Monday, 30 March 2009

Wind power

Bloated. Fat. Muffin top. All these words relate to me today after a three-course meal on Saturday night followed by scrumptious Sunday lunch yesterday and then a spicy supper.

I blame Mrs Bancroft. She's the one who has always taught me never to turn down an invitation.

I am doubled up with wind, the belt on my jeans is digging in to my stomach and making an interesting imprint. I will need a crane to lift me out of this chair. Beware anyone who comes too close behind me when I walk the dogs later on.

I feel like the woman on the Nimble bread advert but for all the wrong reasons. She flew like a bird in the sky, light as anything, floating in her hot air balloon. I, too, will be shooting across the field. But in the way a balloon filled with helium does when it is let down.

With my iPod on, I will be oblivious as the whole village crumbles in my wake.

That's about all I can manage

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Chicken Run

The strawberry blond lead of Morris: A Life with Bells On could have been Celebrity Farmer. Or at least how Celeb used to look. I have just seen him on his way to charm the London city girls and he has reinvented himself. Designer shades and a new haircut. What is going on?

Who knows, but there is plenty going on this weekend.

Mr St John and Lady Friend moved in together yesterday and the plethora of removal lorries filled the street.

Mimi and Larry have returned from the sun and are back behind the bar.

The builder (with shirt on) is hard at work in our front room.

Morris played to a full house at the village hall last night. Lots of chuckles and guffaws, especially at the 'local' jokes such as a scene at 'Dorchester Airport'. Dorchester has no airport, nor are there plans to create one. Unless the producers of the film have heard this is intended by Prince Charles as part of his toytown kingdom of Poundbury.

Royal idyll: HRH and Poundbury Village, Dorchester

I was particularly impressed with producer and actress Lucy Akhurst's Westcountry accent. She has clearly been around these parts. Her pronunciation of 'old' as 'ode' was spot-on.

Our outing last night was the first in a series of activities happening over the next day or so. Tonight, we are off to a Golden Wedding party for a couple my husband has never met.

Tomorrow Mrs Bancroft has invited us to Sunday lunch and then it's off to the Logginses for a Spring Forward supper. However, I must not neglect my studies. I need to find time in between all this socialising to get down to some hard work.

Foghorn Leghorn: 'I say, I say, boy...'

Finally, there is a battle going on down the road between Russell's crow and his owner's wife, Randy. Chuck the cockerel behaves perfectly with his owner and young sons. But when poor Randy arrives to feed him and the hens, the dreadful creature turns on her, talons outstretched, ready to pounce. She has taken to wearing her husband's clothes to throw him momentarily off the scent and then fending him off with a bag and shouting 'Paxo'.

That's about it - or should I say, I say that's all folks.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 26 March 2009

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

Mrs Bancroft led a village outing to the suburbs of Yeovil last night. Ten of us went to see the The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.
I knew what to expect, having done my homework and looked them up on YouTube. But Mr Grigg, the Logginses and Night Nurse were expecting a stage jam-packed full of ukuleles. So they were somewhat disappointed to see just six chairs centre stage.

The lights dimmed and five men of varying ages, all in dinner jackets and bow ties, and a woman in smart black evening wear entered stage left, armed with ukuleles of various sizes. From the moment they started at 7.30 right through (minus the interval) until 9.30, toes were tapping and knees were shaking all through the auditorium. It was English eccentricity at its best.

Let me describe our musicians. On the left we had a long, blond Baldrick, then came Kirsty MacColl, then Jim-Broadbent-meets-Timothy-Spall, then our local town council leader, then David Tennant and finally John Simm on bass. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.

They were quirky, musically excellent and very, very entertaining. We had the theme from Shaft turning into an homage to English folk song collector Sharp, Cecil Sharp, The Sex Pistols' Anarchy in UK as a jaunty shanty, Bowie's Life on Mars merging into My Way, Born Free and other songs with similar melodies, each performer holding their own tune.

The only George Formby song was Leaning on a Lamp Post, transformed into a powerful Russian-style number.

