Remember them

We stood in silence on our doorstep this Remembrance Sunday morning, as the great bell of Big Ben from the television inside the house chimed in tandem with our own church clock in the village square.

I thought about my grandfathers who survived the First World War. I thought about my paternal grandfather’s pal, Ernest, who was with the 4th Australian Pioneers when he was killed in action in 1916. He is buried in the British cemetery in Courcelette in northern France.

Six years earlier, he and my grandfather had left Somerset for a new life in Australia. Had it not been for the war, my grandfather would probably have stayed there. Instead, he fought in Gallipoli as a member of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and then Delville Wood in France. On Armistice Day, he returned to Britain on a hospital ship and never went back.

The village square was quiet today, with only us and DJ Landlord observing the two-minute silence in our doorways, the pub fence flanked by giant poppies. Inside, the landlady was busy cooking Sunday roast for takeaways. The pub needs our support now more than ever.

At two minutes past eleven, the shriek of seagulls pierced the air and a tractor towed a large tank of slurry through the square while a noisy motorbike stopped at the junction.

Today’s Sound of Music Through The Square Window was Remembrance Day by Mark Knopfler.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

For The Fallen, Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

Stay safe.

Love, Maddie x

The Sound of Music reprise

It had to be done.

The Sound of Music Through The Square Window relaunched this lunchtime, with Julie Andrews’ dulcet tones echoing around the village, closely followed by Dolly Parton’s Here You Come Again, dedicated to England’s second lockdown.

As the laptop failed to connect to the speakers just before the clock struck one, I actually felt sick, the butterflies doing flittering somersaults in my stomach as if I were just about to go on stage at Wembley.

But all was well and, when I managed to compose myself, I could see Mrs Plum across the road, waving from the upstairs window of the pub, and Ding Dong Daddy and his wife strolling down the street with their new puppy.

Nobby Odd Job and Mr and Mrs Dixon came down to the village green for a dance and a wave and then Mr and Mrs Prayer and their dog walked up the street, closely followed by Bing and Muriel and their two pooches.

‘You didn’t announce it on Facebook,’ Mrs Prayer shouted up to me in the window. ‘I didn’t know you were going to do it again.

‘And then we were up on the playing field and I said to Mr Prayer, “I can hear The Sound of Music“…’

I told her I’d decided against any advance warning in case I got a brick through the window, preferring, instead, a slow-build up once word-of-mouth spreads.

Afterwards, me with a warm glow that all had gone well, we had a call from Mr Costner, the manager of the village shop, to say were we missing a dog as one of ours had just run past him.

A quick check revealed that Mr Grigg had left the back door into the garden open and Arty had escaped.

I opened the front door and she came running down the path from the church. Apologies to the vicar if she finds a pile of poo the size of a small pony’s. I can’t get out to clean it up because I’m in quarantine, although we’re both being allowed out this afternoon for our flu jabs.

At least it gets Mr Grigg out of the doghouse.

Keep safe.

Love Maddie x

It’s the final countdown to the second lockdown

So here we are again, as happy as can be.

As Trump declares victory in the US presidential election, even though he hasn’t won yet, and accuses the Biden camp of being a bunch of cheating shysters, England is about to enter its second lockdown.

It’s my mum’s 95th birthday today but I can’t be with her because I’m in quarantine from France. We arrived back in the teeth of a storm on Saturday, which threatened to clamp tight around the Normandie which, if it isn’t already, should be Brittany Ferries’ flagship. Not that we had much chance to explore it as we were confined to the cabin while the dogs complained about the lack of space in the stuffed-to-the-gunnels car down below.

The worldwide Covid-19 pandemic is a pain in the behind but it is what it is, unless you’re a conspiracy theorist and believe the whole thing is a hoax.

I’m not one of those but, spookily, just as I had finished uploading the YouTube video, Europe’s The Final Countdown, at the top of this post, Steve Wright started playing the song on his radio show.

Never mind The Twilight Zone, we’re already in it.

Tonight, shops are staying open late so people can stock up on non-essential items before the big key turns and England goes into lockdown for a month.

Whether it will do any good is anyone’s guess. There are so many unknowns with this virus.

In the meantime, happy birthday to my Mum.

Keep safe.

Maddie x

Over and out

With lockdown restrictions easing (although who knows for how long), I’m going to wind down this blog for a bit.

Hairdressers are back in business, pubs have re-opened but life is not at all as we know it and probably won’t be for months and months – and maybe years – to come.

So keep safe, wear a mask when you need to and, by hook or by crook, let’s keep talking to each other.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

The village lockdown poem

Carved into a fallen tree at the entrance to Lewesdon HIll, early in lockdown. Picture: Karen Murphy

Some months into lockdown, I invited villagers to send me a couple of lines each to sum up their days.

I put the lines together and added a few of my own. This is the result:

BROADWINDSOR IN LOCKDOWN 2020

Nature, you were never lovelier,

when the world stopped, but the Earth kept spinning.

And then the world turned upside down, freedom could not be found

We all became experts at social distancing – no grandparents would be visiting.

