Saturday, January 31, 2009

Birds, books and conspiracies

Have spent a glorious day in Blashford Lakes today, and thank you hugely to Peter & Sue for the tip - much appreciated. The wonderful news is I saw my first Lesser Redpoll there - well, quite a few of them actually - so that was grand. Other birds spotted for this year included bramblings, a linnet and goosanders. We also got a great view of a bittern standing amongst reeds very close by, plus siskins, nuthatches, a black-necked grebe, some goldeneye and all the usual suspects. We also attempted to spot firecrest, crossbills and hawfinches, but to no avail alas. They're obviously somewhere else at the moment. But it's a great place to go if you're keen on birds - honestly the woods were alive with them. Which is astonishing as normally when Lord H and I go birdspotting in woodland, we see absolutely nothing and the trees are as silent as winter. Which as it is winter is hardly surprising, but really, my dears, I can't be expected to find the perfect simile every time. Even Homer nods ...

I've finished an utterly excellent collection of short stories - Conspiracies by John Kinsella and Tracy Ryan. It's fabulous and I have so many favourites I don't know where to begin. First off, Kinsella's Family (a snapshot of a very split family) is great - and all the more so as I was astonished to see a sharp short story which is told from multiple viewpoints. I hadn't realised that could be done or even work. I found it quite inspirational and am mulling over whether I might try one like that too. I just have to think about it for a while. Also Ryan's Ghosting is a punchy tale about two best friends and the secrets they don't share; Kinsella's The Glass Table takes an item of furniture and makes it alter a relationship beyond any hope of return; Ryan's The Ring takes the theme of different languages and cultures to show us a budding relationship that doesn't quite get there; Kinsella's Stain is a powerful and subtle ghost story with a kick-ass ending; another Kinsella tale, The Play, is my utter favourite in the collection and is a dark sharp story about a piece of play-acting in a pub that goes terribly, terribly wrong. Frankly it's perfect. I couldn't fault it. I could probably read it over and over again and still get something more out of it - it's that good. Again, Kinsella's Vermin! is a gripping snapshot of a boy who doesn't fit into his family (and Lordy we've probably all been there, eh ...) but the ending is surprisingly positive and holds out something like hope; finally, Ryan's Nurture is a sting-in-the-tale look at becoming a lesbian. All in all, I probably preferred Kinsella's offerings, but it's a close-run thing and there are more of his tales included so he possibly has an unfair advantage. That said, I do think Kinsella's The Chain Letter is very over-described to the point of description-pornography (and it's not to do with sex - well not until the end anyway ...) and I personally don't think should have been included here, but I appreciate that's a personal take on the story. Others may like what happens with the lice, but I found it rather gross! Anyway, apart from that this collection is fabulous and I highly recommend it.

Meanwhile tonight we have Chinese takeaway from Waitrose and ice cream - bliss! I can't wait. It rounds off the day perfectly.

Today's nice things:

1. Birds
2. Books
3. Chinese takeaway & ice cream.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - conspiracies are everywhere, you know ...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Wing mirrors, backs and booky wooks

Quite a productive day today, all things considered. And I feel unusually calm. Good Lord, do you think Lord H has finally resorted to putting things in my tea? Can't say I blame him however ...

Anyway this morning, Marian and I have played a stonkingly good game of golf and I even got a par on the 9th, hurrah. Not that I deserved it though - as on the 8th I was so overcome by her wonderful off-green putt which was heading straight to the hole that I forgot to remove the flag where I was holding it just in case, and the dang ball rebounded off the pole and spun back onto the green. Goddammit. It's astonishing she didn't slit my throat there and then. Really If I had any kind of golfing honour at all, I would have gone quietly behind the clubhouse and beaten myself to death with my own clubs. But, as you can see, I'm still here. As Marian said, thank goodness we're not playing for cash ... And indeed I was already on a dubious footing to start with as I was five minutes late for our tee time. I would have been on time but today I am driving Lord H's supercharged new car and I couldn't work out how to make the wing mirrors go out and resume their normal positions, as when he parks he presses some kind of magic button that puts them to bed. As it were. Could I find that button??? No, I could not. So in the end I had to resort to phoning him at work from the mobile (our flat is 32 steps up and I couldn't be arsed to go back for a real phone ...) - which I couldn't do in the car as it was parked in a no signal zone, so I had to leave the car running and then trot like a crazed animal up and down the road waving my mobile until I could get a signal. Lordy, what will the neighbours think?? Anyway, Lord H solved the problem for me so at least Marian and I managed to play. I couldn't possibly drive anywhere without wing mirrors. Why was I driving his car? I hear you cry ... Well, my dears, this is Surrey after all, and the good people at the golf club have decided to offer a valeted car cleaning service while you play. Because of course the leisured classes couldn't possibly wield their own sponges. And it's brilliant value for a great clean - last time I had my car done and this time it's Lord H's turn. No doubt once the neighbours cotton on to this exciting new slave trade, I will be driving all sorts of vehicles all over the place and getting them nice and clean. Should I draft a business plan, I wonder?...

Meanwhile, once back at the ranch, I've been puzzling away at Ralph's predicament (the mountain dogs! the magic well! the women! the old family emeralds! Where will it all end?? Hell, don't ask me ...) in Hallsfoot's Battle and I've now raised my word total to over 85,000, so that's something anyway. I'm enjoying Ralph at the moment. It's the rest of the gang that are giving me grief.

Anyway, inspired by that and also by author Clare London, I've submitted The Bones of Summer to another gay fiction publisher as well. Just in case it's the sort of book they might like. Thanks for the tip, Clare - much appreciated! I'll have to wait and see what they say though ...

Talking of writing, here's this morning's meditation. It's true too.

Meditation 61

The purification
of women
is a puzzle

men have always pondered.
Odd how
a daughter’s birth

made a woman
twice as impure
as a son’s.

I think slowly
of my own mother’s
purification rite

in a small southern church
only forty-four years ago
and understand how

some things never change.

I've also had my third Alexander Technique lesson. The tutor is very good. I think it's helping my back and shoulder problems. And at a mental level too. Funny how what she says about "the importance of filling my space" somehow makes sense. I spend 99% of my life feeling pressed down and somehow trapped, as if I'm apologising in a physical way just for existing - you know: head down and slightly hunched in the hope that nobody will notice I'm there. But if I think instead about filling my own space (and it's not easy after 44 years to alter familiar habits, believe me ...) and let my shoulders and back relax outward into where perhaps they should be, then I do feel taller. It's a quite liberating sensation indeed.

I've finished reading Russell Brand's My Booky Wook. I have to admit he's not a man I greatly warm to, particularly after recent disasters, but there are moments in the book where I laughed out loud and it is written with a rather endearing honesty. There's something essentially Byronic about the bloke, in my opinion. And in some ways the book has made me like him better. But the astonishing thing - and the reason you must consider it as one for your reading list - is that it absolutely has the best last two pages I have ever read in any biography. Or any work of non-fiction indeed. And the utter best last line. It's stunning and it left me (a) in tears and (b) hugely impressed. If the bugger can write like that with such piercing clarity and depth, then more please and soon.

Today's nice things:

1. Feeling calm
2. Golf
3. Writing Hallsfoot
4. Submitting Bones
5. Poetry
6. The AT lesson
7. Books.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - keeping its wing mirrors out ...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hallsfoot, puzzles and story thoughts

Have most of the day working away on Hallsfoot's Battle - the writing seems slightly easier when I'm with Ralph. Possibly because he has more exciting action-hero type stuff to do, rather than the Gathandrians, who have to puzzle over their battle plans and worry about the mind-executioner's next move. As well as wondering where the hell Simon is. Then again, Ralph is first and foremost a soldier, so he's used to a bit of derring-do. He's best when he doesn't have to think, you know ... So, I'm now at over 84,000 words and I have plans for the Lammas Lord (AKA Ralph, for those of you not quite keeping up at the back - which probably includes me these days too ...), so there'll be something to write about tomorrow when I come to it again. I hope.

And this morning's meditation poem is:

Meditation 60

I’m pleased that camel,
rock-badger and rabbit

escape the call
of the cooking pot,

but I’m not too worried
about moles, rats

or mice.
Hurry through the dark streets,

usher the poor, the blind
and the lame

to a feast
they have not looked for.

I've also managed to pick up a copy of next week's Radio Times today. This time, all the good TV (or most of it anyway) appears to be on Monday. In fact there are four programmes I want to watch then, all on at the same time, deep sigh ... How I long for a more sensible viewing policy so more than one day a week gets the chance of some good stuff. Hmm, I won't hold my breath then. However the joyful, utterly amazing thing is that I solved the Radio Times anagram puzzle in only one second!!! Double hurrahs and crack open the champers indeed. The word simply leapt out at me, my dears, and I was so excited that I jumped up and down in the flat yelling and congratulating myself. Good job no-one was here then - I trust that my impending lunacy is a secret you will not divulge ... Maybe I need to get out more? Or possibly less. Anyway, that effort must surely beat Lord H this week, as to my shame he usually gets the word first. He comes from a long line of expert, highly trained anagram-solvers, so it's in the genes, you know.

There's also a plot and a character for a short story chasing themselves around my mind at the moment, courtesy of something Lord H said yesterday. They are even now pecking at the inside of my head and I will have to let them out at some stage before they become too irritating. But I don't want to get too carried away and do too much so I end up in a sobbing heap. Patience is all - so they say.