I have never really taken in the lyrics of Wheatus's Teenage Dirtbag. But last night, sung by Hester Goodman with mass ukulele accompaniment, it was sublime rather than ridiculous. The best bit was a swing version of Wuthering Heights.

You can catch them on www.ukuleleorchestra.com or go to YouTube and find them there. Excellent stuff.

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Don't just talk about it, do it

As I write this, Nobby Odd-Job, Mrs Bancroft and Mr Grigg are sitting around my table. I nearly typed Mr Frigg there. Freudian slip, sorry...

We have just had a meeting about our annual fete in June. I'm part of a small group that has been behind the fete every year since the Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002. We had a street party then and everyone had so much fun we've been doing something ever since. We have events during the year to pay for the fete and then any profits are split between village causes. This may all seem very noble but the best bit is meeting in other people's homes, sharing good food and wine as we plan our activities.

But I am not blogging about village stuff. Not tonight. No, I am in a kind of serious mode this evening. Have you had a teacher who has really inspired you? I'm sure we've all had someone in our school lives who has made a real difference to how we turned out. Me, I went to the school of hard knocks in the town otherwise known as the Birthplace of Powered Fight. It was not until the sixth form that my teachers took any interest in me. I am from the great Comprehensive-experiment era, the youngest of five whose siblings all went to grammar school. I passed the 11-plus in the early 1970s. But I declared to my parents I would run away if I was sent to the grammar school or boarding school threatened by my mother. I wanted to be at the same school as my classmates.

So I spent five miserable years in a school where I was average because I didn't want to come across as a keenie. If I'd been rubbish I would have had special attention but I would have been bullied mercilessly. If I'd been exceptional I would have had special attention but would have been bullied mercilessly. So I played the average card, desperate to fit in after jumping from a country primary school of 19 to a town secondary school of 1,900. I was bullied, mercilessly.

School life only ever became enjoyable for me in the sixth form. During those two years, I had two inspirational teachers, my English teacher and my art teacher. But, according to one of my old school friends, my English teacher only spent time on me because he fancied me. I would dispute that. However, I do recall his rather poignant presentation of a dogeared copy of The Great Gatsby on the day I left. My art teacher, however, is the one who sticks in my mind. I wasn't particularly good at art but I was passionate about art history. And I could write about it.

I well remember going on an art trip to The Smoke. My fellow students missed the train and I ended up going around The National Gallery on my own with my art teacher. It was one of the best days of my school life. I had a one-to-one tour of the paintings, courtesy of my art teacher who could have been Tony Hart's more pedantic brother. A gentleman, an enthusiast and an inspiration.

Tony Hart: not my teacher, but an inspiration, even though he didn't return my painting from Vision On

So when I was talking to my old friend about inspirational teachers, I told him I had always meant to write to my art teacher. To tell him what a difference he had made to my life. How I could never pass a church or a cathedral without dragging poor Mr Grigg and the family inside to marvel at the ecclesiastical architecture. So what did my friend do? He found my old teacher's address.

So I wrote to the teacher. Two days later, a beautifully written envelope, in copperplate, italic, fountain pen handwriting, dropped through my letterbox. Now in his 80s, my old teacher was thrilled to receive my 'very flattering comments' and intrigued to hear about how my career had progressed. He well remembered our trip to the National Gallery. 'That is how visits to galleries should be,' he said. He was keen to know more about a book I had published and wished me well for the future. I almost cried when I read it. I bundled up one of my books and sent it off to him, with the appropriate fine arts card and a personal message.

I have just received another letter, with a £10 note attached, thanking me profusely for the book. I have sent back another card, a detail of a Charles Rennie Mackintosh painting, along with the £10 note. I had sent the book as a gift. I had been thinking of writing a dedication inside but thought that would be pretentious.

The moral of this blog posting, though, is: don't just talk about it, do it. I have long been meaning to write to this lovely man, this Tony Hart of my schooldays, but I have never done it. But now I have. And I'm so glad I did.

So if you have the chance to write and say 'thank you', just do it. Now.

