Thursday, June 28, 2007

Counselling and conference prep

Had counselling with Kunu today - felt really hyper and twitchy during it. Talked at a speed of about six zillion knots and kept switching wildly from subject to subject. So no surprises there then. But I'm astonished the poor woman kept up at all. I think it's the busy-ness of the week and the huge busy-ness of the weekend and week to come that's making me feel like a mad foaming horse. Or is that dogs? Anyway, you know what I mean. I'm sure though that in the first five minutes alone of our session, I touched on dyspraxia, my hatred of parties and large groups of people, the space in my brain where a map should be, publishing, Shakespeare, work, how overwhelmed I feel if there's more than one thing to do at breakfast and how simply getting fruit juice and bowls onto a tray in the morning is often an exercise in logistics. Which sometimes defeats me. Is it just me, or do other people feel that often they're simply hacking their way through the undergrowth of their own lives, with no real idea of what the direction might be, and every so often another gap that might be another path appears, and while you're out hacking away at that one, the original one gets overgrown again?... Oh. Yes, it is just me then. Sorry.

Whilst shooting quick-fire words at Kunu, it did strike me that my actual emotional connections to people are few and far between. Possibly the only really key people in my life thus far have been (a) my father and (b) Lord H. With a rather dreadfully long gap in between. Poor old Lord H - what on earth did he do to deserve this, eh?! Ah well, at least he gets his shirts ironed and gets to be married to an emotional hermit. Which has to have its advantages, one would think.

Post-counselling, I popped in to see Gladys - as I just couldn't bear the thought of going home and then having to go out again. Horror! Today, and with a weekend ahead of not being at home to consider, once I'm in, I'm in. Gladys was quite lively today - she complained that nobody sees her, but actually she's had three visitors during the week, and has a weekend with her niece to look forward to, plus a trip to the library next week. Sounds way too busy to a party-hater like me. I'd be exhausted and lying adrift on the sofa after all that. And even while I was there, two other people turned up, so really it was much like Piccadilly Circus on a Saturday afternoon. To my mind.

This afternoon, I have finished off a short story I started yesterday - well, it's more of a mix between story and fact. And I've done a little (a very little) to The Bones of Summer. I've got to a section where I have to put Craig and Paul in Alexandra Palace, and I always find description difficult - I have to really work on it. Lordy, but it would be nice if writing got easier, but I'm afraid it doesn't! I've also packed boxes ready for this weekend's conference ( and worried about if I'll get there at the right time, if I'll be able to set up the table all right, how hyper I might be if people ask me something, and how nasty the publishers I'm seeing will be. In my experience, that could be pretty nasty then! But never mind, I have the memory of Ansley's ( review of A Dangerous Man to see me through - and the knowledge that 2 or 3 people have actually ordered it because of that. Thanks again, Ansley!

I've also practised my poetry reading for next week's meeting for the Writewords ( London Literary Circle. Again. Lordy, but I'm sure I'm doing it differently each time. Must remember to take calming pills to work with me that day - will never survive without them!

Oh and I think my underarm problem is triggered by deodorant with alcohol in it. I'm back to using Lord H's again, which doesn't have alcohol, and things seem better. I hope to goodness I'm not scratching like a deranged monkey all through the ruddy conference. That'll certainly put a dampener on my attempts to sell books and look like a normal writer, ho ho.

Tonight, I'm going to watch my video of "Will and Grace", and there's always "My Name is Earl" on later on. But I'd better aim for a relatively early night, what with the conference coming up. I'll be way too hyper to sleep much during the weekend.

As I'm not back (please God let the car work this time so I can actually get back!) till very late tomorrow night - I never stay at the conference as I'm pulled always by my overwhelming desire to get home - I won't blog again till Saturday. So have a great Friday, all!

Today's nice things:

1. Counselling
2. Writing
3. TV.

Anne Brooke

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Good reviews and open days

First of all, a huge thanks to Ansley Vaughan ( for such a lovely review of A Dangerous Man (, which I reproduce below, and which you can also find on Ansley’s blog of 26 June:

WARNING: Contains possible spoilers!

“Anne Brooke's compelling novel is not a comfortable read. I got through it in a few big gulps, although as it raced towards its inevitable denouement, I was almost fearful of reaching the end. Michael Jones is an artist and a rent-boy. He's a man with one searing obsession; to gain recognition for his talent. The book is about how this determination drags him down into madness and destruction. This is a chilling study of growing paranoia, of wrong choices all along the way. And in the background, there's the looming presence of London, and a feeling of place which, with the slow psychological development of the story, was reminiscent of Barbara Vine at her best.
This is not a feel-good book. I so wanted it to end differently, wanted some escape for the only truly sympathetic character, his lover Jack. But every page is dominated by Michael, a man who draws in black and white to try to quell the bright colours inside him – like someone bleeding himself in an attempt to stay fit. Brooke has created Michael as an individual almost without personality, without history, without education or aspiration. He reinvents himself as a blank sheet of paper. He's beautiful and desirable, but ultimately empty, and at one point I began to think of him as one of those autistic artists, what used to be known as idiots savants, who draw brilliantly and obsessively but are otherwise lacking in all social skills. In the end it's the past which catches up with Michael – in a literal and figurative sense. He is sunk by the emerging sketches of his earlier activities, of his crime, of the life of prostitution for which he is blackmailed, and by the childhood secret which has made him what he is.
And finally, this book contains my most potent nightmare; that one where you know you've committed a terrible crime, something which seeps into your consciousness and stains it. Something which will inevitably come out, bringing with it shame and destruction. Brooke herself describes the book as 'a gay psychological thriller' but in a way the sexual orientation of the protagonists is irrelevant. This is a study of blinkered obsession and the untold damage it can do. Read it. Don't expect to feel relaxed or happy at the end. Do expect to feel challenged and stimulated. But read it.
Anne Brooke's novel, A Dangerous Man, is published by Flame Books.”

Gosh, thanks, Ansley – I really appreciate that. Hugely. And it’s a wonderful counterbalance to Jay’s rather negative comments earlier in the week too!

This morning has been rather wild – I was supposed to be helping with the Student Care Services stall at the University Open Day this afternoon, but Sally’s car broke down so I had to step in this morning instead. I find these sorts of things get the adrenaline going, but it’s very exhausting and I feel very hyper after I’ve done it. Mind you, I was on duty with Jan from Additional Learning Support, and we had a great time. Apparently also, my usual symptoms of complete spacial unawareness (eg can’t describe how I get home from the office without real serious thought but I know it when I’m doing it, never knowing quite where I am on campus or how I got there, fear of going to unfamiliar places etc etc), plus my lack of balance (eg can’t ride a bike, can’t hit a moving ball …) point to being a Dyspraxia sufferer. But one with very good coping strategies. Hurrah! I have a label at last! And there was I thinking it was just me … Mind you, I’d need to have a proper diagnosis with a psychologist to be sure, and it probably isn’t worth it, but at least it’s nice to think that I might have a local habitation and a name, as they say. And still be just plain weird …

Ooh, and Penny (former work colleague) popped in with her brand-new green Ford Ka. Lovely. Hmm, really fancy a new Fiesta next year, but we’ll see …

Tried to pop back into the Open Day scrum during the afternoon, but was sidetracked by a lady who needed to use the Oak Suite lift, which wasn’t working. Eventually, we managed to get Estates & Facilities, and Security on the case (well done, lads!), but the man the lady actually wanted to see came to her in the end, so all’s well that ends well, phew. Except for the broken lift of course …

Anyway, tonight, it’s sherry night and we’ve got one of those lovely smoked salmon starters (bliss!). Then Lord H is at the Village Hall Committee (groan) and I’m planning some writing. And there’s “Rome” on TV – double bliss. Might do the ironing while I’m watching it and gain Wife Points, hurrah!

And, finally, we have Brown. Well, a change is as good as a rest, I suppose. But to make Blair a peace envoy to the Middle East does seem rather like putting Attila the Hun in charge of the nursery ... but then again who am I to judge? I do work in Student Care Services after all!

Today’s nice things:

1. Ansley’s review of ADM
2. Open Day conversations
3. Writing.

Anne Brooke

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

UniSWriters and Golf

Feeling shattered today – probably all that emoting of yesterday. Still, I’ve taken another De-stress pill, so am at least rather calmer. This morning, I have been tapping away at yesterday’s minutes and wondering if this unexpected dry spell – at least in Guildford – will last. Perhaps all this terrible rain is actually due to the final Blair moments, and once Brown comes in all will be warmth and sunshine till the curtain falls? Hmm, that’s a no then … It’s also proving to be a real bluh day – lots of moments of staring at the desk and not doing much, and not seeing where anything is going. Or if it’s going. But, heck, I should be used to those moments. Still, I’ve reorganised my fluffy pen collection a little, so it’s not been entirely wasted.

And we’re having to go to the Schools for the loo, as Roots café is entirely cut off now. I think tomorrow I’ll bring my own potty just in case …

It’s the next UniSWriters meeting at lunchtime, and I panicked this morning, thinking oh lordy I haven’t worked out what exercise we might do. But I have found a couple that might work, and will see how we go in terms of manuscripts as to which one we do. They do seem to like writing games, and we get a lot out of them. I hope. Actually, in the event, as the group was so small, we dealt with manuscripts only – which were great! – but I gave them a version of one of the games for homework. I’ll see what happens next session.

Oh and the men came along to fix my blind (it takes three of them apparently ...) and moved my fluffy pen collection in order to get to the window. Unfortunately they brought the wrong size blind, so all that excitement for nothing. Goodness knows when we'll see them again. So I have moved my fluffy pen collection back to their normal places. Lordy but what an action-packed life I lead.

