Celebrating VE Day

With Covid 19 deaths in the UK now the highest in Europe and rising, there seems very little success to celebrate right now. Even the man behind the country’s lockdown plan ignored his own advice by twice welcoming his married lover into his home for what The Sun (who else?) described as a ‘romp’.

The salacious story was featured prominently in some of the papers, burying the bad news of the rising death toll on the inside pages.

There are a lot of mixed messages flying around. The fact that coronavirus deaths have now topped 30,000 doesn’t sit well with the likelihood that the Government’s ‘stay at home’ message is going to be modified by the end of the weekend. I don’t think we’ll be hugging anyone anytime soon. As someone who is not a hugger and prefers my own personal space, I’m quite happy with that.

We all need light at the end of the tunnel – and some of the latest dreams you’ve sent me would seem that even our subconscious is suggesting this – but any fool knows we need to be inching along on our hands and knees, slowly, slowly, for everyone’s sake.

Tomorrow will see the 75th anniversary of VE Day and if I hear anyone else comparing our current crisis with war then I will personally break lockdown and go at them with a fixed bayonet.

What we’re going through at the moment is terrible, awful and weird. But it’s not war. Most of us have been merely confined to our homes for the last six weeks although, admittedly, that’s been harder for some than others, depending on our different circumstances.

We’ve not spent the last six years not knowing if our sons, husbands or brothers are going to come back to us alive from the battlefields or prisoner-of-war camps. We’ve not had to say a teary goodbye to our children and put them onto a train, clutching their little cases and bearing identity labels on their coats, to the safety of the country, all the while praying our beloved offspring will be cared for by complete strangers.

Our current crisis might have given us just a tiny bit of empathy for our predecessors seventy-five years ago. Who could – knowing and feeling what just six weeks of isolation means to us – not put themselves in the shoes of the men, women and children so joyous that the war in Europe, against the indisputable evil of Nazism, was finally at an end?

The parties in the cities are well documented. In our household, we were spellbound by a recent TV programme of home movie footage and live testimony from those days. Ordinary men, women and children celebrating the end of a dreadful tyranny.

My mother, now 94, recalls a party in her village around a huge bonfire. There was great relief that Hitler and his cronies were gone, which had seemed impossible.

‘The Far East was, of course, still a war zone till the end of that summer, with several locals still out that way,’ she told me.

So, in marking VE Day tomorrow, whether quietly, with picnics in the garden or singing Vera Lynn songs, let’s remember the wartime privations our relatives suffered rather than using it as a flag-waving exercise to put our current problems centre stage.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

Just another listless day

I guess we all have off days during this lockdown. I console myself with knowing I’m in a far better place than so many other poor souls, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling down or entirely lacking in motivation every now and then.

We can’t all be wonderfully creative, writing the next Wolf Hall or being Grayson Perry’s new protegee. Or consistently turning out such good upcycled furniture you feel as if you ought to be opening a shop.

Today’s been a bit like that. I willed myself to get up when the alarm went off at six-thirty but was still in bed an hour later, snoozing to the news. Downstairs, the dogs were howling as if they were being experimented on and then upped the decibel level when I finally made it down to greet them.

I went for a good long walk, ending up on the main road where still hardly any traffic passes by and then back home again with the whole day ahead of me.

Mr Grigg has been on at me for ages to cut his hair, which after breakfast I did with good grace and sharp scissors. I was rather taken aback when he failed to be as thrilled as I had expected him to be at the result.

‘You haven’t taken very much off,’ he said, looking at the wispy bits on the kitchen floor.

‘That’s because you told me not to.’

Honestly, I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t. At least I didn’t use nail scissors and a pudding basin. I was very tempted to put in tram lines without him realising.

I didn’t make much of an impact on today’s to-do list: 1) do tax return 2) write chapter of novel 3) finish The Open University assignment as if it hadn’t been cancelled by coronavirus.

Listless, how appropriate.

At one o’clock, I played Don’t Stand So Close To Me in the rain to a small audience of cap-wearing and umbrella-wielding residents for today’s Sound of Music Through The Square Window and then tried to work out whether I could really pull off a double bill of The Muppets and Leonard Cohen later this week.

