Monday, 31 December 2018

Happy New Year from Lush Places, Dorset

It's the last night of the year and it's already dark out there. It's only just past four o'clock.

I am useless with dark nights and dark mornings. My days become so truncated, I am at my least-efficient-worst. By four o'clock it's time to take the dog out and, once we've come back, well, it's time to get the supper ready.

The mornings are probably worse. I'm an early riser but it's not much fun walking the dog in the dark.

This was our view of Lush Places early on Boxing Day from Bluebell Hill.

By the time we approached the top, the sun was rising. The air was still, the odd bird was stirring and water droplets fell from rain-soaked leaves with a strange popping sound onto the beech nut floor.

It was a magical experience, this solitude. I closed my eyes and breathed in my surroundings. The dog and I walked around the top, pretending to be ancient Britons, with not a soul in sight, and then back down again, slurping through the mud, before the Boxing Day melee began.

Later, I lost it on Boxing Day, as I tried to get from my cooker to the sink in a crowded kitchen in an otherwise empty house. Faced with a wall of relatives, I yelled 'excuse me!' at the top of my voice. It was mostly my side of the family who were in the way so, luckily, not too much damage done.

Tonight I'll be in the pub for a film-themed New Year's Eve party, with DJ Landlord on the decks. I'm dusting off my Princess Leia wig and will take a deep breath before joining the happy throng.

In 2019, early morning walks are on the top of my New Year wish list. I want to get up there before anyone else does. Alone but not lonely. Immersed in nature and the seasons.

In the meantime, may your year be peaceful, happy, healthy and full of wonder.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 13 December 2018

A glorious sunrise up on Lewesdon Hill, Dorset

And with Advent comes Christmas skies.

You couldn't wish for a better sight to greet you in the morning.

This morning, the trees were on fire in a purple haze.

Up on the hill, the trees are clad in warm lichen as they sway in the cold wind.

It may be cold outside but, oh, isn't it gorgeous?

Welcome to nature's temple. It's glorious up here.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Monday, 10 December 2018

The Christmas spirit arrives in Lush Places

The Christmas lights are on in the Lush Places Square and, so far, there have been no complaints over the garishness or otherwise of the strings of illuminations up on the trees above our doors.

In previous years, there have been mutterings over flashing lights or ones now quite fitting the 'warm white' brief.

Four years ago, the pub put up a tree which looked a bit like something else when lit up at night. I won't say what, you'll just have to jump to this link from way back when and see for yourself.

This year, the pub is looking very festive, with Betty and Bob, the two gnomes that stand in the front windows, dressed in full Santa gear, looking rather like yuletide Yodas either side of the door.

Up on the village green, the fir tree and its pretty lights sway in the wind, an advent beacon for the darkest time of year.

On Saturday night, out in the cold, DJ Landlord from the pub did the honours and counted down for the big switch-on, and the other trees around the Square slowly followed suit. Oxford Street has nothing on us.

We had a quick burst of 'We Wish You A Merry Christmas' before skedaddling off into the warmth of the pub where we were treated to mulled wine and mince pies and carols led by our angel of a vicar. The pub was jam-packed and in good voice, as we welcomed the most wonderful time of the year.

Yesterday evening, Home Alone was on the telly. All we need now is Die Hard and the Christmas spirit will be complete.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Squishy November days in The Enchanted Village

It's a squishy kind of day here in The Enchanted Village.

The rain wafts in sheets across the fields. And the trees on faraway Bluebell Hill roar as if their branch-lungs might burst.

Cow tracks become rivulets, with water charging down the hill to meet the stream far, far in the distance, each droplet declaring the last one there is a sissy.

Wellington boots are a must. And this is not the time of year to discover you're got a leak. Wellies just ain't what they used to be.

Rainy mist covers the village where the workmen's vans jostle for space as the days of their owners are spent building, renovating, plumbing and scaffolding.

Yesterday, the cattle moved through the Lush Places village square to pastures new. It was a fair old feat, this, the farming family providing an escort at the front, back and sides of this skittish procession.

"What you doing up there? shouted the patriarch from his 4x4 as I struggled to open the upstairs window to take a picture.

