Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The square shows signs of life

The excitement is too much.  There are lights on in the pub and a fish and chip van's just pulled up outside the village green.

A queue of people has built up in anticipation. The enterprising chippie chap put round a flyer during the afternoon: cod and chips for £4.50. Crikey, they're even doing curry sauce and mushy peas. Shame I already have a baked potato in the oven.

And at the pub, our new licensees settle into their new home before throwing open their doors in a few weeks' time.

Down the road, someone on the estate-of-bungalows tests out their new searchlight torch, throwing a white beam across the sky and hitting the constellation of Orion like a lightsaber slicing through a storm trooper.

A quarter moon promises bigger things to come as February comes into view. The village is on Twitter, it has its own Facebook page and there is soon to be a community website.

And the village hall arms opens up on Friday for the penultimate time before our pub sets sail on a new journey, with the Enchanted Villagers as crew and mine hosts at the helm.

The village is coming out of hibernation. Baby it's cold outside. But who cares, the Enchanted Village is coming back to life.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Bridport by Night

Thirty years ago, when I was twenty, I went with my mum and my young daughter to take a look at Bridport, where I was about to start a new job as a reporter on the local paper. It was only twenty miles from the place I was born, but I didn't know it at all.

We walked up to the top of the windswept East Cliff and looked around us, my blonde little girl covering her eyes because she didn't want her photo taken. It was wonderful, and I fell in love with the place immediately.

It's a love affair that has continued  ever since. I was privileged through my job to get to know the  place and its people very well. I even wrote a book about it, which became a bestseller, if only in the local area.

Even now, living in the hinterland, I get anxiety attacks if I don't have a Bridport fix every now and then. It's My Kind of Town.

So I was thrilled to see this film posted on YouTube by a young Twitter friend, who obviously feels the same. Stand up and take a bow, Stephen Banks, you've captured the magical spirit of Bridport beautifully.

It's taken the local Twitter and Facebook world by storm. So I thought I'd share it with you.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Friday, 27 January 2012

Good news on the horizon

There's a rat-a-tat-tat coming from the trees across the valley, the sound of a woodpecker doing whatever it is that woodpeckers do. The fluffy clouds are tinged with pink and the outlines of two of Dorset's highest points, Pilsdon and Lewesdon - known by sailors and locals as The Cow and The Calf - are sharp and clear against the morning sky.

It is cold and bright and we might have snow.

But, spring is tucking its dress in its knickers and is ready to emerge from around the corner. It is beaming like a favourite child splashing through a few puddles before reaching our outstretched arms.

The Enchanted Village is turning its own corner towards a brighter future.

Next month, we will have new publicans in our village pub, several months after it imploded. Its closure left a hole in the magic pentacle that is our five-road village square, which had already suffered the loss of our shop.

We desperately want someone to come and buy the shop. We want the heart of our village back. We also want our former shopkeeper to be able to live his life, happily, away from sad memories. We can't afford what he wants for it, and we really hope someone will come along and take it over. We will support them: this village is nothing if not supportive and willing.

But in the meantime, the answer, it seems, lies in a portable shop building in the grounds of the village hall. It's worked elsewhere, so why not here?

But our ultimate aim must be to crank up those ley lines, the intersections of which are said by the pseudoscientists to be a mystical energy source. In moments of whimsy, I like to think this community draws its great strength from the ley lines that cross the village square.

We need our beating heart back.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 22 January 2012

The enchanted wood

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was a child in a meadow with a woodland circle of beech trees around me. And there was clover growing in the field. Three leaf, four leaf and six leaf. A magical spot.

I went back to those woods today, with my Midsummer's Eve grandchild and friend Pelly Sheepwash.

And this is what we found.

And behind each door, there were little offerings. Pine cones, bits of shell, toy figures, notepad and pen and tinsel.

What a lovely idea.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Writer's cramp

In the summer of 2007 I reinvented myself.

I was tired of being pigeon-holed under the name I usually went by. I wanted to break free from the personal straitjacket of a locally high profile job I'd had for five years. So I took the first name of my maternal grandmother and married it to the maiden surname of my maternal grandmother.

And so Maddie Grigg was born. I liked her a lot. She was a bit kooky, a wild romantic who lapped up the world around her and with a fine eye for detail, the amusing and the amazing. She was my online self, the real me behind that other, duller person. A rural Bridget Jones and not as fat.

The irony is that the Grigg side of me comes from a long line of recluses, three of whom to this day live in separate corners of the same Somerset field. It's as if my assertive granny (Maddie) has kicked my shy granny into action.

One of Maddie's poems was shortlisted in the prestigious Bridport Prize competition, her blog was chosen as a Blog of Note (just look at the editor's comments on Real West Dorset) and she had a piece in the Guardian, which prompted a pedantic correction (honestly, their sub-editor told me to use the word epicentre in this context. The BBC do it all the time).

And then Mrs Champagne-Charlie's scriptwriter daughter pleaded with Maddie to send her some material from the blog. She was going to knock it up into a film just crying out to be made for Ray Winstone and Joely Richardson in the leading roles.

And then a story about Maddie's grandfather won the People and Land writing competition in the Marshwood Vale Magazine. And a piece of Maddie's prose was selected for a forthcoming book, Dorset Voices.

Maddie was on fire.

And do you know what happened when she sent the first thirty pages of a book based on this blog to three agents? A polite but immediate rejection from Conville & Walsh and no reply from the others.

