Monday, 30 May 2011

The world from my window: the video

This is a first for me, a video of the place I love, captured by a friend of mine, who, on the blog, is known as Ding Dong Daddy. It's through the eyes of his springer spaniel, Spice, who very nearly became Mrs Spice-Grigg after a meeting on Bluebell Hill with my springer spaniel some while ago.

Thankfully for Spice, it did not happen. I could not be held responsible for the dodgy hips the puppies might have had.

The music is original, and so is the landscape. This is the world from my window. If you've ever wondered why I wax lyrical about this place, click the video and you'll see.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 29 May 2011

For the beauty of the earth

I look out from my window today, over the rooftops, the school field, the allotments and across the patchwork squares of Dorset fields into Somerset, the county where I was born.

Today is Oak Apple Day, which was created to celebrate the restoration of the British monarchy in 1660. It was the birthday of King Charles II, who famously hid in an oak tree when he was on the run from the Roundheads after the Battle of Worcester in 1651.

In his desperate bid to escape, he took cover in all sorts of places, including The Enchanted Village and, more specifically, the house where Mr Grigg and I now live. I will tell you about that one day.

But today is also Rogation Sunday, a day when countryside folk ask for a good harvest, when the clergymen bless the fields and the communities whose lives are intertwined with the land.

The day always reminds me of a childhood role in the church choir, along with my sisters and brother, in our farming village. In our purple and white robes, we would gather in the field overlooking the church and the school, up above the wartime pillbox and tank traps that would have protected us from invasion had the Germans broken through onto English soil. My brother would hold the tall cross and I would squint in the sun, a scrap of a seven-year-old with skinny legs and long, straight, fair hair.

We would sing a hymn to nature, For the Beauty of the Earth, and the rector would bless the land. A border collie puppy would strain on a lead and bark throughout the service. The sun would come out, rain clouds would gather and then, in the wind, blow away to another place.

This week, the Grigg family lost someone very dear to us. I like to think of her blowing in the wind, laughing in the breeze, telling a funny story to the trees, while all the time looking immaculate, hair just-so, painted nails and a beautiful face and a lovely smile.

For the beauty of the earth indeed.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Who has seen the wind?

The sky is a bright blue and then grey and then black and then white as clouds scuttle across overhead so very quickly.

The cockerel and hen on the weather vane swing back and forth from south to west. The cord on the church tower's flagpole flips and flaps to a regular beat, like the mast of a yacht trapped in a blustery harbour or the sound of eggs being whisked professionally in a metal bowl.

There are high winds today in The Enchanted Village. There is an edge to the air. You are a witness to the wind's power, the roar, the rush. You can hear it, you can feel it. You can even smell it. But you cannot see it.

The beech trees break out into rapturous applause. A laurel bush waves frantically, the ash tree whooshes and rushes, its branches dancing, the yew moans as if to tell the world this breeze is far too strong for its ancient bones. The oak tree - solid, dependable - takes it all in its stride.

In my head I am a child, my mother reading me this poem by Christina Rosetti:

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

And suddenly it all makes sense.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Friday, 20 May 2011

Back in the saddle again

I've lost my way a bit lately. Seeing the bigger picture but missing out on the detail. And it's the detail I love. In my haste to walk the dogs in the mornings before rushing off to work, I've been head down, getting on with it. No time to stop and stare.

I've forgotten to write things in my writer's notebook, phrases I hear, nature notes and things of beauty. I've not bothered to take my camera and missed all the beautiful, wonderful things around me. I've idled away down-time, mucking about on the computer, reading books I'm not that interested in. I've started to write a blog post and then abandoned it. I've been unsettled.

Yesterday, though, the old Maddie came back. I noticed a skinny fly landing on a hairy nettle leaf. I heard the coo-coo of a wood pigeon overhead, a great big thing sitting on a telephone wire. I saw what looked like the beginnings of a tipi encampment on the allotments, five cane wigwams marching across the soil ready to bear their summer loads of runner beans.

A squirrel scuttled across into Mr and Mrs Champagne-Charlie's garden, Mr F Word waddled up to the shop for his daily paper. Celebrity Farmer's dad drove by in his Land Rover and gave me a flirty wave. And then the swallows swooped across the square, helter skelter, and dived into the churchyard.

As my friend Buggles' partner said to me last night: 'You've still got stuff to strut.'

He's right. So let's get on with it.

That's about it

Love Maddie x

Here's to the birthday boy

Twenty two years ago, I was digging a hole in the garden for some nicotianas. A little while later, I sat down in the house and had some leftover spaghetti bolognese at six o'clock. It must have been off, I thought, because I got indigestion pretty soon afterwards.

I rang my friend and said: 'I think I'm all right but I feel a bit weird. I wonder if you ought to come over?'

She was round like a shot. Because, you see, I was a week away from my 'expected date of confinement'.

'I'm sure sure it's nothing,' I said to my friend.

