Wednesday, August 31, 2011

On the move again!

Life News:

Tomorrow we're on the move again into a lovely and permanent home in Elstead, so we absolutely can't wait. We know the previous owners have now moved out and the mortgage money reached our solicitors today so there's nothing - God willing! - barring a smooth completion and move-in tomorrow. Wish us luck.

In the meantime, my literary legal situation has been satisfactorily resolved so that's good news for all parties. Many thanks to all of you out there for the support you've given me with this one - it's been very much appreciated. But I can't discuss the actual outcome  - as part of the agreement is that I don't mention anything in public, apart from in the most general of terms, as above. Thank you!

For Bank Holiday Monday earlier in the week, K and I spent the day wandering around Loseley Park Gardens, where the gardens were surprisingly colourful compared to others at the moment, and where the cream tea was excellent, and much needed. And, speaking of nature, we harvested our raspberry crop on Monday - all three of them were very good. Hey, it's quality, not quantity that counts, you know ...

One sad thing this week however is that the very lovely Ruth left us today to take up her promotion in the Registry, so I'll really miss her in the office. She's been great to me - a great mentor and fantastic to work with, and there's going to be a real gap. Still it's good news for Ruth whose bid for world domination continues successfully, and for me there's always a catch-up lunch to be had. I'm planning one very soon (run, Ruth, run for the hills ...).

Book News:

I was hugely pleased to see that fantasy novel The Gifting gained a 4-star review at Goodreads - thank you, Danalia. And here's the next line from the book:

He has been searching for an answer to the wars for some week-cycles now that their mind-skills have failed.

And gay crime thriller A Dangerous Man received a lovely review at Queer Magazine Online (thank you, Cas) and was also mentioned in Fred Bubbers' Reading & Writing Daily News site. Many thanks, Fred.

Turning to the short stories, literary romance Dido's Tale became a bestseller at All Romance Ebooks, surreal short story The Secret Thoughts of Leaves was briefly in the Amazon UK Metaphysical and Visionary charts (which astonished me, and at less than 90p really it's a snip ...), and literary lesbian romance A Woman like the Sea received a very pleasing review at Queer Magazine Online (thank you, Victor). Well gosh.

Finally, before the long-for move comes upon me, here's a meditation poem:

Meditation 565
is a musical man.
He plays on the cymbal
and harp.

He makes a loud noise
when the worship is due
so always stays eager
and sharp.

His sisters are nameless
and he wonders if he
might give a few letters
as spares

but he has thirteen brothers
and he’s proud of his name
which is oh so much longer
than theirs.

See you after the move!

Anne Brooke
The Thoughtful Corner

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Four days to go ...

Life News:

Only 4 days to go now until we finally move to a permanent home, hurrah! I really can't wait. The drip in the ceiling in the rented flat had a bit of a surge yesterday with the torrential rain, but it's calmed down now. Sunshine is indeed our friend, or at the very least dry weather. Still, it does give our collection of buckets a purpose, which has to be a good thing.

Thursday night found us at the local theatre watching an adaptation of Wilkie Collin's The Woman in White. Hmmm, not convinced it's persuaded me to read the book. I appreciate it was originally a serial, but having no fewer than thirty-five scenes in a play doesn't really help the audience connect to anything. Also, the actors were startlingly melodramatic and a couple of times I got an attack of the giggles and felt like I might be heading into the twilight zone. Again. Still, K and I had fun trying to guess the evil baronet's (the most fully rounded person on stage) guilty secret. We thought he might be a Morris Dancer (ah the shame ...!), but in the end it turned out to be nothing more interesting than a marriage certificate problem. Sigh. Also, it did annoy us that the mad Woman in White kept rushing onto stage, telling everyone how much she hated the baronet and would do anything to destroy him, but never got round to telling everyone his secret (which she knew). Ridiculous! If she'd said something at the start, we could easily have cut thirty-two scenes, at least. However, the ice cream in the first interval (of two ...) was very nice - salted caramel. Mmm. Am definitely having that one again.

