Good morning dear reader and welcome to a slightly soggy morning at Comb Towers. Joy, joy, we have had rain. I am all things Gunnera this week. After my unfortunate experience a couple of weeks ago with Josh at the seed company, (Anyone For Verbal Tennis, 18th July), I managed to obtain four Gunnera plants from another supplier. They are now happily growing well in the damp ground at the bottom of my garden, soaking up the moisture and will grow up to the sky in time. I happened to mention to Spouse that we would have to protect the crowns of the plants from the winter frosts and so needed to buy some more horticultural fleece. Spouse eyed me dubiously - a familiar phenomenon in our house - and asked me what we will do when they are ten or twenty foot tall? 'Ah ... well', says I, 'we'll just have to put a ladder up or climb up the stalks.' 'Like Jack and the Beanstalk,' says Spouse. 'Exactly,' says I. Which got me thinking ...
Once upon a time, a wife planted four Gunnera plants at the bottom of her garden. They grew and they grew, their massive green leaves forming a firm green bed for the wife to lie on for an afternoon nap. But over the years the Gunnera grew up to the sky and right through the clouds and the wife could no longer lie in the leaves. Come the autumn, the wife who had no head for heights, asked her husband, Jack, to climb up the Gunnera and fleece the crowns of the plants. Jack was not very keen on the idea as the stalks of the Gunnera were spiky and sharp. 'I'll get jabbed and scratched all the way up ... and down,' he protested. 'Oh, come on,' says the wife. 'Are you a man or a mouse?' 'Squeak,' said Jack and then ran to shin up the Gunnera stalk as his wife advanced with frying pan in hand.
Jack climbed up the Gunnera stalk and up through the clouds. Much to his surprise when he reached the top he found a winding road. In the distance he could see a massive stone castle. All thoughts of fleece forgotten, Jack set off to investigate. As he drew near he saw a huge woman, at least fifteen foot tall, standing outside the castle. 'Who are you?' she asked. 'I'm Jack. I've just come up the Gunnera plant. Who are you and how did you get here? We only planted these a few years ago?' 'You don't want to know much, do you?' she said. 'But if you must know, I'm Madge. We have a magic carpet, me and Bernard. We like to build a castle when we spot a new Gunnera. Keeps life interesting. What are you doing up here then?' 'I have to put some fleece on the crowns of the plants, only I've lost it. But never mind that. Can I see inside your castle, Madge? I thought these only existed in fairytales.' Madge snorted. 'Fairytales. Bernard aint no fairytale and if he catches you here he'll eat you for his breakfast.' She eyed him speculatively. 'Well, part of his breakfast maybe; you're a bit on the skinny side. Come on in then, at your own risk.'
Just as Jack was starting to explore, Bernard came home. With nowhere to escape to, Madge hid Jack inside the massive oven. The castle walls shook as the giant sat down heavily and waited for his breakfast. 'Oh, I'm so hungry,' he said. 'I could eat at least four humans today.' 'I haven't got any,' said Madge. 'You'll have to make do with a roast pig and half a ton of potatoes this morning.' Jack thought he had a good appetite but it was nothing to Bernard's. He watched in amazement as the giant polished off all the food. Eventually he was full and called to Madge to bring his bags of gold. 'Get them yourself, you lazy hound,' she said. 'I'm not going to put my back out hauling socking great bags of gold to the table.' Grumbling, Bernard heaved himself out of the chair and the walls shook again as he stomped to his safe and bought out his bags of gold. He began counting the coins at the table but soon his hearty lunch caught up with him and he went to sleep. When he was sure the giant was in a deep sleep, Jack crept out of the oven and over to the table. Whoohoo, it was worth the climb up the Gunnera for some of these. He swiped a bag of gold and ran quickly away from the castle and scrambled back down the spiky plant.
Back on the ground he ran to show his wife the bag of gold. She looked inside and then looked at Jack in disbelief. 'You're such a numpty,' she said. 'I don't know where you got them from. They're actually chocolate coins covered in gold paper, so I hope you didn't pay good money for them.' Jack's heart sank. As his excitement ebbed he became aware of his scratched and bleeding arms and legs. 'Did you fleece up the Gunnera?' asked his wife. 'Fleece?' said Jack blankly. 'Ah ... fleece ... well ...' His wife rolled her eyes. 'That's a "no" then. Well, get back up there and get that fleece on and no more talk of giants, magic carpets and the like. Sounds to me more like you found a stash of magic mushrooms with all that talk.'
Wearily Jack took the fleece from her and climbed back up the Gunnera stalk. At the top the stone castle still shimmered at the end of the winding road. Instantly he forgot his tiredness and his mission. Abandoning the fleece to its fate he set off once more for the castle. 'Magic mushrooms ... I'll show her.'
Madge was wielding a giant hoover in the hall. 'Oh, it's you is it? The chocolate coin thief. Bernard knew he was a bag short, so I knew where it had gone. He's not a happy giant today and he hasn't had his lunch yet and he's partial to a bit of roasted human in a sandwich. If he gets the smell of you, you'll be on the menu.' 'No chance,' said Jack confidently. 'He'll have to catch me first.' Madge shrugged and eyed him up. 'Reckon you'd make a nice roast with potatoes and veg around you. You'd go down a treat.' Jack was beginning to think this escapade might not be such a good idea after all and was about to back out when he heard 'Fee fie fo fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman. Be he alive or be he dead, I'll break his bones to make my bread.' 'Hells bells,' said Madge. 'He's home early, he must be hungry. Quick, get in the oven. He can't smell you in there.' Reluctantly Jack climbed in, hoping Madge's talk of roasting him was just that ... just talk. Madge went back to the table. 'Don't be such a plonker, Bernard. We don't eat Englishmen any more. You can have a Frenchman, we're not in the E.U. now.' 'Hmph' said Bernard. 'Too much garlic in a Frenchman. What's for lunch? I'm starving.' 'Pie and chips,' said Madge and put a huge plateful in front of him. Being a giant, Bernard had a big frame to fill. Jack grew very hungry watching Bernard munch is way through plate after plate of pie and chips. At last he finished and called to Madge to fetch his golden hen. 'And what did your last one die of? I am not your servant. Fetch it yourself, I'm busy.' 'I wouldn't pay that woman in washers if she was my servant,' grumbled Bernard as he fetched his golden hen. 'Lay me a golden egg,' he commanded the hen. Promptly she laid an egg. Jack's eyes widened in surprise. Indeed the egg was golden. Wow, he wanted a piece of this action. Gently stroking the hen, the giant fell asleep. Jack crept out of the oven and carefully removed the hen from the table. He tiptoed out of the room and once outside the castle, ran back to the Gunnera and shimmied his way back down into the garden.
His wife was weeding in the vegetable patch. Excitedly Jack put the hen down in front of her. 'Watch this,' he said, 'we're gonna be rich.' His wife raised her eyebrows sceptically. 'No-one ever got rich keeping hens. 'Lay me a golden egg,' Jack commanded the hen. The hen laid an egg. Just that, an ordinary egg. Jack eyed her in dismay. 'A golden egg, I said.' The hen laid another egg, an ordinary egg. 'What's with you,' said his wife. 'Chocolate, now eggs! I think you've lost the plot. And have you fleeced up the Gunnera plants yet?' 'No, I haven't. But I know there's gold to be had up there. Madge and Bernard ... they live in this amazing castle. You should see it. They must be as rich as anything. I tell you, that hen laid a golden egg for Bernard and if you'd seen the pie and chips he put away for his lunch ...' 'Mmm, definitely magic mushrooms,' said his wife. 'I'll have a look and see where you're getting them from and if you don't get those Gunnera fleeced up today, you won't be getting pie and chips either. In fact, you won't be getting anything.'
A mulish determination settled over Jack. He'd show her. The fleece was tangled up in the spiky stalks of the Gunnera. Once he had freed it, Jack set off once more. Standing on the path above the clouds he looked for Madge but she was nowhere to be seen. Jack slipped into the castle and wandered around the ground floor rooms, marvelling at the polished furniture and roaring fires burning in every fireplace. Coming into the kitchen he eyed one of the pies the giant could not manage at lunchtime. Hunger made him drool and he took a slice and stuffed it into his mouth. Pure heaven, Madge was a great cook.
Then the walls and floors started to shake as Bernard approached. 'Fee fie foe fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman. Be he alive or be he dead, I'll break his bones to make my bread.' Jack hid behind a large copper pot just as Madge appeared with dinner. She slapped it down on the table. 'Bernard! Change the record, for goodness sake. You're getting fixated. There's no-one here but me. Now eat your dinner and get out from under my feet. I've got work to do even if you haven't.' 'Well, I can smell an Englishman, I don't care what she says,' muttered Bernard, as he tucked into a mound of mashed potato and gravy. Jack eyed the stack of pork chops piled on a separate plate enviously. When he had finished, Bernard got up and bought a golden harp to the table. 'No good asking Madge to bring it,' he said. 'I might as well ask the cat and we haven't even got one. And anyway, she doesn't even like this music. Led Zepplin or Black Sabbath's more her stuff.' The golden harp started playing music and soon the giant dozed off. I'm with Madge on this one, thought Jack. That music is truly terrible, but a golden harp ... I bet that's worth a bob or two. Surely my wife won't turn her nose up at that. Jack crept to the table and picked up the harp. Immediately it stopped playing and Bernard woke up. 'I knew it,' he roared. 'A flaming Englishman and stealing my harp! Oh no you don't.' Jack kept tight hold of the golden harp and legged it. He could run much faster than the lumbering giant. He climbed back down the Gunnera, the sharp, hairy spikes gouging chunks out of his arms and legs. Up above, he saw Bernard peering down through the cloud base. 'Best get you and Madge on to your magic carpet,' shouted Jack. 'I'm gonna chop these Gunnera down. Time for you to move on.' Bernard roared and shook his fist at Jack, but there was nothing he could do. They were not earth dwellers and once again he had been outsmarted by an Englishman. Ten minutes later, Madge and Bernard took off on their magic carpet and Jack took an axe to the Gunnera. When she saw her precious plants in ruins, his wife wept. 'Now what are we going to do? However can we afford to replace them?' 'No worries,' said Jack. I just happen to have a golden harp here. It will fetch a bob or two, more than enough for a few Gunnera.' His wife looked at the harp. 'Gold paint, Jack. I don't know where you got it from, but they saw you coming. I think you need to go for a long lie down. That, or see a psychiatrist, or maybe both. Giants ... magic carpets ... castles in the clouds! I've found that patch of magic mushrooms, Jack, so there won't be any more nonsense with our next Gunnera.
Oh, won't there? Jack looked up to the sky. Madge and Bernard were up there somewhere ... The End
Goodbye, dear reader. Have a good week. I hope you are enjoying the summer holidays. If you're sitting out in your garden this week, look up to the sky. You never know, you might just spot Madge and Bernard passing by. Very best wishes to you.
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a sunny Sunday at Comb Towers. The weather is very hot and dry. My computer says that rain is coming, but the Met Office says not today. It will be interesting to see who is right. I hope you are well and in good fettle and enjoying the summer.
Spouse and I ventured out to an out of town shopping centre near York this week. The days have been very hot and so we set out in the cool of the early morning, to make the hours journey before the day hotted up and the crowds came out. Spouse was driving and I was texting with my friend, Jenny. Or I should say, trying to text. How bossy is the predictive text on my phone? On a scale of one to ten, I would say nine and a half. It tried to interfere with every sentence I wrote and was not up for taking 'no' for an answer, even though it was writing nonsense. I started off trying to type, 'Good morning, Jenny, how are you today?' Left to the phone my conversation with Jenny would proceed thus :
Me Good going morning, thank afternoon. However, aren't area yours this?
Jenny I am fine and what are you up to today? Are you OK?
Me Well, we're, I'm imagine OMG, ingredients! Glad going tonight, tomorrow to yoyo toupees.
Jenny I know it's a bit early, but have you been out on the razzle?
Me No, not now. I'm just sorry going out home through my day dinner, driving in the garage.
Jenny Too much medication ...?
Me You and your friend and your family?
Jenny Not me, you chump. I mean you. You're not making sense.
Me Sounds WhatsApp going with me.
Jenny Or your phone has taken over control of you.
Me I think I have hope, it's aleatory.
Jenny What is that?
Me The inherent uncertainty due to the probabilistic various bar.
Jenny Have you just made that up?
Me No, of now. I'm still statisticians attached until the hope it heads off.
