HOW did that go so fast? It's only because today is Halloween that I realised this is actually the anniversary of this blog project. It was a year ago today that I walked out of my much-loved job and gave myself a year to get a life. So having turned my career and our family life upside down by quitting and moving to the country, where are we a year on?
Things my son has learned in the last year.
1. Those are not generally known as 'little pig houses', and they will not be blown down by a big bad wolf. They are called thatched cottages and weekending bankers pay fortunes for them.
2. That is not 'a milk float'. That is what buses look like in the country.
3. Where to find blackberries, how to catch crayfish, how to tell if a horse is about to bite, what a day-old calf looks like, and why it's not advisable to wade into a river deeper than your wellies.
The things I've learned are a little more complicated, however.
1. That desperately wanting to spend more time with my son doesn't mean it will always be blissful. It took a while to accept that there were good days and bad days at home, just as there are at work - and that's okay.
2. That my dreams of a smooth and harmonious domestic life in which nobody ever loses their keys and I have time to hand-stitch quilts were precisely that: dreams. We still have no bathroom curtains. I still kill houseplants. Perhaps if I was at home full time instead of working three days a week, that would be different, but I doubt it: wherever there are small children, there will be chaos, at least if I'm in charge. It's just that I'm no longer too exhausted to cope with it.
3. That the earth isn't flat. I was privately afraid that by going freelance I might never work again: I'd just fall off the edge of the world. Yet having sailed blithely over, it turns out there are whole new worlds out there. Going home doesn't mean being defined by home.
4. That what I thought I wanted isn't really what I wanted. I thought I needed a complete change of career: now I see I still love writing, and the old career just needed tweaking to fit.
5. That I don't much care what other people think. There are many ways to be involved in a public conversation: what I now lack in depth of involvement in politics, I gain in breadth of ways to cover what interests me. A few months ago I wrote about domestic violence for Red magazine, and a reader wrote in to say it had given her the courage to stay away from her violent partner. I can't remember much I wrote as a political editor that had a direct and practical impact on people's lives.
6. That I wouldn't go back: not for double or triple the salary, and regardless of what happens next. And that for once, I'm genuinely looking forward to the year to come.