Yvonne's been pottering around the house, doing chores, reading another version of a novelette I'm having real trouble with. (Especially since it's supposed to be a short story.) I guess the missus is starting to heal up. Just so ya know. Fingers crossed (which makes typing *damn* difficult).

And a quick hiya to an old chum I haven't seen in person for a couple of years or more, and that's Justine Holder. I'm reminded that Jussie once shared her idea of a perfect evening: curling up in front of a fire with a good book. "It's a girlie thing," she said. "You wouldn't understand."

Of course, she forgot to whom she spoke. Or something. Perhaps there's an element of truth in what she said, though, since my preference begins with a long run through howling wind and icy rain, followed by beating the crap out of the heavy bag or pumping iron, and *then* the hot bath and hot food followed by the curling up with the book. (I don't think it's related to gender, though. Female athletes are surely as bad as I am.)

So after finishing the rewrite of that struggling story, today was combat conditioning followed by weights, and finally the point of all this: a Joanne Harris short story. Chris and Penny Hill recommended Ms Harris's new collection, Jigs And Reels. I bought it earlier in the week, and read the introduction. For a non-genre author (as Chris had told me) she betrays fine antecedents: discussing the magic of Bradbury's The Pedestrian and Zelazny's Rose for Ecclesiastes. Excellent taste.

So I dipped into the middle of the book and read a short piece called Auto-da-Fe, purely because Zelazny had written a story of that name and I wanted to compare them. It was okay, performed a viewpoint shift which is technically difficult to pull off, but didn't tug my heartstrings.

Tonight -- after the leaping around and lifting things, yeah, yeah, get on with it -- I went back to the beginning of the collection and read the first story, Faith And Hope Go Shopping. And that's where the title of today's blog entry comes in.

Because that short story is absolute perfection, totally flawless: pellucid and simple yet multi-layered like an intricate blossom. I loved it. Go read it.

Keep safe, Pilots. Good night from the Labyrinth.



A week of momentous private events while the world revolves unaware and untouched. Yvonne underwent an emergency operation on Monday night, was seriously ill, is now improving by the minute: able to walk, mostly free of plastic tubes, bright and laughing.

So on Monday night, nearing home, I switched on my mobile phone and immediately got a voice mail from Yvonne, the missus: "I'm in A&E, in the Acute Assessment Unit." (To non-Brits: for A&E read ER.) They changed the usual protocols, to get her straight into the operating theatre from the assessment unit, instead of via a ward: they were in a rush.

The symptoms were much like appendicitis, so when she went into theatre that's one of the things they whipped out, but not everything: they dealt with an abscess and other infection. Grim stuff. Long operation. Possibly the first in a series.

Tuesday, she wasn't looking good. Unable to move, swollen all over and drifting in and out of consciousness. But she looked a bit better on Wednesday; on Thursday, my umpty-umpth birthday, my best present ever was to see Yvonne sitting up on a chair. She managed to eat a yoghurt, which may not sound like much, but it's a huge advance on taking sustenance direct into the veins.

And today, almost tube-free, able to chat and walk, fully awake and cheerful. Startling. Can't believe the improvement since Monday night.

That's the big news. I've other things to write about, since I finally seem to be blogging in the manner this technology's intended for, though I don't promise to hold back on writing mini-essays too. April was a sad month, when our beloved cat Pip died, aged 19. At the beginning of this month, our friends Chris and Penny Hill put us up for a weekend of watching Firefly (all 14 episodes: great fun) and lifting heavy weights. More on these later.

Some interesting literary news coming soon, I think...

Those of you interested in keeping healthy and fit, especially if you're a martial artist, might have checked out Matt Furey's Combat Conditioning. I've been doing the basic three exercises (aka the Royal Court) for at least 5 days a week for since February 2003; most weeks it's 6 or 7 days. It's revitalized my body, and I wasn't entirely crocked up beforehand.

If you've tried this stuff, you'll know how good it is, and you'll appreciate how I celebrated my birthday, having returned home from the hospital where I'd seen Yvonne's improvement. After Hindu Pushups, Bridging, and some V-up sit-ups, I cracked off 1001 Hindu Squats in 31 minutes. Not bad for a xx year old...

Another novelist who's into Combat Conditioning is thriller writer Barry Eisler, author of Rain Fall and Hard Rain (nothing to do with the movie of that name). Consider this a recommendation, for both books. They feature John Rain: half-Japanese, half-American US-trained assassin; the action's set in contemporary Tokyo. Dead cool.

Take good care of yourselves, Pilots. You matter.