That's about it
love Maddie x

PS Lowering the tone slightly, as is my wont, just before our meeting at our house this evening, Mr Grigg came home, had a dump and then none of us could use the lavatory for the next three hours. Because the extractor fan is broken and he hasn't fixed it yet.

On the horizon this week is a village outing to see The Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain and the long-awaited showing of Morris: a Life with Bells on.

Monday, 23 March 2009

A winning hand

I am reeling with shock.

Somehow, our scratch quiz team romped to victory at the village hall on Friday night. Armed with plenty of wine, glasses and pencils (in that order) Mr Grigg and I were joined by Mrs Bancroft and Number One Son. But there were no Bible questions for Mrs B or complicated physics equations for the boy. So how did we do it? We're still not sure. We thought we were pretty rubbish. But I guess the 80 or so others in the hall must have been more rubbish than we were.

Something that became apparent, though, is that the Number One Son, Golden Balls, Angel Child, has become very knowledgeable about playing cards since going to university. Did you know, for example, that the King of Hearts is called the Suicide King because he has a dagger in his hand? The boy did. He also guessed, correctly, that the spring flower whose name in Turkish means 'turban' is tulip. So I can't blame that last answer on evenings spent playing poker when he should be studying.

The Suicide King: careful with that dagger, Eugene

We won a bottle of wine each, three raffle prizes, and containers of mustard and tomato ketchup (don't ask, this village is just like that). My basket was fuller when we left than when we arrived. I could see the competitive Mrs Loggins bristling on the next table. Ha!

The spoils of war

We called in at the pub on the way home to celebrate but there was no sign of Super Mario and his wife, Princess Peach. They have been running the place temporarily as well as doing their day jobs and were having a well deserved break that night. The appointment has not been plain sailing this week, with complications from quarters that should know better. We salute the two of you for soldiering on. (But please Mario, don't forget about repainting my front door).

Yesterday, Number One Son and Number One Daughter bombarded me with gifts and good wishes. 'Aren't you lucky to have such good children as us?' Number One Daughter said. 'We've never caused you any trouble, have we?' I don't think luck really came into it, dear daughter, as you then went on to say you were both terrified of me when you were growing up. Not what you want to hear on Mothering Sunday, is it?

My own mother and mother-in-law were visited too. The latter was treated to lunch by Mr Grigg and his brothers and we popped in at the former's on the way back. As we sat down for a cup of tea and a slice of my father's cake, my mother did what she does best - telling stories about my extended and rather strange family. The best quote was when she described my dad's cousin, now in his 70s and living in a mobile home inside a hayrick, as being once 'as handsome as paint'. Farrow and Ball, probably. And that reminds me Super Mario - did I mention the door?

That's about it
Love Maddie x

PS I said last week I would be telling you about our trip to Hugh Fearlessly-Eats-It-All's place in Axminster. I will leave that for later in the week. However, the news is that MasterChef Mat Follas could soon be opening a restaurant in a town three miles away. Watch this space.

Friday, 20 March 2009

In these shoes?

You know your day is not going well when halfway through the morning, you're at work and you discover your knickers are inside out. What makes it worse is they're the Bridget Jones big kind and the waistband is higher than the one on your trousers. So the world and his wife knows officially how big your arse is.

My day at the Death Star started like this yesterday and then got worse. I broke my mug when someone walked through a door in front of me. I was startled, the mug I was carrying became like a juggling ball with an in-built electric shock system and it flew out of my hands. The handle smashed all over the floor. Then, as I filled up my excuse for a mug with hot water from the dispenser, I turned away to get milk out of the fridge. I know how long I usually have to do this because the pipe is furred up and the water takes ages to come through. However, some bastard had fixed it, hadn't they? Scalding hot water went everywhere.

