Friday, 29 October 2010

A new chapter as the book club begins

The rooks are doing merry dive-bombing dances in the fields, catching a thermal here, taking it to the next level and then spiralling downwards. The trees are red and orange and yellow and green, orange and purple and brown. Crab apples underfoot, a perfect imprint of a sycamore leaf on the bonnet of my car and pink-tinged clouds at sunset.

Later, I venture from the house and make my way to Mrs Putter's for the first meeting of our new book club, with six hand-picked handmaidens as members. I call in at Mrs Bancroft's but there is no-one at home. I peer through the letterbox to see a pair of pumps at the foot of the stairs. But there is no sign of their owner. Has she spontaneously combusted?

I venture on, hoping to meet Pelly at the end of her lane, because I have forgotten my torch. Living in the floodlit square, I forget how wonderfully dark it is on the village's edges. As I tiptoe past Bellow Packman's so as not to wake the goats, a security light goes on and I feel like an escaped prisoner exposed for all to see.

At the Putters, Mrs Bancroft and Mrs Champagne-Charlie have already arrived, closely followed by Pelly and Darling Loggins. We sit around the table, scoffing roasted vegetable lasagne and copious glasses of wine. We dip our toes in the literary water and make candid confessions about what we like to read. I throw in a few worthy titles, like The Odyssey and Zorba the Greek, and when jaws drop to the floor I realise I can get away with saying Patricia Cornwell if I want to.
The breadth of the book club's reading experience is impressive. I keep quiet about the Jilly Cooper. We cut up Richard and Judy's reading list and pull out Sister by Rosamund Lupton from the hat. Our November choice is made, and it will be followed in December by Notwithstanding by Louis de Bernieres.

That's as far as our list goes, although our July choice is mapped out. We're going for The Mistress of Nothing, by Kate Pullinger, and will have a Skype meeting to discuss it with my blogging pal, Pondside, and her five book club friends in Vancouver Island.

After supper and warm hugs we head down the road, the night plucking us off one-by-one like something from an Agatha Christie novel.

Up at the pub, The Enchanted Village's Gentlemen's Club, comprising absent husbands, is having its inaugural meeting around the billiard table.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Time after time...

This Sunday, we say goodbye to British Summer Time, an annual occurence that causes no end of chaos in The Enchanted Village.

To find out why, please take a look at my guest post on Smitten by Britain.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Monday, 25 October 2010

October skies

In The Enchanted Village, we are enjoying the strong light of October, the month that is to winter what May is to summer.

The early morning frost sprinkles like fairy dust from passing Land Rovers. Wood smoke rises from the chimneys as we crunch through brown beech leaves.

In the afternoon, cows graze under Flemish landscape painting skies and at night, a waning Blood Moon holds court over an impressive Orion and ever-present Plough.

Oh, the joys of autumn.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 24 October 2010

A dance to autumn

Up in the village hall, Mr Grigg is clearing away the debris from a party to celebrate Tuppence's birthday. A few weeks ago, she almost lost her eyesight. But last night, she was up on stage, a tiny woman with a big voice, belting out numbers and starting the first of two sets with Cockney Rebel's Make Me Smile.

And there were smiles all round. Some of us have been through tough times lately, and are still going through them. But the illustration by Jules Feiffer on Tuppence's party invitation says it all:

If the devil could have cast his net on the dance floor last night, he would have killed off my blog in one fell swoop. We were running the bar and in among the bohemian creative types (with fascinating colour combinations, fab hair and Doc Martens), there was Nobby Odd-Job, Pelly Sheepwash, Mrs Bancroft, General Custer, Farmer Mayfield, Mamma Mia and Night Nurse, Old Ding Dong Daddy and all, old Ding Dong Daddy and all.

We took bets on how many times a drunken Manuel would say Hank Wangford, watched as Mr Loggins and Darling smooched to Wonderful Tonight, wondered if the forever young and funky Tuppence had a picture in the attic and cheered as Mr and Mrs Champagne-Charlie, Posh Totty and MDF Man came in at midnight after a hunt supporters' supper.

'You should have been there,' Mr C-C said to me rather too loudly.

'You would have hated it,' Mrs C-C said quietly.

At that point, Tuppence made an emotional speech, thanking all her family and friends for being there when she needed them. And she gave a special vote of thanks to The Enchanted Village.

We are all very different, but we are all here for each other.

We go on dancing anyway.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Welcome to the world, not-so-little one

We're just back from the Ionian after the worst weather in 20 years and Number One Daughter decides to go into labour as my neighbour Mrs Bancroft gives us a welcome home party with five other blog characters. Our phone doesn't work, Number One Daughter has to call in the reserves for babysitting duty for Number One Granddaughter and then valiantly gives birth to the biggest baby I have ever seen.

