The season of Advent is in full swing, a time for prayer and preparation for the birth of Christ and a time to celebrate this event. Alongside my spiritual preparation I have begun my temporal - decking the halls with Christmas holly and all that jazz. As this is the first Christmas in our new home I laid my plans - fairy lights along the decorative plate in the sitting room and a handsome tree complete with our Star of Bethlehem on top to lighten our winter darkness.
I communicated my plans to spouse and he was quite taken with my ideas and went on a foray to the loft to retrieve the tree, lights and box of decorations. I am pleased to report, dear reader, that no mishaps occurred this time as he shimmied up and down the loft ladder. I don't know how the Christmas traditions work in your home, dear reader, but decorating the tree is mostly left to my artistic ministrations. But first spouse has to put the tree in a suitable pot. When he returned from this little task I pointed out the place in the sitting room where I wanted it to go and tripped off up the village whilst he wrestled with swathing the tree in fairy lights.
So far so very good, my dear reader. However, on my return, where was my tree? Not in its chosen spot at all. Spouse had obviously not listened to a word I'd said, (nothing new there then) and had placed the tree in a very awkward place where we would knock into it coming in and out of the room and if we have Raffles our guest-dog visiting - once swish of his tail and that will be it. You can imagine the conversation can't you, dear reader? Along the lines of 'It's lovely, but it's in the wrong place.' 'What do you mean it's in the wrong place? How can there be a "wrong" place?' 'I said over there,' quoth I, pointing to the opposite side of the room. 'What's wrong with here?' 'Everything. Put it over there and we won't be barging into it every time we come in.' 'We can walk round it,' splutters he in exasperation.
I hope your imagination can stretch to the pitying looks expended on spouse at this point. Let's just say with much huffing and puffing the tree was moved and I set to work, hanging its boughs with the baubles and decorations we have collected over many years. I was standing back admiring my handiwork, when spouse materialised beside me, ready to put the star on top of the tree and add his own personal tweaks.
At this juncture in my tale I should say in my defence that I had been blithely tripping up and down the stepladders all afternoon in pursuit of my decorative arts. Thus it was that I never gave a nanomoments thought to spouse ascending them. And that, dear reader, is why I am now firmly and completely in the doghouse with no release date as yet in sight. My care of the floorboards in our new home has been my downfall. Well actually, not mine, but spouse's - literally. The ground floor of our new abode has wooden floors and in an effort not to scratch them with my stepladders, (which are ancient and long ago lost their rubber feet), I taped them up with gaffa tape. Brilliant, I thought and so it was. Not a floorboard was scratched in the decorating of the tree. What I did not bargain for was the element of slideability I had introduced into the operation.
As I have said I shimmied up and down the ladders all afternoon with nary a slide or a slip to be had. Yes, I am small and not a heavyweight, so maybe that's why I put no stresses on said steps. However and how can I put this delicately without putting myself further in the doghouse? Let me just say that spouse is a tall man, a broad man and not a skinny man. I'm not too sure what happened, but once up the ladders and leaning in to affix the star to the top of the tree, the ladders slid away from him.
In the excitement of the moment one hand clutched on to the tree and the other to the plate shelf. I think you know the rest - six foot of burly male is a most unfair match for a very light Christmas tree and a plate shelf. 'Down will come baby cradle and all' wasn't in it. The ladders slid one way and spouse the other, ending in a tangled heap of smashed lights, broken tree and squashed decorations, not to mention the whack on the head as the plate rack bounced off him.
I will draw a veil over the next half hour or so. It is rather painful - physically for spouse who is now nursing bruised limbs and a fat head and emotionally painful for yours truly as my common sense and sanity have been bought into question, as in 'What idiot would ever think of putting gaffa tape round the stepladders, you've totally lost the plot this time' and much more besides.
So, my dear reader, spare a kind word for me in my doghouse if you pass by. Chez Comb is a very quiet place as I swipe disconsolately with my brush at the wreckage in the sitting room. And please, should your path cross with spouse's, please don't offer him the compliments of the season. It might not only be 'Christmas, bah!' I think he might spontaneously combust.
I don't know about you dear reader, but I like to ease gently into the day. Not for me the bouncing out of bed, full of enthusiasm to tackle the day ahead routine, the minute one eye is open. I appreciate you may view the start of your day differently and I am very happy for you (and not a little envious) if you do. To be fair to myself I am usually very enthusiastic and full of plans and ideas for the day - but only after a gentle easing into the day propped up in bed, sipping a cup of tea bought to me by my dear spouse. We have covered have we not, spouse's journey through the morning tea-making routine? So I won't even go there on that one. Recently the journey for the coffee making has been outlined to me - picking the beans, transporting, grinding them - you get the picture no doubt. I am not giving him any air time over that one as yet.
Where was I? Oh yes, a gently awakening into the morning. I remember those halcyon days well. Remember, I hear you say? Indeed, dear reader and a very pleasant and distant memory it is too. For my morning routine has been scattered to the four winds. We are dog-sitting again. I love Raffles dearly - a 'lassie' dog, or rough-haired collie for those in the doggie-know. Although why they are called 'rough-haired' I do not know, as our Raffles has lovely soft hair, (is that because he is newly come from the dog groomers?) Anyway, as I said, I love Raffles dearly, but I do not love his idea of a morning routine.
He likes to be up nice and early - never mind that it is still winter-dark outside and I am still enjoying my slumbers. No, he is ready for the day and summons us to attend to his needs. Eagerly he steps outside to sniff the morning sniffs all around the garden and generally re-acquaint himself with Mother Nature in a leisurely fashion. I, meanwhile, stand watchfully and shivering at the garden door, waiting for the hound to make his way back up the garden. No amount of hissed commands, (it is the crack of dawn and I don't want to upset the neighbours by yelling like a banshee). So I hiss through gritted teeth - 'RAFFLES, COME IN.' Selective deafness always sets in the minute he is let loose and no way is he going to take the slightest notice of me, a mere human.
By now I am nearly an iceberg watching the wretched dog slowly make his way back up the garden. Reluctantly he deigns to re-enter the premises, staring up at me, slightly bemused, as I mutter various imprecations to him under my breath. Now I am ready to sit down and defrost over a hot cup of tea by. But no such luck for me, dear reader as Raffles has other ideas. He has two teddies, a big one and a small one with a squeak in it. Why, oh why did I ever buy him that? He absolutely adores it and never more so than at the crack of dawn. Refreshed from his zonked-out night's sleep and a gentle garden stroll, he returns to Chez Comb full of energy and ready to kill squeaky Ted again and again and again .....
Only he won't kill him on his own. We have to be involved too. Just as I am about to imbibe the amazing brew that spouse has lovingly prepared, a wet, slobbery teddy is thrust into my face by a growling waggy-tailed dog, a present he is sure I am delighted to have. 'Come on, play the game,' he is saying and growls and prances before me. This is a dog that wouldn't say 'boo' to a goose when really challenged, but give him squeaky Ted and he becomes a lion-dog.
And so we play the game, growling along with Raffles and squeaking with Ted. No, please, do not try to imagine this scene, it's all too embarrassing. But at heart we are big softies and love our guest-dog and know how much he enjoys his morning play. And to end on a positive note, I can look forward to the day when I am standing on the doorstep watching the car tail-lights disappearing down the road, bearing Raffles back to his own domain and ponder lovingly the thought of waking up the next morning to Radio 4 and the dulcet Welsh tones of John Humphrys, ushering me into a new day and no killing Ted in sight.
I am very sorry dear reader but there will not be blog this week due to family illness - not spouse - but other members of our family are not so grand just now. I hope to be with you again next week. In the meantime I hope you all have a very good week. Best wishes, Patricia
I am beginning to think my little grey cells must have attuned themselves to the change in season. In the heat of the summer they were all fired up; decisions just made themselves and ideas dripped from every pore in my body. And now, with the waning of the year my ability to make a decision about anything, like poor old Icarus, has come crashing to the ground. Sad to say dear reader, with the drop in temperature my brain cells have slowed to almost freezing point and - unable to make decisions, I have become a ditherer
This state of affairs does not sit easily with me, as I am so used to keeping all the balls in the air and making a swift decision about the first one that comes down. Now when the balls coming rolling down at me, I stare at them, glazed-eyed and am paralyzed with indecision.
This is how it is at Chez Comb at present. We have been in our new home for seven months now and are finally getting around to organising some fitted wardrobes. (That particular ball was way up in the air all summer). We have been making do with clothes rails as other more pressing matters than storing our clothes took up our attention. However, we were both getting tired of trying to extract assorted pieces of clothing from over-packed rails. (And just don't get me started on the wretched subject of clothes rails in the first place. That is a whole other country). So, proper wardrobes are needed and after consultation with friends for their recommendations, a local carpenter visited with his brochures.
Let me say here and now that I am not casting any aspersions on our lovely carpenter. He is a man of great skill and integrity and so wants to do the job justice and fit us out with beautiful wardrobes. Me? I just want a cupboard to hang my clothes in. That is not unreasonable. So why can't it be that simple? My dear reader, if you have ever sailed in this same boat you will know exactly what I mean. It isn't that simple. You have to choose the style of doors you would like. And then there is the colour and the grain of the wood. Must I? Yes, it seems I must. Skilled carpenter cannot make the choice for me. Then the style of handles to go on the doors! 'I just want a handle to open the ***** thing with.' I growl to spouse. There are pages and pages of doors, drawers, cupboards and handles. I have no clue, have almost gone off the whole idea by now and hence am now in a complete state of dither.