So I was looking forward to an evening last night with Buggles and her man, Gomez D'Arthur. I had forgotten, though, that in company, Gomez swears like a trooper, uttering the F-word as often as he can manage. I had also forgotten that Mr Grigg, though deep, is very easily led. So the pair of them were f-ing and blinding like a couple of grumpy old men with tourettes passing the time of day in the bookies or children in the schoolyard who have just learned to swear. Poor Buggles. She kept wriggling in her seat with embarrassment. Every now and then she had to go out for a fag. I must say, I was very tempted to take up smoking again so I could join her. However, the end of this swearfest came when I turned to Gomez and simply said: 'Gomez. Shut the f... up.' He will dispute that, I'm sure, but that's how I remember it.

Today, I went to the Big-City-that-is-Bristol to pick up Number One Son (or The Chosen One, as Number One Daughter and Mr Grigg call him) from university. We had lunch at Cabot Circus. I, aka country mouse, was completely in awe of the architecture. An electric violin wailed music to slit your wrists by as we entered this new shopping mall. It was like something out of Blade Runner.


I found a great pair of shoes and ummed and ahhed about whether I should buy them. After all, Number One Daughter's wedding is months away. However, when the assistant said I had 365 days to return them I thought, bugger it, why not? And Number One Son said they looked pretty funky. Just as well he said that really, because when I got to the till, my credit card wouldn't work and neither would my debit card so the poor lad paid for them instead. I will make it up to him, honestly.

As we wound our way back to the village early this evening, the pace of life slowed as the Nymph's Dad held up the traffic in his open-topped Massey Ferguson.

Tonight, it's sensible heads on as we sharpen our pencils and fight it out at a quiz in the village hall. I am rather concerned because Darling Loggins is batting for the Sheepwashes and not only is she clever, she is very competitive. They don't even have the handicap of Mr Loggins holding them back this time, as he won't be there. So I am relying on Mrs Bancroft and her vast knowledge of the New and Old Testaments and Number One Son for his scientific prowess.

After that, a trip to the pub maybe in order. Yesterday, I saw Super Mario down on his hands and knees clearing up cigarette butts from the front step. He is working so hard I feel we have a duty to call in. But I haven't forgotten he needs to finish the paint job on my front door.

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

The Great Escape

I have been at the Death Star again today. Refurbishment is going on in one of the wings and there were tapping noises coming from the radiators. Probably local government workers trapped in the system, trying to escape.

Charles 'The Tunnel King' Brosnan worked for the local council

I shall be heading down the escape tunnel myself at the end of the month. I have been editing web copy for three days a week for the past five months. It was a temporary job that was meant to be for six weeks. I feel a mixture of relief and anxiety at the prospect of seeing the light again. Relief because I shall at last be escaping my silo for the big wide world. But also anxiety because there will be very little money in the family purse for a while.

But there are at least two things I have gained from working at the Death Star, apart from the boost to funds:

  1. An insight into web content management
  2. An insight into prog rock, Massive Attack and Stanley Holloway monologues, courtesy of a colleague whose musical tastes are as eclectic as mine

But I have been at the Death Star for too long. In my first week, I kept hearing the phrase ‘customer engagement’. I now realise my colleagues meant ‘talking to people’. For months, I have been trying to make my way through public sector gobblydegook, which is like wading through treacle with hobnail boots on and both legs tied together.

I have been horizon scanning, worrying about resource allocation, external challenges and improvement levers; holistic governance, coterminosity and predictors of beaconicity. Goobledygook? Bollocks more like.

Today, the Local Government Organisation issued a list of 100 words it wants to see banned in the public sector. For ‘slippage’ read ‘delay’, for ‘funding streams’ read ‘money’ and for ‘core message’ read ‘main point’. Will the LGO's advice be taken on board and change the way public sector organisations speak to us, the public? Will it hell as like.

A more simple life beckons for me, working from home where impenetrable language is banned because neither the spaniels nor Mr Grigg nor I for that matter understand it. Days when I can take the dogs out for an hour and still be at my home office desk by 8.30am. Penniless but rich beyond measure.

Today, Mr Grigg rang me from home to ask if I still had the estimate for the fencing on the village green. The contractor had just started the work across the Square and then thought he had better knock on the door. ‘How much was that estimate I gave you?’ he said. 'Only I don't want to charge the hall committee too much.'

