Sunday, November 27, 2011

Covers, crafts and queens

Book News:

I'm both surprised and happy that the cover art for critically acclaimed gay thriller A Dangerous Man has managed to get through to Round Five of the 2011 Rainbow Cover Awards - where you can now vote for it if you're feeling generous and if you scroll down in the poll itself to slot two. And if you do, many thanks indeed!

Meanwhile you can now buy fantasy novel The Gifting at the NEW discounted price of $2.99 (£1.90) at All Romance Ebooks - so grab yourself a bargain today. And there's very exciting news on the review front as Vulpes Libris Reviews had our one millionth visitor earlier this weekend, so huge thanks indeed to all those who read and enjoy our book blog. Here's to the next million!

In a brave attempt to work out what networking actually means, I have signed up to join the Writers, Agents and Editors Network, but they haven't yet approved my application so perhaps they're still reeling from the shock of it all. We'll wait and see what happens next week but so far there's been not much sign of interaction, hey ho.

Here's my most recent meditation poem:

Meditation 591
The queen of Sheba
travels many miles
and through many dangers

to ask the king
the most difficult questions
she can find.

All this should come
as no surprise
because it’s exactly

what women are for.

The Sunday haiku is:

My dreams are of wood:
curved bowls, beads and twisted trees
framed against the sun.

Life News:

Great excitement on the work front as we win the Queen's Anniversary Prize for the quality of our water research, hurrah! A huge honour indeed, but heck we're worth it, eh. And this week has seen the usual round (ha!) of golf and gardening - though I feel I've definitely done more good in the latter than in the former. I'd be better off using the shovel on the golf course, I think. I certainly couldn't be any worse ...

Yesterday, K and I visited craft fairs at Wisley and at Guildford Cathedral in order, ostensibly, to stock up on Christmas presents. But in the end, all I did was get stuff for the house, including three gorgeous miniature paintings from artist Iona Mackenzie Laycock, which look utterly stunning in our guest bathroom.

Speaking of churches (well, sort of ...), today's advent service was very enjoyable - advent hymns are top of my favourites list though I do feel that the last hymn, whilst magnificently complex, did rather outclass our abilities as a congregation to sing it. Ah well. Aim for the stars is what I say. And, in the spirit of the season, I have joined the Natwivity census, though I have no actual idea what it entails or what it's really about. Much like my relationship with the good Lord then ... A virtual adventure, I hope.

Ooh and it was lovely after church to catch up with local friend Denise (hello, Denise!), and to have coffee, tea & further chat back home afterwards, hurrah. Plus I finally returned the garden chairs she lent me ages ago, so at least she'll have something to sit on this Christmas.

Finally, I'm thrilled to say that another friend, Jane, was up at Strictly Come Dancing yesterday with her mother (hello, both!) and was apparently sitting next to Bruce & Tess, behind the judges - so if you catch a glimpse of two blonde glamorous gals lurking in the background, that'll be them. I'm planning to watch it on iplayer just as soon as it's up there.

Anne Brooke
The Thoughtful Corner 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Riptide, prayer and the joy of naked farmers

Book News:

Things at Riptide Books are getting very exciting indeed. I've just seen the raw draft of my cover art for upcoming literary gay story, The Heart's Greater Silence, and I'm very happy indeed. A wonderful bleak and autumnal feel which is just perfect, to my mind. Further details to follow shortly ... Not only that but today they've just made their first acquisition of another publisher, so that's very good news for all. Many congratulations!

Keeping with the subject of publisher news, I'm also thrilled to say that all my ebooks at Bluewood Publishing are now being sold at a new discounted price. So you can pick up fantasy novel The Gifting for $2.99 or £1.90, literary short story Dido's Tale, for $1.29 or 80p, and naughty comedy Rosie by Name also for $1.29 or 80p. So do pop along and get some good reads at a definitely decent price. You'll need to sign in first but it only takes 30 seconds and the rewards are more than worth it. Enjoy!

