Sunday, November 28, 2010

Houses, holidays and haikus

Life News:

We've been round a couple of new developments looking at potential new houses today, which has been great fun. We liked one of the houses in the development nearest to Guildford town centre, but we much preferred the ones a little further out. The one we were most interested in won't be built till next year, so we're hoping to do a proper site visit over the next couple of weeks to get a feel for the thing. It will be interesting anyway. In the meantime, we've drafted an official complaint to Mann Countrywide - though I do have to say that the two women in the office, Kirsty & Leigh, were absolutely lovely when I collected my key from them on Saturday, and they apologised profusely and genuinely on behalf of their new manager, who's apparently very appalling to everyone. They also gave me complaint information and encouraged us to go ahead, which was interesting indeed. We're also getting two more estate agents to visit us tomorrow to give us quotes, so we're still keeping all our options open. No harm in doing that for sure.

After all this house consideration, K and I decided to take a quick trip to Wisley for lunch, which was lovely and warm, hurrah. At least inside anyway. Not many people there because of the weather, so it was nice to wander around and have lots of space - though you didn't want to dawdle or one's legs tended to freeze up. In spite of the fact that I was wearing thermals, two pairs of socks, two tee-shirts, a jumper, a fleece and an overcoat. Good Lord, it was astonishing I could move at all really. They were also having a free tree giveaway event, so we have come away with a silver birch sapling. Yes, I know this is ridiculous as we (as yet) have no garden and the beasts grow to about 200 feet tall or something, but how could we resist? We have therefore put it in a pot and put it on the stairs, where it is making a fair bid for the "smallest and spindliest Christmas tree ever" competition. Anyone got a really really small fairy??...

Yesterday, the start of our week's holiday (not going anywhere but having days out and considering house issues, theoretically) got off to a bad beginning as poor K had to work all day sorting out the new phone system at the office. So he left at 8.15am, returned exhausted at 7.45pm and then had to go back to the office as he'd got all the way home and realised he'd left his briefcase in the carpark. Lordy, we were worried, but thank God nothing had happened to it and everything was safe (thank you, thank you - miracles can indeed happen!!), and he got back again at 8.45pm. What a nightmare anyway. And he has to be in work tomorrow too to check the new phone system works so in actual fact our holiday won't start till Tuesday, poor thing. Ah well.

During the latter half of the week, Marian and I played a very cold game of golf, but there was no-one else out there it was so cold, so that was fun too. There was even ice on the tee area so you had to be jolly careful about your swing. As it were. Though, bearing in mind I was as bundled up as I was today, it wasn't much of a swing in the first place. Ooh and on the way back from Guildford later that day, I came upon two young men walking along the central reservation of the A3. The fools!!!! When I got back home, I rang the police so they could check it out and stop them, so I feel I've done my civic duty for the month. But why the hell anyone would walk along the central reservation of the A3 and expect to live long is beyond me ... Men are a mystery, my dears, a complete mystery.

Book News:

I was pleased with this 4-star review on Amazon for gay short story, Give and Take, and even more pleased that Vulpes Libris has been mentioned this weekend in The Guardian as a "top UK literary blog". Now that's class ... We Book Foxes are all smiling hugely indeed.

This week's meditations are:

Meditation 469
The secrets women keep:
hidden in the shadows
and the rooms
where nobody goes,

a flicker at the edge
of an eye, a mystery,
dark corners of life
only a woman knows.

Meditation 470
The temple waits
for destruction

as priests wait
for death,

knowing their completion
lies only in absence.

The Sunday haiku is:

Two mistle thrushes
fill the empty tree with song:
winter symphony.