Country life. I wouldn't have it any other way.

That's about it

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Oh to be in England now that March is here

It feels like the first morning of spring. The sky is clear and blue, the sun is glinting on the golden stone walls of the garden and the church bells are ringing. But this is Griggsville, where the man on number three bell is like Jonesy from Dad's Army and always several beats behind everyone else.

Clive Dunn as Corporal Jones in Dads Army

This morning, Mr Grigg threw the bedroom window open to let the day in. The songbirds were going full pelt, the jackdaws were cawing as they prepared themselves for bedding down in a suitable chimney when the time comes to nest. A dove cooed from the rooftops as the village folk ambled to the shop across the Square for the Sunday papers. A motorycle chugged by, with that reassuring, low bubbling throaty sound only British bikes make. In the distance we could hear the faint sound of drum and bass from a boy racer's car going around the one-way system.

I looked at the map of the south west yesterday, on the wall of Hugh Fearlessly-Eats-It-All's canteen in Axminster. Our village stood out as the centre of the universe, its five roads joining in a pentangle right at the point where I live.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittinstall and a bird in the hand

Mr Grigg and I often count our blessings at living in such a lovely place, surrounded by beautiful countryside and good friends. In good weather and bad, even in the mist that swirls up around this high village perhaps a little too often, this is truly the place to be. Pelly and I have discovered we have both stipulated that when we die our ashes are to be scattered on The Hill, with its beech trees, bluebells, toadstools and a view out onto the vale below and the sparkling sea beyond. It's such a beautiful, inspiring part of the world.

Today, I am knuckling down to an Open University assignment, for which I have been given an extension. By the end of the day, I hope it will be finished. And then, later in the week, I will tell you about Mr Eats-It-All's store and cafe. Oh yes, and the latest rumours that a restaurant might be opened up in these parts by Mat Follas, the winner of TV's MasterChef.

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Last orders please

Stop press: Mr Grigg looked out of our bedroom window last night wondering what was going on after we'd left the pub (see yesterday's posting). It was around midnight, the lights were on but the curtains were closed. 'Phone up and find out,' I said. So he did.

He put on a silly accent, like the policeman in Allo Allo, and spoke to Mrs Super Mario, who hooted with laughter, having guessed the mystery caller's identity straight away. No flies on her.

Good moaning, it's a lock-in

Did we miss a lock-in? Then we realised, lock-ins went out with the relaxation of the licensing laws. Perhaps someone should tell Super Mario. But you should say zis only vunce.

That's about it

Love Maddie x

Friday, 13 March 2009

The Super Mario show

We are very lucky in this village to have a pub right at the heart of everything, along with a shop, church, village hall and school. We also have a well balanced population, socio-economically speaking at least.

This week our publicans, Mimi and Larry, have gone on a much-needed holiday to the Canary Islands, handing the keys over to our painter and decorator, Super Mario, and his wife.

Late this afternoon, not long after Mrs Regal-Bird put the finishing touches to the border at the front of her house (which usually prompts an outing for the hot-blooded males of the village to marvel at her bottom), Mr St John emerged from people's distant memories with MDF Man for an early evening pint. So early that our temporary mine hosts hadn't even officially opened up.

Sometime later Mr Grigg and I, Pelly and Mr Sheepwash walked across the Square to our local hostelry. Mr Grigg was looking forward to seeing Super Mario behind the bar. He rather unkindly added a rider to that statement along the lines of 'well, he'll need to be standing on a box for me to be able to see him'. Mr Grigg has a bit of a superiority complex but a man of his stature just can't help it.

Super Mario looked a bit worried as the bar got busier and busier with locals hell bent on watching him perform and making a fool of himself. But he didn't put a step wrong. Even when the pipes needed cleaning, and with Dudley exclaiming from the sidelines in his Toulouse Lautrec beret (stitches not healed yet), Super Mario calmly put on his rubber gloves (Pelly called him Super Marigold) and informed anyone wanting IPA would just have to wait. The test will come when he has to serve Celebrity Farmer, who trod a similar path a year or so ago and texted all his friends during his tenure to make sure the pub was packed with customers.