Over at Untreed Reads, you will find 30% off all mystery stories for this week only plus a whole host of other bargains as well. And at Dreamspinner Press,  you can find 20% off all my books until the end of November, hurrah!

I'm also pleased to see that comedy sf story Creative Accountancy for Beginners achieved a 4-star review over at Drive Thru Fiction Reviews - so many thanks, Megan, for that.

And I've reviewed Cocktails for Three by Madeleine Wickham (AKA Sophie Kinsella) over at Vulpes Libris Reviews today. Rather a bland concoction, I thought, and not at all up to previous Wickham novels I've read. Sigh ... I hope the next one will be somewhat better.

This week's meditation poems are:

Meditation 588
The greatest

when involved
in praise

or prayer

is when
God responds

almost as if
there’s actually

somebody there.

Meditation 589
Behind the rain’s whispered threat
and the rattle and hum
of the locusts’ destructive dance

lies the hope of kinder skies
and the sure knowledge
that everything passes.

Meditation 590
Solomon takes his wife
from the holy city
in case she taints it.

Today’s church women
strongly suspect they know
how she felt.

Life News:

An irritating moment or two with the car this week, I fear. I've been thinking it's been sounding rather dodgy lately when attempting to fire it up (as it were), and then on Tuesday night I stopped off at the village shop on the way home from work and it just wouldn't start again, dang it. Naturally I rang the RAC (Gawd bless 'em) and then left a message for K, who wasn't home yet, and waited. The woman on the line had said it was likely to be an hour and a half, but I might get quicker service as I was a woman on her own (we're very dangerous, you know, and they need to protect the innocent public from our fearful machinations ...) so I had a drink and some rather gorgeous salted cashews at The Woolpack to while away the hours. It's the first time I've been in since the change of ownership after the previous change of ownership (and we've only been here a couple of months!) and I rather enjoyed it. I also felt hugely brave going into a pub on my own (something I've never done before, being the shy, retiring type) but actually it was fine and I had a nice chat with the barman about the traumas of cars. Indeed I'd only just got myself settled in when the RAC man phoned me to say he was on his way. I must be scarier than most women on their own in a car then ...

Anyway, he arrived at my side at about the same time as the lovely K, who'd been home, got my message and then dashed to my rescue (what a hero!), and everything was sorted out in a reasonable timescale, thank goodness. It's the age-old problem of only doing short drives in Miranda (the car) and therefore her battery getting confused. But the RAC were once again to the rescue for the long-term as well as the short-term and I am now the proud owner of a smart battery recharger (only c£55, which I thought was a bargain) which seems so far to be doing the trick. Early days though!

We're also the proud owners of a brand-new Canon printer, which also scans and photocopies, and in colour, hurrah! It doesn't quite know how to clean the house yet, but I'm working on it. And it's soooo fast too - bliss. I love it.

Today I've gone for my second follow-up appointment post the cyst operation and I don't have to take a third tranche of antibiotics, so that's a relief. The surgeon was very happy with progress and doesn't want to see me again or do another operation (hurrah!) unless it flares up unexpectedly. So I'll have to keep a careful eye on it as it continues to heal, but I'm hoping for the best. Good news indeed.

Tonight, K and I are at the theatre to see Star Quality, so will have to look as glamorous as possible, whilst seeming suitably and deliciously theatrical, simply in order to keep up. Hmm, could be quite a challenge then ...

Meanwhile, as Christmas approaches, I'm very happy to see that the Naked Farmers' Calendar is once more on sale for the season. Naturally I've ordered my (and my mother's) copies and shall look forward to seeing if there's anyone we recognise, having been brought up in the farming community, hey ho. No, don't laugh - two years ago, we did actually know someone indirectly, but no, I couldn't possibly say who it was ... And the proceeds go to a worthwhile cause, so what could be nicer!

But, to end, it just has to be this week's top quote, courtesy of my boss - which really says it all:

"There's no problem in life that can't be solved by a hot bath, a large whisky and the Book of Common Prayer."

Wise words indeed ...