Tonight, I’m supposed to be playing golf with Marian (depending on the weather), but am feeling so wiped out that I honestly wouldn’t mind just flopping instead. My eyes are so tired they’re actually prickling. But the exercise and fresh air etc etc will probably do me good. Ho ho. I’m sounding more like my grandmother every day … And what a harridan she was! In the event, golf was good - very up and down, but I did manage to get a par at the fourth, hurrah!

And there's more good news - I have finally solved the problem of my sore underarms. I thought it was heat rash, but I now realise it's this new Tesco "Reactive" deodorant they've just brought out. It's a nightmare for me!! So I've brought some others without the dreaded word "Reactive" on the label, and now all is sweetness and light. Have had to throw away six bottles of the "Reactive" stuff though. Not that I'm a compulsive hoarder with BO, you understand ... Not with that amount of deodorant anyway!

I also think I've solved the problem of why yesterday was so particularly horrid: I'd forgotten to tear off the calendar page on our page-a-day calendar in the morning. So we were still stuck in a virtual Sunday until I came home. Goodness me, the power my personal obsessions have - it's astonishing really.

I’m also beginning to think I might try my hand at another short story sometime – might give me a change from struggling away at the novel. I think I need to put more enjoyment back into the writing process. And sod what may (or most likely may not) happen afterwards in terms of the publication game. Again, we’ll see.

For now, here’s a piece of flash fiction, written for the Writewords ( Flash Fiction II group – the remit is to write something including shop windows and a powerful emotion:


Brad pressed his face to the window. He could see so many things inside to buy and eat that it was all he could do not to race through the door, thrusting the impatient queue of shoppers to one side, and plunge into the middle of the display. Today there were shining éclairs packed to the brim with cream, coffee gateaux to die for, doughnuts whose middles oozed with bright red jam and – his personal favourites – chocolate brownies throbbing with rich darkness.
Before he knew it, his tongue was out and his breath smearing the glass. He could almost taste the chocolate. Certainly he could smell it. Ah bliss indeed! Really, he could do this every day. And indeed, that’s what he did. Every day, come his 10.30 break, he’d be here. At the only –and the best! – bakery in town, gobbling up all the scents and flavours of the morning.
After all, how else was he supposed to decide what to have for lunch? What would it be then? Doughnuts? He couldn’t have his favourites every day. No matter how much he loved them. Hmm, brownies … But no! Be strong, Brad, be strong. He’d choose the brownies tomorrow. A midweek treat. But today, his lunch would be …
… éclairs! Yes, perfect for a Tuesday. It would be éclairs.
Brad gave a deep and satisfied sigh just as the customer at the very end of the queue, who happened to be Mr Arnold from Number 42, peered round the door.
‘’Ere,’ Mr Arnold said, ‘have you finished choosing then, Brad?’
‘Yip,’ said Brad, straightening himself up and smoothing down his overalls. ‘I certainly have!’
‘Good,’ the old man grumbled. ‘Then you can come back in and serve us then, can’t you?’

And oh for an early night! I soooo desperately need one.

Today’s nice things:

1. UniSWriters
2. Golf
3. Happy underarms!

Anne Brooke

Monday, June 25, 2007

Steering Group and strange writers

Groan. Monday. What more can I say really? Mind you, had a great series of dreams last night in which I was having various adventures with a group of people in a haunted house with lots of rooms. All very exciting – it’s really keeping me going through the morning grind. It’s ages since I’ve had a dream like that. I do so love it when they turn up.

Anyway, this morning, I’ve dealt with all my emails, and have stared at the presentation I’m going to be making at this lunchtime’s Steering Group so much that I no longer have any idea at all what it’s about. How I hate making presentations. I’d ten million times rather be reading from my fiction or poetry – at least that’s something I feel emotionally connected to. And even then I don’t like doing the public speaking thing. Never mind – I’ve taken two calming pills at breakfast, and I’ve already had a Rescue Remedy spray – will no doubt have another one or two later on as well. If only someone would create a confidence pill, I’m sure I’d be first in the queue.

So, this afternoon, with the utter relief of having got my talking bit over, I shall be writing up the minutes and staring out at the rain. And generally feeling depressed actually. I seem to be in a lovely “rage followed by depression” loop right now, again – my, how the evenings fly by in downtown Godalming … And how I love these English summers. Not. Heck, at least it’s keeping the wasps at bay – and that is no bad thing for sure. This evening, Lord H is out at theology, doing the 20th century, and I’m hoping to up the tension levels in The Bones of Summer. Hmm, so I’d better write something then. If I can raise myself from my current lethargy. I’m also expecting Jay Mandal to pop round with the books he wants me to put on the table Goldenford is hosting at the Winchester Writers’ Conference ( Stop press: Jay popped round, gave me his books, and then started criticising mine. Hmm, not the best way to get me to sell anything with enthusiasm. What is it with these writers?? I've never asked him to provide me with a blow-by-blow account of my failings - why therefore do people assume they have the right to do it?? Deep sigh. Mind you, I suspect I gave as good as I got and, in any case, I'm by far the better novelist (Jay being more of a short story writer), tee hee. So sod that for a game of soldiers really.

And The Literary Consultancy ( have had The Gifting for about a month now (heck, who’s counting, ho ho?...) but I don’t anticipate I’ll hear much on the edit until at least another month has gone by. You’d think I’d be used to the waiting game by now, but I’m not. And it’s still horrid. Even though it won’t result in an actual rejection this time – but just a rewrite.

Thanks though to Ansley Vaughan ( who’s just started A Dangerous Man ( and is finding it intriguing and gripping. Thanks, Ansley – that means a great deal! And I hope the feeling lasts for you.

Now we’re in the holiday season (not that we ever take a real holiday in summer, but you know what I mean …), Lord H and I are planning a long weekend away in July – hurrah! We’re hoping to go to the Purbecks in Dorset, but I'll have to wait and see when Mother's op/treatment will be. Lordy lordy, but it would be sooo nice to get away after the horrendously busy month I’ve been having.

And some good news! This time on the Glyndebourne ( front – Lord H has been on the membership waiting list so long now (about twenty years indeed – people have been known to bump off those at the top of the list, I’m sure, in order to advance their own cause, or bequeath their places to their children on the assumption that they’ll peg out before they get there themselves …) – that they’ve finally taken pity on us, and are offering a year’s free membership in 2008 – yes we’ll take it, we’ll take it!! And afterwards a real live place in the membership category for a reasonable price (and not the £5000 they expect you to pay if you want to improve your membership waiting list position …). So huzzahs all round and someone crack open the champagne. And I must say that the twenty years’ waiting list position we’ve had to undergo has been a million times more enjoyable than the living hell and months/years of no communication that most publishers put us writers through. At least Glyndebourne corresponds with you, you get to go to some lovely operas, you get special offers on a regular basis and they treat you as if you’re important. If only publishers understood even the concept of Customer Relationship Management, eh?...

Indeed I feel I might be on the verge of offering to start a "Quality But Still Waiting to Hear" Authors’ Club – I’m sure there’d be plenty of takers. And one of our key strategies would be that every time (and surely that would be a rare occasion for a quality writer these days …) a member was suctioned off by the Mainstream Press (MPs for short – funny how, for me as an Essex Girl who grew up in a garrison town, that always stands for Military Police, rather than anything more civilised …), all other members would be entitled to tear them limb from limb whilst chanting: “Don’t forget your writing is no better than ours, and if you start to believe the pap they’re feeding you about how wonderful you are, we’re also entitled to rip off your fingers ...”.

Never say I’m not a generous-hearted and reasonable type. Heck, at least I’ve warned the buggers.

Biggest grip of the day though – they’ve shut Roots Café so now we have to go outside to get to the loo. In the cold and rain – double groan indeed!! Oh, and I’ve got to do the shopping on the way home too. Help! I just need some time alone - but when oh when will it happen??!!...

But just when I thought my day would be drowned in gloom, Sally popped in with a small box of chocolates as a late birthday present, and I clung to her, almost weeping for joy. Utter bliss! On such small turns of fate are whole histories formed, don't you know. It's astonishing how happy one chocolate (okay, three ...) can make you feel.

And I've given up on the dull, way too wordy The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson - too much tell and not enough show, m'dears. What on earth were Richard 'n' Judy thinking? My advice is get something else for your summer read!

Oh, and “Rome” last night was as wonderful as ever. Honestly, it’s the best thing on TV by a long chalk. What bliss they’re doing it twice weekly now, so I don’t have to wait too long between traumas. Tonight, I’m also planning to watch the rerun of “Have I Got News for You”. A girl needs something light-hearted to ease her into the sleeping zone, you know. Heck, I deserve it.

Today’s nice things:

1. Ansley liking the start of A Dangerous Man – thanks, again, Ansley!
2. Writing
3. Sally's chocolates.

Anne Brooke

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Treading the boards

I wish, eh? I've always rather fancied a life of acting, but I grew too tall. As they don't say really ... Anyway, we've had a marvellous day at The Globe Theatre ( today, in spite of the rain, being mesmerised by Othello. Or rather Iago - who was one hell of a Class A act. Othello? A mere bit part, m'dear. Iago really made it for me - he had us in the palm of his hand. Desdemona was good too - a nice spirit to her and a hell of a lot of fighting back. Which makes way more sense in the text rather than the wimpy woman they often play her as. Or used to - it's years since I last saw it. I must say though that I don't think Othello is that great a play - too fast and everything turns way too quickly, to my mind. It always strikes me that parts need editing and other parts foreshadowing better, but I'm nothing if not critical. As you know! And the mystery of Iago's reasons still continues - though that of course isn't the actor's fault. Takes me back to my university years - and I can still hear some of those lectures being replayed in my head, you know. Ye gods, perhaps I ought to stay in more after all?