Mrs Super Mario served the customers with a smile, making a secret terrified face when someone else walked in or ordered a drink she wasn't sure about. Think Vimto and cider, or cider and Vimto even. But they looked perfect together behind the bar and even had a slight a domestic. This, as I know only too well having been a landlady in a previous life, is a prerequisite to running a good pub.

But I really hope they don't settle in too well. My front door needs repainting. I need Super Mario to don his overalls and get out the Farrow and Ball paint pot.

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

The Wonder of Wellies

Chris Evans and Claire Robertson by the bulbs! on TwitPic
Television and radio star Chris Evans was in my neck of the woods today, launching the new Wellworths store in Dorchester. There was a celebratory feel and chaos at the pick' n' mix as the shop opened in a blaze of publicity. Wellworths is where the old Woolworths store used to be. And it opened thanks to the bravery of former Woolworths manager Claire Robertson, who has taken over the shop and is running it with her old colleagues, who would otherwise be out of a job.
Long after Chris Evans left, heading for London to do his drivetime radio show, the shop and indeed the town was heaving. Tills were ringing, there were smiling faces among the stressed ones and, in true Woolworths-style, the Easter eggs were on the shelf next to gardening products.

Actually, what was on the shelves seemed very Woolworths-like. But Claire says she'll stock whatever the public wants to buy. And she is keen to keep things local if she can. Particularly impressive was the massive amount of open floor space at the front of the shop, making getting in and out so much easier, and the height of the shelves. You can now see from one end of the store to the other. You don't feel claustrophobic any more.

So it's fingers crossed that all goes well once the hullabaloo dies down. It's amazing to think that only a month or so ago, customers were moaning that the prices were too high on the last day of the Woolworths sale. Few of them cared about people's livelihoods. Today they were rejoicing. What a difference a few days (and Chris Evans) makes.

Good luck Wellworths.

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Diamonds are forever (or maybe not)

The snow has melted, the sun is out and I have seen Titanic! The latter is all down to my good friend, Pelly, who practically forced me to sit down and watch it with her, Mr Sheepwash and Mr Grigg. She said it was for my own good and my OU film history studies could depend on it. It wasn't half as bad as I remembered, although Leonardo DiCaprio did look like he'd just started middle school. Sadly, the only bits of dialogue I can recall are 'this is bad,' when DiCaprio's character realised what was happening to the ship (or maybe the plot) and Kate Winslet breathlessly saying: 'Touch me Jack.' I've heard it called a Jemima before or even a front bottom but never a Jack.

Kate 'keep-your-hand-off-me-h''apenny' Winslet and a small boy do the sober or drunk test.

The end of the film prompted some debate. Mr Grigg was adamant the old lady dropped the diamond into the icy waters by accident. Pelly and I were sure she'd planned it. Why else would she have bothered to get her toenails painted for the lingering camera shot on her surprisingly young looking feet? Mr Sheepwash, like a castaway picking out a winkle, is always one to get to the real truth of the matter. He simply went to the computer and googled 'Titanic Diamond Drop'. It appears this is not the first time the argument has surfaced. The search engine came with a number of similar online debates. And the consensus was that she meant to drop it.

We are off to a party this evening, an 18th to be precise. The boy's parents have hired the village hall and are filling it with people our age, which is great for us but I'm not so sure about the birthday boy. The theme is black and white. We were thinking dinner suits and little black dresses. But Mr Grigg and I are tempted to wear the priest's and nun's outfit we used for bellringing a few years ago. Watch this space.

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Thursday, 5 March 2009

The Toad Princess

I woke up this morning, leapt out of bed, peeped through the curtains and, guess what? Yep, snowed in again! Farmers with snow plough attachments on their tractors are doing their best to clear the roads but there are abandoned cars all over the village. The dog walk that usually takes 20 minutes took an hour because the snow was so deep. I had snow inside my boots and the older spaniel picked up snowballs on his chest and back legs and ended up looking like a poodle.

