I am beginning to think my little grey cells must have attuned themselves to the change in season. In the heat of the summer they were all fired up; decisions just made themselves and ideas dripped from every pore in my body. And now, with the waning of the year my ability to make a decision about anything, like poor old Icarus, has come crashing to the ground. Sad to say dear reader, with the drop in temperature my brain cells have slowed to almost freezing point and - unable to make decisions, I have become a ditherer
This state of affairs does not sit easily with me, as I am so used to keeping all the balls in the air and making a swift decision about the first one that comes down. Now when the balls coming rolling down at me, I stare at them, glazed-eyed and am paralyzed with indecision.
This is how it is at Chez Comb at present. We have been in our new home for seven months now and are finally getting around to organising some fitted wardrobes. (That particular ball was way up in the air all summer). We have been making do with clothes rails as other more pressing matters than storing our clothes took up our attention. However, we were both getting tired of trying to extract assorted pieces of clothing from over-packed rails. (And just don't get me started on the wretched subject of clothes rails in the first place. That is a whole other country). So, proper wardrobes are needed and after consultation with friends for their recommendations, a local carpenter visited with his brochures.
Let me say here and now that I am not casting any aspersions on our lovely carpenter. He is a man of great skill and integrity and so wants to do the job justice and fit us out with beautiful wardrobes. Me? I just want a cupboard to hang my clothes in. That is not unreasonable. So why can't it be that simple? My dear reader, if you have ever sailed in this same boat you will know exactly what I mean. It isn't that simple. You have to choose the style of doors you would like. And then there is the colour and the grain of the wood. Must I? Yes, it seems I must. Skilled carpenter cannot make the choice for me. Then the style of handles to go on the doors! 'I just want a handle to open the ***** thing with.' I growl to spouse. There are pages and pages of doors, drawers, cupboards and handles. I have no clue, have almost gone off the whole idea by now and hence am now in a complete state of dither.
My other state of dither is entirely my own fault. In those far off halcyon days of summer when all was right with the world and my brain cells functioned, we passed our summer evenings sitting out on the small terrace at the back of the house that overlooks the garden. Fizz, fizz went my synapses and up came the bright idea of a loggia or covered verandah. Spouse wholeheartedly agreed and since I had come up with that particular ball, he suggested I run with it. Well, dear reader, I have. the builder has visited and he too agrees a verandah is a great idea. Win win, two people convinced already. Ah, but here we go again. My back of an envelope drawing will not suffice. My builder friend needs to know where I want supporting posts, style of railings and roofing, do I want solid side panels and what style of flooring to it - is it flagging or wood? If it's flags - what colour? Do I want to design something? if it's a wood floor, again what colour had I in mind???? Had I in mind? I haven't got a mind any more.
At the moment I have no ideas on any of these fronts. I think my brain cells have gone into hibernation for the winter and I am dithering and dithering and ....... Sometime soon I will have to come up with some answers to all the questions recently asked of me. In the meantime dear reader, I think I will curl up in a tight ball and pull the covers up over my head. Then maybe, just maybe, my brain cells will defrost and I will once again become the juggler extraordinaire I used to be and voila, the decisions will make themselves. I live in hope - and in the meantime - happy dithering.
From little acorns ... You may recall dear reader, or quite probably you won't, but some time ago, my friend Pat and I decided to sort out the garden at our local library. Due to the financial crisis and subsequent cuts in government funding, our local council could no longer afford to maintain the library gardens and thus they were beginning to look a a rather sorry state. Pat and I, both library volunteers, decided we could not let things slide into decline and set about the borders with enthusiasm, weeding and pruning them to within an inch of their little plant lives. The library Manager put a photograph of us industriously working away up on the the library website and thus news of our activities spread.
Enter stage left another library volunteer, Larraine, who loves anyone who takes an interest in our little seaside town. Our little acorn began to take root and grow. Larraine is a wonderful woman and when she sets her shoulder to the wheel, my word does it spin. She was out and about around the town fundraising for plants and good soil for the garden, cajoling shopkeepers to give us rainbutts and tools and even found a lady who donated her own gardener's time to do some really heavy work for us, digging out unwanted shrubs that had taken over in places. Meanwhile Pat and I stuck to our weeding and pruning, quietly delighted at the turn events had taken.
In time the word went out to all volunteers that their services would be much appreciated on Tuesday, when the big final weed and plant up was to take place. As you know dear reader, I have had a distcinctly dodgy back for the last couple of weeks, but I was not going to miss this event. I and my tools and kneeling mat turned up on Tuesday morning and I assigned myself a large empty bed to weed ready for planting. Buddleas and other bee and butterfly-friendly plants are to be planted in it. So, for quite a few hours, with a few breaks for stretching the old limbs now and then, I was on all fours seeing off the weeds. You will note dear reader, that there is no mention of spouse joining in with this activity. He was out and about on his own affairs. However, he arrived early on the scene to gather me up and I was still on all fours and amazingly at that point he made no comment on my stance. We departed the garden leaving the merry team beavering away like ... well, beavers.
