Good morning dear reader and welcome to Chez Comb. I hope I find you well and in good heart. I sort of am and sort of am not. On the one hand I am nursing a heavy cold and believe me I am nursing it, but on the other hand it is getting me out of barrowing all that clay soil into a skip as I mentioned last week. Luckily for me our kind neighbour, Andrew, offered to help spouse in the barrowing of the soil and there will be plenty of the good stuff left for him to share in for his garden. Win, win all round I think. Especially for me as I can admire the skip activities from the safety of the house in the happy knowledge that I will not land up in the bottom of it, as spouse has fondly threatened. However, there may yet be talk of needing a second skip so I had better watch my p's and q's for a while yet.
I am extremely glad that our skip did not arrive until the latter part of this week, or I could well have been put in it. Spouse, aka Pond Man, had in the course of our garden clearances, put aside various sizes of flagstones with which to secure the pond liner and with the hope that they would make a pleasing decorative edging to our new pond. He duly laid a row of them out along the top of the pond and then the doubts began to creep in. He had measured and made his calculations and thought he had enough of this particular size to do the job, but on further reflection decided this may well not be the case.
H.Q. was informed, (me) and the decision made to use the larger size flagstones instead, as he knew he had plenty of these, almost enough to circumnavigate the earth with. Alright, maybe quite not so many, but as near as. Spouse set to work and laid one side of the pond, carried on around the corner and laid the next side. it was all going so well ... until I rose from my writing activities and took myself off down the garden. Yes, you're quite right dear reader - I did not like like what I beheld. The new flags were too darned big in proportion to the pond. They would have to go and the previous ones put back in their place. Pond Man was not a happy Pond Man, believe me dear reader and a certain amount of expostulation and hot air was expended over the situation. Wishing to keep my head attached to my neck I judged it best to make myself scarce at this point and scuttled off back to the laptop, leaving spouse to probably retrieve his wax effigy of me and stick a few pins in it - and order the skip!
So, as I was speaking of watching p's and q's earlier I have in my turn had my patience tried to the limit this week and have had had to severely rein in my on-line speech as yet again the company that prints and distributes my books has driven me bannanas. Remember the 'password' contretemps with them a short while ago? This week it was their penchant for sending me another author's sales returns, which I'm sure, she would not wish me to receive nor their rightful monies into my bank account and neither did I. But you try telling the company that and believe me dear reader, I wish you joy of that one.
Because dear reader, once again I became entangled with the 'Support Team'. I know I have said it before and now I say it again, if ever there was a misnomer it is 'Support Team'. There is no 'support' about it. For some months I have been receiving sales reports for someone else in addition to my own and duly reported the mistakes to the company. Enter stage left the 'Support Team'. I tried dear reader, really I did.
This is not my book ... Yes it is ... No, it isn't. I think I know my own books ... It is yours, it's on your account number ... That's not my account number ... Oh yes it is ... Oh no it isn't, my account number is xxx ... Yes well, the book is on that account number, so it's yours ...
You get the drift dear reader. Back and forth we go - I give them all the ISBN numbers and titles of my books and the ISBN number, title and author name of the book that is not mine. I have to say dear reader that I don't know why the lady I was dealing with was working on the 'Support Team' - her talents for obfuscation are unmatched in my experience. She is wasted in 'Support'. Government departments are crying out for people like her to write their leaflets. She is a genius and deserves to head up our Civil Service and keep the whole nation confused for years to come.
At the end of my week of verbally banging my head against a literary brick wall, the lady informed me 'I'm sorry, your previous email stated you were looking for the report of title xxx. What report are you looking for instead?'
Excuse me? I requested the title report? Grrrr. Where has she been? I've been banging on about it for weeks that it is not my title and I never requested it in the first place.
I have replied to the good lady dear reader. I have not been rude and have indeed minded my p's and q's, but have stated fairly forcefully that the title in question is not mine and please don't send me the details again. However, I am bracing myself for the next monthly reports ... are we taking bets on there still being a literary cuckoo in my nest? I sincerely hope not. The very thought of tangling with the 'Support Team' again makes me want to lie down in a darkened room.
Have a good week dear reader and we will meet again next Sunday, unless I'm the occupant of our next skip or buried in the garden with a new tree planted on top of me - he's been eyeing up several mature species at the gaden centre lately ......
