Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Marketing madness and the Scottish country dancing queen

The last of the student care services marketing events in the library today – thank goodness, we cry!... It hasn’t been a roaring success – to put it mildly – and I’ve been really glad to get it over with. Grand total of people who’ve popped into see us over the last three weeks at our display: six. Though to be fair, I did have one email query today as a result of my electronic flyer, which I’ve sent out over the last couple of weeks to try to drum up interest. Unfortunately that student couldn’t come, but at least I could give some virtual advice. The only other response was a lass asking about her library books. Hmm, I suspect I may not entirely have got the message across then, Carruthers … Somebody pass me my rifle and put us all out of our misery …

Apart from marketing traumas, I’m afraid not a lot else has happened in my working day, though I have been attempting to unearth the online annual report from where I must have hidden it. Thank goodness I hadn’t got much of it done, as I feel I might need to redo it next week. Sigh. We’re also having an ongoing discussion in the office over where to put the big map of the UK, which is really too big to be where it’s been for the last year, and which finally fell down this morning. I think it might end up next to my desk – but that’s fine by me as maybe it’ll give me the chance to attempt a stronger link with the outside world, ho ho. Rather than living 99% of my life in the sewage system that constitutes my head. We can but hope, eh.

Tonight, I am strutting my stuff (so that won’t take long then) at the taster session for the Scottish country dancing beginners class. I’m wondering whether or not to wear tartan and carry a sword. Oh, sorry, that’s my usual get-up. So I’d best wear something different. Must admit to being excited as I really love dancing, but distinctly nervous as I really hate meeting new people. Especially new people who’ve already formed their personal groups in the weeks they’ve been doing it before and who will look on me with horror as “a stranger round these parts” when I pop my head round the door. Lordy, but I’m paranoid. But at least I know it.

And I must remember to video “Heroes” just in case I’m not back in time – the class ends at 8.30pm, but Guildford traffic can be wild. I am already traumatised by missing “Oz and James’ Wine Adventure” last night when out at Guildford Writers, but Lord H has nobly downloaded and saved it for me, so all is not lost!

Oh and here’s a piece of flash fiction for the Writewords Flash Fiction Group II challenge – which was to come up with something including the line of dialogue I have at the end:

Waiting for the Question

Gerald McFly strode down the High Street wearing his usual placard inscribed with the legend: The end of the world is nigh: please ask for details. He’d been doing this every Saturday morning for the last ten years and it hadn’t ended yet. But he was hopeful. Neither had he ever had anyone approach him. Usually they hid in shops or ran away laughing. He tried not to mind, but he would have liked a friend or, at least, someone who might understand. With a sigh, he kept on striding. Even if nothing ever changed, the cause was all; he must remember that!
Today, much to his surprise, would turn out to be very different indeed.
‘Young man! Young man!’
Gerald turned round to see an old woman hurrying towards him. Her grey hair was tied up into a bun and her plaid skirt was flapping in the breeze. He waited for her to catch up.
‘Young man,’ she said again, eyes blinking rapidly behind enormous spectacles.
‘I’d hate to miss Panorama. So can you tell me what time this end of the world might be occurring?’
Gerald smiled his first smile of the day.
‘I’ve always wanted somebody to ask me that,’ he said.

Today’s nice things:

1. Getting the last of the wretched marketing events done and dusted, hurrah!
2. Flash fiction
3. Scottish country dancing

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Minutes, doctors and writers

Phew! At last, I’ve got those dang Student Induction minutes done. And sent to the Chair to correct before I send out to the usual suspects. Which he usually takes a while over as he’s so busy elsewhere, but today he read them straight off and sent me a charming little note making only two small changes and commenting; “Excellent minutes from a rather unstructured meeting”. So that’s certainly made my day. Shame I’ve already had (and survived – another phew …) my review, eh.

This lunchtime, I finally made it to my Hormone Guru appointment at Surrey Park Clinic. And what an utterly charming, lovely and helpful woman she is – so different from my own (horrible) doctor. We had a fantastic in-depth chat, and she thinks I might be insulin resistant, which explains the messed-up hormones, the rollercoaster ride through a normal month and the bouts of depression. Apparently. And is also one of the joys one can expect if you come from a family riddled with diabetes and bowel cancer. Well, never say life isn’t exciting here in downtown Godalming!

Anyway, I’ve had my tests now and am going back to talk about the results in two weeks’ time so we’ll see what the game plan is after that. I fear though that my alcohol consumption is about to be kicked into touch, as she was super-keen that I go easy on it if she’s right about the insulin thing. Ah well. Best stock up on fruit juices and water then! But seriously, if the good Doctor B can sort me out, then quite honestly I’m prepared to do what it takes. We’ll see anyway!

Back at work, we’ve been discussing the possibility of putting on a Student Care Services Christmas quiz – I am cautiously enthusiastic (if such a state is possible …) as I seriously don’t want to get heavily involved in organising it. The last time I expressed enthusiasm for a work quiz was at my last job and then I appeared to be stuck with organising the darn thing for three years. And each year it grew ever more complicated. I swear I only left because I couldn’t bear the thought of another year’s quiz planning schedules.

Tonight, it’s Guildford Writers so I shall go along and take the next bit of waffle I’ve produced for my skit novel. That is, Page Two. Um, it ain’t happening fast, that one! I’m not sure I’m getting anywhere with it either, really, but I’m hoping some kind of anti-plot will come to light soon. You never know.

And I've just finised reading Lewis Grassic Gibbon's trilogy, A Scots Quair (which is comprised of Sunset Song, Cloud Howe and Grey Granite). It's a lyrical and difficult read (all that Scots language ...) but with some amazing passages, brilliant endings and a wonderful main character. Sunset Song is the best, for sure, but they're all worth a read. But you'll need to put serious time aside to get the best from it.

Today’s nice things:

1. Getting a nice comment back about the minutes
2. Meeting the lovely Doctor B, and being listened to seriously (such a rare joy!)
3. Guildford Writers

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Monday, October 29, 2007

A weary Monday and a Goldenford near-coup

Is it just me or are Mondays in the winter season becoming increasingly wearisome? I’d like to start a campaign to stop them altogether – I’m sure it would be much more beneficial for all if we could just go straight to Tuesday, or even Wednesday. Oh yes that would be better. I wish! Mind you, the feeling probably isn’t made any better by the fact that this is the first working day since the dark nights have come upon us. Groan.

This morning, I muddled through the small collection of emails waiting for me at work though, sadly, none of them have been from the Chair of the Induction Group meeting I minuted at lunchtime. So I had to go into the wretched thing with nothing but draft papers and a bright smile. Hey ho, so much for the organised professional, eh. Still, at least the sandwiches were nice.

So, this afternoon, my brain switched off and I attempted to get some of the minutes done. Heck, it’s been one of those days – not much happens and when it does it’s a bit dull or intense. Possibly both, at the same time.

Tonight, I’ll be catching up on the latest in “Strictly Come Dancing” (oh, Gabby, Gabby! – you shouldn’t have gone. I voted for you and am missing you already …) and also starting the edit on Jackie’s novel, Tainted Tree, ready for Goldenford’s 2008 book lists. Hey, we sound almost professional when I put it like that! It also means we’ll have a backlist of books too, which sounds even better.

Oh and, talking of which, I must just say that one of the judges of last year’s Guildford Book Festival Novel competition took Jennifer aside during this year’s festival and said how utterly marvellous Irene’s The Moon’s Complexion was (we entered it for last year’s competition but heard nothing …), and how much the judge in question had wanted to shortlist it – but the panel hadn’t heard of Goldenford and so left it out. Which does, I have to say, leave a sick taste in the mouth but not an entirely surprising one. We in the small/self-publishing field grow accustomed to such attitudes. Though how we long for the day when a book is judged on its own merits, not on where it comes from. Ye gods, but there’s been some trash produced from the big publishing houses – you’d think people would begin to realise by now that there’s really no need to be snobby about it. Just look at the Booker shortlist, eh (if I dare say it!) …

And I've just finished David Leavitt's While England Sleeps. Which is well worth a read - and has a wonderful main character who is really not very nice at all but who still manages to be sympathetic. Somehow. An Everyman of the human condition perhaps? After all, none of us could really, at heart, be classed as "nice". I did find the amount of sex he had rather tiring however - at one stage, he was living with his male lover, shagging a woman he was hoping to marry and cottaging throughout most of London at the same time. It was astonishing he had time to breathe! Let alone have a cup of tea. But thanks for lending it to me, Guy, and I shall return it to you via Jane soonest. I'm also looking forward to my next Leavitt, but hoping the sex might be scaled down!

Today’s nice things:

1. TV
2. Editing Jackie’s novel
3. Having a night in.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Soaked to the skin

Up at the crack of dawn today to go birdwatching in Pagham Harbour. Goodness me, but it was wild and windswept in the south. Not to mention the rain. The first bird-hide we came to was distinctly strange as it was set on one side of a busy road with the lake on the other side. Cue cries of: Oh look, is that a redshank? No, it's a lorry. No, a bus! It was also tricky when you actually tried to open the window to get a clearer view as the Force 9 gale took your breath away and the sound of the traffic drowned out the noise of the birds. Ah well.

