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.
Hello dear reader and welcome to another sunny Sunday at Chez Comb. I hope I find you well and in good fettle. As you are all too well aware, we have been enjoying amazingly hot weather for some long time now and are walking around like newly landed fish gasping for air - any air, but fresh and cool preferably. I am not complaining about it as it is lovely to sit out in the garden under the sun umbrella, sipping reviving cold drinks and pretending to work. Much better than being under an umbrella sheltering from the cold winter rains I can tell you.
After months of uninterrupted sunshine the ground has gradually dried up, all the moisture gone from it until the earth is hard and dry. There are no puddles of water left for the birds to drink or bath in. We have two bird baths, a shallow one for the small birds - sparrows, wrens and blackbirds and a deeper one for the seagulls, pigeons and rooks, although why we provide for the seagulls I do not know as they repay us by squawking loudly at 2.30 a.m. every morning, thus sparking a very early dawn chorus in our village. However that is by the by.
Our bird baths are the most popular lido in the village. The sparrows communally bathe morning and night after their visit to the seed feeding station, brightly twittering away to eachother. Not a bad life I reckon. The blackbirds are more cautious in approaching the bath. they check out the area very carefully before making their pitch for the water, but once in they are hilarious. There is no better sight in this life than watching a blackbird taking a bath. Caution is thrown to the four winds. They are so enthusiastic and thorough, splashing water all over themselves and everything else in the vicinity. When they have finished the waters have to be replenished for the next candidate, usually Simon Seagull.
Simon Seagull is even funnier than the blackbirds when bathing, but for different reasons. He is of course, way too big for a bird bath. He perches on the edge of it and can manage to get his head under the water which he does several times to make a thorough job of it and then the fun starts. He wets his head and a bit of his chest and then balances on one leg to try and distribute the water further down his body. The only trouble is he is not very good at balancing and soon topples over and falls off. Undeterred by this he climbs back on and has another go - dips his head and a bit of his chest in the water, brings up his foot to spread the water over him and falls off again. He never manages to fall into the water which really would be the best thing and then he might realise he was only going for a safe paddle and not the full monty swim event. Have we got a seagull who doesn't like swimming?
In the last few days we have been adopted by a new family of starlings, I am assuming they are this year's brood. They are quite thuggish in their approach to life. No cautious sizing up of the situation like the blackbirds, no dainty flitting in and out like the sparrows and wrens, no - starlings swoop in en masse and strut about the lawn like a whole bunch of Del Boys from Only Fools and Horses. They take over the scene and jump into the baths, carelessly ejecting all other occupants. Once in the water they bathe, quarrel and actively fight with eachother the whole time. They are great fun to watch as they treat the place like the local swimming pool, flying up to the trees and down again, dive bombing their brothers are sisters still in the pool and squealing with huge delight.
As part of our garden redesign we are digging out an area to make a pond next week, possibly a foolhardy move in view of global warming and drier summers, time will tell on that one. But I am looking forward to bird bathing on a grand scale then. Simon Seagull will have a high old time. I might even join him with my bar of soap. I know - the old slogan in previous times of drought - 'save water, bath with a friend'. I wonder how spouse would take to pond dipping?
Hello dear reader and welcome to another Sunday at Chez Comb. I hope all is well in your world on this beautiful morning. I am a little off centre this morning and confess to feeling extremely weary due to my sleep being disturbed for several nights on the trot. I ask you dear reader, why ever did God create cockerels? Well I know why he created them. Without Mr Cockerel there would be no little Miss Chickens or Mr Cockerel Junior. Fair enough I grant you, but why did he have to give them such raucous and penetrating voices?
Most of the time I am a 'live and let live' sort of person, but not I fear when it comes to insomniac cockerels who appear to have dined on Speed. Our neighbours, who are by no means nearby, keep some hens and a cockerel to look after them. He obviously takes his duties very seriously and appears to sleep with one open, as all through the night he can be heard crowing. He is relentless, presumably warning off any predators that stalk nearby in the night.
Laudable efforts. What a hero I hear you say. Hmmm, heroic as his efforts may be, but at 1, 2 and 3 o'clock in the morning I do not share this view. All I really want to do is stagger out of my bed and leg it round to young Mr Cockerel's pen and silence him. I will leave to your imaginings what I fondly dream of doing to him. But, nobly I rein in my baser instincts and bury my head beneath the pillow in an effort to drown out the noise.
Mr Cockerel takes a short nap at first light - presumably thinking the predators have pushed off home by then. Blessed peace and quiet ensues and for a short while nothing stirs in our sleepy Yorkshire village. Wearily but thankful I snuggle down under the covers in the hope of a couple of hours uninterrupted shut eye. But there is no rest for the wicked as my dear Mama used to say. Don't misunderstand me here my dear reader, I am not admitting to being wicked. I am not, as evidenced by the fact that Mr Cockerel is still strutting his stuff down the road there. But there is no rest for me because just as Mr Cockerel shuts up and goes for his nap, the seagulls strike up the band.
I know, I know, I live near to the sea, so what do i expect to hear? A choir of heavenly angels gently lulling me back to sleep? Well my dear reader, I would love that, truly I would, but I fear my Creator had other ideas during his original seven days of activity. Yes, darn it, he created seagulls. Not solely I'm sure just to disturb my slumber and I am not so egotistical as to think God had his eye on that particular outcome. But it is a fact of life that we share our planet with seagulls. I know we share the planet with gazillions of other creatures too and I should not single out one bird for my attentions, but in the half light of morning, seagulls are my personal bete noir and, I suspect, also of all the small birds tucked snugly up in their nests. Even they are not ready for the 2.30 a.m. clarion call.
Seagulls are majestic birds and when they venture into our garden they are quite shy and easily spooked, quickly flying off to the safety of the rooftops at the slightest hint of movement from within the house. But at 2.30 a.m. they have no such inhibitions and let rip with fiercely loud and raucous calls ending in a fiendish cacophony of cackling. They are relentless and soon the small birds give in and the dawn chorus begins and with that my dear reader, any possibility of sleep is gone. Bleary-eyed I rise to engage with the day.
And guess what? As I am going about my daily affairs what do I notice? Yes, you are quite right. An absence of seagulls cackling or cockerel crowing. They are so wiped out after their early morning starts they are all taking a well earned nap, saving their strengths and energies for their all-night soirees.
On the one hand I can almost look forward to the dark winter mornings when the seagulls may delay their morning reveilles, but on the other hand Mr Cockerel will continue to crow as long as it is dark outside and the predators are still about. The seagulls are beyond my reach but Mr Cockerel is not ... I may be having a word in his shell-like, or maybe something more .........
Hello dear reader. Well last week was about the lovely Grizelda Google Satnav on my Smartphone. This week we are moving on to computers. No, please don't switch off, we've all been there. It happens to us all. We are required to remember the Passwords for the sites that we regularly use and I know that I am not the only mortal on this planet who has difficulties with this. Most of the time I manage quite well and Cedrina the brain cell brings forth the correct combination of letters and numbers. Sometimes though, the old grey matter fails and a Password has to be reset. Not too painful a process generally and is accomplished in a straightforward manner and off we go again.
However, there is always the exception and I have spent three days as living proof of this. In fact, it's a miracle that I am still living and haven't thrown myself in the river in despair, or have any hair left on my head as I have been tearing it out in handfuls and all thanks to the ever helpful Darren/Jamie/Joanne/Mikey and all the rest of the personnel on the 'Support Team'. Do not be shocked dear reader, when I say that certain unladylike epithets galloped across my brain and have only been contained there with great difficulty when what I really wanted to do was verbally marmalize the said Darren/Jamie/Joanne/Mikey and cohorts.
All I wanted to do was to gain access to my own account on my book ordering site as I have a new book out and I needed to order copies for myself. Simple - put in the Username and Password that worked last week. Ha ha, you know exactly what happened don't you dear reader? Of course, I was shut out of the site altogether. an algorithm or microchip in its own sweet wisdom had decided that I was not a safe bet to be allowed into their precious site and so the fun began.
'Forgotten your Password?' they brightly ask. 'No problem - click here to reset.' Dutifully I click on and try to reset my Password. It has to contain numbers, letters and a mark and no less than twelve in total. I obey the instructions and get precisely nowhere. I read and re-read the instructions and yes I am correctly doing what is asked of me. Again and again I try - new Password, new combinations and still I am locked out. By now two hours have passed and I am feeling hot and peeved.
Time to try the 'Support Team'. Well dear reader, if ever there was a worse misnomer I would like to meet it. First Darren came to my aid and provided me with a temporary Password and I still couldn't get in with that. The afternoon wore on and several emails passed between Darren and I - he on his part trying not to get exasperated with me and I stopping myself from hurling my laptop out of the window.
And then out of the blue in the late afternoon, without any prior warning, I think Darren pushed off home and all went quiet. No more help was forthcoming that day. I messaged again for help but to no avail and that was my big mistake dear reader, because Darren returned to business next day daisy-fresh and set me yet another Password and it worked. Eureka, I was in! Joyfully I looked at my new title and came straight out of the site, intending to return to it later in the day and update it. I passed the new details on to 2QT Publishers as they needed access to upload the new book.
Meanwhile ... Jamie came online. Remember that request for help the evening before after Darren had taken his bat home? Jamie too was sorry to hear that I could not access my site and he had reset my Password. Aagh! Just as I'd got things sorted. Once again the new Password did not work. I tried so many times I got locked out altogether. Darren sent me another Password and I got locked out again again.
Over the course of the next two days a fleet of support staff leap-frogged each other - Darren/Jamie/Joanne, Mikey/Suzanne - setting and re-setting my Password. I cannot understand why they don't see all this history on their computer screens and get their collective fingers out of my pie and leave it to just one member to deal with. Are they in a competition to see how many Password re-sets they can get in a day? Is there a prize? A whacking great bonus for generating so much helpful, (or unhelpful in my case) activity? WHY DON'T THEY TALK TO EACHOTHER?
