Good afternoon, dear reader and welcome to a wintry Saturday at Comb Towers. I hope you are surviving the the wind, rain and snow that Mother Nature is hurling at us these days. We have not been too badly affected here - one short power cut and a few fence panels blown out. I feel sorry for the people in the north-east and Scotland who have been without power and water for over a week now. We experienced those conditions in winter on our Durham Dales smallholding and you definitely have to "stiffen up the sinews and summon up the blood" to survive those situations. I hope their lives will be restored to some normality soon.
It is with some regret that I must tell you that, for now, this is the last of my weekly blogs. We are coming to the close of the year and I have a novel to get on with. 'Mildred's Millions' needs a lot of my attention and has been rather neglected of late and so, something has to give and it has to be the blogs. Some of these blogs will be going into a book of 'Tales From The Yorkshire Wolds' and for the final 'Tale' I have combined the 'Grrr ... Siri' blog with my exploration of Alexa, the technological virtual assistant. So, the blog here today is only about my experiences with Alexa, as Siri was covered recently.
I never would have thought about trying out Alexa, only when my friend realised I wasn't making much progress with Siri, she invited me around to her house to get to know Alexa and see if I wouldl like her in my life too. I have been reading online, the blurb about Alexa and all that she can do, which is really impressive, but after trying to have a bit of fun with Alexa, I'm not too sure we would get along.
Me : Aexa, tell me a joke.
Alexa : I held the door open for a clown the other day. I though it was a nice jester.
Me : Alexa, who writes these jokes! That was pretty poor. Can you do any better?
Alexa : Sorry, I don't know that one.
Me : Alexa, tell me a joke.
Alexa : What did the therapist tell the jar of jam? If you'd ony open up, people would find you very nice.
Me : Alexa, your jokes are a bit basic. Have you got anything a bit more sophisticated?
Alexa : Sorry, I'm not sure about that.
Me : Alexa, is there anything you don't know?
Alexa : I know about lots of things. Try asking, "What have you learned today?"
Me : Alexa, what have you learned today?
Alexa : Today I have been learning some great relaxation tips. Try asking, "give me some relaxation tips."
Me : O.K., Alexa. Give me a relaxation tip.
Alexa : Studies have shown that spending time in a garden and around plants or, listening to music, or dancing
is very theraputic.
Me : Alexa, is there anything you don't know you don't know?
Alexa : Sorry, I don't know.
Me : Alexa, there are knowns and there are unknowns. what are your unknowns?
Alexa : Mmm, I don't know that.
Me : Alexa, is there anything you don't know about?
Alexa : According to CNN.com we don't yet fully know which drugs work and for whom.
Me : Alexa, are you an antidiluvian?
Alexa : Mmmn, don't know that one.
Me : Alexa, do you know about terminological inexactitudes?
Alexa : I don't know that one.
Me : Alexa, tell me a fact.
Alexa : 40% of all the mass in the world's oceans are jellyfish.
Me : Wow! Alexa, carry on about jellyfish.
Alexa : If you tickle them they will giggle ultrasonically. Their sematic chord lights up ultrasonically like a
Me : Incredible! Alexa, do you understand what you are talking about?
Alexa : According to science.org, I have absolutely no idea what I am talking about.
Well there you are, dear reader. I have just spent half an hour in the company of a little black box that has no idea what it is spouting on about. Give me face to face human interraction and a well written text book any day. Siri and Alexa are not for me. In the meantime, your technological dinosaur companion is signing off for now. Stay well and stay safe and take care of yourself. We will meet again another day.
Good morning dear reader. I hope you are all well and staying safe during the terrible gales. Our garden is looking the worse for wear and it is gloomy and wet. Hey ho, just the weekend for us to go Christmas shopping then! Don't we choose our moments well. But there it is, we decided we would go and so we are going. All being well, I will be back with you next week, hale and hearty and probably skint! Have a good week and take care.
Grrr ... Siri
Good afternoon dear reader and welcome to a fairly pleasant afternoon in North Yorkshire. Sunshine and showers by turn and feeling a bit cooler, but very good for lateish November. The weather has been sunny and dry for a few weeks. Spouse even cut the grass yesterday, which was a great bonus as the mower gathered up all the leaves too. Great news for us, as we have at least two weeks grace before the next lot of leaves gather on the lawn and we might have to rake those up if the season turns more wintry.
