Tuesday, 30 December 2008

A taste of honey

I have just caught the tail end of Celebrity Mastermind. It was won by that smug bastard John Sessions. I knew a number of questions he didn't know, which was very satisfying. But he is too clever by half (whatever that means). He has also started talking in much more of a Scottish accent than he used to than in the days of Whose Line is it Anyway? Is there no beginning to his talents?

The TV is being flicked on and off. I am going stir crazy, confined to barracks by a heavy cold. I used to scoff at people who said they had a 'touch of flu' - you've either got it or you haven't. And when flu strikes, you know it. However, this has been really debilitating, annoying and energy-zapping. It really feels like a touch of flu and has wiped me out over Christmas. There used to be a cough medicine in these parts known as Fudge's Firewater. Bottles were restricted to one per household and you had to sign for it. Only one chemist had the recipe and was allowed to sell it. It tasted like Red Diesel mixed with the finest brandy - lovely! And as it shifted your fever, you hallucinated at the same time. I remember being tucked up in bed and seeing a face made up of lots of dots, zig-zagging all over the wall. One minute it was smiling, the next scowling. Scary but interesting.

When the independent chemist was taken over by a national chain, a notice went up on the door saying they could no longer source the ingredients for Fudge's Firewater. It transpired this was not entirely true and more to do with the arsenic and other ingredients that went to make up this marvellous medicine. Now I have to take out a mortgage to get the latest cure-all - Manuka honey.

More stories are emerging about how the fight started in the pub. As I haven't been out for several days, I have been unable to do any digging to get at the truth. However, it is clear this place is going downhill. On Sunday someone wrote 'fuck' and 'gay' in the frost on two ladies' car bonnets. This place is going downhill.

Celebrity Mastermind has finished and I have just found one of my favourite films. Babe. It always makes me cry at the end. Farmer Hoggett is so like my father.

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Love Actually

The whole village is talking about it. It kicked off just after people squeezed into church for midnight mass. I was at home nursing a heavy cold and watching Love Actually. Number One Son, home from University, came back from the village pub. He said it was boring and decided to go into town instead. When he came back a couple of hours later, he asked what was going on.

'What?' I said, oblivious, as I was soaking up the scene where the woman dives in to that muddy lake after Colin Firth's bits of flying paper.

'There's a police car parked outside our house and a load of angry looking people in the pub doorway.''

About half an hour later, Mr Grigg heard the sound of breaking glass and high heels running down the road.

The next day, as we had smoked salmon and champagne breakfast at Mr St John's, we heard that a group of people, including a local builder with his shirt off, had been in an angry mood.
An hour or so later, Mr Grigg got the low-down from the landlady and several others as we had a Christmas lunchtime drink in the pub. The story changed depending on who you spoke to and was embroidered that afternoon as we tucked into turkey with our waif and stray friends from across and down the road. Anyway, it involved punches being exchanged by Farmer's Boy and Fly-Boy-London-Barman, who have the kind of relationship our dog had with the tyrant spaniel earlier this year; punches thrown by Builder-with-Shirt-Off; slaps by Builder's wife on Landlord's Daughter (who had affair with builder two years ago); Daughter's Mother then slapping Builder's Wife; Fly-Boy-Barman legging it and then having two windows smashed by Landlord's Daughter. We are unsure of why this last bit happened, why any of it happened really, but Landlord's Daughter was knocked to the ground the previous week by the usually meek wife of another builder, so who knows. It was probably love, actually. Our own dear village square turned into Albert Square for the night. Eastenders was never this exciting.
Happy blooming Christmas!

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Dirty dancing

I have just been down the Other End of the Village delivering cards and party invites. Never one to waste an opportunity if it means saving time, I thought I would walk the dogs as well. Big mistake. It is not easy struggling along a muddy lane with a bag, a torch, cards, a sensible dog and a stupid five-month-old puppy that will not stop pulling. I ended up shoving cards through letterboxes using my mouth (sorry if yours is wet in the corner) and then got completely tangled with dog leads when the puppy decided to do a Christmas jig around my legs. I was in danger of falling over completely. My arms were wrapped around my torso as if in a loving embrace. The more the dogs pulled, the worse it became.

But my knight in shining armour arrived in the shape of a helpful farmer who pulled up in his Land Rover as I struggled to break free from my shackles. He pondered for a bit and then untangled me as if he were sorting out a bit of binder twine. It was rather like a weird version of Maypole dancing but without the music and with dogs instead of other human participants.

This was not unlike the entertainment at the village hall last night. The local Mummers, who have been performing since 1850, put on their festive show to say goodbye to the old year and welcome the new. The play has four acts and features various characters including St George, the King of Egypt, Room, Tommy the Pony and lots of fighting. Our logging friend, Mr Loggins, takes the role of the wifebeater and is thinking of going back to being St George because he is fed up with being booed all the time. He has a bloody girt stick and knocks seven bells out of the poor wife to the point where they have to get the doctor in to revive her. This usually involves the husband trying to give her the kiss of life while the doctor straddles her from behind. However, the scene was cleaned up somewhat because there were children present.

While the Mummers did their play and the folk singers did their set, some bastard broke into the church shed and stole the mower.

Ah, village life.

That's about it,
Love Maddie xx

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

A bit random

Attila the Hen, someone who holds high office in this village, is struggling with new technology. The laptop she is using in her home office - a first floor bedroom - is beyond her. Whatever she seems to do, it won't turn off. She was advised to put it somewhere out of harm's way. So she wrapped it in a plastic bag, lowered it from the window on a rope and left it in the garden over the weekend. In sub-zero temperatures. Now that's what people mean when they say the internet keeps freezing on them.

Mr Grigg has been licking logs again. As he was unloading the latest batch, someone from The Other End of the Village asked where they came from. 'Not being funny but...' usually means someone is, but it appears they had a load of wood stacked in a gateway until the cords suddenly disappeared. Valuable stuff, cut wood. Serves them right for leaving it lying about. Can't trust anyone these days.

Preparations are being made for an old English Christmas in the hall, with the local mummers supported by a folk band put together by a record producer who lives in the village. Years ago, most rural villages had their own mummers, who performed traditional, ancient plays to mark the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. I am always baffled when I see these plays, which usually feature Father Christmas, Saint George, the doctor and a pony and lots of clashing of wooden swords and fighting. I'm not sure the mummers themselves know the true meaning either, but they have great fun. Tickets are selling fast - I have 12 left - so Mr Grigg and Mr Loggins, who is a mummer, have gone up the hall to see if we can get any more in.

Our own front hall looks like Santa's grotto and the World from my Window looks on to a shimmering show of white lights, with Christmas trees dotted all around. Sadly, our lights won't stay on static and are currently on random play. Very disconcerting.