Anne Brooke

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A rollercoaster week

Life News:

Lordy, what a week. Some of it has been really, really nasty and some of it really nice. First off, we have sacked our estate agents, Mann Countrywide in Godalming. They deceived us in terms of not honouring their marketing promises, ie they didn't give us the formal weekly report during the four weeks we've been with them, and they don't, contrary to the brochure, pick you up for any viewings you arrange through them, in case you're wondering what those promises might have been. In addition they lied twice about putting our property in the Surrey Advertiser. When we complained about this, they didn't respond adequately, and apparently there's been a huge staff change-round between offices, and they have a new manager, James. Frankly, however, that's not our problem and we don't much care. We sent an official complaint last Friday, asking for the name of their Ombudsman. They ignored it. James rang on Saturday, apparently about something else, and we complained again. He asked for the email which he allegedly hadn't received and we sent it again. We made an arrangement for him to visit us last night with an explanation and details of who to complain to.

Last night, James arrived late, but not dishonourably so. I didn't offer him any drink, as I didn't want to. Why waste good coffee? He started to give a lot of marketing spiel about how it wasn't his fault and there'd been staff changes, but I stopped him saying I didn't want to hear any gubbins and he needed to get straight to the point. He didn't much like that. Tough. Interestingly he'd brought the last week's formal report for us to view - ie the only one we've ever seen. It was incorrect - it said that our flat had been in last week's Surrey Advertiser (it hadn't) and it said it had also been in this week's. How he knows that is anyone's guess as the Surrey Advertiser doesn't come out till tomorrow. I pointed out the factual errors. He began to bluster, again saying it wasn't his fault. He then accused me of lying about it not being in the Surrey Advertiser last week and asked if I'd apologise to him when I found out I was wrong. Understandably, neither I nor K took kindly to that. I don't appreciate being called a liar in my own home, or indeed anywhere else. He repeated his view that he was new in the role and it wasn't his fault. K pointed out that our first complaint had been sent on Friday (and ignored) and Friday was the start of his managerial watch at the firm, and he should therefore learn how to take responsibility, without excuses.

We repeated (for the third time of asking) our request that he provide us with the details of the property ombudsman so we could make an official complaint about Mann's actions. He refused to do so. We pointed out that, for all intents and purposes, our contract with Mann was over forthwith, as they had lied to us on at least two occasions and had not fulfilled their side of the contract. He refused to accept that, saying that we had signed a 10-week contract and we were therefore breaking it. The argument went on until he finally agreed that today (Thursday) he would send us an email by 12noon bringing the contract to an end. All the time, he was continuing to bluster and make excuses (not great customer service then ...), but when we'd agreed the contract was over, I asked him to leave and said we had no wish to have any further dealings with him. He left, slamming the door. Good manager then, um not ... Luckily the door appears unharmed, as otherwise we would have been adding the cost of any repair to our complaint also.

This morning, at 11.15am, James sends us a very high-handed email saying that he has decided to bring our contract to an end. So, the sad man, he still hasn't realised he's already broken it, and it's our decision to end it, and not his. And he still hasn't given us the details of who to complain to, even though it must be at least for the 6th time of asking. He can't be very good at (a) reading or (b) listening then ... However, the good news is that my lovely FB friends (thank you!) have sent me the link to the Property Ombudsman so I suspect I may well be forwarding those to James, as he obviously hasn't a clue who they are ... I also suspect he's going to find out pretty soon.

Meanwhile, the difficulties I've been having with AXA PPP and the Guildford Clinic - who basically seem to be using me as a go-between for their own financial disputes (not a great place for a patient to be in) - has gone some way to being resolved. I tweeted earlier in the week about how bad they were, and some Twitter AXA person got hold of it and has been sorting it out. Which just goes to show that the Internet does work, on occasion. The upshot is that they are going to pay the Guildford Clinic in spite of telling the Clinic they weren't (which resulted in my consultant's office sending me a very upsetting letter that I did not appreciate in any way), partly because they have on the phone twice promised me that they would pay the claim. Now it transpires that they're doing it ex-gratia, and will not cover me for similar necessary consultations again, as they say I have no symptoms. Bollocks, say I. As the medical profession has already noted, my symptoms are depression, hormonal imbalances and endometriosis - I'm not sure how any of them aren't a symptom, so I am distinctly not happy about how AXA are interpreting the rules, and I don't accept it. Watch this space ... I must say K's previous medical insurers were a million times better and far more pleasant to deal with than this. I only wish his firm hadn't changed them.

