Sunday, 28 August 2011

When time stood still at The Electric Palace

This weekend I changed my Blogger profile picture:

(I'll explain later).
Now if I'd been wearing it at last night's Mr Scruff gig, no-one would have batted an eyelid.

Girls in bear hats, boys in crocheted hats, pork pie hats and baseball caps, an old man in shades with a wispy Salvador Dail-style moustache and goatee, Mr Grigg in a Wobble Control tee-shirt and a white bearded steward who looked like he could quite easily have done the James Robertson Justice voiceover in the surreal track, Fish.

Trout are freshwater fish and have underwater weapons 
Trout are very valuable and immensely powerful 
Keep away from the trout

Mr Scruff himself, with headphones atop his smooth head like a Roman emperor wearing a crown of laurel leaves. His adoring public whooped and hollered to pulsating beats and Latin rhythms.

And still the Electric Palace clock said five past nine.

My blog characters, all bar Pelly and Anakin Sheepwash, decided to give the evening a miss. I can't think why.
And still the Electric Palace clock said five past nine.

Several cups of chilli and mint tea later, getting down with the young, the funky and just plain freaky, we were ready for home. We sneaked out at a quarter to one, The Enchanted Village taxi driver, Dermot, waiting for us just up the road, his twin 'for hire' signs winking at us from under a Bridport street light.

We climbed into the taxi to Lionel Richie singing Three Times A Lady on Wessex FM.

Back at the Electric Palace, the clock still said five past nine.

The stars blazed in the night sky as Taxi Dermot, who once lived next door to The Angry Brigade in Stoke Newington, drove us up into the hills.

I had a thought - maybe Mr Scruff could be our DJ when we celebrate the Queen's diamond jubilee in the streets next year.  But then I remembered the time when I was almost lynched for introducing a musical round at the annual quiz. That was the time when the hall clock went backwards at breakneck speed.

I think the church clock actually struck thirteen.

So maybe not. Keep away from the trout.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 27 August 2011

A birthday surprise

It's only part-way through my birthday weekend and I've been completely spoiled and I'm thoroughly knackered.

First, the Melplash Show.

My favourite day of the year. So good of them to organise it for my birthday.

And so good of Celebrity Farmer to almost spill the beans about my birthday surprise.

'I've been told you've booked a room at The Riverside,' he said to me and Mr Grigg, who promptly stood rather heavily on the toe of his wellington boot.

'Um, but then you decided to go somewhere else,' Celebrity Farmer said, in rather too much of a hurry. The hole just got bigger and bigger until even I wished I could jump in it with him

After the show, instead of going home, we ended up at West Bay, my favourite seaside place.

'That's the one with the gurt hole in the middle,' my father usually says, referring to the harbour.

You can just make out the pink house here, the old home of my mentor, the late David Martin.

And then we trip-trapped trip-trapped over the little footbridge across the River Brit.

Where we found a table laid up for 20 and then a cast of blog characters jumping out from behind a screen and singing Happy Birthday To You.

There was a balloon from Mr St John, who for once was wearing long trousers.

Lots of presents, chatting, fantastic food and wonderful service. We were sadly missing key people such as Mr Putter and the fragrant Mrs Putter and the elfin Tuppence.  But there was Posh Totty, MDF Man, Mr and Mrs Sheepwash, Mr and Mrs Champagne-Charlie, the dear Mrs Bancroft, Buggles and Mort D'Arthur, Camilla and Mr F Word, Ted Moult and Jamie Lee, my brother and sister-in-law, the Loveliest Lady in the Village, the aforementioned Mr St John and Lady Friend, who suggested I get people moving around in between courses.

And it was when Pelly Sheepwash said: 'They say they don't read your blog, but they all know their names' that I had an idea.

In a game of great tactical skill, I shouted out their blog names and each one had to swap with the other. It all went very well until Buggles nearly poked Camilla's eye out with a fork.

'Don't you remember the two of us used to be business rivals?' she hissed. 'How could you put the two of us next to each other?'

And then a special birthday candle which was impossible to blow out.