'You idiot,' she said. 'You're in labour.'

So we flew over the top road, up and down, past the glorious views of the sea, the grassy knolls, the tree-topped hills and the patchwork blanket of fields, the Devil's Nine Stones, the old radio station and a roundabout called Monkey's Jump.

I walked about a bit in hospital but nothing much happened, until I opened a magazine with a full page, colour photograph of the Spitting Image puppet face of Margaret Thatcher. It was enough to send anyone into an advanced stage of labour.

At six minutes to midnight, with my dear friend at the business end, Number One Son was born, with minimal yelling from me, unlike with first-born Number One Daughter when I woke up the entire hospital.

My friend cried all the way home and the baby slept for the next couple of days. But I was wide awake. I  could not take my eyes off my perfect, nut-brown-jaundiced baby.

At 22, Number One Son, The Boy, The Chosen One, The Golden Child still sleeps whenever he can. I tell him to enjoy it while it lasts. He has just secured a three-month internship with a prestigious company after graduating from the University of Bristol last year with a 2:1 degree in environmental geoscience. Fingers crossed it will lead to a full-time job.

Where did those 22 years go?

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The phantom of the night

Tomorrow is rubbish day. The day when all our bin bags full of village detritus get put out for all to see, seven days of life safely encased in a black plastic sack.

Tomorrow is also recycling day, although we get confused in The Enchanted Village as to which fortnight is which. If Mrs Bancroft has put hers out, we know it's the wrong week. She may be wise and regal, but she is useless when it comes to knowing which week is recycling week. Pelly, oh-Girl-Guide-wise-one, always gets it right but her lane is a little bit far for us to check every week. She is also the kind of person to make her recycled goods into a wholesome Christmas present so there is never much evidence of her every-day folk life.

Jamie Lee and Ted Moult usually know recycling week from their elbow. Pelly has often counted their bottles of Becks and Chardonnay when passing by in the morning.

'They've had a party and we weren't invited,' she'll say, as she crosses the road and goes on to prod the recycling pile of Posh Totty and MDF Man with her sort of walking-ski-stick. Plenty of beer and wine there, we agree.

Well, this week we were invited to the party. And Jamie Lee says we were the first to be asked. If we could come, she confides some weeks ago, she'd build the date around us. (I'm sure she says that to all the bright young things in The Enchanted Village).

And what a party it was. This is their recycling this week, photographed from the safety of Mr Grigg's Freeloader as we shoot up through the street. I do not wish to incur Ted's wrath, so we take the picture with stealth, like a pocket camera paparazzi.

'If they see this on the blog,' I say, 'I'll tell them Pelly took the photo.'

Mmm, kind of shot myself in the foot there.

Anyway, tonight we swoop back into the village after a fundraising meeting and spot a phantom of the night, creeping out from the front of his house with a hefty bin bag full of stuff which he then straps to the public bin next to the village green.

'Porn,' says Mr Grigg, confidently.

The phantom looks around and goes back inside for several cases of spent Chilean Merlot which he then secretes on the doorsteps of Night Nurse and Mrs Bancroft. Caught in the act! And to think for some months we thought these two dear ladies were particularly heavy drinkers. Arsenic and old lace.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Friday, 6 May 2011

I found my thrill...on Bluebell Hill

High up on Bluebell Hill, you can forget the world around you. You wouldn't know the United Kingdom had voted yesterday on a new electoral system. You wouldn't know the shooting of the world's most wanted man was causing a furore around the globe.

Dorset's highest point is a peaceful place for an early morning walk. It makes you feel good to be alive and proud to be English, as a soundtrack of Vaughan Williams plays through your head.

As the day progresses, you can sometimes meet Tuppence here, trilling like a canary, or Ding Dong Daddy recording birdsong in Lush Places, or Mr Sheepwash out with binoculars looking for ravens.

On the way up, the gypsy lace gently nods in the lane, in contrast to its furious movements earlier this week when the wind whipped through these parts. The pink campions and the buttercups clamour for sunlight and jostle for space along the verge, like the crowds lining the streets for a royal wedding.

Dead nettles, when upturned, showing two perfect pairs of fairy shoes ready for the little folk of Bluebell Hill to grab as they pass by on gossamer wings. The regal candelabra of horsechestnut trees, bobbing in the breeze, unusually quiet sheep and then chattering swallows, stretching out in their nests and gossiping, ready for the day ahead.

The walk up the hill is lined with beech trees, rustling and whispering a song in lime green.

And then the bluebells. Oh, those bluebells.

The poetry of the moment is all too brief. After making our descent we meet Champagne-Charlie clutching a copy of the Shooting Times.

'This is for you, chap,' he says to Mr Grigg, pulling out a supplement.

'The Bravissimo catalogue?' I say, with eyes open wide.

'Well I thought Mr Grigg was working at home today. Alone.'

I ask you. Grab your moments while you can.

That's about it.

Love Maddie

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 ...