Anyway, seeing as I'm in the middle of getting rid of the rubbish in my life, I have terminated my MySpace account, as MySpace is now so dull as to be virtually comatose. Yawn. It's a relief to be rid of it. But, really, no wonder I'm back on the gin ...

And, tonight, K and I are off to the theatre to see Richard III, so am hoping for dark drama and angst. Hell, it's what I'm used to here in the twilight zone. But I bet bloody Richard hasn't had the bloody week I've had - his life is a walk in the park compared to mine!...

Book News:

Ooh look, we've got to the 'something nice' section, hurrah! I was thrilled to hear that the reason that the edits for The Gifting have apparently been a little delayed (though to be honest I hadn't even noticed) was that the editor was enjoying the story too much. Gosh! Glorious words for a writer to hear, I can tell you. Also, the lovely people at Bluewood Publishing have accepted my lyrical short story, Dido's Tale, for publication so I have been busy signing the contract and thinking about blurbs and cover art today. What fun!

Other excitements are that there's a one-day Thanksgiving sale on FRIDAY 26th at Untreed Reads so don't forget to pick up a bargain or two there tomorrow. And for November only there's 20% off the first 2 orders at Dreamspinner Press with the code HolidayDreams, so go on - make this stressed-out and potentially homeless writer's weekend a happier one. You know you want to ...

Meanwhile, at Vulpes Libris, you can read my review of Barbara Pym's A Glass of Blessings, which is a beautifully understated novel of quietness and kindness. Which I really could have done with this week - note to self: must read more Pym ... Anyway, I can very much recommend the read.

This week's meditations are:

Meditation 466
Murder being once done,
you may as well
make a strange habit of it

ensuring that in all journeys
you’ll at least
get a seat in the carriage.

Meditation 467

Beneath apparent love,
instead of silence or prayer
the politics of destruction appear

so sword and fire,
blood and weeping
dwell here.

Meditation 468

It all boils down
to the politics of land:
who possesses it
and who doesn’t.

Nobody imagines
that the skies,
the earth, the air
might actually be God’s.

Anne Brooke

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Houses, estate agents and royalties

Life News:

Well, enough is enough. Last week our agent at Mann Countrywide promised us that this week our flat would be in the Surrey Advertiser, and it wasn't. They also promised us at the beginning of our agreement that we'd get a weekly report on a Friday as to how things have been going and what their marketing plans are. We haven't received any of these, except for the one time I phoned up and chased them, and then it was an informal chat rather than an official report. Moreover, we are now just about to enter the 5th week of our 10 week agreement and not a single viewer have we seen. So on Friday night, we sent an official complaint to them, and gave notice of our intent not to renew with them at the end of our 10 weeks. We also said that we wished to terminate them as soon as possible, bearing in mind the appalling and deceitful way we've been treated.

First thing Saturday morning, the Godalming branch manager is on the phone. He left a message, but we decided there was no obligation to ring him back until later, so we left it till 4.30pm. Hell, why should we jump when they tell us to, eh? They don't bother much with us. When K finally spoke to him, said branch manager was grovelling with apologies once K, in no uncertain terms, told him we'd been lied to and misled from day one, so we still wished to terminate our agreement asap. Good. He should be even more grovelling with apologies, and compensation, as far as we're concerned. It also appears that our original agent, Kimberley, is mysteriously no longer working at the Godalming office, plus another agent from there is also no more, and this branch manager is apparently new in this week, so it looks as if something is definitely rotten in the state of Denmark as far as Mann Countrywide Godalming are concerned.

Still, that is none of our concern, to be honest. I, frankly, don't much care for their problems. Out of the kindness of our hearts, we have agreed that the branch manager will visit us on Wednesday evening with a full explanation of what's going on, and we shall consider his report at that time. Our preferred option is to sack them immediately, unless he comes up with a hugely good reason why we shouldn't, and to appoint another agent. The fact of the matter is, however, that this tale of woe and estate agent inadequacy has cost us a month of buying time and I am very inclined to make them pay for it. Especially as the new agent we may (and probably will) appoint will be fighting with the approaching Christmas lull. Suffice it to say we are not at all happy, and I absolutely hate our time being wasted.

