Thursday, 28 July 2011

Open all hours

And as I walk out across the fields at just after 6.30 this morning, I meet a neighbour carrying a giant yoghurt pot, full of slugs.

‘Been gardening?’ I say.

She nods, looking like she might want to punch me after spotting me yesterday throwing the snails I found munching my nicotianas straight into the path of a passing car. Crunch.

But I am bold, I am brave. I can cope.

Things are looking up. After experiencing something of an epiphany when the village store didn’t sell at auction, our weary shopkeeper has decided to carry on. He’s not going to shut up shop after all, he’s going to ask the people of Lush Places what they’d like to see on the shelves and try to accommodate us.

So for Champagne-Charlie that would be, erm, champagne, the fragrant Mrs Putter something by Chanel and a Che Guevara T-shirt for the revolutionary Pelly Sheepwash.

Me? I’d be happy with some slug bait.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

Monday, 25 July 2011

This town is coming like a ghost town

As the rest of Lush Places toddled off to a party to which we were not invited (how could that possibly be?), our thoughts turned to the village shop.

It's the centrepiece of The Enchanted Village, along with our pub, church, phone box, village hall, school and parish pump. We're lucky to have them. But, like the parish pump, the shop might not be in full working order for much longer.

For some time now, the shop has been for sale. Our shopkeeper has had enough, the stock has been running down and his final hope was an auction last Friday.

Despite Mr Grigg's best efforts (see my blog post for the Real West Dorset website), the bids failed to reach the reserve.

And with the publican throwing in the towel, we will soon be looking out on to a soulless, empty square. I can hear the clock strike thirteen, the shop sign creaking and a ginger wig blowing like tumbleweed up the path.

Watch this space.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Surprise, surprise

I looked out at the world from my window.

It was grey and a view I was not used to seeing.

The waves gently crashed on the pebbles and the seagulls flew in ever decreasing circles.

The weekend had not started well. The first clue in my birthday treasure hunt saw us sitting in the car for quarter of an hour while Mr Grigg tried to work it out and I became more and more exasperated.

'Maddie’s favourite Hitchcock film starring my cousin Archie? Is it The Birds, Rear Window?’

‘Oh for goodness sake,’ I said, hitting him with a road atlas. ‘The direction we're going is in the film title.’

‘Oh, I know,’ he said. ‘Archie Leach, whose mother is on my family tree, is Cary Grant and he was in Adolf Hitchcock’s North by North East.’

I was tempted to beat him around the head with the Good Pub Guide but thought that wasn’t really in the birthday spirit. At this rate, we were going to end up in Grimsby.

A leisurely day later and we are ambling up the cobbled hill into Clovelly, the North Devon village that tumbles into the sea.

‘So this is where you’ve booked us for dinner tonight?’ Mr Grigg says, supping a pint of Clovelly Cobbler ale at the New Inn.

‘I’m not sure I’ll like it, not sure at all.’

I make my excuses and pay a visit to the Ladies. Still no signal on the mobile. I have a brainwave. I stay in there a bit longer and then come out again.

‘I’ll go up to reception and get hold of a menu.’ I say.

Outside, and a bit further up the hill, deep joy as my mobile suddenly gets a signal. Time is ticking. I need to phone. And phone quickly.

‘Where are you?’ I ask.

‘We’ve just arrived,’ Pelly Sheepwash says.

‘OK, we’ll be down at the Red Lion in ten minutes.’

When I say to Mr Grigg we are going back to our hotel, he thinks he is on a promise. He leaps up from his empty pint glass and runs down the hill like a sprightly old mountain goat.

At reception, I can see nine of the Enchanted Village cast lurking in a side room. Eighteen eyes, ready to pounce.

Mr Grigg picks up the keys, shoots me a leering look and walks straight past them.

‘Hello?’ says a plaintive Mrs Bancroft.

‘I say, Chap,” Mr Champagne-Charlie chirps.

‘He hasn’t even seen us,’ says a gloomy Nobby Odd Job.

‘SURPRISE!’ yells Mr Loggins.

And there they are, all around us. An unruly bunch of friends who whip out a picnic and take it out to the windswept beach. And then a lovely meal at the New Inn.

Happy birthday Mr Grigg. Everyone loves you.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Let's get away from it all

We are back from our travels, despite Mr Grigg’s best efforts. When we reached the airport, he realised we had left our passports and tickets in a bar on Corfu Town’s sunny Liston.

‘I’ll go back and get them,’ he said. ‘You go on ahead.’

But I couldn’t go on ahead because I didn’t have a ticket or a passport. So I sat, like Paddington Bear, with my luggage waiting for my man to return.

Times are hard but ordinary Greeks are an honest bunch, even if their politicians aren’t. The document wallet was safe and well. So Mr Grigg was able to roar back across town, drop the hire car off and still do the Easyjet Strut and be first on the plane.

Back in Blighty and driving from the airport to home, I had a strange feeling in my stomach which had nothing to do with the tube of Pringles and Sprite I'd had for my supper.

‘Have you got the front door key?’ I asked Mr Grigg.

‘No, I thought you had it.’

Much searching later, we pulled into a Travelodge twenty minutes from home, not wanting to wake Mrs Bancroft, Mr and Mrs Champagne Charlie or Mr and Mrs Sheepwash for a bed for the night.

‘Let me have one more look,’ I said, turning my bag upside down in the footwell.

There was a reassuring chink of metal and there was the front door key, shining like the Holy Grail and accompanied by a heavenly chorus.

‘You f*ck*r’ Mr Grigg said. This, from the man who had left our travel documents in a bar.

A week later and he already needs a break. I am taking him away for the weekend. He doesn’t know where we’re going and will have to solve a series of treasure hunt clues before we reach our destination.

It’s my birthday surprise for him and, boy, does he need it. The birthday itself was spent watching a foreign harbour wall to make sure the boat didn’t crash against it in high winds. On top of that, two out of three children forgot the special birthday completely and his bus pass failed to materialise.

His malapropisms are getting worse. He described someone’s allergy to bee stings as ‘prophylactic shock’ and then said I looked very Bavarian when he meant Bohemian.

This morning, he was waiting for the parish council chairman to turn up after receiving a phone call last night.

But at the door was the one-legged Aga man, who looks a lot like Pop Larkin but is even more of a character.

“I don’t recall you phoning about today,” Mr Grigg said.

“Yes I did,” the one-legged Aga man said. “We spoke last night, you told me all about your holiday.”

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...