Wednesday, 30 March 2011

In a galaxy far, far away...

This day is becoming quirkier by the minute.

At breakfast, Mr Grigg tells me as an afterthought: 'You know that Census thingy? Well, I put you down as a Jedi.'

And then this afternoon, Mr Scruff leaves a comment on my Oldest Swingers in (Camden) Town blogpost.

How cool is that?

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Monday, 28 March 2011

Wind in the willows

Mr Grigg and I emerge from our front door into the Square.

Next door and across the road, other people are doing the same, like a mass version of one of those weather predictors where the little old man with the umbrella goes in and the little old lady with the parasol comes out.

We are on our way on foot to Lady Friend's house, The Willows, where the blogroll guest list includes Nobby Odd-Job, Ted Moult and Jamie Lee, Tuppence (dear, sweet Tuppence), and an unaccompanied Mr Loggins, whose wife, Darling, is on the London march protesting against the cuts.

'Good for her,' I say, when the arch-Tory Mr Grigg complains.

We amble up the road with the lovely Mrs Bancroft, Night Nurse and Mrs Champagne-Charlie, with her husband bringing up the rear because he has a bad case of wind.

We are treated to a sumptuous help-yourself meal in equally sumptuous surroundings. We could be in an advert for Interiors magazine.

The first surprise of the evening is the rare sight of Mr St John, whose legs are back on show in shorts now that spring is finally here.

The second surprise of the evening is when a well behaved collie puts her nose up my mini skirt as I am in full flow talking to Jamie Lee about the gentrification of My Kind of Town.

The third surprise of the evening is when Champage-Charlie, looking for a place to rest his weary frame, backs up to the gas stove and sets off a click, click, clicking noise.

'Don't touch that dial!' I yell, when I realise he has just switched on the gas with his behind.

'That was lucky,' Mr Grigg say, as Champagne-Charlie springs away from the cooker like a cornered gazelle.

'If he'd broken wind again we could have all gone out with a bang.'

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Who’s afraid of the big bad school?

Twelve years ago, I was invited to a school reunion. It was a strange experience, catching up with people I hadn’t seen since I left the school of hard knocks in the birthplace of powered fight in 1979.

It started in the working men’s club that had recently been ravaged by fire. The paintwork was charred and there was still a sort of burnt smell in the air. I was hugged by the school bully, chatted up by the boy who had rejected me when I was twelve for having no personality and then Dancing Queen blared out from the disco next door as the formerly closet gay came out in all his glory.

We moved on to gatecrash a party at the rugby club and the boys and girls who went out with each other at the age of thirteen ended up smooching to Lionel Richie on the dance floor. As the lights came back on, we all decamped to a friend’s house where the school swot lit up a joint.

Through it all, I was totally sober and well behaved (unlike when I was at school where my quiet, studious side was gobbled up by a quiet rebel desperate to fit in). It was fascinating to watch the gentle drama unfolding around me but rather unnerving.

My school days were not the best of my life. Coming from a village school of twenty to a school year of two hundred was a shock that took me years to overcome.

An old friend of mine later confided after that reunion: “Do you know, it was the weirdest thing. I felt uncomfortable for months afterwards. The whole evening was surreal and stayed etched on my mind. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.”

Wind the clock forward to the present.

I’m walking up the steps of the Perry Street Club, in the middle of nowhere in Somerset. Dancing Queen is again playing as I stride confidently up the steps, with no fear.

At home, after casting aside five outfits, doing a twirl for assembled dinner guests and a grumpy Mr Grigg not at all keen about me leaving for the evening, I was ready for anything.

I walk into the room and the music keeps playing. There is no tumbleweed moment. Everyone still chats among themselves.

As I stand at the door, a gaggle of girls turns around in unison. One of them screams out and runs across to give me the biggest hug I’ve had in years. It is an emotional moment.

‘We’re so pleased you came, so pleased,’ she says.

And I’m pleased too. Clutching a pint of cider, I pore over the old school photos at the bar, pose for new ones and find out what people have been up to. Careers, kids, relationships. So much has happened over the years.

But do you know the biggest change? It’s me. I’m not afraid any more.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

Monday, 21 March 2011

On days like these

It was a super moon and it was in Virgo, my star sign.