My bookstall project is progressing well and so I have gone ahead and purchased a new phone, as technology has overtaken my old phone and it would not work in conjunction with my new card reader for the bookstall payments. Being a bit of a dinosaur where technology is concerned, it has taken me a while to get to grips with all the whizz bangs, whistles and bells on the new phone. In fact, now I come to think about it, I have somehow managed to silence everything. The phone asked me if I wanted it on silent when it sensed I was driving and so I said yes. It must think I'm permanently in driving mode now, as I don't get a squeak out of it when messages come through. Not that I can access email messages at all now, in spite of all the information allegedly having been transferred to the new phone. So ... what to do? Ask Siri, of course.
Me : Hey Siri, why can't I access my emails on this phone?
Siri : I don't know, Patricia.
Fat lot of help that is. O.K., never one to take defeat easily, I decided to have another go.
Me : Hey Siri, why can't I access my Gmail on this phone?
Siri : I've looked on the web and found this information for you.
So ... Siri disappears and two nono-seconds later so does all the web information he had put up on the screen. Grrr. I tried again and Siri provided the same stuff. Hurriedly, I clicked on to the first block of information, which was of no help at all. Doesn't Siri listen? I'll just have to look it up for myself I gave up on that subject and decided to try something else.
Me : Hey Siri, what is the charge for Apple Podcasts?
Siri : Your phone is at eight six percent charged.
Me : I didn't mean phone charge Siri ... Too late, he had gone.
You know what? I wish I worked his hours. He's worse than my Elfina - one strike and she's gone too. I tried again.
Me : Hey Siri, how much do I have to pay for an Apple Podcast?
Siri : O.K., I have found this on the web, "How much do I have to pay for an Apple Podcast?" Check it out, Siri says brightly.
I start to read the first block of information and then the whole lot disappears. Where does it go to? Am I meant to be the world's fastest speed reader? O.K., one more attempt.
Me : Hey Siri, what time is the first train from Scarborough to York tomorrow?
Siri : Getting public transport information from Scarborough to York.
Then my fingerprint symbol came up. I tapped on it to gain access and nothing happened. I tried this twice and still nothing. I have no idea what Siri has done with this information, but I know what I would like him to do with it! I give up
So ... in the interests of making use of the technology on the phone I tried the dictation facility on "WhatsApp".
'Hello Jenny, I'm just trying out the dictation on this phone seems to be working just been practising with Siri but he's absolutely useless who just like this dictation lark this is really good hello I didn't say hello why do you printed hello oh no this is maybe not a good idea'
Maybe I have to say the puncuation out loud, or will it print that out too! I think I might stick to typing messages in future, it looks a safer bet. So, that's quite enough of new phone technology for one day. Now I'm off to torture myself with online technology. I need to order new supplies of my books from the printers. It will be a miracle if my Password lets me into the site. It is always a challenge. And then there is the driving licence renewal on the DVLA site. Surely God in all his goodness will let one of these go right today.
I do hope so, or when we meet next week, dear reader, I might be as bald as the old coot, having pulled all my hair out by the end of this afternoon. Have a good week and stay warm. My new phone is showing the temperatures already dropping away, Time to be out with the horticultural fleece and tucking in the delicate plants for the night. Goodby for now see you next week.
A STATION BOOKSTALL
Good morning dear reader and welcome to Rembrance Sunday morning in cloudy North Yorkshire. A sombre day when we pause and remember all our war dead with great respect and thankfulness for their sacrifices. Spouse and I are of an age to remember the effects of war on our parents and our grandparents, spanning the Second and First World Wars. The effects on these ordinary people were so profound that they rarely spoke about them. They witnessed terrible events that were never spoken about but made them keen advocates for living peaceful lives. We try to continue in that way that in our own small corner and try to be good stewards of the nature and wildlife on our patch.
The weather has been very mild and so I have been trotting about the village, clocking up the miles and clearing my head when the plots in my Mildred's Millions book have got too tangled up even for me to disentangle. I put a tweet out on Twitter the other day to say that I should join a circus as a juggler as I am getting so much practice in trying to keep all the balls in the air. A dose of fresh air and a kick up in the leaves works wonders and sometimes I come home with a problem solved.