That's about it,
love Maddie x

Friday, 12 December 2008

Her tiny hands are freezing

It is so cold even the bronze nymph is wearing a long scarf draped over her private bits. This is the nymph who appeared billowing water as a fountain in the front of someone's garden a few years ago. She is the first thing people see in the village when they enter it from the east and is occasionally dressed in a tutu, a Santa hat and anything else that takes the fancy of passers-by. She was also used as an initiation ceremony for Mr Loggins 12 months ago. One cold December night, wearing only shorts and wellington boots, his task was to go into the garden, fondle the nymph and have his photo taken. The things that nymph gets up to.

The ice on the road has taken the local council by surprise. For two days, relatively major roads (for us, at least) were not gritted. As a consequence, accidents have been happening all over the place. Last week a cattle lorry was in a head-on collision with, guess what? A gritter truck. This week, a mother and child had to be taken by air ambulance to hospital after their car left the icy road just before 10am. A rumour spread quickly around the village that it was a fatality but, thank God, it was not. Police report no serious injuries.

It is cold now but not icy. There is lots of mud and slushy grass but that's about it.

Mr Grigg is going off log licking this weekend. He meant to write 'picking' in an email but he is so obsessed with logs I think 'licking' is quite appropriate. He is the village's male version of the Log Lady from Twin Peaks. Oh how I miss that programme.

I refuse to let the credit crunch and the advent of computer technology stop me sending Christmas cards. They brighten up a home.

That's about it
Maddie x

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

The Planet Suite

There are some advantages to being back in the rat race. I hate getting up in the dark and going home in the dark. But the beauty of the skies in December is breathtaking. This morning, a Homeresque dawn greets me as I drive past the BBC transmitting station, that modern take on Stonehenge, metal mast icons for the Age of Aquarius. And then this evening. Wow! Venus is a brilliant diamond in the south west at dusk, following Jupiter down as the evening wears on. It is a joy to drive home towards them. And then, as I walk the dogs, I realise I don't need the torch. The Oak Moon, or Snow Moon, is on its way, rising high above three beech trees in the hedgerow. Absolutely stunning. I stop and take it all in, breathe in the cold air and smell the woodsmoke. I thank God I am healthy and alive.

According to the wonderful Stargazers' Almanac, given to me by the boffin who runs the mobile planetarium, we will be able to see Saturn at midnight during the middle of the month and then Mercury next to the moon in the west at dusk on 29 December.

I once borrowed a telescope and was spellbound by the craters of the moon. From the warmth of my conservatory, it was like being at the helm of the Millennium Falcon. I think I would like a telescope for Christmas.

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Monday, 8 December 2008

It's not beginning to look a lot like Christmas

The smell from the hallway has disappeared. But there is an even worse one in the loo. I had to ask Mr Grigg if he'd had a poo this morning. He had, but nothing he's eaten lately could smell that bad. It's like a dead rat. Under the floor. I keep spraying air freshener around and pray to God no-one visits us in the next 24 hours. Because we only have the one loo and I can hardly say, 'sorry, if your name's not on the list you're not coming in'.

Last year we were up to our navels in Christmas party invitations. This year, nothing. It's either the credit crunch or nobody likes us. So we are throwing ourselves into organising a traditional old English Christmas with the local mummers' group and a folk band put together by a local record producer. It could be interesting - tickets are selling fast. It's the most exciting thing that's happening over Christmas. I don't even feel festive yet. And I know for sure that when we put the lights on the tree on the green, some little bastards will smash them like they did last year. Bah, humbug. God, I usually love Christmas. But everything's wet and miserable, the puppy keeps peeing on my foot and I have just fallen flat on my face as I tried to hurdle over the 'dog' gate between the kitchen and living room. I have shooting pains up my arms and my knee hurts. I am also £s away from meeting that bloody tax bill in January.

Hey, rat, move over under those floorboards and let me join the party.

That's about it.
Love Maddie x

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Of mice and men

There is something dead in my house. It smells and I can't find it. Yesterday, three large black flies starting doing a dance around the table lamp. The cats are going crazy, chasing after fly shadows and strangely attracted to one of the living room walls. I think there might be a dead mouse inside it, rotting away. But Mr Grigg says this is not possible as the walls are several feet thick. However, I read once that mice can get in the smallest of bloody holes. So who knows? And we do have the Little Nipper up in the attic, just above the living room wall, which is catching a mouse a day. Maybe the smell emanates from the one that got away, or at least thought it did. Before the poison set in. As long as the bloody rats aren't back, that's all I care about.
Working at the Death Star today, I took my rather fetching purple Hawkshead cardigan off. I discovered the jumper I had on underneath was inside out. I slipped off to the loo to change. Don't know why, but I told a complete stranger what had happened.
'Ooh, you can't change it back now. It's bad luck. My nan used to say you had to wear it like that all day.'
And do you know? I bloody did. I am not superstitious but yet I am. If I see a magpie I will salute very firmly, say 'Mr Magpie' and then frantically look for another one. Two for joy rather than one for sorrow. And I'll make someone else pick up a knife I have dropped on the floor. And if I bang my elbow I have to bang the other one (now that's just being stupid). Anyway, I've been sweltering all day. Good luck? Bollocks.
Mr Grigg is now walking around behind me, looking for holes in the walls and tapping them, Basil Fawlty-style. Men!
That's about it
Love Maddie x

Monday, 1 December 2008

Bah, Medley Schmedley

You're at a ball in your best dress and dolly shoes. You're watching everyone on the dance floor. Sniggering at the man who can't dance and his partner doing his best to look the other way. You're umming and ahhing about getting up and doing your thing. The Temptations start up with Get Ready, you take to the dance floor and get into the swing, albeit a bit self consciously. Your confidence grows as you mouth along to the chorus. And then it changes into bloody Junior Walker and the All Stars. Bugger.
Then you're 17 again when Abba's Dancing Queen starts up. But just when you were least expecting it it slips up a gear into Gimme, Gimme, Gimme a Man After Bloody Midnight.
Medleys. I hate them. Jive Bunny have a lot to answer for. Mr Grigg was so enraged at Saturday's ball he had words with the DJ. The response was: 'I've been doing this 20 years mate. I know what gets people dancing.' Mr Grigg promptly told him he's been dancing for more than twice that long and the DJ's choice of music was 'f..ing' rubbish. Not surprisingly, every record after that was a medley.
A leisurely morning followed, with cooked breakfast in the village hall, courtesy of a local group raising money for the football field. The hall was packed. Kids were running everywhere like rats without the Pied Piper as snow flakes fell outside. When the WI went into the hall this morning to decorate for Christmas, the key for under the stage was missing. Much cursing ensued, apparently, and they had to go in from outside, forming a human chain in the frost to pass the decorations back through into the main hall.
This evening, just before sunset, woodsmoke wafts from the chimneys, creating a long, low, white cloud running the length of the village. Cars are iced up, the grass is frosting and I pray for snow in the morning so I don't have to go into the office.
That's about it
Love Maddie x

