I'll be honest. I was worried about the school summer holidays. Six and a bit weeks of anxious what-to-do-with-the-children. First summer as a single parent. Money tight. Staycations planned, slotted in with work and therefore kids' clubs. Fraught, I thought, caught short, chicken bought, starboard port (gone slightly mad now) with potential problems, anxieties, stress, boredom.
But, to my (and my kids') absolute bleedin' amazement, this summer has been the best we can remember. And here's why.
1. The weather. This, I admit, is total luck. But by jimminy, it has been splendid. A proper summer, with proper blue skies and burnt shoulders and ice creams and light breezes and barely any rain. A summer when the waterproofs only came out once. When hoodies were used but only for night time in the tent. When almost every day was a beach or a pool day, clouds were light and fluffy but certainly not monstrous and threatening. When cream teas were had outside, and only brought inside due to the threat of wasps.
When the lilo was actually used. When we went in the sea without wet suits.
It was the 1970s all over again.
2. My Mum and Dad have been brilliant. They have been divorced for 187 years, but this summer- by gum - they both came out of the woodwork and helped me out hugely. Once a parent, always a parent, I guess. My Dad took me and the boys away for a few days in Sidmouth (old people's-ville but we had a good time - see point 1). Then we went to my Mum's, where I am writing this, whilst my Mum is playing Cribbage with the boys. A bit of childcare makes the world go round.
3. My skin actually went a different colour without leaving the country. My shoulders went properly brown, nut brown, with age spots too, and even my legs changed from blue to off-white. Magic. Quite literally, magic.
4. My relationship with my boys has matured. To be fair, when you spend a week stuffed into a tent together, and then a week all sleeping in the same small, sweaty hotel room, your relationship has to go somewhere. Ours, luckily, didn't go down the toilet. I'm not saying it was all smooth as..umm...a slide in a Mediterranean waterpark, but in general, we rubbed along, made each other laugh, and had fun. There was an awful lot of boy laughter. Which in turn, made me happy.
5. As well as child-centric holidays, I managed to get away for a few days with the boyf. In his van. This was generally lovely and recharging and sex-making and sticky, and just what the doctor ordered.
6. And finally - I saw four shooting stars. I have never seen a shooting star before, ever. They were the most magnificent things I have ever seen - perhaps beaten only by the time when I walked into the men's changing room in the sports centre by mistake.
And so we've come to the end of the summer holidays and are frantically preparing for school. I'm shattered, the kids are shattered, my parents are shattered - but the summer has been all bonfires, marshmallows, swimming and family. Cards have been played in the twilight, pockets filled with quartz-seamed pebbles and crabbing bait discussed with fervour.
It has been magical summer.
Follow me on Twitter: @avapiaf1