Monday, 30 November 2015

NaNoWriMo and me

It's not the winning, it's the taking part that counts.

Yeah, right.

Yet again, my NaNoWriMo has fallen by the wayside. And you can read why here.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Betcha by golly wow: a trip down memory lane

The Stylistics were never my favourite band, although I liked them. They were just there, always there. Part of a soundtrack to a life.

Who can forget this?
They seemed to be on top of that skyscraper roof for weeks in the summer of 1975. I was coming up to fourteen and probably blackcurrant picking at the time, the sun on my back and fingers weary and stained purple, just to earn thirty five pence a bucket.

There was a radio playing in the next row of bushes and Rod Stewart's Sailing was poised to take over the top spot in the Top Ten with Roger Whittaker and The Last Farewell not far behind. The high seas were a popular subject back then, with The Onedin Line a weekly treat on the telly.

I can't say I was struck with either of those songs. There was a load of rubbish in the charts, including The Bay City Rollers. I shudder at the thought of how I made my mother sew tartan inserts into my half-mast trousers.

Still, there were some corkers in the UK top ten of 24 August 1975. Remember these?
Fast forward a few years and I was still crazy about music, of all genres, dipping into Punk, New Wave and Electronica along the way.

I remember seeing my favourite band of all time, The Four Tops, at the late-lamented Cornwall Coliseum in the early 1980s when acquaintances were into Bauhaus, Japan and other pretentious tosh.
I was a trainee journalist at Plymouth with my own pop page (I'm flinching, thinking it might have been called something naff like Teen Scene. Ugh). In my review of the Four Tops I said something along the lines that this was a band which would be remembered long after the latest crop of fashion victims were forgotten.

It wasn't my smartest move but at least my flatmate stood by me.

"Darling, just look over your shoulder. Reach out, I'll be there."
Anyway, I digress. Back to The Stylistics. About seventeen years ago, Mr Grigg and I went on a soul weekender at Butlins. It was epic. I've been trying to organise a Lush Places trip there ever since, but I've yet to convince my friends and neighbours that they'll enjoy it, they really will.

In amongst a star-studded line up which included The Real Thing and Heatwave, topping the bill were The Stylistics. I remember watching them from the back of a vast room, three white suits shining like beacons of soul-tastic joy in a room full of strangers.

They belted out hit after hit. I'd forgotten The Stylistics had had so many brilliant singles.

So when I saw they were coming to Weymouth Pavilion, I wasn't slow in booking tickets, which is just as well because last night's gig was a sell-out. I told my friends on Facebook that I didn't care if the band members were sitting in wing-backed chairs and being administered multiple drips by a nurse, as long as they could sing while they were receiving their medication.

They're a four-piece these days, with only two original members of the group strutting their stuff, although one of them, Airrion Love, had a stool to rest on every now and then because he'd just discovered the chronic pain he's suffering is the result of a kidney stone.

There were ladies on girls' nights out, retired police inspectors, HR managers, the lot. All had one thing in common, they were out for a good time. And a good time they had too, with all the old favourites on the set list. And of course, they left the best until last, sadly without the presence of Love who failed to come back for the encore, the pain probably too much.

I can't give you anything but this grainy photo from my phone. In this picture, Love is singing Only You but struggling to hit the notes.
Despite this, it was £25 well spent for a wonderful, nostalgic and magical night out. Let's hope Love makes a full recovery.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Halloween comes and goes in Lush Places, complete with spooky soundtrack

With November comes the fog and Lush Places becomes Slush Places once more.
It's muddy underfoot and the dog has a field day gobbling up all the sheep's poo and getting filthy on harvested ground.
But that's the way I like it.

Halloween is the day of days; bright, cheerful and sunny. Yet my portal into another world - the mirror in the village square where the ley lines cross - foretells of darker days ahead: red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning.
October, a rare month for boys. And for girls, too, Mr Bradbury.