But you can't keep a good man down can you? No, I don't really mean a good man at all. I happened to mention the next morning that my back felt a little easier, maybe as a result of spending the day on all fours. 'Well, what are you waiting for,' quoth he. 'You need to go around like a dog and then you can woof woof all day. I could take you out for a walk'. There you are dear reader, the only animal missing from the zoo last week.
But, didn't I say my time would come? And so it has. Ha ha, spouse's bad karma from last week has come back to bite him. The English term for it is, 'he's got his come uppance' - what goes around comes around! He hatched a heavy cold after that last remark about going around woof woofing and has felt very sorry for himself these last few days. His eyes have been streaming and if ever there was a Rudolph conk it is his, as his nose has never stopped running.
Best of all, his sense of smell and taste have vanished and he says he could be eating cardboard - not I trust, his opinion of my cuisine. I am almost ... almost, tempted to serve up a box on a dinnerplate if that is the case. I mean, why slave away over a hot stove if the old taste buds have taken their bats home? Watch this space dear reader, the walls of Chez Comb may resound with anguished wails tonight if I find a suitable box. Cardboard a la Mme Patrice may find its way on to the Sunday menu.
On Tuesday I am off to the physiotherapist who I hope will dance up and down on my vertabra and I will come out dancing like a spring lamb. So look out spouse, I will soon be a force to be reckoned with once more.
About ten days ago I injured my back. I had been to a music practice at my local church and when we finished spouse very kindly carried my guitar in its hard case out to the car and lodged it behind the front seats. Now, dear reader, even at the time this left me scratching my head a little, as we have an estate car and as there was not much else in the car at the time, except for the jack and a few empty carrier bags, it did cross my mind that maybe he could have put the darned thing on the back seat or in the boot. However, I kept a still tongue in my head and we made our way to the supermarket to re-stock our cupboards. All fine and dandy- until we got home. Hefting a bag of shopping in one hand I reached into the car went to lift the guitar out. Only it was stuck, wedged behind the seat and firmly stuck in the back seat footwell. So there you have it - that's how you rick your back.
As the afternoon wore on, the damage to my back made itself felt and by bedtime I was in agony and breaking out the painkillers. (I hope there's a lot of sympathy going on for me out there, especially from those of you who have done similar things!) I crawled on hands and knees to bed and spent a sleepless night trying to find somewhere that was comfortable. I didn't, but at least I had the BBC World Service to take my mind off things. It's amazing what you can learn in the middle of the night.
Come the morning I could barely walk and whilst I could dress the top half of me, reaching down to toe level was a non-starter. I sat on the edge of the bed contemplating the idea of spouse wrestling me into a pair of tights. It would be like two ferrets fighting inside a bag and possibly a lot of pain involved. That was a real non-starter. It would have to be socks. Spouse was called on for assistance. Now whilst he is kindness itself and only too willing to assist, he does not make a gal feel better in herself when she is likened to a horse. Dragging socks over my feet he commented, 'Ooh, it's like shoeing a horse,' says he. (How would he know?) And then to add insult to the injury he looked up at me, grinning a wolfish grin, (well we are in animal mode) and said, 'They shoot horses don't they?' Mmm, not what I wanted to hear.
Over the course of this last week, I have been likened to Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, as I had a cold and shuffled about the house, 'a bit like a reindeer', - no, I fail to get that one either. Then I was a monkey and a crab, depending on which method I employed to get up and down the stairs, I believe a donkey was mentioned at one stage, although that could have been the painkillers playing tricks and last but not least, the Cowardly Lion from 'Wizard of Oz', not because I'm cowardly, but even I must admit my hair was standing on end in the mornings after a night of shuffling about in bed trying to find a comfortable spot.
Thank you for your kind concern, dear reader, yes, I am on the road to recovery and I look forward to running around like a two year old any time soon. But just wait until spouse is under the weather or slinks into the house with yet another wound for the steri-strips and bandages - every dog has his day, (about the only name he hasn't called me yet), and I could have a field day with him. Nurse Comb might not be just as gentle as usual. There will be no soft stroking of the guaze over the open wound. Tougher love might be the order of the day. Take note spouse, you have been warned......
Spouse and I have lived on smallholdings in the Durham Dales in the north-east of England and in the Charente Maritime in south-west France. Of all the animals and birds we kept, our feathered friends were the most entertaining and at times exasperating.
