Monday, 27 February 2012

Super Sad True Love Story

I was reading my Kindle and was about seven percent of my way through the novel.

'I talked her out of her pants, cupped the twin, tiny globes of her *** with my palms, and pushed my lips right inside her soft, vital *****.'

Christ. I zapped the Kindle a few more random pages more:

'I am so sick of making out with girls.'

Oh, please no, please no. Not my choice for Book Club.

I could imagine in front rooms throughout The Enchanted Village, Mrs Bancroft choking on her melba toast or Mrs Champagne-Charlie spluttering on her gin and tonic. Pelly Sheepwash would be tut-tutting, Darling Loggins would be in bed with her nightie laced up to the neck and, over in the Caribbean, the fragrant Mrs Putter would be chuckling on a sunbed on her 18 to 70 holiday, with Mr Putter coming out of the sea in snorkel and flippers like Sean Connery in Dr No.

And the lovely Mabel Lucie-Attwell would be quite stern, a look I have never seen her wearing before.

It had to happen to someone. But why me? Why did I have to choose Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart?

Because it's had great reviews. And anything imaginative pushes my buttons. And the point of the book club, I told myself, is to stretch ourselves, to read things we might not normally read, to shift ourselves from our comfort zones. It did that all right. With some books, you're wrapped in a comfy sofa cloud. With this one, it was like sitting on razor wire.

But I ploughed on and tried to forget about what my ladies might think. And then I got to a point where I cared about poor Lenny and Eunice and their love story in a dystopian New York, set slightly in the future. An America in hock to China, where youth and credit ratings are valued above all else, where everyone talks to and finds out about each other via their electronic devices, a debased society where women dress in sheer leggings called Onionskins with everything splayed out for all to see.

I recalled some obscene conversations I had seen written by younger Facebook friends and their suggestive photos. I thought about little girls dressed up like mini-mes, old before their time. The characters in Super Sad True Love Story, desensitized to shocks, weren't so far fetched after all. A shallow society based on what people look like. A Great Gatsby for the new age.

And in this sad vision of the world ahead of us, there were moments of poetry, moments of beauty and rhythm, especially when Lenny describes the landscape and his hopeless hopes for the future:

'Gray clouds bearing some kind of industrial remnant moved into the foreground; a yellow substance etched itself into the horizon, became the horizon, became the night. As the sky darkened, we found ourselves enclosed on three sides by the excess of civilization, yet the ground beneath our feet was soft and green, and behind us lay a hill bearing trees as small as ponies. We walked in silence, as I sniffed the sharp, fruity facial creams that Eunice wore to fight off old age, mixed in with just a hint of something alive and corporeal. Multiple universes tempted me with their existence. Like the immutability of God or the survival of the soul, I knew they would prove a mirage, but still I grasped for belief. Because I believed in her.'

What could have been an American Nightmare had remnants of the American Dream, a tiny element of hope in a world that time would have been better to forget.

So, with head held high, I beat on against the current down to Pelly Sheepwash's house and the hard time I knew I was going to get. Because I had not chosen wisely. But I had chosen and, for me, that was good enough.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Amphibian alert

Something slinky crosses the road ahead. But at this time of year? The special signs haven't even gone up yet.

But it's not hopping and it's too small to be a toad, too long to be a frog. It's walking a bit weirdly and then picks up speed as my car gets closer. It's a bit like a weasel but it isn't. It's shiny and it's tiny.

And then the punchlines of several jokes come into my head just as I am about to almost run the tiny thing over.

It gets faster the closer I get. But it's not tiny, it's minute.

Lordy, lordy, that's it. A newt.

I drive past, wincing as I go over the spot. I look in my rear view mirror. Nothing. It's reached the safety of the other side of the road.

Newt's first law of motion: when you see a car approaching, leg it quick.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

'Oh please don

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Last orders at the Village Hall Arms

And so the Village Hall Arms calls time for the last time. The beer barrel is empty, there are red wine stains on the floor, a table tennis bat is broken and, in the morning, at least two ladies will be nursing hangovers the size of Devon.

Mr Grigg gives a little speech and then I climb above the hubbub to give a little speech of my own.

'I'd like to thank Mr Grigg for organising these community bar sessions,' I say, to a big round of applause.

'And I'd like to welcome our new publicans. But most of all, I'm glad this is the last session. It means I've got my husband back.'

'I think he deserves some sort of award,' Mr Champagne-Charlie mutters. 'I'll see if I can have a little word in the right ear.'

This, coming from the man whose new best friend is featured on the front page of the Daily Telegraph's weekend supplement, our very own Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius.

But there is no rest for the wicked. We are now plotting our jubilee celebrations, with me in charge of entertainment on a great big stage we will put up in the square. Ding Dong Daddy is letting me loose on his decks and there will be a guest appearance, we hope, from the village's new band, as yet unnamed, featuring Mr Prayer and our former shopkeeper on guitars.

And if you happen to be passing, you just might hear them practising House of the Rising Sun in an upstairs bedroom above the empty shop.

The shop might be closed but the square certainly isn't.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Nothing but blue skies

It's been raining hard here today. 

But not in my picture library, from which I've pulled these shots of blue skies.

Colleton Crescent, Exeter. 
Terrier racing, Yarcombe, Devon.
 The field above The Enchanted Village.
The Wills Building, Bristol University.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 16 February 2012

A love letter to our local

As regular readers of this blog will know, The Enchanted Village pub has been closed for a fair few months.

And oh, how we've missed it.

