Saturday, 31 January 2009

Beat me with your rhythm stick

Miss Pettigrew lived for a day, at least in our village hall last night. Every month or so, we have a visit from the cinema, right on our doorstep, and last night Mrs Pelly Sheepwash and I sauntered up and took our seats. It's a light film, with plenty of froth, stagey acting and lovely 30s sets and costumes. Nothing much happens, plenty of people pretending to be what they are not, falling in love and the leading lady gets her man at the end. I love film, from highbrow serious to Star Wars and Jungle Book. And I love the experience of going 'out' to watch one. What I am not too keen on is noisy people behind me. And last night there were three of them. Hooting with laughter at scenes that were really not that funny, stating the obvious at quiet, poignant moments and wolfing down three Tupperware containers full of salad and cous cous.

I remember once, at one of these film shows, a man at the front complained very loudly to the projectionist that there was the shadow of a head on the screen. Everyone turned on him. 'It's yours,' they hissed. 'Move out the way.' And the showing of the foreign language film La Spagnola was the most hilarious experience I have had in years. Forthcoming attractions include The Boy in Striped Pajamas and Morris. This latter film is set to be a cult hit (if the trailer is anything to go by) along the lines of Hot Fuzz but with Morris Dancing as its subject. Mr Loggins will love it.

Mr St John has resurfaced after the last blog appeal. He is still alive, thank goodness, and trying to sell Mr Grigg a car to replace the Freeloader written off by the lorry a few weeks ago. Would you buy a used car from this man? Well, yes, actually, I already have. Powered by elastic bands and swearing, the car suits me fine, particularly as it is bright orange.

Mr Grigg has been out most of the morning beating on the last shoot of the season, as I was down on my hands and knees cleaning and scrubbing puppy dust off the furniture. He returned full of port and cider, a grin across his big face and a huge hole in the gusset of his boxer shorts. The pickled onions at the beaters' lunches are pretty powerful.

A nice night in beckons with shared supper with Mr and Mrs Sheepwash and Mr and Mrs Loggins. I swear Mr Sheepwash looks more like Jon Stewart than ever since the family's return from Washington. My bet is that Pelly dunked Mr Sheepwash in the icy waters of the Potomac just before they got on the plane.

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Where has Mr St John gone?

I heard on the radio yesterday that all you need to keep well and fit is 30 seconds of exercise at full blast every day. So if you get on an exercise bike and pedal like mad for half a minute, hey presto you become fit. Sounds good to me. At the risk of sounding like Deryck Guyler, who played the caretaker in Please Sir ('I used to be in't Desert Rats y'know'), I once cycled from Italy to Spain across the foothills of the Alps and the Pyrenees. But now I would struggle to get to the next village. So I don't. My exercise these days is walking briskly with the dogs in the field at the top of this blog. Mr Grigg on the other hand is always talking about getting fit but that's all he does - talk about it. The closest he got was last Sunday when he did bar press ups in the pub and sipped his pint of cider on the way down before coming back up again.

It is the Year of the Ox and I am delighted. Why? It's my year. I seem to have missed it last time around, 12 years ago. Wrapped up in the newness of Mr Grigg probably. Anyway, we enjoyed a takeaway with Mrs Bancroft and Nobby yesterday evening before he flits off for a holiday Down Under with his girlfriend. Which is nice, and not at all as rude as it sounds. Lets hope nothing goes wrong at the village hall while he is away because Nobby's surname is Odd-Job. If it needs doing, Nobby Odd-Job will do it, very obligingly. We could do with more Nobbys in this world. The last we saw of him he was desperately trying to make some ancient bathroom scales work so he could weigh his luggage. What he didn't appreciate was that Mr Grigg had sneakily weighed himself a minute earlier and broke the scales.

Mr St John has gone completely AWOL. Someone said he was seen in Exeter today. He could be anywhere. Sparky Mark, the electrician, tells me Mr St John went on a mannequin hunt a few years ago down in his neck of the woods - near but far enough away from Newton Abbot (which is still a boil on the world's bottom, apparently). So Mr St John does know the mid-Devon territory. But my guess is he was probably pounding the streets arm-in-arm with Lady Friend , shopping.

Breaking news is that a car was broken into in the Square last night. It was parked under a light - part of the 'improved lighting' scheme meant to deter criminals. It just made it easier for the bloody thieves to see what they were stealing.

