Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking back and looking forward

Goodness me. The end of 2008. And what a year it's been, I can tell you. Highlights (both good and bad) that come to mind are (in no particular order):

1. Publishing Thorn in the Flesh. Twice. Once as a paperback and once as an eBook.

2. Publishing Maloney's Law.

3. Having A Stranger's Table finally available on Amazon.

4. Leaving my writers' group.

5. Downsizing friendships that no longer fit and spending more time on those that do.

6. Beginning to come to terms with the fact that I'm far less sociable-minded that I always thought I had to be - and that's okay too.

7. Getting to grips with HRT, and therefore feeling less depressed (thank the Lord).

8. Having a major operation and coming through a cancer scare - which thankfully in the end wasn't cancer.

9. Suffering from a frozen shoulder and trapped nerve (ouch!).

10. Celebrating 15 years of marriage with Lord H.

So those are some of the things I've been thinking about today. This morning, I've added another 1000 words to Hallsfoot's Battle and I'm now just getting back to a focus on Ralph and what the hell he's going to do with those pesky emeralds. Goodness alone knows what that'll be but I hope it will be something. Anyway, I'm at 72,000 words, which is 2000 words over my end of December word aim, so I'm smiling. Who knows? This time next year I might even have a decent draft to work on. You never know.

I've also experienced a small thrill to see that Maloney's Law was very briefly at No 82 in the Amazon gay fiction bestsellers' list. I suspect it's fallen out of the list already even as I type, but it's nice to have been in the Top 100 at least once.

Today's meditation poem (and the last one of 2008!) is:

Meditation 36

All the year’s
full measurements –

the curtain, the tent,
the poles of brass –

are silent today.
What speaks

is something other –
a gift of earth

at the altar:
the blood and tears

of the people.

This afternoon, I need to make another batch of rum butter to celebrate the new year with. We're not doing anything tonight - apart from watching TV - as we're having our New Year private dinner for two tomorrow. Probably after a day's birdwatching, so no doubt we'll need it. Also this afternoon, I've been sending out more submissions of short stories, flash fiction and poetry to magazines, which give me a sense of literary purpose (much needed). In fact, over the last couple of weeks, I think I've sent out more submissions than I have over the last 18 months, so I must be feeling more together than I've felt for a long time. Ye gods and little fishes indeed. Anyway, here's the total:

1. Six flash fiction submissions (so far, one rejection).

2. One more submission of The Gifting.

3. Two more submissions of The Bones of Summer (incl one which I've changed my mind about now).

4. Two poetry submissions (so far, one acceptance).

5. Nine short story submissions (so far, one rejection).

So, I do feel pretty pleased about that - I want to take the literary career more seriously, and this seems a good way to go about it. Really, it's been great to have the time and energy to focus on it over the last few days.

I've been thinking about things I'd like to do next year too, and here's a list of those (again in no order):

1. Book a course of Alexander Technique lessons.

2. Consider going to church twice a month instead of once.

3. Attempt to get a publisher for The Gifting and The Bones of Summer.

4. Submit more short stories, flash fiction and poetry more regularly to magazines.

5. Write more shorts stories/flash fiction.

6. Attempt to keep my hormones/depression under control.

7. Look at producing a poetry chapbook focusing on some of my meditation pieces.

The first two in that list will be my New Year Resolutions for 2009. I've had a 75% success rate with the resolutions for 2008, which were (a) try to go to bed at a reasonable time; and (b) try to meditate for 20 minutes a day. I've been doing both - or trying to - over the year, but I'm afraid I can't claim it's been every day! The spirit is willing, etc etc, you know ...

Anyway, I won't blog tomorrow, but I should be back on Friday. So a Happy New Year to all, and may 2009 be good to you!

Today's nice things:

1. Adding more to Hallsfoot
2. Maloney being at Number 82 on the Amazon gay list - briefly
3. Submitting work
4. Thinking about the year that's been and that which is to come.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - straddling the years with her usual style ...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hallsfoot, haibuns, shops and books

It took me a while to get back in the saddle today (doesn't it always?) but I have now managed to add another 1000 words to Hallsfoot's Battle, which brings me to just over 71,000 words in total. The mind-executioner's telling of the Third Gathandrian Legend has just ended and now Simon is going to be faced with a real challenge. Which I'll leave hanging nicely in the air (aha! cue evil authorial laughter ...) while I get back to what Ralph is up to in the Lammas Lands and what Annyeke and Johan are up to back in the mother country. Not to mention the elders and the snow-raven. Always leave the reader wanting to know the rest - that's the plan anyway ...

I've also had the great news that the lovely Charles at Ink Sweat and Tears Magazine has accepted my haibun, The secret smell of lemons, for publication and it should appear on the webzine over the next month or so. So thanks for that, Charles - much appreciated. Haibuns (in case you're confused) are a combination of poetic prose and haikus, and I don't do many but they're very enjoyable when I do - it seems to be a chance to go deeper into what I'm attempting to describe and to play about with things more. Quite a challenge really.

Here's this morning's meditation poem:

Meditation 35

The desert sends dryness
on your tongue,

all the bitter aching sun of it.
You can never go home,

sure in the knowledge
that too much gift

is worse than no gift.
You search and search.

Find only
rock and sand

and loneliness.

This afternoon, I've bravely tackled the arid plains of Waitrose in an attempt to stock up for New Year. Not that we need to stock up much as there are only two of us and we don't go out and party, but we'd run out of fruit, and no-one can live on mince pies alone. Not even Lord H. So I feel fulfilled in a housewifely way in that we are at least likely to survive the next week or so. Even if we have to live purely on bananas.

I've just finished Reginald Hill's latest Dalziel and Pascoe novel, A Cure for All Diseases. Oh dear, oh dear. Here's my review which also appears on Amazon:

"I'm usually a great fan of the Dalziel and Pascoe novels, but this is one of the poorer ones. Frankly the first 200 or so pages are not worth reading and are very dull. It's only on Page 205 (in my paperback edition) when the murder finally happens that the novel actually commences. If I were you, I'd start there and you've lost nothing. I can also recommend skipping entirely any of Charley's boring and long-winded emails - they're not worth the read either. Other than that, the rest of it is fine. Though there are far, far too many exclamation marks scattered throughout the book, which gives an unfortunately amateur feel. The one really good thing is at least we do get a lot of the marvellous Franny Root - he's fabulous and holds the book together. More power to his elbow, as that's a hard task indeed. One for the committed fans only, and let's hope Hill is back on form with the next one."

Tonight, I shall be flicking through the Radio Times to see if there's anything on TV after the extravaganza of New Year - I need more plot inspiration and where better to get that from than the telly? So if Simon or the mind-executioner suddenly start burying someone under the patio or walk out of their own weddings in a huff, you'll know what to blame ...

Today's nice things:

1. Getting back to Hallsfoot
2. Having a haibun accepted
3. Poetry
4. The Radio Times.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - hoping for a feast of TV

Monday, December 29, 2008

Country walks and web updates

Lord H and I celebrated his last day off before going back to work by taking a very pleasant stroll around Thursley Common. I really love it there - there's something so peaceful about it and it always seems miles from anywhere. Fabulous. Anyway, we spotted a pair of stonechats, siskins, meadow pipits and a pair of green woodpeckers, so that was great too. Also fun to watch the mallards sliding around on the frozen pond, looking terribly confused. Not sure their feet are made for that kind of thing ...

Back home, I've been working away on updating my website and have now added a new Short Stories section to it, which includes one or two links to stories and flash fiction I've written - so do feel free to have a browse. And I hope you enjoy the read! Talking of which, one of the short stories is A Little Death which is showcased on the HagsHarlotsHeroines website and I see the lovely Laura Wilkinson has recently said the following about it:

"Beautifully written, it is evocative, sensuous, and devastating. It hits all the right buttons."

Thank you so much, Laura - I really appreciate that. I was also much cheered when Lady Alexandra on Facebook messaged me today to say how much she was enjoying Pink Champagne and Apple Juice. Thank you, Lady Alexandra - so glad to hear that too! And I hope you enjoy the rest of it also.

Meanwhile, here's today's meditation poem:

Meditation 34

Those whose hands
have knowledge

of beauty –
how to carve

and fashion it, how
to draw it out of nothing –

keep silent
when beauty finally appears.

Let your tongue be still,
drink in the fullness.

We've also watched a DVD of the comedian Michael McIntyre which Lord H kindly bought me for Christmas - and I'm still smiling. Posh Bloke does Comedy - what more can you ask for? He always manages to make me laugh ...

Tonight, there's a Sherlock Holmes programme on, so we'll be glued. You can't really go wrong with the Master of Detection, no matter who plays him - definitely one to watch. And talking of TV, I thoroughly enjoyed Affinity last night - much better than the book, in my opinion (hush my mouth), as the structure seemed more sensible and it seemed to come alive more in a visual medium as a story. That said, I'll still be buying the next Sarah Waters book, as she remains classy even when not writing at her best.

Today's nice things:

1. Thursley Common
2. Updating the website
3. Laura's comments about A Little Death
4. Lady Alexandra's comments about Champers
5. Poetry
6. DVDs
7. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - hanging on to the holiday feeling as long as she can ...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Lazy Sunday, lunch mysteries and book group prep

A lovely lie-in today, which was great - always good to snuggle up under the duvet on a cold winter morning. In fact we were so lazy that we were only just in time to eat breakfast before we had to think about lunch. And today we decided to give ourselves a treat and go out for a pub lunch - although this did prove rather more complicated than expected. Our first choice, The Seahorse at Shalford, has according to a nifty piece of web research by Lord H been taken over by aliens and is apparently not as good as it once was. Ruddy shame, eh. Why does this always happen? Just when you think you've found a pub you like which does decent food, the people running it up and leave. Sigh ...