Have also had a lovely lunch and catch-up with G, my ex-neighbour's daughter, so that was great. And a nice break from houses and moving, etc. Hello, G! Yesterday, K and I visited Waddesdon Manor for the day - fantastic house and well worth a visit (you'll need to book before you go ...), but the gardens are seriously dull. They look like they've been done by someone trained in designing municipal parks - not that there's anything wrong with that, but it just doesn't enhance such a gorgeous house on any level, sadly. Indeed, when we drove through the town nearby, the colour schemes and plantings were almost exactly the same - perhaps the Council does the Manor gardens on the cheap? It wouldn't surprise me.

This afternoon, K and I are off to see The Turn of The Screw at Glyndebourne - which is their last opera of the year, sob. It's a great production and we've seen it before, but honestly it's utterly worth seeing again, multiple times, I think. Haunting and compelling stuff.

Book News:

Gay short story Tommy's Blind Date gained a 4-star review at Goodreads (thanks, Dlee!), which was very pleasing indeed. And the comments thread there also discussed my gay crime novels The Bones of Summer and A Dangerous Man, so that was nice too. Thank you, all.

Here's the next small section from fantasy novel, The Gifting:

It is Johan himself who has proposed this solution to Gathandria's troubles. Even now, he can't quite believe it.

The latest meditation poem is:

Meditation 564
The last thing I want
is a long list of Levites
but that’s exactly
what I get

which just proves the point
that following God
is always
a challenging bet.

The Sunday haiku is:

After this dark rain
the day begins with silence
under brighter skies.

Anne Brooke
The Thoughtful Corner

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A legendary romance and an unexpected shower

Book News:

Literary romance short story, Dido's Tale, is now published by Bluewood Publishing and you can find it at Amazon UK - for only 90p! - Amazon US and All Romance Ebooks. I hope you enjoy the read. Of course you can also have this story and indeed all my other Kindle books signed at Kindlegraph for free - so there's an offer you Kindle buyers can't refuse ...

Meanwhile, erotic gay short story For One Night Only gained a very thoughtful and pleasing review at Goodreads (thank you, JJ) and also a 4-star review at Goodreads (many thanks, Kris).

And fantasy novel The Gifting was showcased this week at Reading & Writing Daily by Fred Bubbers - so thank you for that, Fred. Here's another small section of the book:

... but Johan swallows the laughter out of respect for the place they are in.

This week's meditation poems are:

Meditation 561
When the shouting
is done
and the battles
are dust

the one truth
that remains
is to know
whom you trust.

Meditation 562
The place where sins
are forgiven
is quieter
than a feather
and wider
than the sea.

In these travels
through my life
I stumble on it
but still it calls
to me.

Meditation 563
Today behind the words
lacing this holy page
there is nothing

but silence and the sense
that God might just
have departed

before I even thought
to arrive.

Life News:

As the rain falls, still our living room ceiling leaks, sigh. I've had to put towels and buckets down this morning as it was so heavy but it's stopped now, thank goodness. In true recycling glory, I've poured the water from the bucket onto the garden so I feel I've at least put the rain where it was originally intended to go. Never mind though, only 1 week to go and we're moving so I'm hoping for a more reliable roof in sunny Elstead, hey ho.

This afternoon, the flat cleaner has come round to quote for the post-rental clean organised by the agents. What a very nice woman. If money allows, I might try to see if she'll come to Elstead now and again. Goodness, how very Surrey I am these days - my northern grandmother would turn in her urn to hear me. Though then again, I'd probably be fairly startled to hear her also.

Tonight, K and I are off to the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford to see The Woman in White so we're looking forward to an evening of thrills and spills. Other excitements of the week are that I've finally, after three painful weeks of trying, persuaded BT to allow me to pay my new bill by direct debit once we're in Elstead. Lordy, but it was terribly complicated. They sent me a survey asking how they'd performed, so I told them. In no uncertain terms. At least today, the woman on the phone - once I'd spent ten minutes pressing all possible buttons in order to get through to a real ruddy person - was very nice and seemed to know something, hurrah.  However, even she couldn't tell me what my new phone number - of the three different ones they've so far provided us with - was actually going to be until they connect it. So it must be almost as much of a mystery to them as it is to me, hey ho.