Also, much amusement at spotting a "cliche" (sorry, can't be arsed with the accent again) - "a foregone conclusion", "it's neither here nor there", "the green-eyed (or is it "ey'd"?) monster" all spring to mind. And further amusement at Lord H's and my delighted reactions to finally being in The Globe - hey, they filmed "Dr Who" here, you know!! Hmm, we may not have got the point after all ... Still, it's a lovely place, and we'd definitely go again. What bliss to be under cover in a decent position as well, what with all this rain.

It's still been a long day though - and I suspect an early night may call. Though I do have to watch "Rome" - I am hooked once again on this series that has everything I want on my TV: sex, blood, murder, tragedy, sassy & angry women, a truly great male friendship and some hot hot hot lines. Double bliss!

Have just flicked through the latest edition of Poetry Review. Sigh, there was nothing in it that grabbed me. Once more. Why can't they publish poetry that has some humanity in it, rather than these high-falutin', up their own arses pieces?? Lord knows why I subscribe at all really. It's all style and no substance - don't they realise that poems are supposed to communicate something rather than their own cleverness?? No wonder the genre is so unpopular if that's what we expect people to read ... Sometimes, I swear it, poets are their own worst enemies - please God, give us something we can relate to!! Really, it ain't that hard. Or shouldn't be.

Ooh, and Lord H saw a green woodpecker in the garden today. I didn't though - as I was too busy cleaning my super-shiny teeth. Don't worry, this tooth fetish won't last long. I'd give it a week before I'm back to normal ...

And this week's haiku is:

I await Mother.
Brown rice crackles in the pot,
surfaces sparkle.

Today's nice things:

1. The Globe
2. Iago
3. Rome.

Anne Brooke

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Ladies who launch ...

Wow, what a day! We've had a fantastic time launching Jay Margrave's marvellous new novel, The Gawain Quest ( Which - for those who don't know - is a medieval thriller taking the reader into the world and heart of a charismatic hitman, and his royal mission to find the secret author of a very rebellious poem ... Go on, you're hooked now, aren't you? Click on the Goldenford link and read more - you won't regret it!

First off, I paid a quick visit to the dental hygienist, and my teeth are now so white and sparkling that planes have been landing by them all afternoon. More fool us for living equidistant from both Heathrow and Gatwick (or Gatquick, as we like to call it ...) then.

Then Mother and Jim (stepfather) arrived this morning, shortly after I'd brought my teeth home, and I have attempted to be normal daughter for a day. You can imagine the strain ... Anyway, she's feeling fairly upbeat about the upcoming cancer scan and op - though the op has yet to be scheduled in - which is good to see. Apparently, my aunt didn't help though by coming over all weepy, but I told Mother to kick her into touch and do it her own way. She's always preferred the light-hearted approach and, bloody hell, in this family we're expert at it! Anyway, Lord H produced a roast lunch using only two boy scouts and a piece of sticky-back plastic, so his culinary skills continue apace. And after all that plus the washing-up, we set off for the launch party at the Abbot's Hospital in Guildford. I left Mother, Jim and Lord H in town for an hour while I busied myself putting M&S snacks on platters in an artistic way (dahlings, it's astonishing what you can do with a lettuce leaf and a cherry tomato ...) and attempting to look like a professional publisher.

Well, the party went with a swing - my speech was fine (phew!), and people chuckled in the right places, so that was a relief, and Jennifer's (AKA Jay) reading was great - she chose the one where the evil Gertrude does something very nasty to a peasant during a banquet for our hero, so it was suitably bloodthirsty, hurrah. The denizens of Guildford love this sort of thing. As a result, we made about £200 on The Gawain Quest, plus we managed to sell other Goldenford books, including one copy of Pink Champagne and Apple Juice. Double hurrah! Not only that, but I sold three copies of A Dangerous Man, and even - wait for it!!! - one copy of A Stranger's Table to someone who said she loved the poetry in it. Astonishing!! That's ten copies of my latest poetry collection sold then - I reach a round number at last, double phew ... Good grief, I almost sound like an author. Miracles will never cease.

Afterwards, I took Mother & Jim home for tea, and they have now headed off to the Essex hills, leaving Lord H and myself to get the flat back into its usual comfortable mess. And we have a free evening - wonderful! Honestly, the thing about people coming to see us at home is that - no matter how much I like them - it's always good to see them go. Which just goes to show what an antisocial cow I really am. No surprises there then!

Tonight, it's the glorious "Dr Who", with the special treat of Captain Jack, and we've already opened a bottle of wine to celebrate surviving a day of people - white wine of course, as I couldn't possible risk staining my oh-so-gleaming teeth, could I?...

Today's nice things:

1. The launch of The Gawain Quest
2. Selling some of my books
3. Dr Who.

Anne Brooke

Friday, June 22, 2007

Highlights and faint attempts at scribbling

Had highlights put in today, in order to get that essential summer sun-kissed look - and very nice they are too - if we actually had any sun ... The lovely thing though was that Lynda (hairdresser) had been on holiday with her husband, and both had read A Dangerous Man ( and really enjoyed it. Hurrah! She also said that she'd left it in the hotel library and it had actually been borrowed by someone. Also astonishing. Though I suspect it might have been a member of the American Far Right who will now ritualistically burn it in an attempt to stamp out the sin and evil of the world. Now, that would certainly be some publicity for sure! Though as it also makes for the second straight male reader who's enjoyed the story, maybe there's hope for 21st century tolerance levels after all ...

I've also been attempting to scribble down more to The Bones of Summer, but honestly it's been a hell of a hard slog today. Though I have written an ending, of sorts. I'll probably change it once I actually get there. I just don't have the energy - post-birthday blues, I imagine. Damn it. Just when I needed a bit of emotional get-up-and-go for the horrendously busy weekend which lies ahead. How I long for a weekend where nothing happens, or even an evening in! Though there is tonight - but we have to do the cleaning, and that always puts a dampener on leisure time. Double damn it.

Oh and I forgot to say how much I enjoyed the ballet on Wednesday night - Northern Ballet's version of "Sleeping Beauty". It was great - they set the story on two planets with a political agenda, and had wonderful scenes where the Red Planet visitors would turn up in their space ship and blast off again after decimating the Blue Planet natives. Bliss. A wonderful combination of two of my favourite things - science fiction & ballet. What more could you want? And the scene where the hero and his sidekick were walking through the woods towards the maze was stunning - the trees walked in the opposite direction so the journey looked so much longer. Ace. Oh and I loved the murder scenes and the dance with the knife too. Well, I would, I suppose.

This afternoon, I have to stare at the computer screen again and do a lot of sighing. It's that sort of bollocky writing day indeed. Then, I need to pop into Godalming to get some lavender oil, after which I'm playing golf with Marian - though actually I'm hoping for rain, as I could do with being very antisocial at the moment. Double sigh!

Oh, and I've practised my introductory speech for the Goldenford ( launch event tomorrow one final time. I might take some calming pills tonight, to try to ensure some sleep - how I hate any form of public speaking; honestly it's a nightmare! - though I've already just now taken a Destress pill, so no doubt I shall soon be completely asleep. Lordy lordy, but I must remember to factor in those afternoon naps I used to have, in the days when I was writing more. I really miss them.

Today's nice things:

1. The haircut
2. Lynda and her husband enjoying ADM
3. Writing an ending to The Bones of Summer.

Anne Brooke

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Because I'm worth it!...

Happy birthday to me!
Happy birthday to me!
Happy birthday to me-eeeeeeeeeee!
Happy birthday to me!

What a lovely day I'm having. Thank you soooo much for all the good wishes, cards and virtual cards which have been crowding my inbox and hall table since yesterday. I'm really grateful! I even had a virtual cake (thanks, Gillian!), virtual singing (thanks, Jackie!) and a virtual scary dancing frog - I think (thanks, Sue!). I have had chocolate for breakfast and chocolate cake for a very late lunch. So I am - for once - at home in my skin. As the French would say if they were ... um ... English.

And I have had - hurrah!! - the birthday strop. In a subtle, yet elegantly vicious kind of way, double hurrah. I mean: what birthday is truly complete without the Birthday Tantrum?? It just wouldn't be the same ... The cause being the receipt of a birthday card from the two university acquaintances (yes, they've definitely been downgraded from "friends" now) who wouldn't speak to me because they couldn't deal with people with depression. Well, sod that for a game of soldiers, say I. So I tore the thing into shreds, along with its envelope, and recycled it. And wrote a birthday poem:

Vanishing Acts

So your card arrives –
a sop to twenty years of friendship
and several months of silence –
and I tear it up,
both card and envelope
splintering paper blood and anger
across your names.

When I drop the pieces
in the recycling bin –
always mindful of the environment
even in the face of
your shallow-hearted, elegant
brutality –

I think about spitting
on you both;
I’ve always appreciated
a spot of good high drama,
you see.

But in the end, you’re just not worth it
to me.

I was soooo tempted with the spitting bit (for those moments, m'dears, when simply nothing else will do ...), but I didn't want to upset the very sweet recycling men. See how socially aware I am even in my incandescent rage!...

