You ain’t no friend of mine

Arty off the lead on a previous walk…

The dogs are making enough noise to wake the neighbours.

One starts howling and the other is barking incessantly. It’s walkies time and, girl, do they know it.

Unlike my previous blogging platform, the Google-owned Blogger, it appears that I can’t simply upload a video to this website without paying WordPress extra, which seems a bit harsh. Instead, I’ll refer you to my Instagram page and you can hear the little buggers darlings there.

We’re off early out in the fields and up the hill, an easy enough jaunt now that the farmers have obligingly cut and cleared the grass for silage.

As usual, I keep young Ruby on a lead but Artemis, the older one, is pretty good. She’s skipped on ahead but I know she’ll come back when I call her. She’s got arthritis in one of her back legs which restricts her speed somewhat.

And then she turns around and shoots by me like a racehorse on speed. I have never seen her move so fast. She flies through the field and into the one we’ve just come through and roots around the hedge like a snuffling badger. I call and whistle to her but it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference.

So, with Ruby in tow, I turn around to find out what all the fuss is about. Arty has her head down and is eating something. I’m carrying a bag of dog poo so I throw it at her as a distraction.

It misses and she shoots past me with a freshly-caught rabbit in her mouth. She zooms up into the big, wide open space of the biggest silage field, well out of my reach. I pick up the poo bag, turn around and try to catch her. It’s no good, she’s not interested and heads off every time I get close until she has devoured the rabbit in its entirety.

And then she comes when I call her, licking her lips. I can’t be too cross because she won’t know what I’m cross about – although I’m sure she does know. I put her on the lead and think about abandoning my head-in-the-clouds walk around the hilltop. But I know that if I do, I’ll be angry all day.

So with a dog on each arm, as if I’m a canine cross-country skier, I head for the hill and try to breathe in the beauty and serenity to calm myself down. It does the trick, even though I refuse to let Arty off on the entire journey back.

When I get back, I give Ruby her dental chew but I don’t give one to Arty because she’s been so naughty. I love my dogs but there are times when I absolutely hate them. Arty gazes at me through her fringe with the intense stare of a gorilla. I think the feeling is mutual.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

Lazy Sunday afternoon

It’s been a surprisingly lazy Sunday in the Grigg household.

Most days during lockdown both of us have been pretty busy – Mr Grigg on community shop business or hard landscaping in the garden and me writing, studying and painting furniture.

But today, apart from playing the one o’clock music from my window into the village square, I’ve not done very much at all.

I walked the dogs this morning and read a bit of the latest novel I’ve borrowed from the telephone kiosk book exchange, Love Is Blind by William Boyd, which I’m enjoying although I stupidly mixed him up with John Boyne (I loved The Heart’s Invisible Furies).

I’ve also researched and sourced some audio recording equipment to complement the Zoom I’ve rediscovered in the back of a cupboard which I used when I was a reporter for Dorset Farm Radio. I’m doing a short course with FutureLearn about podcasting to see if I can come up with a new way of storytelling.

Mr Grigg has just finished watching an old war film and he’s now just about to take out Ruby. Arty is confined to the house, having eaten something which has violently disagreed with her. She is such a scavenger so it’s no more than she deserves, but I could have done without this morning’s major clean-up operation. Ruby, on the other hand, is a very picky eater. I have to watch over her to make sure she doesn’t get distracted by birdsong when having her breakfast otherwise she won’t eat it at all.

I’m putting today’s lazy, reflective mood down to one of the reasons behind this afternoon’s Sound of Music Through The Square Window. It was particularly poignant for me, with not one song after the Julie Andrews’ number but three.

The first, an obscure but dazzlingly beautiful jazz track, was for an NHS doctor in the village who is celebrating her birthday today. The second two songs were slipped in for a dear, dear friend who has just died in hospital. I mourn her passing but I so celebrate her life. She was an unstoppable force until yesterday afternoon.

So I give you the videos in the order I played the songs. I play the first one every day. If the village ever does its own version of The Sound of Music, I bagsy the part of Maria.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

The dog poo picker-upper

It’s occurred to me that during the lockdown, many of us of have turned into different people. NHS and carers are heroes and angels, keyworkers are now essential. People who still have to go to work are doing their bit and are out there. Volunteers are vital. Parents at home have become teachers to their children.