Anne Brooke
The Thoughtful Corner

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Giveaways, gardens and golf

Book News

For TODAY only, you can win a free copy of gay erotic short story Dating the Delaneys over at Jessewave Reviews, so pop over and leave a comment to be in with a chance, and good luck to all! However, fear not, if you don't win, there's no need to despair as you can still buy a copy at All Romance Ebooks for a snip of a price, hurrah.

I've also pleased to say that comic sf story Creative Accountancy for Beginners is the first story sold into The Netherlands by Untreed Reads, so that's nice to know - I hope whoever it was enjoyed the read.

In terms of children's writing, I've set up a Facebook page for The Origami Nun so you can read all about her there. I've now sent back the final version to DWB Children's Publishing and am awaiting the cover art which should arrive soon. In the meantime, here's the blurb to keep you going:

Seven-year old Ruth can't speak, but that doesn't mean she can't think. She knows her birthday is going to be good as her beloved great-aunt has exciting plans for her. But what she doesn't expect is a magic paper nun, an encounter with a bully who may not be what she seems or a school day to remember. Because, before her special day is over, Ruth is in for some very big surprises.

Yesterday, I had a really great time at the Elstead Writers' Group - so thank you to all for that. We got a heck of a lot done, and I can't wait till the next one. Roll on December!

Here's this week's meditation poem:

Meditation 587
At the heart
of every small plea
for mercy or justice
however rare

there lies
almost unnoticeable
the secret strength
of prayer.

The Sunday haiku is:

This rich earth rises
to meet my fingers: warm gold
caresses my skin.

Life News:

Had a good game of golf on Friday with Marian who was on top form and beat me by miles. Honestly, my game is rubbish these days, but we do have such a lot of fun so it doesn't matter a jot, hey ho. Plus we got absolutely hysterical on the 7th hole when I hit the ball into the brambles and we both got totally stuck in a brave and ultimately vain attempt to get the dang thing out. At one point, Marian was caught by her sleeve and her collar and I was caught by my woolly hat, my fleece and my golfing glove. Golf's a dangerous sport, don't you know ... However, in the end, I decided to leave the ball to its fate in order to save lives. A good decision, I feel.

Brambles and hats must be the theme for the weekend as I've been de-brambling the rest of the front garden now that the hedge is gone and I can get to it - which resulted in my woolly hat being caught on the rose thorns and lifted off entirely whilst I flurried about in the undergrowth. My, how the neighbours must have laughed - watching us learn to garden is better than the TV really. And certainly cheaper. So, in gardening terms, this weekend's results are a de-brambled front garden, a totally de-weeded back garden, and K is putting in trellis at the back even as I type. What a hero and how lovely it looks! We're hoping to grow roses up it but we'll have to try to think about keeping the deer at bay somehow.

In the front garden, we think we might take up the small bit of lawn there is, add a gravel path all the way round, put a bed in the middle with something colourful in (our theme for the front garden - AKA the "fire garden" - is red, by the way), and then put a panel at the corner where the bench is to create privacy there. We'll see though. My secret desire for the bed outside the kitchen now that the hedge has gone there too is to have a poison garden, as you can get some amazing plants that are both deadly and beautiful, but again I don't want to terrify the neighbours, so we'll have to see on that one too.

This morning was the Feast of Christ the King at church (AKA Stir Up Sunday - and the time when we're all supposed to be making our Christmas puddings, dream on eh ...), which was good fun. K and I were asked to take the bread and wine up to the altar during the service, which was a first at Elstead for us. As I don't process slowly by any means, I think I was up there rather earlier than the vicar (hello, John!) anticipated, with K all but running in my wake as he tried to keep up. But as experienced church hands, the two of us are well versed in the art of waiting with dignity (which is much of what church is about, in so many ways) so I don't think anyone noticed the join. I even managed to do the bowing thing at the end, though it goes against my essentially protestant heart, I must say. Hey ho.