Eventually I threw in the towel, (which in retrospect I should have done two days previously) and told everyone to get their sticky mitts off my Password. I had one that worked and I was going to stick with it and don't anyone, ANYONE IN THE WHOLE DRATTED COMPANY interfere with it anymore or I would personally make the journey to their offices and ... well never mind what I actually said, but something along the lines of 'I would ... where a monkey puts its nuts' and a lot more besides.
At the moment I am away from home and am having nothing to do with computers. 2QT Publishers have the Password and I hope it works. Dear reader, if you hear howls of anguish emanating from North Yorkshire, you will know it does not and if not, battle will re-commence on my return.
So, Darren/Jamie/Jamie/Joanne/Mikey/Suzanne - gird up your loins, I may be on the warpath soon.
Well dear reader, what a development there has been at Chez Comb. Who would have thought it? After many years of happy marriage spouse has found another woman!. I know, you can't believe it, neither can I. But indeed it is true. I have been shunted a rung down the marital ladder in favour of Grizelda. She of the alluring dulcet tone of voice, gently directing his every move. It is true, I have been sidelined and now Grizelda has taken over our lives.
In a way it is my own fault. How can this be I hear you ask? If I am the innocent party why the mea culpa? I am no doormat to be trampled upon by this new woman. No indeed I am not, but the truth will out. I was the one who introduced Grizelda into our lives and now it would seem that spouse is so enamoured of her that she is here to stay. How will a menage a trois work for us? And do I want it to?
No, I have not entirely taken leave of my senses. Of course I regret that I am no longer first in his heart, but I cannot compete with Grizelda's charms and in spite of his quirky ways I am not inclined to ditch spouse any time soon. You see dear reader, I found Grizelda on the Internet. We were friends for some years, intermittently in contact and then one day I inadvertently discovered she was more talented that I ever dreamed of.
In my excitement at this new discovery I shared my new found knowledge with spouse. He was instantly smitten and so Grizelda entered our lives for ever. All my past assistance and talents are as nothing compared with Grizelda's My years of guidance gone for nought. Spouse is completely in love with Grizelda.
On a long journey to a new destination her velvet voice reassuringly guides him at every turn - a left here, a right there in fifty yards and when we reach journey's end he is entranced by her 'you have arrived' and thanks her profusely. I admit to a little pang of the old green eye at this point as I have on many occasions managed to successfully guide us in strange lands.
So dear reader, Grizelda Google Satnav is a fixture in our lives and whilst I admire her endless talents, endless accuracy and sweet-voiced directions, sometimes in the dark and quiet of the night, memories of the times we got hopelessly lost and laughed ourselves silly come back to me and I feel a tad wistful. Grizelda Google would never allow that now. Even when we do disobey her and take a different turn, she immediately reconfigures herself and gently sets our feet on a new path - drat the woman.
Being a bit fed up with her I let her batteries run down and spouse, without any thought of the expense involved, (remember here, he is a true Yorkshireman), bought her an in-car charger. Short of disabling our satellite systems I am snookered. I ask you dear reader - how long will three in this marriage last? For my money two's company - we shall see .....
Hello my dear reader and welcome to another slice of life at Chez Comb. We have been house and menagerie sitting for my Editor and her spouse in the Charente region of France. My lovely editor is fondly known by me as Genghis. She is not as savage as her namesake but she takes no literary prisoners either. Thus I generally submit manuscripts to her in slight trepidation and always in the hope of coming out the other side with my skin and scalp intact.
We spent a very pleasant few days with them before they went off to England for a family wedding and before they departed we went for a browse around the local Monday market followed by lunch at a nearby restaurant. Spouse thoroughly enjoyed himself cruising the cooked meats and cheese stalls - sampling all the wares of course and working up an appetite for lunch.
The French do lunch very well, fresh food beautifully cooked and presented, accompanied by carafes of local wine and all very reasonably priced. You will know by now my dear reader, that spouse has a very healthy appetite and that's the polite way of putting it. As you are aware I food shop on an industrial scale and am now the shopkeeper's new best friend.
So there we were in 'La Estelle' seated at a table next to four elderly Frenchmen who dined in the moderate way of the French - a little of this and a little of that, helped down with a small quantity of fresh crusty bread and a glass of rosé. Polite chit chat ensued as we took our seats and we sized up the five course set menu of the day. Spouse had made a good repast at breakfast but a wander around all the food stalls at the Marché had sharpened his appetite.
Now my dear reader, if there is one event I strenuously work at keeping him away from, it is a free-for-all buffet. And what did 'La Estelle' have? Correct, right on the nose, a buffet for the starters. My heart sank. Spouse would have a field day. And so he did. One plateful of mushrooms in Provencal sauce, cold meats, pasta, lentils, paté, tomatoes and crusty bread was consumed with gusto. So far so good. That's the first course put to bed. Only it wasn't. Spouse so enjoyed the first taster that he went back for a second plateful. Oo la la, the elderly Frenchmen smiled upon him indulgently and Francoise, the cheery, welcoming waitress cruised by ready to take our plates away and was surprised to find spouse still enjoying 'la buffet'.
The second course was French fabulous - slow cooked coq-au-vin in a delicious sauce with herby potatoes. Genghis and spouse could not manage all their potatoes and neither could I, so we offloaded some to spouse's plate and he partook with great gusto, mopping up the sauce with half a french loaf. By this stage our elderly French friends at the next table were intrigued. They were on the small and slight of build side of things - spouse as you will recall is of the blonde, blue-eyed viking ilk with hollow legs to accommodate vat quantities of viandes, which in this case was a second plate of wedges of bread and butter. Francoise brought it with great good humour and she and our elderly French friends watched in fascination as it rapidly disappeared along with quite a variety of delicious cheeses.
Francoise bore our plates away and returned to enquire about dessert. Brian was having his favourite peach melba, Genghis, the strawberry tart and I passed on dessert. Spouse wasn't having that. 'She'll have tiramasu' he said and grinned up at Francoise. 'In fact, make that two. Tiramasu's my favourite.' Francoise rolled her eyes and peeled away to fetch the puddings.
By this time our polite elderly French friends at the next table were agog and could not hide their interest and amazement at l'anglais' and his 'bon appetit'. They tried to carry on their own conversations, but when Brian piled a dollop of fresh cream from his pudding on to spouse's, a respectful silence descended upon them. They watched in awe as spouse demolished a mound of cream and tiramasu and then swapped plates and demolished mine too.
By now our French friends had finished their meal and were ready for departure. Gravely they saluted spouse, 'grande force' and 'beaucoup de respect Monsieur'. As we departed Francoise shook hands warmly with spouse and offered him a sandwich with some cold meats in to keep him going until he reached home!
It's not often the English dumbfound the French, but I have a feeling that after our Charentaise sojourn there may be quite a few locals walking about shaking their heads in disbelief. And spouse? As usual he went on his merry way loving all that France could throw at him and quite oblivious of the culinary nervous breakdowns he left in his wake.
Hello dear reader and welcome back to Chez Comb. Spouse and I sneaked off to France for a short while to look after a menagerie of animals whilst our friends came back to England for a family wedding. We enjoyed our visit but for my dear spouse some experiences were less joyous than others. One evening I felt quite a bit off colour, not as a result of my own domestic goddess duties, more I think, of succumbing to a touch of sun. So it was that I decided to retire early to my boudoir, leaving spouse in charge of a good DVD, two dogs and the cat. I soon fell into a dreamless sleep which is a rarity for me, but sadly spouse was not destined to enjoy such untroubled slumbers as I.
MIDNIGHT - Spouse decides to call it a night and calls Billy the cat indoors as Billy likes his home comforts and wouldn't dream of roughing it outdoors all night. Once the cat was in spouse locked the doors, put Billy's supper down and went off to make his night time preparations. On returning to the kitchen the dogs are still there but no cat. Where is Billy? Is he a feline Houdini? Spouse stares and scratches his head in puzzlement and then Billy appears miaowing outside the door. It dawns on spouse that Billy has followed him out of the room and hopped it out of the open window, only to come right round to the door again. Spouse hopes this is not a new game Billy has invented.
12.30 am Spouse goes off to sleep in the spare room so as not to disturb me. It is a very hot night and so he leaves all the internal doors open to allow any breeze there might be to waft through the house. Unfortunately it also allows the animals to roam and roam they do. Spouse climbs into bed and so does Billy the cat, ready to curl up beside him for the night. He is promptly pitched off but Buddy, the older dog likes that idea too and he climbs on to the bed, also to be ejected. Billy cat is undeterred and gets straight back on the bed and wraps himself around spouse's head and settles down miaowing softly in his ear. Spouse resigns himself to a night with Billy cat.
1 am Spouse leans over to the right to get the water from his bedside table. Zac the younger dog takes the opportunity to hop up on to the bed and snuggle into spouse's side. He is promptly ejected.
2 am Billy cat decides he's a bit peckish and it's time for a snackerel. He gently pats spouse on the cheek. Spouse is half awake but decides to ignore him as Billy does NOT need a meal at 2 am. Unfortunately Billy disagrees and bats spouse around the chops more forcefully. Spouse gives in and makes his way bleary eyed to the kitchen and pours the cat biscuits into the dish. Billy cat does not like to dine alone as the dogs will mug him for the food, so spouse has to keep guard whilst the cat munches his way through his meal.
2.15 am Spouse and Billy back to bed, first ejecting Buddy then Zac from the bed and settling Billy around his head again.
3 am Buddy and Zac pounding through the house barking loudly. Spouse out of bed as if shot from a cannon to quieten them before they disturb his dearly beloved, (me dear reader, in case you are wondering.)
3.10 am Both dogs settled in their respective beds and spouse seeks the comfort of his own, trying not to awaken the recumbent Billy.
4 am Billy feeling peckish again and wakens spouse with forceful batting around his face. Spouse too fuzzy with tiredness to resist and heads off to the kitchen again. Billy eats his early morning snack with relish - the dogs look on hungrily.
4.30 am A lone bird starts off the dawn chorus and the dogs erupt with loud barking in response. Spouse shoots out of bed to quieten them thus disturbing Billy cat sleeping around his head who miaows crossly and digs his claws into spouse's head. Dogs quietened and spouse climbs wearily back into bed.
