Friday, 27 February 2009

Here in my car

Would you believe it? A thief in the night has stolen the bonnet from Mrs Home-Under-The-Hammer's car. One evening it was there, next morning gone. We wait with bated breath at what might be taken next. A windscreen, perhaps, from a Land Rover? A rear passenger's side door from a Volvo? I wouldn't be at all surprised if in a week's time we discover a strange hybrid car parked in the Square, made up of lots of different bits. Maybe the thief is a kind of auto version of the killer in Silence of the Lambs and making himself a car suit. He will screech into the Square singing: 'I've got a bonnet trimmed in blue, do you wear it, yes I do'. Or more likely 'Transformers, robots in disguise...'
Picture: Optimus Prime

Talking of Volvos, we were being taken to a wedding by a friend who is occasionally loaned cars to test drive and write about them. I got in and thought 'this is a nice Volvo' (they are usually only fit to be driven by old men with caps and sticking out ears but this was a bit of all right) and wondered what model it was. So I said 'nice car, what is it?'. His wife turned round from the front seat. 'Oh,' she said. ' It's a vulva.' My laughter came out in such a snort I had to wipe my nose on the sleeve of my new jacket.

This weekend, I will be mostly attending the latest film show in the village hall - a weepie, this one, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas - entertaining the grand-daughter (I was a child bride), helping Mr Grigg to find a new car, looking for an old-style radiator, checking out carpets, visiting my parents, entertaining Number One Daughter and Number One Stepdaughter and their entourages to Sunday lunch, maybe cleaning the house and then trying to fit in some OU study. I am way behind on my latest course. This week I was meant to watch Titanic for the economic bit of film history but I have been putting it off. I didn't like it the first time because 1) Leonardo DiCaprio looks, acts and sounds about twelve, 2) such a real-life tragedy was reduced to Hollywood drivel, 3) the masses loved it so enough said. By the time the ship hit the iceberg, I wanted them all to die. Very quickly.

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Morris: A Life with Bells On

Everyone in the know down these parts is talking about it (mostly in the Westcountry burr I was born with).

Morris: A Life with Bells On is a film that ought to be the next Calendar Girls or Hot Fuzz without so much of the swearing. One of those heartwarming, idiosyncratic comedies the English do so well. But strangely, a national distributor has yet to take it on. This low budget movie cost just £500,000 to make, which is peanuts in film-making terms. Its cast boasts the likes of Sir Derek Jacobi, Harriet Walter and Greg Wise. But at the moment it is showing in just a few score village halls across Dorset and neighbouring counties. Which is great for me, because it'll be right on my doorstep. And I've already booked my ticket! Hoorah!

Moviola, the touring film company about which I've previously blogged, has a local hit on its hands. Says administrator Christina Walkley: 'I thought we must have this, our audiences will love it'. And after speaking to Twist Films, Moviola are now showing Morris all over the area. And love it the audiences are, even the dyed-in-the-wool morris men who might have been forgiven for thinking before they saw the film that they were being mocked. Writer Chaz Oldham, who takes the lead role, was quick to point out in a BBC interview that it was more of a parody. Probably worried he might be lynched with bells, staves and hankies if it was seen as a piss-take. But even morrismen have a sense of humour. Have to, to take it up in the first place.

There is now a Facebook campaign and a petition to get the film distributed nationally. So if you would like to see it and don't have Moviola on your doorstep, make your voice heard.

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Mythical beasts

The ravens were circling above The Hill. Cawing 'Nevermore' or whatever it is they say, flying like buzzards over our heads. Mr Sheepwash was terribly excited. His twitching would have made Bill Oddie envious. Up until now the ravens had taken on mythical significance for Mr Sheepwash, rather like the big black cat no-one believes in until they actually see it. Celebrity Farmer's mother once told me the ravens were the bane of their lives. Protected by law, the birds have carte blanche to cause terror among the sheep, ripping out their eyes without fear of persecution. Pelly Sheepwash says she was told by another farmer's wife that the ravens would move in on a ewe as it gave birth, helping to pull the lamb out and then spiriting it away in their beaks. I find this rather hard to believe. But, who knows, anything is possible in this village. It's a bit like a dark, reverse version of the stork as midwife.

I once saw the black beast making its way across a field. I nearly crashed the car as I looked at this sleek black panther while it calmly walked towards the hedge. I have since discovered another driver saw it too, at the same time in the same spot. So I am not completely mad. A bit, perhaps, but not completely.

