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:


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?

Music in lockdown

I’ve just written a piece for a magazine about some of the positives to come out of lockdown.

When it’s published, I’ll share it with you.

Along with the wonderful impact on nature and the environment, the thing I’ll be taking from all of this is that when I have a left-field idea, I’m going to run with it rather than ask what anyone else thinks.

The Sound of Music Through The Square Window has been a brilliant success, with people from all over the village telling me how it’s helped them through lockdown by giving shape and purpose to their day.

But rather than blowing that particular trumpet, I wanted to share this most wonderful video with you. My professional musician friend, who lent me his sound equipment so that the one o’clock music can be heard all over the village, has been just taken part in his first online Zoom festival.

He says: ‘The whole thing had the intimacy and interactive quality totally lacking in bigger corporate festival.

‘If this is part of the future of live entertainment in a post Covid 19 world then count us in. It was inspiring, magical and generated a very moving sense of togetherness and solidarity so needed in these dark and fractured times.’

I hope you find it as inspiring and joyful as I do.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

Lockdown poetry please

There’s been a bit of a mixed reaction to Boris Johnson’s televised speech yesterday evening on what happens next in the country’s fight against coronavirus.

And when I say ‘the country’, I mean England. The other three nations that make up the UK have already decided to stick to the ‘stay at home’ message, fearing it’s too soon to dismantle the lockdown and maintaining that the ‘stay alert’ slogan adopted by our government is confusing.

The prime minister’s speech was a bit of an anticlimax for some and lacking in clarity for many others. On Facebook last night, this meme fell into my lap:

Lines from Prefab Sprout’s classic song King of Rock ‘N’ Roll. Perfect. The new slogans make just about as much sense as this wonderful lyric.

Any road up, it got me thinking about words, their meanings and turning things into catchy sound bites. There must be a whole team working on that at Number 10. Or perhaps not.

With that in mind, I had an idea. It’s about time the village had its own Lockdown Poem. A few years ago, with the help of performance poet Matt Harvey, the village came up with The Ode To The White Lion when our pub was shut and we wanted it back.

Here are two of my favourite lines:

The White Lion lives with my husband under the kitchen table

A warm glass of Chardonnay from a fridge too far

A few years later, we had the Village Poem, written for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, which summed up how we all felt about the place where we lived.

Here’s two sample lines from that poem:

Friends on our doorstep, people you can rely on for support

There is often some fog, and there is often some mist

The thing that linked both of these poems was that residents were asked to each come up with two lines, which were melded together to create the whole.

The lines didn’t need to rhyme or, like the Prefab Sprout lyrics, make sense. So I’m now looking for local readers to submit up to two lines each to sum up your lockdown life in this village.

Your lines could be about things we miss during this crisis or that which is keeping us going. Or strange or joyous happenings. Your lines can be as sad, funny, banal or interesting as you like. The lines won’t be attributed to individuals so you can say what you like, within the confines of decency and taste.

All I ask is that you send them to me, either by email or direct message me via my Maddie Grigg Facebook page so I can put them together into a poem.

And then, when this is all over, as well as a playlist curated by you from the requests from our one o’clock Sound of Music Through The Square Window, we’ll have the Lockdown Poem to entertain us at our village party.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

The spirit of friendship

It’s been a funny old Bank Holiday weekend and we’re only partway through it.

Usually, the village would be alive with traffic and people and things going on to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day yesterday. It’s been glorious weather and, while I always stay at home on public holidays, fearing the crowd at the best of times, many friends and neighbours would be heading for the beach.

But not today, although there are reports that visitors have tried coming down this way, including cars full of people from London and other coronavirus city hotspots. Please stay away. We don’t want you here yet.

There’s due to be an announcement tomorrow from Number 10 about this ‘road map’ for the country to navigate its way out of lockdown. But already, people are thinking the light at the end of the tunnel is closer than it probably is. Even I’m a little bit guilty of this, having just run through the final numbers for my one o’clock music slot, The Sound of Music Through The Square Window.

It’s dangerous thinking because we could end up lifting our guard far too early and then going through this all over again, with more deaths and more misery for those on the front line.

Lockdown is not going to be a distant memory for some time, despite garden centres probably being allowed to open next week and outside exercise allowance being upped from once a day to twice daily. I am going to be playing Julie Andrew’s rallying cry ‘the hills are alive…’ for a little while yet. There is no way I am going to let down my social-distancing guard after all these weeks in the house and garden.

I haven’t been anywhere, apart from walking the dogs every morning and one socially-distant visit to the Post Office outreach service in the village hall. I deliberately avoided the potential scrummage for plants that day when a green-fingered resident brought along annuals and perennials she’s been growing for the now-cancelled village fun day in June.

