Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Muddling through the day

Things seem slightly calmer today, thank goodness. Possibly because I’m simply too tired to respond to difficulties with anything other than a grunt. And, if I’m feeling energetic, maybe even a shrug. Heck, I’m such fun at parties, you know. No, really …

Anyway, I’ve decided to go for the D&C at the hospital next week, so have sent letters to all and sundry, telling them this. Whether this will mean anything to the hospital by the time I turn up remains to be seen, so I’m planning to take all my correspondence with me so I can wave it at them at the due time. I think I’ll also ring up on Thursday when I’m at home, just to make sure – and then, if they do end up taking my leg off, it will most definitely not be my fault.

At work, after the rollercoaster ride of yesterday, everything is strangely subdued. Perhaps the students are either (a) shocked by the amount of work they have to do now the courses have started; (b) still recovering from the excitements of last week; or (c) too tired to speak. Perhaps all three. Really, I have every sympathy – my feelings are much the same.

I was planning on coffee and chat with Sally from Advice at lunchtime today, but unfortunately she’s off sick (get better soon, Sally …) so I walked round campus instead. All very soothing.

Meanwhile, this week’s heroes are: (a) Professor Gerald O’Collins, S.J., who wrote a lovely thank you letter to Chaplaincy Ruth; (b) Claudia Winkleman because I think she's the best thing on TV; and (c) Carol’s friends, Richard and Neil, who have been telling her husband how lovely she is. Which is true of course!

Tonight, I shall pop into see Gladys on the way home and see how the bird table is doing. UPDATE: it's not doing well. A lot of swearing and general nastiness tonight (just what I needed, eh!) so I didn't stay long - the poor old girl was obviously upset to see someone from beyond the four walls of her health prison ... Later it’s the vital catch up with the lovely Claudia and the Strictly Come Dancing gossip and then sleeeeeep. Though I might do some writing or at least stare at Hallsfoot’s Battle for a while, but I’m not confident that any words will come out. Which is in fact my usual state, I suppose.

I’ve finished reading The Sunday Night Book Club, which is a collection of short stories from best-selling (always a suspicious and highly unlikely term …) authors in aid of Breast Cancer Care. A very worthy cause indeed, but my goodness what a motley collection of tales. A large dose of cliché and clunkiness pervades, with particular no-hoper agonising-to-read offerings coming from Santa Montefiore and Lynne Truss. Shame on you, girls. There are a couple of good stories, but they’re wasted here. I’d just give the money directly to the charity if I were you – it’ll save you a couple of hours of your life for sure. I’ve also just finished This Is It – The Art of Happily Going Nowhere by Maurice Fullard Smith – which was an interesting but flimsy take on stillness and meditation. A good outline but really it needed more substance.

Time since The Gifting submission with no response: 4 months, 1 week and 3 days
Time since The Bones of Summer agent submission: 2 days

Today’s nice things:
1. A quieter day
2. Lunchtime walk
3. This week’s heroes
4. TV
5. Sleep.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Monday, September 29, 2008

Mad timetabling and medical rows

Much to my astonishment, I actually managed to get an appointment with the nice doctor at 8.30 this morning, so as I only found out at 8.10am, it was a mad rush to get there. Once again, he was very sweet and helpful, but I’ve been left with even more confusion and decisions to make than I had before. Groan. The upshot is that he's concerned about:

1. The ablation - he doesn't think I need it and says the new consultant does have a rather steamroller approach to stuff, even though she's good. He suggests a coil (which I don't want) or a D&C which is an alternative and less extreme option. To be honest, I really didn't want to have to think about anything the week before the op, but it appears I must. I just feel really upset and confused about it all, particularly as the consultant said the doctors probably wouldn't like it. I'm stuck in the middle of a medical disagreement - not a great place to be. At the moment I'm leaning towards a D&C, if that's the moderate answer, but I suppose I'll need to write yet another letter to the hospital & everyone, plus ring PPP up again. And I suppose I'll have to do it this week if it's going to mean anything. Deep deep sigh.

2. Plus he doesn't think I really need to be on the HRT patches or the Metformin, if I didn't have any real symptoms I was worried about beforehand to justify it (though he's happy with the gel). He's therefore taken those off the repeat prescription info and suggests I use what I have, then come in to see him after I've seen the consultant at the end of next month so we can see how things are. Lordy, but I’m muddled. I shall definitely try to persuade Lord H to go with me to that appointment – maybe all the appointments – as otherwise who the heck knows what will happen. Honestly, it’s all very disheartening, and I am so tired and fed up with it all. I could sleep for a week, I can tell you. Another deeeeep sigh …

In the meantime, work has been hugely busy. Lots of stressed students to deal with today, plus concerned parents, and I’ve spent most of the morning trying to find solutions to complex issues. Though I do sympathise – I hated my Freshers’ Week too (way too much forced fun and forced socialising – it drove me insane …) and didn’t actually make any friends I liked until the second year. The only thing that got me through it at all was how much I loved the academic work. Perhaps that isn’t what I should be telling them though – not at this stage, I fear.

Thank goodness for my lunchtime session of reflexology – I couldn’t have got through the day without it.

I’ve also been playing with the Timetable from Hell. Which is strangely satisfying in a secretarial sad way. We’re giving three sets of 10 minute talks to each department on campus, and I must slot them all in before (a) my brain explodes; and (b) Christmas. Never say we don’t care here in Student Care Services.

And, if I can get all that under control, I’m having to do the shopping after work – Lordy, what a joy today is turning out to be. Not. Thank goodness for Who Do You Think You Are to relax in front of later, hurrah. Now there's a question.

Time since The Gifting Submission: 4 months, 1 week and 2 days
Time since The Bones of Summer Agent Submission: 1 day (though this isn’t entirely fair as he’s not back till Tuesday …)

Today’s nice things:

1. Getting the doctors appointment without too much effort
2. Reflexology
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Digging up the Bones

A nice lie-in and a lazy start to the day today, hurrah - I didn't even surface until nearly 9am. Bliss. Plus Lord H made scrambled eggs with chicken on toast for breakfast, so that's set me up for the morning at least. And I've made a plum and nectarine crumble for lunch, so I have Wife Points too, aha!

And I needed all the energy I could get, as the whole day has been spent editing The Bones of Summer and updating the synopsis. Much to my joy and surprise, the editor hadn't suggested any major changes so most of it was tweaking and tightening up the text. So that was great, as I've done it, read it through for sense, improved the synopsis and then sent the whole bundle off to the agent for his delectation. Or possibly not. This time, bearing in mind that Bones is the sequel to Maloney's Law and won't therefore attract the interest of any mainstream publisher, I've suggested that I would be happy to tackle the small press with it myself, to save him the wasted effort of contacting the big boys. I do think that's the best way forward on this occasion but, for courtesy's sake, I'll see what the reply might be.

I've also struggled - and I mean struggled! - my way through Colm Toibin's The Blackwater Lightship. Groan. Is it just me or is AIDS literature hugely hugely dated now? Call me a mean-spirited bitch if you must (and I won't blame you at all if you do), but I am bored witless by novels about fragile young men wilting around waiting to die while their friends and family hyperventilate around them. Which is basically the storyline. All hugely sad in real life, I know, but dull dull dull in literature. And, for a Booker shortlisted novel, some of the writing was very clunky indeed (though that's par for the course these days, I fear ...). A couple of times - well, more, actually - I found myself laughing when I shouldn't have at the melodrama of it all. Or maybe I just have no soul. Very possibly. Also, I don't know if Mr Toibin has ever met a split family at all - speaking as one who knows, some of the scenes were completely unrealistic and Helen would never ever have confided in Paul at all, let alone as quickly and easily as she does. If I'd been in that situation, I would have called him a no-good interfering fucker (which he is, btw) and told him to leave. (Actually I did that to an old boyfriend once in the middle of a party - everyone was most surprised, but it did get rid of the problem. We all had a great party afterwards ... And I so enjoyed laughing at his attempts to reverse his car - ah happy days). But back to the book - as well as a cliche of a plot, there are no nice or sympathetic characters either. Except possibly Larry who only turns up on Page 123 - and is a breath of the proverbial when he does so. Unfortunately, he's not around enough for the novel to improve. It was a relief when Declan was finally rushed - hopefully for ever - into hospital. Frankly, I wish he'd died sooner - which reminds me of my mother's critique of the film, Titanic: for God's sake, sink, damn you, sink ... As you can tell, I'm going to have such fun discussing it all at the University's book group in October, ho ho.

Anyway, tonight, I have the thrills and spills of the Strictly Come Dancing results programme, and then the pain and misery of Part Three of Tess. Don't tell him, Tess - you can still save yourself!! Damn it, no - the girl just won't listen. If only people paid more attention to me, their lives would be so much happier, you know.

This week's haiku:

Days of mist and ghosts.
The house holds its history
to itself. Brooding.

Writerly Facts:
Time since The Gifting submission to publishers: 4 months, 1 week and 1 day
I get most thrills from writing a novel, but most satisfaction from editing it.

Today's nice things:
1. Cooked breakfast
2. Editing Bones
3. Haikus
4. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bones and birds

Was delighted to receive The Bones of Summer back from my very charming editor Sarah Abel yesterday, so that's something I can start working on tomorrow - thanks so much for your help, Sarah! I was especially pleased that she was very positive about it, saying the following:

"I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your novel. It is apparent that you have crafted it very carefully. Your characters are well-defined and believable ... The plot rolls out confidently and builds gradually, holding the tension ... and your final scenes are extremely atmospheric."

Thank you hugely for that indeed - though I was rather amused by the careful crafting comment. I have to admit much of my plot (plot? I have plot? Goodness me!...) is done on a wing and a prayer, so if it works I'm always amazed. Anyway, with such praise ringing in my ears and spurring me onwards, I'm looking forward to getting my teeth into the edit. After that, of course, I'll start the two-year scrabble for a publisher before someone takes pity on me. I hope. Ah, a writer's life ... Who the hell said it was supposed to be glamorous and fulfilling?!? Whoever it was, have them shot at once, Carruthers.