Another mythical creature has resurfaced after being out of sight for days. The lesser paint- splattered Mr St John was seen striding through the mist towards our door yesterday. He was looking for the paint stripper he thought we still had. But he had taken it back several weeks ago and promptly forgot where it was. Things on his mind. He has gone to ground at Southfork, directing the decorating proceedings like Nick Knowles in shorts.

It has been a strange week in the village. Half term children off for days out with the family or prowling the streets not knowing what to do. Oil has been siphoned from the village hall tank again and a gang of teenagers have been spoken to by the police after play equipment was damaged on the green. The culprits are always mythical creatures and never the little darlings let loose by the parents who don't know where they are.

Maybe it was the ravens.

That's about it
Love Maddie x

PS Someone else has just told me about a backhanded compliment. She does not want her identity revealed in case you, dear reader, think she is a heifer. The story goes like this: She was in the kebab shop and some bloke said 'I remember you, you used to be really slim'. Her reply? (And this is the best bit). 'Ah, but I can lose weight. You'll always be ugly.' A quick retort, Churchillian in style, that anyone would be proud of. Can anyone beat that?

Friday, 20 February 2009

Backhanded compliments

What's the weirdest compliment you've ever had? That's the question posed by my friend Tuppence who says the nicest thing anyone ever said about her was 'Tuppence, the good thing about you is you don't mind having the p*** taken out of you'. Which is just as well really, as I will be soon be blogging about the time she took me headbanging with a bunch of hillbillies let out by their mothers for music night at the Honiton Motel.

Mrs Darling Loggins says she was once told after she'd had a haircut: 'Your hair looks really nice now.' It's a bit like when people say 'you look really well' and you think 'did I look ill before?' But a compliment's a compliment. Another friend was told:' My God, Rubens would have had a field day with that body'. She says it was a long time ago and is grateful she didn't have body issues back then. Mind you, what Mr Grigg said to her sister-in-law was worse. She'd just announced she had lost two stone in weight. 'Christ,' he said. 'You must have been pretty hefty to start with then.'

I once put my foot in it at a friend's house. She was expecting her mum to call so when the doorbell rang, I went to answer it and said: 'Oh, you must be Michelle's mum.' The woman glared, nearly hit me with her handbag and said very tersely: 'No I'm bloody not.' To which I replied, quite cleverly I thought: 'Sorry, Michelle's looks so young, I naturally thought her mum would be young looking too.' It turns out the woman was younger than my friend. Oops, me and my big mouth.

I remember being told I had a behind like an arab mare. I was positively trotting with delight. Until the explanation followed: low slung.

But the best compliment so far was given to neighbour Night Nurse who was told her skirting boards were always so clean. Can you beat that?

That's about it
Love Maddie x

PS I have been told by someone in the village that my blog is a bit bland lately. Well, there are some things you just shouldn't blog. Especially when you are told 'Madge, shut the f***' up'. I am a coward at the best of times, so don't see why I should change now.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Bangers and mash

I am just about to tuck into Mr Grigg's special sausages, with mash and Pelly's homemade chilli jam. Mr Grigg has returned, triumphantly, from a day's course at the wonderful Magdalen Project, bringing home not the bacon but two large containers of sausages and a huge pate.

There were just three students and the tutor, lots of huffing and stuffing, and crude remarks about 60ft long condoms.

Mr Grigg's partner for the day, a 70+ man called Les with a colonel's white moustache, got into trouble with the mincer end of the sausage making machine. Mr Grigg waited anxiously at the other end, ready to catch the sausage meat in an awesome length of skin. But the more Les stuffed, the more he huffed. A quick check by the tutor revealed the attachment was on the wrong way round and Les had been sucking rather than blowing. Oo-er missus.

It was like a scene from a Carry On film. Just up Mr Grigg's street. He has been a bit stressed lately, with lots of work, lots of travelling and other things on his mind. The sausage making course was my Christmas present to him. And it did the trick. No stress. And plenty of sausages.

Yum, yum.

That's about it

Love Maddie x

Monday, 16 February 2009

The birthplace of powered fight

I would like to make one thing very clear. I am not a swinger. And neither is Mr Grigg. Nor, for that matter, are the Sheepwashes.

I say this because we have just returned from a weekend together on snowy Exmoor. And as it was Valentine's weekend, Number One daughter and several others have been sniggering quite openly at what the four of us might be getting up to. I can assure you it was walking. And more walking. Lots and lots of walking. My calf muscles are aching just thinking about it.