Good morning my dear reader and welcome to another Sunday at Chez Comb. I am a very happy soul this morning as it has rained a little and freshened things up a bit and filled up all our water butts. Ah, it doesn't take much to make me happy. On reflection, Pond Man would not say that at the moment, but we will revisit him next week by which time he may have rejoined the world that is not all about ponds.
The 'A' Level results have been released this week with the usual crop of ecstatic students delighted with their results and now looking forward to the world of university. It took me back a year or two, (who am I kidding), to my own time of application to various universities and subsequently, the all important interview.
I was due for interview at a particular northern university and on the appointed day took myself off to Leeds City Station to catch the train. I checked on the platform and made my way there and sure enough the train was ready and waiting. A railway porter was loitering nearby and being a more cautious soul in those days I checked with him that this was indeed my train. He confirmed it was and on I got.
The butterflies were beginning to flutter in my stomach and so I tried to occupy myself with magazines and my book. The ticket guard entered our crowded carriage and made his way down its length, checking everyone's tickets as he went. All was well, until he came to me. I gave him my ticket and he looked at it and then back at me in disbelief. 'What's this?' he cried - in a loud voice. He was a gorgeously tall Jamaican and rolled his eyes dramatically at me. 'We aint going where you want to go, Miss. This is a non-stop express to London!!!'
My, my, dear reader. I'm sure you can imagine the embarrassment and panic that arose in my breast. Not only was I on the wrong train, going in the wrong direction, but it was non-stop. Kings Cross here I come. There would be no interview for me and who in their right minds would give such a numpty a second interview. I mean, I couldn't even find my way to the university. As you can imagine I was more than a tad upset at the prospect of my precious university place disappearing before my eyes.
Now in those days generally the British public vilified British Rail, but I have to tell you dear reader, that they were wonderful to me that day. The lovely ticket guard brought me coffee and sat with me until I had calmed down, promising to take me straight to a phone when we landed in Kings Cross, so that I could telephone home and begin to get things sorted out. Bless his heart he looked after me like his own daughter and after I had spoken to my father on the telephone, (who couldn't believe he had such a numpty for a daughter), escorted me back to the train and made sure I got on it for the return non-stop trip to Leeds.
Meanwhile, my father, God bless his cotton socks, telephoned the university and explained the situation. Fortunately for me they did not instantly take their bat home and forever dismiss me from their hallowed portals. Instead they said they would send me another date for interview. My Papa got the distinct sense that they found my situation quite amusing.
Come the day of the next university interview, my dear Papa didn't risk me on the railway a second time. He firmly strapped me in the car, told me to sit tight and drove me there himself. With hindsight dear reader, I suspect the prospect of a near hysterical daughter arriving home a second time was too much to contemplate.
At least I managed to negotiate my way around the university and find the correct department. I was directed to a particular room and on entry found it to be full of other candidates waiting their turn for interview. In bustled a young man, who introduced himself as head of the department. After a few preliminaries, he looked around the room and with a mischievous grin on his face asked if Patricia was here today. I looked around the room for any other Patricia's there might be - but there appeared to be none but me. Cautiously I half raised my hand and the lecturer threw back his head and roared with laughter. Recovering himself and wiping his streaming eyes he proceeded to tell all the other students present of my hapless adventures on British Rail and how pleased he was to see that I had managed to make it to today's appointment.
Horrible man. Why did he have to snitch on me so publicly? Would I ever live it down? Now everyone would know what a twit I was and have a jolly good laugh at my expense. And so it proved to be my dear reader. Every time I met someone new, after a few moments that slow, knowing smile would spread across their face and 'weren't you the one that ...?'
But I'm not my mother's daughter for nothing, dear reader. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger and if any of my old friends tried to resurrect that one these days, I think they know what would be their fate at my hands now. Just sayin' ... you know who you are ....
I hope you have a good week dear reader. I should be getting on with a book, but pond man has got me earmarked for barrowing heavy clay soil into a skip - unfortunately the skip is at the front of the house and the soil is at the back. I may be in for some sore muscles before I am done. I will never complain about hitting the keys of a hot laptop again, it has to be preferable to my forthcoming weeks's activities. Hey ho, see you next week, unless pond man plants me in the skip along the with soil.