I got part-way through applying for Mr Grigg and me to be contestants on the next series of Race Across The World and then thought better of it.

Looking at my list, I appear to have done bugger all, apart from write an email to my mother and sister and then look at Facebook for hours on end. It’s just as well as I got ahead of my list by hoovering The Shed of Dreams yesterday.

I’m not going to beat myself up about it. We all have off days. Don’t we?

This afternoon, while Mr Grigg was battling the mask-wearing crowds in the supermarket, I sat quietly and read a book before helping him to put the shopping away when he got back.

With him then out on shop business, I proceeded to play Bonobo’s Migration album really loud before preparing a Bolognese sauce to a soundtrack of The Dhol Foundation turned up almost as high as I could bear it. Nothing beats chopping onions to the heartbeat sound of those drums. We don’t actually need a Bolognese sauce but I always find doing one very therapeutic. It’ll do for the freezer.

In the process, I managed to spill sunflower oil all over the wooden floor in the dining room. The plus point is that it looks a hundred times better in that corner than it did before, but the minus point is I’m now going to need to do the whole floor to make it look the same.

Hooray for the fish and chip van which is coming to the village tonight. I shall be indulging myself in the usual battered sausage and chips and curry sauce, with both Mr Grigg and I wishing we could be eating it in the pub.

Let’s hope it’s a better day tomorrow.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

A lasting legacy for the NHS

It’s the valiant Captain Tom Moore’s one hundredth birthday today.

This incredible man was given an RAF flypast and made an honorary colonel in recognition of his fundraising efforts, which have topped more than £30 million for the NHS.

His family say it’s time for him to have a rest now. His donation page will be closed tonight.

Like so many others, Mr Grigg and I have each made a contribution to his campaign. Here in the village we also plan to sing Happy Birthday to him after the weekly eight o’clock Clap for Carers. Earlier, for The Sound of Music Through The Square Window song slot at one o’clock, I played The Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be (500 miles) as a mark of respect for all that walking he’s done for such a good cause.

The money he’s raised will make a big difference. Even then, it’s only a drop in the ocean. NHS Charities Together gives £1 million a day to help the publicly-funded NHS do more.

Our support for Captain Tom is the kind of community spirit we must cling on to, long after lockdown is lifted.

NHS workers and carers who come into contact with coronavirus in the course of their working day didn’t sign up for a dangerous occupation.  They didn’t weigh up the pros and cons like those who are thinking about joining the armed forces. Our health workers never expected to be parachuted into a war zone to fight an invisible enemy, putting themselves and their families at risk.

They are not caped crusaders, they’re ordinary, brave people doing their job. Clapping for them is the least we can do.

I read on a Facebook friend’s post that our nation’s outpouring of sentiment for the NHS could be described as ‘Diana-fication’, capturing the public mood at a particular moment in time, and when that moment passes people move on to something else.

It was a thought-provoking post, suggesting the Thursday night clap for carers was all very well but pretty pointless if the nation does not protect and respect the NHS in the future more than it has done in the past or at present.

As the list of NHS workers dying in the line of duty grows ever longer, it is right to ask questions. Could more have been done earlier to combat this crisis? Should we have been locked down sooner?

Yes, we need to focus on the positive, the here and now, because that’s what’s important. We need to get through this. We need hope and light at the end of the tunnel. But you can bet your life the proverbial fan will have something hitting it when this is all over. It’s not being negative for us to think more deeply now about the things that are important to us, not just in our personal lives, but in the wider world. Things like the NHS and how we treat it.

The challenge for us, as the people, is to ensure that we and the politicians acting on our behalf do not move onto something else once this is over. We – and they – have a duty to use this ‘Diana-fication’ as an opportunity for change. Rather than whinge or marvel about this phenomenon, whichever side of the political fence we sit on, we must harness it for the future. For the nation’s benefit rather than the politicians’.

Tomorrow I’ll be back to my usual fluffy and irreverent self. I just needed to say what I’ve said today.

