When I arrived at the front door I paused. Only a forty minute bridge between another world and domesticity. I looked at the swag bag leaning against my calf. A vivid green dinosaur, a box of Special K, biscuits, children's books. And what lay behind the red door? Piles of washing? Toys strewn over the floor? And as my feet walked over the threshold, I heard the screaming. Little A. Younger Dad - upset I'd come home to this, his face sagging - pleaded with that look in his eyes - 'please put her to bed, please?' My first thought, 'aagghh', my second, 'do I have to do this?' I barely had 48 hours of chatting and cake eating and tea drinking behind me. And so I kissed my girl good night in a daze, my head still in the froth and buzz of the event at The Brewery.
My first weekend away without Little A. And Younger Dad did me proud. They got through the night. A sleeping team. He managed one wash, the clothes basket still next to the machine, a limp shirt arm hanging over the rim. There were fewer toys scattered around than I anticipated. But no sweeping, that critical watershed chore - a marker of the end of day, the beginning of the evening. Still the boy done good.
When I finally sat down, we poured out the contents of the goody bag onto the laminate floor - the moon shaped hazel nut thins demolished within minutes, a surprise pile of books and toys left on the table for Little A. And then something happened, I experienced a kind of shell shock. All that build up, counting down the weeks, the days, and then nothing. What next? What was I aiming for now? In my despondency I bought next year's ticket. I wanted to do it all over again.There and then.Younger Dad looked at me incredulously like I'd swallowed a mardy wasp and a hairy goat - you've bought next years ticket already? And after all the excitement of meeting a literary agent, reading a post to 500 willing (I hope) listeners, I just couldn't get it together over the following days, like reacting to the concertinaed effect of a long haul flight. Emotionally jet lagged. I didn't read much. I didn't write much. I didn't do anything very much. It's been hard to let go....
....of all the inspiring and supportive bloggers I hung out with, and met for the first time. Will I have to wait another twelve months before I see everyone again? I truly hope not. Laughing, sharing, hugging, joking, it makes the whole thing so real. Not some social media illusion. When I place my palm flat on the computer screen, I know yours is touching behind. Friendship.
And this year I didn't attend many workshops. There was a technical expert who spoke so fast, his head too small for the fizz-bang-whizz of thoughts, I wondered how he slept at night. Instead, I caught up with friends and ate biscuits. There wasn't enough cake though. No, not enough. I bemoaned the lack of chocolate brownies during the breaks. One needs sponge in hand - thick slices of madeira or lemon drizzle - to pace oneself through serious hours of chatting and networking. I even missed a paddling pool sized portion of trifle at lunch.
There was a mother, brave and hurting. I watched her from afar. A thick chocolate brown bob. Clear, youthful skin. An open, welcoming smile. I wanted to say hello. To tell her how much I've held her in my thoughts. I couldn't muster the courage. I was too shy. Her sleeping babe among the stars. Beautiful, cherished Matilda Mae.
And then there was the Bloggers Keynote. The highlight. The irrepressible Katy Hill. An uplifting tribute to Kerry. Readings witty and poignant and powerful. And mine. That post. I did it. An emotional moment for me. To articulate my struggle after Little A's arrival to a roomful of silent listeners. I took a moment, inhaling a deep breath before I sang Happy Birthday.... and I think I hit the right note.
Britmums Live is a festival full of heart. You are never alone in your words. Not ever...
And it's become an annual milestone for me. This blog has come a long way since the conference a year ago. Where will I be in 2014? In my dreams, I know where I'd like to be. Let's wait and see.
Britmums Live, I heart you.
In fact, I heart you so much, I've bent a personal golden rule - only once mind - and included pictures of someone, dear reader, you might know!