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Year when love struck, quick and strong

Whatever happens in my life, I am never going to forget 2010. During the year, I met and married a man within a month of meeting him.

We moved in together, and our children now make a combined happy family. And we also have a baby due within weeks. I last wrote in this newspaper about how my life had changed last summer. I reread the words a few days ago and I still feel a sense of awe when I reflect on the year just ended.

At the time, our story was shared with so many that friends would sometimes ask if I cared about opening up publicly about such a private matter.

There were moments that I was concerned what people thought. After all, something as personal as falling in love is a private matter. I sometimes wondered if we'd shared too much, if our 'beginning' had become too cheesy to be taken seriously.

But these thoughts were always short-lived, as we were far too much in love to care what people thought -- and, if anything, were quite chuffed that we had been brought together quite so perfectly.

Just over 12 months ago, life was so different. In late December 2009, I decided to host a last-minute New Year's Eve gathering for friends who, like me, found themselves at a loose end. A small group assembled in my home to sip sparkling wine and wish one another a prosperous and happy 2010.

I recall more than once that evening lamenting my single status, as I had been feeling a little lonely for some time. Not that my life was a lonely one. In most areas I was incredibly happy. I had great kids, family and friends, and a developing career.

However, sometimes it felt like I couldn't truly enjoy and appreciate these blessings without someone to share my success and happiness; a companion, a supporter, a soul mate, if you will.

My New Year's resolution was to open my heart to someone new. Who would have guessed that four months later I would embark on a fairytale adventure that would end in marriage and a new family?

Spring brought the heart-jumping romance into my life. By summer, I had been swept off my feet into a whole new way of life. It happened with so much ease that it felt as natural as waking up each day.

Duncan (Maguire) and I solidified our relationship rather quickly via a Las Vegas wedding -- but we were careful, took time and were sensitive about when and how we introduced our children to one another.

We felt we'd known each other an eternity and we needn't have been so concerned about how our kids might have reacted. The children were delighted to be part of an expanded family and took to each other instantly. I guess our strength and happiness gave them the security they needed to open up to this new experience.

Children hanker after the same sense of belonging and need for love and acceptance as we do. Feeling a parent's joy gives a child freedom to emulate the parental lead. I like to think that helped pave the way to our families bonding so quickly.

Duncan's charming and theatrical young daughter has mixed in well with my independent and wild boys. In fact, Emily has probably taken on her biggest role to date. She is guiding them into accepting that her way is best. They are firm followers.

Christmas was an especially happy time as it was our first together. It is probably the happiest either of us had felt for years.

The festive season had been somewhat lost on me in recent years. I always tried my best for my boys to be cheerful and made the most of family visits and social gatherings with friends.

It is a time for children to feel that everyone in their family is happy. This year, for the first time in a long while, our children were in no doubt of the happiness that had descended upon their parents.

Among many 2010 changes was that we finally got around to moving in with each other some months after we married.

We had been more or less living in each other's homes over the summer.

But in September we finally got around to sharing wardrobe space. This is a subject that still causes tension, seeing as he has more clothes than I do and considerably more accessories too. . .

I'm still getting used to his untidiness, particularly in the kitchen, and his inability to switch off lights and close doors.

I'm also sure he is getting used to my annoying habits, but I am certain mine are far less irritating and perplexing!

But any little grievance is massively outweighed by the many positives that have been bestowed upon us.

Being married to a restaurateur has its benefits, one of which is that I'm well fed. This is particularly important, as I am expecting a baby. That was the next big life-changing event; we found out that we were expecting a little bundle of joy! A honeymoon conception too.

When the new addition arrives, the combined family will fall only one short of Brangelina and their Brady bunch. It is funny to think that I am to be a mummy again, and I have also realised much has changed since the last time seven years ago.

The change has been so dramatic that I have found myself reliant on my style icon, SJP, to lead me in the direction of quality baby products.

My dear husband is getting sick of my constant cooing over what I am buying for baby.

However, I have willing and interested participants in the shape of my step- daughter and youngest son. They both enthusiastically join in my selection of all things petite and dribble-friendly. They got particularly excited recently when I managed to order an Uppababy travel system -- a very snazzy pram.

Husband's reaction, however, was to roll his eyes, reach for the remote and put on another repeat of Top Gear.

My credit card is in a state of shock. Rather than Prada, purchases are coming from Mothercare.

The impending addition of a new baby has brought our families even closer, and it is hard to believe it has not even been a year yet. I've resigned myself to the fact that we won't be celebrating the first anniversary with a visit to Vegas. Cocktails will be replaced with breastfeeding and nappy changes.

Of course, we've had our trials and tribulations. Nothing worthwhile comes too easily, and there have been moments that I've been ordered to 'stop with my strop' or have barked similar commands in his direction.

Our personalities have started to integrate and, more specifically, how we like things done. Compromise is a word we have quickly become accustomed to, like never before.

Organising days out and weekends away is now something we leave to each other. One of us takes charge. It's not that we don't like doing the same things; we do -- but our priorities differ.

He will drive for hours to get to a restaurant that serves his favourite dish, whereas I will lie for hours in a hotel bed that has the perfect balance of softness and hardness.

Yet, somehow, we have silently agreed to enjoy what the other organises.

I know 2010 will always be remembered as an amazing year in my life. People still walk into Duncan's restaurant, which is where we first met, and request the low-down on our little love story. I regularly get asked how everything is going and not once have either of us grown irritated or bored of retelling the story or updating those interested.

I still get asked, "What next?" by people waiting with bated breath for another episode in our personal (happy) soap opera.

By taking a leap of faith, it feels like we have inspired others -- even the cynics.

Sunday Independent