Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The stunning Dorset scenery at Bluebell Hill

Far, far, far from Dorset's madding crowd is Bluebell Hill.
The views from up here are stunning. 
Nature provides the most beautiful frames.
They're everywhere you look.
Inside the wood, the boughs of the beech trees, with their newly-emerged leaves, sway ever-so-gently, casting rippling shadows in the undergrowth.
These are old woods.

And down at our feet, the bluebells are in full battle cry.
  They march across the clearings, finding a foothold where they can.
We're passed by a young mother with two small girls who are still in school uniform. They've been collected from the playground and whisked up to Bluebell Hill while the flowers are at their best.

A panting, black Labrador shoots by and our dog, Arty, chases after him.

And then she's back, pounding along the pathway and enjoying the spring in her step.
It's at times like these that I am so glad I made the decision to work for myself and be based at home.

Home: a very special place. Lush, in fact.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The day before the election and I'm still a floater

It's the day before the election and I still haven't decided which way to vote. This has never happened to me before.

I know who I'm not voting for, which is something I suppose.

I have an argument with Mr Grigg, the big Tory, at the breakfast table as he makes arrangements to ferry around Conservatives too frail to walk to the polling station. This is not a safe Tory seat any more so Oliver Letwin needs all the votes he can get. The Liberal Democrats could get in, if Labour voters and Greens vote tactically. Disturbingly, UKIP seem to be quite popular in this rural backwater.

There are plenty of people telling me I should vote this way, I should vote that. But when it comes down to it, it's my vote. When I go into that polling booth, the choice is mine. There are several things determining my decision, some of which boil down to personal preferences and prejudices and are too boring and petty to go into here.

But, when I'm out in the field with the dog at seven o'clock this morning, the wind howling, the rain pouring down and soaking me to the skin (which, fortunately, is waterproof) it feels like it's all about me. It's as if I don't vote the right way, it could be forever winter, with the nation's collective heart chilled by ice.

Up on the ridge, through dark, dark clouds, I can see the sun shining beyond Windwhistle, its beams landing on Chard and illuminating this distant Somerset town like some silver Eldorado.  It's as if there's someone up in the sky, with Indiana Jones's Staff of Ra pointing me the way to the town where I went to school.

I half expect to hear a disembodied voice booming through the air, eminating from a grotesque figure animated by Terry Gilliam, telling me it is a sign.

I think for a moment (I'm a great one for signs and their meanings, none of which really makes any sense) and then it hits me. Not the beam of light but the meaning behind why Chard is shouting out to me vote this way, vote this way.

It's the ghost of Margaret Bondfield, trades unionist, women's rights activist and the first female cabinet minister, who was born in Chard. But is she telling me to vote Labour, to vote for the woman or to follow my heart and vote for what I believe in?

That's the trouble with signs, they just point you to where you want to go or make you realise you started from the wrong spot in the first place.

I trudge home, me and the dog drowned rats the pair of us. I'm still none the wiser.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Friday, 1 May 2015

Election time in this green and pleasant land

Up in the fields, the bluebells are uncurling.
There's a frost in the corner but May is bursting out in the hedgerow.
There are swathes of cuckoo flowers and dandelion clocks.
There's a dead nettle in a gateway, full of spare slippers for the fairies for when they go out dancing tonight.
Down on the allotment, an early bird is listening to political debate on Radio 5 Live, the radio blaring out from an open window of his car while he digs in the manure. I can hear Nicky Campbell having a spirited discussion with a weasel.
In the heart of Lush Places, blue things other than bluebells have sprung up over the croquet lawn and all over the village.
They are everywhere.

There are a couple of signs for Labour down the road but sadly they're tucked away, unlike the UKIP house in the next village which ought to close its own front door, pull down the blinds and leave Wessex, brick by brick.

This whole election thing is leaving me rather cold. I'd much rather be up in the field with the dog, staring at the clouds, gazing at a raindrop on the underside of a metal gate or watching two pigeons sitting on a telephone wire like a pair of inverted commas.

