Friday, 28 February 2014

The Greek odyssey sets sail once more

‘Shit happens’ it says in a heart drawn in indelible pink ink at the back of the teenage shelter in Lush Places.

And then we’re off, off on a train, the Megatrain to London from Yeovil Junction for just £6 each and then fighting for a space, each dragging two suitcases behind us, on a crowded carriage going to Brighton via Gatwick airport.

The evening paper has a 72-point headline raging about the prime minister’s broken promise on immigration. There are two olds next to me, both with beer bellies, one with a Union flag lapel badge and the other with a backpack emblazoned with a logo about the British Interplanetary Something. The one with the flying flag says: ‘Well, we knew that would happen, didn’t we? Come into this country for two weeks and then expected to be treated like a local.’

I'm strapped to the mast and not listening.

Around me, black, brown and white faces look at no-one. There is a hubbub of voices in different languages. And then the olds get off at East Croydon and the peppery smell of crotches leaves the train.

Next stop, Gatwick Airport and an Easy Jet plane to Athens. And then a bus all the way to Corfu.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

Friday, 14 February 2014

Martin Carthy and a rediscovered folk song treasury

The longer I spend in Lush Places, my enchanted village home in Dorset, the more I realise that there is some kind of magic at work here.

Serendipitous things seem to happen all the time and the latest one has unearthed something of a local treasure – A CD featuring fourteen comedy songs by traditional singers and recorded in the village in the mid-1980s.

The Wooden Leg’d Parson was rediscovered by folk legend Martin Carthy, who passed it on to record producer Simon Emmerson from The Imagined Village, who lives here in Lush Places. Now, Simon has a box of them to sell, at £10 a time. If you know him, get in touch with him. If you don’t, get in touch with me and I’ll send you one.
Doug and Sam Phillips
Listening to the laughs in the pub as Doug and Sam Phillips entertained the locals with comedy songs, it feels like you’re right there with them. Those Dorset dialects are magnificent. Some delightful times and tunes with people no longer with us.

There’s the lovely, wobbly voice of old Bill House, who has a penchant for anything with a wooden leg, the mellow tones of Norman House on two tracks, contributions from Norman Faires and Gordon Hayes and a great song sung by Norman Gray. It’s called The Comical Cock and I think Mr Grigg’s going to try to learn the words for harvest supper.
George Hirst
Bill House
I know several of the songs because they were also sung by my late uncle, George Withers. As serendipity would have it, according to an obituary comment on the Mudcat CafĂ© website,  he went down a storm at the National Folk Festival when he sang his song about the MBE, standing on the same stage with Martin Carthy MBE. 

‘Eliza Carthy nearly fell off her chair laughing as indeed did the entire audience,’ the writer says. 

This CD slice of history is brought to us by Nick and Mally Dow, who collected traditional songs from Broadwindsor, Beaminster and Dorchester.

Says Nick:The White Lion was run by old Dick Corbett for many years. He was an ex-service man and a character. His pal Flash Phelps was more than a bit of a villain.
Flash Phelps and Dick Corbett
'The other regulars were Doug and Sam Phillips, who sang music hall songs. There was a barrel of Taunton Cider on the bar, served on gravity, and a barmy parrot that was in the process of changing sex.’

Nick says he was accused of being the wrong man to do the recordings because he was emotionally involved with the singers.

‘Well that's an understatement. I was head over heels in love with Dorset folk songs and Dorset.’

Just the man for the job then.

Now Simon, who on this blog is known as Ding Dong Daddy, is hoping to recreate the CD at one of the folk sessions he runs in the White Lion. All I can say to that is, please count me in.

You can find out more about the recordings from the Real West Dorset website. And you can hear them – and others - on the British Library websiteThis is a real, international treasury. Not only did I find recordings of my dear old Uncle George, I also found interviews with my late Auntie Glad, about her childhood days in Somerset in the early part of the 20th century. Classic stuff. Priceless.

But don’t forget, if you’d like The Wooden Leg’d Parson CD – and, honestly, why wouldn’t you – give Ding Dong Daddy or me a shout.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

You can ring my bell. Or perhaps not.

Here in the UK, we're having a bit of bother with our doorbell.

It's decided not to come out to play.

'Your doorbell doesn't work,' said our neighbour, Mr Champagne-Charlie.

'We know,' we said.

'You'd better get it fixed,' said Mrs Bancroft.

So we fixed it. And then it stopped working again.

So we went into B&Q to see if we could get a replacement. For forty pounds, we could have a wireless one that played everything from Vivaldi to the Colonel Bogey March. I quite fancied the idea of the latter blaring out and giving it large when Mr Champagne-Charlie next pressed the doorbell.

And then I read some of the reviews and decided it was probably not worth having a new doorbell at all. There's something to be said for being unavailable.

On Sunday night, Mr Grigg sat in the dark splendour of our hallway next to the wood burner, waiting for our neighbours to call for us.

'It's no good ringing the doorbell,' Mr Champagne-Charlie said to his wife and Mrs Bancroft outside. 'It doesn't work. Anyway, they can't be in, because the lights are off.'

So they left and didn't bother to knock.

A few minutes later and there was a persistent hammering on the door. Mr Loggins and his wife, Darling. We half expected a cry of 'bring out your dead'. They don't take no for an answer.

So we opened the door to a howling gale and a wind chill factor of about minus ninety. Oh to be back under blue Corfu skies again, how ever cold the locals think it is there.

Anyway, Mr Grigg has since taken the bell apart, cleaned off a dirty contact and now it's working again. A simple ding dong, said in a dignified manner rather than Leslie Phillips style.
But the bad thing is we can no longer pretend we haven't heard 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...