Hello dear reader and welcome to another Sunday at Chez Comb. It has been a bit of a roller coaster of a week for me and for once nothing to do with my dear Spouse. Yes indeedy, he is lily-white and in the clear. A friend of mine once said that I could cause bother in an empty house. Well, Chez Comb is not empty but I have caused bother for myself.
For some years now I have been prone to leaky eyes - tear fluid constantly flowing. No doubt some of you are familiar with this pesky condition. At first it was diagnosed as 'dry eyes' and eye drops were prescribed to alleviate things. But things gradually deteriorated and the eye drops did not seem to make much difference, to the extent that one evening last year when I wanted to watch a particular wildlife programme on the television, I could only watch it with the lights out and wearing sunglasses!! At this point I took myself off to the optician who, after a thorough examination decided I did not have 'dry eyes' but may have blocked tear ducts, a condition I may have to put up with as even though an operation would ease things, the effects might not last long.
Stay with me dear reader, I promise you, this is not too shaggy a dog story. For another week or so after visiting said optician, I put up with weepy eyes and then had the bright idea of looking the condition up on the internet. As I am in the main a healthy person I have not had cause to seek out information on afflictions. But I am very glad I did. I went to the NHS website and looked up 'blocked tear ducts' and learned quite a lot more about them. Not only that but a simple massage of the area between the eye and the nose on a daily basis or even a few times daily helps alleviate the symptoms.
Brilliant. Thank you NHS and the massaging worked. My weepy eyes were greatly improved. But - here is a weird thing. All in my little eye world is hunky dory until a bit of stress comes on the scene and then off I go again, eyes leaking like a tap. I have no idea what the connection is but there must be one somewhere and I hope someday, someone will enlighten me.
I know dear reader, what a wimp I am and what bother I have caused for myself this week. It goes like this - I am planning a romantic comedy novel for next year, Walking Bertie. The principle male character is a crime writer and for the purposes of the book I needed an outline plot of a crime novel for him to discuss. I really enjoyed constructing this and getting to know my new detective on our Easter journeyings to and from the south of England. Arriving home bright-eyed and bushy-tailed I embraced the new week happy and dry-eyed.
Until I randomly picked up a crime novel from my pile of waiting to be read books by my bed. After the first few chapters my tears began to run, big time, as the uneasy notion stole over me that the plot in this book might unfold along the lines of mine.
In between my domestic goddess duties at home, it has taken me the best part of the week to wade through the novel, eyes spouting copiously along the way, as I stressed as to whether I was going to have to think up an entirely new plot. My literary concerns were unfounded thank goodness, as this crime novel was a very muscular one, packed full of violent deaths in as many different ways as I could every imagine, but of course, I had to read right to the end to make absolutely sure.
Magically dear reader, my eyes are getting much better now that I know i can sashay on my own sweet way with my lovely detective and - talk about teaching an old dog new tricks - I am surprised at how desperately I cared about the plot within the plot of Walking Bertie - it may be comedy but it's serious stuff to me and at the dawn of this Sunday morning Chief Inspector Francis di Angeli is poised ready to make his debut in what may turn out to be Are You Going to Mulberry Fair? and I am one very happy Easter bunny.
I hope you have a very pleasant and dry-eyed week dear reader. The weather forecast for North Yorkshire is good and Spouse and I intend to start re-modelling our gardens. As this may involve the use of power tools I hope I will still be here to tell the tale next week. Happy Eastertide.
Hello my dear reader, how nice to meet up again after the Easter break. Spouse and I have been away for a week's holiday in the south of England visiting family and doing touristy things. If you ever get the opportunity to visit the Portsmouth Dockyard do go, the Mary Rose exhibition is amazing. The ship sunk in 1545 and the Trust has managed to rescue half of its hull and thousands of artefacts from it are on display. You can tour Lord Nelson's ship, the Victory and take a boat across the bay to tour around a submarine. Then we moved on to Canterbury and visited ancient churches and of course, the Cathedral, (took in family there too!). A wonderful trip all in all, but that's enough about our journeyings. The thing is, it is some distance from North Yorkshire to Hampshire and Kent and whilst sitting in a car the old brain box gets to thinking ...
Spouse and I can happily yap away to each other for long enough and then there is always Radio 4 and then a whole bunch of CD's to listen to, as I forgot to get a talking book from the library prior to our departure. But everything happens for a reason dear reader and the reason was that I now had thinking time. Recently I have been constructing a new romantic comedy - in my head and on scrappy bits of paper - I know, the organisation is impressive - and one of my characters in this book is a writer. How's that for originality in a writer, eh? In my plot he sometimes discusses his plot with his lady friend. So ... you can see where I'm heading with this - I need a plot within a plot to discuss. Shades of Hamlet here, although sadly, I am no Shakespeare.
What a lovely journey I had down to Hampshire. My writer character is a crime writer, so I have created a detective and a crime, in fact a series of crimes for him and his team to solve. My detective is delicious, so much so that I think I am a little in love with him myself, although best not communicate this fact to Spouse, he may not be too impressed.
The homeward journey was equally interesting, although a little alarming for poor Spouse. He nearly drove into a tree when I asked out of nowhere, 'could a woman have the strength to garrote a man?' No need to take it personally dear Spouse, I was only asking. Writing romantic comedy as I do, I am not generally called upon to delve into the depths of human depravity, but my plot within a plot is taking shape that way and I have to confess dear reader, that I am really enjoying it.
Spouse however, is not enjoying this new experience. There is much talk of violence, guns, knives and murders and many a wary look is cast my way. In fact, I think Spouse is giving me a wide berth altogether. I can separate fact from fiction in my life, but I have to admit it's quite fun to drop the odd snippet about my murderer into our conversations - especially as it's a woman. Funnily enough, I don't think he's sleeping too well either - possibly with one eye and ear cocked - just in case ...
It's just as well we are staying home for most of the summer. I don't thinks Spouse's nerves could stand it if there was another long trip in the offing. Not yet there isn't, but there is talk of visiting Australia - what a trip that would be for thinking time. Excuse me, I must go and check my passport.
And if I was in charge of writing the script I would write it a great deal better than this last week. There, that's got that off my chest. Hello dear reader, I hope you haven't been taking bets with yourself about the kind of week I might have had and if you have, hurrah for you, as you've been backing a racing certainty. Yes indeedy, it was another purler of a week and enough is enough. Thankfully the last couple of days have been OK, so I am hopeful that the gods have ended their sport with us.
If you recall my dear reader, we had a viciously smoking chimney in our sitting room and had to leave our windows open to freshen the place up, even though it was sub-zero temperatures outside. In due course the chimney sweep arrived, swept the chimney which was not much sooted up and prior to his departure pronounced us hale and hearty in the chimney department. We were instructed to light a small fire to warm the chimney up as it had been out of use for a week, thus avoiding the smoke problem.