We then took a walk through the reserve, heading for the next hide. Which was lovely and bracing and stuff (Nature: red of tooth and claw, you know ...) and we spent much longer in the second hide watching the cormorants lose their island as the tide came in. Which ... um ... constituted something of a problem as we stayed so long laughing at the cormorants that the tide actually cut us off from the car, dammit! Birds: they always have the last laugh, you know. So we had to exit the reserve the long way round and go through several - thankfully shallow enough to walk through - bits of the sea to do so. Not to mention freezing cold and open to the wind fields and that busy road again. Ho hum. At least I've found out that Lord H's walking shoes are more water-proof than mine. New birds spotted: Brent Geese. Hurrah!

Once back at the car, we took a quick trip to Selsey Bill which, bizarrely, also contains the Manhood Peninsula. There's something to think twice about before you Google it indeed. Actually, it was rather thrilling as the sea was so wild that it was coming up over into the actual car park entrance and virtually attacking the cars. I loved it! So much so that I persuaded Lord H to get out with me and we took a short walk along the front to admire the force of the spray (cue a manhood joke here, but really, m'dears, I'll let you do your own), and found a small flock of turnstones. Another new bird - double hurrah!

On the way home, we popped into West Wittering Beach and took the longest walk ever round the salt marshes. It was okay going one way, with the wind behind us, but coming back, we were literally drowned in salt. Lord but we must be mad. Mind you, Lord H thought he might have seen a few sanderlings (final new bird seen today - triple hurrahs!), but my binoculars were frankly so caked with salt by then that they could have been anything. Exfoliation - it's a marvellous thing.

Hell, that's probably my exercise for the week. And we've done our civic duty, you'll be pleased to hear. As we found a parking slot in the road at home, someone opposite reversed into the car parked in front of us and simply drove off. Honestly - what an idjit. He must have seen me gesticulating at him (in a nice way of course!) - so we got his registration number and have put it under the windscreen wiper of the damaged car. Which presumably means that the Godalming mafia will ensure that a horse's head is put on our pillow tonight. Ah well, it'll save making breakfast.

Tonight, I'll be glued to "Strictly Come Dancing" - being the fickle thing that I am, I think that my affections are slowly transferring from Gabby and Letitia to the utterly adorable (and surprisingly hot) Matt. I do hope he stays in. He could well be the next Mark Ramprakash (sp?).

Here is a short section for a Writer's Scream Moment instigated by the fact that a writing acquaintance on the Writewords site is upset as only 9,000 copies of her book have been sold in the first few months. The nice and supportive part of me wants to say well done, anyway, that's great, but my inner bitch (Gawd bless it) can only scream: arrrrrrrrggggggghhhhhhhh!!! Get real, people!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (cue sound of jealous gnashing teeth and existential rage). Hey ho.

Oh, and Lord H and I were chatting about computers and relationships this week, so here's a haiku for that occasion:

Computers need care.
If ignored, they can sometimes
switch off. Much like wives.

Today's nice things:

1. Seeing three new birds
2. The sea at Selsey Bill - fab!
3. Strictly Come Dancing.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Out-of-control theatre and a writing milestone

A lazy morning today - and goodness me but it's about time we had one of those. They don't come round often enough. As a result, Lord H and I had a fashionably late breakfast, accompanied by the fashionably late (these days) post. I was delighted to see that the latest edition of the Woking Theatre programme had arrived which tells me all the exciting plays I can see next year (I'm a Friend of the theatre, so I always get the programme early).

However, I fear that the Woking play planner (whoever he or she may be) has obviously been at the Pimm's a little too often or may even have been nobbled by a rival theatre company, as everything (everything, dahlings, everything) is a ruddy musical. What is this?? Am I in the twilight zone?? Must I don my glitter and ballgown and launch my top notes every time I want to go out these days? (A scary thought indeed and enough to clear the boards for sure.) But I jest not - here is next year's programme on the main stage:

1. Stomp (theatre, dance, comedy and percussion)
2. South Pacific
3. Aspects of Love
4. Zorro (a new musical by The Gipsy Kings - who???)
5. Disney High School Musical (What? Lord preserve us ...!)
6. The Rat Pack Musical
7. Tommy Steele in Doctor Doolittle (the Musical) - with the rather terrifying strapline of "You've never seen anything like it". No, I'm sure not. And is Tommy Steele still alive anyway??

And coming soon to the same main stage:

1. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
2. The Wedding Singer (um, the Musical)
3. Fiddler on the Roof
4. West Side Story.

Ye gods. Does no-one actually do plays any more?? Please God, give us some decent real drama (without music) to go to. In despair, Lord H and I turned to the smaller Rhoda McGaw fringe theatre programme in the hope of some dramatic oasis. Alas, none is apparent. The Rhoda McGaw programme next year consists of:

1. Oliver (performed by the Winston Churchill School)
2. When in Rome (a tongue-in-cheek musical set in the times of peasants and gladiators, beautiful princesses and devious villains - what? All of them??)
3. Oklahoma!
4. The Gondoliers
5. Oliver (again!!! But this time performed by the Karen Clarke Theatre Company, in case you might have missed the Churchill School attempt ...)
6. Young at War (a new musical set in World War 1. Words fail me ...)

They are also staging "Gangshow 2008 - 100 Years of Scouting", but I am too traumatised to mention it. But, yes, it does include music too.

Really, my dears, I am speechless. I fear Surrey is becoming a county of song and trivia, and soon we will all be harmonising our sentences and communicating by a series of notes and trills. I'd better start limbering up then for the new era ... Grab your earplugs now, people.

Anyway, for the rest of the day I have been working away on that sex scene (helped along by a significant slice of Guy's chocolate cake) in The Bones of Summer. Feel quite pleased with it now, and have worked out something dramatic to do at the end of it, which might help the plot along a little - at last! Not sure if it will work, but I'll see how it is when I get there. I've also finally made it to the grand total of 40,000 words, which is roughly where I wanted to be round about now, so that's given me a boost too. Here's hoping I can bash some more sentences out before year end. With or without song.

I've also caught up on my video viewing, managing to get to grips with the latest excitements on "Heroes" (no, no, Simone can't be dead - she can't be! And is it me or is Peter Petrelli seriously sexy when he's angry? Ooh-err, missus ...), "Ugly Betty" (no, no, Henry, you can't go, it's too traumatic ...) and "My Name is Earl" (don't press start on that tennis ball machine, no no ...). All great stuff indeed.

Tonight, Lord H and I are planning to go to see Gyles Brandreth at the Electric Theatre, which is part of the Book Festival programme. Which, as Lord H says, is something of a shame as if I didn't go it would mean I'd have made an entire clean sweep of the Book Festival and not gone to anything at all, aha! Something of a coup for a writer really, Z-list or otherwise.

Today's nice things:

1. Laughing (in a nervous way) at the theatre programmes
2. Writing
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Friday, October 26, 2007

Haircuts and humanity

I must say how moved I was last night whilst watching "The Alan Johnston Story" on TV. It was both electrifying and astonishingly thoughtful. He - and those included in the programme - came across as very human and very honest. It strikes me that so much of what we see or read or experience these days seems to work against the fact of our humanity, and it was refreshing to watch a programme that, at the end of the day, entirely celebrated it. I suspect it may be the most godly (if I dare use that word) thing I've come up against for a long time. Here's hoping there are more of the same, and in other creative fields also, soon. And, if you didn't watch it, and it's repeated at some stage, I can thoroughly recommend you try to catch it.

Anyway, to today. This morning, I have been scribbling away doing a sex scene in The Bones of Summer. I think it's one of those where after it everything will change, but I don't know in what way yet. Tis ever thus, dammit. We'll see. In any case, I need to raise the tension a few notches at this stage and set the wheels rolling for the second half of the story. Bloody hell, but it's good to get those cliches out of the way. It's so cleansing.

Lynda the hairdresser arrived twenty minutes before my one o'clock appointment (which is quite late for Lynda) and I now have the perfect hairstyle. At least until I wash it tomorrow. Heck it's nice to see out. Afterwards, I finished off my sex scene - or as near as dammit (always leave your characters in a state of high excitement as that way you'll be keen to carry on where you left off as soon as possible ...), and I'm now at the grand total of 39,000 words with it. The whole thing, not just the sex scene! I'm hoping that I can squeeze out another 1000 words before November rolls in. 40,000 just sounds better.

Popped into Godalming before the shops shut to stock up on essential eucalyptus oil and detox tea. This will hopefully counter the effect of Guy's chocolate cake (thanks, Guy!), another delicious slice of which has been consumed today. The ideal accompaniment to sex scene writing indeed. I can see I'm going to have to rush out soon and buy cheese so I can write a murder. Lord, but sometimes I am so strange I actually frighten myself ... Still, I wait with anticipation the book (which someone must write soon) telling us all about the relationship between writers' plots and their diets. Surely a bestseller in the baking - sorry, making.

Oh, and Juli from Mighty Erudite has sent me a new poetry collection - this one from David Hill - to have a quick look through. So I'm hoping to start tonight, depending on how it goes. Though, as there are so many acres of TV on tonight, it might have to wait till the weekend.