Friday, 28 November 2008

Toilet humour

The new girl is settling in at last. But the council offices still feel like the Death Star. I expect to see Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader having a fight over the central staircase at any minute. I keep having these visions of black-suited corporate types turning into stormtroopers.
Two things made me smile:
One, a male colleague went to the loo and saw a chap rather ungainly drying the crotch of his trousers with the hand drier. A quick explanation apparently followed, but the suspicion is perhaps this is how this man gets his kicks.
Two, an illicit mobile phone conversation going on in the loo cubicle next to me. The lady was trying to be all lovey-dovey. And then I pulled the flush and her secret location was revealed.
Toilet humour, you can't beat it.
Meanwhile, back in the rural idyll, the Aga has gone out again - blown out by the wind - and Mr Grigg has been asked to read a lesson at the carol service. He is highly honoured, although I got in first last year. It all went well until I reached the point where I had to say 'I am a virgin'. I could see several of my neighbours doubled up with laughter in the pews and then I promptly lost my place.
The house is cold but the sky is bright and a weekend with friends, a ball and Christmas shopping beckons.
That's about it
Love Maddie x

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Curiouser and curiouser

Last night, the hall was heaving as villagers left their warm homes on a chilly night to take part in the annual quiz. There were about 90 people there and I am pleased to say our team members excelled themselves and came second. I was personally very proud to have remembered that Malawi was once Nyassaland. I don't think I spelled it right, but there were no extra points for spelling, which was good news.

The winners were a team who should have been called the Smart Arses. A serious lot from the next village, they won it two years ago. But we had been led to believe they would never be back as a protest against the quality of the wine dished out as prizes. But came they did, bold as brass, and they disputed several answers (they were actually correct on one but the adjudicator wasn't having any of it) and when presented with their bottles, very swiftly took them out of the bags to examine the labels. We should have mugged them really on the way out.

We managed to make the food stretch to feed the assembled throng by adding more water to the sausage and bean casserole. The preserving pan became like the magic porridge pot. Very delicious but I swear there were times this morning when the village was about two inches off the ground through all that collective wind released as people went to get the Mail on Sunday.
After the quiz, Mr Grigg and our friend Nobby decided to loiter around Mr St John's house, as he was entertaining a lesbian couple to dinner. Mr Grigg and Nobby came back and reported they couldn't see much through the small window which was fairly high up. But they could see dinner was over and Mr St John and his guests were playing Scrabble. What a disappointment. I think Mr Grigg hoped it would be naked Twister at the very least.

However, not content with peering in from Mr St John's rear windows once, they returned with a broom stick on which perched a scarecrow's paper mache head wearing a panama hat. We all have scarecrows of various states in our garages (this could be the twin village to the one in the Wicker Man, believe me) and this one was pretty scary. After breaking through the security lights of Mr St John and his neighbour, Mr Grigg and Nobby gave a puppet show of sorts with the scarecrow and the window before being spotted by one of the lesbians who shrieked out in horror and then invited them in for a nightcap

Whether the scarecrow on the broomstick was spotted by anyone else, I'm not sure.

That's about it,
Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

There ain't nobody here but us chickens

A looming tax bill has prompted me to sell my soul to the local council. Yesterday, I started working for the council three days a week, temporarily you understand, and I feel like a battery hen. I always wondered why the caged bird sings and it's probably out of frustration. My own singing is taking the form of cursing loudly every time the word 'engagement' jumps out at me from a document on a computer screen, or, even worse, when I hear it spoken with a straight face. At the moment, I am the new girl but I am beginning to understand why every person with whom I attempt to 'engage' in the kitchen or lavatory is either leaving or has just joined.
I do so miss my rural idyll. Simple things like taking the dogs out in the morning light rather than stumbling around fields as I fall over leads before the sun comes up. Chatting to my neighbours, hearing a robin warbling in the tree and making endless cups of tea and reorganising the laundry basket as I put off my next work-related task.
For three days a week, after donning my Marks & Spencer office 'uniform' of black, easy care trousers and a sensible sweater (with a brightly coloured top peeking out just to show I am a quiet rebel), I will get in my car and head for the office, some 40 minutes away. I will listen inanely to Radio 2, flick over to more serious stuff on Radio 4 and then get fed up with the line of questioning and mealy-mouthed responses. I will try Radio Local because the jingles always make me laugh. And then I will venture into Radio 1 territory but will get out quick in case I have a crash and the paramedics wonder who the hell this 47-year-old thinks she is, listening to such rubbish. At least I am wearing clean and matching underwear.
Once I get to my destination, I will be unable to find anywhere to park and will drive around and around until I am almost back home. Well, not quite, but it will feel like it. I will finally find a space outside someone's house, clip clop into town in the most ridiculous boots I have never worn, forge ahead across the crossings and walk into the office. Along the cold corridors, other battery hens will be heading for their bunkers, doors closing as they reach their daily sanctuary, emerging like Pavlov's dogs every time the tea trolley bell rings.
I will open the door but no-one will look up. I will instantly feel guilty for arriving 10 minutes after 8.30, even though I am a freelance and do not have to clock in. I will begin some incoherent ramble about being stuck behind a tractor and babble on for ages trying to justify myself before I will realise no-one is taking the slightest bit of notice. I will take off my invisibility cloak, put it on the back of my chair and log in.
How I long for the days of Russell's crow, cockadoodledooing across the valley. Cluck cluck!
That's about it
Love Maddie x