In the meantime, we are now seriously considering new-build home options, and part-exchange facilities. We saw a perfectly lovely new estate in Chobham on Saturday and are keeping that under close consideration - they have our details and we'll see what offer they can come up with. In addition I have today enquired about another new-build estate in Merrow, Guildford which is due for completion in Spring 2011. If those come up trumps first, then that is what we will do. Let Mann Countrywide put that in their pipe and smoke it ...

It's not all house doom and gloom though, thank God. Earlier in the week, the gas man visited for our annual boiler service - which they do always love as our boiler here is apparently a collectible and, even though it doesn't entirely conform to current boiler regulations, it's all perfectly safe and will probably outlast us, and the two generations that come after. Ah, they don't make 'em like that now, you know ...

Book News:

I've been delighted with the royalties this quarter from Untreed Reads Publishing, where sales of The Girl in the Painting have been particularly buoyant, so that's a nice boost amidst all the angst of life etc. I was also happy to receive the fully signed contract for Rosie by Name back from Bluewood Publishing, so that's something to look forward to next year.

Only one meditation this week:

Meditation 465
Travelling to pay
your last respects
to the dead

can, on occasion,
be fraught with difficulty,
danger and dread.

And the Sunday haiku is:

The creamy-cloud foam
in my coffee and my bath
is my secret bliss.

Anne Brooke

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Haircuts and hospitals

Life News:

Great news! Someone at work actually noticed my new haircut! Gosh indeedy. So a big thank you to Andrea, and also to Carol, for commenting on it - positively of course - and without having read my blog too. I'm still smiling.

This week I've also had my appointment with the lovely specialist (hello, Alli!) who has been reading my blog and therefore commented on my wonderful new haircut - not sure whether that might have been cheating or not, now I come to think of it, but thank you anyway! Health-wise, I'm much happier than I was a couple of weeks ago, so we've decided to keep off the HRT for the moment and see how things progress between now and when I next see her in February. It makes sense, but I'll keep an eye on it to see if I suddenly plunge into the slough of despond again. You never know really. They also took a blood test to see how my oestrogen levels are doing, post-HRT, so that will be interesting to find out too. Never say the middle years of a woman's life are not exciting, eh ...

In the meantime, I've been struggling with estate agents, again. There are still zilch viewers for our poor unloved flat, which continues to be hugely frustrating, but we've decided to go and see three houses this Saturday anyway, just to keep our hand in. Interestingly, one of them in Woking is on the market at a price we could actually afford without even having to sell our flat, which is certainly food for thought. I do like the look of it as well, but we'll see. The thing that really got my back up, however, is the fact that when I rang up to arrange a viewing for one of the other houses with an agent new to us, the extremely callow young man was very rude when he found out our flat was on with Mann Countrywide. What is it about callow young male estate agents (well, apart from the evident lack of brains, that is)??? Don't they have any concept at all of professionalism??? I am therefore extremely proud of myself that I stopped his boring sales spiel and bitchiness in mid-flow, and told him in no uncertain terms not to be so rude about his fellow professionals as I thought it was frankly appalling. (Say what you like about Mann Countrywide but they have never at any time been rude or bitchy about other estate agents, at least not in my hearing, and that is something I do admire, whether or not they know how to get viewers for us ...). Said Callow Young Man's response to that was weak laughter, which I didn't take kindly to either, so I told him I wasn't interested in his opinions, but I simply wanted him to arrange an appointment and confirm it with me without more ado. The loser ... The good thing is that CYM isn't available on Saturday, so a colleague will show us round. Thank God for that, really. I hope the colleague is more pleasant, but I don't hold out much hope. But good to know that being a stroppy-minded woman in her forties has some benefits - I would never have dared express an opinion such as that in my twenties, more fool me.

