The Birthday Girl and her daughters
Friday 14 March
We’re back in the south east for another whirlwind weekend. First stop: one precious laughter-filled hour with my ace gang, the amazing Thursday Girls. Four out of five of us anyway, which is pretty good considering how far-flung we are these days.

Next stop: accompanying Ma to her post-op consultant appointment. The news couldn’t be better; nothing sinister to report and no further treatment required. Ma even manages to get a big hug from the consultant before she goes!

Saturday 15 March
Romantic Novelists’ Association Committee meeting. At the station I discover all trains to Waterloo are cancelled which makes me a bit wobbly as I’m rubbish at finding my way round London. Fortunately I soon learn that trains to Victoria work just as well too. Who’d have thought it, eh?

Sunday 16 March
Tom and I do a few chores for Ma while we’re here which keep me busy enough not to accidently blurt out the secret we’ve been keeping. Ma knows that we’re going to celebrate her 80th birthday with my sister and her family, but she doesn’t know what’s happening. We drive through Surrey to the fabulously picturesque Langshott Manor Hotel 

where, I tell Ma, we’re having afternoon tea. As we drive into the car park, there’s a flash of material I recognise as someone hastily scampers behind a bush. 

Ma’s too busy taking everything else in to notice, but her face, when the rest of our party leap out from their hiding places, is an absolute picture. Hurray! We’ve pulled it off! 

There are twelve of us in all – my younger stepson, who took the most superb photos of the day, observes later that he has an interesting time trying to explain how he is related to the rest of the group, but that’s blended families, I guess. In the end what really counts is not what we are to each other, but what we mean to each other – and there’s a lot of love in the room. My huge thanks to the staff at Langshott Manor Hotel for looking after us so well and providing such a delicious afternoon tea. It was a truly lovely occasion.

Monday 17 March 
The Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Novel of the Year Awards
Once again I manage to make a simple journey complicated and wander round the Strand and in and out of Charing Cross station before finally realising I’ve overshot One Whitehall Place and retrace my footsteps. Being a bit nervous doesn’t help – this is the culmination of my work as RoNa Rose Organiser and I’m ever so slightly apprehensive about the evening. Once the winner is announced – many congratulations to Kate Hardy for ‘Bound by a Baby’ – I can relax and enjoy seeing the rest of the winners receive their awards. Lovely Darcey Bussell CBE is there to present the awards and she looks even more gorgeous than she does on the TV. Choc Lit’s own Christina Courtney wins the Historical Category RoNa, Helen Fielding has the room in gales of laughter when she accepts her Outstanding Achievement Award and Veronica Henry wins the accolade of The Romantic Novel of the Year for ‘A Night on the Orient Express’.

Tuesday 18 March
My head and heart are full of memories of the weekend which has seen so many celebrations, but as the busy roads give way to country lanes and the landscape unfolds, there’s only one place I want to be. It’s so good to be home.


Mandy K James said…
A lovely surprise for your ma! Looked like a lovely day. And now you can relax ... I hope :) x
Kathryn Freeman said…
What a heart warming post - I love your comment, it's not what we are to each other, but what we mean to each other. Brought a lump to my throat. You know, you'd make a fabulous writer...oh, you already have :)
Jane Lovering said…
All looks beautiful - what a fabulous family gathering! And what a great way for your mum to celebrate a birthday and a positive health outcome! But what a busy time for you, hope you've got your feet up now and a Walnut Whip in either hand.
Chris Stovell said…
I berludy hope so, Mandy ! x

Stop it, Kate - or you'll bring a lump to mine! :) Thank you!x

It was brilliant, Jane, especially after the consultant's news. I knew there was something missing though -a walnut whip in both hands is just what I need right now! x

Jan Brigden said…
Wow, that really was a packed agenda, Chris. All sounds fab though. What a terrific surprise for your Mum. You have such a lovely, caring family. Great photos too. Well done on organising the Rona Rose too. It looked and sounded like such a great event. I do love your posts, Chris. Xx
Chris Stovell said…
I have to say, I was shattered when I got back, Jan - it was a tight schedule! And thank you so much for your kind comment.x
Frances said…
Wow Chris, what a week!

It's delightful to see all the photographs of your mom's celebratory tea. Brilliant surprise in a fabulous location...even the weather looks terrific.

Belated birthday wishes to your mom!

I can imagine how happy you are now to be back home, but also figure that your writer's head collected all sorts of material during your adventurous travels and celebrating...and even the tidying up.

xo to you and yours.
Chris Stovell said…
The weather was absolutely perfect, Frances, as was the venue. It couldn't have worked out better - sometimes it all comes together (thank goodness!) Cx
Chanpreet said…
What a very eventful week! I'm so glad everything went off well and without any major hiccups!

Happy belated birthday to your mum! I'm sure she was excited and happy to everyone there.

Now that you're home, I hope you get some time to relax and unwind before everything gets busy again. :)
Chris Stovell said…
Thank you, Chanpreet! I was shattered when we came home - I think it was the anticipation of the weekend and hoping everything would go smoothly. It was lovely that it all worked out.
Christina said…
What a lovely blog post, Chris! Sounds like you had a fabulous weekend, even though it was a bit rushed, and I'm so glad the news re: your mother was positive. Hope you're relaxing now! xx
Chris Stovell said…
Thank you, Christina... you should be relaxing too after Monday. Well done on your award and for making the evening such a success! x
Cait O'Connor said…
Such a lovely positive post, full of good things. I understand the feeling of coming home too!
Chris Stovell said…
As lovely as it to catch up with everyone, Cait, the peace and quiet of home takes some beating! x
Flowerpot said…
What a great post - full of good things! And I agree, there's nowhere like home...
Rena George said…
Wonderful post, Chris. So pleased your family - especially your Ma - had such a great time. Rx

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