Back in the UK from Corfu for a week and it’s like we’ve never been away.
Mrs Bancroft mans the stocking filler stall at the Christmas bazaar in Lush Places village hall and the Parson’s Daughter, in Santa hat and baubles, reaches across and gives me a hug.
‘It’s so nice to see you,’ says Night Nurse, as the Loveliest Lady in the Village comes along and gives me a playful prod in the back.
Mrs Champagne-Charlie is the most wonderful hostess while her husband is on a big game hunt in the Black Forest (despite the jolly music, you honestly should never take a walk there). He is cross he has completely missed our grand homecoming. But there are cuddles galore from Pelly and Anakin Sheepwash, Mr Loggins and his wife, Darling, Nobby Odd-Job and then a fleeting visit from Mr Putter and the fragrant Mrs Putter, who still manages to smell fragrant even after a long-haul flight from Florida. I just want to bury my face in her neck and hair.
There is a card through the letter box from Camilla and Mr F Word, Mr St John has gone into long trousers, Mamma Mia is busy ironing in her conservatory and Celebrity Farmer roars by on a tractor, with the months ticking away before his betrothal.
Mr and Mrs Pope man the cake stall, the pub is full of diners and the shop in the village square is still closed.
And with Mr Grigg using the car to take his son to watch his football team, Bristol City, I decide to get a bus to My Kind of Town for (I am embarrassed to say) the first time ever. As we wait for it to arrive, I and two ladies have a nose as customers from the bazaar go past, loaded with cakes, raffle prizes they didn’t really want and bags full of home-made pasties for the freezer.
Along the way, I gaze from the windows on the beautiful countryside of West Dorset, my home for the past thirty years. It is a perfect, cold winter's day. The sky is blue and the light is magical.
When the bus finally rattles into town, I almost kiss the pavement as I alight outside the NatWest. I am happy to be home. I have to buy a woolly hat, though, to cover my freezing ears.
The next day when I go to get my hair cut in Beaminster, so troubled since the closure of the tunnel, a rainbow lurks over the town square. A symbol of hope, perhaps, for good times on the far horizon?
And then I see my children, the grandchildren, the siblings, the olds and the cats and Mr Grigg says to me: ‘You don’t want to go back to Corfu, do you?’ And it’s true, I don’t.
We touch down at Corfu in the rain and the place looks distant and dark as I press my face against the taxi window and see nothing but unfamiliar shadows and rain. And then we get to our kafenion, our little place in the village square.
The old men sit outside while the young men with the Agios Magikades haircut (a grown-out Mohican I call the Magi-kut) are engrossed in a card game with Spiros II, the waiter from our local taverna. On television, Panathinaikos and Tottenham Hotspur battle it out in the Europa League while the youngsters slap the cards down loudly on the marble topped-tables and yell ‘malakas’ at each other.
In ambles the double of Lush Places' own General Custer, an ageing rocker who wears double-denim and a hairstyle from the 1970s.
The ever-cheerful Dee-Dee, who runs this bar and the shop that goes with it, comes out from behind the counter, and hugs us. She has a radiant face which is infectious. We can't help but smile.
She hands us a box of cakes bought to mark the owner Nikos's name day and asks us to take our pick.
‘You are back. It is lovely to see you. And you look more beautiful than before. The trip has done you good.’
Spiros II (more of Spiros I in another blog) looks up over his red plastic spectacles and smiles.
‘Welcome, welcome.’ He nods and grins as he gets back to his playing cards. Kiki puts two filo pies into a bag 'on the house' for our breakfast.
I lay my woolly hat down on the table. Oh, it’s good to be home
That's about it.
Love Maddie x
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That's about it. Love Maddie x