Like the good little pre-Easter bunnies that we are, we obeyed instructions and lit a small fire. Eureka, no problems at all. The smoke went where smoke is meant to go - up the chimney and not pouring out of the many holes on top of the stove. I have no idea why those holes are there anyway - are they there just in case the smoke can't get up the chimney?
Encouraged with this success, Spouse kept the fire going and we enjoyed a pleasant evening toasting our toes in front of it. Ah me, ah my. We should have quit whilst we were ahead. The gods had not done with us yet. The temperatures had started to drop again and we were forecast a bitterly cold weekend - so we lit the fire. The chimney was still warm from the previous day and we looked forward to enjoying another evening by our fireside. Well of course we didn't, did we? No, once again our iron dragon breathed smoke from all its little holes and smoked us out. So as the temperatures dropped we opened our windows and donned our thermals. Our neighbours will now be convinced that we are absolutely barking, as we appear to only open our windows when it is freezing cold.
We took refuge in our little sun room, where there is no sun to warm it up on a freezing March night and we huddled once more over the small electric fire. To cheer ourselves up we mixed stiff G&T's and put the little T.V. on. After a while I pushed off to the kitchen with my drink and went about my evening meal domestic goddess duties, whilst Spouse relaxed in the adjoining sun room. All was not too bad in our little world - until wham bang - the light bulb in the table lamp exploded, sending shards of glass everywhere - all over the floor, the chairs, Spouse and worst of all, into his G&T. Let me tell you dear reader, one little light bulb goes a helluva long way when it has a mind to and in spite of intensive hoovering and cleaning we are still finding slivers of glass. I don't think Spouse has got over having to ditch a full G&T down the sink - I mean, a Yorkshireman throwing out a full glass - not to be spoken about lightly believe me.
Against this backdrop we also had the builders working away outside every day, laying the base for our new summer sitting room, (thankfully no chimney required there) and they were traipsing in and out of the house at intervals to use the bathroom. I had dust sheets down, so that was fine, I can live with cement covered boots stomping in and out. (No, actually, I can't. I just grit my teeth as I hoover up their grit and pray for the day when they will finally finish the job!!)
And then came the man and his apprentice from the window company to fit our new bathroom window. Imagine fitting a window in the pouring rain! Well somehow they did it but methinks there is now one terrified apprentice trotting about North Yorkshire, having encountered me on a bad day.
Picture the scene. I had spread dustsheets everywhere in anticipation of workmen's boots up and down the stairs with the new window. The window fitter was in the bathroom and I was in the bedroom rootling about in a chest for a missing tablecloth. The apprentice was outside in the rain, underneath the new window opening. The fitter called out to his apprentice,
'And make sure you wipe your boots properly before coming upstairs, don't want any dirty marks on the carpets.'
Too right we don't, thinks I and calls out to young apprentice in my best dragons's voice, 'Because if you do I might have to kill you.'
Sharp intake of breath followed by silence. Oh the life of the poor apprentice. Our fitter fitted the window and departed to pack his tools, leaving the poor boy to wash the bathroom floor and gather in their own dustsheets. Somehow, someone's big boots had slithered beneath the dustsheets and there were several unlovely muddy boot marks on the bedroom carpet. A white-faced apprentice approached me and asked in a quavering voice for 'a bucket of hot water, Missus.'
When I learned of the poor lad's plight I did not unleash the wrath of Genghis upon him dear reader, neither did I give him his bucket of hot water to scrub my carpet. A good squirt of carpet cleaner would do the job a lot better. The poor lad scuttled off gratefully, if a little pale. I hope he doesn't come back when they come to glaze the new room. He might drop a window in fright if he claps eyes on me again.
So there you have it dear reader - smoked out rooms, exploding light bulbs, noisy cement mixers, muck and grit everywhere and boot marks all over the new carpet. Next week is going to be a lot better - it has to be - or I'm leaving home.
I will not be writing my blog next week, as Spouse and I are having an Easter break - at least I hope we will. Snow is forecast, so who knows ... I hope to be with you on April 8th. Happy Easter and very best wishes to you.
I am beginning to think that I have been married to spouse for too long. It's alright dear reader, there is no cause for alarm. I have not suddenly fallen out of love with spouse and wish to move on. Quite the reverse. I know people say you can grow to look like your dog, but do you grow to start thinking like your spouse? Or even worse, doing things like he does. I think this must be the case. as I am starting to get into bother again.
I am still recovering from our latest visit to the supermarket. What is it about those places? They always seem to spell trouble for us. I wonder if other people have the same problems. It's a difficult question that I would love to ask, but then I would have to admit to the kind of scrapes that we get into and do I really want to acknowledge the fact that I can be a bit of a dork sometimes? O.K., so my friends probably know that already, but why give them ammunition?
So, this week just for once we had an uneventful trip around the shop and filled our trolley without any mishaps, arguments or breakages. Bearing in mind the events of last week, I felt that perhaps, at last, the gods were smiling on us once more. With a spring in my step, I made my way jauntily to the check out and unloaded our goods on to the conveyor belt. The lady in front of me paid her bill and departed. The check out lady pressed her button to move the belt along to begin checking out our purchases, but nothing happened. It seemed the belt had given up the ghost. So we manually moved our goods along the belt and the lady began checking them through and I packed the bags.
Towards the end of the operation, I caught sight of spouse pushing down on the conveyor belt where it bends round for the return trip. He seemed to be working on it with his thumbs.
'What is he doing?' I wondered uneasily. 'It's not his piece of kit and he should leave well alone. If it's broken, it's broken.'
Ah, but I was wrong dear reader. Hey presto, the belt began moving again. Triumphantly spouse joined me, ready to depart from the store.
'It was the bumps that was stopping it from moving. I've flattened them out and that cured the problem.'
The check out lady was smiling gratefully at him and without thinking I said, 'Oh, I wondered why he was feeling your bumps.'
Silence - and then she turned red and I turned red and spouse dragged me out of the store pronto, hissing in my ear, 'did you have to say that?'
Spouse is not one to hold grudges and amicable relations were restored between us later that day. A happy situation that was not destined to last however. I wouldn't have believed it possible to trump our Saturday experience, but yes indeedy dear reader, I surpassed myself the very next day. After our Sunday morning church service we adjourned as usual to the adjacent coffee room. As we queued for our coffee, we chatted to friends around us and spouse searched in his pockets for some money to put in the 'donations welcome' coffee dish. Out came the funds and an old receipt with it. He looked at it and turned it over and saw a name on the back. He looked at it blankly, shook his head and passed it over to me.
'I don't recognise the name,' he said.
I looked at it and didn't either. 'Was is someone you picked up?' I asked.
