Friday, 28 May 2010

Two become a dyad, or when Hardy met Austen

Tonight, a big old Dyad Moon is suspended low in the sky. It is a deep rusty orange, with wisps of clouds like chiffon around its neck. It is nearly midnight in The Enchanted Village and there is a constant, low hum - the sound of British motorbikes trundling through on a late night Whitsun bank holiday rally.

Down the road, the lane to Bluebill Hill is strewn with homemade patchwork bunting, hung between the lilac trees, May blossom hedges and Narnia lamp posts. Tomorrow, there is to be a village wedding and a sneak preview of the marriage venue promises something akin to when Jane Austen met Thomas Hardy.

And still the British bikes hum through the Enchanted Village, as the wedding guests snuggle down into unfamilar beds and the bride tries to get to sleep after a Baileys or two, remembering that this time tomorow she will have a completely different name.

And 350 years ago tomorrow, on Oak Apple Day, King Charles II was restored to the English throne. An auspicious date for a wedding between a monarchist and his republican-bride-to-be. But take heart, the Dyad Moon signifies complementary colours, left and right, a twoness coming together as one.

There will be photos this weekend, but this is it for now. I am tired so googled for a picture of the dyad moon. This is what I got:

Which is actually kind of appropriate, I think.

That's about it

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 22 May 2010

The blue remembered hills

There is a place not far from me where the bluebells are known throughout Dorset. The woods are filled with heady aromas and a dazzling array of bright colours. It is a time when the ground and sky are wearing matching outfits in a deep and lovely, glorious blue.

Next weekend, there will be a bluebell picnic up here to celebrate the marriage on Oak Apple Day of my friend Pelly's Number One Sheepwashlet. The whole village is invited.

The beech trees are in shimmering coats of lime green. The pine trees overlook the vale with its patchwork of fields and the sea beyond. They sway in a Mediterranean-style breeze. Everything is beautiful.

This is the place where I have stipulated my ashes are to be scattered. And, I have since discovered, Pelly has requested exactly the same thing. Even in the afterlife we will be gossiping among the trees, whispering through the bluebells, the beech leaves and the penny bun toadstools. We will probably be joined by lots of other villagers who, unbeknown to us, have made the same request.

We soak up the beauty all around us as we head down the hill for a game of croquet with Mr and Mrs Champagne-Charlie.

But not before investigating a plume of smoke coming from a copse. Two young children run away as we approach, only to return and blame someone else for starting a fire at the mouth of a badger sett. They put the fire out as the farmer heads up the hill in his Landrover to find out what is going on.

Trouble in paradise.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Now I shout it from the highest hills

In the Enchanted Village this morning, there is a broken pint glass on the pavement where the children walk to school. I clear it up at 6.45am. It is nothing to do with me but I would feel pretty bad if a child cut their foot on it. The dog seizes my newly-planted nicotianas and spreads them all over the patio and then my hairdryer packs up just before I am about to go to work.

At the new office job, the head honcho writes all over my work in big red pen and it is emailed back to me without even a 'thank you' or 'kind regards'. Another director delivers my work to his team and then comes out, smiling, rips up the paper and says: 'Well, here's what they thought of that.'

I am tempted to pick up the pieces of paper and shove it into his smiling mouth. But I don't, because I am actually enjoying the job and, if I really get paid at the end of the month, the money will be handy too.

After a hard day at the office, it is good to go with Mr Grigg to the pub for supper. Every now and then a bit of what you fancy does you good. Or so he tells me.

So now we are back in the hovel after being surrounded in the pub by a group of short-arsed sorry, short-mat, bowlers. They have finished their stint in the village hall and are now waddling back home after a few drinks in the pub.

Brushing our teeth, we can hear everything they are saying because the bathroom has plastic sheeting for a roof. As you know, the builders are creating a new bedroom and bathroom in what we now call the west wing.

