Before the arrival of digital cameras I had this brilliant idea for a chick lit novel. A 20-something girl (OK, me, back then) takes her film reel off to be developed. The photo shop isn't very glam, down a back street near the train station. She pays to get it processed in 24 hours but she's a radio journalist and ends up going on a job that takes her away from home most of the week. Then she has to see her parents at the weekend, there's some issue that needs dealing with. She's also just broken up with her boyfriend. So anyway, it's the following week when she finally rushes back to the shop, she's working nights and running late, she's on the phone with a friend who's trying to set her up, it seems to take forever for the man to find her photos. She sees her train coming, takes the film he's offering, gives him a tenner and runs for the platform. Once on the train, she opens the envelope to find she doesn't recognise any of the pictures. Annoyed, she bungs them in her bag and plans to take them back the following day. Being fairly chaotic, it's another ten days before she gets back to the shop - and she finds that the place has closed down, or closed due to flood damage or something. About now I realised I needed a middle bit to actually make it a novel. Anyway, the photos get stuffed in a cupboard, forgotten. But somehow it turns out they are pictures of her future.
Luckily I don't have to write the book because John Buchan did, back in 1932, when he penned A Gap In The Curtain. I haven't actually read it, but got a precis from my mum many years ago, probably as she was steering me away from a major literary gaffe.
But I've often wondered what I'd have made of it all, back then, if I'd got a glimpse of my life ahead of time. Just a few snapshots. Who hasn't wondered? Would I have been able to piece my story together? Would I have seen my children as my own? Would I have recognised my home? Would I have been scared of what I saw? Would I have vowed to wear more moisturiser, or spend more time at the hairdresser?
I raise the issue because we are fast approaching our fourth Thanksgiving; a celebration we have, for better or worse, traded for Guy Fawkes Night. No sparklers or fireworks this month, no bonfires warming cold hands. Instead, a vigil in the kitchen and a 12lb turkey.
Four years. Max is now a sensible, if dogmatic, three and a half year old. Oli seems to have a glint in his eye, a sneaky smile as he waves food from his plate to the floor. He still smiles like he did in those early months (although now with some teeth) but he's also got a mean frown in his repertoire too, and an executive index finger that can point out his needs with alarming precision. Tomorrow, in the absence of a dish of sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows (there's only so far we can go to make the feast authentic) that finger will no doubt be pointing at the 12lb turkey.