The other thing I have to report - and I need to get more information on this so confirmation please - is that Celebrity Farmer is now getting Super Mario to cook for him. Mario is the painter and decorator, not Antonio Carluccio, but is being asked to put things in the oven while Celeb is out doing farming stuff. I fear the fame is going to Celeb's head. Last Saturday as the crowds assembled for the hunt meet, I saw Celebrity Farmer driving through the square on his tractor and doing a royal wave. I fear the fame is going to his head.

Can someone without a blog try to post a comment please? Mrs Bancroft tried to do it a couple of days ago and the technology baffled her.
That's about it
Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Always look on the bright side of life

I don't wish to pile more gloom and doom on an already saturated gloomy and doomy situation. But someone asked me a couple of weeks ago if I actually knew anyone who had been affected by the recession. At the time, it was only my daughter who had been hit. I say 'only'. As a young mum with a mortgage and a wedding later this year, she wasn't expecting it. But the people she worked for had to trim their cloth according to their sails and, woomph, Number One Daughter was pushed overboard. She coped, of course. She always does. Got herself work within days via Facebook and now juggles three jobs and breeds rabbits for a living.

A few weeks on and I hear more friends and acquaintances are suffering. Well respected people I have worked with for years are suddenly made redundant, or expected to do the jobs of three people. Others whose contracts just aren't being renewed. And there's me, with about a month to go at the Death Star and then what? Who knows. Something will turn up. I have a part-time job I enjoy that keeps me ticking over. And I have just applied for a full-time job umpteen miles away. I don't really want it. I'd hate to work in one job full time again, after four years of being self-employed. And I despise offices. But however hard you scour the job ads, there is nothing for 'wannabe travel writer, no talent necessary', 'we are seeking Maddie Grigg to present a new show about the countryside' or 'woman with no experience sought for mobile library service, fantastic rates of pay and free driving gloves'. I haven't even seen any ads for mushroom pickers or newspaper delivery boys and girls. Newspapers, now there's a thing of the past. More and more provincial newspaper staff are losing their jobs and there is talk of at least two nationals going to the wall.

But life still goes on. Has to. People have to rethink what they want and how they do things. Creative thinking. I'm all for it. One of my friends has just come up with a winner - adventure funerals. Now there's an idea.

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Sunday, 25 January 2009

We'll meat again

The hunt came and went yesterday, the only evidence afterwards being piles of horse muck in the square. Never one to miss an opportunity, Mr Grigg got out there before anyone else did. He put some on the passion flower and wisteria at the front of the house. And then he got told off by a passer-by for not clearing up the rest of it.

Mr Grigg managed to avoid handing round the sherry and sausage rolls to the assembled huntsmen and women. He could instead be seen chatting to Mrs Posh Totty and our solicitor with a mouthful of sausage roll and mulled wine. I stayed in the window, taking photos and marvelling at the ever-changing pictures in this small rural community.

There was a time when I would have been a lone voice, walking around wearing an anti-hunt sandwich board and spraying the hounds with aniseed. But that was when I was young and opinionated . I am now older, still with opinions but I tend to keep them to myself. Especially as Mr Grigg is more aligned to the hang 'em and shoot 'em brigade . When fox hunting was banned, part of me was pleased but part of me thought what a waste of time. I also resented an urban government telling country people what to do. If only other parliamentary debate could be so passionate. These days, I am ambivalent. I ride with the hounds and run with the fox. I don't get worked up about anything much, apart from people who pretend to be something they're not, child abuse and world poverty, which really is plenty to be getting on with.

Today, taking a break from stripping paint off a wood paneled wall (who were these philistines?), we sauntered across the the square for a pint. We were shaken by what sounded like the ship's horn that opens Night Boat to Cairo by Madness. It was Mr Loggins, blowing his nose, looking for something to do after a 20-mile cycle. He came back later and helped with the stripping, but not before we realised we had missed last night's fun in the pub. Celebrity Farmer and his black friend were singing the Teletubby Song at a party for our local painter and decorator Super Mario and his wife. On the other hand, maybe it was good we stayed in.

The plus point of going to the pub at lunchtime was that yet again we had a go on the meat draw and yet again we won our supper. We seem to have a run of good luck and manage to feed ourselves most Sundays for the price of a few raffle tickets.

Mr St John is notable by his absence. The novelty of helping us refurbish our front room has worn off and he is now nowhere to be seen. He has other things to do these days, so to speak.