Since we went into lockdown, I think I’ve gone out through the front door three times. I haven’t even used my handbag. My shoulders are rejoicing over the weight that’s been lifted from them.

Yesterday, on the 75th anniversary of VE Day, a small, socially-distanced crowd gathered in the village square to listen to the choice for music from the loudspeakers. This village is a very tight-knit, fun-loving community. The occasion needed to be marked but I didn’t want it to be some flag-waving, jingoist allusion to our current woes. I wanted people to reflect and empathise with the terrific relief our parents and grandparents must have felt knowing that Hitler had been toppled and world peace seemed to be just around the corner.

So instead of daily The Sound of Music theme tune as our call to arms, we had Richard Dimbleby’s commentary as Winston Churchill gave a speech to the crowds in London. It was incredibly poignant, giving us a palpable glimpse of what it might have been like on that day in 1945.

There followed Glenn Miller’s In The Mood, Flanagan and Allen’s Run Rabbit Run and then the inevitable rendition of We’ll Meet Again by Vera Lynn.

In our village square, there was a party atmosphere as people danced far apart and popped open the sparkling wine. It was strange, weird and odd but reassuringly village-ey, without descending into jingoism. For me, it felt like the spirit of friendship.

Later, in front gardens and on the sides of their streets, folk had picnics within shouting and waving distance of their neighbours. There was a sense of belonging and ‘meeting’ new people rather than the usual cliques, which would probably have happened had a formal event been able to be organised.

And we will meet again. I’m looking forward to the final songs I’ve got planned for the last day of lockdown and then the people’s playlist at the celebration party when this is all over.

In the meantime, we’ll just hunker down and get on with life as best we can. It’s all we can do.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

For locals only

It’s Good Friday and the Prime Minister appears to be on the mend. He’s out of intensive care although he’s not out of the woods yet.

I was in the woods this morning, bright and early, with the butterflies, bees, blackbirds and buzzards. Surrounded by all this natural beauty but still pondering on today’s headlines.

They’re burying people in mass graves in New York. Hastily dug mass graves. In America. It just doesn’t seem possible.

And then the story about the communities minister who drove 150 miles from London to Herefordshire to be with his wife and children in one of their several homes. It is reported that he also popped over the county border into Shropshire to check on his elderly parents who, apparently, have neighbours doing their essential shopping in any case.

This is the same man who earlier this week was interviewed on Radio 4’s Today programme talking about the vital need to observe the lockdown restrictions.

We’re doing our best here to observe the law, separated from elderly parents, children and grandchildren who live in other parts of the country. The volunteers at the community shop are giving their all to keep us supplied with produce. Mr Grigg is doing a five-hour shift today.

Deliveries are being made to the vulnerable and self-isolating. We’re working together to get through all of this as best as we can.

So it grates when people are seen arriving at their second homes as if this were a normal Easter. It isn’t.

It’s understandable that families might want to flee from the coronavirus capital to the safety of the countryside. I mean, if we were in a disaster movie we would be doing exactly the same. I can’t imagine Keanu Reeves or Dennis Quaid staying put. Where would the story be in it that?

But this is not a story, it’s real life. The rules are very clear. We don’t want you here, at least not yet.

This, from Dorset Police:

Essential travel does not include visits to second homes, camp sites, caravan parks or similar, whether for isolation purposes or holidays. People must remain in their primary residence.

We’ve been given additional powers to fine those refusing to follow Government instructions so please stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.

You might stay indoors in your second home for two weeks but what if you’re already infected and need treatment? Our local hospital is already full of Covid-19 patients.

I wouldn’t say the pitchforks are out yet, but it won’t be long.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

On the street where you live

Five minutes early, the church clock strikes one and the tumbleweed rolls through the village square.

As I open the bedroom window, wondering if, actually, this daily request slot, Through the Square Window, is making any difference to anyone except me (it makes me feel like I’m connecting to my community), Mr and Mrs Prayer stroll by with their dog.

The birdsong from The Sound of Music theme tune powers up and they look up and wave. They’ve timed their daily exercise to coincide with the music.

Mrs Bancroft’s head pops out from an attic window, the pub curtains twitch and DJ Landlord walks out the front door. Muriel, meanwhile, is at her bedroom window, while husband Bing and son Jack loiter outside the house.

Gracie, the pride of our alley, sways at her front gate while Monty Chocs-Away grins as he chances upon this bit of village absurdity on his way to the shop, where Mr Grigg is doing a four-hour shift behind the counter.

Today’s request is from Mata Hari who, on hearing the dulcet tones of Nat King Cole from inside her home, comes to her doorstep, clutching herself against the stiff breeze blowing through the square, as we all sing in unison.

With the news that the lockdown is likely to last months rather than weeks, I think we’re going to need a bigger playlist.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

Thank you for being a friend

All around the country, people came out of their houses at eight o’clock last night to stand on their doorsteps and open their windows to clap for the NHS.

