Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Why I'm airing my dirty washing in public

I stagger across the square with a laundry basket on my hip. The washing machine has busted, a month after its first birthday and year's warranty. I am grateful Mrs Bancroft is on the Grand Tour because I can sneak in and use her very sleek and silent washing machine while she is away.
It purrs like a very quiet cat, unlike my Hoover which made so much bloody noise the other night when it was spinning Mr Grigg's boxers I thought it was the Hadron Collider. An imprint on the outside suggested a very solid alien inside desperately attempting to escape. I checked to make sure the pets were all accounted for and then rang the Hoover man.

This morning, he inspects the machine and tells me a large bolt has sheered off inside. I now have to wait another week for it to be fixed.

I wander across the road in the rain with my washing basket, looking out for stray Porsches. If it's a deliciously-sounding throaty engine, it'll be Mrs Chocs-Away. Or it could be a local builder whose smile takes up the entire windscreen. I want to avoid being run over by Celebrity Farmer in his babe magnet. Those of the jealous variety dismiss his new toy as being made up of two different cars joined in the middle.

'And, besides,' says one. 'The Porsche Boxter is a girl's car.'

Celeb has so far avoided the obvious accessory of a self-obsessed teenage airhead in the front seat (not for want of trying, I may add). As you know, he has instead taken his lovely and wise gran (90+) out for a spin. Although if he ever ends up with jailbait he could always escape dressed as a washerwoman.

That's about it

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 28 March 2010

When Chicken Licken met Goosey Loosey

The demolition men are hard at it again up at the Love Shack. Mr Grigg, Nobby Odd-Job, Mr Loggins and Mr Sheepwash are in dismantling mode as they tear apart the old bungalow high on the hill.

Mr Sheepwash narrowly misses impaling himself on a rusty nail and Mr Loggins puts his back out. Mr Grigg comes home in a flap, desperate to use the lavatory but unable to get his overalls off in a hurry. I fear he might follow through.

Here in the Grigg household, spring has arrived, which means my twice-yearly sort-out of the bedroom drawers and wardrobe. The winter clothes are going away, which probably means we'll have snow next week.

There have been numerous developments since my last post. The sheep and lambs have been moved into the pasture near Pelly Sheepwash's house and the spring bulbs are coming out just in time for Mrs Bancroft's homecoming after five months away. Contrary to local gossip, she has not been detained at Her Majesty's pleasure but is on a round-the-world adventure.

The most curious happening this week was down at the henhouse. One of the hens has given birth to a goose egg.

This miracle of nature has the fingerprints of Celebrity Farmer - or maybe his brother - all over it.

With Easter just around the corner, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Pelly found a gift-wrapped chocolate egg next weekend with a great big red bow around it. Or even better, a beanstalk that reached high into the sky.

It's magical, this place. You couldn't make it up.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Peter Rabbit: my hero

I take it all back. Peter Rabbit's the best. The essay is finished and, with a mercurial switch, the bunny's been recast as a hero from Homer.

Now just a short essay - 1,000 words on French history - by Thursday and then I can get back to Porsche-spotting from my window. Three new (to them) ones in the village. Celebrity Farmer has just roared past with his gran in the passenger seat. Babe magnet.

That's about it

Love Maddie x

Monday, 22 March 2010

Why Peter Rabbit is not my bunny of the month

I have fallen out of love with one of the most delightful characters in children's literature.

A week or so ago, Peter Rabbit, that naughty but lovable blue-jacketed bunny, waltzed right into my house and got completely inside my head. A couple of days later, he's done my head in completely and managed to get right up my nose.

I was studying hard on Saturday, trying to pad out a 2,000-word Open University essay on why children's picturebooks appeal equally to adults. I was using Peter Rabbit to illustrate my points. Two thousand bloody words, I ask you. There is only so much you can say.

But I really shouldn't take it out on Peter Rabbit for my mistake in studying a level three degree course in children's literature. I realise now, for me, all that analysis and intellectual argument takes the magic away. I just think: 'What a load of absolute bollocks.'