Jenny Put your phone away and go and lie down. I'll ring you later on. Aleatory! As if ... xx
Me OK, because I have know it is really right.
I could quite get to enjoy these conversations dear reader. Somewhere in them there is a weird kind of logic going on. I think I have just invented a new pastime, a bit like the old paper game of 'Consequences.' I hope you have a good week, dear reader. Perhaps I should do as Jenny recommends and go for a long lie down. Things can only improve.
Good afternoon dear reader and welcome to a truly beautiful summer day in North Yorkshire. It is wonderful to see the sun. The plants and shrubs in the garden are all in bloom and look bloomin' beautiful. We await the arrival of a new water storage tank and my new shed. Unfortunately, this will be much delayed as the sawmill supplying it is snowed under with orders for summerhouses - pandemic staycations are changing the way we use use our gardens. So Spouse gets a rest from his outdoor labours and can catch up with sorting out his own shed for a change.
I have had an interesting week - garden wise. The bottom of our garden gets very moist, as our neighbour's underground stream ribbons under our boundary and on into next door's garden. My latest planting ideas to absorb the moisture and give some interest and colour in spring and summer are Gunnera and bog garden plants. Gunnera are pretty spectacular - they're not known as giant rhubarb for nothing, although they are not edible. But, dear reader, trying to get hold of Gunnera at this time of year is nigh impossible. Partly that I am late in the season in looking and partly that the pandemic has meant meagre supplies this year.
So ... I tracked some down to a well known plant and seed supplier. I will spare their blushes and keep their annonimity. Some weeks ago I placed an order over the internet and paid for my plants. No more was heard and no plants arrived. I emailed enquiring as to their whereabouts. Josh replied.
Dear Patricia, after reading through your email today I am able to confirm there has been an unfortunate back order while trying to process this. The revised dispatch date I am being shown is 1st August. You will be issued with a tracking number upon dispatch. If I can be of any further assistance please do not hesitate to get in contact. With best regards, Josh B. Fifteen - Love. Patricia to serve.
Dear Josh, thank you for your email. I have to admire your elastic use of the Queen's English language - I would venture to suggest almost to the point of terminological inexactitude. "There has been an unfortunate back order whilst trying to process this" ??? Senseless gobbledegook. Do you mean you lost the order? Best wishes, Patricia. Fifteen - All. Josh B to serve.
Dear Patricia, sadly for me I only attended a secondary modern school. Yes, I am quite ancient and well past my sell-by date, but as a retired nurseryman some of my knowledge comes in useful here. I don't really understand your email, I think you were having a dig, but in spite of that I think I have got some Gunnera for you. Best wishes, Josh. Thirty - Fifteen. Patricia to serve.
Dear Josh, Thank you for your email. Nothing wrong with a secondary modern education. At least in that era a spade was a spade. So where did you acquire the phrase, "an unfortunate back order" from? Sounds modern algorithm-speak to me. Best wishes, Patricia. P.S. Thanks for the Gunnera info. Thirty - All. Josh B to serve.
Dear Patricia, Josh has gone to lie down in a darkened room. Your talk of algorithm-speak finished him off. I think he thinks he has accidentally slipped through a time warp and has come up against a whole new language. Don't think he's ready for that. I have taken on his caseload for now and I am very sorry for the delay regarding the delivery of your Gunnera plant. I am going to investigate this back order and find out when we can give you an accurate delivery date. Thank you for your patience in this matter and apologies for the inconvenience caused. Best wishes, Carol H. Forty - Thirty. Patricia to serve.
Dear Carol, dear oh dear. We are back to "back orders" are we? I still don't know what one of those is; I suspect is is a mislaid order if we are being charitable. That aside, I am slightly alarmed, as you only mention Gunnera plant, singular. I ordered Gunnera plants, plural. I hope you recover my "back order" soon. Best wishes, Patricia. P.S. Please give my best wishes to Josh. I always find a good lie down works wonders. Deuce. Carol H to serve.
Dear Patricia, thank you for your email and good wishes for Josh. I have passed them on to him. The good news is that he is slowly rallying and we hope to have him back on the team soon. The bad news is that we have sold out of Gunnera plants and will not have any in stock until next year. We have issued you a ful refund to be paid back into the original method you used to place this order. Please accept our sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused. Regards, Carol H. Advantage Patricia. Patricia to serve.
Dear Carol, the mystery of the disappearing Gunnera! It could be the title for a new book. Perhaps Josh could help me plot it, when he is not lying down. We could write a horticultural whodunnit, utilising his vast plantsman's knowledge. Now there's a thought to cheer him up, or possibly send him back into orbit to fall through another time warp. Ah well, roll on next year. Maybe I'm gonna getta Gunnera then. Best wishes to you both, Patricia. Game, Set and Match.
Goodbye, dear reader. Have a lovely sunny week and enjoy your favourite tipple under the shade of the sun umbrella. I will toast your good health with a well-earned G & T, whilst I plot "The Mystery Of The Disappearing Gunnera." Cheers.
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a slightly misty morning at Chez Comb. I am delighted to be misty - well, not me but my garden, the more moisture the better. I know I will complain when it is hurling it down with rain in the winter, but I am very grateful for the intermittent drops we have had this week.
We spent a few days in Teesside this week, visiting old friends and old haunts. It was a lovely trip, but as ever in our lives, not without incident; funny and not so funny.
The main reason for our few days away was to spend time with our friend Andrew. He leads a full and busy life fitting in lots of voluntary work in spite of his spina bifida. But, he has been on enforced bed rest for over a year now, to allow a deep ulcerated wound on his back to slowly heal. And it's a very slow process. Andrew has been amazingly forebearing as his life suddenly ground to a halt, but even his patience is wearing thin now. So, believe it or not, dear reader, we thought a visit from our good selves might alleviate his boredom and even cheer him up a bit. We had a lovely time and it was all too short. We'll be going back again soon with new strings for his guitar and hope between us that we will raise the roof with live music and song.
Spouse and I had a little trip down memory lane in the late afternoon and visited our old special places and country walks. We arrived back at Ann's house, (Andrew's Mum), hungry as hunters and ready to make our choices from the Chinese takeaway menu. Job done and we all trooped off to Andrew's small bungalow to have dinner with him. And then, Ann discovered she had left her handbag at home - with the takeaway orders in it and the money!! As home was only a short walk away, Spouse volunteered to go and collect it for her. His offer was gratefully accepted and off he went. Never, never, my dear reader, in all our years of marriage have I ever managed to get Spouse to even momentarily hold my bag for me, but for this lovely lady he happily strode through the streets clutching a strappy white handbag to his manly bosom. Ha ha, and wouldn't you know it, he met someone he knew! 'Didn't think that was your style lad,' said the gent. 'It's not mine,' says Spouse. 'My friend, Ann, left it at home.' The acquaintance grinned broadly. 'Aye, that'll be right lad,' and walked on. I think, dear reader, that's the first and last time Spouse will ever carry a bag.
After a lot of eating, drinking and talking we were late to bed and I anticipated a little lie in as there was no hurry to rush away the next day. Sadly it was not to be. if you don't like gory descriptions look away now, my dear reader, it gets a bit grim. It was a beautifully sunny summer morning; Spouse was sleeping peacefully beside me and I was half-awake. I was busy designing a garden in my head and gorgeous images of lush rolling lawns and flower-filled borders floated past my closed eyes. Don't ask me where this amazing garden was going to be as the ideas were swiftly driven out of my head.
As I mentally pottered around my Garden of Eden, Spouse stirred and I sensed him turning towards me. Reluctant to let go of my beautiful garden, I kept my eyes closed. Big mistake. When I opened them, Spouse was looking over me, smiling his happy morning smile - and drenched in blood; not only that, but spilling blood all over me too ... and the sheet ... and the pillows...
'Oh my God,' I shrieked, 'what's going on?' For a moment Spouse looked puzzled and then he saw the blood spilling over himself and on to me. He put his hands up to his face and they came away covered in blood. Both of us leapt out of bed, blood spattering everywhere and on to everything. 'I think my nose is bleeding,' says Spouse, grabbing a flannel and rushing off to the bathroom.
Honestly, dear reader, I don't think I've every seen as much blood on the set of a Midsummer Murder programme. I know Spouse has got round about ten pints to keep him going, but I reckon about three of them were spattered about the room, all over me and trailing out to the bathroom. I ventured out on to the landing on my way to see if Spouse was still alive and met up with Ann. Well, you can imagine, can't you? Your house guest emerging from her room covered in blood, raises a smidgen of alarm in the calmest of breasts. And alarmed Ann most certainly was. 'What's happened?' she asked. Looking at her upset and bloodstained guest, I fear she was not actually looking forward to the answer. I hastened to reassure her that no-one had died. Oh, the look of relief on her face. 'Well, it looks like a scene from 'Midsummer Murders,' she said and peering through the open door to our room, she questioned my statement. 'Are you sure ... where is he ... Is he alright?'
Thankfully, just then, Spouse emerged from the bathroom, still bloodstained but cleaned up a bit and very much alive. The nosebleed had stopped and he still had a few more pints of blood keeping him going. If it had been a Midsummer Murder, a forensic scientist would have had a field day in that room, never mind a paper trail ... follow the blood!
Spouse was despatched to sit in the fresh air of the cool summer morning and we cleaned things up and laundry was done. Mercifully all was well and no trace of the incident remained afterwards, but I think it will be a long time before the bloody images and memories fade. It may be safer to sleep in the summer house next time we visit - come to think of it, I adored doing that as a child! Spouse appears to be fit and well once more and is as busy as ever about his projects. Let's hope it stays that way.
Good luck to our wonderful England team tonight. We are keeping everything crossed for their success and hope we will all be celebrating long into the night. My very best wishes to you, dear reader and have a great week.
Good morning dear reader. Just a short note to let you know that Spouse and I are playing hookey away from the old homestead and are visiting old friends in the north-east of England. I will be back with you again next week. In the meantime, stay safe and I wish you a very happy week.
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a lovely June morning in North Yorkshire. It feels as if the summer is racing by and I am running to keep up with it. I am grateful that we had a little rain during the week, but even so, my poor old garden pots dried out a bit so I am having to be extra vigilant in checking moisture levels now. Spouse is nearing the end of digging out the ground for my new shed base. He is so focused on his task that I don't think he's even noticed that the grass is growing ever longer and we shall soon be wading through it. The upside of that is that there is plenty of flowering clover, daisies and buttercups for the bees to go at. Every cloud and all that ...
Spouse was at the dentist this week for a little treatment to a troublesome tooth. Whilst he was waiting in the reception room, he could not but help overhearing the lady receptionists as they answered the telephone and dealt with client appointments and queries. However, one telephone call obviously did not relate to dental matters. All Spouse heard was, 'Well, have you looked inside the seagull's mouth? And look on the floor. If you can't manage I'll come home and give you a hand.' How intriguing was that! Live seagull? Dead seagull? And what might it have had in its mouth? Sadly, at that moment Spouse was called for his date with the dentist and so we are none the wiser.
The incident got us thinking about the times we have overheard an odd remark made by a passing stranger. I am sure it will have happened to you too, dear reader and don't you just long to stop them in their tracks and ask them all about it. I've never yet had the courage to do that, but I hope one day that I do. The boot being on the other foot, so to speak, the young lady supermarket assistant definitely froze in her tracks when I remarked to Spouse that 'Sam had bled a lot when you shot him and you'll have to clean the dustbin out now.' Sam was a vicious Muscovy duck but she wasn't to know that!
When we were living in France, we went to register a new car at the Town Hall. The French adore their paper work and every form needs to be completed at least in triplicate, so you can imagine the fun and games we had with that. When we had completed the forms we waited in line behind another English woman who was being attended to. I don't know what she was there for, but I think the gentleman administrateur behind the counter must have asked her age. The lady drew herself up and haughtily announced in broad Lancastrian, 'I'm as old as me bus pass and a bit older than me teeth and that's all you need to know, young man.' And you know what, in spite of the French insistence on dotting every i and crossing every t, he got no further with the lady and accepted defeat with a gallic shrug.
The best one of all for me was when we were on the top of a London bus on our way to the Chelsea Flower Show. Two young girls were sitting directly behind us, deep in conversation. Being a writer, (well, that's my excuse), I like to watch and listen to other people as much as possible. Unfortunately, try as I might I could not really catch the drift of their conversation - until the bus drew up at our stop and the roar of the engine quietened sufficiently for me to overhear this nugget. 'She was a right little bitch to him and didn't treat him right. So, I slept with him myself just to teach her a lesson.' Oh for the back story to that one and also, what happened next! Sadly, Spouse was urging me to get a move on. Hindsight's a wonderful thing, but oh, how I wish I had sat down again just to get the next bit of the story.