My other state of dither is entirely my own fault. In those far off halcyon days of summer when all was right with the world and my brain cells functioned, we passed our summer evenings sitting out on the small terrace at the back of the house that overlooks the garden. Fizz, fizz went my synapses and up came the bright idea of a loggia or covered verandah. Spouse wholeheartedly agreed and since I had come up with that particular ball, he suggested I run with it. Well, dear reader, I have. the builder has visited and he too agrees a verandah is a great idea. Win win, two people convinced already. Ah, but here we go again. My back of an envelope drawing will not suffice. My builder friend needs to know where I want supporting posts, style of railings and roofing, do I want solid side panels and what style of flooring to it - is it flagging or wood? If it's flags - what colour? Do I want to design something? if it's a wood floor, again what colour had I in mind???? Had I in mind? I haven't got a mind any more.
At the moment I have no ideas on any of these fronts. I think my brain cells have gone into hibernation for the winter and I am dithering and dithering and ....... Sometime soon I will have to come up with some answers to all the questions recently asked of me. In the meantime dear reader, I think I will curl up in a tight ball and pull the covers up over my head. Then maybe, just maybe, my brain cells will defrost and I will once again become the juggler extraordinaire I used to be and voila, the decisions will make themselves. I live in hope - and in the meantime - happy dithering.
From little acorns ... You may recall dear reader, or quite probably you won't, but some time ago, my friend Pat and I decided to sort out the garden at our local library. Due to the financial crisis and subsequent cuts in government funding, our local council could no longer afford to maintain the library gardens and thus they were beginning to look a a rather sorry state. Pat and I, both library volunteers, decided we could not let things slide into decline and set about the borders with enthusiasm, weeding and pruning them to within an inch of their little plant lives. The library Manager put a photograph of us industriously working away up on the the library website and thus news of our activities spread.
Enter stage left another library volunteer, Larraine, who loves anyone who takes an interest in our little seaside town. Our little acorn began to take root and grow. Larraine is a wonderful woman and when she sets her shoulder to the wheel, my word does it spin. She was out and about around the town fundraising for plants and good soil for the garden, cajoling shopkeepers to give us rainbutts and tools and even found a lady who donated her own gardener's time to do some really heavy work for us, digging out unwanted shrubs that had taken over in places. Meanwhile Pat and I stuck to our weeding and pruning, quietly delighted at the turn events had taken.
In time the word went out to all volunteers that their services would be much appreciated on Tuesday, when the big final weed and plant up was to take place. As you know dear reader, I have had a distcinctly dodgy back for the last couple of weeks, but I was not going to miss this event. I and my tools and kneeling mat turned up on Tuesday morning and I assigned myself a large empty bed to weed ready for planting. Buddleas and other bee and butterfly-friendly plants are to be planted in it. So, for quite a few hours, with a few breaks for stretching the old limbs now and then, I was on all fours seeing off the weeds. You will note dear reader, that there is no mention of spouse joining in with this activity. He was out and about on his own affairs. However, he arrived early on the scene to gather me up and I was still on all fours and amazingly at that point he made no comment on my stance. We departed the garden leaving the merry team beavering away like ... well, beavers.
But you can't keep a good man down can you? No, I don't really mean a good man at all. I happened to mention the next morning that my back felt a little easier, maybe as a result of spending the day on all fours. 'Well, what are you waiting for,' quoth he. 'You need to go around like a dog and then you can woof woof all day. I could take you out for a walk'. There you are dear reader, the only animal missing from the zoo last week.
But, didn't I say my time would come? And so it has. Ha ha, spouse's bad karma from last week has come back to bite him. The English term for it is, 'he's got his come uppance' - what goes around comes around! He hatched a heavy cold after that last remark about going around woof woofing and has felt very sorry for himself these last few days. His eyes have been streaming and if ever there was a Rudolph conk it is his, as his nose has never stopped running.
Best of all, his sense of smell and taste have vanished and he says he could be eating cardboard - not I trust, his opinion of my cuisine. I am almost ... almost, tempted to serve up a box on a dinnerplate if that is the case. I mean, why slave away over a hot stove if the old taste buds have taken their bats home? Watch this space dear reader, the walls of Chez Comb may resound with anguished wails tonight if I find a suitable box. Cardboard a la Mme Patrice may find its way on to the Sunday menu.
On Tuesday I am off to the physiotherapist who I hope will dance up and down on my vertabra and I will come out dancing like a spring lamb. So look out spouse, I will soon be a force to be reckoned with once more.
About ten days ago I injured my back. I had been to a music practice at my local church and when we finished spouse very kindly carried my guitar in its hard case out to the car and lodged it behind the front seats. Now, dear reader, even at the time this left me scratching my head a little, as we have an estate car and as there was not much else in the car at the time, except for the jack and a few empty carrier bags, it did cross my mind that maybe he could have put the darned thing on the back seat or in the boot. However, I kept a still tongue in my head and we made our way to the supermarket to re-stock our cupboards. All fine and dandy- until we got home. Hefting a bag of shopping in one hand I reached into the car went to lift the guitar out. Only it was stuck, wedged behind the seat and firmly stuck in the back seat footwell. So there you have it - that's how you rick your back.
As the afternoon wore on, the damage to my back made itself felt and by bedtime I was in agony and breaking out the painkillers. (I hope there's a lot of sympathy going on for me out there, especially from those of you who have done similar things!) I crawled on hands and knees to bed and spent a sleepless night trying to find somewhere that was comfortable. I didn't, but at least I had the BBC World Service to take my mind off things. It's amazing what you can learn in the middle of the night.
Come the morning I could barely walk and whilst I could dress the top half of me, reaching down to toe level was a non-starter. I sat on the edge of the bed contemplating the idea of spouse wrestling me into a pair of tights. It would be like two ferrets fighting inside a bag and possibly a lot of pain involved. That was a real non-starter. It would have to be socks. Spouse was called on for assistance. Now whilst he is kindness itself and only too willing to assist, he does not make a gal feel better in herself when she is likened to a horse. Dragging socks over my feet he commented, 'Ooh, it's like shoeing a horse,' says he. (How would he know?) And then to add insult to the injury he looked up at me, grinning a wolfish grin, (well we are in animal mode) and said, 'They shoot horses don't they?' Mmm, not what I wanted to hear.
Over the course of this last week, I have been likened to Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, as I had a cold and shuffled about the house, 'a bit like a reindeer', - no, I fail to get that one either. Then I was a monkey and a crab, depending on which method I employed to get up and down the stairs, I believe a donkey was mentioned at one stage, although that could have been the painkillers playing tricks and last but not least, the Cowardly Lion from 'Wizard of Oz', not because I'm cowardly, but even I must admit my hair was standing on end in the mornings after a night of shuffling about in bed trying to find a comfortable spot.
Thank you for your kind concern, dear reader, yes, I am on the road to recovery and I look forward to running around like a two year old any time soon. But just wait until spouse is under the weather or slinks into the house with yet another wound for the steri-strips and bandages - every dog has his day, (about the only name he hasn't called me yet), and I could have a field day with him. Nurse Comb might not be just as gentle as usual. There will be no soft stroking of the guaze over the open wound. Tougher love might be the order of the day. Take note spouse, you have been warned......
Spouse and I have lived on smallholdings in the Durham Dales in the north-east of England and in the Charente Maritime in south-west France. Of all the animals and birds we kept, our feathered friends were the most entertaining and at times exasperating.
Up in the Durham Dales we decided to keep some ducks and our neighbours had a glut of young ducklings at that time and were keen to offload some on to us. Spouse built them a duckhouse to keep them safe from the foxes at night and then we looked about for a suitable receptacle to use as a pond. We didn't have anything big enough. So, we took ourselves off to the nearby town and found the very thing - a chld's heavy duty paddling pool in bright blue plastic. It was too large to tote down the street to where our car was parked, so spouse wore it on his head. Needless to say, I was ten paces in front and walking fast to make it twenty.
After that excitement, we got our new pool home and filled it up. Now we were set for our new arrivals. Six ducks and one drake came to live in the field next to our house. They were very entertaining and best of all, loved their pond. Our dogs were quite keen for a duck supper at first, but were soon made to know their place when they were on the receiving end of a few nasty nips from Henry, our drake.
Henry was an enterprising duck. At the time of his arrival on our farm, I always fed our dogs outside, as the retriever was a particularly messy eater. It didn't take Henry long to suss out when it was dinner time and he would come waddling up to the back door, elbow the dogs out of the way and finish off their food for them. And the dogs were so intimidated by him, they stood back and watched! So I brought their food indoors, but Henry was not deterred by this. He boldly marched into the back kitchen and carried on scoffing. In the end the door had to be locked against him.
in his favour though, was the fact that he was an unusually good parent. Unfortunately, our new mums never seemed to be too concerned about their offspring and would wander off in search of food, never caring whether their babes were keeping up or not. But Henry cared deeply and was very gentle, conscientious and caring about all his children, watching them as they took their first dip, making sure they didn't stray too far away from him and generally being a good dad. So I suppose a little doggie dinner here and there didn't go amiss.
His successor, Sam, however, was a very different kettle of drake. I described him the other day to a friend, as being like Hitler on speed and really, when I think of it, this is quite an accurate description. Henry had been a very handsome drake, plump and well proportioned, whereas Sam was long and stringy and obviously didn't care for the water too much, as he always looked dirty, his feathers hanging stringily about him. Worzel Gummidge comes to mind.