And talking of short stories, I've just finished the I Do Anthology - in support of gay marriage equality in eBook version. A nice mix of stories, some erotic and some not, though I do think that the first one in the collection, The Lindorm's Twin, is rather weak and shouldn't have been included at all, let alone be in pride of place. It rather put me off and I was desperately skipping it. However, that said, the collection picks up again once you get to the second story and from there on it's fine. Particular favourites include Outed by Clare London (a witty tale of an unexpected coming out moment which includes a brother/sister conversation that made me laugh out loud. It's my joint favourite and a classy read), Lust in Translation by Storm Grant (where a hooker isn't entirely what he seems and a cop gets rather more than he bargained for), Making Memory by Lisabet Sarai (a moving encounter between two very different women) and Code of Honour by Marquesate (my other joint favourite in the collection - a short story with considerable depth set in the Foreign Legion with two very strong leads. I couldn't put it down, in a virtual sense). And special mention has to go to gay fiction stalwarts, Alex Beecroft, Sharon Maria Bidwell, Fiona Glass and Erastes (whose story of grief relived actually had me crying at the start), all of whom can always be relied on to produce a good solid tale well told. Worth a read for sure and of course it's a very good cause.

Today's nice things:

1. Getting on, slowly, with Hallsfoot
2. Poetry
3. Being a brilliant solver of anagrams - at last!
4. Short story ponderings
5. The anthology.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - not averse to a spot of derring-do herself

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Extra holiday, a monster of a book and poetry success

An extra day off today, hurrah! No particular reason, except that I never use my full quota of holiday during the year so I always end up having to use it before I lose it. I'm allowed to take 5 days over into the next holiday year (which starts in April), so I still have two more of these to go before March is over. Not that I'm complaining - extra short working weeks are always welcome, naturally.

Here's this morning's meditation:

Meditation 59

You hold your grief
in silence,

letting only the dying fire

Sometimes words
say nothing,

cannot match
the heart.

Imprison the truth
in your mouth’s bitterness

and taste it
to the full.

For most of the day, I've been struggling with Hallsfoot's Battle. Lordy but it's been a huge effort, I can tell you. Each ruddy word dragged out with the aid of only a rather raggedy rope and a lot of grunting. Hmm, not much change there then. Why is writing sometimes so bloody hard??? My dears, it's quite exhausting. Anyway, I've managed to drag myself, kicking and screaming, to 83,000 words, and I've got to the end of a scene. Thank the Lord. I think tomorrow I'll return to see what Ralph is doing. At least I might possibly have some ideas for him. But let's not count on it yet, eh ...

Mind you, my own particular writing battle has driven me to fit in a totally delicious late afternoon nap, so at least that's one good thing. And it's meant that the slow grumbling headache that's been nagging at me all day has faded away, so that's a relief for sure.

Talking of monsters of books (which we were, sort of), I've just finished Christopher Rush's mammoth tome, Will. That's been something of a struggle too, even though it's a fascinating book. Which doesn't quite succeed, in my opinion. Still, it's a brave effort and Rush certainly needs points for courage. It's supposed to be about Shakespeare's retelling of his life story on his deathbed to his lawyer. A wonderful premise for sure, and the writing is very poetic on occasion. But maybe that premise is where the trouble starts. First off, there's no real plot, as such. It's simply one man telling another about his life, and you're never allowed to forget that fact. This means that the action and emotion is unfortunately very distanced from the reader and you're told everything rather than being directly shown it through the text. It would have been much better if you'd had a prologue setting up the scene and an epilogue drawing it back again, with the rest of the book being allowed to sing unaccompanied. In a strange way also, it's slightly easier to read if you try to forget it's supposed to be a novel at all, and take it as a long - very long! - prose poem. Slightly easier anyway. It would definitely be interesting to see what Rush's poetry is like. I must also admit that the man Shakespeare as portrayed here rapidly became very wearisome and my sympathies were for those poor unfortunates he rubbed up against, such as Anne Hathaway and the long-suffering lawyer (just let the poor man eat his pie without carping on about it, for goodness sake!). So, as I imagine the real Shakespeare must have been quite fascinating, I suppose in making me dislike him so, Rush must at least be performing some kind of literary miracle. In a negative way. That said, the historical details are very vibrant and obviously well researched. Perhaps it would be better rewritten as a non-fiction study of the age? And it certainly needs an editor who's not afraid to cut - it outstays its welcome hugely in terms of length. So, a brave attempt at something different by an author who can obviously write (but needs much much tighter control), but in the end a magnificent failure, I fear.

On a far more minimalist front, I'm pleased to say that Faith Hope and Fiction webzine has been kind enough to accept three of my meditation poems for publication in March. Hurrah! And the lovely Tricia (thanks, Tricia!) must surely get a special prize for sending me the acceptance email only a few minutes after I submitted the work. I've never had such a speedy response! The good news (bearing in mind today's book review) is all together the three poems only come to 113 words, so nobody can accuse me of wordiness ...

Tonight, there's not much on TV so it looks like the sudoku pile calls to Lord H and myself. And ah I see he's left the tough killer one blank. Dammit. Cover your ears, people - there will probably be screaming ...

Today's nice things:

1. Holiday
2. Poetry
3. Getting to the end of a difficult writing session
4. Napping
5. Doing battle with an interpretation of Shakespeare (strangely ...)
6. More poetry success.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - having monster-like tendencies itself

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Writers Group, visiting and A Stranger's Table

First off, here’s this morning’s meditation piece:

Meditation 58

A thousand rituals
to avoid the rhythmic beat

of the light
but finally it comes,

breaking through
when you are least ready.

Mercy is not weighed
in these familiar scales.

Still feeling rather groggy today but it seems to have moved towards the physical and away from the mental at the moment, thank the Lord. I’ll have to keep an eye on it anyway.

At work, I’m concentrating on getting the first draft of yesterday’s minutes out before the memories disappear entirely from my head. Hmm, best be quick then. Meanwhile this week’s heroes are the Dean of Students’ Office (for doing an incredibly good job in difficult circumstances this week) and Ruth’s husband for being a great panto dame, hurrah.

And the first Writers’ Group of 2009 took place at lunchtime – a fairly good turn-out and lots of interesting scripts to look at. I decided to be cruel and give them a challenging writing game to play rather than an easing-in one, but they seemed fine about it. Well, they didn’t rend me limb from limb, which is a plus point. And there was a nice sprinkling of returners and new folk too, so that was good. Also, as a result, I think I’ve started a piece of flash fiction about an old woman and a garden, but we’ll see.

Tonight, I’ll pop into see Gladys on the way home – the birds will be needing their birdseed today for sure. After all, it took me ten minutes to scrape the ice off the car this morning, so if they can get their beaks into the soil at all it will be a miracle.

Meanwhile some exciting news about A Stranger's Table. The lovely Rochita at Haruah Webzine has not only asked to see a copy for review, but has also suggested another review site who might be interested. So thank you hugely for that, Rochita - very much appreciated, and I hope you like at least some of the poems.

Not much on TV this evening however – though there is the gloriously retro half hour of James & Oz getting drunk around Britain. Ah, it has its charms, you know.

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. This week’s heroes
3. Writers Group
4. Flash fiction ideas
5. The review request for A Stranger's Table
6. A night in.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - feeling unexpectedly hopeful

Monday, January 26, 2009

Novel events, meetings and shopping

A mixed bag of a day today, and a real feeling of Monday gloom and existential terror. Dammit. How I hate days when I feel like this. I’ve taken my usual dose of Vitamin B Compound Strong tablets, 2 Quiet Life pills and several sprays of Rescue Remedy and am hoping for the best. I think I’m missing my Britebox light, which is currently with the neighbour who’s finding it helpful. Maybe I should buy another one?

In the meantime, here’s this morning’s meditation poem:

Meditation 57

In the midst
of all that sprinkling

of oil and blood
to purify the men

for their holy,
unknowable task,

it is of course
the women who do the washing.

Had my rescheduled meeting with Fiona in the English Department today to sort out the plans for the upcoming novel reading event on 10 February with Emma Darwin. I think we know what we’re doing – sort of. But what a lot there is to do, fun though it is. Fiona and I feel as if we’re putting on a show – let’s hope the audience don’t riot on the night. Mind you, with Emma it should be inspirational for sure!

And we’ve also had our first Steering Group meeting of 2009. So a set of minutes to write up at last – though my goodness it’s been tough getting back into the swing of this year, I can tell you. I also had the additional problem of the fact that my first pen ran out in the initial few minutes of the meeting. Then my spare pen wouldn’t work. So, desperate for ink, I ransacked my personal pen supply in my handbag, found one I liked the look of and began using that. Which was fine – just – although it gradually disintegrated in my hand. First the top came off, then the spring popped out and by the end of the meeting I was just left with the skeleton of the poor pen. I’m not sure I could have coped with a fourth version without reaching hysteria … A secretary’s lot is not a happy one.

I’m also worrying about vaccinations for our upcoming Istanbul holiday (booked at last, hurrah!) so will try to sort them out with the doctor sometime this week. Thanks to the lovely Monique at the University Health Centre, I at least know what I should be aiming for – much appreciated, Monique.

Tonight, I have the long, slow trawl through Tesco, double groan and someone pass me the Rescue Remedy spray again … Lordy, how I hate Mondays.

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. The normality of minutes
3. Pen shennanigans
4. Getting home, hurrah.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - hoping the approaching light isn't an oncoming train ...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Poetry success, Hallsfoot and chilling

Was very pleased to discover today that Eat A Peach webzine will be publishing my poem, Surrender, later in the year. Always good to have something to look forward to indeed. The good news has encouraged me to submit five more poems to another online magazine, so we'll see how those fare at some point too.

Today, I've also managed to take Hallsfoot's Battle up to over 82,000 words and have another idea for a plot development. So that's a relief. I might even get the required 120,000 words that fantasy fiction seems to need these days out of it. You never know. At the very least, all my characters are now up in the air with their own story lines and it's going to take a lot of spit, polish and elbow grease to get them down again. Maybe it'll be even longer? Who knows ...