And what happened when she emailed Winstone's production company with a great idea for a Sunday prime time television series? Nothing.

And then Mr Grigg said: 'Do you think there comes a time when you should perhaps give up writing? After all, you are fifty. You haven't written a best seller yet.'

'I have,' I said. 'I just haven't sold it yet.'

And then Mr Grigg started his own blog.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Friday, 13 January 2012

Thursday, 12 January 2012

The pub is back in business

That communal poem did the trick. Within hours of tracking it down (it had been taken home by Mr Prayer's wife to be typed up), news has filtered through from the brewery that new tenants will be moving in during February.

So, hurrah, we're getting our pub back. Next mission? Re-opening the village shop.

Those energetic ley lines crossing The Enchanted Village square don't stay quiet for long.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 7 January 2012

The case of the vanishing poem

As I write, the hunt has just left the village square after its annual meet hosted by Mr and Mrs Champagne-Charlie. Mr Grigg holds a whisky mac while shovelling up horse manure with the other hand and puts it on my roses.

The fragrant Mrs Putter and Mrs Bancroft dodge the back ends of horses to take around sausage rolls and dainty sandwiches to the assembled throng. Mostly, the riders are polite, but there are an ill mannered few who seem rather sniffy.

The Sheepwashes are notable by their absence and I justify my attendance by recording the event with my camera from the window.  I'm not a hunt fan, despite being a farmer's daughter brought up in south Somerset. Conversely, though, I did not approve of the hunting ban, which was imposed on the countryside by an urban government.

Today is a chance for the village to socialise in the open air, watching the horses, riders and hounds and partake in light refreshment.  Since our pub closed in September, we grab any chance to have a natter.

Like last night, when the performance poet Matt Harvey gave a very engaging show in the village hall. Part of the evening consisted of the audience coming up with lines of poetry on the subject of the village pub. Mr Prayer stuck the lines together with the help of two able assistants.

There were some classic lines: One landlord, with more than just an eye for the ladies and then the next one, who was as cold as Hades and The village pub isn't closed, it's under the table with my husband. And one I especially liked (because I wrote it): A glass of warm Chardonnay from a fridge too far.

The resulting poem was a lovesong to our local and we want it back - that's the pub and the poem. Because the latter has also disappeared.

Apparently, a lady in a blue jumper took the poem for the parish magazine. But the parish magazine editor was there and knew nothing about it. Lordy, lordy, such intrigue.

But we would like it back, please, that love song to our local, so we can present it to the brewery and ask them to get a move on.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Back to school blues

Bubbling, babbling children at the bus stop, a red sky overhead as they wait for the school bus. Back-to-school children, the young ones tearing up and down and doing aeroplane impressions with coats for wings.

Cut to the doctor's waiting room, full of people with coughs and sniffles.

'Hello,' says one. 'How are you?'

'I'm fine,' says another, automatically, before quickly adding, 'well, apart from this stinking cold.'

And the receptionists all across the land tighten their lips in sarcastic unison behind their counters. Oh, they've heard it all before, thank you very much. We will sympathise only if you're really ill. And only then if you get down on your hands and knees. We know best, doctor.

Oh the joys of January.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Blowing in the wind

The wind roars through the beech trees, buffeting and tossing everything in its path. Those trees, those old, old trees sway like ancient dancers at a primeval feast.

In the early morning darkness, only the lights of the housing association houses and a smattering of others - including ours - are on, as I make my way around the field with two dogs and a torch before getting ready for work. Elsewhere, the newly-retired and long-retired slumber in their beds.

A solitary figure in a dressing gown tiptoes out of a door, looking left and right before the clattering of bottles put out for the recycling is heard across the street. It is Mrs Bancroft, and she's going back to bed.

My two reluctant spaniels perk up when they pick up the scent of a short-sighted badger which snuffles and snorts across the field and bangs into a fence post as it makes its getaway.

On the road, there might be trees fallen down and plenty of surface water as white van man and commuters like me make for the bright lights of Dorchester.

Tonight I will play host to Book Club where seven of us will sit around the dinner table with stuffed peppers and trifle left over from new year's eve to discuss To The End of the Land, a very long tome put forward by the delightful Mr Mabel Lucie Attwell. My ladies will wax lyrical and leave me behind as I still haven't finished it.

Meanwhile, the men will pursue their own pursuits, with supper at a nearby pub where, if they've booked, they might have a community haircut at the same time. That's the kind of pub I like.

It seems an age ago since we celebrated new year's eve, dressed to kill. Mr Grigg went as Wyatt Earp, his Movember moustache put to good use. There was the fragrant Mrs Putter as the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, complete with Chrissie Hynde wig and nose ring and Mr Putter following closely behind dressed as 007.

There were the Sheepwashes as The Avengers, Mrs Champagne-Charlie in a safari outfit and Mr Champagne-Charlie as himself, complete with tweed plus fours and live ammunition.

I had wanted to go as Medusa, with snakes in my hair and an icy stare, but Mr Grigg forced me to go as a suicide bomber instead, strapping cardboard tubes from the turkey foil, wire and my alarm clock around my waist.

At midnight, we went into The Enchanted Village square to meet revellers from a wig-wearing party at the village hall, gathering to kiss each other and do Auld Lang Syne. The numbers in the square were depleted because the pub is closed. Which is probably just as well because at midnight my alarm went off.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

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