I suggested our second choice of The Stag at Eashing, but apparently the same fate has overtaken that one too. Is there a conspiracy, I ask? The plot thickens, Carruthers ... We scoured our brains for somewhere else to go, and eventually came up with The Cyder House at Shackleford, as I visited it a couple of years back with work people, and it seemed pretty good then. So we rolled up at 12noon, as we like to eat early and leave. Crowds aren't us, you know. Anyway, it was fine though personally I could have done with the roast lamb being better cooked and more abundant, but the veg and pudding were top-notch. Mmm ... The only thing about it (apart from the staff being incredibly young - do their mothers know they're out??...) was that the waiter we had at the start had a disconcerting habit of walking away from our table and shouting the last word I'd spoken to him in a jolly tone to the bar staff. So when he said lunch (my lamb and Lord H's sausages) would take about 15 minutes to cook, I joked about the need to catch the pig - at which point, he strolled away, saying "pig!" delightedly. Then when I commented that the glass he'd brought Lord H's beer in was quite sweet (and believe me it was), he walked away, and yelled "sweet!" at the man behind the bar. I was actually wondering if I could make him say a whole sentence, word by word, if I played my cards right, but then he disappeared and didn't come back. Perhaps the manager decided to strangle the poor lad? Or is this some strange game they play with off-worlders in Shackleford parts? Ah, it's a mystery indeed.

And, talking of off-worlders, I was rather started yesterday evening when I was doing my 20 minute meditation session in the bedroom and Lord H popped his head around the door to say that dinner would be "twenty-five of your earth minutes" before disappearing again. I think his cover is indeed blown, and I do wonder what 25 minutes translates out to on Lord H planet. Naturally enough, I am too polite to ask. Is he planning a trip home by shuttlecraft at some stage? Best get the gravity-enhanced cheese out of the freezer once more then.

While I'm on the subject of meditation, here's today's poem:

Meditation 33

What will you do
when the door

is finally opened?
You with your arms full

of necklaces, rings,
fine linen,

goats’ hair cloth,
purple thread and spices.

Where will you hide yourself
and who on earth

can reach you?

For the rest of the day, I've been putting together some notes for the upcoming University Book Group discussion on Tania Hershman's The White Road and Other Stories. I've really enjoyed preparing for that - it seems a long time (well, about 20 years or so, if you're asking) since I've made notes on a book and it's great. I've got a bio of Tania, some quotes either from the author or from reviewers, a brief explanation of flash fiction (as I'm not sure the group will have come across that or not) and a list of eight questions based on issues or text from the stories throughout the collection. An interesting mix of science, religion, motherhood, the weather and racial awareness. Amongst other things. So hopefully there should be something there for everyone. I've taken into account the fact that some of the group may not be able to get hold of the book before we meet on 19 January as the UK 2nd edition is still going through the reprinting process - and in that scenario (probable), I trust I've given them enough to chew on so they'll want to get hold of it afterwards anyway. We small press authors have to stick together, you know ...

Tonight, I'm hoping to watch the Thunderbirds programmes (Scott was my first love after all ...) and then there's the latest Sarah Waters Victoriana-lesbiana-extravaganza, Affinity, on, which we obviously can't miss. Not that I think Affinity is her best book at all, but I'm sure it'll be worth a viewing.

This week's haiku:

In winter bleakness
haiku fragments haunt my head.
They fail to warm me.

Today's nice things:

1. A lie-in
2. Lunch out - eventually
3. Poetry
4. Book Group prep
5. Haikus
6. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - the scourge of waiters everywhere

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Birds, books and a Number One slot

Phew. That's over for another year then. Hope all your Christmases were as good as they could possibly be. Lord H and I have had a lovely couple of days, highlights of which included:

1. Visiting the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust at Arundel and having an exceptionally cold walk on Boxing Day. We had to have soup and hot chocolate with cream on to warm up. Well, it's a tough life but hey somebody's got to roll with the punches.

2. Coming back from church on Christmas morning and seeing a small boy walking up the road with a stick. Lord H then commented that some people's ideas of Christmas presents for the family seemed distinctly dodgy this year. However, my feeling was that a stick could only help to strengthen the imagination - after all, with imagination it could be a spear or a sword or a poker to poke people with. Maybe even a javelin. Lord H responded that actually he'd been thinking along the rather less violent lines of a wand to grant people's wishes with - an exchange of ideas which surely shows the difference between us ... Ah well.

3. Spending time with Lord H and not having to see anyone else.

4. Getting some lovely presents, hurrah (and for more on one of them, see below)!

5. On the minus side, my left arm and hand are really playing up at the moment - it's all very achy and stiff, and produces the odd shooting pain if I accidentally twist it the wrong way. Think I might go and see the doctor again next week - I'm hoping my right arm trouble hasn't changed sides and moved over to my left but I'll have to see. Besides of which, I haven't been to the surgery for a couple of weeks or so, and I must therefore be due a visit soon. Hey ho. This is what we pay our taxes for, after all ...

Anyway, today, Lord H and I have travelled up to Marlow to see the glorious and wonderful red kites in the Chilterns as we haven't seen them since last year. They're still as breath-taking as ever. Honestly, watching them in flight and soooo very close too makes our year. Fabulous. On the way there, we also managed to stop off and catch sight of a ruddy shelduck (that's a technical bird name, I hasten to add ...), so that was great too.

Ooh and my lovely nearly sister-in-law very kindly bought me Tania Hershman's short story collection, The White Road and Other Stories (thank you, Sue!) and I've just finished reading that and have therefore posted the following review on Amazon:

"This collection of short stories takes as its theme the edgy and sometimes difficult relationship between humanity and science. There is a great deal of energy about the stories, as well as a strong and distinctive voice. Not all main characters are sympathetic but, then again, they're not meant to be - and each one does have a gripping issue to raise or an arresting tale to tell. My favourites amongst the collection tended to be the longer stories where both character and situation were allowed to live and breathe a little - during some of the shorter/one page tales, I personally felt that interesting scenarios were being unnecessarily curtailed and I would have liked to have known more. It would certainly be fascinating to see some of those very short pieces given a longer life - this author knows how to create character and story, and it's therefore a shame not to use that talent to the full. That said, it's a very worthwhile collection - special mention has to go to the title story, The White Road (a tale of loss, grief and decisive action - and my personal favourite in the book), Heavy Bones (flash fiction about the start of a marriage that really works and shows not all stories have to be sad), On A Roll (where sacrifice brings about hope and the possibility of a new life), and Express (where the mysteries of language uncover a forgotten history). Definitely a thought-provoking read."

So, buy early and buy often, and well done, Tania!

Meanwhile, here's today's meditation poem:

Meditation 32

Only one thing is needed.

Put aside
the hooks and frames,

crossbars, posts and bases
of your life.

Take up only
the sacred, silent garments

of the heart.

It's also been hugely pleasing to see that the eBook of Thorn in the Flesh actually hit the Number One Spot in the US Amazon Gay and Lesbian Fiction reads very briefly on Christmas Day (yes, I was looking, sadly ...) - so I basked happily in an hour of glory before sinking down to my normal unnumbered level. Thank you hugely to those out there who bought it, and I hope you enjoy the read.

Today's nice things:

1. Birds, especially the red kites
2. Books
3. Poetry
4. Laughing with Lord H
5. Thorn having a brief Number One Amazon slot. Well, gosh!...

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - never trust her with a javelin ...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Season of goodwill and good news

Got up early today to do a spot of last minute shopping in Godalming - and managed to find a couple of items to supplement Lord H's gift pile, so that was very pleasing. Even more pleasing is the fact that I've even remembered to wrap them - some years ago, I thought I was all done and dusted with Christmas preparations, until I came to about 11pm on Christmas Eve and realised that I hadn't yet wrapped anything. Sigh ... what a last-minute scrabble that was. Not to be repeated. This year, I am the Goddess of Preparation. I mean, ye gods, I have even remembered to removed the butter from the fridge just now so it won't be as hard as iron when I get to the stage of making my rum butter later this afternoon. Lordy, but I'm good. And yes, my rum butter is the best on the planet. No competition. It even beats my mother's hands-down, and she was the one who taught me. Ha! Not that I'm ever competitive of course ...

In the meantime, I've added another 1000 words to Hallsfoot's Battle and am just about getting to the final scenes of the Third Gathandrian legend. Phew. This astonishing feat of endurance brings me to the magic number of 70,000 words so I've treated myself to a mince pie to celebrate. Yes, I know - I'm totally out of control but, hey, it is Christmas.

And, talking of matters spiritual (of a sort), here's today's meditation poem:

Meditation 31

Offer the best
of what you have:

jewels, gold,
red and purple wool,

acacia wood,
spices, bronze, linen.

Still, what marks you
are the simplest of oils

and a handful of silver.

There's a lot of book news today as well, which is very heartening (is that even a word??). First off, the good people at the Kindle Forum have asked me to lead a book club focusing on Thorn in the Flesh as several of their members are reading and enjoying the eBook version. Naturally, I'm delighted to accept and indeed to be asked (thank you, Kindle People!) - so I believe this will take place sometime in the spring of 2009. Watch this space. Even better, buy your copy (either ebook or paperback) now via the web link in this paragraph and get ahead of the game when the excitement starts! You heard it here first.

I've also just seen that Maloney's Law has been nominated in the Gay Fiction category of the Lambda Awards. It's lovely to be up there with the likes of Harper Collins and Simon & Schuster, even though of course it's a nomination and not a shortlisting. Ah, a girl can dream, eh. I don't think I'll be chosen, but it's nice to be amongst the greats if only for a while.