And here's this morning's meditation:

Meditation 56

The desert expands
as far as the eye

can stretch.
But the door

you seek
is so small

it falls between words.
How can you find

one speck of gold
amongst so many?

Listen to the secret pattern
of your thoughts:

let your slow feet

We haven't done that much for the rest of the day really. After yesterday's excitements, I'm trying to chill. Big-time. Mind you, with Lord H's help, I've managed to battle my way, kicking and screaming, to the end of a killer sudoku (gentle version). So I hope that my efforts will stave off losing my mind entirely for another day or so. No pain, no gain indeed. I'm also planning a nap before the thrills and spills of tonight's TV viewing. We will be glued to the latest Christianity programme, especially as it's looking at the Medieval period this time - one of my favourite historical eras. And of course Sunday isn't Sunday without Lark Rise to Candleford. Bliss.

As a special treat, this week there are two unrelated haikus (well, gosh):

In alloted space
let the small gold seed flourish:
shadow, stillness, breath.

Playing here tonight:
an orchestra of bitterns.
Booming marvellous

Sorry! Couldn't resist that last one, though I suspect it will only mean something if you know what bitterns sound like!...

Today's nice things:

1. Another poetry success
2. Getting on with Hallsfoot
3. Poetry
4. TV
5. Haikus.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - not so bad, considering ...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bittern safaris and my 1000th post

Welcome to my 1000th post today. Well, gosh. Huge well done if you've read all of them, and many congrats to me. Somebody hire me a secretary - I definitely need one! May the celebrations begin.

While we're all popping our champagne corks, Lord H and I have been busy bird hunting today, with great success. First off, we got up at 5am (no, don't laugh - that's a lie-in after our last early birder session) in order to be out of the house by 7am. We then drove two hours to West Hythe in Kent on the trail of the night heron. We thought our chances of spotting it were approaching nil, but in fact it was asleep in front of us on the river when we arrived. It promptly woke up and hopped onto a branch even nearer in a very helpful fashion while we gazed our fill. What a beautiful bird. Amazing yellow talons. And a new bird for our lifetime lists, hurrah! While we were there, we also saw a kingfisher (new bird for this year) actually on a branch (they're usually nothing more than a flash of electric blue out of the corner of your eye as they swoop out of sight) where it stayed for some time. And a Muscovy duck. Birds in West Hythe are just soooo helpful.

We then joined the Bittern Safari in Dungeness RSPB Reserve, along with a fair number of other hopefuls. Chances of spotting a bittern: nil. They're hugely shy. Number of times the organised Bittern Safaris have actually seen a bittern: um, nil (something they don't tell you when you book!). First bird spotted as we set out: yes, you guessed it. The bittern. It flew lazily and slowly across a reed bed and the river so we had a grand look, and it was very close too. Double hurrahs and crack open the champagne. Another lifetime first. The third lifetime first on the walk was the Slavonian Grebe. Other birds we saw which are new for this year: the golden plover, the goldeneye, black-necked grebes (no, I can't tell the difference between that and a Slavonian, so don't ask me but thank the Lord for experts ...), the smew, red-crested pochards and ruddy ducks. So a wonderful day all round. Fabulous.

Back at the ranch, we have done the necessary cleaning and are planning an evening of Chinese takeaway and flopping. The ironing beckons me but I am bravely ignoring it ...

Today's nice things:

1. Three new lifetime birds
2. Seven new birds for this year
3. Chinese takeaways
4. My 1000th post.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - she's older than she looks ...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Theatre seats, Hallsfoot and a surprising venture

Well, my dears, well. What more can I say? Lord H and I were somewhat disappointed by our trip to the theatre last night - our name plaques were not yet on our seats (even though they'd been promised) and so our moment of glory is delayed once more. Sigh ... Naturally I fired off a "Disgruntled of Godalming" email to the theatre, and they have replied saying the plaques will be there next week. We live in hope, eh ... After all, I don't want to be chaining myself to the stage door. Again. These winter nights are perishing cold. I also have to say that Life & Beth isn't one of Ayckbourn's best. By a long chalk. I think Lord H's analysis was (as ever) spot-on: it would be best as a one-act play that can be combined with something really funny in the second half. That would do it, I think ...

But to today. Here's this morning's meditation:

Meditation 55

Something is lost.
Between the entrance
and the altar

the gift of guilt
slips through
your fingers,

leaves you
with nothing.
Take hold

of the air
in your lungs.
Let it rise, sifted.

I'd expected a horrendously overpacked day today that would wipe me out completely, but as it turns out it's not been too bad. We didn't play golf this morning due to torrential rain so that's given me an essential breather, though I've missed actually playing. In the extra time alloted me, I've written another 1000 words of Hallsfoot's Battle, which brings me to 81,800 words or so. When I tackle it next, I'll return to see what Johan and Annyeke are up to. On the brink of total disaster, they need to come up with something. And I mustn't forget Ralph either. Lordy, the responsibilities we novelists have - all these characters are beating away at my head, demanding attention, and I feel totally unable to provide for any of their needs. The poor dears. We struggle on together ...

I've also, much to my surprise - though I do admit that it's a story that's been going round my head for quite a while - written my first lesbian erotic short story, Truth or Dare. Indeed, my first erotic short story of any kind. Well, better out than in, they say. And hell it was fun to write, I have to admit - just a shame that the hairdresser arrived in the middle of it, and I had to get out of my lesbian sex head and into my normal Surrey Woman head. Pretty damn quick. Otherwise, poor Lynda might have had to flee for the hills, never to return ... Anyway, both our honours are intact (phew!), and it's now written. It feels like a companion piece to The Secret Smell of Lemons, so it will be interesting to see if anyone bites. As it were. Meanwhile, my hair looks fabulous, dahlings, fabulous.

Oh, and I've managed to write a non-meditative poem, so I have not been idle. I've also had my second Alexander Technique class, which I am hugely enjoying. I can see the differences, even this early on. The woman who teaches it is easy to get on with too, so that's a relief.

Tonight, Lord H and I are at the panto (Oh no you're not! Oh yes you are! And so on ...) seeing Ruth's husband, Douglas, play the dame in Mother Hubbard. He's totally marvellous on stage so I'm looking forward to that. He's behind you! (Sorry, that just popped out ...). So, as you can see, it's just another ordinary day here in the Surrey outback. Hey ho.

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Unexpected free time
3. Writing Hallsfoot
4. Lesbian erotic stories
5. A nice haircut
6. My Alexander Technique class
7. Dame Douglas ...

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - a change is as good as a rest, you know

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A wonderful desert of a day

Today has been bliss. A day when I didn't need to leave the flat once and I have so far seen nobody but Lord H. This is like heaven. Yes, I am indeed a hermit. It's a gloriously empty, expansive, energising day and I love it. It prepares me for the horrifying busyness of tomorrow and I shall endeavour to hang onto it whilst neck-deep in social activity then. I fear I shall need it.

Here's this morning's meditation:

Meditation 54

Keep your vows safe
in the secret earth
of your skin.

Use them only
when you are sure.

Soon you can plant
their yellowed grains
in dark soil

and wait for the light
to rise.

I've been working on Hallsfoot's Battle for the wonderful majority of the day and I've got to the end of a key encounter between Simon and Gelahn, in which some of the truths about the mind-cane become clear. I've written more than usual, to my surprise - about 1,500 words today which is beyond my upper limit for sure. So I'm now at 80,700 words, which is very pleasing indeed, especially as I doubt I'll manage the full 1000 tomorrow.

There's also been time for an afternoon nap and for submitting another piece of flash fiction and four more poems into the great melting pot of literary life. So I have not, after all, been indulging in too much virtual frittering. Well, no more than usual then ...

Tonight Lord H and I are at the theatre seeing the new Alan Ayckbourn play, Life & Beth, so that should be interesting. He's always a playwright you can get your teeth into, as it were. And we'll also have the joy of looking at the seats with our name plaques on for the first time so, as you can imagine, I am hyperventilating with excitement at that. Fame at last, people, fame at last! The only trouble is we made a slight miscalculation when booking our tickets for this season and we'll only actually be occupying one of them, dammit. We will have to adjust our demands for the next run of bookings ... In the meantime, we'll have to see which of us we'll be sitting on tonight. As it were. The excitement is already mounting, you know.

Today's nice things:

1. A beautifully empty unsociable day, bliss ...
2. Poetry
3. Getting stuck into Hallsfoot
4. Submissions
5. Napping
6. Theatre
7. The thrill of Our Seats.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - sitting down is really her favourite hobby after all

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wedding snaps, holy libraries and scary school photos

We’ve decided to have a bit of a girlie day at the office today and have brought in our wedding piccies to coo over. There’s nothing like a white frock and a vol-au-vent memory to raise those essential oestrogen levels, you know. And there was much amusement at my very 80s Charles I hairstyle. Well, I’ve always been at the cutting (ho ho) edge of fashion, after all …

And here’s this morning’s meditation poem:

Meditation 53

Outside the city,
it’s cold,

the desert
a carpet of desolation

but it’s where
you’re headed,

blood-spattered, guilty.
If only

you could walk
facing the sun,

the sky above
might warm you.

I’ve also been fiddling around with the Personal Tutors’ Handbook again – honestly, if we ever manage to get it to the print stage in my lifetime, I swear I’m going to miss the beast. It’s taken up such a large proportion of my office hours over the last few months that I think we might be engaged. And I’ve also been trying to sort out staffing for this year’s open days again. The Central Team all know what we’re doing now, hurrah, but I just have to see what the other services come up with.