That's about it.
Love Maddie x

Friday, 23 January 2009

Baby it's cold outside

It is one of the those lovely winter days, with a low sun and cold wind. It is muddy underfoot and the chill air gets to your cheekbones. The children squeal in the playground before school begins, as Packman's bellowing obliterates the morning call of Russell's Crow across the valley.

The sky to the west this morning was like a painting by a Dutch old master. Beautiful. In the early evening, Venus leads the charge to make way for an incredible array of stars and the waning Wolf Moon of January.

Back in the real world, away from this dreamscape, it would appear the oil thieves have been at work again, this time at the village hall. One minute, there were litres of black gold in the tank. Then the heating packed up, Why? Because someone had gone round the back and siphoned the stuff off. Thankfully, Mr Grigg's offer of providing a padlock has now been taken up. There's nothing like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Bin wars has also apparently broken out just up the road. A woman who my blog scout calls the Terracotta Queen has been secretly putting out her rubbish in front of Mr Homes-under-the-Hammer's house. She's done it because the bin men can't see her rubbish for all the cars parked in front of it. So she has been creeping out early in the mornings, like Wee Willie Winkie, and putting it next door. This week Mr Homes-under-the-Hammer caught her in the act. I have to say, I did think with all those recycling boxes out there once a fortnight that he might have something of a drink problem. It just goes to show how appearances can be deceptive.

Celebrity Farmer has now all but finished his gigolo pad. I am told he is waiting for his mirrored wardrobe and oak bed to arrive. But beware any young maidens who are tempted back to his lair, Sparky Mark is installing cameras. Celebrity Farmer's black and handsome friend is staying over the weekend, which should cause a stir. But now we have a black man in the Whitehouse, surely prejudice has long been banished from these parts?

I have just heard from Pelly in Washington. Mr Sheepwash has enjoyed so many dinners, he needs a new pair of trousers. When they return it will be back to a hard day's logging for him, I think.

The world outside my window will be filled with horses and foxes tomorrow as the stirrup cup is enjoyed by the local hunt. There is expected to be a large turnout of village men to admire Posh Totty in full riding gear, which will make a change from their wives drooling over her husband. I will avoid getting too close, in case her crop lashes out. Mr Grigg has been asked to hand around nibbles to the riders. He is helpful, but never subservient. So I shall watch with interest. Preferably from the window.

That's about it,
Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Oh say, can you see?

As I watched President Obama being sworn in on telly yesterday, I looked out for Mrs Pelly Sheepwash and family. It was hardly likely I would see them in among the two million or so lining the Washington mall. But I knew they were there. When they got the chance to be in on such a slice of history, they jumped at it, with various Pelly-lets joining them along the way. Who wouldn't, if you had a sister with Democrat connections?

It was an awe inspiring moment, even if he did fluff his initial lines. His words were magical, musical, although like Wife in the North I flinched when I heard the bit about America being ready to lead the world once more. Says who? Apart from that, I enjoyed the flag waving, the specacle and the sheer thought something like that could happen. I don't expect Obama to save the world, but he'll make a good crack of saving his country. I think. We should all give him the time he needs and not expect miracles overnight.

As I watched the historic moment unfold in front of me, I had a telephone call from a village hall committee member sending his apologies for last night's meeting. Reality hit in, and I headed up the frosty green to take the minutes. It didn't take long and the best bit was at the end of the meeting when four or five village stalwarts, combined aged 465, scrabbed around on their knees trying to vacuum out dusty radiators with a Henry that didn't work. Mrs Robinson, who I am renaming Mrs Bancroft to avoid unintentional defamation, should never have resigned from this dynamic group. I am reliably informed that hall audiences are set to go up when MDF man starts work on the new kitchen, funding for which was secured by Mr Grigg.

Tuppence tells me I have cheered her up this week and she hasn't laughed so much in a long time. Which is good, because she is my friend. When Pelly gets back from the States, the three of us must all go out on the town - Tuppence the eldest but wildest, Pelly the middle and sensible one and me, the youngest, who is very easily led.

Come home soon Pelly, I miss you!

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Monday, 19 January 2009

Oh deer!

With the threat of the debtor's prison lifted, life seems a little more rosy these days. The wall has come down and the room that was once my office will soon reverberate to the sound of a crackling log fire and Film Four. True, little things like replastering, decorating and a new carpet have all to be sorted out and paid for. But it will happen. Of that I am sure.

