The Sound of Music Through The Square Window: the video

This new video tells the story of how the sound of music every day at one o’clock helped a sleepy Dorset village get through 72 days of lockdown.

With thanks to Simon Emmerson for providing the sound system and making the film, James Dawson for the photos and Stornoway, The Imagined Village and Emma Gale for the music.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

Thank you for the music

As I thought it would be, it was a very emotional day in the village yesterday.

The very last Sound of Music Through The Square Window. Tears were shed. And not just by me.

You can see the final requests and selections, in reverse order, here on the village website. The final playlist is more than nine hours long. You can find it on Spotify here.

The sun shone on us yesterday as we socially distanced danced on pavements, the village green, windows and doorways. Hats and colourful clothing were in abundance and the village people came into their own for The Village People’s YMCA.

It just had to be done.

The songs over the last 72 days have been pretty eclectic but they’ve all been enjoyed immensely. Thank you to those who made suggestions, gave me requests and then waved and danced at home and abroad.

Thank you for your thank yous yesterday, including a spirited rendition of Thank You For The Music sung a cappella with accompanying placards and a signed copy of The Sound of Music poster.

And then a bottle of wine and card from Connor and his family, who have so enjoyed the one o’clock sessions every day.

I don’t think I’ve cried so much.

Just as I was wiping the tears from my eyes, Simon Emmerson thrust a copy of The Sound of Music on vinyl at me from a distance, with the instruction to ‘smash it up’. I can’t bring myself to do that, Julie Andrews has been such a steadfast companion these past ten weeks, although the suggestion of tossing it out of the window like a clay pigeon might feature in the fictionalised account of this wonderfully uplifting village story.

I will leave you with Simon’s Pilsdon Pen, which was part of the final set.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

A time for reflection

Things are slowly getting back to some sense of normality in the village. The noise of a few more children in the school playground is a wonderful sound for sore ears.

It’s too early for things to be as they were – if they ever are again – but at least we can meet friends and family in gardens, the six of us keeping our distance. No-one in Dorset has been impressed with the scenes on our beaches, with daytrippers packed in like sardines just because they have an urge to see the sea and a lifting of lockdown restrictions allows them to do so.

There is a real fear that the county, which has done reasonably well up until now, could be facing a second wave of the virus.

In other news, the cat went to the vet this week. Nothing serious, just preparation for a pet passport in case we are able to travel to France later in July. It was a surreal situation, with customers waiting in their cars for the masked vets to come to them.

At our local hospital, which I had to attend midweek for a medical procedure postponed when lockdown happened, the corridors echoed with the lone footsteps of patients making their way to long-awaited appointments. Doctors and nurses in personal protection gear, perspex screens around the receptionist, and social distancing notices everywhere.

Yesterday, the dogs finally got the haircut they were due on the first day of lockdown. The little one is now more like a sausage with a head than a gundog. I knew she was thin but even I was shocked. I shall redouble my efforts to fatten her up with potatoes.

The weather has changed, the wind is blowing clouds across the sky but the view from the hill is reassuringly the same. It pays to find solace and escape from it all and reflect on life. A fool, alone on a hill.

My very own desert island.

Which leads me very nicely into the fact that I can breathe out now my Desert Island Discs debut has aired this morning. My bit was a light interlude in a programme full of moving stories.

You can listen to the programme here. I’m on at 32:20.

Time and time again, the programme and theme being broadcast throughout the day on Radio 4 illustrated the power of music. Whether it’s in times of reflection, celebration or just a change of mood, music has the ability to move even the most stone-like of souls.

It’ll be my last Sound of Music Through The Square Window this Sunday, and I’ve put together a finale which I hope will capture the fun-filled spirit and creativity of this community.

I’m hoping people who are socially-distancing dancing in windows, doorways, on pavements and the village green will wear a hat, something colourful and maybe sparkly shoes. As the weather forecast isn’t great, it could be sou’wester and galoshes but as long as they’re bright and cheerful, that’s fine.

I’ll be letting you know how the last day goes. And now that the people aren’t staying at home, I might close the window for a bit until I have something else to write about.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

#DesertIslandDiscsChallenge

This coming Friday morning on Radio 4, there’s a special Desert Island Discs featuring the music that is helping people through lockdown.

And the village’s story of The Sound of Music Through The Square Window is included in the programme.

I can say this because several people have already told me they’ve heard my voice on one of the radio trailers, which means my interview hasn’t been left on the cutting room floor

This fills me with relief because talking to Lauren Laverne was a bit nerve-racking, mostly because I worship the ground on which she walks. Also I had severe feedback in my headphones. This was so discombobulating it led me to declare that the village sits beneath the lowest point in Dorset when I meant the highest.

Still, it was lovely to be able to share the tale about the daily request slot and how the theme tune to one of the famous film musicals of all time became the most played song in the village. To see folk on the green socially-distanced dancing every lunchtime, along with neighbours waving from windows and people on pavements pogoing, has been a tonic for this close-knit community.