Anne Brooke
The Thoughtful Corner

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Contracts, covers and children's books

Book News:

Great news on the book front! My first (and so far only) children's story has been accepted for publication by DWB Children's Books, so I've sent back the contract, the final edits and the cover art form to them today. Well, goodness me - who'd have thought it? It's a story about a girl who can't speak, a tricky confrontation with a school bully and a very magical nun. I've considered the options long and hard, and have decided (though I've always promised myself it was something I'd never do - but, hey, gals are entitled to change their minds, you know) to publish the story under a pseudonym, particularly bearing in mind the subject matter of my more adult fiction. Choosing the name today felt very strange, and rather displacing, but now I've got more used to it, it actually feels rather liberating. And, in many ways, it's not too far from who I actually am - just a different emphasis on it. Gosh, a whole new name I can write under! Maybe there's a sequel in me yet ...

Ooh and I've just seen that the cover art for gay thriller A Dangerous Man has made it to Round 3 of the 2011 Rainbow Awards Cover Contest and is currently lying at joint 3rd place in the Jury Vote. It probably won't make it through to the next round then, but it's been lovely being up there for a while, that's for sure.

This week's meditation poems are:

Meditation 584

Everything finds its place
from the highest hill
to the smallest blade
of grass.

It will come to pass
when all things fade
that we are bound still
by grace.

Meditation 585
The music of linen
encompasses the skin
with notes and crotchets
and quavers

so every movement
sings a story out
to the listening air:
a breath one savours.

Meditation 586
When a greater light lives
in our darkness and cloud

everything shifts
to what it should not be

so a measured silence is found
in the bomb’s cruel blast,

the tongue’s sweet luxury
in the strictest fast

and the aroma of hope
in rank despondency.

And all we dream of
becomes what is allowed.

Life News:

We've been attempting to sort out our finances more sensibly over the last couple of weeks, which has proved tricky in some ways. I think we're getting there though, and are even trying to squirrel away a tiny amount of savings in the midst of all this spending here and there. Hmm, best wish us luck then!

Today the tree men have been round (which has given me a few enjoyable Diet Coke break moments, I must say - maybe it's my age?...) and removed our two monstrosity hedges, two of our overgrown trees and two elderly yews from our front and back gardens. What incredibly polite young men they were too. So now the garden looks utterly fantastic - it's really opened up the space and gives us a heck of a lot more to work with. And it's made my lovely neighbour very happy also, as he gets rid of that terrible hedge as well. A win-win scenario indeed.

Tonight, K and I are off to the theatre to see The Holly and the Ivy - so that should be good. One vicar, two irritable aunts and an errant daughter? Sounds so me, dahlings, and in oh so many ways ...

Anne Brooke
The Thoughtful Corner

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dating dilemmas, discounts and drama

Book News:

There's good news on the review front for gay erotic short story Dating the Delaneys - I'm very pleased to have gained both a 4 star review (thanks, Nithu) and a 5 star review (thanks, Marsha) at Goodreads. Plus you can find out more about my own particular dating dilemmas (ah, the bitter truth!), not to mention Liam's rather naughtier ones, at today's Amber Allure blog - go on, you know you want to ...

Meanwhile, over at Untreed Reads, there are some excellent discounts throughout November, so don't forget to visit and pick up a bargain this month!

I'm continuing on with the first draft of my gay erotic story, The Eye of The Beholder, and am now, I think, about halfway through. It's taking off in directions I hadn't bargained for, but that's par for the course with the writing game. You never know what's really going to happen when the fingers hit those keys. That's part of the fun of it all indeed.

The Sunday haiku is very seasonal this week:

Leaves rustle my feet,
path of gold for my journey:
autumnal delight.

Life News:

I had a very inspirational day on Thursday - I had a day's workshop in the big city on Putting Students at the Heart of the System which was really very good indeed, and gave me, and the office I suspect, a whole load of things to think of and plan for in the future. It was also wonderful to sit and chat with people I knew of from the business, but hadn't had the chance to have an in-depth conversation with before. Well worth it - but totally exhausting as I'd forgotten how soul-destroying the commute to London actually is. Thank the Lord I don't have to do it any more - honestly, I could never go back. It's a young person's game.