Although I did worry when a couple of weeks ago, as the four of us were driving to the cinema, Pelly turned to me from the front seat and said, sort of conspiratorially, 'now that we know one another better...' My heart sank. God, what on earth was coming next? I needn't have worried. She continued:'...maybe we should do the washing up when we come round to each other's houses?' The relief was etched like ley lines across my face.

Anyway, we have had a lovely weekend. In the romance stakes, it was considerably better than the time Mr Grigg excelled himself and took me for a night out in the meanest town in the west. Chard. This is the town from which I broke all contact when I left school. This is a town that smells of cottage pie and testosterone. This is the birthplace of powered flight. Or should it be fight? You only had to look at someone in a funny way at my school and you'd get your face kicked in. Of all the places in the world, Mr Grigg had to take me to Chard. He has never come home with so much money in his pockets.

We got to the Portugese restaurant half an hour before it closed at 7pm. There were only two dishes left. It was unlicensed so we had no wine to wash the food down. The meal cost him approximately £6. We adjourned to the pub next door which was having a buy one get one free hour on all drinks. It got busier and busier. A girl with tattoos and a bleached blonde mother sat on a bar stool next to me. She said very loudly that she felt like kicking someone's f****** head in. We left. Mr Grigg presented me with a boxed rose that he picked up from the pavement, just near the gutter. We drove on to a pub on the outskirts and gatecrashed a party hosted by someone I was at school with. I met a girl who had bullied me on a regular basis but that night was all hugs and smiles. My hackles were rising. I was then introduced to the first boy with whom I had got up close and personal.

The whole experience was absolutely terrifying.

This year, Mr Grigg bought me a long handled wooden spoon and a pair of nutcrackers. Just the kind of thing I might keep in the car in case I ever break down in Chard.

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Friday, 13 February 2009

My Funny Valentine

In case it has escaped your notice, it is Valentine's Day tomorrow. I only know this because I was in a card shop on Wednesday when a young lady said to the assistant: 'I know it's against the spirit of the thing, but do you sell Valentine's cards in multi-packs?' I could see her point. When you're young, why put all your bets on one horse?

It reminded me that from about the ages of five to 10, I used to get a card every year. I now realise my mystery admirer was my maiden aunt who lived next door. Then when I got to secondary school age, she didn't send one. Which really upset me. When I was 12, I had a big padded card with a donkey on the front from a genuine admirer, who couldn't even spell my name properly. I was so embarrassed, I hid it in a drawer. I was worried my mother would find it. She is a stickler for spelling and grammar.

I'm not very romantic. Bit of a cold fish really. I used to get a bit tearful at the J R Hartley advert for Yellow Pages, although I always smiled at the way he pronounced 'old' in the line: 'it is rather old'. However, Mr Grigg, despite his gruff exterior, is a great big softy. He buys the slushiest cards he can find, with huge lettering on the front: 'To my wonderful wife' and then some naff poem inside. I'm touched, but he knows I find it hard not to vomit. But the time he wrote me his own poem inside a card, well, that was romantic.

So as I searched the racks for a suitable card for my own Valentine, I found it really difficult. So I plumped for the comedy option. It's actually a birthday card, but I'll cross that out. I also got another more suitable 'art' card (but defintely without verse) in case he gets upset. But for me, in this village, it was just a classic. As I will be giving him the card tomorrow, please don't say anything. But here's a sneak preview:

Happy Valentine's Day!

That's about it,
Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Bad moon rising

The great February Storm Moon greeted me as I took the dogs out just after dawn this morning. The patchwork square fields were lined with white all around the edges. You couldn't see the top of the hill for fog. The roads were awash with water and on my way into the Death Star I saw a car submerged under a bridge.

Picture: Bad moon rising above the hill.

Celebrity Farmer has been moving dung all through the village. Mr Loggins has been using udder cream for his chapped hands. No word of Mr St John. During the snowy season, we could tell he was elsewhere because there were no tracks to and from his door. More importantly, there is no word from Nobby Odd-Job, which is a worry because he is on holiday in Australia. We hope he was not visiting Melbourne.

I have been flicking news channels, fed up with the way television broadcasters now have to stand up and jig around and compete against crass graphics. All that makes me do is criticise their footwear or think what chubby hands they have. And I absolutely cringe when I hear the usual cliche-ridden statement at the end of each reporter's piece to camera. I am weaning myself off the Sky lifestyle channels now that I realise the Location Location Location-type programme I watched last night was at least seven years old. I know house prices have plummeted but not to the point where you can get a three-bedroom pub with a huge bar, restaurant and garden in a good area for just over £100,000. Television is bloody awful. The drama Whitechapel has got to win an award for the drama turkey of the year yet I still want to know who done it - was it Tubs from The League of Gentlemen?