And - at last! - the first of the glorious English apples are in the shops for the season, double hurrahs and put out the bunting. Well done to Waitrose for choosing such a classy crop too, English apples of course (says she, speaking as an apple farmer's daughter) being the only ones worth eating at all ...

Anne Brooke
The Thoughtful Corner

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dating the Delaneys, controversy and an unexpected trip

Book News:

I'm happy to announce that the fourth in the erotic Delaneys Series, Dating the Delaneys, will be published by Amber Allure Press on 6 November, so something to cheer your late autumn months, I hope. This week, I've also sent out my first newsletter, which includes an exclusive 50-word fiction and a giveaway competition so there's still time to enter and win, if you'd like to.

In terms of book reviews, erotic short story For One Night Only gained a lovely 4.5 star review from Jessewave Reviews, though the comments show people do indeed have mixed reactions to it. Psychological crime thriller A Dangerous Man also had an interesting review at Goodreads - so many thanks to both reviewers for those.

Meanwhile, fantasy novel The Gifting continues to court controversy, with people either loving it or absolutely hating it, so here's the next couple of lines from that tricky little book for you:

Simon Hartstongue of The White Lands. If the situation wasn't so serious, Johan almost believes he would laugh ...

At Vulpes Libris, I've reviewed Madeleine Wickham's glorious romantic comedy, The Gatecrasher, and I can't recommend it highly enough. It's just wonderful, so rush out and get it now if you can.

The latest meditation poems are:

Meditation 559
Fighting with giants
is a frightening task
as they’re always
so very much taller

but the bulk of the business
is in keeping one’s cool
and ensuring
they end up much smaller.

So take a deep breath
and whisper a prayer
to the one
who makes everything right

and remember the truth
it’s not simply who wins
but who
has the courage to fight.

Meditation 560
The Lord’s vengeance
once stopped here
where my sons
threshed wheat
as God threshed men.

A merciful sparing
but to save what is mine
I would have killed
all the dead
for the Lord again.

Here's the Sunday haiku:

Autumn comes early
this year as the air whispers
a soft golden song.

Life News:

Popped into London on Wednesday evening to see Jane W (hello, Jane!) and we had a great catch up over drinks and an Indian. And the big surprise of the week was that I was unexpectedly whisked away to Munich on Thursday as part of K's work trip with one of the other "office wives" as a couple of spaces had come free in the group. I only found out on Tuesday so I had to pack madly and frantically on Thursday morning in order to be ready in time.

And I had a really fantastic time. It was great to catch up with some of K's colleagues I'd met before and to meet those I hadn't (hello, C & G - great to meet you!). The mainly French clients were lovely too, and I think I managed to resurrect some of my schoolgirl French in order to communicate rather better than I thought I might - if you see what I mean. We stayed in accommodation owned by the client and had a great time walking and chatting by the lake while the meetings took place, then visiting King Ludwig II's castle in Neuschwanstein, as well as the BMW museum in Munich itself. We also had a Bavarian beer tasting (my favourite - the 4th one), a brief but fascinating history lesson about Bavaria and a wonderfully Germanic supper at the Andechs Monastery.

So a big thank you to K's work for allowing the odd wife (distinctly odd) to tag along, and to Denis and the rest of the clients for putting on such a wonderful programme of events. A fabulous way to spend a long weekend indeed.

Anne Brooke
The Thoughtful Corner

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Celebrations and crocodiles

Book News:

I'm very happy (in fact so happy that when I first read it I was actually crying, how embarrassing is that ...) to say that fantasy novel The Gifting has gained a very thoughtful 4-star review at Top2Bottom Reviews (so thank you, Lisa, for that one). I'm also thrilled that the novel has been the subject of a radio feature by journalist and writer, Graham Sclater (thank you, Graham) which you can listen to via my Latest News webpage.

