Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Blogging overload

I'm thinking of calling it a blogging day.

I was planning to tell you about all the vinegary and fruity smells coming from the cottages as the vast majority of villagers knuckle down to chutney and jam making. I was planning to tell you about the talent show rehearsals for our harvest supper, where Celebrity Farmer is topping the bill. I was planning to show you the wedding photos that have still not materialised. I was planning to tell you about a fungus foray, a girls' night out and the reunion Curious Girl and I are organising with our fellow Mirror Group trainees from 30 years ago.

But I am tired, unsure of my direction as I juggle so many balls in the air. And I am not too happy about writing to please the local populace rather than myself. So forgive me if I wind down a little bit.

And besides, I have a level 3 Open University exam in three weeks' time and haven't a clue what the course was about.

That's about it

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 26 September 2009

No place like home

The sunny square has not changed very much while we were away in the Ionian. Our return is marked by colourful patchwork blankets hanging from makeshift washing lines and hedgerows. Mr Grigg thinks the gypsies have set up camp on the village green. But we discover the display is part of a quilt exhibition.

At least it is not like a few years ago when we discovered on return from holiday a new extension had been added to our house. Before leaving, Mr Grigg had put a couple of doors outside, hoping someone might pinch them as he had run out of time to take them to the dump. We came back to find that Nobby Odd-Job and Manual had made us a new porch, complete with a council planning enforcement notice signed by a Mr R. Sole. A sign proclaimed the work had been carried out by a firm called Bodgit and Scarper.

This time, the homecoming is more genteel. Bellows and his family walk by with four black goats on red leads, Super Mario heads for the cricket pitch for a spot of maintenance and Mr St John and Lady Friend have jetted off to the sun. They are taking a villa holiday in Greece, hoping to join us for a spot of sailing. Unfortunately, Mr St John booked the week after we came back, thinking we were there for a fortnight.

'He only went for that week because it was cheaper,' Lady Friend snarls. 'I wish he'd let me bloody organise it.'

Have they travelled on separate planes? Mr St John on Easy Jet and Lady Friend business class? We wonder about them - will they make it through the night, let alone the week?

Meanwhile, Pelly has been diligently coping with a broody Nigella and clipping runaway hens' wings at dawn, Mrs Bancroft has met the new neighbours, Mr and Mrs Champagne-Charlie, the flowers next to the village pump are still going strong, Monty Chocs-Away's party (with the hired-in caterer) was enjoyed by all and Titch the blind terrier is still barking at nothing in particular as he goes for an early morning stroll.

There are two bits of big news. Our publicans are throwing in the towel after four or more years. Prospective new tenants are being shown around as I write. We will miss them but they have decided the time is right to move on. And change is good for a village, as long as the brewery keeps the pub open. Luckily for us, the site is not big enough to be developed so it is not in the brewery's interest to turn it into houses.

But the biggest and best news for us is that Mr Loggins and Darling have at last won the right to build an eco-friendly log house on the site of their hillside love shack. They have been trying to work with the planners for over a year. But obstacle after obstacle has been put in their path. The planners agreed that the love shack - rather like something built by one of the the three little pigs - should come down but prevaricated time after time over the plans to replace it. The use of timber was never in dispute but there were concerns over size. So the Logginses accommodated the planning officer's whims. After pre-application meetings and post-application meetings, the case officer, aged 12, then turned round and said that timber was not appropriate.

So Mr Loggins and Darling had to the get the plan 'called in' and discussed by councillors because the officers were recommending refusal. After hearing an impassioned plea from Darling, and then parish councillor Bellows and then their new neighbour most affected by the plans, hand after hand went up for a resounding 'yes' in the council chamber.

Darling says she felt like crying.

'I was so emotional. And so proud to be part of it. British democracy at its best.'

It doesn't happen often but when it does, triumphing over officialdom is really very sweet. Mr R Sole indeed.

That's about it

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Bare-faced cheek in the Ionian

Mr Grigg is accosted by a naked German in the showers just before unsuspecting Mormons do the rounds on the boats in Corfu marina. Hop, skip and jump across to the final installment of The World from my Porthole.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

England versus Germany

Sandwiched between yachts full of Germans in the Ionian. Can Mr Grigg's brother cope? Hop across to next installment of The world from my porthole.

