A legend in my own lunchtime

It sometimes feels like I’m at the centre of a feel-good comedy written by Richard Curtis.

‘That song you played yesterday,’ Mickey Murphy said to me this morning as he walked up from the community shop and I was walking the dogs. ‘My wife thought it was for her.’

‘Not Doris Day’s Deadwood Stage?’

‘No, not that one. The Power of Love by Jennifer Rush.’

It had been Mr Loggins’ choice. But, apparently, when Mickey’s wife asked the question with a doe-eyed look on her face, he claimed this belting power ballad as his own. It’s not to my taste but his wife was delighted. Little does she know he’s really asked for Will You by Hazel O’Connor.

Nothing to do with the words. He says he just loves the saxophone solo.

In another comedy moment, I had a message via Facebook from the late Prince Buster’s son in the United States, asking me to write about him and his music. I’m not sure my readers are quite ready for that.

‘Who’s Prince Buster?’ Mr Grigg asked.

With a look that could wither an arm at fifty paces, I informed him that Prince Buster was to ska what Bob Marley was to reggae and Buddy Holly to rock and roll.

‘Maybe you can get him to come and play at the village hall,’ someone else suggested. Who knows? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Like Prince Buster’s son is ever going to come over from America to do a gig in the hidden Dorset hinterland.

Still, it could happen. As readers of my People’s Friend column will know, it’s surreal here in Lush Places at the best of times. But now, at the worst of times, it’s got even weirder. It was only a few weeks ago I was chased by a large blue ball reminiscent of Rover from The Prisoner.

My feeling of oddness is accentuated by my daily retreat into the spare bedroom every lunchtime to set up the playlist, speakers and mixing desk for The Sound of Music Through The Square Window.

‘You’re famous,’ someone commented. ‘A legend in your own lunchtime.’

Slave To The Rhythm has just come on 6 Music as I write this, which seems rather appropriate.

‘Let’s go and see your mum,’ Mr Grigg said last week.

‘Well, it’ll have to be after one o’clock,’ I replied.

‘Ah yes, how could I forget?’

There have been days since 26 March, when I started playing requests from the window overlooking the village square, where I could have quite easily have assaulted Julie Andrews if I’d seen her running down the street, arms outstretched, singing that song.

I mean, I could have chosen Count Basie’s One O’Clock Jump as the theme tune to my daily music slot.

Still, after two months of playing the same song over and over again, anyone would get mighty sick of it. Although I don’t think I’d have ever got sick of Count Basie and His Orchestra.

I’m sorry to say I’ve gone through a period where Julie Andrews has just a little bit slightly got on my nerves.

But then, as I come down the slopes of Dorset’s highest hill each morning and start singing ‘the hills are alive’, well, like Baby Bear’s porridge, the words seem just right.

My heart is never lonely when I go up into the hills. There is something about the climb to reach the top where you’re rewarded with a beautiful, detached view before the glorious descent.

Who wouldn’t break out into that song running down these fields?

And now Talk Talk’s Life’s What You Make It has just come on the radio, and it’s a maxim that, on the whole, I tend to agree with.

Having previously said I’m going to close the window on the one o’clock music slot on 31 May, I’ve decided to extend it by a week to what would have been our village fun weekend. I’ve so many songs still to get through that the finale will be on Sunday 7 June, which I’ve discovered is the vicar’s birthday.

The big community party won’t be for sometime as none of us wants to get anywhere near each other. But I’m looking forward to some socially distant dancing in windows, doorways, pavements and the village green, with perhaps a few comedy moments thrown in for good measure.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

Dreams are made of this

The day before I launch my new Dreamcatcher page on this website, documenting your nocturnal adventures in the Land of Nod, something very strange happened.

It’s even stranger than the dream I had about riding in the number seven car with The Ant Hill Mob from Wacky Races.

You know how early on in this lockdown journal I likened Lush Places to the cult television series, The Prisoner? Especially with the daily call-to-arms of The Sound of Music theme tune blaring out from my window into a deserted village square at one o’clock, prompting residents to stand on doorsteps, lean out from windows or walk their dogs in readiness for the rousing request of the day.

Well, yesterday morning I was out with my own dogs in the pouring rain, minding my own business, when I saw this approaching me from just up the road. Excuse the picture quality, but it was hammering it down, and neither Ruby nor Arty were that keen on going out for their morning exercise.