Anyway, tonight, K and I are off to the theatre in Woking to see House of Ghosts, which is a play featuring Inspector Morse, so it should be interesting for sure.

Book News:

I'm happy to say that A Dangerous Man gained a lovely 5-star review on Amazon, so many thanks, Amos, for that. The novel is now also available at The Book Depository with free worldwide delivery, so that's good to know. It's even got a sales ranking there too, which is heartening.

This week's meditations are:

Meditation 462
A wild ride,
vain hope of escape
and certain knowledge
of death

reveals to us all
how this need to live
drives us onward
until the last frail breath.

Meditation 463
I’ve always liked Jezebel:
the way she puts on
her eyeshadow
and arranges her hair

before a bloody,
undignified death
is, I feel, a lesson
for all women, everywhere.

Meditation 464
Call me too delicate
for the world we live in
but the concept
of seventy dead men’s heads
lined up in baskets
really doesn’t suit me
as an appetiser.

Really, they were a funny old lot in the Old Testament ...

Anne Brooke

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rhubarb and remembrance

Book News:

I'm very pleased to say that my poem, Meditation 21, appears in the Winter 2010 issue of Eat a Peach poetry journal today (scroll down to view), and of course can also be found amongst its friends in my poetry collection, Salt and Gold, which is now available at a discount at Lulu Books. Ideal Christmas present for your poetic and/or religious friends, naturally ... And speaking of wintry gifts, this time ideal for the darker and more sinister Christmas (and really what could be nicer?), don't forget that crime novel, Thorn in the Flesh, continues to be eligible for free delivery at Amazon and comes with some very nice reviews too.

On a very different note, Tommy's Blind Date was strutting its stuff at No 31 in the Amazon charts, though has now slipped somewhat. And I was also pleased to see my latest poetry collection, Sunday Haiku hanging on in there in the Amazon poetry charts. Returning briefly to Lulu Books, I'm happy to announce that all my books at Lulu now have very worthwhile discounts and some are even free, so definitely worth a browse!

And a big thank you to Stephanie for her 5-star review at Goodreads of The Hit List - many thanks, Stephanie.

This week's meditations:

Meditation 460
A shadowy room,
the faint glitter of skin
and the subtle flow
of oil

bring a blessing
he will remember
when the celebrations
and plots begin.

Meditation 461
God is like
a man in a watchtower
waiting for your arrival;

he is like
a horseman galloping
to find you

in the fields of Naboth;
a messenger who refuses
to leave your side

once the words
are spoken; he is
an arrow through your heart.

Sunday haiku:

I search for my word
lurking at the edge, eerie
and dark: discontent.

Life News:

I must say that Tesco's rhubarb crumble cake, though bizarrely named and yes it doesn't look like much, is seriously scrummy with one's essential cup of tea - highly recommended. Rush out and buy some is what I say. Anyway, in between the rain (honestly, where does it all come from?...) I have managed to squeeze in a game of golf with Marian - not my best game, but my putting was pretty damn cool and on the first I actually chipped in from the green, hurrah. Who needs a putter? Just call me Smug. Marian did.

Saturday morning, Lynda came to shape up my hair which now looks lovely, though I say it myself and shouldn't - and this morning I've even managed to get it looking like some faint echo of how Lynda does it, though I'm unlikely to do that again, wash-and-go being my main aim in life. K is primed to say how lovely it looks as soon as Lynda leaves - much like Pavlov's Husband, if Pavlov had a husband. Which is a good thing as I think I can count on the fingers of half a hand the times in my life when anyone has actually noticed I've had a haircut - a sad fact of life that does make me a bit snippety as I try to make sure I do comment on everyone else's haircuts if I think they've been done. Positively of course! Despite what you think, my Bitch Quota is quite low really. Anyway, I must wear some kind of invisibility cloak over my head for the week after The Haircut, but I swear I don't know who puts it there. Ah well.