Me, I’ve become that woman who plays The Sound of Music everyday at one o’clock to her village through a loudspeaker. I was trying to get across to a local radio presenter this morning that this track is not all I play. Now that would be a bit sad. And mad.

As it is, I climb into bed with the opening bars on a loop inside my head before it lands on the pillow, my arms outstretched like Julie Andrews running down that hill.

I stressed to the radio presenter, who clearly thought I was bonkers, that the daily requests after the call to arms theme music will become the playlist for our celebration once lockdown is lifted and it’s safe to party. (You can catch up here with the requests and who the songs are for.)

As well as the Square DJ, I’ve also become the dog poo picker-upper. I picked up three bagfuls this morning and they weren’t even from my dog. Now that people’s movements are restricted, it doesn’t seem to be stopping the dogs’ movements, which are happening all over the village.

These are the dogs whose owners under normal circumstances probably take them to other people’s streets and fields to do their business. You dirty people. Pick it up, now!

So what’s the answer? I’m not one for naming and shaming. I don’t like that kind of mob culture. It never works. It just gets people even angrier and makes keyboard warriors of us all.

Maybe the village needs to get behind some sort of concerted campaign to stamp it out. Some kind of campaign to celebrate our love for the place we live.

And now I’ve become that woman who complains about dog poo. Heaven help me.

With only boredom to cope with during this lockdown, I think myself lucky to be living in such a beautiful part of the world rather than being stuck halfway up an inner-city skyscraper with three children. Even down in delicious Dorset, though, there are people living in fear of domestic abuse or with much-loved relatives in care homes or undergoing serious medical treatment or waiting for hospital departments to reopen again for vital diagnostic tests.

And there are people who have died in this county from coronavirus, although thankfully not as many as in other parts of the country.

The lockdown is different for all of us, wherever we live.

I guess we just have to get on with it and get on with ourselves, grabbing whatever joy, creativity and positive energy we can along the way to see us through until that light at the end of the tunnel.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

Race Across The World

Mr Grigg and I have been hooked on Race Across The World, an eight-part reality adventure series on BBC 2, pitting pairs of competitors against each other in an incredible journey across Central and South America.

From Mexico City to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world, the contestants could choose their own routes and transport between checkpoints – but no flights or smartphones were allowed.

They each had the same budget – the equivalent of the air fare from the start point to the end – and were able to work along the way to supplement their money.

I haven’t seen the first series, in which participants travelled from Greenwich to Singapore, but we’ll certainly be watching it on catch-up after becoming completely addicted to this show.

As well as stunning scenery, the show presented us with some very interesting family pairs – for example, mother and son, siblings, husband and wife, uncle and nephew.

I won’t give out any spoilers, because the final episode was aired last night, with a reunion programme next week, but I would thoroughly recommend it. I was in tears at the end.

We started watching Race Across The World before lockdown. It really shaped our Sunday nights now that none of us can go anywhere. It’s an emotional, humbling series where the kindness of strangers and the beauty of our planet really shines through.

I’m feeling a little bereft now it’s over – the lockdown can do that sort of thing when there is little else going on in your life – so I decided to go on my own route march with the dogs for an hour-and-a-half before breakfast.

Today is going to be one of the few dry days this week so it made sense to get out there while I still can. We’re due a whole load of rain, which will be good for the land at least.

It’s a lovely time of year here in the English countryside, with ferns unfurling, the candelabra of horse chestnut swaying and shimmering beech leaves that lovely lime green colour. The bluebells are putting on a terrific show as if they know their very presence cheers us. White harebells hide in banks behind cow parsley and campions.

It is the time – and most of us have the time – to appreciate the tiny details in the world around us. The small joys that are so surprising.

I found these incredible spiders’ eggs in a cobweb on a dog poo bin. I’ve never seen anything like it before. They were so shiny you could be forgiven for thinking you’d struck gold.

But in our travels, just like the Race Across The World contestants, in these days of coronavirus we need to be careful. Many of us may be in lockdown but the guardians of the countryside – our farmers – are still very much hard at work.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

If the shoe fits, wear it.

Everyone’s lockdown is different. One size doesn’t fit all.

My lockdown is not dissimilar to the life I lead under normal circumstances, except I take the dogs out only once a day rather than twice and I’m now playing a song out of my window every day at one o’clock.

To be honest, I think the danger for me if this goes on for months and months is that I’ll become even more antisocial than usual, shutting myself away in the Shed of Dreams or hiding in among the beech trees on Bluebell Hill at dawn.