That's about it

Love Maddie x

Monday, 21 September 2009

Keith Floyd - better late than never

'Low tide at Cancale and the beach stretches far to the Britanny horizon. The sun has resigned, washed out by the early evening grey. A niggling wind is blowing, rippling the water in the little oyster basins that clutter the beach like a system of crude sewage tanks. Concrete tanks that trap the receding tides are filled with sacks of oysters. Stumps, clustered with mussels, stand like rotten gibbets way down to the muddy sea.

These are the opening words to that seminal (to me at least) cookery book Floyd on Fish. Much has been written about the flamboyant TV chef Keith Floyd since he died in Bridport, Dorset, a week ago. I heard about it in Greece and was desperate to blog about it but my internet connection wasn't working. Now that it is, it almost feels too late to add my four pennyworth. But I'm going to anyway. Have to.

I met him a few times decades ago when he was filming in Bridport, cooking scallops at The George or when he was visiting old friends. He was debonair, funny and a little bit fanciable too.

Floyd made me passionate about fish, fresh ingredients and good food, something that in the 1980s was almost a thing of the past. When I split up with Number One Son's father 14 years ago, one of the things I regretted not taking with me were my Floyd books. So I hunted them all down again on Amazon.

Where Delia taught me the basics, it was Floyd who provided the pizzazz. He was never one for presentation over content. He plonked things together intuitively. His recipes rocked, really they did. It was great food - and great television. With his smoky posh voice, bow tie and quips to the long-suffering cameraman, Clive, Floyd created must-see television. He was also a great writer. I hope his latest autobiography, which is about to be published, is a great success.

And now he has gone. With all the fags, wine and the women and tumultuous overspends, I am surprised he lasted this long. But I was so sad when I heard the news. Really sad. And my ace cook, Mr Grigg, shed a tear too, for the loss of a kindred (apart from the fags) spirit.

I am desperately sorry for Floyd's girlfriend who was going to be wife number five. She is a jolly soul, a spirited, warm human being. They'd known each other for 40 years and fell in love after the death of her writer husband, who was my mentor. She describes Floyd as pain to live with at times. But she had found happiness, love and companionship. And now, two years on, she is coping with loss again, but this time surrounded by the media.

Floydy - you'll not be forgotten. Better late than never.

That's about it

Love Maddie x

Mr Grigg and The Octopus

Hop across to The World from My Porthole to find out what happened when Mr Grigg met an octopus.

That's about it

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Blog and island hopping

Hi there, skip across to The World from My Porthole for the latest goings-on in the Ionian. Sorry not to have blogged for a while or left comments for anyone else but I've been sunning myself where the internet does not always shine. Hence why I can't get the link to work in the usual way...

That's about it

Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Autumn arrives

It is morning here in Mu Mu Land. The church clock strikes eight and then a reversing bus goes 'peep...peep...peep' as it does a three-point turn in the Square. This has been its manoeuvre ever since a gung-ho driver thought he could get round the corner of the one-way system and shaved several stones off the pub wall in the process.

A blind terrier called Titch yap-yap-yaps at nothing in particular as he scuttles along to the village shop with his elderly owner, Effie. She and Titch have been away from the village for months after Effie hurt herself in a fall. Many of us thought they might never come back. Titch's incessant yapping became a thing of the past and poor old Effie was forgotten. Then, out of the blue, Effie turns up at the village flower show, looking younger and more spritely than she has ever done in the past 10 years. Titch is still blind and still yapping. But those of us in the know feel things are now back as they should be. Justified, and ancient, and autumn.

Secondary school age children swagger down to the bus, great big backpacks swinging from their shoulders. A short while later the smaller ones, holding their mothers' hands, walk down to the village school. I see Pelly Sheepwash dawdling as if she were being dragged to work by some invisible force. Bellows barges past the house, late for work as usual, and a little while later Randy Munchkin will be reluctantly switching off her home computer to do her stint at the school.

The pelargoniums in front of the village pump are losing their vigour. They look as if they are a withering bunch of flowers placed there for a crash victim. Fortunately, my bete noire, the bizzy lizzies in their concrete pots, have long since gone to mush and been carted away.