Yesterday, we were at the Cathedral listening to Guildford Choral Society (nice singing, Robin, Gavin & Liz - well done, all!) perform not one but two requiems. The Faure one and the Durufle one (sorry, no idea about how to get accents on either of those). A great performance, even though I'm not a huge fan of the requiem per se, and think that when you've encountered one you've probably encountered them all. Much like Madonna and Child paintings, really. And even K thinks two requiems might have been a requiem too far. The programme for next year looks more my style though, so I shall look forward to that.

This morning, K and I have of course attended the Remembrance Service at Shackleford. I particularly like their take on this as when we're all standing around the War Memorial in the village, the names of those from the village who died in the First World and Second World Wars are read out and people come and place crosses on with the appropriate name in the soil as they're being read. I do find that very moving and it brings it all home really. This time we also didn't get a sermon but instead one of our congregation told us the story of his father who'd been in the army and spent five years as a prisoner of war in Germany during the Second World War - fascinating stuff. As the senior officer in the camp, he'd been in charge of coordinating the escape plans, and also of getting essential information back to the UK government by means of a series of letters supposedly to the Tiptree Jam Factory (near where I grew up, coincidentally) and in code. He was rescued by the Americans at the end of the war, as he wasn't allowed to escape himself as he was too useful to the British government where he was. Which just goes to show  another side of the war, and I was gripped by it. Great stuff.

Meanwhile, at home, the neighbour's chimney isn't quite finished yet, and has suffered something of a setback - the foolhardy builders rested one side of the scaffolding on the kitchen roof instead of on the ground (the fools! The fools!) and it's now caused damage to the roof and broken the glass in the window, dammit. Gisela and I were running around trying to contact said builders this weekend to get it sorted, but luckily they came round yesterday and the scaffolding is now resting on the ground. Where it should have been in the first place - this is a Victorian property after all! It's not made to support scaffolding ...

Finally, on a happier note, I'm thrilled to see the good news that those Somali pirates have finally let the Chandlers go - double hurrahs and thank God for it! They've certainly been on my mind for the past year and I'm glad they're free now. Great news for us all.

Anne Brooke

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Knickers and queens

Book News:

I'm delighted to discover that The Girl in the Painting sold 90 copies in October alone at Waterstone's even in spite of being given a one-star rating by two people. I'm thrilled my so far only literary lesbian short story is doing so well, and I hope the other 88 readers might have enjoyed it slightly more. You never can tell, eh.

This week's meditations:

Meditation 457
To understand to the full
all the tragedies to come
in a person’s life

is the darkest shadow
of being a prophet
or God.

Meditation 458
Hidden beneath
the kaleidoscope
of things we do wrong

is the slow, sure purpose
of life:
trust it.

Meditation 459
When all there is to a life
is war, injury and sin

it’s best to lie low
and keep the children in.

Life News:

Much to my delight, the Queen appeared on Facebook earlier in the week and, naturally, I'm a fan. Noblesse oblige, eh. Weirdly though, she now seems to have vanished so perhaps it was all too much for one? Or at least she's vanished on my version of FB, so a prize of one palace and an heir apparent to the person who can solve the mystery of the disappearing Queen. The plot thickens indeed ...

Meanwhile, I have been thrilled and strangely heartened by this unexpected prize-winner - scroll down a little to the video of what happened, which is so definitely worth watching. Good for her is what I say! Even more strangely however, K also got the whole phrase from only one letter after I told him the one piece of information the lucky female contestant knew and gave him a very small and subtle clue. Hey, it should have been us on that thar cruise! Assuming of course K would choose me to go with.

This is also the week where I have actually gone out and commenced my Christmas shopping. Groan. How I hate Christmas (bah, humbug, we cry once more as we in fact do each year!). Lordy but I'm sad.

