Monday, June 30, 2008

Printers, postcards and prickles

Well, gosh. Across the pond, Maloney's Law has now been sent to the printers so all I'm waiting for at this point is (a) publication and (b) to hold a copy in my hot little hand. Double gosh. Goodness me, how English my emotional response is. Inside however, I'm screaming and hanging out the bunting. I'm hoping that Maloney will sell more copies than my other books have but, most of all, I'm hoping readers will get something out of it. I know I certainly do, no matter how many times I read it through.

Back in the working world, I am still staring at the Personal Tutors' handbook and worrying about the concept of "mapping". I've produced something - in fact two somethings - but Lord only knows whether it's right or not. Still, my lunchtime reflexology session made everything seem right again - and I even fell asleep in the middle. It set me up for this evening's brief pop into see Gladys. Good to know I'm still her Most Hated Visitor, even though she does soften slightly at the sight of the birdseed I bring for her table. It strikes me that big publishers are very much like Gladys indeed - perhaps I should put birdseed in my next novel submission? It's a thought anyway.

Meanwhile, I'm reeling from the shock of reading tomorrow's Team Away Day agenda. I blanked out at the third word, which was "strategy" and by the time I got to "future development plans", I think I'd lost the will to live. I hope the day itself isn't going to be as dry as the agenda - thank God I ordered ice cream for lunch. I suspect we'll need all the refreshment we can get, and more so as apparently it's going to be a scorcher.

Oh and my postcard from Portugal finally arrived in the office - one month after I sent it. Must have gone by river bus then. My how everyone laughed. But not as much as they laughed at the sight of me attempting to store a particularly long package on the windowsill and getting the cactus attached to my forearm. Bugger. Thankfully Carol sped to the rescue with scissors and a ruler and beat the thing back. What a heroine. I was deeply moved, so moved in fact that I've resorted to verse:

Office Incident Number 101

Just when I think
everything is running smoothly

the cactus I've forgotten
bites my arm with elongated teeth

and won't let go.

It takes a pair of scissors,
one ruler and two friends

to dislodge the beast.
And they say I'm prickly.

Tonight, I think I'll do some more to Hallsfoot's Battle. I'm not entirely sure what the mind-cane is going to do to Talus (poor boy), but I'm sure I'll think of something.

And here's a late entry haiku, as I forgot it yesterday:

The hot blue dawn melts
amongst the night's slow blossom.
Autumn woods drift by.

Today's nice things:

1. Maloney going to the printer
2. Reflexology
3. Writing.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Websites and yet more Maloney

I had great plans today to go into Godalming to wander around the French market and pop into Waterstone's with my book vouchers - but in the end, I really felt too exhausted to bother. Time of the month, you know, dammit.

Still, at least it's meant I've updated my website with the pleasing news that The Bones of Summer was shortlisted in the Writers' Conference Novel competition. Hurrah! Which is lovely but strange - The Gifting was shortlisted last year (and Donna from Piatkus Press, who judged the competition, also asked to see the start of that one - but so far the agent hasn't yet sent it to her ...) and now it's Bones' turn. And that in the face of the fact that Piatkus publish neither fantasy nor gay crime. Most odd. Still, nice to know I'm reaching a readership that ... um ... doesn't really want me. Heck, in publisher terms, I should be used to that though!

I've also updated the Goldenford site with the latest news items, so do pop in and have a read. You can also admire the wonderful photographs in the News section, as well as the new cover art for the upcoming Luther's Ambassadors. My, we do some shit-hot covers here in the Goldenford world, you know. The contents are pretty hot too.

And I have the latest edit of Maloney's Law to do - that is, the final final edit after my final changes have been added in. It all looks wonderful so far, except that on the Acknowledgements page, I see I can't even spell Guildford. Sigh! So far it's the only thing on my final final edit list though, so here's hoping it stays that way. After that's done, Paul and his story will be off to the printers and all I'm waiting for then is actual publication. Hurrah! Honestly, I can't quite credit it's happening - this stage of the game never actually seems real, though I know that when I'm actually holding a copy of the novel I'll be as emotional as ever. I do think that Maloney is turning out to be my favourite child so far. I care about him most of all.

Oh, and last night's opera was great fun, but not the tour de force I was hoping for, I must say. Not enough sexual tension or pizzazz, to my mind. Which surprised me. So, perfectly enjoyable, but not an opera I'll be rushing to see again, I think. Thank goodness for Dr Who though - which was the best I've ever seen. And included Ianto Jones - what more can you want? But ah (spoiler alert!!!!) - who will be the next doctor now???

Today's nice things:

1. The Bones shortlisting
2. Getting the websites updated
3. The final final Maloney edit.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Maloney done and a musical coronation

Have finished the final edit of Maloney's Law this morning and sent it back to the lovely people at PD Publishing. I only found 5 mistakes, so that's fabulous. And, bloody hell, but certain passages especially later on in the novel still make me cry. And I wrote the bloody thing - not to mention having read it through about a dozen times in the last few months! I'm not sure I'll ever write anything as emotionally strong as that again. It packs a punch for sure. And probably, in essence, says a whole lot more about my family than I'd realised. In its fashion. Now there's something for the reader to chew on ...

Anyway, the very generous and talented Vicki Tyley - whom I met via the Authonomy Beta site - has made an eBook of Thorn in the Flesh for me. It looks good, Vicki - many thanks! I've sent it to the Golden Girls as a sample of what can be done and it's certainly a very interesting thought for the future. I just have to work out how to add in the cover art and publisher details etc. One for Lord H, I think!

This afternoon, we're off to Glyndebourne to see The Coronation of Poppea. I love Monteverdi and it's the first Glyndebourne of our summer season (my, how posh I'm sounding for an Essex Girl ...) so I'm so excited I might actually be sick. We're eating in the Mildmay Restaurant which is our favourite too. Bliss.

And there's a slight shock for Lord H waiting, which I'll have to break to him gently when he comes back with lunch soon - I've realised that when I have to send something from his mailbox it adds in the photo of his good self which the Mac took when we first had it. Whoops! I know he's going to hate that ... I feel that photo - lovely though it obviously is - is not going to be around for too much longer. Sadly. The dangers of new technology are rife, you know.

Today's nice things:

1. Finishing off Maloney and feeling happy with it
2. The eBook of Thorn
3. Glyndebourne.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Friday, June 27, 2008

A lovely day at the fair and the final Maloney

Irene, Jennifer and I have spent most of the day selling Goldenford books at the Annual Writers' Conference today. And what a good time we've had! So far it's proving to be the best Writers' Conference ever, in terms of conversations held with people and even books sold. Well gosh! Amongst the rather respectable sales we've done, I even managed to sell two copies of Thorn in the Flesh and two copies of A Dangerous Man. Hurrah! That's pretty good going for me. I now only have 2 ADM first editions left so will be moving on soon to attempting to sell some of my 2nd edition stock. Double gosh. I almost feel like an author, you know. Hell, it can't last.

Interesting how the more you engage a browsing customer in conversation, then the less they're likely to buy. It's the knack of knowing when to withdraw verbally and leave them with buying space, I suppose. If you talk too long, it just becomes a (usually very interesting) conversation and you lose the roles of tradesperson/customer. Interesting also how people were particularly taken - as they often are these days - with Goldenford being an all-woman company. There's power in the Golden Girls indeed!

Anyway, we packed up for the day at about 6pm and I'm now home for the evening. Thank the Lord. I couldn't have borne the thought of a night out certainly. I'm aiming to concentrate on going through the final proof (gosh! final proofs - whatever next?) of Maloney's Law which turned up from PD Publishing last night. I'm now about to start Chapter 8. The excitement notch is definitely on the up here in the shires. I'm so looking forward to seeing Paul Maloney in print - he's one hell of a hot babe. In my opinion.

Today's nice things:

1. The Writers' Conference fair
2. Going through the final Maloney proofs
3. Selling books.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Don't ask for trouble ...

A day in. When I haven't gone out at all, and I've only had a couple of quick phone conversations just rearranging appointments. Bliss. And there's an evening in tonight, so even more bliss. What more could you want?

Really enjoyed seeing Jane W last night, though was rather amused by her parting comments that the day's writing I was planning for today wasn't really like a proper job or hard work or anything. Hey, I wish! In an emotional sense, I imagine it's much like saying to a mountain climber about to tackle a mountain they haven't yet climbed: hey, enjoy the climb, and as you do it for fun then it's no great effort, is it? Ah well.

Not that I've written that much of Hallsfoot's Battle today, but I can see a bit more of the path I'm heading on at the moment and the mists are holding off. I'm at c10,300 words and about to hit a scene of potential danger and excitement. Hurrah! So, I might take a breather to try to summon up the energy for it. Or ferret ahead a little more tonight. We'll see.

I've also finished Liz Young's Asking for Trouble. Oh dear. My advice is: don't. The film based on the novel - "Something Borrowed" - is way better than this feeble chick-lit effort. In the film, the characters were sparky, the humour was top-notch, the romance very moving and the themes surprisingly grown-up. In the book, the characters are dull and ploddy, the humour strained, the romance unbelievable and the themes very childish. It's a constant source of astonishment that such drivel gets published at all, and anyway I'm sure chick-lit used to be better than this. In the days when I read it. Or have I just moved beyond the age of appreciating chick-lit and I now want something darker and punchier for my palate? But that can't be right - whatever my current tastes, the book is still bad! I have a far higher opinion of my reader than Liz Young does for sure. Anyway, I suggest you skip the book and just watch the film - which is something I never thought I'd say.

