Friday, 25 August 2017

Celebrating my birthday with iPod roulette

It's my birthday and I wake up today with the words of Tina Turner rasping in my ears: "Women of a certain age..."

I get up later than usual, because of the occasion and because I can, and take the dog out on a long walk across the fields, to a hamlet where I often think I'd like to live, because it's got a tucked-away church, a farmyard full of stuff and the smell of cow dung is never far from my nostrils.

The sky is a beautiful blue, made even more blue by my camera's new polarising filter, and I am loving the light, the definition in the landscape
Thankfully, Tina Turner has wandered off stage and out of my head (and I say, bloody good riddance, I like you Tina and all that, but, frankly, I'm more of a Nutbush City Limits-type of girl and I Don't Wanna Lose You gets on my nerves). And Leonard Bernstein, with whom I share a birthday, don't you know, floats by on a low, wispy cloud and I hear him singing the words 'there's a place for us' in a very sweet voice and I join him in the harmonies of Somewhere, much to the amusement of a farmer leaning against a gate, who tells me to hurry up along the lane because he wants to move his cattle.

By the time I get up the lane, the cattle are moving themselves, quite happily, across the road. A little red car goes by and the female passenger makes a Wallace face as if to say, 'eek, cows in the road.'

I like cows. If it weren't for the caste system, I often think I should be a Hindu.

I walk down into Lush Places, thinking I am so lucky to live here, in this beautiful part of Dorset where the tourists don't often venture. Not for me the delights of the Jurassic coast and overpriced, ponced-up food that laughs at your gullibility as soon as it arrives on your plate.

I had been planning to go to Thomas Hardy's birth and deathplaces today but then think better of it because it's the start of the Bank Holiday weekend and the A35 will be heaving.

So I put the towels in for a wash and stick my iPod on shuffle. I love music and, besides, Tina Turner has just come back to pay me a visit as I've just I've opened my daughter's giant card which says HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRANDMA in 72-point typeface. 

I want something hopeful ringing in my ears.

I open my friend's card which says If The Music's Too Loud, You're Too Old. It's never too loud for me, which is probably why I have tinnitus.

The iPod shuffle is working its magic. I am so energised by the random things coming through my headphones, I reckon I'm all set for a great day. The first five are How I Got Over By Reef, You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) by Sylvester, What You're Supposing by Status Quo, Wham and Baby I'm Your Man and then Don't Stop Me Now by Queen.

Great stuff.

And then Mr Grigg comes in to the room, overworked and angry after a cock-up by BT and hands me the telephone because he's waiting for a phone call and can I take it (not even a please!). My birthday bubble bursts.

So I take off the headphones and get Lou Bega and Mambo Number 5 coming out of my laptop.

And it was all going so well.

I give it one last go and get Take Me To The Clouds Above by LMC Vs U2.
And then The Liquidator by Harry J All Stars.  Things are looking up. But still no call from BT.

I'm reckon I should quit this game of iPod roulette while I'm still ahead.

And then I think, just one more.

I don't believe it. 
Love is the Drug.

It ain't no big thing to wait for the bell to ring
It ain't no big thing the toll of the bell

And BT still don't ring.

Then I think, well, one more track won't hurt and Born To Be Wild comes on. That's it, I'm off to get my motor runnin'.

Have a great day, wherever you are.

That's about it.

Love Maddie

Friday, 18 August 2017

An unkindness of ravens

There seem to be an overkill of ravens croaking high above the fields in this part of Dorset right now.

Has anyone checked the Tower of London lately, to see if the ravens are still there? The story goes that if the Tower’s ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it.

Whereas I used to hear the ravens’ call only up on Bluebell Hill, they’re now lower down, closer to the village although flying high, solitary, in the sky on their way to somewhere.

Their call is so distinctive. Unmistakable.

Swifts have returned to the village square, nesting under the eaves of a house down the road, undisturbed by building work going on.
To see these birds swooping in and out, well, they’re a joy to behold. It’s great to have them back, even just a few of them. It makes a change from the blessed jackdaws, although I suppose everyone has to live somewhere. But preferably not as close to me as this lot have been of late.
The swifts seem to have such fun and they’re so fast. If only their swallow siblings would come back and chatter on the overhead lines outside my house, like they used to.
I love swallows.