You know those moments dear reader, when momentarily there is a lull in the general conversation and there is usually one person whose voice carries on and the drift of their conversation can be clearly heard by everyone. Well, my innocent comment occurred in just such a lull. And following it a collective sharp intake of breath and embarrassed silence.
'What do you mean, "someone I picked up?"' spouse asked icily, 'I am not in the habit of "picking people up" as you so nicely put it.'
It dawned on me that we had got our wires crossed - again. How to rescue the situation? I just had to be bold and go for it.
'Yes you do, you pick people up all the time.'
Suppressed titters around the room. Spouse looked thunderous. It was looking like it was going to be 'murder at the vicarage.'
'You pick people up in the course of your Community Transport duties, don't you? That name on your paper? Is it one of them?'
A collective sigh went up around the room and conversations were resumed. For a few moments there, life had stopped, looked and wondered at this alternative portrait of my fine upstanding spouse. Thankfully, I had managed to rescue us and we moved on to collect our coffee.
I thought we were done with the matter, but on our departure, several wags called out to spouse, 'mind how you go and who you pick up, lad. It could get you into trouble one of these days.'
So, the tables are turned on me dear reader, and spouse has gone around shaking his head sadly all week and muttering 'I don't believe it', under his breath. If I am let out of the doghouse, I hope to see you next week. and let's hope it turns out to be a better one all round.
i know Shakespeare's Earl of Gloucester was a bit of a strange old cove, but I have to say he got it about right when he said, 'As flies to wanton boys are we to th' gods, They kill us for their sport.' I'm thankful to say that I'm still here to tell the tale but I think they've got me on a bit of fishing line at the moment and are enjoying playing about with me, before reeling me in.
Last week was bad enough and this week was eventful in a different way. At the moment I'm not too sure I even want to set foot out of bed on Monday morning, in case they have any more tricks up their collective godly sleeves. Ah, I know dear reader, I can hear you say, this attitude won't do. Is this woman not made of sterner stuff? I'm working on that one and hoping that next week will be a whole new adventure in a positive way - it could be, couldn't it? The wind might change and the gods feel well disposed towards me once more. But back to reflecting on this past week ....
We were going to go across the road to our fine village hostelry for a meal with friends. A lovely evening to look forward to; a roaring fire, good food and good company. And then it snowed and it snowed some more and I thought 'Mm, not sure they'll want to turn out in this blizzard.' But I was wrong. It would take more than a bit of bad weather to put our friends off their tucker. Anticipating a pre-dinner drink by our own roaring fire, ice-cubes and sliced lemons for the G&T's were at the ready and spouse proceeded to light said fire. It just had to be, didn't it? It couldn't choose any other night to smoke us out could it? No, just as our friends were about to arrive, our multi-fuel stove belched out smoke from every opening it had, like a huge and evil dragon waking from a long sleep. Very quickly the room filled up with smoke and spouse came staggering out to the sun room with a face as black as night.
'I think the seal has gone on the door,' he gasped. He wiped his eyes with blackened hands. I suppressed a smile as he now looked like Chi chi, or do I mean An An? I can't remember which one was the male. Cute as giant pandas are I don't think spouse would have appreciated the comparison, or being offered a bamboo shoot at this juncture.
'Open the windows,' says I. It looked like the London of the 1950's in our sitting room, filled with filthy smog. We were looking in on the scene from the glass doors leading from the sitting room to our little sun room - just so that you know my dear reader, that I cannot as yet see through walls - still working on that one.
Spouse braced himself, dived back into the room and threw the windows open, scuttling back into the sun room sharpish. 'That's put the kibosh on the G&T's then,' he said, staring ruefully back through the glass doors.
It certainly did. I don't think anyone's idea of a good time would be slurping G & T in a freezing cold, smoke filled room, not even spouse's. We decamped to the pub with our friends and had a very pleasant evening, returning from the warmth of the pub to our freezing cold house, where all the windows were open, in an effort to rid us of the smoke smell.
It had to be didn't it? No mild sunny winter days for us, as is sometimes the case in winter. No, the temperatures for the whole week were well in the minuses and for the whole week we kept the windows open and went around dressed in so many layers of clothing we could hardly move. Remember the Michelin Man? We were dead ringers for him. I wonder what our neighbours made of us - the new kids on the block. In the lowest of temperatures that we have had for many winters, Instead of closing all the windows and banging up the thermostat on the central heating, all our windows stood wide open. If anyone asks me I think I'll tell them that we are in training for a trip to the Arctic Circle.
We had to keep the windows open for the whole week as spouse lit the fire again. No, before you go thinking 'what a numpty', he was not. He had purchased a new seal for the fire door and carefully fitted it. This meant taking the door off first and I won't go into the hammering, banging, cussing and sore fingers involved in all that. Eventually the new seal was put on and was a good tight fit and spouse thought we are up and running again. We were - running to open all the windows as the new seal made no difference at all. No, that's not fair to spouse - the new door seal held tight and not a smidgen of smoke issued from around the door - just from every other opening on the top of the fire. So, we surmise that it must be a chimney problem. We await the visit of the chimney sweep and continue to live in the best aired house in North Yorkshire. But at least we had lighting and had hot drinks and hot food ....
And then we had a power cut. We have had deep snow and high winds and not a flicker of a power problem. This morning, as the temperature rose to a dizzying one degree Celsius, the snow began melting away and the wind dropped, at 4 a.m. the power went off. Our windows are wide open, we are dressed in as many layers as fully paid up eskimos and are reduced to candle power and cold drinks. So don't tell me the gods aren't having a fine old time with Chez Comb. I only hope they soon tire of their sport with us and move on.
One thing slightly worries me. Monday morning is lurking just around the corner and now that the temperatures are on the rise, the builders will resume their work at the back of the house. I hope this fact is a well kept secret from the gods or who knows what lies in store - let's not dwell on that dear reader, 'that way madness lies.'
I suppose it was too good to last. Ever the optimist that I am, I thought that peaceful times, just for a change, had broken out at Chez Comb. Let me tell you dear reader, how wrong can a gal be? I have brought some of it upon myself I know, by having the builders in, but I didn't reckon on spouse causing bother as well.
The week had not even properly begun. Spouse had tidied out the garage over the weekend and had found a length of metal tube. It looked very much like it belonged to one of his anglepoise lamps and so he put it to one side. Come Monday morning he fished it out of the garage and took it into his study to try and fit it to the lamp. Had it belonged to the lamp it would have given it even more height and shed a bright light all around. (Mm, it's beginning to sound like Christmas already.)
The metal pole turned out to have nothing to do with the lamp and spouse began to dismantle the attempted assemblage and in the process trapped his finger tightly in between the top bars of the stand. So tightly was he trapped that he could not extract his finger and shouted for help. I scurried to his aid and managed to release his finger. By this time it was swollen up and I spent the morning trotting to and fro at intervals with ice packs. By lunchtime he was judged fit to be let loose on the world again.