Meanwhile, back in the vaguely commercial arena (ho ho), it's been over one month since The Gifting began winging its way around all those yummy UK & US fantasy publishers, and the response so far has been .... zilch. I suspect that my agent is either too embarrassed to send it anywhere at all and is simply pretending he has done something with it, or he's too embarrassed to show me the hugely cutting responses begging him never to mention my name again. I'd bet on the second one of these two options, if I were you. Ho hum.

And our flat numbers - plus the mystical arrow - are back on the signs. Gosh! Though the neighbour's son is obviously traumatised by my comments on his grammar and spacing skills as the numbers 1 & 2 are now so far apart as to be almost in another county entirely. I think next time I will simply smile benignly and not indulge in any conversation. Probably the best way.

Today's nice things:

1. Staying in and not really communicating
2. Writing and climbing a bit further up the almost impossible mountain
3. Bitching about published books which are bad, bad, bad!

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mapping, coffee and the Big City

I have spent most of the day puzzling over what I’m supposed to be doing about the Personal Tutors’ Handbook – I suspect I am about to get into a managerial vortex from which there will be no escape. The boss has asked me to map out three different options for what the Handbook should look like. What??!? I have no real idea what that means, even though I smiled with enthusiasm when given the task (oh fool, fool!). And I suspect that, much like double-entry bookkeeping and the inner workings of the combustion engine, I never will have any idea what it means, no matter how much it’s explained to me. You see, I was off sick for the lesson in management-speak and I’ll never catch up now. Besides, there are some things that my head simply blanks out, possibly for the sake of its own intellectual survival. “Mapping” is, I feel, one of these. I also highly doubt that I’ll come up with three options – ye gods, I’ll be lucky to make a half-decent attempt at one. Sigh.

Still, onwards and upwards, as they say. Managed to sneak in a much-needed coffee with Sally from Advice at lunchtime – she was very close to Penny and it was good to talk about what’s happened, and the funeral arrangements and stuff. Also good to catch up with Sally of course.

And, worryingly, it appears that the new English Department at the University also want to have a chat with me concerning their plans for a Creative Writing course in their upcoming degree programme and how it relates to my informal University Writers’ Group. So that’s put the Fear of God in me; it feels as if I’m being summoned to the Headmistress’ (yes, I did go to a girls’ school – can you tell??) office in order to be told off for being a fraud and taking on things I shouldn’t when other people are far better qualified to run the Group. Yes, I know, I’m probably over-dramatising (surprise!), but heck you know me … They’re probably just going to be nice. That’ll take the wind out of my proverbials for sure.

Now for an update on Ruth’s radio plans for the campervan. Um, the radio doesn’t fit. Curses! Which just goes to show Halford’s don’t know what they’re talking about. As usual. The Ruth Clan are going to have to take it back to the shop for more advice and, in the meantime, carry on with the self-directed musicals … My recording option remains open.

Tonight, I’m off to London to see Jane W, so it’s certainly proving a highly social day. Heck, at least it’s with people I like! For some reason, I’m not even dreading the train journey there and back (which I usually do) – must be my age, ho ho. Perhaps I’ve gone beyond the Years Of Worry. As if …

Oh, and I’m feeling rather guilty as I bitched (in a jokey way, as women do …) to the neighbour’s daughter (a lovely woman I always have a laugh with) about her brother’s attempt at redoing the signs for the flats – partly because I was still feeling cross at his rudeness last week. And partly, to be fair, because I think they are rather strange. Actually she didn’t think they were very good either, so yesterday I came home and he’s painted over them all and – presumably – started again. At least, that’s what I imagine, as all we’re left with is a mystical arrow pointing upwards, with no text. Hmm, though perhaps that’s how he feels about us now. Or it could be that he’s decided to map us out of existence entirely. Ah well.

Today’s nice things:

1. Lunchtime coffee
2. A night out
3. Jokey bitching.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Nightmares, visits and books

Woke up hyperventilating like a hot pig way too early this morning, after a distinctly Dr Who-ish and rather terrifying nightmare. Lord H and I were in the desert which was full of large statues, some of which were in a museum also in the desert. I knew beyond any doubting that the large statue in front of the building was coming alive and intended to kill people. When it finally started walking, nobody would listen to my attempts to warn them - so Lord H and I went inside the museum where smaller statues were coming to life too. We attempted to find out if they were dangerous or not by communicating with them. But when they started to attack us, I tried to beat the thing to death, but it just wouldn't die. Thank the Lord I finally woke up! Haven't a clue what that all means, but hell it's been a difficult week and I do tend to have rather vivid dreams. Still, at least it meant I didn't have to wait for the alarm. There's always a positive side.

Back in the real world, I've spent most of today writing up yesterday’s minutes and sorting out the final versions of all the other minutes that seem to be outstanding at the moment. Plus worrying about the mysteries of the Personal Tutors’ Handbook updates – something which I feel is never going to please everyone, or possibly not anyone. It’s such a mysterious life, you know.

Took the University Writers’ Group at lunchtime – didn’t feel as jittery about it today as I usually do, probably due to the calming pills I took this morning. I never feel confident enough to chair this kind of group, but people do seem to keep coming to it. And we get some marvellous pieces of work, so it’s always an inspirational hour. At least for me.

And Ruth bought a radio for her campervan at last. Apparently she and Douglas have been making do by working their way through the musicals and have now come to the end of their combined repertoire. Thus raising the need for a radio. I suggested that it might be more fulfilling to record their own efforts and simply play them on loop, but Ruth has kept faith with the shop-bought option. Shame!

Tonight, I’m going to pop in to see Gladys for the five or ten minutes she can bear me – though it’s usually only two minutes before she starts shouting, sigh … I’m going to try a new approach this time – I thought I’d take some birdseed from home (which we never use anyway as we don’t have a garden) and fill up the bird-table outside her room. I know she likes looking at the birds when she can, so at least I can be doing something useful rather than just pissing her off. I'll keep the birdseed in the car and fill the table up whenever I visit, as the seed I took for her before seems to have vanished. Anyway, it’s a plan. UPDATE: It worked, sort of. She didn't start shouting at me until four minutes had gone by. I think I confused her by not saying hello initially and just doing the bird-table thing straight off. Sigh. Still, I suppose that's progress, but I have to admit I'm not really liking the hugely crotchety and difficult old lady she's suddenly turned into. Is it something nursing homes put in their tea? Perhaps it's a new Government directive? Hell, it wouldn't surprise me. In the meantime, the vicious, mean and downright nasty part of myself wonders why Gladys didn't die, and Penny live. Again, it's a mystery.

Once back at home, I might even try to add a few sentences to Hallsfoot’s Battle as I haven’t done any for so long – or that’s how it seems – and I’ve forgotten entirely what’s supposed to be happening or who anyone is. Still, that’s never stopped me before. Besides, there’s nothing on TV. Again.

I've just finished Dai Vaughan's Germs - a collection of 77 short stories which is well worth a read. They're all very short so if you don't like one, another will be along pretty damn soon. Hurrah! Some of them were utterly superb and some left me utterly confused, but there's something very human about them. And Story 53 - entitled "Manna" - was the second totally perfect short story I've ever read in my life. Bliss. The other, to my mind, is "Blackthorn Winter" which appears in Esme Ashford's On the Edge, a collection published by Goldenford. High-Five to us then!

Today’s nice things:

1. Having a day when nobody appears to have died, thank the Lord
2. Writers’ Group
3. Books.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sad news

Got into work today and one of the first phone calls to Ruth was to tell us that Penny, my sick Guildford friend, had died on Saturday at 1pm. Not sure what to say really, but it seems so unfair that she only had one happy year of retirement before she got ill. I’m sorry too that I didn’t make the effort to visit her last week due to my own minor set-backs, which seem very petty now. Just goes to show it’s important to do stuff while you can. Sometimes there aren’t any second chances.

Anyway, most of all I’ll remember Penny’s wicked and downright gloriously dirty sense of humour, her glamour and her can-do, no-nonsense attitude. If I ever have even a quarter of any of that, I’d be proud.

So. Now we wait to see what the funeral arrangements will be. And, in the meantime, there’s the lunchtime Steering Group, which will include the DVD on the Chaplaincy’s Auschwitz trip (God, what a day …), and the shopping to do. Indeed, as they say, life goes on. But I’m glad of the distractions of it.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Flowered out and the great Web Queen

Had a fantastic birthday yesterday - Lord H and I spent the day in Wisley where the rain mostly held off. Highlights of the day included (a) the amazing Chinese dragons made out of begonias, (b) the glorious rose garden, (c) the wild garden, (d) seeing two frogs, (e) the very good lunch at the Terrace Restaurant, and (f) seeing loads of birds, including a mistle thrush (a first for us). I must admit to being totally flowered out by the time we left. Also had lots of Clarins, books and money as presents, so that's all certainly put a smile on my face. And Dr Who was a shit-hot episode, so what more can you want?

Today, I was too lazy to go to the Quaker service (which I had planned to do), so I obviously have no spiritual staying power to talk of. So no surprises there either. Instead, Lord H and I have spent most of the day attempting to get the Mac to update the Goldenford and my own websites. Lordy, but that's been bloody tough. And there was I thinking it would take a couple of minutes. More fool me then. Still at 6pm, I think we've beaten it into submission, but I have to admit it is a bit of a palaver and involves going into a Windows parallel environment and twiddling one's thumbs while Mac sorts it out. Sigh. So I've discovered one aspect which the PC does do better then! Ah well - I shall just have to save up website changes and do them when I'm feeling strong ...

Tonight, I might watch "Kinky Boots" if I feel up to it - but having also just finished watching "Intermission" with Colin Farrell, I'm still in shell-shock. I do love La Farrell, but the film was grim. Way too grim for me. I was actually rather glad that I didn't manage to get the end of it on the video, due to the football. Perhaps KB will be funnier? I do hope so.

