Grace is on holiday with her dad for two weeks.
The house is very quiet.
I think of her running along beaches with salt in her hair and sand in her fingernails, singing to mermaids and seagulls, and I smile.
The last two days we spent together she was shipwrecked and dripping after a stormy year at school, and in need of resuscitation. On the last morning of term I sent her upstairs to get her blazer from her wardrobe and put it on. Ten minutes later she trailed dreamily back like Ophelia, murmuring tall tales and music to herself with all thoughts of her original task forgotten. That same evening I found her cleaning her teeth in the shower, chewing her brush and rearranging shampoo bottles with an unfocussed gaze. I helped her out of the stall and wrung out her socks.
I miss her. But I know the damp air and misty fairytales of her fatherland will bring her home to me renewed: a mischievous sprite with dancing eyes and roses in her cheeks.
In preparation for her return I must reinvigorate myself. It's only now, sitting at my desk with baby Betty playing by my feet that I realise how tired I am too. I am shattered, exhausted, knackered. Wrung-out, done for, banjaxed. Fatigued. Frayed. I could sleep for a fortnight and still not wake.
This is not an option, however. I must run instead, and be bright and strong when Grace returns.
In preparation for my half-marathon I have been steadily building up my mileage week by week. I have discovered with amazed joy the exceptional things my body can do when I ask.
I ran 8 miles, with knees that felt like glass.
I ran 9 miles, several of them in torrential rain.
I ran 10 miles, selecting a route that took me straight up a soul-destroying hill.
I had not anticipated the massive highs of such accomplishment. Nor had I anticipated how floored I would be by this level of physical activity on top of my daily routine.
So I asked advice of Amelia Watts, endurance runner and marathon trainer extraordinaire. Amelia can run 7 marathons in 7 days in 7 countries. Next year she will run the Marathon des Sables, across the Sahara desert in Morocco. Amelia could have my half-marathon for breakfast. Actually, she could have it for pre-breakfast, and be picking it out of her teeth before sunrise.
Amelia came to visit me and assess my body's fitness for endurance. She is a long blonde sinew. I am a tired 40-year old. After a battery of tests Amelia concluded that I have good balance and blood pressure and breathing. But my core strength is sadly lacking. The muscles that hold me together deep inside need some serious work. At times this last year I felt like I was falling apart. Now I know why.
But I also know I can mend myself while I work to make things better for Grace. Time for some sit-ups.