It's almost Christmas: the kids rehearse for the school nativity, the Christmas tree has been extracted from its tatty box, the living-room walls are festooned with cards from those lucky souls to whom we remembered to give our new address (the woman with whom we house-swapped hasn't forwarded mail, though we kindly sent on all her bailiff's letters, summonses and unpaid bills).
Having received a card from the middle-aged couple a few doors along, next week we're having a little soiree for the neighbours - all except Dead Bob Willis and his invisible wife, obviously. As I drive home from Homebase with a boot full of planks singing along to "Rebel Rebel" it somehow feels Christmassy and normal.
One of our chief concerns about moving to the upmarket village of Old Front Bottom (if you google map from above there are horse paddocks, swimming pools and long, winding drives - but don't bother googling it because the name's made up to protect the innocent) was the fact we'd be moving to one of the few rented houses in the area. That, plus the fact that both Lynda and I still have Northern accents and rarely wear Prada, and parts keep dropping off the old Stilo as we drive the kids to school, and we worry the children's new pals might think we're a bit - well, rough.
Then something weird happens: something really, REALLY weird. And, for once, not a BAD weird thing. As we drive home from school (the road behind festooned with rusting metal from the undercarriage) Emma says they were doing some painting for the Nativity and her teacher handed out a load of old newspapers to spare the desks. Emma was painting away when the girl next to her pointed at the old paper spread out before them.
"Is that - YOU?" she asked.
Emma looked down: indeed it was. About a year ago I had a piece on house-swaps published in London's Standard; a photographer was dispatched to get pics of the Piggotts outside our wonderful Georgian home in N19 (sob). That article caused rather a lot of arse-ache at the time - because we got cold feet about moving from sunny Islington to some sprawling estate in Chesham and decided, wisely, to stay put; for weeks afterwards everyone asked us when we were moving and I had to say we weren't moving after all and so contributed, in my own small way, to a general mistrust of journalism.
This picture of the Piggotts was spread across two segments; the half with Emma on it was now on the desk before the girl next to her. If anyone else in the class had got that particular page they probably wouldn't have noticed because Emma was so new. What are the chances of my one and only Standard feature from a year before turning up on the very desk in faraway Suffolk at which my daughter and her school pal are painting surreal shepherds?
I read somewhere that the weird thing about coincidences is that there should be so many more of them; that in a world of seven billion and counting, of course you're going to meet the same couple you met in Tangier in Waitrose and of course any two people in the same office lift will share not only a birthday but a love of sea-horses, on toast. Even so: this is a weird one and not only weird but beneficial: Emma's social standing rises a tad and I don't have to drop any more heavy hints to her teachers so they know her father's a literary genius.
Now I just need to convince my agent...
Next week: it's party time in Old Front Bottom. And this time I mean it.Suggest a correction