Saturday, 29 January 2011

A list of beautiful buildings

I love buildings of all shapes and sizes. My favourite varies from day to day. What's yours?

At the moment, I am looking out across Dorset's county town - Dorchester - to the red roof of a pyramid-topped water tower. An octagonal rotunda, with perfect arches letting through the light, designed along classical lines. I wonder what it’s used for now?

A glance at Wikipedia takes you on a wonderful journey to water towers through time, from the industrial era to the space age. You can almost hear the brains of the designers whirring as you think of them coming up with such amazing looks for these functional structures.

My favourite building is the New York skyscraper, The Chrysler Building, a soaring, shimmering triumph of Art Deco decadence. I love its clarity, its colour, its clean lines and sheer beauty. I love the fact that it towers above a bustling streetscape, serene and glowing, a reminder of the sparkling days of the Jazz Age just before the Great Depression. Completed in 1930, the building is a cultural icon. It defies you not to be dazzled by its appearance.

It shouts: “Anything is possible.”

Closer to home, I love Mapperton House, near Beaminster. It’s enchanting, warm, mellow, ancient, special. The Dorset countryside tumbles down towards the formal gardens, kept at bay only by an old garden wall. The house, with its golden stone, nestles into the landscape. Beautiful.

A building close to my heart is a small, early 19th century granary that stands on staddle stones. It’s got a roughcast timber frame with red brick infilling and a pyramidal roof topped with a squat stone finial. You go up the stone steps outside to an open doorway. You turn around and look out on to a Somerset farmyard.

It's a scene I know well. It’s the farm where I was born and grew up. And in 1995, someone had the good sense to have the building listed.

Listing is a plus-point but also a pain. It protects buildings that are of architectural merit but, in the hands of an over-zealous council department, listing can cause the owner a real headache. I live in a Grade II listed building and, touch wood (the partitions we exposed under layers of woodchip), we’ve been lucky. Our renovations have been sympathetic to the house, our council has been sensible and Mr Grigg and I have revelled in lives surrounded by history and character.

My final choice of favourite building isn’t actually a building. But I pass these structures every day and they always fascinate me. Some mornings you can see the sun rising through them and on the return journey you can see the sunset behind them.

They are the masts at Rampisham transmitting station, modern-day towers of Babel supporting nets of antennae that beam a multitude of foreign voices across continents for the BBC World Service.

With cuts announced this week to the service, will this Stonehenge for the 21st century see a reduction in audio traffic through the airways? Whatever happens, someone should have them listed. Quick. They’re iconic.

That's about it

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 20 January 2011

I see the moon

In the dawn, a full moon - lit from inside like a giant paper lampshade sphere - hovers for a while as it heads down in the western sky.

It is reluctant to go, as if it wants to enjoy the frosty morning and bright day ahead. Its man-in-the-moon face looks cheerful rather than its usual mournful self. It's not ready for bed.

I see the moon, the moon sees me
God bless the moon and God bless me
God let the light that shines on me
Shine on the one I love

But the patriarch sun is playing catch-up in the east and begins its ten-hour arc over Bluebell Hill and Flat-Top Pen, just as it has done for thousands and millions of years. Venus gives a final twinkle before retiring for the day.

In The Enchanted Village, all is quiet. A single crow sits on one of the metal stays supporting the weather vane on the church tower. A cockerel crows and cars drive slowly by along icy roads on their way to work.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 15 January 2011

London: nothing to write home about

A buzzard swaggers on foot through a muddy field, like a bow legged farmer wearing thick, feathered trousers. A dead badger at the roadside is headless, its innards spilling out in silly string where its neck should be.

We leave The Enchanted Village shrouded in mist as we head for London. On the radio, talk of deficits, job cuts, restructuring and redundancies vies with inane phone-ins about breastfeeding.

At Canary Wharf, people stride out with no time to look while others sit at tables drinking foaming, unreal coffee. Windows full of clothes no-one wants. Newness, lights, shiny surfaces, signs, artificiality.

On the tube there are guarded looks. A free Evening Standard left on a seat, iPads, germs. There are passengers texting Twitter messages to strangers while completely disengaged with their fellow man sitting right by their side.

I head home, weary, and with a massive headache.

That's about it

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Help me make it through the night

It was just before two o'clock this morning. A mighty roar bellowed through the square and then a bright light shone through my bedroom window. I woke with a start, completely disorientated and thinking I was in my childhood home of many years ago.

This was it, I thought. Cue chaotic scenes from Independence Day, War of the Worlds and any other US disaster movie you can think of.

And then another roar, a rumble and another roar.

I prodded Mr Grigg.

'We're going in the back bedroom,' I said. 'It's that bloody rally again.'

It happens once a year and no-one in The Enchanted Village knows it's happening until it happens.

Six hours later and still they kept coming. Motorbikes, old cars and 4x4s thundered through our now not-so-sleepy village.

At 7.30 this morning there was a thump. Mr Grigg jumped out of bed, ran to the front bedroom and looked out of the window into the square. Six men, two wearing high-visibility jackets, were peering around the front end of a jeep and looking underneath it with a torch.

I looked beyond them to see if my parked car was all right. Once I'd realised they hadn't hit it, I turned round to go to the bathroom for a shower. Mr Grigg was behind me, looking out of the window. Totally naked.

'Don't you think you should cover yourself up before there's another accident?' I said.

I'm off now for a lie-down.

That's about it

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 1 January 2011

All is quiet on New Year's Day

In the village square, the party poppers and streamers lie on the tarmac, like the tresses of an abandoned lover. Up in the bedroom, Mr Grigg is snoring. Behind the closed curtains of The Enchanted Village streets, people are sleeping with smiles on their faces.

Last night, the clock struck twelve (it could have been thirteen) as the cast of this blog snaked down from the hall past the play equipment to the square. Earlier, Mr Grigg had spent rather too long in a clinch with a couple of balloons and a pretty maid as Manual shouted instructions from the stage, dressed in a sequinned suit and a ginger wig.

He managed to break away in time for the big New Year's Eve countdown, and my high heels spiked the grass in the village green as I tried to make it to the square before the clock stopped chiming.

Down in the square, revellers spilled out from the pub. There were two lines. Us and them. The Greeks and the Trojans, ready to fight. Super Mario and Princess Peach, as Hector and Andromache, looked across at us all in our village hall finery. When Hawkeye came out from the pub, shouting 'Happy New Year' in his John Wayne drawl, I thought there might be a shoot-out.

And then someone started singing Auld Lang Syne. We linked arms, all of us, a huge great circle in the square. We sang, we slowly stomped towards each other, our hands intertwined. A taxi pulled up and had to wait as the Enchanted Village came together in a spirit of one-ness. We got faster and faster, meeting in the middle until the end of the song when there were kisses and hugs all round.

I saw Bellows Packman embracing Mrs Champagne-Charlie, Darling Loggins cuddling Nobby Odd-Job, Pelly Sheepwash cosying up to Randy Munchkin and Mrs Bancroft hugging the fragrant Mrs Putter.

And then there was Mr Grigg, a huddle of ladies all queueing up for a New Year's kiss.

I looked around at the village, the Christmas lights on our tree above our front door flashing like they were going out of fashion, the Union Jack over the shop fluttering and the taxi driver waiting patiently while we danced all around him.

This is a good place to be right now, I thought.

That's about it.

Oh, and yes, Happy New Year.

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...