We rounded off the weekend with the most superb piece of venison I have ever tasted. The haunch was supplied by one of my colleagues from the Death Star and not only was it beautiful to eat, it was also very cheap. Which always helps. I cooked it in the Aga atop roasted root vegetables and with a lemon and rosemary marinade, mingled with beef stock. The meat was so succulent, I may never watch the film Bambi again without thinking about it. Had I known when I first watched that film how good venison tasted, I probably wouldn't have cried when Bambi's mother got shot.

The nymph could do with a bit more clothing. Maybe a hat or something. I am not sure if Lady Friend realises the initiation ceremony she will have to go through before moving in. It involves sneaking out at night wearing only shorts, wellies and a small top and being photographed with the nymph. Just like Mr Loggins did last year. Maybe she could put Mr St John's shorts on the nymph. But I stand corrected by Lady Friend. She wishes to make it clear she is very keen on Mr St John's legs and why would she want to put him in long trousers? If anything, she would like to wear the trousers (her words not mine). And Prada is so last year, dahhling. These days, Primark rules.

I am intrigued by something I have just heard about a certain Celebrity Farmer who thought he had bagged a bargain in the local upmarket bed shop. Picture the bed scene in the Marx Brothers' Big Store. A mahogany sleigh bed (or should that be s-lay) had been reduced from an amazing £1,200 to just £900, or something like that. Celebrity Farmer nearly bounced on it like a trampoline he was so happy. However, he failed to see the extra zero on the end. The bed was over nine grand. Nine grand! You could buy a field for that and still have room for a cow and calf.

Mr Loggins wants everyone to know he has got a weird middle finger. He says it is gout but I think Mr Grigg may have accidently hit it with a lump hammer over the weekend.

Nobby has put me and Mrs Bancroft on his B list for funny emails after the two of us complained about the salacious content. So now I have to get Mr Grigg to read them out instead as he is still on Nobby's A list.

If there is an electrician out there reading this, can he please turn out the lights in Newton Abbot? This was a place Curious Girl will tell you I once famously described as The Boil on the World's Bottom. But that was 30 years ago. Has it healed up yet, or been lanced? Let me know, Sparky Mark, I would love to hear.

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Right said Fred

It was Mr Grigg's turn to have it bad yesterday.

He was almost obliterated when an articulated lorry ripped the front off the Freeloader as he stopped at a junction. And then, when he got over the shock, he spent an hour putting an Argos filing cabinet together, which he has been doing on and off all week, only to find it will our files won't fit in it. Bugger.

So we cut our losses, took delivery of a brand new vehicle while the insurance people sort things out and went to the pub. I was not looking forward to it. I thought one of my blog characters was going to hit me. But no, we sat down, talked about someone else and were best friends for half an hour. So that's a relief. I do not need to wear the disguise.

It was Mrs Packman's 40th birthday party. Mamma Mia was there, Mrs Robinson, Muscle and Randy, Celebrity Farmer and a whole host of other people. Mr St John was notable by his absence. These days he is like a teenager in the first stage of love. People are worried he is forgetting who is friends are. I say good luck to him, grab it while you can. He has just arrived at our front door, dressed like Swiss Tony, and is on his way home to change and come back to the Grigg house. There is a wall demolition party going on here today and I can almost hear Bernard Cribbins singing 'this here wall's gonna have to go'. Mr Grigg is using a lump hammer to get rid of the aggression following yesterday's accident. There is a constant banging and the floor is vibrating. I am slightly worried about the ceiling and may well end up in the room with them, having plunged through the floor.

Celebrity Farmer is young free and single. We left him in the pub at two o'clock this morning, serenading the landlord's daughter on the karaoke. Apparently, he didn't get home until 5.30 this morning.

My friend Tuppence needs a man. A proper man, a real relationship. She is petite, elfin-like, pretty, talented and clever. And single. She is probably a little too old for Celebrity Farmer and no doubt would get sick of him singing in front of the bathroom mirror using a can of deodorant as a pretend microphone. Because Tuppence has a good voice. Tuppence can really sing.

And then there's Caruso. He's single. He can sing, too, but at 70-plus he's way too old for Tuppence. And the pony tail would have to go.

Anyway, back to work. A cheque arrived in the post this morning from the Death Star so the debtors prison will just have to do without me.

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Reasons to be cheerful

It's been a bad week.