Ah well, next time I visit the dentist maybe I will ask about the seagull. It won't be many weeks now before our seagulls are back in action. I might have a tale or two of my own then. Have a good week, dear reader. I hear we may be in for a July heatwave, so I'd better do a bit of rain dancing before then to get the water butts replenished. You might want to give North Yorkshire a wide berth for a while, there could be some strange sights to see.
Good morning dear reader and a warm but wet welcome to life at Chez Comb. I see I have not lost my powers when it comes to rain dancing. We are deluged with the stuff, but I have no complaints, we need it. My only problem is that the bottom of our garden is very wet, almost boggy as my neighbour's natural pond and well flows underground, travels through our garden and into the next one. My poor old laurel bushes are giving up the fight, so I have taken drastic action and planted a couple of gunnera - they're not nicknamed 'giant rhubarb' for nothing. I'm going to plant lots of bog loving plants too and see what happens. Hopefully their combined efforts will take up the excess moisture. Famine and feast - the rest of the garden is dry as a bone and will be extremely grateful for the rain, or will be when it recovers from the battering.
Spouse has had an excellent week working away on the new base for my shed. When he took up the old shed floor, he discovered the foundations were made up of an assortment of broken flagstones laid to bare earth. He has taken them all up and is now levelling the ground with sand and laying the collection of pavers we have gathered in the course of re-modelling the garden.
I had a few 'messages' to do further afield from the village this week and so I lured Spouse away from his project with the promise of lunch at a local garden centre. The café has now re-opened with social distancing measures in place and as the food is particularly good there, Spouse did not need much persuading. I say there were social distancing measures in place and so there were; unfortunately half the diners complied and the other half took no notice. We were supposed to sit at our tables and wait to be called to place our order at the counter. I think a lot of the time people just didn't listen to the instructions given to them by the staff and so just did their own thing, joining a queue that should never have been a queue! Then other people were coming in from the garden centre proper by the back door, not registering their presence and also joining the queue! I felt sorry for the staff. They were rushed off their feet, deluged with lunch orders whilst trying to control this almost uncontrollable leviathan of customers who have so recently been let loose to socialise again.
My other novel post-lockdown experience this week was a visit to the dentist. Part of a filling had come away from a tooth and I was booked in for early July to have it attended to. But, lucky old me, I was offered a cancellation appointment on Tuesday. As dental appointments are akin to gold dust these days, I did indeed feel most fortunate! I have been for a couple of check ups since the pandemic began and the staff wore their normal garb with the addition of face masks. But on this visit, as I would be receiving treatment, they were gowned up in the full monty PPE. I was really taken aback when I walked into the treatment room, it was like gazing on a pair of astronauts, only dressed in bright yellow and wearing protective face visors. The poor ladies - it was a roaring hot day; they had to have the window open for the air flow - letting in the heat of the day and the smell of the new tarmac being laid on the village high street outside. Their space suits crackled with every move and they perspired profusely inside them. I pay tribute to their true grit to get the job done, uncomplainingly. As soon as I was done and out of the chair, they stripped the suits off, with great relief I imagine. I hope their days of having to wear the PPE won't last too long. I am grateful my gnashers are fully operational again and have promised to treat them with great respect and keep away from the harder foods in future.
Spouse is staring out of the window as I write, unhappily watching the rain fall. Horses for courses - he does not welcome the interruption to his project and I am delighted my garden is being watered Ah well, you can't please all of the people all of the time. Have a good week, dear reader. We are almost at Midsummer's Day and I hope the sunshine will return soon and we can all bask in it again. Take care and stay safe.
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a truly scorching Sunday morning at Chez Comb. We could indeed be in the south of France with all the beautiful weather we have been enjoying this week. Evening watering of my many pots, sinks and tubs has been ongoing. Thankfully we have lots of rainwater butts and a large 1,000 litre IBC water tank. Even so, I will have to step outside and do a rain dance soon, (don't worry - I'll make sure the darkness has descended when I do it - don't want to scare the neighbours). Our free water supplies are dwindling and Mother Nature needs a nudge to redress the balance. Spouse is still clearing the site for my new mega-shed and in the process is creating a space for another IBC tank. With the effects of global warming, I think we need to harvest every drop of water that we can.
Speaking of Spouse and let's face it when don't I? He has laboured away like Hercules again this week and has finally got the better of the old tree stump. It has been demolished and the remains now reside under an old shrubbery in our front garden for the insect life to enjoy for years to come. Spouse has now turned his attention to dismantling the old shed and, being the thrifty soul he is, has taken it apart as carefully as he can in order to upcycle as much wood as possible and save the rest for our winter fires. Well, my dear reader, the sun shone brightly and fiercely but dear Spouse has stuck to his task throughout the week and every night trailed back up the garden, black as a rat and happy as a sandboy, being a few steps nearer to saying goodbye to the old shed.
In and amongst all this activity our old friend, the hungry seagull returned to visit us. In the early Spring Mr Seagull and his lady love took up residence on Spouse's shed roof and made many a sortie into the garden to raid our bird feeders which led them to explore the garden some more and hence they found the pond - and the fish within. I remember the moment they found them. Casual curiosity turned instantly to intense scrutiny and concentration. I could almost hear their seagull thoughts, 'Oh my - breakfast!!!' And so began the first seagull war - the pair of them kept on trying a sneaky fishing expedition when they thought we weren't around - only we were and would rush out to see them off. Only one day we were too late and they nabbed a fish apiece and perched triumphantly on the shed roof, taunting us with their meal dangling from their beaks.
And so, Spouse made some wooden frames and covered them with netting to place over the pond to deter any further fishing expeditions and this proved successful. The seagulls investigated the frames but could not find any access to the pond. Well and good and they pushed off - co-incidentally I think, as it was nesting time. Unfortunately for us, their nesting efforts must have been successful as now Mr Seagull has re-appeared in search of food, probably for a growing family of chicks and so the seagull wars have recommenced. For a couple of days I did my mad woman dash out to the garden to scare him off, but he was soon back and patrolling the perimeter of the pond intently watching for fish. Spouse was working behind his shed and so couldn't keep watch for our gull friend.
Out came the netted frames again, only we couldn't put them across the pond as all the summer reeds and plants were growing up apace. Instead, we fixed them around the sides, like cot sides to a bed. 'That will keep him off,' says Spouse confidently and returned to his work. Oh no it didn't!! Spouse worked patiently on dismantling the shed and Mr Seagull worked diligently at trying to find a way into the pond, without success. One day he tried a bit too hard and hopped up on to the edge of the frame. The prop supporting it gave way under his weight and collapsed with a bang. Up shoots Mr Seagull into the air, squawking wildly. He wheeled away flying low in Spouse's direction and narrowly skimmed his head. Spouse dodged to avoid him; trouble was, he was holding the whole gable end of the shed at the time and it came crashing down on his head. Oh dearie me, out with the steri strips and plasters again.
We have re-inforced our defences and Mr Seagull still visits, but for the moment we seem to have called a truce. He gets a drink from our old water trough and trashes a few of my pot plants in his frustration, but that is all. Watch this space, dear reader. I don't think we're done yet by a long chalk.
I am aware of the phrase, 'be careful what you wish for,' but I do wish for some rain and I'm sure the local farmers do too. Their crops will be in great need of water by now. Rain dancing it will have to be. Have a good week, dear reader and enjoy the sunshine, (and rain if we get it). Meanwhile, I will be out with my watering can again this evening - no rest for the wicked!
Good morning dear reader. How lovely to meet up with you again on this beautiful June morning. I hope you are well and have been basking in the glorious sunshine this week. Spouse and I have enjoyed working in our garden. Ah, well ... I should qualify that. I have enjoyed working in the garden. I imagine Spouse thinks he has spent a week working in the salt mines. It must have felt like that for him.
As I have previously mentioned, Spouse is working his way towards replacing my old and dilapidated garden shed with a new big one, along the lines of his own mega-shed. So the base for the new shed needs to increase - only there's a whacking great tree stump in the way, complete with roots that must reach Australia. Poor old Spouse has spent the whole week mining the tree stump and its roots with a huge axe, chainsaw, electric saw, hammer and chisel ... you name it, he's thrown everything at it. Every evening he has trailed back up the garden, black as a rat, but a few steps nearer to winning the fight. Quite possibly a week in the salt mines might have been preferable.
This coming week he is starting to dismantle the old shed. He informs me that it is full of rusty nails sticking out in odd places and at odd angles. I think a visit to the chemist may be required to stock up on antiseptics and dressings. I will not be Ethelred the Unready this time.
I greatly appreciate Spouse's labours on my behalf and it must be said, he is very happy to assist my horticultural endeavours. That what he says. But I think he secretly hopes I might do a Roald Dahl and make it my writing shed and then he'd get some peace and quiet indoors! In your sweet dreams, dear Spouse, but I won't tell you that yet.
You may think the title of this blog is a bit odd, unless your a Scot. 'The Messages' in Scotland refers to running the errands, doing the shopping, etc. Spouse has always enjoyed doing the 'messages' - not the actual shopping, but the odd and quirky errands that arise in life. Only there was one particular 'message' that he almost certainly did not enjoy.
A few years ago we were living in south-west Scotland and working full-time. I had signed up for a British Film Institute screenwriting course. The classes took place every weekend for a number of weeks, which didn't leave me much time for other activities, least of all 'the messages'. As part of the course we were given Brokeback Mountain, by Annie Proulx to read. A beautifully written story about two homosexual cowboys. Then we were asked to get hold of the DVD and watch the first half hour or so in order to observe how the story translated to the screen.
Well and good, dear reader. Now, here's the rub. The opening times of our small, local library did not coincide with my off duty hours - but they did with Spouse's. So I asked him to see if he could hire the DVD for me. Now, whilst Spouse is not homophobic, he is of the older generation that is not given to discussing matters of sexuality. So, having to ask for said DVD at the library was not an easy deal for him.
However, manning up to the task, he took himself off to the library. As told to me - he sidled up to the counter and asked very quickly, in a gruff, low voice if they had a copy of Brokeback Mountain. The library lady could not catch what he said. 'What was the title, Sir?' 'Brokeback Mountain', he mumbled again, getting very hot under the collar. 'Oh, Brokeback Mountain. I'm sorry, Sir, we don't have it here, but I can order it in for you.' So, Spouse agreed to that and made a red-faced and rapid exit. Sure enough a few days later the call came to say the DVD was awaiting collection at the library. Off trails Spouse and again had to mumble his way through the request for Brokeback Mountain. The DVD was handed over and Spouse made a hurried exit. Only on arriving home he discovered he hadn't been given Brokeback Mountain at all, but an entirely different DVD.
I think by this time he was fit to bust. The thought of having to go back again nearly broke him. But, God bless his cotton socks, he knew I had to see the film so, girding up every loin he had, he returned to the library. Once again he sidled up to the counter and quietly explained that they had given him the wrong film. 'Oh,' says the lady, 'what was it that you had ordered?' 'Brokeback Mountain,' mumbles Spouse. 'What's that?' 'Brokeback Mountain,' he whispered hoarsly. 'Oh, Brokeback Mountain,' she repeated in a loud voice. Spouse was ready to slide under the counter by now. The lady checked the records. 'Ah, yes. It's here somewhere.' She rummaged under the counter ande found a package. 'Here it is,' she flourished it triumphantly. 'Brokeback Mountain. Sorry we got your order mixed up, Sir.' Spouse took the DVD and slunk out of the library. He has vowed, never again .. never, never, never again is he running messages for me.
Some years on and I think he's finally got over it and he does still do 'the messages'. But not this week. I think he'll be quite happy knocking seven bells out of the old shed and I shall keep well out of his way as there will be axes and hammers going in all directions.
Have a lovely week, dear reader and I hope we will meet agin next week, full of the joys of summer if the weather forecasts are to be believed. Take care and enjoy yourself.
Good morning dear reader and welcome finally, to a lovely sunny Sunday at Comb Towers. Our meteorologists promise us a couple of fairly good days and then the temperatures may drop back again.However, I hope I find you in good fettle and enjoying the Bank Holiday weekend. I am feeling quite chipper this morning and looking forward to going out into my garden, in spite of a bit of a domestic hiccup during the week.