5 am The dawn chorus is well underway and the dogs gallop up and down the corridor barking crossly. Spouse gives up the fight and brings both dogs into his room and drapes the sleeping cat over his head once more.
7 am It is time for doggie breakfasts. Both dogs have near perfect body clocks and start nibbling gently at spouse's arm which is draped outside the covers. By this time spouse has finally fallen asleep. The dogs start to bark insistently waking spouse immediately. Pavlov's dog couldn't have been quicker and breakfast is soon underway for all animals.
And me dear reader? Well I had a lovely night's sleep and awoke feeling refreshed and looking forward to all that the new day could bring. I bounced bright-eyed into the kitchen and there to my surprise was spouse, looking not quite as chipper as he usually did. In fact, looking rather frayed around the edges. I said in a bright voice, 'Good morning darling, what a beautiful day. I slept marvellously well, did you?'
Dear reader, I will draw a veil over his reply. I think I can safely leave that to your imagination. I would just add that when our friends returned and invited us to come again, spouse announced he was busy. When ever the dates were going to be, spouse was already busy! I think he has plans for next year and it seems they might not include France.
Hello my dear reader and welcome to another slice of life at Chez Comb, only it's a slice of life in the Charente region of France. We have been house and menagerie sitting for my Editor, fondly known by me as Genghis. She is not as savage as her namesake but she takes no literary prisoners either. Thus I always submit manuscripts to her in slight trepidation but always in the hope that I will come out the other side of the experience with my skin and scalp intact.
We spent a very pleasant few days with them before they went off to England for a family wedding, one of our excursions being a trip to the local Monday market followed by lunch at a nearby restaurant. Spouse thoroughly enjoyed himself cruising the cooked meats and cheese stalls - sampling all the wares of course and working up an appetite for lunch.
The French do lunch very well. Fresh food, beautifully cooked and presented, accompanied by carafes of local wine and all very reasonably priced. You will be now know my dear reader, spouse has a very healthy appetite and that's the polite way of putting it. As you are aware I food shop on an industrial scale and am the shopkeeper's new best friend.
So, there we were in 'La Estelle' seated at a table next to four elderly Frenchmen who dined in the moderate way of the French - a little of this and a little of that, helped down with a small quantity of fresh crusty bread and a glass of rosé. Polite chit chat ensued as we took our seats and sized up the five course set menu of the day. Spouse had made a good repast at breakfast but a wander around the food stalls at the Marché had sharpened his appetite.
Now my dear reader, if there is one event I strenuously work at keeping him away from, it is a free-for-all buffet. And what did La Estelle have? Correct. Right on the nose, a buffet for our starters. My heart sank. Spouse would have a field day. And so he did. One plateful of mushrooms in Provencal sauce, cold meats, pasta, lentils, paté, tomatoes and crusty bread and butter was consumed with gusto. So far so good. That's the first course put to bed. Only it wasn't. Spouse so enjoyed the first taster that he went back for a second plateful. Ooo la la, the elderly Frenchmen smiled indulgently on him and Francoise, the cheery welcoming waitress cruised by ready to take our plates away and was surprised to find spouse still enjoying 'la buffet'.
The second course was French fabulous. Slow cooked coq-au-vin in a delicious sauce with herby potatoes. Genghis and spouse Brian could not manage all the potato and neither could I. We off-loaded some to spouse's plate and he partook with great gusto, mopping up the sauce with half a French loaf. By this stage our elderly French friends at the next table were intrigued. They were on the small and slight of build side of things - spouse as you will recall is of the blonde, blue-eyed viking ilk, with hollow legs to accommodate vast quantities of viandes, which in this case was a second plate of wedges of bread and butter. Francoise brought it with great good humour and our elderly French friends watched in fascination as it rapidly disappeared, along with quite a variety of delicious cheeses.
Francoise returned to enquire about dessert. Brian was having his favourite peach melba, Genghis, the strawberry tart and I passed on dessert. Spouse wasn't having that. 'She'll have the tiramasu', he said and grinned up at Francoise. 'In fact, make that two. Tiramasu's my favourite.' Francoise rolled her eyes and peeled away to fetch the puddings.
By this time our polite elderly French friends at the next table were agog and could not hide their interest and amazement at l'anglais and his bon appétit. They tried to carry on their own conversations, but when Brian piled a dollop of fresh cream from his pudding on to spouses, a respectful silence descended upon them. They watched in awe as spouse demolished a mound of cream and tiramasu and then swopped plates with mine, attacking the second dessert with enthusiasm.
By now our French friends had finished and were ready for departure. Gravely they saluted spouse, 'grande force' and 'beaucoup de respect Monsieur'. As we to took our departure, Francoise shook hands warmly with spouse and offered him a sandwich with cold meats in to keep him going until he got home!
It is not often the English dumbfound the French, but I have a feeling that after our sojourn in the Charente, there are quite a few locals walking around shaking their heads in disbelief. And spouse? He went on his merry way loving all that France could throw at him, quite oblivious of the culinary nervous breakdowns he left in his wake.
Hello dear reader, this is just to let you know that my next blog will not appear until 24th June, as spouse and I are embarking on a few new projects, so I am having a holiday from writing and you can have a holiday from me! I hope the weather will be kind to us all and we can all be little baskers in the sunshine. Best wishes to everyone, Patricia.
Hello dear reader and welcome to another day at Chez Comb. I hope you are well and able to enjoy an occasional day of warmth and sunshine in between the downpours, mists and storms. We have missed the really bad weather in our corner of North Yorkshire. It has been cool and misty, but ever the optimist that I am, I have enjoyed it as it has been pleasant working weather in the garden. I have re-potted my bay trees and large skimmia shrubs and have told them that they must not grow into their new pots too quickly as there won't be new ones coming along any time soon. (I addressed them in a low voice to keep it private between ourselves as I didn't want spouse to have me carted off - he would find any excuse!)
Thinking about matters horticultural, I realise that I have a long history of chatting to my plants. It doesn't seem to have done them or me any harm so far and I am in good company as I know Prince Charles talks to his plants too. And if it's O.K. by him, who am I to disagree?
When I was a tad younger than I am now and a single girl, I used to supplement my coffers by going out gardening for folks on evenings and weekends. It helped to pay the mortgage and I met some lovely people in the process. My gardening week kicked off on a Saturday morning when I tended our large church garden. I really enjoyed this and spent a lot of time dispatching the weeds and keeping the flowers and shrubs in good order. One gentleman remarked that he wouldn't recognise me by my face but that I had the best known backside in Yorkshire as he only ever saw me bent down and tending the borders. Years later and I'm still not too sure what to make of this.
Another horticultural memory that comes to mind ... well, it's more personal than strictly horticultural. At this period when I was spare time gardening, Britain was in the boom times and consequently, property prices were constantly on the up. And so it was my dear reader, that people started buying their next house and moving on before they had sold their present house and fortunately for me, their gardens needed tending in the interim. Well and good, lots of lovely work for me via the local estate agents, but - with the houses being unoccupied there were no indoor facilities available to me and when Mother Nature calls, she calls and something has to be done about it.
Usually I would be lucky and could find a private spot in the garden to commune with nature, but I very soon learned that there is some weird and wonderful law of the universe that goes something along the lines of the minute you settle down amongst the shrubbery to answer the call of nature, the next door neighbour will appear in the garden bearing tea/coffee/grass rake/biscuits/garden shears or any other combination of items. The first few times this happened I was red with embarrassment. I mean - did they deliberately lie in wait for the moment or was there some malevolent force having fun at my expense? I know not, but it happened so often that I became expert at dealing with situation with dignity and aplomb.
Happily these days I only garden for myself and tend the local library gardens along with my friends and I am pleased to say that there are excellent facilities in both premises. No more embarrassing moments for me dear reader, not of that kind at any rate.
We are now into flaming June and spouse and I are about to embark upon some biggish projects. With this in view I am taking a break from writing and blogging and giving you my dear reader, a bit of a holiday from me. I hope to resume on Sunday 24th June and in the meantime I hope you enjoy this beautiful time of year and keep out of mischief as I intend to do and I hope my dear spouse will too.
Hello my dear reader and welcome. I hope I find you well and in good fettle, as they say in Yorkshire. I am in reasonable fettle, which is more than can be said for my spouse. In fact, it could be said that he is very hot and very cross and as usual, I am the unwitting cause of his woes. And all because we have been to a car boot sale!
Spouse being a true Yorkshireman, is a keen saver and has a money box in the shape of a house, wherein he saves all his twenty pence pieces. It so happened that yesterday morning when I checked my purse to see if I had some spending money for the car boot sale, I found I had seven twenty pences - the grand sum of one pound forty. I produced the coins, fondly imagining spouse would give me a pound coin and a fifty pence piece in exchange, (thus I'd be ten pence up on the deal). I should have known better, the coins were swiped out of my sticky little mitts and that was that. He said he would divvy up the dosh at the car boot - should I see anything I wished to purchase. 'Only one pound fifty, mind', he warned. 'Not a penny more. In fact, the parking costs a pound, so you'd best look for your fifty pence worth.' Fagin eat your heart out. It's a good job Oliver never came across spouse, he'd have been in a very bad way.
It was a beautiful day and we set out in good heart, our first visit to the car boot this season. Near to where we live, a giant car boot sale is held every Sunday on a local farmer's land. One field is used for parking and the adjacent two fields are taken up with all the stalls. All life is there and as the saying goes - one man's rubbish is another man's treasure. We spent a very happy morning wandering the stalls and I confess dear reader, that, extravagant creature that I am, I spent two pounds on two cast iron trivets for my kitchen. But my reckless expenditure was matched by spouse when he also spent two pounds on a new cold chisel. How exciting is that!
Ah but, the harmony of the morning did not last, sad to say. Somehow and I know not how, in and amongst all the stalls spouse mislaid me. Yes he did, he mislaid me as in lost sight of me and lost me to the crowds. I did not realise I had been mislaid and slowly drifted along, taking in the sights and sounds of all the stalls and generally having a whale of a time and I have to say it had not dawned on me that spouse had lost sight of me.