It is autumn here in Mu Mu Land, where the seasonal cycle dictates that everything must change but, on the grand scale of things, nothing actually does. The fields are beginning to fill up with crunchy leaves, churned-up mud and magic mushrooms. The blackberries slowly ripen and the blackthorn branches are heavy with sloes. The spaniels chase the rabbits zig-zagging through the grass. The log piles are stacked up and the heating engineers' vans arrive to service the village Agas and Rayburns.

Number One Son will soon be heading back to university for his third year, the fairy grand-daughter has just started school and Number One Daughter is now a Mrs. The wedding is over and things are getting back to normal. But I am longing to see the photos. As mother of the bride, I had a handbag to carry so got someone else take the pictures.

The mobile library, with its knowledgeable and kindly librarian, will be pulling up outside the house soon. And Mr Grigg, who has taken the week off to finish the decorating, has just fired up Bob Dylan's Thunder on the Mountain, ready for his daily workout.

That's about it

Love Maddie x

Monday, 7 September 2009

The wedding of the year

The wedding of the year has been and gone. And all is well.

This was despite dropping the plug from the iron on my big toe as I was pressing the lapel on my linen coat, finding live nits in the flaxen curls of the four-year-old bridesmaid (Number One Grand-daughter), the dressmaker leaving a stitch where she shouldn't have in the wedding dress (discovered with minutes to spare) , Number One Daughter whipping the wrong wedding speech from her cleavage and then having to ad lib her way out of it and the Best Man joking that 'nothing sucks like an Electrolux, apart from the bride'. It was the only time I've been glad my elderly mother is hard of hearing.

Number One Son looked the part as he led his big sister up the aisle, preceded by the fairy grand-daughter. I was proud of them but managed not to cry. Composure is my middle name. I got through the bit in my speech when I thanked the two substitute fathers in my daughter's life but welled up when I turned the spotlight on my parents, who were there for her and me, right at the beginning when I was a frightened teenager with a baby.

Number One Grand-daughter was a hit at the evening do in her Sportacus suit, as was a much-loved but long-lost cousin, found by me on Facebook, whose arrival had everyone sobbing. The rain held off, my hat and shoes were the talk of the day and Number One Daughter turned from Bridezilla into the Princess Bride. As I knew she would.

Photos to follow.

That's about it

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 3 September 2009

It's all relative if you Google it

While thinking today about my speech for Number One Daughter's wedding on Saturday, and in between times when I should have been working on my freelance stuff and a 4,000-word critical analysis on soap operas, I've been looking out the window at the mobile library. I though our publicans were in for some luck after seeing the end of the rainbow going down their chimney.

And then I started playing around with Google. Bloody fatal.

Far From The Madding Crowd was on my mind, because as you know, the rumour is that it is about to be remade in these parts. From there, I got to Jonathan Firth, who starred in a TV remake of the 1967 John Schlesinger film classic.

Jonathan is Colin's brother.

(I know which one I prefer).

Then I wondered if Peter Firth was their cousin. I say cousin because to look at him he could never be their brother. Oh all right, maybe the wrong side of the blanket then.

Peter Firth played Scooper in the 1970s television series Here Comes the Double Deckers. Were the three Firths related? Google said 'no' but threw up some obscene comparison about the length of Peter Firth's acting career and Colin Firth's penis.

From there I got to the Double Deckers' cast list and wondered what those child actors were doing now. So I went to Wikipedia and clicked through them one by one. I knew about Firth and Brinsley Forde's later careers (the latter was a founder member of Aswad) but I was astonished by the subsequent career of Doughnut, the stereotyped fat boy played by Douglas Simmonds:

Douglas Simmonds (born 18 February 1958 in England), is a British child actor who played the part of Doughnut in the UK television show Here Come the Double Deckers.

Douglas left acting to work in science and medicine, training as a medical student before becoming a theoretical physicist and researcher. Whilst working on string theory, he later expanded this theory to include toroidal hyperspaces. After working for several years for the Department of Health as an expert in Medical Computing he retired and is now a researcher in ancient glyptic art.

Someone must have made that up. Doughnut? String theory?

As comedian Dave Gorman said on Radio 4's Chain Reaction last night, if you want to be a writer, don't be connected to the internet. It gets in the way of disciplined, constructive thought and the storywriting process. I've just googled Dave Gorman to see what he looked like. I recognised his voice but up until that point, I thought he was John Gorman from The Scaffold. Maybe they're father and son.

I know, let's Google it.

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...