Sunday, 29 July 2012

Something nasty in the middle field

This village gets weirder by the minute. 

Not content with scaring the granddaughter by letting her watch the witch scene from Snow White just before bedtime and then act surprised when she has a nightmare, Mr Grigg takes me on an afternoon stroll up to Bluebell Hill.

 I gaze out over the gate at the lush views beyond.

I look out across the maize, which is shining in the sun.

And then I turn around again. I'm in the film Donnie Darko.

Don't ask.

The only consolation is that little grandchildren legs could never have climbed this far. I won't sleep for weeks.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Friday, 27 July 2012

Running rings around the Olympics

So who will be lighting up the torch tonight?
The union jack bunting is rather tattered now, as it flips and flaps against the drainpipes and fascia boards of The Enchanted Village.

We've kept it up for the Olympics, which start officially this evening.

Whether you like sport or not, you can't escape it. Not even here in Lush Places, where the Olympic bells are ringing at twelve minutes past eight this morning. (My feature writing friend on the Dorset Echo is trying to work the word 'bongtastic' into her colour piece.) Just down the road, the people of Weymouth and Portland are gearing up to go bananas tonight as the Olympic sailing events get underway.

And our own Mrs Bancroft, my sweet neighbour who is as dear to me as a big sister, is working flat out over the next fortnight in her 'meet and greet' gear as a volunteer in the Olympic park. Thank God she managed to get into the trousers again after the final fitting a few weeks ago.

There is much speculation across the country about the identity of the person who will light the Olympic cauldron. Will it be rowing legend Sir Steve Redgrave? Or maybe decathlete Daley Thompson, our tour de force, Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins or The Queen in her diamond jubilee year? Or maybe Sir Roger Bannister, who deserves four more minutes of fame.

Personally, I'd like to see Sir Geoff Hurst do the honours. Not an Olympian but a Titan when it comes to sporting greats. I had a crush on him when I was four.

For Zeus sake, I really hope it's not Beckham.

The Olympic spirit is alive and well. It's the sound of a handbell rung frantically by an elderly woman alongside the old school house. It's a race on the village green by a group of children. It's cyclists roaring round our one-way system and pretending it's the velodrome. It's a sense of unity, national pride (although our team should really be called Team UK rather than Team GB) and belief.

There are children now who will be so inspired by the 2012 games that they, too, will be Olympians in years to come. So, Number One Grand-daughter, keep up the good work with the martial arts training. You might have only just had your seventh birthday but, in twelve years' time, it could be you up there on the podium.

Dreams can come true. You just have to believe.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Friday, 20 July 2012

Fifty shades of Grigg

So there we were, Mrs Bubbles Champagne-Charlie, Mrs Bancroft and me, sitting at the bar, swinging our legs from the stools while the men talked about the Olympics.

As their chatter got on to the women's volleyball team (yawn), I decided to pep up the ladies' conversation by asking their thoughts on Fifty Shades of Grey. Not that it's on The Enchanted Village's book club list but we've all read it anyway.

Champagne-Charlie's ears pricked up immediately.

'Fifty Shades...that's not the mucky book Bubbles has been reading?' he said.

Mr Grigg snorted. 'Maddie said she'd read me extracts of that on holiday but she never did. I was most disappointed.'

'That's because it was rubbish,' I said, having read Erica Jong's Fear of Flying at an impressionable age. (Fifty Shades hurt my feminist bone. And not in a good way).

'Rubbish?' said Mrs Bancroft. 'It was like a sexed-up Mills and Boon.'

'But it was quite erotic,' she and Bubbles agreed.

'Erotic?' I scoffed. 'It was awful. I had to flick through the sex bits to get to what happened next. I found it rather dull.'

'Oh Maddie, you're such a prude,'  Bubbles said. She does condescending very well. Mrs Bancroft sniggered. Both of them, laughing at me. Like teenagers when their eight-year-old sister asks the meaning of a rude word.

Flustered, I said the first thing that came into my head. That'll shut them up, I thought.

'I'm not a prude,' I said. 'It's just that it's all a bit old hat really. I mean, I've done all those things in the book, anyway. All you need is a green hornet vibrator and a pair of manacles and anyone can do it.'

Mr Grigg almost choked on his cider. The ginger wig blew up the street like tumbleweed, the church clock struck thirteen and faces all around the pub - especially in Compost Corner - froze in time.

I was right. It did shut them up.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 14 July 2012

My big fat Greek gap year

I’m fifty, with a good job, a lovely home, fabulous friends, neighbours and grown-up children and some gorgeous grandchildren. 