Monday, 17 November 2008

Silence of the Lambs

As Russell's crow goes cockadoodle-doo across the valley, trying to outdo the one belonging to the Lady with the Bright Red Hair, we are still no nearer to unmasking the bacon thief. Gypsy Rose has not been seen for a while now, and suspicion falls on anyone looking slightly bigger than they did when they last went in the shop. The village is obsessed with eating and food so the thief could be anyone.
Next to Russell's crow's pen, where he struts around with his hen and chick friends, is a field full of lambs. These are new ones, we have not got to know them very well, unlike the orphan lambs we grew to love in the summer. We loved them so much that when they were slaughtered, they were cut up and distributed to various freezers in the village. Our neighbour, who lives on her own, shared half a lamb with her townie friends up the road. For weeks these people ran their freezers down, emptying them of things that lurked in the corners without labels. Hoorah, the lamb was coming and it was coming their way. When the lamb was finally dispatched and delivered, our neighbour and her friends waited with bated breath. Their disappointment was palpable, even on this side of the road, and we were away on holiday at the time. Suddenly, half a half of lamb was actually not very much at all. As they fought over the best bits, a few chops here, half a pound of mince and a shoulder, the townie neighbour asked why, if they had half a lamb between them didn't they have two legs? Weren't lambs usually of the four-legged variety, or was this the famous three-legged Dorset lamb which hides out with unicorns and dragons? Our neighbour turned to them and said, 'you haven't lived in the countryside very long, have you?' It took her some time to explain that the leg and the shoulder were actually it, as far as their half was concerned. After sorting out their booty, there was a knock on the door from the person who had delivered it. 'Just to let you know, that was Sooty. Enjoy!'.
Similarly, when I tracked my half of lamb down to a freezer somewhere in the village - after being taken in while we were on holiday - I had not needed to take my car after all. It didn't need to go in the boot, I could have carried it in a jiffy bag. Baa! Maybe this is why it was necessary for the bacon thief to take the bacon in the first place, to supplement the meagre portions yielded up by these sad little lambs. However, quantity is not everything, it's the quality that counts. And they were very tasty indeed.
Pheasants are also on the menu now it is the shooting season. Every other Saturday, we go to a small farm shoot where the birds that are shot are taken home and eaten, unlike at the obscene large shoots where the surplus of birds is buried in holes while the ridiculously dressed guns go home in their posh cars, running over the odd beater or two. As well as a brace of rather nice pheasants, this weekend I also managed to find an unusual Esso oil bottle, with Art Deco-style stepping on the neck and 1950s lettering on the label. I can't eat it but it will look pretty on the sideboard.
That's about it,
Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Saving our bacon

As the sun beats down on this soggy corner of England, the skies looking more Greece than Dorset, the news breaks that we have a thief in our midst. The village shop is always busy, at certain times of the day, located as it is on a square where four roads meet. This is the world from my window, the world I look out on and walk through every day. But this is something I did not see. No-one saw it happen - it just did. One minute the chill cabinet was full of bacon, the next minute, nothing. There were just two customers in the shop at the time: a respectable elderly lady who has lived here all her life apart from her formative years in a hamlet she still hankers after and an old gypsy woman, with carrier bags on her feet and a very large coat over her shoulders. The bacon, it is true, was on special offer. But Buy One Get One Free does not usually mean Steal One Get One Free. Suspicion has naturally fallen on Gypsy Rose Lee, which may appear rather judgmental but, hey, that's life. What people cannot believe is that she actually went to the counter and paid for half a dozen eggs and two tomatoes and then walked out with £70 worth of bacon concealed on her person.
The shop is a key facility in this village. You need a personal fortune the size of Somerset to do all your shopping there on a regular basis but it is very convenient for milk and newspapers and a very good source of information. We are lucky here in that we still have a shop, a brilliant primary school, a village hall, church and a post office, if only someone would step forward and run it. Luckily, ours was not on the official closure list but our hardworking postmistress shut up shop at the end of last year and there is no-one to run it. With postage rates and regulations so complicated now, I frequently have to drive six miles to take my parcels to be weighed and stamped.
But one thing this village does have is wide range of active people who help keep the place alive. Too many communities around us are dead during the week while the second home owners fanny around in London. For some reason, our village has remained a bit of a secret from most of these types, even though we are twixt coast and mainline train station. Long may it stay that way. One local farmer says the village now is what it was like when he was growing up, after going through a phase in the 70s and 80s where retired people moved in with plans of changing it as soon as they got here. He feels the latest batch of people who have moved in - some from not that far away - are the type to get on with others, knuckle down and help out, come up with new ideas where necessary but, most of all, do not TAKE OVER. It's all about respect for a place and its soul. It was here long before we were and long after, no doubt, so we owe a debt of gratitude for just being here.
Meanwhile, as the sun beats down all afternoon and the shadows lengthen in the square, the hunt for the bacon thief continues. Although I can't help thinking the trail has long gone cold.
That's about it
Love Maddie X

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Light up the sky with Handel's fireworks

On a wet autumn day, Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks plays on my stereo. Which is appropriate really, as we have just celebrated Bonfire Night a few days late with the village fireworks. The composer is the right choice but it really ought to be Handel's Water Music, as the rain it raineth, and raineth all the night.
We should have known; the forecasters and village soothsayers were all saying the same, as they waved printouts from the BBC website. Beware the rain. But we live in such a strange place, the weather can be completely different from locations just a few miles away. When the sun is shining on the coast just down the road, up here we're in fog land. However, despite the forecast we decided to go for it because of our wise old neighbour next door. In our house, he is known as Gandalf because we are convinced he is a wizard. He does not come and go out of his front door any more, like the little man and woman who lived in the weather house on my grandparents' wall, but we trust his hunches. Gandalf said we had a 50 per cent chance of rain. He felt the rain would pass us by. My father too, who is also pretty old and wise, said we would be all right, but he does live half an hour away.
So all afternoon, the village men prepared the ground for the fireworks while the women stirred over the souple as it hubbled and bubbled. The clouds were moving swiftly over the green by about 5pm. Things were looking good. Not long after the barbecue was sizzling away for a 5.30 start, the first few flecks of rain fell out of the sky like grains of fine salt from a salt pot. The salt sooned turned to large crystals as the rain fell in sheets on the gazebo which nearly took off in the wind and almost put out the barbecue. Amazingly, the punters turned up, almost in droves. Meanwhile, the police arrived, which was very nice of them - the community bobby and his community police support officer - and the wild children of the green suddenly became very well behaved. Minutes before Mr Grigg and I were due to go up the hill to set off the rockets , the CPSO asked if we had 'facilities'. Someone said yes, the village hall was open, as they thought the police were checking everything was all in order. The hall wasn't open and it transpired the officer had been caught short and needed to relieve himself. We gave him the keys to our house just across the way but forgot to tell him the seat on the loo would not stay up on its own. As the minutes ticked by, the start of the fireworks was delayed while we waited for the officer to complete his task, which took rather a long time. By then, word had got out to all those on the green who were now aware of the ablutions going on - and by whom - in our house. We rather hoped the officer was having a number two otherwise his appendage might have become trapped as the loo seat snapped shut. Someone commented it was just as well that when the officer came on duty he and his colleagues weren't about to go on a major shout. Can you imagine it? 'Sorry Sarge, I know Bin Laden is holed up in a fishing boat in West Bay but can you give me five minutes?'
After a while, the officer, who looked much thinner and relieved since his visit to our lavatory, emerged from the house, much to the delight of the crowd who were getting drenched as they waited for the fireworks to start. Some 20 minutes later, they were still waiting because although the fireworks had been covered up, the rain had soaked through the tarpaulin and made the fuses damp. Meanwhile, Mr Grigg and I were in the field above the church, scrabbling around with matches to light the 30 high powered rockets that were in piles in the back of the Landrover. As a spark from a match flew off at an angle, I had visions of the Freelander exploding and taking us with it. We were meant to be in touch with our fellow firework starters on the green through a walkie talkie system. But it was a waste of time because I kept pressing the wrong button and all I could hear was a high pitched whistling noise and then strains of Yankee Doodle Dandy. So we launched our rockets anyway, while the people lighting the fireworks on the green struggled to get anything skywards. By the end of the evening, some £200 worth of fireworks had failed to ignite, and the men debated whether to take the fireworks apart and adapt them for next year. What is it with men and gunpowder? Fortunately, common sense prevailed and the live fireworks were submerged in a large water trough to disarm them.
After that, there was nothing else for it other than to decamp, very soggily, into the pub for a warming brandy and wet flagstones.
Today, the clear up began, the ends of rockets like spears distributed randomly in graves all over the churchyard. A sombre note now, as we prepare for the Remembrance Day service, the bells half muffled in readiness for the service. Mr Grigg is half deaf after going up in the bell tower and in the process of putting the muffles on just when the clock struck noon. This is music to his ears because he now really has an excuse for not listening to me.
That's about it
Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

