Thursday, 22 December 2016

Here's to a peaceful, happy Christmas, wherever you are

Back from Colombia, weary, jet lagged and minus a suitcase, we pay a fleeting visit to North India, courtesy of a Bollywood Night at Bridport Electric Palace with the mighty Dhol Foundation.
It's the launch of the town's first-ever Winter Solstice Festival, which I've helped to organise. Tonight, it's Billy Bragg with Grace Petrie and Whatever Happened to the Protest Song?  It's sold out, so I hope I can get in.

The loud and joyous music of The Dhol Foundation is a tonic to the ears and tired bones. There is nothing to do but smile and dance and show off a henna tattoo I had done on my hand by a very beautiful and gracious young lady in the foyer. I'm fifty-five and have never had a tattoo, henna or otherwise, in my life.

I like it.

Mr Grigg and I must visit India next. And get tattoos.

It's been a busy old year, travel-wise, with trips to Budapest, Madeira, Iceland, Dublin, Corfu, Sicily and Colombia. Phew. In hindsight, it was too much really but I've become addicted to travel. So it's probably a good thing I've been very busy work-wise, to pay for it all.

They say travelling broadens the mind. It does indeed. But it also makes me realise how lucky I am to live in this wonderful part, the best part, of Dorset.

A woman travels the world over in search of what she needs and returns home to find it.

Despite the travels, I'll be glad to see the back of 2016. Personally, it's been the worst year of my life, losing three close members of my family, suffering a heart attack as Brexit became a reality and then international events conspiring to make my little world a whole lot worse.

On the strength of this blog, I've been invited to apply for a part in a reality TV show about the supposed division between young and old. After much soul searching (about five minutes), I turned it down. I'd get angry and emotional with bigots of any age, which would make great telly but would be terrible for me.

Next year has to be better. It's got to be. All I can do is be kind to others, embrace the beauty in the details of nature and beat on, boats against the current. I do believe in Gatsby's green light, even if in reality its promise does not exist.

This year and next, I'm supporting Water Aid and The Woodland Trust. Not instead of sending Christmas cards but as well as. I'd hate it, in this internet age, if greetings cards became a thing of the past.

So this year, I hope you have the Christmas you would like to have. May 2017 be healthy and full of joy.

In the meantime, you'll look back with laughter on those little moments of Christmas Chaos, just like I did when I failed to surface until Boxing Day...

Here's a leaflet about it. One of my stories is in it.
That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Wake up and smell the coffee in Colombia

It's morning and the town square is buzzing. Not as much as it was last night, mind you, when there were stalls, music and plenty of rain.

Today, there is a large cockerel crowing in the ramshackle garden next to my hotel. A caged bird sings five notes, over and over again, and not necessarily in the right order. The smell of coffee wakens visitors from their slumber. A new day begins.

Here in Salento, Colombia, the town is making the most of Advent. At night, this little place west of Bogota, on the verdant coffee growing slopes of the Andes, literally lights up. There are candles in the most inspired cardboard holders in front of shops, bars and houses. Strings of white lights delineate doors and window and a decorated palm tree stands in the middle of the square.
In the church where I light a candle for family I have lost, the nativity scene is resplendent with sparking lights, a little town of Jerusalem covered in tinsel.

Christmas is coming.

Out in the hinterland, Willys Jeeps take hikers to their starting point, below the tall wax palms, the national tree of Colombia. Cows graze on the lush, green grass.

While the rest of our tour slogs through the beautiful scenery of the Los Nevados National Natural Park, Mr Grigg and I soak up the atmosphere of Salento, preferring to make a more leisurely acquaintance with this country which, for so many years, was a no-go area. Parts of it still are, and don't get a mention in the Lonely Planet guide because they are not safe.

Its capital, Bogota, I did not like.  Busy, edgy and sleazy, smelling of urine where men line up to do their business against graffiti walls. Streets bustling with people, night and day, and yellow taxi after yellow taxi plying their trade.

But there is solace in the main city square, Plaza de BolĂ­var, and serenity on the Monserrate mountain that overlooks this sprawling capital.
Back in Salento, men play a form of bar billiards where the tables have no holes. An exceptional bongo player outside, who is too loud for these streets, is moved on by police.

(Visit my Maddie Grigg Facebook page for video. I can't seem to upload it here.)
A black storm cloud hovers over the town.
And the beat of Salento goes on throughout the day.

I like it here.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

A horror film for Halloween

On Halloween, I head out under the cover of darkness, a tub of sweets by the front door for young trick or treaters on the prowl with their ...