Today's nice things:

1. Thinking about the Johnston programme (not nice, perhaps, but it made me think, and feel, in a positive way ...)
2. Getting a haircut
3. Writing a sex scene.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Of Thorns, massages and bookstalls

Some good news on the book front! Goldenford are keen to publish Thorn in the Flesh early next year, possibly around February/March time so thanks very much, Golden Girls (or Golden Goddesses, as we now like to be known ...). It'll be lovely to get another book out in the public domain. It's also a quite unusual one for me as (a) my main character is a woman (b) she's bisexual and (c) there's only one - straight - sex scene in it. Well, poor Kate has so much else going that she doesn't have time for that kind of stuff. She's too busy trying to stay alive. Here's the working blurb:

"Kate Harris, a lecturer in her late thirties, is attacked in her Surrey home and left for dead. When she recovers, in order to face the threats she begins to receive, she is forced to journey into her past to search for the child she left behind. Can she overcome the demons of her own personal history and protect those she loves before it’s too late?"

And, before you ask, yes it is set in Godalming. Where else??! Well, somebody has to try to write the ultimate Godalming novel, and it might as well be me, eh!...

I've asked the wonderful Penelope Cline - also known under her writing name as Nell Grey - to see if she can come up with some ideas for a cover, as she did such a wonderful job with A Dangerous Man and some of the themes of Thorn are equally dark. So I'm looking forward to seeing what she comes up with - thanks, Nell!

This morning, I have spent two wonderful hours having a facial and massage with the new Clarins girl, Clare - who was very sweet and soooo relaxing. Just a shame I had to be in Guildford for 9am. Always something of a shock really. After that, I popped into the Magic Watchrepair Woman (that's not actually her title but it may as well be) at Ernest Jones with my rediscovered but still broken watch, but I fear she can do nothing for me as something is rotten in the state of Denmark, which she warns me will cost £70 to repair. Mmm. As the watch itself only cost me £25, then it really isn't worth it. However, MWW did say that, with Christmas coming up, perhaps it's time for Lord H to buy me a new one. Or words to that effect. Definitely a thought - especially as my new and working watch is too small to see clearly in the mornings. Now, there's an admission ...

Lunchtime was spent in the Guildford Institute watching over the unloved Goldenford stall with Irene while people studiously avoided us. No sales made, I fear. My Kiss Of Death status continues to grow ... However, we have come up with a Cunning Plan: we have decided that we're going to make a Goldenford puppet with pictures of all four of us Golden Goddesses on the top, like some kind of Indian god, and every time somebody buys something, we'll hold it up and perform a small but perfectly formed playlet in gratitude for the occasion. Surely the Guildford matrons will be unable to resist? I was also all for a lively rendition of "The Lonely Goatherd" as sung by Yours Truly, but for some reason Irene wasn't that keen.

On the way back home, I popped into see Gladys, but she's not having a very good day, I'm sorry to report, so I left quite soon with promises to be back for a proper chat next week. I think it's the change in the weather myself and the onset of the dark (goodness me, how poetic. Sometimes I even frighten myself ...). It gets to us all.

Tonight, I might do the odd bit of writing (you never know!), but my main focus will be almost entirely on catching up with TV. Which is after all where I get all my best ideas from. Oh, and I think it might be time to resurrect the sherry bottle.

Today's nice things:

1. Upcoming publication of Thorn in the Flesh
2. Clarins massage & facial - bliss!
3. Chatting with Irene at the Goldenford stall.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Birds with ring tones and the financial wizard

Heard some birdsong in the garden this morning which we hadn’t heard before – but couldn’t see what was causing it, darn it. Lord H’s comment was : Goodness me, a bird with a different ring tone. How strange! Which makes me wonder if he’s quite got the hang of nature …

Anyway, wild panics at work today when we appeared to start the University open day with nothing to show potential students at all, at least in terms of care services. Sally and I rushed around and did a quick recce – as we feared that the porters might have taken the open day boxes to the library instead of where they should have been in the IT building (as we also had a care services library event later on) – but in fact we eventually found out they’d put the boxes in the IT building store cupboard. Yes, it’s a mystery to us all. But at least we had something on our table apart from free pens and a wild-eyed staff member. Eventually.

That problem solved, I concentrated on sorting out the library event – which meant getting the box of leaflets up to the library (which I did) and hoping that the porters would take the heavy stuff. Which they did, without leaving it in the IT store room … To try to drum up trade, I sent round an email to all first years on Monday – but I now wonder if maybe I should have offered them a free book – that’ll terrify them … Alas (that word again!), we only had one caller in the three hours we staffed the desk, so we are obviously not reaching our customer base. As they say. Hell, I can do scary Management Speak like the best of them, you know. The only difference is: I don’t mean it.

I also did battle with the Student Induction Group meeting which takes place on Monday, but the Chair still hadn’t agreed the agenda (in spite of multiple chases!) and was in any case apparently up in Leeds for the day. I don’t know – the appeal of Harvey Nicks to the academic staff is getting out of hand. But it left me having to send out draft papers and a made-up agenda (today being, as always, my last day in for the week) and looking forward to taking the flak on Monday. Hey ho. Oh, and I’m having to change the date of the next Nursery Group in December due to the child care issues of our invited guest. Joy abounding indeed!

However, the lovely Juli of Mighty Erudite has sent me the latest version of Kate Noakes’ wonderful poetry collection, Ocean to Interior, to check before she sends it to be typeset. So I started on this in my lunch-hour (my back exercise class disappeared off the horizon somewhere during the course of the day, I fear ...) and will finish up as soon as I can, bearing deadlines in mind. Once it’s published in November, I can thoroughly recommend buying it – it’s classy stuff indeed.

And tonight, Guy (hello, Guy – again!) is popping round to talk to Lord H about finances in a financial wizardry type way. So I’ll have to hide in the spare room and do knitting or something – or whatever it is women do when men talk business. Lord knows. Oo-err, so we’d better tidy the flat before he arrives as otherwise I’ll never hear the last of it from Jane H (hello, Jane!). Must also video “Heroes” – I can’t miss that!

Today’s nice things:

1. Birds with strange ring tones
2. Kate Noakes’ poetry collection
3. Surviving the various marketing crises – just!

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Doctor breakdown and the sweet smell of gas

Permanently tired today – must be the result of having an okay Monday yesterday. I’m just not used to it, you know. Still, at least the headache I picked up at Tesco last night with my shopping has finally gone, hurrah! This morning, I got in super-early to work in order to psyche myself up for my Surrey Park Clinic appointment and arrived with loads of time to spare. Goodness, it’s very posh up there – so posh that working out how to get in was a bit of a mystery and in the end I waited for someone else to come out. The same problem arose on the way out, and I was forced to return to reception and beg for the secret code. Which was apparently to press the big green button marked “Press Here to Exit”. Ah well, I’m not very good with words.

Unfortunately however, after all that, the doctor I was supposed to see had broken down in her car so couldn’t make the appointment anyway. So I have rebooked for next week and over the lunchtime period, which is a rather more sensible time to be away from the demands of the desk. And at least I got to sit in a posh reception for a while – heck, I could get used to that!

But the good news is that, as it’s half-term, it meant I could actually get parked back in the University car park without driving round for thirty minutes and sobbing till a space comes free.

Had coffee with Sally at lunchtime and sorted out the woes of the world once more. Now if only they would give the two of us ultimate world power, then everything would be fine. Ho ho. Unless of course they’re trying to get rid of us – this afternoon there’s been a strange but potent smell of gas drifting round the office. I rang Estates & Facilities to ask if this was to be expected or if we were in fact all going to die, but response was there none. Heck, no wonder I’m feeling tired …! Eventual update on this – we’re not going to die (or at least not just yet) as the gas people are lurking round our office doing something strange to the boiler. Apparently we should have received a letter informing us, but obviously it hasn’t yet appeared through the internal mail system. Ah well. The University mail system swallows all but returns nothing indeed.

Oh and here’s a piece of flash fiction – the challenge being to produce something about a sailor, a journey and a pair of ballet shoes:

A change of shoes

Lord Algernon slipped the sequinned ballet shoes from his aching feet and groaned. This was absolutely the last time he played the Good Fairy in the Mission to Seafarers’ Christmas pantomime. Never mind Noblesse Oblige and all that nonsense from his shipyard workers; he’d performed the darn role each year for the last ten years and it was time to pass on the baton. Or, more accurately, the ballet shoes. But to whom?
As the distant roar from the crowds finally subsided, he heard a knock at the dressing room door.
‘Enter!’ he called out, hoping it was his butler arriving with the Dom Perignon.
It wasn’t. Instead of the craggy features and grey hair of Wilkinson, he saw a young man dressed in safari gear and carrying a large rucksack.
‘Uncle Algie!’ the young man cried, unhooking the rucksack and embracing Lord Algernon, fairy costume and all. ‘I’m back!’
‘So I see,’ the noble Lord replied. ‘Did you enjoy your trip, my boy?’
As his nephew began to regale him with tales of fierce lions, angry crocodiles and evil-minded spiders, not to mention the long voyage home, a plan began to form in Lord Algernon’s champagne-sozzled brain. Surely, anything would be better than another year of tiptoeing between various strike factions, dealing with yet more Government regulations and enduring the slow decline of business. And putting up with that damn Christmas fairy.
‘Francis, my boy,’ he cut in as soon as his nephew paused for breath.
‘Yes, uncle?’
‘I have an idea. Seeing as you’re just back from your year out, and therefore completely unemployable, why don’t you take over my role here at the family business? It would look so good on the CV.’
‘Wow, Uncle Algie! That’s wonderful! But what on earth are you going to do?’
‘Ah now, don’t you worry about that,’ Lord Algernon said, passing those pesky ballet shoes to the recently returned sailor and heading for the door. ‘I think it’s high time I went on a voyage of my own, don’t you?’


