Wednesday, 30 June 2010

He saw the whole of the moon

As I write this, a mist descends on the mountains around Metsovo, Epirus.

It's been an eventful few days since we landed in Greece on Sunday, as you will see if you visit The World from My Porthole, an occasional blog following the Grigg odyssey.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Sunday I'll fly away

Some of you already know I have more than one blog. It's not to reflect my multiple personalities - it's more about the different things I do.

I keep meaning to update Manor from Heaven with new pictures, which I hope to do soon. If her Ladyship is reading this, I'd love to know what's going on at Mapperton at the moment.

However, for the next fortnight, I will be in another place I love: Greece and the Ionian. I will be motoring around Epirus with Mr Grigg, across to Meteora and then heading south to the Inland Sea and my beloved Ithaca. Just the sound of its name makes my cheekbones tingle.

We will be accompanied for part of the journey by Mr and Mrs Champagne-Charlie, which could either make or break this friendship, which is built on laughter, community spirit, good food and a nice G&T.

In the meantime at home, there is respite from the builders' dust but not much.
My stress was such that when we found an old cigarette packet hidden in the ceiling, I was a bit upset it was empty. And I don't even smoke.
I went for a two-second tour around my garden to calm down. Two seconds, because that's as long as it takes. It's so small.

I'm a country girl who needs wide open spaces. I need a holiday. And I think Mr Grigg might, too, after watching the England v. Germany game at Gatwick airport later today.

When he booked our trip away, he really didn't expect them to have got this far.

Anyway, to keep up with my travels, hop across to The world from my porthole and find out how it all began.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Dust to dust

Now that the vivid yellow of oil seed rape has disappeared from the horizon, and the lingering smell of damp bandages has fled along with it, there is a lovely sheen of blue beginning to appear in the fields.

The crop is linseed and it is beautiful. I don't see it in The Enchanted Village, the sight greets me now on my way into work, along with cut hay fields and dusty roads. At home the elderflower is in full cry, the campions are going ragged around the edges and the long, long grasses sway in the breeze while the rigid, rusty docks compete with the nettles for air.

In the Grigg household, there is a sheen of dust as the builders up their act. Two velux windows have been installed in our dining room, drowning it in light. Dog and cat hair compete for full coverage of the old carpet. The stain where the youngest spaniel failed miserably in his toilet training suddenly becomes visible, as if it were previously written in invisible ink.

A huge spider's web the size of Botswana can now been seen in the corner of the kitchen, while the hovel's only lavatory is completely devoid of light. You sort of have to feel your way, after tripping over the cardboard covering the floor.

My upstairs office in the spare bedroom is a tip, I can't find anything and the mirror has a huge heart on it, drawn in the dust.

And if anyone else says to me: 'Ah, but it'll be worth it in the end', I think I just might have to punch them in the throat.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Come on baby, light my fire

The sound of ladders being extended against stone walls fills the square this morning as the bunting is taken down from The Enchanted Village.

It coincides with a lull in the football, a realisation that England will not win the World Cup, no matter how many times Mr Grigg wears his football shirt without washing it in between matches.

Last night, my blog characters did a little conga through the night. At a party to celebrate three 55th birthdays and a 65th, the hall was full of people eating, drinking and dancing to a very well thought-out playlist. There was Posh Totty strutting to Uptown Girl, Jamie Lee sashaying to Lady Gaga and Mr Sheepwash sliding around the floor in sandals. I was feeling rather delicate after an excess of wine the night before but got into my stride by the time Mambo Number Five blared through the speakers. All day, I had avoided being sick but that very nearly changed when the nauseating Lady in Red came on at the end.

As we sat outside in the balmy evening air and I was boring a woman silly with some inconsequential rubbish, she looked beyond me and said: 'Is that a fire over there?'

Sure enough, on the horizon, flames leapt up through the trees like a bush fire. It looked remarkably near Farmer Mayfield's house. As we all gathered around going 'ooh' and 'ahh' and then saying 'well, I wonder where that is', the ever practical Darling Loggins declared someone should investigate. So she and Farmer Mayfield set off by car down the road, closely followed by Mr Grigg who can't resist a good fire.

My first thought was that it could be the Grigg-Sheepwash-Loggins wood store gone up in smoke, set alight by those pesky kids. But nothing so dramatic. It turned out to be hedge clippings being burnt as a centrepiece to a 16th birthday party in a field supervised by some very sensible adults.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Close encounters of the animal kind

At the weekend,Mr Grigg was out dog walking when he came so close to a deer they almost kissed. The animal strolled boldly through the long grass, unaware its movements were being tracked . It woke from its dream with a startle and fled before Mr Grigg had the chance to say hello.

