Friday, October 31, 2008

The search for echinacea and the haircut from heaven

For some reason which neither of us can understand, Lord H's alarm went off at 6am today and both of us woke up not feeling remotely tired. In fact we even got up, with enthusiasm - how astonishing. Usually, on work days, I lounge around till 6.15am and Lord H doesn't surface till 7. At least. Today, however, we were up with the larks and had already solved world hunger by 6.30am and brought peace to the earth by 6.45. God, but we're good. Our job here is done, Carruthers - it only remains for the mother ship to return and carry us home. Hmm, must be delayed on the intergalactic highway ... Ah well.

I managed to be in Godalming at 9am ready to hit the shops. I've never seen the carpark so empty. I must try and aim for that time of day again sometime. And I actually managed to get everything I went out to buy, though I did have to go into every single pharmacist on the High Street - including the one I never go into because they're horrid and never have anything - in order to find my essential Echinaforce tablets (for colds, you know, though I do feel better today, thank the Lord). No, the horrid shop didn't have it. What a surprise. An additional surprise was that the alternative small pharmacist (yes, I'd already tried Boots and Superdrug by then - in vain) appears to have shut down. Perhaps they knew I was coming? Anyway, I finally found a huge bottle of the aforementioned medicine in Waitrose. Good old Mr Waitrose. Where would we be in Godalming without him?

Talking of Godalming, our death count is going up, m'dears. Hot on the heels of last week's murder, we now apparently had a dead homeless person in the middle of the High Street this week. Lordy, we are indeed becoming a hotbed of crime and tragedy and I am EVEN MORE determined to open the front door to nobody at all unless they have character references. At least. However, the slight good news about all this is I know it's not one of the two nice people who sell The Big Issue, as I checked: they were both there. Phew. Anyway, whatever next??

Back in the safety of home, I have added another 1000 words to Hallsfoot's Battle, and am now at over 52,000 words. I like the way the scene is turning out too - I'm bringing Simon into the Gathandrian Legends in a way neither he nor I anticipated, but hell it works, so I'm going with it. No doubt it will traumatise him even more, but I do need him to be angry. Because the heat will - I hope - rise in the latter half of the novel and I do need him to be angry for that, rather than terrified. Aha! We'll see anyway.

Lynda the hairdresser has also swept in with her usual charm and style, and now my hair looks pretty damn good, I have to tell you. I do like the way I'm growing it a little longer - I think it suits me and it's a softer, less serial-killer look. Hell, I'll be wearing skirts next and simpering. God forbid. Tonight, I need to do some heavy-duty cleaning and settle in for an evening's chilling. In the good sense - as my current chill levels are rather too high, and I've been wearing my scarf, fingerless gloves and Country Innovation padded waistcoat in the flat all day (on top of my usual clothes - please, people!...). Yes, the heating is on and yes it's still cold. That's the curse of living in the servants' quarters of a Victorian house, dammit. Roll on summer ...

Today's nice things:

1. Unusual energy
2. Finding the Echinaforce tablets, eventually
3. Continuing with Hallsfoot
4. Haircuts.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - stylish and sassy, don't ya know ...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The reluctant writer and a warming lunch

I seemed to spend most of the morning doing anything but write. It's been a good few days since I even looked at Hallsfoot's Battle, let alone tackle any more of it - and my confidence levels were at a very low and reluctant ebb. Not that they're ever that high, mind you - I'm powered purely by sheer bloody-mindedness. Anyway, I finally got down to it (as it were) at about 11am and then somehow managed to drum out 1000 words by 1pm, which brings me to 51,000 words and part-way through the Second Gathandrian Legend. I even have a glimmer of an idea about where it should go next, which is something. Quite rare too. But let's not get too excited - no doubt I'll have to go through the same agonising process of reluctance tomorrow. Dammit.

I then went out for a late lunch with Robin - though unfortunately Liz couldn't make it, which was a shame - but Robin and I had a great chat, as well as having rather too much fun with the broccoli and stilton soup which came with bacon rashers for dipping. Only in Surrey, eh ... Anyway, it was an acceptable alternative to the usual baguettes which (shame again!) the pub doesn't do any more. Is there a baguette embargo, or have I missed yet another Government directive? Or are baguettes now very "last year" and no foodie would ever order them these days?? It's a mystery - and reminds me of the time I tried to order a Dubonnet and Lemonade from a pub in downtown Essex. They actually laughed and asked me to leave. Well, it was the '90s, I suppose, and D&L went out with the '80s. Perhaps next time I ask for a baguette, they will ban me from Surrey entirely?...

On the way home, I popped into Tesco and got my prescription for the emergency HRT patches (only I can have "emergency" HRT patches - really they should be an essential part of every older woman's first-aid kit). You never know when you might need one. I also picked up another Flu jab brochure, as I see Tesco's are now also offering them. I might think about having one next week, but at the moment I'm a bit sniffly (well, more sniffly than normal) and I dread the onset of a cold. Not sure I want the Flu jab on top of all my other potential diseases. I can only cope with one illness at a time, you know.

Oh, and I'm feeling rather low as I've just finished reading Stephen Mitchell's "God in the Bath". Really, this book was ultimately so depressing that I felt quite poleaxed afterwards. It was very muddled throughout and some of the points made seemed irrelevant and unhelpful in the extreme. When I'd read the last page, I still had no clear impression of what the book was meant to be about. The last chapter was hugely demoralising and it somehow made heaven into a very unattractive prospect. I was left with a feeling of doom and a severe lack of hope. Sigh. Hell, I can go to church for that kind of feeling, can't I? I can only trust God isn't how Stephen Mitchell thinks He is, and there's more hope and excitement to look forward to in the great hereafter than is contained in this unfortunate book. Meanwhile, in terms of my religious reading, I have moved on to Abbot Jamison's "Finding Sanctuary" with a feeling of overwhelming relief ... Surely God isn't all bad??...

Talking of things literary, and on a completely contrasting note, I have just discovered the charming writers' site, Chapter Seventy-Nine and have joined up. People there seem very friendly and I do particularly like the daily writing prompts, which look good. I haven't used any of them as yet, but even reading them makes me feel hopeful. Thank the Lord ... Could be useful for the University Writers' Group too, but I'll have to see.

Today's nice things:

1. Finally writing more of Hallsfoot
2. Lunch with Robin
3. Exploring Chapter Seventy-Nine

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - slowly getting there, but don't wait up ...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Diary mysteries, health appointments and writing issues

Goodness me, but it appears to have snowed in Guildford this morning. Horrors! I hate snow – it’s unnatural, you know, and this is not what I pay my taxes for and it’s certainly not why I live in Surrey. Surrey doesn’t do snow. Until now, dammit … The only good thing is that I don’t think it snowed in Godalming, though we did get a rather heavy frost. Anyway, it’s mostly now melted (thank the Lord), but I’m keeping a weather-eye (ho ho) on the forecast and looking suspicious … We never had this kind of weather under a Conservative government, after all. Not in the south.

Meanwhile, at work, I think the whole of the IT department are worrying away at the mysteries of why I can’t have access to the boss’s diary. We tried again this morning, and I now think it’s been referred to a higher power. Possibly God. Who, as we know, is unlikely to provide instantaneous answers to such matters. Sigh. All this is making it hugely difficult for me to get things into David’s schedule and rearrange appointments etc etc. If nothing happens by close-of-play, I shall have to invite him to meetings from my diary and hope he realises I’m not actually attending. Ah well.

I worked through lunch today as I had my follow-up appointment with the high-powered Consultant this afternoon. I have my list of questions in my hand, but I might not have to ask quite so much as I realised last night that my stitches have finally (after 3 weeks!) dissolved, hurrah. That’s a relief – I was starting to worry that I was fraying. I also think that my shoulder is slightly less numb than it has been, and there might even be signs of life in there. It’s certainly not back to normal, but maybe it’s on its way? Heck, there’s always hope. UPDATE: she’s pleased with how I’m doing, hurrah, though there are apparently still a couple of small stitches in the tummy button scar which I can't see but they should go soon. However, she’s doubling my Metformin dose to prevent the Return of the Cyst (great film title there, I feel …), and giving me a standby of the HRT patches in case the mood swings set in again – as my last one of the current pack runs out today (though I’m upping my HRT gel dosage to compensate – are you keeping up with this at the back??...). She’s also going to write to the GP and suggest that it would be a good idea for him to take on responsibility for the Metformin and patches prescriptions, so I’ll see what he says about that when I have my appointment with him in mid-November. Onward and upward, but slowly, eh.

On the way home, I need to pick up a parcel, which I’m hoping will be my double order of thermal wear for the Norfolk holiday, but could well be a supply of greetings cards I asked for. Ah, the excitement is mounting in either case, you know. Hmm, perhaps I should get out more? Then again, I don’t want to frighten people. Not so soon in the academic year. UPDATE - both have arrived, hurrah, so I can (a) be warm, and (b) write cards. My winter is sorted then.

I’m even thinking about doing a bit of writing (only thinking, mind you!), but I don’t want to overtire myself – after all, It Takes Two and Autumnwatch is on and there’s always tomorrow … And, talking about writing, I’ve decided to withdraw from my one remaining workshop group on the Writewords site and take down the three pieces of work I still had on there. I am slowly but surely minimalising all my commitments, you know, and soon I fear I’ll have vanished entirely. I’ll keep up my blog entries there as, to be honest, that’s all I can cope with for now. It just seems like the right thing to do. The site is now so intensely focused on nothing but success (and only a particular brand of success at that, in my opinion) that it’s hard for anyone else to exist at all on it. A shame, as it used to be so good. Ah well – commercialism gets us all in the end, dammit , and quality’s a rare and fragile beast. On the other hand, I’m probably just being a clapped-out, bitter old writer – but hey tell me something I didn’t know!...

And, finally (as they say), if anyone’s asking or has even read this far (well done, you!), I’m very impressed that the BBC has seen fit to suspend Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand and not broadcast their programmes for the time being – seems eminently reasonable to me, but I didn’t think the BBC would have the guts to do it. Well done, them. I’m hoping they’ll put the repeats of Fawlty Towers on in their place – now that’s class. UPDATE: That said, is Brand going over the top by resigning?? A decent public apology and a good offering of flowers, a la Ross, would have been perfectly acceptable. Indeed, Sachsgate rumbles on ... Still, at least it keeps our minds off the credit crunch.