Tonight, I’m minuting the next meeting of Goldenford and hoping I have energy enough to keep up the pace set by our Leader. We’ve started planning for our next book, which will be Jacquelynn Luben’s Tainted Tree – a marvellous saga of one American woman’s search for her roots in the UK, and the family secrets she uncovers. Hopefully this will be available sometime during Spring of next year – so watch this space.

And Tony from Myspace has very kindly bought a copy of A Dangerous Man – so thanks for that, Tony, and I hope you enjoy the read. Michael is combing his hair and choosing a clean tee-shirt even as we speak. He does so like to create a good first impression these days. Lordy, but maybe I should go back on those pills again, eh …

Today’s nice things:

1. Sitting in a posh clinic for a while
2. Coffee with Sally
3. Flash fiction.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Monday, October 22, 2007

Wicked fish and the return of the watch

Felt surprisingly upbeat for a Monday – can’t imagine where that unexpected bonus has come from, but hey let’s go with the flow for a while and see what happens eh … Mind you, Lord H and I were in stitches over my attempts to open a can of fish this morning so I could make lunch. The ring-pull made a bid for freedom, which left me attempting to open a rectangular tin using nothing but a dodgy tin-opener, fingernails and my teeth. Don't do that at home, children ... It's amazing both of us survived unscathed.

At work, the first thing I see on my desk is the watch I thought I’d lost last Wednesday – hurrah! So now I have two watches, so will be able to do everything at double-quick speed. Or my life will suddenly go by twice as fast. One of the two. Talking of time, it has been interesting dealing with my newer watch which is significantly smaller than my rediscovered one. Because of this and the consequent need to peer at it in the mornings until my eyes sort themselves out before I can work out what’s happening, I was finding that the concept of time and day were becoming very distant and unimportant somehow. Which made a pleasant change from my usual clock-watcher, stressed-out mentality. Hmm, perhaps this is the way to cultivate my new chilled-out, low blood pressure type personality? All I have to do is get a watch so small I can’t tell the time at all, and I’ll make it to 100.

Ooh, and not only that but the new watch shows Sundays in red on the day slot, which is somehow very charmingly 1950s, so another good reason for keeping it on.

This morning, I finished the minutes I had to do and sent them off to the Chair for checking. Exactly thirty-two seconds (my, how I like to be exact …) after that, said Chair told me they were fine and I could send them out. Which must surely be the quickest ever read of four pages of A4 that I’ve seen … Mmm.

Had an email from the Jane H’s brother (hello, Guy! I thought I’d better mention you, or Jane will never forgive me!) today, as he was wanting to pick Lord H’s financial brains. Lovely to be called Crystal Tips once more (I never thought I’d hear that one again after getting my hair cut to the quick all those years ago …) and, Guy, it just isn’t the same at the Yvonne Arnaud theatre without you! But nice to hear that the bright lights and big smoke are treating you well. My, how Bognor Regis must have changed.

Had a much-needed reflexology session at lunchtime – it seems ages since I was last on the couch (and oh in so many ways!) – which was in fact so relaxing that I think I dozed off twice. Shame I have to go back to work afterwards really. But to avoid disappointment, I have booked a couple more sessions. It’s vital to have something to look forward to on a Monday, you know.

Tonight, I have to brave the terrors of Tesco for the weekly shop, alas (ah now there’s a word you don’t hear often these days), and somehow I have gathered a huge number of items for my list that I absolutely need to buy. So I only hope I can get them all in the car afterwards. And still drive home.

Later on, I might do a bit more to The Bones of Summer, depending how energetic I’m feeling. But my advice is don’t wait up. And – bearing in mind I’ll miss the “Strictly Come Dancing” update due to my shopping schedule – I don’t think there’s much on TV. Woe is me indeed!

Today’s nice things:

1. Having twin watches
2. Reflexology
3. Writing.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Church and chilling

Braved the distinctly wintry chill today to go to the 10am service - where it was so darn cold that I kept my woolly hat and fingerless gloves on throughout. Or almost throughout - after all, one doesn't want to get pieces of wafer stuck to one's gloves during communion. But never say I can't do Surrey style, ho ho. Anyway it wasn't a bad service - great hymns and the approachable vicar was there. Plus the coffee warmed us up afterwards and we didn't have to chat too much. Hurrah!

On the way back, we drove to the Surrey Park Clinic as my appointment is on Tuesday, and I'll be panicking too much about everything else without panicking about how I ruddy well get there or find a parking space as well. By now, Lord H is used to my overwhelming need to visit strange places to find out how I get to them, so took it all in his stride as ever.

The rest of the day, I've spent doing my monthly round of poetry competition submissions and catching up on TV missed during the week. I'm also popping pills for Britain in order to keep my cold under control. Wish me luck, eh! But talking of TV, Lord H's nephew, Kevin, was on "Dirty Rotten Cheater" (I think that's right!) on Friday, and won it too - thus proving the quality and honesty of the family I have married into, eh! A chip off the old block indeed ... even more so when you consider Kevin is just finishing his Mathematics degree at Cambridge Uni and would love to be a lawyer. So very similar to Lord H indeed!

Tonight, I'm planning to do some more to the novel and am quite looking forward to it really. Rather than worrying obsessively about it - so that makes a change. And of course it's the results show of "Strictly Come Dancing", so I absolutely can't miss that. Hey, if only they'd vote off that hugely irritating Alesha or Kelly - now that would be grand.

Oh, and one of the lovely gang of people whom Lord H and I met on our Egypt holiday a few years back has emailed to say that his wife would like the full Brooke Collection (which sounds way too grand for me!) for Christmas, minus The Hit List which she already has. Now that's cheered me for sure. I've always liked the idea of making it to stocking filler status! And now at last I have. So thank you, Miriam, and I hope you enjoy the rather eclectic reads.

This week's haiku:

Cold tingles my skin
and morning tiles freeze my feet;
winter closes in.

Today's nice things:

1. Great hymns at church
2. Getting a request for my books - all of them, ye gods!
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Day at Mother's and men having sex in a field ...

Lord H and I motored (goodness, how 1920s that is!) down to Essex today to spend the day with Mother. Who, incidentally, is looking very perky now and getting out and about more, which is good news. We decided to take her and my stepfather out for an airing and lunch, but I must admit that the pub we chose wasn't really that good. Too slow service, okay-ish food, they appeared to have run out of the electricity needed to have lights in the dining room and the only radiators were in the loos. Weird. Apart from that, it was great! And Mother enjoyed her salmon in spite of Jim (stepfather) making a brave bid for the Mr Grumpy 2007 national title - phew!

Afterwards, we nipped into Manningtree (one of the great unsung towns of Essex, which has always, to my mind, had an NVQ Level 5 in Charm) and stared at the birdlife on the estuary. Thanks to the conveniently located RSPB telescope and on-hand help - as naturally we'd forgotten our own ... Exciting new birds spotted today: vast tribes of golden plover drifting across the pampas grass (I admit I may be overstating the case a little there), and six zillion avocet (ditto). My, what funny bills they have. And Jim made up for lunchtime grumpiness by buying us all an icecream - which we ate in the freezing winds from the estuary while walking along the front, so never say we Essex countryfolk don't know how to have fun.

This evening, we have been switching between my video of "Strictly Come Dancing" and some weird sport where lots of muscly-thighed men get together in a field and have sex. At least, I think that's what they're doing, but Lord H just harrumphs (again, how '20s!) when I suggest this and frowns at the TV screen. By the way, I've voted for Gabby in the dance competition - her dance was far and away the best, in the sense that she actually dances, rather than indulging in all that ridiculous posing performed by the Beautiful People. But we'll have to see what happens tomorrow ...

And I think I'm coming down with my monthly cold. Though I'm dowsing myself with the essential whisky and Lemsip mix (don't do this at home, children ...), so hope it won't be too bad this time. But hey at least it's familiar!

Today's nice things:

1. Mother appearing relatively back to normal (arrgghh!)
2. Birds
3. Strictly Come Dancing (can't mention the rugby - apparently it's too upsetting even though it hasn't finished yet ...)

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Friday, October 19, 2007

Rubbish nappers and the publishing lunch

Today, in these parts, is rubbish collection day and once more our phantom rubbish napper has struck again ... We've had it happen a couple of times before over the last month or so and, this morning, Lord H put the rubbish out to add to the rubbish we'd put out earlier in the week - only to find that someone had taken the previous rubbish out of the bin and moved the bin itself to the other side of the gate. And the bin men most definitely hadn't been yet. Hmm. The plot thickens. Does Godalming have a phantom bin-napper? Or is some secret fan with very strange tastes going through the contents of our wheely bin hoping to glean some indication of what I'm currently working on? (So they can know what to avoid buying next, no doubt!) Ah, but I wish, eh!... Anyway, it's all very curious.