Keeping on the subject of Maloney, I'm also thrilled to see that Ann Somerville from the Uniquely Pleasurable review site has given an honourable mention to Maloney's Law in her 2008 Book of the Year list. You need to scroll down to get to her choice, but she says something hugely special about the book which made me get quite emotional (a rare event indeed) so it's worth the scrolling. And thank you, Ann.

Still on the subject of reviews, and not forgetting A Dangerous Man, I was also ultra-chuffed to see that a reader called Loukie has given ADM a good review on the Goodreads site and says the following:

"This is a dark and powerful tale. I was drawn into Michael’s life and the all-consuming passion to express his vision in black and white drawings. Ms Brooke has a fluent style and her depiction of both lower and upper class London life is totally convincing. The tension builds and builds until it is impossible to put down the book. Not an easy story, but I heartily recommend this book for a meaty read, thought provoking, disturbing, very well written."

Thank you hugely, Loukie - that's very much appreciated. Disturbing is probably my middle name by now. Or is that Disturbed?...

So, I'm going into Christmas feeling very happy indeed. Well gosh. I have heat, hot water, some good book news and of course the wonderful Lord H to keep me on this side of sanity, so what more could I ask for the season? I hope you all have a lovely and peaceful break, and I shall see how we all got on and whether any of us have any mince pies left when I next blog at the weekend.

Happy holidays to all!

Today's nice things:

1. Getting all Lord H's presents and wrapping them (hurrah!)
2. Rum butter
3. Getting to 70,000 words in Hallsfoot
4. Poetry
5. Thorn in the Flesh being included in the Kindle book club
6. The Lambda nomination for Maloney's Law
7. Maloney's Law getting an honourable mention in a Books of 2008 list
8. The good review for A Dangerous Man
9. Um, Christmas - there's good news in that somewhere, you know!

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - wishing you all a very happy Christmas

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The joys of heat, contracts and the last working day

Ah, the joys of central heating. It’s a miracle, you know, and so wonderfully warm in the flat. Bliss. Not only that but I think the plumber has improved the system at least 1000% by redoing the pipes and draining some of the blockages – so now our radiators are the hottest they’ve been in fifteen years (since we moved in, basically). It’s amazing really. So, at the moment we can either have the hot water/central heating on together or off together – the plumber will pop in either today or sometime between Christmas and New Year to add on the timer and do some extra tweaking and then it – like Mary Poppins – will be practically perfect in every way. Wonderful.

While we bask in these rare tropical conditions, here’s today’s meditation poem:

Meditation 30

A life is made
of the spaces

it inhabits:

the acts

the words

Let the empty air
claim you,

ease through the day.

And there’s going to be a lot of easing through the day today, I can tell you. There’s not a great deal happening on campus, though I’m still trying to add my own tweaks to my first pass through the Freedom of Information project, so the office has decided to go and chill out at Starbucks at 10.30 for a team meeting. Well, we’ve worked jolly hard this year – we reckon we deserve it. So coffee and mince pies, here we come.

In the meantime, I’ve posted my signed contract off to Eternal Press for Painting from Life, so I’m looking forward to getting my proverbial teeth into the edits they’ll want. There’s something hugely exciting about editing. Or maybe that’s just me?

Plus I had my last lunchtime stroll of 2008 round campus – always good to mark one’s territory before leaving it for a while. You never know what will happen when you’re away, after all … I do wonder what 2009 will bring in the world of academia. Something totally unexpected, no doubt. It usually is. And I’m not even thinking about the world of writing – that is indeed a law unto itself! Anyway, today my campus walk included a pied wagtail, tits of some description (couldn’t get close enough to tell and I don’t have my binoculars at work sadly), black-headed gulls, a robin, two squirrels playing hide-and-seek round a tree and – today’s birding surprise – a grey heron which flew in over the lake and stayed for a while. Fabulous. Obviously the World of Nature is gearing up to take over the campus while the people are away.

Tonight, I’m not doing very much of anything really, so that’ll be nice. And then it’s the holidays and great vistas of space before January comes round. Mmm, lovely.

Today’s nice things:

1. Central heating
2. Poetry
3. Starbucks
4. Posting off a contract
5. Lunchtime walks
6. The heron.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - winding down for the holiday ...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Publication, feet and reviews

Lots of good news today – I’ve sold my short story, Painting from Life, to Eternal Press in Canada, so have been busy signing contracts and filling in forms for them in order to prepare for e-publication. It’s great to be able to find a home for that particular story as it’s one I’m still very proud of, even though I wrote it some years ago. In addition, it was originally sold in 2004 to a small publisher that has now been liquidated (and to be honest they were never that great anyway), so it’s nice to think it’s found a second home. It’s a tale of art and obsessive, misplaced love in most unusual circumstances, and no sex either so something of a ground-breaker for me. I can see I’m going to have to think about adding a short story section back to my website too. In the meantime, watch this space for buying details...

However, at the same time, the first port of call for my piece of flash fiction, Night Bees, has rejected it (the fools, the fools!) so I’ve sent it out to the next possibility on my list. Grrr, honestly, can’t people see I’m a literary genius?? They obviously couldn’t have read it properly …

This morning, I’ve been finishing up the first draft of the minutes I did on Friday. It’s good to be able to tick another job off the list, even though I doubt anyone will be checking them until January. Most of the University is away now as term ended last week. Being on holiday hours and being able to leave at 5pm rather than 5.30pm is great too – it’s that last half-hour that breaks the camel’s back, you know.

I’ve also been attempting to get my head round the mysteries of the Freedom of Information publication scheme. Oh joy. I had to read the documents four times before a glimmer of light entered my existence. I am attempting to do what seems to be expected, but as it’s all new I’m not convinced I’m doing it right. I fear I will have to throw myself on the boss’s mercy when he’s back in January. Hmm, no change there then.

Went to my final reflexology session of the year at lunchtime. Bliss – just what I need to set me up for Christmas. Talking of which, I actually felt quite mellow driving into work this morning and listening to ‘Angels From the Realms of Glory’ on Classic FM. It’s a great carol. Lordy, do I detect a weakening in my normal Scrooge-like approach to the Big Event? Surely not …

In the meantime, we still don’t know what’s happening with the central heating – Lord H is going to ring the plumber today and see if he might be able to pop round over the next couple of days. Well, we were expecting him yesterday (he didn’t come) so we’re probably entitled to chase. Again, watch this space. Still having the hot water back on is totally marvellous, so we’re not complaining – yet! UPDATE: We have our central heating back, hurrah! The blessed Mike (may his name be praised) is popping back at some point to tweak it but at the moment we have both heat and hot water, so we're smiling. Well, laughing hysterically and stroking radiators actually, but I don't want you to think that we're weird.

And the lovely Sharon has kindly put five star reviews of both Maloney’s Law and A Dangerous Man on Amazon which you can find (respectively) here and here. Thanks so much, Sharon – I really appreciate it.

But there's more and my cup indeed runneth over. A reader called Lizzy has given the eBook of Thorn in the Flesh a five star review on Amazon US and says the following:

"I agree completely with the Sarah Watts review [Note - this was another five-star review]. I'm not a reviewer, just a reader but after reading this book I just have to say how much I liked it. Its a story that just builds and builds and goes to places that you won't expect. I just couldn't put it down. This is a book that you won't forget for a very long time. I am now an Anne Brooke fan and will be reading all her works."

Gosh, thanks, Lizzy - I hugely appreciate that too. I also hope you like any of my other books you might read - I don't want to let you down!

Tonight, I’m planning to go to see Gladys and take her some smaller chocolates that she might actually be able to eat, poor thing. And I really must find out what time the Christmas Day services are, seeing as we didn’t darken the door with our presence on Sunday (shame on us …).

Talking of things spiritual, here’s today meditation poem:

Meditation 29

Write my name
across the sky

and wait for the light
to fall.


The heat of your hand
scorches skin,

divides marrow
from bone,

unveils the secrets
of the heart.

I've just finished Paul Batchelor's poetry chapbook, "To photograph a snow crystal". An interesting writer for sure, and though I didn't get some of what he was trying to say, there were several poems in there that were utterly stunning. Favourites included Tristia (historical lament), Afterwards (bitter elegy to a failed relationship) and the glorious series of "poetry-bites" that makes up Snow Melt. Definitely one to watch, in my opinon.

Oh, and the Christmas edition of QI is on later on – must watch that. And wasn’t last night’s Larkrise to Candleford wonderful? Lovely to see a real classic ghost story at Christmas – the ideal time for the genre of course.

Today’s nice things:

1. Selling a short story
2. Reflexology
3. Sharon’s review of A Dangerous Man and Maloney’s Law on Amazon
4. Lizzy's review of Thorn in the Flesh
5. Good carols on the radio
6. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - reeling from so much good news today!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Shops, Strictly and haikus

We were hoping that the plumber might pop round today to try to restore our central heating, but no sign of him so far. I was intending to get to church, but it'll now have to wait to Christmas Day as I left Lord H guarding the phone in case the plumber should ring, and went to do the weekly shop instead. So I am an appalling Christian but a kick-ass capitalist. Again. Mind you, if I'd been hoping that Waitrose might be the civilised face of the pre-Christmas shop, I've been proved wrong. Yes, it's Waitrose (and Surrey) so people are scrupulously polite but there was a distinct frostiness from those behind me when I dared to hesitate more than 30 seconds in front of the potatoes. Any longer, and I might even have been torn limb from limb. Shopping can be a dangerous sport, you know.