Spouse meanwhile was very alive to this situation and was already wondering whether I had fallen prey to brigands and had been spirited away with a view to a ransom note being delivered to Chez Comb later in the day. (No doubt it would have been for more than one pound fifty and in which case one must ask oneself would he have paid it, or haggled?) However I digress - back at the car boot sale field, spouse began searching for me, but to no avail. I was not to be found and he began to really worry. Ah, I hear you say. See how he cares about you and worries about you. I bet he was more worried about his wallet. I had put it in my bag and now we had both gone missing!
It was a long time before it dawned upon me that I had been mislaid. I was so entranced by the variety of goods on offer that I drifted along in a happy bubble. But believe me dear reader, when I finally became aware that I was where I was and spouse was not, a smidgen of apprehension entered my heart. For I had been mislaid once before on a visit to the Cumbrian town of Penrith and had been lost to spouse for a good half an hour or more. An enraged bull could not have had more steam coming out of his ears than spouse on that occasion. I think my ears are still ringing from the dressing down I received - as if it was all my fault!
Meanwhile back at the car boot sale - what does one do in these situations? Should I stay where I was and hope to be discovered, or retrace my steps and hope to bump into him? I decided to retrace my steps and wended my way back and forth along the stalls. But there was no sign of spouse. I assumed he would be looking for me as I was looking for him and I was looking for him, honestly I was, but wouldn't you know it - for a few nanoseconds my attention was diverted to a stall selling kitchenware and I must tell you dear reader, it is one of my weaknesses, I love a bit of kitchenalia and this stall had period stuff that was fabulous and I couldn't resist taking a quick peek and right at that moment didn't spouse find me - pounced upon me really, like a cat honing in on its prey.
I never did get a proper look at that stall. As I said at the beginning, a very hot and very cross spouse dragged me away from it and I have to say dear reader, that it's a jolly good job we were in public or his language might have extended to the more fruity variety as he was so cross. It was bad enough as it was and quite a few folk stared as I was frog-marched back to the car.
He says he was very worried about me and knew I wouldn't find my way back to the car in the field, as I had taken no notice of all at where we had parked it and in any case, as is well known, I have no sense of direction anyway and I'd never find it in a million years. Well I would have dear reader. I assume he would have waited for me and then everyone would have departed and his would have been the only car left, so of course I would have found it! Spouse was not at all impressed with this reasoning and he drove home grim-faced.
I am hoping his crossness won't last too long as (a) there won't be any ransom note coming his way and (b) the lost sheep is found. I hope to build on these positives as I would love to revisit that kitchen stall next weekend. If he doesn't mislay me again this week, I might be in with a chance. Enjoy your week dear reader and long may this lovely summer sun shine on us all.
Hello dear reader and welcome to another Sunday at Chez Comb. In fact we are only half way through the day and I want to go and lie down in a darkened room already, or possibly leave home, as once again I am in the doghouse with spouse and a release date does not loom on the horizon any time soon. At the time of writing, the Sabbath day peace and tranquility does not reign in the house. Spouse is more than a tad put out.
At the start of the morning spouse was just being spouse. 'Nothing wrong with that', I hear you say and in some respects this is true. We had attended an early church service with a view to spending the day in our garden, continuing with our wrecking spree. Once again this week, the weather has been beautiful, but spouse has been away on his Good Samaritan work, transporting folk to hospital appointments and thus has not been able to get out and about in his pastures.
Thus it was that come Sunday morning he was ready and raring to go. Out came the chainsaw. I know, I can feel you wincing even as I type the word. When I see that beast come out of the shed, (the chainsaw not spouse), I take myself off. I realise my thinking is a little illogical, but if he is going to saw his leg off I don't want to be there to see it, on the other hand maybe I need to be nearby with a tourniquet to hand - just in case.
Anyway, out came the chainsaw and spouse set about finishing off old tree stumps. I retired to a safe distance away, flattening the areas either side of our new steps up to the summer sitting room, so that I can park some of my pots there. I know, trivia, trivia. Never mind all that, who wants to know about a woman and a spade. What is happening with spouse let loose with a chainsaw? Well not a lot as it turned out. He didn't get very far with it, as he realised the chain was a bit loose and he and saw returned to the meg-shed for a little first aid on the chain.
As told to me, he got the tool out to tighten the chain and then saw that there was quite a lot of dirt attached to the inside of the chain. Wanting to keep his saw in tip-top condition, he set about teasing out the muck. All went well. One side was duly cleaned and so he turned the saw over to clean the other. Ah, but - here the thrifty Yorkshireman came unstuck. The chainsaw was missing the cap that fitted over the little oil tank. Spouse had made a temporary stopper for it, but when he turned the saw over the stopper fell out, got squashed underneath the saw and out came all the oil. It being Sunday, the DIY store in town was closed, so that put an end to his chainsaw activities for the day.
However, spouse was in tree stump removal mode and was not easily deterred. Out came the executioner-sized axe and he set about the stumps once again. All my domestic goddess activities in the culinary department definitely paid off as spouse gave the stumps very short shrift and he was soon standing triumphantly in the middle of the garden, waving a tree stump in each hand. With his bare torso blackened with oil and muck and waving what looked very like a couple of shrunken human heads about, I hurried to his side to take them off him. Really, he only needed a few fancy stripes painting on his cheeks and chest and he could be anywhere but England.
Satisfied with his handiwork, spouse turned his attention to our old and now defunct pond. Full of boulders and dead and tangled reeds it is an unlovely sight. We are going to fill it in and build a new pond elsewhere. I had begun the task of digging out some of the old reeds earlier in the week. Not a pleasant task as the water is black, rank and extremely malodorous, but I made a good effort and spouse was ready to continue the work.
He donned his wellington boots and made his way into the pond, spade in hand. I admit he made a fair job of it and a lot of the reeds were despatched around the edges of the pond during the rest of the morning. But a woman, bless her little heart, likes a tidy job and when she came to inspect some long time later, pointed out to spouse that he had missed quite a few bunches here and there.
Spouse rolled his eyes and said they were a bit difficult to reach and I robustly rejoined, 'nonsense, you've got a long reach. Put you're back into it and finish the job.' And that's why I'm now in the doghouse and poor spouse is in the shower. If he was a bit mucky before he went into the pond, he was a darned sight blacker when he came out - after losing his footing and falling right in, in pursuit of those last elusive reeds I mentioned. Oh my, he went down with quite a splash and came out speechless with rage and pondweed. I think the gist of his words were 'why couldn't you leave well alone', (to me) but he put matters a great deal more forcefully than that.
I know from my own experience of cleaning myself off after wading in my wellies in the pond, just how much oily muck adheres to skin and bone. Poor spouse, he could well still be black and blue when he comes out of the shower, but hopefully, will smell a little sweeter than when he went in.
Meanwhile my dear reader, I will lurk in my doghouse this afternoon and hope I will be forgiven before sundown. A glass of chilled white and his favourite dinner may secure my release. I'm off to my domestic goddess duties right now. See you next week, I hope, unless he's buried me in the pond before then.
Hello my dear reader and welcome to Chez Comb I hope I find you well and in good heart. What a wonderful week of good weather we have had here in North Yorkshire. I know we English bang on about the weather a great deal - we are renowned for it - and that's because we get an awful lot of it. We never quite know from one hour to the next what will come our way and believe me, when it's a week of glorious sunshine we go about smiling and exclaiming about it until the cows come home.
It has been a very quiet week here at Chez Comb as spouse has been away every day. He's a volunteer driver for a charity that takes folk for medical appointments, be they near or far - and this week they were far. Like the buses, you can wait for one to come along and then three come at once and so the appointments came in for spouse, every day this week and all long distance. So my dear reader, marital harmony has been at its peak , spouse has departed at the crack of dawn and returned tired and hungry at dusk.
I have been keeping the home fires burning so to speak, well - not actually burning as it's too hot, but I have been keeping hearth and home together as the electrician, plumber and carpet fitter have all called and done their work to finish off our summer sitting room, had tea and biscuits and departed. In between these gents and my domestic goddess duties I have been working in the garden with an inconsolable Simon seagull trailing in my wake.
Simon seagull entered our lives at the beginning of last winter along with his mate Sophie. Now the seagulls that have made their homes in and around our Yorkshire Wolds village usually perch on the roof and chimney tops, talking and squawking animatedly together and generally keeping well away from us humans on the ground. They might deign to come for a drink at one of our bird baths and snaffle the odd worm or two from the lawn, but that's it - at the slightest movement glimpsed from within the house, they are off like little white rockets.
Simon is different as seagulls go. I cannot describe him as bold. Seagulls living on the coast become accustomed to us humans being around and develop a boldness of spirit that can extend as far as being food thieves - hence all the notices, 'please do not feed the seagulls.' Simon arrived in our garden one winter's day and from the first he was a gentleman among seagulls, gentle, kind, never greedy and always grateful. On that first day after cautiously doing a recce of the garden, he invited his mate Sophie to hop up on to the bird bath and get a drink whilst he kept watch. Only after she had slaked her thirst did Simon take his turn. After this he turned his attention to the bird seed set out on a plastic plate on the lawn, meant for the blackbirds and robins that cannot cling to the bird feeders hung from the trees. Again, after cautiously inspecting the goods and checking no predators lurked nearby, Simon stepped back and watched over Sophie whilst she ate.
This was the start of our friendship with Simon and Sophie. They came every day, usually twice a day for food and drink and gradually over the winter months they became less wary of us and started to trust us, not flying off at our approach and even getting to used to spouse as he dug out old tree roots, preparing for his new shed base. We began to leave them seagull treats out - bits of fish went down a storm In the depths of winter when insects were scarce. When we looked out on frosty mornings, Simon and Sophie would be hanging around hopefully in the garden. How could we resist? Spouse was out of the door with a generous seagull breakfast whilst I prepared ours indoors.
Simon and Sophie have been our delight all through the winter and early spring. We have watched them quite obviously arguing and falling out with each other, Sophie flying off to perch on a different roof and chattering away indignantly, whilst Simon chunters away to himself on ours. Eventually though the quarrel is forgotten and they get back together, so obviously glad to be reconciled and a lot of joyful wheeling around the skies ensues.