And one of my birthday presents from Lord H was a magnetic haiku set - which I absolutely love! I have made my first haiku with it too:

Concrete blossom whispers
listen to the snow.
Fragile winter morning.

Today's nice things:

1. Getting the ruddy website updates done finally!!
2. Playing with haikus
3. Colin Farrell - though shame about the film ...

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Friday, June 20, 2008

Climbing up the well ...

I can't believe it, but I'm actually feeling more like a normal human being today, bloody hell and put out the ruddy bunting. I feel today that there might actually be a glimmer of hope out there somewhere, but not of course in the publishing trade. That remains, as ever, a veritable pit of darkness and despair. Ah 'tis a place of strange mystery, Carruthers, from which nobody returns alive, or at least in human form ...

First thing this morning, I was bizarrely cheered whilst waving goodbye to Lord H to see a young man in a blue shirt walking an extremely large and very coiffured (is that a word?) poodle past the end of the garden path. It was really almost the size of a sheep. Perhaps it was a sheep, I don't really know. Strange things do happen in Godalming. But a poodle-walker is definitely a first here in the shires. For the rest of the morning, I have been having a wonderful massage courtesy of the lovely and really rather pregnant (should she be doing massage in her condition??) Laura. When she got to my notoriously stiff-as-boards shoulders, she was putting so much effort into beating the tension into submission that I feared she might give birth there and then. But luckily not. That would have been a terrifying start to my birthday weekend.

On the journey back, I was also cheered to see I was following a green van belonging to the Godalming piano company almost all the way home. I suddenly came over all 1950s - it felt like something out of "Dad's Army". I half expected the van to stop and Corporal Jones to appear. Oh God, I'm getting whimsical - I will have to be beaten into sense with twigs again. Sigh.

Later, I was planning to play golf with Marian, but she wasn't able to go after all due to the rigours of her week. Which, to be honest, suited me as my week hasn't been that good either (as you know, you poor people ...) and I was pleased for the extra quiet not-having-to-socialise time. But I'll pick up the golf again in a couple of weeks, weather permitting.

However, some sad news on my sick Guildford friend, which puts my self-obsessed and dark ramblings very much into perspective - unfortunately, she's still in hospital and not up to being visited much at the moment, or even being talked to. I really wish I'd gone to see her this week, as I'd planned, after all - I put it off entirely because of me and I hope I don't live to regret that decision. I hope Ruth from work and I will be able to visit next week. And I hope we can go together. Bloody hell, but sometimes other people's lives and the things that happen to them are just so bloody unfair that it makes me want to take God by the scruff of the neck and give him a bloody good shake. No doubt he feels the same way about me however. I just hope next week brings good news. Sick Friend deserves it.

For the rest of the day, I've been typing up the utterly huge amounts of Goldenford minutes I took last night. Girls, girls! You have so much to say and you say it soooo quickly! Highlights of the plans to come include a brief book signing at Waterstone's in Guildford on Thursday 10 July at 10.30am. Bearing in mind that they only actually have one copy of Pink Champagne and Apple Juice and they are refusing to buy in copies of either Thorn in the Flesh or Tainted Tree, I can see it's going to be a very short visit. Luckily they have copies of other Goldenford books, so we can at least try to hang around and beg people to buy them for a while before they chuck us out. My new theory is that actually bookshops secretly hate both books and authors, and are way too posh to be seen to be hobnobbing with the likes of us inky-fingered and suspect writers. It's like putting Cruella de Ville in charge of the nursery - she wouldn't really want to catch sight of the children.

Tonight, I'll be doing the cleaning so I don't have to do it tomorrow, as 21 June is an Official Writers' Day Off to celebrate my 44th birthday. Anyone who dares to write anything tomorrow will have to pay the forfeit of actually buying one of my hard-to-get books. Hey, think of it as a challenge ...

So, have a good weekend and, if you're not having one for any reason, you have my heartfelt sympathy. I know how that feels.

Today's nice things (especially for Jen):

1. The poodle
2. Feeling better, ye gods!
3. Massages
4. Piano vans
5. Getting the Goldenford minutes under control - of sorts
6. My 44th birthday tomorrow
7. Being able to laugh at Waterstone's.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Getting through the day ...

Hmm, it’s a bit like that today. I am lying low, battening down the hatches and attempting not to react in too emotional a fashion to any outside stimulus. Good job I’m at work then, I suppose! In an attempt to counteract the ongoing gentle slide, I’ve doubled my HRT dose and will have to see if that works. I certainly felt a little better last night as I was going to bed, but didn’t really stay awake long enough to see if the feeling continued. Ah well.

This morning, all is strangely blank once more. Plus I’m feeling hugely vulnerable, so much so that today’s inner statement is probably more along the lines of: Yes, you’re probably right – I am rubbish. Sorry, girls. Lord H thinks I was roughly the same last month, so it’s obviously hormonal. Still, knowing the source doesn’t make it any more pleasant, I must say.

I was already feeling rather vulnerable anyway, from my unfortunate attempt to chat to the neighbour’s son in a friendly fashion last night. Well, I won’t be bothering with that again, I thought he was really rather rude. But I was feeling way too weak to fight back, so I just walked off. The idjit probably didn’t notice though – too obtuse. Or maybe he just has the conversational skills of a toad.

And this morning, I’ve chatted to the lovely girls in Catering about sorting out this lunchtime’s meeting – which isn’t one of mine, but I was trying to be supportive anyway. At the end, one of the girls who’d actually bought Thorn in the Flesh some time ago jokingly said she’d managed to sell it on eBay and had got tuppence for it. At least I think she was joking but really, who’s to say. Naturally, I laughed and said something light-hearted as I like her but, to be honest, this sort of thing is hugely more of a knock-back than people imagine. Especially from those who are supposed to be on your side. I’m beginning to think that indeed the minuses vastly outweigh the plusses in this business. As a result, I’m rapidly losing any kind of confidence I once had, and now even if people say how much they enjoy my books, I don’t actually comprehend it. And, looking at it logically, can you blame me? After all, when push comes to shove:

(a) I don’t sell more than 100 books or so of anything, and a significant proportion of these are really no more than gifts to people who don’t want to buy them.

(b) My agent never contacts me, even with bad news – whereas an online friend whose latest novel was sent out at roughly the same time as mine is already meeting the first of two publishers next week. I doubt I’ll hear anything now about The Gifting – in the same way I heard nothing about the Thorn submissions until after a year when I simply had to assume the agent had been unsuccessful. It’s that terrible silence which defeats me.

(c) Until recently, I’ve tried to drum up interest in my work on the Writewords site but I've been less and less successful there – evidently I’m not important enough in what is now a very competitive commercially-focused writing environment. I suspect that I may not last there until my August renewal, to be honest. Hell, even when I add a comment to a thread, nobody now responds. So I’ve given up trying. (That said, a huge thank you to the handful of lovely people who do buy my books from there – I really appreciate that support, but I think you’re a rare breed now!)

And these are only the latest complaints. Sigh! So, why bother? Honestly, I don’t know. I’m increasingly reminded of a former church acquaintance who once told me that he used to love playing golf but had given it up as it had become more of a hindrance than a joy. Food for thought indeed. I do certainly feel that the book business has well and truly defeated me. However, I know I’m cursed by bloody-mindedness: I’ve started Hallsfoot’s Battle so I’m determined to finish one day. But maybe as there’s no-one out there keen to take it, I should just write it when I feel like it. Can’t see that one coming along quickly then!

Hey ho. And I’m still at work, worrying about a meeting at lunchtime when I have to say something intelligent about the Personal Tutors’ handbook, when really I’d much rather not. I’m just not interested. And tonight it’s the Goldenford meeting. When at the moment the feeling is much the same. So it’s a question of getting through the day and doing a heck of a lot of pretending along the way. Double sigh. Best break out that Emergency Chocolate again …

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Cakes, diamonds and rain

Feeling terribly blank and somewhat useless today, I must admit, so am taking my double-dose of Vitamin B pills, plus my De-Stress ones and the Evening Primrose Oil. Ye gods, you’d think that would be enough to stop the slide, but who can tell … Must be the shock of having to come into work after a day away. Talking of which, last night’s opera – Gounod’s Romeo & Juliet – was very good. Incredibly lush and romantic and the soprano had a voice to die for. But the set and costumes were all terribly terribly (how very Surrey I’m getting …) black. In fact, everything was black or dark shades of grey. Apart from the big orange balls and the little orange balloons which occasionally appeared. Really I would have liked more colour – certainly at the beginning where everyone’s happy. They are at a party after all. Still, I’m glad we’ve seen it, though it doesn’t have tunes you hum along to on the way home.

Today we’ve got the last meeting of the Mentoring Group, so Carol and I are getting cakes from Starbucks to celebrate our successes. Must remember to go early before the shelves are wiped clean – as it’s Graduation Week this week. And I’m hoping there won’t be too many items to minute, as there shouldn’t be any actions. After all, as we’ve no more meetings, then we won’t be able to follow them up. But hey it’s the University, and anything can happen … UPDATE: something of a cake overload actually. I’d forgotten I’d already ordered cakes via Catering, dammit. Still, the academic contingent can always be relied on to rise to the occasion where food is concerned. We only had four buns left at the end of it all.