If you hop across to Real West Dorset, you'll see the poem penned by villagers when it was closed. Each of us contributed a line or two. I hope you enjoy it. We certainly enjoyed writing it.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

There is a milky sunrise this morning and a heart-shaped hole in the clouds where the sun should be.

Looking out across the horizon to our own twin peaks and Dorset's highest points, I am sure I can see Bluebell Hill blowing kisses to that lofty and normally aloof Flat-Top Pen. It's Valentine's Day and even the landscape is loved up.

Back at home, Mr Grigg looks at me admiringly.

'You look very smart,' he says.

'Not too smart though?' I say, peering down at my White Stuff skirt, Monsoon cardigan from the charity shop and a pair of cut-price, brown suede Clarks boots, complete with high wedges and zipped up to my knees.

'No,' he says. 'And you've got those boots on. I like those boots. They're like the sort of boots you might see naughty ladies wearing.'

I pull the spectacles down from the top of my head and put them on, looking at him in a very stern Grigg way.

'And I just love you in those glasses.'

It's too much. I head for work, thinking about our evening in, with a £20 Marks and Spencer special Valentine's Day meal and then curled up by the fire watching Sleepless in Seattle.

We know how to live.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Where did you get that hat?

I proudly show off the new hat Mr Grigg bought me for dog walking. It's pink tweed and lined with grey fake-fur and, more importantly, has the most wonderful ear flaps to keep my lugholes warm.

'That's nothing,' Mr Champage-Charlie says, running to the cupboard under the stairs.

'Oh, Charles,' his wife, Bubble, says. 'Please don't.'

She leans forward, in that conspiratorial Delia-Smith-meets-clear-skinned-pixie way of hers, and explains what Champagne-Charlie is about to model for us. It came from a place in Poland with a name I can't pronounce.

'Wear the fox hat,' Mr Grigg says, as Mr Champage-Charlie comes in with the most hideous fur bonce cover you have ever seen.

'I am,' he says, under a bright red and bushy creation, his nose poking out like a Reynard snout. 'Do you like it?' just as Bubble says: 'I told you where it's from,  it's a town in Poland.'

It could only happen here.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Some things are worth fighting for

I am using the blog today as a little bit of propaganda. It's not something I'd usually do, but it's my blog, so I guess I can do what I want.

There is a plan to redevelop an old industrial estate in My Kind of Town into a massive housing development. It's sparked a lot of controversy, not least because of the jobs that will be lost to make way for shiny new homes. It will also mean a newly-emerged artistic and vintage quarter will be wiped out quicker than you can say restoration, restoration, restoration.

This is the gist of the objection I've just submitted. It's an emotional response but I make no apologies for that. My US and Canadian readers might not be interested but, on the other hand, they are people with good hearts so they just might. So here goes:

I've known Bridport for thirty years and St Michael's trading estate has always been a thriving place for creative enterprise. The look of it hasn’t changed much in that time either.

Back then there were auction rooms, car repairers, award winning drag racing cars made as a hobby by Number One Son's father and a salon set up by my hairdresser. It was shabby but it was useful. And some lovely, lovely buildings that are part of the town's industrial heritage.

And still the estate is shabby. But it’s chic. It has a thriving art quarter. The area attracts a huge deal of interest and visitors. It’s become a sort of fingerless glove attached to one of Bridport’s hands.

Developing the so-called ‘south west quadrant’ has been talked about for years and the plans have been a long time coming. And now they’re here.

Bridport is quirky, arty, bohemian and the art quarter fits, alongside small businesses that have been on the estate for years.

YouTube: Bridport Video

What doesn’t fit is a massive housing development, the tidying up and gentrification of Bridport which will lead to an influx of people who will gaze at the Looking Back page of the local newspaper in years to come and say ‘oh, so that’s what it used to be like’.

As a former editor of that paper, I have seen how Bridport has changed over the years. Not necessarily all for the better, but what is evident now is there is a new vibrancy, a new creative energy, that has emerged in recent years. You can see it in the independent shops, you can see it in the arts centre, the Electric Palace and the newly-revamped town hall. It’s the Spirit of Bridport shining through and so typified by the St Michael’s artistic quarter. It’s Bridport’s Monmartre!

Detail from the Spirit of Bridport: Bridport Town Council

Fra Newbery was one of the town’s best known artists who painted the beautiful Spirit of Bridport. He strove ‘to make art more readily available to a wider public, attempting to relate it to their daily lives and to celebrate the traditions of the specific localities in which the works were sited’. (And, ironically, on the day I write this, the Fra Newbery website is just about to be taken down for a lack of funding).

Heritage is worth saving. It really is.

But is it a planning consideration? As well as loss of employment, impact on local amenity and infrastructure, traffic and access, inappropriate development, I think the planners should look at the effect this new housing estate will have on Bridport as a whole. You can’t just look it as bricks and mortar. It goes wider, deeper than the aesthetics of the new properties.

And, as bricks and mortar go, do we really need all these new houses? There is a chronic shortage of affordable housing in Bridport. This is what we should be focusing on, in areas where it can work around the town. We need more shared ownership homes for young people to get a foot on the ladder, more homes for social rent. And not just tagged on to the grotty end of a swanky development.

As councillors elected by us, the people, to make decisions on our behalf, they should do the right thing. It’s not just a bunch of arty farty people who live on trustafarian handouts from rich relatives and the sale of the occasional painting. All sorts of people in the town and beyond are very unhappy about this application which will strip Bridport of much of her spirit.

Please help us to save what we have left. Especially when it’s doing so well.

If you want to have your say before tomorrow's deadline, click here to make your comment. If you want to know more, take a look at the campaign group's Facebook page.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

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