I could have forgiven him this, but he was a bully. He didn't treat the women well and they were afraid of him, always trying to escape his rough and demanding attentions. One day matters came to a head when my poor girls all squeezed under the field gate and into our garden to escape Sam. He, left on the other side of the gate, patrolled up and down, a mad Basil Fawlty gleam in his eye and squawking the odds at us to let him in and let him at 'em.
I had had enough. No male of any species was going to behave like that on my farm. I found spouse and asked him to go and shoot Sam. He was one drake we could do without. Spouse obliged and put the corpse in the clean dustbin we used to keep feed in, to await my attentions. It so happened, Sam had to wait until the next afternoon to be dealt with. I had planned a shopping trip to the nearby town the next morning and I think we were lucky to get out of there without major incident. As we were passing the hardware section in the supermarket, spouse remarked, 'Oh by the way after I shot Sam yesterday, I put him in the clean feedbin as he was bleeding a bit. It will need washing out.' As we passed we noticed a young assistant up a ladder. She had been in the process of dusting the shelves. The hand holding the duster was frozen in mid-air. She was white faced and looked shocked. We made a swift exit from the supermarket glad not to be met with an armed response unit outside.
A few years later we were keeping ducks and hens again. Our favourites were Sylvia the worlds most inquisitive hen and Pa Larkin, the cockerel and head of the tribe. We called him after Pa Larkin in 'The Darling Buds Of May' as he really looked after his family well, making sure they got the pick of the best food and protecting them from all comers.
Until the day of the rounding up. We were coming over to England for a month on a house hunting trip and our neighbours across the fields were going to have our livestock over at their place to look after. So, we had to round up the hens and ducks and transport them over the way. As they were all pretty tame, it didn't prove to be a problem, except for Pa Larkin, who suddenly found his wings and took to the air for the first time in his life and flew over the high wall of the enclosure, legging it at speed down the road and into the nearby wood.
Our hearts sank. However would we catch a cockerel stuck up a tree in a wood? There was not much likelihood of that. However, we were not ones to throw in the towel after the first round, so we got on our bikes and pedalled furiously after him. On entering the wood we got quite a surprise. There was Pa Larkin crouched on the ground with his eyes tight shut. If he couldn't see us, we sure as heck wouldn't see him! I suppose that is how cockerel theory goes. Spouse ditched the bike and gathered up the bird. I have to say he was none too pleased to be so easily discovered and spouse suffered some nasty nips from Pa's sharp beak, but at least he could be restored to his lady friends.
That was his only bid for freedom and he lived to a ripe old age, happily watching over his girls by night and day. Just nobody mention the woods again.
I know this is an odd title for a blog, but believe me, dear reader, my dear spouse had our lovely doctor in Scotland alternately reaching for the tranquilisers or the whisky bottle after a visit from him, at least I always imagined once the door had closed behind spouse and he was safely on his way home, that was what she would be doing. The last image of her before her surgery door closed was of a woman on the edge, holding her head in her hands. Next stop, the psychiatric ward.
I know, I can almost hear you thinking - what? That lovely, looney man upsetting a fine, upstanding member of the medical profession. Surely not. But, oh yes he did, on a regular basis. Our lovely doctor was a very kind and patient lady and very conscientious in the execution of her Hippocratic oath. Every three months spouse was summoned into her presence for his blood pressure, weight and blood cholesterol levels to be checked. Every three months? - That's a bit O.T.T. I hear you say. Ah, but. Doctor D as I will call her, had come to know spouse very well and knew that if a check was not kept on his weight and waistline, things could very easily gallop out of control. So stiffening up her sinews and summoning up the blood, she called for spouse to attend the surgery.
Cat and mouse was not in it, dear reader. Doctor D would be ready to pounce if the scales showed the poundage moving in a upward direction and spouse would always have a very convincing reason why it had - her scales were inaccurate, he had NOT put that much weight on, she needed to get them properly checked before she wasted her time checking on him. And his cholesterol levels could not possibly be that high - his wife had made him live on lettuce and lime juice for the last month. He always came away with his ears ringing from her lecture on the evils of FAT. But sadly for her, the next time he visited her den, a large poster was proudly displayed on her door listing the benefits of all the food groups. And what was the last one on the list - yes, you've guessed correctly. It was fat. Spouse joyfully pointed this one out to her. 'You see, Fat IS good for you, it says so there. Can't get away from that doc.' That was one of the head in her hands days when he left the surgery, triumphantly trumpeting the good news to all he met.
Spouse was prescribed Aspirin tablets for a while in line with contemporary medical thinking at the time. Some time after this he underwent a minor operation and was despatched from the hospital duly bandaged up with instructions to remove the dressings twenty fours later. Once home, spouse took to his bed with full-blown flu. I knew it was proper flu, as he refused all offers of food and I had to check and see if the sky had not fallen.
Twenty fours later and with his temperature still high, I set about removing the bandages from spouse's leg. My, my, not a pretty sight. It was obvious to me, a serious infection had set in. I will spare you the gory details. However, I did say to spouse that we had better set off for the doctors, tout suite if we wanted to keep his leg. Spouse's response was, 'No, it will be fine.' Knowing differently, I hauled him protestingly off to the surgery, where he was dealt with, with various potions and antibiotics and a District Nurse called daily for the next three weeks to dress his leg. So things were fairly serious.
I give you this background, as when spouse was better and went to see our lovely Doctor D, he moaned a bucketful about feeling the cold and blamed the Aspirin, she made him take. I can see her now, lovely Doctor D, looking incredulously at spouse. 'You have had influenza, surgery, a very serious blood infection and it IS winter time. Don't you think that might have something to do with why you are feeling the cold?' Spouse remained unimpressed and still blamed the Aspirin. Doctor D was last seen holding her head in her hands - again.
As you know, dear reader, we moved to this house six months ago and have registered at a new medical practice. Clean sheet, I thought, no more nonsense from him. Wrong. A blood test revealed spouse was a bit low in the potassium department and had instructions from the nurse to eat a banana a day for a fortnight and go back for another test. (You can imagine the comments in our house can't you? He is now known as 'monkey man'). But that's by the by. After a week of bananas he went to the chemist to collect a prescription and lo and behold, a bottle of potassium tablets awaited him there. A week's supply. Puzzled by this, spouse took himself off to the surgery and enquired from the Receptionists about the continued eating of the bananas, in the light of these tablets. Should he still carry on eating the bananas? God bless their hearts, they tried so hard to keep their faces straight in answer to his anxious question. If he wanted to eat bananas - if that made him happy - go on eating bananas.
I'm sure I don't need to tell you the nomenclature by which he now goes at the surgery. Correct - banana man. Everyone knows him. I only hope next time he attends the surgery they don't announce 'Banana Man for Doctor B' over the tannoy system. It could be another 'he's not with me' moment for me. Oh and by the way, dear reader, next time you visit your physician, be nice and don't try their patience to the limit - you don't want to make them ill.
It all started with a very small hole in our lawn. 'That's a mouse hole,' says spouse. 'Well, they've got to live somewhere,' says I. 'Not in my lawn, they haven't. It's too near the house. Winter's not far off and the next thing you know, he'll have his suitcase packed and be moving indoors.'
Never a man to let the grass grow, spouse took action and poured a bucket of the water down the hole. Out ran the mouse squeaking in protest, but run out he did. Satisfied, spouse returned to the bottom of the garden where he is preparing a base for his new mega-shed. (No, I'm not going into the ins and outs of men and their sheds, lets not get started on that one). Earlier in the season I had done my bit and gradually dismembered the old trees that were plonked right in the middle of his site and now spouse has to dig out the stumps and level the ground.
No, dear reader, I am not going off-piste again. Old tree stumps and roots are very pertinent to the subject of mice, well they are in our house anyway. Somewhere in our universe there must be a scientific law all about the ratio of efforts put into mouse catching relative to enraged digging to work off the angst of failure at all these fruitless efforts. Failed mouse catching equals frenetic site digging squared. Einstein eat your heart out There's a theory for you.
To return to the mouse. Our canny friend was not put off by his early bath. He soon took up residence again and put a mouse two fingers up at spouse by making the entrance to his home in our lawn even larger. Needless to say, spouse was not pleased on seeing this disfigurement to his swathe of green. More buckets of water were poured down, forcing poor mouse to make another quick exit. Spouse stomped off back to his tree roots and wielded his pick-axe vigorously. No mouse was going to get the better of him that day.
But mouse did. The next morning, a bigger and better hole near to the first one had appeared. Mouse had been busy creating a new and comfy residence whilst we slumbered. 'I'm not having this,' said spouse. 'I am NOT having this.' He gestured to the fields rolling away all around us. 'He's got all that lot to go at and yet he fetches up on my lawn. I think he needs to get the message he is not welcome here.' Please don't wince here, dear reader - you have been warned ... he put a whole bunch of holly leaves down the hole. Yes, I know. It's a real sharp intake of breath moment.
Once more, spouse stomped off to his mega-shed site and his tree stumps and roots. Out came the very, very large axe and the first tree stump was attacked with gusto. It was not long before the whole stump and roots were out of the ground, lying in shreds on the surface. No one messes with spouse and his lawn, certainly not a small brown mouse and gets away with it.