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

This is the BBC World Service

The village’s one o’clock Sound of Music Through The Square Window is being heard far and wide. Farther than ever, thanks to the coverage on our local BBC station, Spotlight, at the end of last night’s show, as well as Radio 5 Live this morning and the Newsday programme on the BBC World Service.

You can catch me on the latter at about 1801 here.

I was really made up by being interviewed by The World Service. I remember going into the heart of Rampisham Trasmitting Station before those idiots demolished the masts without planning permission. They were like giants rising up from the landscape, speaking to the world.

(I think there are only two masts now left on the site. They could be seen for miles, even at sea. Maybe some considered them a blot on the landscape but I thought them beautiful.)

It was stunning to go inside the vast hall to hear a Tower of Babel voicescape coming through the machinery.

I recorded some audio as part of a project about the Wessex Ridgeway and would have included the link , but there don’t appear to be any on Dorset’s Council’s website.

Anyway, as usual, just like Ronnie Corbett, I digress.

The Through The Square Window request show and the publicity around it has somewhat taken up my time of late and I shall be following it up with new, associated developments. But I don’t mind, it’s keeping me focused and I love coming up with off-the-wall ideas. I especially like all kinds of music and the spoken word.

Radio is probably my favourite medium. So if you want an internet broadcaster please get in touch!

In other news, the village phone box could well be taken over by the community after BT picked up the story on my blog a few weeks ago.

The red kiosk in the middle of the square has become a temporary book exchange. I’m loving all the titles I’ve been reading – and giving away. I’m currently nearing the end of Middle England, which I’m going to post to my big sister when I’ve finished it.

I’ve parcelled up five other books I now want to pass on. I’m sending them to relatives and friends so they get a nice surprise during lockdown. It will also give a small bit of business to our now once-a-week post office in the village hall, which is doing a brilliant job despite social distancing.

I’m still having vivid dreams and will be compiling some of the brilliant ones you’ve so kindly sent me for my new Dreamcatcher page, which will be going live soon.

In the meantime, stay well and safe and happy in difficult times.

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

The dreamcatcher

In between nightmares in which I’ve been conjuring up dead people in my sleep, I’ve been having some very vivid and bizarre dreams these past few weeks. It would appear many of you are too, if this article in the Guardian is anything to go by.

It’s an absolutely natural phenomenon, I would have thought, in a time of international stress, for our subconscious to reflect the massive impact coronavirus is having.

And it seems to me that while a lot of us are keeping diaries in the time of coronavirus it would be a really interesting exercise to see what our sleeping minds are doing.

As if playing a song into the village square every day at one o’clock during lockdown through a loudspeaker in the window isn’t enough, I’d also like to take on the role of dreamcatcher.

I’m looking to curate your nocturnal flights of fancy from my Shed of Dreams. I’ll be creating a new Dreamcatcher page on this website to keep your dreams in one place, if not all under control. In the meantime, though, please just keep me posted.

I’m not interested in your names but I am interested in your dreams. Maybe reading about other people’s nocturnal novels will trigger equally amazing flights of fancy. Anything is better than the zombie apocalypse nightmares so many of us are enduring.

I’m now going to tell you one of my dreams in the hope that you’ll tell me yours.

I dreamed F Scott Fitzgerald, who wrote The Great Gatsby, invited me into his painting studio which was somewhere in the south of France. I gazed around it in wonder, as the dream me did not realise my favourite author was also an accomplished artist [he wasn’t]. Just inside the door, there was a pile of art books. I flicked through them and discovered that many pages had been bookmarked where Fitzgerald’s photo appeared next to a short bio piece. I looked more closely and realised these were profiles for a number of different artists and they all looked like Fitzgerald. The dream me then went around the room, accompanied by him, to view his canvases, which featured a lot of surreal work, as if they had been created by the love child of Dali and Picasso. They were mostly huge great collages of naked women with roly-poly Beryl Cook thighs.  At that point, I got my coat, made my excuses and left. And then I woke up.

F Scott Fitzgerald. Look at that face.

