Well, that’ll teach me for being so smug, won’t it? I wrote a big piece for the Tel last weekend and declared that I would toast everyone from the vineyards of Franschhoek as I was off to South Africa immediately after Christmas for a few weeks. You can read it HERE.

Then came the Tier 4 bombshell. Plus, the news that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Virus is also spreading itself across South Africa. So I’m staying put in London which is less exciting but probably good news for my new book. I finished it! Sort of, I finished the first draft and delivered it to my editor, and am now into the editing phase. This is almost the bit I like best. I won’t say this in a few weeks when am sick of my own book and never want to read it again but right now I’m fiddling about with my characters, moving scenes around, finessing the, ahem, sex scenes (festive!) and so on, and it’s quite satisfying making everything slot into place. It’s like I’ve nearly finished a 100,000 piece jigsaw and the picture is getting clearer and clearer.

I had grand visions of editing it while in South Africa but I suspect what would actually have happened is: quick hour or so of editing every morning before heading out for lunch and a few bottles of sauvignon blanc. And I’m not sure that’s how Dickens finished his books, tbh. He’s on the brain this morning since I walked to the Dulwich cheese shop at 7am while listening to a new version of A Christmas Carol recorded by Hugh Grant. It’s free on Audible for the next couple of days I think. A comforting thing to have on the background if you’re cooking or still wrapping. Extraordinary that something set in 1843 can make Christmas feel more normal in 2020 but it did the trick for me.

I cannot tell you the scenes in Dulwich, by the by. I got up at 6.45am specially, having checked that the posh cheese shop opened at 8am. I dressed as if I was off to burgle an art gallery – walking boots, black leggings, black puffa, baseball hat, black rucksack and strode off from here extremely confident that I’d be first in the queue. Bit of camembert, bit of goat’s cheese, jar of chutney, lovely stuff. Except when I reached Dulwich there were already DOZENS of people standing in line. Although the queue for the fish shop was worse, and the queue for the butcher even longer than that. ‘It’s like the Blitz,’ cried one wag in front of me. ‘Except instead of rations, we’re queuing for overpriced cheddar.’ Ho ho ho…

I’m also telling myself that I’ve got a lot of house DIY to get on with. I moved into my place in Crystal Palace in September but had to concentrate on finishing the first draft of my book instead of actually settling in and doing any decorating. So I’m still surrounded by unpacked boxes and bubble-wrapped paintings and mirrors which I’m going to unwrap over the next month or so. The good news is Ned Sauvignon Blanc is currently £7.99 in my local Co-Op, so who needs a vineyard, anyway?

Happy HAPPIEST Christmas to you, wherever you are, and here’s to 2021 (she says nervously…)