And Lush Places, this magical corner of Dorset where I live, is the lushest place you could ever imagine. Those of you who have called in on my blog over the past five years can vouch for that.

From our front door we can walk up through the fields to the highest point in the county. We can look out and breathe in this beautiful landscape which envelops us like a cosy blanket. It’s familiar and it’s gorgeous.

It’s our life.

I should be counting my blessings and rejoicing in everything around me. So what am I doing? Mr Grigg is retiring, I’m giving up the day job, we’re going to let our home in Lush Places and rent a house on the island of Corfu. We're taking the plunge and going on a grown-up gap year in September. 

My Big Fat Greek Gap Year.

For I’ve become exhausted by the demands of living in The Enchanted Village, where the two of us have somehow ended up having more pies than fingers to put in them, cheerfully suggesting this, that and the other and then rolling up our sleeves and getting on with it with an army of willing accomplices.

So we are giving it up, just for a year. I don’t want to fall out of love with Lush Places. We just need a break.

And I’d like you to join me on this journey, this adventure, this descent into the labyrinth as I struggle to differentiate between calimera and calimari and flit around in flimsy white cotton (like a Greek goddess, perhaps), get my muse fired on all cylinders and try to finish the novel.

Mr Grigg, meanwhile, will be learning how to play backgammon or pose with his pals on a suitable bench.

He’ll need something to do in the winter evenings. With Metaxa Mikey, Mr Ouzo and Kostas Kumquat in our new enchanted village. We just haven't met them yet.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Down came the rain

There are loads of sirens all over the village.

Mr Grigg is tied to the mast
Emergency vehicles are tearing around. There are floods everywhere, the rain is lashing down like stair-rods and the wind blew my Union Jack umbrella inside out. I wish I was back in Greece.

In the pub, the landlord sits behind the bar, wedged into a small stepladder, his face level with the pumps. He is listening to the talk in Compost Corner, which turns to Nobby Odd-Job and his miraculous recovery after his heart stopped for forty minutes on the operating table.

He was instantly put on ice and was woken four days later. He squeezed his partner's hand but didn't register her presence. The next day, though, Posh Totty poked her head around the door and Nobby woke up like Sleeping Beauty and gazed lovingly into those piercing blue eyes. The village ladies are furious. It should have been them.

However, we are pleased he is making good progress. Especially when the church flag was flying at half-mast because the tower keeper got it stuck in the pole.

There is a new addition to Compost Corner. MDF man, considered by us girls to be the local eye candy, has joined the ranks.

There is a hearty discussion about trees and what wood makes the best swannee whistles (sycamore, apparently) and an idea forms in my head that these craftsmen could host a workshop with the village children sometime next year.

'It's at its best in May,' says one of them. 'That's when the sap is rising.'

There are sniggers all round.

And today, in the rain, there is nothing to do. Except 'foldyurkin'. Cue Benny Hill-type sniggers from Mr Grigg and a resounding: 'Ya!'

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Use it or lose it

Back home and the pub is full. We just about manage to squeeze on to a table for two after booking by phone on our way back from the airport earlier in the day. We've quickly learned that if we want to eat in our pub, we need to book beforehand.

The Pub Landlord makes a face through the window of the kitchen door and I retaliate from the safety of a bar stool by drawing a 'heart' sign in the air to embarrass him. I once had an onion ring with my steak which I swear was shaped like a heart. I haven't stopped going on about it since.

(In Greece,  my garlic mash arranged was deliberately arranged in a heart shape. Oh those romantic Mediterraneans...)

'He's told me to wind you up,' says the barmaid. 'Something about chicken fajitas being really complicated. But I couldn't do that, it wouldn't be fair.'

And then when the Pub Landlady clears away, she says: 'The Pub Landlord wanted me to tell you he was really cross with you about your order. But I couldn't do that, because he wasn't.'

As the talk in the part of the bar we call Compost Corner turns to texting - 'I'd rather go and do some roofing than send a  text' - the Pub Landlord comes out and welcomes us home from our holidays.

Since we've been away, one of our dear blog characters has been gravely ill but appears to be making a miraculous recovery (we lit a candle for him in a Greek church) and Celebrity Farmer has got engaged. Other than that, life has plodded on as normal.

The pub's been busy, The Pub Landlord says, but they could do with more people coming in at lunchtimes. Or just more local people coming in for a drink anytime.

As the talk in Compost Corner turns to the internet - 'new fangled stuff, can't get on wi' that' - the Pub Landlord says: 'It's probably about ten per cent local trade.'

Yet if it was facing closure again, the other ninety per cent would be ranting and raging.

Let's hope the new shop, when it opens, will be well supported by all those who've said they miss it.

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...