I missed out on going to see the film Australia with Mrs Robinson because I was too tired after the London Boat Show. My puppy is still peeing every time anyone makes a fuss of it. I broke wind to impress Mr Grigg but almost followed through. I thought I had downloaded The Cinematic Orchestra on to my iPod but got someone called Chubby Chunks instead.

It is wet, muddy and miserable.

But more seriously, I am broke. I am waiting for the Death Star to pay me for work I did in November but somehow I have been put on the payroll so won't see it for another fortnight. And the other company for whom I also do some work has suddenly become slower than usual in paying. For the self-employed like me, money is everything. Especially when you have the taxman ready to pounce at the end of the month. Debtors prison, here I come.

I have also managed to wipe out an entire intranet, which is used by thousands of people including those who work with vulnerable clients. Just by the click of a button. As a freelance hired hand, my hand was too free. It slipped and whoosh, the front page and access to all sorts of applications disappeared. I owned up, of course. But there was nothing I could do. No button to say: 'You are just about to lose loads of other people's information and make a complete tit of yourself. Are you sure?' Normal service was restored fairly soon after the mishap, but not before it had been declared a major incident by the local authority.

It also appears I have upset someone with a blog post. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend. There is nothing malicious in what I write. My references are all tongue-in-cheek and done with affection. If you think I've written about you, then I wouldn't have written about you if I didn't like you.

Haven't I anything better to do with my time? Well yes, I have two jobs, one of which involves weekend work, I am studying for an honours degree, I am secretary to two community groups, I walk two dogs twice a day, run a home which is currently undergoing improvement, support Number One Son while he becomes Piers Brosnan in Dantes Peak, look after Number One grandchild every now and then and deal with Mr Grigg's moods.

I have just written a radio play, I've got to write a university assignment by next Friday, I have to give a talk to a ladies' club on Wednesday, I have to go to a meeting on Tuesday night and a meeting on Monday night. Between now and then, I have to edit two radio pieces, interview someone and write a 1000-word article, go to a community event and take photos and recordings and polish it ready for Monday and write another 1,000 article tomorrow about a subject I will pluck out of the air. This is in addition to my normal workload on Friday and Monday. I don't get any money for much of this and even when I do they're late with the dosh.

So I'm feeling sorry for myself.

And then I thought, what about the good things that have happened to me this week?

I walked 4,000 steps today as part of a fitness drive, I cried at the end of Dead Poets Society last night (partly because I managed to record it without losing the last few minutes), Mr St John and Lady Friend are still speaking to me, I had the most wonderful massage from a white witch in the next town, the puppy is starting to get the message about not pulling on his lead, the sun shone yesterday, I found a parking space today close to where I am working, I have avoided spending money on things I don't need, I survived the Boat Show, I met an old girlfriend entirely by chance as we walked towards each other across a railway footbridge and I am still very much in love with Mr Grigg.

And, oh yes, next week a beacon of hope is being installed in the White House.

So things can't be all bad.

That's about it,

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Moo-ve over darling

I was rather hoping Mr St John had left a comment. I received a text message saying as much today. But as he has only just mastered texting, posting a comment is too much to hope for. I can see it now, Mr St John (in long trousers) at the computer while his Lady Friend guides him through the process from behind.

The London Boat Show was quiet yesterday. Mr Grigg, Mr Loggins and I bumbled across the rail network from Richmond to the Excel centre like country mice. We marvelled at ticket machines, the things you put your ticket in to get past the barrier and the variety of faces on the tube. We don't get out much. This became clear when a Lord Snooty-stockbroking-type glared at us when we talked to each other. I had forgotten that people become mute on the tube. I remember being on the underground in Barcelona when some musicians got on and had an impromptu jamming session. Rather than just enjoy it, my biggest fear was they would ask for money at the end of it. But they were just doing it for fun. How would I have felt if I had been on the Paris Metro when Naturally 7 opened their mouths? I hope I wouldn't have been like that stand-offish French geezer who just can't bear to look as if he is enjoying himself.

We went to the Boat Show for the first time about five years ago. We were treated like serfs as the reps seemed to just know we not only didn't have a boat, we couldn't even sail. The next year, Mr Grigg came up with a cover story, said we were between boats and looking for a 36-foot yacht. He had done thorough research and we were treated (almost) like we wanted a new Royal Yacht Britannia. It is clear that bullshitting pays off. However, it is impossible to do this on the Oyster and Sunseeker stands where you have to give a blood test to indicate its blueness. Who cares though? These boats are an obscene waste of money, credit crunch or no credit crunch. Just filling them up with fuel is the equivalent of buying a small country.