I popped into the Cathedral library at lunchtime (goodness, how very holy I am) to pick up three books that Lord H wanted. I had his card and the list of required texts and had to look as if I was (a) serious-minded, (b) an upright citizen of the parish, and (c) my husband. It’s amazing they let me in at all. Was it the haircut?... And stepping into the library is like going back twenty years. As I wrote in the book what I’d taken out, I felt quite overcome with nostalgia. No quill pen though, shame on them …

Talking of nostalgia, for today’s scary moment, my old school is 100 years old this year and they have our class photo on the front page of their website as “missing people”! You can have a good laugh here though you’ll need to scroll down to see it. It's Number 53 in the 100 years archive list if the front picture is on a rolling schedule. I think it’s about 1979/1980 when we were all 15 or 16 but I could be wrong about that. I’m no good with numbers. I’m the one on the far right at the back row. Can you tell?? We were standing on boxes – we’re honestly not that tall. Groan …

Tonight there’s nothing on TV – again!! Doesn’t the BBC ever get my letters with my programming requests?? It’s quite shocking, Carruthers … – but Lord H and I are going to make a concerted effort to book our March holiday instead. We’re hoping for Istanbul but, failing that, Assisi. Now there’s a strange religious mix to play with.

Today’s nice things:

1. Wedding pictures
2. Poetry
3. Libraries where you have to write down your borrowings
4. School nostalgia
5. Thinking about holidays.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - she hasn't changed a bit, you know ...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Minutes, Chinese opera and sales of Thorn

Had to suffer the slings and arrows of a short story rejection today (groan) but at least once again the particular magazine asked to see more work, so that’s a sop to the wound at least … Best get the story out again to somewhere else soon. You never know your luck.

At work I’ve been knee-deep in sorting out agendas and minutes for the boss, plus the unending delights of the Personal Tutors’ Handbook changes so that’s been satisfying in a sad secretarial way. I do so love the power that comes from being the only one who can remove the lines in a table format without pain. Ah, I knew I had a purpose in life somewhere …

And, talking of purpose (of a sort), here’s this morning’s meditation:

Meditation 52

You find your fellowship
in blood

and the sweet aroma
of death.

Take note
of the fig tree’s

the way

broad leaves
reflect the sun

and how it shields
your barren heart.

This lunchtime, I was supposed to be meeting Fiona in the English Department to sort out the admin for the upcoming novel reading by Emma Darwin at the University, but unfortunately Fiona’s too busy so we’ll have to reschedule at some point. It had better be soon though as the event itself is on 10 February. That’s only a couple of minutes in University time. So instead I walked round the campus and also admired the new exhibition which focuses on Chinese Opera – some wonderfully delicate work and amazing colours. I loved it.

Leaping from the sublime to the ridiculous (at least in novel terms), I’ve managed to sell five copies of Thorn in the Flesh today as Sue wants them for her reading group in March. Sales are always a boost, so thank you, Sue!

In terms of other writing, I’m working on another ghost story at the moment – goodness me, two in 20 years. I really must slow down – I don’t want to get too excited. Anyway, the working title is Girl Undecided, which I like, but I’ll see how it pans out as the story progresses. It’s more subtle than my previous ghost story as well – again unusual for me as Essex Girls don’t usually do subtle. In any form. It’s not in our genes.

Tonight, I’ll pop in and see how Gladys and her birdseed supplies are getting on, and then it’s an evening of nothing, hurrah. Though there is the drunken Oz & James programme on, which is always very cheery. I can do the ironing while I watch it – ah the winter evenings here in the shires fly by, you know …

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Selling five copies of Thorn
3. Chinese opera exhibition
4. Ghost stories
5. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - a haunting experience for all ...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Books, feet and haibuns

First off, here’s this morning’s meditation poem:

Meditation 51

The things I recall:
corn crushed to nothing,

olive oil, bread,
salt for preservation

and the extraordinary lack
of honey.

Where life should be,
death lies waiting,

barely noticed
amongst yeast and memory.

Hmm, ideal musing indeed for what appears to be Blue Monday, as it’s supposed to be the most depressing day of the year today. Seems not too bad so far, but heck there’s still time for various disasters to develop …

However, as an antidote to the blues, the lovely Sue from the Health Centre is going to be reading Thorn in the Flesh at her March book group and I’ve been invited to attend – so thanks for that, Sue, and I hope I can make the date.

And there are other exciting literary announcement too. Charles at Ink Sweat and Tears webzine has been kind enough to publish my lesbian haibun, The Secret Smell of Lemons today, so do pop along and have a read. Thanks, Charles! Added to that is the fact that Haruah Magazine have accepted two of my Meditation Poems for publication and are also interested in reviewing A Stranger's Table and my cup indeed runneth over. Thank you, Rochita - I really appreciate that too.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the AUA conference information has turned up – rather earlier than usual, if memory serves me – so I can have fun working out what I might be able to do at the sessions. If I can understand what the titles mean, that is.

This lunchtime, I had another blissful reflexology session with Emily – so that chilled me out for the afternoon. Which was greatly needed as it’s term-time once more and therefore a 5.30pm finish. Ah it’s that last half-hour that breaks the back, you know … Mind you, I had to walk back to the office after the session in the pouring rain, so that took the edge off it somewhat. Sigh.

And tonight, I’m leading the University Book Group in a discussion of Tania Hershman’s short story collection, The White Road and Other Stories. I’ve had to fiddle my approach a bit, as I’m not sure whether they’ll have been able to get hold of copies as I know there’s been an issue with the printing of the second edition – but I’ve tried to cover for all eventualities by thinking up questions I can ask if none of them have read it and questions I can ask if they have. It’s all done by smoke and mirrors, as ever. UPDATE - it was wonderful. We had a great discussion - even the man who didn't like short stories, science or magic realism said it made him think and widened his reading horizons. Plus they asked me to read out Heavy Bones (as the general group favourite in the book) in my usual Essex accent which I did and they loved the story even more. Ah, I knew my accent would come in handy one day, you know ... Those of them who didn't manage to get hold of the book are now going to do so and read it, and they're more open to looking at short stories again because of it so a great success and thank you to Tania for writing such a great collection.

At home, I’m planning to do as little as possible, though I will watch the final part of Hunter. Lord H thought yesterday’s sudden revelation of the identity of the criminal at the very end of Part One would have been better if it had just been hinted at, so there would have been more to speculate about for tonight’s denouement. Really, he should be a drama consultant – he’s definitely got the gift.

And this week’s hero (by a majority opinion we’re only allowed one this week) is Barack Obama – mainly because Andrea thinks he’s truly wonderful. Which I’m sure he is, of course – but it’s politics and I’m sorry but I can’t get hugely excited about it. The cynical side of me says give him a couple of years and you won’t tell the difference from the last one (hush my mouth!), but I appreciate I’m a lone voice! Again.

I've also just finished reading Fiona Sampson's utterly stunning poetry collection, Uncommon Prayer. Frankly it's wonderful - a rich and intricate layering of humanity and our relationship with the world of the senses. If you read anything this year, please read this one. Sometimes you have to think and focus on what she's saying but really it's worth it every time. A tour-de-force of poems.

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Thorn being in a book group schedule
3. Reflexology
4. The University book group
5. TV
6. My haibun being published
7. Two of my Meditation Poems being accepted
8. An offer to review A Stranger's Table
9. Uncommon Prayer.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - thoroughly enjoying the day

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Reading success and what not to do at church

Was thrilled this morning to see that Short Fuse Brighton have invited me to read my comic short story, Creative Accountancy for Beginners, at their upcoming fantasy fiction event at Komedia on 5 April. So something exciting to look forward to, hurrah. And best make sure I get those strange alien accents right - start practising early, eh ...

However the Gods of Rejection can't let me alone for too long - another short story, An Unholy Affair, has been refused (goodness me, how can such things be indeed?? Somebody pass me the smelling salts) - though it was nice at least that the editor said he'd enjoyed it and would like to see more. So I've sent that particular one back out to another market, and added a fresh short story and poetry submission to my tally. Never let it be said I don't make an effort.

This morning, Lord H and I have paid our respects to the great Almighty by popping into the 1662 communion service at Shackleford. On the way there, I was driving Lord H's car for the first time (Fords are always lovely but it's a bigger model than I'm used to - I know that's soooo girly but I just prefer cars where I can see roughly where the rear end is. Give me a Fiesta any day ...) and on one of the country routes, a rather keen motorist stuck his nose out of his driveway so I couldn't get by without crashing into the vehicles on the other side of the road. Forced therefore to let him out, I muttered my usual Christian blessing (something along the lines of "ignorant t***er!) before we all drove on. Yes, you've guessed it - we followed him all the way to church, and he and his good lady life sat in the pew behind. Groan. But what a wonderful example of instant retribution for my sins - so God is obviously fully alert and functioning on all cylinders (pun deliberate - honest ...) today. Be warned.

There was also a moment of hysteria on the way out of church as I stopped between the dividing curtain and the outside door to button my coat up, and Lord H at once began to pretend he was being strangled by wrapping his hands round his throat, sticking his head out of the curtain and making choking sounds. I don't think anyone noticed however - causing me to remark that perhaps next time we should go the whole hog and I can start making stabbing gestures and throwing tomato sauce onto the table next to the curtain. The shires are getting more Midsomer every day, you know.

Talking of things holy (or unholy), here's this morning's meditation poem. It's the start of Leviticus, so hold onto your hats - we're in for a bumpy ride.

Meditation 50

There’s a lot of blood.
That’s a given.

how it’s never bothered me

though the way
it spatters the altar

is disturbing.
Why have I not seen that before?

No, what clings
to my senses

like something unforgiven
is the long dark path

to the judges
and the silence


Meanwhile, I've been working away on Hallsfoot's Battle and am now at 79,000 words. I'm starting to revisit what's going on between Simon and the mind-executioner so I'll need to throw in a barrel-load of tension somewhere. It's all a bit hazy at the moment, but hey I should be used to that by now.