Anyway, the good news is that the tricksy neighbours have actually sent us a cheque for their proportion of the building insurance, put out the bunting and huzzahs galore. So we don't have to resort - yet! - to Plan B, though I am holding fire until I see that it's gone through, call me cynical eh. Still, it's potential good news and I am grateful for it. I do long though to be out of here and in a place of our own, please God soon. Where be our buyers?? Or indeed viewers??? I fear I am rapidly losing faith with Mann Countrywide, so am glad we only signed a 10-week contract with them which takes us up to Christmas. Let's see if they can do something useful by then, but don't hold your breath. Really, it's so disappointing that I can hardly bear to think about it. Our current plan is that, after Christmas, we won't renew with them if they're doing nothing, but will try to see if we can part-exchange the flat for a new house - there do seem to be plenty around in our price range. I suppose we'll have to wait and see.

And tonight, K and I are off the the theatre - wind and rain permitting - to see The Knicker Lady, so hang on to your drawers, girls, as anything could happen.

Anne Brooke

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Covers, coffee and Christmas

Book News:

Much to my delight, the cover for A Dangerous Man has been nominated for the Imperial Artisan Awards where you can also vote for it. So far, it's received 7.44% of the vote, so thank you for those who are supporting it, and if you would like to and haven't yet done so, please go along and cast your vote too! Many thanks ...

Inspired by its unexpected success, I have started writing a sequel to The Delaneys and Me, which I am calling Entertaining the Delaneys. Naturally, this will be a piece of serious fiction focusing on the continuing trials and sorrows of the unfortunate Liam. Which of course you would all believe, if it weren't for the title, eh. What a lot of fun I'm having with it too, and I've only just begun. Indeed, I feel that Liam, bless 'im, has a heck of a lot more to say really about his life and those Delaneys, and I have even thought of a plot for a third and a fourth in the series, but let's not get too carried away at this point. I'd better get the second story sorted out first.

A poem this week:

So we begin once more,
you and I,
our first few steps
encompassing the sky

in its daylight shades
of cream and blue,
the borders of heaven
our only view

until something distracts me
out of the dance –
a flutter, a whisper
drawing my glance

so I totter and tumble
down from the sky:
let us begin once more,
you and I.

Plus there have been two meditation poems:

Meditation 455
Sometimes when we turn to face
our greatest fear –

the sword in the night,
disease, death –

all we have dreaded
simply melts away

like a bad dream
in the morning light

and we are left
untroubled and free.

Meditation 456
Seven years’ travel,
a quiet return,
the recovery of land
and – most important of all –
knowing the prophet by name

prove beyond any doubt
and in this first lesson of history
that it’s not what you know
but who you know that counts.

And two Sunday haikus

An English Apple
Crunchy, honeyed zing,
snap of spices on my tongue,
sunlight in my hand.

There are more poems
around than you think: walk slow,
speak soft and don't blink.

Life News:

We've had the builders sorting out a new chimney for the downstairs neighbour during the latter part of the week, which has been brilliant. The chimney comes up outside our kitchen window so we've had the perfect view of all the fun that's been happening with the scaffolding, the rather dodgy-looking stepladder and the spirit-levels. My goodness, but they're thorough, and the new chimney they're in the process of rebuilding looks grand. They also swear like troopers but in a rather charming way (pass the effing pipe, Jim; is that an effing brick?; an effing sunny day today, etc etc) when they can't see me as I'm working in the spare room, but have the language of newly-minted saints when they think I'm in the vicinity. It's all rather sweet. I'm thinking of popping out to see them next week and asking if they want an effing cup of tea, but I fear they might be too embarrassed at being caught out.

Yesterday, I had lunch with Pauline (hello, Pauline!) at a hotel in Maidstone, and it was great to meet up and catch up, but I suspect I had rather too many fully caff cappuccinos as I was very shaky when I drove back. I really do have to watch that caffeine intake, as a former addict (as it were). Bring on the decaff versions and soon. And today, I have written out my Christmas list of cards and presents that I need to buy - what a super-heroine I am! - but I'm really cutting down once more this year so am only planning to send out 28 cards, rather than the usual 50 plus. Soon I will have no friends left at all, you know ... Christmas? Bah, humbug ...

And, deep sigh, still no interest in our very lovely flat, even with the 20k cut in price, further deep sighing. Soon I will be paying people to come and view it, even if they don't want to buy, you know. I fear nobody likes the Victorian age any more, ah well.