Today’s nice things:

1. Parcels
2. Thinking about writing
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - happy to apologise in advance ...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Squirrels, books and old age

Was much taken today by the sight of one of the squirrels on campus using the pedestrian crossing to cross the road. How very sensible. Saves all that swinging from tree to tree stuff anyway. Evolution is a marvellous thing – soon the squirrels will be sitting at the desks giving us orders ... You heard it here first.

At work, Ruth has very kindly bought a copy of Maloney’s Law so I hope she enjoys the read. Thanks, Ruth – it’s very much appreciated! Though, sadly, the poor thing is still not well, so we sent her home after lunch, fitted out with a bottle of Lucozade and our good wishes. Hope she’s better soon …

Whilst on the subject of work, I’ve spent most of the day typing up a new brochure to go on the website – most of it is just getting entries from other documents and making sure it makes sense, but I do so love doing the secretarial stuff. Have also been trying to sort out the boss’s diary, which in some ways is a law unto itself. Plus I’m hoping IT will let me have full access to it fairly soon – it’s rather tricky doing everything at one remove. I have pieces of paper coming out of pieces of paper at the moment. No change there then.

So my lunchtime walk was much needed. I think I managed it before the rain sets in for the winter anyway, according to the forecast. Seems ages since I last had a stroll round campus, and I caught up on the latest exhibition at the gallery and had a chat with Jo in the Arts Office too. Lordy, but even my lunchtimes are super-efficient … And it was pleasant enough to sit by the lake for a while and admire the moorhens, robins and that squirrel. Lovely.

Will pop into see Gladys and reorganise her birdseed for her after work – I’m hoping her new medicine regime is working and she’s a bit happier in herself. It must be dreadful feeling so helpless – and being so old that you can’t just scarper from all the problems too. UPDATE: she's much better on that medicine - great news indeed. We even had a partial conversation or two, so that's good news as well. And, of course, I can’t miss It Takes Two and Autumnwatch. The deer are fascinating. Lovely also to see that some of it is set in Petworth Park which isn’t too far away from us, and is definitely well worth a visit or three.

Meanwhile, here’s a poem:


My reflection in the window
leads another kind
of life.

She's far more confident
than I am. I wonder
if I'd like her

if we met; she'd probably
look down her not inconsiderable nose
at me

and suggest I should
smarten up
if I want to get on

or at the very least
get a haircut,
a makeover, a decent jacket.

And who's to blame her?
Certainly not me.
Though I might put something

in her tea.

Ooh, and I’ve finished reading Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses – for the University Book Group in November. It’s amazing stuff – managing to be both literary and very, very readable (a rare combination in today’s world, I fear). I can thoroughly recommend it. A subtle tale of love and loss and grief, how families can be divided by the smallest of decisions, and how the past lingers on across the whole of a life. Some of the writing was just so totally wonderful and utterly true that I turned the pages down so I can go back and revel in it at my leisure. Okay, I could have done with a tad less description (but it does show character and builds up a picture of the man and his environment very well), and I thought the few pages before the utterly stunning end paragraph or two were a little shaky – but I’m being picky here. It’s very, very human – which is what I like in my books and which is so rarely (I think) achieved. Petterson does that and some. Rush out and buy it as soon as you can is what I say. Fabulous.

Today’s nice things:

1. Road-wise squirrels
2. Ruth buying Maloney’s Law, hurrah!
3. Lunchtime walks
4. TV
5. Poetry
6. Petterson’s book.

Anne Brooke
Anne's Website

Monday, October 27, 2008

Reflexology and the Interview Queen

Woke up with the doom-laden Monday morning feeling today – is it the change in the hour? Maybe what with it being lighter in the mornings, I already feel I’m an hour behind my own life and I’ll never catch up again. Though, to be honest, I should be used to that by now …

Anyway, at work, poor Ruth is still not very well, and the office seems very empty – the boss is away, and both Andrea and Chaplaincy Ruth are on half-term with their children. Mind you, at least the roads were clear and I got to work about 5 minutes before I actually started out. As it were. Okay, that might be exaggeration for poetic effect, but you know what I mean. Talking of clear roads when school’s out, I do continue to think it strange that there are so many cars on the road when it’s term-time, but you never ever see a child in one of them. Weird. Perhaps the mothers have simply abandoned their little ones to walk to school or catch a bus, and are fleeing from the various scenes of domestic trauma? I wouldn’t blame them – it must be terrifying to have children.

This morning, I have been staring in disbelief at my vain attempts to reschedule one of my big committees. None of the key people can do the same times, deep deep sigh. I think I might have to rest my head on my desk and sob for a while, and then throw myself on the boss’s mercy when he’s back tomorrow. He usually manages to think of something.

Thank goodness for my reflexology session at lunchtime is what I say. The utterly lovely Emily had put an extra session in for today as last week she managed to sort out childcare and then asked if I’d like to take up the appointment. Yes, yes and yes! Heck, I need all the help I can get. And some.

This afternoon, I sat in on an interview that Carol did with her mentor team, as she couldn’t get anyone else to do it. I was super-keen to be the evil person that sighs a lot and asks killer questions (or is that the police??...) but Carol put her foot down on that one. I was honour-bound not to speak and simply to observe. Much the best thing, I suspect.

After work, I have to drag myself reluctantly around Tesco for the weekly shop once more and, dammit, but I seem to have a ridiculous amount of things to buy. When will I ever get home?? I long for it utterly, m’dears. At least I remembered to video It Takes Two, and then there’s Autumnwatch later on – it’s set in Brownsea Island which is near Lord H’s old home, so he’s keen to revisit old haunts, if only virtually.

Today’s nice things:

1. Clear roads
2. Reflexology
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - no questions asked ...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Trees, birds and chilling

A lazy day today, hurrah. Lord H and I wandered around Winkworth in the rain for a while and admired the autumn colours. Which are lovely but not, I think, as spectacular as last year's display. We also spotted a couple of wrens, a great tit, long-tailed tits, jackdaws and a robin or two. Honestly, robins have no fear. And they'll always turn up and parade themselves in front of your nose if they think you're paying too much attention to another type of bird. They are indeed the supermodels of the bird world. The rain was also good as I could try out my new Country Innovation Ladies' rainwear coat, which is great and comes complete with a hood, so I am snug and dry whilst all around me people are cold and wet. Aha! Lord H is slightly envious and I suspect will get one of his own before too long. Then we'll have (sadly) matching jackets and can rename ourselves Howard & Hilda. Though I think I will stop at sewing on name tags ...

This afternoon, I have caught up with yesterday's episode of Strictly Come Dancing - I thought John was great! His performance was dramatic after all - what more do you need?? I also enjoyed Jodie's dance, and thought poor Cherie recovered well. I do wish the judges would try to be less bitchy and just stick to being constructive - they seem so much more snippety this year. Time for their Happy Pills, I think.

Tonight, I must do my usual phone call to Mother, and then we have the delights of Frost to look forward to. I was wrong in saying these three episodes would be the last ones, as I gather they'll do a two-part finale next year. Always good to have something to put in the diary, you know. And I might even be able to squeeze in a quick nap before it's on - if I'm lucky!

This week's haiku:

Clouds of autumn leaves
swirl past my window: red-gold
fragments of the sun.

Today's nice things:

1. Winkworth
2. My new birding jacket
3. TV
4. Haikus.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - the place to relax ...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A day with the Egypt Group

Lord H and I have spent a truly wonderful day today with the Egypt Group, to whom Maloney's Law is dedicated. In fact I couldn't have written the scenes where Paul stays in the Cairo hotel without Mike & Miriam, as they'd stayed in the particular hotel I wanted to use, and Lord H & I hadn't so I needed to pick their brains. For which, thank you, both! We met Mike & Miriam, and Chris & Mike when we were on our Nile cruise about five years ago and we just clicked instantly. They're fantastic people and, even if we haven't seen them for a while, we just click back into instant ease the moment we meet. It's fabulous.

So we had a great day. We set out a little earlier than need be (it's about a two-hour trip to Mike & Miriam's, where we all met up) and visited the RSPB headquarters first, as it's not too far from them. We managed to spot several coal tits (coal tits, hurrah! - you don't see many of them about ...), a nuthatch and a mistle thrush, so a great start to the day. Lord H also bought a pair of lined birding gloves, even though he was really after a winter birding coat. Ah well, maybe if we buy enough gloves, we can make him a coat?

From there, it was straight to the Egypt Group reunion and we talked and ate, ate and talked all day and have only just now got home at about 9pm. Naturally I gave them all free copies of Maloney (hell, they deserve it), and it's great as they're soooo enthusiastic about the books and ask all sorts of questions about the writing process and what's going on, etc etc. It's really lovely to get that as, to be honest, most of my real-world (rather than the virtual world!) non-writing friends seem mainly to be embarrassed about what I do "off piste" and don't really like to talk about the books. The Egypt Gang buy (except for this one, naturally!) and read all my stuff, are keen to chat and want to know what's happening next. And when it will be published. It's really lovely. It makes me feel accepted. Maybe it's because most of the people I know knew me before I started writing and don't really know how to handle this strange turn of events? Whereas the Egypt Group have only known me as a writer and have fully taken it on board as part of me. Either way, somehow they make me feel good about what I do and I value that. Big time. No, more than that: big BIG time. Somehow as a group, they make me feel more than the sum of my parts and they give me hope. Actually, I think we all do that for each other, though I don't really know how - hope and a sense of possibilities enabled is a large part of the group dynamic and seeing them powers me up for days. Wonderful!

Back home, I've videoed Strictly Come Dancing though I probably won't get time to watch it till tomorrow. I've voted for Jodie anyway as I love her to bits. And I've just finished Issue Twenty of Brittle Star poetry magazine, which I've really enjoyed. Particular favourites are Paul Blake's "Fall" (a tragedy in miniature), Mike Bannister's "The Green Man" (full of Medieval-style power), the bleakness of Rosemary Dillon's "Journey", and the amused wistfulness of Sylvia Rowbottom's "The Big A". Great stuff. Inspired (in a fashion) by all this, I've attempted another poem. Gosh, how brave:

Domestic trivia

I think it’s true
that when we’re out
someone sneaks in,

adds their ironing
to the laundry basket
and picks it up again
when I’m done.