I also got a very lovely rejection - bizarrely - from Penny Thomas, the Fiction Editor at Seren for Maloney's Law, which - as it's so lovely and as I've decided now to not go the mainstream publishing route with it, I thought I'd include here:

"Many thanks for sending Maloney's Law to Seren. I'm so sorry it has taken us such a long time to get back to you (actually, it was only six months, so I thought it was unseasonably short - I sometimes don't hear anything for a year/18 months) - we are a small company and have been inundated with manuscripts in the last few months. Another reason for the delay is that I have been quite tempted by this novel. It is seductively written, with a strong clear plot and that all-important page-turning factor. In addition, your characters and their relationships are at once credible and intruiging. Unfortunately Seren has not yet really stepped into the thriller genre and, with my lists currently full well into 2009, I don't think I am able to find a space for a change of direction at present."

Thanks, Penny - it's one of the nicest rejection letters (actually, I've never had a novel acceptance letter as such - Flame emailed me for A Dangerous Man) I've ever had. And the terrible, soul-shaking sting you get from the "near miss" is for once pleasantly absent, I imagine from having made the decision not to pursue mainstream publication for Maloney's Law further.

This morning, I've had my usual counselling session. Kunu was impressed with my new feeling of power, from having ditched my real family and found myself a virtual little sister (how are you, Caroline ( Hope you're having a good day too!). And we've decided that church structures are just too disempowering for words - way too much of the awful "we love you because that's our duty as Christians and not for your own sake" - I mean: what is that attitude???!! I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. It's somehow very dehumanising, which is I'm sure not at all what Christ actually meant. I think I've said this before, but the older I get the more I'm convinced that Christ didn't come to earth to make us Christians at all, but simply in order to encourage us to be more human. More of who we can be. Anything that dehumanises us (and the church, in my experience, often does just that) or makes us less than we can be is surely against the overarching will of God? Anyway, I've decided that I'm going to create a new religion which will meet with fellow believers in each other's homes between 6pm and 7pm on Wednesday evenings. It will consist of half an hour of angry ranting at God and the general populace, involving real good solid adult tantrum stuff, and then half an hour of quiet meditation. It'll revolutionise the middle of your week, get you in touch with your inner selves and - bliss! - leave the ruddy weekends free. What more could you want? Actually, even Kunu looked quite interested. Maybe I'm on to something here?...

After counselling, I had an hour and a half of Clarins facial - bliss! Then I went shopping. Hell, it's my birthday and I'm worth it! So I bought six pairs of glittery stud earrings in different colours from "All That Glitters" in Guildford (what a marvellous shop!) - from a lovely woman who wished me a happy birthday and hoped I'd enjoy the rest of my day. Thanks, I have. I then hit Marks & Spencer, and bought 5 tee-shirts and 2 shirts, all at very reasonable prices and in a wonderful range of light summer colours, and all from the men's section. My, but the boys do get the best colours, you know ... They don't know how lucky they are!

On my way home, I popped in to see Gladys, who's had a bit of a fall this week, but was in spritely mood, in spite of the pain. She'll be soooo glad to see the back of Blair. Which at nearly 92 isn't bad going. And I've bought a short story collection from Salt Publishing ( - thanks, Jen (!

Presents received from the noble Lord H:

One box of Lindor milk chocolates (bliss!)
The DVD of "Casino Royale" (oh, Daniel, how will I ever watch anything else now?...)
The DVD of "The Queen", with Helen Mirren
Mark Haddon's "A Spot of Bother"
Anne Tyler's "Digging to America"
Murakami's "Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman" (short stories)
Julia Glass' "The Whole World Over"

Plus money from Mother (which I've already spent! See above ... Thanks, Mum!), who also bought me a very peculiar floral toilet bag, which I suspect might be for her own virtual daughter - you know, the fluffy, female one she always wished she'd had ... Bloody hell, perhaps my mother and I are more alike than I'd suspected, and we both have virtual families?? Now, there's the start of a (rather scary) novel ...

Tonight, I'm in the pizza, garlic bread, ice cream, and more chocolate zone, plus as much champagne as you could sink the Titanic with - and, hey, it's nearly time for Lord H to come home! Hurrah! Have a great evening, all!

Today's nice things:

1. Birthday tantrums
2. Birthday presents
3. Birthday dinner (Hmm, is there a connection here, do you think?...)

Anne Brooke

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Backs, ballet and books

Bought cakes on my way to work today, as it’s my birthday tomorrow but I don’t work on Thursdays. So I will be Mrs Popular for a day, hurrah! The office signed a card for me, which was very sweet, and also sang “Happy Birthday” when I’d sat down at my desk, which was also very sweet – if rather disturbing. I don’t think we’ll be entering the next series of “Britain’s Got Talent” in the choir category … Though of course, if you’re reading this at all, Carol, you’re a solo star in the making!...

The car’s gone in for a service & MOT today, so Lord H and I have swapped cars for the day. Must try and remember that his Renault Laguna is built like a tank, compared to my little Fiesta (goodness, how typical boy/girl couple we sound, all of a sudden, at least in our car choices …) so I can’t swerve into the parking spaces as I can with my own. Hope poor little Rupert (yes, I do name my car – don’t you?) is okay, and safe back tonight. I do worry about him.

And I’ve been thinking lately about scaling down the attempts to break into the world of the mainstream published. I’m just starting my seventh book now, and in my seventh year of writing fiction, and there have been no bites from any of the “big boys” so perhaps it’s time to accept that it simply isn’t going to happen. The constant attempts to chip away at the very thick glass ceiling that seems to exist around me have also, particularly over the last two years, been very debilitating and have really taken away a lot of the enjoyment I get from actually writing. I absolutely loved writing my first novel, The Hit List, and though I think it’s my worst one in terms of quality (which is probably better than it being my best – I like to think I’m improving after all), I’d love to get back that enthusiasm and sense of freshness that powered me through it. And yes it’s lovely to have been recently published by Flame Books ( but I think they’re finding it hard to sell decent quantities of A Dangerous Man which must therefore be tricky for them too. After my attempts to be smiley and nice to people with ridiculous and surely unjustified amounts of emotional power at the forthcoming Annual Writers’ Conference (, we’ll have to see.

The same goes for my poetry, which I’ve been writing for about twenty years now. I get accepted so rarely in magazines these days (though I was doing better – perhaps writing better? – a couple of years ago), that I think it’s time to revisit my once a month submissions schedule. I might scale down to trying once every couple of months. Rejections are soul-destroying enough, after all. Why put myself through it more than I absolutely have to? And I certainly won’t be sending collections out anywhere again. In my experience, people have enthused and promised to come back to me, but then after a year or so they just seem to disappear. I’ll stick to the self-publishing route. It just makes me feel a lot happier. Apart from the lack of sales of course. That’s always a bummer.

All this writerly thought and potential decision-making does make me feel sad, I have to admit. It’s hard to win awards for my work and yet get shunned by 99% of the publisher world – with the honourable exception of Flame! And also not forgetting Goldenford though there of course I do have a directorial say. But, for my own peace of mind, I do have to begin to think practically. And number my sales in the tens and fifties, rather than the hundreds or thousands.

Went to my back exercise class at lunchtime – the last of the academic year, at least for me as I can’t do next week’s. I’m hoping to get away with a light regime this session as I’d like to be able to move without aching tomorrow. I’m such an old crock, you know … Though now they tell me that they might put an extra week on, so is there, even in Health, no mercy?! Darn it, eh!

And I’ve just given up on Linda Fairstein’s Death Dance. I lost interest by page 103, to be honest. I think it was all too fast-paced and exhausting, and I didn’t care enough. I also preferred the sub-plot and had no interest in the main plot about the ballet dancer. Sigh.

Talking of which, tonight, Lord H is taking me out to the ballet at Woking – we’re going to have dinner at the theatre and see “Sleeping Beauty”, so that should be great. I love the ballet. I could have been a ballet star, you know, except that I have no sense of grace or balance. Or indeed any kind of skill or talent in that area. Ah well, another vocation cruelly snatched away, ho ho …

Today’s nice things:

1. Cakes at the office
2. The back class
3. Sleeping Beauty.

Anne Brooke

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Conferences, bullfinches and champagne

We filled up all the available buckets and pans with water last night as Southern Water had promised us a drought between 1-6am today while they did something peculiar with our system. As last time they switched us off, it took nearly 3 days to return (though to be fair we were warned about it), I wasn’t convinced. But more fool me – the water was back to normal at 6.30am, so I take all my grumbles back. However, we now have buckets of water we don’t know what to do with (we don’t have a garden), and it seems a shame to waste it. Ah well.

My delegate information for the Winchester Writers Conference ( arrived yesterday – I’m on the courses I wanted (mainly poetry ones) and I also seem to have got the three one-to-ones with publishers I was looking for too. Ye gods, how brave – and foolish! – I am. Though, no doubt, by the time I get there, they’ll have read my offerings and downgraded me to the rank of unmarketable no-hoper to be seen by one of their own authors. At least, that’s what usually happens. I am after all the definitive Z-list author – I couldn’t possibly catch a sniff of any upgrade, surely … Still, in a remarkable display of hope over much painful experience (for which I should at the very least be given a knighthood – perhaps Sir Rushdie’s will do?), I’ll be taking along Thorn in the Flesh, as it’s probably my most accessible unpublished work. Ho ho. Well, it’s got a (fairly) straight female lead. Which is rare for me in the serious stuff, I have to say.

Anyway, this morning, I was much cheered by the sight of a male bullfinch flying into next door’s tree, followed I think by Mrs Bullfinch, though I couldn’t quite make her out. Such is the place of women indeed. So I’m going to have to rush home tonight, and listen to the “bullfinch” track on the birdsong CD. However, Lord H says bullfinches are rather quiet, from memory, so much like husbands then. Ooh! Here’s a haiku. Early too, how nice! It will save so much time and frantic breakfast scrabbling for words at the weekend …

In one respect only
are bullfinches like husbands:
they don’t say much.

