Phwuff… lots of travelling since my fingers last danced over the keyboard to deliver some babble!

Sitting here trying to remember where I’ve been… ah yes. Started in Auckland and then made our way up to the glorious Bay of Islands, which is absolutely stunning. I spent the entire journey repeating ‘Ooh look over there, isn’t that lovely!’ Or ‘ooh look, water and a mountain, how lovely!’ The Major started nodding even though he clearly wasn’t listening and the boys plugged themselves into their iThings and I was quite ignored. I’m used to it and with Billy Ocean in the CD player (not literally you understand) all was right in my world.

We stayed in a lovely waterfront house which was glass, open plan and had an enormous deck (…bit of advice, don’t listen to a kiwi saying that last phrase, it might, as it did me, render you incoherent of speech and bladder control. Juvenile, I know) It was a different kind of Christmas; we fished off the deck and walked around the deserted marina. Some things were quite traditional, the kids prodded the bird I’d laboured over and asked ‘what IS this?’ with an expression of genuine intrigue. My veg was over cooked and I forgot to serve pud. The men of the house then drooled, snoozed and farted through Dr Who while I loaded the dishwasher and cling wrapped all the leftovers. Some aspects of Christmas remain the same whichever side of the world you are on!

I met a lovely lady who owns a hotel that we stayed at who presented me a copy of What Have I Done? for signing, it was quite surreal – I think it always will be. We are currently in Palmerston North, with family and preparing for a wedding tomorrow – much excitement!  Mooching around the shops earlier today, I saw a display of my novels in a Paper Plus store and I stared at them until I was nudged out of the way by a trolley-toting octogenarian. I stood there thinking, I’m in this little town in New Zealand and people are buying my books! It happened in Australia too, it is the most incredible feeling. Makes me feel lucky and blessed and gob-smacked all in one go.

Can I say a huge thank you to everyone who has left a review for A Little Love – they are stunning and I am so so grateful!

Time here is coming to an end, but fear not Antipodes, I am returning at the end of February! Just enough time to head back to the UK and sit and have a cuppa with my friends and family and I think my best friend and I might be starting the New Year with a bit of an adventure! Watch this space…

I would like to leave you with this tender moment. My son and I were sitting outside on Christmas Eve, staring up at the stars and enjoying a glass of plonk. I reached out and squeezed his hand and said to my hairybeermonster/man-child,

‘Do you know love, it doesn’t matter where I am in the world, a piece of my heart is always with you. I love you and I always have, always will.’

He released his hand, looked at me, coughed and replied, ‘I feel the same, Mum… about my PS4.’

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, think I did both and then topped up my glass and sent him to bed.

Baby… baby… love really hurts without you.

Nearly 2014 – how did that happen? It’s been quite a year. I always feel a rush of excitement at this time of year, the wonderful possibilities of what might lie in the year ahead.

I would like to wish Laura and Ben (as of tomorrow - the NEW Mr and Mrs Smith!) every single drop of happiness for the future, may all your dreams come true…

Mandy x