While they’re here,
they could at least
do the dusting.

Today's nice things:

1. The Egypt Group
2. Unexpected birds
3. Talking about writing
4. Brittle Star magazine
5. Poetry.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - almost a real writer, you know!...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Godalming excitements and a writing landmark

Goodness me - the sleepy town of Godalming has this week woken up and joined the modern age. Well, as much as we in the shires can, of course. We've had our first murder since ... well, probably somewhere around 1853 or some such year (which is probably nearly supper-time in this digital age). Which is horrific news for the victim and loved ones, of course, but great news for the Godalming edition of the Surrey Advertiser, who are obviously hugely excited about it. BIG front-page spread, and all that jazz. The poor victim was killed at home, but at least they've arrested somebody for it. Anyway, it's the first time the local Surrey Ad have had any decent news since the infamous Rabbit Woman of Godalming episode, Gawd bless 'er. Naturally they are making the most of it.

Not only that, but our first town lottery opens for business next week (hurrah!) and the Go Godalming Group (yes, that really is its name ...) is very proud about that too. BIG Page Two spread in the local rag! Gambling and death - it all happens here, you know. I'm tempted to buy a ticket and see if I can win, but as the top prize money is no more than £1000, I don't think it will change my life ... In the meantime, I'm putting the door on the chain and not letting anyone suspicious into the flat. So Lord H might have to eat his pizza in the shared hallway tonight ...

I've also played golf for the first time since the operation. The good thing was we saw a rather lovely green woodpecker, which was an added bonus to the morning. But, in terms of the game, I was frankly appalling and only managed to beat Marian by one point. One point! Ah, the shame ... I fear I can't blame my stitches either, as they weren't hurting one jot. I was just rubbish. Talking of stitches however, I wonder when they're supposed to melt away? - after all, it's been two weeks now and I'd have thought they'd be getting bored. The one on my right side looks like it might have pretensions to be the beginning of a rather nifty scarf too. Hmm, could be handy in winter.

Meanwhile, it's time to hang out some more bunting, as I've reached the landmark figure of 50,000 words in Hallsfoot's Battle, hurrah! It almost feels like I might even be writing a novel now I'm there, rather than just a series of disjointed meandering scribblings. I just have to work out where I go next, ho ho. Still, only another 70,000 words to go and I'll have a BIG pile of gubbins to edit. Double hurrahs, but fainter ones ...

Tonight, I've got an evening's TV viewing planned, though I suppose we ought to do some kind of housework, just to show willing. Plus I've got another pile of ironing to gaze at for a while (and probably not do). Hell, maybe it's time the crumpled look came back? Though, in my case, it's probably never really gone away.

Today's nice things:

1. The Godalming lottery
2. Golf (even if bad)
3. Seeing a green woodpecker
4. Getting to 50,000 words with Hallsfoot
5. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website: a place of safety in a crazed crazed world ...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Reviews, books and pirates

Was thrilled to see a lovely mention of Maloney's Law on the Writing and All That site today, which you can see here. (It's the second book down in the Spread The Word list). Many thanks indeed, Caro - so glad you liked Maloney. And thank you for the mention of The Bones of Summer too! I particularly enjoyed her comment on Paul's taste in whisky and men - very true indeed. Though I must admit to having a soft spot for Dominic nonetheless ...

I've managed to forge a little way ahead with Hallsfoot's Battle as well and it now stands at just over 49,000 words. Events have taken an unexpected turn in the Gathandrian Library, but I liked what I was writing so I've kept it in. It adds tension anyway - and no writer can afford to turn tension away if it comes knocking. At least not in books. I'll be interested to see how it turns out. Honestly, sometimes that keyboard thinks its own thoughts, I swear it. My control over the writing process remains meagre. As you can see.

And still on the subject of books, I've nobly battled my way to the end of Lynne Truss's quite dreadful novel, Tennyson's Gift. The quote on the front of my copy tells me it's "gloriously funny ... a laugh-aloud book to cheer the darkest hour" - a statement by Joan Bakewell, no less. Well, I'm not sure what book the great Joan was reading when she said that, but it sure as hell wasn't this one. Still, it probably remains a work of great distinction in that it includes Tennyson, Dodgson, Watts, Ellen Terry and the marvellous Julia Margaret Cameron all in one book and still strives to make it as dull as ditchwater and as clunky as hell. Astonishing really. None of the characters as depicted by Truss have any degree of charm. In fact they're all horrid. My dears, it's hugely exhausting simply turning the pages (whilst groaning of course). I have never felt so happy to reach the final pages. The only reason I did in fact carry on was that I love all the real-life people included and felt some kind of obligation to accompany their journey of pain in this book to the end. Tennyson, Dodgson, Watts, Terry, Cameron and I have all survived the experience and can now (thank the Lord) get back to who we all really are. Lord H has also nobly battled through it (what a hero!) and suggested that the problem is that it's not really a novel at all - or it's a novel by someone who doesn't know how to write one - but in fact it's trying desperately to be a screenplay. If you had the right actors, it could be quite good. It might even be funny. But in Truss's novel, it's not. Lord H also suggested that, if the great Oscar Wilde was alive, he should be given the book in order to rewrite it as a play. That would certainly work! My advice is ignore it and go straight to the Greats portrayed within it directly. You'll be much happier that way. However, I can say that the grammar is good ...

It's also been a gloriously blustery afternoon - watching the leaves swirling about outside my window has been fabulous. From yesterday's winter, we now have autumn again. Lovely.

Tonight, we're off to see Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance at Haslemere Hall, so I'm already polishing up my scimitar and preparing my catlike tread. There's nothing like a good G&S to put a smile on one's face, you know!

Today's nice things:

1. The Maloney review
2. Autumn leaves
3. Ruth's show.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - guaranteed Truss-free ...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The first ice of the season and some good news

Ah, the rot’s set in already, Carruthers. There was frost on the grass (though Lord H insisted it was ash – though where he thought the ash came from is another question entirely …) this morning and the car had its first thin layer of ice on the windows, groan. And I’m wearing my winter coat. Soon it will be time for the winter duvet, you know. Not to mention the hot water bottle and the bedsocks. And that’s only in the day time. As you can tell, here in Godalming we maintain our position at the cutting edge of fashion. Anyway, here’s a poem about it:

Winter arrives early this year.
Ice streaks the car window
and I must search for the scraper again.
It's a cold hunting,
doors open, heater on full,
air scratching at my neck.

Somewhere a bird pierces the sky with notes
that don't warm my hands.

Still you tell me it's autumn
and all the frost is ash.

This morning, I have attempted to coordinate my professors (an impossible task indeed) with marginal success only and have also reorganised my filing cabinet so the folders are now in some sort of logical order. God, but I’m good. This is mainly because I now have some of the boss’s folders there and I don’t want him to be shocked if he should peer inside now and again. Though, as any secretary knows, it’s always best to keep the boss as far away from one’s own cabinets as possible. We don’t want to frighten them after all. And I'm doing all these exciting (well, exciting for me anyway) things because we've had a slight change to my job and I'm now acting partially as the boss's personal assistant as well. Which is much more in tune with the experience I've had in the past. Actually I'm hugely looking forward to getting my teeth (virtually of course) into the new venture. And, hey, a chance to organise someone and know more of what's going on? I'd be a fool to miss out on it! Power-crazed redhead sweeps through campus - you heard it here first ...

Most of the rest of the day has been spent in Open Day firefighting (not literally, I hasten to add – that’s what the Security Department are for …) – I helped set up our stand mid-morning and then staffed it for three hours during the afternoon. I think that’s my quota of people inclusion for the next six months done then.

Oh and this week’s heroes are: Ruth (for carrying on with The Pirates of Penzance in spite of not being able to sing properly), the Pirate King in the show (who’s fabulous, apparently) and Jodie Kidd (for being marvellous in Strictly Come Dancing).

Tonight, I’m hoping to be able to get to the doctor’s in time to pick up a prescription and still rush home for It Takes Two. My, how I like a challenge. And I’m also planning to spend some time on Hallsfoot’s Battle which now stands at 47,500 words, hurrah. And I’ve named the Elder’s Wife. She’s called Iffenia. For the moment at least. I think it goes with her hair which is silver.

And the great good news is that the cyst they removed during the operation a couple of weeks ago definitely isn't cancerous, hurrah! Apparently, it's a "chocolate cyst" (no, my advice is: don't look it up ... I have: it's scary) which is common with endometriosis and I'm fine. Even the endometriosis has been around so long that it's given up and burnt itself out. So it looks like, if my luck's in and the wind's in the right direction, there are still a few more years left in me, double hurrah!

Today’s nice things:

1. Cabinet organisation
2. Surviving the Open Day
3. This week’s heroes
4. Poetry
5. Hallsfoot’s Battle
6. A non-cancerous cyst (Gawd bless it!).

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - complete with a clean bill of health!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Writers, book requests and the odd great-aunt

Ruth has bravely struggled into work today, but is still suffering, poor thing. I’m not sure she’ll make the first night of Pirates of Penzance tonight, or at least not much of it, which is such a shame. We shall go on Thursday and fly the flag whether or not she’s there. Naturally. But I do hope she gets better soon.

Meanwhile I’ve spent the morning continuing to try to beat yesterday’s minutes into submission. The jury’s out on who might win, I have to say. I suspect in the end nobody will be able to tell the victor. Lunchtime saw me at the Writers’ Group meeting. It was the first one where new students might be able to come along too, and we had two or three which was nice. People seemed to enjoy the exercises as well, so that was good, though I don’t think I was quite as on top of it all as I was last month. However I did remember to take my calming pills this morning, and top up the effects with my relaxation spray, so at least I sounded less like a gazelle on speed than usual. One hopes. Really my fellow University writers must imagine I take life at such a hectic pace but it’s pure nerves, my dears, pure nerves. And outside the meeting, I think I managed to help Rosemary with her plot problem a little, so maybe I did some good somewhere after all! There’s always hope. And here’s the piece I wrote during the hour. The start of something but Lordy knows what ... It was based on things we love and things we hate. My hates are unexpected visitors and grey cars (even though Lord H’s grey car is lovely of course …), and my loves are free time and Midsomer Murders. Amongst other things.