This is a short blog today as what with writing Mildred's Millions and preparing for my bookstall I have much to do, but I wanted to update you on the bookstall venture. Oh, dear reader, I am delighted to say that I am nearly at the starting post. Maybe I should change the circus analogy - I could be a circus dog jumping through flaming hoops - I have jumped through so many hoops so far I would be a shoe-in for that.
TransPennine Railways have given their blessing and support to my project. I have Public Liability Insurance up to my eyeballs and just await my Licence Agreement with the Railway and I am up and running. So, if you are passing through Scarborough Railway Station on a Saturday, stop by my stall and say hello, or even buy a book! I love to talk books, any books and I look forward to seeing you.
Have a great week. We need to enjoy this mild weather whilst we can as I believe colder temperatures are just around the corner. Ah well, I suppose winter has to come sometime. I might keep warm by walking and juggling at the same time. Now, where did I put those tennis balls ...?
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a cold and sunny morning in North Yorkshire. I hope you are well and enjoying the beautiful colours of autumn. The colours of the leaves are spectacular at present and I love scrunching through them when out walking around our village. I try to restrain myself and behave as an adult should, but if there's no-one about I kick my way through the piled up leaves with huge enjoyment. Perhaps a second childhood beckons.
As you might be aware, dear reader, as an independent author, placing and selling my books is very much down to me. Yes, they are available on Amazon, but by the time the supply chain has taken their cut, my payday is derisory. So, the best way for me to market my books is to do it in person by giving talks to small groups and selling books afterwards. Pre-Covid, I enjoyed these events as reading and talking romantic comedy and 'Tales' made for a laughter-filled evening and who doesn't like that? However, we are not out of the Covid woods yet and I am reluctant to stand and give a talk in a warm people-filled room without wearing a mask. So ... what to do?
I had a brainwave. Sell books outside in the fresh air, from my own bookstall. And the venue? The local railway station. A busy place, lots of people passing by and I could catch the Christmas shoppers. So, I approached the Station Supervisor with this idea and, God bless his cotton socks, he was very enthusiastic about the project and supporting local enterprise. He suggested Saturdays as their busiest days and showed me where I would be best placed to set up shop. He was 99% certain the project would be approved, but would have to check with his boss when he returned to work after his man flu.
I was rejoicing and went home to try out book displays on my tables, etc. A week later the boss returned to work and thankfully, he too was enthusiastic about the bookstall idea. Only he would have to check with his boss!! Aye, and there was the rub. The next boss up uttered the fateful words, "Health and Safety". Firstly, I would have to get a Traders Licence from the Council, (fair enough), and also Public Liability Insurance for five million pounds, arranged through the Railway Company. As the Station Supervisor wryly pointed out when breaking the news to me, 'What are you going to do, drop a book on their heads?' Obviously book selling must be a dangerous activity if I have to be insured for five million pounds. The very act of passing a book to a customer and receiving cash in return, or worse, they hold their bank card over my card reader ... Mmn, yes, I can see a risk assessment excercise must be carried out and sharpish!
I suspect the Insurance costs may be prohibitive, but, as the saying goes, 'when life gives you lemons make lemonade'. (Actually I prefer the one that says break out the tequila and salt). I am not giving up hope yet and have begun enquiries with the Railway Company. I hope that one day I may have my stall at the Station and in the meantime I am studying form, spending some time on the platform with my notebook and pen. Passengers probably think I am trainspotting. Of course, I'm not, but I'm having a high old time gathering up new characters for new books and sizing up the potential market for future sales. Fortune favours the brave. I hope it also favours those half freezing to death on the railway platform!
Ah well, I will let you know if anything comes of my endeavours. At any rate it is very heartening to find there are still good people in this world, willing to help. Mr Station Supervisor I salute you as one of the good guys. In the meantime, my dear reader, have a good week and have a good kick about in the leaves - very satisfying. No risk assessment or elf and safety in sight.