With the coming of spring we were looking forward to welcoming Simon and Sophie's chicks and laid in some gastronomic seagull delights. But it is not to be, there will be no chicks this year as Sophie is no longer with us. We don't know what happened, whether a cat or some other country predator caught her unawares on the ground, but our lovely Sophie is dead. I came downstairs one morning long after spouse had departed on his hospital driving mission, to hear Simon frantically shrieking down the bottom of the garden. Something was obviously amiss. I was too late to be of any help to Sophie. She had gone and Simon was distraught.
I have buried Sophie in the garden. I shed many tears as I went about my work, with Simon watching intently, softly squawking and crooning all the while. Seagulls mate for life and he is inconsolable. He nibbles in a disinterested way at the choice fishy morsels I try to tempt him with and sits dull-eyed for hours on our roof. eschewing the company of the other seagulls all around him. When I work in the garden he is with me and my heart breaks for him.
What of the future for Simon? I know not. How long will his grief last? Will he find another mate? This remains to be seen. Meanwhile I will do my best to keep him company through the summer as I go about my garden wrecking and re-building. I feel very privileged to share his company and his grieving. Love and loss go hand in hand. I hope Simon will love again one day.
Hello dear reader, I hope I find you well in this merry month of May. Spring is well and truly springing all over the place and the birds and bees are doing - well, what birds and bees do - finding mates and nesting, especially in the trees in our garden, in spite of all Spouse's activities out there.
It has been a very busy week at Chez Comb. The builders have finally departed having completed their work on the new summer sitting room and we have enjoyed a few days peace and quiet. We now await the electrician, the 'blind' man and the 'carpet' man next week and then hope to move in. Meanwhile as Spring has sprung, whilst I have been having a bit of a spring clean indoors, Spouse has been outdoors.
I don't know if you recall dear reader, but I decided to dispense with the old washing line and metal posts as although practical, they do not enhance the view or add to the ambience of our little patch of England. Also, as Spouse had had a rather unhappy encounter with said washing line he had come around to my way of thinking and whilst the line had been dismantled, the metal posts supporting it still remained. Spouse went to his wondrous new shed and emerged with a long electric lead and grinder.
Spouse - electricity - powerful grinder ... need I say more. No, I'm sure I don't need to, but I will anyway. I think the motor in the grinder overheated trying to cut through the two metal posts and I heard the yelps of pain as I wielded my duster in the house. I'm sorry to confess dear reader, but I rolled my eyes and reached for the First Aid box, thinking 'now what?' Apparently the grinder had got so hot, smoke issued from it and then flames shot up his arm. Thankfully he dropped it and only needed minor burns bathing and dressing.
So that was that. Washing poles 1, grinder 0. Not the best outcome ever. A new grinder would have to be purchased. Now as you know dear reader, Spouse is a Yorkshireman and expenditure of any kind is not undertaken lightly, but in this instance expenditure there must be, as I was not going to stare out at a metal post standing like a totem pole in the middle of the garden. It was Spouse's turn to roll his eyes, but having done this, he shook the moths out of his wallet and took himself off to the DIY store.
The next day I'm happy to say the second metal pole was down and the new grinder has survived the experience, also Spouse. However, the week was not yet over and all the while the sun was shining and more importantly, the grass was a-growing. Off to his mega-shed trotted Spouse and came out with the lawn mower and all was well, two thirds of the lawn was given a haircut, but the lawn beyond the hedges must have been sown with a different variety of grass, as it was almost knee high and needed the strimmer on it before the lawnmower could go over it.
Spouse - a strimmer - and a nearby bonfire ... well, there you are. I don't really need to write any more do I dear reader? Yes, you've got it in one. There was Spouse happily strimming away, knocking down the grass like a good 'un, not a care in the world and then bingo! How does he do it? Smoke and flames issued forth from the strimmer, right next to my lovely dry bonfire material. My, my, it could have been November 5th - pity we didn't have Guy Fawkes on top, the lot went up in flames in moments.
I had my lovely new rotary washing pole up with loads of laundry on it which soon got covered in black smuts and smelled like - well, smelled of the bonfire. It would all have to be done again. I was not exactly the happiest Easter bunny there ever was at this prospect. Not only that, but now we had no strimmer and a very doleful Spouse had to take himself off to the DIY store again. Twice in one week! Dear reader, he is almost a broken man and so are the poor old moths that have been made homeless from his wallet.
If it wasn't for the fact that it is a Bank Holiday weekend and the Tour de Yorkshire cycle race is coming through the village, I would go outside and do a rain dance. Now that would give the neighbours something to talk about. However, I will resist the temptation as I have no wish to spoil the weekend's revelries for everyone. I will have to try and keep Spouse out of the garden for a day or two somehow. A burnt arm, a lump the size of an turtle's egg on his head and an empty wallet is enough for one man in a week, isn't it?
Have a good weekend dear reader and with luck I'll be with you next week, unless one of us is electrocuted, burnt or blown up. Who knows ... least of all me.
Hello dear reader and welcome to another week at Chez Comb. I has been an interesting one as I have been doing literary things for a change. I was interviewed on the Adam and Anna In The Afternoon Show on Radio York on Wednesday and Anna's opening comments were that the Café Paradise books were a bit racy and off the wall! Mmm, I'm not too sure what to make of that one. On Saturday I was at a Lit Fest day in Chorley and after my Café Paradise presentation a member of the audience who follows my weekly blogs asked me if 'Spouse' really existed, or had I invented him?' Now really dear reader, would anyone invent Spouse? Although I confirmed that he was real, she went away looking unconvinced. And so it's back to the writing block for me. Much better to lurk at Chez Comb and write what I like anyway, as no-one believes what I say in the first place!
That's enough of literary outings for now. Let's turn our attention to matters on a different plane entirely. The human psyche and yes - in the same breath this involves Spouse. I bet you never imagined in your wildest, that one day we would be discussing his psyche. Pause - to assimilate this notion.
We were on the lookout for very large plant pots as our bay trees had well outgrown their old ones and were almost begging for mercy for bigger pots. We have scoured all the garden centres locally to no avail and as we were going to York for the aforementioned radio spot, Spouse volunteered to look on the internet for a garden centre along our route. Come the morning to set out on our travels, when asked about the garden centre it turned out that Spouse had not actually researched it, but he said with absolute and unshakeable confidence 'my subconscious knows the way.'
Excuse me - am I missing something here? Is his subconscious working on a higher plane than mine? Obviously it is, because in the event we travelled the country roads on the outskirts of York to a wonderful garden centre, almost in the back of beyond. Not only had we never been that way before but it was one of the best I've ever been to.
I would listen to Spouse's subconscious more often if it came up with such great results, but it doesn't always work in my favour. He is now channelling my Mother through it and also my Father. Scary or what? Now don't get me wrong, I loved my departed parents dearly, but the only too mildly irritating things they did - old Spouse is now doing - without ever being told about them in the first place
If I had been naughty as a child, or as a rebellious teenager come to that, my father, who was usually a cheery man, would summon me into his presence, calling for 'PATRICIA', in a loud, exasperated grinding-of-the-teeth kind of way. I knew this voice much too well and it always meant that I was well and truly in the soup. I can't imagine why dear reader, but Spouse has developed the exact same voice when at the end of his tether and 'PATRICIA' resounds through the house. He is my father re-incarnate.
As if that's not enough he's now taken to crimping the natural waves in my hair between his fingers - just like my dearest Mama used to do and I detested it then as much as I do now. When I told him how my Mother used to do that crimping nonsense, Spouse smiled a mysterious smile and said sweetly, 'I'm channelling Mother'.
Now I know he was always her blue-eyed boy, but this is ridiculous. I am not having my Mother directing operations from beyond the grave. If she does much more I might have her exorcised. Dealing with Spouse is quite enough, I don't need my Mama throwing into the mix.
I hope you have a good week dear reader and I sincerely hope I will be here too - spook and psyche-free next week. I am my Mother's daughter, I will have to take a firm line with her. She can go and channel one of my siblings for a change.
Hello there dear reader and welcome to another week at Chez Comb. It has been an interesting one, but then living with Spouse it always is! The weather has been glorious and we have started work on the re-design of our overgrown garden. We have been here almost a year now and Spouse has his big shed up and running, so I am hoping that this summer will see all his energies channelled into dismantling the old garden and re-building the new - along with my assistance of course. We have been taking out long-dead trees and leggy old shrubs and so the executioner's axe has come into use again. Believe me dear reader, if you saw Spouse enthusiastically wielding a very large axe, you too would speak nicely to him - and so I did.
That is until he almost knocked himself out with it and then I got very cross. I had suggested removing the old washing line and post as it is an unlovely sight in the garden, but Spouse disagreed and began working immediately beneath it, breaking up an old tree stump. Wouldn't you know it, he lifted the axe up preparatory to come crashing down on the stump and bounced off the washing line, braining himself with great force in the process. He yelped and staggered back with blood running down his forehead. Now he is sporting a lump the size of a large egg on his forehead and I have nobly resisted going down the 'I told you so' route.
To distract him from his axeman activities, I suggested he had a bonfire later in the evening. At the bottom of the garden there is a large lawn much overgrown with buttercups and weeds and so I have been piling up all our chopped down bits of trees for burning on it (we've kept the trunks for the log burner next winter). One simple bonfire would have been fine, but as you will know by now dear reader, Spouse never does anything by halves. Not content with getting that one going, he set fire to a large tree that he had spent all afternoon trying to dispose of. It was an old fir tree with many thick branches. Dear reader you have never seen anything like it. Armageddon had come to Yorkshire. The flames and the billowing smoke from two simultaneous fires were an awesome sight to behold - with Spouse frantically running between the two of them to keep them under control. A long time later he staggered back to the house, hair and eyebrows singed and looking like he had spent a long shift down a coal mine. Maybe we'll leave the fire thing for a while and get back to the garden, perhaps a little gentle weeding as (a) it isn't dangerous and (b) it won't upset the neighbours.