Barry's Worst Nightmare

Barry’s worst nightmare was unexpected visitors arriving in grey cars. After all, grey cars didn’t go with his freshly-painted garage. They made it look dull. Worst of all was if the visitors arrived while he was sitting down with his weekly glass of vodka and tonic, watching Midsomer Murders. That was his sacrosanct time. A time when he could revel in his own company and be answerable to nobody else.
So, that particular Sunday evening at 9.30pm, just when the good Inspector was discovering the first body – or two, the clarion call of the front doorbell was not received with joy.
Peering out of the window, the sight of a dirty grey Vauxhall made him groan. He knew its owner very well and there was no gainsaying her. Resigned therefore to the inevitable, he padded to the door and pulled it open, plastering an almost-welcoming smile on his face.
‘Great-Aunt Edith!’ he cried. ‘How lovely. And how very unexpected. Do come in.’

Ooh, and I was pleased to get an email from one of my MySpace contacts wanting to know how to get hold of either A Dangerous Man or Maloney’s Law so I was able to help her with that, hurrah. Thank you so much, Kellie – that’s cheered me greatly!

Tonight, I shall pop into see Gladys on the way back from work and refill that bird table. UPDATE: She seemed much calmer, thank goodness. The nurse said they'd changed the medication so that was helping. Here's hoping it continues ... And then I might even try to do a little more to Hallsfoot’s Battle as well. If the mood is upon me. Though the ironing basket is also calling, I fear …

Today’s nice things:

1. Writers’ Group
2. A request for my books – well, gosh!
3. Writing.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - which occasionally gets requests!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Reviews, meetings and the Queen of Mean

Had a lovely email from a reviewer of Thorn in the Flesh this morning who is halfway through the said work and was sweet enough to email me saying I am obviously “ridiculously talented” and why aren’t I better known? Ah, it’s a mystery, Jay – I think it might be to do with my red hair and Essex accent, both attributes being pretty low down in the authorial gene pool, ho ho. Either that or when I speak to my agent, the poor man has trouble remembering my name. Anyway, your comments have much cheered me on this bleak Monday so thank you for that! And I think that might even become my new strapline: Ridiculously talented, but nobody knows who she is … Hey, it works for me.

Meanwhile, at work, poor Ruth is off sick today, so I had to rush around sorting out hardship loans on her behalf. I only hope I’ve got it right and people get the money they have applied for. I am reassured however by the extra checks Finance will no doubt give it now they know it’s me. And I hope Ruth gets better soon – it’s the week of Pirates of Penzance at Haslemere Hall and the first night is tomorrow. It’s no show without Ruth, you know – she’s the singing star of the office. Lord H and I are going on Thursday.

I am also rejigging meetings that people can’t make and squeezing them into minuscule gaps where possible. I can only hope we have rooms on campus where I can put them once the dates turn up, but I’m unable to think that far ahead at the moment … On top of all that, I rushed around some more at a virtual level in order to redo the timetable for Wednesday’s Open Day, as one of my people has dropped out of the rota. However, Health and Counselling have saved the day – thank you, thank you! – as ever, so I am hugely grateful to them.

Lunchtime found me minuting the Steering Group and hoping that nobody drank all the water. We’re in a special room on campus at the moment where jugs of water cannot be delivered (no, don’t ask …) so we have to pay for bottled water, groan. Therefore I purloined all the bottled water left over from the last meeting and filled my school satchel to take it along to this one, thus reducing our actual water order. I am indeed the Queen of Mean, but hey we’re paying for all this. And here at the cutting edge of education, every penny counts. Christmas? Bah, humbug … Don’t turn the heating on – just put on a jumper and shiver, and all that jazz.

I have therefore spent the afternoon typing up the minutes and trying to look efficient. An expression that takes a great deal of emotional commitment, you know. After work, I’m off to the University Book Group to give my comments on Colm Toibin’s The Blackwater Lightship. As they are wholly negative, I foresee a lively discussion, at the very least. UPDATE: it was great and very lively - although none of us rated the book very much, we all disliked it for different reasons. Fabulous!

Finally, another important day today:
Time since the submission of The Gifting to mainstream publishers with no response: 5 months. Only one month to go to the six-month celebration then …

Today’s nice things:

1. My undiscovered “ridiculous” talents – whatever they may be!
2. Living it up as the Queen of Mean (Water Division)
3. The book group.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - it's ridiculously talented, you know!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My mental age - the truth ...

Church turned out to be okay today. I quite liked the 1662 service rehashed, with hymns. Not bad. Though I'm sure that either the organ is pitched too high or (surely not ...) my voice is pitched too low. No comments on that one, please - or not many anyway! After the service, people had obviously decided that they would make an effort at talking to us again - which is quite brave, bearing in mind that post-service coffee sessions are a social nightmare and everybody hates them. So I was seized by a lady telling me all about her house and its wicked lodgers (ah the war years, you know - such fun!), whilst Lord H got the vicar's wife. Who is, we discover, utterly glamorous, knows how to wear red and used to be a radio producer. May still be one for all we know. Which is something of a shame as I was so convinced that the lady I met with the vicar in Waitrose yesterday was too well turned-out to be a vicar's wife, and must therefore surely be the mistress. Apparently not. So spiritual honour is salvaged, though it's rather a blow to the drama queens amongst us.

I have also flung myself with a strange and (I must admit) unfamiliar sense of excitement into the Simon section of Hallsfoot's Battle once more and have come up with another 1000 words. It now stands at just over 47,000 words. Will I get to 50,000 by the end of the month? Whisper it in the dark corners, but it may well be a possibility, Carruthers ... Miracles can happen. I have also suddenly written in another character, who I don't think is going to be major, but will be important in terms of setting Simon on the right road. Well, somebody has to, poor boy, and neither the mind-cane nor the snow-raven are helping much at the moment. This new character is a sculptress and lives in one of the poor districts of the city. I think she's going to turn out to be one of the Elders' wives, but I haven't named her yet, or decided whose wife she is. If you have any ideas for names out there, please let me know. I do find them tricky.

Talking of books, I have today given up waiting for the agent to reply to my email about The Bones of Summer which I sent three weeks ago, so have assumed that - in the silence - he's happy for me to try to find publishers myself. This is much the same scenario when I came to decide about self-publishing Thorn in the Flesh - when I sent him an email to ask if that was acceptable, I never got a reply (still haven't actually ...) so went ahead and did it anyway. No-one's ever complained. So, thanks to tip-offs from Vicki and Susie Nott-Bower (much appreciated, both!), I have sent a query email about Bones to Insomniac Press who publish gay mysteries, amongst other genres, and will wait to see what happens. Probably a rejection, but hey at least I've tried. Meanwhile If anyone else knows anyone on the look-out for a kick-ass top-notch gay mystery novel, please do let me know - acknowledgements guaranteed if it gets published, and a free copy too of course! But don't wait up - as it usually takes me 2 years from first query to getting accepted. Hell, this writing game is a hard one.

In the midst of all this excitement, I have taken the "What's My Mental Age?" test which is floating around on Facebook at the moment, and discovered that my mental age is ... um ... yes, it is embarrassing ... well here goes anyway ... 6 months. Yes, people, all that you suspected is true and I have a mental age of 6 months. Officially. Gulp. The further explanation tells me that my main sources of delight are (a) being pampered; (b) napping; and (c) vast quantities of mashed banana (optional). All true actually, even the mashed banana fetish. Nicest with brown sugar, I find, mmmm ... To save my blushes, the additional explanatory note seeks to reassure me that there's nothing wrong with seeking constant comfort and wanting to be close to those I love, but I feel the humiliation is most definitely in the open now. I'll never live this one down, Carruthers, for sure. Still at least it gives Lord H a focus as to what to buy me for Christmas.

Whilst firmly in the Internet test-taking mood, I have also worked through the Strengthsfinder 2.0 questions which are part of Tom Rath's book of the same name (but you have to buy the book in order to get the code to take the test - sorry!...), and apparently of the 34 key strength possibilities, my Top 5 are: Empathy; Achiever; Consistency; Discipline; Positivity. Hmm, yes well, I was surprised too. With those under my proverbial, why on earth aren't I heading up the latest bestseller lists in the TLS or at the very least being the Vice-Chancellor's Executive Assistant? Ah, it's a mystery indeed. Anyway, I shall work through the action plans for those 5 strengths and let you all know when I'm set for the big-time. Ho ho.

Before I do all that however, I have to watch the Strictly Come Dancing results programme (Hmm, is it possible my Glitz TV Fetish is holding me back? No, don't answer that one either ...) to find out who's out and who's in. I must say I thought Jodie & Ian, and Tom & Camilla were both stunning last night (in fact I think they were the only ones who were actually dancing in a show full of unfortunate clunkiness, but don't ever say I'm turning into the Blessed Craig R-H, please!) - so in a Brooke First, I actually voted for them both. Well, they deserved it. After that, there's the glorious Frost, which has to be the classiest drama on the box - and has ever been so. Boy, I'll miss it when this last woefully short series is over.

Ooh, and I almost forgot! This week's haiku is:

Sharp winter morning.
Lemon pepper narcissi
resurrect springtime.

Today's nice things:

1. Church
2. Writing Hallsfoot
3. Sending my first Bones query out
4. Internet tests
5. TV
6. Haikus.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - it's got a mental age of 6 months, you know ...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Thriller of the Year

Wonderful news today! The lovely Lisa Glass, author of the dark and supremely gripping Prince Rupert's Teardrop, has chosen A Dangerous Man as her Thriller of the Year on the Vulpes Libris Book Blog site, and you can find her comments here. You'll need to scroll down just a little as Lisa is 2nd in the Picks List. Many thanks indeed, Lisa - I'm more than grateful! Michael is quite chuffed too - and will be happy to give you a special discount of his services at any time. Naturally. The choice is yours ...

Meanwhile, last night's strange dream involved me learning how to swim. Something I've never been able to do - like whistling or climbing a tree. Anyway, my first attempt went pretty well, but I think I was overconfident the second time around as I couldn't seem to make any headway. Hmm, why does that sound so much like my life? Ah well.