'Golly,' my mother says. 'It's an elephant.'

Well, no, it's Tilly Honey, eight pounds and 14 ounces, with beautiful rosebud lips and a huge pair of lungs.

Big sister tomboy was disappointed - she'd wanted a boy so she could call it Ron Weasley. But we are all thrilled. Maybe this one will like pink.

That's about it

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Home is where the heart is

As my resourceful Odysseus - Mr Grigg to you and me - makes sure our boat is watertight,  I am longing to be home.

I am in the Ionian - see here - and the rain is pouring down like a patio water-feature set on high-speed. We have had thunder and lightning so loud and bright it could have been Zeus sending us a message from on high.

We have family who need us back home and I am desperately missing The Enchanted Village and all its comings and goings.

Even in paradise, things are not always as they seem.

'There is only one place to be when the weather is like this,' I say to Mr Grigg.

'Where's that?' he says, writing his daily log boat in the shelter of the cabin.


That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Journey to the centre of the earth

Join me on a journey to the centre of the earth and a hymn to Delphi, ancient and modern. Visit my occasional blog, The World from my Porthole, for the latest leg of our Homeric voyage in the Ionian in which Mr Grigg meets a real-life Python.

I think you'll like it.

See you shortly.

Love Maddie x

Monday, 11 October 2010

Tales of woe from The Enchanted Village

Calamity and woe has hit The Enchanted Village in spades over the past few weeks.

My dear friend, Tuppence, has just come through a frightening experience and is thanking her lucky stars for the gift of sight, which she so very nearly lost. She has now been visited by a joyful army of ladybirds, late visitors to her garden, who have popped in to wish her well. Here's to a safe recovery.

Up the road, the partner of another dear friend is nursing broken ribs after a nasty fall. Down the road, Mrs Pope, that village stalwart, is painfully recovering from sciatica and has barely moved from her chair for the past few weeks.

Then there's Pelly Sheepwash, nursing a terribly bad back while her get-up-and-go has just got up and gone. I am hoping Tuppence will look out from her window and see Pelly's get-up-and-go safely returning along the lane, led by a battalion of butterflies. It will be arm-in-arm with Night Nurse's freedom-from-pain,which I hope comes soon.

And then the Logginses. The building of a log house does not run smoothly. But I predict good news will be on the way, as they have spent too long in temporary accommodation away from the village.

Meanwhile, Mr Grigg - who is well, I hasten to add - swore at me yesterday when I politely turned down an invitation from our neighbours, Mr and Mrs Champagne-Charlie. Mrs Bancroft taught me long ago never to turn down an invitation. But it was to the hunt dinner, and sometimes my principles just get in the way.

I am off to make offerings to the gods now. The village could do with more enchantment.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Friday, 8 October 2010

Picture this (and happy birthday Photobox)

More often than not, my camera is with me everywhere I go. Oh what images I could show you of The Enchanted Village: the Loggins’ log house as it takes shape, the Sheepwash abode, Mr and Mrs Champagne-Charlie playing croquet on their manicured lawn or Posh Totty's rear-of-the-year on a very fine hunter.
I know you were probably hoping for a picture of Posh Totty on horseback. But Mr and Mrs C-C's legs, croquet mallets and a small table of nibbles and G&Ts will just have to do. Only a toff could get away with trousers that colour.

I love taking photos although I prefer painting pictures in words. It’s what I do. The only tools I need are my little notebook, a pen and an eye for the absurd.

However, I was drawn to a photography competition advertised in a national newspaper. It was organised by Photobox and the theme was Around the World in 80 Days.

I’ve never entered a contest like this so I put in several pictures from my travels in Australia and New Zealand earlier this year. This one, a close-up of fabric at Eumundi Market in Queensland, was pretty simple, and didn’t stand up to much scrutiny against the others.
However, it was chosen as one of the finalists, one of only a few hundred out of 30,000.

The winning ones are spectacular, they really are. You can go to this link to look at them. Some fantastic landscapes and lots of wonderful, wise and knowing faces.

All the shortlisted pictures are being shown in the world's biggest walk-in photobook from 15 October at London's Old Truman Brewery Gallery, to mark Photobox's 10th birthday.

Here are some of my other pictures which didn’t make the shortlist, but I like them just the same.

I like colourful images and strong contrasts. But it can be very easy to be overwhelmed by the beauty of the scene laid out in front of you. It's impossible to take in all of it at once - I find I'm much better off just focusing on a fraction of it. I am fascinated by detail and looking at things from unusual angles.

For me at least, the small things speak volumes.

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 ...