Today, Lord H and I have spent a lovely day at the Seven Sisters Country Park near Lewes, and what glorious weather we've had for it too. Only wish we'd thought about taking our sun hats - we could well have done with them. Armed with our usual determination and a good pair of binoculars, we've spotted goldfinches, wheatears, a meadow pipit, little egrets, herons, a zillion Canada geese and a hobby. All very satisfying. Plus we had a wander through the very shingly beach at Cuckmere Haven and shared a table with a mad woman at lunch. Well, I think she was mad - though she was also very lovely and perfectly charming, and we had a nice chat while we waited (one hour!!!!) for our baguettes to be grown. She was a New Age therapist and was enthusiastically telling me about her new treatment of a Gong Bath - ie she gets a lot of Tibetan gongs, places them round the client and then plays them so the client is bathed in sound. I had to remember not to look at Lord H while she was telling me this for fear of causing offence - but actually it all sounds rather relaxing to me. Never say never, eh.

Tonight, I will be glued to Strictly Come Dancing and I am determined to vote for Gillian Taylforth. I do so love her - she has a voice and a laugh to die for. Go for it, Gillian!

Writerly Facts:
Time since the submission of The Gifting with no response: 4 months and 1 week
Happiness rating percentage when someone gives me positive feedback on a book: 300%
Despair rating percentage when someone says they don't like a book: 1000%

Today's nice things:

1. Sarah Abel's lovely comments about Bones
2. A day out with birds
3. Tibetan gongs
4. Dancing on TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Friday, September 26, 2008

Of shopping, plays and assorted trivia

Well. I must be the only girl I know who can rush with cries of glee into a hoped-for Glam Shopping Experience (GSE for short) and after two hours come away from the shops with ... um ... a flannelette nightie for going to hospital in. Ah well. It's evident I haven't got the concept of Being A Woman (BAW for short) quite right yet. Not that Guildford helped at all. Yesterday, there was absolutely, entirely nothing in the whole of that fair metropolis that I actually wanted to buy. In fact, 90% of shoes, trousers and tops appear to be only available in brown or black this year. Is it the effect of the Credit Crunch or another Government directive I have missed??... Anyway, the urge is gone now - and as I only get the shopping urge once every decade, you'll have to wait to my mid 50s to see me in pink or green or orange. Which is no doubt a good thing of course.

However, my mood of total despondency yesterday afternoon was much lifted by (a) a great meal at the Riverview Restaurant, which we shall definitely be visiting again, play or no play; and (b) the best, most incredible and richly human play I've seen in a long, long time. Yes, The Drawer Boy (it's "draw-er" like an artist, rather than "drawer" like a table, and yes I should have realised that from the blurb but I didn't, sorry ...) is a real-live tour-de-force and a total pleasure to watch. It's like witnessing the creation of genius before your eyes. This is what the theatre is really about. Every line is perfect and the actors were brilliant - excellent individual performances all round (and that even with one of them being a stand-in at only seven days' notice as the original actor broke his leg last week - yes really) and even better teamwork. Honestly, I can watch a play like that every day and never get tired of it. If The Drawer Boy comes anywhere remotely near your way and even if they're acting it in a shed with no lights, drop everything and sell your body for a ticket. It shines. Great stuff.

Anyway to today. I have been beaten into exhaustion by a wave of tiredness and have only managed 500 words of Hallsfoot's Battle, with little inclination for more. I've also managed to get my medication sorted out, thank the Lord, and now have the right pills in the right dosages. I think. Mind you, the pharmacist said the nasty doctor had still not got one of them written out correctly, but she dispensed it anyway along the lines of the hospital instructions, the sweetie. So at least I have them, phew. However, the pay-back is that I have to make an appointment to see the nice doctor - who was also kind enough to respond to my letter in writing today - just to get some kind of grip as to what's going on, and hopefully before my operation on 9 October. That said, the nice doctor has no more appointments until 13 October when he's off on holiday anyway, so I have to do the irritating "ring up first thing in the morning" palavar and not get anywhere until we all self-destruct or something. How I hate that same day appointment nonsense. It's soooo wearisome and, really, I'd rather book ahead - in an emergency, I'll use the walk-in centre at hospital. Still, I'll start the 8am ringing routine on Monday and see how I get on ...

In the midst of all that, I've nipped into Godalming to stock up on essential items - the local paper, a sandwich, flowers etc - and fitted in a two-hour nap. Which has been bliss, and I feel more normal now, hurrah. Though, with my recent history, I doubt that will last. Tonight, there's the joys of the Strictly Come Dancing gossip, Ugly Betty and QI to look forward to, and I really do have to do some ironing. Sometime.

Ooh, and I've finished the marvellous and very enlightening "Hadrian - Empire and Conflict" by Thorsten Opper. It's the book that goes with the British Museum Hadrian exhibition. A lovely and very worthwhile read, and I can highly recommend it.

Writerly Facts:
Time since The Gifting Submission with no response: 4 months and 6 days.
Number of copies of A Dangerous Man sold since 2007: 145 (though I admit I haven't asked Flame Books for an update since the end of March 2008, as it's too depressing).

Today's nice things:

1. Dinner at the theatre
2. Thinking about the really wonderful play
3. Writing a little more to Hallsfoot
4. Napping
5. TV
6. The Hadrian book.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Of doctors, massages and theatre

Slept like the proverbial last night - at last - and was indeed barely awake whilst waving Lord H goodbye on the school run (as it were). Mind you, I deserved the lie-in as I have at last reached the magic number of 40,000 words of Hallsfoot's Battle so, hell, a day off is mine, all mine, mwa-aha-ha (that's evil laughter, by the way ...).

But what fun I've had with the doctor this morning. I ordered more of the Metformin and the HRT patches last week online and put all the information down on the description box as per the hospital notes. Today, I've collected my prescription and nipped next door to the very lovely pharmacist to get it made up. Which she duly did. At home, I did what I always do (BIG NB: ALWAYS DO THIS YOURSELVES, AND IF YOU IGNORE EVERYTHING ELSE ON THIS BLOG, FOR GOODNESS SAKE DON'T IGNORE THIS), which is to check the new packets with the packets I had before, ie the ones from the hospital. My dears, they were all wrong. I looked at the prescription the doctor had typed out and she'd put down (a) the wrong type of Metformin tablets; and (b) (which was rather worse) she'd quadrupled the dosage of my HRT patches. So instead of Slow Release Metformin, I'd been given the non Slow Release version, and instead of 25 mcg HRT patches, I'd been given 100 mcg. Ye gods indeed. None of this of course was the pharmacist's fault as she'd obeyed exactly what the doctor had typed. So I've rung the pharmacy and talked to the lovely lady there - who was totally shocked, I have to say - and the upshot is that the pharmacist is going to talk to the doctor, get the right information sorted out for me and then I have to go in again tomorrow morning to get the right medicines. Phew! Thank goodness I always restock in advance and I don't need the new packets for tonight, eh? But I'm making damn sure I triple check them tomorrow, I can tell you.

Interestingly, of course, the doctor who wrote out the prescription is the nasty doctor I never go to, and also the one from a while back (if you remember) who said there was nothing wrong with my hormones and I should stop being silly, and from whose appointment I drove home in tears, swearing I would never see her again. To paraphrase a great man the buckles of whose sandals etc etc: to mess up with a patient once is unfortunate, but twice looks rather like carelessness ... Unless of course Nasty Doctor really is in cahoots with Scary Consultant and they're out to get me, by George. Hmm, time for my anti-paranoia pill, I feel - which I would take, but can I be sure it's the right dose??

Anyway, this afternoon, I'm buggering off into town and looking at things for me. Ye gods, yes, I'm going to bloody well do some shopping. I might even get some shoes. I feel the urge, strangely. Must be my hormones, Carruthers ... And I also have my glorious Clarins facial and massage booked with Thirza, so am hugely looking forward to that. As my massage won't finish till 5pm, I've arranged to meet Lord H in Guildford rather than go home and rush back out again, so we're eating at the Riverview Restaurant at the theatre and then we're off to see the award-winning The Drawer Boy at the Mill Studio. Fabulous. I can't wait.

Time since The Gifting submission: 4 months and 5 days
Amount of royalties I've received for the award-winning A Dangerous Man since 2007: £0 (I have to get more than £100 in royalties before the publisher pays me and I haven't done that yet. It's unlikely now I ever will. Really, sometimes I'm amazed I have the chutzpah to carry on writing at all, you know)

Today's nice things:

1. The pharmacist's reaction to my news
2. Shopping
3. Massage
4. Dinner out with Lord H
5. Theatre.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Slightly Less Frazzled of Godalming Day Three

Not quite so much rushing around today, as there’s no Student Care Services stall to worry about, thank goodness. Mind you, I think it went very well, and everyone seems to be very enthused about it and the big presentation it was linked with. I’m hoping we’ll be able to do the same again next year, but I imagine it depends on budgets. As ever.

So this morning, I’ve been sorting the talks out for next week – as even though the big first week is over then, we still have individual talks to do. Thankfully, I’m not doing them though – I’m just arranging the dates and equipment. I don’t have to appear in public, thank the Lord. That would be enough to terrify all the unsuspecting students away.

Ooh, and the Chaplaincy have just received a bundle of very arty posters which are quite charming and we all love them. There’s a whole variety and they go by titles such as “Stillness” and “Listening”, which are very soothing indeed. Though we are rather amused by the ones called “Overwhelmed” and “Agonised Pleading”. In the middle of Freshers’ Week, we already know what that feels like. Maybe we’ll stick to the soothing options and hide the rest. Probably a good plan. On the other hand, I have a sneaking suspicion that “Overwhelmed” might well be my word and my poster – I am strangely drawn to it, Carruthers. In fact, I’m so taken by the whole idea that here’s the site where you can admire them for yourself. I think they’re great.