And here's the latest few lines from The Gifting:

Even then success seems so unlikely. Given the circumstances. Given the man who is supposed to save them.

There's also been a 4-star review at Goodreads for A Dangerous Man - so thank you for that, C.S. Much appreciated.

Meanwhile, there's still time to sign up for my quarterly newsletter, which includes my latest writing news, upcoming treats, exclusive fiction and free giveaways, and a snappy quote or two from the great and the not so great, so what could be better? The first newsletter will wing its way to subscribers later next week, so book early to avoid disappointment ...

This week's meditation poem is:

Meditation 558
In spring great princes
go to war.
It’s how they mark
the season.

I would have thought
a calming stroll
gives life
a better reason.

The Sunday haiku is:

Happy sunflowers
dance inside the shining air.
Summer's best reward

Life News:

K and I visited our soon-to-be new home in Elstead on Friday to measure up and sort out what goes where when we move in - in three weeks' time! It was fantastic to see the place again and - hurrah! - we still both really love it. Honestly I found it hard to tear myself away and I simply can't wait to get there for real. 1st September can't come fast enough ...

Yesterday, we paid a visit to Mother down in deepest Essex, and actually it went quite well. Must be the extra calming pills I took before we set off, ho ho. Or maybe I'm mellowing with my advancing years. Don't answer that. And this afternoon, we've spent a glorious afternoon helping my golfing partner Marian celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary (she was a child bride, you know ...) with an utterly glorious tea party. Goodness me, how English I sound sometimes. Would someone pass me the cucumber sandwiches?... The cake made by her daughter Jane was to die for - and I praised it so much and looked so sad when my slice was gone that the merciful Jane cut a portion of it for me to take away. What a superstar. Ah, there's method in my madness, you know ... One day I'll grow up to be nearly as devious as my mother. Surely not, we cry!

Finally, I can't end without saying how incredibly wonderful I thought Channel Five's Croc Man was earlier this week. Really, how can anyone resist a good-looking man who collects crocodiles? If he ever gets that zoo of his open, I am so definitely there. Piercing blue eyes and that essential hint of imminent death - really, what could be more thrilling?...

Anne Brooke
The Thoughtful Corner

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Riots, reviews and Brokeback Mountain revisited

Book News:

Some lovely reviews of my books from a new Italian reader, Anncleire, this week, who's been kind enough to give me a veritable riot of reviews for the following:

A 4-star review for Martin and The Wolf
A 4-star review for Tommy's Blind Date
A 5-star review for The Delaneys and Me
A 5-star review for Entertaining The Delaneys
A 5-star review for The Art of The Delaneys
A 5-star review for A Stranger's Touch.

All reviews are in Italian but Google Translate is a marvellous tool, Many thanks, Anncleire - it's much appreciated.

I also gained a 5-star review for Two Christmases, so many thanks, Arthur, for that one.

To put all this joy into the universal balance once more (and avoid my head getting way too large ...), The Gifting received a very mixed review from TWLIBReviews, so I'm rather less confident about my magnum opus than I was. Probably a good thing then! Though actually that makes one good official review for it and one mixed one, so there's an internal balance there too. Perhaps Simon (bless him!) and those Gathandrians are an acquired taste, like olives? Who can tell ...

Anyway, here's the next line or two of this evidently tricky fantasy novel:

There is no peace in the mind's battles. Only one chance to stop it now ...

Meanwhile, my full interview at Reasons to be Beautiful Magazine (click and scroll through to read) is now published (so many thanks, all, for that!), and Vulpes Libris have revisited my article on Brokeback Mountain. Many thanks for that one, Hilary!