Imbibed with the power of the sisterhood and Samhain, I ponder on what to wear for the Halloween party in the pub, at which Ding Dong Daddy and I are doing the disco. I plump for an old favourite, a dark wig entwined with plastic snakes which transforms me instantly into Medusa. When I'm wearing this little number, just don't look into my eyes.
In the pub now and Ding Dong Daddy is doing a great impression of Uncle Fester without even putting on fancy dress. There's a pumpkin being sick on the doorstep, spiders and bats on the windows, ghouls and ghosts, slain schoolchildren, characters from horror films, my sister-in-law doing her chicken dance and then General Custer - he of the face carved out of Mount Rushmore - sporting a long black coat and an Edvard Munch Scream mask.

The Monster Mash is playing on the decks and then we break into a completely 0ff-the-cuff segue of Kid Rock and All Summer Long, the original and best Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd and then merging into Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon.

So proud of ourselves for this stroke of DJ genius, Ding Dong Daddy (shattered after a long Afro Celt Sound System recording session) and I give each other a high-five but our audience hasn't even noticed our musical magic, although they're quick to snigger loudly when we crash into Michael Jackson's Thriller too soon after Gene Pitney's and Marc Almond's Something Gotten Hold of My Heart.

Still, nothing prepares me for the sight of Mr Grigg, last seen back at base moaning he had nothing to wear. He emerges through the door clutching a pint and looking like the love child of The Grinch and Papa Lazarou from The League of Gentlemen.
The music flows, as does the wine and beer, until it's November 1st and All Souls Day. Unlike Halloween, it's misty, miserable and wet.

So, all the greetings of the season to you. I will leave you with this...
That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Monday, 26 October 2015

The moon, a dog, a coat and animal attraction

They've brought in the maize harvest now, the contractors working into the evening darkness to reveal a stubby, brown field by morning.

What was once tall and serene and crying out to be photographed has now disappeared before I even had a chance to get out my camera.

There'll be a Hunter's Moon in the sky tonight and it's full of foreboding. It means that my dog, Artemis, will go a little bit crazy for a while, as befits her name, which was the one the ancient Greeks gave to the goddess of hunting. Artemis was Apollo's twin sister and also a goddess of the moon.
The moon seems to have an effect on my Arty, for sure. She'll be particularly disobedient for a day or two, resisting all calls to 'come back here' after a week of being a good girl. This morning, she tears off into the copse and comes back five minutes later with a sheep's skull in her mouth. She, rather kindly, drops it at my feet.

A full moon is long thought to have had an effect on our moods. Well, if the Moon (along with the gravitational pull of the Sun and the rotation of the Earth) can affect the tide, then I have no problem in believing it has an influence on humans and animals too, especially as we are made up of about sixty per cent water.

Which is my excuse for buying yet another coat at the weekend to add to my collection. Who could resist its soft loveliness, its animal magnetism? I swear it jumped off the rail in TK Maxx and wrapped its faux fur leopard skin around me all by itself. Why else would I have bought it?

I put it back once and walked around a bit but then it leaped out at me again as I was leaving the store. I stopped to try it on, hanging it on the end of a rail as I took my jacket off in front of a mirror.

A young boy aged about seven walked past and stroked the coat while it was still on the hanger.

'Oooh, look mum,' he said, turning back to his beige-encrusted mother, who had highlighted hair and a complexion by Farrow and Ball, with a designer-etched frown on her face.

'No darling,' she said. 'You know I don't like things like that.'

Quick as you like, I said: 'Well, that's just as well, because I'm buying it.'

A look of embarrassment shot across her face. Embarrassment that anyone else could have such poor taste, I think.

'You should get that,' another woman said after the frowning mother went by. 'It suits you.'

And the young man on the till, well, he loved it.

'I so envy you being able to wear something like this,' he said, rubbing the fabric between his fingers. 'It's so soft.'

And, at that point, I didn't care that I might look like a complete tit in an oversized, animal print coat. At least I'd be warm.

But now it's in the cupboard, whipped from the bag before Mr Grigg's had a chance to go off on one ('how many coats and jackets do you need?).  You can see it's doing its best to blend in.
But I shall use this week to decide if it should stay or go.
And I shall be keeping it away from the dog. I've a feeling that in the mood she's in at the moment, she'd probably like to wear it.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Keeping it in the family

Like Laurie Lee, I was the baby in a big family, living on the land in a rural village. It was an idyllic upbringing and I have much to be thankful for. I was the youngest of five, brought up on dairy farm down a country lane edged with campions and gypsy lace, on the edge of a golden-stoned village in Somerset.