A bridge too far

The traffic trundles, albeit slowly, past my window now that the road is open. For the past six weeks or so, it has been pretty quiet here, as workmen have been busy creating a new culvert at the bottom of the street. The work involved digging up the tarmac to the stream underneath and pedestrians have had to walk around the edge on a specially-created path and bridge. The traffic, meanwhile, has had to take a diversion. And that has not pleased everyone.
The village has been divided - literally and metaphorically. There are those at the posh, leafy end, where residents have drives and can sing at least two verses of Dallas before reaching their front doors. And there are those, like me, whose houses and cottages are all higgledy-piggledy, cheek by jowl sort of places, where when we put the washing out, our neighbours can just about make out our hip size from the labels on the underwear.
Up this end, so to speak, the road closure has been bliss. Children have been gaily cycling in the middle of the road, safe in the knowledge they aren't going to be clipped by a passing car. Dogs have been enjoying being on extended leads, their owners knowing they are not going to be run over by the boy racer in the BMW with the distinctive number plate. We have even had our own village event. Where some communities open up their beautiful gardens to the public for charity, we have opened our garages, back yards and porches for ourselves, stalls lined along the street for people to rummage and hand over their hard-earned cash.
It was a Sunday and the street was thronged with punters. We had dealers first thing. You can always tell them - they arrive early, look disinterested and pick up a few items and then casually make you a ridiculously low offer for something you know is of value. But do you care? No, because you want rid of the thing anyway. One stallholder had the good sense to buy low energy bulbs in a special deal at Morrisons and then sell them for twice the price. Ha! And I think a dealer bought some of them too.
So the road closure has given us, at this end of the village, a new feeling of community. Banding together and having, in effect, our own car boot sale without having to take it anywhere.
But the closure has not been welcomed on the other side of the culvert, where vehicles have had to make a long detour or else chance their lives in muddy and narrow lanes in Volvo saloons and little hatchbacks and, heaven forbid, reverse for a tractor. They have not been happy and say the workmen have been working only a six-hour day. So when a protest was organised for the local paper, it looked like it would be well supported. However, there were about four or six residents for the photo shoot next to the gaping hole in the road. And when the sign on the diversion changed, taking the date when the road would be open even further back into the future, there were mutinous mutterings of withdrawing council tax. When the final date was announced, one couple was seen at the culvert, the woman dangling a pink pig with wings on a string over the trickling waters below and the man taking her photograph.
Meanwhile, the workmen have been keeping their heads down, terrified of more tutting and verbal abuse from people who live nearby but cannot get through and have to walk to the shop to get their Daily Mail. So those of us pleased about the road closure have been making a point of being especially pleasant to the workmen. One of my friends, a slip of a thing who works from home and lives right next to the culvert, rang up the council to thank them. The official on the other end, not used to praise, was aghast and taken completely off guard. But my friend is no fool. Despite being the wrong side of the culvert (now there's a phrase to conjure with) and putting up with the continual noise of a pump and drills, she only had to smile and the workmen would down tools and help her carry things to and from her house and car.
So now the road is open again and all is forgotten but not forgiven. Maybe we 'up this end' should consider giving our garage sale profits to the residents who have been so inconvenienced. Or maybe not.
That's about it,
Love Maddie X

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Maddie's back!

Maddie's back! After narrowly avoiding clinching a book deal and a column in one of the weekend supplements, The World from my Window re-emerges as a regular look at life from England's rural underbelly.

It is November 1 - All Souls Day - and in about an hour's time I have to lock up the church. I really need to check it first for tramps sleeping under pews before I turn the key. I'd best take a torch with me. It is very dark down here.

There has been a rush on pumpkins at the local nursery for a Halloween competition in the village hall. The gardens and allotments society, in an attempt to get more people interested, put on the event for its AGM last night. We are not members but a friend is, and to show our support for him, we turned up with our pumpkin lantern to add to the table of entries at the back. My Lidl pumpkin, carved on Wednesday, had become quite soft and its once wide open mouth and crooked teeth had shut after the top lip sank into its chin.

The committee, combined aged 926, was dressed in pointy hats and wizard cloaks as we settled down to listen to our guest speaker (and pumpkin judge) talk about dowsing and healing. The surreal picture of elderly, normally upstanding, Christian members of the community, sitting in rows in the hall dressed as witches, was quite unsettling. It reminded me of a Harry Potter convention. And when the guest speaker started talking to her dowsing rods and stroking her crystals, it dawned on the committee she was actually a white witch. Quite appropriate really, given the date, but none of them had realised this at the time of booking.

Meanwhile, the pumpkins at the back were getting hotter and the smell of burning became too strong to politely ignore. As the speaker got the energy flowing through her dowsing rods, my earring flew off and two pumpkins suddenly burst into flames. The smoke detectors, however, failed to pick this up, having been boxed in with cereal packets earlier in the week for a function that had involved smoke bombs and explosions on the stage. Don't ask, it's best not to.

Fortunately, the speaker found a ready supply of water (her rods took her to the kitchen sink) and gave the offending pumpkins a good soaking. That wiped the cheerful grins off their faces.
Drama over, we tucked in to a hearty supper and then realised we were the only ones drinking alcohol. Flyers had been sent around the village, inviting thempeople to bring their own liquid refreshment and glasses. We took this to mean red wine, but everyone else had brought fruit juice or cordial and some had brought nothing at all. We felt like alcoholics at a temperance meeting. Somehow, we were persuaded to stay for the AGM ('it won't last long,' our friend said, 'only a couple of hours'. We thought he was joking). Half an hour later, and stalemate having been reached on whether the society should remove the word 'allotments' from its title after a schism in the ranks ('they don't want anything to do with us' was the widely-held view, and I wondered why), we sloped off to the pub.

