Monday, 28 February 2011

If the answer is ****, what's the question?

A silver sliver of moon is suspended in the early morning sky. A family of rooks fights over the best spot on a gargoyle jutting out from the church tower. Blackbirds skedaddle across a lawn as if they’re on strings.

The mornings are much lighter now, as the daffodils poke their heads out and think about flowering. The spring cycle button has been pushed and it will be March before we know it.

Another month, another week, another day.

Meanwhile, at the Enchanted Village pub quiz, brains are on top form.

The quizmaster asks: ‘What’s the capital of Kuwait?’

The village news correspondent shouts out: ‘K!’

After the laughter subsides, the quizmaster moves on. ‘What’s the name for a group of beavers?’ he says.

Mr Grigg has that look on his face, that smutty, naughty schoolboy grin. He opens his mouth, he's about to say something. I deliver a well-aimed kick under the table.

‘Don’t even think about it,’ I snarl, rather too loudly.

‘You’re going to write that on your computer of yours, now, aren’t you?’ the quizmaster says. This blog is the worst-kept secret in The Enchanted Village.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Of human bondage

We are at the Enchanted Village book club. My friend Pelly, tonight's hostess, pulls me to one side.

'I've got something for you,' she says, scrabbling around in the kitchen while the other ladies in the living room prepare to talk about The Janissary Tree by local author Jason Goodwin.

The latest book club guest, Number One Grand Daughter, aged five, is holding court as Mrs Champagne-Charlie, Mrs Bancroft, a Rolling Stones' Aunt-Once-Removed and Mrs Mabel Lucie Attwell hear about the books she has brought.

Pelly huddles closer to me: 'I went for a walk up Bluebell Hill and was on the road by the tin hut.' She produces a plastic bag. 'I found this in a layby,' she says.

A sofa or two away, Number One Grand Daughter is telling the Book Club ladies why Mutant Ninja Turtles are so cool and why she quite likes the pictures, even though they are in black and white. She then turns to her Batman book and shows them her favourite illustration, a rather dramatic shot of the caped crusader smashing through a window.

Pelly whispers: 'Just look in the bag. I brought it all the way back so you could take a picture for your blog.'

Rather gingerly, I dip my hand inside. Will I pull out a plum? Or maybe a rabbit from a hat?

Nothing prepares me for the contents.

'Bugger me,' I say, almost choking on freshly-baked focaccia. 'Where did you say you found it?'

'Granny!' yells Number One Grand Daughter.

'I'm a bit tied up at the moment,' I say as I struggle to put the thing back in the plastic bag.

'See, I knew you wouldn't believe it,' Pelly says.

And neither does Mr Grigg when he comes home from his bar billiards session with the boys.

'I thought your book club was about books,' he says, with a king-sized leer.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Monday, 21 February 2011

The oldest swingers in (Camden) town

So here we are, walking through Camden at 11 o’clock at night, in a surreal kind of haze, rubbing shoulders with the bohos and the young. We’re in a London bubble, away for the weekend and mouths agape at the ever-changing tableau before us.

Mr Grigg comes over all poetic:

‘As I walk along the street

every person that I meet

no-one is older than me.’

Everyone is under twenty five, apart from two drunks in a broken-up phone box.

We wander down to Mornington Crescent tube station, which for years we thought really only existed in the Radio 4 panel game I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue. We’re heading for Club Koko, a majestic-looking former theatre and now a music venue for the hip and trendy.

The music hits us, boom, boom, boom, as we make our way through the young throng and head for the tea house downstairs for a nice cuppa.

This, you see, is a sell-out gig by Mr Scruff, a DJ-extraordinaire whose music Wikipedia describes as downtempo, trip-hop and nu-jazz. He is also a huge tea fan. I once let slip to Number One Son that I liked Mr Scruff's music. So he only went and bought us tickets for Christmas.

We are fish, fish, fish out of water. We take our big cups of tea and go upstairs in this glorious baroque-style theatre, which was opened by Ellen Terry in 1900. I feel the spirit of this celebrated actress looking over my shoulder on to an alien world. A pulsating dance floor, Mr Scruff on stage pressing buttons and his naïve cartoons smiling at us from screens at his side.

A smiley-faced student asks if I will take a photo of him and his mates on the balcony overlooking the stage.

From the safety of a comfy seat, I press the shutter. He sidles up to me and says:

‘Um, why are you here..?

I explain the Christmas gift.

‘Are you enjoying it?’ he says.

‘Immensely,’ I say.

He looks across to Mr Grigg, whose arms are folded and whose face is wearing a pugnacious glare.

‘What about him?’ the boy gestures.

‘Oh, yes, we both love Mr Scruff,’ I say. I get the feeling this photo might soon be doing the rounds of Facebook under the title of: ‘The oldest swingers in town’.

I am very tempted to lie and say we love Mr Scruff because we’re his parents. But I don’t and I’m glad I don’t because Mr Scruff is thirty nine which would have made me ten years old when I had him.

It then occurs to me that, actually, if Mr Grigg is the oldest one here and I’m the second oldest, that would make Mr Scruff the third oldest. And these young ‘uns have paid good money to see him.