At lunchtime, I managed to have my first lunch hour of the week (hurrah!) so walked round the campus and looked at the new art exhibition. At the moment they’re showing paintings by Mike Francis, who’s very photographic in his style. I enjoyed them, particularly the marvellous Beachcombers, where the sky and sea are huge and such a calming colour. Just what I needed. I also admired the ducks. Who, incidentally, seem to be performing a series of duck tricks today. This morning they were all lined up along the grass in perfect formation like a receiving line as I walked to the office, so who knows what they’ll get up to this afternoon while the Freshers’ Fayre is on. Which I’m glad I’m not doing anything for this year, as I don’t think I could summon up the energy. The last two days have wiped away any abilities I ever had (doesn’t take much, does it …) – in fact yesterday I was so spaced out with it all, I had trouble forming words and when Carol asked me where I was off to next in my wild rush, I couldn’t actually get the sentence out to explain it to her. I knew what it should be but couldn’t push it past my teeth. The curse of the family stammer, you know – when I’m excited or stressed or simply exhausted, the ability to speak disappears entirely or simple words become great mountains to conquer and I have to resort to saying something entirely different, or just silence, dammit. Though maybe that’s a good thing for the rest of the world indeed …

Here’s a poem about it:

A sentence is a mountain,
its crags and sharp pebbles
catch my tongue,
twist it to silence.

The thing I want to say
is not the thing
I can say.

I hold the words
in my mouth
but their shapes are out of joint,

Best swallow the thought away,
learn not to speak at all.

And all the time, I’m feeling so darn tired anyway that I can barely move, let alone speak.

Tonight, I shall pop into see Gladys in the certain knowledge that if she doesn’t make much sense, then heck neither will I. We’re a perfect match. And I have the delights of It Takes Two and Lost in Austen to look forward to. I will have to video Who Do You Think You Are and save it for another time. I’m also now at c 39,600 words of Hallsfoot’s Battle so only 400 words to go to reach my September target. Lordy, but I am indeed an obsessive crazed writer. A fact you already knew, I’m sure. At the moment, I’m having trouble working out what the heck the snow-raven is doing and how much he knows, though the scene with Simon and Annyeke, and possibly Johan later, is shaping up nicely. So far. I really must get back to Ralph and the mind-executioner at some stage as well – they’ve been waiting a while and I can’t have them getting bored. Who knows what they’ll do then.

Ooh, and it looks like some kind person has bought a copy of Maloney’s Law at Amazon.com as my rating has suddenly shot up and the stats tell me that 73% of people viewing my book there actually bought it, rather than 70%. Well gosh. Whoever you are, Kind Person, thank you a million times – and I hope you enjoy the story. If you do, please tell 10 of your friends; if you don’t, please tell me and I’ll try to improve for next time …

Amount of time The Gifting has been out with no response: 4 months and 4 days
Number of Pink Champagne and Apple Juice copies sold since June 2006: 131
Expected sales of a self-published book in the first year: 200. Sigh …
Average review rating of all my available books: 4 to 5 stars (out of 5)

Today’s nice things:

1. A quieter day
2. Chaplaincy posters
3. Art
4. Ducks
5. Poetry
6. Selling a copy of Maloney’s Law.
7. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Frazzled of Godalming Day Two

Here we are again. Day Two of Freshers’ Week. I got in early – though not as early as yesterday – and set our table up. Thank goodness no-one had taken anything overnight so I actually had stuff to put on the table. Even the tablecloth was still there – well, gosh. This year’s intake is very kind indeed. It wasn’t such a wild rush as yesterday either – so far, anyway. The queries were steady but not overwhelming.

Due to various staffing issues, I fiddled around with the rota and was on duty from 11am till 2pm, so lunch was a distinctly movable feast. Or not much of a feast really. I also managed to squeeze in to see one of the presentations myself – it’s fabulous. Really zappy and gives the students everything they need in a funny way. Plus the nice-to-look-at presenter too – mmm. Just what I need to round the care services table staffing extravaganza off nicely, hurrah.

Oh, and this week’s heroes are: The Presentation Man (for reasons outlined above and yesterday), the Student Care Team (because we're wonderful), and the Induction Week Organisers (because they're great too). Well done to us!

Tonight, Lord H is off to Aldershot to see Annie Get Your Gun, as one of his colleagues is in it – but I couldn’t face it so I’m crying off. I’m peopled out, you see. Well, I was peopled out by 9.30am yesterday, to be honest, and am already in injury time now. Neither am I sure how much Lord H will enjoy the show – but I admire his loyalty. However, if he does come home slapping his thigh and yelling yeee-ha, I shall check the drugs cabinet at once.

So I’ll watch Strictly Come Dancing It Takes Two instead, and my video of Stephen Fry’s programme on the Gutenberg Press. I think I’ve given up on Mutual Friends – it was way too depressing last week, and I can’t take another dose of that. I have enough worry of my own. Hell, I might even try to write something – who knows … If I can summon up the energy, that is.

Time since The Gifting submission with no response: 4 months and 3 days.
Number of times I submitted Pink Champagne and Apple Juice before giving up and going the Goldenford route: 22

Today’s nice things:

1. A quieter day than yesterday
2. The fun presentation
3. TV
4. Writing.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Monday, September 22, 2008

Frazzled of Godalming: Day One

First day of Freshers’ Week – say no more. Just wish I’d managed more sleep last night, but it was not too be – sinus troubles kept me awake and I now have a cold, dammit. Still, I got to work at about 8am and then didn’t stop rushing about like a demented gazelle (but not quite as nimble) until the finale. It’s madness out there, Carruthers … Though what a lovely bunch of first years – all totally charming and so far they’re laughing at my countless mistakes, thank goodness. I hope they’re as generous tomorrow. Because, as usual, I’m winging it. I do rather like our “Here to Help You” sashes though, sadly – slung over the shoulder, it makes us feel quite the thing, m’dears. Ho ho.

People are also enjoying the new style presentations, acted out by an external company this year. All very now, of course. And the speaker’s quite hot too, mmm … Nice tattoos. I was quite overcome when I caught a glimpse. A statement which surely shows my mid-40s status more than any other.

Plus in my moments back at the desk I am struggling with an urgent complicated timetabling job that the boss wants done this week. I don’t have any real idea what exactly is needed and at the moment he’s too busy to ask, dammit. I’m hoping we can sort it out tomorrow, but I’m doing the best I can. For what it’s worth. UPDATE: I think I've had a reasonable attempt and even sent out some emails about it (good Lord!), but let's see what tomorrow brings as to whether it's right or not ...

Tonight I am collapsing like a squeezed-out sponge in front of the TV. I don’t give a damn what’s on – I’ll watch anything, frankly. Oh, but I must watch Strictly Come Dancing It Takes Two - I do love that Claudia.

And we do it all over again tomorrow, hurrah …

Time since The Gifting Submission: 4 months and 2 days
Number of times A Dangerous Man was rejected before Flame Books took pity on me: c50.

Today’s nice things:
1. Nice freshers
2. Hot presentation speakers
3. Surviving the day
4. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A slow day, some Hallsfoot inspiration and poetic measures

A lovely lazy lie-in today, hurrah. And I have not done anything too strenuous. Not that I ever do, really. But I thought I ought to say it. After all, I need to conserve my energy for the existential horrors of the week ahead, AKA Freshers' Week or The Week Of Hell. As I have termed it on the kitchen calendar.

Lord H also wins Husband of the Week competition (as always, naturally ...) by rustling up a cooked breakfast, consisting of scrambled eggs, ham, mushrooms and tomato (for me - he hates tomato) on toast, that was at least a zillion times better than my poor attempts of last week. It was seriously scrummy and if I hadn't married him already, then I definitely would now. Ah, I've always known who the real chef in the household was ...

Buoyed up by breakfast, I have bravely faced the traumas of Hallsfoot's Battle and - bloody hell and put out the bunting! - even enjoyed it. Plus I had ideas and things to say. Bloody hell twice. Obviously, my writing enthusiasm is much enhanced by a good hot breakfast - makes mental note to remember that next time I'm stymied. I'm at just over 39,200 words now, so have that big 4-0 in my sights, aha. For today, I've quit while I'm ahead though - I want to come back to it, feeling hopeful rather than battered.

Lord H and I have also watched the first of last night's Medieval videos - The Medieval Mind. It was great - really gripping and I'm looking forward to the next one already. And, talking of TV, Strictly Come Dancing last night was also great. I voted for Austin - his waltz was magical and romantic and whisked me away, which is just what the waltz should do. Mind you, I was glad to see that John Sargeant didn't do too badly either - bloody good for him - a clean and moving performance. Not sure if poor Gary Rhodes will last the course however ...

Anyway, I've written a poem, which seems as if it's the first in a while, but may not be. I'm not sure. It's untitled. Titles are sooo last century, you know.

Measure the hours
like a poem;
steady each one
as you walk.

Savour the day’s jewelled metronome
and let the night fall

when it chooses.

Later I'm planning a nap. Well I don't want to overstrain myself - a novel chunk and a poem in one day is beyond the call of duty really. Tonight, there's the results programme for Strictly - though how I wish they wouldn't divide them up like this. It's such a bore and I do soooooo hate the irritation of the dance-off. Groan. Still, being an addict, I'll watch it, of course. And then there's poor Tess - don't tell him, Tess!! It's not worth it! Does she ever listen? No, no and no. Sigh.

This week's haiku:

I turn to winter
and mark the path with silence.
The wild gulls fly free.

Today's nice things:

1. Breakfast
2. Getting excited by Hallsfoot
3. Poetry, twice
4. Napping
5. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hadrian city, UK

Lord H and I have spent a wonderful day up in London visiting The British Museum and enjoying the wonderful and sparky Hadrian exhibition. Definitely worth a visit if you're in the area, but do book a ticket. However, both Lord H and I are now worried about our ear lobes - as we have the same diagonal mark on them that Hadrian had, which is apparently a sign of heart disease. Oh goody, another medical worry - just what we need, eh!... Anyway, I'm actually halfway through the exhibition book, as Lord H kindly bought it for me a couple of weeks ago, but I also bought the gift-book small version while I was there. Finished that on the train. I do love Hadrian. As you can tell. What an interesting chap and of course so wonderful Greek in his ideas. In oh so many ways.