My five lovely wind-sculpted beeches stood out like sentinels over the village.

The doorbell has just rung. It is Mr Loggins, back from a skiing holiday and behaving like an excited child with all this snow on his own doorstep, while Darling Loggins looks at him lovingly. They have called to tell us we have been invited to a communal soup lunch at the Sheepwashes. Yum yum.

A few days ago it was spring. I know this because I had a different coat on, I wore shoes for the first time in months, Nobby Odd-Job returned from Down Under like a migrating Canada goose and the toad crossing signs went up in the village. And now all this snow.

I have decided not to risk life and limb by venturing to the Death Star where I am doing some freelance work. It's simply not worth it. A chance, instead, to catch up on all the things I need to do - like tidy my home office, take all my files out of the cardboard boxes and put them in the filing cabinet, graciously given to me by Mr St John's Lady Friend, and really knuckling down to my OU film and television history studies. This might mean I have to watch Titanic this afternoon. I could probably get away with not watching it. But I would feel like I had cheated. It is a barrier that is getting higher and higher the longer I put it off.

Last night I had supper with an old school friend I hadn't seen for years. His partner is a very upmarket fashion designer to the rich and famous. So, with my daughter's wedding in September, I was rather hoping that by today I would be the proud owner of a designer dress for the occasion. A woman whose sense of style I very much admire said to me last week: 'I can't image you in pink chiffon. You need to have something a bit funky.' Last night I pleaded with my friend for maybe a sample, something from the cutting room floor or one of Lady Di's cast-offs. I could see myself as a kind of Toad Princess, transformed into a high class beauty for a day. I told my friend it would be great publicity. But he was having none of it.

I've got a few months to think about it. But I know what will happen. I'll end up getting something from Monsoon at the last minute that I'll never wear again. Or maybe I could raid Pelly's wardrobe. Or maybe...yes, I've got it. I'll organise a clothes swap and be very careful about who is invited. Women who are my size and with expensive, glamorous tastes. Oh, Maddie, you're a genius.

That's about it
Love Maddie x

Monday, 2 March 2009

Drinking and driving

It has been a busy weekend. However, we managed to find time to go into the pub yesterday afternoon for a spot of drinking and driving in the form of Scalextrix Sunday. This is a new event in which fully grown men and women get to play around with electric cars. Children are, in the main, banned from taking part. This is probably because one of the best racers was a young lad of about 10 or 11 whose focus and determination was worthy of Jackie Stewart. Middle aged men were quaking in their trainers.

I was somewhat bemused when Dudley came in and requested a pint of water rather than his usual distinctive tipple He looked rather dashing in a Toulouse Lautrec-style beret and cane. At least, I think he had a cane, but perhaps I imagined that. It transpired the beret was not just for effect - it was hiding five stitches. Suddenly, Super Mario's comment on my last posting made sense. On Saturday, a little worse for wear, Dudley went outside for a smoke, leaned over to put his fag out in the receptacle provided but just carried on leaning. It was a fag too far and he ended up banging his head for his efforts.

I do hope we will see him out again. A week or so ago, we went in to the pub for a romantic dinner for two. When I asked for some background music, before Larry the Landlord had a chance to put on the Chi-Lites Greatest Hits (quite a small CD) or say 'shall I sing New York New York?', Dudley came out from Compost Corner - the name we have for the regular drinkers' end of the bar - sat on the piano stool and started to play. He serenaded us with As Time Goes By and other such tunes. A couple on the next table who were celebrating their wedding anniversary looked up and said: 'Oh, isn't this lovely?'

Mr Grigg and I wish Dudley well. We are rather fond of him. It could have happened to anyone. He is not the first person to have injured himself in this way. And he certainly won't be the last. Someone I know broke their wrist when they tripped over the cat at Christmas after a few too many sherries. When I get drunk, my arms gesticulate all over the place like a spider on heat. What do you do?

That's about it
Love Maddie x

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