And, for the first time, my pic is now up at DWB Publishing's author page for upcoming Christian novella, The Prayer Seeker, so that's exciting, well gosh. Other very exciting news this week (and hey it's not about me, so miracles can happen ...) is that best-selling crime novelist Vicki Tyley has a new book out called Fatal Liaison, so rush along now and get a copy. She's a dang fine writer.

This week's meditation poems are:

Meditation 556
Success doesn’t come
through winning the war,
the moment the victor relaxes;

he’ll know he’s on top
when the clear-up is done
and the losers are paying him taxes.

Meditation 557
It’s too early
in the morning
for the politics
of war.

I need coffee
and a shower
before sorrow
strikes me at the core

but the images
still haunt me:
something darkened,
something raw.

And I understand
how far we’re changed
by what we see
and what we store.

Life News:

We've exchanged on our Elstead house!!!! Hurrah, at long last we have managed to successfully navigate an exchange date. Third time lucky indeed, and we're both so very happy and relieved about it. Completion date is 1 September and we'll be moving in then. Which is why I've spent almost every spare house over the last few evenings and most of today trying to change our address details with the millions of businesses and utilities etc etc that we appear to be connected to. Who knew our lives were so entangled up with commerce and admin? I think I've all but worked through the ones I can do beforehand now - though I did get hugely cross this morning with the M&G who insisted I wasn't a real person in spite of the fact that we've been with them for about 20 years. My, I did get snippety. However, the fault was in the end entirely mine as I realised about an hour later that I'd been getting my various postcodes utterly muddled and what I'd insisted was correct to the unfortunate chappie at the other end of the line was nothing but bunkum and puff. Well, I simply have too many postcodes to deal with, my dears ... In the end they are melded into one vast generic code, much like Shakespeare plays seem to be as I get older. Mea culpa indeed. And to the young M&G man: heartfelt apologies and it actually wasn't your fault ...

Also this week, we woke up to a flood on Monday as the torrential rain had come through the upstairs neighbour's terrace and found its way across our living room floor. Deep sigh. The lovely Lara (thank you a thousand times ...) from Flat 4 womanfully sorted it out as the upstairs neighbours were away, and Lara knows who all the tradesmen are (in a decent and upstanding way, I have to say at this point ...). However we're not sure there's much that can be done about it as it's the way the house is built, and we shall either just have to pray for less heavy rainfall, or put up a plethora of umbrellas in the remaining three weeks we have here. Ah well.

And indeed we must move quickly for other reasons - this morning K and I were making silly faces at each other (as ... um ... usual) as he went off to work, and another neighbour unexpectedly popped round the corner. Leaving our faces frozen into positions the good Lord probably did not intend. Ah, the embarrassment. I bet they all want us to leave now ...

Finally, there have been a heck of a lot of riots in the UK. And I suspect that everything that needs to be said on the generally horrific nature of them has already been said, at least twice. However, there is something pleasingly odd in being surely the only country in the world who riots and then cleans up after ourselves. It must be the empire spirit, hey ho.

Anne Brooke
The Thoughtful Corner

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Garden delights and The Thoughtful Corner

Book News:

Lots of exciting news this week, so hang on to your hats. As it were. I'm really pleased to say that my Christian novella, The Prayer Seeker, is set to be published by DWB Publishing on 5 December 2011, so the ideal Christmas present for your spiritually-minded friends indeed.

You can now find the latest August news on my website, and I've also started a quarterly newsletter which you're more than welcome to sign up for. It will contain fascinating writing snippets, exclusive extracts and free giveaways with each edition - so what have you got to lose! Go on, you know you want to, and hey it won't cost you anything either. What could be nicer?

On a rather more philosophical level, I've also started a new and quieter blog, called The Thoughtful Corner - where I'll be posting monthly on issues that make me think, so please do feel free to visit if you need a bit of a break from the demands of life, and indeed the fast-moving parts of the Internet. I like to think of it as a small opportunity to experience "life in the slow lane" and hey we all need a taste of that sometimes. The first issue I'm looking at is demands and delays, and how we can balance these contrasting pulls in our lives. I'd love to hear how you do that, or even if you do it, as I know it's something I find very hard, and more so as I get older! Heck, I need all the help I can get ...