So when Pelly Sheepwash instant messaged me across my laptop and asked if I fancied helping her to look for a mother-of-the-bride outfit, I jumped from my chair with glee.

'I need to get out,' I wailed. 'F*?!*!g Peter Rabbit. And, besides, one of the dogs has got terrible wind.'

So off we went, had an hour or so dressing up, followed by shopping for essentials in Lidl and non-essentials in the Waitrose next door. And then home again, jiggedy-jig. On the table, the Tale of Peter Rabbit was there, waiting for me, like the Black Rabbit of Inlé from Watership Down.

That evening, I decided to give Peter a second chance. I read the book with my four-year-old granddaughter, who knows a thing or two about rabbits because her mother breeds them. She was visibly moved by this illustration where Peter is crying.

I felt awful.

But today, 900 words still to go, those hostile thoughts are creeping back. I'm half hoping the story will have suddenly changed and Peter ends up in Mr McGregor's pie along with his dad.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 18 March 2010

The circle of life - new beginnings

I've been up half the night stroking my new baby.

After a very delicate procedure, the island unit was safely delivered in the kitchen, thanks to Mr Grigg, Mr Sheepwash and Nobby Odd-Job, in a scene that could well have starred Bernard Cribbins and Eric Sykes.

I have been unable to stop looking at it, touching it and admiring it. It's far too good to use.

In the meantime, if you hop across to my new blog Manor from Heaven, you'll see I haven't been totally idle.

Here in The Enchanted Village, the circle of life continues. It's that time of year again.

It reminds me that what goes around, comes around, as the street I parked next to in Bristol shows.

That's about it

Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Island girl

My new kitchen island unit has just arrived.

Island? It's more like a small continent. I'm half expecting to find Dr Livingstone in the middle drawer with a large tribe of pygmies in the bottom and Thomas Cook selling tour tickets at the top.

I always get the size wrong. A few years ago, seduced by the DFS adverts, I went out looking for a sofa and came back with two huge settees and a large armchair. In the showroom, they looked in proportion. And besides, there was a sale on (is there ever a time when there isn't a sale on at DFS?). Two delivery men and much huffing and puffing, shunting and shoving later, the sofas were sitting opposite each other in my long living room.

'It looks like a railway carriage now,' Mr Grigg said, looking across at me.

'Yes,' I shouted, on the edge of the seat and my feet swinging, not touching the ground. 'And we're The Borrowers.'

The only time I had a double wardrobe was for five minutes until the man who made it gave up trying to get it up the stairs and told me I'd need to get two single ones.

The kitchen island unit is beautifully crafted by Exmoor Furniture. I have been on a six-month waiting list for it, so it seems like today, on St Patrick's Day, I have given birth. But to a giant rather than a leprechaun.

It is sitting in the hall, looking eerily like the shipping container that went on show at Tate Modern last year. Spot the difference in the pictures below - the second one shows the Pygmies coming out of my island unit.

It's now waiting for two strong and nimble men (Mr Grigg and Mr Sheepwash) to carry it to its intended destination. The kitchen.

It's a good job I didn't get the big one.

That's about it

Love Maddie x

Monday, 15 March 2010

A whole lot of loving going on...

On a small hill above The Enchanted Village, Mr Loggins is busy dismantling the Love Shack. He and Darling have lived here for two years, in wind and rain, in cold and cold with only their dream of opening a sustainable B&B keeping them alive.

Although it is sunny in village, the bronze nymph is still wearing the poncho. Imagine how cold Mr Loggins must be up on that roof.

Now they have planning permission to build a new home, Mr Loggins is pulling the Love Shack apart. It is made of wood and corrugated iron. A hobbit hole in The Shire would have been more comfortable.

Meanwhile, in news from the other side of the village, the doggers have been exposed. A local couple have been filming themselves cavorting in the woods on The Hill. If Mr Loggins got his binoculars out and panned around from the delightful view from what used to be his back door, he might catch them out.