Whilst at the Museum, we also paid our respects to Cromwell's death mask, admired the Elgin (sorry - Parthenon now ...) Marbles, gasped at the mummies, and wandered round the Living and Dying exhibition, and also the Japanese galleries. All great fun. I was particularly taken with the vast shawl of pills (which is really the only way to describe it) in the Living and Dying section, which told us that each person is on average prescribed about 14,000 pills in a lifetime. Goodness, it's amazing we survive at all really - though Lord H did remind me that I'm taking his ration too, so it saves him the effort. Dammit, he's probably right - shake me and I'll rattle.

Strangely, on this Hadrian-obsessed day, I've finished Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian. Some fascinating facts for sure, but I don't really think it works as a novel. It's too constrained by the amount of its research to have any life of its own. Which is a shame, as it could have been brilliant. But it's not. Plus, it's very, very French - they do have a particular style of writing in a philosophical bent which I don't think any other nation does (though feel free to prove me wrong!). Perhaps it would be better in the original French indeed? The poetry would come out more then. Anyway, it's an interesting lesson of how you can get so consumed by your novelistic research that you are totally unable to write the book. That's my opinion at least.

Tonight, I'm getting my glad rags on for Strictly Come Dancing, and I'm videoing the plethora of Medieval programmes there also appear to be on. I'm a sucker for anything Medieval really.

Time since The Gifting submission: 4 months

Today's nice things:

1. The Hadrian exhibition
2. Seeing Cromwell's death mask
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Friday, September 19, 2008

Golf, haircuts and yet more hospital fun

Had a great time on the golf course today - amazing to see the summer at last. Mind you, I went out fully equipped in jumper, woolly hat, gloves and coat, and spent most of the time gradually stripping off. To a reasonable level, of course ... Not that there was anyone to see if I had gone rather more insane than usual as the course was virtually bare. Ho ho. All very odd anyway, but Marian and I appreciated being almost the only ones there. And I soooooo nearly got a birdie on the 9th. Honestly. I was only this much away from the hole. See? Still, I had to make do with a par. Oh how sad. I shall have to trade off the memory though as, what with Marian now being on a long holiday, we won't be able to play again for ages. Sigh.

Back home, I was just in time for the hairdresser, so now have a haircut that makes me appear normal. We're growing it long, you know. Soon I will look soft and feminine and elegant. Hmm, don't wait up then is my advice.

And I've spent a large part of the rest of the day ringing up clinics and booking myself in privately for my upcoming operations. Well, I'm covered via Lord H (neither the University nor my royalty penny stretching to such luxury, of course ...) so why not, eh? So, I've rung up PPP, then I've rung up the NHS hospital, then I've rung up the Clinic. Then I've rung up the Clinic again just to chase them, and have booked D Day as 9 -10 October in the very lovely Mount Alvernia Hospital. I then rang PPP again to let them know, plus the NHS hospital to cancel my place on their waiting list. I then sat down and completed the claim form which PPP kindly emailed to me, and on Monday - if I get a chance at the onset of Freshers' Week, groan - I shall copy it and send it over to the consultant at the Clinic - as she also works there as well as at the hospital, apparently. And then all I have to do is wait till the 9th, when she will no doubt take her revenge for my daring to answer back by taking my fingers off while she's fiddling around on the rest of me, sigh ... Oh, and I've cancelled the dinner with friends we'd scheduled for here on the 10th, as I suspect I won't be up to anything much more than groaning at the point. I'll have to reschedule later.

After that, I've had a well-earned nap. Which I desperately needed as I only got about 4 hours sleep last night as I was too busy worrying about all the crap and hyperventilating. As you do. At least I feel more in control today and am hoping for slightly more sleep tonight. Please God. Thank goodness for the joys of Ugly Betty and QI on TV though - can't wait.

Number of days since The Gifting submission: 3 months, 4 weeks, 2 days.
Bonus fact: Number of times I've actually met my agent in the 3 years I've been with him: None.
My consequent status as Viable Commercial Author: Low to negligible.

Today's nice things:

1. Golf
2. Haircut
3. Getting an operation date
4. Napping
5. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Getting to grips with the novel, a satisfying critique and hospital miscommunication

Have spent some of today attempting to get more to grip with Hallsfoot's Battle. Much to my relief, I've finally finished the scene with Johan's battle preparations that was giving me so much trauma. Thank the Lord. I think part of the problem for me is that the battle training scenes bring in a fresh supply of new characters as they can't all just be faceless Gathandrians - I have to give some of them a personality and a voice, otherwise the whole scene is dead in the water before it even sets sail. And to me, too many characters can be overwhelming - much as in my own life, I find it sooooo hard to deal with more than four or five people at once. Most of my novels have a very narrow stage with only a few people able to stand on it - that's how I work best and where I'm happiest. Even in The Gifting (of which more later), the character numbers aren't huge as most of that novel is a journey from one place to the other. Now in the second of the trilogy (trilogy - God help me!), they're staying in one place - and, worse, of necessity the novel is set in two countries - so the character numbers have to mount. Doubly. Help! All this makes me feel rather out of control and is giving me the heeby-jeebies, which is thus causing me to view Hallsfoot as a great, unwieldy solid mass of stone tumbling down on me from a great height. And I'm unable to jump out of the way. Lordy, what an exciting hobby writing is, eh ... Still, at least it's a chance to learn new ways of writing. Ho ho. Anyway, I'm now scraping in at 38,000 words and I've put some titles for additional scenes in the few blank pages ahead of where I'm at, so there's hope, Carruthers, hope. Possibly.

I was also hugely thrilled (if you can be hugely thrilled - you're probably either thrilled or you're not, really) by one item of today's post, which contained a very satisfying critique of my short story, "Connections", from the Winchester Writers' Conference. This meant such a lot as, originally, when I took the story to my former writers' group, they disliked it so much that when I'd finished reading it out, there was a terrible, terrible silence in which I felt utterly crushed. The silence was so long and so terrible that I was forced to break it myself and apologise for the tone and subject matter of the story. Dammit. Which brings me to the subject of writers' group etiquette: please, please, please, people - if you're ever giving verbal critique in a public setting, never let a silence of more than two seconds go by after the author has finished reading out. It's soul-destroying. When I was a member of the group, I always tried to say something positive once the reader had stopped, even if I hated the piece with my whole heart. It just breaks that terrible tension. Mind you - good comes out of bad, they say - and at least that experience confirmed my decision to leave the group and not to look for a replacement. Not that I'm saying that writers' groups are a bad idea - they're just not helpful for me, I think. I get my writing kicked more effectively into shape via online groups and professional criticism.

Anyway, here's the critique of the story:

"A very 'cool' and well-controlled account of a sexual encounter. I felt the extremely clear, focused and steady nature of the prose reinforced the slightly detached, almost meditative quality of the woman's retelling. This slightly distanced and objective feel adds considerably to the power of the story; the reader has the sense that the energies flowing through this encounter are part of the wider lives of these two people. The writer manages somehow to convey a strong sense that this encounter - in its urgency and inevitability - is part of a wider rhythm, a bigger picture. To make the reader look beyond this immediate scene into a wider context is a rare achievement."

Thank you, Mr/Mrs/Ms Adjudicator - that means a lot. Even though it wasn't placed in the competition (you can't win 'em all, you know!), it means a huge amount. Thank you.

However, in any day, there's good and bad, double dammit. I had a letter from the hospital today, which told me that as well as the laparoscopy and the ablation (thanks for all the notes about my appalling spelling, people, btw! - though I have to say I still prefer oblation ...!), the scary consultant also thinks I ought to have a hysteroscopy as well. Ye gods, at this rate, I shall be tied up with operations between now and Christmas. If I have any bits at all left by 2009, it will be a bloody miracle (buy my books now while I still have fingers to sign them with, hint hint ...!). I was also rather pissed off by the huge numbers of inaccuracies in the letter (which has also gone to my GP) so I sat down and typed out a two-sided reply correcting them all. Which I have posted to the hospital consultant, the Surrey Park Clinic consultant and to my GP. Honestly, I fear the scary hospital consultant didn't really listen to a word I was saying during that appointment (not that I was able to say very much at all, as there wasn't much space left for replies ...). Deep deep sigh ... Well, this time, I'm not bloody taking it lying down (as it were - though I suspect once they've got their instruments poking round in my essentials I will be lying down - and possibly regretting that letter too), and I want them to know my side of it. Plus I want my medical notes to be as near to the truth as possible, rather than a web of fanciful fiction. It would be nice to get a reply of some kind, and it would be nice to feel listened to in the middle of all this, but my family have in the past had horrendous dealings with the medical profession (after all it took years for them to work out that my father had diabetes - diagnosed at last by a locum on a week's holiday cover by the simple measure of sniffing the breath - and by then the poor bloke was all but dead anyway), so I'm not holding out much hope. Though, unlike my poor father, I have every intention of being alive after the doctors have had their way ...


Anyway, after all that, I've had a much-needed nap. Bliss. Tonight, I might look at Hallsfoot a little more, and then there's Mock the Week and 8 out of 10 Cats on TV, hurrah. Talking of which, I am loving Lost in Austen, which I watched last night. Elliot Cowan is the best Mr Darcy I've seen. Hot stuff and sharp, focused characterisation - well done, sir! That first almost-kissing scene was far sexier than Colin F's wet shirt moment, and indeed better than Elliot's wet shirt moment. Here's a picture of the man, just to cheer us all up:

And here's a picture below of the man in character as Mr Darcy. Also cheery!