However, despite my disparaging attitude to everything on television at the moment, The Kite Runner is still in its Love Film wrapping and Mr Sheepwash's Citizen Kane DVD sits next to it on the side. Wherever 'the side' is. I am so glad I made the effort to see Slumdog Millionaire before its BAFTA success and therefore with a completely open mind. What a beautiful, brutal, uplifting film. A simple rags to riches, boy-meets-girl-boy-loses girl-but-finds girl-again story, with many different layers to enjoy. And especially in a cold, miserable February when the deep joy of snow has all but melted.

I am nursing a cold which the hypochondriac in me is saying is sinusitis. I'm chilly, waiting for another overdue cheque to arrive and feeling sorry for myself. And then, on my way to the Death Star today, I see a load of new-born lambs in a dry field and two swans on the flood water. And when I come home, Mr Grigg comes out with the new phrase 'ducky lip' when he meant to say 'lucky dip'. It's just as well he didn't try saying 'fine muck'.

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Things that go bump in the night

Our usual Sunday lie-in has been rudely interrupted. Something was going on downstairs. I thought it might have been Mr Loggins. We have seen a lot of him this weekend. Maybe he couldn't sleep. I looked out from the window but there was no-one at the door. There was just this tap-tap-tapping and Mr Grigg suddenly leapt out of bed like Sher Khan the Tiger with a flaming branch attached to his tail. Naked, he tiptoed down the stairs and thrust open the door to the front room. Two beady eyes gazed at him. Mr Grigg glared back. It was a crow sitting on the radiator. They squared up to each other as if in a staring contest. It was a bit like Sumo TV. They did a little dance around the room, not taking their eyes off each other. Mr Grigg went for the window, undid the latch and threw it open. The crow looked one way and then the other. Should it fly out the window, risking the wrath of Grigg or back up the chimney? It didn't take long. It made a break for the window, looked over its shoulder as it shot past Mr Grigg and, I think, muttered 'Nevermore' under its breath.

It reminded me of the Edgar Allan Poe poem, The Raven:

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven.

Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

The excitement was too much. Mr Grigg swiftly ate his porridge, showered and then joined seven other men to help Packman lift a load of beams salvaged from a factory. As I walked the dogs, I could hear Russell's crow across the valley cockadoodle dooing, Packman bellowing instructions, Mr Loggins trying to lead a communal 'Yo-heave-ho' and Mr Grigg's crow-like cackle crackling around the field.

I am now just about to get the local Sunday paper to do a spot of Where's Wallying, our usual Sunday morning pastime. Every week during the football season the front page picture is of spectators at a local football match. We have great fun trying to find Mr F-Word, who lives at The Other End of the Village. Everyone else, including Mr F-Word's daughter, is dressed in the team colours and shouting excitedly, hands waving wildly in the air. Mr F-Word is easy to spot. He's the one in a Barbour jacket and flat cap. He is usually looking the other way from everyone else and has a very blank expression on his face.

Picture by Mrs Darling Loggins.

The snow is still on the ground and in places turning to ice. It has already led to the cancellation of the quiz on Friday night so who knows what this week will bring? The Sheepwash family, like a gaggle of Von Trapps, have been up on the hillside snowboarding. Pelly and Mr Sheepwash were spotted zooming down the slopes - they call it 'greys on trays'.

Our dinner party went well last night, we are all still speaking to each other. Mrs Loggins is the only woman I know who actually likes being called 'darling' by her husband so that's become her new name from now on. Randy has acquired the surname Munchkin, thanks to Mrs Bobby Packman who has also revealed her friend likes to pole dance in the front room on Tuesday mornings. Mr Grigg, apparently, says he will probably work from home this Tuesday. Nevermore!

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Friday, 6 February 2009

Snowy spells

Well, thank goodness for the book of witchcraft and practical magic I had for Christmas. The snow spell worked a treat.

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Let it snow!

The snow is melting but, hey, as I write, big dollops are coming down outside my window in the Square . A severe weather warning has been issued for the South West over the next 24 hours and with both of us working from home tomorrow, we are hoping for another snow day. It's looking good.

There was a Blitz-like community spirit here for a while when the snow was at its deepest. But for every action there is a reaction. Night Nurse nearly got run over by a lorry because she was was worried I would see her tip-toeing like an old lady on the pavement outside the shop so walked in the road instead. Rubbish bags and recycling boxes are still piled up outside people's houses because the bin men broke down. And a coffin had to be quickly concealed in a hearse's secret compartment when the vehicle came to a grinding halt on the corner and stopped overnight. Celebrity Farmer's dad is not happy after the field in which he had sown grass seed late last year was trampled by assorted snowgoers, sledges and skis.