In terms of reviews, I'm very happy to have received an interesting review on gay comedy The Hit List, some lovely comments on gay BDSM story Give and Take, and a 5-star review of gay romantic story Two Christmases. All from Goodreads, all in Italian (but Google Translate solved my problems in no time!) and all from a lovely lady called Anncleire - so very many thanks for that!

Meanwhile the equally lovely bestselling and very talented crime novelist Vicki Tyley has kindly showcased The Gifting on her blog - so thank you so much, Vicki - I'm really touched by that gesture. Well, you knew I was pretty odd anyway ...

There's one meditation poem this week:

Meditation 555
He fills the space
for prayer
with so many words

I can barely remember
if God is there
at all.

This week's haikus (the second one as we've had a rather tricky time with Celia Satnav this weekend, Gawd bless 'er ...) are:

Two grey cats yowling
their displeasure like soldiers
preparing for war.

Take the first exit
for joy, the fourth for sorrow.

Life News:

We attended our old neighbour's funeral on Friday - it was a very moving occasion, as these things often are, but I learnt a great deal about what we like to call his "middle years" which was great - as both M & G, his children, gave wonderful talks at the Crematorium. I knew a fair amount about Henry's war years, and of course about the last twenty years when he lived in the same house as us, but knew little about the time between. It was good to fill out the picture. I'll certainly miss him.

There's also some very positive news once more about the Elstead house. It looks like the completion date might end up being 1 or 2 September, which suits us fine, but we can't tell until tomorrow when our solicitor gets the final signed documents from ourselves (which we dropped in to her today) and I can get hold of our removal people to see if either of those dates are free for them. Ah, the tension is mounting, you know. I only hope we can actually get to exchange date without more disasters this time round! God willing.

And our new washing machine is totally fabulous. I think I am in love with it. It's sooo big. I could stuff a whole roomful of clothes in there and still have room for the odd extra cardigan or two. Bliss. It's just a damn shame we can't take it with us, sigh.

This weekend we have gone garden-mad, and really enjoyed it. Yesterday was the delights of The Savill Garden - which is well worth a visit, and the cappuccino and cupcakes were, once again, to die for. Mmmm. But, much to my horror, they've changed the shop!!! That shop was wonderful when we last visited, but they've now made it a lot smaller (why, oh why?...) and there's virtually nothing to buy. What could they have been thinking? Deeep sigh indeed.

Today, however, we are more than mollified by our visit to the utterly wonderful Old Croft Garden in Dorking. It was very beautiful indeed, incredibly peaceful and oh so cleverly designed. Ooh, and the mini cream tea was pretty good too. However, the definite comic highlight was the delightful old couple who were looking closely at the list of plants to work out what was what:

She: Are you sure you can read that without your glasses, darling?
He: But, my dear, I'm wearing my glasses ...

Honestly, you couldn't make it up. We're still chortling ... Sadly though, it's the last day this particular garden is open this year, but they're re-opening on both Sunday and Monday of both May bank holidays next year - so we plan to be there. I can thoroughly recommend it.

Anne Brooke
The Thoughtful Corner

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Mice, machines and mischief

Book News:

Much to my astonishment (well, I haven't been there for a while ...), gay erotic story For One Night Only was a July bestseller for Amber Allure. Thank you hugely to everyone who purchased it and got me in the list, and I hope you enjoyed the read. To add to the huzzahs, this week it became available at All Romance Ebooks (where people don't seem to like it much ...), Amazon US and Amazon UK - where people haven't yet expressed an opinion but do at least seem to be buying it. Heck, it was even, very briefly, in the Amazon UK charts, so that was nice. Thank you.

Not to be outdone, and on a completely different literary note, biblical story Dancing with Lions has just become an All Romance Ebooks bestseller - so many thanks to readers for that also.