The next day the holly leaves were still in place, the mouse homestead had not increased in size and no new holes had appeared in the lawn. Spouse was wreathed in smiles. Mouse had obviously got the message and pushed off elsewhere. Ah, and there's the rub, dear reader, so he had. He'd taken the initiative and a bit of mouse revenge. Having been booted out of his own home, he took up residence in ours. And who can blame him?
He's up in our loft - snoozing all day and scurrying all night. Spouse is beside himself. He has put down so many mousetraps, humane and otherwise, filled with the most tempting of goodies, even I could go to the banquet up there, but our mouse-friend is having none of it. He is way to clever to fall for any of those blandishments. The more he eludes us, the more enraged spouse becomes and takes it out on his mega-shed base. The pick-axe and mega-axe have never seen so much action. The bottom of our garden now resembles a battlefield with tree stumps and roots lying everywhere.
I don't know who will give in first. Perhaps it will be me. I think it's time I paid a visit to the loft and asked mouse nicely to find other quarters for the winter. If he doesn't, I may have no garden left come springtime..........
When we moved into our home a few months ago, spouse put quite a lot of boxes up in the loft, pro tem, with a view to unpacking them after I had finished writing the book I was working on. That time has arrived and so spouse was despatched to shimmy up and down the loft ladders to retrieve the boxes.
So, what goes up safely should come down safely and without any fuss, you would think. That's a reasonable supposition is it not, dear reader? Ah, but this is my dearest spouse we are talking about and where does reason come into that equation? Absolutely nowhere, that's where. And before you brim over with righteous indignation on his behalf, yes, I did offer to be at his side to help with the operation, but was airily waved away with 'I can manage perfectly well, thank you, I don't need your assistance.' So I trotted off about my own business. As my book was finished a little R and R was on the horizon for me - lunch at a very nice restaurant with a friend.
With hindsight, maybe there was the occasional squeak from the direction of the loft, but everything sounds different when you're under the shower. I put it down to the plumbing. Getting dried and dressed in the bedroom, I heard a few 'oomphs' and 'ouches' and shockingly dear reader, a few more colourful words which I will not sully your ears with here. Perhaps things weren't quite going as swimmingly as anticipated. However, as my offer of help had been declined I continued preparing for my outing.
Emerging from our boudoir, prinked, powered, pressed and dressed in my best, I sashayed along the corridor only to come upon a misshapen loft ladder with spouse marooned above it, apparently nursing an injured foot. 'It all went well then,' I remarked. 'No, it did not, as you can well see,' he replied through tightly gritted teeth. 'I had to alter the angle of the ladder in order to get my head into the hatch space and get the boxes out, so when I came to climb back down, the first ladder collapsed on to the second ladder and unfortunately, my foot was in between them.' He moaned gently as he gingerly tried to wiggle his toes. 'I think I might have broken my toes. I think you'll have to strap them up.' Dear reader, I did have sympathy for him but I don't think I helped matters when I said, 'No, they'll get better on their own in time. Toes don't get strapped these days.' Gritted teeth turned into the gnashing of teeth.
I sidled past the ladders and tripped lightly down the stairs. 'I have to go. I'm running a bit late as it is, Freya will be waiting for me. Have a rest and I'll see you later.' I called out. 'But what about getting me down from here?' 'Try the ladders,' I called back, 'that's what they're for. One step at a time, you can do it. You did say you didn't need my assistance.'
Was that a roar of an enraged man I heard as I headed off to the car? Or just a man with a sore set of toes? ... I'm not sure, but I'll tell you one thing dear reader, I had a wonderful lunch with my friend. You should have been there - the cheese souffle was amazing and the chocolate pudding, along with a lovely chilled white - all just divine. But I didn't tell spouse about it when I got home, don't think he was quite in the mood for that. His ham salad in ciabatta might have seemed a tad mundane.
His foot is getting better - just don't mention a visit to the loft any time soon ....
As you know dear reader, I have recently ended my summer work in the garden and am trying to settle down to some autumn writing activities indoors and in particular, the planning of a new romantic comedy book. I have yet to meet a writer who does not indulge in as many displacement activities as possible in order to avoid facing the blank screen and if such a writer exists - well, I would like to meet him/her.
Taking a break from the creative process is all very well and good, but oh, getting back into the swing of things is very difficult. All the good habits have been broken as I have enjoyed the long dog-days of summer, spending most of my time outside trying to bring order into the chaos that Mother Nature had wrought in our neglected patch of England.
I remember from days of yore being at my desk at an early hour, beavering away like a good little beaver, whilst the day was young and I was fresh - so fresh, sometimes I never got beyond the PJ's until the flrst flush of writerly enthusiasm had waned. Trouble is, that's all a bit of a distant memory. I am all enthusiasm for my new book and once I get going on the planning I am fine - it is the getting going that is the problem.
I know this is not a problem confined to writers. An artist friend of mine compared notes with me the other day and we commiserated with each other on this phenomenon. We love our work, truly we do, so why do we employ such avoidance tactics? I do not know the answer to this one, but like opposing forces, spouse and I are playing cat and mouse at the moment in an effort to keep my seat attached to my chair in the hope that I will make some progress with the new book.
Spouse is of course the cat and a very wily, cunning old cat he is too. Who would have thought it? My gentle, funny spouse out-thinking my low-down cunning escape ideas and heading me off every time. He has kept my nose so firmly to the grindstone this week, that I am ready to scrub the kitchen floor with a toothbrush rather than face the screen again. I need to change my tactics and be a bit more subversive, to keep my head below his extremely acute radar.
A few good walks in the autumn sunshine with our guest-dog, Raffles are needed to refresh the little grey cells. No more public announcements of this activity for me - I'll tiptoe out of the back door, dog lead in hand and close it softly behind me. And then, returning refreshed, I will find my headphones and listen to my favourite music tracks. As long as I'm sitting in front of the screen he'll think I'm multi-tasking! Best of all is the 'I'm thinking about a new scene whilst preparing dinner' ruse. That one often works as food is a topic very dear to spouse's heart. I can't see him classing that one as a displacement activity - at least I hope not.
Harry Houdini was the greatest ever escape artist. I think a little study of his methods might be in order - but there again - I have a book to plan - but on the other hand, the sun is shining and the autumn colours are very beautiful just now and the dog needs a walk ... Out of the corner of my eye I can see spouse hovering in the doorway, checking that my derriere is still attached to the chair. Oh my, dear reader, it's not Harry Houdini I need, I think it's Scottie - beam me up out of here and oh, whilst you're at it, don't forget the dog ...
'I think my love affair with the supermarkets is finally over. Like most people who lead busy lives these days the supermarket was the place to go for 'an everything under one roof' brisk trot round, the goods purchased at a sensible price and home again before you could say - well - what ever you like to say, in my case probably 'Jack Robinson, although who ever he was I couldn't tell you. No doubt someone will soon though.
A visit to the supermarket is a very mixed blessing these days. There are a huge variety of goods stocked to bedazzle and bemuse me as I drift up and down the aisles trying to decipher my shopping list. What do 'two bats and 'one nun' mean? I have no idea and plough on, at least butter and milk are easy items. It is only later and exasperated spouse interprets for me and wants to know why I have not come home with the required 'batteries' and bottle of 'Blue Nun'. Sorry dear reader, I am digressing again. The point is, that part of the shopping is fairly O.K., but then, as a metaphor for life - there is a reckoning to be made - the dreaded check-out experience.
Sex is no guarantee of a good check-out experience. Be it a male or female lurking behind the check-out conveyor belt, they are equally ruthless in running your purchases past their scanner and hurling it down the runway to the collecting area, a sadistic gleam lurking at the back of their eye as the dispassionately watch you frantically trying to keep up and get the goods into your bags. The problem arises because it only takes a nanosecond for the check-out staff to scan your goods, but it's a nanosecond times ten to retrieve them and get them into a bag. The starting conversation went 'would you like some help with your packing?' 'No thank you,' I reply, 'providing you don't go too fast.' I think they like a challenge like that and the operation becomes more manic than usual. I leave the supermarket hot, flustered and angry, vowing never to return.
However, a week or two passes and my cupboards are bare. What to do? I devise a plan. I will do my usual shop and at the check-out when the ask, 'would you like some help with your packing?' I will say 'yes please' and stand back and let them get on with it. So, I whizz lightheartedly up and down the aisles, filling my trolley with the the usual goods and a few treats as my buoyant mood rockets. Finally, at the check-out - this time a bearded late-middle aged man asks me the question, 'would I like help with my packing?' I smile radiantly and say, 'yes please'. I hand him my assortment of carrier bags and stand back. My bags will be nicely packed and I will leave the supermarket unfrazzled. Well, my dear reader, of course you know that is not the case at all. My check-out man was rather surprised to find he was left to get on with it and maybe not too overjoyed at the prospect of all that packing. So instead of running my purchases through the magic eye and hurling them down the runway at me, he hurled them willy-nilly into my bags instead. Once again I leave the supermarket vowing never to return.
Time passes and we eat the cupboards bare again. It is time to shop. I have been musing on the situation and have decided to cirumnavigate the check-out problem by using the self check-outs. Genius. Why didn't I think of it before? I can pack at my own pace and everything will be placed to my liking. Once more I trip around the emporium, shopping with gay abandon. Spouse will eat like a king this week. At the self check-out terminal I offload my goods on to the belt and begin to pass them over the scanner and carefully place them in my opened shopping bags in the trolley. It's a slow process as I am not used to it, but at least I am not getting hot, frazzled and flustered by check-out staff. That is until a Supervisor comes along to 'assist' me. It appears I'm not going fast enough and she needs to get me though more quickly!!!!!!! The 'beeps' get faster and the shopping bags are rapidly filled - in no particular order as you can imagine.