Back home, I have added another 1000 words to Hallsfoot's Battle so it now stands at 69,000 words. Only another 1000 to go to reach my end of December target of 70,000, so with the wind behind me I might just get there. It was a bit of a struggle today though - but I'm shattered from being out late last night so am blaming it on that. I am a cocoa, slippers and bed-by-9.30pm girl at heart.

I've also watched the last episode of Strictly Come Dancing which I videoed last night. I really enjoyed Tom's showdance - it was perfectly suited to them and perfect. He hammed it up beautifully and it must have been very difficult to do. But he pulled it off (as it were) and it was a pleasure to watch. Funny, smart and uplifting. So I am resigned to the fact that he won the glitterball (even though it should of course have been Austin) and I will have to look forward to next year's series. There's been a lot of bad feeling generated by this year's ups and downs in the show, but at least it's ended well.

Tonight I'm planning an early night if we can manage it and, of course, there's the glorious Lark Rise to Candleford on TV later so I must watch that. And here's this week's haiku:

The tawny owl's cry
wraps the house with haunting night,
keeps morning away.

Today's nice things:

1. Getting the shopping done
2. Adding more to Hallsfoot
3. Tom's showdance in Strictly.
4. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - dancing the night away ...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Short blogs and hot taps

A short blog tonight (you lucky people!) as I'm desperately typing this between social engagements. Well one is so much in demand this time of year, you know (ho ho) ...

Anyway, today we've spent a really rather nice day at Mother's exchanging presents - which we won't open till Christmas Day. And I've had a glorious hot, foamy bath while I was there. Bliss.

Before setting out, I left a note for the plumber in case he had time to pop round and deal with our crises - and miraculously he has! He's put in a new immersion tank and sorted the electrics on it out so we now have hot water. That comes from a tap! Gosh. I'm so excited I think I'll say it again. We have hot water that comes from a tap! Even now Lord H is in the bath enjoying the benefits and it's my turn next. Well, a girl in her prime can enjoy several, you know (baths, people, baths ...).

I must admit we don't yet have central heating but we do feel as if we're getting somewhere for the first time in days, hurrah! And the plumber is popping in tomorrow to look at the heating problem, so there's hope we might be fully functional by Christmas. Well, gosh.

In the meantime, here's a poem inspired by a brief chat with my ground-floor neighbour last night:


She was the heart
of my family,
says the grey-haired man.
I miss her still.

Mysterious God,
may I too
one day
gain wisdom enough

to know myself
not always
the centre

of my own existence.

Ooh, my turn for a bath now - must dash! And then dinner with Liz and John & co - lovely.

Today's nice things:

1. A pleasant day with Mother
2. Hot water from the tap
3. Dinner out with friends.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - thinking taps are a wonderful invention ...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Last one standing turn out the lights please …

Sigh. Whatever the plumber did yesterday, it appears to mean that we’ve lost the use of our heating once more. I’m attempting to be stalwart and strong about this, but this morning when I tried to turn on the bathroom light, that's not working now either. The cord has decided to be unpullable. There was a moment when I wondered whether to burst into tears and run down the road sobbing, but I decided to stand in the middle of the kitchen instead and perform a silent primeval scream. Well, Lord H doesn’t appreciate a lot of unexpected noise at the best of times, and this certainly isn’t one of those. Honestly, this bloody flat. Sometimes I hate it. It just doesn’t feel like home at the moment – but more like something out to get me.

Anyway, after that, I took a calming pill and a de-stress pill, then fetched the torch and placed it in the bathroom so at least we can see something of whatever we’re doing in there. It would be better if it were warm of course, but it isn’t and there’s nothing that can be done about that until at least Saturday when the plumber turns up again. We hope. Double sigh.

At least we still have the cold water from a tap situation – for now anyway. Lord alone knows what will go wrong next.

So, by the time I got to work, I felt utterly overwhelmed with it all and unable to engage with anything much on any kind of level. I’m in on a Friday (dammit) as we’ve had the Student Affairs Committee today – which went okay, I think, and had the added bonus of finishing early. Plus Catering supplied us with free mince pies, so that was good. Hurrah.

This lunchtime, I walked into town to get some spare keys cut for the neighbours, and for Lord H of course – as the plumber now has his keys. If before I get there, I manage to lose mine, we won’t be able to get into the flat at all and will have to call a fireman to do it for us. Mmm, a scenario which I suppose does have its compensations …

For the rest of the day, I’ve attempted to make the minutes make sense – not an easy task when my brain is full of mush and doom. Tonight, I’m planning to get at least some cleaning done and watch TV for as long as the rest of our ruddy lights deign to work.

Meanwhile, here’s today’s meditation poem:

Meditation 28

Where you hoped to find love
you found only

obscure enough

that even God
might not uncover the meaning.

Feel them
slip across your skin

like small fish
in a wide river.

Watch them dance

out of your comprehension.

Ooh, and at home Lord H has fitted a new cord to the bathroom light, so it works, double hurrah! Vast Husband Points to him indeed. Definitely my Hero of the Week.

Today’s nice things:

1. Mince pies
2. TV
3. Poetry
4. Lord H mending the light.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - waiting in trepidation for the unexpected ...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Plumbers, hags and legends

Great news! The plumber arrived this morning and has taken out our faulty immersion tank, so that's now lying in the front garden ready to be taken away at some point. I've told the neighbours so nobody thinks it's a more unusual water feature and attempts to decorate. Mind you, if it's still there at Christmas, we might attempt to make a snowman out of it, depending on the weather. It's that kind of size. Whilst doing all this, the plumber discovered that the pipes had been put in wrongly so the hot water has spent 15 years going through a pipe it shouldn't be going through and the electrics attached to it are all wrong. None of this surprises me - here's hoping he can make a better job of it. He may pop by tonight but, if not, he promises Saturday morning and we may even get a glimpse of hot water (hurrah!) by Christmas after all. We live in hope.

Meanwhile I'm hugely excited as I've discovered that the wonderful Hags Harlots Heroines website has been revamped and you can now become a member (it's free!), so I have done that very thing and you can find me here. It's a fantastic writing/reading site focused on women (though you don't have to be a woman to join) and well worth a look. I'm very much looking forward to being a part of it.

And I've added 1,500 words (goodness - so many!) to Hallsfoot's Battle so am now at 67,500 words. The Third Gathandrian Legend continues to grow, and has a strong creation theme. Well it's that time of year, I suppose. I'm enjoying getting it down too, which is reassuring. Talking of things spiritual (yes, I know the link is tenuous but it's nearly the end of the week and you must be generous), here's today's meditation poem:

Meditation 27

Go to the mountain again.
Take nothing

with you
except the stone

to carry
the re-carved words

of God.
The dust

on your feet
will be a sign

you will remember
one day.

I must also be feeling unusually hopeful (ye gods, it can't last, can it?) as I've submitted my story, How to eat fruit, to an online magazine via the joys of Duotrope which is a great submissions resource I've discovered through the kindness of the inimitable Nik Perring. Thank you again, Nik - really, where would I be without you? I'll see how it goes but at least I'm getting a few things out of the virtual drawers again where they've been crammed for the last year or so. That in itself has to count as progress.

Tonight, I was supposed to be going out to London to see the University friends, but I've cried off - partly due to not knowing when the plumber will be back and partly as I find Christmas socialising is a vast unknowable mountain I have less and less inclination to climb. Really, this is the time of year I simply want to back off, hide in a corner and hibernate - there are too many demands and expectations I am increasingly unable to meet. I think my inner hermit comes into her own during winter. Or any party really. I am indeed, as has been long suspected, an appalling type of friend.

Today's nice things:

1. The plumber arriving
2. The return of Hags Harlots Heroines, hurrah!
3. Writing more of Hallsfoot
4. Poetry
5. Feeling mentally strong enough to submit something (gosh)
6. Staying at home and being quiet.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - not good at parties but quite sweet really

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The long wait for the plumber ...

... still continues, sadly. He was supposed to ring first thing this morning to sort out a time to pop by and fix our ongoing lack of hot water problem. By the time 10am came, I decided to ring him instead as I'd been up 4 hours by then and "first thing" was really a distant memory for us all. He was very sweet and said he'd ring back as soon as he had a space in his day but he was very busy. So I resigned myself to a quiet day in waiting. Which meant I rang Marian to cancel our tentative golf arrangement and get her up to speed with the ongoing domestic traumas. We won't be able to meet up again till new year, sigh - Lordy how quickly the wretched beast of Christmas comes upon us.

The plumber astonishingly did then pop by at 11am but only to say that he'd lost our phone number and decided to come by and see how we were on his way to Brighton on a job. So at least he does still exist in the real world, which is nice to know. While we were chatting, the neighbour then came up as he was having trouble with operating our dehumidifier. There's not a lot I can do about it, really, as I'm a technical virgin, and I must admit to being rather unwilling to get heavily involved as said neighbour is always much more prickly to deal with if Lord H isn't here and tends to get me on edge if I stay too long. I'm not entirely sure he likes women that much, and he appears to be more comfortable dealing with another man - I think it's a generational thing, to be honest. I'll send Lord H back into the fray when he returns. It's the safer option for us all. Anyway, the plumber took our number again and went off, saying he'd ring tonight and either come round tonight or "first thing tomorrow". Ah well, back to the waiting room then ...

Still, I've managed to add another 1000 words to Hallsfoot's Battle, which brings me to 66,000 words, hurrah. And I at least know where the Third Gathandrian Legend is going. Didn't have a clue till I started writing it, but it's come to me now, thank the Lord. Its connection with the mind-executioner himself is taking me in unexpected directions too, which is nice. For once, I might know roughly what I'm supposed to be writing when I next tackle it. Now there's a first.