Up in the Durham Dales we decided to keep some ducks and our neighbours had a glut of young ducklings at that time and were keen to offload some on to us. Spouse built them a duckhouse to keep them safe from the foxes at night and then we looked about for a suitable receptacle to use as a pond. We didn't have anything big enough. So, we took ourselves off to the nearby town and found the very thing - a chld's heavy duty paddling pool in bright blue plastic. It was too large to tote down the street to where our car was parked, so spouse wore it on his head. Needless to say, I was ten paces in front and walking fast to make it twenty.
After that excitement, we got our new pool home and filled it up. Now we were set for our new arrivals. Six ducks and one drake came to live in the field next to our house. They were very entertaining and best of all, loved their pond. Our dogs were quite keen for a duck supper at first, but were soon made to know their place when they were on the receiving end of a few nasty nips from Henry, our drake.
Henry was an enterprising duck. At the time of his arrival on our farm, I always fed our dogs outside, as the retriever was a particularly messy eater. It didn't take Henry long to suss out when it was dinner time and he would come waddling up to the back door, elbow the dogs out of the way and finish off their food for them. And the dogs were so intimidated by him, they stood back and watched! So I brought their food indoors, but Henry was not deterred by this. He boldly marched into the back kitchen and carried on scoffing. In the end the door had to be locked against him.
in his favour though, was the fact that he was an unusually good parent. Unfortunately, our new mums never seemed to be too concerned about their offspring and would wander off in search of food, never caring whether their babes were keeping up or not. But Henry cared deeply and was very gentle, conscientious and caring about all his children, watching them as they took their first dip, making sure they didn't stray too far away from him and generally being a good dad. So I suppose a little doggie dinner here and there didn't go amiss.
His successor, Sam, however, was a very different kettle of drake. I described him the other day to a friend, as being like Hitler on speed and really, when I think of it, this is quite an accurate description. Henry had been a very handsome drake, plump and well proportioned, whereas Sam was long and stringy and obviously didn't care for the water too much, as he always looked dirty, his feathers hanging stringily about him. Worzel Gummidge comes to mind.
I could have forgiven him this, but he was a bully. He didn't treat the women well and they were afraid of him, always trying to escape his rough and demanding attentions. One day matters came to a head when my poor girls all squeezed under the field gate and into our garden to escape Sam. He, left on the other side of the gate, patrolled up and down, a mad Basil Fawlty gleam in his eye and squawking the odds at us to let him in and let him at 'em.
I had had enough. No male of any species was going to behave like that on my farm. I found spouse and asked him to go and shoot Sam. He was one drake we could do without. Spouse obliged and put the corpse in the clean dustbin we used to keep feed in, to await my attentions. It so happened, Sam had to wait until the next afternoon to be dealt with. I had planned a shopping trip to the nearby town the next morning and I think we were lucky to get out of there without major incident. As we were passing the hardware section in the supermarket, spouse remarked, 'Oh by the way after I shot Sam yesterday, I put him in the clean feedbin as he was bleeding a bit. It will need washing out.' As we passed we noticed a young assistant up a ladder. She had been in the process of dusting the shelves. The hand holding the duster was frozen in mid-air. She was white faced and looked shocked. We made a swift exit from the supermarket glad not to be met with an armed response unit outside.
A few years later we were keeping ducks and hens again. Our favourites were Sylvia the worlds most inquisitive hen and Pa Larkin, the cockerel and head of the tribe. We called him after Pa Larkin in 'The Darling Buds Of May' as he really looked after his family well, making sure they got the pick of the best food and protecting them from all comers.
Until the day of the rounding up. We were coming over to England for a month on a house hunting trip and our neighbours across the fields were going to have our livestock over at their place to look after. So, we had to round up the hens and ducks and transport them over the way. As they were all pretty tame, it didn't prove to be a problem, except for Pa Larkin, who suddenly found his wings and took to the air for the first time in his life and flew over the high wall of the enclosure, legging it at speed down the road and into the nearby wood.
Our hearts sank. However would we catch a cockerel stuck up a tree in a wood? There was not much likelihood of that. However, we were not ones to throw in the towel after the first round, so we got on our bikes and pedalled furiously after him. On entering the wood we got quite a surprise. There was Pa Larkin crouched on the ground with his eyes tight shut. If he couldn't see us, we sure as heck wouldn't see him! I suppose that is how cockerel theory goes. Spouse ditched the bike and gathered up the bird. I have to say he was none too pleased to be so easily discovered and spouse suffered some nasty nips from Pa's sharp beak, but at least he could be restored to his lady friends.
That was his only bid for freedom and he lived to a ripe old age, happily watching over his girls by night and day. Just nobody mention the woods again.