Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Raise your glasses to winter

But for the sound of two crying seagulls, the air is still. There is a coldness to it, a coldness that signifies something is coming. Winter.

The gulls career around, circling above The Enchanted Village, far from their coastal home. A car trundles through and then there is quiet again. The shop blinds are down and the pub curtains are drawn. No-one is home.

White vapour trails, like the tails of mechanised comets, criss cross in the crisp, blue sky to make the sign of a kiss. There is hope on the horizon.

The Village Hall Arms is about to open for business.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Home is where the heart is

They say you should never go back. But for the past few weeks, I've had a yearning to go home, to revisit my roots. I don't know why. It's an odd feeling and I can't explain it. I've had Enchanted Village compassion fatigue for about the same time and I felt like running through a field and yelling at the top of my voice.

This weekend, I've done a bit of both but not at the same time. With the fragrant Mrs Putter, I belted out a few negro spirituals at a singing workshop run by my dear friend, Tuppence. I got my voice back.

And then today, Mr Grigg and I put the spaniels in the back of the Freeloader and headed across the county border into Somerset. It was only just over thirteen miles away but it felt like the Land Rover was a time machine as we went back to 1979.

And there I was, in the top field, the one called Bella's Nose, and then up into the wood with its Scots pine trees and then down again through Corn Close, where I learned to drive, and then to the farm where I was born.

I reconnected with the past.

And before going back to the car, we called in to see some of my relatives in the churchyard, as well as old school friends and people who I had just known and lived in this village. I hadn't said hello for a long time - aunts, uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents, niece. It was good to catch up.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Benjamin Button is alive and well and living in The Enchanted Village

The fragrant Mrs Putter sighs deeply as she inputs data on to a spreadsheet from the parish plan questionnaires.

(And this is before she gets to transcribing people's suggestions on alternative uses for village common - 'flood it and turn it into an ice skating rink, grass it over for polo or use it for dogging').

There is an intake of fresh breath as she pores over the forms and reads:

Question: What is your age range? 
Answer: 0-4 years.

Question: How long have you lived here? 
Answer: 65 years.

For a moment, Mrs Putter has visions of Benjamin Button hunched up in front of a log fire, dressed in a baby sleep suit and muttering scribble talk gibberish in between sucks on his dummy and a smoke on his pipe.

The Enchanted Village population is getting younger by the hour. There's youth dew in that parish pump.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Monday, 21 November 2011

It's all about me (again)

I have lots to blog about, but also lots to do, with three 4,000-word essays to write in the next four weeks plus some other university-related tasks that have to be done at the same time.

Oh, the joys of being a full-time MA classics and ancient history student when I also have a part-time job. However, that’s my choice, so no feeling sorry for myself here. There’s work to be done.

I am grateful, therefore, to Barbara, at the March House Books Blog, for, firstly, giving me an award and, secondly, for making me slow down and think about myself. I’m not usually one for these ‘meme’ things, but sometimes they can make you look at yourself in a slightly different way.

The requirements of receiving the Lovely Blog Award are:
1. To thank the giver and link back to his or her site.
2. Provide five random facts that folks may not know about you.
3. Pass this award on to five other lovely blog sites and let them know you're awarding them.
4. Copy the award logo and paste it onto your own site.

So here are my five random facts. Not sure if anyone is remotely interested, but it gives you a bit of an insight into the sort of person I am.
  1. I could happily eat nothing but roast parsnips.
  2. I love the smell of wallflowers.
  3. I can recite the opening lines of the 70s TV western Alias Smith and Jones without pausing for breath.
  4. My dad once drew around my Clarks sandal on the lead on our village church roof to go alongside the footprints of people from hundreds of years ago who had done the same.
  5. This video clip made me nearly wet myself:

And here are the other five bloggers to whom I am sending this award: friends, former colleagues and a self-confessed loafer:

Chips Ahoy
A Curious Girl's Guide to Life
House With No Name
Sally's Carcassone

They'll hate me for it , but tough, someone had to receive it. And I think the award logo will look particularly fetching on the first and last blogs.

I was also nominated for another little blog award a while back, but now can’t find the original comment or email. So if it was from you, please don’t take my lack of response personally. I have a head like a sieve.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The bells, the bells

Just when I think there is not much for me to write about if ever I did get round to doing the autobiography, two things happen.

After a nice Sunday lunch of local hoggett, we sit down on the expansive Champagne-Charlie sofas and hear the Remembrance Sunday bells ringing outside.

'You have to come outside and listen to these,' I say. 'They're half muffled.'

Mr Champagne-Charlie comes out like a shot but his wife, Bubble, and Pelly Sheepwash take a little persuading, until Mr Grigg explains how for years he has been going up in the bell tower, fastening the little leather mufflers to the clappers on the bells each Remembrance Sunday.

In deference to his annual bravery, they come out with me to listen. The bells peal in rounds, clittery-clattery loud and then a perfect muffled echo. The bells are yelling to each other and whispering back. It is a conversation worth listening to.

And then the ringers get into a sequence called Whittington: 'Turn again Whittington, turn again Whittington...' and the muffled peal echoes its response from another century ago. It is a wonderful sound, and one that connects the listener to hundreds of years gone by.

And when we go back into the house, I walk backwards to the roaring fire in the woodburner, my skirts held high to warm my bottom. I become my favourite aunt who made a habit of making an entrance in cape and swirling dress and then backing up the fire to heat up her best asset. God bless you, Auntie Marj.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Friday, 11 November 2011

Where are you now, you North Somerset Yeomen?