Today, Lord H and I have visited The London Wetland Centre and have finally got round to joining The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. It was great to potter around, and we managed to see pochards, shovellers (I really love shovellers - well, I know what it's like to have a big beak ...), teal, gadwall, nine herons all in a row (which seems very Christmassy, weirdly), long-tailed tits, a woodpecker and a flurry of parakeets. Highlights of the day included (a) a man wandering out of the Ladies' loos looking utterly confused, presumably at the strange lack of urinals; (b) two old ladies asking us what a great crested grebe was, and we were actually able to tell them; (c) explaining what parakeets were to a young family who asked us; and (d) pointing out a woodpecker to a woman desperate to see one. Lordy, but we must really look like experts by now. In one day alone, we have educated the young and enlightened the old. Our job here is done, Carruthers ...

On the way back, I nipped into Waitrose to get a paper and food for tonight. Not to mention food for tomorrow. While Lord H popped into Halfords to get a headlight bulb for my car which is distinctly one-eyed at the moment. As I trundled round the aisles, I bumped into the vicar who promises that tomorrow's 1662 service will be a cracker. So I hope it lives up to the fanfare - we shall see! He was also impressed by my binoculars and thought it a great way to spot bargains before anyone else does. Now there's a thought. Taking binoculars to the shops could be the next Godalming trend, you know. You heard it here first.

Tonight, we shall be glued to Strictly Come Dancing and trying to work out who'll be next for the chop. I hope dear old John Sergeant manages another week, though I fear the worst. And I'm most looking forward to seeing what Cherie does. She rocks.

Today's nice things:

1. A Dangerous Man being Thriller of the Year
2. A day out with the birds
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - which contains a Thriller of the Year book, you know!...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Coffee, chat and flowers

No golf today, I'm afraid - but Marian and I had a good coffee and catch-up session at the club. My, how posh we sound, ho ho. She had a fantastic holiday and is now determined to visit Florence for longer than five minutes (they were on a cruise) - which is a sentiment I entirely agree with. Florence is of course one of the best cities in the world, along with Prague. I love them both for different reasons and can never decide which is my favourite. Both, probably. Though Florence has the best men. You can't go wrong with an Italian.

Anyway, after that I strolled through Godalming to pick up the essential local shopping and was delighted to tick off everything on my list without having to walk too far. Result! I even picked up three bunches of glorious narcissi which smell like heaven and have made the flat feel like we're in the middle of springtime. Even as I write this, I can't help but smile. I do so love flowers with scents. Bliss.

Back at, I have been working - with far more ease, thank goodness - on Hallsfoot's Battle. That's another 1000 words done so the grand total now stands at just over 46,000. Simon's reacted to Annyeke's story and is now set to have his first encounter with (a) the Gathandrian Library, and (b) what the mind-cane can do if he lets it. Hell, and I've just thought of how that scene might begin, so thank goodness for typing, eh. My inspiration comes entirely through my fingers, I swear it. I have no brain for writing. Or not so I've noticed anyway. It's all in the keyboard. Which should really have its own agent, if life were even halfway fair ...

I've also been setting up a PDF file for the lovely and highly talented Julie Balloo who hopes to publish her first novel, The Rose Lane Musical Society, later this year. If it's anything like the rest of her work, it's going to be THE read of the winter, so I'm hugely looking forward to getting it once it's out. Actually I can't wait - hurry up, Julie! We need more kick-ass reads here in the shires.

Because, talking of books, I've just finished Fred Vargas' (shock - it's a female author!) Wash This Blood Clean From My Hands. Which is basically a crime novel set in Paris. It's well-written enough but curiously uninvolving, and the first third is actually so agonisingly sloooooow that I lost the will to live and was forced to weep into my tea several times. It would be so much better if the main character, Commissaire Adamsberg, was remotely pleasant or had some inkling of how to be a warm human being. Unfortunately he doesn't possess any of those gifts and I found myself having strangely alluring fantasies based around taking his ridiculously oversized ego and shoving it up where the sun don't shine. Either that or forcing him to endure something slow in simmering oil. Sigh. I wish. On the other hand, the secondary characters of the adorable sidekick, Danglard, and the marvellously cool Retancourt are worth their weight in gold (and Retancourt is a Rubenesque kind of a lass so that's a lot of gold). I strongly suggest they spear Adamsberg with the nearest trident (you'll need to at least flick through the book to get that reference ...), chuck his body in the Seine and set up shop on their own. That would be a far more involving story. And in that case I would definitely buy another. But with Adamsberg looking set for a few more looooong-winded plots, I fear that won't happen. So you see how much I need Julie's book!

Tonight, I'm really going to have to clean the flat before someone sends round the Environmental people or before we are buried under an avalanche of old newspapers. And there's enough TV on to keep me going. Plus pizza and garlic bread to look forward to. Bliss.

Today's nice things:

1. Coffee & chat
2. Narcissi
3. Getting on with Hallsfoot
4. Hearing about Julie's book
5. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website: go on - treat yourself to a click! ...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Christmas hunks and website visitors

Ah, you can always tell when Christmas (arrggh! The "C" word, so soon - many apologies indeed ...) is nearly upon us when we hear tell of the first of the Christmas hunk calendars - so here's to the lovely Toronto firefolk who are A1 cute and also supporting a good cause, so get buying, people! I'm planning one for me and one for Mother ...

And my eyebrows were further raised today by the realisation that the good people at Macmillan Publishers paid a visit or two to my website yesterday. Well, goodness me indeed. It's not often I can put myself in the same sentence as a mainstream publisher, you know (well, never, actually ...) so I cannot pass on the opportunity to do so now. As you can see. And this year is turning out to be a record year, as I think from memory that Penguin visited in the summer. Gosh indeedy. I'm hoping I can make it into a bumper season and catch a third. Votes on Harper Collins anyone? What a triumvirate that would be! Mind you, as they're probably only popping in for lessons in how not to be (a) a proper author, or (b) a viable option, then perhaps I don't need to get my best dress out just yet ...

Anyway, to more mundane matters. I've managed to have a bath today (hurrah! Pegs off noses, everyone!...) for the first time since ... um ... last Thursday, though it took a while. And I have replaced two of my plasters and downscaled the dressing into a plaster too. I'm getting there, slowly slowly. The left shoulder is still peculiarly numb however - although I might be detecting some kind of life in there, Captain ... But not as we know it.

Incidentally, the Clinic rang yesterday to see how I was, so I rang back today and spoke to the lovely Philippa, one of the medical secretaries there. She seemed to think I was doing okay and reminded me about my follow-up appointment at the end of the month. Not that I needed reminding of course. I was chatting to her about my idea for a Husband Button, where you press it for instant marital response, and she seemed quite taken with the concept - although she felt that her daughter did already have an instant Mother Button which was rather overused. Ah, there's always a negative side to every new idea, I suppose.

For the rest of the day, I have grappled (ah, how I've grappled - good Lord, it's been tough ...) with Hallsfoot's Battle and it now stands at 45,000 words. The flashback with Annyeke's grandmother is done and came out rather differently than expected. Better too, I hope. Next I'll tackle Simon's reaction to it and also the further relationship with the mind-cane. Two steps forward and one back, Simon - don't knock it, babe.

Tonight, I'll be watching Claudia on It Takes Two and just generally chilling. Ooh, and I must say we did enjoy Absurd Person Singular at the theatre last night - although both Lord H and I felt that it would be a more satisfying, richer and more deeply human play if Acts 2 and 3 were simply swopped around. You'd just need a few tweaks to make it work perfectly well, and Act 2 is such a work of genius that it deserves to be the one you're left with. The current Act 3 just doesn't cut it. I doubt Ayckbourn of course will do any such thing - he's laughing all the way to the proverbial, even in these trying times. So my brief career as would-be Dramatic Editor is over before it's begun. Ah well and alas. I should be used to that by now ...

Today's nice things:

1. Hunky firemen
2. Interesting website visitors
3. Having a bath
4. Writing more of Hallsfoot
5. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - you never know who you'll bump into there ...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Curious shoulders, writing delights and vintage Ayckbourn

Woke up this morning with a strange kind of shooting pain in my right shoulder and the usual (well, usual since the op) numbness in my left. All very odd. It’s as if my shoulders have decided that, rather than share the burden between them, they’re each going to go for opposite ends of the pain spectrum. So today I am distinctly lop-sided – hmm, so, once again, there’s no change there.

Had a lovely time on the way to work – I’d got bored with Radio Two (didn’t like the song – I’m never bored with Terry W!!) and switched to Classic FM. Still bored – I hate the morning presenter. So I went over to my usual third choice of Radio Three. It was piano music, which I’m not a particular fan of (I’m a big orchestra kind of girl, you know …), but I kept it on as it was relatively pleasant. A few minutes went by and I found that (whilst paying due attention to the road conditions of course!…), I was listening with great attention, and that in fact the piece I’d assessed as “relatively pleasant” was actually totally charming, beautifully understated and curiously gripping. As well as being played brilliantly. I loved it, but had no idea what it was. At the end, the presenter gave the composer and player, but really I was none the wiser, so I’ve looked it up on the Radio Three website. It’s Galuppi’s Sonata No 5 in C and it was played by pianist, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (a name to die for indeed). Wonderful stuff – and it’s now on my To Buy list. No doubt, my ignorance of both these good people shows how appallingly musically unaware I am, but hey what can you expect from an Essex Girl whose parents both hated music? Rush out and listen to it if you can – it’s extraordinary!

Meanwhile at work, I’ve been rushing around sorting out meeting papers, yet more timetable issues (my favourite!) and delivering handouts to strange and remote corners of the university. Ah, it’s good to get out, so they say. But today’s super-exciting news which has SERIOUSLY made my day is that one of my Writing Group people, Mick Finlay, has had his first two stories accepted for publication – one for Open Wide Magazine, and the other for the Frogmore Papers. I’m absolutely, utterly thrilled for him, and even more pleased that both of the stories were written as homework I gave the writing group, and read out as a first draft there! Ye gods, I might have a purpose to life after all – who could have guessed it?! Mind you, Mick is an incredibly good literary writer and I suspect he actually doesn’t need us to get on. Still, it doesn’t stop me preening in the limelight though, tee hee … (when does it ever??). Well done, Mick!

Had another easy stay-at-my-desk-and-slump lunch-hour, though I really ought to try doing some gentle exercise at some point. If I go on for much longer like this, I will be completely circular, you know. Scary thought.