Ooh, and I've decided to make a daily total of the time spent waiting for The Gifting to get a reaction. Today I'll add in a few extra facts about the process of being a writer that you may not have realised - just for the fun of it, eh!:

Time since The Gifting submission to publishers: 3 months, 4 weeks and 1 day.
Number of responses: 0 out of 11
Number of times publishers have been reminded by agent: 1
Number of times author has been in tears about the process: 5
Number of times author has felt like crying: c20, but it's hard to be accurate here. It might be more - probably is, really.
Number of times author has felt remotely hopeful: 2.

Ah well, we struggle on in the silence, eh ...

Today's nice things:

1. Writing some of Hallsfoot
2. The story critique
3. Cowan's version of Mr D
4. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tea habits, Star Trek, chat and visiting

Lord H was hugely pleased today at the discovery that three cups of tea a day is good for you, as advised on the BBC news site. I suggested it would be a good idea to up our intake then as we hardly drink tea at all. Ah, innocent wife! Lord H casually replied that he drank loads of tea at work anyway, so it wasn’t a problem. I think he was about to go on with some other remark but I was staring at him with such stunned surprise that he was forced into silence. In all the years I’ve known him, and in fifteen years of marriage, I’ve never realised he drank tea at any other time than on holiday. Aha, the truth is coming out now - obviously I just don’t understand him, you know …

Well, I am now enlightened and will have to add tea to my shopping list at the next available opportunity. However, Lord H says he doesn’t drink tea at home, as it’s for work. And holidays. Um, obviously. Marriage: the last great mystery indeed. The whole revelation and the fun we’ve had with it reminded us both of the episode in Star Trek TNG where Keiko O’Brien is mourning her supposedly dead husband, Miles, and watching DVD clips of his last few moments before he vanishes. She only realises the clips have been tampered with by evil aliens when she sees him drinking a cup of coffee even though he’s on duty after 7pm. Being his wife, she is convinced he never drinks coffee after 5pm as it keeps him awake at night so, on her say-so, the ship rushes back to where Miles was taken and eventually finds him alive and well, hurrah! The joke is that in the episode’s conclusion, we see Miles enjoying a well-earned coffee last thing at night and saying he always has a cup during his last half-hour of duty – under Keiko’s astonished gaze. So, if Lord H ever gets snatched by evil aliens, that may well be my way of foiling their evil plans, aha. Mind you, as I have now discovered the fifteen-year tea drinking secret in advance of such an event, the jury’s still out on whether I’ll rush to his rescue or not …

Anyway, today I’ve taken the afternoon off as time in lieu for my recent Saturday working. On my way home, I popped in to see Jane H to pick up some Nutrimetics products (I do love their soothing facial mask – it’s bliss) and have … um … a cup of tea. Well I have some catching-up to do after all. And lovely to see you, Jane. I then popped into see Gladys and restock her birdseed. She was drinking tea as well – so it appears the aliens have got everyone I know already. Hell, I may actually be the only person left to save the universe – Lord help it. Am I up to the task?...

While I ponder on how to save the universe, and inspired by Sharon, I’ve decided to look at another later section of Hallsfoot’s Battle so I have more of an idea as to what I'm aiming for. It's a plan anyway. Funny how books are all different, dammit. Like children. I imagine. And thanks for the tips, Sharon – very much appreciated.

Tonight I shall be glued to Lost in Austen on TV, but will have to video Who Do You Think You Are? David Suchet’s such a charmer – I can’t miss him.

Today’s nice things:

1. The amusement of tea and Star Trek
2. An afternoon off
3. Tea – again! – with Jane H
4. Doing something different with Hallsfoot.
5. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Minutes, heroes and the writing game

Managed to get the first draft of the minutes from yesterday’s meeting done this morning, so I am obviously cooking on gas in one aspect of life at least. Hurrah. Only wish the same could be said of my writing, which is rather fading into obscurity at the moment. If only I could drum up some enthusiasm from somewhere for the novel, eh, but I simply can’t. Ah well.

Still, at least we have this week’s heroes sorted in the office: they are (a) Bruce Parry, as Andrea likes him; (b) Carol’s husband for taking such a fabulous photo of a bridge built by; (c) Isambard Kingdom Brunel, whose bridges rock (according to the Dean); and (d) the new Chaplaincy flat and toilet, which are both wonderful and no-one dare use for fear of taking off the shine. As it were.

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to sort out the furniture for next week’s Freshers’ SCS stall. I couldn’t find where it was supposed to have been stored, so sent various panicky emails out, hoping someone would enlighten me. Best to find out now before I arrive first thing on Monday morning and have nothing to sit on or set up on. Sigh. UPDATE: Apparently, all we need is stored in the post room which is called the store room and which isn’t the one they direct you to even though it’s the one they use for post. Aha – that’s why I couldn’t find it then!... Problem solved.

At lunchtime, I chaired the University Writers’ Group in its new venue – nice to get back together after the summer break and catch up with what’s been going on. And I made them play a quite challenging game and got some great writing out of it too, hurrah! I’ve even given it to them for homework (cue evil laughter …). Oh, that means I’ve got to do it too. Dammit.

This afternoon, I squeezed in time to have a Starbuck decaff cappuccino – ah bliss – and tonight I’m paying my respects to Mr Tesco after work, groan. From the sublime to the proverbial indeed. At least there’s the next episode of Mutual Friends on TV later.

Oh, and I’ve managed a rather strange piece of flash fiction, my first in a long time, I think. So I can do some writing then, even if not the novel ...

Woman on Top

Angelina knew that Brad hadn’t expected to have to climb up Beachy Head in the middle of the stormiest day of the year. Purely in order to gain her affections. But she always liked to offer her potential menfolk a challenge – it was what all the magazines told her to do.
Right now, she was inspecting her French manicure – freshly painted today – and trying to ignore the grunts, groans and muffled shrieks coming from the cliff. She assumed it was Brad. It must be. There wasn’t anyone else vying for her attention at the moment, so no reason for anyone apart from her intended to be there. Was there?
Surreptitiously, she flipped open her mobile, trying to keep both it and herself dry in the torrential rain, and pressed the familiar code for her best friend.
Georgina answered at once. ‘Has he proposed yet, darling?’
‘No, don’t be stupid,’ Angelina shouted back, hoping she could be heard at the other end, but not by her clifftop Casanova. ‘He’s still climbing. Mind you, if I don’t see any action soon, I’ll ring the Coastguard. I don’t want to seem unreasonable.’
‘Darling, you never do. Good luck.’
And, with that, Georgina disconnected the call. Angelina grimaced. She knew Georgina wasn’t really a girly chat kind of person, but even so she’d hoped for rather more. She had nothing else to do now on the top of this god-forsaken cliff apart from wait for Brad. She was already fed up with admiring the odd gull brave enough to venture into the wind or watching people fleeing down the path to safety.
With a sigh, she stepped a little closer to the cliff-edge.
‘Brad? Are you there?’ she yelled. ‘I’m getting cold up here – can’t you hurry it up?’
No answer. Damn it.
Crouching down and clutching her Armani scarf so the wind didn’t catch it, she crept nearer still to danger and shouted again. ‘Brad?’
The response wasn’t what she expected. Instead of seeing her handsome hero ready to plight his troth, a distinctly female arm reached out from the cliff and grabbed her scarf, pulling her towards the wild sea. A moment later, and a sharp push from behind sent the unfortunate Angelina hurtling over the edge and down to the unforgiving rocks below. Her screams were whipped away by the wind.
A few moments later, and the taciturn Georgina was being pulled to safety by the treacherous Brad.
‘Thank God you’re safe,’ he breathed in her ear as he held her at last in his arms.
‘Of course I am,’ she snorted. ‘Around here there’s only room for one woman on top.’


And I've finished Christopher Hill's biography of Cromwell, "God's Englishman". Very interesting stuff, though more political than I'd anticipated. It sets the man nicely in his age and setting, so a very useful book. I still prefer the more personal approach of Antonia Fraser's biography though.

Today’s nice things:

1. Getting draft one of the minutes done
2. This week’s heroes
3. University Writers
4. Starbucks coffee
5. TV
6. Flash fiction
7. Cromwell.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Monday, September 15, 2008

Meetings, hospitals and book groups

A sharp autumnal day today. I really needed my hat and fingerless gloves, in spite of the sun’s deceiving brightness. Though actually I do rather enjoy autumn. Indeed the season has most definitely turned towards winter, so the bad news is cold weather, but the good news is no more nasty insects, hurrah. Not that there have been that many of the latter this year, a miracle for which I am truly grateful.

This morning I have caught up with the last-minute panics about Freshers’ Week, and am still trying to thrash some of them out. Double dammit. I do like to feel in control at this stage (a false illusion, but a nice one), and this year I really don’t. I also had a phone call from the hospital admissions department asking me if I wanted to be transferred from the consultant I saw about my operation as she’s not free till next March to actually do anything. Um, yes please. I really can’t wait till the spring, dammit. So I said I didn’t mind who did the operation as long as they were (a) alive, and (b) sober, and am now awaiting their response. Mind you, once they’ve seen the extent of my notes, I guess it’s whoever draws the short straw, poor them …

I also nipped over to the new English department to see where I’m supposed to be taking the University Writers’ Group tomorrow, as it’s all change in the new regime of course. I hope I can keep up with the pace. And gosh, that room’s not easy to find. Lovely though it is. I got completely lost in several different buildings, but got there in the end, with the aid of a compass and some very sturdy boots. I have sent directions to the gang, in the hope that some writers at least might turn up tomorrow.

This lunchtime, I took the minutes for the Steering Group and attempted to look (a) like a professional, and (b) as if I knew what I was doing. Neither of which are true, of course. We all tried to gaze with calmness and logic (ho ho) at Freshers’ Week, but really it’s impossible to know what it will be like until it’s here. Every year is different. We’d probably get more sense out of interpreting animal entrails and the flight of birds. Hmm, there’s an idea for next year’s preparation anyway …

Mind you, I was really pleased when the Health Centre doctor said how much she’d loved Maloney’s Law, which she took on holiday with her, and she was very much looking forward to my next one. I just have to persuade a publisher – any publisher! – to take it, eh. But so nice to have good feedback – thank you, Vicky.

