Monday, 26 January 2015

Maddie in Wonderland

It's been ages since I've written a blog post, and I apologise for that

There's been lots going on in Lush Places and lots going on in my life. All good things, I hasten to add, but sometimes real life takes over.

There's been new work on the horizon, which I've grabbed with open arms because I need the money and the human interaction. There's been collaborative writing in The Lady Shed, with my latest post about the Greek elections here. I've signed up for a TEFL course after being inspired by those wonderful children in Peru.
Whether I'll ever use the qualification I don't know, but at least I'll have it.

I'm going to revisit my masters in classics and ancient history with The Open University later this year and I'm going to be writing and publishing more things Greek. I've missed Corfu these last few months.

And I'm singing again. Laaaaaaa!

Some doors are closing, others are opening.

Open me, open me, close me, close me. Eat me, eat me, drink me, drink me.

I feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland (to be honest, I always feel like Alice in Wonderland. It dates back to the day when I was seven and my mother put me in the village fete fancy dress competition as an Arthur Rackham illustration).
Anyway, I have some other news to share with you soon. I'm genuinely exhilarated by it. It's something the blogger A Brit in Tennessee predicted years ago. And now it's finally about to happen.

I'll keep you posted.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Monday, 12 January 2015

Community cinema and top quality musicians - not a bad weekend for a small village in Dorset

We sat in our seats, the lights went down and there was not a whirr to be heard.

At the opening night of our very own Lush Places cinema in the village hall, we had a few shorts, including the Happy video I made with a friend last year.
And then it was the turn of Effie Gray, a beautiful film made by Emma Thompson, featuring a great, mainly British cast, and based on the true story of the ill-fated marriage of Victorian art critic John Ruskin.
The ladies in the audience, in particular, were gripped by this tale, even though nothing much really happened.

'It was miserable and too long,' said one of the men.

'Aren't you glad you're not married to someone like that?' said a husband to his wife in the front row.

But it was a hit as far as being the first film of our community cinema was concerned, despite the man behind the scenes (and behind the stage curtain like the Wizard of Oz) poking his head out from the side of the roll-down screen as the story unfolded.

It was almost a full house and the people of Lush Places are indebted to the National Lottery for paying for the state-of-the-art equipment and the local media, including Wessex FM who interviewed Mr Grigg, for their help in publicising the event.

Two nights later, and the stage was set for Five Star Swing and Hits from the Blitz. Toes were tapping, one woman turned up with a gas mask and the top prize in the raffle was a walking stick.
'I swear,' said a villager, 'one day I'm going to come to a wake at this hall and there'll be someone doing a prize draw.'

We had choruses of Somewhere Over The Rainbow and Run Rabbit Run and then the bass player got up and asked band leader Chris Smith if he might play the trumpet.
It all happens in Lush Places.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Coming soon to a village hall near you

And now the decorations are down, the Christmas tree over the pub door that some woman thought looked like a willy has been dismantled and the discarded trunk and branches of someone else's tree lies on the pavement.

It is such an undignified ending for such a previously lauded bit of nature, which stood in the corner of people's front rooms or kitchens and was, for a brief moment in time, more important than the telly.
But that's how Christmas is. Once it's over, we're itching to move onwards and upwards, at least I am, grasping at the year ahead like a Chance Card in Monopoly.

It's hard writing a blog like this when the madness of the real world shouts loudly all around us. Our own petty problems or comic moments in Lush Places pale into insignificance sometimes.

But life goes on, all over the world, and we just have to work hard to get on with it as best we can. And, for those of us who have life and good health, it's our duty to do so. Mustn't grumble, is the saying. And whilst we do, it shouldn't be for long. Life is too short to let anyone or anything get us down.

I hadn't meant to go all philosophical. I'd meant to describe the scene that greeted me this week when Mr Grigg and four men of mature years were up at the village hall testing out the new cinema equipment.

You see, Lush Places has just been awarded a lottery grant to bring movies into the village, to lessen social isolation and for people to have fun together through the joy of sharing moments from the big screen.

I had visions of the five of them sitting around in tub chairs, smoking on cigars and watching porn. I'm sorry if that offends you but it's how my mind works.

But when I toddled up to the hall and pushed open the double doors, the film showing was a wildlife documentary about monkeys, with commentary by David Attenborough.
'How sweet,' I said. 'Sweet. But dull.'

They glared at me as if I were mad and then carried on fiddling with remote controls and the knobs on the brand new Blu Ray DVD player.