Tonight, Lord H and I are out at the theatre to see Ayckbourn’s Absurd Person Singular which I’m hugely looking forward to. I could do with a great night out. Lord H is also looking forward to it, though I do suspect that might have something to do with the fact that Honeysuckle Weeks is in it, and he’s always had a soft spot for her since she was in Foyle’s War …

Today’s nice things:

1. Odd shoulders comedy
2. Discovering Galuppi – and Michelangeli
3. Mick’s good writing news
4. A night at the theatre.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Golden dreams and mental health

Had the best night’s sleep last night that I’ve had for well over a week. Still feel tired though (dammit), but serious bliss, nonetheless. I was beginning to think I’d lost the ability to sleep properly at all. Mind you, the fact that the cold seems to have all but cleared up and I can therefore breathe again does help.

Had a wonderful, but bizarre, dream too: I was part of a husband and wife private detective team (with me being the man, as ever …) in a fantasy setting. We’d had to move from Paris (a city I’ve never enjoyed, but never mind – it was perfect in the dream) to London because of my job but, although the work was good, it wasn’t as enjoyable as before. I don’t think the cases we were getting were as exciting. Anyway, on our latest case we had to take a trip back to Paris to try and solve it and, once there, everything fell perfectly into place. The streets and buildings were beautiful and – for the first time – I could hear the song of the voices in the city in my head, in a way we never could in London. I remember saying, in the dream, to my wife that it was as if the voice of London was dead and only Paris was truly alive. And I could also see the golden statues move – both London and Paris had these magnificent golden statues, known as angels, but in London they were always still. In Paris, they were alive. The first one I saw was a statue of Hamlet striding across a square back into his usual place. I was so excited that the wife and I agreed there and then that we had to come home to where we belonged. All very strange – and what on earth can it mean? Hmm, maybe I feel another novel coming on, Lord preserve us …

I also thought the Alistair Campbell breakdown programme which I watched yesterday was fascinating and extremely worthwhile. Mental health issues do indeed need to come out of the closet and be what they are: a part of the lives of rather a lot of us. The section that I found myself responding to by punching the air and yelling “yes yes, that’s exactly how it is!” was when Campbell said that the worst thing about depression was that it was utterly impossible to explain it to anyone else or to even formulate sentences about it in one’s own mind. Indeed, depression is truly the enemy of communication. And the worst question you can ever be asked (and I know as I’ve been asked it and it always leaves me gibbering with inappropriate rage and frantic with frustration – though not to the person’s face, thus far …) is that old chestnut: “what’s wrong?” That’s the point of depression – we don’t know!! And it’s not at all that anything specific is actually wrong – the problem is the person. And that’s always been one of Lord H’s many plus points – when I’m going through a down time, he’s never once, even in the early days, asked me what was wrong. He just seems to accept that is how it is, for now, and we just have to trog on through it as best we can. Believe me, that’s a rare gift to have.

Anyway, it’s been busy in the office today – loads of meetings of all different types to arrange and yet more timetabling to sort out. It’s like a giant three-dimensional code and only I have the key to open its mysteries. I just don’t know where I’ve put that damn key at the moment, sigh. One can only hope it will turn up.

I stayed at my desk at lunchtime again, although I do think my stomach is getting better. Walking doesn’t hurt quite so much – though I suspect (after last night’s brief inspection of the area) that the tummy button scar is likely to take the longest to heal. Ah I fear that there’ll be no golf this Friday, Carruthers …

Tonight, I’ll pop into see Gladys on the way home. She’ll probably have forgotten who I am by now – though that’s probably a good thing of course. UPDATE - a nice quiet visit as she was pleasantly sleepy. A much appreciated change from the last time I saw her for sure. And I’m planning an evening of antisocial sloth, aha. So no change there then.

Today’s nice things:

1. Sleep
2. Strange but wonderful dreams
3. Campbell’s views on depression – so true!

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Monday, October 13, 2008

Weary Mondays and a good work review

Managed to get myself to work today, hurrah – had almost forgotten what the office looked like. I’m okay, if weary, just as long as I don’t walk very far and don’t make any sudden movements. Hell, that about sums up my life plan then. And at least I’ve managed to sort out the crowd of outstanding emails in my inbox, though I feel there will be more problems on the way soon. The refresher talks timetabling is proving a sticky wicket – to say the least. Ah well.

And I’ve posted my two eBook contracts off to Bristlecone Pine Press in the States, so feel better that’s done. Am certainly looking forward to them having Pink Champagne and Apple Juice as well as Thorn in the Flesh on their lists. Soon I will be the complete eBook Queen, ho ho.

Today’s moment of Real-Life Horror took place over lunchtime – I stayed at my desk as I didn’t want to walk anywhere, and was in the middle of lunch when a spider ran straight across my keyboard. Arrrgghhh!!! I HATE spiders and my main mission in life is to destroy as many as possible as quickly as possible. Yes, and I do know that makes me an evil witch, but there you go … Anyway, I managed not to scream as Chaplaincy Ruth was trying to concentrate on something vital, and instead just silently beat the wicked beast to death with my napkin. Ah, Courage – thy name is Woman. As Shakespeare didn’t quite say. Or was that Lord Byron? I forget.

The other excitement is that, in my absence, the space between my desk and my cupboard appears to be the new storage place for the office hoover. So, each time I need to get something out – which today has been frequent – I have to kneel down and stretch round the darn thing in order to reach my essential papers. I’m hoping it will find another home soon, poor thing. There isn’t room for me and it here, you know.

And this afternoon, I had my work review. It was surprisingly good actually, though I’m not fully convinced my brain was entirely alert throughout (is it ever??) – and they might even keep me on for another year. If I’m lucky. Phew!

On the way home, I did the Tesco shop – very, very slowly – though to be honest there wasn’t that much to get, as Lord H nobly did loads last week. Plus the ironing as well, Gawd bless ’im. I even managed to get some happy and gorgeously coloured sheep and cow socks at the shop, which are cheering me up nicely, and also some ginger body cream. Mmm - I do so love ginger body cream. It makes everything feel better. Must be something to do with my hair colour, I suppose ...

Tonight is yet another TV night. There’s catch-up with Claudia and I’m hoping to watch yesterday’s video of the Campbell breakdown programme. I don’t really have the energy for anything else.

Today’s nice things:

1. Posting off the two contracts
2. Work review
3. Happy socks
4. Ginger body cream
5. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Feeling fuzzy

Today's main feeling is definitely one of fuzziness. I'm not feeling particularly well and I'm not feeling particularly ill either. Weird really. It's as if I'm on the cusp of feeling ill but not quite there. Much like treading water would be, I suppose, if I could even swim. The cold is a little better though and I'm rather less husky than I was yesterday. Though when I attempted to go for a lie-down this afternoon, I didn't get very far due to Snorty-Nose Syndrome. Ah well. I can only hope I'm better at breathing tonight when I try for the sleep option. Perhaps a quick Lemsip is called for ...

I've done a hell of a lot of puzzles from both my puzzle books though, so that's been fun. And the first of my three remaining plasters has come off - the one on the back of the hand, which is apparently part of the anaesthetic process, but Lordy knows how exactly - and it appears to be all healed up, hurrah. So I haven't replaced that. This leaves me with two plasters and one dressing, both in the stomach area. My goodness, what a lot of holes the poor dears had to make indeed. The mind definitely does the proverbial. I think I shall leave tackling those till later in the week when I may be feeling stronger. I do have replacements if need be. But for now they seem fine. Strangely the left shoulder is still rather numb, but causing me less angst than yesterday, I must admit. I was prepared for shoulder pain - which they'd warned me about - but not the loss of sensation. At least the pins and needles thing has gone. My, what fun recuperation is, my dears!

I've also - shock! horror! probe! - actually done some writing to Hallsfoot's Battle. Another thousand words indeed, which came far more smoothly than anticipated, so I'm now at 44,005 words. Or thereabouts. I'm dealing with the difficult relationship between Annyeke and her grandmother now - funny how much I'm taking from my relationship with my own grandmother, ho ho. The old biddy would not, I suspect, be overly-pleased. But if being an author doesn't give me the power to take a kind of literary revenge, then what the hell use is it, tee hee. Besides Annyeke does grow to respect her, even if things weren't too good in childhood between them - and, much like myself, is probably well on the way to even becoming that same old biddy. Goddammit. Grandmothers always have the last laugh after all ...

And I must say how absolutely horrible all the judges were - even Uncle Len! - on last night's Strictly Come Dancing. I found them hugely upsetting. Why do they have to make people cry? It's unnecessary. Mind you, that said, Cherie and James' rhumba was the best dance I've seen in a long, long time - incredibly beautiful and strong. It certainly deserved all those 9s and to my mind should have had a 10 in there as well. Maybe two 10s. Shame on the judges that they didn't take that step. I'm definitely voting for Cherie - Austin had better watch out!

Tonight, there's the start of a new series - the last one ever, apparently, groan ... - of Frost, so I'll be glued to that. But I'll also be videoing the programme about Alastair Campbell's breakdown. From 20 years ago, I know what it's like to have a meltdown experience, so I'm all for programmes that bring mental health out into the open. Good for them. It should definitely be more talked about - and well done, Mr C, for allowing the programme to be made.

This week's haiku:

Beyond my window,
small birds weave bright medicine.
I wait for a cure.

Today's nice things:

1. Getting rid of one plaster
2. Puzzles
3. Writing more of Hallsfoot
4. TV
5. Haikus.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Post-hospital recuperation and nearly a Mslexia mention ...

Well, I'm out of hospital, phew - and I do have to say how absolutely lovely everyone at Mount Alvernia was, and that includes all the wonderful ward staff, the consultant and anaesthetist too, hurrah. And also a HUGE thank you to everyone who sent good wishes - I really appreciated it, as I was pretty scared. In case you hadn't realised ... Thank you. Mind you, I really do love having a bed where I can move the pillow end up and down electronically to the height desired, plus a little orange button that brings a nurse immediately to sort me out - ah bliss ... And the TV and ensuite bathroom were lovely too. I'm wondering about installing a little orange button that brings Lord H instantly to my side, but I suspect he will not be too keen ...

