I love Christmas, don't you? It is the only thing - apart from my beloved writing, of course - that I have carried into my adult life with the same anticipation, pleasure and excitement that I did as a child. Our beautiful tree is up, presents wrapped, larder stocked, little Christmas touches here and there - and I love it. It gives me a warm glow. It reminds me of family, togetherness, peace and a feeling of contentment - Christmas films being advertised on TV, all those annoying adverts tempting us to buy, buy, buy.
This Saturday, I am having a little party for my Young Writers. On Friday, I shall buy little tangerines, little Christmas chocolates, some hula-hoops, crisps and maybe some squash or cartons of drink. I am expecting about a dozen youngsters and I think it will go really, really well. Then that will be it, until the first session in January which falls on the 16th.
Yet with all this preparation, this hustle, bustle, tinsel, carols and sparkling lights, I am still not quite in the zone - and I know why. It will be our first Christmas without Mum. Christmases with her this past few years have not been like they were. As she became more and more frail and needed more and more care and attention, we all had to adapt a bit so that our brash Christmas world did not upset her fragile sensibility. As her birthday is 27th December, we used to gather at the care home and they always laid on a little tea for her and sometimes as many as two dozen of us would turn up - and she would be exhausted within the hour. But despite that, as we adapted, that became the way it was; it was the best we could all do under very difficult circumstances - and at least she was there.
This year she isn't there.
It hasn't felt right, somehow, not to include her - no telephone conferences between us three sisters as we decided what to buy her for birthday and Christmas that would be of some practical use - fluffy blanket, warm socks, diabetic chocolate, nice bath foam, talc and shampoo, no big party to arrange, no cake. It is as if she has been tucked away somewhere and forgotten and that, my friend, breaks my heart.
We are all struggling with it. And I really don't know if it gets better or easier or harder as the years go by. But I do know it is very difficult this year.
I am the biggest kid in the world on Christmas morning. Am I, at 58, the biggest baby in the world to admit I miss my mum? Not just miss her but need her? I don't know and don't suppose I ever will.
God bless her - that's all I can say.