It is awards season. And I'm not just talking about the blogging ones that are flying around, nice as they are to receive. I'm talking about the Oscars, Baftas, Golden Globes and everything else that livens up the news each morning with a bit of escapist celebrity-related froth. (Everything else is just too gloomy; I'm beginning to have to switch the radio off when the presenter announces: 'and now more bad news about the stock market' and Robert Peston of the BBC just needs to take a holiday). From Kate Winslet's ridiculous emotional speech, to the raging debate over whether Slumdog Millionaire, highly tipped for the top awards, is a feelgood movie (and I STILL haven't seen it yet, so I'll have to reserve my judgement) it's all about the nominations, trophies and frocks.
But now I'd like to hand out an award. And not to some smug actress who's had to spend, oh poor thing, seven months on location holed up with Ralph Fiennes in a trailer (no, I'm not jealous, Kate, I'm really not...).
My Oscar this year would go to my little sister.
Pretty well exactly a year ago, her partner of over 15 years and father of her two small children walked out on her. He didn't give a reason at first, apart from mumbling something about it just not working any more. He just went, and at first she didn't even know where he was staying. He refused to answer his mobile and didn't even call to ask how the children were - despite the fact that his then four year old son absolutely worshipped his Dad. Although he had been behaving oddly in the run up to this - staying out late drinking after work, in some instances not even coming home and saying he'd 'slept on a mate's floor' - he denied hotly that there was anyone else involved.
It wasn't until a month or so later that she was contacted through Facebook, of all things, by a complete stranger who informed her that HIS girlfriend was having an affair. With her partner. He had followed them from work, caught them in the act, and worked out through the machinations of Facebook who my sister was, in order to let her know. Her partner, from herewith known as Mr Dastardly, reluctantly admitted the truth - it had been going on for months.
I should mention that at the point at which this happened, my sister was midway through a very intensive graduate teacher training course, having decided, in her early 30s, to retrain as an Art teacher. She was working five days a week, and most of the weekend too, and was just about managing to hold it together with two children under the age of five. So to become a single mother at this point in the proceedings was not, shall we say, exactly helpful.
Mr Dastardly didn't see or talk to the children for the first four months, or even do her the courtesy of calling her to discuss how they were going to divide up their worldly goods. It was only because, with the help of my Dad, she contacted a lawyer, that they have ended up with an arrangement for Mr Dastardly to see his offspring for a few hours each weekend. (Fatherly duties are clearly not a priority for Mr Dastardly, who went away to Scandinavia for Christmas with his new girlfriend, not even bothering to call on Christmas Day and speak to the children.)
But I am proud to say that one year on, my sister is thriving. Not only did she manage to qualify as a teacher, she landed a plum job in the grammar school where she was training, and is loving her new career. She looks fantastic (having lost several stones in weight through sheer stress) and thanks to the help of friends, is starting to forge herself a social life. And this weekend, she organised a superb party for her son's fifth birthday, with an entertainer, dancing and the nicest-looking birthday tea I think I can remember. I haven't seen my nephew look so happy since his Dad left.
Some people (probably me) would have completely fallen apart, but the way she has found the strength to pick herself up and carry on is incredible. So I just wanted to share her story with a few people out there. And the parenthood Oscar for this year goes to her.
Oh, and if you know Mr Dastardly, give him a nice big slap in the face for me, won't you?