I've also finished what I think is the first pass through my short story about bees. It turned out to be shorter than I originally anticipated but I think it works. The final version might be longer, but we'll see. I've given it over to the wonderful and talented Nik Perring for his special red pen treatment (thanks, Nik!) and will wait with interest to hear what he says.

Speaking of stories, I've finished Elizabeth Baines' short story collection, Balancing on the Edge of the World. A very high standard of writing indeed and I enjoyed it very much. The themes are the relationship between people and the power they hold (or the lack of it) - very human tales indeed. Particular favourites are Condensed Metaphysics (jazzy, edgy and strong), Holding Hands (a powerful tale of family dynamics and frailty - though she should have ended it 3 paragraphs earlier as the end line actually appears at the close of the 4th paragraph in from the finish, to my mind), Into the Night (a great erotic encounter which might or might not turn out to be more) and Condundrum (a wry look at child-rearing through the generations). I'd definitely read more Baines.

And here's this morning's meditation poem:

Meditation 26

You cannot bear
too much light.

Cover your mind
in the shadow

of the rock
and wait

for your skin
to hum with warmth

feeling the kiss
of the sun

as the best of me
passes by.

Actually, I'm thinking about bringing out another book of poems next year and am making initial enquiries about printers to go with - it feels like it might be a good time for it but I'm taking it slowly. It's something to plan for anyway. And Lord knows that at this terribly depressing (sorry, but I do think so) time of year, I need something to convince me that next year will be worth it. Thank God for the holiday, but roll on spring.

Today's nice things:

1. Writing more of Hallsfoot
2. Poetry
3. Thinking about another poetry book
4. Short stories.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - an expert in the art of waiting ...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Of mice, bees and women

Good news at last! Lord H laid down a couple of mouse traps last night and we were woken up at 6am by the noise of heavy scampering. Thinking an army of mice had joined forces to try to overcome us, I leapt out of bed and switched the light on in order to flush out the enemy. Only to see that a mouse had got its head caught in the trap and dragged itself out of the kitchen, across the landing and into our bedroom in order to complain. Quite impressive really. Being a farmer’s daughter, I picked the beast up, still attached to the trap, shoved it into a plastic bag and bashed it against the wall, whilst shouting Samurai triumph chants. As you do. I am indeed gracious in victory. Lord H was rather nonplussed, I have to say. Well, this is the sort of thing we used to do back on the farm, you know, and city boys can never understand it … After that, I put my coat on over my nightie, wrapped the body in another plastic bag just in case the darn thing made a miraculous recovery, and put the whole caboodle in the bin at the bottom of the garden ready for the binmen to collect today. Aha! One can only hope the neighbours didn’t choose that moment to peer out into the gloom, as Lord only knows what they would have thought I was doing. Now, however, the bloodlust is truly up so I’ve asked Lord H to get more traps so I can continue my path of destruction. Watch this space.

Meanwhile, the domestic crises continue to widen. As the middle neighbour was away in London, we agreed that we could leave the dehumidifiers on all night to try to speed up the drying process. Unfortunately, that appears to have meant that the ground floor neighbour didn’t get any sleep at all as he left a note of complaint on the hall table today, understandably enough. So we’ve now turned off the dehumidifiers and left a note of apology, suggesting we all get together and sort out a drying schedule to suit all parties. Well, we don’t really want Christmas neighbour wars – we have more than enough other disasters to cope with at the moment … I hope we can all come to a reasonable agreement and that everything gets back to normal soon. Whatever "normal" might be. Perhaps we should indeed leave it to the mice after all?

At work I am chuntering along with writing up yesterday’s minutes. I’m hoping I can get the first draft finished today, as I’m next in on Friday to do another and more scary meeting so I’d like the decks to be cleared for that one. We’ll see.

At lunch, it was the last Writers’ Group of the year. I brought along the mince pies which didn’t get opened yesterday and they opened them, hurrah! Even ate some too, which was nice. And Alan brought biscuits – so thank you, Alan. We looked at a good amount of manuscripts and played a writing game involving creating something from words I’d cut out of various publications over the weekend. I thought it would be a fun one for Christmas – an interesting selection of phrases too, all of them gleaned from The Church Times, Country Life, the Radio Times or the Saturday Telegraph. Which gives you a fairly comprehensive view of our home reading life for sure. Naturally, I couldn’t possibly cut up the Star Trek magazine though – that’s sacrosanct. Anyway, as a result, I’ve started what I think will be a short story about bees – but we’ll see.

Oh and I’ve succumbed to my first Starbucks moment for two weeks – mmm, bliss … Can’t imagine how I’ve survived without my decaff cappuccino fix.

Tonight, I’ll pop in and see Gladys on the way home. Really, her life is surprisingly normal compared to mine these days. UPDATE: I gave her some chocolates as a Christmas present which she wanted to try out there and then. So we opened them, only to see that they're the size of gobstoppers. Lord preserve us, even I, Bigmouth Brookie, would have trouble with those so there's no chance for a little old lady with no coordination and minimal teeth. Sigh. Shame on you, Mr Roses. Anyway, I left poor Gladys still struggling and advised the nurses that they should probably attempt to cut the beasts up before I'm responsible for choking the poor thing to death. Gives a whole new level of meaning to the concept of Death by Chocolate indeed ...

And here’s today’s meditation poem:

Meditation 25

When the cloud
on the place of meeting

the man I follow
All I can do

is wait.
One day
he’ll leave me here

and that strange air
between us
will at last

be empty.

Today’s nice things:

1. Killing a mouse
2. Writers’ Group
3. Starting a short story (possibly)
4. Starbucks
5. Poetry.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - a serial killer of mice and a bit dodgy with old ladies too ...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Plumbing, meetings and books

Miraculously the second water leak was mended last night (hurrah!) so that’s one problem in the flat solved, which leaves only the original problem of the immersion tank. And of course the mice. Sigh.

So, this morning I am back at week for the last full week before Christmas, while Lord H nobly stays behind in the flat and fields the drying company. I do hope they can dry out the neighbour’s electrics so at least one day soon he’ll be able to turn on his bathroom/hallway/kitchen light circuit again. UPDATE: the company have installed a second dehumidifier and an industrial fan in the neighbour's flat to dry out the walls and will be back in January to see how it's worked. In the meantime he's allowed to turn the lights on so it won't be a completely dismal Christmas for him, thank goodness ... We also need to hear from the original plumber about whether we can ever have hot water, but let’s not get too over-confident, eh. Lord only knows what will go wrong next …

At work, I have ploughed through a tranche of emails and caught up with a flurry of photocopying. It’s actually nice to do something normal for a change, rather than “fire-fighting” at home all the time. Though – to be honest – this afternoon’s Steering Group meeting was a tad too long for my tastes. It is the last one before Christmas after all – I was hoping for an earlier finish and fewer minutes to write up. And nobody opened the mince pies I’d brought along either! Still, at least that means I can spirit them back home and there’ll be more for Lord H and myself. And the mice of course. Who now appear to have learnt how to get into cupboards and ferret about in boxes. Perhaps I’ll give up trying to store things securely and just eat the little rodents instead. It may be the best option.

Tonight, it’s the University Book Group and we’re discussing The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – not a book I particularly enjoyed, but thank goodness it was short. Still, I’m looking forward to the discussion – it’s always very thought-provoking.

Oh and here’s this morning’s meditation piece:

Meditation 24

Your breath
is a shadow on the wind.

Take off
the pearls and gold

you wear
like a shield to save you.

Walk slowly
into the sun,

treading a path
you do not know.

I've also just finished Jodi Picoult's Second Glance - a modern take on the ghost story. I enjoyed it, though I don't think it's one of her utter best and towards the end it was way too overwrought for my tastes. That said, there's some astonishingly poetic and rich writing in it which is totally gripping - so I hope she continues in that vein. It gives it a magical feel appropriate to the genre.

Today’s nice things:

1. One leak mended
2. The book group
3. Poetry.
4. Books.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - back at the coalface ...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Strictly disasters, domestic angst and a spot of writing

Lordy, but what a real mess Strictly Come Dancing was last night. Ridiculous nonsense. What's the ruddy point of a semi-final where everyone goes to the final?? You may as well not bother at all. The fact remains that Tom should have not gone through, as he was the weakest contestant by a mile, and it's terribly frustrating for the other two that all their perfection made not a damn sight of difference. Harrumph indeed! Lord H thinks the obvious solution would simply have been to change Lisa's and Rachel's scores to be 2 a piece instead of 3, and then everyone would have had a more equal chance and the point of the competition would have remained. As it is, they've completely cocked-up and it's left a rather nasty taste in the mouth. Double harrumph.

In the meantime, there's more domestic traumas. Still, at least we're used to them by now. This time, the emergency plumber the insurance company promised us last night didn't turn up, so we turned the water and heating off again to save the neighbour from the second water leak. The mythical plumber is allegedly turning up tonight instead, but we have yet to see him. Apparently it might be between 5 and 10pm but who can tell? We have at least managed to turn minimal cold water back on for a while so we can do the washing etc etc but it's on a very thin trickle only so washing one's hands is becoming an art form. We've also had to turn the heating back on as we have to have something that works. Sort of. To counter this, we've been keeping a very close eye on the drip-tray levels in the kitchen so we can save the neighbour from another unwelcome shower. Sigh.

