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

The return of the native

It’s beautifully clear up here on the hill.

Looking through the trees from Dorset’s highest point and out beyond the Vale, I can see the sea. There is a boat on it. I wonder where it is going.

There used to be a swing here in the trees, with the most glorious view. When you swung out on it, it felt like you were swinging with the world at your feet. But it was only the Marshwood Vale.

With just birdsong and the sound of the wind blowing through the beech leaves, there is a serenity to this landscape that warms me to the core. On secret paths, mystery, magic and a feeling of calm and oneness envelops me.

This is my church. Up here, on my own. Nature in May at its absolute finest.

In the fields below, the farmer has been busy cutting the grass for silage. From the gateway, I gaze down on the village. There is nothing to indicate that it is a community in lockdown. Nothing to indicate that lockdown in some shape or form is happening all over the world. Nothing to indicate that people are dying from a virus for which we have no cure.

I’m not eager to re-enter the real world any time soon. I fear I have gone native. I actually like the solitude, the decrease in traffic on the narrow lanes and aeroplanes up in the sky.

Going out walking with anyone other than the dogs fills me with a palpable dread. What will I have to say? Do I need to say anything at all? I’d much rather be in this gateway, looking into the folds of the landscape and imagining rather than knowing what is going on in other people’s lives.

The introvert part of this extrovert has been having an enjoyable time, thank you. There is not a day that does not go by when I don’t thank my lucky stars that I live here, far from the madding crowd, quietly getting on with a life that was not that different before lockdown was imposed all those weeks ago.

Back in the village, the fishmonger arrives in the square with an array of fresh produce lying out on ice in the back of her van.

In a socially distant queue, I say hello to neighbours I usually only wave to from my window for the one o’clock Sound of Music.

There is fresh crab, wriggling lobster, mackerel, John Dory, Dover Sole, Brill, the noble Gurnard, its medieval head peering out from under the ice, great big sea bass, scallops and squid.

Tonight we will feast like kings and queens, thankful for the bounty provided by our local fishermen and women, hoping that when this all over they will continue to come to our square once a week.

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

Happy Easter in lockdown

What a way to spend Easter.

While the country is stuck at home, the waves still roll gently on to the beach from an incredibly calm sea (according to the photos on social media I see from my coastal friends).

Here in Dorset, the hedgerows are bursting with flowers – wood anemone, bluebells, primroses, stitchwort, celandine, dandelion and wild garlic, with gypsy lace and campion just waiting in to the wings to join in the chorus.

Birdsong is all the more poignant in the days of coronavirus. A robin is making a nest above the workbench.

And above the highest point in Dorset, the sky, that wonderful sky, is full of little fluffy clouds.

I hope, wherever you are, you can at least take joy and sustenance from an unfiltered sky, in all its ever-changing moods.

Enjoy your Easter as best you can. Let’s raise a glass to being with family and friends when the lockdown has passed.

Happy Easter.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

Nice weather – but not for ducks

The gorgeous coast road between Bridport and Weymouth is misty with mizzle this morning as I take the granddaughter to her work experience.

She’s lucky it’s this week and not next. Schools across the country will close their doors tomorrow until who knows when.

May blossom is beginning to burst from the trees. Glossy green wild flowers that look like angelica line the verges. Nature goes on, as does life – although not as we know it.

In front of me a white van ploughs through a group of mallard ducks minding their own business on the road just outside Portesham. A female duck is wiped out in an instant as her confused friends fly off in all directions.

The sight upsets me greatly and I begin to weep.

The van just carries on ignoring the 50mph speed limit and I realise that, despite this new-found kindness many people are showing to others, there are still some morons out there.

I tune in to a Spotify playlist created by a funny friend with impeccable music taste and wish it would all go away.

Any road up, here it is for you to enjoy. But you’ll need Spotify to access it.

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