I’ve also been researching hotels for a September weekend away, which is cheering me up mightily. Well, it’ll be our fifteenth wedding anniversary on 11 September (sorry, we can’t help the date) and I think that in itself is deserving of a short break. I’ve found a hotel in Hampshire that does La Stone therapy and reflexology – bliss for me but I don’t know if Lord H will be quite so keen … I’ll just have to hope. I also think that this year might well be the year of the eternity ring. I hummed and hahhed (is that right??) about it when Lord H asked if I wanted one when we were ten years old, as back then it just seemed so “old and married” and Next Stop: The Grave. If you see what I mean. As once you have the eternity ring, what other jewellery is there to look forward to?? Lordy, but I know I’m weird. Now, however, I am desperate for diamonds and emeralds in a nice little band. Which will go so well with my nice little diamonds and emerald engagement ring. Hell, perhaps it’s my age, but then again I’ve always been a sucker for emeralds. Sorry, this is getting way too girly, so I will have a lie-down in a darkened room. Someone pass me the smelling salts. And a jewellery brochure.

Tonight, it’s a night in, which I’m glad about, though there’s nothing on TV, dammit. Honestly, sport ruins the schedules so. I’ll have to stare at Hallsfoot’s Battle and see if I can drag anything up from my virtually non-existent pot of inspiration. Mind you, inspiration has only appeared about twice in my writing life, and each time I changed it. I rely a hell of a lot on just typing – at some stage a story of sorts will usually emerge. Blinking and yawning … Hey ho, or then again maybe I’ll just do some sudokus instead.

And I’m not happy with the weather forecast. Yesterday, everything was looking grand for my birthday day out on Saturday – but now it’s all torrential rain and hurricanes till the finale. Curses. No surprises then that I’ve already made inroads into my Emergency Chocolate Supplies. Please send more!... However, it's not all bad: I've finally dragged my way through (kicking and screaming) to the end of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' novel, Of Love and Other Demons. Serious yawn. Who the hell made him a classic writer?? That's several days of my life I won't get back. Still, at least I've actually finished a Marquez novel once in my life. But never again - please!!

Oh, today’s Inner Bitch Calendar tells me that it’s “I’m Good Enough” Day – because your Inner Bitch knows how many days you’ve spent thinking you weren’t … Hell there’s so much ruddy truth in that. Repeat after me (if you’re a girl): I’m good enough; I’m good enough; I’m good enough. There. I suspect I might need a daily dose however.

Today’s nice things:

1. Cakes
2. A night in
3. Looking at hotels – and jewellery!
4. The Inner Bitch calendar advice.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Brunch, battles and song

A day in lieu from work today - hurrah! Though it does mean I have to face the mountain of having to go in on a Thursday, cue future groaning. Ah well, there's two whole days to go before then, so let's not cross that bridge, etc etc ... Anyway, I've had a lovely morning, meeting Jane H (hello, Jane!) in Guildford for brunch at the Slug & Lettuce. There was a scary moment however when I was crossing the road to get to the cafe, and a mad woman in full wedding party get-up starting shouting and swearing at me. Perhaps she's read one of my books? A distinct possibility, I feel ... I think my great sin was in crossing the road when she apparently hadn't been able to, even though there was zilch traffic so her way was clear. Guildford is obviously full of mad women in party frocks and hats today - so I huddled next to the S&L until Jane rescued me. Thank you, Jane! Also, thank you to Jane x3 for (a) buying brunch, (b) a great catch-up and (c) giving me my first birthday present, which I opened early. Shame on me indeed. But a wonderful card (too rude to note here, naturally ...) and the Emergency Chocolate rations will come in very handy. Possibly on Thursday!

Meanwhile, back on the ranch, I've been struggling away with Hallsfoot's Battle and have now reached just over 9000 words. Ye gods already. I've stopped it for now though as I'm in the middle of another Snow-Raven section, and Birdspeak takes time. Sigh. I think a short nap - otherwise known as a "snap" - is called for.

Because tonight, we're off to the opera in Woking to see Romeo & Juliet, which according to our Opera Guide is about 3.5 hours long. So I doubt we'll hit the pillow before midnight. But, ah doomed love - always a moneyspinner. It's what I always say: opera is just like TV soap. But with song.

Today's nice things:

1. Brunch with Jane
2. Writing
3. Opera.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Monday, June 16, 2008

Marketing Queen and a Thorn review

Came in in Lord H’s car today as he’s kindly taking mine in for a service, so had to pop into Security to get a car pass and attempt to negotiate my way into a space. I’m only used to driving Fiestas, you see – the Laguna is like driving a tank. A tank that’s rather more in control than I am. Anyway, I don’t think I’ve killed anyone yet –though as it’s so big I can’t really tell what I’m driving over …

Anyway, at work I’ve been plunged straight into the thick of various marketing mini-projects today, and sorting out papers for meetings this week – well, at least it meant I didn’t have to stress the fact of Monday morning too much, hurrah! It was nearly lunchtime by the time a natural pause occurred.

I’m also fighting off a horribly large fly (I hate flies and wasps and bees etc with a passion) which insists on using my head as a landing pad. Now if only the Dean were here, he’d sort it out for me – he’s a whizz on insect maintenance in the office – but sadly he’s away, so I have to keep shrieking, flapping the air with an old brochure and failing entirely to kill the damn thing, Curses. Not only that, but Starbucks has no sandwiches and I haven’t bought in my own lunch today. For once. Double dammit. The petrol crisis is beginning to make its mark, you know. I may have to resort to a blueberry muffin and looking sadly at Carol’s Ryvitas instead. Sigh.

Ooh, but the lovely and talented Mick Dementiuk has given me a boost with a review of Thorn in the Flesh which I include here:

“I have just finished Thorn in the Flesh by Anne Brooke; unfortunately it’s not available in the USA but well worth the effort to get it from a publisher who doesn’t deal with Amazon. A nicely well-done story; had me on the edge of my seat and I really hated the villain after I found out who he was. But what kind of re-telling of the Oedipus/Electra complex story is this? A great one, if you ask me. That question has been in our minds since the earliest of times and Anne Brooke has simply retold the tale nicely leading us deeper and deeper in the story until we can do nothing but answer in rage at what was being done to the heroine and the characters around her.”

Thanks, Mick – much appreciated. It's nice to get positive feedback for sure.

I wandered round the campus at lunchtime – always lovely to sit by the lake and listen to the chaffinches. And to look for sandwich crumbs of course. Not to mention psyching myself up for the journey home. I’ll pop into see Gladys on my way back and see if she likes me any better this week. I’m not holding my breath – she could only bear about five minutes of me last time. Still, who can blame her?

Meanwhile here’s a poem:

Thursley Common

These flat lands, stretching
to the distant line of poplars,
hold me up to the sky.

I am embroidered in light
by dragonflies, dancing
diamond-winged over water.

Like them, I follow your lead,
watch the hobby split the air
and expand the heart.

And tonight, there’s a programme on Charles Dickens’ private life. Culture and naughtiness – hell, what more do you need?

Today’s nice things:

1. The Thorn review
2. Lunchtime walk
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Birds, Hallsfoot and the return of the flush

First off - good news! Lord H has mended the toilet (what a super-hero!) so we have a flush. Hurrah! It's amazing what a difference it makes not to have to do stuff with buckets. As it were.

Flushed by success (sorry, couldn't resist it) we've been out this morning to Thursley Common and Wisley Common to look at birds. We managed to spot various tit families with growing young, a jay, a stonechat and (oh joy! New bird alert!) a hobby putting on a grand performance of aerial dynamics in the sky. Fabulous. And we heard a cuckoo too, but sadly never caught sight of it. I do love Thursley Common - in the sunshine there's something so incredibly peaceful and grounding about it - something in the way it stretches for miles and gives you a sense of space and freedom. Plus the dragonflies and damselflies are stunning.

For the rest of the day, I've been working on Hallsfoot's Battle and now have some interesting ideas for Ralph and also Gelahn, which should up the tension several notches. And I'm now at just over 8000 words and enjoying the view. Though I have to admit something odd happened to the Mac and I had to shut it down, thus losing about 15 minutes work - even though I save like an obsessive about every five minutes, dammit. Still, I've managed to rewrite the missing sections, so I think it's okay. That thud of horror when the screen goes black is not something I'd wish on anyone though. Heck, not today anyway.

And I even remembered to wish Jim a happy Fathers Day when I did my usual Sunday call to Mother. He liked his vouchers, thank the Lord. I wonder if Waterstones (pause for a nearly Amazon-sized sigh here) will ever let me have the gift I ordered for him two months ago? I'm hoping for Christmas this year now - Waterstones: are you listening??? Please give me my stuff! I really have no idea what is wrong with online booksellers these days - perhaps they've given up responding to any purchase requests. And it's not as if I'm even asking for anything obviously impossible to source, like poor old Thorn in the Flesh. Which remains totally beyond everyone's grasp but ours. Double sigh.

Tonight, there's still sod-all on TV, so it's out with the Cribb DVDs and an evening of Victorian quirkiness and charm beckons. Bliss.

Today's nice things:

1. Birds and Thursley Common
2. Hallsfoot's Battle.
3. Cribb.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Saturday, June 14, 2008

All Faired Out

Have spent the day attempting to sell Goldenford books at the Pirbright Open Day with the stalwart Jackie and the equally stalwart Irene. The rain held off, thank the Lord, but sadly we only sold three books. Sigh. So that's two Tainted Trees and one Thorn in the Flesh. And that latter was to someone I knew from an old poetry group - thank you, Valerie! How marvellous it must be to sell to strangers though. Ah well. So a bit of a waste of a day, but it was lovely to catch up with two of the Golden Girls, so all was not entirely lost.

Anyway, you'll be pleased to hear that Irene and Jennifer did slightly better than that in the recent Freiburg Festival - the audience loved them (as they should!) and they sold honourable amounts of their books. Hurrah! And apparently, Goldenford has been asked to go back to the same event next year, so that's good news. Thank you, Freiburg.