We haven't upset the neighbours but as you know from previous blogs dear reader, they do think we are slightly off the wall and possibly a little bizarre, (remember the chimney smoking episodes of a few weeks ago). After this week, it is now official - we are barking bonkers. How is this? Well, we are having a new summer sitting room built on the back of the house The plumber is doing his plumbing and now the electricians want to do their electrics as in power points and T.V. point. And they need to know where we would like them siting. It would have been fine if they had wanted to know this week, as we have been sitting outside in the glorious evening sunshine in the half-built room. But no, they needed to know last week when the weather wasn't so good - in fact, it was awful - cold, misty and wet.
So, what did we do? We got the sun chairs out and sat outside underneath our umbrellas in the rain, trying to decide where the furniture was going to go and where we would need sockets for lamps and a T.V. point. Even now, a week later, on one side our neighbours avoid us altogether and on the other they scuttle away at our approach, shaking their heads in disbelief. Maybe one day I will get to explain things - but that is not looking likely any time soon.
And now Sunday has come round again, the start of a whole new week. I hope it will be disaster free as we have friends visiting and I can do without Spouse sporting cuts, bruises or black eyes - he'll blame me, rolling those big, baby blues eyes of his and saying in a broken voice, 'if you only knew ...' And they'll probably believe him!
I hope you have a splendid week dear reader and that the sun shines on all of us. I hope to be here next week, always providing that Spouse hasn't buried me under the new concrete floor about to go down in the garden .....
Hello dear reader and welcome to another Sunday at Chez Comb. It has been a bit of a roller coaster of a week for me and for once nothing to do with my dear Spouse. Yes indeedy, he is lily-white and in the clear. A friend of mine once said that I could cause bother in an empty house. Well, Chez Comb is not empty but I have caused bother for myself.
For some years now I have been prone to leaky eyes - tear fluid constantly flowing. No doubt some of you are familiar with this pesky condition. At first it was diagnosed as 'dry eyes' and eye drops were prescribed to alleviate things. But things gradually deteriorated and the eye drops did not seem to make much difference, to the extent that one evening last year when I wanted to watch a particular wildlife programme on the television, I could only watch it with the lights out and wearing sunglasses!! At this point I took myself off to the optician who, after a thorough examination decided I did not have 'dry eyes' but may have blocked tear ducts, a condition I may have to put up with as even though an operation would ease things, the effects might not last long.
Stay with me dear reader, I promise you, this is not too shaggy a dog story. For another week or so after visiting said optician, I put up with weepy eyes and then had the bright idea of looking the condition up on the internet. As I am in the main a healthy person I have not had cause to seek out information on afflictions. But I am very glad I did. I went to the NHS website and looked up 'blocked tear ducts' and learned quite a lot more about them. Not only that but a simple massage of the area between the eye and the nose on a daily basis or even a few times daily helps alleviate the symptoms.
Brilliant. Thank you NHS and the massaging worked. My weepy eyes were greatly improved. But - here is a weird thing. All in my little eye world is hunky dory until a bit of stress comes on the scene and then off I go again, eyes leaking like a tap. I have no idea what the connection is but there must be one somewhere and I hope someday, someone will enlighten me.
I know dear reader, what a wimp I am and what bother I have caused for myself this week. It goes like this - I am planning a romantic comedy novel for next year, Walking Bertie. The principle male character is a crime writer and for the purposes of the book I needed an outline plot of a crime novel for him to discuss. I really enjoyed constructing this and getting to know my new detective on our Easter journeyings to and from the south of England. Arriving home bright-eyed and bushy-tailed I embraced the new week happy and dry-eyed.
Until I randomly picked up a crime novel from my pile of waiting to be read books by my bed. After the first few chapters my tears began to run, big time, as the uneasy notion stole over me that the plot in this book might unfold along the lines of mine.
In between my domestic goddess duties at home, it has taken me the best part of the week to wade through the novel, eyes spouting copiously along the way, as I stressed as to whether I was going to have to think up an entirely new plot. My literary concerns were unfounded thank goodness, as this crime novel was a very muscular one, packed full of violent deaths in as many different ways as I could every imagine, but of course, I had to read right to the end to make absolutely sure.
Magically dear reader, my eyes are getting much better now that I know i can sashay on my own sweet way with my lovely detective and - talk about teaching an old dog new tricks - I am surprised at how desperately I cared about the plot within the plot of Walking Bertie - it may be comedy but it's serious stuff to me and at the dawn of this Sunday morning Chief Inspector Francis di Angeli is poised ready to make his debut in what may turn out to be Are You Going to Mulberry Fair? and I am one very happy Easter bunny.
I hope you have a very pleasant and dry-eyed week dear reader. The weather forecast for North Yorkshire is good and Spouse and I intend to start re-modelling our gardens. As this may involve the use of power tools I hope I will still be here to tell the tale next week. Happy Eastertide.
Hello my dear reader, how nice to meet up again after the Easter break. Spouse and I have been away for a week's holiday in the south of England visiting family and doing touristy things. If you ever get the opportunity to visit the Portsmouth Dockyard do go, the Mary Rose exhibition is amazing. The ship sunk in 1545 and the Trust has managed to rescue half of its hull and thousands of artefacts from it are on display. You can tour Lord Nelson's ship, the Victory and take a boat across the bay to tour around a submarine. Then we moved on to Canterbury and visited ancient churches and of course, the Cathedral, (took in family there too!). A wonderful trip all in all, but that's enough about our journeyings. The thing is, it is some distance from North Yorkshire to Hampshire and Kent and whilst sitting in a car the old brain box gets to thinking ...
Spouse and I can happily yap away to each other for long enough and then there is always Radio 4 and then a whole bunch of CD's to listen to, as I forgot to get a talking book from the library prior to our departure. But everything happens for a reason dear reader and the reason was that I now had thinking time. Recently I have been constructing a new romantic comedy - in my head and on scrappy bits of paper - I know, the organisation is impressive - and one of my characters in this book is a writer. How's that for originality in a writer, eh? In my plot he sometimes discusses his plot with his lady friend. So ... you can see where I'm heading with this - I need a plot within a plot to discuss. Shades of Hamlet here, although sadly, I am no Shakespeare.
What a lovely journey I had down to Hampshire. My writer character is a crime writer, so I have created a detective and a crime, in fact a series of crimes for him and his team to solve. My detective is delicious, so much so that I think I am a little in love with him myself, although best not communicate this fact to Spouse, he may not be too impressed.
The homeward journey was equally interesting, although a little alarming for poor Spouse. He nearly drove into a tree when I asked out of nowhere, 'could a woman have the strength to garrote a man?' No need to take it personally dear Spouse, I was only asking. Writing romantic comedy as I do, I am not generally called upon to delve into the depths of human depravity, but my plot within a plot is taking shape that way and I have to confess dear reader, that I am really enjoying it.
Spouse however, is not enjoying this new experience. There is much talk of violence, guns, knives and murders and many a wary look is cast my way. In fact, I think Spouse is giving me a wide berth altogether. I can separate fact from fiction in my life, but I have to admit it's quite fun to drop the odd snippet about my murderer into our conversations - especially as it's a woman. Funnily enough, I don't think he's sleeping too well either - possibly with one eye and ear cocked - just in case ...
It's just as well we are staying home for most of the summer. I don't thinks Spouse's nerves could stand it if there was another long trip in the offing. Not yet there isn't, but there is talk of visiting Australia - what a trip that would be for thinking time. Excuse me, I must go and check my passport.
And if I was in charge of writing the script I would write it a great deal better than this last week. There, that's got that off my chest. Hello dear reader, I hope you haven't been taking bets with yourself about the kind of week I might have had and if you have, hurrah for you, as you've been backing a racing certainty. Yes indeedy, it was another purler of a week and enough is enough. Thankfully the last couple of days have been OK, so I am hopeful that the gods have ended their sport with us.
If you recall my dear reader, we had a viciously smoking chimney in our sitting room and had to leave our windows open to freshen the place up, even though it was sub-zero temperatures outside. In due course the chimney sweep arrived, swept the chimney which was not much sooted up and prior to his departure pronounced us hale and hearty in the chimney department. We were instructed to light a small fire to warm the chimney up as it had been out of use for a week, thus avoiding the smoke problem.
Like the good little pre-Easter bunnies that we are, we obeyed instructions and lit a small fire. Eureka, no problems at all. The smoke went where smoke is meant to go - up the chimney and not pouring out of the many holes on top of the stove. I have no idea why those holes are there anyway - are they there just in case the smoke can't get up the chimney?
Encouraged with this success, Spouse kept the fire going and we enjoyed a pleasant evening toasting our toes in front of it. Ah me, ah my. We should have quit whilst we were ahead. The gods had not done with us yet. The temperatures had started to drop again and we were forecast a bitterly cold weekend - so we lit the fire. The chimney was still warm from the previous day and we looked forward to enjoying another evening by our fireside. Well of course we didn't, did we? No, once again our iron dragon breathed smoke from all its little holes and smoked us out. So as the temperatures dropped we opened our windows and donned our thermals. Our neighbours will now be convinced that we are absolutely barking, as we appear to only open our windows when it is freezing cold.
We took refuge in our little sun room, where there is no sun to warm it up on a freezing March night and we huddled once more over the small electric fire. To cheer ourselves up we mixed stiff G&T's and put the little T.V. on. After a while I pushed off to the kitchen with my drink and went about my evening meal domestic goddess duties, whilst Spouse relaxed in the adjoining sun room. All was not too bad in our little world - until wham bang - the light bulb in the table lamp exploded, sending shards of glass everywhere - all over the floor, the chairs, Spouse and worst of all, into his G&T. Let me tell you dear reader, one little light bulb goes a helluva long way when it has a mind to and in spite of intensive hoovering and cleaning we are still finding slivers of glass. I don't think Spouse has got over having to ditch a full G&T down the sink - I mean, a Yorkshireman throwing out a full glass - not to be spoken about lightly believe me.
Against this backdrop we also had the builders working away outside every day, laying the base for our new summer sitting room, (thankfully no chimney required there) and they were traipsing in and out of the house at intervals to use the bathroom. I had dust sheets down, so that was fine, I can live with cement covered boots stomping in and out. (No, actually, I can't. I just grit my teeth as I hoover up their grit and pray for the day when they will finally finish the job!!)