MISSING SANDWICHES AND OLD SLIPPERS
Good morning my dear reader and welcome to a rainy Saturday in North Yorkshire. I hope I find you well and in good heart. All is serene here at Comb Towers - well, I say that but, although I have spent the week appearing to glide along like a graceful swan, in reality, beneath my serene exterior I have been paddling furiously just to keep up with life. I have been out and about placing my books for sale and trying to find new outlets. All well and good, but sometimes keeping all the balls in the air at home and on the novel writing front as well as marketing, gives me a little wobble from time to time. However, on the plus side, I have not left our picnic lunch behind this week, as has happened to me before, so three cheers and a big hurrah for that.
Some of the time, dear reader, I can be organised, but not all of the time. Sometimes, my scatty head takes over and then the wheels can come off the bus big time - especially when it involves food ... and Spouse. This is how it went a few year ago ... Our house sale in Scotland was dragging on and anxious to relocate to England, we bought a little house to renovate in Filey on the east coast of North Yorkshire. We had done quite a lot of work to it and then the plumber and electrician wanted to move in and take the place to bits for rewiring and replumbling all round. So, we decided to leave them to it and decamp back to Scotland for a couple of weeks and do some more packing up at that end. It was a good six hour journey to our old homestead and we usually stopped for a picnic lunch. On this occasion I had packed a lovely picnic of home-cooked chicken and stuffing rolls and a flask of tea.
We pulled into our favourite quiet layby and I went to get the picnic from the back of the car. Oh, my my, dear reader, there was no such thing. To my dismay I realised they must still be in the Filey kitchen. Spouse had got out of the car to stretch his legs and was walking back towards me, rubbing his hands and smiling in anticipation of his lunch. Well ... you can imagine, dear reader, the utter disappointment on his face when he was told the bad news. He had to make do with a cup of tea in a cardboard cup and a very soggy sandwich at a roadside chuck wagon. Safe to say I was not top of his favourite people list that day.
And as we drove along I wondered about those chicken rolls ... I really didn't want them sitting there for two weeks. They would be moving about with their own livestock by the time we returned. So, I telephoned my near neighbour, Jasmine and asked her to remove them to the bin. Poor Spouse's face as he listened in to this conversation - a picture of sadness as he imagined his favourite sandwiches going west. Only Jasmine didn't put them in the bin. The rolls were daisy fresh and she took them home for her and her husband's lunch. She told me later that they were delicious! I didn't pass this information on to Spouse; bit like rubbing salt into the wound I thought.
And then I did it again! Only sausage sandwiches this time - also one of Spouse's favourites and a rare treat. Only it wasn't, as I had left them behind. You know that look of sheer, utter disbelief someone can throw at you when you have been the most complete numpty ever - yep, I got a lot of those that day. Another trip, England to Scotland and another day of no decent lunch. I have no idea, my dear reader, how I managed it again, but I did. You have no idea of that horrible, sinking feeling, when you discover there is not even a crumb to drool over. A bit like Pooh discovering all his honey jars are empty. And Jasmine and husband enjoyed them again! But this week I triumphed. I wrote myself notes in very large letters and even left one by the front door to make it as idiot proof as I could and it worked. Peace and harmony has reigned and all is well in our world. Let's hope it stays that way!
Now you may wonder why I need to mention old slippers. I know, not the most noteworthy of subjects, but in some ways it is. I have mentioned many times that Spouse being a good and true Yorkshireman is much averse to parting with any of his clothes, no matter how dilapidated they may become. How often has the phrase echoed around Comb Towers, 'There's plenty of wear left in that/them yet.' And so it is the case with his slippers. They become downtrodden and develop holes, but still he fondly hangs on to them. However, last week and miracle of miracles, he actually enquired if there were any NEW slippers knocking around the house anywhere. I checked the sky ... no, it was not about to fall. That's O.K. then. 'New slippers are available', says I. 'Does that mean you are actually going to part with an old pair?' 'Mmm, think so,' says Spouse. Before he could change his mind I went to his wardrobe and fetched them downstairs. 'I only said "think so." I'm still mulling it over,' says he. Holy Mother, what does it take? And you know what it takes, dear reader. And so I did it. It takes a wife to go old-slipper stealing and throw them in the bin and then there's no "mulling" about it. Spouse is still going about muttering and mourning the loss of his old footwear, but I rejoice. No more sporting the down at heel look. A belated welcome to 2021 Spouse. Now ... I only need to persuade him to a new jacket and he might, just might, look slightly better dressed than the local tramp.