I have to admit to feeling rather blank at the moment - it's the aftermath of sitting in the sun and attempting to smile at people without frightening them off. Interesting also the numbers of young boys who seemed to have a great interest in A Dangerous Man. Or perhaps it was the same boy running around our lonely stall very quickly?? Anyway, I rather suspected his parents wouldn't be too impressed if I actually sold him a copy - best to come back in ten years' time, I feel. I really don't want to be up in court for dubious activities - at least not so early in the year.

Tonight, I am attempting to regain any sense of energy I once had by watching Dr Who. I did have the chance of going out, but I don't think I can cope with any more people. Not for a while certainly!

Today's nice things:

1. Actually selling a copy of Thorn
2. Freiburg successes
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Friday, June 13, 2008

Massage, a late lunch and where's my Mac??

A brief visitation from the Mac today before it decided to deny all knowledge of ever having an Internet or a mailbox connection. Sigh. So I'm back on the old PC typing this. Ah, it's like I've never been away, you know. However it's another one to add to Lord H's list of mending things. Poor chap.

Anyway, apart from the Mac deciding it doesn't like me any more, I've actually had quite a nice day. Shock! Had a Clarins facial & massage in Guildford with the lovely Charlotte today - it's her last day (sob ...) as on Monday she flies off to a new life in Gran Canaria. Lucky for some for sure! I took in champagne to toast her on her flight - good luck, Charlotte, we'll miss you. Though, honestly, some people will do anything to get away from me.

After that, it was a very late lunch and girly chat with Sue - another Guildford friend, which was fun but I think we may well have doubled the noise volumes in the cafe. At least. Not much of a surprise there then! And I also managed to catch up on my essential shopping needs - and even tried to go into a clothes shop that wasn't M&S and look like I knew what I was doing. So that didn't last long. I don't think I really understand clothes shops, and M&S is the only one I can cope with without hyperventilating and feeling like I'm in an alien universe. I knew I should have taken my How To Be A Girl pills before I left.

Though, apparently, today is a day when I should actually have been in Godalming rather than Guidford - as Godalming is now the centre of the artistic universe; Chris Evans is moving from these parts and his driver appears to have taken a priceless Damien Hurst painting from his house and deposited it by mistake in one of the Godalming charity shops. Ah, rich pickings are here for the the taking, you know. We are indeed a town of many treasures. I bet all the Matrons of Godalming are even now slugging it out in the High Street for victory. There's an image you don't really want to dwell on. At least not for long.

I've just finished (for the second time - no wonder I thought it was so familiar!) Barbara Vine's The Chimney Sweep's Boy. Very well written but oh the people in it are soooooo irritating. The one good thing is that the wretched Gerald is dead by Page 2 - if I'd been Ursula I would have finished him off way way before he managed to die of a heart attack. And the daughters needed a good slapping too. By the time I got to the (plot give-away alert!) incestuous homosexuality flashback bit at the end, I really didn't care much. Nor find it particularly believable. Anyway, Gerald deserved a bit of suffering - shame it didn't seem to make him any nicer.

Tonight, I'll catch up on the cleaning and stare mournfully at my Mac until Lord H takes pity on me. Hmm, maybe I have been taking those Girlie Pills after all.

Today's nice things:

1. Clarins massage
2. Lunch with Sue
3. Thrilling at Godalming's moment of artistic fame.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Thursday, June 12, 2008

New Mac, a mysterious delivery and on with Hallsfoot

My first blog using the new Mac. I must say I like it and it's a lot quicker with stuff than the old PC. I'm still not sure what to do about printing though, but Lord H assures me that can be sorted. Emails seem to be getting through, though I'm having trouble with sending some replies. I'm hoping that will be solved soon as well! Mind you, the slightly wild whooshing noise the Mac makes when it sends something is utterly terrifying. Still, at least you know it's been sent - somewhere ... I only wish I knew how to make the font larger. But, all in all, I think I'm about to be a Mac convert.

This morning I have been getting my own prescriptions sorted out - it took a couple of car journeys (lucky I filled up on petrol then - in a panic-free fashion) but I'm okay now. Or as okay as I ever am. Sadly, my sick Guildford friend is back in hospital and not up to seeing people today, but we're hoping she might be up to being visited next week. And if she's really unlucky, one of those visitors will be me!

I've also been zapping along with Hallsfoot's Battle - goodness me, it's amazing how much easier - and more exciting - writing becomes when you give up worrying about being published. Astonishingly, I'm now at over 6000 words and I even have ideas. Hell, if I'd known giving up on (ho ho) the idea of potential fame and fortune would have this effect, I would bloody well have kicked my ego into touch sooner. Give me anonymity and a life of literary obscurity and watch those fingers fly.

Maybe I should even write a book on "How Not To Be A Successful Writer ... Stylishly" - I have the experience after all. No, no! Stop! Even I see that it would be just too surreal if some commercial bugger actually published it. Then, gods preserve us, where would my reputation for failure be?... Ah, that way madness lies indeed. I'll stick to the day job.

Meanwhile the mysteries of our temporary holiday post-boy continue - when our usual man is away, which he obviously is this week, post is delivered in a variety of ways and at a plethora of times. On Monday, the new boy delivered the post for the whole house to the downstairs neighbour, who then had to trudge up and down the stairs giving it to the correct owners. Today, I pop down to the hall just after lunch and find a Waterstone's package for Lord H wedged in the partially-open window frame. Are letter-boxes just too dull these days? I fear that tomorrow the street will have to be on the alert in case Postie decides simply to lob the letters at us as he cycles by.

Tonight, I'm planning an evening doing sod-all apart from watching the last (no, no, don't leave us - I'll never find out what happens to the blue tits now!) "Springwatch" and catching up with "My Name is Earl". It's a tough life, but hell somebody's got to live it.

Today's nice things:

1. Writing
2. Marvelling at postal deliveries
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Of petrol, water-tanks and toilet etiquette

Bearing in mind the Government’s edict not to panic-buy petrol last night, both Lord H and I nipped into the petrol station to fill up our tanks in a calm and measured manner. Well, we do like to obey instructions when given. And at least it means we’ll be able to travel over the weekend – though I’m not sure anybody will actually notice the strike, to be honest. But you can never be too careful, ho ho …

And the noble Lord H has fixed the water-tank problem, hurrah! What a super-hero that man is. So we won’t be annoying our neighbour by dripping on his plants any more. Next mission: the return of the flush on our toilet. Aha, I feel a story title coming on: The Mystery of the Missing Flush. A challenge for Hercule Poirot, perhaps? Mind you, Lord H is being sidetracked slightly by sorting out my stuff on the new Mac and by the thought of buying new binoculars, so watch this space …

Meanwhile, at work, it’s much cooler, thank the Lord. And I’m chuntering on with non-urgent stuff with the satisfaction of knowing I’m fairly up-to-date with it all at the moment. Famous last words, eh. And there’s joy on the diary front – my academic diary has at last turned up, so next year will happen after all. That’s a relief then. I was beginning to think the world might end in July. Also bizarrely the Dean visited the facilities (as it were) in one of the Faculties opposite and opened the door to find a naked man changing out of his cycling gear. At least, that’s his story and he’s sticking to it … My, life on campus is a constant round of excitement. We suggested he complain about standards of behaviour to the Dean, but as he is the Dean that will be tricky. In the meantime, we have all decided to cough loudly before entering any toilet area. Are people too claustrophobic to use the cubicles for changing any more?? It’s not lavatorial etiquette, you know.

After work, I’m girding my loins for the undoubted challenges of popping in to see Gladys tonight. Honestly, she’s so difficult these days that I utterly dread the experience. Though, really, she’s never been exactly easy – it’s just one of those duties I picked up somewhere on my way through life. Funny how that happens to women, but never, I think, to men. Or perhaps I just don’t see it.

I’m also hoping to do some more of that Annyeke/Simon scene from Hallsfoot’s Battle as well as giving time to the penultimate episode of “Springwatch” – on earlier this evening because of the wretched football. Sigh. The blue tits are looking better than expected at the moment, I must say.

Finally, huge good luck to Irene and Jennifer from Goldenford who are off for a few days to sell our books – hopefully! – at the Freiburg Festival in Germany starting today. Our first international tour then …

Today’s nice things:

1. A working water-tank
2. Hallsfoot
3. The Goldenford tour.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A surfeit of babies and the reluctant writer

Much amusement last night when, as usual, I was doing a million other things whilst cooking dinner. Which resulted in my chips being rather on the flambĂ©d side of flambĂ©. Not for the first time, I apologised to Lord H for my appalling catering skills and, again not for the first time, he insisted that everything was wonderful. Just as he was spinning these usual lies, he speared an errant chip with his fork but it was so … um … crispy that it careered off the plate and bounced against his glass with a distinctly loud crack. Ah well. If the Government ever wanted to find Weapons of Mass Destruction, my advice is to look in Godalming first.

Today, I am drowning in babies. Terrifying thought. Firstly, well done to Ang for the birth of her twin boys, and equally well done on forbearing from sending me a picture thus far! To me, they all look like Winston Churchill, you know. But as long as people get what they want in life (including babies) then I’m happy – happiness is such a rare event these days that it should be celebrated at all costs. And secondly, all good wishes to Steph from the Health Centre who is going on maternity leave and is throwing a lunchtime party to mark the occasion. It’s supposed to have a bathtime theme(!) so I’ll be taking a small selection of bath goodies. But I’m certainly not wearing a towel. God forbid.