You may remember, dear reader, that last week I related the tale of Spouse and the rather luscious lady he met at a party in France. I never, in my wildest dreams, expected to be following it up with another tale of a lady this week. But there you are, dear reader, you just never know ...
Last week I was in the process of switching from one mobile phone provider to another and falling between two stools, so to speak, I was going to be without any service for one day. It so happened on that day that I wanted to text my sister about a gardening matter. No phone - next best best thing - Spouse's phone. Yes, I know you know where I am going with this and so I am!
Spouse was down at the bottom of the garden, still wielding the large axe and chainsaw on that horrid old tree stump. But his phone was in his den. I opened it up and lo and behold - there was a new text message. 'Thank you for the beautiful flowers and chocolates. They are lovely. See you soon. Miss D.'
Oh really ... Miss D? And who in the name of glory is Miss D? And why is Spouse sending her flowers and chocolates? And how come she's getting some and I'm not? Softly, softly, catchee monkey here. I resisted the temptation to rush down the garden, demanding to know who the hell Miss D is and then brain him with a spade - although I might have felt better for it.
No, I waited until I was setting the dining room table for dinner and mused aloud to Spouse as I too..d and fro..d with cutlery and plates. 'Seems a long time since we had any fresh flowers in this room,' says I. 'Flowers really lift a room, don't they?' 'Hmm,' says Spouse noncommittedly. 'What's that?' 'Flowers,' I said with emphasis. 'I said flowers really lift a room, don't they? Perhaps we should buy a bunch of flowers.' 'Mmm,' said Spouse and returned to his book.
That lure, having got me nowhere, I tried again after dinner. 'I quite fancy a chocolate,' says I. 'We haven't had chocolates for a while have we? Not since Easter. 'A lovely box of chocolates,' I said through gritted teeth. Spouse sighed and put his book down, removed his reading glasses and glared at me. 'So, you've been reading my phone.'
'I have,' I said. 'I don't have a phone today and I wanted to text my sister.' I'm sorry to say, dear reader, that I slightly lost the plot at that point. 'And who the hell is Miss D? And what's with the flowers and chocolates?' Oh my, my, dear reader. Why did I ask? Did I really want to know? Sure as heck I did.
'Miss D is a lady of our acquaintance,' says Spouse. 'Is she by jove. Well, she won't be for much longer,' I said indignantly. 'Oh keep your hair on woman,' sighed Spouse. 'What are you imagining? A little light flirtation with Miss D or even a torrid affair? Perlease, get your brain into gear. I haven't got the time or energy for all that nonsense. Living with you is quite enough for any man. Think, woman. Think ... Miss D ...'
'Never mind this "Miss D" nonsense. Why have you got her on your phone in the first place and why are you sending her flowers and chocolates?' 'She's on my phone because she sometimes gives me a little advice on what not to get you for a present, when I have some wilder notions and she got flowers and chocolates because she's just passed her driving test and I wanted to congratulate her and thank her for being such a help. Now can you connect with Miss D ...?
Mmm, dear reader. The penny dropped and I knew who Miss D was. A delightlful young lady of our acquaintance who has been so kind and helpful to us during both lockdowns. I think I have to award myself first prize for being an eejit. My dear Mama was right. How many times did she tell me I was an eejit? Too many to remember, so maybe there is something in that after all.
The upshot of this little hiccup is that Spouse is now permanently in the smug zone, complete with irritating smug grin on his face. And the postscript is that he bounced in the door with a bunch of red roses and a box of chocolates for me the very next day. All is harmonious at Comb Towers once more.
Enjoy the sunshine, my dear reader and the Bank Holiday. See you next week, axes and chainsaws allowing.
Good morning my dear reader and may I wish you a very happy Pentecost Day. We are home again after a short break away and it's lovely to be in your company again. The weather was atrocious but the accommodation and food were excellent - so lovely to have someone else do the cooking. As you know, Spouse is not allowed in the kitchen, a bull in a china shop is less dangerous. But there again, I keep out of his shed, which I confess, I am happy to do - just the sight of all those huge and dangerous looking electric saws gives me the heebie jeebies, so we are both happy. The weather is still pretty ropey. My garden is looking very sodden and like me, hanging in there and waiting for the sunny days to arrive.
During the week a few old memories came to the fore which cause us great merriment. One such is worth sharing I think. When we were out walking on one of the drier days we passed a house built very much in the French country style. This prompted a few memories of our time in France.
Now, you would never imagine Spouse as a bit of a lothario would you? But ... do not be deceived, dear reader. Once at a very jolly soiree, Spouse fell into converse with a very attractive and buxom lady. I, at some distance across a crowded room, could see much animated flirting going on - she, looking up at him, all heaving bosom and fluttering eyelashes and he, quite entranced by her but trying not to stare down her cleavage too much. Our hostess drifted across to me and suggested that maybe I should go and rescue him. 'Doesn't look like he needs rescuing to me,' says I. 'far from it, he's having a whale of a time.'
'She's renowned,' said my hostess. 'Now she's found her man, she'll whisk him off - she know all the quiet places here - he won't stand a chance. She eats men for dinner and spits them out for breakfast.' 'Well, he's a big man,' says I. ' And he's had his dinner so we'll see how far she gets.'
Ha ha, my dear reader. The good lady must have made her move, edging Spouse towards the door. I could see the moment the penny dropped with him as to what her amorous intentions really were. He rapidly backed off and edged his way around the room - to stand behind me! 'Bit too rich, was she?' I asked. 'She's a maneater!' says Spouse. 'I'd never get out alive.' Well, of course, dear reader, I thought it was all hilarious and told him he'd got his just desserts.
For the rest of the evening Spouse was as a limpet clinging to a rock. We might as well have been joined at the hip. Much to his chagrin, the buxom lady occasionally looked across the room to him, smiling a knowing smile as Spouse blushed and pressed even closer to me.
It was quite a while before Spouse recovered himself and was ready to venture out socially again. Before we set out from home to our next soiree, I mischeviously said, 'I just hope Madame X is not there again.' That made the colour drain from Spouse's face. Naughty of me. I knew she wouldn't be there, but a little reminder did no harm.
Meanwhile, dear reader, back to the present day in North Yorkshire and life is a little more mundane. Not a buxom wench in sight only an enormous tree stump that is slap bang in the middle of the ground where my new shed will be - I hope and so the stump has to go. Unfortunately, with the heavy rains the site is sodden and muddy and Spouse is having a tough time of it. Weather permitting he will persevere with the task this week and I shall speak nicely to him as he wields his massive axe at the stump!
Take care, dear reader and have a good week. I am back to barrowing new gravel on the drive again. Much more of this and I will be putting out the deckchairs and pretending I'm on Brighton beach! See you next week - the mad axeman of Yorkshire permitting.
Hello my dear reader, just a short note to let you know that I am getting time off for good behaviour, as Spouse has decreed this coming week a holiday. Having just unloaded and distributed the latest 3 tons of gravel for the drive, we are going to have time away, now that England has opened up again.
We will meet up again next weekend and in the meantime, have a great week - possibly in spite of the weather!
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a lovely sunny Sunday at Chez Comb. What a change from the rest of this last week, when it has been perishingly cold and wet. Any more rain and we will be needing webbed feet! I hope you have had a good week and enjoyed the rain, hail and occasional glimmer of sunshine. Once again Spouse and I are enjoying peak marital harmony - he is down at the bottom of the garden playing with boys toys and I have been a domestic goddess indoors.
The previous owners of our house left behind an enormous old oil drum which we would like to take to the scrapyard, so Spouse has been having fun cutting it up with his electric grinder - sparks flying in all directions and too near to a wooden fence for my comfort, so I have been lurking indoors away from the action. I have manically spring-cleaned the house amd polished up all our old wooden furniture. I don't think our home has ever looked so handsome or squeaky clean. Quite scary really. I think I need to mess it up a bit to make it feel like home again.
We had a day out to Teesside this week. The neighbours who lived on the farm below us in the Durham Dales, (Sylvia and Derek of the gaffa tape incident), have retired to Teesside and the weather forecast for once being clement, we motored over for lunch in their garden. Naturally the talk turned to our smallholding days and our many adventures in snowy blizzards and glorious sunshine. I though it might be nice to share a couple of these memories with you, my dear reader.
One snowy winter's night, the four of us were having dinner together, Sylvia cooking a wonderful meal and Derek being an attentive host. Relaxing afterwards by a roaring log fire, we enjoyed an after dinner liquer. Then Derek said, 'Hey, I've still got some of my Grandfather's Apple Schanpps. Would you like to try some?' I passed on the Schanpps, memories of a student drama tour many years ago, still too vivid. However, Spouse is always ready to try new things and readily agreed. My dear reader, he took to it like a duck to water and between them they made good inroads on the bottle. Eventually it was time to take our leave and we headed off into the icy starlit night.
In the normal course of things Spouse and I would walk slowly up our lane, getting a full cardio-vascular workout as we made our way up the steep farm track. But that night, dear reader, filled with rocket fuel-strength Schanpps, Spouse raced ahead of me like an Olympic runner and didn't appear to be at all out of breath when I finally caught up with him at our garden gate. In fact, dear reader, he had no idea how he had got there at all. 'Teleported,' says I without a blush. 'It's my new skill.' Ha ha, I think he believed me and in great harmony we went home. I'm sorry to say our journeys up the lane were never so easy again. Sporting a very fat head the next day, Spouse abjured the Schnapps ever after.
Another memory that surfaced was from the opposite season - a hot sunny August day. The water supply to the two houses was piped underground from high up on the fell and delivered first to us and on to Sylvia and Derek. Rainwater was collected in an enormous tank sunk into the ground and was filtered through gravel beds to clean it before it flowed on through the pipes. That particular year we had enjoyed a hot summer and our water supply was becoming intermittment. A walk over the fell to the tank revealed the low levels of water and ... a great deal of accumulated muck and detritus at the bottom of the tank.
The next day, Spouse and Derek in dungarees and wellies and armed with spades, shovels, ladders and brushes headed off to spring clean the tank. Sylvia and I trailed behind laden with picnic baskets - after all - calories expended by vigorous shovelling would require replacing by a fresh intake of fuel - so they said. By the time we arrived on the scene both men were hard at work, shovelling the muck into buckets and shinning back up the ladders to throw it into a cart. It was hot, dirty work. Sylvia and I kept at a safe distance and began to set out lunch. And then, 'Yo! Man down!' Running over to the tank we saw Derek lying on his back almost swallowed up in the slime at the bottom of the tank. Spouse shimmied down the ladder and waded in to help him up. Not just so easy, dear reader. Derek had been well and truly sucked in. Spouse heaved and tugged at him with all his might and then with a sudden whoosh, Derek came unstuck ... Spouse lost his balance and he toppled over, face down into the mire. Not their finest hour, dear reader, and it took several attempts to get themselves out.
When they finally ascended to the surface again, they were covered in black muck and indescribably smelly. But, dear reader, boys are boys and they were as happy as any boys could be - having a whale of a time. To eat our lunch Sylvia and I stayed upwind of them and at a distance. A cursory rinse of their hands in the filter beds and they ate their lunch with huge appetities and enthusiasm and happy to head back to the tank afterwards to finish the job.
Sylvia was quiet as we packed up the picnic. I knew what she was thinking. 'They'll have to strip off at the back door,' I said. 'There's no way their clothes are coming into the house. We'll get the old bathtub out and throw the clothes into that.' And you know, dear reader, when they ambled happily home they could not understand why they had to strip off outside ... 'Smell? What smell?' Happily for us the rains came again and our water flushed clean and fresh through the pipes again. But, I have a sneaking feeling that that was one of the best days of their lives, dear reader ... no accounting for taste is there?
I hope you have a great week dear reader and the sun shines on us. Until we meet again, take care and stay safe. I only hope Spouse does too, he's back to his cutting equipment tomorrow - let's hope the sparks only fly outside.
Good morning my dear reader and welcome to Comb Towers where we are warm and cosy inside, but outside it is cold and wet, typical weather for a Bank Holiday weekend. Spouse and I will be staying at home, recovering from a very busy week. Marital harmony has been at peak levels - he has been working outside and I, inside, meeting up for meals and occasional cups of tea.