The red wine in our pub is the kind you wouldn't take to someone's for supper even if you disliked them. This is not the landlords' fault, more the brewery which doesn't give mine hosts a choice. A large glass and a small glass of dreadful red wine later, the bar had thinned out to about eight of us . Larry the landlord put on a Sound of Music CD given to him by the local bus driver who had got it free with the Daily Mail. As the strains of Climb Every Mountain permeated the pub, the assembled throng began to sing. In particularly fine voice was Hawkeye, a 60-year-old steel erector whose Dorset drawl is like a Westcountry version of John Wayne. It struck me that it would be a good idea to have different versions of The Sound of Music, such as the True Grit one. These fanciful thoughts soon disappeared, however, as the introduction to Do-re-mi tinkled in. Without thinking, I was seven again and in the primary school social, but this time in the lead role. I was Maria and suddenly, finger pointing, directed the people at the bar into their roles like seven restless children. Some of them were reluctant, it's true, and Mr St John's 'S0, a needle pulling thread' was a bit weak' but Hawkeye's 'La, a note to follow So' was positively breathtaking. It was one of the best bits of improvised singing I have seen and heard in the pub for ages.

Now we were on a high, the landlord took this as his cue for a bit of Larry-oke. As the opening bars of Dancing Queen broke through and four women (including me, I regret to say) took to the mics and became Meryl Streep et al for the evening. Unlike my pumpkin, I do not know when to shut my mouth.

That's about it,
Maddie x

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

I blame the parents

We have a small band of kids in this village who are growing up to a be a complete pain in the arse.
One of them snapped off a plum tree that was just about to flower. Destroying a tree, a living thing, is bad enough, but this tree was planted in memory of one of our own, who did loads for the local community. It's no wonder some people would quite gladly take the culprits round the back of the church and give them a damn good thrashing But violence isn't the answer. We have to shame them, make them realise that messing on their own doorstep is not very clever. Every once in a while this kind of thing happens, a particular child with parents who don't care very much or are completely blind to the thug their child is growing into. And then all the kids get blamed, they all get a bad name. So what to do in this situation? A notice has been put on the green to inform people what has happened and how sad it has made people feel. But in the grand scheme of things, it's not a major assault on humanity. I blame the parents.
One of my greatest bug-bears (what is a bug-bear?) is litter and the casual way people discard their rubbish without any thought to the environment around them. I was always taught to put my rubbish in a bin or take it home with me - although I do confess to throwing apple cores in the hedge because they're biodegradable. It's something I taught my children from a young age and, I think, has helped them respect the natural world around them. So when something as basic as that isn't taught to children by their parents, in the same entirely natural way a parent holds a child's hand when they walk across the road together, then the foundation stones for a solid future are missing. Last week there were three girls on the swings, surrounded by their own dirt (in this case, sweet wrappers from the shop). There was a bin six feet away from them.

Breaking news
The village has just had a hugely successful fun day with the village green packed with activities. The streets were taken over by scarecrows, many of which had an Olympic theme. There were pole vaulters going through windows, swede putters, runners, cyclists, fencers, wheelchair athletses - all sorts. The creator of the winner, I am led to believe, had the benefit of going to nose-making classes to get the right effect.

Elderflower is out in abundance as we gather the blooms for making a wonderful cordial. Last month we snipped off nettle tops to make a lovely nettle and garlic soup. Who needs H F-W?

Scooter Boy must have graduated to something quieter, because his dulcet 'yim, yim, yim' tones are no longer heard early in the morning. However, there is a car terrorising the neighbourhood, going up and down in the middle of the night and trying to drive through cul-de-sacs. Last week the car was hoisted up on bricks and we all hoped someone had stolen its wheels. Sadly, no. The car was waiting for new, fat, go-fast tyres. Shame.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Power Struggle

There is a power struggle going on in this house, hence the long time since my last blog.
We have just taken in a springer spaniel from a rescue centre in Devon to keep our howling dog company, only to find the old dog hates the new one. It's getting better, but there have been fights every now and then, whenever the old dog thinks the new one is getting attention and he isn't. And when I say old dog I don't mean my man. My man is surprisingly stress-free, although he starts to swear when he has to clear up the crap from the patio. I have cleared up several bloodstains from the kitchen floor but lately the two dogs have been cuddling in to each other. It's only when a familiar human comes on the horizon the fur starts to fly. We have been told new dog has a wonderful pedigree, so we're hoping its field trials ancestry will come to the fore when we go beating in the autumn. Until then, I am doing my damndest to keep the bloody thing under control on a lead. I cannot believe a family in the middle of Plymouth thought the city was a good place to bring up an energetic dog like a springer. What a mad world.

Breaking news
It has taken me half an hour to drive into town, a journey that normally takes me ten minutes. As I rounded the bend this morning, a car was stuck out in the middle of the lane, its hazard warning lights on and a bloody great lorry in front bearing the company name: 'YoungTurk', all the way from Instan-F-ing-Bull. What the hell was this doing in our quiet lanes is a mystery, although probably has something to do with the way SatNav technology directs drivers through the so-called 'quickest' route. Quickest, my arse. The irony is I've just finished drafting a moving piece of life writing about my grandfather who fought the Turks in Gallipoli in World War One and then get holed up by a Turkish lorry on my own doorstep. YoungTurk in bloody deed.

Three friends, my man and me and stepdaughter, 16, had a curry night on Saturday and then we all fell asleep watching Hot Fuzz. Curry from the local takeaway was fantastic, especially as it was free. They were so busy, they forgot to charge us. Had I been there, I would have said something but I wasn't so I couldn't. I had already seen Hot Fuzz before and loved it and this time managed to stay awake until the gunfight scene in Wells high street. I awoke under a blanket on the sofa to the sound of my own snoring.

My stepdaughter has been given antibiotics, yet again, for a cold. She seems to have three to eight courses of antiobotics every year. I thought doctors were meant to be stopping doing that? It's no wonder all these superbugs have taken hold. And surely all these antibiotics in one body can't do anyone much good, can they?

The village still hasn't got used to the new arrangements for recycling. It seems if one puts their box out, they all go out. Sheep!