Spent some time this morning making comments on work in my Writewords groups, and then it was into Guildford for another hour or so staffing the Goldenford, this time with Jennifer, author of the utterly marvellous (notice my sales pitch here, please!) The Gawain Quest. And once again my presence is the kiss of death for commerce, as no sales again today. Ah well, I won't be appylying for a job with Sir Alan Sugar just yet then. In fact, I think I might get a tee-shirt made up saying Please don't buy these books if only in order to save time.

I then had a very late lunch with the equally marvellous Juli Klass of Mighty Erudite Publishers who has two glorious poetry collections coming out from her authors in November. Definitely something very exciting to look forward to, I can tell you! Both her poets are so shit-hot that they will burn your hand when you pick up their books. And both are definitely names for the future. So thanks for a great conversation, Juli - lovely to catch up with the London literati! We in the shires don't often meet important folk, you know ...

Back home, I am planning an evening's chilling in front of the TV and avoiding the Book Festival - so no change there then. Sorry! Oh, and I've just finished reading the latest edition of "Tears in the Fence" magazine. Once again, some great short stories there, but I really don't think much of the poetry. I'm beginning to think I might not resubscribe next time I'm asked. It's honestly not my type of reading at all.

Today's nice things:

1. Chatting with Jennifer at the stall
2. Lunch with Juli
3. Avoiding being good and not going to literary things!

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bookstalls and the mysteries of time

Got up this morning to find that Lord H had very sweetly downloaded the first episode of the new Oz Clarke and James May wine tour programme - I'd missed it on TV as I'd been too busy writing. Shock! Horror! Yes, that does occasionally happen. And aren't computer downloads a wonderful thing? - modern technology never ceases to amaze me. Anyway, the programme was great and I loved their mobile home and friendly bickering. The Odd Couple of the new millennium indeed! Must try to remember to watch next week's episode on real TV if I can.

Managed to bash out 500 words of The Bones of Summer this morning before nipping into Guildford to help Irene and Jackie run the Goldenford bookstall at the Guildford Institute - part of the fun of Book Festival Week. We had a lovely lunch (the Institute food is wonderful!), a great chat but unfortunately no actual custom. Sigh! Still, as we were packing up, a lady did pop over to tell us how much she'd loved The Moon's Complexion which cheered Irene greatly, and how shocked she'd been (in a humorous way!) at the rudeness of The Hit List which amused me greatly. Especially as Pink Champagne and Apple Juice and A Dangerous Man are probably both far ruder!

A really good thing about being in Guildford though was the fact that I was passing Superdrug when I saw that they were offering walk-in appointments for flu jabs at £9.95 a jab, so I rushed in and took up the offer (having been brutally turned down for the same by the wicked new doctor ...). Result! And it only took ten minutes, so here's hoping it works! Not only that but the nurse assured me that having a plaster on my arm meant that I definitely couldn't do any washing-up or ironing for at least a fortnight. I have yet to break this good news to Lord H of course ...

And whilst in town, I also bought a new watch (I lost mine yesterday somewhere on campus, but the strap had been wearing thin for a while, to be honest) for me and one for Lord H, as they were offering a second one half-price. And Lord H hasn't had a watch with a strap for months, so has been carrying it around in his pocket. Not the best of solutions to time. The bizarre thing is how much you really do rely on glancing at your wrist to work out where you are in the day, as until I'd bought it I felt quite adrift in the morning. I was also late to the bookstall (wicked me!), but that was only because I was buying a watch so I could work out what time it was so I wouldn't be late. Which is a circular sentence you could probably lose yourself in, but true.

Anyway, on the way out of town, the peculiarities continued apace. I'd validated my car park ticket and attempted to put it in the machine at the exit so the barrier would lift, but the moment I stuffed it in the slot, the damn thing started whirring and spewing out other people's tickets at me instead. I panicked, thinking oh God I'll be stuck in the car park for ever and doomed to wander about trying to find an alternative escape route until the end of time, so grabbed all the used tickets and dropped them in my car. As the machine paused to work out what I was doing, I pushed my own ticket back into the slot, the barrier raised and I sped off, taking a decent handful of the Council's used paperwork with me. No doubt they'll be knocking on my door later asking for their property back, but in the interests of the environment I have recycled it.

This afternoon, I popped in to see Gladys (at last!), who was confused as to when exactly I'd been on holiday and when I might be going again - perhaps she's desperate to get rid of me and actually quite enjoyed the last three weeks when I haven't been able to go? - but hey at least she's enjoying the weather. As indeed are we all. Back home, I've scribbled down another 500 words of The Bones of Summer, watched the daily show of "Strictly Come Dancing" and am planning to look at the last of "Who Do You Think You Are?" on TV later on.

Ooh, and talking of dancing, I had a nice chat with the tutor of the Beginners' Scottish Country Dancing adult education class earlier on, who has suggested I go for a taster session towards the end of October. Which I have decided to do. Well, I don't need a partner, and the tutor seemed to think it would be okay to join after everyone else has started, so I'm going to be brave. I like dancing (on the rare occasions I do it), and it might even be fun! Maybe I should buy a kilt? Hmm, not sure I have the knees for it though ...

Today's nice things:

1. The Goldenford stall
2. TV
3. Finding I can still write something - sort of!

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Space-hopper on a pogo stick

Now there's a scary image ... and one provided by the noble Lord H when I asked him last night how he would describe my normal state of mental and emotional balance, and whether he thought I was currently worse than normal. His response to the latter was that as the closest image to me in my 20s had been a rollercoaster on speed, now that I was in my 40s, a space-hopper on a pogo stick was actually more manageable. For us both! So there you have it! I am indeed as spaced out of my head as I suspected, but this may well just be me. And at least Lord H has not complained of boredom - yet.

Anyway, today, you'll be pleased to know, has actually been a better day for us all at work. Double hurrahs all round and crack open a beer! Or two. Though I have still been rushing around with marketing packages across campus until everyone was fed up with me, and attempting to steer people towards our care services event day. Which proved thin on the ground in terms of actual custom, I must say, but I had lovely and pleasingly human chats with Ram, Sally & Marc. So that was grand (as my Grandmother would have said, though in a northern accent and with the word "pet" tucked on at the end ...)

I've even completed one draft of minutes and almost finished another, so my fingers have been flying across the keyboard like gazelles. Oh, and I squeezed in my back class too, which was fun. I really have to fit in more physical exercise into my average day if I can - it does make things better. Ye gods, the health gurus might be right after all then. Hush my mouth and call me a banana. Or bring me one. Either will do. Talking of which (exercise, not bananas), I'm thinking of taking a Scottish Country Dancing class next year if I can and if you don't have to bring a partner for it (Lord H and dancing do not fit - though I think he underplays his talent really ...). I do like dancing, and watching "Strictly" has brought back the urge once more. It could have been me, you know, up there in the spangly dress and the eight inch heels!! Now, there's an image that would have them fleeing to the hills indeed ...

Anyway, tonight, I should have been attending the first of my planned-for Book Festival events, but frankly I'm staying at home. I need to this week, I think. So I suspect I won't be attending any of the events I have tickets for during the next few days - thus making me once more a prime contender in the Non-Attending Book Festival Attendance competition. As always, I have been torn between the requirement to attend (I am a reader, and a writer - I should bloody well be going!) and the desperate need to avoid (a) all those irritatingly successful authors showing us how well they've done, and (b) crowds of people at a time of year I can't handle them. Ah, if only the festival was during the easier spring or summer months, I'm sure I'd actually get to a few of the meetings. That's my excuse anyway ...

So instead I'll be watching "Heroes" and drinking beer. Three cheers for the literary no-hoper, eh!

Today's nice things:

1. Nice chats with nice people
2. Staying in, in spite of all the pressure to be out
3. Lord H.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Praise pods and the little people

Was much struck by a discussion on Radio Four yesterday about the use of "praise pods" in schools. Apparently, some schools have started setting aside an area with a comfy chair and a teacher in it, and every time a child does something well or is particularly good, they're sent to the praise pod, made to sit in the chair and told how wonderful they are and what a good job they're doing. No doubt you will all laugh but it sounds like bliss to me! And it's proving so popular and reducing stress in the children so much that other schools are taking up the idea too. Now if only adults could have such a room, I'm sure it would really improve morale in the working day - we're people too, you know! There's only so much of the bad stuff a girl can take!

Talking of which, today's been fairly crap really. And not only for me. Poor Ruth had to do battle with the printing office and with finance (never a pleasant combination at the best of times ...) and Andrea was deluged by students arriving to complain bitterly and at great length. Twice. And different students too. Honestly, it all got so depressing and difficult that we actually got quite hysterical - though luckily we managed to contain ourselves until after the students in question had left. They've all gone? - high five and hope for sunnier days ahead!... Oh how I long for the soap to come out: Care: the TV series. On second thoughts, no-one would believe it.

Meanwhile, I've struggled to deal with one of my difficult colleagues today, but managed to remain relatively calm (hurrah!) in spite of the fact that he tried to lay all sorts of complaints at my door which - for once - are not my remit. Double hurrah and somebody pass the chocolate! Mind you, I was quite snippety with him, but at least he got the message.