I swear he looks for trouble. Bear in mind it was still only Monday and plenty of the day left. Onwards and upwards. He managed to put a rusty nail through the same finger later on in the afternoon. Fortunately we know that his tetanus protection is up to date, but sometimes I think he is testing the system almost to destruction.
On to Tuesday. We had quite a fall of snow overnight and intermittently through the day, but as the sun was shining I decided to go for a post-lunch walk to boost the old brain cells and see what was happening out there in the big snowy world of North Yorkshire. The builders were busy outside and spouse was busy down the garden in his shed, so off I tripped, booted, hatted but not spurred.
How was I to know that he would lock himself in his shed the minute my back was turned? Luckily for him on returning from my walk I gave the builders and all their noisy power tools a wide berth and continued on down the garden to visit spouse in his shed, thinking he might like to come up to the house for a nice cup of tea. Only as I neared the shed and with the noise of the builders to my back, did I hear the hammering on the shed door - coming from the inside.
Being a cold and snowy day spouse had locked the shed door from the inside, to stop the doors from blowing open, but somehow, the latch on the outside of the door had dropped down and was firmly holding the doors shut with him inside. My, oh my, he was as mad as mad can be, as he had been trying to get out of there for quite some time. It wasn't ice packs that were needed this time, it was a very gentle defrost indoors.
Wednesday, thank goodness was incident free and I heaved a sigh of relief, thinking we had escaped, 'trouble always comes in threes.' Then Thursday struck.
We'd had a lot of snow overnight again and spouse was due to take an elderly lady to hospital for a late morning physiotherapy appointment. Being the good soul that he is he went round to her house early to clear the snow from her drive, so that she could get out to the car. Just as he was finishing he slipped on a patch of ice and went down hard on his bottom. When he limped indoors to collect the little old lady, she told him the appointment had now been cancelled and to add insult to injury, he can hardly bear to sit down at all now. The bruises will be spectacular.
Then we were truly blessed to throw in a Friday happening for good measure. We had an appointment in the town and afterwards went on to the supermarket as supplies were much depleted. Well my dear reader, what can I say? Of course it was not an uneventful visit. Mea culpa, mea culpa, it was all my fault. I should never have asked him to reach up to the top shelf to get me a jar of gherkins down. Spouse is tall, but the shelf was very high and reaching up on tiptoes did the job nicely. But, he overbalanced ever so slightly and on his way down brushed up against the end display of tins and the whole lot came down. My, my, what a noise a cascading display of cans can make. You can have no idea, unless of course, it's happened to you.
Needless to say we hotfooted it out of there sharpish and may not be returning for some time to come. Spouse is skulking around the homestead trying not to get into any more mischief this week. Trouble is, Monday morning comes around all too soon - a whole new week to go at. I'm girding up my loins even as I write .........
You may smile at this title dear reader, but it is a very real problem in my life and possibly in yours too. Or it may be that you are far more organised and efficient than me and the socks that go into your washing machine actually come out again. I'm not so sure that mine do. I know not what what alchemy is afoot in my utility room, but many pairs can go into the wretched washing machine, but I'm darned sure not that the same quantity come out again.
Not only that, but last week at least some did come out of the washing machine and I duly hung them up on the electric airing rack overnight, came back the next morning and collected the laundry in, took it into the bedroom to sort out and blow me down, there was only one sock of spouse's left to put away. How did that happen? My socks seemed to be all present and correct, but only one of his? He is not one-footed, he did not throw one out prior to laundering so what is going on? Like my bell pepper seeds and grains of rice being strewn over the floor and worktops at night, I believe the house elves are having a laugh at my expense. How else can I be left with one lonely sock?
At Chez Comb we have both have two feet and thus wear our sock in pairs. Ergo, pairs of socks go into the washing machine - nota bene, pairs, not singles. So why is it that I end up at the end of the laundering process with so many lonely socks? Where do they all go? And never to be clapped eyes on again. They never turn up, how is that? We both have drawers full of lonely socks. Does this only happen to me dear reader?
It's the same with gloves. There were always two of them, carefully put away in the drawer after use and then on going to retrieve them for their next outing, there is only one there. One of life's many mysteries.
I wonder if Noah had the same problem in the Ark? The animals went in two by two. Did they indeed? Well, I bet a lot of them didn't come out two by two by the time the flood was over and they were decanted on to dry land. You can bet your bottom dollar, or last shiny pound coin, that Noah and Mrs Noah were left scratching their heads when the animals trotted out of the Ark and down the gangway and quite a few of them went solo. No amount of carefully searching the nether regions of the boat would reveal a lost mate and I bet they asked themselves the eternal question too - where did they go, what happened to them?
When I mentioned this puzzle to spouse, (the socks, not the animals), he came up with yet another domestic conundrum. Where have his favourite waterproof work trousers gone? He did have two pairs and one pair seems to have vanished into thin air. Likewise the woolly hats that keep his bonce warm when working outside. He had several to choose from at one time and now he is reduced to one. I know he can only wear one at a time, but he did have his favourites and they are nowhere to be found. Is it the house elves again?
I may not have lost a giraffe, elephant or warthog lately and if I found one what would I do with it anyway? But I would like to discover the whereabouts of the stash of lonely socks that there must be somewhere. I know you're out there. Come home soon and all will be forgiven. that is my final offer, house elves. You have been warned.
Bear with me dear reader and all will become clear. The folk next door have the builders in and a beautiful new extension is going up at the back of their house. They are also having all the windows in the rest of the house renewed, as the property was rather dilapidated when they took it over and was more than ripe for updating. No problem there. All went well until last week. The builders removed two old windows from the side of the building that looks on to our front driveway. Unfortunately for us they did not take much care about it. The windows came out easily enough and so did at least six million minute polystyrene balls, which I now understand were in the past used for insulation before insulated sheets came along. It was a windy day and guess what? Yes, indeedy, all the perishing balls blew on to our driveway. Not a problem, I hear you say. Sweep 'em up. Problem solved. I wish. Our drive is covered with pea gravel, that small stuff that gets in between grooves of your trainers or walking boots. Can't sweep that lot up.
Meanwhile, inside Chez Comb, spouse is telephoning the lady from the Community Transport Scheme, for whom he is a volunteer driver. Elderly, infirm or disabled folk can book transport for shopping, doctors, hospital appointments or the doctor's surgery and have door to door service for a small fee. Whilst I am outside surveying our polystyrene snowstorm, spouse has contacted the lady via the ringback service. She must have picked up the phone, thought there was no one there and put it to one side. But they were still connected as spouse could hear her moving about the office. Poor spouse, he wasn't having much luck. He was calling into the phone, 'hello Christine, pick up your phone Christine, hello Christine.' and didn't bargain on being interrupted by a very cross wife stomping into his study, shrieking like a demented banshee and vowing vengeance on the entire building fraternity.