So Mr Grigg and I slap our tea cups on the table, get up and wobble those legs.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

Friday, 18 February 2011

Friends like these

I get home and struggle out of the car with the shopping. The Lidl bags nearly split open with shock when I trip over a large, fluffy rabbit on the doorstep. It's bright eyed and bushy tailed but very dead.

Like me, it's gutted.

Mr Grigg is dispatched to Mr and Mrs Champagne-Charlie's to say thank you, but it wasn't from them. Mr Grigg decides to skin the thing on my beautiful kitchen island and I wince and bristle and then end up shouting when he spills blood on the beech wood surface.

I remove myself from the scene and look at Facebook, where I am brought down to earth by Number One Daughter's status:

I apologised to The Child this morning as Mummy and Daddy had an argument in front of her last night. Her response...'Mum, it's about friendship, love and keeping your trust - you have to be friends.'

Such maturity for a five-year-old.

So I cuddle up to my big bunny, Mr Grigg. But only after the rabbit has been put in a bag in the freezer.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Smitten by Britain: The King's Speech

Everyone is talking about The King's Speech. Mr Grigg and I are off to see it this weekend,with Mr and Mrs Sheepwash and Mr and Mrs Champagne-Charlie, in The Enchanted Village hall. We've reserved seats because it's already a sell-out.

We're lucky in these parts to enjoy the wonderful services of Moviola, a touring cinema celebrating ten years this year.

You can find out more by going to Smitten by Britain, where I've just done a guest blog post.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 10 February 2011

The Enchanted Village: the movie

A few months ago, a talented young scriptwriter moved into The Enchanted Village.

'Your blog would make a great film or maybe a TV series,' she said. 

She'd had a few to drink of course - it was Christmas and the Griggs and the Champagne-Charlies were hitting the gin and tonics - but the idea galloped away with her, and with me. I could see myself being feted by celebrity interviewers, hiring a dresser, being on the front cover of the Sunday supplements or maybe even The Marshwood Vale Magazine.

We drew up a fantasy cast list. I became the willowy Joely Richardson and Mr Grigg Ray Winstone. All the other British actors slotted into place. It would be her spring project, the scriptwriter said, as if she didn't have enough to do to while away her time.

And then I made the mistake of telling Mr Grigg, who now insists on saying 'shut it' every five minutes while looking at me with a wide-boy grin.

We've become Ray and Joely and I'm not sure how it's going to all end.

But if you can suggest who might play all the other parts, I'd be very grateful. I'm not sure anyone could play Mr Champagne-Charlie.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Spring is nearly sprung...

It’s been a grey old day here in The Enchanted Village.

When I passed the BBC World Service transmitting station this morning, there was so much mist swirling around, the tops of the masts blended in with the sky. I felt like scrambling to the summit of one of them and stepping off into the clouds in search of the Giant’s golden eggs.

The weather is much milder now, there is soft mud in the gateways and spring bulbs are creeping onwards and upwards before our eyes. Soon, a new season will be upon us, and tete a tete narcissi will be having animated conversations outside the Grigg abode. They’ll be joined later by Queen of Night tulips and sweet-smelling wallflowers.

Before then, though, in March, it’ll be Pancake Day, the clocks will go forward and Mr St John will be wearing shorts. We’ll be planning a mad hatters’ tea party for the Royal Wedding (any excuse for a knees-up) at the end of April and a fete in June with the theme of carnival (expect Mr Grigg in skimpy Rio outfit and lots of feathers, Mrs Bancroft on stilts, Mr Champagne-Charlie banging on a samba drum and Mr Loggins zooming round on roller skates while blowing a whistle).

In between, there will be a dance in the village hall to the music of Dogs Without Collars, a rock band with a line-up of five Dorset vicars. Naturally, we'll be raising money for the local church.

There is a circle of life at work in The Enchanted Village. Every year at about this time we know it is coming and every year it surprises us. What goes around comes around.

That’s about it

Love Maddie x

Friday, 4 February 2011

Love in the morning

Emerging pussy willow, dung spread fields, sodden log piles and a saturated, watercolour sky.

It is half past seven in the morning as I walk the spaniels down through the village. But it might as well be the middle of the night. Curtains are closed, with just the odd light here and there indicating someone is up and having breakfast.

I feel like a benign stalker as I glance around me. Night Nurse is still in bed (as usual), as are Manual and Mrs Regal Bird. There is no sign of life at Tuppence's house as I push a note through the catflap. And the Sheepwashes are still snuggily tucked up when I walk past their cottage at ten past eight.

The Champagne-Charlies are awake, thanks to the morning alarm call of our barking dogs excited at going for a walk. And I see the shapely silhouette of Poshy Totty behind her kitchen window, dishing up something for the children and her husband, MDF Man.

Mr Grigg will be sorry he missed that, I think.

Walking back up through the village, I meet Mr F-Word, a retired chef, walking down the road clutching the Daily Mail he has just picked up from the shop.

'Everyone's still asleep,' I say. 'All the curtains are closed.'

'Ah,' he says, patting the dogs, 'that's because they're all in love.'

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...