So, by the time I came to chairing the University Writers' Group, I was so jazzed up and stressed, it was hard even to think. Let alone be coherent (honestly, when stressed, I find the ability to string two words together, let alone a whole sentence, is virtually non-existent). I think I managed to struggle through it okay, though have to say it was hard. Added to which, fewer people are coming along to the meetings these days - whether that's due to the restructuring or my appalling chairing abilities, who can say? - so I'm beginning to wonder whether I should call a halt to the whole thing after Christmas. I know the one or two people who still turn up seem to enjoy it - I hope. Ah well. We'll see.

I then dragged myself through the afternoon - a process much like dragging myself across a potential war zone, but quieter - which included starting my minutes from yesterday, plus minuting the Nursery Management Group (which at least has external people in it so they're lovely and normal), sorting out the staffing of tomorrow's care services event, organising publicity and feedback materials for the same, keeping my eyes open, staring at the clock and desperately longing for home, and plastering an attempt at a calm, professional smile across my face if anyone strayed within a one metre radius of my desk. Somebody have the ruddy praise pod delivered,please, and make it quick!

Tonight, I was supposed to be going to Guildford Writers but I don't have the emotional energy for any more people and I am staying most distinctly indoors. Mind you, neither do I have anything to read out, what with one thing and another. Here, back in, I am planning an evening where I lie gibbering like a loon across the floor and wait for the Great White Hunter, while Lord H acts as my own personal marital praise pod (that's lovely, darling; yes, you're doing fine, now take a little more soup, what a clever girl! ...) and mops my fevered brow. And, hell, but I must do some ironing.

Today's nice things:

1. Thinking about praise pods
2. Having a normal conversation with non-university people
3. Lord H.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Monday, October 15, 2007

Meetings and moanings

Ah the pain of returning to work – honestly, it’s like a dark cloud hovering over my head until the strangeness of it all wears off. A little. And it doesn’t matter how nice everyone is – I still feel the same. Pause for existential moaning. Mind you, at least the office liked the Bara Brith Welsh cake I bought back for them – together with butter to ease the solidity of it all. At least I think they did – but as no-one could speak for about half an hour after taking a bite, it was hard to say.

So this morning, I’ve been catching up with all the things which should have happened while I was away. And ye gods some of them have. Well, gosh! Sometimes it’s almost as if I might actually count for a little something every now and then, and things I try to set in motion actually happen. Occasionally.

Still, if I was hoping for a day’s pleasant easing into the working mindset, that didn’t happen. Not that I really expected it would. Had to minute the Steering Group meeting over lunchtime, and am desperately hoping that some of them will step forward and agree to staff our upcoming drop-in sessions in the library. The first of which is this Wednesday, so you can see why I’m sweating. I’m actually happy to staff some myself, but as I know sod all, then it’s really not a good idea. But that’s what I’ve ended up doing – so God only knows what impression the poor students will come away with.

And this afternoon, I had my review – which I’ve been utterly dreading for weeks. How I hate those things! It would make more sense to be if someone reviewed my attempt at a writing career (as it means so much more) – but then again I’d still be scrabbling around on the starting blocks, so maybe that’s not such a good idea after all! As it happened, it wasn’t so bad, though we did talk about a lot of personal development-type stuff – I need to take on more challenges. Which is probably right, but I feel way too exhausted for any of them at the moment. And I’d really rather do writing challenges – again, if I had the energy. Anyway, I’m going to sign up, with the boss’s agreement, to a career consultation with someone he knows, so maybe I can work out what my strengths and weaknesses (or, as we call them now: opportunities …) might be. My personal feeling is that one of my great strengths is retirement, but I doubt that will go down that well. And how I do hate management-speak. It’s so utterly exhausting and ultimately dehumanising. Sigh!

Oh and I’ve written a poem, so I can still write after all this time. Possibly. Though I continue to be dodgy on the fictional side of life …


Sun casts shadows
through the bench
in the park,

dark bars
framing soft grass.
Around it, nothing

but emptiness
and a hint
of cages.

If I sat now,
stared outwards
at gravel and light,

waiting for my mind
to clear,
facing the sun,

I might forget
where freedom ends
and imprisonment begins.

Tonight, I’m staying in and drinking gin. And watching TV. Hell, it’s good to have a hobby.

Today’s nice things:

1. Getting through the day
2. Cake
3. The review being not so bad.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Warblers and woodpeckers

In a desperate attempt to make the holidays last longer before the existential horror of having to return to work tomorrow (no, no, please!!), Lord H and I have spent the day at Titchfield Haven and stared blankly at enormous number of oystercatchers. Not to mention dealing with a strange person who asked to use my binoculars to look at a very exciting bird and then wouldn't let me have a look to see what the said bird was. However, he did eventually give the binoculars back, by which time the bird had gone and he was stuck into telling me the life-cycle of a dabchick (aka Little Grebe). We backed away smiling politely and nodding. Whilst phoning the police. As you do ...

We managed to see a new exciting bird once we were on our own though - a Cetti's Warbler (that'll get Nik reaching for his RSPB book for sure ...). And I also managed to glimpse another green woodpecker (so two Woodpecker points for me, hurrah!). Not only that but Lord H bought me a cuddly green woodpecker from the shop that produces genuine woodpecker laughter and hid it in his camera bag with its head peering out so I could claim I'd "spotted" another. Ho ho. Lord but we are so truly sad!

I also had a wave of depression in Hide Number Two, possibly induced by the bizarre lack of birdlife or the misery of having had all three of my writing mags delivered this weekend so one is forced to read over and over again about (a) how to write (all the advice is contradictory so leaves no hope of gaining any advantage, I fear ...); (b) what you should do to get published (hell, don't make me laugh!); and (c) how utterly wonderfully everyone else is doing and what amazing writing careers they have (honestly, I really don't care). But I bravely beat the pain back by demolishing the cheese and ham sandwiches we'd bought (as the Titchfield Haven cafe is so crap). Honestly, there's nothing food can't cure, really. And if there is, well then alcohol mops up the remainder.

Tonight, I'm going to have to tackle some of the ironing, watch loads of TV in a stalwart attempt to avoid doing any writing, and get over the trauma of finding out who's out of the competition in "Strictly Come Dancing". And, hell, was it just me or were the judges way too horribly mean to poor old Kate & Anton last night?? Bloody hell, but the poor woman is in agony and only doing her best!!! They should have been nicer for sure.

Oh, and I'd better ring Mother and attempt to sound like a sane daughter too - should be something of a challenge today.

This week's haiku:

Wind turbines weave air
into shelduck, dunlin, teal.
Wings draw down the sun.

Today's nice things:

1. Birds
2. Home-made sandwiches
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Graduation Surprise!

Have spent most of the day at a surprise Graduation Ceremony at the University for my friend, Pauline, who has just been awarded her NPQH (National Professional Qualification for Headship - or Naturally Perfect Quality Heads, as Lord H likes to call it ...) certificate. I wasn't supposed to be attending actually (hence the surprise) though we were putting on a celebration tea for her - but as her husband wasn't well, I went instead. Sad for him (and I hope you feel better soon, Tony ...) but good news for me, as it's probably the last graduation ceremony I'll ever attend.

Anyway, it was fab, and Lord H and I even managed to be washed, dressed and with a (relatively) clean house by the time Pauline arrived. Which was astonishing as we weren't expecting her till later and had a ten-minute warning before arrival time! (You're so wild, m'dear!...) Also so glad I'd dry-cleaned my one decent frock before the holidays. I did suggest that, as I hadn't had time to buy a present, she should pick something she liked in the house and take that - at which point Lord H looked hopeful and put his best shirt on ... - but Pauline nobly turned down the invitation. So Lord H will have to stay a while then, poor soul!

I also discovered, whilst attempting to complete my smart look, that the posh tights I'd bought at the House of Fraser appear to be about five foot long before you put them on. Perhaps it's the way they're making them these days? However Lord H assured me that they'd ride up with wear (hmm, how does he know??!!!) and sure enough they did. Ah well, I've never been hot on the girl stuff. As it were.

I also must say that the University buffet lunch was bizarre, to say the least, though very nicely turned out. One bite into the open-plan (you know what I mean ...) beef or ham baguettes gave you a mouthful of either horseradish or mustard powerful enough to blow the top of your head off. A scary experience for sure. After one or two attempts, I stuck to the fondant fancies. Always the best plan really.

Apart from that whirlwind excitement, my one additional plan of the day is to watch the thrills and spills of "Strictly Come Dancing" later on TV - well, at least I'm dressed for it for once, though I do admit that I could do with a little more glitter. Hell, couldn't we all?

And no writing is getting done, though really I'm not in the mood for it. I've still heard nothing from my agent about how he's getting along with The Gifting. Does anyone actually remember The Gifting?? I'm beginning to think I might well be caught in a temporal anomaly in which I haven't written a novel at all, and it's all been the product of my overheated imagination. Though, after my traumatic horseradish experience, I can't say I'm that surprised. Really, a lot of weird stuff can be blamed on condiments.

Oh, but I must say that I really enjoyed my Hot Stone Aromatherapy massage during my week away - it was utterly wonderful and I must have another one of them. Much more relaxing than my one session of Reiki was, for sure. The stones are bliss. Heck, there's a sentence I thought I'd never say. I really can't give up on the reflexology though. Ah choices, choices ...