And it's not even nearly over yet.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 25 August 2011

A village world in turmoil and a happy birthday to me...

Um, happy birthday to me.

As the big five-oh arrives, there is a huge call to arms from a load of people about the village shop and the pub.


Um, I'm not sure I can do that on my own but I know of some people who can.

That's about it.

But, by the way, never seen the pub more busy than after a crisis meeting We should do this more often...

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Monday, 22 August 2011

Close encounters with West Bay

Every now and then on the internet, you come across a gem you just want to share.

So let me take you on a journey, on what I think is a fascinating journey, to West Bay, the seaside port for My Kind of Town and the place where Mr Grigg and I will soon be having a boat.

If you have a little time to spare, watch the archive film. It's great. And then listen to the modern-day locals on the audio, telling you what makes West Bay so special.


The website is called Close Encounters and I know about it because I was involved in putting some of the material together.

I think you'll like it.

That's about it.

Love Maddie

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The birthday countdown begins

My ears are still ringing. The gig of the year, my Weymouth friend says. I wouldn't argue with that.

'Not a bit poptastic, then?' asks Pelly 'I-grew-up-with-prog-rock' Sheepwash this morning.

'No, slaptastic,' I say, beaming.

I went back twenty-odd years last night to see Level 42 and, do you know? They're better now than they were then. Mind you, I was only a few months away from giving birth to Number One Son and spent all night standing on a cold, concrete floor in the Showering Pavilion at Shepton Mallet.

Now that I'm nearly fifty, the comfy seats of Weymouth Pavilion came in handy. But the pounding bass of Mark King and those lovely harmonising vocals of keyboard player Mike Lindup got me out of my seat. Music to my ageing ears.

No wonder I've got tinnitus. A misspent youth of disco music, punk rock, jazz funk and chillout. And a bit of folk interspersed.

And what's more, even Mr Grigg enjoyed the gig, despite thinking we were going to see U2. (I saw them in a pub in North London in about 1980 and gave Bono a light. But I enjoyed Level 42 much, much more).

Anyway, the big five-oh is less than a week away and the countdown is already beginning. Last night, getting high on Level 42, tonight a quiet night in with Mr Grigg, tomorrow a rib of beef from a farm down the road, Tuesday night catching up with an old school friend in the birthplace of powered fight, Wednesday night a crisis meeting in the village about the pub and the shop, and, on my actual birthday, my favourite of all days out - the Melplash Show - followed by a nice meal at the Riverside Restaurant.

Then an Hawaiian-themed party in the village hall to say thank you to all our fete helpers, then Mr Scruff (Mr Scruff is coming to My Kind of Town! Just for me, I think, after writing about the Grigg antics in Camden). And then, and then, a birthday picnic on the village green with the mellow jazz of the Clive Ashley Quartet followed by the village flower show on Bank Holiday Monday.

No rest for the wicked, eh?

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Double trouble in The Enchanted Village

Oh, calamity and woe.

Not only has our shopkeeper had another change of heart and is shutting up the store on September 1, our pub is due to close when the landlords leave in October. The brewery is looking for a new publican, but how seriously, no-one can tell.

Cripes. After a village square full of activity, I fear there will be only a village square full of nothing. It's as if the ley lines beneath our feet have shorted out.

There are people working hard behind the scenes to sort this out. As I write, Mr Grigg and Mr Putter are in deep the pub.

I am half temped to say 'I'll do it!' But having run a pub for Palmers Brewery for three years, I can safely say it's not the easiest of tasks. (If you go to the link and have to take a step back from the screen, I apologise. Someone should tell them black is not a good background for a website).

We increased the trade, but at some cost to our personal lives. Number One Son's second cousin and her husband are making a very good job of running that pub today, so fair play to them.

But what of The Enchanted Village? It seems we will have a floodlit community but nothing to focus the spotlight on.

Watch this space.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Monday, 15 August 2011

New streetlights - coming to a lamp post near you, Mr Hardy

Oh my.

