Phew – it’s been quite a week. I’ve been writing and filming and travelling and my head is in a spin. Sorry for the Babble delay – I literally haven’t had time to stop and think, which is why I have lost the car keys twice, left my purse at home only to discover the fact at the checkout with a trolley full, and I keep making cups of coffee and placing them next to cups of coffee that I haven’t drunk yet!

For me, this week has been all about family and heroes.

The people that I respect and admire come in many shapes and sizes. Some are teachers who change the lives of those who have no direction or confidence. Others are nurses who hold a hand and sweep a brow when it is needed most. There are the servicemen and women who put their own safety second; mums and dads who work hard, struggling to be the best example they can to their children; firemen, policemen and medics who stand in front of situations most of us would run from…  for me the list is long.

This week, I’ve had a reminder that two of my heroes are in my sight daily. On Monday my son Josh stood up in front of 250 dignitaries and invited guests and delivered a speech. “So what” I hear you ask?

Josh is severely dyslexic. He still on occasion spells his surname wrong, and does a double take at every sign he sees after seeing it ‘wrong’ the first time. He panics in exams - not because he doesn’t know the answers, but because he can’t write down what is in his head. Yet there he was - my boy - standing in a dinner jacket, pretending to read a speech that he had learnt by heart, because that for him is infinitely easier. As his confident tone echoed off the walls, I recalled taking his little hand and walking him home, after being told it was highly unlikely he would remain in mainstream education; he was seven at the time. Now, over ten years later, I am indebted to one teacher in particular who told him that he could do anything that he put his mind to. I love her. Literally, I love her. She saved his life.

I watched the hundreds of guests, alternately laughing then rapt by his poignant phrase and tone. He was amazing, and won best speech on the night. I can’t believe how he came ALIVE! He was incredible. Or, at least, he sounded incredible: I of course couldn’t watch as I was crying, instead keeping my face averted, staring at the tablecloth and fiddling with the programme. Not disinterested, but using any diversion tactic I could to avoid jumping up and punching the air while shouting ‘I am so proud of you!’ which I am.

As for my other hero, the Major is hanging up his combats after 30 years of service. 30 years! We are all so very proud of his dedication to Queen and country. He has served both as man and boy. With 13 tours under his belt including Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and others, I am amazingly proud of all that he has achieved. His MBE for ‘extreme bravery’ was a highlight, but that’s not why I am so proud of him. For me, I am in awe of the compassion, humanity and patience he brings to the hardest of situations. No matter what is going on at work, he is always, always, there for our boys who are his priority.

I decided to throw a surprise party for him, the organization of which has been hell. We have a joint bank account, so I couldn’t just use a card to hire a marquee or buy plonk – it’s been an operation in stealth that would put MI6 to shame! But we pulled it off, just. The sun shone as 50 close friends and family gathered in my parents’ garden. It was one of those golden days that none of us will forget, with lovely speeches, good music, great food, chilled plonk, lots of laughing and, of course, Union Jack bunting! To hear the speeches from his colleagues past and present who all spoke of their fondness and admiration for him as a soldier and as friend was very moving.

The Major is the man who told me to start writing. He bought me a pen with ‘just write!’ written on it, and so I did. Without him, I would never have had the confidence to start. Simeon, you are my best friend, my husband, the love of my life and I don’t say it enough so I am saying it publicly – I love you now and forever. I am so proud of all that you are and all that you have achieved and I can’t wait to see where our adventures take us next. You are my hero…

Mandy x