Today's nice things:

1. Seeing Pauline
2. Attending the Graduation Ceremony
3. Strictly Come Dancing.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Friday, October 12, 2007

Post-holiday chillings

I'm back and the holiday was fab! I loved North Wales - we avoided the rain and some of the time were even bathed in sunshine, which was great. Not a lot to say tonight ("Ugly Betty" is in 30 mins and I can't miss that!), but things that stood out for me were:

1. Seeing a Green Woodpecker for the first time. Always good to meet another creature with a red head and who favours green.

2. Sitting in a bird hide and having a Great Spotted Woodpecker on a birdfeeder literally two inches from my nose, and being completed gobsmacked by it. It's a constant astonishment that we even have birds of such glorious and unlikely colours in the UK.

3. Seeing choughs, red-breasted mergansers and grey plovers for the first time. Not too far away either.

4. Being completely and utterly blown away by the beauty of Snowdonia on a gloriously bright morning (we took the train - hey, what do you expect??).

5. Seeing reed buntings and a hen harrier.

6. Breathing easily for what seems like the first time in a long, long time (is it the salt from the sea??).

7. Having a lovely, clear TV reception in the hotel (it makes watching "Strictly Come Dancing It Takes Two" even more fab than usual - but where oh where is the divine Claudia's fringe??).

8. Falling over on some marsh grass on the way to a bird hide and twisting my ankle a little - sorry, but it was funny and both Lord H and I looked up to see if the man on the white horse was galloping to save me, a la "Sense & Sensibility" ... Sadly, he wasn't, but the ankle is walkable on!

9. Having a nirvana experience with the hotel orange-scented cheesecake - bliss ...

10. Quantity time (sorry, but there's really no such thing as "quality time") with Lord H. Double bliss indeed!

Ten nice (or memorable!) things, so probably no need for a list of other nice things today.

Oh, and I read (or reread) Daphne Du Maurier's The House on the Strand. I fell in love with this - and the hero, Dick(!) - when I was a teenager, and this is a lesson for sure in not going back in terms of reading matter as, after reading it now as a woman in my forties, all I can say is what a total prick is Dick, and I am rooting entirely for Vita!! Well written though, and a powerful ending indeed.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Packing and playing

Had an ace time at the Virginia Woolf play last night - such a weird and wonderful thing to do and very Godalming too. Mind you, the wine was rubbish. After one sip of Lord H's, I plumped for the orange juice. Still, he managed to drink it all, which was definitely beyond the call of duty. The play was good too - though I think Lord H enjoyed it more than I did. Lovely to pick up with a bit of Tennyson again though. One of the great poets of course.

As we were in the wonderful and wonderfully quirky Watts Gallery, it did amuse us - but made perfect sense really - when during the essential Health & Safety talk at the start the organiser told us how to exit the building if the fire alarm went off, and by the way while we were walking out, please could we pick up a painting and rescue it. We laughed - but really they should suggest that at all galleries!

This morning, I have packed for Britain in preparation for our holidays tomorrow when we'll be staying here in North Wales. We had the usual marital conversation which went like this:

Me: When do you think we should set off then, darling?
Lord H: What time were you thinking of?
Me: Well, what about 10.30, 11-ish?
Lord H: When we get there, you mean? Actually I was hoping we could be in Birmingham by 11-ish so we can spend an hour looking at the RSPB bird sanctuary, have lunch there, then get to Wales mid-afternoon so there'll be time for a ten mile hike before tea.
Me (sighing deeply): So you want to set off at 9-ish then?
Lord H (grinning broadly): Great! My thoughts exactly!

So best set the alarm for a time on Sunday morning I haven't seen since leaving church ... What the heck, maybe I just won't go to bed at all! Ah well, at least I'm packed!

This afternoon, we've seen Alan Ayckbourn's "How the Other Half Loves" in Guildford - great fun, in spite of being wonderfully dated. Heck, it's probably historical by now. As usual, Ayckbourn's ending was rather low-key, and as usual Lord H made up an ending in the car which was actually far better. And more punchy. Though probably wouldn't have been realistic in the 70s. I swear, one day that man (Lord H, not Ayckbourn!) should write a play of his own. It would be fab.

Tonight, I'm donning my high heels and glitzy frock and watching "Strictly Come Dancing" on TV. Bliss! How have I lived without it for so long?? Later, I can watch the marvellous "Ugly Betty" and "QI" which I have stored on the video. And there's wine, pizza, ice cream and chocolate. Well, I love a balanced diet ...

And, as I'm not here again till next weekend, here's an early haiku, inspired bizarrely by this week's "My Name is Earl", which had the punchiest - and funniest - parable about forgiveness that I've seen for a long time:

I laze in the bath
and think about forgiveness.
Warm water and peace.

Would that it were actually something I was good at eh! Still some stuff takes a lifetime, and there's no harm in that.

Have a great week, people, and catch up next weekend!

Today's nice things:

1. The Ayckbourn play
2. Packing for my hols
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Friday, October 05, 2007

Long putts and feminist plays

Hey ho, I'm feeling surprisingly calm today. What an astonishment for us all indeed. It was great to be able to stop angsting for Britain (is it an Olympic sport, as I'm sure I'd be in with a chance ...?) and get out and play some really quite bad golf with Marian. The weather was great (yes, I know I sound like a postcard, but I'm getting into training for next week) and there was absolutely no-one else on the course but us. Weird. That has never happened before. We were so spooked by it that halfway round we began to wonder if aliens had landed and taken off all the other inhabitants of Godalming. And whether they planned to replace them with large, confident women with whicker (sp?) baskets. Bloody difficult to tell the difference then ...

Anyway, I sank a hugely long putt at the ninth, in spite of an appalling round, so honour was satisfied. It was at least five miles long. Honest. I then popped into Godalming to pick up some shopping and have bought some eucalyptus oil, which I hope to snort when my nose gets bad. Well, it's cheaper than coke, eh. Ho ho. And you don't have to deal with the bubbles.

I then spent the rest of the day dragging out a mere 300 words to add to The Bones of Summer - a process even more fraught with difficulty than getting cash out of my stepfather. And, believe me, that's not easy. The last time Jim's wallet was opened, we actually found Lord Lucan. We never said anything though. Some things are best left a mystery.

I've also screwed my courage to the sticking place and booked an appointment with the Hormone Doctor(as recommended by Steph at the University Health Centre - thanks, Steph!), so will be toddling off to the Surrey Park Clinic later in October to get my bits checked out. Oo-err, missus then.

Tonight, Lord H and I are off to see a dramatised reading of Virginia Woolf's only play, "Freshwater" - which is about Julia Margaret Cameron (the photographer). Which is ideal in its way as it combines one of my favourite writers with Lord H's favourite ever photographer. And comes with a free glass of wine. What more could you want? Well, actually, the fact that it's taking place at the wonderful Watts Gallery is just an added bonus. Verily, our Victorian cup runneth over.

The only fly in the proverbial is of course the horror of missing our essential Friday night pizza & wine night - which we are postponing until tomorrow - and having to video a thousand and one things on the TV. Including the welcome return of "Ugly Betty", which I really can't live without.

Oh, and I've just finished reading Anna Wigley's poetry collection, Durer's Hare. Um, well, I liked one or two of the pieces, including the title poem, but there was just too much ruddy Nature in it. With nothing behind it either. Surely, if poetry is about anything at all, it should be about something other than what you're apparently saying? And it should be utterly and devastatingly human. Or am I missing the point entirely? I do hope my own Nature poems (and I don't really do that many - well, okay, I've done a lot of bird ones recently, but apart from them ...) are actually saying something else other than "Oh what a lovely xxx and look how pretty the yyy are". And are at least more human. I live in hope anyway.

Today's nice things:

1. Golf
2. Eucalyptus oil
3. The play.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Bitchy doctors and Loose Women

God, what a day. Another of those ones where I've felt extremely fragile and wondered why the hell when you interact with people face-to-face, they always have to come with knives. Is it just me or is everyone getting pricklier these days? Great title for my next book, eh ...

Anyway, I'd had way too much of people in all shapes and sizes last night so emailed the Counselling Centre to cancel my appointment with Kunu today (the phone being far too scary to contemplate and me feeling far too depressed to talk - which is probably like tidying up for your cleaner, but there you go ...) and wrote a letter to Gladys explaining why I haven't popped into see her in two weeks (sick) and why I won't pop in next week (hols).

Simple enough, you would have thought - though I know that with the postal strike, Gladys probably won't get her letter for weeks anyway - but no: this morning, Kunu left a message on my ansaphone wondering where I was, which really stressed me out. I just didn't want to have to deal with all the social crap of it really. So I deleted the message and sent another apologetic email back. Hell, I'm doing my bloody best over here in the stressed corner - why can't people cut me some slack once in a while?? This resulted in a distinctly sniffy email from the Counselling Centre receptionist telling me I really should have phoned as they don't look at emails regularly and they're often deleted by their scam software anyway. Well, slap my thigh and call me a luddite, but that's not my fucking problem. That's their problem for not having decent customer service or a good email provider. Bloody well let them sort it out and stop bitching at me then. Honestly! I doubt I'll be attending any more appointments this side of the next millennium. At least not there.