And tonight we have a veritable plethora of good TV. Honestly, it seems as if all the good TV for the week had been put on today and the rest of the week is a sad viewing desert. Anyway, tonight it's Episode 2 of The History of Christianity, followed by the glorious Larkrise to Candleford and then we have the first part of a two-part detective programme, Hunter. It's got Hugh Bonneville in it so it's got to be good. He's wonderful. I'd best get my cocoa ready pretty soon then ...

This week's haiku is:

Headlamps strip the night,
rain holds back the dawn. The road
breathes slow through the trees.

Today's nice things:

1. An invitation to read my short story in Brighton
2. Church dramas
3. Poetry
4. Hallsfoot
5. Glorious TV
6. Haikus.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - getting her comeuppance sooner than you think ...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Wake up to Waterfowl and other unlikely events

Up at the ungodly hour of 4.15am today. Ye gods and little fishes indeed. I had to be up then as - whatever I do - it always takes me at least an hour and a half to leave the house, and we had to set off at 5.45am in order to get to the Wake up to Waterfowl event at Pulborough Brooks. My, but we know how to live here in the shires ...

Anyway, it was fantastic. We watched the sun come up over the marshes, and got to see teal, pintails, widgeon, black-tailed godwits, dunlin, snipe and all sorts of delights in the first rays of the morning. Marvellous. We were promised the magnificent spectacle of the Bewick's swans leaving their roost in order to feed - which, bearing in mind there were only three of them, they did their best to provide. It reminded me very much of the time Lord H and I were in Prague (wonderful city, by the way - if you haven't gone, you really ought to) and attended a performance of Beethoven's Fifth played by ... um ... a string quartet. It was charming and brave, but didn't quite have the pizzazz of the full monty orchestral version.

The walk round also threw into focus the ongoing problem I have with men and telescopes. I appreciate this is probably just me but I do always feel terribly vulnerable if a male birder finds something exciting in his telescope and then (as they often kindly do) offers me a view through their scope as I don't carry one of my own. Looking through the telescope of a man who isn't Lord H feels faintly rude, my dears. Mind you, when I raised this interesting little issue with Lord H, he stared blankly at me (probably calculating how much the psychiatrist might cost ...) and said he often looked through other men's scopes if they had a better view, even if they hadn't asked him to. Though of course he always made sure not to mention it if his telescope happened to be larger than theirs. Lordy, but there is a whole world of confusion lurking in the wings (excuse the pun) - best leave it there, I feel ...

Anyway, new birds seen for this year today include a ruff, pheasants, a barnacle goose, the black-tailed godwits and the daring Bewick's swans. We rounded it all off with an excellent cooked breakfast which set us up nicely for having a second walk round the reserve (yes, we are indeed gluttons for punishment) before also having lunch. I'm sure the volunteers were fed up with seeing us by that point. To crown it all, the lovely Lord H has bought me the new much improved pair of binoculars I've been salivating over for weeks so I can now see great vistas of countryside whenever I look through them and can even track birds in flight without cursing. Double hurrahs and give the man an extra Husband Point. He deserves it.

Back home, I am attempting to keep awake and prepare for tonight, as Marian and Siegi are coming round for dinner. It will be lovely to see them, but also scary as this is the first time in at least eight months or so that we've actually had any people in the flat apart from the plumber and the odd stressed neighbour. Yes, we are entering into the Hermit Couple of the Year awards for 2009 - please do vote, you know you want to ... Anyway, all this voluntary solitude means neither of us can remember how to be sociable so we're practising our host/hostess smiles. Yes, they are a bit rusty. Not to mention slightly terrifying, so if our guests flee to the hills once they see us, I will not find it in my heart to blame them.

Today's nice things:

1. Birds at dawn
2. New binoculars
3. Dinner with friends (assuming they have the courage to stay).

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - staying alert as best she may

Friday, January 16, 2009

Balls, exercises and a sprinkle of cinnamon

Managed to have a slightly better time of writing Hallsfoot's Battle today - it seemed to flow rather more easily and I actually came to the point where I almost knew what was happening and even had some ideas. Gosh indeed. Whatever next? Anyway, that takes me to 78,000 words so I'm pleased about that. Time to leave it for today, I think.

Here's this morning's meditation piece, which brings us nicely to the end of my reading of Exodus (tomorrow: Leviticus; next week: the world ...):

Meditation 49

The cloud hovers
like a threat

over my pen,

my ability to write
any bright thing.

Inside its shimmer
of changing grey

lie all the worlds
I cannot reach:

rain, wind,
earth, sky.

Marian and I have also played golf today, and I did rather better than last week, thank the Lord. Well, it couldn't be any worse really. I even managed to get a par on the 6th, double hurrahs and crack open the champagne. We also saw a lovely green woodpecker which followed us around for a while. It wasn't phased by the golf balls whizzing past its feather at all - it's obviously not used to the way we play then. I suspect next week it will be rather more nervy, poor thing.

This afternoon, I've submitted another batch of poems to an online magazine, so we'll see how that goes. At the moment, I seem to be doing a whole lot better on the short story success front than either the poetry or the novel, but it's still January and therefore early days. One hopes.

And I've had my first ever Alexander Technique lesson. It was really interesting and I did feel different afterwards. Freer somehow. I'm hoping it will help my back and neck problems, and I've booked a set of four, so I'll see how I go. I've got a sheet of "homework" to do as well, but it fits in nicely with my 20 minute daily meditation zone, so that should make the change in routine easier to cope with. You know how I love my routine.

I've finished Charles Lambert's marvellous collection of short stories, A Scent of Cinnamon. This is dark and rich and punchy, and I highly recommend it. For a minimalist like me, there was on occasion a tad too much description which tended to clog up the story flow, but I appreciate that's a personal view and others will see things differently. Particular favourites were "Moving the Needle Towards the Thread" (a gripping tale of marital despair and the unreliable narrator), "Girlie" (a potent combination of family life and the hauntingly surreal), "Something Rich and Strange" (a centred and poignant tale of an unconsummated gay relationship and the best story in the book, in my opinion), "The Crack" (which made me yell Yes! as the narrator is so charmingly offbeat and real and funny and wise - all at the same time. Though I do think the last 2 sentences should be cut and it actually ends with the words "some dried herb". But as you know, I'm picky about my endings ...), "Nipples" (a classily written gay erotic story - and how wonderful it is to see a gay erotic story in the non-specialist press. About time too, and please give us more of this - mainstream press: take note! Great ending to this one too), and "Entertaining Friends" (about an almost-relationship that never quite gets it together and is told with wry humour). So a veritable smorgasbord of literary treats. That said, I don't actually think "Little Potato, Little Pea" deserves its place here, and I also don't think the title story of the collection lives up to its promise. "A Scent of Cinnamon" starts off as one type of story which I think could have been incredibly powerful, but then switches to a different type altogether in a way which made me feel cheated rather than satisfied. That may be partly because I was aware that there would be a twist (which begs the question of whether the reviews give away too much so the reading enjoyment is spoiled) and had therefore guessed what it would be a while before the ending arrived. But I still feel the story as a whole changed direction and was something of a lost opportunity. That said, the writing is top-notch and this collection definitely deserves to be read. So, all in all, another cracker from Salt Publishing.

Tonight, we're hoping for an early night as we have to be up and out of the house at about 5.30am tomorrow (yikes!) as we're booked in for seeing in the dawn with the ducks at Pulborough Brooks RSPB reserve. Ah, the things we do for those dang birds ...

Today's nice things:

1. Writing more of Hallsfoot
2. Poetry
3. Golf
4. My first Alexander Technique lesson
5. Books.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - something rich and strange in itself ...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Clarins, doctors and climbing the Hallsfoot mountain

For some reason that isn't even known to me (well, most things aren't), I booked my back massage and facial with the new Clarins girl at 9.10am today. Groan, what a ridiculously early start. Ah well. I managed to get there on time and even got one or two things in the shops that were open before 9am, so I felt very efficient and smug. The new Clarins girl, Hilary, is very quiet but very good - she was just sooo relaxing that I actually fell asleep while she was doing my facial. Which has never happened before. And she gave a massage to die for. I've booked her again next month. Talking is so last year, you know.

On the way back home, I popped into the doctor's to pick up my prescription (ah, I couldn't last a week without my HRT fix and my essential nasal spray, you know) and to see if they had my blood test results back yet or if they'd got my consultant's letter about the new combination of HRT I'm supposed to be going onto. The answer is no. And ... um ... no. Ah I can see it's going to be a much slower process since I moved over to the NHS. They're probably still looking for my notes somewhere ... Still, I shall maintain my new inner calm (no, don't laugh ...) and diary it ahead in my usual secretarial fashion for a couple of weeks from now. Let's hope something will have come through by then, but I wouldn't hold your breath.

At home, I've been struggling to climb up the almost unclimbable Hallsfoot's Battle mountain. And what a steep trog it is today, Carruthers. I have slowly, slowly dragged Johan, Annyeke and the First Elder through the fire disasters and have now added a new exciting disability to the mix. No, I didn't know that was going to happen either until the keyboard started typing it in. Really, I only got into my stride in the last 100 words, but I can't do any more than 1000 of the little beggars a day or my brain will implode. It will have to wait until tomorrow. Mind you, I do have some ideas now, which is something. Ideas were sadly lacking earlier.

Meanwhile, I've finished editing my latest short story, Little Bird, and have now sent it off on the first of what will presumably be a long line of submissions. I've also sent in a fantasy short story to the upcoming Short Fuse fantasy-themed anthology which is part of their Brighton reading events. We'll see, but hey at least it's out of the virtual drawer. Which is a miracle in itself.

Tonight, there's nothing at all on TV. Sigh. Still, I do have the last episode of Country House Rescue to watch, so all is not quite doom and gloom on the viewing front, hurrah.