I say I have been working indoors, but a lot of time has been spent outdoors, ministering to the needs and indeed, demands of our garden birds. The birds are nesting all around us and with their increased activities, come increased appetites for food - almost at a level to rival Spouse's and believe me, dear reader, that takes some doing. Competition amongst the blackbirds for the raisins is fierce. I have created a very secluded place to feed them in my garden and it is great fun to watch them flying in and out of the shrubbery where their feeding station is. Miraculously, the bigger birds have never discovered the spot. I divert their attention by putting the seed and fatball feeders elsewhere.
One morning last week, the raisins must have been very quickly eaten. I was in my little writing room, beavering away when I became dimly aware of a blackbird running up and down on the top of the fence outside my window. As I say, I was only dimly aware, until he flew on to the windowsill and knocked on the window with his beak, to gain my attention. Numpty me - only then did I realise what all his racetrack activity was about and went out to renew supplies - and whilst I was at it wash out and refill the bird baths.
I think one of the best sights in the world is watching a blackbird taking a bath. Sometimes I'm amazed that I get any work done at all, as I cannot resist watching the birds in the bath. Blackbirds are so thorough, as they beat their wings to splash water over themselves. By the time they have finished there is very little water left in the bath and I have to go back outside to refill it. Thus I have become the bath attendant. And as of yesterday, a seagull has started visiting the bath fairly frequently and just sitting in it, only not just sitting in it but adding to the contents too. Out I trot again to change the water Maybe his usual watering holes have dried up due to lack of rainfall. Let's hope that situation changes soon.
As I mentioned at the beginning, Spouse has been working outside, working away with pickaxe, cold chisels and masonry drill to dig out a trench at the entrance to our driveway and then inserting kerbstones, to keep the gravel in the drive and not drive it out every time we leave home. The entranceway is wide and the work is hard, as lumps of old stone and concrete have to be mined and so Spouse works up a healthy appetite.
It so happened that our young friend, Olivia, was with us on one of these days. The weather was lovely and to keep to the lockdown rules we had lunch in the garden. Spouse ate his lunch and half of mine as I wasn't very hungry and then he went indoors looking for a little snackerel to finish off with. Olivia knows Spouse has a healthy appetite, but by the end of lunch she was round-eyed in wonder. 'Does he always eat that much?' she asked. 'That's nothing,' says I. 'He's not on top form today, quite restrained for him, really.' She was quiet for a few moments and then exclaimed, ' Now I know what that huge brass spoon hangs on the dining room wall for - it's his pudding spoon, isn't it!' Mmmn, might not share that thought with him.
Well, I see I need to go and attend to the bird bath again. Whilst I have been writing this, 2 blackbirds, a seagull and some sparrows have visited. No rest for the wicked. I hope you have a good week, dear reader and the temperature rises this month. I, for one, am ready to give the winter woollies a rest.
Good morning my dear reader and welcome to a lovely sunny Sunday at Chez Comb. Another week of frosty nights and warm sunny days. Friday was a scorcher and we enjoyed a lovely lunch with my sister and husband in their garden near York. We hadn't seen them since 2019!! It was a real treat. English women and their gardens - I was given a conducted tour and we enjoyed earnest discussions about the care of our shrubs and trees. This must be the best pastime in the world if you're manic horticulturalists like us.
I am pleased to report that our shopping trip passed off peacefully and Spouse is now the proud possesser of sturdy workboots. He is crashing and banging again, dismantling pallets to add to our winter woodpile and I can breathe relatively easily again without worrying about broken toes.
I think spending so much money in one day caused Spouse to have a rush of blood to the head. On our travels we visited the supermarket and a bottle of pure lemon juice went into the trolley. We chatted away with the lady at the checkout and she and Spouse had a very animated discussion about the addition of lemon juice to various alcoholic drinks. Spouse is a bit of an expert on this subject, having spent many years experimenting and the checkout lady was equally knowledgeable. New recipes were exchanged with great glee and Spouse came happily home to embark on several new combinations of liquid refreshment.
I have called this blog, 'An Embarrassment Of Numbers', which is my new collective noun for all problems numerical. We live in a world where PIN numbers and codes need to be committed to memory and not written down. That's O.K. if you only have one to remember, but let's face it, dear reader, most people have multiple PIN numbers and possibly codes swirling around their brains. That is the case for Spouse and I and we have had our share of mild traumas and embarrassments this week.
Spouse set the ball rolling when he tried to use his debit card at a cashpoint. You will know the scenario, I'm sure. You punch in what you think are the familiar digits only to find your request is declined. This happened to Spouse. Much taken aback, he tried again with the same result. Then the doubts began to creep in - a bit Morcambe and Wise-ish. Did he have the right numbers but not necessarily in the right order? A new combination was tried but to no avail. and so the card was locked. Cashless and cross, Spouse returned home.
Now, somewhere ... somewhere in his den, he informed me, he had a tiny scrap of paper with his PIN number written on - an old advert on coloured paper that no-one would take any notice of. He had scrawled his number on that. You don't need me to describe the scene, dear reader. Two hours later, having turned his den upside down and inside out, he emerged triumphantly, bearing a ragged piece of paper in his hand. Yes, it had been a Morcambe and Wise scenario - all the right numbers but none of them in the right order. Why, after all these years of using the same digits, the brain decides to take a holiday, is a mystery.
Not to be left out, I went two better than Spouse during the week. At the opticians I tried to pay for my new glasses with my credit card, but 'card declined.' The PIN number was not right. Aaargh. Flustered and embarrassed, I paid with my debit card and have no idea where I am adrift with the numbers. Maybe a case of all the right digits in the wrong order again.
But, best of all, dear reader, were the burglar alarm code numbers. How art mirrors life. The opening chapter of my first book, 'Café Paradise'. sees poor Walter Breckenridge, unable to remember the correct code for the café burglar alarm trying, in the early morning, to input all the different combinations of numbers, to disarm the alarm before he can enter the café. But, he only has a very short time to do this, as the countdown beeping has begun and the alarms will automatically go off if he fails.
On Thursday afternoon a young man from our burglar alarm company arrived to service our system. We had a pleasant chat about our activities during the pandemic and then he set to work on all his checks. Before he departed, he asked me if I knew about the panic alarm buttons on the system. Truth to tell, I did not. He told me to try them out. Press them and every alarm in the place goes off. I did as I was bid, dear reader and indeed, all hell let loose as the alarm sirens resounded through the house and out into the garden, as all the doors and windows were open.
So, the young man said, 'now put your code in and press reset and that will stop them.' I put my code in and nothing happened. Yikes! I tried again - the sirens kept going. Never mind the panic alarms, I was panicking now. The young man said, ' If you haven't got the code, I can't stop it.' More panic ... I have been punching in this code for the last four years. 'Oh no you haven't,' says he. 'You can't have, or it would stop. Have you reversed or mixed up the numbers? It happens a lot.' By this time I was almost hyperventillating and I wouldn't have been surprised if the young man had whipped out a paper bag from his vast kit and asked me to blow into it. As it was, amidst all the hullaballoo, he sat down with me and wrote all the numbers out that I had been trying. 'Just clear your mind and take your time - take a fresh look at them.' Easier said than done, but I tried. And sure enough, dear reader, all became clear. All the right numbers but not in the right order. Very quickly blessed peace and order was restored, except for my nerves which were in shreds.
When the young man had departed I staggered down the garden to where Spouse was vigorously chopping wood. 'Oh, what a racket that was,' says I. 'Enough to waken the dead. I'm surprised you didn't come up to see what was going on.' 'Mmmn, I thought I heard the alarm going. Nothing going on though, is there?' 'Nothing going on ...? Just as well really. I might have been carried off by violent brigands for all you knew.' Was that a suspicion of hope and a quickly suppressed smile flitting across his face? I think it was, dear reader. Well, this time he is disappointed and in any case he would never pay the ransom. He always maintains they would pay him to take me back.
Have a good week, dear reader and if you see a wild figure dancing in a garden at night, it might be me. I think the time for a rain dance is well overdue ...
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a lovely sunny Sunday morning at Chez Comb. Another week of frosty nights and sunny days and no doubt our garden is still very confused, or at least the plants in it are with all the comings and goings in temperatures. However, the birds seem unaffected by the extremes. The ladies are thinking of nesting and the males are busy fighting with their rivals for their favours. We are engaged with our on-going battle with the seagulls. Spouse's netted boards are doing a great job in preventing the gulls from obtaining their fish breakfast/lunch/suppers, but still they try their luck, perching on the boards and pecking away at the netting, until this mad woman rushes out and chases them off. Mmm, wonder who that could be ...?
For a change it has been an uneventful week at Comb Towers. We have found plenty to occupy ourselves with around the homestead. A friend in the village dropped off some old wooden pallets and Spouse has been having a high old time dismantling them ready to chop up for firewood. He has crashed and banged to his heart's content and miraculously, without injury to himself. Between bouts of gardening and being a domestic goddess I have oiled up our garden furniture ready for the season - snow, hail, rain or sun. This being England anything can and does happen.
I wrote a blog in November 2016, entitled 'How To Make A Yorkshireman Cry'. The opening sentence read, 'Quite simple really, tell him he's going shopping.' It was true then and still holds good in April 2021. You see, dear reader, the shops have opened up again and I have promised myself a shopping trip tomorrow to replace underclothing and socks for us both. I know, too much information. BUT, just as importantly, to purchase new shoes for Spouse, which means, (a) he has to come shopping with me and (b) spend money, which as we all know is anathema to any right thinking Yorkshireman.
So, dear reader, Spouse was informed of the forthcoming trip during the week and its purpose, i.e., particular reference made to new shoes for him. Spouse has been wearing a pair of ancient black shoes for working in the garden. One shoe has a large hole in the toecap and the other, multiple rips in the old dried out leather. In addition to this, they leak. I think I can safely say, dear reader, that I have made a good case for a replacement pair to be purchased, if only from a safety point of view. A large hammer or crowbar dropped on his toes would cause untold damage. But Spouse was not going to be so easily talked into a shopping trip and the little grey cells to quote Monsieur Poirot, got to work and came up with an alternative plan - his old tried and tested friend - gaffa tape.
I don't think I have ever told the story of Spouse and the gaffa tape. If I have, I apologise and try to be brief in my reprise here, as it is pertinent to his latest idea. When we lived on our Durham Dales smallholding we were the highest farm sited halfway up the fellside. Our nearest neighbours were below us at the end of our farm track. They were lovely neighbours and very sociable. One morning Sylvia rang up to announce the kettle was on and invited us down for coffee. 'Lovely idea,' says I and went in search of Spouse. He suggested I tootle off and he would follow in a jiffy, he just had a little job to do first. Off I went and was sitting in our friend's conservatory when Spouse trooped in. Sylvia was in the kitchen and popped her head around the door and her eyebrows rose almost to her hairline. I followd her gaze which was directed at Spouse's feet and I too could not believe my eyes. Spouse had taped up the toecaps of both brown shoes with silver gaffa tape. Dear reader, you know when you think you've seen it all ...? You never have really. Spouse had the decency to look a bit abashed and hastened to explain. The sole of one shoe had come adrift and was flapping about, so he decided to tape it up. Ah, but then he thought he should tape up the other one to match it - so they didn't look odd. Not look odd!!!! I suppose shoes taped up with gaffa tape don't look odd then??
That, my dear reader, was many years ago. Fast forward to 2021 and this leopard has not changed his spots. Instead of going shopping and buying new shoes, why not fix the holes and tears in his garden shoes with gaffa tape? 'Only this time', quoth he, 'I'll use black gaffa tape to match the shoes, then they really won't look odd. They only looked odd last time because the shoes were brown and the tape was silver.' Tape or no tape I know the destiny of those old shoes and that's the dustbin and yes, we are going shopping tomorrow and shoes are at the top of the list. Wish me luck dear reader. Spouse and shoes/clothes shopping are not an easy mix, but I have stiffened up my sinews and summoned up my blood and am ready and raring to go.
Have a good week, dear reader and I hope Spring continues to keep Springing for us all. Just as importantly, I hope I survive our shopping trip and come home safely to enjoy another sunny week.
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a chilly/snowy/sunny Sunday at Chez Comb. My poor garden shrubs don't know if they're on their ass or their elbow these days, or to put it more politely, as my dear Mama used to say, if they are coming or going. A couple of weeks ago we were basking in lovely sunshine and I enjoyed digging and weeding the borders around the lawn. This week has bought a massive change as temperatures plummeted down to the minus degrees and our winter woollies were hauled out again. We have had blizzarding snow this morning and are now back to sunshine. Who knows what this afternoon will bring?
