Here we are at the four-year mark, and rather than simply light the candles and blow up a few balloons, I thought that my readers deserved some sort of explanation.

The past year has been quite a challenging one. It started off with mass layoffs in my workplace, and while I understand that losing your job is a horrible experience, it’s stressful for the people left behind as well (the higher workload for no extra pay was the least of our problems).

Just I’d started to adjust to the new situation at work, my husband became seriously ill with a mystery complaint. He was hospitalised several times, and otherwise pretty much out of action, so it was up to me to take on a heavier load, in between worrying my head off. (His problem was eventually diagnosed and successfully treated, and he’s now fighting fit – thank you to everyone who sent kind thoughts in his illness, it was very much appreciated).

About the point when everything seemed to be at their absolute worst, we decided to undertake some home renovating projects, for reasons which seemed sensible at the time. It turned out to be a lot harder than we had anticipated, and in the process, I fractured my hand a couple of weeks before Christmas. Recovery has been painful, but my hand is quite a lot better now I’m seeing a physio, and because the time needed to heal is longer than my sick leave allowance, I won’t be returning to work. Renovations are still ongoing, but we hope to finish them fairly soon.

Has all this affected my blogging? You bet it has. I did wonder whether I should just stop blogging entirely until everything was back to normal, but I had no guaruntee that normality would ever return, and I feared I might never get back to my blog at all. In the end, I decided it was better for the blog to remain active, even if it suffered in the process. And there were definitely days when Waltzing More Than Matilda was the only thing keeping me sane.

This is not just an explanation, it’s an apology. I’m aware that I have been a sub-par blogger, and I’m sorry for the missed articles, the slow updating and maintainence, the missing or incorrect polls, and for all the spelling and grammatical errors which I notice when I read over blog posts.

I’m sorry if I didn’t visit your blog, or leave comments, or took ages to answer your e-mail, or didn’t answer it very well, or failed to re-tweet, or didn’t update Facebook. I’m sorry if I didn’t reply to your blog comment, and I’m sorry that I had to turn off comments on posts more than a few months old because I didn’t have the time and energy to deal with all the spammers and trolls.

And of course thank you for being patient and forgiving, thank you for your kind e-mails offering support and encouragement, thank you for reading, and commenting, and voting on polls, and retweeting, and Facebooking, and liking, and subscribing, and buying books, and nominating names, and sending in your own name stories, and continuing to stick with the blog even through tough times. It’s appreciated more than you could ever imagine.

Now it’s a case of onwards and upwards (or at least onwards) as I work to get the blog back on track. Name polls from last year have all been calculated with the results published, and the top-rated names of 2014 have now been added to the Best Baby Names page. Because there were no polls in 2011 and 2012, I am going to be editing and re-blogging old posts on “Throwback Thursdays” so you can have a chance to re-read them, and vote on them. The first one will be next Thursday, February 19.

That’s it for another year!