We’ve felt a part of something, even though we can’t be together.

I have only one tune in this programme but you can guess which one it is. Didn’t have a choice really.

In the build-up to Friday’s programme, which features some emotional interviews with listeners all over the country, the BBC has launched the Desert Island Discs Challenge.

To take part, you have to:

  1. list your top eight pieces of music, starring your favourite
  2. add a book and a luxury (don’t forget you already have the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare)
  3. include the hashtag #DesertIslandDiscsChallenge
  4. tag eight friends to join in the fun

It might seem easy but it’s really quite tricky – the songs shouldn’t be your eight favourite pieces of music but those that mean something to you, maybe jogging a particular memory. You can find guidelines on how to choose your list here.

This is my list of tunes and the reasons why I chose them:

  1. When Will I Be Loved, The Everly Brothers (my older sisters singing in harmony)
  2. Sugar Sugar, The Archies (performing it at the primary school social)
  3. Jupiter from The Planet Suite (as a child I imagined it being played when on a family visit to Tarr Steps, Exmoor)
  4. Rock Your Baby, George McCrae (blackcurrant picking in the summer with the sun on my back and earning 35p a bucket)
  5. What Do I Get, Buzzcocks (teenage angst)
  6. Cars, Gary Numan (being teased about my Somerset accent when I started my journalism training)
  7. Jackson, Johnny Cash and June Carter (singing this with Mr Grigg on our 10th wedding anniversary)
  8. To Build A Home*, The Cinematic Orchestra featuring Patrick Watson (because I love it so. I got soaked walking back in the rain to our accommodation after seeing them at The Roundhouse, London)

Actually, scrub that. It’s just too sad. I think I’ll go with Rock Your Baby instead. I smell blackcurrants every time I hear it.

In any case, it might take me a while to get the hang of my luxury item to play a bit of Mrs Mills, which I’d need to cheer me up if I chose that Cinematic Orchestra track as my one and only desert island disc.

You can see how difficult it is now.

For my book I’m having The Complete Illustrated Guide to Practical Witchcraft and Magic (I might be able to conjure up a rescue vessel or make myself disappear).

And my luxury is a piano. (I had lessons as a child but didn’t have the patience to practise. I figure if I’m on the island long enough, I might become proficient to at least play one tune from beginning to end).

I’ll be posting a short version of my list on social media but, in the meantime, why not give it a go?

That’s about it.

Love, Maddie x

Happy birthday Charles II

It’s Oak Apple Day today, which commemorates the restoration of the monarchy in May 1660 and Charles II’s birthday.

Back in the day, it was a bank holiday. According to an entry in Samuel Pepys’ Diary on 1 June 1660: ‘Parliament had ordered the 29th of May, the King’s birthday, to be forever kept as a day of thanksgiving for our redemption from tyranny and the King’s return to his Government, he returning to London that day.’

The village has a special connection with the flamboyant king. He stopped here overnight in September 1651 when he was on the run from the Battle of Worcester. It’s the same six-week escapade that saw him hiding in a tree at Boscobel (hence the plethora of pubs called The Royal Oak).

Here, he found sanctuary in the top rooms of a pub (now a private house). But when the place was crawling with parliamentary troops, he managed to escape after a pregnant camp follower went into labour downstairs. There was such a hullabaloo among the local officials who didn’t want responsibility for the child’s upkeep that the young king was able to sneak away.

He spent nine years in exile on the continent before being invited back to England in 1660 following the death of Oliver Cromwell in 1658.

I’d forgotten that it was Oak Apple Day until I was reminded by a text this morning from a friend. It read ‘grovelly, grovelly’, the standard greeting between wearers of oak sprigs on 29 May.

The day is still celebrated in parts of England. I’ve long wanted to restore it in this village. I’ve had an Oak Apple Day supper more than once in my house.

According to Wikipedia, anyone who failed to wear a sprig of oak risked being pelted with bird’s eggs or thrashed with nettles. In Sussex, those not wearing oak were liable to be pinched, giving rise to the unofficial name of ‘Pinch-bum Day’. In Essex it was known as ‘Bumping Day’.

Here, however, 360 years on from the Restoration, we made do with a song for Charles II during the daily fun at one slot, The Sound of Music Through The Square Window. I chose King of Rock n Roll by Prefab Sprout. It was either that or a 1600s instrumental number called Johnny Cock Thy Beaver, and I wasn’t sure Lush Places was quite ready for that.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

Welcome to limbo land

Having inadvertently published two blog posts within minutes of each other at the end of last week, I am now struggling to know what to write about.

It’s now a strange period in the lockdown. We are locked down but we aren’t, if you get my drift. Guidelines have been changed and some restrictions lifted. I could go eight miles to the seaside but I’m not going to. Not when every man, woman and child suddenly has the same idea. I’m much happier hidden in the folds of the Dorset hills.