Being the patient man that he is, he put the phone to one side and listened to my diatribe on the careless builders and the problem of the polystyrene balls. My rant over and thinking there was nothing to be done about them and that we would have to learn to love them, I pushed off to my kitchen and my domestic goddess duties. Sometime later I had occasion to pass through the hallway to find spouse on his hands and knees, threading wire through the letterbox. I paused, mouth open and hesitated. Then, 'no, don't ask,' I told myself. Might be better if I don't know. On my return trip spouse was off his knees, upright and fixing up the hoover. 'Having a domestic moment, are we?' I asked. 'Mm, not quite domestic,' says spouse. 'I'm going out to hoover the gravel.'
Well I know we like to be reasonably clean at Chez Comb, but isn't hoovering the gravel taking things a tad too far? But if that's what spouse wanted to to who was I to object. I returned to my domestic duties and left him to it. In the kitchen I found the phone off its cradle and picked it up. Don't ask me why I did it, dear reader, but I shouted 'hello, hello. Eh, what's up doc?' into the handset in my best Bugs Bunny voice and hell's bells, I nearly dropped the wretched thing when Christine from Community Transport answered me. 'Is that you, Patricia? Your phone's off the hook. By the heck, it's an interesting life in your house isn't it? What was he doing down at the letterbox and why's he gone out to hoover the gravel? Does he often do that? Sounds a bit daft to me, but I suppose it takes all sorts....' Spouse will have some explaining to do next time he speaks to the good lady and I only hope she doesn't mention Bugs Bunny to him.
Yes, I thought hoovering the gravel was a bit off the wall too, but I have to tell you my dear reader, that spouse is not as green as he is cabbage looking. He fed the extension lead through the letterbox so the door could stay shut and took the hoover outside and connected it up. He put the hoover on its lowest setting and held it well above the gravel and hey presto - all those little polystyrene balls went home to daddy, all safely tucked up into the hoover bag. How amazing is that?
Our driveway is now squeaky clean and my admiration for spouse is unbounded. For thinking outside the letter box, I think I married a genius. Look out builders, we're ready to take on the world.
I'm veering off the scientific trail this week. Actually thinking about it I'm not, because I'm in zoological mode, with a small measure of synchronicity thrown in to the mix.
A couple of days ago I was walking along the promenade overlooking the sea. The sea on my left and the ornamental public gardens on my right. Glancing into the gardens I noticed a seagull looking down at the grass and trampling very hard and fast with his orange webbed feet. I dug spouse in the ribs and pointed to this scene. 'What's all that about?' I wondered. 'Worms,' said spouse. 'Worms?' says I. 'Yes, Worms. He's drumming up his dinner.' I looked at spouse and wondered if he'd had too much seaside winter sun. 'Oh, like the worm pops his head out when the seagull comes knocking at his door. As if ...' Really, did I look as if I was that gullible? Well my dear reader, it turns out that I am just a seagull ignoramus. 'All that stamping makes the worm think it's raining and that's when they come up to the surface and hey presto, seagull dinner is served!' says spouse. Pull my other leg it's got bells on thinks I, but when I returned home and put the question to the RSPB via my computer I found spouse was right.
And here's where the zoological synchronicity comes in. Gosh, I never thought to type those two words together! But here goes ... a trip around unusual bird behaviour. I was listening to the BBC Radio 4's programme, The Infinite Monkey Cage, the day after the seagull incident and they were discussing present and historical methods of research into animal and bird behaviour. Professor Rory Wilson explained the unusual fishing method adopted by the Wandering Albatross. When they are feeding their young, one of their fishing methods is to fly off for six days to stock up on squid to bring home to the chicks. Now squid are not just floating about on the surface waiting for some old albatross to come and get them, they are swimming away underneath the ocean. So clever old albatross starts a spinning routine that creates a large circle of light, (the light given off by some of the florescent fish already in the water and he just spreads it about a lot more). And then, the squid are drawn up to the light and our albatross does a somersault and gobbles them up. As a post script to this I have just looked up information about the Wandering Albatross and apparently if they follow a ship in the hope of feeding of its rubbish, they can eat so much they can't fly and just have to float there for a while! Yes dear reader, ponder that image.
Staying with the zoological theme, Lucy Cook, a guest on The Infinite Monkey Cage programme also related the historical research into the mystery of fertilisation to create a new adult of a species. This is just the best one ever. Through dissection it was known that there were eggs and there were sperm, but it was not known how the new adult came about. A chap called Lazno Spanzali spent a lot of time observing frog behaviour. He saw the male frog clinging on to the female's back but didn't know what happened next. So he made a pair of underpants from waxed taffeta and fitted them on to the frog!!!! Yes, I love it too. The trouble was the frog could jump out of them, leaving Spanzali non the wiser. So, he fitted braces on to the underpants - how good is that? Problem solved and the mystery of what went on between Mr and Mrs Frog could be investigated further.
Well, there we are. I can say no more. Enjoy your Sunday my dear reader and may the image of frogs in their tighty-whities and braces bring a little smile to your day. It certainly has to mine.
Welcome, dear reader, to another sunny Sunday in North Yorkshire at Chez Comb. Having just put the title of this blog up I realise it is a tad misleading. My dear spouse is not missing his shed as in being minus a shed - it has not been stolen or demolished and thus he is not suffering from the absence of his shed. No, he is suffering from a lack of visiting his shed.
How can this be? You might well ask and no maybe you are, right now. You didn't even know spouse had a shed down the bottom of the garden that he might visit. Well why would you? It's not a subject I would be banging on about in the normal course of events, but events have not been normal lately. Well, when are they, let's face that one head on?
Better begin at the beginning as all the best stories do. When we moved to this house last year there were a couple of small sheds down the garden, one of them was in good condition and one was rather dilapidated. So the good shed was used for storing our garden tools and machinery, but where was spouse to put all his boys toys? Chain saws, big electric saws and the good Lord knows what ever else and I really don't know. We are old-fashioned in our division of labour - he keeps out of my kitchen and I keep out of his workshop. But the trouble was, he now didn't have a workshop. He had a garage and so filled it up with all his paraphernalia. Ah but, now he couldn't get his precious car in the garage. I know dear reader, don't tell me, I know. No-one uses their garage for the car these days. Oh yes they do, spouse does. So what to do now? Build a mega-shed of course.
My dearest reader, if you could have seen the look of the purest of pure delight on spouse's face as the idea dawned on him, you too would have taken a step back. Really, heaven has no more to offer a man than a large garden with space to put the shed of his dreams on. And at that point, dear reader, I became a shed widow.