Then it was a mad dash back home, as K and I went to see Henry V as done by the Propeller Theatre Company at the Yvonne Arnaud in Guildford. Wonderful stuff - it's always fabulous to see a production where the actors aren't afraid of the text and in fact can make it sing. Really the older I get the more I object to productions which aim to make the text easier by cutting it or changing the sense - I didn't much mind when I was young but now I think if they don't have an actor who can make the text come alive, then get one who can. After all, Rachmaninov ain't easy to play but nobody tries to change the notes to enable people to do so, harrumph. Anyway sermon over. I particularly enjoyed the way the actors divided the chorus speeches so that each man on stage had a few lines of it - it made total sense in the battle setting. The use of music was also very cleverly done and didn't detract from anything. The only issue I had was that the actor playing Henry himself was good but not great. You needed someone with a lot more charisma in the role, as charm maketh the man. It was also interesting that it was an all male company - which made me think I'd love to see the play done by an all female company as I think that would be even more powerful. But I'd definitely go and see Propeller do Shakespeare again. Macbeth anybody? Please ...

Yesterday, K and I spent a very pleasant day at Mottisfont Abbey Garden, admiring the Winter Garden and the new art exhibition based on paper. Astonishingly some of the roses were still out so we must go back in summer next year when they'll be at full bloom. You can never have too many roses, to my mind.

And today, of course, was the Remembrance Service at church, and then the ceremony round the war memorial. It's the first time we've attended in Elstead and I thought they did it very well indeed. It was eye-opening too when they were reading out the names of the dead how many families must have had all their sons wiped out in such a short time. Horrendous really.

For the rest of the day, we've gardened for Britain. I've done the rest of the weeding at the back, thus creating a fabulous amount of space to put new plants in, hurrah. And K has trimmed the laurel trees at the side. So we have yet more bags of garden waste for the nice people at the Council to collect at some point.

Finally, at the risk of being the only voice in the country to say this, I must confess that the new John Lewis Christmas advert with that pesky goody-two-shoes boy leaves me utterly cold. What on earth is everyone "sobbing with joy at their desks over it" for?? Hmm, perhaps they're on drugs ... Anyway, it's a one-trick pony with sentimentality daubed on like treacle and sets my teeth on edge. The whole dull family should be given a good sharp slap and told to get real, for heaven's sake. Whatever can John Lewis be thinking?!?

Anne Brooke
The Thoughtful Corner

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Dates, drugs and days in lieu

Book News:

Much to my delight, sales for gay erotic short story Dating the Delaneys were, according to Amber Allure Press, brisk on the first day of publication, so that's very heartening. There are one or two good ratings at Goodreads already (for which thank you!) and the lovely Angie Jarrett tweeted this:

"I finally read @AnneBrooke Dating the Delaneys, freaking loved it! Can't wait for the next one."

Many thanks, Angie - really appreciate that!

Ooh, and I've been greatly amused this week as, while I was flicking through the first edits for fantasy novel The Executioner's Cane, I realised that the bridge I'd destroyed in Chapter One magically reappeared intact at the end of Chapter Three. Hey ho, you can't put anything past those pesky Lammas Landers, you know - they're ridiculously keen on DIY ... Anyway, suffice it to say I've now gone through the beast again and removed the bridge. People will just have to cope with wet feet and skirts, alas.

Life News:

I had a day in lieu on Monday (as I'm on a student support course in London tomorrow - hence the early blog), which was lovely and I got a lot of writing/editing done - but my week now feels utterly unfamiliar and I'm at least a day behind (or in front) of my own life. How I do love my routine, and how twitchy I become when I can't rely on it. Must be my age, ah well.

Anyway, yesterday evening, we had the man from the bank around to advise us on how to make the most of our (sparse, due to house move) finances, so that was actually really interesting and we may be able to make a penny or two here and there if we follow some of his advice. Perhaps there might be Christmas dinner in Elstead after all. You never know.