Anyway, In the end the actual op was rather more complex than the consultant anticipated, I think, and I was in the operating theatre for rather longer than expected. POSSIBLE SQUEAMISH ALERT!! - The good news is they don't reckon it's cancer, though they have removed the cyst and sent it for testing just in case. The surprise as far as everyone was concerned is that it's apparently obvious that I've had galloping endometriosis ("all over the place, my dear" - end of consultant quote!) for years, but it hasn't been diagnosed. (I was tested for it 20 years ago, but the testing equipment then - being not as good as now - never picked it up). Anyway, the consultant ... um ... hoovered(!) appropriately, which is what took so long - though I may have to go for further treatment with an endometriosis expert. We'll have to see. However she was thrilled with the state of my liver, which she says is marvellous, double hurrah. Always good to have one bodily part you can rely on is what I say. And my liver has of course done sterling service over the years, though it's less busy now ... END OF SQUEAMISH ALERT!

It's also apparent that I don't take well to anaesthetic - say no more! - a factor I should have remembered from my childhood stay in hospital many, many years ago. Anyway, I spent most of Thursday evening and all of Friday being hugely groggy and confused (much like an Essex Girl weekend then ...), and am really pretty tired now. Also very sore. But I have dressings, plasters and at least the stitches are out, so I'm well on the road to recovery. Or at least I'm further away from the starting block. Anyway I'm eating normally, triple hurrahs, plus I've managed to wash, including my hair, so I do feel more alive and human than I did. Being clean really makes a difference, you know.

So today I've done nothing more than watch TV, sleep and do crossword puzzles and sudokus. Which has been rather enjoyable. Though it is odd that the cold I had just before I went into hospital appears to have returned, dammit, but in milder form. Curiouser and curiouser indeed ...

However, the nice news has been reading the article on Flame Books in Mslexia in which A Dangerous Man so nearly got a mention in the words: "Since their launch in 2003, Flame Books have built up a list of 13 titles that range from short story anthologies and novels of rural meltdown, to a gay crime thriller - an unusual foray into genre fiction for them." Ah, Michael, so near and so far, eh! Also lovely to see a special mention for Megan Taylor's tour-de-force of a novel, How We Were Lost and for Laura Solomon's utter marvellous short story collection, Alternative Medicine - both of which you should rush to buy and read at once. They're humdingers of books.

The other positive news is that Avari Press - the small US publisher to whom I sent the initial package of The Gifting - have emailed to say that its been through several reviews, they're still impressed and they want to evaluate it further. Well, that's nice to hear - when I saw the email come through, I was just expecting the usual "thanks, but no thanks". Now, even if they decide against it, at least I know the first few chapters do have the ability to hook someone out there. Ah, there's hope, Carruthers - it's just very very tiny, and a long way away ...

Today's nice things:

1. Being at home
2. Orange instant nurse buttons
3. Bedroom TV & ensuite bathrooms
4. The nearly mention in Mslexia
5. Avari Press being impressed with The Gifting
6. Puzzles
7. Regular naps.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Contracts, reviews and sock considerations

Managed to grab a decent amount of sleep yesterday, thank goodness, but have still taken the day off today as I did feel rather shaky this morning. I also want to be as well as possible for tomorrow, which I think is probably a sensible move.

Anyway, today there's good news and mixed news ('twas ever thus ...). I was delighted to receive both my eBook contracts from Bristlecone Pine Press, one for Thorn in the Flesh and the other for Pink Champagne and Apple Juice. So I've read through and signed those and will get them back to Leslie next week.

And the great Scott Pack has nobly flicked through Maloney's Law (an act surely well beyond the Call of Duty ...) and considers it to have a certain charm, though it's not as slick or professional as other crime novels. So a rather mixed response, sigh. Ah well - as I said in the comments which you can find here, we Essex Gals don't really understand the concept of slick professionalism. Unless it comes with white stilettos of course ... But I'm certainly grateful for the mention, as Lord knows I need all the help I can get - so thank you for that, Scott!

This afternoon, I've packed for my hospital stay tomorrow, though I do wonder if - now I'm not having the ablation - they might let me out early. That would be good, but I'm not taking any chances so have packed anyway. I can always bring it all home again. Hell, I've even remembered my specially purchased flannelette nightie, so that should get them running to the hills for sure. I've also taken it hugely easy and done nothing to further my literary career today (professional or otherwise, tee hee ...) but instead have watched my DVD (yes - we do DVDs too here in the twilight zone!) of My Beautiful Launderette. A gorgeous film - you can't really go wrong with Daniel Day-Lewis and a dash of boy-on-boy action. All so gloriously 80s.

Oh, and I've decided to change my sock-wearing routine. Sorry if this is dull - or possibly hugely OCD - but I always wear black socks when I'm working and happy socks (ie non-black ones) at weekends. That's so I know when I'm supposed to be having fun. I decided a couple of weeks ago that, in line with my slow withdrawal from other aspects of the dreaded Writing Game, I'd wear happy socks on Thursdays and Fridays too, as I wasn't going to view writing as "work" any more. I'm going to try to view it as a fun hobby, hence the happy socks. I think it might be helping, somehow, in a weird sort of a way. And as the Doyenne of the Non-Professional Novel, I do of course have standards to maintain ...

Anyway, if the hospital keep me in, then I should be back on Friday, but probably won't feel much like blogging. But we'll see. I hope both my readers (Gawd bless you, sirs ...) have a good end of week, and hope to catch up soon.

Today's nice things:

1. Signing two contracts
2. Getting a mention on Scott's blog
3. Films
4. The existential mystery of socks.

Anne Brooke
Anne's Website

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Sick as the proverbial ...

A day off today as I've finally succumbed to the evil demands of the cold I've been developing, sigh. Having managed a grand total of 4 hours' sleep on Sunday night and a gloriously indecent one hour last night, I probably ruddy well deserve a day off. I gave up even trying to sleep at around midnight yesterday and got up and began to do a stream of endless puzzles in the living room instead. Couldn't be arsed to turn the TV on really. My one hour's sleep finally overtook me on the sofa at around 5am. Frankly it was delicious.

So today, I called in sick and have been dousing myself with the usual Lemsip, Lucozade and Echinaforce combo. Oh, plus honey and a Vick's vapour rub steam bath. And yet more puzzles. Might try another steam bath later - Lordy but it's good to be able to breathe, you know. I've also watched my video of the totally wonderful Galaxy Quest, which is just such a great film and never fails to cheer me up, and I've had a nap, hurrah. Don't want to overdo it though - I'm hoping for sleep tonight after all ...

All in all therefore, I'd make an excellent Lydia Languish - I haven't even had the energy to think about Hallsfoot's Battle, let alone bring it up on screen at all. Simon, Annyeke and the rest of the merry gang will have to hold their own by themselves for a while, I think. I'm good for nothing more tonight than TV, whimpering and wondering if I ought to get round to eating anything at all. Because, my dears, my appetite has packed up and headed south for the winter. If you see it wandering around looking lost, please point it in the right direction and send it back. I imagine I'll need it someday.

Most of all, I'm bloody determined to get better before bloody Thursday!!

Today's nice things:

1. Puzzles
2. That hour of longed-for sleep
3. Napping.
4. Galaxy Quest
5. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Monday, October 06, 2008

Further timetabling and the Sniffle Olympics

Am once more neck-deep in timetabling issues for the refresher talks but, thanks to the totally wonderful Safety guy, it all seems to be relatively under control. For the moment. I’m sure most things are more successfully sorted when I’m actually not there. Which is much like the play, The Dog It Was That Died, where lots of things happen but everything would have been just the same without the main character existing at all. Ah, life’s a wonderful thing, eh …

I also seem to have developed a cold, dammit – just what I need for this week. Not. Still, I am dousing myself in Lemsips, Lucozade and Echinacea so I’m hoping for a clean bill of health by the time the operation comes round on Thursday. I don’t after all want to be too sick to go to hospital. It would be too much like the time many years ago in my pre-marital days when I was planning to go to the Healing Service in Lord’s H’s church, but in the end was too ill to attend. Sad but true.

As a result of all this, I struggled somewhat during my reflexology session – well, it’s very hard to lie down when all you want to do is snort like an old horse for a while and make good use of the local spittoon. Heck but I’m so refined, you know. Obviously. Post-reflexology, I was even rather shaky and had to really concentrate in keeping upright and looking normal (always a tricky combination) on the walk across campus back to the office. I can’t be frightening the students by fainting after all. Mind you, I hadn’t eaten anything by then, so that might well have been the problem. Once back at my desk, the Dean very sweetly offered me some baklava (provided to all of us by the Islamic Society for helping them during Ramadan) and a nice cup of tea. Which were both much appreciated, though I did pass on the baklava. Thanks, Colin!

Meanwhile, the boss and the Project Welcome Officer have also bought me some Ferrero Rocher chocolates to say thank you for the work put into the whole of the Freshers’ Week project, which I was really touched about. Thank you, David and Tamzin – much appreciated. Plus Ferrero wrappers make excellent bling. I feel a pair of earrings coming on, as it were …

Tonight, I was planning to visit Gladys, but have neither the physical nor emotional health for it right now, so I’ll see how I feel over the next couple of days. Instead, I’ll have to do the ironing, even though there’s nothing on TV except the glorious Claudia. Who is a tonic unto herself of course.

I’ve finished reading Salley Vickers’ The Other Side Of You. The interview at the back tells me that she thinks it’s her best so far. Um, sadly not, in my opinion. I loved the main character, David, but the whole Elizabeth/Thomas love affair in the middle manages to be both hugely irritating as a flashback and hugely overwrought. I would rather have stuck purely to the MC. And anyway if anyone’s going to be irritating and overwrought around here, it’s me. Obviously. Some of the writing is also rather clunky, it lacks her usual charming subtlety and it even trails off to the point where I lost a great deal of the interest factor. If you’re going to read your first Vickers, I wouldn’t start here.