I've also signed my first Kindlegraph for gay psychological thriller The Bones of Summer so many thanks, Karin Wollina, for asking, and don't forget other books are also available for signature!

This week, I've also been utterly bamboozled when I was sitting by the lake at the University yesterday in that lovely sunshine (remember that?...) and discovered that just as I was seriously getting into Madeleine Wickham's lovely romantic comedy Cocktails for Three, the binding went straight from Page 208 to Page 257 without me even noticing the join! Arrgghh!! I did wonder how the heck we suddenly went from Roxanne's traumatic breakdown on the plane to Maggie's loved-up getaway with her husband. What?!? I now feel hugely frustrated and I have rushed online to order another copy as I am totally desperate to know what happens next, especially to Roxanne. They promise delivery on Saturday and if I don't get it then I may have to chew the postman in desperation. I've also checked to see if the other two Wickham novels I bought at the time have all their pages, and I think they do. My dears, I can't go through another literary trauma like this one ... It's just too much.

Here's another few lines from fantasy novel The Gifting for you:

Even the name Gathandria stands against them: in the old language, it means the place where peace dwells.

There are two meditation poems this week:

Meditation 553
There is always joy.
Even in the middle
of the greyest
and bleakest of days

its treasured gold
lies waiting
to be tasted
by patient hearts:

the shimmering silence
before the music starts.

Meditation 554
In this field of blessings
lies the forgotten man,
his name abandoned
since the celebrations began.

He’s only a whisper
caught as you turn away,
a memory relived
at the end of the day.

A throwaway clause:
nothing to make you pause.

Life News:

There is news on the Elstead house!!! Goodness me, I think I need to repeat that - there is news on the house, well gosh. After nearly a year of searching and two traumatic near-misses, we are now once again and for the third time almost at the point of exchange. Heck. The vendor has answered all our questions quite happily (unlike the wretched people in House Number 2 ...) and we now have to confirm our mortgage insurance, return the signed copy of the contract and then exchange and completion dates can be agreed. Please God let it all work out this time, as I'm not sure I could bear a fourth attempt. Watch this space then, or you might just hear the screams ...

In terms of my long-running battles with machinery, I'm pleased to say that my car is now mended and the garage even cleaned it inside and out for me for no charge so that was a delight. It seems to be running well so far and there've been no more further disasters with the engine coolant, hurrah. In addition, we have had our replacement washing-machine delivered today - by a couple of very sweet men who were incredibly relieved that we live on the ground floor. They installed it in record time and took the old one away, double hurrahs - and I am now just waiting for K to come home so we can find out about the new arrival together. I don't want to spoil his fun, after all. But, hey, no more hand-washing will be good.

I have also done a Terrible Thing with my remote mouse batteries. They said they were low last week so I replaced them and threw the old ones away (yes, I'm sorry - no battery recycling facilities here, as far as I'm aware ...). Come Sunday night and K asks if I'm enjoying the lovely new rechargeable batteries he secretly put in for me at the beginning of the week as a surprise. Cue fixed grins and frantic backing away to the door in order to rummage through the rubbish - but alas the binmen have already been and gone, and I have just thrown away some rather expensive renewable batteries, thinking they were the same as the other ones. Hey ho. This is indeed a lesson for the Vital Importance of Marital Communication. I will take a jolly good look at them next time ...

At work, I've had my appraisal and actually enjoyed it. Maybe I'm feeling more confident these days? Must be the drugs, you know ... I'm even getting into thinking about what I might like to get involved in over the next five/ten years, and how to develop the role - so perhaps I've been swopped for my better twin after all? About time then.

Finally, I'd very much like to draw your attention to the fundraising a colleague of mine is doing on behalf of the Marie Curie Cancer Fund - which is a very worthwhile cause, and well done, Jon, on taking part. If you are able to spare a few coppers at all, I'm sure the charity will be very grateful, though I fear Jon himself (according to the photo on site!) will be best advised to buy a new pair of trainers before taking part ...

Anne Brooke