Today's nice things:

1. Clarins massage and facial
2. Getting somewhere (Lord knows where) with Hallsfoot
3. Submitting two short stories into the scary ether.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - travelling blindly but with a merry wave into the void

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Flash fiction success, web work and editing

Some nice news today, hurrah – the Fiction at Work ezine has accepted my piece of flash fiction, Over in Five, and will publish it on 9 February. So that’s something to look forward to for sure – and as that will also be Lord H’s birthday it’s a double celebration indeed.

And I must say that last night’s musical, Stand By Your Beds, was utterly wonderful. I loved it. All written by a local amateur with an obviously extensive musical background, it’s the best musical I’ve seen in a long, long time. Why the heck it isn’t on at the West End is a mystery to me. Great tunes, great singing, great characters, great plot and some ace dancing (particularly the tango and the tap) – what more could you want? I’d definitely go again.

So, with that in mind, this week’s heroes are: the Stand By Your Beds cast, Tim Burgess (a headmaster rated highly by Chaplaincy Ruth), and Abbot Christopher Jamison (who wrote Finding Sanctuary and will actually be speaking at the University at the end of March, well gosh).

And here’s this morning’s poem as we race to the end of Exodus:

Meditation 48

Something God told me
long ago,

truth drifting
over a basin of water

on the edge
of a world

not understood.
Gold, linen,

What my hands grasp

is not peace,
but division.

At work, I’m updating the website and attempting to organise the care services staffing for an open evening event at a time when I’ll actually be on holiday. So I’m relying hugely on people’s goodwill and generosity – thank goodness they’re a kind-hearted lot here. As penance for the sin of being away at what has turned out to be a crucial time, I have promised that I will do a Saturday event later in the year – hmm, best get them in the diary now …

I’m also getting to the end of my short story, Little Bird. It’s always exciting to be in the final furlongs of a long short story, so I’m hoping to get that finished off sometime soon so I can start the editing. Then I’ll have to think about where to submit it and who might want an obscure Bible story focusing on the ebb and flow of a marital relationship where the third one in the marriage happens to be God. Hey ho. I love a challenge.

And I've just finished editing my short story, A Lonely Place, for Eternal Press so I'm looking forward to seeing that in their publishing schedules at some stage.

Tonight, I’ll pop in to see Gladys on my way home, and then I’ll need to update my own website with the Pink Champagne news. And it looks like someone has already bought a copy of the Kindle version on Amazon US – so thank you, kind buyer, for that!

Today’s nice things:

1. Having a piece of flash fiction accepted
2. An uplifting theatre experience
3. This week’s heroes
4. Poetry
5. Short stories
6. Editing A Lonely Place for Eternal Press
7. Someone buying an ecopy of Pink Champagne.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - enjoying some publisher attention, hurrah

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

January blues, a new lease of life for Champers and a night at the theatre

I think the trouble at the moment is definitely the January blues. What a horrible month – everyone seems to be suffering. I was as strung out as I’ve ever been last night, so poor Lord H kept a low profile. Wise move really. Today I’ve taken a necessary dosage of those miracle Quiet Life pills and I’m hoping for a calmer me. Ho ho. In the meantime, here’s this morning’s poem:

Meditation 47

When all is finished
you come

for the affirmation,
bearing all the things

you have made:
leather and stone,

gold, bronze,

But what if
the air is still

and God is silent?

I’m getting near to the end of Exodus now, but continue finding my way through Luke’s Gospel, so I’m going to have to move onto Leviticus in terms of my Old Testament reading fairly soon. Hmm, making any kind of poetry from that will certainly be a challenge …

Mind you, the good news is that the eBook of Pink Champagne and Apple Juice is now available in a Kindle version at Amazon US and at Mobipocket so if you fancy a fun and warm-hearted read to cheer up your January, get yourself a copy and enjoy! And many thanks to the lovely Leslie at Bristlecone Pine Press for sorting it all out – much appreciated.

I walked into town at lunchtime in an attempt to replace my woolly hat which I appear to have lost since the weekend, dammit. However, Milletts appears to have closed down (sigh), so I made do with rice and make-up instead. It won’t keep my ears warm though …

This afternoon, I’ve had my first meeting of the year which happened to be the Nursery Management Group. It’s also my last one, as someone else is taking over the admin for that particular meeting. It was supposed to be the annual review as well, but that will have to be postponed as there weren’t enough people there for that, so we just stuck to the usual format instead. At least it wasn’t too complicated a start to the year. Phew. Plus catering provided real coffee so I succumbed to the call of caffeine. Hmm, I’ll be up all night then …

Tonight, Lord H and I are supporting the husband of one of his colleagues (who’s in it) by going to the theatre to see Stand By Your Beds – a new musical. I suspect it will show life as it really is in the NHS, you know …

And as a postscript to the day, one of Ruth's online finance group has come up with a wonderful strapline which he includes with all his emails: Happy Days (punctuated by black pockets of despair). Fabulous. A work of genius, methinks ...

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. The new eBook version of Champers
3. A night at the theatre
4. Fabulous straplines.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - creating its own heady mix of joy and despair ...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Reflexology, shopping and the stressed-out Christian

First off, here’s this morning’s meditation:

Meditation 46

The robe brushes the earth
with pomegranates

and golden notes.
See the ground sing,

echo the deep scent
to the air.

The light still burns
and you know

how arrival changes

At work my email seems full of problems to sort out and catering records to stare at. Goodness, what a lot of sandwiches we eat. It’s all a bit of a muddle and my brain isn’t really in gear at all at the moment. So no change there then.

Still, thank goodness for reflexology at lunchtime – an essential oasis in the desert of the day. The truth is I think I’m still totally wired after my hectic weekend – I just can’t take the pace of it these days, you know. Three late nights in a row and I’m good for absolutely nothing. My eyes are prickling with tiredness. Plus the week ahead seems full of people, and reasons for not being at home, and I’m not convinced I can cope with it all. We’ll see. If you do read in the papers that some crazed woman has run mad through the streets of Godalming, you’ll know who it is. Please send counsellors. Perhaps all this angst has something to do with the fact that I haven’t had time for my 20 minute meditation zone for the last three nights. Hmm, food for thought, that. Nothing much happens when I’m in the zone, to be honest, but maybe I need it anyway.

Tonight, I’m doing the Tesco shop but I don’t think there’s too much to get (hurrah!) so I might be at home quicker than I think. Ah bliss. I’m planning to look at my Little Bird story again as I’d like to finish the first draft sometime soon. Again, we’ll see. Oh and there’s some crime drama on tonight called Unforgiven. Am I up to the excitement of it all? Who can tell …

I’ve finished Christopher Jamison’s Finding Sanctuary. An interesting and clearly written book about how to find peace in the midst of today’s society. Lots of food for thought, and it was particularly helpful in terms of Christian meditation. I’d recommend it. That said, I’m not sure how it actually relates to me or how much it will change things as they currently are – it’s beginning to strike me that a lot of spiritual reading seems to be aimed at people who are much better people than I am (well it doesn’t take much …). Or who are prepared to make a bigger effort to be different. When will someone write a spiritual classic for the stressed-out Christian who can’t raise the energy to change their life more than a smidgeon? I live in hope …

Ooh and the lovely people at the new First Edition magazine have asked me for an interview for their upcoming March edition, so thanks for the request, Sarah, and I’ll look forward to answering all your questions! Get that torch ready and shine it in my eyes …

And finally Leslie at Bristlecone Pine Press has sent me the first draft ebook of Pink Champagne and Apple Juice to look at, so that will certainly keep me busy for a while.

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Reflexology
3. Being at home
4. Books
5. An interview request
6. The Champers eBook Take One.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - bearing up ...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Of salt and gold

Spent yesterday evening and this morning sorting out the first forty poems of my meditation series for an upcoming chapbook. I've decided on a provisional title of "Salt and Gold", which popped into my head while I was reading through the work. I rather like it, but I'll see if anything else comes up. So I've submitted to four possible poetry chapbook publishers and, if they don't want it, I'll go for the self-publishing option as usual.

And speaking of poems, here's this morning's offering (which, due to its numbering, won't be appearing with its friends just yet):

Meditation 45

Where is your treasure?
Your flesh burns

with rubies, emeralds,
carnelian, amethyst

held by a single blue cord:
what you think

your life should be.
Find first

where you laid your heart,
breathe in

its long-remembered richness.

Lord H and I have spent the rest of the day in London having lunch and seeing the matinee performance of Twelfth Night. Not my favourite Shakespeare play ever, but it was pretty damn good, I have to say. I loved it. Derek Jacobi was outstanding as Malvolio (a part which, I feel, always tails off somewhat in the second half ...), and Orsino was pretty hot. My dears, we must get ourselves to the London theatre more often, you know. It's a different world out there ...

And I've had another rejection for The Bones of Summer, which is rather upsetting. These things always dent the confidence so. I've decided I'll give it to April to see if my other possibilities for print publication might bite, at which point I'll try the remaining two I have in mind. If that fails, I'll try eBook only publishers, as that may be the best option for this one. We'll see. As you can see, I'm trying to keep my spirits up. That's the trouble with a sudden bout of confidence and submission frenzies early in the year - the rejections one then receives are so much more numerous. Sigh ...

Anyway, tonight we've watched the Jesus the Jew (interesting but it rather overstated as a case for the actively evil Christian, I feel. Surely we'll all just human? Jew and Christian alike. Though I did love the idea that Christians need to rediscover the Jewish nature of Jesus, and Jews need to reclaim Jesus as a great teacher. Inspirational indeed). And of course there's the glorious Larkrise to Candleford. I loved the way the wonderful Dorcas lost the election but won the battle. Fabulous ...

This week's haiku is:

A quiet winter.
I lay my heart deep in earth
amongst daffodils.