Earlier, when I came home from work, I was sitting on the lavatory, inwardly bemoaning the fact I have still not been picked up by Pan Macmillan as their discovery of the decade. I suddenly heard an extremely loud mooing sound from above, like a cow about to jump on my head. I naturally assumed the brace-brace-brace position, thinking a heifer was about to crash through the joists. When it did not happen, I quickly pulled up my new 'office' trousers and rushed to the front door, only to see a cattle lorry trundling by with a poor, bellowing cow inside.

The arrangement with the extension, you see, is like living in a tent. Everything is amplified. I can hear the most in-depth conversations as people wait outside the village shop thirty yards from our house. I can hear people having one-way conversations into mobile phones. I can hear people discussing the 20-20 cricket result and I even picked up a person whistling the tune to 'Secret Lover', although I don't know who it was. What is more disturbing is hearing a different person yelling out the refrain: 'Now I shout it from the highest hills...'

But I know that in the morning, as the spaniels skip through the dandelion clocks, teh buttercups and the rusting docks, what will worry me most is the sound people on the outside can hear from the inside. Mr Grigg will be on the lavatory and, as the mist descends as it usually does in this village when every other bugger in Dorset is bathed in sunshine, I will hear a kind of foghorn noise. The Grigg anthem spreads far and wide. There will be no secrets in this house. And none in the rest of the village either.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Monday, 17 May 2010

A slice of life with Her Ladyship

For the benefit of my new followers, I'd like to introduce you to my other blog, Manor from Heaven. If you long for a slice of an English country estate, then look no further. Mapperton House and Gardens is truly enchanting.

And to my old followers, please excuse me. I'm planning to blog about croquet soon but rain stopped play.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 15 May 2010

The Wild Garlic - excellence just over the hill from The Enchanted Village

Today, the Daily Telegraph stood up and shouted from the rooftops about the excellence of a local restaurant. I could hear the noise, because the restaurant is just over the hill from me. And, now that we are missing part of our roof while the builders are working on the Grigg hovel, we can hear absolutely everything.

Congratulations to chef Mat Follas, a nicer man you couldn't meet (although I actually haven't because we keep missing each other). His food is pretty good too.

Anyway, for your delectation, here's the link to the Telegraph's piece. And for all my new blog followers, I'm posting a review of The Wild Garlic I prepared earlier - from August 2009.

Mat actually responded to the piece when I posted it originally and I understand staffing issues have now been resolved. I'm looking forward to a return visit.

The Wild Garlic

Earlier this year, an IT engineer called Mat Follas won the UK television competition MasterChef. It is a gruelling contest in which amateur cooks battle it out in a long, drawn-out process overseen by presenters John Torode and Gregg Wallace.

Follas stood out because he was different. He liked robust flavours, foraged produce and unusual combinations. His food was original. It had style.

Mr Grigg is passionate about food and an avid MasterChef fan. Last week he would have done Mat Follas proud with a delicate starter of foraged puffball and local scallops with creme fraiche and fresh coriander. So he was hooked on the programme from the start. We both cook, having created dishes for paying members of the public for a short while. But I became more interested in the programme when I learned that Mat, a Kiwi, lived in the Dorset village where Mr Grigg and I had our first home. So in our house, we were willing him to win. And, after the final, when Terry Wogan described him the next day as Ming the Merciless, I turned off the radio outraged, feeling I had been personally slighted.

Since then, there have been 'will-he, won't-he' stories in the local press and nationals over Mat's ambitions to run his own restaurant. We were then reliably informed that yes indeed he was, and it was coming to a town near us. We saw The Wild Garlic taking shape every time we drove past.

'I hope he doesn't ponce the food up,' said one friend. 'Dorset people like big portions and hate paying extra for vegetables.'

When he opened the restaurant, other snippets filtered back to us.

'Well, you need to eat something before you go,' said someone we know.

'The female maitre de is shocking,' said another. 'I don't know who she thinks she is.'

A leading local restaurateur sniffed that the 'Hi guys' greeting he and three friends in their late 60s, two of whom were eminent academics, received was hardly appropriate.