BUT, lockdown restrictions have eased a little and we are allowed to meet up with friends and family in our gardens once more and in spite of the fickle English weather, we did just that. Spouse and I had been to tend our local library garden on Tuesday. Five minutes of sunshine and then five minutes of snow and so it alternated all through the morning. Friend Jenny, (Queen of the Victoria spongcake), lives close by and we were invited for coffee and cake in the garden. I can tell you, dear reader, that I for one was very ready to thaw out with a hot coffee after all the snow showers. Well ... the coffee was hot and the cake was delicious and we were all freezing. But, the British bulldog spirit prevailed. We were not going to be diddled out of our long-awaited get together. It was perishing cold, snowing and blowing a hooley, but wrapped up in our fleecy blankets we didn't care one jot. It was great just to enjoy a bit of socialising again. Long may it continue.
So, you may be wondering, dear reader, why am I rabbiting on about coffee and cake, whilst Spouse is heading for the hiills? I am just coming to that bit. The wartime expression, 'careless talk costs lives' is very apposite in this situation. We decided to renew the gravel at the front of the house and down the drive, as there is only a thin covering left and so the weeds are thriving. The first three tons of gravel were ordered and stood in bright yellow dumpy bags at the front of the house.
Spouse has been very busy making the netted frames for the pond to deter our goldfish-loving seagulls. So I suggested that he carry on with that fine work and I could make a start on the gravel. Spouse shook his head decisively. Oh? Why the negative? I wondered. When we lived on the smallholding we shovelled and spread eighteen tons of gravel to allow the copious amounts of rain running off the fells to drain away from the house. We also spread tons of the stuff around our house in France. So, I feel I'm an old hand at the gravel lark. 'Ay, there's the rub,' to quote the Bard. According to Spouse I am now an 'old' hand. 'You were younger then,' says he. Oh really??!! Well, I think he just lit the blue touch paper there. Dear reader, indignation comes nowhere near to describing my reaction to this statement. Suffice to say, Spouse really is heading for the hills to escape my wrath and can be heard shouting that he would head for the Swiss Alps, only he's not allowed in at the moment. Well, he may not be allowed in at Comb Towers anytime soon either. He might be a lot older before he is welcomed home. I know anno domini comes to us all, but I am not in my dotage yet.
As it happens - and I have no intention on letting on to Spouse - Jenny and Olivia popped round when Spouse was out buying more netting and we had the three bags of gravel shifted in a jiffy - only I let Spouse think that I had done it in my spare time. Old eh? Keep on running Spouse, there's another three tons coming soon and maybe it will be your turn to shift it ...
I hope your week goes well, my dear reader. I have had a rush of blood to the head and started some spring cleaning, although I have also had further plot thougts for 'Aunt Mildred's Millions'. Mmm, which task is going to win out here - the hoover or the pen? I think I know which one my money is on.
I cannot depart without aknowledging the death of H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh. A sad loss to our Queen and to our nation. He was a great man and will be greatly missed by us all. A life of service well lived and may he now rest in peace.
A very good morning to you dear reader and may I wish you a very happy and peaceful Easter Day. Welcome to Chez Comb and I must apologise for the non-appearance of a blog last weekend. Technical difficulties, i.e., my computer went on strike and needed a bigger elastic band fitting and two mysterious looking gizmos attaching. I don't suppose my computer engineer would like me to refer to his expertise as fitting an elastic band but all I know is that I have an all singing, all dancing machine again - but will it improve my writing????
Dear reader, we have had a very interesting fortnight since we last met. The seagulls, frogs and crows are all paired up ready to rear the next generation and have been causing us a spot of bother, but on the plus side and miraculously for us - and I hope I'm not tempting Providence here - no cuts, bruises or shedding of blood has occured to Spouse or myself. Spring is here and the sap is rising and not just in the trees.
A pair of seagulls recently took up residence on Spouse's shed roof and a short time afterwards began taking an interest in my bird feeding table, which led them to exploring the garden more than they usually would have done and their explorations led them to the pond - choc full of fish that would provide more than one tasty meal for a hungry seagull. Our fish have grown a great deal during the winter months, as a result of their feeding off the algae and detritus at the bottom of the pond. Thus it was that I became the village mad woman, rushing down the garden several times a day, yelling, 'shoo, shoo, go away,' etc. and waving my arms about in a threatening manner. Dear reader, I think you can imagine it all. But the seagulls were hungry and grew bolder. One morning they outsmarted me and made a very early sortie on the pond. When I looked out, the two gulls were very happily perched on Spouse's shed roof with a goldfish apiece dangling from their beaks. The gloves were off, SOMETHING HAD TO BE DONE. We were jolly well not going to lose all our fish to the seagulls.
As luck would have it we were the proud owners of Sammy Swan, a lifesize plastic swan, a Christmas gift from my young friend, Olivia. We didn't put him on the pond in the winter, fearing the cold might damage his plastic body. But, dear reader, now that it is Spring, Sammy can safely go out of doors. And guess what? He's the most brilliant gull scarer ever. Result!! The seagulls perched on the shed roof for at least a week, chattering away in indignation at Sammy, but did not venture into the garden and now, best of all, they have pushed off elsewhere. We are blissfully seagull free. We had also put some netting around the edge of the pond to deter them, but then the frogs came for their annual three day love-fest and so the nets had to go. Spouse is now making very neat frames that can be placed over the pond at night time. No sneaky fishing expeditions for visiting gulls or herons now.
So, the gulls departure was followed by the arrival of the frogs - dozens of 'em and doing what frogs do at this time of year, extremely enthusiastically and getting tangled up in the netting in the process. So, to assist them in the continuation of their amorous pursuits, Spouse went to one side of the pond and I to the other and we grasped the netting and pulled it tight - voila, we had invented frog trampolining! By bouncing them along the netting we assisted them back into the pond, but as the numbers increased and the love-fest grew more intense, the netting had to go. Pity really, we had a great team for any future frog Olympics, amazing somersaulting techniques. But, rest assured, dear reader, that no frogs were harmed by their trampolining experience and our pond is now full spawn and the frogs have gone their separate ways until next year.
Which presently leaves us with the crows. They are building nests and will soon be raising their young. Then the fun starts all over again at the bird feeders. Crows are very intelligent birds and once they cotton on to where the food is they develop quite a good hovering action, beating their wings like a giant humming bird whilst bashing seven bells out of the feeders to knock the seed out on to the ground and then it's a simple matter of stuffing their faces as fast as they can before another crow comes along to mug them for their efforts. I gave up long ago doing my wild banshee act to chase them off - I think the neighbours were getting concerned.
And after this there will be the pigeons, but I think we've been there before, dear reader. Back in 2017 I wrote of 'Pigeons - again.' - to quote from the first paragraph, 'Over-sexed, over-fed and definitely over here in our garden.' I will say no more abut them, only I wish I had their stamina and it won't be the hills that will be alive with the sound of music soon.
Last, but not least, this week we are beginning to move out of our lockdown situation and are able to meet people in our gardens. So, friend Jenny and daughter Olivia came for afternoon tea and cake, (Jenny's cake - the best Victoria sponge in the world). We sat in glorious sunshine talking, 'of shoes - and ships - and sealing wax - Of cabbages and kings.' (Lewis Carroll). In the mysterious way that conversation meanders along many paths and byways, the conversation touched on the quaint French law of requiring dog owners to name their dogs starting with the letter of the alphabet used in the year they were born in. My French neighbour, Joelle had a huge Belgian beast named Ohio, born in the 'Year O'. Young Olivia, bless her, was much taken with this notion and immediately spotted difficulties with this system, but thought of Zeus with Apollo as a follow on for the next year. I was really impressed with her knowledge of the Greek gods, but no - it turns out the Greek gods were unknown to her; these were the dogs featured in the American detective series, Magnum P.I. Dear reader, a rare event, I was speechless.
So, on that happy note I will depart to my domestic goddess duties and prepare an Easter Day feast. Have a lovely Easter break dear reader and I wish you luck with inventing alphabetical doggie names - it's better than counting Easter lambs if you want to get to sleep.
Good morning dear reader and welcome to another Sunday at Chez Comb. I hope you are keeping well and out of mischief. After last week I am being very careful about everything. On the upside I managed not to trip over a small step whilst carrying a heavy crystal vase full of flowers, (Spouse was sure I would). They were a lovely surprise bouquet from my cousin and a real tonic after a few grey days of drizzly weather. On the downside, I am sporting two deep cuts on my hand due to not looking at what I was doing; not a good idea when wielding a kitchen knife. I am keeping our local chemist shop in business with the amount of dressings I buy. Bless 'em, they are very discreet and never enquire who needs binding up this week.
I gave my lovely friend, ditzy Mary, quite a fright at the beginning of the week. It brings me much cheer every time I think of it. This is not as unkind as it sounds, dear reader. Ditzy Mary and I have been friends since we were sassy young girls. She is my model for Genevieve in Café Paradise. If you think I get into scrapes you should meet Mary, she has perfected the art. But that's by the by and I must not go down that alleyway today. One evening last week there was a knock at the front door. You will recall we have no doorbell, it has finally demised. Although it was early evening it was dark and Spouse was in the shower. I was on the phone to ditzy Mary, so I kept her on the line whilst I answered the door, in case I needed to screech. As it happened I didn't need to. Far from it. A lovely friend and her daughter had called with gifts to bring some cheer to our locked-down lives. It doesn't get much better than that.
A day or two later, it being Mother's Day, we sashayed forth with wine, cards and flowers for this lovely Mama. I texted her on WhatsApp to let her know I would be with her in the next ten minutes. Dear reader, we've all done it - I WhatsApped ditzy Mary by mistake. I received a text back which said, 'Are you coming to visit? Love, Mary.' At first I didn't make the connection and thought she was proposing a weekend visit when we are allowed to travel. It was a good ten minutes later that the penny dropped with me. (I know, not the brightest button in the box). I looked at the text again and realised my, 'be with in ten minutes,' text had gone to her.
Dear reader, Spouse had to pull the car off the road. We laughed until the tears rolled down our cheeks, in the sure and certain knowledge that ditzy Mary would still be in bed and would probably have jack-knifed up out of her slumbers at the thought of us two about to illegally descend on her. I was sorely tempted to answer her text in the affirmative but resisted and put her mind at rest. Ah, but I so wish I could have seen the look on her face, it would have been priceless. When I telephoned her later in the day, our surmises were proved correct. Ditzy Mary did indeed jack-knife out of bed in sheer horror, her thoughts being, where's the duster, where's the hoover, where's my make-up?!!!!! I am pleased to report, dear reader, that I have been forgiven for almost giving her heart failure and I will try to be more careful in the future.
Happily, we have managed to get through the rest of the week without further mishaps, a rarity for us. From the merriment caused by my WhatsApp text we moved seamlessly to consideration of music for our funerals. Was there a connection? Not really, Ditzy Mary survived the shock and all was well. However, Spouse came upon me dancing energetically around the kitchen, (do not visualise, dear reader, my style is 'unique',) and he reached for his earplugs. Yes, the music was extremely loud but 'Classical Gas' by Mason Williams, cannot be listened to at less than full volume. It is so uplifting. I carried on my dervish dancing to the end of the music, ignoring Spouse's gesticulations in the direction of the volume control. When the music finished I collapsed in an ecstatic heap on the floor and Spouse removed his earplugs. 'Brilliant,' says I. 'I want that at my funeral.' Now that did get Spouse's attention. 'Is there something I should know?' he enquired cautiously. 'No ... just saying.' And so, one thing led to another and a discussion of funeral music ensued.
I don't want all doom and gloom. I would like my friends and relatives to remember all the fun and laughter we have shared. Apart from 'Classical Gas', Spouse and I are currently arguing over his objections to 'Oh Happy Day' by the Edwin Hawkins Gospel Singers. I love it. It is a hymn that reflects my faith but Spouse jibs a bit at the 'Oh Happy Day' if he's still around! I have to say I'm not too sure about his starting choices either. 'Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition' from Mafia 2 and the hymn, 'Full In The Panting Heart Of Rome'. Who could keep a straight face singing that? Images of a slavering St Bernard come to mind. Needless to say, dear reader, matters are still under review and I hope our funerals will provide as much fun for others as we have had in the planning of them.
On that happy note I wish you a wonderful week and hope that Spring will spring forth in all her glory soon and we can all stay safe and well to enjoy it.