Somebody, though, already has. I asked my informant who it was and if the naked cavorting had anything to do with the common stinkhorn (the delightfully named phallus impudicus), the response was 'It's some dome-shaped spore thrower'. I think I know who it is.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Friday, 12 March 2010

Manor from heaven

Like the little boy who cried wolf, I have been threatening to throw my toys out of the pram and give up this blog. A month away Down Under and I realised I couldn't turn my back on life here in my corner of Dorset.

So not only have I given the kiss of life to The World from My Window, I've also started another blog, following my trials and tribulations in a part-time job at a stately home. Hop across to Manor from heaven and be among my first followers. With a bit of luck, her ladyship might put my wages up.

That's about it

Love Maddie

Thursday, 11 March 2010

A virtual tour of The Enchanted Village

I've just been for a walk around the village. It is May, the gypsy lace is in flower, there are wallflowers outside my house, Mrs Regal Bird is rubbing down a piece of furniture outside her garage, Night Nurse has a female visitor on her doorstep and the man down the road is walking his Lassie dog past our neighbours-to-be, Mr and Mrs Champagne-Charlie's,although they haven't moved in to their house yet.

A van is parked where it shouldn't be while someone has a crafty fag and Nobby Odd-Job's neighbours have BT Open Reach in. MDF Man has parked in the field at the back of his house, the pub is shut and two people are getting out of their cars outside the village hall, which is bedecked with bunting. I can see Mr Grigg's Freeloader with a bag of garden rubbish in the back. Luckily for him the car is parked outside the right house - ours.

I know it is May because there are signs on the village green fence advertising coming events.

Am I mad? Have I gone back in time? Well, yes, kind of. I have been on a tour of The Enchanted Village courtesy of Google Street View, which now has 95 per cent of the country covered.

You just put in a location into Google Maps and then click on to the little yellow peg man and start walking.

It's a weird experience, and I don't like it much. Places caught in time, for people to peer into every nook and cranny.

Pelly Sheepwash will be pleased to know her lane isn't covered so the Sheepwashlets could be up to all sorts of mischief and no-one would know. Quite right too. I have zoomed into my window but can't see myself looking out. That might be a paradox.

That's about it

Love Maddie x

Monday, 8 March 2010

Balls to your partner

Back in The Enchanted Village, the social whirl stops long enough for us to just hop back on it.

Delicious canapes at Monty Chocs-Away's, then a bus ride for 24 villagers as we set off for a charity ball stuffed full of farmers (apologies to my father but I know he won't be reading this) and quick-stepping blue rinsers. The live music becomes too much for a youthful Randy Munchkin (more used to disco and hip-hop) whose pain threshold forces her to consider disembowelling herself with a fork.

Mr Grigg becomes hoarse after shouting more than usual just trying to make himself heard.

Champagne Charlie's eyes are out on stalks at the décolletage on display all around him. If he had a gun, he would probably shoot it. I am pleased for Posh Totty's sake she has chosen a demure Audrey Hepburn-style dress, otherwise she would be forever known as something quite similar but at the same time quite different.

From a nearby table, Darling Loggins swans over in a dress from e-Bay with a bow the size of Sturminster Newton. Mr Loggins and I catch up on gossip going back at least twenty years and Pelly Sheepwash comes back from the other side of the ballroom and announces: 'I've just seen Margaret Thatcher.'

From where I am sitting, the other village table looks much better behaved than ours. But we are closer to the bar, which seems like a reasonable excuse to me.

As the evening progresses, the music becomes more to Muscle and Randy's liking so they get down on it on the dance floor. Copious amounts of alcohol are consumed and the waitresses take away the kitty, thinking it's a tip. And then two o-clock comes around and we all have to go home.