And as I drove around the country lanes in search of my school reunion venue, I wondered what this big pizza pie of a moon had to do with me. A cosmic awakening, a reconnection with the earth, a breakthrough?

It grinned down on me, and I thought of all the things that had happened to me today. A mass decorating session at our village hall, eight hours of painting with a roller and brush amid a sea of magnolia. Sitting down to lunch with twenty others and literally watching paint dry.

Then a quick scoot around the field with the spaniels before every man and his dog descended on us for the England v Ireland rugby match. The doorbell kept ringing, and still they came, until thirteen bodies crammed into the Grigg hovel to watch the game.

The sedate ladies were in the kitchen, chatting about this and that while I sliced the potatoes. The fragrant Mrs Putter, Pelly Sheepwash, Mrs Champagne-Charlie and the lovely Mrs Bancroft with a waif and stray close at heel. In the front room, there was yelling and cursing and swearing as England failed to deliver. The profanity chorus was led by Mr Grigg, with solos by Mr Putter, Mr Sheepwash and Nobby Odd-Job ensconced in a leather armchair, and descant provided by Number One Son, a Sheepwashlet with another waif and stray on his arm.

So we sat down, thirteen of us, like the last supper, for a meal and then I got up and announced I was off to my school reunion, twelve years after the last one. I had been procrastinating about this ever since it was mooted before Christmas. I wanted to go but I didn't want to go. But, as always, curiosity got the better of me and I decided, with a little help from the ladies, that yes, indeed, I would be going.

There were lots of suggestions of what I should wear.

'Killer heels,' said Mrs Bancroft's waif and stray. 'And you can borrow my biker jacket.'

'Wear what's comfortable,' the Queen's Guide Pelly Sheepwash said.

If Mr Grigg had his way, I would have gone in a sack.

'You're not going out like that are you?' he said, when I finally paraded in the sixth outfit I'd tried on upstairs.

'Give us a twirl,' said a naughty Mr Champagne-Charlie, who had turned up to make it 14 after England had lost.

'You look wonderful,' he said. 'I like the boots.'

All Mr Grigg could do was growl.

So I found myself driving around the country lanes, completely lost, until there the place was, a beacon of light in an enchanted village over the Somerset border.

I looked over my shoulder at that big old moon as I entered the door and walked up the stairs to the sound of Dancing Queen.

'You're looking good, girl,' I said to myself. 'You can do it.'

And do you know what? That's not about it. This one's to be continued....

Love Maddie x

Friday, 18 March 2011

My starter kit for ten

I get a phone call.

'Have you seen what's under the windscreen wiper of your car?' Pelly whispers.

'No,' I say, phone under chin as I walk out to the front of my house to have a look.

'Well, you might want to,' she says.

It's only another empty wrapper of a bondage starter kit, devoid of its advertised contents of whip, nipple clamps and chain. I extract it, quickly, before anyone else sees it. I look around to make sure no-one is filming the scene.

Until I find out who has placed it there, everyone is under suspicion.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Monday, 14 March 2011

For one night only...

So there we were, rocking all over The Enchanted Village Hall to five vicars singing I want to be break free by Queen.

With a flick of a wrist, their dog collars were off, discarded for the evening as a collection of grey heads and people the wrong side of 50 whooped and hollered.

Earlier my neighbour, Mrs Champagne-Charlie, muttered that it all seemed a bit like community singing at an old folks’ home and then guffawed when she saw my attire and prodded her husband with her elbow.

‘Oh,’ Mr Champagne-Charlie said, doing the mashed potato to I'm a believer. ‘Where on earth did you get those?’

‘You can cut your sarcasm,’ I said. ‘You’re hardly in a position to mock, with your toff’s trousers the colour of calf scour. This, dear neighbour, is the rock chick look.’

Because Mrs Bancroft had arranged for Dogs Without Collars – five Dorset clergymen – to appear for one night only in aid of the three parish churches.

And my job was to look after them.

‘Sorry,’ I said, when asked to help on the bar, ‘I’m with the band.’

Once a groupie, always a groupie.

So I rocked on through the night, brought firmly to heel by Mr Grigg for the last dance.