Sunshine, birdsong, a much quieter life but life still went on.

Thursday night clapping for our hard-pressed carers,

a ripple of applause from one end of the village to the other.

The Sound of Music every day at one o’clock.

Business booms at the community shop

as sales of fruit, veg and alcohol go pop.

Takeout drinks from the pub

and Vikki’s quiche and coleslaw in the shop.

The Tuesday night chip van at Comrades Hall,

Friday morning Post Office, chairs six feet apart.

Anxiety calmed by WhatsApp and Zoom, meeting family and friends by the touch of a button.

People chatting with new friends while standing next to bollards in the shop queue.

Heart attacks, cancelled operations, masks, gloves and Perspex screens.

Food deliveries for the vulnerable.

Our church went blue for the NHS.

The Sound of Music every day at one o’clock.

And we had time to just be with the one we love without duty or obligation stealing the day.

Doing all that we can to keep a company viable,

sorting wages and furlough staff, all reliable.

Farmers cut the fields for silage and tractors trundled through the village.

Up on Lewesdon Hill, bluebells didn’t know about coronavirus.

VE Day flags and afternoon tea outside our homes.

Socially distanced wildflower planting – digging, sowing and watering.

A beautiful sight to welcome visitors to our village when all this has passed.

The Sound of Music every day at one o’clock.

Lock down with the family – fantastic at the start, learning through the struggles, stresses and worries, tears, laughter and love.

Dusting flour from my hands, I pick up my book;

to bake or read, my lockdown dilemma.

There’s only one village in the west for me, Broadwindsor is the place I love to be.

It’s music at one and clapping at eight to rid us of the virus we love to hate.

Virtual Bananagrams, with gin, on Skype; virtual birthday parties on Zoom; virtual running – for medals – on Strava.

Virtual life.

The village roads, now used much less, speeds traffic onward faster;

too fast for the slowworm outside the shop, who is now not just slow, but flatter.

The sun beckons and mocks. Enjoy what you have, count your blessings.

The Sound of Music every day at one o’clock.

The church buildings are silent, dusty, locked, empty, paused.

God is active, loud, renewing, unrestricted, present, recreating and filling us every day.

Time to listen to the birds, watch the flowers grow, to smell the air, walk up the hill and to be still.

The warmth, love and friendship uncovered and blossoming as we all work together through this strange, uncertain  time.

House quiet, headphones on, five laptops glowing, each immersed in our own virtual business and learning,

waiting for the next punctuation point in days we can’t name.

Then kettle on, frisbee out, meals prepared, conversation flows, reconnected again.

The Sound of Music every day at one o’clock.

Free loo rolls from the village shop. The kindness of strangers.

And then a huge blue ball hurtles down the road, like the ever-present Rover bubble in The Prisoner.

A small army of tireless volunteers, stacking, selling, delivering.

Painting, writing, reading, decorating – my furniture has never been so upcycled.

The village phone box becomes a book exchange, tales of a community bound up on donated shelves.

Take-outs from the pub, food and drink, got to keep it going.

The call of rooks from their satellite rookery at the Old George,

while the parish councillors discuss village affairs over Zoom.

The space station goes over, the sun’s fading light makes it glow for all to see.

Endless sunshine, we will never see this blue a sky again.

The Sound of Music on the World Service and Desert Island Discs.

Slippers or flip flops worn all day.

The garden glorious in all this sun.

A tank of petrol lasts for months.

A time of reflection for the things that really matter. The birdsong and beautiful countryside.

Teaching the children, online bitesize that doesn’t bite back.

A fish van arrives in the Square at half past eleven, a shoal of customers in single file down the road.

Gardens and allotments provide solace and colour.

The Sound of Music at one o’clock

Afternoon briefing, highlight of the day.

What day is it, by the way?

The Sound of Music Through The Square Window: the video

This new video tells the story of how the sound of music every day at one o’clock helped a sleepy Dorset village get through 72 days of lockdown.

With thanks to Simon Emmerson for providing the sound system and making the film, James Dawson for the photos and Stornoway, The Imagined Village and Emma Gale for the music.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

Pin the tail on the donkey

I don’t listen to Boris Johnson at the best of times nor, as it happens, the worst of times (ie the times we are in now, although apparently things are getting better).

But my ears pricked up when I heard him talking about guacamole in his broadcast yesterday.

Guacamole? What on earth was he on about? And shouldn’t he be pronouncing it gwa-ka-MOH-leh or even wa-ka-MOH-leh? As any fule kno.

If you listen to his speeches, you could be forgiven for thinking our prime minister models himself on the Nigel Molesworth books.

This is Fotherington-Thomas, as narrated by Mr Johnson.

And then, this morning, I realised our esteemed leader hadn’t been talking about a Mexican avocado-based dip at all.

Johnson was saying whack-a-mole. It seems it’s his latest sound biting catchphrase which defines his approach to tackling local coronavirus spikes, as in the case of Leicester which is staying in lockdown this week.

I’d never heard of the expression whack-a-mole. But then I don’t have a croquet lawn.