Unfortunately for me, the plot of ground he chose had gnarled old trees on it, interspersed with ragged and overgrown shrubs. Why unfortunately for me? After all, I had no wish to be the proud possessor of a mega-shed. But, no man is an island and mine certainly is not. I was enrolled as honorary shed side-kick and put to work assisting in the digging out of shrubs and removal of tree branches, prior to spouse wading in with chain saw and axe.
All well and good. But a meg-shed requires a mega-base to stand on and at that point in the proceedings, spouse's proposed site required digging over and trees roots removing. Thus it was that for some months before and after Christmas, I became a shed widow. I had been hoping that when we came indoors from our summer labours in the garden that spouse would multi-task in the house and put some pictures up, all that kind of stuff that makes a house a home. But no, how could trivia like that compete with the foundations for a shed? Obviously it didn't, as the sightings of spouse grew fewer and fewer as his enthusiasm for his new shed grew. He appeared for meals, well he would, wouldn't he? Food and wielding axes being his great loves in life.
Being a Yorkshireman and not wanting to part with a brass farthing if he could possibly help it, he constructed the base out of flagstones taken up from the garden. I have to admit this was a good idea, (it kills me to say so, but it was). We will be re-modelling the garden this year and the flagged paths are not in our new design. So dozens of flags were manhandled on to the site and carefully placed, the spirit level employed at every turn to ensure a firm and level base. Nearing the end of this operation the new shed was ordered from a local company.
Their representative came out to view spouse's endeavours and the base was pronounced excellent. Spouse's cup runneth over, almost. The very next weekend the shed was erected and THEN spouse was ecstatic. Thinking about it, I'm surprised we haven't had an official opening of the shed with a bottle of champagne being smashed against it. Personally, I'll settle for drinking it inside the shed sometime.
Fondly I thought, 'well that's that then', my life-partner will re-enter my life again. Oh so wrong was I, dear reader. A mega-shed needed the gold star treatment. Not content with having the shed in place, spouse then set about insulating it, boarding it out and painting the boarding in a delicate shade of cream to make it light and bright. And so it is. It is a beautiful space and he has kitted it out with work benches and his tools and is generally delighted with it all.
All was going well until the end of last week my dear reader. Every day, spouse was transferring more of his gear down to the shed, happy as a little sand boy can be and then, disaster struck, or more pertinently, Montezuma's revenge and spouse has been confined to barracks ever since. Looking disconsolately down the garden yesterday he mournfully came out with the immortal line, 'I miss my shed',
Now if he'd have said, 'I miss being out in the sunshine and fresh air,' as he is wont to spend his time outside, I could have understood and empathised with this notion. But missing a shed? I'm sorry, dear reader, for once I am at a loss. The almost umbilical link between men and their sheds is beyond me and I am happy for it to remain so. I look forward to spouse's recovery, not just for his restoration to good health, but because I really can't stand much more of the shed-longing glimpsed deep in his lovely blue eyes.
I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday and a good week to come.
No, I am not going all scientific again and I'm definitely steering clear of the spiritual and mathematical meanings attached to synchronicity, or we could be here all day. I am confining myself purely to the idea of similar events happening by chance at the same time which appear to be related to one another. As you will have guessed, dear reader, this subject leads on from last week's thoughts on random distribution. I mentioned dreaming about strangling a cat. Sharp intake of breath all round. I love cats and dogs, all animals come to that, so why my sub-conscious should want to strangle one I do not know. I hope it is not a metaphor for my spouse, as he has been particularly good lately - 'good' as in 'normal' and not getting into any scrapes whereby I would wish to kill him.
So, I arise from my bed somewhat disturbed by the cat strangling dream, (it was a white one by the way, a bit along the lines of a small fluffy Persian), and begin my day. As I check my Facebook page there is a notification from my friend Rachelle regarding our lunch together the previous day. One of her friends had made a humorous comment and I clicked on to this lady's page. And the last post she had put up was the report of the Croydon Cat Strangler. Eek! I immediately clicked off this page. I was born in Croydon and had I not just strangled a cat and was it just in my dreams? Synchronicity and I do not wish to delve any further into that one.
On a happier note, I telephoned my editor last evening to discuss an idea for a new book. She was really spooked. No, dear reader, I do not generally have this effect upon people and not upon my lovely editor. She was spooked because she had just been thinking about me and was about to pick up the phone. Synchronicity?? I like to think so.
Now I really start to think about this notion of synchronicity, I can recall two further instances of its occurrence in my life, although from some time ago. I was once hiking along a coastal path in Dorset, minding my own business and had settled into that semi-trance like state that you sometimes do when the walking is going well, when a voice penetrated my half-conscious state, calling out my name. Looking up from the path and focussing on the world once more, there was a work colleague from 10 years ago dancing about on the path in front of me. Of all the places in the world ... and of all the people in all the world, as in her previous life she had been Miss Glamourpuss Supreme and wouldn't have been seen dead anywhere on the planet in hiking boots and woolly bobble hat. But there she was. We had both decided to walk that stretch of coastline on the same day. My, my, there was a bit of catching up to do on that occasion.
I promise I won't rabbit on much longer on this subject, dear reader, but really, once you start on it, it's amazing what comes to mind - have a go yourself, you won't be disappointed. I was once connected to a totally different number from the one I thought I had dialled, no doubt I should have put my glasses on to see the buttons clearly. But what a bonus for me, as in the course of finding out that it was the wrong number, I recognised the voice at the other end. It was an old school friend and her voice had not changed at all, despite the passage of more years than I care to mention. What are the odds on that one? Not only that, but what made it synchronicity was that she had been trying to find me with a view to setting up a whole reunion affair and had had no luck. Ha, 'there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.' The old Bard knew a thing or two I reckon.
No more dreams for me this week, I hope and no philosophising. And definitely no cat strangling, real or imagined. My derriere needs to be attached to my chair and a fair bit of work put into the latest fiction project, or the wrath of Editor Genghis and Spouse may be coming my way - and it won't need synchronicity for that to happen ..... See you next week, dear reader, have a great Sunday.
i know, dear reader, still on the scientific trail - what on earth is the matter with me? Last week, gravitational waves and now this. Well it's not my fault, it's my friend, Rachelle Antoinette. She is an abstract artist, (check out her website www.rachelleantoinette/abstract-art-gallery) and artists, like writers, mull things over. So, there we were, the two of us, sitting by a roaring fire, enjoying late celebrations for my birthday - not at a late hour you understand, but a week after the event and as the contents of the wine bottle decreased, the musings about life increased proportionately. So after discussions on the mysterious appearance of red pepper seeds and rice grains, etc. in my kitchen, we moved on to the seeming randomness of events in life.