So we had feelings of trepidation before we went. There is currently around a two-month waiting list for a table in the evening, although lunches are more easily booked. It is great for Mat and the area that The Wild Garlic is so busy. But it means there is a huge amount of expectation already on the tastebuds of the clientele before they even walk in through the front door. Seldom has any other amateur cook, who has never before run his own restaurant, been under so much pressure to perform. Mat Follas criticism is in danger of becoming a new blood sport in these parts.

We have now been twice - once for dinner and once for lunch. And did we like it? Well, yes thank you. Very much so. Some food combinations worked better than others, the ubiquitous goats' cheese starter wasn't very adventurous, the full length-mirror next to the lavatory in the ladies was a bit of a shock and I was a little taken aback by the welcome of the aforementioned maitre de.

But those were my only minus points. It was an experience we would not have missed.

The decor is rustic minimalist, with big chunky wooden tables and incongruous retro chairs. There is no salt and pepper on the table, which indicates a confident chef (and delighted me, because I just hate it when Mr Grigg automatically puts salt and pepper on his food before tasting it).

The menu is very short and changes according to the season and most of the produce is locally sourced. Starters cost around £7, mains about £12 to £19 (the water buffalo has just gone up by a pound) and puddings around the £5 mark. Two of my starters were sweet chilli squid, accompanied by the most wonderful salad leaves and edible flowers, and smoked venison with beetroot and berry sauce. My main courses were lamb loin with mange tout, salad, pea puree and salsa verde and a faggot tart with hedgehog mushroom sauce. The lamb, in particular, was really tasty and pink, just as I like it.

My two puddings were fresh berry mess and lavender mousse. Delicious.

Mat makes a point of coming out and chatting to the customers after he has finished cooking. This is a good habit for him to have already got into, and very much appreciated.

There is a great selection of wine, from about £15 a bottle, so we could afford to raise a glass and toast to the restaurant's continued success.

After each of my visits, I was full up. So too was Mr Grigg, whose stomach is considerably larger than mine.

So here's to another trip to The Wild Garlic - if we can book a table that is.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

I'm a Blogger of Note!

Oh my giddy aunt. I feel like I'm on a cloud, floating high above my hovel, looking down on the scaffolding-encrusted west wing and down through the conservatory roof where I can see myself frantically typing on a tiny netbook.

Mr Grigg is down on Tom Tiddler's Ground, rearranging bits of wood with Mr Loggins. Oh, those boys and logs. I don't understand the appeal, personally, but it's better than ogling at girls. They go into raptures over the log store, they really do. If they were crafty, they would postion a few logs at jaunty angles and put the whole lot in for the Turner Prize.

And talking of prizes, yes, more about that great big fluffy cloud on which I am sitting. The World from My Window was chosen as yesterday's Blog of Note - 'interesting and noteworthy Blogger-powered blogs, compiled by the Blogger Team'.

And I wouldn't have known if my follower list hadn't suddenly shot up to 150. And to think I was going to pack in blogging for good a couple of months ago. What an honour.

So in my Oscar acceptance speech, I would like to thank my old flatmate Curious Girl for pointing me in the blogging direction, my village friends, especially Pelly and Mrs Bancroft, for encouraging me in my sideways look at life and the friends I have yet to meet - my blogging pals - spearheaded by the lovely Pondside, whose comments I so truly appreciate.

And then, of course, there is Mr Grigg. My imagination may get the better of me at times. But I can assure you every word I tell you about Mr Grigg is absolutely true. Honestly.

Now, enough of that guff. Being a Blogger of Note could become a bit of a burden. What are all you newbie followers expecting from this blog? Chummy cosiness, pearls of wisdom, beautiful prose? Well, whatever you think it is, it probably isn't. I'm just me, and this is my take on the Enchanted Village, this magical part of Dorset that has allowed me to make my home near the parish pump, at the point where several ley lines cross in the Square while a Ginster's pasty van* lurks around the corner.

It is a tale told by an idiot, for sure, but oh, what a tale. On Bluebell Hill, the flowers that give it its name are about to burst into full song. The beech trees are that beautiful lime green, the dainty white gypsy lace of the cow parsley lines the banks of the lanes, the pink campions are ladies-in-waiting and the swallows dart in and around and about the village square, chattering on the telephone wires.