No idea if it’s true in the bird-world as we haven’t checked the CD yet, but heck I like it anyway.

Today, I typed up more minutes at work – this time it was the Mentoring Board stuff – it was heavy going yesterday, so I hope I can raise the energy levels for it today. Plus I popped into town at lunchtime to get Mother’s anniversary present, which is coming up fast. Hope she’ll be well enough for it – it would be such a shame if she wasn’t, particularly as she’s had to rely on Marriage Number Two to get her to the grand old 25 years’ spliced category. Dad pegged out too soon, dammit … She’s never really forgiven him for that, you know. Sometimes, we Essex Women (though Mother is only an Honorary EW, being really from The North …) just want an excuse to get our silverware for free.

Oh, and I’m wearing my nice dusky pink soft jacket from Per Una today – and Andrea has already said how nice it is. And yesterday, I wore my soft stripy blue one, and she liked that too. I’m obviously having a Good Clothes Week. Hurrah! Believe me, that rarely happens.

Ruth popped in this afternoon, between exams, and looking frazzled, poor thing. Only one more to go though and she’ll be free, hurrah! Exams – don’t think I could ever do those again. It would be too much like revisiting my past (yukk!), though I have to say that up until very recently, the onset of summer did make me go twitchy (well, twitchier than normal) at the related thought of revision. Horrors.

And good news on the Pink Champagne and Apple Juice front! Sue & Frank (thank you both!) have updated the site at to include lots more film actors for the different roles. I particularly loved the idea of Alexei Sayle as Mr Sanguini – a stroke of genius indeed! Do pop by and have a look – you won’t regret it!

Tonight, Lord H is doing the shopping, and I’m hoping to get some more done to The Bones of Summer. Up to 4000 words now. If I get to 5000 words, it’ll almost seem like starting a new novel, rather than fiddling around with scenes and shiny new characters and generally pretending to be a writer. And then if I get to 10,000 words, I’ll know I’ve begun in earnest. On the other hand, I also really need to catch up on last week’s video of “My Name is Earl” sometime. Such a great series!

And we’re having chicken & chips for dinner – bliss! Chips, hmm …

Today’s nice things:

1. The bullfinch sighting
2. The Pink Champagne site update
3. Getting compliments for clothes!!

Anne Brooke

Monday, June 18, 2007

Anger management and a big welcome to The Gawain Quest

Woke up feeling really tense and bad-tempered today. Must be the after-effects of having such a nice weekend. Mind you, I’m still cheered by the fact that Lord H rescued me from a bathroom spider last night – he wrapped it in kitchen towel, squashed it and then placed the kitchen towel plus dead spider on the floor. When I asked him why he didn’t just put it in the bin, his answer was that we still needed to have the fun of jumping up and down on the darn thing, whilst yelling. Which we duly did. And, yes, it is very cathartic. Though possibly not very good for the neighbours. Spiders? Bah! Death to the enemy, I say!

This morning, I have fiddled around with emails and a thousand and one minutes (again!), and attempted to look professional and concerned when asked anything to do with work, but frankly, m’dear, right now I just don’t give a damn. Must be Monday – can you tell? Oh Lord, when oh when will retirement arrive?? How I long for the day! It’s also rather dull here at the coalface without Ruth – she’s doing her accountancy exams this week, so I’m unlikely to see her. Or at least not for long. So it’s very quiet. Sigh.

But today’s Good News by a long chalk is that our next Goldenford ( book, The Gawain Quest by Jay Margrave, is now available from our website to purchase. It’s a medieval thriller about a charismatic hitman who goes on a royal mission to find the author of a very rebellious poem. Can he complete his mission in one piece? And what exactly is the mystery of the castle?? Find out more at! Go on – you know you want to … After all, it’s this year’s big summer read! And a very classy novel to boot. And I should know – as I had the pleasure of editing it. Besides of which, I know a good book when I see it. Buy early! Buy often!

Thank goodness for reflexology at lunchtime though – it really helped the tension thing, and I feel much more relaxed now. I think I fell asleep several times, so I must have needed it. Took me an age to get back to the office afterwards though – as the builders have blocked off even more paths – but am I bovvered? Um, no … And if the builders go on in similar vein over the next few days, we shall be cut off entirely from the outside world and forced to scale over barbed-wire fences and scaffolding in order to reach our desks at all. Please send food parcels. Groan.

Tonight, Lord H is at theology – doing the 19th century and the Oxford Movement, which is one of his favourite eras of the church history. All those bells & smells – it brings out his inner Drama Queen, you know! And I intend to stare at my computer screen and work out what on earth Craig is going to do next in The Bones of Summer. He’s just had one shock, and now he has to work out what to do about it. Poor guy. And where on earth does that leave Paul?? Ah, the plot thickens … Or it would if I had the faintest idea what I was doing.

Oh, and I also need to draft some questions about gay fiction for the very talented M L Rhodes ( to answer – as she’s kindly agreed to help me with my article. Many thanks, ML – it’s very much appreciated!

The bad news is that the relaxed feeling has worn off and I now feel as riled as hell. Again. Bloody hormones - bollocks to them is what I say. Could really do with punching someone or taking a boxing class, but that's not possible, so I had to be content with mashing the potatoes really really hard, until even Lord H began to look worried. I suspect he'll be glad to be out of the flat tonight. God, it's like having a very angry little person in my stomach and I can feel the waves of tension radiating outwards from said person even as I type. Damn and bloody damn. No bloody wonder I don't write much feelgood stuff.

And I've just finished Carol Shields' Unless. I suppose it's probably a work of genius, but frankly I found it all rather tiresome, and I have retitled it Unless I'm not Mistaken, This isn't Really a Novel but just a Series of Vignettes Linked Randomly Together. Though even I realise that's not the catchiest of titles. Anyway, it's a shame as, normally, I quite enjoy Shields' novels - though I think her short stories are where she really seriously rocks. But there you go: can't win 'em all. And I do think it's a shame that the MC's husband, Tom, was such a shadowy, meaningless figure. And yes I do know it's a subtly feminist work, blah blah, and all the men in it are therefore prats, blah blah but really all that's a bit old hat, isn't it?

Hmm, time for some more Pimm's, I think?

Today’s nice things:

1. The publication of The Gawain Quest
2. Reflexology
3. Writing.

Anne Brooke

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Feathers and fathers

Happy Fathers' Day to all fathers out there, first off. I managed to remember to send my stepfather the chocolates he's allowed to eat (ie the ones Mother doesn't eat first ...), so I am a Good Stepdaughter today, hurrah! Mum is apparently taking him out for an airing, which includes a concert and some tea, today, so we took bets on how long it will be before he grumbles about something. My money's on the first half hour. Lord H however says that we misjudge the man - and in fact all it is is that Jim's (stepfather) inner happiness quota is very deeply hidden. Indeed it is ... Jim, of course, swears blind he never grumbles, but Mother and I know better, aha!

Oh, and Mother has her MRI scan on 28 June, so I'm hoping that things are clearer after that. The doctors do seem pretty on the ball, I must say - which is a miracle in our family, as in the past they've failed to diagnose both my father and my grandmother until it was way too late for either of them. Thank God that medical knowledge seems to have come on a little since the 1970s ... However, the plus-side of both those serious cock-ups is that my mother and I now know all the early warning signs of diabetes! You never know - it could come in handy some day. In the meantime, I've advised her to eat blueberries a lot as apparently they're good for colon cancer. We hope this means they help hold it back rather than encourage it on ...

This morning, I had another lazy lie-in (hurrah!), followed by the ritualistic cleaning of the car. Lord H also helpfully gave me a brief run-through of the different bird calls of a thrush, a blackbird and a robin. Never say that here in downtown Godalming we don't know how to have fun, eh ... Once I'd got those sorted out, we spent the rest of the day at Pulborough Brooks in Sussex - the bird sanctuary which Lord H visited last week. It was great! We joined the RSPB (, and then did the two mile ramble through the sanctuary, stopping for ages at each bird hide. We saw: herons (including two in flight), swans, moorhens, a robin, blue tits, great tits, a skylark, a blackbird pair, deer plus one fawn, lots of rabbits, one stoat (and therefore one terrified rabbit, but it survived ...), and loads and loads of LBJs (Little Brown Jobs - aka birds that don't stay still for long enough for you to identify them, but they're ... um ... brown). We also listened to the whole of the birdsong CD, so I am now totally confused. I think there's going to be a whole lot of UB in the future (ie Unidentified Birdsong) ...

Tonight, I'm planning a little writing, and then we'll probably watch the "Dalziel and Pascoe" video we've saved from the week.

This week's haiku:

Swallows fly the nest,
new wings dancing in sunlight.
They leave us bereft.

Today's nice things:

1. The possibility of Jim being less grumpy for a whole day!
2. Pulborough Brooks
3. Writing.

Anne Brooke

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Facebook, golf and time travel

Am feeling very modern today - have finally set up an account on Facebook ( last night, so have at last entered the modern world. Mind you, I don't have many friends on it yet - 3 so far to be precise - so if anyone out there is on Facebook and prepared to take pity on me, please do. I'd be very grateful.