As we drove back along the A303, with Stonehenge marking the gateway to our world, we were tired but happy. Happy we were going home.

I have just been notified that Celebrity Farmer's relationship status on Facebook is now single as opposed to being in a relationship. Well, he must have been cuddling up close to a cow for the last year or so, because we've not seen him with a woman in ages. Moo!

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Baggy trousers

Despite the best of intentions, the only prizes we came away with last night were raffle prizes. We entered three teams for the wine and wisdom quiz, came first on a round that had neither points nor prizes and those on the neighbouring table were joint third. We got told off for having our tables too close together, the wine ran out and they changed the format from last year - obviously worried our pillaging team would run away with the prizes again. There is always next year. However, our B team (pictured above) broke the table they were sitting at and Mr Loggins cut his finger, spilling blood and red wine all over the floor, so maybe not. This is the man who is a dab hand with a chainsaw. Luckily, the ever-ready Mrs Sheepwash had a pack of plasters in her cavernous handbag.

Mr St John has been seen in the village wearing smart, long trousers. Dark cords, apparently. This is a revelation because, whatever the weather, he always wears shorts. We understand his Lady Friend prefers long trousers, which is a bonus really because there is no danger of him being de-bagged in the village square as he was once when putting up Larry the Landlord's flag during the World Cup. It was like something hanging up in a butcher's shop window. Screams could be heard the entire length of the village as various women fled for cover.

My neighbour appears to have traded in the odd-job talents of our friend Nobby for a younger, fitter model. Mrs Posh-Totty's husband, MDF Man, is currently in situ, so a number of ladies are all finding time to call in for cups of tea every now and then so they can swoon at his six-pack and biceps. The swooning has to be done surreptiously as we would not want to annoy his rather attractive and assertive wife.

We had a restless night this weekend as an all-night motor rally passed by our windows. Local opinion is such that next year we plan on putting out stingers.

Highlights this week include the Boat Show, the film Australia at the local, restored cinema, a massage and a one-man play looking at the humorous side of Thomas Hardy. The latter should be a very short show. Oh, and there is also a 40th birthday that might be worth gatecrashing. Celebrity Farmer, please take note. After all, he did turn up uninvited to our New Year's Eve bash.

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Winner takes it all

Mr Grigg has gone out with that chainsaw man Mr Loggins again. We were meant to be clearing out rooms, tidying up before we do a bit of DIY . And then Mr Loggins asked if Mr Grigg could come out to play. Well, what could I say? We are in dire need of some seasoned wood. The wood burning stove coughs and spits like an old man. The house is desperately cold so I have put on the heating and a pair of Steptoe gloves as I type.

The picture, above, shows Mr Loggins, Mr Sheepwash and Mr Grigg earlier this year. Scary eh? I call it Boyz in the Wood.

Three rooms in the house now have books, files, boxes, stray furniture all over the floor. We're never going to get it tidied up by the end of the weekend. The cats are getting into laptop cases, the dogs are sniffing everything and I am looking at things I last looked at when we had a similar tidy up and thought I ought to keep them because they might come in handy. They didn't. But they still might.

I have no more to report on Mr St John or his new Lady Friend, although I saw her moving into the mansion yesterday. Wearing sensible boots. No Russell and Bromley skyscrapers to be seen. It is a stunning house, both inside and out. But she has no driveway so you would only be able to get out the first few bars of the Dallas theme tune before you reach the front door.

Celebrity Farmer has been keeping a low profile since my last post. He would love to get on Big Brother or the X Factor. As far as the latter is concerned, all he can do is 100 Miles by The Proclaimers. However, he was once on a reality show on satellite TV, in which he and six other men were chained to a woman for a week. He came second to a very handsome black man, with whom he has just been to Ibiza. He borrowed my tape recorder and interviewed lots of pretty girls and So Solid Crew, apparently, but as Number One Son tells me there are so many of them, it might have just been the horn section.

I can hear the bellows of Packman outside my window. He is a retired policeman who was unable to quell the New Year's Eve uprising when he tried to placate the toothless gatekeepers. He and Nobby, another ex-copper, also failed to smell a rat when they were looking after our plants a while back. Packman's voice travels across the valley, competing with Russell's Crow for attention. In a previous life, he probably lived in the Alps and used his voice to communicate with relatives on the next mountain.