"I wouldn't have missed this for the world," I said. He drove on, probably thinking that as I was looking from a bedroom window I'd just got up.

But I'm up early-ish these days, taking the dog out for her morning exercise, come rain or come shine. Even with a flashing torch, though, and a high-vis tabard, the speeding cars still do their best to run me over, careering through the surface water as if they're on a splashing theme park ride.

It's now nearly ten o'clock - time for a morning cuppa - and the sky is still as dark as a bag.  It's not just Christmas I'm looking forward to. Roll on the Winter Solstice.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Of sunsets, membrillo, Brexit and Star Wars: November in Dorset

The skies are darkening but there has to be hope on the horizon. There just has to be.

In Dorset as elsewhere, November brings the beautiful sunsets of October along for the ride.

At Portland Bill, the clouds gather around the lighthouse, a beacon in a darkening world. Brexit is breaking apart, which it was always going to do. The only sure thing is that the sun will come up in the morning. Probably.

Away from it all, from the television, radio and social media, there is such gorgeous beauty. I love it.

Down at the Bay, the lights are on to announce the arrival of a new cafe bar, Rise.

It looks very tempting, as does the Bull Hotel courtyard this time of year.

Cut quinces sit like an art installation on my kitchen worktop.

The resulting membrillo from a recipe by my old colleague and friend Liz Crow, the Baking Bird, is just divine.

There's lots going on locally, for those who want it. I shall be booking tickets for this.

I enjoyed Bridport Literary Festival immensely.

And the Bridport Big Band in the Lush Places Village Hall.

In amongst all the chaos, there are reasons to be cheerful. This Sunday, I shall be going to the Royal Albert Hall with Number One Son to see Star Wars: A New Hope live in concert for the first time in the UK.

The Force will be with you. Always.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

A rainy morning in Dorset

Halfway up the hill, the heavens open. 

Should I stay or should I go? Should I walk back home or climb up to the summit of Bluebell Hill as planned?

It's a field-and-a-bit to the shelter of the wood beyond the time portal gate. It's half-past seven in the morning and Mr Grigg is doing a shift at the community shop. He won't be back until ten o'clock.

I stand in the middle of the field in the pouring rain and think to myself, well, I can't get any wetter. The rain has soaked through the shoulders of my coat and is running down the inside of my sleeves. I've got a hole in my left boot, despite having bought them only about six months ago. I don't have much luck with wellies. They don't make them like they used to.

I figure I'm going to get as wet going down the hill as if I go up so I plod on through the mud and aim for the gate.

Arty shoots on ahead, looking for pheasants to torment, and I trudge on regardless, my woolly hat pulled down over my head like Benny from Crossroads.

The beech trees are a-rustling and swaying and the birds have stopped singing. Arty comes laughing around me, looking for treats now that she's come to the whistle. We do a circuit of the hill, me marching like a Roman, and then back down again now the rain has cleared.

Partway down, the rain revisits us. It's relentless and totally disregards my already sodden state.

On the road, the cars don't even slow down, slooshing up the surface water to give us another soaking. Thanks.

Back home, Arty is zipped into her microfibre doggy bag while I have a warm shower.

And so my day begins.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 1 November 2018

A walk on All Souls Day

There's not a soul to be seen up on the hill on All Souls Day.

It's a fine November morning here on Bluebell Hill, with the leaves in the trees rustling louder and louder and transforming into a mighty roar.

The chain on the gate goes clink, clink, clink as the ravens caw and circle overhead. The dog disturbs a pheasant which takes off with a mechanical screech into the woods.

Grey skies, but I can see the sea on the distant horizon.

There is an old hollow beech tree up here with its own cold tub for the fairies to bathe in as part of their morning and nightly rituals.

There's a swing with a view, mushy brown leaves scattered on the grass. There are penny buns here if you know where to look, and magic mushrooms a-plenty.

Back through the time portal gateway and a new day is dawning.

Down below, the village wakes as, on All Souls Day, I pause for a few moments to think of the souls of the people I have loved. They mingle around the trees, swooping and swirling.

You can feel it here. This place, experienced alone, is special.