Down the lane, the British Isles trees, on the edge of the hedge, still stand, although I can’t check if any other bits have fallen off – other than Wales and the West Country and parts of Scotland and Ireland, which disappeared months ago.

I can’t really see the trees any more because they're surrounded by a sea of maize.
The British Isles. In a maze. Nature is full of signs and prophecies.

But after the rains and the bad news all around us, it’s so good to see blue skies and green, green grass in amongst the mud.

That's about it.

Love Maddie


Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Didn't we have a lovely time, the day we went to Sidmouth?

It's that time of year again when the genteel seaside resort of Sidmouth opens its doors to folk fans and performers from around the world.

There's been a folk festival here in the first week of August every year since 1955. Tens of thousands of visitors flock to this part of Devon for it. 

The esplanade is full of morris dancers and solitary buskers. Girls are doing jigs and reels. The pubs are full of musicians just picking up their instruments and going with the flow. There are ceilidhs in halls and pub patios, workshops in community halls and vocalists in the gardens.

And much ale and cider is consumed.

And then there's the paid-for gigs all through the week, with artists on the multi-faceted bill including Show of Hands, Oysterband, Ralph McTell, Seth Lakeman and his father, Geoff (who I remember from the days when he was the Daily Mirror's man on the spot in the West Country). 

And much ale and cider is consumed.

Still, we're here for just the day, on a coach trip organised by Mr Grigg. Thirty-nine of us look at the gorgeous Dorset countryside before slipping into Devon and down to the red cliff coast.

For the next nine hours, we wander the streets (and pubs) of Sidmouth, stopping wherever anything takes our fancy. Comedy duos performing on the streets, bearded collies parading along the seafront - the wind whipping through the hair - a woman playing the penny whistle while her Mohican curls up in big rollers on top of her head. These are the sights we see.

And much ale and cider is consumed.

Back on the bus and we sing everything from traditional West Country folk songs to Abba and The Wurzels. For some reason, none of us can string two verses together, let alone carry a tune.

Didn't we have a lovely time, the day we went to Sidmouth?

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

A free woman in Dorset

The thing about so-called 'portfolio careers' is that, sometimes, an important document - which you've worked hard to produce - falls out of your metaphorical ring binder.

That's just happened to me - by choice - but it's still pretty strange not to be doing that particular job, which is one I've actually enjoyed very much.

Still, times change and we move with them, or risk being left behind.

So I hand in my keys and laptop and literally (yes, really literally) feel a weight lift from my shoulders, which is probably because I am always carrying said laptop in a tote bag over my right arm. At last, my posture comes back. I can walk again.

Onwards and upwards.

I go into WH Smith and get myself an academic diary (which runs from July 2017 to the end of August 2018) so I can turn over a new leaf. I want to start on a fresh page.

I shop in Waitrose for what probably will be the last time for a while and restrict myself to buying biodegradable dog poo bags and two lots of £1 pink grapefruit shower gel from their Essentials range. If nothing else, I'll be doing my bit for the environment when I take the dog out on the long march and smelling nice while we're walking.

In the alleyway outside, a girl with a guitar and a sweeter-than-sweet voice is strumming along nicely and sings the line 'you don't know what you've got till it's gone', sadly a song by the gravelly Cinderella and not my musical heroine Joni Mitchell.

Being one for signs and omens, the line could be a reference to the missing document in my portfolio ring binder or a challenge to get on and do what I can to keep them from paving paradise.

I turn back and give the busker a pound coin just to be on the safe side.

And then I get in the car and Simply Red are on the radio singing 'Holding Back The Years'. And I reckon my omen radar is way off beam and it's more to do with my taste in radio channels than a sign, because I don't want to go back there, no siree.

"The way I see it," he said, 
"You just can't win it

Everybody's in it for their own gain 

You can't please 'em all 
There's always somebody calling you down 
I do my best 
And I do good business 
There's a lot of people asking for my time 
They're trying to get ahead 
They're trying to be a good friend of mine."

There are storm clouds on the horizon but the sky's the limit.
That's about it.

Love Maddie x

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