The next day, he was driving up the hill when a lumbering creature the size of a domestic cat walked in front of the car. He slowed down to see a brown hare ambling tortoise-like across the road. It stopped on the grass verge and glanced up as he passed before it turned round and disappeared into the horse daisies.

This evening, heading out for a match with the Mapperton Marauders, Mr Grigg goes up to the attic to find his cap and cricket box. He pulls it out of the bag and finds a mouse has got there first. The cricket box is nibbled neatly around the edges.

It could have been worse. The mouse might still have been in it.


That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Scarecrows on parade

It's been a busy weekend. Scarecrows, fetes and the football. This one had the right idea - one of many in The Enchanted Village with a flagon of ale in his hand.

As the village parade made its way around the one-way system accompanied by morris dancers, Ding Dong Daddy (he of The Imagined Village fame) prepared to serenade the passing procession with his musician friend.  Their tune soared to meet the participants - only for the parade to go down the road instead of past their house, so they ended up playing to the wind.

It would never happen at Glastonbury.

 We had Richard the Lionheart across the road.

Some guy who lost his head down a leafy lane.

 A sinister-looking Wicker Man attached to the beacon brazier.

 Afternoon tea on the allotments.

Juggling in the bungalow gardens.

 A beheading on the council estate.

The Maid of Rubbish on the railings of the village green.

 Dainty Nell, created by the chef Lesley Waters' artistic mum.

And an amazingly lifelike scarecrow.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 12 June 2010

T'was the morning before the village fete

The sun is shining as I take the spaniels out for their morning walk across the fields. They spring through the long grass and buttercups and plantain, flicking up the dew as they pass.

Down on the school allotment, there is a curious structure with what looks like a stuffed body in long trousers and braces. In kitchens and front rooms, the scarecrows are finally taking shape, ready to be placed outside the house at 10 o'clock.

Mr Grigg is up at the village hall, ovens at the ready, preparing for the village Big Breakfast. He will be in charge of a kitchen full of lovelies, doing his best Gordon Ramsay impression while I sit out front and take the money. Maths is not my forte, but I'd rather be overcharging impatient customers that than be anywhere near Mr Grigg in a busy kitchen.

He will bark and yell and the ladies will love him, as will the male helpers but not in a homoerotic way, you understand.

In our hallway, the floor is covered in cardboard to ease the passage of the builders, there is a roll-a-penny board propped up against the wall, boxes of marked-up tombola prizes and plenty of dust.

So far, preparation for the village fete today is going very smoothly. Too smoothly, methinks. Time for a lie-down before the fun begins.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

PS - sorry to brag but I am overjoyed for Number One Son who has just been awarded a 2:1 Bsc Hons degree in environmental geoscience from Bristol University. And there's me struggling to do basic mathematical calculations. I am renaming him The Boy Wonder.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Heads up, it's the scarecrow festival


In cosy cottages and council houses in The Enchanted Village, in mansions and farms, there are bits of bodies everywhere.

The odd head here, a limb there. A ginger wig, lots of stuffing and chicken wire. In the Grigg household there is a headless mannequin, standing in the shadows waiting for something to happen.

Cunning plans are taking shape.

It's the village scarecrow festival.

Over the years, we've had politics (Maggie Thatcher), football (an England football fan surrounded by lager cans), events in history (Nell Gwynne), flights of fancy (The Red Baron) and characters from children's books and TV (The BFG and Homer and Bart Simpson lounging on the sofa, but not all three at once. Now that would be ridiculous).

The annual event taxes brains, ingenuity, artistic ability and lateral thinking. If the best way to make a head is doing papier mache around a balloon, how do you make the neck and then secure it to the torso? And can you be bothered to make hands if you can use gloves instead? And if it sits down or leans out of a window, will that save you from making a pair of legs?

Oh, the thought that goes into it.

Mr Loggins and Champagne-Charlie are both new kids on the block and have just popped into the Grigg house looking for pointers. The latter is doing a poacher and hopes to bag a couple of rabbits from Nobby Odd-Job's lawn to use as props in the scarecrow's pocket. Such attention to detail.

Mrs Champagne-Charlie says why bother doing a scarecrow at all when her husband can sit outside the house instead?

Meanwhile, in our house, the pale-looking mannequin lurks like a headless ghost in a haunted house, surrounded by dust and junk as the builders' work forces us into dark corners not usually inhabited.

Our mannequin is disabled, courtesy of the vicar who, a few years ago for reasons unknown, borrowed the body and then brought it back minus its right hand.

Mr Grigg made several kinky remarks about why she would want to keep the hand.  When she got married a year later, he suggested she really didn't have a need for all those extra digits and should bring the hand back.

I have to say I didn't understand what he was talking about. But then I have led a very sheltered life.