And today, I've gone to my follow-up appointment after the cyst operation last week. Apparently it's doing nicely but still inflamed so I have to be on the antibiotics for another couple of weeks. I was really hoping not to have to carry them on as they do make my throat burn for a while after I've taken them (though not in a truly horrid way!), but I now have enough of them to sink the Titanic again - so I just have to make sure I remember when I've taken them and when I haven't. And I was brave today (pause for applause!) and took the plaster off for a while - well, the surgeon had to see the site of Carlos the Cyst, so I had to, really - but it began to hurt a bit later on, so I've put a new one now. I see it as a fashion accessory, don't you know. Soon, everyone will be wearing them. You heard it here first.

Anne Brooke
The Thoughtful Corner

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Dates, blogs and bestsellers

Book News:

The fourth in the gay erotic Delaneys series of short stories, Dating the Delaneys, is now published by Amber Allure Press and available at a first week discount from them. I hope you enjoy the read!

Much to my amazement, literary lesbian short story, The Girl in the Painting, has now been in the Top 5 International Bestseller lists at Untreed Reads for a whole year, well gosh. Not only that, but today it reached No 7 in the Amazon UK short story lists, so that was a real boost too. Heck, maybe I should do a sequel at some point? Now there's a thought.

I've finally completed the first round of edits for the final part in my Gathandrian Trilogy, The Executioner's Cane. My, that felt like a real milestone, and I was more pleased with how it hangs together than I initially expected, phew. Now I need to draft a synopsis (my least favourite writing job ...) and unleash some outside editorial input on it. Still some way to go then. Speaking of the Gathandrian Trilogy, you can get the first in the series, the critically acclaimed The Gifting, for only about $2 (c£1) at Books on Board - so now's your chance to try my magnum opus Part 1 at a very decent price. Happy shopping to all!

During the week, I've also created two more blog posts (one about my favourite Christmas present ever, which will probably be a surprise to all ...) for my upcoming blog tour in December with Riptide Publishing. I'll let you know the schedule as soon as it's confirmed. And I've added a new blog post to The Thoughtful Corner, this time about people, communities and prejudice.

Yesterday, I recorded my third short story, The Singing Road, for Celtica Radio. I gather that two of my short stories will probably be broadcast on their monthly arts programme during December, and then another early next year.  They're hoping to get an hour's worth of short stories from me - which means about six or so - and then they'll see how it goes. Maybe I have the face for radio after all!...

I've also been rather heartened that the latest quarter's royalties from Amber Allure Press nicely dovetail with the costs of my cyst operation (see below for update ...) so I just about break even there, hurrah. God indeed works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.

Meanwhile, you can find all my latest writing news on my website, updated for November.

The Sunday haiku is:

The long-tailed tits dance
across my bare apple tree:
flock of soft pink leaves.

Life News:

The aftermath of my cyst operation has, I admit, been a bit tricky, though it's been utter bliss to be able to move properly again and sleep without pain. But (squeamish alert!) I've had to lay in a supply of large plasters as so far it keeps bleeding now and again, depending on how much I've been moving around. The initial bandage change was gross, and this morning was a bit dodgy too - sorry! But so far today, I've kept as still as possible and it's been much improved. Let's hope that continues. It's also been something of a challenge to remember to take my various doses of antibiotics four times a day but I've kept up to speed more or less successfully, I think. Not being a mathematician, after two I lose count ... But certainly the beast is way better being off, that's for sure.

On Friday afternoon, I attended the monthly church healing service in the hope that some of the miracle of prayer for the sick in the parish might rub off on yours truly. Hell, there's a selfish motive, if ever I heard one! But, actually, it was a nice quiet and traditional short service and I really enjoyed it. I've kept the prayer list handed out and have put it in my prayer room so God can glance at it now and again. Just in case He might have forgotten the names, hey ho. But I'll certainly be back for the next one.

Yesterday, K and I spent a happy day wandering around The Savill Garden admiring the autumn planting, as you do. It's also a fabulous winter garden and is free in December, so well worth going next month if you're near. We also popped into the Wisley plant shop on the way back, and between them both bought hellebores, tulips and raspberries. Which K has planted in our garden today. Looking forward to that early spring colour, we hope!