Today's nice things:

1. Getting the chapbook together
2. Twelfth Night
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - a delightful concoction of salt and gold, naturally

Saturday, January 10, 2009

In search of the great grey shrike ...

... with not much degree of success, I'm afraid. Lord H and I pootled off to Ash Ranges in an attempt to find the mythical great grey shrike which apparently is stationed there at the moment. "Stationed" is the operative word as the Ranges are also used for army shooting practice - and they were out and about today though there was no red flag or flashing lights up, so no shooting, thank goodness. Maybe they've already finished the poor bird off? Mind you, the walk was lovely as all the trees and grass were frosted with icicles and it was eerily misty. A perfect setting for The Hound of the Baskervilles indeed. We did manage to see some tits though.

In need of sustenance and comparative warmth, we then spent the rest of the day at Wisley, where I have finally become a member, hurrah. Lord H doesn't need to, as members can take one guest for free. Yes, after considering the various options, I decided he'd be the guest today. What a wonderful wife I am, ho ho. And our birding lists have been increased by five for this year, as we managed to see a great spotted woodpecker, a jay, a goldcrest (amazingly close), a redwing and a wren. I also actually got a robin to take some bread from my hand for the first time ever, which was definitely my highlight of the day. Totally magical and what tiny beaks they have.

Lunch in the Wisley cafe was great too - they do a mean cappuccino, and cauliflower and cumin soup to die for. Bliss. The only slight blip during our visit was the fact that when Lord H walked into the glorious greenhouse, the dramatic change in temperature meant his glasses completely steamed up so he couldn't see a thing. So he wandered round with these misty white circles on his eyes and looking like an alien. Um, yes, I laughed, a lot - thus losing any of the Wife Points I might have managed to build up this year. Ah well. I should be used to that by now.

And today's meditation poem is:

Meditation 44

Your garments
are laced

with gold thread
holding together

a life.
You bear

on your shoulders
the voices

of those you love:
they sing

like field lilies
or clouds of ravens.

Tonight, it's still bloody freezing, so we are huddling together for warmth and hoping for an early spring. Soon, please God. Nothing much on TV either - which is probably not a bad thing, as I am still in contemplative mood after the final episode of The Diary of Anne Frank yesterday. I couldn't stop crying for a while - such a bloody waste of a family's life. So very terrible. And I hadn't realised that her father had been the only one to survive the camps and didn't die until 1980. I'm still unsure whether that's a small blessing or a very long curse.

Today's nice things:

1. Five new birds for the year
2. Feeding a robin from my hand
3. Soup
4. Poetry.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - guaranteed shrike-free

Friday, January 09, 2009

A miracle shot, a rejection and a right royal reader

Almost my first email of the day was a poetry rejection (groan ...) which is never under any circumstances pleasant. However, I have impressed myself by simply sitting down and sending the pieces out to someone else, and also submitting a separate sample of flash fiction to another market. Just for luck and to appease the Gods of Rejection. As you do. Astonishingly I didn't even need to take a calming pill, so the HRT must indeed be on top form.

Anyway, I've managed another 1000 words of Hallsfoot's Battle today, and have now (hurrah!) moved on from the Ralph/Jemelda scene and am beginning the Annyeke/Library of Gathandria scene. So that's progress. Goodness alone knows what Annyeke is going to do about the great fire, but she'll have to think of something. The snow-raven and the mind-cane are both with the exiled Elders, so they're no help. But, then again, Annyeke is used to thinking on her feet when the Gathandrian Elders mess up, so I'm sure she'll rise to the occasion ...

Oh, and I must say how utterly incredibly stunning was last night's trip to the theatre. If you ever under any circumstances get even half a chance to go and see Someone Who'll Watch Over Me, then drop everything and go. It's humane, deep, tragic, rich and poetic. All at the same time. At the end of it (and I'll warn you - it's long. We didn't leave the theatre till gone 10.45pm), they got a standing ovation. And they - and the play - deserved it. I'd see it again, no problem. And I rarely see things again, unless they're Shakespeare. Fabulous. I'm still mulling it over now. And will be for some time, I feel.

But back to the routine: I've played golf with Marian today. It's great to be back in the golfing routine post-Christmas. Though I was rubbish, I must say, and Marian even won the game, dammit. By two shots! That never happens usually ... I must obviously get my act together and pretty damn quickly too. Mind you, my glorious miracle shot was when my ball landed full-square in the middle of the pond on the 6th and just bounced straight across onto the green, as the ice was so thick. Bliss. That's the way to do it ... Marian was speechless. Not sure I could do it again though.

Meanwhile, here's this morning's meditation poem:

Meditation 43

You measure your life
in silver,

gold, bronze.
Kilogrammes counted

to the final speck.

Still you miss
the mark

and your life
slips away

between your fingers.
Watch it fade

to a deeper reckoning.

I've just finished Alan Bennett's novella, An Uncommon Reader - a little jewel of a book about what happens when the Queen takes up reading. It's witty, sharp and totally charming - and is only somewhat tarnished by what I think is a rather sloppy ending. Unfortunate, that. Up until the last page, I was all set to give it 5 stars but I'm afraid it will end up with only 4. Definitely worth a read though and it won't take long either. Bennett is just so damn clever.

Tonight, I'll be glued to the last part of The Diary of Anne Frank. Oh Lord, but after last night's poetic depths of contained theatre grief, I'm sure it will finish me off entirely for the weekend. Which may of course be a good thing. Odd how I feel that the highlights of both my stage and TV year have come in the first week or so of January. It's going to be tough to beat either of them. Lay on, Macduff. As they may or may not say.

Today's nice things:

1. The theatre - as it's still reverberating around my head
2. My miracle golf shot
3. Carrying on with Hallsfoot
4. Poetry
5. Books
6. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - in contemplative mood ...

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Hallsfoot, lunch and a grim drama

Have done quite well on Hallsfoot's Battle this morning and have managed another 1000 words focusing on Ralph and the cook. Am nearly at the end of that scene and am hoping for a dramatic punch to it and a twist in proceedings, but I'll have to see what the keyboard decides. Lord knows I never know what will happen until I'm there. It's all done by smoke and mirrors. Anyway, it brings me nicely into the 74,000 word range, which is pleasing.

This morning's meditation piece is:

Meditation 42

Bronze, linen,

surround the mysteries
of God.

When you stand
at the entrance,

do not seek words.
In time

they will come
to you:

blue, purple,

Today has been our post-Christmas lunch with the office at Cambio's in Guildford. We love it there - great food and it has the best toilets in the whole of Surrey. Honestly, I'm not joking. They're gorgeously done out in black chrome, silver and mirrors, with separate handbasins, individual hand-towels which you use and then put in the laundry basket, and posh soap. Bliss. Given half a chance I would probably move in. Toilets are vitally important, you know - they are the measure of a civilisation. In my opinion. And yes, I visited twice. I would have gone a third time too, but even I realise it might have looked strange. Anyway, we had a fantastic time and stayed for ages (in the restaurant, rather than in the loos). They were probably glad to get rid of us indeed.

Tonight, Lord H and I are out at the theatre to see Someone Who'll Watch Over Me. Based on Brian Keenan's utterly marvellous account of his imprisonment in the Middle East, An Evil Cradling (which everyone ought to read as it's rich, poetic and horrifying all at the same time), I can see it's not going to be a lot of laughs, but is probably ideally suited to winter. And the present political climate. We will be better, more meditative people after it, I am sure. But, goodness me, if you include The Diary of Anne Frank, then my drama viewing this week is certainly on the grim side of grim. Anyone for a comedy?...

Today's nice things:

1. Writing more of Hallsfoot
2. Poetry
3. Lunch at Cambio's
4. Theatre (although I admit "nice" probably isn't the word here ...).

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - gearing itself up for grimness ...

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A poetry success, books and the return of the mice

Gosh indeed, but the good news continues. The lovely people at Every Day Poets have accepted my poem, Spaces, for publication later in the year, so that’s very pleasing. January is looking pretty darn good on the literary front so far, I must say. Frankly I’m gobsmacked.

Speaking of matters literary, here’s today’s meditation poem:

Meditation 41

Bronze is for burning.
In the altar’s

sweet hollow,
hide the strange gifts

you carry:
bowls; hooks; firepans.

Keep apart only
the basin

forged from the women’s
bronzed whisperings –

the little sparrows
at the temple entrance.

Hold it to your skin.
A memory. An accounting.

At work, I’m sorting out that dang quality form and sending out vast supplies of minutes. Those ones the Professor said were “excellent” have already been re-sent twice as one of the Committee didn’t like one of the words and wanted it replaced by another, but didn’t give me any ideas as to what that might be. And yes, my first brilliant guess was wrong, so I had to send it round yet again. Sigh …

Still, at least we’ve had a team meeting in Starbucks this morning – that’s two decaff coffees this week. I’m such a wild thing, you know. Where will it all end? I dread to think.

I’ve just finished Juliet Archer’s novel, The Importance of Being Emma. It’s a charming and witty update of Jane Austen’s Emma (fairly obviously), which is really very well done, and is one of the new range of books starting to come out from the Choc-Lit site. Well worth a look for sure. And that front cover is stunning. Wish I had legs like that. Even in spite of the fact that I’m not a great fan of chick-lit, I’m already looking forward to Archer’s next attempt at an updating of the Austen canon (am I spelling that right? Who knows …). Which I gather will be Persuasion. One of my favourites indeed.

Tonight, I’ll be preparing myself for Part 3 of the Anne Frank story. Last night’s episode started with her father attempting to unblock a very tricky toilet situation, the poor dear. Ah, if only I hadn’t been about to take my first bite of a slice of chocolate cake at the time, I might even have been fine … Those of you who watched it will know what I mean. I’m not explaining it to the rest of you – for your own good, you know. However, I’ve learnt my lesson: I’ll make sure I’ve finished eating before I switch it on tonight. As I can’t not watch it – it’s utterly gripping TV.

