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

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

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