We've had appearances from Johnnie Boden, Fay Weldon, eminent human rights lawyer Clive Stafford-Smith, tramps, thieves, posh and peasants, chickens and pheasants, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Alistair Campbell, King Charles II, Clint Eastwood, doggers, 101 Dalmatians, Flat Stanley, flashers, the ladies of the WI, celebrity farmers, John Wayne, cattle, sheep, spaniels and Oliver Letwin.

Meanwhile, back to real life here at the Grigg house. The builder has just found a dead rat in the bathroom ceiling.

I feel bad about it. For weeks we have been blaming the smell on Number One Son, after his occasional visits from university and a break from the Pot Noodles. So allow me to send a message to my boy: your mother takes it all back. Please come home soon. A new bedroom will be waiting for you when you have completed your degree.

But now, just allow me to sit back and enjoy a nice glass of dry white wine. Anything as long as it's not a Chardonnay. Cheers!

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

* To understand how important the Ginsters pasty is to Mr Grigg, click on this link. But only if you are not easily offended...

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Life is but a stage

High above the square, an enormous steel structure has appeared, blocking out the sun and, what's worse, the signal to the satellite dish.

But it is not an art installation, it's serving a practical purpose. The builders will be using it to get on with our new extension over the next few weeks, whatever the weather.

Just as well I started a new job this week. I'm missing all the fun.

However, I think there could be mileage in getting together with local musician and record producer Ding Dong Daddy and putting on a mini-Glastonbury Festival. I mean, you can even see the sun rising over the Enchanted Village's very own Pyramid Stage.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Fun in the field

On a cold May day that seems more like March, Mr Grigg saunters up to the playing field in rolled-up shorts and fake Crocs. You would think his team had won the cup rather than the general election. Fortunately for The Enchanted Village, he is wearing a T-shirt and an old fleece.

With Mr Loggins giving him coaching tips from the sidelines, he walks away from the coconut shy with two coconuts from three balls, narrowly missing the six-year-old ball girl behind the net. As a consolation, she is given a share of his winnings, and then Mr Grigg promptly backs the winner in the snail race, which crosses the line first despite an obvious handicap.

On the way home, with me and Pelly Sheepwash in thick coats and gloves, Mr Grigg declares he might just have to light the fire this evening.

Mr Loggins then wails: "At least you've got a fire."

Mr Loggins, you may remember, has just demolished the Love Shack to make way for a new house made of logs which might be finished some time this decade.

So I look at Mr Loggins and say: "No, that's not quite right. You've got a fire but no house."

"Ah yes," he says, remembering the lonely monolith up there on the hill.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Friday, 7 May 2010

Oliver Letwin takes West Dorset

I'm a bit tired but our election here in West Dorset is over. Just to say that Mr Grigg is cock-a-hoop. Our MP, Oliver Letwin, retained his seat. He's a very nice man, even if I didn't vote for him. I will let Mr Grigg have his moment of glory, just like he didn't allow me in 1997. But I don't forget easily.

Whatever the result, the big story of the day will be the hundreds of people turned away from the polling stations. If the same thing had happened in the Third World, we would have been banging on about corruption.

Anyway, the posters are being taken down from the window and I'm having a lie-in.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 6 May 2010

A sound of thunder on election day

An old black dog cocks its leg up against the tulips next to the village pump. A woodpecker drills into a tree trunk down on the common. The dandelions stay firmly closed in the cold morning air.

Grey skies and drizzle in Lush Places. A perfect day for an election.

At the Grigg hovel today, the two party political signs in the window look quite attractive against the purple door. The orange of Sue Farrant, the blue of Oliver Letwin. But close inspection reveals the windows could do with a new coat of paint. And, bizarrely, attempts have been made to alter the names to read Sue Farright and Oliver Leftwing.

A few folks make their way up to the polling station, but things are pretty quiet. You could hear a hat-pin drop.