Good morning my dear reader and I hope I find you well and enjoying the wonderful summer weather. I am very happy to welcome you to another beautiful morning here in the Yorkshire Wolds. Although we have rain here today it is still a beautiful day as this water is very welcome after months of heat and sunshine.
Last week I briefly mentioned spouse and his activities with drain rods in various parts of the world. That was all prior to his current activities with our new pond. (The latest update on that is he has obtained rolls of carpet from our local supplier and is busy lining out the sides and edges of the pond with it, prior to laying the liner over it. His dedication to the removal of stones and any other miscellaneous detritus from his ledges and edges knows no bounds - out came the hoover and all rogue stones, etc. have been removed). Hold that vision dear reader, a man lying prone beside a large pond, hoovering away as one possessed.
However I am digressing here. I am not talking about ponds today. I am back to drain rods. I know, I know. You are wondering what on earth I can have to discourse about regarding drain rods. Not the most savoury or fascinating subject you have ever come across no doubt. Well believe me my dear reader, when it comes to spouse and drain rods it can turn into a very interesting subject indeed.
Some years ago when we were living in Scotland some friends came to stay for new year. We had a jolly Hogmany supper and saw in the new year in fine style with good whiskey and the traditional first footing around the village. New Year's Day dawned fine and bright and we were tempted out for a drive to a lovely village further along the coast. We parked up near to the pub and went for a bracing walk up hill and followed the coastal path for a while, our eyes watering and ears frozen off us by the icy winter winds.
After a few miles we gave in gracefully and retraced our steps back to the pub. Oh the joy of falling gratefully through the front door and defrosting by a roaring fire with cups of hot coffee and a wee dram. Dear reader, my toes and ears are tingling just at the memory of it all.
So there we were, toasting our toes by the fireside and who should come wandering in but a good friend of ours from the local church, accompanied by a merry looking lady and they were deep in conversation. As they made their way towards the dining room, our friend, Monica, spied spouse and I by the fire and new year greetings were exchanged. We introduced our friends, Sylvia and Derek and Monica introduced her friend Pam. She was just about to introduce us when Pam piped up 'Oh I know this young man, I've carried his drain rods in the woods.' And with that they sailed off into the pub dining room for lunch.
As you can imagine dear reader, there was what is known as a 'pregnant pause' after the departure of these ladies. A woman I had never clapped eyes on was on intimate terms of acquaintance with spouse and his drain rods. What was I to make of this? I looked at Sylvia, she looked at me and then we both looked at spouse, who I am pleased to say had the grace to blush and scratch his head in a 'how do I get out of this one?' kind of a way. 'Well, you're a dark horse,' said Sylvia, 'and in the woods too!'
We sat down again and ordered more whiskey all round, the consensus being that we all might need it by the time spouse had finished his explanation. It went like this. Just out of our village was a large forest where we used to walk our golden retriever dog, Harry. One day spouse was in the woods without me and came across an area where the path was flooded by the winter rains, as the gully and drainpipe underneath the path was blocked with wet leaves and hence the water had overflowed on to the path and the surrounding area and was now a sea of impassable mud.
Spouse being the public spirited chap he is decided he would have a go at clearing the blocked pipe himself. He took the dog home and loaded his drain rods and shovels into the car and headed off back to the woods. Just as he parked up, so did Pam, who had come to walk her little dog. Curiosity got the better of her when she saw Peter unloading rods and shovels and of course the question was asked, 'where are you going with that lot?' Spouse explained about the blocked drainpipe and backed-up gully and Pam, being the kind soul she is, offered to carry his drain rods to the site of the action. They introduced themselves and had a good old chat all the way through the woods. Apparently when they got to the flooded site he refused Pam's offers of further help as drain-rodding was a one man activity at that point, so Pam wished him well and went on her merry way dog walking.
Spouse set to work and spent some long time working away at the pipe with his rods but could make no progress with the blockage. Somewhere deep inside the pipe was a solid mass that would not be shifted by muscle power alone. You will know by now dear reader, that spouse is not a man to let the old sleeping dog lie. Something Must Be Done. So he took himself off to the Forestry Commission offices in the nearby town and reported the problem and received their assurances that they would attend to the problem.