Good morning dear reader and welcome to another Sunday at Comb Towers. Thankfully we seem to be inching our way towards Spring and I can't wait to get out into the garden and have a tidy up after the ravages of winter.
To be honest with you, I would be better off working outside, possibly even living outside in Spouse's shed, as every time I have set foot indoors this week, some minor catastrophe has occurred. Am I having a careless week or just attracting trouble? I will leave you to decide that one.
On Sunday evening, my domestic goddess status restored after last week's mishap, Spouse and I enjoyed our evening meal together in great harmony. Thankfully and believe me, dear reader, I take my crumbs of comfort where I can - thankfully, we had finished eating before I managed, with one careless sweep of my hand, to knock over my glass of wine and then the wine bottle as well, sending the red stuff all over the tablecloth, Spouse and thence to drip on to the floor. Why I can't just speak without waving my hands about like an agitated Italian I don't know and look at the trouble it gets me into? When I was younger, (a year or two back!), and blethering away at top speed and waving my hands about, my Uncle Ivor used to grab my hands and hold them tight and say, 'now talk.' And you know, dear reader, I couldn't. I don't know why my hands have to direct my words, a bit like a conductor keeping the orchestra together, but my hands definitely do the directing. Meanwhile, poor Spouse had lost most of his favourite wine and had to depart for a complete change of clothing and I had to depart for mop and bucket for the floor.
Things did not improve on Monday. Can you believe it, by 9.30a.m., my kitchen was awash with milk? My good deed for the day was to make Spouse a cup of coffee. The two litre container of milk shot out of my hand and went everywhere. Poltergeist? Dear reader, do not indulge in this practice as the aftermath involves an almost entire spring clean of the kitchen and then the floor to wash. Talk about Cleopatra bathing in asses milk, I had a Monday morning dousing in cow's milk, not a pleasant experience as it left a cheesy odour as it dried on my clothes. Yet another clean up ensued and I hadn't even been talking when I opened the milk.
I admit that Tuesday afternoon was all my fault. Mea culpa, I own up to this one. I put my oven shelves to soak in a large plastic tray filled with hot water and a couple of dishwasher tablets. They are brilliant at dissolving any grease on the shelves without any rub-a-dub-dubbing from me. After a couple of hours I took them out, now shiny and squeaky clean. Great, so far so jolly good. Now, in the normal course of events I would call for assistance from Spouse to help me in disposing of the dirty water down the sink. But Spouse was not around and so I decided to do the job on my own. I picked up the tray, it was a lot heavier than I had anticipated but, game on, I set off for the sink. Well, my dear reader, by the time I had made the journey from the kitchen island to the sink I had a full blown tsumani going on and not much of the water made it to the sink. En route It swooshed all over the worktops, (like the Monday milk) and all over the floor, with only the last dregs making it to the sink.
My dear Mama often used to call me a complete eejit and perhaps she was right. Or, maybe not. Dear reader, I now have an uber clean kitchen and the silver lining to my Tuesday cloud is that the spilled dishwasher solution cleaned up my kitchen floor tiles a treat, with no effort from me. Win win I think.
And so it was, until I got to Thursday afternoon. Spouse was down in his shed chopping firewood with his electric saws and I was in the house washing up after a late lunch. Usually we do this chore together, he washes, I dry and then ditch the water down the waste disposal sink. Ha, but as Spouse was not on hand I had to reach for the electric waste disposal switch myself and balance the washing up bowl on the side of the sink. The waste disposal requires immediate water over it once it's going or most alarming crunches issue forth from it. Hence balancing the bowl at the ready. I made the reach to the switch but lost control of the bowl with the result that most of it went on the floor, again. Not content with that, I went in search of the floor mop which was out in the garage and as I reached across a few other brushes stacked in front of it, stood on the head of a broom which jack-knifed onto my forehead. For my troubles I now have another clean floor and a lump the size of a hen's egg on my head.
Pity I didn't keep the water. Spouse has just returned to the house with a profusely bleeding hand. (Sigh). Here we go again and there is blood everywhere for the second time this week, from the front door step, through the hall and into the kitchen. I'd better go and get him strapped up; he's only got ten pints and I think one of them is now congealing on the kitchen floor.
I hope you have a good week, dear reader and it is my heartfelt wish that we all keep out of trouble, no accidents, no spills of any kind, just a nice trouble-free week. In my dreams ...
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a beautifully sunny Sunday at Chez Comb. What a difference in temperature a week can make. Talk about famine or feast. A couple of weeks ago we were enduring freezing temperatures and now we are bathed in glorious sunshine. I am not complaining, it is a most welcome change in our meteorological fortunes.
It's just as well it has been warm and sunny of late. I have been doing a lot of lurking in my garden shed to keep out of Spouse's way. I think he thinks I am trying to kill him. I hasten to assure you, dear reader, that I am most certainly not, just as I am equally certain he could have cheerfully killed me a few days ago. The cause of our marital disharmony? The humble chilli.
I have mentioned in the past, dear reader, that I endeavour to be a bit of a domestic goddess on the culinary front. I enjoy cooking and Spouse enjoys devouring the fruits of my labours. I know, in these enlightened times you might like to hear that Spouse takes his turn in producing a culinary masterpiece for my delectation, but in that case, dear reader, you are destined to be sadly disappointed. Spouse in the kitchen is akin to a bull in a china shop. It is not a deliberate ploy on his part to get out of these duties, he is just an extremely untidy and disorganised chef and whilst he has on occasion produced a masterpiece of cuisine, it involves using every pot and pan in the place with the end result being a kitchen looking like the proverbial bomb has dropped in it. We now have an agreement that he keeps out of my kitchen and I keep out of his shed. Thus marital harmony prevails.
But, unfortunately, not this week. The recent spell of freezing weather put me in the mood for curry. I finally got around to it just as the temperatures began to rise. Never mind, when curry has been thought of it has to be cooked. And so I did, entirely confident in my domestic abilities, as I have created my own recipes - one suited to Spouse's taste and one to mine own. Spouse likes a mild curry, so easy on the chilli and spice blend. I like a good hot one, so a different blend altogether and heavier on the chillies. The trouble occurs when both are cooked up and resting in their tomato based sauces and then they look very similar.
Why, oh why, dear reader, did I use identical saucepans? I know, how ever did I think I would tell them apart, unless by taste? But, over confident numpty that I am, I was quite sure that I knew one from another. And of course, dear reader, I did not.
When I wrote the first book in the Café Paradise trilogy, I included a scene where a man and a woman go out on a first date to an Indian restaurant. He knew very little about Indian cuisine, but pretended that he did and when the lady mischeviously chose a Bangalore Phall he airily went along with her choice. 'Bring it on ... Manfood,' etc. A Bangalore Phall is hotter than the classic Vindaloo and when the poor man took his first mouthful he nearly had apoplexy. Red-faced and perspiring, he poured his glass of beer over his head to cool down. They got thrown out of the restaurant by the way, especially after he accused her of trying to kill him.
When I wrote this scene I wondered if I had pushed things a bit too far, but actually, dear reader, I now know I could have pushed them a lot further. Yes I did get the pans mixed up and Spouse got my hot hot curry. He was extremely hungry after a day spent hauling wood home for our fire. He had discovered a treasure trove of wood in the village and the lady owner was delighted that he would take it away. So, on this particular evening there was to be no messing about. Dinner would be now you see it and now you don't.
Only not quite. Spouse dived in with great gusto and a few forkfuls rapidly disappeared down the hatch, at speed and then ... the full force of those chillies kicked in. Spouse leapt up from the table, scarlet-faced and perspiring just like my character in Café Paradise. He tried to speak but couldn't, eyes bulging and mouth moving soundlessly like a newly-landed fish. He rushed out to the kitchen and was next seen dousing his head under the kitchen tap.
I winced when I saw him emerge dripping from the sink and it dawned on me what had happened. 'I think you got mine,' says I. 'They got mixed up.' 'Oh, did I?' says he. 'Oh, they got mixed up, did they? Really?' He turned to look at the saucepans on the stove and his eyebrows rose almost into his hairline. 'Silly me, of course they got mixed up. They're in identical pans. I don't suppose it occured to you to use different ones and then you might be able to easily identify which dish was which, instead of half killing me with yours. Dear reader, that was only the half of it and I will draw a veil over his comments regarding my lack of grey matter. He is convinced I am intent on doing away with him. Why, I can't imagine. I don't generally display homicidal tendencies.
I know one thing, curry might be off the menu for some time to come. I am still in the doghouse and all food presented to Spouse is carefully examined. I just hope the weather doesn't take a turn for the worse as this domestic goddess doesn't fancy skulking down the garden for much longer.
Have a good week, dear reader and I hope that when we meet again marital harmony has been restored at Comb Towers. In the meantime, is that one chilli or two?
Good morning, dear reader and welcome to a sunny Sunday at Chez Comb. I hope you are keeping well and looking foward to navigating your way around the maze of rules and dates that have been constructed by our government to ease us out of lockdown. Spouse and I are looking forward to meeting with family and friends again, even if we have to wrap up against the fickle March weather to do so. Spouse is going about with a spring in his step as his favourite lady, (next to me, of course), has promised to make him her famous Victoria sponge cake when we meet up. Talk about the way to a man's heart ...
We have had a very odd week. Ha ha, so what's new? I know, every week has something slightly off the wall in it, only it has been even more so this week. Our doorbell has gone rogue. I know it is an inanimate object but I am beginning to think it has an evil genie in it and it's not one that comes out of a lamp. All week and at random intervals, day and night, bing bong, bing bong, similar to the sound that precedes an aircraft announcement.
Bing bong, bing bong resounds around the house and no-one is ringing the doorbell. We have disconnected it from the plug-in mains unit in the house and so by rights it should have been running on the back up battery for a day or two. Instead the bloomin' thing is still going.
I can't put it in the recycling or throw it out. It's still going bing bong and I don't want to give the refuse collectors heart failure when it suddenly goes off - and it's loud. I have buried it in the cupboard in the hall underneath a pile of old coats, (Spouse's if you're interested. He never throws anything out. "it might come in useful". For what I have no idea.) But, dear reader, bing bong, bing bong still issues forth from the depths of the cupboard. Now I am looking for my ear muffs or possibly a hammer, but something tells me that even they may not cure it. The battery should be very very dead by now. (Can you be very very dead, or just dead?) But no, I have a horrible feeling that bing bong, bing bong may be with us for some time to come.
As if that wasn't enough to drive us completely doolally, dear reader and we're not far off anyway, we have had a week of 'hunt the fishy smells', a new sport at Comb Towers. The fishmonger had some beautiful whole salmon trout and cod for sale at a very reasonable price and Spouse and I being lovers of all morsels piscine, a bag of fishy produce was hauled home along with many foodstuffs as supplies needed replenishing. So far so good. Arriving home, Spouse left the bag of fish out in the cold garage to await my attention whilst I put my shopping away. In due course the fish was brought into the house and chopped up for the freezer.
But, dear reader and it's a horrible but, the aroma of the fish remained in the garage and became steadily more revolting as the week progressed. Inside the house it was bing bong, bing bong and in the garage - oh my my, what a pong of rotting fish. You may not wish to imagine the stench, dear reader, but if you do I hope you can empathise with our distress. Had we somehow managed to drop a piece a fish somewhere and it was lying undiscovered? We had a good hunt and could find nothing. All fish were accounted for and were happily, (or not so happily for them) well frozen in the freezer.
Unable to stand the pong any longer and with pegs on our noses, we just about took the inside of the garage to bits. Can you imagine the task, dear reader, knowing Spouse's propensity for keeping everything as, "it might come in useful"? A Herculean task believe me. But in the end worth it, if only to find the source of the pong and eventually we did. Spouse had hung the fish bag up and fish juices had dripped out and into a copper jug beneath and leaked out of the bottom of the jug to fester on the floor underneath it, but not a mark to be seen anywhere!
We have passed another interesting week and some progress has been made. Disinfectant and hot soapy water have been flung about the garage and the fishy odour is diminshing and I think, and I hope I don't imagine this, bing bong, bing bong is slowing down. Give it another few days, dear reader and quiet and serentity might return to the homestead once more. If not, the wretched apppliance can go and bing bong to itself down the garden - see how Mr crazy crowing-all-night cockerel likes that serenading him all night. Not a bad idea come to think of it. It might stop him in his tracks. There's a silver lining to every cloud.
Let's hope this coming week is a little less eventful. Spouse has been down in his shed and has just come back to the house dripping blood everywhere. Time to be out with the steri-strips once more. Hey ho, some things never change. Take care of yourself, dear reader and take my advice, stay away from sharp nails and knives, it never ends well.