For the rest of this morning, I've struggled away with The Bones of Summer, attempting to squeeze out a few more words, but really it's been a bloody hard slog. Thank God for online Solitaire is what I say. Lord alone knows what Craig is going to do now. He's all over the place. Well, snap then. Thankfully though, I took time out at lunchtime to watch the utterly wonderful "Loose Women" on TV. That show is a real lifeline sometimes - it actually made me laugh. Hurrah. I do love it. I then caught up with my video of last night's "Will & Grace", but that just made me cry. All that stuff about Will's dead father and Karen leaving Stan - I was blubbing like a child on the sofa. Which isn't easy to do when you're trying to eat rice & tinned fish with a fork, I can tell you.

Anyway, I psyched myself up for going to see the new doctor at 4.10pm - who turned out to be Dr Pidgeon and the prissiest schoolgirl type you could ever imagine. In the words and intonation of Catherine Tate - What a bitch!! I'd written a list of things I'd wanted sorted - only 6 of them and mostly quick to deal with, for God's sake - but she got very sniffy when I sat down and told me I'd have to hurry up as the appointments were only 10 minutes long. She then proceeded to tell me that (a) No, I couldn't have my usual flu jab as she didn't see the point of it (I've had one for the last 2/3 years and they do help ...); (b) No, I couldn't have anything stronger for my catarrh/sickness problems as the stuff I'm currently on is fine and anyway I should try to cut down. Well bloody hell, madam, you try and see if it's "fine" when you're up all night trying not to be sick and hardly able to breathe and then feel like shit for two weeks - see if you like it; (c) No, she didn't have any advice on whether or not I should be taking more of the Vitamin B pills the previous doctor had put me on for depression as it was really up to me; and (d) No, she didn't see the point of sending me for a "how are your hormones and while we're at it are you approaching the pre-menopausal state?" test, in spite of the fact that the two weeks before my period has become almost utterly unbearable now with bouts of utter rage interspersed prettily with bouts of weeping. Hey ho, what fun we have here in downtown Godalming!... Instead she suggested Evening Primrose Oil and frankly by then I couldn't be arsed to tell the snotty-nosed bitch that yes I've tried all the stuff and, no, it doesn't help much.

The only good thing to come out of it is that my blood pressure is fine (a fact which astonished me, as I was almost incandescent with suppressed rage by the time she took it!!) and that I only took up 4 minutes of her bloody precious time. And there's one slapper I won't be making another appointment with again. Really, I was quite weepy in the car home - always a danger when attempting to drive through Godalming, but I don't think I actually killed anyone ...

At home, I've emailed Steph in the University Health Centre asking if she can suggest helpful nice and loving people to discuss flu jabs and hormones with me. Here's hoping, eh. But God only knows what I'm going to do when the next of my all-night bouts comes round. In the meantime, I'm battening down the ruddy hatches, uncorking the sherry bottle again and anticipating an evening of sudokus and TV. And more calming pills.

Today's nice things:

1. Loose Women
2. Getting out of bloody Dr P's consulting room
3. Calming pills.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The seven dwarves and an overwhelming need for sherry

Ye gods, but it was all stress city at work this morning – several emails about the appalling inappropriateness (is that even a word??) of my poor little event flyers. Heck, and I was only trying to be helpful! Still, it managed to piss me off from the start of the day, so one hopes it can only get better. I sent back emails saying that at least I was moving from being “disappointing” to being “inappropriate”, which showed some kind of progress. Perhaps the next response to anything I did would be “shocking”. One lives in hope, eh …

Actually, I think people were surprised by the strength of my response, but heck, let them be surprised. Sometimes the university can be so nitpicking and bordering on anal, it might as well be an Olympic sport. Deep deep sigh. Still, since then, people have been nice - relatively - so here’s hoping that lasts too. In the meantime, I have rejigged the bloody flyers until I’m sick of the sight of them and will attempt to get them off my hands this afternoon. I’m also flicking through catalogues looking at free pens we could give to students, so that’s nice.

And poor Ruth has gone home sick, so we’re all living in the twilight zone here. Is that rustling I hear in the undergrowth?... However, the good news is we’ve successfully managed six of the seven dwarves today: I am Bitchy, Grumpy and Cross, and Ruth is Dopey, Sleepy and Sick. Almost the full set then.

This lunchtime, I went to my back exercise course – as I’ve done nothing over the summer at all, this was something of a shock. Should be good for me though – and at least it took me away from my desk for an hour, where anything could happen. And frequently does. Which it did – I’d already got rid of the ruddy flyer’s “inappropriate” content – allegedly, but people really have to take their tongues out of their own bottoms sometimes and live a little, to my mind – and then the boss (who knew perfectly well that I had changed the darn stuff) had to have a final little dig about it. Badly done, I thought – very badly done. I certainly wouldn’t have stirred things up for my staff (when I had staff) like that – just letting things go is a perfectly good managerial strategy on occasion. Trust me. It just goes to show that you can’t really rely on anyone to behave in a humane fashion these days. Least of all the so-called "naice" people. God, they're the worst. And oh how I long for a new job – now ye gods that would be nice.

In fact I was so pissed off that I simply left work at 4.30pm. I just didn't want to speak to any more people, so I told the Dean I was going - and for that reason. And then left. First time I've ever done that but if anything happened between then and 5.30pm, well bloody hell they can sort it themselves. Thank God I don't have to go back till 15th October - and double bollocks but I'm dreading it already.

Tonight, I’m hoping to do some writing, if I can somehow raise the emotional energy for it (don’t wait up then …), and I’ve “Heroes” lined up on TV. Plus a good strong sherry in my sights, thank God. No, make that two.

Today’s nice things:

1. Getting those fucking flyers off my hands!!!
2. TV
3. Sherry – large quantities of …

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Aroma Stones and Guildford Writers

Feeling a bit empty today – I am obviously having a blank week. Possibly the effect of too many calming pills, but I have to say it’s not unpleasant. Better than feeling angry all the time for sure. Or maybe it’s the weather – it’s very dull and damp out there.

Lots of bits and pieces at work today – fiddled around with the Dean’s website, a couple of new marketing leaflets, plus chased up the boss about outstanding minutes/agendas before I go on holiday and took a load of the never-ending paper cups to the Health Centre. Who are also in a drinking crisis. Ooh, and I remembered to give the boss my review form too. The annual nightmare! We actually have the review meeting the first day I get back – not great timing for sure! However, I’ve made myself feel better by booking an hour’s Aroma Stone Therapy treatment at the hotel we’re staying in next week. Hurrah!

Took my usual lunchtime stroll round campus – the lake seems overrun by moorhens today. Perhaps they’re taking over the world? Hmm, good luck to them. I’m not sure it’s a competition I really want to enter. And this afternoon has been wild – rushing around attempting to do yet more urgent last-minute marketing things we didn’t know we needed till today. Stress! Still, at least it’s been fun playing around with flyers and looking like I know what I’m doing. Ho ho.

Tonight, I’m out at Guildford Writers – I’ve decided to stop taking along The Bones of Summer now and am taking the first page of my fun spoof novel instead. Well, Bones is fairly well launched into its orbit (I hope), and I tend to rely on more regular input from my Writewords Novel Group for it. And the spoof novel will probably be easier to provide instant crit for – as even I know my usual stuff is quite bizarre and difficult. Anyway, we’ll see.

Today’s nice things:

1. Calming pills
2. Lunchtime stroll
3. Guildford Writers.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Monday, October 01, 2007

A dull Monday

Struggled to get through the morning today – it was rainy and dull, which was about all that could be said about it really. Took me ages to get my minutes finished from last week, and I only managed it by taking a rare (for me) caffeine injection. That seemed to do the trick though – thank goodness.

Mind you, Goldenford managed to launch Irene’s new book with style last night. And we also managed to sell copies of all our books, including three of Pink Champagne and Apple Juice, so good news all round. Congrats, Irene!

Ooh and Andrea and I have sneaked the last piece of chocolate from the fridge at work and eaten it secretly while no-one else was around, as there was only enough for two. Tell no-one … But by heck it’s made me feel better!

Took myself off for a wet and windy walk at lunchtime round campus, in an attempt to clean up the cobwebs netting my befuddled brain. I then spent the rest of the afternoon poring over the new student care services mini-guide in an attempt to ensure that there won’t be too much disappointment once it’s produced, ho ho … Must also get some more of my maps done, as I’m running out already. Shock horror!

Slight crisis in the Counselling Centre as well – they’d run out of plastic cups and I had to speed down on a mercy mission with the order. Which was gratefully received, except that I took down white plastic cups and their order was for blue. However, the Counselling Coordinator and I decided that if anyone complained about the colour, we’d take six of the darn things, laminate them and put them where the sun don’t shine. That should cut down on negative feedback. One hopes.

Tonight, I’m off shopping – honestly, my life is one rollercoaster of excitement and I don’t know how on earth I keep up with it all. And I’ve set the video for the next instalment of “The Sarah Jane Adventures”, so will be glued to that later on. Ooh, and I think Lord H might do chips for dinner, so that’s cheered me already!

I must say I do feel distinctly uninspired in terms of doing any writing stuff at all. There’s no poetry in this box at the moment, missus, and don’t even mention the fiction!... On second thoughts, scrub that – here’s an attempt at poetry:


I breathed a scream
into the bathroom cabinet
and shut the door.

I can feel it lurking,
pushing at the wood
in an attempt to be free.

Later, when my energy returns,
I might let it loose again,
take my anger back.

Today’s nice things:

1. Selling three copies of Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
2. Sarah Jane Part Two
3. Chips.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website