This afternoon, I attempted to write up the minutes and keep my head down. Much the best approach really. Tonight, I’m planning to go to the University Book Group and discuss Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Heck, I’ve even remembered to bring my copy with me. Mind you, it will be a desperate wrench not to be able to flee screaming to the hills at 5.30pm from the office and (shock! horror!) to have to stay on campus till 6.30pm/7pm-ish, but I’ll do my best to survive … I soooo desperately long to be home. UPDATE: it was fabulous. I really really enjoyed it - lovely to be able to discuss books with such a great bunch of people. And with no pressure on me. Double hurrahs. Am already looking forward to the next one.

And I can relax in front of New Tricks on TV this evening once I’m back at base – bliss.

Today’s nice things:

1. True autumnal weather
2. Good reactions to Maloney
3. Book Group
4. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Brunch, art and battle training

A lazy start to the day today, and a welcome brunch of scrambled eggs, mushroom and chicken - as made (just about acceptably - cooking not being one of my strong points) by me, hurrah. I then leapt womanfully into Sunday Suburbia mode and washed the car (well, gosh), while Lord H mended my brakelight. What a hero.

Talking of heroes, I struggled on with Hallsfoot's Battle and am now just about at 37,000 words where Johan's about to start his battle training. He's confident, but it won't go well, I fear. Well, the Gathandrians don't really do violent stuff so they're not used to it. I suspect he will have to swallow his pride and ask for Simon's help, in the long run ...

And Lord H and I have bid a fond farewell to The Watts Gallery as it closes at the end of September for an 18-month refurbishment. I shall miss the horse sculpture. I love that horse, aka "Physical Energy". I'm already making a mental note of the June 2010 planned big opening date so I can go and say hello to it again. Mind you, there are certain paintings in the gallery I love too, so let's not forget them either. Some of Watts' portraits are utterly gripping. And some of them will be on tour for the next 18 months, starting with London in November, so if you do hear tell of a travelling Watts exhibition near you, go and say hello from me.

Later this afternoon, I intend to carve out some napping time, if only in order to gear myself up for Tess of the D'Urbervilles on TV tonight. Even now (spoiler alert!), I'm yelling at the TV in the same way I always always always yell at the book: don't tell him, Tess, he doesn't need to hear about the baby!!! Marital Lesson Number One - your man doesn't need to know it all!!. Indeed, as my mother always says to any couple asking for her marital wisdom: have a joint account by all means but keep your private one going too - marriage has to come with some privacy attached ... Ye gods, my mother's not as crazed as I've always assumed after all then. Heck no, what am I saying? - she is.

I've finished reading Navkirat Sodhi's poetry collection, "Un". Very surreal and charmingly minimalist - some of the short pieces really rock. And such a beautiful green hardback cover too. Particular favourites were: "Untitled (You look into my eyes)" which says everything you need to know about being in love in just three lines; "Untitled (Tonight I return yet again)" which carries with it a dark punch of despair; "Shall" which tells how life is itself a story; and "Inhale" which focuses on the speaker's relationship with three very different men. They're poems you need to take time over to delve into the meaning, and are well worth the time spent doing so - but they have an essential feeling of breath and space which makes that process itself seem very easy. A poet to watch, for sure.

And talking of poems, this week's haiku is:

Sometimes words don't come;
I'm left a syllable short
of perfection.

Today's nice things:

1. Brunch
2. Getting to 37,000 words in Hallsfoot
3. The Watts Gallery
4. Poems
5. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Birds, dinner and dancing

Lord H and I have spent a lovely day out, lurking behind bushes and staring at birds. As you do. We started off in Pagham Harbour (hard "g" if you're saying it in your head ...) and had a great time staring at lapwing, godwits, herons and the usual sea-loving suspects. Mind you, we were surprised by a determined flock of linnets who had obviously decided there was much safety in numbers and were brave enough to lurk on top of the bushes we were in and stare back at us. Shades of Hitchcock indeed ... We were also treated to an incredible and long-lasting view of a kingfisher flying up and down one of the creeks. Marvellous. All that electric blue and orange. And the turnstones were nice too - once we'd spotted them about ten yards away from us - the only reason we saw them at all was the slight clicking noise they made on the pebbles. They therefore win the Best Camouflaged Bird of the Year award - well done them!

On the way back, we popped into Pulborough Brooks and managed to spot a Little Stint - hurrah! So another tick on the great bird list. Ooh, and a greenshank too, which was fun although we have seen one a while back.

Once home, we had half an hour before getting out again for dinner at Prezzo in Godalming. Being a sad couple with no life, we like to eat early so were in at 7pm and out again at 8.15. Result! That's the kind of service we like here in the twilight zone. It means that we still have time to watch the Strictly Come Dancing preview which I videoed before we went out. Double hurrah. Must get my glitz-frock and strappy sandals on first though ... noblesse oblige, as they say.

And I've finished reading F Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Which I've never read before, and I know that's an appalling admission, but hey I'm from Essex and think Jilly Cooper is class. Anyway, I rather enjoyed it - lots happened but very subtly, including beating up and later "accidental" killing of a mistress, adultery and murder amongst the drinking classes. So kudos for Fitzgerald for being able to do any of that subtly at all. Not sure I could. And not bad for a literary novel. He should have turned his hand to crime - he would have wowed us all then.

Today's nice things:

1. Birds
2. Dinner out
3. TV dancing.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Friday, September 12, 2008

The normal golfer and the battle of Hallsfoot

Back to normal in the golfing arena today, I'm afraid to say - no holes-in-one for me, and indeed on one hole, I managed to get nearly into double figures. Which for a par three isn't really covering myself in glory. Still, Marian and I had a great time, but in the end I suspect we may have peaked last time out ... Naturally we're blaming our poor performance on (a) the wet grass which meant our balls didn't travel as far, and (b) the fact that for some reason there were huge numbers of people on the course this morning, which puts us off our game, you know. At least those are our excuses and we're sticking to them.

Post-golf, I nipped into Godalming to get a few essentials and even remembered to stock up on birdseed for Gladys, hurrah. Really, it's all so complicated now - you have to stare at the packaging to work out what types of seed attract which birds, and then try to second-guess which birds she might like to see. Sometimes I long for the days when a crisp was a crisp and you didn't have flavours. Ditto the birdseed conundrum.

This afternoon, I have struggled - and I mean really really struggled - with Hallsfoot's Battle. Indeed, it's been my own battle with Hallsfoot. I just couldn't get either the energy up or the enthusiasm and it all seemed sooooo hard and soooo exhausting. One of those days, I suppose, deeeeep sigh. Though I did in the end manage to squeeze out 500 words, but Lord only knows whether they're any good or not. I never do really know.

And I've finished Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Which is the story of a young girl growing up during the early twentieth century - in guess where! Not my normal sort of read, and I'm doing it for next week's University book group, but actually I thought it was quirky and poetic, detailed and different. With some lovely and very human scenes. The family are great and Francie, the MC, is very strong. Well worth a read, and it reminded me very much of Flora Thompson's Larkrise - a book I did at school and loved.

I've also finished the latest edition of Tears in the Fence magazine. Some very arresting work in there, particularly Alec Finlay's short witty poems, K V Skene's prose poem of philosophical despair, Julie Lumsden's eagle-eyed and honest view of humanity, and Annie Clarkson's gripping prose poem of one moment in a relationship. All astonishing stuff.

Tonight, it's Ugly Betty - hurrah! - so I'll be watching avidly. And we really do have to watch Ainsley Harriott in Who Do You Think You Are? at some point too.

Today's nice things:

1. Golf
2. Reading
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fifteen years old today and some unashamed nostalgia

First of all, huge congratulations to Lord H and me for having been married fifteen years today, hurrah! Have a glass of champagne on us to celebrate:

And we have a bottle cooling in the fridge for tonight as well, hurrah (medicines or no medicines, dammit)! Premier cru vintage too - not that I've ever found anything to better Tesco's blanc de blanc £12.00 standard, but heck live dangerously for once, eh. Apparently, fifteen years married entitles us to crystal, glass or a watch. As we don't need any of those things, we have settled for clothes, books and the CD of Purcell's Fairy Queen, which is on the menu for next year's Glyndebourne. There's nothing like a piece of baroque music to lift the spirits, to my mind - although Lord H is less keen, bless 'im. He's more an appreciator of modern atonal music, if truth be told. At least, more than I am anyway.

More than all that though, I am at last wearing the eternity ring - triple hurrahs and wave the bunting in all directions. And it's seriously beautiful. I love it hugely. Goodness my left hand is sooooo heavy now that it's astonishing I can type at all ... I love love love it. It's looks amazing with the engagement ring, and without. And with. And without. But with is my favourite. Well, having it on at all is my favourite, actually. In case you hadn't guessed that. But, glory be, it's true - I have at last turned into my jewellery-obsessed (keep the ring! Always keep the ring!) mother, Lord preserve us. Arrrrggghhh!!!

But thinking of fifteen years of wedded bliss (which probably translates as 12 years of wedded bliss and 3 years of arguments, but hey that's a damn good ratio, I feel) has brought me out in an unexpected fit of nostalgia, Lord preserve us. Again. I have to admit to totally and absolutely loving my wedding day - even though I also have to admit it was the start of a huge and unsurmountable split in the family, which in itself was well, well overdue. So you could say that in some aspects it was in fact the day I began to grow up. And as I got married at 29, growing up was long overdue also. Anyway, the wedding was fabulous - the dress (something simple and ivory with no fuss) really suited me, so much so that even my stepfather said how good I looked (and was rightly astonished to be saying such a thing as well!); the trumpeter turned up with his trumpeter son (whom we never did paid for as they very sweetly waived his fee as they'd had such a good time) and looked amazing in their bright, military-style suits. And the way they played really made the day - they sounded astonishing. I remember thinking as they and the organ played Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring as we were signing the register that it was, and would always be, the most beautiful thing I'd ever heard. Fifteen years later, they still hold that honour. And I'm still grateful.