I've been writing about family life over on The Lady Shed website. I'd love to hear your stories.
That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Blogging: where do I go from here?

Please forgive me. I haven't blogged in over a month and it's all my fault. I can't see the wood for the trees.

I've reached a bit of a crossroads with The World from my Window and I'm not sure which direction to take.

I'm back from Corfu now, having been in Dorset for a few weeks and hurtling headlong into work and Lush Places life. I have to go up to the village hall in a minute to warm up some pizzas for the cast of The Ballad of Martha Brown before going up again later on to take the money on the door.

I'm way behind on updating the village website, I've got a TEFL course to finish before the end of February and I'm looking for a publisher for Good Morning Corfu: A Year on a Greek Island.

I also need to think about completing my Masters' dissertation next year. Stupidly, I've registered for NaNoWriMo again this year, about which I'll be writing on The Lady Shed website next week.

So, what with that and the day job, I've got lots to be getting on with. And that's my choice. I just need to sit down and think where I go from here.

Part of what I do (it doesn't seem like a job, exactly, as I enjoy it too much) is a weekly column for The People's Friend magazine. And it's here that I relate a lot of tales of everyday life, which used to feature on this blog and formed the basis for my novella, A Year in Lush Places.

Now I realise a lot of my blog readers don't necessarily read The People's Friend but I don't want to repeat myself. I'm also one of three writers for The Lady Shed website and my posts can be about whatever grabs me that week, apart from when all three of us write once a month on the same topic.

So what to write about on The World from my Window? At the moment, I'm thinking of anything about Dorset or any part of the country or world where I might be looking out of the window. Or should I just close the window altogether?

Any ideas? Your thoughts - if I still have any blog readers left - would be most welcome.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Monday, 21 September 2015

A storm in the Greek islands as the election result is announced

It’s breakfast time in Fiskardo, Kefalonia. There’s been a massive thunder storm in the night and now it’s pouring with rain.

And Alexis Tsipras has just been re-elected, with Syriza taking just over 35 per cent of the vote and its coalition partners, New Democracy, not far behind with 28 per cent.

Nikos the waiter doesn’t think much of the result. But, then, it was a poor turnout for what, looking through European eyes, seemed a pretty crucial election. Only 56.5 per cent bothered to vote, the highest abstention rate in the history of Greek parliamentary elections following the fall of the dictatorship in 1974.

According to
Voting in Greece is mandatory by law, however, it is rarely enforced. This year’s low turnout rate potentially reflects that Greeks did not believe that their vote would make a difference, since any government would have to enact the policies of the new Greek bailout agreement that was singed in late August. In addition, this is the third time Greeks have been called to the polls this year. The first time was in the January elections, that were followed by a second vote for the July 5 referendum.
In many instances Greek voters must travel to the district where they are registered to vote and that could involve expensive trips far from where they reside. Some Greek analysts also noted that many citizens distrust the country’s political system to the point that they don’t even want to vote.
Yesterday, I asked the proprietor of a gift shop what he thought about the election.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said. “They are all liars. It will be the day after the election which is important because of what happens next.”

Syriza is again forming a coalition with New Democracy, a marriage of convenience between left and centre right. In a country littered with corruption and red tape and years of financial mismanagement, the new Greek government has a huge job on its hands.

Nipping at its heels are the bad guys, Golden Dawn, who are Nazis, pure and simple, but still took seven per cent of the vote.

In the misty hills, scarecrows are strung up, ominously, next to a political flag. But which party it represents, I don’t know, it’s too tattered.
The sun shines as the rain falls, which is rather ominous or possibly hopeful, depending on how you interpret the signs, because, in Greece, a sunshower  means ‘the poor people are getting married’. It could be worse. If the sun was shining and the moon was out, it would mean the donkeys were getting married. Hee-haw.

Greece has so much going for it as a country. Sunshine, sea, snow, mountains, plains, culture, food, history (ancient and modern), hospitality, generosity. How did all go so wrong?

Meanwhile, on the islands, the storm clouds are receding and there are just weeks to go before the holiday season comes to an end.
And what then?

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

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