One chilly midwinter's night nine years ago my youngest was born: a mewling mass of dark hair and skinny limbs who gazed at me with the deep blue eyes of a newborn and reminded me of Christmas as a time of birth and renewal.
That Christmas baby is now the tallest boy in his class. A delicious combination of that infant, still, but with ever stronger flashes of the beautiful young man I can see him growing into. Adolescence is a good few years off but so are those precious baby years.
If Christmas makes me contemplate change then that cycle is played out in my writing. The day my children broke up for school two years ago, I delivered the manuscript of The Farm at the Edge of the World, my second novel, with a feeling of intense relief. Four or five drafts, and many, many revisions later, it's been published in hardback and this week a box of paperbacks arrived ready to be sent out into the world on January 12 - a hopeful start to the new year.
I'm very proud of this novel - about love, loss and atonement played out on a desolate stretch of the north Cornish coast. And yet, just as the mother of a newborn can never give her toddler enough attention, so I'm going to have to let the paperback edition of The Farm make its own tentative first steps. Because, the day my box of books arrived, I was finishing the copy edit for Anatomy of a Scandal, my third novel, which will be published in a year's time - in January 2018.
It would be tempting to focus solely on this book baby in the New Year. To my utter delight, it's sold to 15 different publishers and will be published in 20 countries so I imagine it will be clamouring for attention. And yet it will have a new sibling of a novel, still very much in the gestation process, to stretch the birthing analogy, but with a clear due date - or deadline - of February 1 2018.
The writerly cycle of birth and renewal will continue just as my not-so-baby boy and his big sister will grow and flourish. And, at the end of a universally bleak 2016, that fills me with hope and an immense, almost overwhelming sense of gratitude.
Thank you for reading and supporting. And a very Merry Christmas.