And there's no sign yet of any action from the plumber who's dealing with the first set of emergencies either, ie the immersion heater leak. I hope he comes back pretty soon next week. Lord H is hopeful that the problems might be solved by Friday but I'm pre-warning Mother when I ring her later that our Christmas visit to her this coming Saturday might include a lot of extra washing and baths. As you can see, I am less confident of a December resolution to all this. Double sigh.

Anyway, at least I've managed to get back to Hallsfoot's Battle today and have clocked up another 1000 words, taking me to about 65,000. Lord knows if any of it makes any sense, but I'm just pleased that I can string a sentence together at all as the flat collapses round our ears.

There is one good thing arising from all this though - we've been forced to clear out the airing cupboard and get rid of a lot of stuff we don't need any more. You know - the bodies of the previous flat dwellers (he was a distinctly Bad Egg ...) and people who've given me bad reviews etc etc. All the usual suspects. Plus, to my eternal shame, Lord H has uncovered my secret supply of flannels. How I love flannels - a girl can never have too many, in my opinion. But my arguments do not hold any sway with the loved one, who is still reeling from the shock of being married to a woman who owns 32 face-cloths. Yes, you did read that correctly - 32. Sadly I have now had to throw away 10 of them so my stocks are sorely depleted. Perhaps I'll get some more as Christmas presents? You never know ...

Tonight, I'll watch as much of the glorious Wallander as I can, depending on the arrival of that dang plumber. And I'm trying not to think too much about the dreaded return to work tomorrow - the very thought threatens to overwhelm me, and I have enough to cope with at the moment, thank you.

This week's haikus (two for the price of one, you lucky people ...) are:

Driving north with you:
two riders on a ploughed field
open up the sky.

Across evening sky
streamers of pink-footed geese
light us the way home.

Today's nice things:

1. Getting some essential washing done in spite of it all
2. Writing Hallsfoot
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - drowning, not waving ...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Birds, more domestic disasters and a good Maloney review

Have spent a lovely day in Titchfield Haven bird-watching with the brother-in-law and his wonderful fiancee, Sue - lovely to see you both indeed! And thanks to the rain, we actually had most of the reserve entirely to ourselves, so that was grand too. Birds spotted included a blackcap, pochards, a barnacle goose, godwits, a buzzard (we think ...), a sparrowhawk, redshanks, shovelers, shelduck and a million and one lapwings. At least. A thoroughly good day out.

Which was really greatly needed, as the domestic disasters continue. Last night the electrician came out and switched off some of the neighbour's lights on a more permanent basis so his electrics could dry out. We've donated our dehumidifier to the cause (thank goodness we have one ...) but have also contacted a specialist drying-out company who won't be able to come out until Monday morning. So Lord H and I will have to cover that and fiddle around with who is actually in work when - thankfully my boss is being very sweet about it all, as I thought it was only best to pre-warn him. In the meantime, Lord H has removed the tiles from our bathroom so they can take the floorboards up when they come.

So far so good. However, on our return from the glories of birdwatching tonight, we discover that there is another and quite different leak which is raining down on the poor neighbour's bathroom from another direction. This time, it's the outside supply pipe which is dripping so we've rearranged our kitchen (where it enters the property) and rung yet another emergency plumber. We're hoping they'll get to us tonight as we don't have the ability to stop it ourselves and the poor neighbour is running out of buckets. As indeed are we. We're currently waiting for them to ring back and let us know when they'll be arriving. Sigh. Honestly, I'm beginning to feel quite tearful about it all.

However, on the good side, the lovely Sharon Maria Bidwell has given Maloney's Law a very positive review as below:

"Maloney's Law by Anne Brooke excels on an emotional level, tugging the reader in as many directions as the investigation pushes private investigator Paul Maloney. However, I can't help feeling that the book is ineffectively or insufficiently categorised and may well suffer for it, which would be a pity. The underlying crime is a decent backdrop to the story but not the driving force. The more explosive emotional impact arises from the consequences of obsession, desire and obstinacy. It's a psychological thriller in many ways, but one bearing on the mental journey of the protagonist. I thoroughly enjoyed this as a riveting exploration of the human condition and complexities of all types of relationships, which Anne writes superbly. Perfect. The right amount of pain, the right amount of beauty, with just enough hope thrown in."

Gosh, thanks so much, Sharon - I'm unbelievably glad you liked it and I really appreciate those comments. As ever (and as you know!), my utter confusion about genre and what the heck it is I'm writing sullies the waters, as it were. If only books didn't have to have genres, I'm sure we'd all be better off. Now there's a thought!...

Ooh, and I've just watched Strictly Come Dancing. I'm still in mourning for the wonderful Austin (who should of course have won), but I have to say Lisa and Brendan were definitely the best tonight. I'd be ringing for them if I didn't have to wait for the plumber to ring back. Any ruddy plumber will do - I feel like Noah's arc about to float off into the wild seas of Godalming ... My best wish for Christmas? - a dry flat. Please?...

Today's nice things:

1. Seeing Peter & Sue
2. Birdwatching
3. The Maloney review
4. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - wear Wellington boots and galoshes if you dare enter ...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Birds, poems and more water disasters

Just back late yesterday from an utterly fabulous holiday during which we saw loads of birds, and at least one or two new ones every day, which included: whooper swans, a hen harrier pair; thousands of pink-footed geese on their way home to roost; snow buntings (which were our target bird of the week, and utterly charming); fulmars; goldeneye; eider ducks; bramblings; willow tits; a tawny owl; and - most unexpected and amazing of all - a waxwing. Result!

I've also stocked up on my ongoing supply of meditation poems as below:

Meditation 19

The secret of content
flies from me
like a gull over the water.

The lack of it
is a sea salt ache
to my bones.

Meditation 20

When you search
for what you long for

you will not find it.
It is a rock

you stand on,
the wind at your back,

sometimes calm, sometimes strong
but always invisible.

Trust it.

Meditation 21

A straight path
and an open sky

to the horizon
is what I’m promised

but the road I walk
is lined with trees

and the secret, seductive whispers
of the wood.

Meditation 22

The path lies
through the waters.

Lightning flashes low
over a wild sea

and even the earth

My footsteps are too slight
to be heard.

Meditation 23

the knowledge of taking up
once more

the things I thought
I’d left behind

settles too deeply
on my skin
for prayer to make an impact.

This last one turned out to be more prophetic than originally anticipated, dammit. We arrived back at 8pm last night after a wonderful day's birding in Cambridgeshire (where we saw that waxwing) to a flat with no water of any temperature, no heat and no electricity. The immersion tank had broken after we left and dripped on the noble and long-suffering neighbour downstairs for a few days before it got significantly worse on Wednesday and he had no option but to call the fire brigade to break in and turn our water and electricity off. Which they duly did, understandably enough. Very sweetly, the neighbour then fed us as we had no way of doing so ourselves, thus earning his top-spot entry in the Good Neighbour of the Year Competition for at least the next ten years. Even more amazingly, he didn't add laxative to our soothing supper of spaghetti bolognese and a good red wine (as he thought we would need it), which if I'd been him I would have been sorely tempted to do. Anyway, late last night we managed to turn the lights back on, though we do need an electrician to come out and sort it out once the plumbing is done. If only to check out the water damage to the wires of the poor neighbour.

This morning therefore we had an emergency plumber at 8am (after a long and very cold night, and a very brief kettle wash in the sink!) who drained and cordoned off the immersion tank before turning our cold water back on (though not the hot for the duration, I feel) and sorted the boiler to give us a modicum of heat. Then a further plumber arrived at 11am and he's given us one quote for a new boiler etc and we expect another one this evening for the second quote. In the midst of all that, the portable heaters are going like crazy, we're both wearing jumpers, gloves and fleeces and hoping for a warmer spring. Soon. Also, I've nipped out for my dentist appointment, collected my new glasses from the optician and had a haircut. Lordy but I can pack a lot into a day. And I look pretty damn good for someone on the edge of hyperthermia too. Aha!

Oh and I've also managed to write out my Christmas cards while the emergency plumber was battling with his hose (as it were), so I think I'll start wrapping the presents later this afternoon. Ooh, and there are two lovely deer in the garden right now, so that's something nice in our day. Shame they aren't the huskies with the brandy though. Ah well.

And I've finished David Caldo's wonderful new novel, Florentine Mask. Great stuff - a gripping historical novel that's full of great characters and intelligent twists and turns. I couldn't put it down. Thoroughly recommended - though don't be put off by the totally bizarre cover. It's not a child's fantasy adventure at all - but a very good adult novel!

Today's nice things:

1. Birds
2. Having cold water, light and some heating now - phew!
3. Shiny teeth
4. Coiffed hair
5. Deer
6. Noble neighbours
7. Books.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - watch out for the icicles ...

Friday, December 05, 2008

An unexpected bonus ....

... before my hols is a lovely review (hurrah!) of the ebook version of Thorn in the Flesh on the EreadIndeed review site today.

Gosh, thanks, Jay - so glad you enjoyed it that much, and you're certainly sending me off on my holidays with a smile. Thank you!

Boilers, bad reviews and holidays

Bloody British Gas - what a load of c**p they are indeed. Bloody hell, but they said they'd be here at 6pm last night to talk to us about what they were going to do about our heating problem. Well, we waited. And waited. 6.30pm came. We waited. 7pm came. We waited some more - and were then really hungry as we didn't want to eat until after they'd gone. So Lord H finally rang British Gas and asked when their engineer would be arriving. They ummed and ahhed a lot and then said the appointment had been cancelled. Bloody hell!!! Nobody effing told us. Honestly, I have never been sooooo angry. Or at least not for quite some time. Lord H then asked them to call the engineer to see what he was going to do. The operator said she'd do that and would get the engineer to ring us back as a matter of urgency. No apology was given at all. So we ate, with the trusty portable heaters on and waited for the engineer's call. Um, we waited. And waited. And actually we're still waiting today. The words "no", "chance" and "bloody" spring to mind. Use your own sentence order ...