And then came the man and his apprentice from the window company to fit our new bathroom window. Imagine fitting a window in the pouring rain! Well somehow they did it but methinks there is now one terrified apprentice trotting about North Yorkshire, having encountered me on a bad day.
Picture the scene. I had spread dustsheets everywhere in anticipation of workmen's boots up and down the stairs with the new window. The window fitter was in the bathroom and I was in the bedroom rootling about in a chest for a missing tablecloth. The apprentice was outside in the rain, underneath the new window opening. The fitter called out to his apprentice,
'And make sure you wipe your boots properly before coming upstairs, don't want any dirty marks on the carpets.'
Too right we don't, thinks I and calls out to young apprentice in my best dragons's voice, 'Because if you do I might have to kill you.'
Sharp intake of breath followed by silence. Oh the life of the poor apprentice. Our fitter fitted the window and departed to pack his tools, leaving the poor boy to wash the bathroom floor and gather in their own dustsheets. Somehow, someone's big boots had slithered beneath the dustsheets and there were several unlovely muddy boot marks on the bedroom carpet. A white-faced apprentice approached me and asked in a quavering voice for 'a bucket of hot water, Missus.'
When I learned of the poor lad's plight I did not unleash the wrath of Genghis upon him dear reader, neither did I give him his bucket of hot water to scrub my carpet. A good squirt of carpet cleaner would do the job a lot better. The poor lad scuttled off gratefully, if a little pale. I hope he doesn't come back when they come to glaze the new room. He might drop a window in fright if he claps eyes on me again.
So there you have it dear reader - smoked out rooms, exploding light bulbs, noisy cement mixers, muck and grit everywhere and boot marks all over the new carpet. Next week is going to be a lot better - it has to be - or I'm leaving home.
I will not be writing my blog next week, as Spouse and I are having an Easter break - at least I hope we will. Snow is forecast, so who knows ... I hope to be with you on April 8th. Happy Easter and very best wishes to you.
I am beginning to think that I have been married to spouse for too long. It's alright dear reader, there is no cause for alarm. I have not suddenly fallen out of love with spouse and wish to move on. Quite the reverse. I know people say you can grow to look like your dog, but do you grow to start thinking like your spouse? Or even worse, doing things like he does. I think this must be the case. as I am starting to get into bother again.
I am still recovering from our latest visit to the supermarket. What is it about those places? They always seem to spell trouble for us. I wonder if other people have the same problems. It's a difficult question that I would love to ask, but then I would have to admit to the kind of scrapes that we get into and do I really want to acknowledge the fact that I can be a bit of a dork sometimes? O.K., so my friends probably know that already, but why give them ammunition?
So, this week just for once we had an uneventful trip around the shop and filled our trolley without any mishaps, arguments or breakages. Bearing in mind the events of last week, I felt that perhaps, at last, the gods were smiling on us once more. With a spring in my step, I made my way jauntily to the check out and unloaded our goods on to the conveyor belt. The lady in front of me paid her bill and departed. The check out lady pressed her button to move the belt along to begin checking out our purchases, but nothing happened. It seemed the belt had given up the ghost. So we manually moved our goods along the belt and the lady began checking them through and I packed the bags.
Towards the end of the operation, I caught sight of spouse pushing down on the conveyor belt where it bends round for the return trip. He seemed to be working on it with his thumbs.
'What is he doing?' I wondered uneasily. 'It's not his piece of kit and he should leave well alone. If it's broken, it's broken.'
Ah, but I was wrong dear reader. Hey presto, the belt began moving again. Triumphantly spouse joined me, ready to depart from the store.
'It was the bumps that was stopping it from moving. I've flattened them out and that cured the problem.'
The check out lady was smiling gratefully at him and without thinking I said, 'Oh, I wondered why he was feeling your bumps.'
Silence - and then she turned red and I turned red and spouse dragged me out of the store pronto, hissing in my ear, 'did you have to say that?'
Spouse is not one to hold grudges and amicable relations were restored between us later that day. A happy situation that was not destined to last however. I wouldn't have believed it possible to trump our Saturday experience, but yes indeedy dear reader, I surpassed myself the very next day. After our Sunday morning church service we adjourned as usual to the adjacent coffee room. As we queued for our coffee, we chatted to friends around us and spouse searched in his pockets for some money to put in the 'donations welcome' coffee dish. Out came the funds and an old receipt with it. He looked at it and turned it over and saw a name on the back. He looked at it blankly, shook his head and passed it over to me.
'I don't recognise the name,' he said.
I looked at it and didn't either. 'Was is someone you picked up?' I asked.
You know those moments dear reader, when momentarily there is a lull in the general conversation and there is usually one person whose voice carries on and the drift of their conversation can be clearly heard by everyone. Well, my innocent comment occurred in just such a lull. And following it a collective sharp intake of breath and embarrassed silence.
'What do you mean, "someone I picked up?"' spouse asked icily, 'I am not in the habit of "picking people up" as you so nicely put it.'
It dawned on me that we had got our wires crossed - again. How to rescue the situation? I just had to be bold and go for it.
'Yes you do, you pick people up all the time.'
Suppressed titters around the room. Spouse looked thunderous. It was looking like it was going to be 'murder at the vicarage.'
'You pick people up in the course of your Community Transport duties, don't you? That name on your paper? Is it one of them?'
A collective sigh went up around the room and conversations were resumed. For a few moments there, life had stopped, looked and wondered at this alternative portrait of my fine upstanding spouse. Thankfully, I had managed to rescue us and we moved on to collect our coffee.
I thought we were done with the matter, but on our departure, several wags called out to spouse, 'mind how you go and who you pick up, lad. It could get you into trouble one of these days.'
So, the tables are turned on me dear reader, and spouse has gone around shaking his head sadly all week and muttering 'I don't believe it', under his breath. If I am let out of the doghouse, I hope to see you next week. and let's hope it turns out to be a better one all round.
i know Shakespeare's Earl of Gloucester was a bit of a strange old cove, but I have to say he got it about right when he said, 'As flies to wanton boys are we to th' gods, They kill us for their sport.' I'm thankful to say that I'm still here to tell the tale but I think they've got me on a bit of fishing line at the moment and are enjoying playing about with me, before reeling me in.
Last week was bad enough and this week was eventful in a different way. At the moment I'm not too sure I even want to set foot out of bed on Monday morning, in case they have any more tricks up their collective godly sleeves. Ah, I know dear reader, I can hear you say, this attitude won't do. Is this woman not made of sterner stuff? I'm working on that one and hoping that next week will be a whole new adventure in a positive way - it could be, couldn't it? The wind might change and the gods feel well disposed towards me once more. But back to reflecting on this past week ....
We were going to go across the road to our fine village hostelry for a meal with friends. A lovely evening to look forward to; a roaring fire, good food and good company. And then it snowed and it snowed some more and I thought 'Mm, not sure they'll want to turn out in this blizzard.' But I was wrong. It would take more than a bit of bad weather to put our friends off their tucker. Anticipating a pre-dinner drink by our own roaring fire, ice-cubes and sliced lemons for the G&T's were at the ready and spouse proceeded to light said fire. It just had to be, didn't it? It couldn't choose any other night to smoke us out could it? No, just as our friends were about to arrive, our multi-fuel stove belched out smoke from every opening it had, like a huge and evil dragon waking from a long sleep. Very quickly the room filled up with smoke and spouse came staggering out to the sun room with a face as black as night.
'I think the seal has gone on the door,' he gasped. He wiped his eyes with blackened hands. I suppressed a smile as he now looked like Chi chi, or do I mean An An? I can't remember which one was the male. Cute as giant pandas are I don't think spouse would have appreciated the comparison, or being offered a bamboo shoot at this juncture.
'Open the windows,' says I. It looked like the London of the 1950's in our sitting room, filled with filthy smog. We were looking in on the scene from the glass doors leading from the sitting room to our little sun room - just so that you know my dear reader, that I cannot as yet see through walls - still working on that one.
Spouse braced himself, dived back into the room and threw the windows open, scuttling back into the sun room sharpish. 'That's put the kibosh on the G&T's then,' he said, staring ruefully back through the glass doors.
It certainly did. I don't think anyone's idea of a good time would be slurping G & T in a freezing cold, smoke filled room, not even spouse's. We decamped to the pub with our friends and had a very pleasant evening, returning from the warmth of the pub to our freezing cold house, where all the windows were open, in an effort to rid us of the smoke smell.
It had to be didn't it? No mild sunny winter days for us, as is sometimes the case in winter. No, the temperatures for the whole week were well in the minuses and for the whole week we kept the windows open and went around dressed in so many layers of clothing we could hardly move. Remember the Michelin Man? We were dead ringers for him. I wonder what our neighbours made of us - the new kids on the block. In the lowest of temperatures that we have had for many winters, Instead of closing all the windows and banging up the thermostat on the central heating, all our windows stood wide open. If anyone asks me I think I'll tell them that we are in training for a trip to the Arctic Circle.
We had to keep the windows open for the whole week as spouse lit the fire again. No, before you go thinking 'what a numpty', he was not. He had purchased a new seal for the fire door and carefully fitted it. This meant taking the door off first and I won't go into the hammering, banging, cussing and sore fingers involved in all that. Eventually the new seal was put on and was a good tight fit and spouse thought we are up and running again. We were - running to open all the windows as the new seal made no difference at all. No, that's not fair to spouse - the new door seal held tight and not a smidgen of smoke issued from around the door - just from every other opening on the top of the fire. So, we surmise that it must be a chimney problem. We await the visit of the chimney sweep and continue to live in the best aired house in North Yorkshire. But at least we had lighting and had hot drinks and hot food ....
And then we had a power cut. We have had deep snow and high winds and not a flicker of a power problem. This morning, as the temperature rose to a dizzying one degree Celsius, the snow began melting away and the wind dropped, at 4 a.m. the power went off. Our windows are wide open, we are dressed in as many layers as fully paid up eskimos and are reduced to candle power and cold drinks. So don't tell me the gods aren't having a fine old time with Chez Comb. I only hope they soon tire of their sport with us and move on.