On the bus, the community singing is somewhat muted, although Drink Up Thy Cider turns effortlessly into Dinah, Dinah, Show Us Yer Leg. Mr Sheepwash says nothing. He just looks down his nose ever so slightly, thinking: 'A man of my intellect? With my reputation?'

Smiles, hugs and hiccups are exchanged as the village outing comes to an end. The assembled cast disperse in a none-too-orderly fashion after the bus tips them out in the square.

Jet lag? What jet lag?

That's about it

Love Maddie

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Roll on the credits

Now back in Blighty, I am thinking twice about reviving my blog. The village has new publicans which means all the previously banned people are back, Ding Dong Daddy has recorded The Imagined Village's latest album here, Mr St John is on the look-out out for a Porsche for Celebrity Farmer, MDF Man became Superman when Celeb's water bed sprung a leak, the demolition of the Loggins' love shack is well underway and there has been an unconfirmed sighting of local 'doggers' whose identity everyone is keen to discover.

Can I turn my back on this and let it go unreported? My teeming brain and restless fingers say no. I cannot keep my pen behind my ear for much longer.

As we return home, from adventures, sunshine, beauty, history, with the taste of travel still sweet in the air, we are jolted back to life by a National Express coach driver with sloping shoulders whose customer service skills are non-existent. We miss two trains home because of an unexplained delay with the shuttle bus to Woking - the driver merely shrugs because it is not his problem. Our icy breath reminds us of what we have left behind, a thick fog descends in Wiltshire and then the sun comes out from its distant hole in the sky as the train crosses the border into Dorset.

Kind Nobby Odd-Job meets us at Crewkerne station. Back in the shire, the nymph statue at the top of the village is still wearing her winter poncho but spring is coming - Pelly Sheepwash has placed a vase of daffodils in our kitchen to welcome us home. We are invited around for an early roast pheasant supper with our neighbours, Mr and Mrs Champagne-Charlie.

My car won't start, the back wheel is fixed tight and Mr St John saves the day by attacking it with a hammer. Meanwhile, the cost of repair on Mr Grigg's Land Rover Freeloader and the amount we have to splash out on boarding fees for the dogs and cats while we were away could have been spent on another four weeks down under.

Back to life, back to reality.

Before signing off and considering whether to resurrect my Dorset blog from a village enchanted rather than imagined, I would like to thank the following people, without whom The World from My Window Down Under would not have been possible: Lord and Lady G, My Beautiful Cousin and The Twins, The Fit Family from Bondi, Australia's Laziest Man, The Sugar Cane Farmer, the lovely Mrs Bancroft and the support crew back home.

Thank you, I love you all.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Always remembered

My great-uncle's last resting place is in a cemetery on the outskirts of Casino, the beef capital of Australia.

Mr Grigg and I walked through the rows and rows of headstones in the baking New South Wales heat.

A shout went up from the left.

'Here it is,' Mr Grigg said.

We had finally found it.

'In loving memory of James Walter Hull, died 13.12.73 aged 76. Always remembered.'

I pondered for a while and thought of the adventures Uncle Jim must have had since landing in Australia in 1925. Driving the post coach and horses, seeing and buying the 4,000-plus acre farm at Rappville and then setting up home there with his young cousin Percy, who was to die a few years later in a flu epidemic.

Mr Grigg and I sat and drank beer in the Commercial Inn, built in 1911 and still stuck in place between the pioneering days and the 1960s. We were told the town had been used as the set for 'that Pommy show Heartbeat', which is being broadcast on Australian TV in the autumn. The whole place felt just as it might have done when Uncle Jim was alive.

We did not find his house although I like to think one of the timber-clad buildings we saw beyond the roadside could have been his. As we drove slowly along Myrtle Creek Road, which would have probably bounded my great-uncle's farm, a kangeroo bounced past and then hid in the forest. Around the corner, a herd of cattle ambled across the road, saw our car and then quietly disappeared into the bush.

I now intend to find out more about the life of Jim the man, so he is not forgotten. Always remembered.

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...