In the meantime, we've given up on British Gas (AKA Bunch of No-Good Tossers) and have instead rung a local plumbing firm so we can at least have the system power-flushed in an attempt to give us more heat. Of course, being on holiday next week does put the proverbial spanner in my now rapidly diminishing hopes to have warmth over Christmas, but the local plumber says he'll ring us next Friday when we're back and then come round that day. We live in hope. Of a sort. Though I must admit to feeling very depressed (as well as downright furious) about it all. We're just the little guys - they don't give a f**k about us.

On top of that, the mice are back and have now decided to attack the kitchen. Honestly, I know it's stupid but I feel totally powerless in our own flat. Last night, the little buggers managed to destroy my tupperware box of cashews by the simple method of chewing a hole in it. God, but they must have teeth like razors. They also destroyed my seeds collection so that's been chucked now. I've attempted to put everything I possibly can in the fridge, but Lord knows whether my cereals or mince pies will survive the holiday. (Our cupboards don't shut terribly well.) I'm only hoping the wretched beasts don't chew through a cable and set fire to the place while we're away. That's all we'd bloody need. In the meantime, we've put more poison down in the kitchen and this time it's war. I'm taking no prisoners.

Oh, and there are three bad reviews today. Thankfully only two of them are mine. First off is the Maloney's Law review I didn't have the guts to link to when it came through a couple of weeks ago. Well, now I'm beyond caring so it's bad, it's bitter (well, to me) and it's here. And yes it hurts. The way I feel today though she's probably right and I should just give up and stick to being a secretary. I know I'm good at that. Anyway, that review made today's bad review seem like a stroll in the park. You can find this second one over here. Hey ho. At least they seemed to like Paul. Sort of. God, but I'm glad I'm on holiday soon - never mind rolling with the punches. I'd just like them to stop for a while until I can get my breath back. Thank the Lord that my Amazon reviewers seem to like my foolish attempts at a novel - where would I be without them?...

The third bad review is about the book I've just finished, so I can turn my understandable gall upon another luckless author, ho ho. Not that she cares two hoots about me as I'm sure she's laughing all the way to the proverbial, but I do have to say - for what it's worth - that I think even I write better than she does: The Scandal of the Season by Sophie Gee is one of the most boring and badly written novels I've ever read - astonishingly dull. It's a marvel indeed that with such potentially wonderful characters and plot the author still managed to make both storyline and people so very flat and lifeless. That said, Gee appears to wake up when she writes the sex scenes - they're really the only scenes worth reading, though sadly they don't appear very often. I gave up halfway through and just skim-read whilst sighing a lot. It strikes me, in fact, that what we have here is not a novel at all - but a screenplay that can only take on energy when you see it acted. I would advise Gee to explore that route and not to write another novel. Either that or stick to the erotic writing only. Hell, maybe I'll take that advice too. You never know.

God though, but I feel cleansed. I think my Book Bitch points are rising, Carruthers. Good-oh. Anyway, this morning, Marian and I have gone golfing, which was great though we were neither of us very good. It didn't matter - it was fun and it didn't rain, so we were happy. Plus my shoulder didn't twinge at all, even though I used the wood from the tee, so that was a relief.

For the rest of the day, I've been adding more to Hallsfoot's Battle and am now at 64,000 words or so. I'm still on the same scene with Simon and Gelahn, but it's going to be a key one so I just have to roll with it until it ends. C**p writer or no c**p writer. Hell, at least I'm using the alphabet. People should be grateful. If I wasn't writing, I might be out adding to the body count of Godalming, and God alone knows where that might end ...

Tonight, I'll be packing ready for our week's holiday winter birding here and stuffing as many jumpers, fleeces, hats, scarves, thermal underwear and gloves into my case as I can. Oh and mustn't forget the binoculars. God but I need the break, I can tell you.

But before I go, here's this morning's meditation poem:

Meditation 18

From the simple shape
of one golden bull

flowed laughter,
dancing, sex,

song and celebration,
then blood,

disease’s deep release, sweat,
and the lingering smell

of death.
Even so many years on

it clings to me still.

Lordy, how cheery indeed. Anyway, sorry about the bile. It's just how it is. I hope you all have a great week (including me, please God) and I'll catch up with you next weekend.

Today's nice things:

1. Writing more of Hallsfoot
2. Golf
3. Poetry.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - down but not (quite yet) out ...

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Eyes, books and boilers

Had an interesting email (at least in terms of the wider literary scene) from the agent today - who says that apparently publishers are now taking much longer to respond to submissions (even agent submissions) than ever before and that even the New York agents are noticing the change. So it appears that The Gifting is not particularly unusual in having been out for six months with no feedback - as it's now the case that up to a year is rapidly becoming the norm. So, in my case, they probably haven't even got round to opening the envelope yet. Hell, they must be busy and - in this current economic climate - reluctant to open anything at all which might cost money. Hey ho. But at least I am not alone then. And hey I can write another novel in a year - though not a fantasy novel! There's a silver lining to every proverbial, eh ...

Oh, and talking of books, a lovely Goodreads reader has given Maloney's Law a five-star rating, double hurrahs and crack open the champagne! Of such unexpected pleasures is a writer's life made, I can tell you ... Thank you, Shannon.

Other good news today is that the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre have accepted our sponsorship of seats A13 and A14 in the circle (where we almost always sit indeed) for three years, which means that our names will be carved on the back of them, hurrah. So at last I have managed to get my name on a plaque - something I've been longing to do for years! And yes I know that people will be sitting on us (as it were), but it's the best I can do ... So, if you want to know what Lord H's real name is (and no, we don't share the same surname either), you'll have to get yourself down to Guildford and stare at the theatre seats. We will sit on them for the next three years with pride.

Anyway, this morning I've had my regular annual eyetest and - yes, it's finally come upon me, I fear - I'm now of the age where I must wear variefocals. The ultimate in professional glamour, of course. The optician and I were hoping to get away with another year before I'd need them, but my eyes have other ideas, dammit. So I have chosen a suitably glitzy frame (ho ho) and will wait to see what turns up in two weeks - though I suspect that now it won't be till after Christmas. It should at least save me from having to carry round my reading/computer pair and my driving/TV pair together all the time.

This afternoon, I've had my 9th session of physio and things are looking pretty good on that front. I've booked my last appointment the Thursday after my holiday and hopefully that will be it. Helen the physio is a definite miracle worker. In the middle of all this excitement, I've added another 1000 words to Hallsfoot's Battle, which brings me to 63,000 in total. I've got some major ideas for the scenes involving Simon and the mind-executioner too - which will I hope kick all expectations into touch, including mine. We'll see.

I've also finished Fiona Robyn's poetry collection, Small Stones: a Year of Moments. It took me a while to get into it as you do really need to slow down and chill - the collection is a series of short pieces taking you through the months focusing on one particular moment at a time. If you see what I mean. Some of the pieces I thought were stunning and very humane, as well as being utterly perfect in their length - but I do think that others needed to be longer and it was, in their cases, an opportunity missed. Well worth a read though for sure. The woman can certainly write.

Talking of writing, here's this morning's meditation poem:

Meditation 17

a special day

out of the lunacy
of the working week.

Give yourself
what the world refuses you:

time to rest,
time to think,

time to breathe.

Tonight, the gas man is coming (hurrah!) and Lord H & I will look at what boiler and new system options we want to keep us warm through the rest of the winter. Lordy, we just need something that works! And as quickly as possible, dammit.

Today's nice things:

1. New glasses
2. Theatre seats
3. The Gifting maybe not being such a sad case after all ...
4. Maloney's Law five-star Goodreads rating
5. Hallsfoot ideas
6. Books
7. Poetry
8. The possibility of warmth to come.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - perhaps not as hopeless as originally thought ...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Not going out ...

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

Meditation 16

For a man
so much in love with life

he talks a great deal
about death.

Almost as if
it’s the most important thing

of all.

I was planning to go out to London tonight to see the old University girls, but other meetings have come up for us and in any case we’ve decided the weather is too unkind so we’ve postponed it till later this month. Which suits me fine, I have to admit, as London was the last place I wanted to drag myself up to this evening. I am becoming a veritable Couch Potato: at last! – a career that suits me, hurrah.

At work, I am rushing around trying to tidy up loose ends before going on holiday. Plus I might even get that personal tutors’ handbook printed out today. First draft anyway. You never know. Managed to get out at lunchtime for a walk around campus and I also popped into the art gallery. There’s something about gazing at art that’s so incredibly humanising. Not to mention relaxing. As if you’re using colour and paint to get in touch with yourself. Much the same effect as words and drama then. Hmm, I’m waxing very philosophical for the mid-week zone indeed … should I be taking some more tablets to counteract the effect?

Halfway round my walk, I decided to sit by the lake for a while and was instantly surrounded by a battalion of very focused ducks determined to prove I was in possession of something edible. Sadly I was not, but I’ve managed to salvage something from the rout. And at least they left me my clothes …

I’m also trying to get my next physio session booked for tomorrow afternoon – as I was too late last night for their office to be open and they only have my home number. I’ve tried ringing but they’re always engaged, so have resorted to the wonders of email. I live in hope!... UPDATE – I managed it, so have that scheduled in for tomorrow, which is rapidly becoming the potentially busiest day of my week, dammit.