Rachelle is an intelligent, thoughtful lady, given like myself, to chewing the fat about life. Her musings feed into her art, but I'm not too sure how her thoughts on random distribution are going to translate into paint. Here's a f'r'instance. When her Dad cooks with cardamom pods and simply dishes up the dinner, Rachelle says the lions share of the pods always land up on her plate. Over the years, she has watched, eagle-eyed and can testify to the fairness with which her dear papa doles out the din-dins and yet, she could still bet her last copper-bottomed pound sterling, that more pods will land on her plate than his. There are various definitions of the laws of random or probability distribution, but having looked at a few my eyes are still rolling back in my head and I am no wiser. You try looking it up too, dear reader and then perhaps you can explain it all to me.
It's exactly the same with prawns, if we're still following 'Rachelle's law'. Her dear papa can produce the most exquisite fish pie on the planet, (no idle boast, believe me), containing prawns and she will always end up with the lion's share of the prawns contained therein. Yes, I know, lions probably don't eat prawns. But, there again, has anyone ever offered them some? I could be on to something there - a whole new world of research awaits. Anyway, coming back to prawns, how is it that the distribution is of such an unequal proportion between them? Her papa enjoys a prawn as much as the next man, so he's not going to shovel them all her way is he?
I too have been musing on this phenomena and have come up with muesli and sweets, possibly lollipops at pantomimes and there again, there are documents and lentils. Hang in there and I promise I will take you with me. Now, my dear reader - muesli. In my domestic goddess moments, I make up my own mix, (brownie points for me I think). In go the raisins, the almonds and the various other dried fruits and all are mixed together with flakes and oats, etc. Take note of that - well mixed together. I don't know why I add the almonds to the mix as I do not care for them, but spouse does. What I should do is put a small dish of them next to his breakfast plate so that he can help himself, but my morning self is never going to be so organised and I would forget, and so, if it is never going to happen, they might as well get bunged in the mix and guess what? Yes - correct, I always get the almonds and then have to transfer them to his dish before we even start. Random distribution? No, 'like flies to wanton boys the gods do play us.'
And what about lollipops at pantomimes or sweets chucked out to the audience, or teachers hurling sweets out to the class at the end of term. Random distribution it should be and yet and yet - there will always be some children who never in their entire lives field a sweet or a pantomime lollipop successfully. Not because they are smaller or less bold than their contemporaries - it is just the way it is.
Moving back to the adult world - have you attended one of those training days where the lecturer would stop at the end of each row of seats, count the number of bodies and dish out the corresponding number of papers? Or alternatively, he/she appoints a couple of 'class prefects' to dish the dibs out? So, in theory, all of the above should work out and everyone ends up the proud possessor of a factsheet. But my dear reader, this never happens and there are always people bobbing anxiously up and down looking for their copy and if the lecture has already started and references are being made to the sheet, those of us without look on blankly and you can bet your life that the geek sitting next to you studiously turns his/her back and avoids all eye contact so as to avoid sharing his/her sheet with you. Now you know for sure that I was always one of those who never had a sheet - I repeat - it's just the way it is and so I would creep quietly to the back of the room and collect a bunch of sheets. And this is the most annoying part of all - there are always, always, piles of pristine sheets sitting on the table at the back. Let's not go into the realms of didn't the lecturer count the number of people registered and the number of copies made beforehand? ... At this point I was always tempted to stand in the middle of the room and hurl the whole lot up in the air and let everyone fight for their copy, (there's random distribution for you), but I fought this urge and quietly handed out copies to the other poor students that were without.
Having got that one off my chest I'll just briefly mention lentils and the result of this random distribution is not entirely my fault. For once in my life I did what it said on the packet. My instinct said 'cut the top off the pack and gently pour contents into storage jar.' The suppliers said 'tear here'. So I did and with predictable results. Lentils shot up in the air and showered down everywhere. They are now randomly distributed over every work surface and floor tile in my kitchen. That will teach me to be a conformist. Let loose the rebel, that's what I say
So, after I've cleaned up the kitchen I'm off to cook up a storm for Sunday supper and who knows what I may randomly distribute into my pans as I cogitate upon this subject. Now, if I take out the first five items I come across in the refrigerator .....
Hello dear reader and may I wish you a belated very happy new year. Please accept my apologies for my non-appearance last week. I think British Telecom got its wires crossed at the local Exchange and left me off its internet supply. I have now had notification from my provider that my supply will have to be 'interleaved' to improve my broadband connection. I have no idea what this means but I hope it works and that I stay connected.
Which brings me on to the subject of astro physics. Ha, I bet you never thought to hear those words drip from my keyboard, did you? Well, I have been listening to a science programme on BBC Radio 4 about gravitational waves. Apparently they waft through us and bend and stretch us all the time. Well, fancy that! Yet another phenomenon I am going to have to chew the fat over and try to understand. Mastering the internet and my IPhone stretched the old brain cells enough and now I find gravitational waves are doing it as well.
You will by now my dear reader, have appreciated that I am no scientist, but I do share some common traits with the astro physicists mentioned above in that I observe all sorts of phenomena that occur in my daily life and for which I can provide no reasonable or logical explanation. These phenomena puzzle and exasperate my by turn. For example where do all the bell pepper seeds come from?
Yes, I know where they come from - they come from a bell pepper obviously, but why do they make their appearance with monotonous regularity on my kitchen floor? We eat a lot of peppers at Chez Comb. I throw them into everything in the course of my domestic goddess culinary duties, along with a variety of other vegetables. I am a tidy cook and am careful to capture and dispose of the seeds from the peppers in the course of my clearings up. When all is done for the night and I look around my clean and tidy kitchen there is not a pepper seed in sight - not on the worktops or the floor. So how is it and here I would be most grateful dear reader, if you could enlighten me, that every day and I do mean every day, I will find a little white errant pepper seed lodged in the dark grouting of a kitchen floor tile - showing up as plain as day? Where has it come from? If it wasn't there yesterday and no peppers have shown their faces in my kitchen in the interim, how did they get there? I would have seen them, as I am now so attuned to these events, saddo that I am, that I walk into the kitchen and 'sweep the floor with my eyes'. Ouch.
Particles of cooked rice are the same. I cook it, drain it, serve it, clean up and don't have rice again for some days to come. And yet and yet - as sure God made little apples, grains of rice will magically appear in the kitchen when my back is turned. Grains that were not there before. Again, scattered about the worktops and lodged in the floor tiles. Maybe there are night-time house elves at work - I would welcome them if they did something useful rather than leaving the detritus of their supper behind.
And don't get me started on lemon pips. Well, I have started and this is just another phenomenon amongst the many in our universe, never mind gravitational waves, that I don't understand. Just how many pips can one lemon have? I have a kitchen gadget that squeezes the juice from the lemon for me. Which is wonderful and I love it to bits. But no matter how carefully I de-seed my lemons before slapping them on to the squeezer, that contraption will seek out the most deeply buried pips and out they fly in all directions, slapping me in the eye, crunching under my feet and leaving a sticky trail all over the floor for me to slip and slide over.