That's about it
Love Maddie X

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

A day at the races

Rah, rah rah! Point to point season hits this area with a rash of signs 'to the races' here, there and everywhere, as the thunder of horse boxes and cattle lorries reverberates around the village. This is a social event, high on a hillside overlooking the Axe Valley and several stately piles. Tweed is the order of the day here - with hats, trousers, jackets and even suits jostling for attention. Some are handed down from generation to generation. Barbour jackets are so yesterday, dahling, in these surroundings, as are Wellington boots, in the main, a poor relation to the Game Fair boots that cost £200 and up. Red cords are teamed with yellow shirts, public schoolboys and girls play rugger in between the parked cars and every one kisses each other twice on the cheek. If you don't have a four by four here, dahling, you are an absolute nobody. Because it is not possible to have your hamper, rug, six directors' chairs, sturdy table, tablecloth, linen napkins, enough smoked salmon to feed an army and a case of champagne and copious crystal glasses in a clapped-out hatchback. The racing itself is secondary, although the bookies, as always, make a profit. The ground is either too soft or too hard (in this case too soft) for all the runners to turn out and the odds are very short indeed. Here and there, an ordinary farmer, with a lovely, quizzical Dorset voice, chats with a friend, having been given free tickets because he has allowed the hunt to use his land. There is also the occasional pleb, white heels sinking into the churned-up mud, comparing their cocker spaniel with a ground-scraping daschund and wondering what the hell they are doing here. Next year, we need an upper class twits' race to round off the proceedings.

Breaking news
The point to point has resulted in several, up-market, designer label scarves being blown around the village. I picked up a pashmina from the middle of the road and put it on the pavement and then went back to see if it was still there. It is now in my laundry basket, awaiting a good wash. Another scarf with zebra markings has been tied around a rose stem in my neighbour's front garden.

A change to rubbish collection and recycling days has sent many into a spin. As the bin men whip through one street, a man looks at all the bags outside his house in horror as the bin men forsake him for their next collection point. Just four days later, we get another collection and it is rather worrying to see just how many wine bottles can accumulate in less than half a week.

A number of houses are up for sale and there is no sign the market is picking up. However, a 1930s red brick bungalow, which requires modernising and has a lovely garden with views to nearby hills, is snapped up in a fortnight. The guide price is £270,000 and with £50,000-£100,000 spent on it will make someone a quick buck.

The lighter evenings and birds singing make it feel that spring is really on its way. When Scooter Boy wears a lighter jacket and shorts, summer will be well and truly here.

That's about it,
love Maddie X

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

The Spoon Collector

Easter has come and gone with a mystery surrounding an apostle spoon. A set of 12 were loaned for a hot cross bun morning at the village hall and only 11 turned up at the end. Bins were turned out, window sills checked, as were the spaces behind the radiators. Despite a fingertip search, no trace of the spoon (or fingertips) could be found. It is ironic on Good Friday, the day when Jesus was nailed to the cross after being betrayed by one of the 12, that an apostle spoon should go missing. Will we find it hanging, New Age art-like, from a Judas Tree? This is not the first time spoons have gone missing in this village. A cutlery drawer devoid of spoons was mentioned at a previous hall meeting, when votes and counter votes were taken to go out and buy some replacements. The steel spoon enthusiasts won the day against the fans of the plastic variety and a representative was tasked to get some more. This stock has now dwindled, hence the need to borrow the set of apostle spoons from the caretaker. There is someone in this village, sitting in a wood-panelled living room surrounded by wall-mounted spoons from various sources. They probably caress them each night before putting them to bed in a velvet-lined drawer. You know who you are, so cough up.

Breaking news
Scooter Boy's silencer has developed a new fault. He is now on shift work and can be heard all times of the day roaring through the village.

The county council have accepted they were in the wrong (partly) over the new street lights and we are patiently waiting for something to be done about it. A back plate was promised on the light in front of the house next door last August but nothing has happened.

The cold weather has not seen any more clothes placed on the nymph in the garden at the entrance to the village. Still she stands there, with a wet tartan scarf draped around her neck. The girl could do with a coat, if nothing else.

The union flag has been flying on the church tower over the Easter weekend. Unfortunately its rope has been flapping against the flagpole, keeping all sorts of people awake. A raiding party is expected soon, along the lines of the Hilary expedition up Everest.

There are far too many Rah-Rah types in the village this Easter, staying in holiday cottages or with friends. A Hugh Grant-smile does not do you any favours here you know. Rather the opposite.

'Never turn down an invitation' is one of my neighbour's favourite sayings. As a result, we had two roast dinners on Sunday - one at lunchtime and one in the evening. Time for a bit of egg rolling, I think, to get the fat off.

That's about it
Love Maddie X

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Mommy Dearest

It's the same year after year. Yet again on Mother's Day I wake with a thumping hangover playing double bass in a jazz quartet. Oh, these parties. The night before, Mr and Mrs Sheepwash from down the road threw a bash to mark their 30th wedding anniversary - child bride, she was. Anyway, it was a great night but I forgot to put my contact lenses in and spent the entire evening sharing an armchair with a friend who had also forgotten to put in her lenses. Between us, we gazed into each other's eyes because we were the only people we could see who weren't blurred. We solved all the world's problems while we drank the white wine lake dry.
So, for Mothering Sunday, no bellringing for us because a) we got up too late and b) the daughter and grand-daughter visited with a chocolate cake so it seemed like a good excuse not to go up the church tower steps and risk a nasty fall and tinnitus from those bells. The day before, a huge bouquet arrived from the prodigal son from Uni (fleeting thoughts crossed my mind of a secret admirer but I was pleased they were from Number 1 Son as two years ago he completely forgot, and he still lived with me then. I did think, however, I must be giving him too much money a month if he can afford to throw money down the Interflora wishing well). We spent the day entertaining the mother-in-law and 20 others to whom we were not related at an 80s throwback hotel in Devon where the food was crap and the service wasn't much better. I kept expecting Joan Collins to sashay in with shoulder pads, big hair and a menu pad. How we put up with such rubbish all over the country is beyond me but if we don't complain, what should we expect?
I came home to find a posy on the bath outside the front door, delivered by one of the churchwardens I think, from the church service earlier in the day. The bath had been left outside the front door because we've just had a new one put in, even though we're selling the house. Well, would you buy a house with a 1970s-style pampas-coloured bathroom suite? Of course not, so I'm sure the new white one from Wickes will make all the difference. Anyway, the bath was left out for a passing farmer to pick up and take to the fields to use as a feeding trough. Within a day, the bath disappeared, so who needs trips to the tip when you can recycle like this? Only problem is, the house has now been re-named The Old Bath House by some local wags who only have to see something for five seconds and it becomes part of village folklore.

Breaking news
A tramp called in to the Lent Lunch at the hall, had a bowl of soup and a pudding and then asked for more. More? A tramp wanting more??

I thought I saw a blackbird attacking another in a hedgerow but on closer inspection he was pinning a female down with his beak while she squawked for him to get off. The animal world has so many similarities to our own.

The most exciting thing on the horizon is the parish meeting - wow, can't wait. In fact, think we'll go on holiday for the week just to avoid it.

Lamp posts are still intact, no-one has taken out a shotgun to them - yet.

A retired policeman has told me two lesbians who run a tea shop in a nearby village had previously been done for running a brothel. 'Would you like milk with that sir, or just massage oil?'