More than all of this though was the way that everything around us simply vanished when Lord H and I were saying our vows to each other and we suddenly and somehow genuinely were the only people in the church and possibly the only people on the planet. I've only ever had that incredibly magical feeling twice: once when Lord H and I first kissed (and to make everything vanish in the middle of a busy night out in London is some damn trick, I can tell you); and once on our wedding day. It was great. I'm sorry I probably can't explain the sensation any further, but I'm glad it happened once, and incredibly lucky it happened twice. I do understand that.

And now, fifteen years on, I can honestly say that Lord H is the only man I've ever been out with who has never, not even once, bored me. Enraged me to the point of screaming, had me darkly wondering if spousicide is a real word, yes - but bored me, never. There's always something more to find out, in my experience. The Lord H pool runs pretty damn deep and I doubt I'll ever find the bottom. Not in this lifetime anyway.

Though, talking of bottoms (careful, people, careful ...), and to bring my marriage monologue to an end (have I said we've been married fifteen years today?), I have picked up my other prescription from the hospital and now have an Estradot oestrogen patch stuck to my bottom. Ho hum, from the sublime to the ridiculous eh - I am indeed the mistress of that mystic art. The patch is damn small too, so one hopes I don't lose it on the vast acreage of my behind. Which is strange as it comes in an enormous wrapper about ten times its size (the patch - not my bottom ...) - when I'd ripped it open I did think at first there was nothing in it and I'd been sold a bum (sorry!) steer. As it were. But I eventually found it and stuck it on with the aid of a good mirror and some squinting. Apparently I have to wear it for three days (I'm told it even stays on in the bath, well gosh) before I rip it off and shove the next one on. My, what fun we do have here in the cultural outback of Godalming.

What with all this huge excitement, I have only done a few sentences of Hallsfoot's Battle today, so am now just in at 36,000 words or so. Would be nice to hit the big 40,000 marker before the end of September for sure. And I've had a two-hour nap - well, being married for fifteen years is quite exhausting, you know, and I don't want to wear myself out too soon. Tonight, we have lasagne, ice cream and champers to look forward to. I'm sure that will help keep my strength up - all good healthy stuff, you know!

Today's nice things:

1. Our 15th wedding anniversary
2. Our 15th wedding anniversary
3. Our 15th wedding anniversary (did I tell you that yet?...)

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Torchwood, black holes and a trip to town

Spent this morning getting through yet more marketing admin stuff, with relative ease. At least, I’ve sent out a lot of emails and it’s easy until people start replying. Ah, that’s the curse of email, you know – you feel like you’re doing something useful and it’s all fine till you start getting the responses, dammit …

Was supposed to be having coffee with Sally at lunchtime, but the pressure of work means we’ll have to postpone till next week. So I walked into town instead and put a cheque in. My, how I do love paying money in – so very satisfying and so very unusual. I also tried to get a lid for my currently lidless datastick, as said lid unexpectedly vanished yesterday – and could not even be found by Lord H nobly peering at the path at night by torchlight, sigh. However, Guildford doesn’t appear to sell any of the type I want, so I will have to resort to buying one off the web and then using the new lid for my original one. Lordy, how complicated life can be. Bizarrely, I also bumped into Ruth’s husband who was collecting Euros for their holiday, so Surrey is obviously reacting to today’s Big Bang experiment by flinging everyone into one town over the lunch period. Sensible decision. And at least we know where the coming black hole will be: in Guildford.

This afternoon, everyone in the office was either out or at another training seminar (or possibly still in Guildford …), so I was on my own for a couple of hours. It can be rather dull, but at least it means I don’t have to look like I know what I’m doing. Because, believe me, I never do know that.

Ooh and there’s the Torchwood radio play on Radio 4 this afternoon – as part of Big Bang Day (actually are we still alive, or is this now an alternative universe? Oh good …), so I must listen to that sometime over the next week. I do so love Jack & Ianto. And an extra helping of Torchwood never goes amiss.

Tonight, I’ll try to do some more to Hallsfoot’s Battle – I think I’ll start the first of the battle preparation scenes with Johan and Talus, and see where I go. Hmm, probably not far, as I do feel rather squeezed out by the week ... Thank goodness for “Lost in Austen” on TV, hurrah – nothing like an hour of girly fluffy TV to ease the old aching bones indeed …

Today’s nice things:

1. Paying in a cheque
2. Torchwood
3. Writing
4. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A nice mention for Maloney, stroppy characters and a hospital trip

Was really pleased to see that Maloney’s Law received a brief but nice mention on Scott Pack’s blog of 8 September – for which I’m very grateful indeed. Heck, with my sales record, I need all the mentions I can get. I also rather like being described as “genre-busting” – I now have a vision of myself sporting a brace of pistols, a whip and a determined expression leaping into action as I clatter away on the keyboard. Hmm, that’s probably enough to make everyone run to the hills indeed …

Anyway, today I have risen with the dawn and got into work at 8am (8am!! Lord preserve us!) so I can make up the hours for my hospital appointment this afternoon. Really, it’s astonishing that I remembered to brush my hair and look relatively normal. I hope no-one here is expecting intellectual rigour. I have none. At least not until 11am. And even then it only lasts five minutes.

And talking of time, the Dean suggests that we should build a time storage machine so we can squirrel away pockets of time until we need them. Sounds like a great idea to me – in fact I feel a novel coming on based on that wonderful premise, but I will endeavour to suppress it for the sake of world sanity.

Oh and this week’s heroes are Piers Brosnan (for singing in Mamma Mia even though he can’t sing – thus giving all of us permission to do things we enjoy but aren’t good at, hurrah!), Eleanor Simmonds (for getting a gold medal at the Paralympics at 13 years old), Charley Boorman (as Ruth and Carol have a soft spot for him) and my friend Pauline from Kent (for being herself).

This afternoon, I went to the Deaf Awareness seminar hosted by our Additional Learning Support office. Very interesting indeed, and highly useful, especially as we do have a fair amount of deaf students across campus. It took me back to my first round of university days, where I took notes for a deaf student on our English course. Funny how I’d all but forgotten that – though as it’s over twenty years ago now, I suppose I cannot be blamed. My, how the years fly by …

I had to slip away at the end of the course though in order to go to my hospital appointment at 4pm. I’m probably overestimating the time spent getting there, but I do soooo hate being late and having to rush to these places. Once there, I then have to find the gynaecological department, which if it’s anything like its name and function will be hidden away in a dark corner in the recesses of the hospital and almost impossible to find. I’ll take a torch and a compass and hope for the best, as they say. UPDATE: actually it's almost the first department you come to beyond the foyer so more fool me then. All in all, I was there for about two hours so at least they're thorough. The upshot is that (a) I'm now on stronger HRT - oestrogen patches as well as the gel - though they won't be delivered for the next couple of days so I have time to prepare; (b) they've put me on Metformin - the strong insulin drug - which apparently cures all ills and may even stop the onset of insulin-based dementia when I'm old. Something to look forward to then - though Lord preserve us but they probably think I'm pretty mad now ...; (c) I have to have a Laparoscopy with optional Oblation (which sounds charmingly Catholic but ... um ... isn't) sometime over the next two months. Always good to have something to look forward to in the run-up to Christmas, and now my diary is chock-a-block, m'dears!

Anyway, after that small series of traumas, I will be collapsing at home in front of the TV and looking forward to the next rollercoaster instalment of “Mutual Friends”. That Marc Warren is very good, I must say. I might also look briefly at Hallsfoot’s Battle, if only to ponder on the character of the stroppy cook, Jemelda, in Ralph’s fortified manor, whom I’ve just created. I think she’s what can be described as “tradition-busting” and even there I’m probably putting it mildly.

Today’s nice things:

1. Scott Pack’s mention of Maloney
2. Deaf awareness seminar
3. This week’s heroes
4. TV
5. Pondering on Hallsfoot’s stroppy new character.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Monday, September 08, 2008

The start of term and a worryingly quick appointment

Into the swing of the first day of term today, though it’s still a couple of weeks till Freshers’ Week. Am rushing around chasing up the final tweaks to our programme of talks and I'm also proof-reading for Britain. Ah, if only that were an Olympic sport, eh ... Not only that but the new brochures and mini-maps have turned up and they look great. Marketing have done a fabulous job. So, for a Monday, and a Monday when we have the first of our long line of 5.30pm end-of-day times (groan), it’s not been too bad. So far …

I’ve been rather startled though by a phone call from the Hospital asking me to attend a gynaecological appointment tomorrow at 4pm. Ye gods, that’s put the wind up me. As it were. I am now rather more than jittery about it –I do so hate the unforeseen. I was expecting a letter and a long lead-in, but now I’m attempting to rejig tomorrow and fit it all in. Mind you, I suppose the good thing is that at least I’m in the system in terms of one of my two outstanding appointments. I just have to wait for the October scan date now – which strangely comes from a different department entirely. Or maybe I should just pitch a tent in the hospital foyer and create my own second home-from-home? Certainly a thought anyway.

So, with all that, I definitely needed my lunchtime reflexology session – sadly the last one until after Freshers’ Week, so I’ll have to try to hang onto the feeling of calm for as long as possible. Hmm, with my track record, that’ll be tonight then. UPDATE: it was bliss. I drifted off and really felt I was floating away but perfectly safe. Wonderful. Wish I felt like that more often.

After work, I’ll pop into see Gladys on the way home, and restock the bird-seed supply for her table. I’ll also take her some nice big tissues (we big-nosed people discount small tissues, you know – they’re worse than useless …), but she might not remember she asked for them. Ah well. UPDATE: she was okay but grumpy. Everyone in Gladys' world today is a bugger and she's not been backward in letting them know it. Neither does she do whispering. Perhaps we should form a Society of Buggers in the nursing home and just have done with it?

Tonight, I might try to do some more to Hallsfoot’s Battle, depending on how I feel. There’s always “New Tricks” to look forward to – and the ironing of course, dammit.