Hello dear reader and welcome to a freezing Sunday at Chez Comb. Another week of snow and temperatures in the minus Celsius. I have not been far from the homestead as the pavements are very icy and I don't fancy a fall just now. Imagine if I broke an arm or a leg and Spouse had to look after me and run the homestead. Mmm, let's not imagine.
Instead I have stayed at home and done quite a lot of work on my current book, 'Aunt Mildred's Millions' and taken up a new hobby of pigeon watching. Most of the surface of our garden pond is frozen over except for in the middle and when the sun shines the solar fountain spurts jets of water into the air and melts a wide circle of water. We can't keep the water in the bird baths unfrozen for long, so our resident family of wood pigeons have braved the ice to get a drink. It's the best entertainment ever. (I know, I think lockdown is really getting to me). They frequently lose their balance on the ice and fall over, sliding and slithering their way to the centre of the pond for a drink. The icy cold water must literally go to their heads, as they then start a full blown bathing routine; head and shoulders dunked in repeatedly and then the wings in their turn. I can hardly bear to watch. I would never make a wild swimmer, just imagining that freezing cold water is quite enough for me.
Thinking back to last week and my story from our Durham Dales smallholding, have made the memories come flooding back. Spooling forward from that time, we lived in Scotland and I belonged to a local writer's group. We were invited to put together an evening of prose and poetry for an evening's entertainment at the local theatre, vaguely around the theme of country life. Try as I might, dear reader, and I really did, every time I sat down to write a serious peice, only something humerous came out. Well, living a country life with Spouse what else could it be? In the end I gave in gracefully and dutifully wrote my two pieces which were based on my experiences on a smallholding.
Now, dear reader, you and I have had quite a long acquaintance with Spouse and we know that given any situation, anything can happen and so it proved when he got himself and old Range Rover which he knew could easily cope with our steep farm track and not conk out halfway up. So, I wrote about this car and one or two other events that occured at the same time. But, after I had read my pieces out to the group, they were only attritbuted to a lively imagination. You, my dear reader know differently.
Picture the scene. Spouse had been out and about the smallholding all afternoon and yours truly was being a domestic goddess indoors, making marmalade and preparing a gastronomic delight for our supper. Eventually Spouse popped his head around the door and enquired about supper. 'About fifteen minutes,' I said. 'Mm, O.K., I'll be in soon.' And so he was. After a wash and brush up he sat down at the table for his meal. Now, mark this, dear reader. Spouse was off his tucker. Yes, really. He picked at the food on his plate in a disinterested kind of way. In all our years of marriage, unless Spouse was actually ill, this was an unheard of occurence. Was the meal not to his liking? I enquired. 'No, it's lovely,' says he. 'I'm just not ... quite ... Oh, I don't know ... maybe not hungry.'
Not hungry? Since when? This is the man known as 'Mr Hollow Legs. The plot thickened when Spouse excused himself after supper. 'I've just a little something to see to outside. I'll be in soon.' Oh yes, what kind of something I wondered? Spouse was very subdued and so I decided I would see what this 'little something' was for myself and followed him at a distance. This 'little something', dear reader, turned out to be his old Range Rover embedded in the gable end of the farmhouse wall. Spouse stood looking at it and scratching his head.
Well, naturally, dear reader. I screeched a bit at this sight. Wouldn't you? 'Look at it and you never said a word about it!' Spouse rolled his eyes and said in a mildly exasperated tone. 'Course I didn't. I knew you'd make a fuss.' Like it was an everyday event and I'd no right to make a fuss.
Well, eventually, the car was pulled out of the wall with the help of our good neighbours and a tractor. The stout farmhouse walls had withstood the crash with minimal damage to the stonework. I duly created a character called Lucinda and wrote up the event for my theatre piece. And the response from my writers group? 'Too much imagination, Patricia. That event is so never going to happen, keep it real, gal.' You see, dear reader, they didn't know Spouse. Always expect the improbable possible.
Take care, dear reader. The weather is set to warm up a bit and I hope to get out and about and I hope you can too. My very best wishes to you and have a good week.
Hello dear reader and welcome to another week in snowy North Yorkshire. The temperatures have plummeted, well, for England they have and although I don't want to appear to be too much of a wuss, I have broken out the thick woolly jumpers and tweed breeches to keep me warm. In fact, I have so many layers on, I could easily be mistaken for the Michelin Man. It's all very well adding on the layers through the day, but getting out of them in the evening as the log fire warms us up is quite another matter. I know - too much information. I will move on.
My dear cousin recently acquired a new puppy and hearing the mixture of fun and tribulations they are now going through with it puts me in mind of our days as smallholders when we had a variety of animals, including dogs and ducks.
Our Border Collie, George, came to us via the RSPCA. (Incidentally, I managed to break my ribs the day we got him, but I'll visit that scenario another day.) "Gentleman George" was sweet natured, very gentle and a little eccentric. Our retriever dog, Harry, arrived as a small puppy. He was a very different kettle of fish (or dog), alpha -male and strong willed and although loveable it was always a battle of wills to get him to behave in a reasonable manner.
Harry had come from a man who had bred and trained gun dogs for fifty years. Mr B was most unimpressed to hear that we weren't making much progress in training Harry. He suggested we take the dog back to him for a month of his training. We weren't allowed to visit but could telephone once a week for a progress report.
Week 1 - Harry had chased his hens. Week 2 - Harry had torn down his pen and got in with the bitches. Week 3 - Harry had chased his sheep. Week 4 - We arrived to take him home. The mischevious part of me I'm afraid to say, dear reader, was just a tad pleased to find Mr B was no longer the uber confident dog trainer of a month previous. I might even go as far to say Mr B was almost a broken man. He'd never had a dog like Harry before. In fairness, he had managed to get him to "sit" and almost "stay" and almost "walk to heel". At the end of these demonstrations Mr B proudly announced that Harry didn't chase the sheep now. He ha, he took him into the field to demonstrate and Harry promptly chased the sheep!
Over the years Harry and I grew to love eachother dearly, but the only creature Harry had a healthy respect for was Henry, our first Muscovy drake. I used to feed the dogs outside as Harry was such an enthusiastic eater, with no manners at all. George, the Border Collie, would nibble his way delicately through his dinner like a Victorian maiden aunt, whereas Harry was pure lout - diving with nose and most of his face into the dish, liberally spattering food everywhere.
Outside dining worked fine for a while, until Henry duck matured and discovered the food bar and times of dining. Both dogs were scared of the duck, but he wasn't frightened of them and could adminster a nasty peck. Soon he was strolling over the gravel, pecking both dogs out of the way and hijacking their dinners. And the wimps, they let him. So the dogs had to come indoors to be fed and Henry had to be shut out and I had to live with the mess. Not sure I came off best there.
Henry's successor was Sam. Now, for all Henry's dog-bullying, he was a very good parent. Muscovy duck mothers are a feckless bunch and not very interested in protecting those fluffy yellow things swimming or wadding behind them. Henry was a good Dad and kept an attentive watch over his brood. After Henry departed for the great duck house in the sky, we acquired a replacement drake, Sam, from our neighbours.
Unfortunately Sam was not of the same ilk as Henry. Sam was a real bully. Very soon he had our girls terrorised and in desperation to get away from him they squeezed under the farm gate and into our front garden, not good news for our precious plants. Sam meanwhile, patrolled the other side of the gate, hawking and squawking at the girls to return. No way José. They were staying put.
In the end I said to spouse, 'you're gonna have to shoot Sam. He's downright vicious', as I had discovered quite a few times to my cost. Look away now, dear reader, if you're squeamish. The deed was done and the bird put in an empty dustbin to await my attention.
Now it so happened that a few days later we were in a large supermarket in the nearby town. Passing the hosuehold goods section I spotted some new dustbins, which put me in mind of Sam. A youg lady assistant was up on a stool sorting out items above our heads. I said to spouse, 'you'll have to wash out that dustbin. Sam bled quite a lot when you shot him and put him in there.' Yes, dear reader, I did have some explaining to do, as the young assistant wobbled on her stool, fell off and gave me rather scared look. Not my finest hour I have to say, as I stumbled over a hasty explanation - 'it's not what you think ... Sam's a duck ... no, not a duck, a drake ... he was nasty ... he had to go ... you get the picture. and yes, we did give that store a wide berth for some time to come.
So, there we are, dogs and duck don't always mix and not with sheep. Funnily enough, in time, Harry became quite blasé and bored with sheep. There were so many of them in our fields that I think he got fed up with seeing them. Now rabbits, that was another matter entirely .....
Have a good week, dear reader and stay safe and don't get buried in a snow drift. My little car did once for 3 weeks and wonder of wonders, it started first button when we finally dug it out. It's snowing hard here, who knows, we might be out with the shovels again tomorrow.
Hello dear reader, how are you getting on? I hope you are fit and well and keeping your spirits up. I am with you in spirit and mine's a G & T by the way with lots of ice and a slice of fresh orange, no tart old lip-pursing up lemon for me thank you very much.
So, here we are, entering another month of lockdown and maybe more of the same after that. As all aspects of our lives have contracted significantly over recent months and the focus has shifted to our home life and a daily dose of exercise, I thought it might be a good idea to start a spot of decorating, i.e. throw some fresh paint at the walls and smarten us up a bit.
Now, I had put this idea to spouse in the dog days of 2020, suggesting that we might get the paint pots and brushes out after Christmas. He made no demur and thus I was hopeful. However it transpires that his notion of "after Christmas" does not align with mine. Come the dawn of 2021 and I mooted the subject of decorating again, I was greeted with looks of shock, horror and utter bewilderment. What was I talking about? 'You know,' says I, 'we discussed it before Christmas, said we'd make a start in the New Year.' 'Yes, well,' says spouse, 'that's all well and good, but when you said "The New Year", I thought you meant May or June even.' Now I know that spouse is so laid back that he is almost horizontal, but I think that's a bit rich even for him.
So, dear reader, what am I to make of it all? When I say, "in The New Year", that is exactly what I mean, January 1st and all that. Not so my dear spouse. He consulted with one of his friends thus. 'John, if your wife says she wants to do some decorating in the New Year, when do you think you'll be starting?' 'Ooh, about May I think,' came the reply. I know they were close colleagues for years, bur really - do they still have to think like a long-married couple?
Spouse is now in the smug zone and we remain undecorated. I live in hope but possibly in a fool's paradise too. Ah, but he didn't remain in the smug zone for very long, my dear reader. Yet another lockdown means no hairdressers again, doesn't it? That is not a problem for me as my hair is long enough to tie back in a pony tail and although it could do with a trim it is not at all bothersome. Ha ha, but spouse's hair was a bother to him. He was sporting the Einstein look and was not too happy about it. No amount of water to slick it down would keep it under control. He very quickly reverted to his "plugged into the mains" look and reluctanly requested yours truly to wield the scissors.
What can I say, dear reader? Only this - have you any idea how much an ear can bleed if you nick it with the scissors? Well, believe me, it's a great deal. Spouse behaved like Tony Hancock in "The Blood Donor" sketch. What a stramash, as the Scots would say. My dear Mother used to say, 'if you make a fuss I'll give you something to make a fuss about'. I'm afraid, dear reader, I had to employ these tactics. Not only was he sporting a bleeding ear but now had an extremely uneven haircut as well. He may be follically challenged but I'm not follically gifted.
To add insult to injury, whilst I was wielding the scissors, a revenge murder book that I may write one fine day came to mind. Here was my pretend victim, a sitting duck under my hands. Quick as you like I pretended to draw a knife from my pocket and draw it across his throat and the deed could be done. Ooh, as you can imagine, dear reader, spouse was not too impressed at this. Some interesting Anglo-Saxon terminology was employed at my actions and then when he looked in the mirror at his hair ... well, at least he forgot about his ear.
Hey ho, I'm in the doghouse again and won't be out for a while. But looking on the bright side, he won't need another haircut until we're let loose again and he can visit a proper hairdresser. And even if he does, (need a haircut), I don't think he'll be handing me the clippers again any time soon. Just as well he has a good choice of hats, he'll need to cover up when he goes out, otherwise he might frighten the horses.
I wouldn't like you to make any connection between a wonky haircut and his lack of co-operation over the decorating, dear reader - or would I? No, of course not ... Have a good week my dear reader and take my advice, keep away from the hair clippers.