Anne Brooke
The Thoughtful Corner

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Blogs, Bones and boils

Book News:

Much to my astonishment, comic sf short story, Creative Accountancy for Beginners, has sold a copy in Slovakia, well gosh. Many thanks, kind Slovakian reader - I hope there are more of you out there! I'm also pleased to say I've sent back the galley proofs for gay short story, Dating the Delaneys, which is published on Sunday 6 November, and you can now read an erotic extract on the Amber Allure site. Enjoy ...

At the same time, Riptide Publishing have asked for two more blog posts ready for the upcoming blog tour - one about favourite Christmases and one about the story behind writing gay short story The Heart's Greater Silence. So I'm getting my brain in gear (don't wait up ...) for those projects.

And I'm very happy with the Quarter 3 royalties made by gay thriller The Bones of Summer. I'm surprised it's still selling, but hey I'm not complaining. Never think that.

At Vulpes Libris meanwhile I've discovered my best book of the year (hurrah!) and can only encourage you all to rush out and read Evelio Rosero's Good Offices. A marvellous little novella.

This week's meditation poem is:

Meditation 583
Solomon builds
his temple
with a glorious excess
of gold:

a reminder
when starting your project
you should always attempt
to be bold.

Life News:

Hmm, what can I say? The title of this post has probably given you the clue so all I can say is if you're squeamish, best to skip to the very end, ho hum ... As you may remember, the pesky little cyst (AKA Carlos) on my collarbone has been giving me hell all week and has shot up from a brief and fairly idyllic childhood to be three times its original size in its difficult teenage years, all in the space of seven rather unholy days. My, what fun. It's had its rather painful moments too, and getting into bed without gritting my teeth and wincing (let alone attempting to sleep) has been tricky.

Well, my op was scheduled for 6.30pm this evening and I was starting to get rather angsty as the last time I had an infected cyst removed (from my back) twenty odd years ago, on the NHS, there were several rather unfortunate events which may be best simply listed: a trainee doctor out of his depth (bless him), a call for an emergency surgeon on the hospital tannoy system, being left in a room on my own bleeding onto my t-shirt while everyone rushed around trying to find said surgeon, being told that they couldn't give me any more drugs as I was over the limit now so the rest of the op would be painful (it was ...), no aftercare, wandering round the hospital in my blooded shirt (heck, no wonder people were staring!), and eventually getting home without any clear idea of how I managed it. My lodger at the time (a nurse) took one look at what they'd done and shrieked: Lord, they've butchered you ... Which did at least have the effect of making me laugh while I drank my gin. I bear the scars with something like a survivor's pride really ...

So, today I was a little nervous. However, in the event there hasn't been time to think. I went in to the clinic at 11.30am for a pre-op consultation, the very lovely surgeon took one look at it, said he'd need to do it there and then as it was infected and by the way please could he take a few photos as he'd never seen a furuncle cyst (aka boil, for the uninitiated in these things) so badly advanced before (naturally I let him - I do so love the camera under any circumstances ...). He had to bring the beast down in size before he could use the drugs (no, please, don't ask ...) and he then whipped up a few nurses and an ops trolley and did the dirty deed. After the drugs kicked in, it wasn't as bad as expected, hurrah.

I now therefore have the largest neck dressing I've ever seen - which did rather startle the good people of Tesco as I popped into the pharmacy on the way home - and enough antibiotics to kill a giraffe. The surgeon has also booked me in for a follow-up appointment next week - let's hope he doesn't discover anything else he wants to whip out, eh - and has commanded me in any case to ring the clinic immediately if I think the wretched beast might be on its way back again before then.

However, in the midst of all this, I am strangely heartened to think that the op scars on my back will now at last have a matching set on my front. How I do love to be symmetrical. But, then again how will I know which way I'm facing?...

Stay healthy, folks!

Anne Brooke
The Thoughtful Corner