We tried out the pub in the neighbouring village last night. Not much atmosphere - bit like sitting in your great aunt's front room when you can hear the clock tick-tock-ticking on the mantelpiece. They even had a bookcase full of paperbacks. The food was cheap, mind, and Mr and Mrs Sheepwash are always good company. They are bound for Washington next week for the inaguration. Lucky devils. Anyway, as we were leaving the pub, All Right Now came on and Mrs Sheepwash said 'Ooh, I like a bit of free.' How apt her words were. We'd actually got three steps out of the front door and realised not only was the meal cheap, we'd forgotten to pay for it. Oops. So it was back in again, quick. The last time that happened we had a takeway worth £80 that the Indian restaurant forgot to charge us for. I was all for going back and paying, but Mr Grigg was having none of it. The minus side is that only I can go back in there now. His face is known. Although if he really looked he does in the photo above, they would probably pay him to stay away, otherwise he might scare the customers.

There are now up to four teams from the village going down the hill tonight for a wine and wisdom evening. We have a good chance of taking the spoils. Winner Takes it All, as Abba would say.

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

You're my best friend

Where to start? Celebrity Farmer's story, About a Bird, or why Mr St John Has Two Tails ?

I think I'll fill you in on Mr St John first. After a number of mishaps - see previous posting on the evening that naked Twister didn't happen - the eligible Mr St John now has a Lady Friend on his arm. She is attractive, stylish, intelligent and, most importantly, has her own money. She is also a crack shot, so I need to be careful what I say. On New Year's Eve I apparently told her (over and over again) she was my new best friend, which is amazing really as friendship is one thing I am not at all good at, as Mrs Curious Girl will tell you from our days as flatmates. However, when you have had a few glasses of white wine combined with Night Nurse it is easy to become bosom buddies with everyone you meet. Her appearance at our New Year's Eve party caused a bit of a stir. "She's very glamorous," growled another female guest through gritted teeth until I pointed out that it was supposed to be a posh party so she could hardly be anything else. Although she is very partial to champagne. And we will be talking about her Russell and Bromley sky-high shoes until the spring.

Behind cupped hands, guests soon became aware that Mr St John's Lady Friend was just about to move into the village into the swish former home of an industrial tycoon. I had known this for some time but didn't think it my business to pass it on. Soon, it was being said 'as a fact' that the Lady Friend was the third richest woman in Britain. She might be for all I know, but I doubt it. Things in this village seem to grow legs and run away with people. However, I wouldn't be at all surprised if she doesn't find her dustbins combed through before the bin men get to them as the ladies in the village (me included) see if she is chucking away any Prada.

Mr St John is like a dog with two tails. He now needs to learn how to sit and stay.

Meanwhile, things have been happening at Celebrity Farmer's home. While the plus-size lodger was away, a noise from her empty room caused him to open the door. Gingerly. To his horror, the room was awash with bird droppings. Had the window been left open and a stray pigeon got in? "Feed me!" demanded a voice from the corner. It belonged to a parrot that the lodger had installed without her landlord's knowledge. Along with a hamster. Her friends. So while she was tucking into the turkey with relatives, Celebrity Farmer has been teaching the parrot to say 'salad' and 'Ryvita'. Well, it could work.

This weekend, we plan to try out the pub in the next village. The food is cheap but possibly not as good as ours. And I'm not sure if the unscheduled entertainment is as riveting as our Wild West show. We shall see.

We have also enlisted several friends for a raid on another village for a 'wine and wisdom' evening, a posh term for a quiz. Last year, we trundled down, won it along with two prizes on the raffle. We left under the cloak of a rising mist, like Vikings pillaging. "Who were those people?" we heard someone say. Who indeed?

That's about it,
Love Maddie X

Monday, 5 January 2009

Stone the crows

I expect everyone's house is the same. The tinsel and baubles packed away, the spindly, sad Christmas tree ready to go to the tip. The house is clean, dusted - and dull. It is the same in the Square. From my window over the festive period, you could see the twinkling white lights of Christmas trees. Mr Grigg helped the neighbours take them down yesterday and now the magic has gone. Just dull, mushiness. Cold, wet, dreary.