Celeb himself was conspicuous on Tuesday night in a large tractor, towing a damsel driver in distress up into the Square. He shone his great tractor beams in my window and blinded me. I thought it was a meeting of Jedi knights, light sabres and crossed polarity. Mrs Bancroft across the road thought he was going to plough into her car. Mr Grigg rather sagely says this is the first bird Celebrity Farmer has pulled in the village for some time.

Mr St John is still helping Lady Friend move into the mansion Love Nest. He offered some free hardcore to Celeb, who was very tempted. Until the latter realised it was not Debbie Does Dallas but rubble from Lady Friend's hidden Southfork-style drive.

With the bad weather, we have been getting to grips with our new Sky box. But there is only so much Sumo TV and The Fishing Channel a girl can watch. However, a Love Film envelope containing The Kite Runner is still sitting on the coffee table. I feel I have to be in the mood to watch it and also to cope with Mr Grigg's outbursts when he realises it is subtitled.

A full weekend is in the offing with yet another quiz tomororw night in which Mr and Mrs Loggins will be our partners (Mrs L's vast knowledge is really quite scary, Mr L just thinks he knows a lot) , entertaining Packman and his wife and Muscle and Randy on Saturday night and then rabbit stew on Sunday evening at Chez Loggins.

Can't wait.

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Everything is beautiful

Today's snow turned the village into a Bruegel painting. The primary school was closed, as was the local comp. The village fields were full of children, making snowmen, sledging, snowboarding and even skiing. Huge snow balls like the statues from Easter Island littered the hillside. The land echoed to the sound of excited shrieks and laughter. And that was just the adults. 'It's like Hampstead Heath up there,' said Mrs Pelly Sheepwash (but without the lewd goings on). We were tucking into warm pancakes and Nutella in her kitchen after a brisk walk. Mr Grigg, sadly, missed it all after braving the snow early this morning to the train station for a conference in London. It is now a blizzard outside and he has just rung from the Hole in the Wall outside Waterloo about to catch the next train. Let's hope he makes it home safely.

I, meanwhile, managed to forgo the delights of the Death Star and soaked up the bluey, pinky air on an early morning walk with the dogs, before catching Mr and Mrs Loggins up on a tour of Dorset's highest hill.

Celebrity Farmer's brother, Jonathon Bell (named after the go-ahead farmer on Trumpton - a go-ahead farmer is Jonathon Bell, who works his farm and he works it well) has announced he has opened up 21 pistes but no ski lift.

This is Jonathon's song:
Driving along in a farmer's truck
A pig or a hen
A calf or the men
A bale or sack
All go into the back
You can even spread muck from a farmer's truck
An I-can-do-anything farmer's truck.

While everyone I have spoken to loves this weather, animals still need feeding, farmers still need to work. It was a joy, then, to see Mamma Mia's husband walking with his trusty spaniel by his side. A retired farmer, he smiled and said quietly: 'I've been waiting for this for 20 years. To be able to go out in the snow and enjoy it and not be working.'

The last I saw of him, he walked off into a blizzard. He could be gone for some time.

That's about it,
love Maddie x

Monday, 2 February 2009

Snow joke

We are hit by snow and freezing temperatures. The forecasts have been grim for days. And guess what? Mr Grigg forgot to order the bloody oil. As the level went precariously low, he switched the central heating off, shut down the Aga and piled loads of logs on the woodburner in the front hall. We went to the cinema with Mr and Mrs Sheepwash to keep warm.

Last night I wore a woolly hat in bed. So, as this was accompanied by colourful pyjamas and pink socks, I looked rather fetching. And do you know? I didn't care. I thought if Mr Grigg turns over and sees he is sleeping with a creature from the Baltic States, tough. It's his fault for not ordering the bloody oil. He spent the morning scouring around for stray oil tankers, thinking he could stop one and buy some. When he returned, our lovely oil men, from Minster Fuels, were knocking on the door with a delivery. So all is well. Apart from the fact that the central heating doesn't seem to work. But all those logging sessions are beginning to make sense as we huddle around the woodburner trying to keep warm.

Mr Grigg has just rung the plumber about the central heating. He will be here within the hour. So what with that and the efficiency of our oil men, things are definitely looking up. All those stories you hear about tradesmen being notoriously unreliable does not cut any ice in the Grigg household. At least for today.

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...