One thing slightly worries me. Monday morning is lurking just around the corner and now that the temperatures are on the rise, the builders will resume their work at the back of the house. I hope this fact is a well kept secret from the gods or who knows what lies in store - let's not dwell on that dear reader, 'that way madness lies.'
I suppose it was too good to last. Ever the optimist that I am, I thought that peaceful times, just for a change, had broken out at Chez Comb. Let me tell you dear reader, how wrong can a gal be? I have brought some of it upon myself I know, by having the builders in, but I didn't reckon on spouse causing bother as well.
The week had not even properly begun. Spouse had tidied out the garage over the weekend and had found a length of metal tube. It looked very much like it belonged to one of his anglepoise lamps and so he put it to one side. Come Monday morning he fished it out of the garage and took it into his study to try and fit it to the lamp. Had it belonged to the lamp it would have given it even more height and shed a bright light all around. (Mm, it's beginning to sound like Christmas already.)
The metal pole turned out to have nothing to do with the lamp and spouse began to dismantle the attempted assemblage and in the process trapped his finger tightly in between the top bars of the stand. So tightly was he trapped that he could not extract his finger and shouted for help. I scurried to his aid and managed to release his finger. By this time it was swollen up and I spent the morning trotting to and fro at intervals with ice packs. By lunchtime he was judged fit to be let loose on the world again.
I swear he looks for trouble. Bear in mind it was still only Monday and plenty of the day left. Onwards and upwards. He managed to put a rusty nail through the same finger later on in the afternoon. Fortunately we know that his tetanus protection is up to date, but sometimes I think he is testing the system almost to destruction.
On to Tuesday. We had quite a fall of snow overnight and intermittently through the day, but as the sun was shining I decided to go for a post-lunch walk to boost the old brain cells and see what was happening out there in the big snowy world of North Yorkshire. The builders were busy outside and spouse was busy down the garden in his shed, so off I tripped, booted, hatted but not spurred.
How was I to know that he would lock himself in his shed the minute my back was turned? Luckily for him on returning from my walk I gave the builders and all their noisy power tools a wide berth and continued on down the garden to visit spouse in his shed, thinking he might like to come up to the house for a nice cup of tea. Only as I neared the shed and with the noise of the builders to my back, did I hear the hammering on the shed door - coming from the inside.
Being a cold and snowy day spouse had locked the shed door from the inside, to stop the doors from blowing open, but somehow, the latch on the outside of the door had dropped down and was firmly holding the doors shut with him inside. My, oh my, he was as mad as mad can be, as he had been trying to get out of there for quite some time. It wasn't ice packs that were needed this time, it was a very gentle defrost indoors.
Wednesday, thank goodness was incident free and I heaved a sigh of relief, thinking we had escaped, 'trouble always comes in threes.' Then Thursday struck.
We'd had a lot of snow overnight again and spouse was due to take an elderly lady to hospital for a late morning physiotherapy appointment. Being the good soul that he is he went round to her house early to clear the snow from her drive, so that she could get out to the car. Just as he was finishing he slipped on a patch of ice and went down hard on his bottom. When he limped indoors to collect the little old lady, she told him the appointment had now been cancelled and to add insult to injury, he can hardly bear to sit down at all now. The bruises will be spectacular.
Then we were truly blessed to throw in a Friday happening for good measure. We had an appointment in the town and afterwards went on to the supermarket as supplies were much depleted. Well my dear reader, what can I say? Of course it was not an uneventful visit. Mea culpa, mea culpa, it was all my fault. I should never have asked him to reach up to the top shelf to get me a jar of gherkins down. Spouse is tall, but the shelf was very high and reaching up on tiptoes did the job nicely. But, he overbalanced ever so slightly and on his way down brushed up against the end display of tins and the whole lot came down. My, my, what a noise a cascading display of cans can make. You can have no idea, unless of course, it's happened to you.
Needless to say we hotfooted it out of there sharpish and may not be returning for some time to come. Spouse is skulking around the homestead trying not to get into any more mischief this week. Trouble is, Monday morning comes around all too soon - a whole new week to go at. I'm girding up my loins even as I write .........
You may smile at this title dear reader, but it is a very real problem in my life and possibly in yours too. Or it may be that you are far more organised and efficient than me and the socks that go into your washing machine actually come out again. I'm not so sure that mine do. I know not what what alchemy is afoot in my utility room, but many pairs can go into the wretched washing machine, but I'm darned sure not that the same quantity come out again.
Not only that, but last week at least some did come out of the washing machine and I duly hung them up on the electric airing rack overnight, came back the next morning and collected the laundry in, took it into the bedroom to sort out and blow me down, there was only one sock of spouse's left to put away. How did that happen? My socks seemed to be all present and correct, but only one of his? He is not one-footed, he did not throw one out prior to laundering so what is going on? Like my bell pepper seeds and grains of rice being strewn over the floor and worktops at night, I believe the house elves are having a laugh at my expense. How else can I be left with one lonely sock?
At Chez Comb we have both have two feet and thus wear our sock in pairs. Ergo, pairs of socks go into the washing machine - nota bene, pairs, not singles. So why is it that I end up at the end of the laundering process with so many lonely socks? Where do they all go? And never to be clapped eyes on again. They never turn up, how is that? We both have drawers full of lonely socks. Does this only happen to me dear reader?
It's the same with gloves. There were always two of them, carefully put away in the drawer after use and then on going to retrieve them for their next outing, there is only one there. One of life's many mysteries.
I wonder if Noah had the same problem in the Ark? The animals went in two by two. Did they indeed? Well, I bet a lot of them didn't come out two by two by the time the flood was over and they were decanted on to dry land. You can bet your bottom dollar, or last shiny pound coin, that Noah and Mrs Noah were left scratching their heads when the animals trotted out of the Ark and down the gangway and quite a few of them went solo. No amount of carefully searching the nether regions of the boat would reveal a lost mate and I bet they asked themselves the eternal question too - where did they go, what happened to them?
When I mentioned this puzzle to spouse, (the socks, not the animals), he came up with yet another domestic conundrum. Where have his favourite waterproof work trousers gone? He did have two pairs and one pair seems to have vanished into thin air. Likewise the woolly hats that keep his bonce warm when working outside. He had several to choose from at one time and now he is reduced to one. I know he can only wear one at a time, but he did have his favourites and they are nowhere to be found. Is it the house elves again?
I may not have lost a giraffe, elephant or warthog lately and if I found one what would I do with it anyway? But I would like to discover the whereabouts of the stash of lonely socks that there must be somewhere. I know you're out there. Come home soon and all will be forgiven. that is my final offer, house elves. You have been warned.
Bear with me dear reader and all will become clear. The folk next door have the builders in and a beautiful new extension is going up at the back of their house. They are also having all the windows in the rest of the house renewed, as the property was rather dilapidated when they took it over and was more than ripe for updating. No problem there. All went well until last week. The builders removed two old windows from the side of the building that looks on to our front driveway. Unfortunately for us they did not take much care about it. The windows came out easily enough and so did at least six million minute polystyrene balls, which I now understand were in the past used for insulation before insulated sheets came along. It was a windy day and guess what? Yes, indeedy, all the perishing balls blew on to our driveway. Not a problem, I hear you say. Sweep 'em up. Problem solved. I wish. Our drive is covered with pea gravel, that small stuff that gets in between grooves of your trainers or walking boots. Can't sweep that lot up.
Meanwhile, inside Chez Comb, spouse is telephoning the lady from the Community Transport Scheme, for whom he is a volunteer driver. Elderly, infirm or disabled folk can book transport for shopping, doctors, hospital appointments or the doctor's surgery and have door to door service for a small fee. Whilst I am outside surveying our polystyrene snowstorm, spouse has contacted the lady via the ringback service. She must have picked up the phone, thought there was no one there and put it to one side. But they were still connected as spouse could hear her moving about the office. Poor spouse, he wasn't having much luck. He was calling into the phone, 'hello Christine, pick up your phone Christine, hello Christine.' and didn't bargain on being interrupted by a very cross wife stomping into his study, shrieking like a demented banshee and vowing vengeance on the entire building fraternity.
Being the patient man that he is, he put the phone to one side and listened to my diatribe on the careless builders and the problem of the polystyrene balls. My rant over and thinking there was nothing to be done about them and that we would have to learn to love them, I pushed off to my kitchen and my domestic goddess duties. Sometime later I had occasion to pass through the hallway to find spouse on his hands and knees, threading wire through the letterbox. I paused, mouth open and hesitated. Then, 'no, don't ask,' I told myself. Might be better if I don't know. On my return trip spouse was off his knees, upright and fixing up the hoover. 'Having a domestic moment, are we?' I asked. 'Mm, not quite domestic,' says spouse. 'I'm going out to hoover the gravel.'
Well I know we like to be reasonably clean at Chez Comb, but isn't hoovering the gravel taking things a tad too far? But if that's what spouse wanted to to who was I to object. I returned to my domestic duties and left him to it. In the kitchen I found the phone off its cradle and picked it up. Don't ask me why I did it, dear reader, but I shouted 'hello, hello. Eh, what's up doc?' into the handset in my best Bugs Bunny voice and hell's bells, I nearly dropped the wretched thing when Christine from Community Transport answered me. 'Is that you, Patricia? Your phone's off the hook. By the heck, it's an interesting life in your house isn't it? What was he doing down at the letterbox and why's he gone out to hoover the gravel? Does he often do that? Sounds a bit daft to me, but I suppose it takes all sorts....' Spouse will have some explaining to do next time he speaks to the good lady and I only hope she doesn't mention Bugs Bunny to him.
Yes, I thought hoovering the gravel was a bit off the wall too, but I have to tell you my dear reader, that spouse is not as green as he is cabbage looking. He fed the extension lead through the letterbox so the door could stay shut and took the hoover outside and connected it up. He put the hoover on its lowest setting and held it well above the gravel and hey presto - all those little polystyrene balls went home to daddy, all safely tucked up into the hoover bag. How amazing is that?
Our driveway is now squeaky clean and my admiration for spouse is unbounded. For thinking outside the letter box, I think I married a genius. Look out builders, we're ready to take on the world.