The Grigg side of the family has a history of reclusiveness. I have hermit relatives who live in ramshackle buildings in the corners of a field. My big sister lives up a lane in the middle of nowhere.

So living in the heart of a sociable village is actually quite a big deal for this extroverted introvert. At the best of times, I freeze when the doorbell goes because I’m going to have to open it and speak to someone. Now, it completely freaks me out.

I always make Mr Grigg answer the telephone because, like my late father, I don’t like speaking into it. Mind you, it’s always for my husband in any case, especially at the moment what with his bigamist marriage with the community shop.

I’m trying to be productive during the lockdown because I have the time to do it and I don’t have children at home or a heavy workload to deal with. In the main, I’ve been successful but I definitely been having more off days than I thought I would.

My remedy is to get out with the dogs before seven-thirty each day, change out of my slippers by nine o’clock and putting on something else more interesting.

The current look is Star Wars T-shirts, my trusty Levi’s and a pair of shiny or sparkly shoes.

I read today that sales of lipstick may never recover after women have gone bare-face for so long. But not me. The lipstick is staying, as are the shoes.

Happy weekend everyone.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

A new perspective

It’s as if people have discovered the countryside around them – and nature – for the very first time.

Anyone who is anyone is out and about for their daily exercise, which means many of them are going up the hill where I usually walk the dogs every day.

As a result, I’ve changed my route, wanting to avoid fellow walkers and the gates they’d touched. I’ve become more anti-social than ever, the Grigg side of me in its element during lockdown in such a wonderfully beautiful place.

I’ve been a worshipper at the altar of nature for many years now. I was born into it, really, growing up on a small farm less than ten miles away as the crow flies. I’ve always felt very at home in a field, under a big sky, next to a river and walking through woods.

But even children of nature need a routine to keep them on the straight and narrow. Me, I live for lists so I can tick off tasks as and when I’ve done them. It makes me feel anchored, safe and secure, as does staying at home in this crisis. It makes me feel like I’m in control.

So starting my day by going up the hill has always helped set up my day. When I don’t go up there, I feel like something is wrong, as if I’ve forgotten to brush my teeth or put my earrings in or put on one black shoe and one navy one.

Sometimes, though, it’s good to change your perspective. I’ve been looking at the hill from entirely different viewpoints lately as I find alternative routes for my daily exercise.

And today’s viewpoint, well, I reckon it will be a good place to set up an easel once all this nonsense is over.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

The view from here

I’m out with the dogs bright and early-ish this morning and Mr Grigg is in the shop.

I cross the road to avoid The Charming Old Gentleman with his little Westie and greet him from a safe distance .

Strange times.

The village is almost devoid of traffic. Usually, at this time of day, it would be White Van Man City, with tradesmen roaring through at breakneck speed. Teenagers would be gathering on the village green waiting for the bus. Little ones would be walking down the road, hand-in-hand with their mothers, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in readiness for school.

Today, the only people I see are The Charming Old Gentleman, Our Lovely Vicar – who is out for a jog before keeping the faith with a prayer with her congregation over Zoom – and Mr Brogue Boots on his way back from the shop, balancing precariously on The Angel of the North’s bicycle, a two-litre container of blue-top milk in the basket.

On the grass triangle opposite the old pub, Celebrity Farmer has left a trailer for the verge planting event scheduled to take place this weekend.

It’s still going ahead but only one household will be able to take part in pre-booked time slots at any one time. They have to bring their own tools with them.

In the months to come, we’ll be able to enjoy the wild flowers growing there. It will be wonderful to be able to do that en-masse, but who knows how long this lockdown will last?

I’m not even sure we can come up with a tune a day for the next three months for the Sound of Music Through The Square Window.

In the corner of the fields I can see there’s been a hard frost this morning, which is being blasted out of existence by the heat of the rising sun. I wish the sun could do that to coronavirus.

Up on the hill, there is no-one about and the only sounds are the heavy knock-knock-knocking of a woodpecker, a trilling blackbird, a few wood pigeons and the mechanical whirring of pheasants in the undergrowth.

We reach the top and look out onto a world unchanged but changed in so many ways.

I briefly sing ‘I can see the sea‘ because I can, do a circuit of the hill top and then head down into the woods, through the time portal gate and back down into the enchanted village.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x