I’ve also been attempting to sort out financial links on the student care website and in the brochures, both current and upcoming. Dammit, but why does the Government decide to change all their student websites during the summer, when we’ve already got our new literature poised and ready to go?? I suppose they think we in the educational world have nothing to do then. Ah, would that were true … Not only that, but I’m trying to sort a website query out with the Chaplaincy – and, as I’ve said before, dealing with Men of God does give you a very true-to-life concept of what it’s like to deal with God Himself: you send numerous messages, get no reply for many months and, when a reply does come, it’s not answering the question you asked in the first place. So, as ever, I’m no further forward. Sigh.

Tonight, I’m planning to be at the Guildford Writers meeting but I won’t be taking anything along to discuss. I just don’t have the heart for it really. Besides I’ll be too busy worrying about what’s happening to the blue tit family on the Springwatch webcam. They don’t appear to have the most intelligent of parents; this morning one of them tried to force-feed the chicks with a worm the size of Manhattan and, when the babies couldn’t get it in their tiny beaks, the adult ate the worm itself. Mmm. Later, a blue tit parent turned up in the nest with nothing to offer, looked terribly confused as if it didn’t know what it was supposed to be doing there and then left. Time for the social services to be called in, I feel …

Today’s nice things:

1. The chip disaster
2. Babies but only for people who want them
3. Birds.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Monday, June 09, 2008

A day when things just don’t work …

… dammit. Managed to break one of our nice glasses in the kitchen today – why can’t I ever break one of the horrid ones?? I then spent some minutes looking for the dustpan and brush to clear up the glass, but then realised that Lord H had left it in the loft whilst working on the watertank over the weekend. As I don’t do the loft – too spidery – I then had to get Lord H out of the bath and into the loft to retrieve it. My, the excitement we have in the mornings here in the shires. And we came here for the peace and quiet, don’t you know.

Anyway, as I was running a little late, I waved Lord H goodbye and then started drying my hair. When I left the flat five minutes or so later, he was still outside attempting to start the car. It’s obviously a day for things to go wrong. I offered him my car for the day, but he was determined to get his own started via the tender ministrations of the RAC, so I drove on with a merry wave. As you do. I’ll have to find out whether he actually made it to work later on. What a good wife I am. Not. UPDATE: he did make it to work, but only at lunchtime. The RAC man had no idea what was wrong with the car either. Time for a new one, I feel …

For the rest of today, I’ve been typing up minutes at work and attempting to rationalise my huge shopping list. I ended up shopping at lunchtime (it’s easier to get a parking space in the middle of the day now it’s vacation time) and after work. I’m a glutton for punishment really. And I’m also vaguely thinking about possible conversations between Simon and Annyeke in Hallsfoot’s Battle – but only vaguely, so don’t get too excited. Ho ho.

Tonight, I shall be at home, hurrah! And watching “Springwatch” so I can catch up on all the fledglings I missed over the weekend (honestly, every time I turned away from the webcam for a second, another one had gone, dammit. I sulked for hours. Thus proving what a mature and rounded human being I am …). I’ll also be luxuriating (no doubt) in Rupert Everett’s programme on “The Victorian Sex Explorer”. Bliss.

Though, sadly, my hopes of a pleasant evening were rather dampened by the fact that Waterstones have cancelled my long-outstanding order for Thorn in the Flesh on the spurious grounds that it's not available at all online. A simple email to Gardner's would solve that problem, but they're obviously way too much up their own arses to bother with something so logical. Still, at least (unlike Amazon) they've actually put a "Not Available Online" button on their Thorn entry, together with a link to AbeBooks (no, they've never heard of the book either). So. I have resigned myself to having yet another commercial failure on my hands, this time partly helped by the fact that none of the main online retailers are prepared to stock anything by Goldenford.

Also I think it's time to admit that I'm better off simply writing stuff I want to write to the best of my ability and continuing (hopefully) to sell it to the forty or fifty friends (both online and off) who are prepared to buy it. It saves the agony of thinking: maybe this one will make it? Or this one? Because, to be honest, the whole process is beginning to defeat me, and I don't think I'm prepared to fight to be heard (or even read) any more. This decision also seems to echo the fact that I've been withdrawing from the publishing/pitching ring more and more over the weeks, and it seems to be the right way to go. So, no more painful submissions, I think - I'll leave it to the agent to take the rejections and when they come, I'll try the Goldenford route if there's space or, if not, then I can always print up a few of whatever it is myself. As you can see, I'm worn out and I simply don't want to play the game any more: why should I when the rules are so rarely in my favour?

Anyway, all that said, I've enjoyed reading Chris Preddle's poetry collection, "Bonobos". Some quite refreshing works and less pretension than is usually found in today's poetry. Thank the Lord. Preddle is best in the small moments of human interaction, I think, and in the area of family relationships. Well worth reading for that alone.

Today’s nice things:

1. Thinking about novel scenes
2. TV
3. Being at home this evening.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Sunday, June 08, 2008

A small light somewhere ...

Ye gods, but I'm feeling slightly stronger today. Almost like being a real human being, you know, rather than a mass of misery and shifting complexes. No idea how long it will last, and I can only think it's my double dose of Vitamin B pills kicking in finally. I wouldn't say I was dancing a jig, but at least I've stopped whimpering. Thank God.

Talking of which, Lord H and I dragged ourselves to Shackleford Church this morning. The priest was curiously dressed in red and may - as Lord H suggested - have been taking the concept of being clothed in the blood of the lamb rather to extremes. And it was the Family (always a word I hate, especially when used in church!) Service, rather than communion, so it was shorter and we didn't even have to walk anywhere, hurrah. Mind you, the talk was rather interactive, but I kept my head down and tried to look like an unreconstructed sinner who didn't know any answers. Hmm, almost typecasting then. It was okay really and we managed to escape without having to run the gauntlet of too much conversation. The only thing was they've changed their hymn book from Hymns Ancient and Modern (always a reliable source of inspiration and depth) to Hymns Old and New - which is the same but with modern (bah!) words and additional hymns/songs written by idjits who can't write and wouldn't know depth if they were drowning in it. Honestly, Graham Kendrick makes the concept of book-burning much more palatable - now there's a songwriter (so-called) who has never really got the hang of fitting words to music. But thankfully we were spared him today. As Lord H said afterwards, each time they try to update the hymn book and "improve" it, they just end up making it worse. Lord knows why they can't simply leave it be.

Afterwards, we wandered round Winkworth for a while and admired the foxgloves and lupins. I now know the difference between them. We also saw a wren, a nuthatch, chaffinches, and a bluetit and a great tit family - with the young birds doing their wing-quivering thing and how do I get food, Mum? cry. Just like teenagers really.

At home, we sorted the cars out, and I've caught up on emails, created a shopping list and have that Father's Day card primed and ready to post. God but I'm good. And - miracle of miracles - I've also done a small chunk of a key scene in Hallsfoot's Battle. Ye gods and little fishes. So after creaking along for three whole bloody weeks at c3000 words, I've finally made it to c4,000 words. Sound the trumpets and somebody put out the bunting. Lord knows I need it.

Tonight, there's sod all on TV, so we'll be watching our video of that delightfully bizarre and curiously dated (in terms of when it was made) Victorian detective series, "Cribb". There's just something about the main character that's utterly gripping, even though nothing happens and they keep having high-speed chases on bicycles or, in one case, by boat. Happier times indeed.

Today's nice things:

1. Church - and grumbling about it
2. Winkworth
3. Writing some of the ruddy book.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Saturday, June 07, 2008

In which I become middle-aged ...

Seemed to take forever to get up today. I wasn't actually ready to face any kind of world before 11am. By which time, Lord H thought it was probably too late to do a day's birdwatching (which was vaguely planned), so we went shopping in Guildford instead. Nice day for it, but an extraordinary lack of people. Perhaps they all decided they were too late for a decent day's shopping and are watching birds instead. It's a mystery.

Anyway, I revealed my true middle-aged credentials by buying a set of curtains from Debenhams for the living-room and a pair of slippers from M&S. Yes, I know I should probably be buying shorts and halter tops or whatever this year's summer fashion is (who on earth knows?), but frankly I can't be arsed. And the curtains are lovely - dark rich red with a darker bottom stripe and a toning top, and the slippers are purple with a gold pattern. I'm obviously in the middle of some kind of Surrey-style harem fetish. Hell, no wonder there's nobody in Guildford.

Back home, the effort of being out was just too much and I've spent most of the afternoon asleep or watching the Springwatch webcams. Every time I come back to them, there's one fewer greenfinch. And the remaining ones are teetering on the brink. Then again, aren't we all.

And, as you can see, sod all writing has been done. At the moment, it feels like I'm facing a mountain I'm not fully equipped to climb. Plus some bugger has stolen my oxygen tent. So the hope of reaching first camp any time soon is rapidly fading and, really, I'm simply lying on the lower slopes whimpering. Much like the greenfinch, I suppose.

Oh, and I'm avoiding bookshops, tales of writing success and the book review pages of the weekend paper - they all just depress me. In the meantime, Lord H is making inroads into the loft to try to sort out our water problems, and being super-quiet. Oh, and I've cleaned the car. About bloody time.

Tonight, it's "Dr Who", thank the Lord, and I think I might watch the programme about the Queen's wedding. Well, it's always good to heark back to times when things were more clear-cut now and again.

Today's nice things:

1. Curtains
2. Slippers
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Friday, June 06, 2008

Bumbling along and battening down

A nice lie-in today and a slow start to the morning. God though, but I needed it. Didn't do much else really before lunch which wasn't till 2-ish anyway. Because I couldn't be arsed to get any. I'm obviously missing my five-course repast delivered straight to my mouth a la our Portuguese river boat. Ah well. I've also done a few lines of Hallsfoot's Battle, but not with any degree of enthusiasm or commitment. I gave up after about 200 words. I'm coming up to a big scene and I don't have the energy to start it, or even the belief that I might actually be able to, to be honest.