And do you know, I even won first prize in the raffle.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

A funny thing happened on the road to Rio

It's Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent. General Custer, he of the face carved out of Mount Rushmore and last seen loitering in the pub doorway smoking fag after fag, is reputedly in Rio enjoying Mardis Gras.

We picture him on his back in the middle of the road, a smile on his face after too many Tequila Slammers and gazing gratefully upwards while scantily clad Brazilians dance all over him as they make their way ever onwards in the parade.

Feels like heaven.

Heaven, meanwhile, is a place on Earth for Mr Champagne-Charlie who goes for £8 worth of pick-and-mix before we pile into the Yeovil Cineworld for an early evening showing of True Grit.

'Fill your hand you sonofabitch,' he says, reaching for the licorice comfits.

'That's a hell of a statement for a one-eyed fatman,' I retort. Mr Champagne-Charlie is neither one-eyed nor fat, but it seems the right response. The two of us are Western fanatics.

In the auditorium, he pours scorn on the shot fired by Rooster Cogburn from a great distance and goes into a long diatribe about Colt 45s, velocity and speeding bullets.

Western fan or not, it's all too much for me and flies right above my head.

'Ned, in one minute I'm going to shoot you or take you back to Fort Smith to hang you at Judge Parker's convenience. Which it'll be?' I whisper.

Mr Grigg and Mrs Champagne-Charlie then tell us to put our popcorn where our mouths are.

Meanwhile, for General Custer in Rio, his experience is even better than a 3-D film. It's for real.

It's Shrove Tuesday and I should be giving up something for Lent. Blogging maybe? I think not.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Monday, 7 March 2011

Read all about it

They descended like locusts on the remaining copies of Half of a Yellow Sun.

I started a stampede at The Enchanted Village quilting group when I told the assembled ladies I had a few books to give away.

Hands shot up and there were chants of 'mine, mine, mine.' I emerged from the ensuing scrum shaken, a bit tousled but none the worse for my ordeal.

I handed them out at the village post office, to the girls from the book club, to some intellectual types from a PR agency and to work colleagues. I posted them to my four siblings and to my mother.

It was a great feeling.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 3 March 2011

The Enchanted Village does World Book Night

It was the instruction: ‘bring a wheeled suitcase, a trolley or a strong friend’ that worried me.

Here I was, chosen as a ‘giver’ for the inaugural World Book Night on Saturday, and illegally parked on a yellow line outside The Book Shop, Bridport, with my boot open for any old car jacker to jump into.

I rushed in.

‘OK, I’m here, let’s go,’ I said, sounding like Bodie (or was it Doyle?) from The Professionals.

As if by magic, the owlish bookshop proprietor, looking like the shopkeeper in Mr Benn but without the fez, peered over his spectacles and said: ‘Oh, it’s you.’

He pointed to two large boxes of books.

‘There you are. Half of a Yellow Sun wasn't it?’

‘Mmmm, yes,’ I said, not sure whether I should be basking in the glory of what seemed an intellectually challenging book choice or admitting I was on the reserve list and was happy to have anything.

Twenty thousand passionate book lovers are giving away a million books this weekend. I had been hoping for a thin tome, maybe Alan Bennett’s autobiography or the children’s book Northern Lights, by Philip Pullman.

Despite having no illustrations, they’d be relatively simple to digest, and I could perhaps persuade some of my intended ‘reluctant reader’ recipients in my village to grab hold of a copy with open arms.

Because brevity and alacrity are my middle names. And theirs too.

But I was on the reserve list.

So I picked up my 48 copies of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book, which is set in 1960s civil war-torn Nigeria, and prepared to do battle.

In true Commando style, I am now lobbing them through letterboxes around the village, with an accompanying note. I’m handing them out to family and friends and anyone I think will read it.

Mr Grigg grunts: ‘What have you signed up for now? Can’t we sell them?’

‘Um, I think that’s against the whole spirit of World Book Night,’ I say. ‘Besides, if I choose the right people to give to, it will increase my popularity.’

Because there is no way I can fob off Half of a Yellow Sun to the drinkers in the part of the pub we call Compost Corner. I’d probably be barred for life.

But it might increase my standing in the book club.

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 ...