This current phase in the lockdown is as if I’m in some sort of limbo, some sort of no man’s land, neither one place nor another. Does anyone else feel the same? My motivation has disappeared down the plughole. At the start of lockdown, I was writing, renovating furniture, coming up with (what I considered were) brilliant ideas and churning out columns and editing like it was my last day on this earth.

Now I’m in the slough of despond, not sure how to interact with friends and acquaintances unless I’m up in the window and at a safe distance. The new Project Fear. And it’s working.

As you know, I left the village for the first time in months last Thursday and just about remembered how to drive a car. Unlike our coastal resorts at the weekend, the town was deserted. If I’d seen vultures pecking on a carcass in the car park I wouldn’t have been at all surprised.

Mr Grigg and I ventured out a little further on Friday, to pick up shopping for my 94-year-old mother who lives in splendid isolation in the Blackdown Hills in Somerset.

I haven’t seen her since before Mothering Sunday. My older sister is popping in with shopping every now and then, and Mum’s neighbours have been brilliant, so all is well there. She’s confined herself to house and garden, getting through jigsaws and books like a dose of salts, and is planning on walking out to the postbox just down the lane this week.

It was lovely to see her and the fact I couldn’t hug her didn’t matter because we’re not a hugging and kissing family. It might be the new normal to squirm when anyone gets too close but I’ve always been like that, so it’s no big deal.

So this whole supermarket shopping thing is really doing my head in. The one-way system in Tesco worked well, as did their other social distancing measures, but I didn’t like it. Not one bit. The mask made by my friend was pretty but I saw myself in the reflection of the chrome bits on the chiller and nearly had another heart attack.

I stayed in the car when the husband then went into Lidl. It took him ages and by the time he came out, the battery on my phone had died because I was flicking through my Facebook and Instagram feed I was so bored. Usually I have a book in my handbag for such occasions but as I haven’t used my handbag for two months, I’ve forgotten what it’s for.

At one point in the car park, I sneezed in the car and, I kid you not, six heads from all over the car park turned away in the opposite direction. Mind you, my sneezes are loud enough to wake the dead.

If nothing else, this virus will have changed my shopping habits. I’ve never liked supermarkets in any case, unless they have a shoe aisle. So in future, I’ll be sending Mr Grigg out to get the provisions and just keeping it very local.

On another note, I’ve decided to close The Sound of Music Through The Square Window on 31 May, the day before some schoolchildren are due to go back. We’re beginning to get some semblance of normality although I don’t think things will ever be the same again.

I’m glad my children are grown up. I wouldn’t want to have to make the decision about sending them back to school. And, contrary to some stupid government bod who slammed such concerns as ‘middle class’, I think you’ll find working class people feel exactly the same.

Anyway, must dash. I have an appointment with Julie Andrews in an hour’s time. The hills are alive and all that.

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

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

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

And the clock struck thirteen

Well, the songs continue in The Sound of Music Through The Square Window and, with all this talk of lockdown locking itself in a safe and throwing away the key, there’s going to be a fair few more requests to come.

I’ve had some lovely feedback from locals plus more song requests, as well as a plea from a motorist for people to keep to doorways, windows and the sides of the road. It’s time to face the music and dance, but without touching anyone or slowing down the traffic, although some drivers have stopped and swayed along to the music, as well as clapping for our carers every Thursday night.

The picture outside my window just after one o’clock each day is something to behold. And it seems fitting that, in these times when none of us know what day of the week it is let alone the time, the church clock is striking the hour before the previous one.

So at one o’clock, just as Julie Andrews starts chirruping through the massive speakers like an enormous Tweety, the village clock strikes twelve. I’m rather hoping I’ve miscounted and that the clock is actually striking thirteen, which would be far more appropriate, just before tumbleweed slowly rolls up the street towards the church.

I know the words to The Sound of Music theme tune now by heart. I sing along to it, out of sight in my spare bedroom, arms outstretched. The hills really are alive here in this part of Dorset.

Yesterday was like that classic scene in Ghostbusters II where the slime is defeated by the collective love of the crowd and a kick-ass Statue of Liberty. I almost expected the naked nymph statue in the garden up the road to sashay down to the square, closely followed by Betty and Bob, the pub’s two ornamental gnomes, along with the landlady’s newly-painted plaster wombles and the fairies from Bluebell Hill bringing up the rear.

Now that would have brought traffic to a standstill.

If The Ghostbusters can do it, I’m sure as hell that we can, although it’s going to take more than Hollywood special effects, great comic actors and sparkling script to see this thing off for eternity.

It’s Friday tomorrow (I think) when thoughts turn to what we’re all doing at the weekend. I’m going to be visiting a garden. Mine.

How about you? Planning anything special this weekend?

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x