Tonight, I shall be glued to It Takes Two, and then there’s The Devil’s Whore and the glorious Outnumbered. Must also attempt to finish off the ironing– I’ll get to the bottom of that ironing basket if it kills me, you know …

Today’s nice things:

1. Not going out
2. Poetry
3. Thinking about art. And stuff.
4. Mad ducks
5. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - staying in with a mug of cocoa ...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Frost and physio

Lots of frost this morning, dammit – but Lord H was very noble and scraped the ice off my car before he left for work. What a hero. He is now virtually drowning under Husband Points.

Meanwhile here’s this morning’s meditation poem:

Meditation 15

The spices and herbs
escape my memory:

only the salt remains.

Use it
for the difficult healings:

scrape the demons clear.

At work, it remains chilly and we are relying on our supply of portable heaters to keep us going through the day. I have spent most of this staring blankly at the personal tutors’ handbook and attempting to proofread it for the umpteenth time. I’m sure I can now chant vast sections of it from memory – could be a useful skill if the computers go down however. We’ve also had a team meeting, which we spent in Starbucks (hurrah!), so that makes my second decaff cappuccino of the week. Am I getting addicted?...

I worked through my lunch today – which is a blessing really, as it meant I didn’t have to go out and face the winter with serious intent – as my eighth physio appointment was at 5pm. I’ve only got two more left before the cover runs out, so I’m hoping I can use them wisely.

Ooh and this week’s heroes are The Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain (as Ruth saw them again last night and they are truly wonderful), the portable heater from work (my lifesaver) and – of course – Austin Healey (for that scrumptious paso …).

And I've been thinking about words. And the spaces they make:

Where meaning lies

Sometimes it’s not the words
that matter

but the spaces
they carry:

a secret structure
of silence

as delicate as corn,
as strong as memory.

Let your eyes adjust,
see the meaning.

Tonight, it’s Strictly Come Dancing It Takes Two, and then there’s some insider gossip on the Queen’s coronation day, so I absolutely must watch that. Noblesse oblige, as they say.

Today’s nice things:

1. The ice-scraping husband
2. Portable heaters
3. Poetry
4. This week’s heroes
5. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - still hoping for a warm day ...

Monday, December 01, 2008

Surrey drama, feet and Maloney

Much drama in Surrey this morning, Carruthers – the Cathedral is cut off from the outside world due to yesterday’s shooting incident. The word on the ground is it’s not to do with the University (we are of course next door), which is something of a relief in terms of student care issues. But we do wait to hear any latest news with a frisson of anxiety, not to mention unseemly but very human sparks of interest. Meanwhile, I’m taking mental plot notes, naturally … Ooh, and we have policemen in Starbucks, which is rather thrilling too.

Not only that but Ruth from the Chaplaincy (who has had to park on campus today as there’s no room at the proverbial inn, nor any way of getting there …) tells me that a body was found in Godalming churchyard over the weekend. Well, an unburied one anyway. Goodness me, this is indeed the place to be for that essential advent thrill. That is now our third Godalming dead body in just over a month, so we are officially more Midsomer than Midsomer. Whatever next?... The Surrey Advertiser is truly spoilt for choice this week, and will no doubt reuse its now infamous headline: Body Found In Grave ...

Meanwhile, I’m struggling on with changes and proofreading for the personal tutors’ handbook. Bearing in mind recent events, perhaps we need to add in a section on being careful around the Cathedral? And everywhere else, for that matter …

Had a much-needed reflexology session at lunchtime – seems ages since I was last there and it was so relaxing I dozed off several times. Bliss. I’ll have to start thinking about next year’s appointments also. Always good to schedule relaxation sessions into the diary as soon as possible, in my opinion.

Tonight, I’ll pop into see Gladys on the way home, and then it’s another evening of huddling round the portable heater again, waiting for the mice to surface. With our doors firmly locked of course …

And here’s this morning’s meditation poem:

Meditation 14

Take myrrh, cinnamon,
cane and cassia –

smooth them on your hand
and blend them for an ointment

sweet enough
to shield you

when the shadowed cloud

Wait then for the words
you long for.

Ooh and the lovely Ruth and Monique have both said how much they loved Maloney’s Law and they both think it’s my best novel so far. Gosh, that’s good to know – and I’m incredibly grateful for the comments! Not only that, but Carol’s bought a copy as well, so we’ll have to see what she says after she’s read it …

Today’s nice things:

1. Wild Surrey dramas
2. Reflexology
3. Portable heaters
4. Poetry
5. Nice comments about Maloney.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - celebrating Advent in some trepidation ...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Explosive dance, Advent amusements and a big clear-out

Am still reeling from the incredible fabulousness (if that's even a word, or a phrase) of Austin's paso doble on Strictly Come Dancing last night. I was utterly and totally gripped. Until that point, I'd actually been going to vote for Lisa & Brendan (which would have been the first ever time I'd voted for Brendan as usually I can't stand the guy) - but that paso certainly changed my mind! If you missed it last night, here it is on YouTube. Ah, bliss ... Who needs central heating if Austin's around?

This morning, Lord H and I attended the Advent Service at church - I do so love all those great Advent hymns. So much better than the Christmas ones (hush my mouth). However I covered myself with glory (um, not ....) by sitting down in the pew, seeing that the Bishop of Dorking was taking the service today and saying in a stage-whisper to Lord H: "Ooh, look, it's the Bishop. We like him, don't we?" At which point the woman in front of me turned round and gave me a big smile. Yes, you guessed it - it was the Bishop's wife. Good job I didn't say anything negative then ...

Post-church, we have spent a lot of the day throwing out rubbish in our annual winter clean. Spring-cleans are so last century, dahhlings ... It's astonishing the amount of floor space we actually have here after two full car-loads to the tip. Not only that, but we've bought some storage boxes and are busy tidying up what's left as well. What heroes we are indeed. Now we just have to keep it like that. Hmm, could be a challenge.

I've added another 1000 words to Hallsfoot's Battle and this scene is really hotting up now. I have to sort out Annyeke and Johan, not to mention Talus, and try to work out what's happening to Simon and the Mind-Executioner in the Library. And I can't forget poor Ralph, struggling away in the Lammas Lands with those pesky magic Emeralds. Who knows where it will all end indeed?... It's a mystery. As ever, the author is always the last to know anything, dammit.

Tonight, I'll be watching those Strictly Come Dancing results (ah, Austin - swoon ...) and then there's the glorious Kenneth Branagh (who can do no wrong) in the new Wallander series. So I'll be glued to that as well.

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

Meditation 13

The bright fragility
of water

washes only
hands and feet;

leaves untouched
the private shadows

of the heart.

And, last but not least, here's this week's haiku:

The bridge links two worlds.
Counterpoint of night, the moon
ripples the water.

Today's nice things:

1. Austin's paso
2. The Advent service
3. Clearing out the rubbish
4. Hallsfoot
5. Poetry
6. Haikus
7. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - still drooling, mmmm ...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mice, a scary Christmas moment and naked calendars

Shock news of the day - we have mice!! Just what we need for the run-up to Christmas indeed. I got up relatively early this morning and staggered into the living room wearing my customary morning head - where I discovered that parts of the wrapping around my stepfather's Christmas chocolates were lying near the table. Dammit. Interestingly, the mice had carefully unwrapped the chocolate (Ferrero Rocher, if you're wondering - which I don't like but which my stepfather goes mad for ...), torn up the wrapping and then left the chocolate uneaten. Is this due to our electronic mouse deterrent, which may have driven the poor creature mad? It's a mystery ... Being from Essex, a part of me did wonder if I could rescue the wrapping and then put the chocolate back without Jim (stepfather) noticing, but even I cannot be that mean. No, really. Anyway, I've hidden away all the other consumables as much as possible, put down some poison (accompanied of course by evil laughter - well, I am a farmer's daughter so have a heart of steel where animals are concerned ...) and we'll wait and see where the bodies turn up. Mwa-aha-ha ...

Anyway, while Lord H was collecting his new car (which he loves and which I shall be introduced to tomorrow, no doubt), I drove to Aylesford Priory to spend some time with my friend Pauline. We were hoping for a nice quiet lunch and chat - but curses, foiled again! - the Priory have their Christmas Fayre today, dammit. So we were greeted by huge amounts of Christmas tack, milling families, monks desperately selling their CD (please, someone, introduce me quickly to a monastery where they haven't produced a CD and I shall be your friend for life) and a woman crooning out-of-tune carols over the tannoy non-stop. Oh what joy. Christmas? Bah! Humbug ... However, we did at least buy some fudge and have a quick lunch before decamping to the nearest hotel with a Starbucks, hurrah. Where we talked loads and put the world to rights. Bliss - and lovely to see you as ever, Pauline.

Tonight, I shall be surgically attached to the rollercoaster ride of Strictly Come Dancing and then the blessed Boris (may his hair flourish always) is doing some historical programme (which I can't be arsed to get up and check the details of right now) which we're also planning to see. Boris is always worth watching, in my opinion.

And here's today's meditation piece:

Meditation 12

In the heat,
dust, crowd of people,

questions, half-answers,
lies and the constant need

for a price,
the truth leaps

from his tongue
as if it’s been waiting there

for a lifetime
and this is his only chance

to speak it.
The air hangs silent,

waits for the next move.

Oh, and we've bought the marvellous naked Royal Opera House calendar which you can find information about here, although the actual calendar is on sale at the Opera House shop. Proceeds go to Macmillan Cancer Support so it's all in a good cause, so buy early buy often is what I say. And lovely to see a naked calendar suitable for everyone indeed. Bliss!

Today's nice things:

1. Seeing Pauline
2. TV
3. Poetry
4. Naked calendars.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website - thankfully not baring all for the nation ...