That's about it
Love Maddie X

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Not in front of the parents

Do you remember when you were young and watched something risque on the television with your parents right beside you? You'd be so embarrassed you'd stare, non-plussed, straight ahead, terrified of the look on their faces and fearing they might send you to bed once they had got over the shock. Well, we have just had the film Atonement in our village hall and when the sequence with the typewriter came on and Robbie typed the 'C' word you could even hear the tea cups in the kitchen gasp. And when the word kept resurfacing, again and and again, throughout the film my only hope was the entire village was dyslexic and thought the film was about King Cnut.
It reminded me of a film show a while back when one of the village hall committee thought a film called La Spagnola looked quite good. The grey heads coped with the scenes showing fumbling in the back of a car. But when the ugly, aged aunt appeared on the giant screen, preparing a ratatouille and then took a fancy to a courgette I nearly wet myself. She looked at it, wrapped it in cling film and then, with the camera behind her, began to pleasure herself. Of course, you couldn't see anything but with all the grunts and groans it was obvious what was happening. We were sitting at the front, starting straight ahead, not daring to look around at the grey heads on the village hall seats behind us. At that point, a spider scuttled across the floor, stopped to look up at the screen, looked at the audience and then ran off very quickly the other way. Two people walked out, the rest of the film was watched in silence and then when the credits rolled, no-one said a thing. The next day, of course, it was the talk of the village. 'T'was pornographic, t'was,' was the verdict. The next month, the hall was packed. Not long after, there was glut of courgettes on our allotment, which I carefully picked and put through selected people's letterboxes, reminding me of the Ken Dodd joke about putting a cucumber through your neighbour's letterbox and shouting: 'Ooh, missus, the Martians have landed.'

Breaking news
The pub is going through heating oil as if they are frying their chips in it. After contacting the brewery the landlord is told there must be something wrong with the boiler. Check your tank, they're told, as there's been a spate of oil thefts in recent weeks. A gang of Eastern Europeans (the latest phrase that strikes terror in uneducated rural hearts) is apparently going round and siphoning from every oil tank they can find. The story is that one of the gang either follows the tank around to see where they deliver or they're on the inside, working for the oil company. Once they know where the full tanks are the pump the oil out in the dead of the night and sell it on the black market.

The Dorset roads are bloody awful, potholes everywhere. Across the border in Somerset, it's a different story. It's like driving on a race circuit.

There are days when the village is swirling in mist, like we're at the top of the beanstalk in giant's land.

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Chainsaw anyone?

You get to a certain age when the man in your life stops looking at younger women and gazes longingly at fallen trees. 'If I had a chainsaw, I'd be in there right now,' he says, as you ask him to keep his bloody eyes on the road to prevent him driving into a ditch. He becomes obsessed with wood, even though you don't yet have a fire to burn it on. 'Do you know how much a load of logs cost?' he says. As if you care. And then it begins. Talks with the listed building officer, planning applications, work on a new chimney for the old fireplace, you can't use old bricks as they're not fire proof... On and on and on until the fire is built and your man gets a hernia lifting a second-hand wood burning stove into the back of his car. And then the badgering begins. 'I'd really like a chainsaw,' he says, pressuring and persuading you. But you're not convinced, having read stories of people slitting their own throats through the careless use of a chainsaw. And then his mate gets one. 'Why can't you share it?' you ask. But no, he has to have his own, his very own. And then you cave in, on the condition he will get trained up and wear proper safety gear (this is the man that climbs up ladders at home in slip-on slippers, after all). The thought of getting kitted out in all that proper gear excites him even more and he pores over the chainsaw catalogue, looking at Huskarvanas and Boschs or whatever they're called, and telling you he'll look very fetching in a special set of red overalls, boots with steel toecaps, a safety visor and gloves. By which time the fire has gone out and it's almost spring. Sad isn't it?

Breaking news
There have been a series of burglaries in the village, as thieves target houses while people are asleep, getting in through garages, stealing personal belongings and cars.

The Post Office is now closed and Post Office Ltd procrastinate about replacing it, probably stalling until June 2008 when they won't have to.

Our new street lights are a disgrace - they are so bright the long road resembles a greyhound racing track.

Scooter Boy is getting later and later. The sack beckons.

The signpost in the square is broken - an arm has been pulled off, maybe by someone swinging on it.

The woman next to me in yoga, the one with the rather attractive grey jogging bottoms, farted as she uncurled. I, fearing others might think it was me, made exaggerated gestures in her direction so everyone would know where it came from.

That's about it,
Maddie X

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Happy New Year!

Christmas came and went, too many parties to mention all over the village, and everyone suffering from coughs and colds, replicated all over the country. Could this be germ warfare? What a great way to disable the population!
On New Year's Eve, the Square comes alive with people in fancy dress pouring out of the pub and nearby houses. Pirates rub shoulders with nurses, a Legionnaire is caught embracing a Roman emperor and several men in kilts do cartwheels across the road. Up in the church tower, the die-hard ringers wait with anticipation, ready to ring the bells when the clock strikes 12. There is a clatter up the steps as a woman in a nun's outfit, whose stockings and suspenders are visible as she hitches up her skirt, and a man dressed as a Roman Catholic priest, complete with small whisky bottle in his top pocket, get there just in time to take their places to ring in 2008.
I greet New Year's Day with a sneeze and the sound of bells, as a group of morris dancers from another county descend on the village. Bleary-eyed neighbours emerge from their front doors - 'I didn't know this was happening,' is the refrain from all bar one as clog dancing ladies do a jig in a Square full of the remains of party poppers and silly string. Impatient drivers drum their fingers on their steering wheels, waiting to get through. Let them wait, I say, as the morris dancers' clattering sticks and bells make way for an ancient mummers' play in which characters such as St George, the doctor, a couple of devils and various others end up mock fighting, with bodies littered all over the road. 'I wasn't expecting this,' says Mr St John, his puffy eyes recovering from the night before.

Breaking news
The farrier's son has found a mobile telephone in a lay-by and flicked through the text messages to find out to whom it might belong. One of the texts suggests it belongs to a village VIP who has been having secret liaisons with a local businessman and - worse - going knickerless on a regular basis.

Bored youths smashed all the lights out on the Christmas tree on the green.

An all-night motorcycle time trial took place last night, right outside my bloody window. Every 30 seconds, a bloody bike roared by, support vehicles' headlights flashing through the window. It went on until about 4 o'clock. If one of them was you, thanks very much.

I have developed full-blown flu, which explains why I have not been keeping this blog up to date. My own fault - too many parties.

That's about it
Maddie x

News from The Shed of Dreams, or words to that effect

On Sunday morning, there are two sheep sauntering in a very confident manner down the street. Unfazed by the local peloton of cyclists zoo...