I've also withdrawn from my Group commitments on the Writewords site - something of a relief in terms of timescale, I must say - though of course a large percentage of the work I've read on there is top-class. Which - sadly - these days means it's unlikely to find a publisher, but hey we knew that already. I'm still unsure whether I'll renew my Writewords subscription come August - the jury is most distinctly out on that possibility! And having made such a fuss, particularly recently, about the importance of calling myself a writer if asked what I do, I now find that the advantages of not bothering to press the point are becoming clearer. Why make the effort when it's not actually a battle I'm likely to win? Perhaps the phrase well I used to be a writer, but now I'm not so sure is nearer the heart of it, goddammit.

I've also meandered round Godalming getting odds and sods needed for the house, whilst trying to talk to as few people as possible. At least I've sorted out a Father's Day present which I shall have to remember to send off next week. And, yes, I've taken my De-Stress Pills to try to avoid the heavy curtain of depression which has descended over my head this afternoon, but hey they're not working yet. Then again, it's been a bloody week and I suppose I should have expected my alleged coping strategies would turn and rend me limb from limb at some stage. I was just hoping for later rather than sooner. Sigh.

Mind you, it's not all doom & gloom. I've booked my birthday lunch in a couple of weeks' time at Wisley, so will be hoping for a glorious day and some stunning roses.

Tonight, I have to attempt to make the flat look presentable, and I will also continue to wonder, in a slightly exisential kind of way, what to do about the broken toilet and water tank. As you do.

Today's nice things:

1. A lie-in
2. Getting the shopping done
3. Sorting out my birthday lunch.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Propping my eyes open …

Very little sleep last night – we were back very late from Pulborough Brooks and didn’t actually hit the pillows till gone midnight (it’s an hour’s drive from home). However, we did manage to see a whitethroat, a chiffchaff and a woodcock, as well as the spoonbill still on the Brooks, plus an assortment of finches and the usual suspects. And we heard nightingales and – result! – nightjars and saw a woodcock. Fabulous. So it’s worth the pain today then, and makes the nightmare of yesterday a tad more manageable. Just a tad though.

Really, I’m simply hoping to get through today without having a crisis or bursting into tears, because I am sooooooo tired and rather down, and just want to go to bed and sleep for a week. And try to do some ruddy writing, goddammit.

So this morning, I’m struggling through writing up Tuesday’s set of very confusing minutes – with a sad lack of emotional interest, I must say – plus sorting out the final draft of another set of the darn things. With the joys of yet another meeting to minute waiting for me this afternoon – which explains why I’m in on a Thursday. Sigh. Is there no end to the excitement? A girl just can’t take the thrill of it all, you know. Mind you, I am cheating slightly and as the same discussion which we had on Tuesday is due to be presented again today – to different people – I’ve copied the minutes I took earlier and am hoping I can just use them instead of writing it out all over again. Lordy, but I’m a cunning toad sometimes.

Still, I did manage a rather pleasant walk round campus at lunchtime – I’ve discovered that if I move slowly, keep eating little and often, and don’t raise my voice at all then my head doesn’t throb quite as much. My, but Lord H is in for a civilised night tonight.

Although, that said, the middle neighbour has called a conference this evening about our downstairs neighbour who isn’t very well at the moment (is anybody??) – but I’m sending Lord H as my supply of Good Works Production is running extremely low at the moment. Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I have to be the nice one on the block, after all. I’ll pitch in, of course, but let the menfolk sort out the mechanics of care for once. Heck, it’ll do them good. UPDATE: things are better than we'd hoped apparently, hurrah! But the universe giveth and the universe taketh away: my golfing partner, Marian, is now not very well, so no golf tomorrow and I'll await an update on whether she's visitable or not. Mind you, as I am obviously the Kiss of Death to friends' health, perhaps she's better off without me! I am battening down the hatches to society and keeping a close eye for signs of fever on Lord H ...

I’ll also be watching “Springwatch” to see if anything has fledged yet. And I’m desperately hoping to be able to do a sentence or two of the novel, just to see if I can still type. Or maybe I’ll just nap – I’m beginning to think that may be the more sensible option ...

Today’s nice things:

1. TV
2. Being at home this evening.
3. Not having to Do Good Works - at least for one day.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Pharmacy Fairy and Excuses For Not Writing

Ye gods, what a day. Managed to have a bit of a lie-in and got up at 7.30am, hurrah. So an extra hour-and-a-quarter's kip, which I have seriously needed today. It was just a shame that the nasty plumber who's chasing Lord H for a Church Hall cheque which Lord H gave him two weeks ago rang at 8.45am and was generally rude. I swore at him, told him he should check his post more often and put the phone down. I then deleted the five equally rude messages the tosser has left during the week. In one's forties, one finds one has no qualms about being rude to idjits. Aha!

The rest of the day has involved a heck of a lot of travel, some visiting of the sick and a much-appreciated moment of genuine laughter with the Tesco car cleaning man. Anyway, to start at the beginning, I popped round to visit my sick Guildford friend at about 11am this morning. On the way there, I picked up (as requested by her) a prescription at Sainsbury's, and also took her some of my endless supply of Lucozade as she's not been eating much since last week. So far so good. Once there, I rang the bell. No answer. I then peered through the window but couldn't see anything. I then shouted through the letter-box, but reply came there none. At this point, I was panicking and imagining all sorts of scenarios involving Said Friend lying in desperate need in her house and me having to break down the door by willpower alone. So I rang her from the doorstep. This involved peering through my address book for her phone number as it wasn't on my mobile (it is now!). She answered - thank God! Apparently, she hadn't heard either the bell or the shouting as she'd been lying down on the sofa on her good ear. As you do.

So far so good. She then asked if I'd mind picking up three prescriptions which (for some reason) were at Tesco's rather than the nearby Sainsbury's. No problem. I pootled out to the car and drove to Tesco's. They'd never heard of the prescriptions. I rang my friend, who gave me her nurse's number. I rang the nurse. She was in a meeting. The receptionist said she'd get her out of the meeting and Said Nurse would ring me back. She did. What a nice woman. Apparently there'd been a communications muddle and I was actually supposed to pick up the prescriptions from the Surgery (near Sainsbury's) and then get them made out (at Tesco). She also gave me the number of the Surgery. I rang the Surgery to work out where they were (dyspraxia - it's not great for knowing things in your home town, you know!). I drove back to the surgery. The directions were fine - I only needed to go round the roundabouts twice before I worked it out. I rang my friend so she wouldn't worry about where I was. I picked up the prescriptions. I drove back to Tesco (eventually - after ending up at Sainsbury's first. Well the day is bloody confusing ...). The car cleaning man at Tesco asked if I'd like my car cleaned - I told him the dirt was in fact the only thing holding me together. His genuine and refreshing laugh made my day - thank you, sir. In the Tesco Pharmacy, they could only make out two of the prescriptions as the third one wasn't completed properly by the doctor. I rang the Surgery. They apologised. Said it would be ready at 3pm when the Doctor was back. The Pharmacy said they'd hold it for me. I picked up some strawberry yoghurts for my friend on the way out of the shop, as they're the only thing she can eat. Plus I added in a copy of the Radio Times and a Father's Day card for myself. Oh, and a sandwich too.

Back at my friend's (are you keeping up at the back? I do hope so ...), she fancied a yoghurt, so I opened them. Two of them regurgitated themselves over her kitchen floor. I wiped up the mess. Wiped down the remaining yoghurt pots. We had yoghurts. One of them contained, unbeknown to me, vanilla - which Said Friend hates. I threw away three of the twelve yoghurt pots containing vanilla. We chatted. We had Lucozade and tea. I tidied up, under instructions so at least stuff in the living room is in the right place now, and the pills are in the right order. What we so far had of them. I did some recycling and we chatted about the general adorability of Casey Affleck (hot stuff and Ben's brother, if you didn't know that).

At 2.50pm, I headed back to the doctor. I parked in their car-park where I ripped up my sandwich with my teeth and stuffed it into my mouth with the ferocity of a lion finding a kill after many months of starvation. The woman in the next car gave me a very stiff stare. I ignored her. I retrieved the new prescription from the Surgery receptionist. Thought about where I was going with it. Drove to Tesco. At the Pharmacy, they asked if I had photo ID as the prescription was for a controlled drug. I stared at them, using the stare of the woman in the Doctor's car-park. I gave them my non-photo ID. I continued to stare. They gave in and let me have the drug. On the way out, I bought 4 soft pink loo-rolls to restock my friend's dwindling supply. The man in the queue got snippety with me as he thought I'd pushed ahead of him. He should really have taken a bath before he left his house today. Sigh. I muttered under my breath at him. Hell, I feel I was entitled. He's probably lucky to be alive.

Back at Said Friend's, I delivered the goodies, conveyed love and stuff, and drove home. Where I arrived at 4pm, hurrah! Am currently feeling hugely shaky and rather more than tearful at the long and exhausting day off I've had, and at the long and exhausting day my poor friend has had too. What a palaver.

All of which is surely a vast and more than reasonable excuse for not doing any writing today. Though I was rather amused to see that the latest copy of Roundyhouse poetry magazine has arrived, with a copy of my comic poem, "Excuses For Not Writing", in it. Ye gods, I could have made it double the length if I'd known today would happen.

And I've just finished Robert Goddard's Sight Unseen. Load of old bollocks. Frankly. Well, it starts off well enough with an apparently good plot and a strong main character, but soon deteriorates into bad farce, frantic coincidences, total unbelievability and a sense of breathless desperation. Which is a shame, as Goddard is normally top-class. Is he on drugs? Or should he be? In which case, he only has to call me, as I know all the pharmacies in the area by now ... Really though, my advice is if you want to start with a Goddard, don't start here.