As soon as I turned to push open the double doors to leave the building, the soundtrack changed and the on-screen grunts and squeals began. At last, I thought, my suspicions were right all along.

And there, on screen, was Babe, the sheep pig.

That'll do pig.

Which gives me the excuse to show this:
Could there be any better ending for a film? It makes me well up every time.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 1 January 2015

New Year's Eve in a Dorset village

I woke up this morning, drooling on my pillow like Patsy from Ab Fab.

My hair was sticking up on one side and a trail of clothes led to the bed. I can't find my coat and I hope it's still in the pub.

Some weeks ago, Ding Dong Daddy asked me to help him out with the disco in the pub on New Year's Eve.

It wasn't exactly like this, but not dissimilar.
All afternoon, Ding Dong Daddy and I worked in separate houses, putting our playlists together. Messages pinged back and forth, a conversation on Twitter included Caitlin Moran, the writer Marian Keyes favourited one of my tweets and the violinist with the Smashing Pumpkins and I had a bit of joshing on Facebook.

Things could only get better...
Well, Ding Dong Daddy and I played back-to-back. I sneaked in Siouxsie and the Banshees, followed Tom Jones with Tom Jones, peaked too early with The Monkees, got back in the game with Lady and Sing It Back and then emptied the dance floor with James Brown's Think. It took I'm Every Woman to get them bopping again. Works every time.

And everyone kept bringing the DJs drinks, causing me to crash a few intros but, heck, no-one apart from Ding Dong Daddy noticed.
And then it was Hi Ho Silver Lining and out in the square for Auld Lang Syne.
 And then it was back into the pub for another hour, wrapping it up with a bit of Doris.
Today, we're in the pub again for a late breakfast before heading to friends at Lyme Regis and a brisk walk along Marine Parade for some New Year thinking.
That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas greetings, wherever you are.

Well, Delia's ham is in the oven ready for glazing, Mr Grigg's making sweets and James Bond is on the telly.

Across the road, the church candles will soon need lighting for Midnight Mass as the village pub fills up on Christmas Eve.

We've had the church carol service - a great success - the fish and chip van had a bumper evening last night and the tills have been ringing at the community shop all day.

Personally, it's been an amazing year, with unexpected travels and new opportunities turning up left, right and centre.

I'm not quite sure how this blog - or my life - will rattle along in 2015 but I will be sure to keep you posted. In the meantime, a merry Christmas to you and yours and a happy, healthy and peaceful new year.

Remember, if you wanna do it, do it. If you don't, don't.

I was asked to write something to read out at the carol service on Sunday. So I turned to my journal from two years ago when I was home alone in Corfu with Mr Grigg.

Enjoy what you have, when you have it and where you have it. Seek out new challenges and interesting things. But remember, the grass is never greener. It's just a just a different shade.
A Greek Christmas

There was a chill in the air, as if the wind was blowing from the Russian Steppes or the Caucasus or wherever cold weather came from at this time of year. Piles of logs were stacked outside people’s houses and, in the afternoons, smoke rose from the chimneys as fires were lit inside. Those who visit Corfu only in the summer season would never believe how cold, damp and wet it is in winter. There is a reason why the island is so green.

We had been in Corfu for two months and, despite the beauty and magic of the place, I couldn’t get Dorset out of my head. There was a real ache in my bones and in my heart, in my whole being. I loved the Greek countryside but I longed to see the lush, slushy fields back home and walk through them with my grand-daughter. I really hadn’t thought I was going to feel like this and I was cross with myself for feeling so homesick. Here I was, doing something others would give an arm and a leg to do, living the dream, in a country where people were suffering, really suffering, and I felt sorry for myself because I didn’t want to be here.

It’s strange being in a foreign land at this time of year, especially when the native tongue is so hard to understand. I felt detached. I couldn’t understand the overheard conversations going on around me. For one of life’s eavesdroppers, I was lost. Any Christmas spirit in the air was going over my head. My modus operandi is usually ‘listen and observe’. My lack of Greek meant I could do only the latter.

Christmas, for me, is about family and friends and getting together in joyful fashion, giving and receiving. So, on the shortest day, we hosted a party for our new neighbours and friends. We had no idea how many people were coming and at what time, because my husband couldn’t remember if he’d told them two o’clock or four. By the end of the previous day, we’d prepared most of the menu: sausage rolls, stuffed dates, red pepper hummus, red cabbage coleslaw, mince pies, Christmas cake, kourambiedes biscuits and melamakarona cakes, pavlova, crisps, nuts, cheese, coronation chicken, devils on horseback, salami and prosciutto on pumpernickel, smoked salmon and horseradish, and melba toast and little tartlets filled with ratatouille.