Dorset is going to be bathed in swathes of light. The spotlight is literally turning on Hardy's Dorset, rural Dorset, that bucolic bubble of beauty, my enchanted village and villages everywhere.

Those nice people at Dorset County Council are going to improve our street lighting.

Rural Dorset, embrace your inner urban child. The street lights roadshow is coming to town...and villages and hamlets to a street, lane or cul-de-sac near you.

Here's a leaflet about it:

Is that Canary Wharf I see in the distance? Or is it Hong Kong? It isn't Lush Places, that's for sure. Our dear Lush Places, with its village pump, the green, the red phone box and historic buildings all around.

But it could be soon, believe me it. It could be lots of lovely places all over this hidden gem of a county. Those quiet, secret corners of Dorset suddenly exposed for all to see.

Because the county council has entered into a private finance initiative (PFI) pact - not with the devil (it ditched energy company EDF a little while ago in a veil of silence) - but with those nice people from SSE.  They're much more softly spoken and far more approachable. They even look human but the story is the just same.

In the next few years, light pollution is going to be reduced. That's in the sky but not in our rural areas. The soft, orange glow is going to be replaced by bright, white light, to meet the British and European standard.

Hurrah. One size fits all.

My village square has already been floodlit by stealth, under the heading 'we're going to give you traffic calming but we're not going to tell you about the extra street lights you'll need'. Until, whoosh, the Lush Places square looks like a Premier League football match at midnight.

The county council, when challenged, said 'oops, sorry, we forgot to let you know about that bit' and pledged to learn from its mistake and make sure the public was consulted on lighting schemes in the future.

So, a couple of years later, their contractor put a few posters up on telegraph poles, inviting people to a public meeting.

A few people turned up (what does it matter, it's nothing to do with me. Oh, but it is, it really is).

'This is consulation,' the contractors said. 'We're going to give eight roads in your village new lights.'

'Thank you so much,' we said (ironically). 'We live in the countryside but we really want it to be like a big town.'

'That's good,' they said. 'Because we're doing it in a month's time.'

So watch out Nobby Odd-Job, Ding Dong Daddy, the hobbits of Middle Earth, Monty Chocs-Away, Ted Moult and Jamie Lee, Mrs Regal Bird and Manual. The new lights are coming to a lamp post near you.

And 28,000 other lamp posts across Dorset. Don't say I didn't warn you.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 13 August 2011

I've lost the plot

I am for ever being told I ought to make my blog into a novel.

'You have such a way with words,' Mr Grigg tells me.

'If I didn't live here I think you'd made it up,' Mrs Bancroft says.

'You write much better than some of the people on The Observer,' an earnest Pelly Sheepwash says.

And little Tuppence, dear elfin Tuppence, she of the leggings, Goth gloves and an asymmetric bob, smiles a big smile and says: 'Just go for it Maddie.'

Doggers on Bluebell Hill, dreams of Gingsters pasties stuck where the sun don't shine, a begonia allergy and a cast of colourful characters as long as Mr Grigg's tongue when Posh Totty trots past, it's all here.

The trouble is, I need a plot.

And I think I've lost it.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

London's burning

And as I sit in this bubble of loveliness, this village I call Lush Places, I wonder what it's all about.

Down here, we are like Japanese soldiers who are holed up on an island and don't know the war has ended. If it weren't for the TV, radio, newspapers and social media, we would be none the wiser.

With all this weirdness swirling around like twisters in parts of this green and pleasant land, the trouble seems very distant, even though my dear namesake niece in Woolwich is a bottle's throw away from some of it.

When the worst thing to happen in The Enchanted Village is that someone scrawls a swear word inside the play tunnel or writes 'You are gay' on Mrs Bancroft's car in the snow or leaves a field gate open, the London that is burning today is a different world.

Although it is distant, the news we are seeing and hearing feel like the end of the world as we know it.

Riots and nastiness spreading like wildfire, a Northern Lights polar bear turning on young adventurers with fatal results, the denouement of Rupert Murdoch, the world's most powerful man, famine in Africa, the global economy in tatters.

I am unable to get into the heads of the looters, the thugs and the arsonists. They might just as well be aliens.