Where are you now, you North Somerset Yeomen,
Who came, swift to answer your country's appeal,
To pit your raw strength 'gainst the might of the foemen,
To give shot for shot, to oppose steel to steel?

You came, not for gain, for reward or for glory,
And little you heeded where duty's path led;
You wrote your full page in our England's proud story,
Thanked God for your victories, and mourned for your dead.

For some lie near Ypres, beneath the clay sleeping;
They suffered, they died, but no inch would they yield,
And dull leaden skies up above them are weeping,
For them, as they lie 'neath the battle scarred field.

And all up and down where the old trench-line wandered,
The plain wooden crosses their message proclaim;
Yet no man may say that their young lives were squandered-
They died for this England; they rest in their fame.

Where are you now, you North Somerset Yeomen,
Bred to the ploughtail, the desk or the mine?
You gave of your best, did your duty, and no men
Can beat your proud record, your glory outshine.

You fought and you died, you were wounded and shattered;
You stuck to it grimly, till Peace came at last,
And now, on the face of the earth you are scattered,
Till nothing remains but the ghosts of the past.

The ghosts of the past - in the mists of tradition,
The actors depart, but their exploits remain;
But still the old Regiment retains her position - 
She'd do it, if need be, all over again!

William Percy Withers 1894-1970 (my grandfather)

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Always remember

And at eleven o'clock on the eleventh of the eleventh of the eleventh, Mr Grigg and I stood in silence outside the church.

I could hear the cawing of rooks overhead, the sound of gunfire in the towns beyond the hills as everyone else's two-minute silence began and ended at different times.

And I thought of my grandfathers, brave old souls, giving it all in the war to end all wars, with my maternal grandfather stopping every now and then to write a poem about it. I thought of my paternal grandfather's best friend, killed in France and lying in the British ceremony at Courcelette, a fact we discovered only through the marvels of internet research a year or so ago.

And I thought of Mr Grigg's uncle, killed on HMS Glorious by the German battleship Scharnhorst in World War II, never to know his nephews, one of whom was named after him. Similar stories repeated to this day,widows and orphans made from the Falklands, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.

And I thought back further to the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685, when ancestors on both my parents' sides joined their Westcountry comrades to fight against the king's men.

Such sacrifice, such loss. Heads bowed in silence all over the world.

And there on a church tower, a union flag unfurls in the breeze, a gargoyle winks and glints in the sun.


That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

A region in mourning

So much to write about, so much to say. But the inclination is not there. Not at the moment.

We are a region in mourning after Friday evening's terrible pile-up on the motorway near Taunton, which claimed seven lives in a fireball and left many more injured.

It is a junction people around here know very well. It's our pathway to Bristol and beyond. We know the rugby club, too, next door, where it is now being suggested that thick black smoke from a fireworks display descended without warning, blinding drivers and causing this dreadful crash.

But we don't know what really happened, it is all speculation. We only know that it is terrible and, with the speed that some people drive at, barely leaving enough stopping space between them and the vehicle in front, we are surprised it doesn't happen more often.

Our thoughts go out to all those affected by this horrible, horrible accident.

More from me later in the week, when I will describe Mr Grigg's journey through Beaminster in a cattle truck and our hopes about who might be among the people carrying next year's Olympic flame.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Novel writing, blog posting and moustaches

November is a strange time of year. We've really said goodbye to the summer and we're on the quick, quick, military two-step march to Christmas. Already, in houses, and possibly mud huts, across the land there are discussions about where each one of us will be spending the festive season.

Children far too young are demanding presents that are far-too-old for them and materialistic parents are going along with it. Meanwhile, in far-flung corners of the world, children will be happy to receive a shoe box full of bits and bobs which have been filled for them by their more affluent cousins from the western nations. The true spirit of Christmas, in my humble opinion.

Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas, I love it to bits. I'm from a big family and I love giving and receiving presents (and giving most of all). But children get far more joy from simple things or time spent with them than the latest must-have toy or gadget they have been conned into wanting by adverts or over-indulgent parents.

However, I digress. There are several things happening in November.

There is National Novel Writing Month – or NaNoWriMo for acronym fans. I tried it once but I don't think I got away with it. Fifty thousand words of complete rubbish. Although I can sort of see the point in it. It certainly gets you in the writing habit for at least 30 days.

And now there is NaBloPoMo, a challenge for bloggers everywhere to write a blog post every day for a month. Now, I'm sorry, and there is an old colleague who is currently doing this (I admire her and her blog, which was shortlisted for the Cosmopolitan magazine blog of the year awards), but what is the point in this event? I find it self-indulgent inflicting my blog on people twice a week, let alone every day.

But there is another thing in November. And it's Movember. Yay! When men all over the world grow moustaches for money to give to cancer charities.

I have just signed up Mr Grigg for this challenge. Others have a three-day head start, but I am sure he can do it. He used to sport the most delicious moustache ever. You could jump in it, play hide and seek in it, kiss chase even or use it as a pair of stage curtains and make an entrance. But a few years ago, someone persuaded him he'd look younger if he shaved it off. And ever since, I have been trying to get him to grow it back.

I like the Tom Selleck look.
Hey, even Peter Bowles ( Mr Grigg was once told he looked like this very British of actors) has a certain something. I saw him on an underground train in London a month ago and he looked very handsome and dapper. He must be at least 107.

And it's hard to beat a Salvador Dali moustache.

So, thanks to Movember, when men everywhere grow a moustache and it's all for a good cause, I am getting the old Mr Grigg back. I can't wait.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Up in the air and down

Bored with your job? Hop on over to Real West Dorset for my latest Lush Places blog. It's not all bad.

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 ...