The day dawned with a glorious burst of sunshine as we prepared our home for the party. House cleaned, food on the table, glad rags on, at one minute to two we were ready. Which as just as well because, at one minute past two, the doorbell rang, Betty and Antoni and their three-year-old daughter, Marie-Angela. Kisses. Doorbell rings. Labi. Kisses. Doorbell. Ilia, Koula and Little Ilia, aged six. A little later on, Gorgeous George and the serene Mrs George arrive, and then Yanni Pianni, flustered but here, after a busy lunchtime in the family taverna, and armed with a jar of preserved oranges made by his mother. 

All the Greeks were bearing gifts: copious bottles of wine, a large azalea and a present we were allowed to open only at New Year. They didn’t have much, these people, but we were discovered their generosity and hospitality was endless. There is a word in Greek – filoxenia – which means love, kindness and hospitality to foreigners, to strangers. 

That day, we grasped the concept of filoxenia first hand, by giving it and receiving it ourselves. 

The men went outside to smoke and then came back in to teach my husband how to play cards, dealing, as they always do in Greece, to the left. The children amused themselves with pencils and paper and the women nattered in gunfire-fast Greek to anyone who would listen. They wolfed down everything on the table, including my coronation chicken, made to a recipe by a retired chef from my Dorset village for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. 

And then, a few hours later, as quickly as they arrived, they went, one after another. The place was quiet now but there was an energy to the house I had not experienced before.

It had been a good day. The Christmas spirit had entered our home. And from that point on, I vowed, I’d live in the moment, lucky indeed to be living the dream and experiencing the power of filoxenia.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

A Christmas tree in your underpants

The village square is looking very pretty this year.

There are lights on Christmas trees outside the houses and holly wreaths on the doors.

But this calm and peaceful scene conceals domestic turmoil going on inside.  Couples have almost come to blows about the appropriateness or otherwise of the lights they've chosen.

Should they be warm white, ice blue or multi-coloured?

The pub looks like something from Las Vegas but we're all delighted because at least it's looking cheerful. And none of the lights is flashing.
Which is just as well really, as the landlord's been told off about the Christmas tree above his door.

A woman has complained that the tree looks a bit like a...



...a penis.

Between all us villagers, we've seen a few knobs in our time. I'm told some look like parsnips, bananas or even anteaters' noses.
But, honestly, a Christmas tree?

We're trying to find out who the woman was who complained. We want to take a long, hard look at her husband's crotch to see if there is anything spiky poking out. Or possible a bauble or two.

Imagine it. A Christmas tree in your underpants.

In the meantime, we've taken to walking up and down the road past the pub's Christmas tree to try to make sense of this novel description.

We're hoping it will be like one of those pictures which at first sight appear to be a load of dots until, if you stare at it long enough, it suddenly jumps out at you.

Or perhaps not.

What do you think?
That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Christmas wishes from Lush Places

In Lush Places, the village square is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

The are festive trees above the houses of doors and a big conifer on the green now has a pretty coat of sparkling lights.

Over at the pub, now resplendent with a cheery and professional landlord and landlady and roaring fire (it's three times the place it was a few months ago. It's been dire. We even got to the point where Mr Grigg and I thought about running it ourselves...) the stag's head has a red bauble for a nose and there's tinsel everywhere.

There's three words, 'HO' 'HO' and 'HO', on the shelf below the menu boards. And, inevitably, they keep being turned round by the customers when the landlord's not looking to read 'OH' 'OH' 'OH'.

And today, colourful, twinkling lights went up on the pub's tree above the door and a string of purple criss-crossed its way along the front wall.
Tonight, the ladies from the fish and chip van will be wearing reindeer antlers and jingly bells for earrings as they serve the long queue of hungry folk from the village and beyond.
We've had a Christmas bazaar up in the village hall with holly wreaths a-plenty and the school children have been rehearsing their end of term production.

Up at the old people's community room, practising has been going on for the church carol service in two weeks' time. We've been hitting high notes and singing descants, having a go at rounds and singing alleluia while the vicar puts us through our paces with piano accompaniment.

Out in the fields, the badgers have been digging, the catkins are beginning to emerge and the red berries on the holly are fast being consumed by the birds. According to the papers, we're in for a chilly blast of ice and snow.

There's no place like home at Christmas.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

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