Today’s nice things:

1. Reflexology
2. Baklava and chocolate gifts
3. Claudia Winkleman.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Mausoleums and other church trivia

Lord H and I got up in time to show our faces at church today, which was okay really. Some lovely traditional hymns, and I do always like that. As long as they get the right tunes of course - on the whole they did. St Mary's had a visiting priest today, who seemed very soothing. Just what you need on a Sunday. Mind you, he started off his sermon with an apology for talking about his visit to the family mausoleum and therefore sounding pompous. Actually, Lord H and I are much taken with the concept of having a family mausoleum that you regularly visit - ah, the vaults, the vaults, the family vaults ... - and would do it ourselves if either of us had one. We do wonder what in fact he might have been doing there - were they putting someone to rest or taking someone away? Perhaps they had to make sure old Uncle Albert wasn't up to his usual tricks and were there to put a stake through the old codger's heart or some such excitement? Did the priest have to check his supplies of garlic and silver bullets before he set off?? All very thrilling, you know - and probably not the thought processes the priest meant to encourage. Especially as the point of the sermon was that we turned our minds away from death and towards resurrection. My dears, by then I was already planning the decor on my own personal vault. Something fetching in gold and black perhaps?...

Talking of matters religious, Lord H and I were both saddened and sadly amused by the recent reporting of a harassment campaign against a rural woman vicar that included throwing a lighted candle in her car. Sad to say, harassment campaigns against women priests are par for the course and have been since they were invented. Naturally the culprits should be soundly whipped and locked in the vaults with old Uncle Albert, but we were amused by the concept of church abuse. Is this the precursor of would-be agressors scrawling the Nicene Creed over rectory walls in blood and sending hate mail in Latin? How very Midsomer Murders, if so ... There's something peculiarly British about it all indeed. Revolution for the praying classes.

Today I have managed another 500 words or so to Hallsfoot's Battle and am about to take Annyeke on a journey back to her past. I think it's going to be part of her battle, and will somehow help Simon. At least I hope so. I've also finally booked our December holiday (winter birding and other chilly thrills) at The Briarfields Hotel where we stayed in August. Well, we enjoyed it so much then that we thought we'd go back. So good to get it sorted out though - something to look forward to always being welcome.

Tonight, I shall be desperate to know the Strictly Come Dancing results, and then it's the pain and catharsis of the last episode of Tess. Prepare to weep indeed. We've also finally watched our video of Antony Sher in God on Trial. Wonderful stuff, but very very bleak. Not to mention thought-provoking. Marvellous to see such quality on TV though. A rare treat.

This week's haiku is:

Glamour frocks, slashed shirts,
fleckerls, glitz and Claudia.
I'm hooked on Strictly.

Yes, I did look up what I thought was "fleckle", but apparently it's "fleckerl" or "flekerl" - but I don't know which. Please enlighten me if you do!

Today's nice things:

1. Church amusements
2. Writing
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Reviews, offers and birds

Was delighted to see another five-star review of Maloney's Law on Amazon which you can find here, or alternatively below:

"Paul Maloney is a private investigator with an ex-lover Dominic Allen who is CEO of his own international company. He is the one Paul can never forget and as a result he has little hesitation in taking on a job for Dominic. Very quickly Paul realises he is out of his depth in more ways than one. His world will never be the same and he must face his own demons as well as those of his family before he can come out the other side with the hope of a fresh start. As ever the characters are carefully drawn and believable. It is clear both Dominic and Paul are the products of their upbringing and experience. The conclusion is satisfying and shows Paul a sadder and wiser human being. This is not a comfortable book to read and it reveals a ruthless and amoral side to big business which we would all prefer to ignore. It also shows relationships between parents and children as problematic and full of misunderstandings and capable of being resolved if both sides are prepared to make the effort. Well worth reading if you want something different from the norm."

Thanks, Jill - much appreciated indeed! Especially after the week I've had, of course. I've also had some good news from Leslie at Bristlecone Pine Press who is very keen to take Pink Champagne and Apple Juice as one of her range of eBooks. As you may remember, she already has Thorn in the Flesh, so it will be interesting to have both books out as eBooks. Many thanks indeed, Leslie.

Today, Lord H and I have spent a wonderful, wild and windswept (not to mention rainy) time at Amberley Wild Brooks and Pulborough Brooks. It was fantastic. We managed to see a flock of goldfinches - who look just like big bees flitting around with that striped wing marking and the flash of yellow - stonechats, a tree creeper, widgeon, teal and no less that five jays - who are obviously utterly desperate to be spotted today. Either that or it was one very speedy publicity-seeking jay. Hard to say really. We also spent a happy quarter of an hour or so in one of the Pulborough hides with lots of other people looking excitedly at what we thought was a dunlin (little) and a pectoral sandpiper (larger), conveniently standing close together for ease of identification. However, once we all got our telescopes and perspectives sorted out, we realised the pairing was actually a little stint (very small) and a dunlin (larger). Which wasn't quite as exciting, bearing in mind the relative rarity of pectoral sandpipers. Ah well. But at least the dunlin's honour was satisfied not to be the little guy this time ... It was also lovely to have a snack lunch at Pulborough who know how to cook good quality stuff within reasonable time frames - only five minutes from order to delivery rather than the 50 or so minutes of the place we were at last week, sigh.

Anyway, tonight, I'm preparing my scoring sheet (yes, I know - I'm hugely sad, sorry, sorry ...) for the joys of Strictly Come Dancing, and I'm looking forward to the Chinese/Indian takeaway we've just brought from Waitrose to go with it. Though, sad to say, there'll be slightly less on my plate than expected as Lord H unfortunately dropped my choice on the kitchen floor whilst unpacking and some of it escaped. I was all for scraping it up and putting it back in the fridge with its friends (well, I am from Essex and I did wash the floor yesterday ...) but Lord H's tolerance boundaries do not allow such things. Such a well brought-up family, you know.

Today's nice things:

1. The Maloney review
2. The Pink Champagne eBook
3. Birds
4. Strictly Come Dancing.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Friday, October 03, 2008

Calm down, dear ...

No real need to cover your ears and blush today, people, as the Swearing Queen of Godalming is (relatively) under control. Or - which may be more likely - too drained to shout. Thank goodness for calming pills, eh. Anyway, you'll be pleased to hear that I finally got the all-important operation code last night due to a combination of (a) my very talented and totally lovely sister-in-law-to-be Googling it for me (thank you, Sue - I was way too stressed to think of that, doh!); (b) the Clinic finally ringing me up with a list of possible codes; and (c) the Consultant (well, gosh, I must indeed have sounded desperate ...) herself ringing me up and suggesting that I didn't have to have either the D&C or the ablation, and could in fact just have the Laporoscopy and the Hysteroscopy, but she'd discuss it more with me next week. Lordy, but it's getting more complicated by the minute (not least due to her rather snippety comments about my nice GP's "interference" - then again, dear, at least he's had the decency to read my medical notes, and no-one else round here has). Anyway, I'm keeping calm (deeeeep breaths and humming ...) and I'm not going to think about it till next Thursday. I'm fully convinced I'll opt for just the 2 operations however. Let's minimise the fiddling around is what I say.

Mind you, Lord H was lovely when he arrived back from work to my tale of woe and pain last night. He said I should have rung him - actually I did try a couple of times but was too stressed out to speak so didn't complete the call. Lord H's response was I should have rung anyway and I didn't have to speak - he would have known it was me by the wild and desperate sobbing. What a hero, eh! And, no doubt, just one of the many things Today's Company Secretary has to deal with in a normal day, ho ho. It does however take us back to the days when we first started going out together in our 20s, a decade when I spent most of my time in emotional melt-down bewailing my fate. Ah, same old, same old then. He probably thinks all wives are supposed to be Basket Cases ...

Anyway, inspired by angst and misery, I have come up with my first poem for a while, so hell there's always a silver lining. Somewhere.

My fictional life

I’m planning a fictional life.
It’ll be much better
than the one I have.

In it, I’ll always be calm
and kind and blonde,
with teeth I don’t have to struggle with.

Everything I do
will turn out well
and I won’t have to spend

countless hours trying
to make things happen,
sending messages to people

who never respond, waiting
on the phone
for the canned Mozart

to end, repeating information
that no-one listened to
when I said it first –

– or second –, being invisible
to waitresses or at bars, grunting
at a too jolly dentist, or chewing

the carpet and spitting.
Yes, I’m planning a calm,
kind, blonde fictional life.

I highly recommend it.

Oh, and another good thing has come out of yesterday: one of my transatlantic blog readers, Dale Estey, was very chuffed to learn the phrase "arsed off" and will now apparently be using it on a regular basis. Happy to help, Dale - and thank you for letting me know!

Meanwhile, today has been astonishingly calm. I slept late, had a lovely long bath and didn't actually get dressed until midday. Lordy but I needed that, I can tell you. I then drove to Sainsbury's in Godalming to get the essential chicken-and-lemon wrap, without which my Fridays are shot to pieces, and was just walking up to the shop when this charming lady-of-a-certain-age accosted me in the politest manner possible and asked me where her car might be. She was so terribly sweet and nice that I decided against running away, screaming "you are a mad woman - please don't hurt me", and instead spent several actually rather life-affirming minutes making sure her loaded trolley didn't escape and seeing if she recognised any of the vehicles. We worked out between us that it was probably a beige-coloured Citroen and then - ye gods and put out the bunting! - we even found it, hurrah! Weirdly, it was the most normal conversation I've had with a real-live person all week. I didn't know you could still have those kind of chats these days. So thank you for that, Jeannie (and nice to know you've got a sister called Anne too ...)!

Also astonishingly, I've finished the scene in Hallsfoot's Battle that was one of the many things I was struggling with yesterday, and am on to one I might even understand more. So it's now at the grand total of 42,000 words and I have an inkling of a plan for the next page. Now, there's a novelty for sure.

I've finished reading Douglas Houston's poetry collection, The Welsh Book of the Dead. Some great poetry in there, and I thoroughly enjoyed a larger proportion of poems out of the whole than I usually do. Much larger indeed. Most of all, I was blown away by the villanelles and their delightfully humane precision. Anyone who can do more than one villanelle that's worth reading is highly rated in my book. I've only done two in my poetic lifetime, and one of them is a bit dodgy. Houston's a veritable Villanelle Master. Definitely recommended and I shall be looking out for more of his stuff.

Today's nice things (ye gods, it's back!):
1. People's kindness - much appreciated, I can tell you
2. Lord H
3. Poetry
4. Baths
5. The mad - but charming - car woman
6. Writing
7. Houston's villanelle expertise.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website