Meant to be very literary this morning, but have done sod all - sorry. Might do some writing later on, but will have to see how it goes. I did do a little more to The Bones of Summer last night, so am feeling more enthused about it now, thank God. I was beginning to think I'd run out of steam. But I have started Chapter Two, and even typed the words, "Chapter Three", so there's hope for it yet. I think Craig is going to be like Simon in The Gifting - subtle and someone who matures with time, or rather typing. There are so many ideas about it running through my head, it will be interesting to see which of them turns up on the page. Sometimes, I do wish I could be one of these sensible writers, who plans to the enth degree and knows what's going to happen before I type it, but I'm just not. I guess I have to live with that. At least it's never dull, eh?

Golf with Marian & Siegi this afternoon - we had a great time, though our golf was crap and it pissed it down during four of the holes. How I hate the rain when I'm golfing! I just can't concentrate when my golf gloves are wet through and the rain is dripping off my cap. But lunch at Marian's was fab - spaghetti bolognese and loads of really good chat, so that cheered me. We'd nipped home to change before going to Marian's - as we were soaked through - and I decided to wear a light green top I don't wear very often (I am, as you know, the Queen of dark clothes which hide me from the world ...) - and Marian was very impressed. She asked me why I didn't wear that kind of thing more often, and when I told her, expressed surprise that someone with my strong personality and opinions would want to hide away at all. Strong personality and opinions??? And there was I thinking I was such a sweet young thing ... Ho ho. Shows what I know then. Marian did ask again about church though - so I just said we weren't going for a while, and were seeing how we felt over the summer. When I do go to church again - and I feel I will, in time - I'm definitely not going to get involved with it. That way madness lies - as Lear would say ... I simply want to be pew fodder and leave the commitment stuff behind. It's just too damaging otherwise.

Anyway, we spent ages at Marian's, but managed to get back in time for "Dr Who", which was fantastic!! How I wish I could time-travel - it would be so great. And would mean you could get away from people you didn't want to see or talk to, or meetings you didn't want to be in at work. Wonderful. And it was also a delight to see The Master back again. I was sooooo in love with him when I was younger. Which of course may explain why I write the books I do - I do so love the evil, dark side of life. I would probably have got on very well with Macbeth (nice bloke - knows his own mind. What more could you want in a man?...). And if someone could tell me who the glorious (younger) bloke was who played the regenerated Master in "Dr Who", I'd be very grateful - he was seriously hot.

For the rest of tonight, I will try and do some more writing, but I'm hoping for a relatively early night too, as I'm absolutely knackered. Too many late nights during this week, and my eyes have their own suitcase. Each.

Today's nice things:

1. Golf
2. Lunch
3. TV

Anne Brooke

Friday, June 15, 2007

The birds have flown ...

Oh, great excitement and trauma this morning! The baby swallows on Springwatch ( have finally flown the nest. I was peacefully getting ready at around 8am when a great shout from the computer room brought me running to Lord H's aid, assuming he was having some kind of crisis. He wasn't - instead, the first of the swallows had fledged and the remaining four were looking bemused: What was that then? How did he do that? Can we do that? Ooh, I don't know, Cyril. (Lord only knows why one of the swallows was Cyril, but he just was ...). Anyway, Lord H and I stood gloopily holding hands in front of the computer screen (and occasionally attempting to give one of the little birdies a nudge with the mouse), watching the rest of them work it out and fly away. It's so nice to see it happen on what is, after all, the last day of the Springwatch webcams. Mind you, I shed a few tears, I have to say. I mean now the baby swallows are gone, what will we do with the rest of our lives? How will we find meaning again? Lord H rose to the occasion (as ever) by suggesting chocolate. It worked too.

I must also say how good yesterday's counselling was. We talked about family - and Kunu thinks that my appalling lack of confidence might stem from being disempowered in the family and never really having a voice. Well, I was the only girl in a complete generation of boys (including the dreadful cousins ...) and the youngest born, to boot. So I suppose I'm not entirely surprised - and actually when she said it, something inside me went yes. I don't think I ever really had any confidence (apart from in academic stuff) until I met Lord H. She also thinks that's why I've always had trouble with my religion - when I became a Christian at the age of 18, I was simply swopping one overpowering, rather unhelpful traditional structure (the family) for another (the church), and not really moving on with the whole growing up as a person thing. Bloody hell, but she might be right too. No wonder, now I'm in my kick-ass "what the bloody hell have I been doing all these years??" forties, I'm kicking over the traces. Family and church, both. Sharp operator, that Kunu, you know ...

Anyway, she's suggested that, given the unhelpful setting of family and church that I spent my childhood in, and given my rather active imagination, I would find it useful to make up my own ideal family - and see how that makes me feel - and also do the same experiment with what might have happened if I'd become a Christian later in life, when I was more settled. Actually, the family exercise is easy: I would have loved to have been born in the late 70s, rather than mid 60s (which was such a cusp period - we were the generation who never knew if we were metric or imperial, new money or old, this or that ...); I wanted to live in the town rather than the country; I would have definitely been the eldest child of the generation, and my immediate family would have consisted of one younger sister and no brothers; my father wouldn't have died when I was 13; and my mother ... well, I'll have to think about that one! She's a law unto herself. Anyway, Kunu was impressed by how quickly these initial ideas came to mind, but I shall have to think of it some more. And do the Christian exercise as well.

Actually, over the course of yesterday evening and today, it is funny how much more confident - empowered even, if I dare use such a "counselling" word - I feel, if I imagine myself with that sort of background. Weird indeed. In fact I felt so confident that after counselling I immediately popped into Marks & Spencer and bought myself two natty little cardigans - sorry, soft jackets (including a gorgeously assymetrical and dusky pink one) from Per Una. Lord H was impressed.

Talking of family though, Lord H reminded me that, as I'd briefly gained an extra grandmother during our marriage, a new sister isn't too unusual. A few years into wedded bliss, he came home from work to tell me that his grandmother had died. To which my response had been: you have - well, had - a grandmother? You never said ... And he swears blind he tells me everything ... Sigh!!

Anyway, today, Marian and I played golf, and I was just cooking on gas. My tee shots were fantastic, hurrah! I think it must be my new sister. She's making all the difference, you know. I think I'll call her Teresa ... Hmm, I feel there might be a novel in there somewhere. Worryingly ... Oh, and I popped into see Gladys on the way back home, but she was busy eating lunch, so I'll try again next week.

The rest of the afternoon, I have drafted my article - or rather my opinion piece - on straight women writing gay fiction. I've given it a light-hearted note with, I hope, some hard-hitting points. Now all I have to do is sell the bugger (as it were), ho ho. So, to treat myself for my hard slog, I'm now going to pop into Godalming and have a whizz round before Lord H gets home. Maybe I'll take Teresa with me. I mean she'll need some new clothes now she's arrived, won't she?... Oh lordy lordy, somebody pass me the smelling salts. I've flipped this time for sure ...!

Today's nice things:

1. Golf
2. The bittersweet departure of the swallows
3. Writing my article.

Anne Brooke

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The definitive Z-list feeling

Ye gods, but I'm feeling pretty Z-list today. It's the subtitle on the Blogger version of this journal (if you're reading that one) - someone once complained about it, but I kept it as it does seem to fit. Anyway, today, I am surrounded by writers who have already done it all, or are about to do it all, and are having utterly marvellous fulfilling times. And frankly, it's shit. Sorry, but it is. I know I'm supposed to rejoice in the wonderful success of others, but hell it's bloody hard sometimes. I honestly think that the older and more worn round the edges (and indeed the centre) that I get, the more invisible I become.

Anyway, bloody hard graft morning today - did the Goldenford ( minutes, sent them out, and the first response I got was a distinctly stiff command (not, I suspect, from any of the directors themselves, but from one of their administrators ...) not to send them to the address I was sending to as my email was Not Office Business. Well, sorry, but I'm doing my best, people. And the director concerned did actually ask me to use that address, so I was only doing what I was told. For once ...

I've also practised my Writewords ( poetry reading for the July event, and put together a few well-chosen (I hope) words for introducing The Gawain Quest ( at the 23 June launch. And practised them too. Not only that, but Flame ( have encouraged me to write an article on why straight women write gay fiction, so I've done a skeleton outline for that and made a couple of enquiries to possible article buyers. Ooh, and asked those women I know who write in that genre for any points they might want to include. However, I'm told that several pieces already exist in the same vein, so will probably change it to more of an opinion piece. We'll see. But it's a bloody hard slog - I'm not a natural at this game at all, I fear. Still, I'll do my best.

Then, lunch with Robin - which was lovely, as ever, but I was sooo hoping that she might say something about A Dangerous Man (which I know she's read now). However, there was nothing, and I was way too scared to ask. Yes, I know that shows how needy and desperate I am - but bloody hell, live with it! I am needy and desperate! After all, I always make some kind of comment on her concerts that I attend - even if I haven't enjoyed them (I'm not a great fan of requiems, though Lord H enjoys them), I can find something positive to say. Sigh! Still, we had a good time nonetheless

Just off to counselling now - Kunu couldn't see me this morning, so I'm popping in at 5.15 instead. How I hate the change in routine, but suspect I need the session. God, how I need the session! And after that, I'll be going straight to the Guildford theatre to see Ayckbourn's "Bedroom Farce", so hope that'll cheer me up. We'll eat at the theatre too. Salmon - yummy!

Oh, and poor Mother is having another cancer scare - bit of a bummer really, as she was so looking forward to her July holiday, which she'll now have to cancel. But I'm encouraging her to rebook for later in the year, as it'll be something to look forward to. Must admit we've been here before in terms of operations etc - being Mother, she's more pissed off by the fact that this time all the young doctors appear to be female, and she was so hoping for a nice young man - as ever, eh ... But we'll hold our breath and hope for the best. The good news is that they've caught it earlier than the last bout - thank God. Must rush and do my own essential checking then - groan! What a family indeed ...