So, Plan B failed. I leave the supermarket in my usual state of rage, shaking my fist and shouting 'they should all get their money back.' Where from? Charm School. Grrrrr.....
Welcome back dear reader to the 2017/18 blog season.
Well, we have had an interesting time here at Chez Comb. We moved into our new house in the springtime and have a large garden to go with it and have spent the summer making inroads on re-modelling it. This has involved the use of many power tools by my dear spouse, along with a pick axe, a murderous looking executioner's sized axe and many a lethally sharp spade and fork. Plenty of scope there you would have thought, (if you know anything about spouse by now), for medical intervention at the local surgery or A&E Department. Let me surprise you my dear reader, only one trip to the surgery was required. A rusty nail went through his leg and a tetanus booster was required. I know, looking back on our summer activities, I too am amazed.
So how it comes about that by simply answering the telephone this week, he got into more bother than he has all summer, is a mystery to me. It's not that difficult an exercise is it? The telephone rings, you pick up the handset, have a conversation and at its termination, replace the handset back into its re-charging unit. Easy. I can do and no doubt you, my dear reader, can do it without causing harm to yourself or any other living creature.
Picture the scene - I am downstairs in the kitchen preparing lunch when spouse stumbles in holding a bloodied hand over his eyes and sinks, moaning softly, into the rocking chair at my side. 'What on earth has happened?' I ask in alarm. 'Phil telephoned,' he answered still moaning. I am mystified but my curiosity will have to wait to be satisfied, as I have spied a deep cut on the top of his head, the source of the red stuff flowing freely over his hands and down on to a good shirt, his trousers and the chair cushion. 'Have you bled all down the stairs?' I ask. No, dear reader I am not totally heartless and heedless of his plight, but I can see the gash is not life threatening - after all, he has at least another seven and a half pints to go, but a trail of blood down our new stair carpet could just take priority right now. Spouse answered in the negative. 'I was very careful,' he moaned, hands still over his eyes.
Well that was a positive at least. After many, many years of marriage I have the first aid kit to hand and quickly unpacked swabs and steri-strips ready to go to work on him. 'Take your hands away, so that I can see the damage.' I requested. Spouse slowly lowered his hands from his eyes to reveal the beginnings of the best shiner of a black eye I have seen in a long time.
I sighed resignedly and asked in my most patient voice ever, 'and how did you come by that? I thought you were on the telephone and even you can't get a black eye from doing that.' Well, my dear reader, it appears that spouse could do that very thing. I know, I know, you couldn't write the script, could you? Only he just has.
Apparently, when the telephone rang, he was upstairs in our bedroom getting changed and picked up the handset at the side of the bed. So far so good. On discovering it was an extremely garrulous friend called Phil, spouse knew he would be in for the long haul and sat down on the bed to listen to the latest story. Only the story started going on and realising he was in for a right old shaggy dog of a tale, spouse pinned back his ears and lay back on the bed , stretching his free arm out and knocking the re-charging unit off the bedside cabinet, not only off, but down the back of it.
No worries - he would retrieve it when the call was ended. Half a lifetime later when Phil had finally come to the end of his saga, spouse sat up and looked about him for the re-charging unit. He spied it underneath the cabinet and set about rescuing it. Now this cabinet is a wooden affair on long legs with two deep drawers - heavy and solid (and no, I am not making any comparisons here.)
The re-charging unit had gone down the back of the cabinet so first of all spouse tried to haul it up by the wire running from the unit to the mains plug. So far, so very good only it got stuck just as it reached the top of the cabinet. Spouse gave it a sharp tug to encourage it right out and that's when he got the black eye as the unit, suddenly freed, sailed up and out and socked him in the eye. Spouse swiftly let it go, whereupon it dropped back from whence it came, whilst he staggered about cussing and nursing his eye.
But spouse is not one to leave a job undone. The phone needed its re-charging unit and have it it would, no matter what. Another method of retrieval must be tried. He crawled on hands and knees underneath the cabinet in an effort to reach the unit, but in effect, he was too tall for the cabinet and he all succeeded in doing was lifting it up on his back so that all the things on the top of the cabinet slid off - the lamp, books phone, water glass, spectacles, etc.
Another round of cussing and spouse rolled over on to his back and shimmied back under the cabinet. This time success and he managed to retrieve the re-charging unit, but unfortunately, on the outbound shimmy, he banged his head hard on the underside of the cabinet and managed to gash it on a rough piece of wood that was sticking out.
So there we are my friends, how not to answer the phone. Spouse is skulking at home now, sporting a fat head and a corker of a blue-black shiner. If he goes out everyone is going to ask 'what does the other chap look like?' And how would he tell them the phone did it to him? Now there's a funny thing - I seem to answering the phone a lot these days .....
Welcome back dear reader to the 2017/18 blog season.
Well, we have had an interesting time here at Chez Comb. We moved into our new home in the springtime and have a large garden to go with it and have spent the summer making inroads on re-modelling it. This has involved the use of many power tools by my dear spouse, along with a pick axe, a murderous executioner's sized axe and many a lethally sharp spade and fork. Plenty of scope there you would have thought, (if you know anything about spouse by now), for medical interventions at the local surgery or A&E Department. Let me surprise you, my dear reader, only one trip to the surgery was required. A rusty nail went through his leg and a tetanus booster was required. I know, looking back on our summer's activities I too am amazed.
To be continued tomorrow .......
Who would have thought volunteering at your local library could be so fraught with danger and sometimes downright embarrassment? So it has turned out to be for me at the library in our nearby seaside town on the North Yorkshire coast.
Since the financial crisis of 2008, local government has received ever-decreasing funding from central government with the result that savings have had to be made by cutting local services. In our particular case, gardening services provided by the Council have been withdrawn from the library - except for cutting the lawned area that separates the library from the adjacent supermarket car park. So, all the flower borders around the library were going to rack and ruin and as a keen gardener I could not bear to let this situation continue and nor could my friend, Pat. We decided to tackle the gardens ourselves before they became any more of an eyesore.
All well and good, except we had not reckoned with the great British public's ability (a) somehow to overlook you when parking their cars and and nudging you into the flower-beds, (b) the wit and wisdom of passers-by and (c) the total inability of elderly library users - of both sexes - to negotiate their way out of the narrow car park without running us down and (d) my being taken for someone on a day out from the local asylum.
In the words of the letters pages of the Daily Telegraph 'I could go on' but I won't, I think I have have enough material here to explain my indignation at the antics of the library and supermarket users.
I'll expand a little on all of the above and I think you could well come round to my point of view that the great British public are an odd bunch. Take Point (a) - I know I'm a bit on the small side, but at 5' 2" still very visible I would have thought and yet when working on the flower bed that runs alongside the supermarket car park, there have been many times when four-by-fours have swept into the parking spaces and applied the brakes at the last moment, by which time I have already dived into the border to escape being flattened. By the time I have recovered myself the driver, blissfully unaware of the gibbering wreck he/she has left behind, has swung gaily off into the supermarket.
Point (b) - Yorkshire folk are renowned for many things, but I have to admit their wit is not the first quality that springs to mind. I wish I had a pound sterling for every man and woman that announces as they pass Pat and I by, 'you can come and do my garden when you've finished' and they chortle on their merry way. Original or what? I would be a millionaire by now. What I really want to do is silently hand them a garden fork and tell them to get stuck in. But I just glower after them. And here's the best one - obviously we spend a lot of time bending down as we haul out the weeds 'Eee, lass,' come the remarks, 'tha must have the best known backside in Yorkshire. I wouldn't recognise your face, but I'd know that backside.' Convulsed with their own wit, they stagger away into the supermarket.
Point (c) - It is a mystery to me that only the very elderly, frail, obviously poor-sighted - they have to be from the way they drive - and half-witted library users avail themselves of the library car park. The young, fit and able bounce into the supermarket car park, dump their cars and walk round to the library. Sadly for me, the library car park is not very big and therefore requires quite a lot of manoeuvreing in order to get the car out of the car park space and turned around to face the driveway out. I repeat - it is always elderly and possibly poor-sighted ladies and gentlemen undertaking this exercise. On four occasions, at least, drivers have reversed out of their space, swung the wheel around and continued reversing - right at me! Sometimes I am absorbed by the task in hand and not watching what is going on behind me, (how can I?) and then I suddenly become aware of the heady smell of exhaust fumes far too close for comfort and a revving engine. (Why do they do that when they're reversing?) Twice now I have retreated into the border and still the car keeps coming at me. I jump up and down, waving my arms about and shrieking like a banshee but soon I will have no place left to go, except be squashed against the wall. I think someone has put a contract out on me and they are trying to kill me. No-one will convince me otherwise. After all, who would believe a sweet little old lady or gent would deliberately squash someone in a library car park?