To get the full effect, you need to see the video on my Facebook page, as for some spooky reason the original footage has disappeared from my phone.

The ball changed direction and came my way, accosting me and the dogs as we stood, open-mouthed, on the kerbside.

If you’ve ever seen The Prisoner, you’ll appreciate this large blue ball is very like Rover, the sinister bubble that kept the village residents in line. There are two differences. Difference one is the colour…

The second difference is that I captured it rather than the other way around. Yes! I struck a blow for the common man. Or the common woman. Which in a dream would be very empowering. As it was real life, it was all a bit too surreal.

I rounded up the ball and put it into the front garden of a friend, who was none the wiser because she was still in bed.

‘It could only happen to you,’ Mrs Bancroft said when I messaged her to tell her about my experience.

This is true. I’m to weirdness as a magnet is to iron filings.

On that note, I invite you to put on your Wee Willie Winkie hat and climb the stairs to my Dreamcatcher page to see some of the fantastic dreams you’ve been having during the lockdown. Thanks so much for sharing them. I’d love to document some more, so please keep a pen and pad next to your bed to write down your dream as soon as you wake up.

In other news, it’s May Day, the ancient festival of spring known by Gaelic people as Beltane.

Appropriately, dandelion parachutes are floating by like fairies here in Dorset on this beautiful day, with angel wing clouds fluttering in a vivid blue sky, giving us all hope for a brighter future.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

You are Number Six

I’m sitting up in the spare bedroom, plugging in the laptop and Bose speaker. The village square is eerily quiet.

I put the speaker on the window sill, press the ‘play’ button on the laptop and the prelude to The Sound of Music begins its slow rise into Julie Andrews’ singing at the top of her gorgeous voice the hills are alive…

It’s the Square’s call to arms. The One O’Clock Music Slot is on its way.

Bellows’ wife cycles by on her way from the village shop and gives a cheery wave to Mrs Bancroft across the road, who has jemmied open her Juliet balcony to listen to the music in the warmth of her own home rather than the doorstep.

And then there’s Gracie, the pride of our alley, walking to the shop and wondering what all the fuss is about.

Through the magic of Spotify, Julie Andrews does her bit and then it’s Elton John’s turn, belting out I’m Still Standing for the benefit of Randy Munchkin, who probably can only just about hear it down the street.

DJ Landlord climbs on the cellar roof and gives a long distance thumbs-up while Mrs Plum emerges from the closed-up pub to sit on the seat outside.

Mata Hari emerges from her front door and begins to dance to the music.

The scene is uncannily like something from that 1960s TV classic, The Prisoner, with me alternating between the bewildered Number Six and the sinister Number Two, while Lush Places doubles up as Portmeirion minus the Italianate architecture, a propped-up penny farthing and psychedelic hydrangeas.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if any minute now a large white bubble floated up the high street to keep us all in check.

Absolutely anything could happen. It’s all bonkers.

It’s the strangest thing, this virus, this lockdown. I keeping thinking it’s all a dream and I’m going to wake up, go to the bathroom and find Bobby Ewing in the shower. Which would be kind of awkward, to be honest. I barely know the man.

Ludicrous conspiracy theories abound on social media about how it all began and why – although no-one has suggested it could just be a massive April Fool’s joke or a drill to see how easy it is to keep the masses in their place.

The number of cases is soaring, and even the Prime Minister has it.

Wall-to-wall news about coronavirus increases anxiety levels. I don’t know about you, but I go to sleep thinking about it. I’ve started dabbing lavender oil on my forehead and temples in a bid to stop my dreams becoming re-runs of science fiction disaster films like The Day After Tomorrow.

Although I do have a notepad and pen beside my bed in case a gripping plot emerges for a bestseller. The trouble is, we’re already in it.

Each morning, before I’m fully awake, there is now a split-second where daylight comes in and all seems normal. And then I remember the reality and a feeling of nausea wells deep inside me and threatens to engulf my soul.

Thank goodness for the sunshine and the great outdoors of Lush Places. At least that blue sky and nature going about its normal business is giving us hope.

That’s about it – and, as they used to say in The Prisoner, be seeing you.

Keep smiling.

Love Maddie x