And I do so wonder when Myspace ( are going to allow me my blog comments facility back. Double sigh - was it something I said??

Today's nice things:

1. Lunch with Robin
2. Writing the launch party introduction
3. The theatre.

Anne Brooke

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Watches, swallows and MCs

Lord H has lost his watch– well, we couldn’t find it anywhere last night. He was comforted by the fact that he’d already set the alarm for 6.30am so it was a matter of waiting till it started beeping and then trying to find it. Good plan – if it had worked. But come 6.30 this morning and no beeping. The watch isn’t in the flat then. So it’s either in his car, at work or somewhere along the walk he took yesterday lunchtime. I’m not that worried, to be honest, as actually it’s been broken for weeks (no strap now) and he’s been carrying it around in his pocket anyway, and ignoring my helpful wifely suggestions that a new watch, with a strap, might be nice. Well, I’m only trying to be supportive. He did look for one for a while, but never found anything he liked, so gave up. It looks like now he’ll have to find one, if the old version doesn’t reappear somewhere …

And those baby swallows on Springwatch ( are now so ridiculously large that any moment I fear they will bring the whole nest down due to their combined weight. Lord H said that yesterday one of them was clinging on to the outside of the nest beating its wings desperately to avoid destruction. Well, fly, baby, fly – it’s what your wings are for!!! Honestly, it must be like having teenagers – leave the ruddy nest, why don’t you!! It’s time you were gone …

Oh, and I’m feeling quite chuffed as, at last night’s Goldenford ( meeting, Jennifer asked me to introduce her and say a few words at the launch party for The Gawain Quest on Saturday 23 June. I was really touched – I’ve never been asked to be an MC before. It feels quite nice – and I shall be more than happy to do it (though I’ll probably be terrified on the day and have to take 10 calming pills, as ever …) as I love the book and I had a wonderful time editing it for her. Such a class act. But then again, in my opinion, all our Goldenford books (yes, even mine!) are class acts and deserve a far wider readership than they actually get. I can guarantee that if you get yourself over to and have a look through our list, there’ll be at least one book there that you or someone you know will love. Go on: I dare you. You won’t regret it.

Have spent this morning typing up the minutes of yesterday’s Student Affairs Committee, or attempting to, anyway. Felt like a bit of a trawl today, I must say. But then again, I’m shattered, so have no energy for this kind of stuff. Still, we struggle on. Went to my back exercise class at lunchtime, hoping some energy might appear there. Or, at the very least, a different type of exhaustion.

And this afternoon, I took the minutes of the Mentoring Advisory Board. I am seriously minuted out now – sometimes I do wish these things could be spread out more, so that one could catch one’s breath before the next one, but it’s not the university way. And it’s all the more tricky as I only work here Mondays to Wednesdays, so a full-time meetings schedule has to be shoe-horned into my part-time hours. I’m a mistress of logistics really.

Tonight, Ruth and I are going straight from work for supper at Penny’s, an ex-work colleague. Have stored the wine – and the map (I’m hopeless at directions, even though she only lives in Guildford …) in the car, and am hoping not to be too late home. Consequently, I am wearing my “going-out” shoes, which are nearly sparkly, rather than my usual black work shoes. Everyone has commented, probably because I usually dress not to be noticed, and am the Queen of Dark Colours.

STOP PRESS: Just back from Penny's now - we had a great time. Really chilled and soooo relaxing. Wonderful!

And I've just found out that Flame ( have joined forces with The Writeout Club (, who are going to be stocking some copies of A Dangerous Man at their stall in the Royal Festival Hall, London. Astonishing! Michael goes posh - whatever next??? Thanks, Sean - you're a marketing star indeed.

Oh, and did I get any fiction writing done today? No chance. Sigh!

Today’s nice things:

1. Michael going posh
2. The exercise class
3. Supper with Ruth & Penny.

Anne Brooke

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Meetings Galore

Groan. The time of year has rolled round once again for getting my car MOT & service done – as I have to renew my tax disc by the end of June. Honestly, I have no idea why they give you only a bare two weeks to get this sorted out – don’t they know people have busy lives and have to book things months ahead just in order to fit them in these days?? Last year, we really pushed it to the wire. And some. Anyway, Lord H has nobly said he’d book the service etc at a garage near him, so I’m hoping it will be done fairly soon. And at the same time he can add huge numbers of Husband Points to his already pretty full slate. Hurrah!

Not much going on at work this morning really, though I did have a nice walk around campus at lunchtime. And I’ve even remembered to post a birthday present to a friend in time for their birthday next week. Have cheated once more though, and simply given him a copy of A Stranger’s Table (, as I’d really like to shift more copies before the autumn is upon us, with or without filthy lucre changing hands. Sigh! I must make a mental note that for my next poetry collection (anticipated c2009, I think), I will have to make a big splash of donating all the proceeds to charity; it’s what I did for my 2004 poetry collection (Tidal) and that sold like the proverbial hot-cakes. People are evidently happy to pay £4 to a good cause, but not for good poetry. Ah well. A lesson for us all indeed.

Oh and it looks like our new Mentoring Handbook is ready to print. Hurrah! It’s been a heck of a long time coming, but will be worth it, I think, for next year’s intake of mentors. And it looks so good too – Carol & I are quite proud of our A5 binding expertise – and in colour too, hurrah!

This afternoon, we had the Student Affairs Committee, so I had to put my secretarial hat on and look efficient. Ho ho. Nice to have a meeting that isn’t cancelled before I can get there for once. Suspect it’s the June flurry of meetings before everyone flees to the hills for July and August. Ah well, welcome to the academic life.

Tonight, we have a Goldenford ( meeting, which I shall again have to minute. To be honest, I hope it won’t go on too long, even though I know next week sees the launch of Jay Margrave’s marvellous historical thriller, The Gawain Quest – which is hot hot hot, and you must at least check it out, preferably buy it – just click on the Goldenford URL above for more information. Anyway, I’d like to get back home fairly early, as my next real night in is Friday, and it’s therefore a long, hard social trawl to the weekend. God, but I love being at home …

And one of my old uni friends has emailed me to say that the reason why two others of the old group haven't answered my not-so-recent-now communication about how things have been over the last year is that they didn't know how to respond to someone with depression. Well, bollocks to that, I say. Large ones. It ain't no effing excuse, m'dears. If someone had been as honest and open, and put myself as much on the line, with me as I'd been with them, even if I didn't have a bloody, bollocky, fucking clue how to respond, I would have least have tried. Either by email, phone or letter. As far as I'm concerned, they can take their so-called "friendship" and stuff it up their arses. Where it obviously belongs. Because I'm just not interested in that kind of friendship. At all. Lordy, lordy but when did things get to be so shallow? So. I have now crossed out their names from my address books, and we all move on. Deep breath, eh ...

Today’s nice things:

1. Lunchtime walk
2. Being efficient with birthday presents
3. Lord H’s husband points!

Anne Brooke

Monday, June 11, 2007

Reflexology and the Right Shoes

Sigh. I really tried hard to like “Talk to Me” on TV last night – which apparently was supposed to be the next “Cold Feet”. Um, it isn’t. Unlike the glorious CF, TTM is clichéd, dull (serious yawning …) and full of characters too much up their own arses to be remotely likeable. Loveable doesn’t even come into it, to be honest. I mean, I seriously didn’t care about the totally unrealistic love triangle at the heart of it – as far as I’m concerned, they’re all as bad as each other and should simply go off and get on with it. Off camera, and so I don’t have to watch any more of their ridiculously self-obsessed lives. Heck, if anyone’s going to be self-obsessed around here, it’s going to be me. I can do without the competition. And as for the (dull! dull!) relationship between teacher and pupil, oh yawn … we’ve heard and seen it all before. So, as you can see, that was an hour of my life wasted and that I won’t get back again, and I’ll certainly be giving it a wide berth next Sunday …

Anyway, to cheer me up, Springwatch ( has switched on the camera showing the Golden Eagle this morning – hurrah! Which is probably the closest I’m likely to get to a Golden Eagle that isn’t in a zoo. Delightful really. However, Lord H and I were puzzled as to why the chick (if you can call something that size a “chick”) was black and white, and not golden at all – he thinks that perhaps it’s not old enough to get its colour licence yet. Which makes a kind of strange sense, in its way …

However, I am devastated by the loss of the four moorhen chicks to an unknown predator. Wicked, wicked Nature indeed – it can be a nasty piece of work, you know. But said moorhen now has two extra chicks, so here’s hoping those don’t vanish too.

Ooh, and we’re thinking of joining the RSPB, as Lord H had such a fun time at the RSPB sanctuary yesterday, and is keen to do an owl hunt etc, as they have events. Ye gods, but we’re turning into twitchers for sure. This might be something which happens in one’s forties – so be warned if you haven’t got there yet …

Here at the coal-face, I’ve caught up with emails, and have even managed to persuade the University printing service to do some flyers for me. At least I hope I have. I wasn’t entirely sure that the woman I was explaining my requirements to was actually taking anything in or not. We did get a bit stuck on her apparent non-comprehension of what a bold typeface might be. Hmm. Perhaps it’s my funny Essex accent?...

I’ve also just finished a weary phonecall with the National Trust, trying to get them to send me two car stickers, so we can have free parking – now that they’ve changed the system and are charging everyone. Damn it. Never saw that flagged up in the literature, I have to say. Must have thrown the first lot of stickers away, without realising how vital they would be. Anyway, my first phone call was hopeless as the lady at the other end couldn’t hear me at all, so I had to redial. And before I could even get to what my enquiry was in my second phone call, I had to tell them my name, my NT card number, the first line and postcode of my address, how many people were on my card, how many cards the household had, my hair colour, how many pounds I put on last week and when my last dental appointment was. Okay, I admit I made up the last three, but even so!! What’s wrong with just asking me what my name is and what my query might be?? Surely the rest of it can be done afterwards. By the time they’d asked me what they could do for me, I’d actually lost the will to live. Again.

