Tuesday, 26 September 2017

It's all in the detail

I've just been out for a morning walk with the dog. This landscape always fills me with such hope and promise. Especially when you look down or at eye level to see the smaller picture.

I've blogged about it here for A Dorset Year.

At the weekend I spied a dragonfly washing its face. As someone said after seeing this, if I'd had a more powerful microphone, you might have heard it singing I'm So Pretty.
That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Monday, 18 September 2017

Laying a hedge, Dorset-style

It's a blazing hot, autumn day and I'm out here in the sunshine, my best man by my side, and we're laying a hedge.

A hedge. Me laying a hedge. My farming dad and grandfathers would be proud of me. Well, maybe not proud of the way I'm struggling to swing a billhook into the stem of this hazel. But perhaps proud of me for trying.

Each year, the Melplash Agricultural Society puts on the annual hedging and ploughing match. Next Sunday, it's at Chideock. It's a great day out for all the family. 

I'm taking part in a free, hedgelaying taster day at Mangerton Lane, near Bridport, where groups of up to four are being instructed in this age-old art by experts in the field.

It's a lovely part of Dorset, bordered by a line of beautiful, rounded hills running from Loders to Powerstock. It's an enchanted landscape where the swallows and swifts gather for the last hurrah before the long journey south.

A quick demonstration on the roadside hedgerow yields an empty vodka bottle and a wallet, filled with credit cards, a driving licence and mud. Later, I track down its (local) owner and promise to hand it over when they're back from holiday.

Then we're asked to follow an instructor and go and lay our hedge. We plump for Nigel, who's nearly eighty and been laying hedges since he was knee-high to a hazel sapling. I think it always pays to go with the experienced teacher when it comes to learning age-old rural skills.

Our stretch of hedge soon echoes to the sound of a chainsaw slicing through blackthorn. Nigel is something of an expert, making short work of branches that will yield to neither billhook nor axe.

Mr Grigg and I work as a pair on the middle part of the hedge while another chap lays a section at the front. He'd done this before, but in Surrey where they do it differently. Apparently, hedgelaying can vary from county to county. Who knew?

It's hard work but very satisfying. We're busy for nearly five hours.
The idea is that if we liked it enough, and maybe showed prowess, we might enter Sunday's competition as a novice pair.

I don't think we'll be much of a match for the hedgelayers of West Dorset and beyond, but, hey, we're going to give it our best shot. I've found out we even get a free ploughman's lunch. Can't be bad.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

A pub with no beer

The village square is on its knees.

Tumbleweed drifts slowly by the old village stores, where the blinds have been pulled for a couple of years now.

Across the road, the shop last used a few months ago by the church on Saturday mornings, as a gathering place for coffees and a natter, has its windows whitened out.

The jackdaws gather. Ominously.

And not a drop of water comes out of the old pump under the signpost.

In a new development, the downstairs windows of the pub were boarded up on Monday. Six workmen waited outside for an hour until they could get in and seal off our hostelry from the outside world.

In the last sixteen years, I've never seen that happen in between landlords (and we've had nine of them in that time). Let's hope it signals a refurbishment and not closure.

We need our pub.

In the meantime, the community spirit that is so endemic in this village is alive and well and living in the village hall. There's all sorts of stuff going on here, including a pop-up bar three nights a week to bridge the gap.

But we need our pub.

Today, the Union Flag waves defiantly above the pub's front door. All pomp and circumstance, but signifying nothing.

There is a strange feeling of deja vu when I recall the village poem written en masse when the pub was between tenants five years ago. It was sent as a love letter to the brewery. Maybe we need to send it again.


In the bar the lion sleeps tonight
They say the White Lion roams on Lewesdon Hill
‘Is anybody there?’ said the traveller
The open pub will have to do good grub
I went there once and had a pie
One landlord with more than eyes for the ladies and another one who was as miserable as Hades
We need people to cheer where there is beer
Like Shipton Gorge’s New Inn, the Lion will be a-brewin
Ruling the world from Compost Corner
Warm and welcoming, friendly to dogs
T’was the White Lion in Lush Places where I did want to dine
Miss the hairy sofa
I have never seen a white lion
Fuggy, muggy air seeps through, contaminating passers-by
The Lion is closed, the Lion is dead, long live the Lion
Oh to be in the White Lion now that winter’s here
Endless possibilities
A warm glass of Chardonnay from a fridge too far
After a few wines I too roar like a lion
Don’t lean on the wall Fred
Come back John and Sue
An inviting place of comfort and warmth
I’d like ice with mine…
The White Lion has joined the other myths of Dorset, such as the black dog of Common Water Lane
Squishy, squashy dog-hair sofa. The pub with no beer or any other cheer
That Palmers is rank again, like making love in a punt – near water
The garden is full of frogs
Last orders…pleeease
Tricky Dicky and Domestic Pam
Please give us basic pub food e.g. local sausages and mash
The lion is white with fright at the beer here
We miss our pub which we should use for happy evenings, food and booze
Road safety, don’t tear round the White line/Lion
New Year conga round the village
All we’re left with is a lonely pub and no beer
‘What do you mean there is no Guinness?’
We miss the cheer. The clink of glasses – the bubble of voices
The White Lion lives with my husband under the kitchen table
Open again soon.
The White Lion, dream of the hunters? Where oh where is all the beer?
A giggling group gathered in Compost Corner. A pub of dwindling renown
Palmers, re-open our long dark pale pussy cat
The White Lion lost its roar and customers galore, smiling, laughter, no frowning or scowls.
The buzz and banter of a pub in the community
Come back, come back, the hunt is here
The weather vane on the roof spins round and round
Lots of jolly people, great expectations
We had a pleasant jar served up by landlord ex-QPR
The White Lion is closed
Will rise like a Phoenix

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...