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

A horror film for Halloween

On Halloween, I head out under the cover of darkness, a tub of sweets by the front door for young trick or treaters on the prowl with their ...