Point (d) - And the most embarrassing of all. My friend, Pat, is smaller than me. We were minding our own business, pruning some very tall grasses that had got way out of hand. Pat was well inside the border and I now realise, dwarfed by the grasses and hidden from view. I was on the edge of the border, (yes, in view of the above, I must have a death-wish), hacking away at the grasses whilst talking to Pat, gesticulating with my secateurs to re-inforce the point I was banging on about - planting blackcurrant bushes, I think. Anyway, this lady approached me - carefully, it has to be said - in readiness to lead me quietly away to a place of safety until the social services could be summoned for me. Only as she took my arm and I turned in surprise, did she spot Pat lurking in the back of the border and then realised her mistake. She thought I was standing there talking away to myself and throwing my arms about at nothing - thought I might need taking back to which ever hospital I was out on licence from! I know I had an odd lookig sun hat on at the time, but really...
So if I'm not run over, flattened or squashed by the elderly patrons of the library or carted off to the hospital by a well-meaning member of the public, I hope to see you here in a few weeks time. I'm taking a summer break and will be back in late September. I hope you are all having a good summer and we will meet again, refreshed and renewed for the autumn. My good wishes to everyone, happy holidays.
So, as I mentioned in my last blog, in a very weak moment I agreed to go with spouse to a food festival which was being held at a nearby castle. We went to church on the Sunday morning, had a quick coffee and a biscuit (biscuits plural for spouse - he has to keep his strength up) and then we set off for our castle event.
A we neared our destination, I could feel the excitement emanating from spouse. His face was wreathed in smiles as he imagined all the culinary delights to come. I was imagining too - only my thoughts ran on very different lines from his. This became obvious when he smiled seraphically at me and said 'I wonder if they'll have fried bread there?' He smacked his lips in anticipation, almost, but not quite drooling at the thought. Fried bread! We were attending a festival showcasing the finest cuisine the U.K. could offer and spouse is hoping for fried bread. I give up. Pearls before swine
Food festivals are wonderful events. You get to try so many delicious and varied foods, your taste buds have to work overtime. Needless to say, spouse dived in with enthusiasm. Breads dipped in flavoured oils and vinegars went down the hatch and met with his approval, jams and chutneys were sampled and purchases made, beer, wine and best of all his beloved Yorkshire pork pie. SMALL samples of foods are put out for prospective customers to try - only when the stallholder was looking the other way, spouse helped himself to several samples, blissfully munching away - at some distance from the stall by the time the owner looked his way again - surveying his empty sample plates with dismay.
Spouse has no frontiers where food is concerned. Spanish chorizo sausage was followed by Indian, Vietnamese and Italian food. Everything met with the same sincere appreciation. Amazing cheeses, wines, cordials, teas and cakes received equal attention. I should say that by now we were on our second trawl around the festival and I was about ready to drop. If I didn't see another cheese, dessert, savoury or sweet tart it possibly would not be too soon.
Spouse showed no sign of tiring but I was hopeful that we would soon retire to the castle tearooms and thence wend our way homewards. Which we did, only I wasn't spared any embarrassment as I had hoped to be. We came across an irresistible collection of chutneys. You were supposed to just sample from a wooden spatula. Spouse does not like them. He had his own way of tasting - take a chunk of cheese and dunk it in the chutney and haul it all out with the spatula. Result! Spouse got a good helping and loved it, but the stallholder was hopping mad and promptly sent him away, (that's putting it politely) - and all before we could make a purchase.
By that time I had had enough and walked a good ten paces ahead of him - disassocation I think it is called - and left spouse to carry the many and varied food bags we had accumulated along the way. Next time he mentions visiting a food event in whatever guise it comes in, I hope I will be sane enough to decline the offer. Or if we were foolish enough to go to another, tape his mouth up on arrival. Now, what an interesting day that would be ...
In a very weak moment I agreed to go to a food festival at a nearby castle this weekend. Going to a FOOD festival with spouse! I think my mental health needs a re-boot. But the tickets are purchased and we are going. I will report back next week - if I and he survive the event and hopefully, don't get forcibly ejected at any point.
If the night before last was anything to go by, we may well be ejected. Picture the scene, a happy family dinner - the beef casserole had been scoffed and all of us, except spouse, sat back, replete. Spouse asked if there was any left and without thinking I said there was. First mistake. Second mistake - I allowed him to help himself out of sight in the kitchen. He returned to the dining table with a plate mounded up with mashed potato and casserole. Think Desperate Dan meets a Grimms Fairy Tale Giant. He happily chomped his way through that AND pudding. If cheese and biccies had been on offer I suspect he may well have made good inroads on those as well. But, they were not.
If I survive tomorrow, I will see you here next week. Now, I'm off to find a good disguise - just in case my path should cross any of my acquaintance. A wig and dark glasses should suffice. I only hope he hasn't thought of the Mickey Mouse ears for tomorrow. Spouse likes to bring a bit of fun to these occasions.
Bye for now, I have to search of the Mickey Mouse ear - and hide them....
We have all had those moments in our lives when you wish the ground would open beneath you and swallow you up. Needless to say, spouse and I have experienced many of these, possibly more than most as generally speaking, opening mouth before engaging brain is a characteristic that runs in our families - particularly mine. I am not know as 'our diplomatic correspondent' for nothing.
Latterly, however, I have worked hard at guarding my tongue and endeavouring to be more of a wallflower than a brash old sunflower, if you get my drift. Whilst I have achieved a great deal of success in this field, embarrassing moments still come my way. And this time I didn't even have to open my mouth.
You wouldn't think making enquiries at an unholsterers would engender such a moment would you? How wrong you would be, my dear reader. This week, I breezed into the showroom/workshop of a local craftsman, a most helpful and skilled artisan and, bonus for me, his gorgeous pure white boxer dog was curled up on his bed in the bow window, just waiting for fuss and cuddles. Having got that important business over with, I turned my attention to the matter I had come about, the re-upholstering of two armchairs. Spouse, in his great wisdom, had suggested I take photographs with my smartphone of said chairs. This I duly did and chirpily announced this fact to my new upholsterer friend. He was suitably impressed and asked to see said pics. Ha, now here's the rub. I might be the proud possessor of a smartphone, but as we speak, I am not the proud possessor of all its workings and when asked to show the photographs of the aforementioned armchairs, I opened up the phone and stared blankly at the menu.
My upholsterer friend pointed to an icon for pictures and I pressed on it with great relief, thinking I was not going to look a complete nitwit after all - everyone else knows how to operate the wretched things don't they? Sure enough, pictures appeared on the screen. But, unfortunately, not pictures of armchairs. No indeedy. I don't know if you are familiar with the large Disney Mickey Mouse ears set on a headband to be worn on top of the head - large red and white spotted ears? Yup, there they were, worn by spouse posing nonchalantly against the fireplace. Hastily swipe screen to next picture - spouse with jazz hands and Mickey Mouse ears. Pink of face, I try one more swipe - spouse pirouetting in Mickey Mouse ears - he missed his vocation, I've never seen such a lovely mover.
The rest is a blur. I believe we eventually located the right icon for photographs, by which time spouse had joined us in the shop and he, ignorant of the all the foregoing, held an intense and serious discussion with the upholsterer regarding armchairs. I wonder of he noticed the hint of an amused glint in the eye of our new friend?
I think I have related the circumstances surrounding the purchase of the Mickey Mouse ears in a much earlier blog, so I won't repeat myself here. No, It was not I that had a yen to possess such an item, it was spouse and every Christmas time, out come the ears and are proudly worn around York city as we make our Yuletide purchases for our loved ones. They, (the ears) bring a certain je ne sais quois to the Christmas shopping experience, certainly smiles and laughter to the streets, so I cannot complain. But why, oh why, did I ever practice on him and them with my new smartphone? Couldn't I just have taken a picture of a Christmas tree or the dog, or my foot?
Somewhere in the foot-thick telephone manual will be the instructions on how to delete photographs. Now where did I put it? .......
Over the course of a very happy and 'interesting' marriage, my dear spouse has provided me with many funny moments, some exasperating beyond belief and some embarrassing. In previous blogs for example, I have described his penchant for lining up the batons at the supermarket and making pictures out of the damp patches on the church wall - describing them to me at the quietest moments in the church service when he should have been concentrating on his prayers!
Combined with his love of life is his love of words and food. He once mis-heard my pronunciation of chorizo when asking what was for supper and was scandalised to think I was going to serve him up dog for dinner, as in Shih Tzu. Ever since it has been chicken and shitzu in our house. Another example - we have several bird feeding stations dotted around our garden, some with Nija or Nyger (depending on who you consult ) seed. According to spouse the feeds are full of ninja seed to attract the Ninjas. Funnily enough I cannot find any Ninja species in my bird book!
Last year, walking into the Great Yorkshire Showground, the outlying fields were full of horseboxes, trailers and Winnebegos. Spouse gazed in wonderment at some of the monster Winnebegos, grappling for the name for them. To be fair I couldn't remember either. Eventually he came out with, 'it's a ... it's a ... oh, you know ... a Betty Grable,' he finished with a triumphant smile. Naturally they are all known as Betty Grables now.
He is perfectly able to remember people's names but more often than not will bestow on them their own particular moniker. Anne, a friend of ours, has always been known as Irish Mary in our house. No, I don't know why either and a dear Sister of Mercy friend of ours from long ago - the kindest, sweetest nun you could ever wish to meet had the soubriquet of Machine-gun di-Pazzi bestowed on her.
We were staying with very dear friends this week and finished up the trip with watching a romcom, lots of popcorn, crisps, cheesy biscuits and rivers of lovely red wine flowed between us all. Enough to give us the strength to slay several giants. Next morning we are all slightly the worse for wear, except for spouse. He comes bounding down for breakfast and looks at the beautiful spread our lovely hostess had put out. He beamed and rubbed his hands enthusiastically. 'Is it beagles for breakfast?' Our friend looked alarmed as well she might. Did she think I was in the habit of cooking beagles at home? 'Bagels?' I hazarded. 'No.' Spouse was very definite. 'Beagles.'