It was a massive show of appreciation for people on the front line in the fight against coronavirus.

Here in Lush Places, we all joined in, little pockets of applause, with cheering, banging of saucepan lids and Andrew Gold singing Thank You For Being A Friend.

Shortly afterwards, we joined in a record-breaking virtual pub quiz via Facebook. At one time, there were 91,000 other people online doing the same. We even saw Mrs Read’s name pop up as one of the participants.

Friendship and community connections are even more important now we can’t be physically close. We’re all in this together.

The village shop continues its sterling work, with manager Mr Costner and volunteers really stepping up to the mark, although at six feet distances apart.

They’ve even started a ‘guess the customer’ competition, photographing whoever is standing on the big red cross next to the drinks cabinet, cropping the picture so it’s from the chest down and then putting it on the shop’s Facebook page. Yesterday it was Joe Le Taxi in wellies, fresh from taking his dog, Badger, around the fields for his one exercise of the day.

Yesterday also saw the launch of the Lush Places One O’Clock Singalong courtesy of a loudspeaker (although not loud enough) on the windowsill of our spare bedroom.

Each day, I’ll be playing requests to follow our theme tune of The Sound of Music.

There were just a few of us for the first session (as it should be as we’re all social distancing). Across the way, I could see Mrs Bancroft doing her best Julie Andrews impression, while Mata Hari stood behind her car and belted out the chorus to My Favourite Things.

From the bedroom, I could see two hands pressed against the glass of the pub window, alternately waving and doing enthusiastic thumbs-up. It was DJ Landlord and Mrs Plum, so we send them virtual kisses across the Square.

The idea is that at the end of all this nonsense, we’ll have a lockdown playlist we can use for the celebration party. It’s going to be epic.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

The bare necessities

Good news stories are emerging bit by bit within communities as the newspapers and websites peddle a never-ending story of doom.

On Bothenhampton’s main street, they’re all doing The One O’clock Wave. At the allotted hour, residents pop out of their front doors, waving and calling to each other as far as they can see along the high pavement and across the road.

Joyous and full of long-distance love, according to my self-isolating friend.

Meanwhile, as the schools and colleges close, younger people are stepping up to the plate to help their communities.

Like many community shops, ours relies on its volunteers. But more and more are having to self-isolate, classed as vulnerable because of their age or underlying health conditions. It could lead to the shop closing, or at least operating fewer hours.

One local teenager has already come into the shop asking how she can help. As she’s over eighteen, she’s being trained next week. She’ll be a huge asset, especially if she can persuade others of a similar age and enthusiasm to join her.

At a time when swarms of panic buyers are depleting the supermarket shelves of stock (such as this Where’s Wally in fully kitted out in hazmat suit and gas mask operating in stores in neighbouring towns), the hunt goes on for supplies for our little village shop. Never has there been a time when the shop is needed more.

Some 76 ordered items were not in the latest delivery from wholesalers Bookers.

If only people would buy just what they need, then there would be something for everyone. The Bare Necessities. On that note, here’s something cheerful for the weekend. I’ll be teaching Mr Grigg the words so he can sing it behind the till at the shop.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

Don’t tell the trees

The pussy willow, oblivious to the outbreak

I was listening to the Venerable Liz Adekunle this morning on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme’s Thought for the Day.

It’s not something to which I usually tune in. I’m always in too much of a hurry. But hurry has currently gone out of the window in these troubled times. Unless you’re a panic buyer in a supermarket and depleting the shelves of much-needed provisions.

If you listen via the link above, her tree analogy when talking about the need for community and inter-dependency strikes a chord.

‘Trees,’ she said, ‘are rooted and steady and unite together to create an eco-system that moderates extreme heat and cold. Healthy trees, if in close proximity to the roots of unhealthy trees, can even help nourish dying trees to survive.’

I thought about that as our house temporarily became a communications exchange, with Mr Grigg, as community shop chairman, liaising in person and on the phone with staff and volunteers, while I sat at my laptop re-editing the parish magazine to take out all the events cancelled in April.

In spite of the restrictions, we all have to work together to get through this. It will pass but it’s going to be hard for us all.

Up in the field on my dog walk, I saw pussy willow, oblivious to the outbreak, bursting forth from bare branches. New life in a new world in which one virus is threatening to turn our future into a dystopia.

We have to have hope. We’ve got to have hope.

Startling the dogs, I began singing Whispering Grass in the style of Don Estelle but without Windsor Davies.

Don’t tell the trees, because the trees don’t need to know.

I thank God, Zeus, Allah, Mother Nature – whichever deity is listening – that we we live in such a beautiful part of the world. It’s some consolation in uncharted waters.

Keep well and safe.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x