A tattered St George’s flag ripples on top of the church. It is early morning and a regiment of rooks descends on the stays of the flagpole, sinister, like something from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.
The pink-tinged clouds signal the arrival of Homer’s rosy fingered dawn and The Enchanted Village awakes, twinkling lights coming on up and along the valley to a theme of The Planet Suite on my iPod.
Autumn has well and truly arrived. At Halloween, candelit pumpkins grin in the windows while children dressed as vampires, skeletons and ghosts tour the village in packs, pouncing on sweets thrown from the doorways like pigeons after crumbs.
At Mr and Mrs Champagne-Charlie’s, a bumper parcel arrives, stashed with fireworks. These are the ones Mr Grigg and his pals will be setting off on Friday evening to celebrate Bonfire Night. The crowds will be thronging the square, queuing up for burgers and hot dogs, going ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ in all the right places when Nobby Odd-Job and Mr Sheepwash light the blue touchpaper and Mr Grigg and I will stand well back as the rockets zoom up over the village green and land far away rather than on the church roof and blocking the guttering like they did last year. Or the previous year, when all the rocket tails ended up spiked neatly in individual graves.
A ginger wig blows by like tumbleweed as I make my way up to the old people’s complex for our weekly singing session. Caruso is in fine form, splitting us up into basses, altos and sopranos to sing Good King Wenceslas in rounds.
We are just getting up a good head of steam when he raps his baton and stops us mid-flow. Our voices are a derailed train, tumbling into the sidings. He shouts, wildly.
‘I’m only going to say this once. Don’t miss out that dotted note.’
Our sniggers stifled, he starts us up again. We're in fine form, steaming and a rolling through crisp and even snow and gathering winter fu-el. And then the train hits the buffers.
‘Sopranos [that’s me], you’re dropping the pitch!’
We look down at our sheet music, not daring to even take a glance at each other. I sneak a peep, like you might sometimes do in church to see if other people are really praying. Mr and Mrs Putter are going cross-eyed, the Parson’s Daughter is suppressing a giggle and Mamma Mia is looking very perplexed. Night Nurse looks defiant and Mrs Regal Bird has the face of an angel.
And then, at the end, Caruso anounces the line-up for his dream team for a singsong at the village's old people’s home in December.
And I’m in it.
That’s about it.
Love Maddie x
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