Anyway, I have to go, a headless torso and a strange accessory from a fancy dress shop is calling me.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Flying the flag in the Enchanted Village

It is Bunting Day in the Enchanted Village, a Saturday in early June when our menfolk crowd around the bottom of a ladder with copious cups of coffee while one brave soul climbs to the top and puts the flags out.

The annual village fete will soon be upon us and so will the football. Oh yes, the football.

In the Grigg household, rather like during the election, we will sit on opposite sides of the fence. Mr Grigg is passionate about the game. Me? I neither understand the offside rule nor do I care.

But I do like the house and the street being decorated, which it is every year whether the football is on or not.

Six men turn out this morning to put the bunting up while my neighbour flits in and out of her front door with a tray of coffee and biscuits.

A short man stands on the phone box while a taller man balances precariously on the litter bin next to the village green in an attempt to tie a string of bunting on to a signpost.

Mr Grigg is up a ladder in fake Crocs and Mr Sheepwash swings out of an upstairs window to greet him.

The health and safety devil would have a field day if he were to cast his net right now.

The men have abandoned the idea of attaching bunting to the frame of the play equipment. Last year the children decided it was a great game to jump off the swings in mid-air and make a grab for individual flags of the world as they fell, with extra points for Germany.

Sadly, though, Mr G has not given up on his plan to attach flags to the Freeloader, which means I probably won’t be driving it until the World Cup is over.

‘Think yourself lucky it’s not your knicker elastic he’s using,’ I was told last night in the pub by a worse-for-wear steel erector who sounds uncannily like a Dorset version of John Wayne.

Roaring with laughter at his own wit when Mr Grigg expressed puzzlement, he drawled: ‘Well, if you opened the window, zoom, her’d be out.’

At that point, the conversation turned to Ferdinand and King. I thought they were talking about Spanish history.

Come on England!

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

NB This post first appeared on the Real West Dorset webside yesterday.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Morning has broken

Outside the house of the suspected doggers, there is a discarded rubber glove and bits of of old tissue. Just down the road, the bronze nymph statue glints in the morning sun.

Next door at Mr and Mrs Champagne-Charlie's, the house martins are in and out, in and out, feeding their squealing young. Up in the the field, curious young heifers and steers creep up behind dog walkers and shout: 'Moo!'

All through the night, the tractors and trailers have been hard at work, trundling through the village with heavy loads of silage. They have been harvesting like ants, bringing in the silage before the rains come. A faint hum on the hillside - both in noise and smell - and lights like alien spaceships landing on Bluebell Hill.

The maize begins to shoot on its long journey to becoming higher than an elephant's eye.

Oh what a beautiful morning.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Two weddings and a picnic

Well, the village wedding has been and gone and we all have the warm glow that follows a lovely bank holiday weekend.

My friend Pelly's Number One Daughter was married to her soulmate in the wonderful setting of Forde Abbey, which nestles inside the Dorset border, with just a nod to neighbouring Somerset for its postal address.

There were gasps when the bride walked in with her father to a score composed by the Cinematic Orchestra, as the huge log fire blazed in the great hall. A Jane Austen heroine, she took the arm of her husband-to-be, who in the film would have been played by a young Hugh Grant or maybe Dominic Cooper. There was even a distinguished wedding guest in a kilt. And the assembled throng sniggered when the registrar asked the bridegroom to repeat the words: 'I Timothy St John Dauphinois Sutherland...'

The guests gathered below the abbot's lodgings and tower (built by the last abbot, Thomas Chard, in the early 1500s) for a group photo as the female photographer tried to conduct the proceedings while balanced precariously on the parapet.

There were hats and frocks and shoes, champagne flutes, bridal bouquets of sweet peas and floral arrangements of blousey peonies and sumptious lilac, a jazz band playing in the orangery, a fountain like Old Faithful on the far side of the croquet lawn and some fine English drizzle.

But the sun beat down for the picnic on Bluebell Hill the next day, as Mr Grigg ferried the less able and two beer barrels to the top. Some 50 people sat on blankets and chairs and to hell with the National Trust as the children played frisbee and football in among the beech trees. There was Italian bread made by Darling Loggins, a rather tasty pork pie from Mrs Bancroft and a bottle of bubbly cracked open by Champagne Charlie.

In the evening we crammed into the pub for a quiz, which our team narrowly missed winning by two-and-a-half points. The quiz master was duly shamed for naming Salisbury as the county town of Wiltshire (it's Trowbridge) and the winning team not only won the beer leg but a rib of beef in the raffle.

We have just returned from a garden party to celebrate the surprise wedding of friends who were married in secret on Friday. Wearing shorts and hiking boots, with two witnesses and a dog, they had their nuptials at the local register office and then finished off the ceremony with fish and chips down in the town.

Ah, weddings. Not one of them the same.

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...