In her weekly column, Maddie Grigg shares tales from her life in rural Dorset . . .
THERE’S nothing like a bit of competition to get Mr Grigg up and running with an idea. This time, it’s the fact that a small hamlet – just down the road from us and across a stream – manages to organise a meal in the pub once a year for all its inhabitants.
“Well, if they can do it, why can’t we?” he said to me a few months ago. “It’ll be a great excuse to get neighbours together, and it’ll also support the pub. With any luck we’ll have more sitting down for supper than that other lot.”
“Why do you want to beat everyone all the time?” I asked. “Life’s not a competition.”
He gave me a look as if to say, “Oh, but it is”, then began to plan.
We decided to extend the invitations beyond the Lush Places village square, otherwise it would have been about ten of us. So we went a bit further west and down the bottom of the road to the stream.
“I just hope they don’t all come,” I said, looking at the list, realising it could be about 40 of us. I wasn’t sure Jim and Tonic at the pub would be able to accommodate that many in just one sitting.
We compiled a suitable letter, asked for expressions of interest and waited for the response. All was quiet until about a day before the deadline, then the replies came flooding in, together with deposit money.
“Are we too late?” one family asked. “We weren’t really sure we were allowed to come as we’re always invited to the other one.”
We realised, too late, that we had crossed the stream and included people from the hamlet with which Mr Grigg was competing.
“That was deliberate,” I lied, thinking on my feet. “We always feel like you’re part of our road.”
Counting the responses, we found we had 29 people lined up for our special street supper. Some residents hadn’t bothered to reply, while others had said they couldn’t come but thought it was a great idea.
“I hope you don’t mind,” Mr Grigg said, “but I’ve said they can all come to our house first for pre-dinner drinks at seven.”
As you know, I’m not averse to entertaining, but from time to time, I do wonder when it will all end.
On Boxing Day last year, we played host to 35 members of my family, and even though people brought food to share, I was completely shattered by three p.m.
Still, there wasn’t much I could do about the predinner drinks invitation because Mr Grigg had already issued it.
“That’s lovely,” I said through gritted teeth. “I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
Well, tonight’s the night, and by twenty past seven, my kitchen and dining-room are full to the brim and I can’t hear myself think.
“It’s so kind of you to organise this meal and invite us all round first,” a very nice lady who lives a few doors down says.
“It’s a pleasure,” I say. I seem to be lying a lot these days. “But I can’t claim any of the credit. It’s all down to my husband. It was his idea.”
She laughs as if I am being modest then asks for a refill.
By seven-thirty – the time we are meant to be sitting down for our meal – no-one shows any sign of moving.
I try to make my little voice heard about the hubbub but to no avail. It’s like herding cats. Then I remember the handbell from my old primary school, which was given to my mother as some sort of parting gift when she retired as school secretary in 1972.
And do you know what? It certainly does the trick. Within five minutes, we’re in the pub and being waited on hand and foot. n
What could be nicer than food with friends?