There, so now you’ve heard mine. It’s not that exciting, but I enjoyed it. I’d love to hear yours. I won’t reveal your name, I promise.

Be sure to keep a notebook and pen by your bedside so you can note down your dream as soon as you wake. Where do you think the idea for Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde came from?

At best, by recording your dream you could be looking at the basis of a novel or television series and, at worst, you could send it to me and we can all have a good laugh.

You can do so by messaging my Maddie Grigg page on Facebook or emailing me.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

Don’t bank on it

After a week without online access to my current account with the Cooperative Bank, I’ve switched.

I couldn’t face it any longer, despite being a customer of theirs for years because I like their ethical stance. Their IT error meant they didn’t recognise me as customer so I couldn’t log in.

And they couldn’t tell me how long it would take to put right, because it’s with their IT experts in India. They did tell me it could be more than eight weeks before I hear from their customer response team. That’s about the same time it takes for them to answer the telephone at the moment.

I know we’re all meant to be kind in these times of coronavirus and be understanding and all that, but I just wanted vent on social media and pop up out of my Twitter screen like a Roald Dahl giant and punch them in the throat.

Instead, I looked at the latest reviews on Trust Pilot and came to the conclusion I’d had a lucky escape with the Co-op up over the years in any case.

Still, let’s hope my new bank measures up and that my money successfully switches over and isn’t used by some disgruntled member of the Co-op’s customer response team. At least my new bank has a local branch I can go and harangue see once the lockdown is over, which could be some time.

In other news, I keep hearing about the wonderful chats people are having with their family over WhatsApp and Zoom. You never hear from the people whose kids and grandchildren don’t want to speak to them.

Whenever I contact my daughter, she points the camera on the phone to the ceiling or puts her dog on to speak. And then when she asks the granddaughters to come and say hello to granny, they run away.

On Sundy, I briefly saw the seven year old putting on roller skates – bought from her own pocket money – and then sliding off into the kitchen and out of the camera’s reach.

Happy days.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

If the music’s too loud, you’re too old

I’ve had a complaint about the music.

‘That music you’re playing in the square,’ one man said, as he walked with his wife along the High Street.

‘Yes…’ I said, with trepidation. There was bound to be that one person who didn’t ‘get’ The Sound of Music Through The Square Window, the one o’clock music slot I’ve been doing every day from my spare bedroom two days after lockdown started, ostensibly to lift people’s spirits but also to stop me from going mad.

‘Well…’ he began to say, before his wife beat him to it.

‘It’s not loud enough – we can’t hear it where we live.’

So what to do? Luckily, there is a professional musician and record producer who lives in Lush Places. He founded Afro Celt Sound System and folk music project The Imagined Village. And guess what? He has two great big speakers and a mixing desk.

I’ve used the equipment before, a few years ago, when he and I ran the New Year’s Eve disco at the pub. I’ve also had the pleasure of doing the music for several village fun days so am familiar with the kit.

But I wasn’t sure how loud to turn it up for The Sound of Music Through The Square Window. To misquote The Italian Job, I didn’t want to blow the bloody windows off.

So, after I’d set up the kit in the spare bedroom and made sure it was working, by playing Clair de Lune very quietly, it being a Sunday morning and all, Mr Grigg was instructed to go up the road with his phone just before one o’clock.

He was to go past the house of the couple who’d complained they couldn’t hear the music and ring me to let me know if I needed to turn it up.

The trouble is, once Julie Andrews got going, I couldn’t hear Mr Grigg on the other end of the phone. Nor could I see out very well above the speaker to wave to my neighbours, Mrs Bancroft, DJ Landlord and Mrs Plum from the pub, and the Bings across the road.

Picture: James Dawson

Still, I could just about see Nobby Odd-Job who’d wandered down for his daily exercise to hear his chosen song, You’ll Never Walk Alone. It was an appropriate track, particularly in honour of Captain Tom Moore, although I didn’t play his version as I’m not keen on Michael Ball. (Sorry Michael.)

And then when I saw the video footage I almost cried.

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