Never mind gravitational waves stretching and squeezing me, I can't feel them but I would like this evil kitchen genii or unseen house elf identified by the scientific community and dealt with. I bet if Einstein had done the cooking this problem would have been solved long ago. He shouldn't have spent so much time on E=mc2. A spell slaving away in the kitchen would have been a lot more helpful to me right now.
Happy days dear reader. I hope you enjoy your Sunday. I am off back to the kitchen to prepare Sunday supper and not a bell pepper in sight today - I don't think my sanity could stand it....
I'm so sorry dear reader, but there is no blog from me this week as the gremlins have been at my computer and system. I have only just back on-line - and somewhat unreliably at that. I am waiting for my friend and computer whizz to call and see if he can work a miracle or two.
With luck and a following wind I hope to be here next week. I hope everyone has a good week and a very happy Epiphany to all.
Dear Brand New 2018 Diary,
The year is turning and I am in reflective mood. This is the time everyone makes new year's resolutions and believe me dear reader, there are enough of them in this morning's paper. So, do I need to join the party - to make some changes and improvements in my life and work? Well, at least to resolutely resolve to think about things - life, art and the universe, etc, and even make some notes about resolving to resolve. I am thinking about it and so, dear diary, this is where you come in. If I write large and long in your squeaky clean, spanking crisp new pages, then the resolves are there and I could look back at them from time to time to see if I am keeping on track.
Ah ha, I hear you cry, my dear reader. And what if you're not? Yes, dear reader, as the great man said, 'there's the rub.' What if I'm not on track at all, haven't even got saddled up, never mind got to the starting gates? How will I feel then? Failure already, that's what. Do I need to heap metaphorical coals of fire upon my head? No, I most emphatically do not.
So, dear diary, were I thinking about committing some resolutions to your pristine pages, they might look something along the lines of :
1. Be a better wife - loving, caring and giving. No, be reasonable, that is so never going to happen, especially when spouse is nagging about the writing schedule. In fact, I sometimes think he wished Christmas didn't happen at all in our house and then I could just keep going. Once Boxing Day arrived, so did the question - when are you going to start writing again? So, no, I don't think I'm going for plaster-sainthood in 2018 and the good wife bit is out the window already.
2. Alrightey - so what about a better writing schedule then? Better, as in more organised, regular and committed to it? Mmm, now that would be a good resolution, but I think I would have to live on Planet Zog to keep to it. LIFE keeps getting in the way and de-railing me and in any case I hate schedules and being organised. I can find writerly displacement activities in the unlikeliest places and anyway, it's much more fun to take myself by surprise each day and yup, the writing does get done, dear reader, I'm never too sure how but it does but there it is, so we'll dump that one too.
3. O.K., so the biggee - less alcohol, a better balanced diet and lots of fresh air and exercise. I think I need to lie down already just contemplating that lot and it's not even 2018 yet. Yes, dear diary, I am striving, really I'm striving and I can put on my virtuous face and say number three is regularly achieved as I stride out like a fiend with my pants on fire, eager to cover the miles and shed the pounds. I might think about the 'moderation in all things' bit in 2018, but I'm not ready to commit to black and white in your pages yet. Ask me again halfway through the year. With a bit of luck everyone's resolutions will be dead and buried by then and I for one will work very hard and forgetting all of mine, even if they are non-resolutions.
So, dear 2018 Diary, your pages look destined to remain very blank. I can't bear the sight of your unfilled pages staring reproachfully back at me over the next twelve months, so it might be a kindness, (to you and to me), to give you away to a more deserving cause. Now I think about it, spouse has been banging on about new year resolutions all week and I notice they are all for my self-improvement. I think I'll give him this little black book and ask him what his own intentions are for 2018. Nobly, I will refrain from filling it up for him and I can't wait to see what he comes up with.
In the meantime, Happy New Year my dear reader and I hope and pray that 2018 will be kind to us all. I will see you next week, unreconstructed and unresolved as ever and looking forward to muddling through the days and weeks with you. I have a new romantic comedy to begin and if that doesn't have possibilities for muddle, tangle and all things confusing, I don't know what does. And that's before I've started. Hey ho, bring on 2018, unresolved I think.
The sacred celebration of Christ's birth is almost upon us and at Chez Comb it is indeed a time of great rejoicing and celebration. Spouse has forgiven me for the Christmas debacle and I am out of the doghouse. He is in festive mood, so much so that the Mickey Mouse ears have come out of their summer storage and he has started calling me Rudolph. You will understand, dear reader, that I do not appreciate being known by this moniker.
Over the span of our married life - more years than I wish to recall - I have been known by many names, none of them my baptismal name. An odd phenomenon when you consider it. There is nothing outlandish or outrageous in my name - Patricia seems to be a perfectly ordinary name to me and I am pleased to have a share in Saint Patrick, as my lovely Mother was from southern Ireland and as you can tell, a great deal of the blarney runs in my veins. Were I burdened with a 'Misty Mountain' or 'Summer Rain' or even an 'Everton' or 'Cloud' I could perhaps understand a certain reluctance on spouse's part to call out my name across a crowded room. But I am not. Nevertheless, at various times and to my intense embarrassment, I have been summoned by spouse's loud voice calling for me. 'Pushkin', 'Short-Round' (and I am most emphatically NOT), 'Shortie', 'Radar' and now I am Rudolph. The only occasions when spouse uses my baptismal name is when he is cross and he strides about the house calling for me and sounding uncannily like my late father and he was bad enough and spent a lot of time being cross with his errant daughter. Am I now an errant wife? No, just an errant reindeer by the sound of it.
I don't think I resemble a reindeer. I have not noticed a red nose, hairy coat or antlers about my person lately, so why - on awakening - and gazing semi-lovingly down at me through the December morning glow - did he see Rudolph? Personally I think he should take more water with it and whatever he is on I want none of it. But, on considering the lilies of the field a little further, does that make him a reindeer too? It takes one to know one after all. Am I living with Dasher, Dancer or Prancer? Mmmm, that would be fun wouldn't it, calling out 'Oh, Prancer...' across a crowded Christmas shop?
Pondering spouse's current predilection for reindeer nomenclature I am beginning to wonder if I am living with Prancer or Dancer. Now that I think about it he has taken to calling me Elf and I have caught him in unguarded moments checking out the rooftops in the village. And he has put up a huge new shed at the bottom of the garden. I am not allowed in but have been sneakily peeking in at the windows when his back is turned. There appears to be a large sled in there and a whole heap of prettily wrapped parcels. Now I've got it - I'm living with Santa! So, bring on Dasher, Vixen, Dancer Prancer Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, Rudolph and Olive, We shall be making a few journeys tonight Do I hear their sleighbells already?
Goodnight, dear reader - it looks like I am in for a busy time. I wish you all a very happy, peaceful and prayerful Christmas and we will meet again on the cusp of the new year.
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..........