Today’s nice things:

1. Monday not being as bad as expected
2. Getting the first of my hospital appointments – if quicker than anticipated!
3. Writing
4. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Church, taboos and chilling

After yesterday's diatribe about the horrors of church, Lord H and I popped into St Mary's Shackleford for our monthly visitation. It wasn't too bad actually, though I really wouldn't want to commit to any more than that. And I certainly don't want to get involved. Still, the hymns were nice, especially the third one, and I had a nice chat afterwards to the heavily pregnant woman behind me - who seemed startlingly normal for a church-goer. Mind you, Lord H and I did rather get swamped into chit-chat (how I hate chit-chat!) at coffee with other people, whereas last time, no-one had spoken to us at all. Something in between the two states would be nice, and I really don't want to get introduced to anyone. There's no point as I don't remember anyone's names apart from my own, Lord H's - oh and the pregnant lady. I do remember her name. That said, full marks to the vicar for: (a) remembering from two months ago that we'd been decorating the bathroom; (b) being perceptive enough to realise that I will never be a woman who grouts; and (c) laughing with delight when I said we were more the whitewashed-sepulchres-over-a-seething-hotbed-of-sin type of Christians. Perhaps that's the sort he likes? In which case, I certainly don't blame him.

Meanwhile back at Basecamp One, I have been adding more to Ralph's section in Hallsfoot's Battle. He's been breaking a shed-load of taboos in terms of actually helping one of his traditionally downtrodden servants, so well done to Ralph. I didn't think you had it in you, sir. Mind you, I suspect it won't last - his motives are certainly mixed and he made damn sure no-one else saw. After all, it would be beyond imaginable if he actually upset the status quo and sullied the ages-long honour of the Tregannons by being thoughtful. He has enough on his plate as it is, what with the sudden arrival of the mind-executioner - he can't afford to be pleasant now. So, as a result of all that, I am at the grand total of 35,000 words and at the beginning of another scene where I roughly know what's going to happen (sort of), hurrah. Believe me, that writing scenario doesn't occur often - so in honour of this rare occasion, here's a picture of triumph to cheer us all on our way:

Tonight, I'm hoping to be catching up on TV I've missed during the last few days, although I'm not sure I'm up to watching "God on Trial" just yet. Too meaty for a Sunday, I think. I'll leave it till later in the week. Sunday evenings are strictly fluffy, you know. Especially with term starting at University tomorrow, sigh ...

And this week's haiku is:

In my forties, I vanished.
Life unhooked its moorings
from weary skin.

Today's nice things:

1. Church hymns and sepulchres
2. Hallsfoot's Battle
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Frazzled of Godalming

Lordy, what a day. Totally exhausting but some moments were great. Seriously great. First off, I turned up at the University at 9am for 3 hours of Open Day cover with Laura from the Health Centre, who was wonderful company. Thank you, Laura. Meeting people and trying to sound normal isn't my favourite activity ever, but I think on the whole it went okay. Though there were one or two people who just stared at me as if I were an alien. Perhaps I am? That would explain a lot ... However, most students/parents were lovely. And the venue was better too - we were in the University Hall rather than Seasons Restaurant, so I could actually hear what people were saying, hurrah.

From there, I rushed to my car to gobble down a sandwich before driving to Kent. I started the car, turned towards the exit and the people carrier in front of me stopped. I stopped too, put on my handbrake and then said people carrier reversed right into me. Serious and loud groan ... Just what I needed at that point. Not. Big Not. We got out and exchanged details though there wasn't really any damage to either vehicle. We then got back in our cars and he tried to do it again. Arrggghhh!!! Believe me, the air in Rupert (my car) was blue. Very blue. However, this time the people carrier did manage to miss me - phew - and then drove off. Lord preserve us. Perhaps he'll get me third time???

Anyway, I then drove to Maidstone through what seemed like torrential rain and wind, which make the delights of the M25, the M26 and the M20 so much less attractive, you know. Once at Aylesford Priory - where I was meeting my friend for tea - I parked and attempted to ring the insurance company to report the incident. Ye gods, how many buttons do I have to press before I get to a real person??? Press 2 if your stress levels are low, 3 if they're high; press 1 if you have red hair and are sobbing, and 2 if you are over six feet tall and are too big to drive a Fiesta ... God preserve us indeed. When I finally got through to a very snippety lady, she said that reporting the incident would take me 20 minutes. When I said I couldn't afford 20 minutes as my friend was waiting in the tea room and could I just tell her the names and registration numbers and the time of the accident, she got even more snippety and said that would be impossible. Ye gods, how hard is it to write down 5 small pieces of information without making a song and dance about it??? In the end I told her not to bother and I'd ring the out-of-hours service later. Then I put the phone down. These days, frankly I can't be arsed to be pleasant.

Walking towards the tea-room, I was zinging with stress, but then Pauline (Kent friend) rushed up and gave me a huge hug, let me sound off for five minutes and then we had tea. Bliss. Sometimes it's just sooooo good to know someone who'll let me scream and shout without taking it personally. I'm a red-head. I survive by yelling. It doesn't mean anything. And after all that, Pauline and I had an absolutely wonderful and uplifting chat, which included airing and solving all known problems of both of us, and honestly it's just made me feel human again. Which doesn't happen often, I can tell you. If I were a lesbian, I'd probably marry her and have her babies, though Lord H - and indeed Mr Pauline - may well object to that life plan. Ah well.

Funny also how we can both really talk about God and church and stuff to each other in a way I'm not able to do with other people. We're both survivors (and yes I do use that word advisedly) of the same rather horrendous evangelical church experience, and we're both at the stage where we only go to church once a month or so and don't, under any circumstances, want to commit to anything more demanding than that. I think we feel we've been burned by the evangelical church and shuffled into a corner by the anglican one. Which leaves us both feeling a rather large spiritual (sorry for the "s" word, but it is what I mean and I don't think I can say it isn't) gap where the wind whistles through, and which isn't filled by any of the available offerings in our area. Lordy, but sometimes I long for a different type of church, and it's a real pull, but I have no idea towards what. I'm not even sure if it's been invented yet. Sigh.

Anyway, talking with Pauline made me feel more human, so I'm grateful for that. We're already planning our next get-together, hopefully before Christmas. And the drive home was better, if still rainy. Once home, I talked to the insurance company out-of-hours service who were lovely and took down all the information in 5 minutes. So, hell, it can be done. But, my dears, I am totally exhausted on all levels and only good for grunting and staring at the TV this evening. Don't give a damn what's on it either. So no change in any of that then ...

In fact, I feel very much like this picture - a weary figure hobbling up the stairs, though (trust me) I would be wearing clothes. But hey it's making me smile.

Today's nice things:

1. Some nice people at the open day
2. Talking to Pauline
3. TV and grunting
4. Naked men on stairs.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Friday, September 05, 2008

Strange dreams and naked men

Yet more strange dreams last night. This time, Lord H and I were in some kind of bar which had a room at the top filled with bees. There was something ghostly going on, and we kept having to try to find the bees and contain them in some way as this would help solve the hauntings. It was all very mysterious and quite surreal really. We never did quite get to the bottom of it.

And talking of bottoms, Lord H has very kindly emailed me a set of pictures from the naked Italian rugby team calendar. Hmm, lovely, that man does know me so well. Perhaps too well! Here's my favourite:

Sooooo cute. And hey, never say I'm not good to you!

I have to say though that last night's production of "Born in the Gardens" was sadly lacking. We felt very disappointed. Nothing wrong with the actors, but the material they had to work with was rather poor. And hugely dated. I don't think it quite knew if it was supposed to be comedy or drama and was therefore a ragbag mixture of neither. Dull too. Still, at least the chocolate ice cream in the interval was top-notch. Thank the Lord. Still, it does astonish me that the Surrey Advertiser gave it such a glowing review. Why???? Honestly, sometimes, I think I'm living in a world very different to everyone else's and the world and I are most definitely having different experiences. It happens with books too, but more of that below ...

Anyway, this morning, I have spent a pleasant couple of hours having tea at Ang's with Jane H (hello, both!). I am astonished at Ang's ability to maintain control and calm in the face of one active toddler and one set of baby twins, but yes we did manage to have conversation of sorts. As you know, I am sadly lacking when it comes to children however, but I did my best. I hope!

I have also managed to add another 500 words to Hallsfoot's Battle and I think I know what Ralph is supposed to be doing now. He just has to work out how best to use the magic emeralds. Hmm, don't wait up then - as if I don't know yet, then he certainly won't ... I've also managed to squeeze in an hour or so's essential nap, as I desperately need to catch up on my sleep. Especially with the traumas of tomorrow to face (working on a Saturday! Long car journeys - my favourites!!...), groan.

And, cleverly, I've managed to finish two books on the same day. My, how sad I am that such a coincidence makes me so happy, but what the hell, eh. I've finished the gloriously sharp "Nightwork" by Joseph Hansen. The best of the Brandstetter (gay PI) series so far, to my mind. Hansen is so punchy and precise in his prose that it's a joy to read, and of course Brandstetter is great as a character. It's a mystery why they don't produce it as a TV series or something. Hell I'd watch.

However, from the sublime to the ridiculous: I have finally (thank God!) finished the over-hyped, hugely dull and totally self-obsessed "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elisabeth Gilbert. Deeeep deeeeep sigh. I mean bloody hell but if anyone's going to be self-obsessed round here, it's me. Though God save me from being dull. Honestly, I have no idea why everyone rates it so much: um, irritating woman eats a lot, tries to find herself and then finally gets laid. That's it really. In a nutshell. It does have two pages I really found moving, but in a book of 348 pages, that's not great returns. My advice is: don't bother. Serious yawn.

Tonight, we've really got to clean the flat and there's a ton of TV comedy to catch up on. Which is great, as I could do with a laugh. And as a special treat, here's a nice hot Italian rugby trio to end with (as it were):

Today's nice things:

1. Tea with friends
2. Writing more of Hallsfoot
3. Reading one good book
4. Hot Italian rugby players.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website