Anne Brooke

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Poisons, plants and poems

Book News:

I've just found out that The Delaneys and Me sold over 550 copies last quarter, which is frankly astonishing. I am ... um ... speechless. Or as near to speechless as I ever get. 550 copies, well gosh! I must turn my mind to writing a sequel, I see ... As I'm sure there's a lot more to tell about Liam.

I'm also pleased to say that The Executioner's Cane has now reached the 80,000 word marker, so is about 2/3rds through. Heck, I never thought I'd even think that, let alone write it ... yes this last book in the Gathandrian Trilogy is going to need serious editing when it's done, but it's good to think that one day there might actually be something there to fiddle around with, if you see what I mean.

And A Dangerous Man gained a very thoughtful 4-star review at Amazon US, which I was delighted with - lovely to think people are reading it indeed. Keeping to this topic, I've set up a Facebook page for A Dangerous Man so if you think you might like a novel about art, love and murder (or if you've already read and enjoyed the book), do feel free to drop in and join in the party. As it were. It's the first time I've set up a stand-alone page for a novel, so I don't know quite how it will all work out, but I'm hoping it will. I'm going to have some fun with it anyway!

Maintaining the themes of danger and darkness, I've reviewed Maryrose Wood's The Poison Diaries at Vulpes Libris - this is an utterly fabulous novel, and beautifully written, so do please pop across and have a read. You won't regret it.

Turning to poetic matters (as I do tend to do now and again ...), there's an interview about my poetry and other writing issues at Seventh Window News, and don't forget that my most recent poetry collection, Sunday Haiku, is still available. All this excitement must have proved inspirational as I've written two non-meditation poems this week - the first time in months. Gosh. Here they are:


I drive home
through evening’s rich carpet,
the tail lights of cars
leading me onward

when an old song on the radio
plunges me back
to the woman I once was,
simple trick of time
not looked for,

and all the years
between then and now
are swept away
as if they had almost never been
for that yearning, hopeful girl
I can’t remember.


Once one poem arrives,
you won’t have to wait long
for another,

like chocolate digestives,
Chinese food or visits
from your mother.

This week's meditation poems are:

Meditation 452
When the hills
are silent and bare

open your eyes
more fully to see

it is not emptiness
but hope which waits there.

Meditation 453
Remember the warm silkiness
of flesh on the tongue

when deceit’s darkness
cuts out your sun.

Meditation 454
Between the questions,
the fear and the evident
lack of trust

the freedom to listen
lies waiting still.

Life News:

I'm continuing to feel a little better, but must admit to being still rather shaky about everything. It's almost as if I don't know how I'm going to be, mood-wise, from one minute to the next which is quite disturbing really. Not sure what to do about it, to be honest, except continue taking the 2 doses of St John's Wort, with the odd addition of Rescue Remedy or Quiet Life pills (thank God for them ...), and of course wait for my next specialist appointment in a couple of weeks' time. Heck, if this is life without HRT, not sure I really want to get used to it, but we'll see ...

There's been zilch viewers for the flat, which is very disappointing, so yesterday we reduced the price by 20k to try to get some interest, so it's now on the market at £220,000. I'm hoping that might help, as it's quite disheartening seeing a fair number of houses around that actually we'd be happy with, but being unable to do a dang thing about it. The good news however is that the tricksy neighbour has said they will pay their share of the building insurance - such a relief though we have yet actually to see the cash of course. Not only that but a really good look at the lease for the flat indicates that if one party in our freehold doesn't sign the agreement for any new buyer for whatever reason, then the majority verdict carries the vote, so it looks like I was after all hyperventilating unnecessarily last week. Ah well, same old, same old, eh. Not that we want it to come to that, if we get a buyer, as I'm hoping everyone will sign, but at least there's a light at the end of the proverbial which may possibly not be an oncoming train.

Anyway, tonight I am throwing all troubles to the autumnal wind and going up to London for an evening of chat and cheeriness with Jane W. I'm hoping there won't be any leaves on the line ...

Anne Brooke