Outside the door, a teller with a blue rosette chomps on an apple and asks for my number. She smiles a thank you and reveals a ghastly, gaping tunnel of masticated apple, edged with violent mauve lipstick seemingly applied by Bette Davies in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane.

There is a sign pointing the way in to the polling station but nothing to show you the way out. You can check in any time you like, but you can never leave.

Way in, but where's the way out?

Like something from A Sound of Thunder, a famous short story by Ray Bradbury, the scenery tomorrow could look very different, depending on what you do today. It's in your hands.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

PS This post first appeared on Real West Dorset this morning.

It's make your mind up time

Election day in The Enchanted Village and things are deadly quiet.

People wearing blue rosettes are stalking the village. I am invited in for coffee by my district councillor who tells me it doesn't matter what my politics are and do I take sugar.

I have sort of nailed my colours to the mast this time around, making a statement in a sea of blue. I am voting tactically, even if the Prime Minister says I shouldn't, because to do anything else around here would be a waste of a vote

In the Grigg household, there is a good-natured split, with posters for two political parties up in the window. The blue and orange - complimentary colours - look good against the purple door and profusion of wallflowers and pink and black tulips.

Although I have a sneaking admiration for the man up the road who has Labour posters all over his house and garden, in a village that is a sea of blue.

When I saw him in the pub, I walked across the bar to congratulate him.

'I thought you were going to punch me,' he said, flinching.

To be fair, our sitting MP Oliver Letwin has been a very good constituency MP. It's just a shame he's Conservative.

Tonight, as the results come in, we are having an election party, with our neighbours Mr and Mrs Champagne-Charlie, Mrs Bancroft and Nobby Odd-Job. I have persuaded my good friend Pelly Sheepwash and her husband, Anakin, to attend, just to restore some political balance. There is only so much Tory guffawing I can take.

I also need allies. Nobby Odd-Job is conducting a second investigation after his Tory poster was removed from his garden. Without wishing to protest too much, I can honestly say it was not me.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Listen to the music

It's a day to be stuck indoors. Outside, it's grey and drizzling. Inside, though, it's deep joy.

Mr Grigg is clearing out the attic before the builders arrive later in the week. So I am going back in time thanks to a treasure chest of vinyl he's just discovered in the attic. John Martyn, XTC, Talking Heads, Lou Reed, Kraftwerk, Joan Armatrading and Steely Dan.

Hell, even David Cassidy sounds good forty years on. Didn't we have ourselves some kind of a summer? We sure did David.

But Richard Clayderman? How on earth did he slip into my collection? Must be Mr Grigg's.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Knocking on heaven's door

The bronze nymph has disappeared.

Her plinth at the eastern end of The Enchanted Village is bare, just days after I wrote about us waiting with bated breath for her to take off her poncho for the real rite of spring.  Everyone was looking forward to seeing her nakedness again, like Botticelli's Venus rising from her slumber. Now only emptiness welcomes visitors.

It could be that she has been taken in for some routine maintenance. I fear, however, it might be propriety. Someone, somewhere, is obviously fearful for our moral souls.

Because this morning, a very large people carrier dropped off a gaggle of Jehovah's Witnesses at the top of the village. They were sent forth in pairs in various directions. The ones at my door were very nice, giving me a leaflet and then asking me if it was OK to smell my wallflowers, which I thought perhaps might be code for 'this one's going to burn in hell'.

But their appearance made a change from all the political callers we've been having lately. We are in what is now considered a marginal seat, made all the more marginal, I fear, by the Tories' own campaign posters urging people to Vote for Change. This is if a conversation Mr Loggins had with old people in Sherborne this week is anything to go by. He swears it is absolutely true, and it goes something like this:

'Hello ladies, and what do you think about this election then? Decided who you are going to vote for?'

'Well,' says one. 'We're a bit confused. We've been voting Conservative all our lives but now they're telling us we've got to vote for change. So we're thinking about Liberal Democrat. That Mr Clegg seems such a nice man.'

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

A horror film for Halloween

On Halloween, I head out under the cover of darkness, a tub of sweets by the front door for young trick or treaters on the prowl with their ...