Mad­die’s World

In her weekly col­umn, Mad­die Grigg shares tales from her life in ru­ral Dorset . . .

The People's Friend - - Contents -

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?

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