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Wow, 2015, you were nuts

31st December 2015
Child waving from back of lorry

My fourth baby was born at the start of 2015. We’d been warned early on in the pregnancy that he would likely be early, possibly very early. Potentially scarily early.

For various reasons, I was closely monitored and told to get to hospital as soon as labour started. I spent the pregnancy holding my breath. Figuratively, anyway.

Our due date was 23rd December 2014. He was eventually born on 2nd January. It was 46 minutes from established labour to holding him in my arms. In the final moments, he got seriously stuck – shoulder dystochia, it’s called – and a team of people ran in, and I mean properly legged it in to the delivery suite, to free him. I pushed and they pulled, and suddenly a chubby, squirmy 8lb 13oz baby landed on my chest. And I screamed, “My baby! My baby!”

That roller coaster birth was the most apt start to a year from which my head is still spinning.

In 2015 we have:

• Gone from a family of five to a family of six. We’re officially a crowd rather than a group.


• Gained the happiest little sunshine baby who has filled my cold heart with so much joy that I still spontaneously burst into tears when talking about him.


• Thrown away a huge skip and a skip bag’s worth of junk, given away half our stuff (I heart you Freegle) and done more tip runs than I ever dreamed possible (I love the tip).


• Switched an open plan house with a garden in Kent, England for a canal house in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, complete with four flights of the narrowest stairs imaginable.


• Sold our car and have a bunch of bikes instead. However, I still insist on walking everywhere and the only pedals I’ve pressed have been at the gym. Every Dutch person I’ve told is horrified.
• Learned that stoned people LOVE cats and our cats LOVE hanging out at the brown coffee shop on the corner of our street.


• Said goodbye to our friends and watched with nervous pride as our kids made new friends from all over the world at their international schools, and picked up Dutch like it was NBD.
• Realised that if a letter is important enough, they’ll keep sending copies of it until you give in and type it all into Google Translate.
• Fallen in love with our beautiful new city (and its cheese, restaurants, cheap wine – cheaper than the UK, anyway – and super tall people) so much that we’ve just bought an apartment here.


• I said we bought an apartment! Painting without a landlord’s permission?! Be still my beating paint chart heart.
• Realised that it really doesn’t matter where we live so long as we’re together and that for all the bickering and eye rolling, we actually ARE one of those families.


In 2015, I have:

• Flown on a plane by myself for the first time. Even after they told me cheerfully that there was a delay because they needed to “check for explosives” (there’s that famous Dutch directness for you), I still got on it.
• Got offered an upgrade from Economy to Business that was so exciting I overlooked the explosive situation and asked for champagne before I’d even buckled up. (And then discreetly – not that discreetly – took billions of photos of the loo and the flat bed and the everything).


• Went to New York to meet my amazing US editor and team at Ballantine Books/Random House.
• Tried to get used to saying things like the above but failed, because it still gives me the sillies.


• Worked really hard on my next book while preparing for my first book to be published.
• Also tried to get used to saying things like the above. Also failed.
• Hung out with my friend Ilana in New York like a couple of hip young gun slingers. I mean, she is but guys, I’m really, really not.


• Experienced a waiter saying “you do know that’s a beer?” when I gave my drink order.
• Vowed never, ever to drink tequila again after I got absolutely wasted at my husband’s work do (poor guy, he’s so patient and forgiving) and my dress got caught in my knickers and I’m the worst.


• Heard that my book, Try Not to Breathe, would also be sold in Taiwan, Poland, Russia and The Netherlands. Joining the UK and Commonwealth, United States, Canada and Germany.

• Held my book in my hands and SOBBED.


• Learned that Try Not to Breathe had been chosen as part of WHSmith’s Fresh Talent list for Winter 2016 (scream!)


(Pic by my amazing agent, Nicola Barr, at Belfast City Airport)

• Watched as real people, real readers, reviewed my book and – whisper it so it isn’t really awkwardly arrogant – enjoyed it. Oh thank goodness, they have enjoyed it. I love them all. I cried reading so many of them. What a plonker. When I hit 100 Good Reads reviews, naturally I played it down.


• Tried to get used to saying all of that stuff but didn’t. Because I don’t actually want for this to become normal, and everyday. I don’t want to take it for granted because this is everything I’ve dreamed about MY WHOLE LIFE and more. Much more.