Oh, and the plumber has finally admitted - without apologies - that he's got the cheque. Reader, I deleted the bugger.

And tonight, I need to find some energy from somewhere, as Lord H and I are off to a "Birds at Twilight" event at Pulborough Brooks. Best get the dinner on pretty damn sharpish then.

Today's nice things:

1. The car-cleaning man
2. A published poem
3. Birds.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Loos, holidays and the prodigal keys

What a lot of rain today. I suspect we may have had our summer, or perhaps there’ll be a late one? You never know your luck. Anyway, our loo remains in the state of unrest it reached just before we went on holiday. Sadly. The bad news is it won’t flush but the good news is we’re using buckets of water instead – which is better for the environment. Ah, there’s always a silver lining, you know. Must be the happy pills – I’m feeling a darn sight better today, I must say. The only problem is that if I’m not concentrating, then most of the bucket of water ends up on the floor, so I have to mop it all up and try again. Goodness only knows how the menfolk manage at all.

And there’s more good news – after Monday morning’s panic when Lord H couldn’t find his house or car keys anywhere (he has a spare for the car, so a day off was not justified …), he has now found them buried underneath the camera tripod. I have exercised Wife Rights (oo-err, missus) and produced a small saucer which he can deposit the keys in when he enters the flat. I do have my uses then. I’m hoping this might work and will at least cut the number of Key Crises in the marital home.

Meanwhile, at work I am attempting to understand the glut of things I appear to be supposed to do in June. Not much chance of me getting to grips with that lot then. At least not before July. Sigh. And the office decided to up sticks and decamp to the School of Management cafe early this afternoon in a temporary bid for freedom. Which was much needed after my impromptu lunchtime cover of the Student Advice office - though, really, as I don't know anything, it was jolly lucky nobody came in ...

This afternoon, I have had to put my Executive Hat on and minute the Student Affairs Committee. It’s all done by smoke and mirrors, you know. I can’t remember a thing about what we talked about last time – I’m hoping it will all come back to me in case I’m asked. Though I fear that sounding (a) intelligent and (b) committed may well be beyond me today.

And we've booked another holiday in August and we’re going here - hurrah! It’s next door to one RSPB bird reserve and within spitting distance of another. So ideal really. I can't wait!

Tonight, I shall reclothe myself with the bedraggled cloak of my normal life (heck, there’s a sentence) and go and visit Gladys on the way home. Not that she’ll be keen to see me (these days she never is), but if I don’t go then the guilt will fill the flat and I’ll be unable to live with myself. Not much of a reason for doing anything, I know, but there it is. I’m not a saint. The inside of this damn cup is pretty muddy but the outside lumbers on. As they say. UPDATE: she hated my very existence, and I was told several times to be off and to leave her alone. Needless to say, I did! At least, it cheered the nurses up though - it's always good to know there's someone who's hated more than they are. Sigh.

Oh, and the people we ordered our new curtains from many moons ago have finally told us they can’t get the material and have therefore cancelled the order. Bastards, eh. Bloody hell, but we won’t be going back there in a hurry. Customer service my arse.

But there’s “Springwatch” on TV again tonight – hurrah!

Today’s nice things:

1. Finding the keys
2. Holiday planning
3. Springwatch.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Monday, June 02, 2008

Back to reality ...

… Sigh. And what a big sigh it is. Was quite tearful last night and this morning at the thought of going back to work. It’s still weighing on my shoulders now really. That’s always the minus side of going on holiday: you have to damn well come back. Groan. Though Lord H did lift the existential gloom a little by making my breakfast napkin into a candle shape, courtesy of our new napkin folding skills. What a hero. I wonder what tomorrow’s shape will be. Still, here at the office coalface first thing this morning, I was so depressed I could barely talk to anyone and only managed a few words beyond a passing grunt at eleven o’clock. I think that’s probably my quota for the day then.

I’m also feeling low as the small US publisher I sent The Gifting to has bounced it back and there’s no sign of any interest from the mainstream publishers John sent it to either. Yes, I know it’s early days to be moaning, but hell when has that ever stopped me? And actually these days they either like it in the first couple of weeks or they don’t. Or so it seems. I am feeling very disheartened about the whole thing really. So I’m not putting any great emphasis on getting more of Hallsfoot’s Battle done – I’ll do it as and when I feel up to it. I’m also planning to backtrack on some of my web commitments – they’re not doing me any good at all. Just creating false hope. And I can well do without that at the moment.

Sorry, I know this is depressing – but I’ve come right down from the total wonderment of being on holiday and am struggling to find some kind of even keel. Maybe the problem is that I (confidently, ho ho) didn’t take my B Vitamin Happy Pills with me to Portugal – I didn’t need them then but I realise now that I should have taken them if only to keep my levels up. I’m determinedly back to 2 shots of the stuff per day for at least this week and am hoping that will help.

Reflexology at lunchtime was much needed too – I drifted off and felt a bit more normal by the time the Blessed Emily had finished with my feet. Lord only knows what I’d do without reflexology – I thoroughly recommend it to everyone.

Tonight, I’m supposed to be getting back into my normal routine of visits etc and had half-planned to see Gladys on my way home – but to be honest I am just so desperate to be at home and stay there that it’ll be amazing if I don’t run someone down in the process. So I’ll leave Good Works till later in the week. My place in Heaven is rapidly diminishing, if in fact it’s still there at all …

And there’s “Springwatch” on TV, thank God. I think I’m up to that. Roll on retirement, eh!!

Oh but I have thought of another nice thing – hurrah indeed. I read three good books on holiday: (a) Jodi Picoult’s Change of Heart – her best yet and a total page-turner. Thoroughly recommended. (b) Anita Shreve’s Body Surfing – ditto. A fabulous read. You must rush out and buy it. Has a totally perfect and poignant ending and a wonderful main character. (c) Harlen Coben’s Hold Tight. The worst of the three really, but still a gripping read. Not as good as his earlier one but great for holidays.

Today’s nice things:

1. Lord H’s napkin skills
2. Reflexology
3. Springwatch
4. Books.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Bird Girl and river life

Just back from wonderful Portugal and have started the no-doubt week-long traul through the washing. I am convinced that we are actually doing the washing of the whole boat (sorry, ship) and they will sneak in the flat when we've done it and send it back to its original owners.

Anyway, Portugal is wonderful and the river life and people are so much nicer than in Lisbon. It's very relaxing just staring at the countryside go by, and having smiling servants provide you with wonderful meals and historical tid-bits. Fabulous. Particular highlights for me included the different birdlife - we saw a hoopoe (well, I saw it, and Lord H didn't, but as we're married and therefore we two are one, it counts), zillions of white storks, a golden eagle, a bevy of red kites, buzzards, countless sparrows, the odd tit (as it were) including one with a black-and-white striped head, black redstarts and - the crowning glory - a blue rock thrush. Which is a fabulous bird and a wonderful shade of blue. I also had a wonderful time on the helicopter flight - please give me more helicopter flights - it was the most exciting thing of the whole holiday! I want to own a helicopter now, or at least have regular rides in one. It was amazing. Lord H had stolen the sick bag from the plane just in case, but I never even thought of it once.

Also fell in love with Salamanca (our brief incursion into Spain) - it's an gripping city with a spectacular past and the mellowest yellow stonework in the history of building. I'd love to go back. The Art Nouveau and Art Deco Museum was excellent too - my favourits were the Art Deco jugs coloured just like a long-tailed tit (pink, white and grey), although the exhibit of creepily lifelike dolls wasn't one where you'd want to be trapped at night ... especially with the dolls with more than one face ...

In fact I'd love to go back to the River Douro in its entirety. I was quite weepy when we had to leave on Saturday. Oh, and I've learnt a new skill. The talented Jose (head waiter) gave us all napkin folding lessons on the last afternoon. I'm surprisingly skilled at making a tuxedo, Lord H is Master of the Boot, and Vanessa (hello, Vanessa!) was pretty good at the snail. Can't wait for those long winter evenings, and I swear if today's teenagers were given napkin-folding lessons, they'd be a lot calmer and stop killing each other. You can't be cross with a napkin, you know.

And we have a Toilet Mystery: why was it that at no point during the week did the loo paper on the ship get any less? Lord H's theory is that all our loo paper holders were attached to some hidden Master Loo Roll Provider in the bowels (sorry ...) of the ship and were therefore constantly restocked to previous levels without the need for changing them. It's a possibility at least - the Portuguese are an imaginative lot, you know.

We were also rather surprised by the lovely Monica's (our wonderful guide) references to the Portuguese griffin. That had us flicking through our World Bird Guide for sure. If the Portuguese Mountains do indeed hold a cross between an eagle and a lion, then Lord H and I will be first in the queue for the climbing gear. However, a swift glance through a local bird guide at the end of the week told us that "grifo" is the Portuguese word for vulture, so a simple mistranslation cleared that one up. Rather a shame really ...

Meanwhile, back to today: Lord H and I have visited Pulborough Brooks and I have at last seen a spoonbill - hurrah!!! Big result for me, for sure. We also saw a shelduck family, a woodpecker feeding its young and a family of bluetits, where the elder two were teaching the youngsters how to fly: this is a twig and here's how you get there. Well, they have to learn somehow, you know.

So, this week I have two haikus - lucky you!

Helicopter trip
Clouds bank over sky
and my hand touches blue air:
we skim the Douro.

Pink and white and grey,
the Art Deco jugs shimmer:
long-tailed tits transformed.

Nice things:

1. River holidays
2. Different birds
3. Napkin-folding.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers