On the move

And as the raindrops gripped on for dear life to the underside of the gate, the distant hill brooding and unapproachable in the biting wind, something began to happen.

Snow.

Big blobs of it fell on to the soggy ground, desperate to take hold but failing miserably, until the fields became a sea of slush.

Down in the lane by the stream, a removals lorry was parked at an angle in the driveway of a house. From the outside looking in, the rooms had been stripped bare with only the light bulbs remaining.

Two sets of lives going different ways. One leaving the village and the other relocating within it.

For sale signs line the streets of Lush Places like flags outside the United Nations building. People are on the move.

Long-standing residents are moving out and moving on. New people take their place in this never-ending circle of village life.

In times of coronavirus, this is as good a place as any to relocate – not too far from the coast and the charming market town of Bridport but far enough inland to avoid the crowds. We have the twin peaks of our stunning ancient hillforts to explore and a community with a shop, church, village hall, primary school, pub, restaurant, baker, hairdresser, nail bar, dog grooming salon, crystals shop, an upholsterer, sports field, playground and hard-surface games area.

Not surprisingly, buyers are snapping up houses for sale left, right and centre.

Clearly, no-one has told them about the fog. When the rest of the world is in bright sunshine, you can bet your woollen mittens that Lush Places will be enveloped in a cloud of mist. You won’t see that in an estate agent’s brochure but it does help to engender a kind of martyring community spirit.

In other news, the village’s Living Advent Calendar continues to brighten these dull days of December. I’m posting the pictures on Instagram and my Maddie Grigg Facebook page after each one is unveiled at four o’clock.

That’s about it.

Love, Maddie x

Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow

So that’s it, that’s the last Sound of Music Through The Square Window.

Unless we have another lockdown.

I hope we don’t, not just because I don’t think I can stomach Julie Andrews for much longer but because I fear the relaxing of rules over Christmas will lead to a pretty dismal start to 2021.

I like to think of myself as always a glass half full kind of woman: upbeat and optimistic. But, realistically, I’m more of a glass half empty because I know I can just top it up with more once I’ve sunk into weary cynicism and passed the halfway mark.

Keep on keeping on. It’s what we have to do. Live for the moment but don’t stop thinking about tomorrow. It’ll soon be here. Not just the end of the second lockdown but that day when the light at the end of our collective tunnel is so blinding we’ll need to wear shades.

So the last song today was Fleetwood Mac and Don’t Stop.

I took the song title as my cue not to stop. As I said goodbye to The Sound of Music Through The Square Window, I said hello to The Lush Places Village Advent Calendar.

Organised by the vicar, a different window in the village is lighting up, on a Christmas carol theme, at four o’clock each day until 24 December.

The musical call to arms is Prokofiev’s Troika, known to many as Sleigh Ride, which I’m playing from my window overlooking the village square, before launching into the Christmas Carol of the day.

Today’s carol was The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came, sung beautifully by Barbara Dickson and depicted in the window by (rather appropriately), Mr and Mrs Prayer.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Season’s greetings.

Love, Maddie x

If music be the food of love, play on…

When I came home tonight, I didn’t rush to get the car into the garage.

I did a little loop of the village, just to see the Christmas lights.

There was the big tree on the green and little trees above doorways. The pub’s hadn’t come on yet but the battery-powered ones on Mrs Bancroft’s scaffold-clad house (remind me to tell you about that some time. She had a terrible house fire in the summer) were lit up like, well, Christmas trees.

And for the first time in bloody years, my house is the proud owner of a tree with coloured Christmas lights. The only one in the Square. Yippee! Had I not been driving, I would have jumped in the air.

At last, the cheery glow of red, blue and green marks the Grigg household out as different from all the rest. If I’d had my way, I would have had a blow-up Santa surging along the ridge tiles like a winter surfer on the crest of a wave.

But my rebellious streak only goes so far. Just the one season to be precise, as Mrs Bancroft will be safely installed in her home by this time next year. And as she’s the one who usually looks out on it I have to give some thought to my dear friend’s outlook. It’s about being neighbourly.

Which is all very well for me to say, blasting out a different lockdown tune each day at one o’clock through festival-quality speakers. Mrs B used to wave to me from her Juliet balcony during the first lockdown when the birds starting singing as The Sound of Music theme tune gathered momentum.

Now, I look out onto a house wrapped in scaffolding and plastic sheeting and Bubbles next door comes out wearing earphones.

Still, the Bings are still hanging out from their windows, sometimes accompanied by a cat. DJ Landlord and Mrs Plum always put in an appearance and the new kids on the block, Mrs Remington and Mrs Lets-Get-Busy, do a mean impersonation of Pan’s People on the pavement in front of the phone box book exchange.

Yesterday, the one person I hoped might be outside my window was The Farmer’s Wife.

After The Lovely Farmer was laid to rest in the land of his birth, the Square thronged by masked friends and well-wishers, I waited until the coast was clear to play the song he had requested for his wife and himself in the first lockdown.

Just into the first verse, The Farmer’s Wife walked across the Square to speak to Mr Grigg, only to hear the music coming from the speakers.

A beautiful smile swept across her lovely face as she began to dance.

Priceless.

Keep the faith everyone.

Love, Maddie x

Here is that rainbow we’ve been praying for

Nothing but blue skies today.

It’s one of those crisp, winter days, with frost on the ground first thing, and the smell of baked potatoes in the village square at lunchtime.

Gorgeous.

Nine hardy souls, in windows, doorways and on verges, jigged about to the wonderful Johnny Nash and I Can see Clearly Now. I love this song.

I think I can make it now, the pain is gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is the rainbow I’ve been prayin’ for
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-shiny day

It reminds me of the best headline I ever wrote, which I think was mentioned on The News Quiz (if it wasn’t, it should have been) or at least UK Press Gazette. The story concerned an optician called Wayne who had just come back from Africa after taking a shedload of second-hand spectacles to give to people with poor eyesight.

The headline was:

Eyes can see clearly now that Wayne has gone.

Tomorrow, The Sound of Music Through The Square Window may be a little later, following the funeral of a much-loved farmer, who was one of my favourite people in the village.

We will all miss him.

Keep safe.

Love, Maddie x

A little de-mob happy

I managed to fix the dodgy connection on my speakers today by jiggling the lead about a bit and supporting it with The Little Book of Feng Sui.

It worked, which proves to me there must be something in Feng Sui, if I ever doubted it.

The chosen track was a modern disco number by the scrumptious Kylie Minogue, requested by Mrs Remington, who came down to the square in lovely cloche hat and dancing boots.

There was waving from windows, a dance routine on the pavement, and then, just as I turned my back to adjust the sound levels, an impromptu football match kicked off between Mrs Remington, Mr Grigg and Eddie Large.

‘I found the ball in a hedge,’ Eddie said, as he passed it across the main road, having checked there was no traffic coming.

The funny thing is, if children had done the same thing, there would have been the familiar grumpy cries of ‘bloody kids’ but it’s as if everyone has all gone a little bit de-mob happy.

We can all see an end to this dreadful virus. It’s just around the corner. We can smell it, taste it, feel it, touch it.

But we need to be steady Eddies. We’re not out of the woods quite yet.

This year, it’s going to be a very odd Christmas. We’re just going to have to put up with it unless we want months and months and months of more misery.

Keep safe.

Love, Maddie x

Just another normal lockdown Sunday

And on Sunday afternoon I played Sunday Morning, by The Velvet Underground for Ding Dong Daddy.

Without his speakers, I’d be silent, so if it was you driving by with a face as long as a fiddle, it’s his fault.

I’ve come up with a new phrase if you do something wrong but don’t intend to upset anyone.

You have to flit around, singing ‘I’m so Priti’, oblivious to the hurt you’ve caused other people. And the phrase ‘You’re so Priti’ can be aimed at you as some kind of fan worship, in the same way as the advertising slogan ‘You’re so Money Supermarket’.

I think it might just catch on.

Today, as The Sound of Music theme tune blasted out at one o’clock, Mrs Remington and Mrs Lets-Get-Busy came running down the street, arms outstretched like modern-day Marias.

Mickey Murphy stood on the corner, waiting for his takeaway Sunday roast to be dished up at the pub. Bubbles, Mrs Bancroft, Mr Putter and The Fragrant Mrs Putter went off up the road to get a takeaway roast from the local restaurant and the little girl and her mum did a twirl outside the phone box.

As cyclists stopped to take in the atmosphere and walkers parked their car in the Square before putting on sensible shoes and heading for Bluebell Hill, the tinkly bells of The Velvet Underground faded into the distance and it became just another normal lockdown Sunday again.

Keep safe.

Love, Maddie x

Get out of your lazy bed

Ain’t no sunshine here today but at least it’s dry.

I’ve been putting the garden to bed, a job that’s usually a job-and-half but, because we’ve had the gardening elves in while we were away in France, it’s been an absolute joy.

My hands smelt divine as I cut back the straggly lemon balm that grows at the foot of a two-seater bench in the courtyard.

The Herb Robert came out like a dream, leaving beautiful earth in its wake. And even the creeping buttercups, which had started to creep back, came up easily with elbow grease and a garden fork.

My hands were filthy because I left my gardening gloves in France but I actually kind of like the feel of earth under my fingernails. Not for me manicured talons that would prevent me from scooping up soil in my hands or typing on my laptop.

Years ago, when I worked as a local newspaper reporter, one of my jobs was to input the handwritten gardening report from the plant specialist at the local garden centre.

At the end of the report, he always had a few gardening tips. The two I remember is to use a pair of tights to store onions (ooer, missus, you need to take your legs out of them first first) and to draw your fingernails along a bar of soap before you start work in the garden to stop dirt getting under your nails.

I say I remember those tips but I forgot them until now, which is a bit late because my nails are filthy.

Still, I managed to scrub them up a bit before the Sound of Music Through The Square Window today. I wouldn’t want to get Ding Dong Daddy’s sound equipment grubby.

Today’s song was for my friends in the village who are still in quarantine and anyone else who is not grabbing this weekend with both hands and doing something.

It was Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed by Matt Bianco, to which DJ Landlord banged away with invisible drumsticks outside the pub and a little girl danced with her dad in front of the village green. I also played a non-existent double bass behind the curtains, so quite a party.

Keep safe.

Love, Maddie x

Sunshine pop for a dreary day

On a dismal, Lush Places Slush-Places-type-of-day, I should have played Misty for the Sound of Music Through The Square Window.

I didn’t, having made my choice earlier this morning when the wind was blowing through the treetops, threatening to turn over any cradle that had been carelessly placed there. (Were cradles ever put in tree boughs to rock? They can’t have, can they? How lazy and reckless is that.)

I chose Windy by The Association, a lovely bit of sunshine pop that came out in the summer of 1967 when I was five.

Oh for the carefree days of the 1960s.

Still, we have much for which to be thankful. The sun rises each morning, the birds still sing, the dogs’ love is unconditional and my Shed of Dreams is the perfect little haven from stormy weather.

I had thought of pulling the plug on The Sound of Music Through The Square Window this time around, with just a few of us waving at each other from our windows and a solitary villager standing outside the phone box waiting for Julie Andrews to burst forth.

And then I had a request for a song from the most unlikely of people. When it came on, he strolled down the village green to listen to the tail end of it after hearing the song from his garden.

Today, I received a handwritten thank you card from a lady who missed The Sound of Music Through The Square Window during the first lockdown because she was away nursing her daughter.

‘I had been told of this wonderful music sound coming from your home,’ she wrote.

‘Today for the first time I experienced this sound booming over our village. Wonderful. What joy and lift it gave me. Thank you.

‘We are all experiencing dark, sad times and circumstances. This music is just the ticket to some relief.

‘If you are able, please keep it up. You will have my attention each day at 1pm. Thank you.’

So I think I’ll carry on until the end of this lockdown.

Keep safe.

Love, Maddie x

I’m free!

It’s a strange thing, being in quarantine.

It’s like lockdown except that you can’t go out of your house or garden. Not at all. No drives in the car to pick up shopping or even walks with the dogs.

The first week goes slower than a Morris Traveller being driven by a blind bat. The second week is quicker, but only because the car’s going downhill and the driver has been replaced by a short-sighted shrew.

Car journeys when you’re not behind the wheel can be pretty boring if you’re not allowed to stop and step out into the view you’ve just seen from the window.

So how ever many jobs we had lined up in the house, the garden or on the laptop, it didn’t matter, we couldn’t get out. It’s no great hardship when you consider what some people in the world are going through. But you realise just how much you miss the big, wide world.

The good thing about quarantine, though, is that you don’t have to wear a mask. The two weeks also saw the quite public demise (at least for now) of Dominic Cummings and Donald Trump. And then there was news that a Covid-19 vaccine is on the near-horizon. So not all bad.

As Mama Cass would say, it’s getting better.

But Mr Grigg and I did agree we’d celebrate once our fortnight was up first thing on Sunday morning. We vowed to go out just after midnight and do a dance around the village square, just because we could.

But we didn’t.

I was asleep in bed when the church clock struck twelve. I’d gone up the timber hill to Bedfordshire after starting to watch the television premiere of Red Sparrow, a horrid, sexist and disturbing spy thriller with no redeeming features whatsoever. What ever was Hunger Games actress Jennifer Lawrence thinking, I kept thinking, displaying her wares for all to see like a carcass in a meat delivery lorry just pulled up outside a butcher’s shop.

It wasn’t even arty, for goodness sake.

I left Mr Grigg to get on with watching it on his own. The Last Tango in Lush Places would have to wait for another time.

This morning, I woke to a glorious sunrise with two eager-beaver dogs and strolled up the hill at a brisk pace for the first time in months.

And the hill was good.

Keep safe.

Love, Maddie x

Our quarantine will soon be over

This lockdown feels very different to the first one.

From my house, I can hear children hollering with joy in the primary school playground. Workmen are banging away across the road rebuilding a house destroyed in the summer by fire.

I don’t know what the food shops and supermarkets are like because Mr Grigg and I are still in quarantine. The two of us haven’t worn a mask for a fortnight. We’ve just waved at people from windows and the doorway.

Our community shop is doing click and collect, so we’re clicking and then getting someone else to collect. It’s a brilliant service.

But I feel so sad for the small, independent shops and the pubs and restaurants whose businesses are taking such a hit during this pandemic.

For the last two Sundays we’ve had a takeaway roast from the village pub, delivered to our doorstep. And twice we’ve had fish and chips from the van that comes every Tuesday.

It’s not much but we all need to do our bit, if and when we can, to keep our communities alive and kicking for the time when all of this is over. And the hopeful news of a vaccine gives us some light at the end of the tunnel.

I’m looking forward to our quarantine lifting on Sunday so I can go up Bluebell Hill with the dogs and hug a tree. That’s if my quarantine legs can stand it. We’ll need tyre levers to get us out of the house, we’re eating so much.

Humans aren’t meant to be cooped up indoors, being unsociable and away from nature.

The Sound of Music Through The Square Window is pootling along with fewer requests and fewer passers-by but if it’s just me and Mr Grigg and 70s disco music then that’s fine by me.

Today was Make It With You by Bread.

Stay safe.

Love, Maddie x