I'm so glad he usually opts for the full English breakfast when we are in an hotel. At least he doesn't have to request individual items in that dish. Thank goodness shitzu and beagles are not an option or we might have the RSPCA knocking on our door.
We have friends coming for lunch today. As I write spouse is in the bathroom, practising in the mirror - 'coq au vin, coq au vin.' I hope he manages to get the right words in the right order today, I wouldn't want 'Tree-Trunk-Silas' and 'Lampstand-Joan' to find any more oddities about us than usual. We shall see ....
Wimbledon fortnight has come round again, all too soon and I am not ready for it. I am a tennis addict. In a parallel universe, which I have to admit dear reader, I inhabit a great deal, all my laundry would be done, as would all my shopping so that meals would be prepared and ready to take out of the freezer and my calendar cleared for the next two weeks. In that wonderful universe I could then indulge in watching my favourite sport on the television and armchair commentating on every volley, backhand and overhead smash.
Unfortunately, the real world claims my time and attention. I have alterations to make to my latest book, shopping has to be done and meals prepared for the hungry hoards. Then there is the garden to be attended to, church music practice to fit in and why, oh why, did I volunteer myself to help out in the Library garden? Because I can't stand to see the weeds any longer and neither can my friend and I can't let her tackle that lot all by herself.
So there it is - and a multitude of other things thrown into the mix - a normal everyday life. But over the two weeks of Wimbledon I transmogrify into an armchair couch potato. Chores are rushed or neglected altogether, spouse believes he has become a rabbit as so much salad is put before him and work is confined to mornings only if tackled at all and the weeds grow and the dust gathers in the house, as I slink off to watch my heroes fight their way to glory yet again.
I played a lot of tennis in my youth, in the days of the wooden rackets. How we ever lifted them, let alone managed to thwack a ball, still remains a mystery to me. By rights I should have bulging biceps and muscular calves from years of fruitlessly chasing after tennis balls, but I have neither and I count that a blessing. But it kept me fit and watching the players at Wimbledon every year, players at the top of their profession, battling on to win, sometimes against all odds. inspired me to keep trying and not only at the tennis.
My days of playing fast-paced tennis are a happy memory. These days I am more suited to fast-paced walking, but I still love watching the tennis players fighting it out, slipping and sliding on the unfamiliar grass courts. I love the well-trained ball boys and girls, darting out like a lizard's tongue and then being still again. The dramas, the crises, temper tantrums, the amazing, unbelievable shots the players can make that leave me gasping and on the edge of my seat. What a sport. I love it all.
As I write there is still another week of Wimbledon left. I will be there as much as I can. Every line call, lob and double fault will be chewed over, tears shed when one of my heroes is defeated and a great deal of shouting at the screen, when, in my expert judgement, the linesman/woman gives the wrong call of 'out' or the umpire is unfair to my player, whatever the reason it may be - racket abuse, temper or taking too long between serves. There is as much steam got up in our house as ever there is on the courts.
Excuse me, I must go now, it's time for the next match. Andy Murray's on court and he needs my support. What's that spouse? Supper? Do I really need to tell you? Strawberries and cream. Oh, and Pimms, of course.
But, please don't eat anything. What???? O.K. It goes like this. Two lovely friends came round for supper the other night and between the four of us we made pretty good inroads on the nosh I had rustled up. THERE WERE LEFTOVERS.... Suitably covered and placed in the refrigerator, all was hunky dory. Until spouse got up the next morning. No, that's not strictly correct. He got up at the crack of sparrow-call and was off to the photograph the Flying Scotsman as it made its way through our rural North Yorkshire countryside. The pals he met up with had already feasted at MaccDonalds. The talk was of breakfast muffins, bacon and eggs and the like. By the time spouse returned home, he was salivating like a caveman who had just dragged his latest wild boar kill miles home to the cave and couldn't wait for it to be roasted and set before him. Whilst I set about producing the Saturday morning 'full English', spouse, unable to wait a nanosecond longer for sustenance, investigated the refrigerator for emergency rations. His eyes lit up at the sight of the previous night's leftovers. One minute later he was sitting at the kitchen table happily spooning down microwaved cauiflower cheese as the overture to his main breakfast. 'Mmm,' he cleaned the plate and licked the last sauce off the spoon, 'you can come to dinner again Liz and John, just don't eat anything.'
As you might by now realise, spouse has a healthy appetite and that's being polite about it. He didn't acquire the soubriquet, 'Mr Hollowlegs' for nothing. Many years ago I remember meeting a friend as she staggered to her car, laden with bags of food. She had a teen-aged son who was at the eating like a horse stage. Mary was looking forward to the days when he would be fully grown and would not cost her a king's ransom to feed. I could not bring myself to disillusion her and sidled quietly away. From my experience, I am still waiting for that day to arrive.
Here is a 'for instance'. Spouse enjoyed clay pigeon shooting and was a member of a team. Every year they would all troop off to a shooting competition at Beverley, near Hull. On the last evening a special meal would be laid on and the various silver cups and awards dished out, for individual and team efforts. One year spouse's team sat down for dinner and it so happened there was spouse - then a space - spouse's friend - and another space. The waitress cam along to take their orders. I think you know what's coming. Oh yes they did - spouse gave his order and the waitress asked what was the chap next to him having. Spouse duly ordered the meal for the empty place and his friend did likewise. They scoffed their starters and main course and each time swapped the plates over and scoffed the next lot. The waitress came to take the dessert order. Spouse made his choice. The waitress pointed to the empty chair. 'What's he having?' she asked. 'Oh, him? He'll have the cheesecake,' spouse answered without missing a beat. His friend followed his lead. So, two starters, two mains, two puddings and lots of cheese and bikkies, coffee and liquers went down the hatch without them hardly drawing breath.
Spouse's love of life and good food has not waned with the passage of the years. I am the supermarket's favourite customer and stagger home with industrial quantities of food to sustain life and limb. In fairness I have to say it can have its upside, this feeding of a sturdy Yorkshireman. When a tree needs felling, he bounds out of doors with his extremely large axe and despatches the poor old tree in no time. Our friends and neighbours do not hesitate to call on his services when large pieces of furniture/freezers/refrigerators/ etc. need to be moved or loaded into vans. And, God bless their cotton socks, there is always a juicy morsel as a reward when the deed is done. Plates of buttered scones, his favourite Victoria sponge cake or bacon butties all find their way to him.
So, I suppose I will continue to haunt the supermarkets, bakers and greengrocers on an almost daily basis for some long time to come. One day he might require just a little less fuel, but it doesn't look to be anytime soon. So, if you come for supper with us make sure you've had a little snackerel beforehand. With spouse on hand, the pickings may not be rich.
Slit spouse from gizzard to belly and he will read 'Made In England' like a stick of Blackpool rock. Never has there been a truer, more solid Englishman. Patriotic, loyal, you name it, he is it. As a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Viking/Anglo Saxon, he is an Englishman to his boot-strap bottoms.
In most things we are opposite and this instance follows the pattern. Whilst I too, am a loyal Englishwoman I am also a committed Francophile. I adore the country, the people and their way of life. Thus it was, that by some miracle, spouse, on retiring from the day job, was persuaded to make a short sojourn in France and we fetched up in a small village in the south-west, the Charente Maritime.
Needless to say I was in heaven. Spouse? Mmm, maybe not quite so, although he did enjoy the wonderful wines and food markets that abounded. There are many, many stories of our time in France, but that would be a digression too far in this blog However, one memory stands out in particular and was brought vividly back to mind this week.
I mentioned that spouse is Anglophile to his fingertips. An Englishman in France, socks with sandals and a proper stiff cream sun hat on. You get the picture. Well, it so happened that I had a C.D. by an Irish band called Planxty with a track on it called 'The Bonny Light Horseman', the lady in the song hold Napoleon responsible for the death of her lover.
I was playing this particular C.D. one day whilst washing up, singing along as you do. Spouse came into the kitchen grinning broadly and turned the volume up to deafening level. (Elf and Safety in Britain would have had his guts for garters.) Still grinning happily, he threw the windows and doors wide open and all of France to hear the song.
Now, as far as the French are concerned they did not lose Waterloo. Quite how they square this with Napoleon's capture and subsequent imprisonment on Elba, I don't know. Their great leader, Napoleon is still revered throughout France and Napoleonic law still rules. in a great many ways. You do not utter his name lightly. Luckily for us our nearest farmer neighbours were indoors, taking their usual post-prandial nap. Had they been out of doors and within hearing distance we might have been cassoulet Anglaise.
Having survived the French experience relatively unscathed, we returned to England and found a new home. Now, spouse is quite a keen chess player. No, I am not mid-digression again, dear reader. Bear with me and we will get there. We are keen afficianados of a good rummage through antique shops, junk shops and haunted many a brocante marche and depot vente in France and on one of our English sorties we came upon a chess set. One team was the Duke of Wellington, his Duchess and English soldiers and the opposing team was of course, Napoleon, Josephine and his French soldiers.
Spouse was ecstatic. Normally, as a true Yorkshireman, he would have gone away and rigorously examined the case for opening his wallet and laying hands on yer actual pound notes. But, for once, no such contemplation of the situation was deemed necessary. Gleefully he pounced upon the box and whipped out Her Majesty's currency before you could say 'knife'.