And bless their hearts, they did. After inspecting the flooded site they too agreed that drain rods would not solve the problem and they fetched in the heavy machinery, excavating the whole area to clear out the old, broken pipes, remove all the accumulated detritus and install a new mega-pipe to allow leaves and surface water to be taken away. Result!!
And spouse never said a word about it! Just quietly got on with his work and his life until Pam walked into the pub that new year's day and let the cat out of the bag. So for my money he can hoover his gravel, hoover around his pond and rod his drains to his heart's content. Thanks to him there is now one very well drained wood in south-west Scotland.
I hope you have a very good week dear reader. For all I know, pond man may still be at work this time next week and possibly have developed webbed feet. I have a romcom novel to get to work on - that is if I can drag my eyes away long enough from pond man and his activities. I wonder if he likes fish food?
Hello my dear reader and welcome to another scorcher of a Sunday at Chez Comb I hope I find you well and in good heart. I am in good heart, if a little exasperated with spouse - but nothing new there then.
We are planning a trip to Australia later in the year to see family out there and whilst spouse may coast along in our neck of the Yorkshire Wolds in togs that are, how shall I say, less than pristine, it was felt by the Management, (as in my good self) that a visit to the clothing emporium in York was required. For once, spouse cautiously agreed, that maybe - just maybe - and he certainly wasn't committing to anything here - that maybe a new tog or two would be in order.
However, I don't know if you have come across the expression dear reader, that people will always find time for the things they really want to do. Well that expression fits my dear spouse to a tee, especially when it comes to being dragged out on a clothes purchasing expedition and that is something he most definitely would not like to do.
Bear with me dear reader we are going back in time here to when we lived on a smallholding high up in the Durham Dales. We found that the drainage system that took the water from off the fellside, around the back of the house and off to a soakaway down one of the fields had failed and our dining room walls were feeling the effects. Hope you followed all that, I may be asking questions later.
We made this discovery at Christmastime and after the celebrations were past, spouse diligently set to work to dig out and remove the old pot drains and replace them with new plastic pipe work. Dirty work in the freezing cold of January and into February, so cold that a slug of whiskey was needed in his coffee at regular intervals to defrost him - so he claimed .... Dear reader, I cannot begin to count the number of man hours he spent keeping company with his drains, tweaking here, tweaking there to ensure the slope of them was exactly to his liking and the water would flow away like a good 'un. and to boot, he was as happy as a pig in ... muck. I re-christened him 'drain man'.
He has been 'drain man' in France, Scotland and Yorkshire. Last weekend he spent a very happy time sorting out our drain here in our North Yorkshire home and even had to go and purchase extra lengths of drain rods! No checking for the moths in his wallet on that day my dear reader, he was off to the DIY store like the proverbial rat up a stick.
And now he is 'pond man' and certainly hasn't got time for all that clothes shopping nonsense. There is real work to be done and I can only blame myself for this state of affairs. In my infinite wisdom - yes, it really is infinite - I decided that we should have a large pond in our new Wolds garden. We had had a pond in our Scottish garden and I derived great pleasure and lots of writerly displacement activity from tending the vegetation in and around the pond and watching the birds bathing in it. So a pond there should be in our new garden.
We marked out where our pond was going to be and on a sunny August morning Brian arrived with his mini-digger and dug the hole to our design. But ... there is tweaking to be done and spouse is the man to do it. Before the pond liner can be put down, the pond sides have to be smoothed and the landing bays for the birds sorted out and the sand put down to cushion the new liner. And let's not go into barrowing soil around the rest of the garden to give us some semblance of a level playing field.
'Pond man' is currently as happy as a sand boy - literally. He has two tons of sand to barrow into his new pit, aka our wannabee pond, and so my dear reader, how would you rate my chances of ever making it to the clothing emporium this side of our trip to Australia? Pretty low I would say. But on the other hand if he is occupied with this project and I have to go shopping for him on my own - now what might I come back with? He hasn't thought of that one. Wonder if he likes pink trousers and lemon shirts? Guess what dear reader, something tells me he just might not be too keen on those ideas, but they might work to get him out of the front door in case I do as threatened and do my worst.
Hey ho, we shall see - either way he's not going to Australia in his much patched togs. I hope his psyche can stand the parting, I know I certainly can. It may be pink trousers and lemon coloured shirts if he doesn't get out of his sand pit soon.