And here is a fallen tree - beech again, I think - chopped up in rounds and destined for winter fireplaces. I stop to count the rings in one of the slices, a privilege in a hectic world.

There are exactly one hundred.

The dog and I walk through the gate, clean off our muddy feet in the stream and head for home.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Tilting at windmills in La Mancha

We've managed to dodge Storm Leslie during the Spanish part of our roadtrip. He roared through Almagro early this morning but we were safe behind hotel shutters.

Up in Consuegra, one of the twelve windmills was turning as we approached this La Mancha town, right in the heart of Don Quixote country. Los molinos de viento stand in a line like knights either side of the castle, challenging onlookers to a fight.

Unlike the tiles in my hotel room.

These cheerful little chaps are everywhere.

Quixote wasn't wrong to think the windmills were giants. Seeing the imaginary enemy right before my eyes made me wish I'd had my jousting lance to hand.

As a six or seven year old child, I was treated to Don Quixote as a bedtime story by my fourteen or fifteen year old sister, who whom I shared a bed but not necessarily the same taste in literature. Grimms' fairy tales, the tale of the Hobyahs in my school Beacon Book and The Singing Ringing Tree on television - the scariest children's programme ever made - these (apart from my sister) were my natural bedfellows.

Not surprisingly, I didn't really get Don Quixote. I thought the book was esoteric before even understanding what the word meant and, frankly, thought Don Quixote was not just mad but completely up his own backside. Now, Sancho Panza, his loyal and greedy sidekick, well, he was my kind of character. Full of earthy wit and wisdom, Sancho made this extraordinary bedtime story all worthwhile. He was the grounded one, the foil to Quixote's idealistic ramblings.

But after almost weeping this morning at the sight of those glorious windmills, maybe it's time I read the book for myself.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 29 September 2018

En vacances Francais: on holiday in France

It is autumn in southern France and the rural lanes are full of fallen walnuts, squashed damsons and spiky chestnuts.

There are teasels and cornflowers, scabious and vetch and yarrow. Wild yarrow.

In our neighbour’s garden a banana tree grows. It’s ugly and incongruous in this enchanted light but, still, it grows bananas.

The scent of deer is strong, very strong, as I take the dog out on a long lead down unfamiliar paths, past long-dead sunflowers, their sad heads drooping, ashamed to look at the ball of light still burning so fiercely in the sky. Their faces turn away from the waning gibbous of a once glorious harvest moon, still sitting high in the sky despite the sunlight.

It is autumn in southern France. It is warm and light and inspiring, with a vast blue sky, save for a few vapour trails from aeroplanes flying in and out of Toulouse.

There is complete tranquillity here but in the woods, jays shriek as if they are witnessing – or committing - a murder. A woodpecker drills in competition with a man on his log pile, several villages away. And the postman trundles up the road and passes the gite as he goes from house to house in his yellow van.

There are hounds barking, desperate for the chase. And a church clock clangs and clangs as the villagers gather for the market.

I could live here, I think, and then pinch myself because the last time I thought that we ended up staying for a whole year on Corfu.

Which can’t be bad, although I was tediously homesick.

Be careful what you wish for.

Next stop, Spain.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Oh to be in Dorset now that autumn's here

It's that luscious time of year when late summer turns to autumn.

Far from being sad that the leaves are changing colour, the perennial plants are dying back and the days are getting shorter, I'm filled with warmth, contentment and the knowledge that the cycle of life carries on going around and round.

There is mist circling above Bluebell Hill.

I can see the breath escaping from the cattle's nostrils.

And the hedges are heavy with fruit like blackberries to treasure and belladonna to avoid.

The smell of chrysanthemum is a top note to combat the lows of rotting vegetation. The maize is still to be harvested, conkers yet to be played with and filberts to munch on. There are deliveries of logs in people's driveways.

Among the elderberries and haws, great rosehips hang like precious pendants.

The changing call of the wood pigeon and the croak of the raven signal that the end of the year will soon be here.

And while the earth begins to prepare for its slumber and so many living things are just itching to go into hibernation, the school and college year begins. New promise, new hope, new life.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

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