight, to get to this peaceful spot. It just couldn’t be better.

Except for one pretty crucial matter. You see, if they’re off entertaining themselves, where does that leave me? Er, utterly denuded of my usual excuse for accomplishing so little, that’s where.

Usually, you see, it goes like this. My new novel? Obviously I can’t correct the first draft of the opening chapters (which have gone horribly wrong and need major surgery) as I am Too Busy With The Children. Washing? It’ll just have to pile up until it reaches the ceiling. Returning phone calls? Organising barbecues? Please! With two children on my hands all day long, how can I possibly get any of this stuff done? Well? Well???

Well, actually, all too easily, if they stay in their rooms reading tidily. I could have zipped through the draft this morning, I could have made those calls, I could have organised 50 barbecues before 11 o’clock. So, what have I done instead?

Er, well, I’ve been reading too, if you must know. Zoe Heller’s The Believers, actually. Fantastic book. You should definitely read it. If you get the chance, that is…..

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