I looked it up and it’s an arcade game invented in Japan. Who knew? (Probably everyone – I’ve led a very sheltered life. Seeing how whack-a-mole is trending on Twitter, just like ducks we have all been hooked And that’s the glory of a soundbite phrase. It’s an ear worm that stays in your head, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing and therefore a brilliant phrase because you can’t think of anything else.)

The allusion to a poor blind creature being whacked over the head was probably invented by a parliamentary adviser ridiculed for going out in his car for the day to test his eyesight. Take that, people.

Now, if Johnson had said splat-the-rat it would have been a much a better use of imagery. Rats are horrid, moles are sweet (unless they’re destroying the aforementioned croquet lawn or hollowing out the ha-ha). Splatting a rat is more beneficial to the community than whacking a dear little mole out of its blind and velvety existence.

But maybe the rat analogy is too close to home. There are a lot of them about.

I’m confused. Still, I’m looking forward to when all this is over and we can have a national game of pin the tail on the donkey instead of running around playing blind man’s buff.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

Too hot to trot

We’re having a heatwave. A tropical heatwave.

It’s currently too hot to trot. I’ve abandoned the weeding, I’ve given up on the ironing. I was going to read The Mirror and The Light in a shady spot outdoors but it’s too darned hot, even under a tree.

So, having done my writing, ironing and dogwalking, ranted at the Seasalt catalogue for using ‘comprised of’ when they mean ‘comprising’, I’ve retreated inside in the cool. I have my laptop on my lap but not for much longer as my knees are getting too toasty.

Still, as Terry Wogan used to say, mustn’t grumble.

Lockdown restrictions are being lifted as from 4 July, with holiday accommodation and pubs set to reopen but not swimming pools or indoor badminton courts. And still the crowds flock to Bournemouth Beach and Durdle Door. The roll call of rubbish left behind was nothing less than disgraceful.

As those of us who are alert are fully aware, the virus is still out there and it’s down to us to use our common sense. Sadly, many people don’t have any.

In other news, I’m back on social media, having realised if my 94-year-old mother is up to speed on family goings-on all over the world, then it’s a pretty poor show if I can’t be, too. Not being on Facebook also mucked up the Messenger facility on my phone although I’ve worked out how to solve that now.

I will be blogging in fits and starts but now that the strict lockdown is easing, I don’t have a lot to say and, besides, I want to keep the best bits for my People’s Friend column.

So, in the meantime, enjoy the sunshine, drink lots of water and keep washing your hands.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

Before the rain

The air is rich with the aroma of elderflower, roses and honeysuckle.

Foxgloves march across banks, sheep safely graze on the sports field and a young deer skirts its dense perimeter.

On the hedgerow, deep in one of Dorset’s holloways, a static serpent slithers around a tree trunk like a ship’s figurehead.

Bee orchids burst forth in the churchyard. Hidden red gems in strawberry beds reveal themselves daily as the sun beats down. Blackcurrants ripen on the stem, their gorgeous smell good enough to eat.

The blue sky is clouding over. There is humidity in the air. We are due a storm.

Up on the hill, a lone cyclist wakes in his tent to birdsong. Of course, he shouldn’t be here. Lockdown rules have not been lifted yet to allow overnight stays. However, tucked up here, in Dorset’s most isolated spot, he is probably less a risk to others than the sardine sun worshippers legitimately flocking to the beaches and the queues of people queuing for the supermarket.

Maybe he is up here for an eye test.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

Under darkening skies

We’re still very much in lockdown although restrictions are slowly beginning to be lifted.

That elusive light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t seem to get very much closer, though, does it?

The summer is laid out before us but none of us knows what it looks like. It’s as if it’s been covered over by a shroud. We can make out what the various lumps and bumps might be underneath but we can’t see the whole.

None of us can make any firm plans, we just have to go with the flow. And it’s frustrating.

Discussions are currently about heavy stuff, dominated as they are by the devastating impact coronavirus is having on all our lives, along with worldwide race protests which have prompted conversations about subjugation and leading a good life as well as ignorance, hatred, misunderstanding and deliberate antagonism.

It’s good to talk but not to rant.

Be kind is an oft-heard mantra but there doesn’t seem to be much of that going on in the lives of some. People are quick to judge and be mean, without seeing the whole picture. Yet on the other hand, small and big acts of kindness are going on all over the world.

Yin and Yang.

Sometimes, though, it can seem that the balance is out of kilter if you’ve been exposed to too much yin and not enough yang, or maybe excess yang and zilch yin. That’s why I’ve deactivated my Facebook account. I do that from time time. For me, there’s just too much noise at the moment. There are some very intelligent discussions and conversations going on but too many nasty memes and ranting, along with the daily diet of boasting. 

Nature, meanwhile, is benefiting from a few days of rain, with the sound of thunder here and there making a change from the sun with its hat on, shining all the time.

Thankfully, there is still joy to be found in the great outdoors, in the hedgerow, in the fields and in the garden, even under darkening skies.

And the wildflower verges in Lush Places, masterminded by my friend The Angel of the North, will soon be an absolute picture.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x