Before the real world kicked back in, our festivities continued this weekend with a safari supper for 14. We had pre-dinner drinks and nibbles at one house, walked down to the next for starters, strode up to ours for main course, ambled down the lane for puddings at Mr and Mrs Sheepwash's, back up next door for cheese and biscuits and then staggered across the road for after-dinner drinks. We were stuffed with goats cheese, venison, veggie delights and all sorts. As we made our way across the road, someone had written 'Sex Bom' in the frost on my car windscreen so I promptly wrote 'Arse' on Mr Grigg's car. If the youngsters can do it, so can we. Spelling mistakes and all.

It's back at work this week for us all. Today is an easing-in-smoothly-day for me but not so for Mr Grigg who declared he had a store throat just before he began an hour-and-half-commute at 7.30 this morning. I am back in the council bunker tomorrow. Can't wait.

Mr Grigg told me yesterday he met a man smoking marijuana on a bench on the village green two days ago. He was sitting right in front of an upturned frozen blackbird, legs sticking up in the air, possibly after inhaling. As Mr Grigg picked it up and threw it in the hedge, the man asked: 'What was that?' When told it was a dead bird, he said: 'Caw, I didn't see that.' Perhaps it was just a part of his hallucination.

The dead blackbird reminds me of a recent story involving Celebrity Farmer and a parrot. I am waiting for his permission to tell the tale.

Resolutions for 2009: find at least one thing to celebrate each month with friends and shared provisions.

That's about it.
Love Maddie x

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Snow Patrol

The World from my Window is quiet at the moment, after the shenanigans of the past few days. The odd car pulls up and parks, French-style in the middle of the road, to grab something from the shop. Villagers cough 'good morning' to each other in the queue for the milk and papers. With dry mouths and bleary eyes.

Our house became the venue for a New Year's Eve party, with 35 people bringing either sweet or savoury and plenty of wine and beer. The theme was 'posh'. There were plenty of twinsets, pearls and shooting breeches. I tried on two outfits before I remembered my late aunt's original 1920s flapper dress. With purple Primark tights and an appropriate pair of Jones' shoes I found in a hospice shop last year, I almost looked the part. But something was missing. I needed a band around my head. Inspiration came when I looked through the sock drawer. I found a pair of silvery tights and with these knotted around my forehead, a long set of pearls and a lovely lapis lazuli string of beads bought from a village fair around my neck, I looked the part. I still felt poorly, mind, and resolved to chuck everyone out just after midnight.

Just before the clock struck twelve, we all decamped to the Square. In freezing temperatures,scores of villagers were already doing the hokey-kokey. As the bells sounded, there were lots of hugs, shakes of hands and then we all piled in the pub - or tried to. A man in his 30s, his toothless wife and their whippet were at the door, swearing at anyone who passed. As I almost tripped over the piece of string to which the dog was tied, the woman glared at me and snarled: 'Some f***er has already kicked it, what you gonna do?' I smiled politely, as you would do dressed as a flapper posh person, and then Mr Grigg was dispatched by the landlady to try to get the pair to leave. 'No-one's gonna make me go,' the man slurred. ' If you want me to go, get the f***ing police.' So that's what happened. The patrol car knows the way by now.

By this time, half our party was in the pub, oblivious of the gatekeepers mouthing obscenities at innocent passers-by. The rest had turned tail, heading for our home. I decided this was the best option. I did not fancy a broken nose for New Year. I went back with them. There were mutterings in our hall about going home and what a shame and all that so, forgetting my Cinderella vow about getting them to leave after midnight, I sped to the CD player to turn up my iPod selection of party tunes. As the Temptations gave way to Madness, one guest who had come armed with her own selection of Cheese CDs kept mouthing 'Mamma Mia?' In the end, I succumbed and the iPod was switched off while the Mamma Mia CD was reloaded, prompting another guest to say 'Snow Patrol?' The party went on until quarter to four, with the Snow Patrol lady flicking the hem of her long red skirt and a feather boa over another guest's face as he lay on the floor. Mamma Mia, by this time, was doing a Dancing Queen down the road and up the hill to Bedfordshire.

We awoke to the sound of clashing swords and bodies in the Square. It was not a rerun of the Wild West show that took place in the pub on Christmas Eve. It was the renegade Mummers, with blacked-out faces, women morris dancers and a female taking the part of the doctor. Whatever next? Those of us not still in bed turned out to watch.

And as I struggled to tidy up the bits of feather boa on the carpet, the Dyson packed up.

Happy New Year!

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Batten down those hatches, it's recycling day

It's blowing a hooley out there.  The wind is lashing against the windows and the dogs are play fighting in front of the Aga before...