At least, I have booked a reflexology session at lunchtime – that should calm me down. And prepare me for whatever rigours the afternoon might hold. Though, actually, it’s fairly quiet at the moment – as my boss, Ruth and the Dean of Students are all away today. Hmm, suspicious, eh? I’m sure there’s a story or two there, if I can just winkle it out …

And I’m doing a lot of coughing. Must be the recovery process, don’t you know. Damn nuisance though – I keep waking myself up.

Oh, and I’ve written a flash fiction piece for the Writewords ( challenge, which this week is based on the theme of “The right shoes”:

The Right Shoes

‘What on earth are you wearing?’ Adrienne pointed one trembling hand at her daughter as Tiffany prepared as usual to make her way to the Dog & Duck that Saturday night.
‘Whaddya mean, Mum?’ Tiffany stared at her mother and continued chewing her gum. ‘It’s me usual, innit?’
Adrienne gasped and shook her head, her diamante earrings jangling. It wasn’t her daughter’s party outfit of skin-tight leopard-print leotard which upset her. Nor even the inch-thick make up, which her adorable Tiffany surely didn’t need anyway. Neither was she remotely concerned by the lack of skirt or by the fishnet stockings with “Take me now” embroidered on each thigh. After all, she’d been a teenage mother herself not that long ago …
No, what worried her – nay, shocked her, indeed – was the footwear.
‘I mean, look at them shoes!’ she shrieked.
Tiffany’s gaze dropped to her feet, and her gum-chewing ceased.
‘Oh my gawd!’ she yelped. ‘’Ere, I’m wearing two right ones, Mum. No wonder they felt so weird. What’s Darren gonna say now?’
‘I dunno, darlin’,’ Adrienne guffawed. ‘I mean, I know a gal’s gotta have the right shoes on every occasion but, babe, you’ve left me speechless this time!’

Ah, my Essex days – they haunt me, you know … You can take the girl out of Essex, but you can’t take Essex out of the girl. As they say.

And I’ve just finished A M Homes’ This Book Will Save Your Life. Hmm, it certainly tries hard, but isn't as good as it thinks it is. Which is a shame, as the characters are wonderful, but they are unfortunately lost in the desperately frenetic actions and the sometimes meaningless and certainly bizarre events. I think that about 30-40% of the events could have been cut, which would at least have allowed the characters to breathe and become more themselves - it might have been a great book if that had happened! Though I do have to say the ending is rubbish - tremendously unsatisfying. Sigh. My advice is if you want to save a life, take a First Aid course.

Tonight, Lord H is at theology class, doing the 18th century and Wesley. One of the Wesleys anyway – heck, there were so many of them, weren’t there? And I’m intending to type up the scribbles I did to The Bones of Summer yesterday and maybe do some more if I have the energy.

Today’s nice things:

1. Golden eagle chicks (well, one chick really)
2. Reflexology
3. Writing.

Anne Brooke

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The outside world and more bird antics

Ye gods, but it took me ages to get to sleep last night. My night-time routine (mental note: I really have to get a night-time routine sometime ...) must be truly shot to pieces. Also I was horrendously thirsty, but couldn't be arsed to get up for a drink. Must have been all that Lucozade having its evil revenge at last. Still, at least I'm back on the water today, so things are returning to normal. Hurrah.

We are still glued to Springwatch ( - goodness, but those baby house sparrows are simply mouths on stalks. Incredible really. I must admit to having a soft spot for sparrows - I did a project on them in primary school and remember my father spending many hours stock still in the garden, attempting to get a decent photograph of one for me. He never did manage it but, hell, it's the thought that counts.

And I've finally finished off the cleaning which Lord H nobly began yesterday. So the flat looks less like something had died in it. Thank God. And I have rediscovered my birthday present list which I kindly gave to Lord H at least a month ago and which he unaccountably misplaced. I have now put it on his side of the dining table, so he can't miss it. Ho ho.

This morning, Lord H has decided to visit an RSPB santuary in Sussex somewhere, so the bird keenness continues. I'm hoping he's going to take some pics and come back and explain what they should all sound like too - he's taken the birdsong CD with him after all. In the meantime, I have bravely left the flat for the first time since Wednesday. Goodness me, but the outside world is strange. It took me a hell of a long time to get up and down the stairs and out to the car - which appears to start, thank goodness.

All that excitement has been enough for one day, and I have since been collapsed on the sofa, sipping water, and not writing. Sigh. Might try for another sentence or two before the sun goes down, but I don't want to strain myself. Tonight, I'm planning the watch the video of "The Last Detective" from last week (or was it the week before?) if I can fit it into my action-packed schedule. And there's also a new series on, "Talk to Me", which looks like it might be quite hot. We'll see.

Oh, and sad confession time - I've written a poem which mentions "Star Trek", as I am of course an ardent fan and know quite well where my true existence lies ...

Beyond the stars

Sometimes I wonder
if the life I’m living
is not in fact my true one,
but part of some Star Trek
holosuite game
and my real life
lies out there
somewhere beyond the stars.

It would explain a lot.

As several times
I’ve caught myself muttering
“computer: end game”
or “freeze action”
but with no success so far -
I just keep on being here.

Still, there’s hope.

For it’s my considered opinion
that I’m currently residing
in a rather long-winded
temporal anomaly
and when Mr Spock,
ably assisted by the good Captain,
finally arrives
I’ll see I’ve only really been gone
five minutes.

Till then
I stare upwards at night
where the aliens roam
and wait for the mother-ship
to summon me home.

Talking of which, I've also practised my Writewords ( London Literary Circle poetry reading - the first pass through seemed okay and fits into the 20 minutes allocated, so I hope I'll be fine. My big fear is to remember not to rush it - I tend to be a fast talker anyway, so I have to keep remembering that reading work aloud is a totally different animal. I hope they'll like it.

And this week's haiku is:

The older I get,
the longer illness takes me.
No more birthdays then.

Today's nice things:

1. Springwatch
2. Being well enough to go back on the water
3. Poetry.

Anne Brooke

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Dopey day

Lord, what a dopey day today. I seem to have had about a zillion hours sleep (which I suspect I needed) and only managed to drag myself out of bed this morning after 10am. Getting up is such an effort, you know ... But at least I managed to have a bath and get dressed by early afternoon, thus showing a great improvement on yesterday "getting dressed time" of gone 3pm. Somebody pass the smelling salts ...

Hey, and I managed to eat breakfast too - hurrah! A normal one. Though I suspect lunch will be a no-go area. Lord H has gone to the Cathedral today to stock up on more theology books, and then will be popping into Guildford & Godalming to stock up on essential girly items that I haven't managed to get this week. What a hero. I also really need to do something for my stepfather for Fathers' Day (next weekend, folks, if you've forgotten ...), so have added that to the Lord H list too. Poor chap.

While collapsed on my sofa (well, it's been a busy morning - all that getting up, you know), I've been flicking through the latest brochure for the Landmark Trust ( - as Lord H is keen to take a few weekends away (with me, I hope, though he hasn't actually said that!!) over the summer. They have some absolutely glorious buildings, but no TVs - which, to a person of my pathetic attention span, is quite frightening. But I have to be careful to avoid buildings with beams and/or thatched roofs in order to clamp down on the possible spider content. Mind you, last time we stayed in a Landmark Trust property, it appeared to be home to a colony of moths the size of tigers, so I ended up getting Lord H to inspect each room before I went into it. I spent a large part of that holiday hiding under the bedsheets and screaming while Lord H ran around the room attempting to kill an insect almost the size of his own head. Needless to say, that wasn't a terribly relaxing week ...

... but not as terrifying as the other Landmark Trust property we stayed in, somewhere in Derbyshire, which I swear was haunted, and I kept getting up in the middle of the night rigid with fear and praying a great deal. Though I do accept Lord H's explanation that I did spend that week with a particularly virulent kidney infection (my, how the doctors loved me when I got back) and was therefore seeing all sorts of peculiar things in the woodwork. And visiting the bathrooms a great deal. My, what fun we have on our hols indeed.

And I've put "Springwatch" ( on my favourites list, and keep dipping in to watch the latest excitements. My goodness, those baby swallows have enormously large yellow beaks. I swear that their heads make up 90% of their bodies when their mouths are open. Scary stuff.

I've also just finised Megan Taylor's marvellous and lyrical How We Were Lost. It's Flame Books' ( latest offering (so, sadly, I am knocked off my "new" perch at last ...) and well worth a read. A poetic, gripping and ultimately terrifying view of childhood and the family. I particularly loved the constantly shifting family relationships, especially Janie and her sister, and Janie and her dad. Great stuff.

Ooh, and Lord H has just come back from the shops, loaded with goodies, and has even bought flowers for the invalid. My, his Husband Points are overflowing today. At least, I think the flowers are for me - unless of course he knows a barrel-load of other sick people!

Tonight, I'm doing some more serious slumping - I'm beginning to fear that I may have lost the ability to write at all, groan ... - and will be glued to (a) "Dr Who", (b) the sofa, and (c) my essential Lucozade bottle. Thank God for fizzy orange goo drinks when you're sick, eh?

Today's nice things:

1. Sleep
2. Megan Taylor's How We Were Lost
3. TV.

Anne Brooke