The election is less than a week away and I'm not at all excited, even though the Griggs are having another election party, like we did in 2010. Whoever you vote for, you end up disillusioned. The government always gets in.

But I can't not vote. It would be against my principles.

And then I see this outside a cottage on the outskirts of the village.

It's a sign, yes, but maybe a symbol of hope?
That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The lush landscape of Dorset in Far from the Madding Crowd

Mapperton is one of the loveliest places on earth. This part of West Dorset is sublime. And it's one of the reasons why I call my village Lush Places. Dorset is beautiful, wherever you go...

Monday, 20 April 2015

Celebrating with the fans at Bristol City

They're playing Drink Up Thy Zider at Bristol City's ground, Ashton Gate.

It's their song.

So we drink up our cider and head for our seats, having gone through the turnstiles in a numbered entry system devised by the Romans for the Coliseum and other public buildings like it.
But, unlike Ancient Rome, we're not segregated, we're all in this together. So we're sitting in front of a row of people in wheelchairs, a mother and young child two seats away...
...and, next to us, wafting across the stadium, are the strong smells of body odour, pasties and something with the aroma of Marmite (which, in this context, you wouldn't like at all even if you usually loved this foul, black yeast extract on your toast).

It's approaching three o'clock and the crowd behind us starts singing. Their musical programme begins with the adaptation of a song by 70s glam rock group Slade, which starts off with an expletive followed by the words Swindon Town and the fact they are staying down. I am so glad Mrs Bancroft is not here. Swindon is her team.
There is singing and getting up all through the match, which is not very interesting but exciting nonetheless because City are going up into the Championship League and a 0-0 draw, which is what happens today, means they are League One champions. 

I am not a football fan in any sense of the word but I'm here today because Mr Grigg couldn't find anyone else to go with him. However, from a sociological, crowd-watching point of view, being in this stadium is an experience not to be missed.

There is comedy gold when the fans sing Always Sh*t on the Welsh Side of the Bridge, to the tune of Monty Python's Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. The rivalry towards their brethren on the other side of the Bristol Channel is legendary.

And I wonder who makes up these songs, and whether they practise them in someone's front room or back yard before unleashing them on the football public.

And then the shaved heads launch into Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Going Up, Up, Up and people start dancing and waving their scarves.
The game comes to an end, there is an announcement not to go on to the pitch and then, as fans of all ages walk down to the hallowed turf regardless, Mr Grigg asks me: 'Shall we go on the pitch?'

So we stroll down onto the grass, the stewards standing aside for us and smiling. And here we are, walking on the ground where Mr Grigg's team, which he has supported since he was a small boy, have played year in, year out.
'Have you done this before?' I say. It's a rather smug question, as I'm an old hand at invading the pitch. I once jumped over the barrier at Wembley, although it was for the Ladies Hockey Final in 1975. (One of my schoolfriends has still not given me back the Bay City Rollers striped socks I lent her for the day).

'No,' Mr Grigg says, a grin on his face as wide as the Severn Bridge.

'Good, isn't it?'
That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Far from the Madding Crowd: the new film

Here's Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, president of the Thomas Hardy Society and Bridport Electric Palace patron, saying a few words before Far From The Madding Crowd was unveiled to its Dorset audience at last night's gala screening.
Here's a review by my alter ego.

Go to see it if you can.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Coming soon: Far From The Madding Crowd

There is great excitement in this neck of the woods as Dorset prepares for the local premiere of Far From The Madding Crowd on Friday.

Based on Thomas Hardy's book of the same name, it stars Carey Mulligan as the wilful heroine, Bathsheba Everdene, and is due for general release on 1 May.
Much of the film was shot here in West Dorset, with the lovely Mapperton doubling up as Bathsheba's manor house.

Having lived and worked on this estate, I can vouch for its beauty. There is nowhere quite like it.

So when others are wondering how the film will compare with its 1967 predecessor, directed by John Schlesinger and starring Julie Christie, Alan Bates and Peter Finch, I know I'll be just gazing at the real star of the show: the West Dorset landscape.

Here's a taster:

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

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