But I suppose if you're a human who has never grasped the concept of common humanity - or humility even - let alone the difference between right and wrong and your machismo is judged by the size of your gun, what's to stop you joining the sheep-like mob on its march through Croydon and Tottenham and Clapham and Hackney and Ealing and Woolwich and the Isle of Dogs to burn a car or two, scare the hell out of the locals, set things on fire and have a bit of fun?

But, as my old friend Curious Girl says, we will bounce back. We have to.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Paws for thought

'And they're off!' the race commentator announces, as eight assorted terriers tear up the field after a stuffed thing on a piece of string.

Junior wins by default, as Mullet, Holly, Rascal and Rivet get two feet past the starting line and decide to have a fight.

We're at the terrier races, an event that's been going for 37 years and just up from the road where I was born.  Now I've completed my OU studies, I have time on my hands so I suggest to Mr Grigg we head for the hills to find out what it's all about. Amazingly, this is the one event not to be featured in any Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall programme.

And in amongst the plate smashing, the hoopla and tombola, and a commentator who is wearing a red jacket, top hat and a new pair of teeth for the occasion, I see glimpses of my past. People who were at school with me stroll around with cobweb tattoos on their elbows, baseball caps at jaunty angles and gobble up fat hot dogs washed down with a nice pint of Otter.

And then I see a thin old man with a stick, shuffling along in slippers. The walk is hard for him, painful even, but he is smiling. It is my old art teacher, the teacher who inspired me the most and to whom I wrote a letter a few years ago just to tell him that.

He is delighted to see me and delighted with my result.

I then bump into one of my favourite nephews, the one who does intricate tattoos on himself but all upside down.

'I come here every year,' he says, having been born two miles up the road. 'It's local, innit?'

And to complete a hat trick of familiar faces, the one-legged Aga man saunters by and Mr Grigg goes over and gives him a friendly jab in the beer belly. He is already up in the winnings stakes, having raked in 30p on the last race.

As the sky turns black and the rain comes down, we head for a pint in the village pub run by the community for the community.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Monday, 1 August 2011

Please Mr Postman, is there a letter for me?

I'm all-a-jitter this week. Four years of work has come to an end, and by Friday I'll know whether it's been worth it.

At the beginning of the new century, I promised myself I'd get a degree by the time I was fifty. My birthday is fast approaching and so, I hope, is the postman.

Back in the late 1970s, I went straight into journalism training. I didn't want to go to unversity, partly because that path was what had been expected of me for years (and I never do the expected). I also didn't think it was right to spend three self-indulgent years poncing around lonely as a cloud when I could dive straight into a Devon newsroom.

I'd wanted to be a newspaper reporter since I was ten years old so, I figured, why wait?

But the main reason for not going to university was I rather mucked up my chances. On the day I was due to take my biology O-Level I gave birth to Number One Daughter.

So, in 2007 and several careers later, I signed up for an honours degree with the Open University. I was working full time, but it was flexible work and I could fit my studies in around the freelance jobs. I just wanted to see if I could do it.

Mr Grigg was very supportive, although he did say he couldn't really understand why I was doing it but if it was what I wanted to do then do it I must.

Apart from one blip, in which I chucked in a very tedious history course, the girl seems to have done good. A clutch of good passes and two distinctions later, I am now waiting for the result of my final module in Myth in the Ancient Greek and Roman Worlds.

If I pass my end of course project, I'll be the proud owner of an honours degree in humanities with creative writing. It might sound a bit poncy but, hell, if it hadn't been for the creative writing bit of the course, this blog wouldn't exist. It gave me the confidence to think my writing might just be good enough for public consumption.

Now, holding on very tightly to my lucky amulet and making the odd sacrifice to The Enchanted Village gods, I am counting down the sleeps until I can log on to the Open University website and find my result shining out like the Pharos Lighthouse or striding precariously like the Colossus of Rhodes across the Lush Places square.

So I know the die has already been cast, but a few fingers crossed around the world would be very much appreciated.  I'll let you know how I get on.

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 ...