The chess set was borne home in triumph and given pride of place in the sitting room. Not just to be looked at I may add. No, to be used and then some. I am not a chess player. I'm far too scatty and whenever spouse has tried to teach me these have not turned out to be the happiest of occasion - it was better to desist than divorce. However, when spouse passes by his precious chess set, he always makes a move, for one side or another. But an interesting phenomenon occurs in our house - Napoleon never wins. Waterloo is safe in spouse's hands.
Well it was. You may recall, dear reader, that we recently moved house. The chess set was carefully packed away in its box and last week, tenderly unpacked again, once more given pride of place in the sitting room. Spouse happened to be out and about the next day when I noticed a small chip out of the chessboard, revealing its white underbelly. Out came the brown boot polish, my usually fail-safe remedy for covering scratches, but this time it proved unsuccessful. So I had the bright idea of turning the board around so that the chip faced the wall and would not be seen. Think the thought, do the deed. I slowly began to turn the board around, but drat his eyes, didn't the Duke of Wellington fall over and drop on to the floor along with one of his soldiers.
Believe me, there was more than a sharp intake of breath when I contemplated the damage. I had beheaded the Duke of Wellington, something even the great Napoleon had not managed to do. How does the story end? Well I am still here to tell the tale. Spouse has not beheaded me.
On his return home he was greeted with the sorry tale of the Duke and his maimed soldier. To his eternal credit he was forgiving and kind, realising I was motivated by the best of intentions and he did not repay me in kind - I have kept my head. Thankfully the Duke is now repaired and restored to his station and his soldier has also had his foot repaired and he too stands smartly to attention. Let battle commence - and the Duke win - of course.
Spouse has acquired an alternative monika - Hercules. Thankfully, not because he goes about disposing of of his family members, but, according to him, he has already performed at least twelve tasks and possibly more, before cock-crow.
How is this? You may well ask, dear reader. Does my six foot, not-quite-in-his-prime-anymore spouse resemble this Greek giant of derring-do? Perhaps he does. This is the case he puts to me every morning and when you have finished reading this account it is my sincere wish that every man/woman jack of you will count all of his/her blessings that you do not have to endure this litany of his achievements.
So, the radio alarm goes off and the dulcet or strident tones of John Humphrys, Sarah Montague or some other Radio 4 Today programme presenter enters out consciousness. Thus awakened, our Hercules shimmies silently out of bed and descends the stairs. He is one of those fortunate people who, from the minute they open their eyes are instantly alert, firing on all cylinders and not only ready, but raring to go. I, on the other hand prefer to come to consciousness in a more gentle fashion and gradually greet the day. Thus it is that spouse is despatched to make the morning tea and use up some of his early morning bounciness.
Here we have reached the nub of the matter and where the Labours of Hercules begin and now that I reflect upon his morning's activities I am amazed that I get a cup of morning tea at all.
He has to go out and dig up some clay and mould a couple of drinking vessels on his potters wheel, which then have to be fired in his ever-ready kiln, (not that I recall seeing one of those about the place). Then he has to pick the tea leaves from the bushes and dry them, (in the kiln?). I am a keen gardener and I don't remember any tea bushes in our garden, but as we are new to this house, maybe I have overlooked them as yet. Although sometimes he does talk of going to China or India to pick the leaves.
Also, I have not seen a well on our property, but, nevertheless. Hercules has to go and draw the water from the well to heat up for our tea, (presumably in his kiln). It will certainly be hot if that is the case. Now, we like a splash of milk in our tea, so poor old Herc has to go down the garden again to milk the cow and trudge back up to the house with the jug of warm milk Last of all he has to raid his supply of sugar cane, crush it, roll it, boil it and do all manner of things to it to end up with his granules of sugar for his morning beverage. If clean out of sugar cane he might visit the bees for some honey for his tea. Whose bees these are has never been made clear to me, as we do not have any hives. Having done this he is now ready to bring all the aforementioned elements together in the form of two cups of tea, ascend the stairs and present the fruits of his labours to his dearly beloved - me, allegedly.
Gosh. No wonder he looks quite whacked out by the time he and his libations reach the portals of the boudoir. As you can imagine, dear reader, quite some time has elapsed since Hercules descended the stairs to undertake this task, (although an element of time travel must be involved as John Humphrys is still banging on at some hapless politician on the Today programme). Perhaps spouse is more Dumbledore than Hercules. Anyway, in the interim I have fully woken up and am sitting up, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, eagerly awaiting my morning beverage and in the right frame of mind for discussing the forthcoming day and all the delights it my hold.
Wearily, Hercules deposits his newly-crafted cup of Rosie Lea by my bedside and then collapses exhausted into bed. Perhaps it's time someone told him that re-usable cups, teabags, milk and sugar are available from the supermarket and those strange devices that lurk over our sink dispense endless quantities of Adam's ale.
Or maybe not. I have to admit, I enjoy all his Herculean efforts on my behalf and Daisy cow is adorable. Oh, didn't I tell you about Daisy? Well, having a cow down the bottom of the garden doesn't mean he does all that other stuff - or does it??? .....
I think I would be correct if I said that we all have a certain image of ourselves, as in perhaps a cheerful, positive person, or an action man/woman, or laid-back couch-potato type, or maybe even a dissatisfied Eyore. I am sure there are many combinations. I have always been a 'don't put off until tomorrow what you can squeeze into the next half-hour' type. 'Do it now' has been my watchword. Spouse is rolling his eyes even as I type the words, having been on the receiving end of Mrs Actionwoman for far too many times than he cares to remember.
However, I have noticed a certain change in my behaviour of late and I have not as yet come to a firm conclusion as to the reason why. I have gone from being a 'do it now' merchant to a 'mmm, maybe not today' lady. I have become a procrastinator extraordinaire.
Here's a 'for instance'. Having moved to a new home recently I have a 'to do' list, which incorporates a 'to contact list, 'to find' list and a 'get on with it soon' list. The list lurks on the kitchen worktop and I peer guiltily at it when I pass. I am getting to the stage when I slink past it like a naughty child - if I close my eyes I can't see it and so can't be reminded of what I should be doing instead of what I am doing, which is not a lot.
Unluckily for me, it is not only THE LIST that glares balefully back at me. In our new bedroom, which is a large, light and airy room, there are a distinct lack of wardrobes. In fact, we don't have any at all. At present, we have some clothes rails to hang our extremely expensive designer and coture clothes upon. (I lie, dear reader, we do not own one piece of coture clothing between us). But our glad rags hang there, a reproach to my current procrastinating tendencies. I am supposed to be organising fitted wardrobes - I think they're an item on my 'to do' list.
And then there is the little matter of my Office. Only it's not a 'little matter' at all. A paper-mountain awaits sorting out in there and I hope one of these fine days to work my way in, to find the file with the plot of my next book. But that fine day has not arrived yet and again, I slink guiltily past the door, trying my best not to think about the chaos within.
Procrastination is very tiring. If I put half the amount of energy into getting on with things and actually getting them done as I do into not doing things, I could probably conquer the world, well, at least a bit of North Yorkshire. Instead of which, I drift about the place, watching the wildlife and pulling out the odd weed in the garden and watching the grass grow. 'Never put off until tomorrow' is a fading memory. At present I am a 'let's not even get started' person.
Mulling this new procrastinating behaviour over, a ray of light begins to dawn on me. I have just finished writing a book and when I'm busy writing, like everyone who works, it's all a bit of a juggling act, balancing the work with the multitude of other life tasks and pleasures awaiting out there. So you get a wiggle on and make the most of every nano-second.
But, I'm having a break from writing - a holiday - a step away from the daily rush of life and I think my poor old brain cell does not know what to make of all this spare time it has. For sure, there are plenty of things to do, but there's no hurry to do them, yawn, so why do them at all? No hurries? Then, no worries, it will still be there tomorrow.
By then I might be lying in my new hammock on the lawn and the house-elf will have been in and sorted out all the things on the 'to do' list and I won't have to procrastinate about them any more, (in my dreams). Then I can start procrastinating about starting a new book, assuming the house-elf found the file in my jungle of an office. Are my brain cells ready for it yet? Maybe, maybe not. I need to go and lie in the hammock some more, just to be really sure .....
So, spouse showed our young man the wood he wanted.
'Oh, that wood! Now if I'd have known it was that wood you wanted...'
Spouse by this time was nearly busting a blood vessel. However, he managed to contain himself and together they went through the feet ad inches measurements, barcode and price routine, then returning to the Order Desk to finally get the whole lot on to the computer.
Now came the exciting bit - the proposed delivery of all this wood. When would Sir like it? Ooh, Sir would like it tomorrow or the next day please. Well, actually, no. Sir couldn't possibly have it as quick as that. Well why the ****** ask me then?
After much consultation on the phone it turned out it couldn't be delivered for another week and no he couldn't pay for it at this desk - this was the 'Order Desk'. He would have to go right away over the other side of the store to the 'Pay Desk'.
I think spouse was very tempted to tell the young man where he could put his 'Order Desk,' but as he had gone through so much that morning, just to get this far, he was beaten into submission and paid up at the 'Pay Desk' without the need of a security guard to manhandle him out of a store for a change.
Moral of this shaggy dog story? Moving house is partly for the shedding of STUFF. Look what happens if you have too much of it. I am ordering the yurt even as we speak.