Oh, and the mice appear to be back, darn it. One of the traps was lying across the kitchen floor when I got up this morning, but sadly without its occupant. However, the poison has gone. Cue evil laughter, mwa-ha ha ha.

Finally, to keep my literary feet well and truly on the ground, I've had a rejection for The Bones of Summer. Deeep sigh ...

Today’s nice things:

1. Getting a poem accepted
2. Writing poetry
3. Starbucks coffee – again
4. Books.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - up on short stories and poetry, but down on the novels front ...

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Hospitals, contracts and the happiness stakes

Got into work early today as I had to go to see the original (nice) consultant at 9.40am. So that was a hugely early lunch hour, when all’s said and done. Anyway, she’s moved from the clinic back to being full-time at the hospital now, so I had to face the joys of the Royal Surrey. Not what you want on your first week back. While there, I had another CA125 blood test to see how things are going after the op (hope to be able to get the results from the doctor late next week). Meanwhile, the consultant is happy with me not being on the Metformin or the HRT patches, but is pleased that I'm using the oestrogen gel twice a day now. Alongside that, she wants to put me on a low dose of progesterone to balance everything out and keep the endometriosis under control, so she'll be writing to the doctor to see if he'll prescribe that one. Let’s hope he doesn’t object, as I don’t want to get involved in another medical stand-off. Not after last year, groan … The only worry is that the progesterone might set me back in the depression stakes, but if the dose is low enough it might be okay - but I have to keep an eye on it. That part of it does niggle at me, I have to admit – I’ve been doing so well on the feeling happy levels lately (famous last words, eh!). I know it’s necessary for medical reasons but I really don’t want to be any worse off than I am now. Still, I’ll have to wait and see, I suppose. And she's booking me in for another scan later in the year. Goodness me, it’s all go, eh. No wonder I’m tired. Still, there’s one good thing: apparently my Body Mass Index is wonderful. Good-oh. I can add it to the positive side of my health list, alongside the generally amazing state of my liver. Hurrah.

For the rest of the day, I’ve been annoying the boss (who’s just returned today) with all the stuff I’ve been storing up to ask him over the last few weeks. I bet he’s glad he’s back, eh … This includes the nightmare quality document task I haven’t been able to get my head round at all, so it’s been fun and games for sure. I think quality admin has that effect on me – the brain disappears and I have absolutely no idea what it’s for, apart from minimising our humanity. Ah well, this is presumably why I’m not Vice-Chancellor then … A fact the academic community are of course hugely grateful for.

I’ve also been super-efficient and remembered to bring my mobile phone recharger in so I can wind the phone up. I so rarely use the darn thing that it’s a mystery every time. Mind you, more people – bizarrely – seem to be texting me these days, and really I have no idea why it’s so popular. It takes me ages to reply – it’s much quicker to type out an email or just phone – and I really hate it. And yes that’s true even if 90% of the time my reply is one word only. It’s such a bind. As well as being all I can manage before boredom kicks in. If I ruled the world, I would ban texting. No appeals.

Tonight, it’s part two of the Anne Frank series on TV. I caught most of last night’s, which was a real eye-opener. I read the book so long ago that I’d forgotten half the details, I think. It’s all very poignant, but also very strong. If you see what I mean. Oh, and there’s also Country House Rescue, which I am now utterly hooked on. That Ruth who presents it is scary but good. Much like me then, ho ho …

Ooh, and my signed contract for Painting from Life has arrived from Eternal Press so that's good news. Am looking forward to the edits at some point.

Today’s nice things:

1. Not being V-C
2. Remembering to recharge the phone
3. TV
4. Getting my contract.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - wondering about her happiness levels ...

Monday, January 05, 2009

Back to school and more story news

Back to work today, which is something of a shock to the system. But at least everyone else has been away too, so there isn't a huge amount of emails to struggle through, thank goodness. After all, I’ve taken most of the day to recover from the shock of waking up to snow. Snow! In Surrey. Appalling, my dears, appalling … Here’s hoping it vanishes before we have to trudge home in it. I’m not even sure if I’ve parked the car in a recognised space at the University car park, as it was impossible to tell. Though I am between two other cars. Sort of.

Oh and this morning’s exciting news is that the All Things Girl Ezine have accepted my short story, The Singing Road, for publication in February. Double gosh! That’s certainly taken the edge off the return to work, I can tell you.

And here’s this morning’s meditation:

Meditation 40

Things whispered
at night

will be heard
in the day.

Cover the altar
with incense,

spread the perfume wide
with your small hand

until wood and flesh
are one.


Meanwhile, heroes for the New Year are Godalming Theatre Group’s production of Sleeping Beauty (which wowed Chaplaincy Ruth), Nigel Planer (the Dean’s favourite), the Student Affairs Committee Chair (for saying my minutes were excellent – it’s the plotline, you know. Gets them every time) and Julia Sawalha (for being practically perfect in every way in Larkrise to Candleford).

At lunchtime, I braved the weather and walked into town. Not much to buy, really – though I did get a couple of half-price block calendars for the office and home – but hey at least the exercise did me good. Mind you, I was so exhausted by the time I got back that I had to succumb to my first Starbucks of 2009. Bliss. Ah, but it’s the slippery slope now, Carruthers …

And talking of slippery slopes, I’m sorry to see that Wedgwood has gone into administration – such a shame for a classic UK industry and one that’s lasted for 250 years too. It’s part of our heritage (and yes we do indeed have some wedding Wedgwood in the house so I’m definitely prejudiced - the pattern is Cavendish, if you're asking. Naturally, it's the best ...) and I hope they can find a buyer. Honestly, this whole credit crunch is going to change everything, I feel.

Tonight, I’m going to pop in and see how Gladys is getting on, then I’m gearing myself up for the first part of the Anne Frank series. Not many jokes there to get us into the New Year, I fear, but it has that ring of class (and of course truth) that one just has to watch. And I’ve started my Zipporah (Moses’ wife) story with the tentative title of Little Bird. I can’t seem to find out much of use about the geography of Biblical Midian however, so I suspect I’ll have to ask Lord H. Again.

But the big news of the day is that I’ve discovered that Juli of Mighty Erudite is okay, so that’s a relief. It’s just that there’s a lot on at the moment. Thank goodness, as I was seriously worried. Hope to catch up with you at some point, Juli!

Today’s nice things:

1. Selling my third short story of 2009.
2. Poetry
3. This week’s heroes
4. Starbucks cappuccino
5. Starting a long short story
6. Juli being okay.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - glad to get the first day back over with ...

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Hymns, Hallsfoot and a story success

Lord H and I got the year off to a suitably holy start by going to church for Epiphany today. Ah, the Epiphany hymns - you really can't beat them. Fantastic to sing Earth has Many a Noble City (the tune is in the link if you have that facility - so don't be startled!) once more - the perfect combination of literary focus and tune. It always gets me that one, and all the more so, sadly, in the current political climate. Anyway, after the service we chatted to Jenny, one of the priests, who was delighted to find out that I was hoping to double my church attendances this year to twice a month. She did suggest that I shouldn't overdo it though - we don't want God to get too much of a shock after all ...

Talking of matters spiritual (of a sort), here's this morning's meditation poem:

Meditation 39

To create light:

carve it
out of almond blossom,

buds and petals

to catch the sun.
It will illuminate

each small death,
each small prayer.

For the rest of the day, I've been working on Hallsfoot's Battle and I now at least have Ralph back in the kitchen with the servants, attempting to formulate a plan. He's going to have to work hard to get into Jemelda's good books though, especially after the disaster he's made of most things (see The Gifting - should you ever get the chance - for that particular series of cock-ups ...) so far. And the Lammas Overlords are not known for their humility, so it's going to be a tough call. Still, it's at 73,000 words now, so we're getting there. Slowly, slowly.

I've also finished my short story about travel, and I'm thinking of working on a long short story about Moses' wife. Well, I have three or four longish Bible stories (or my interpretation of them, which so far includes secret lesbianism, poisonings and the odd murder or two) rattling around, so maybe it's about time some more joined them. We'll see.

And there's good news about my short story submissions. The Rose and Thorn Literary Ezine has accepted my story, A Lonely Place (a tale of a man in a lighthouse facing huge decisions about his life), for their Winter 2009 edition. Well, gosh, that's certainly good news to start the year with! And it comes with a small payment too, which is rare for me and very welcome indeed. Double gosh. Enthused by that unexpected success, I've sent out two more short stories and two more poetry selections, so we'll see how things go.

Late this afternoon, the ground floor neighbour knocked on our door to say that there was water running down his walls and please could we help. Naturally -and bearing in mind the amount of stress our various water disasters have caused both the neighbours recently - we inwardly groan and leap with the proverbial sinking hearts to the rescue. After much confusion, we discover that the middle neighbour's washing machine has gone horribly wrong so, as he's out, we've made it as good as possible and put down towels to mop up the flood. Lord H will leave him a note - but the Big Moment of Joy (and yes we do know how wrong admitting that actually is ...) comes when we realise that for the first time in many weeks (and CAPS are deliberate here) a domestic disaster is actually NOT OUR FAULT!! Triple gosh and golly. Whatever next? Oh Lordy, let's not ask ...

Tonight, I will be glued to the marvellous Larkrise to Candleford, and hoping to get a decent night's sleep before the horrors of the return to work tomorrow (groan) ...

This week's haiku (as we've seen so many of these birds in the last day or so) is:

We greet the new year
with goldfinches: something bright
in a dark winter.

Today's nice things:

1. Good hymns
2. Writing more to Hallsfoot
3. Poetry
4. Haikus
5. A short story success
6. Realising we are not always the Bringers of Domestic Disaster ...
7. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - celebrating unexpected success