I can say with absolute certainty that 2015 has been the best year of my life. I’m almost scared to see if 2016 can top it.


Thank you to everyone who has A) read this enormous, ramshackle list, I promise my book is better. B) Been so lovely and supportive about book stuff, and life stuff, and Amsterdam stuff. Even if you were actually rolling your eyes, you did it behind my back so that I never saw it. Absolute pros.

Books, Life

A Love Letter to All the Libraries

8th August 2015
Holly Seddon and baby outside a library

When I was a kid, I was weird. And not in that floppy-haired, no-one understands me but I’m still really cool and actually, if I just took off my glasses everyone would hoist me on their shoulders and carry me around ‘weird’, but plain weird. One time, I rescued a bee – a dead bee, mark you – from the school playground so I could take it home and give it a proper burial.

Another time, I took it upon myself to deliver a ‘Just Say No!’ anti-drug workshop for my peers, complete with ‘chasing the dragon’ tin foil handouts so they knew what to look for. On the eve of my big presentation, my mum swerved me away from this (apparently doomed) course of action and I had to cobble together a presentation on fashion instead. Considering that from the age of nine to twelve, I had one standard outfit (dungarees and school shoes), this was a horror show.

So I was weird. And a lot of times I was quite lonely. Sometimes, and I never knew why at the time but probably due to all of the above and more, no-one wanted to talk to me, or play with me. And this is where all the libraries came in, like knights in paper mache armour.

The school library was a lunchtime haven, where I researched witchcraft and the occult for the ghost stories I was writing (entirely inspired by the Ghost of Thomas Kempe) and where I had my first fist fight with a dimwit called Edward over the spelling of psychic. Blood was shed.

I’ll always love the local library in town where I used to spend hours after school doing my drug research (I know…) and reading autobiographies like Moonwalk by Michael Jackson (which I now feel left considerable chunks of information out).

I checked out as many books as I was allowed, honestly I don’t really think I ever bought a book back then. I got 60p pocket money each Saturday, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have afforded to buy a book even at 1980s prices. I made a special trip just to visit this library once more before I left the country recently, and I was taken aback by how tiny it was because, as a kid, it contained EVERYTHING as far as I was concerned.

I carried on checking out piles of books from libraries throughout my childhood and teens. I always had a book on the go, often more than one, and while my teen years were way happier and less lonely than some previous years, books were still a sanctuary. I am absolutely certain that I could only have read a fraction of those books if I had needed to buy them. And there wasn’t exactly an embarrassment of bookshops where I lived either, so it was basically whatever had been donated to the charity shops.

It’s not just about books though. The college library was where I first got an email address and used the computers to do my A level work and search for jobs in London to daydream about. I’ll call that era ‘the Netscape Years’.

When I was a very young and very skint mum, libraries were a haven. A free (and warm) source of entertainment for my tiny kids.

Libraries are not just about books, especially in adulthood. Especially when you’re vulnerable or even just a bit lost. For a long time, for me, the library was the only way to get online. I can’t even imagine – in this time of paperless Universal Credit applications – how some people would fare without this.

I haven’t needed the library so much in recent years, but when we went to register our youngest child’s birth in January, the registrar was based in the library and it made my heart soar to see how well used it was. The buggies stacked outside the kids’ library section, the older people talking about books and a few quiet browsers of all ages in between.

I live in a new city now, in a new country. At times, I feel lonely and cut off. I’m still a bit confused about the rules and my place in this new life. My youngest son starts at nursery in a few days and I’ll finally have proper chunks of writing time back. I was out walking with the rabble the other day when I stumbled on something that instantly made me feel calmer, and more at home: the library.

Admittedly it was called Bibliotheek, but it was as familiar as any library back home. Books to the ceiling, people quietly working at desks and computers, that smell that you can’t quite describe but is instantly recognisable. I immediately knew where I would head to spend my writing time, alone but surrounded by people. Just like I’ve always needed, just like libraries have always given me.

Libraries are so much more than books. They are still relevant, they are still vital. They will help the next generation of readers and writers to find their feet, the next generation of young and skint parents to give their kids a love of reading that costs nothing, the next generation of job seekers a route to apply for employment if they don’t have online access of their own.

To lose any libraries is to lose a part of ourselves, our history and our future. I’m so glad that authors like SJ Watson are standing up for libraries, and I hope everyone that ever lost themselves in a good book, and found themselves in a great library, will stand up too.