Good morning dear reader and welcome to Comb Towers on a pleasant and sunny Sunday morning. No complaints, as we seem to have got through October fairly well and had our share of sunny days. Soon the clocks will change and we will be back into the long dark evenings. I think the time has come for a foray into the loft for the fairy lights. November could be much cheered up with some twinkling lights about the house. I might even wind some around Ruth, my French garden statue, now residing in my den for the winter. She definitely needs some bright lights to cheer her up. She's many shades of grey, (although not fifty!) and she must get a bit chilly as she's only got a bit of a Grecian style frock on. Perhaps I should take pity on her and wrap her up in a nice warm coat.
We have had a very quiet week, dear reader. Well, I say quiet - it has been quiet in that we have not ventured far from the homestead as Spouse has had the grand daddy of all colds and the peace and quiet has been punctuated with bursts of sneezing and coughing. Not wishing to share his affliction with the general populace, he has skulked in his den most of the week, emerging at intervals for meals - well, let's face it, nothng, but nothing, is ever going to put Spouse off his tucker
By Saturday he was judged fit enough to be allowed out without endangering public health and made a brief visit to the supermarket. On his return, happy and beaming, he produced a bunch of green bananas, (not requested by yours truly) and said, 'When I see green bananas I think of you.' Stunned silence by me. Do I look like a green banana? I don't think so. 'So ... I remind you of a green banana do I?' Ignoring the dangerous glint in my eye he nodded and grinned. 'Well, I've always said with your long toes you could hang upside down in the trees, so I bought you some bananas ... ' 'Stop digging,' says I. 'Just jump in the hole and pull the lid down. You're gonna be very sorry about those bananas.'
And so he was, dear reader. By yesterday evening I was going down with his cold and in no mood to visit the kitchen. So the supper menu? A banana sandwich for Spouse and a hot toddy and bed for me. It was a very large bunch of bananas - he'll be swinging through the trees by the time he's eaten them all and won't want to see another banana for a long time to come.
I hope you have a good week, dear reader. I will go and nurse my cold now possibly with another dose of his best Irish Whisky. Almost makes feeling poorly worthwhile. See you next week and in better fettle I hope.
A DOG WITH GREEN LEGS
Good morning dear reader and welcome to an overcast morning in North Yorkshire. The birds are singing, the seagulls are screeching and the nearby cockerel is squawking and our fish are jumping in the pond, probably in the hope of attracting our attention and thereby getting a fishy breakfast. Dream on, fish, it's too early. Spouse is hopeful too, that he is making the final cut of the lawn and then the mower can be put away for the winter, to be replaced by the electric wood saws, as it is time to light the fires again. No rest for the wicked ... I make no comment on that! One thing I will comment on is that yesterday I received a letter and brochure from a company offering me an alternative to a traditional funeral and instead, opt for a fuss free pre-paid "Pure Cremation". Why they have lighted on me I do not know - I only hope Spouse doesn't know something that I don't know either - if you see what I mean and that he doesn't have any imminent plans for me up his sleeve. Although, come to think about it, he does talk about burying me in the garden, (that could be in an urn, couldn't it?) and putting lights around the spot and then he could talk to me when sitting out with his evening tipple. I may have to pursue this matter further when he comes in from mowing the lawn.
Whenever I see Spouse walking behind the lawnmower, up and down the lawn, I always think of George, our barmy Border Collie dog. I could never work out whether he loved or hated all machinery. He knew where he was with sheep and was in his element when allowed to round them up and us too when he got the chance. But machinery was another matter. If we were anywhere near a railway, he had to be kept on the lead. Even if it was a meandering path along a river bank, if there was a railway nearby, there was no free roaming for George, as at the merest hint of a train passing near, he would take off, barking madly and disappearing into the distance. Lord alone knows what went on in his Collie head.
On our Durham Dales smallholding we had a petrol driven John Deere mower, a noisy fiery beast and boy did that turn up the temperature for George. Our front garden sloped away to a dry stone wall that separated it from the fields beyond. We had created two tiers of lawn and Spouse enjoyed mowing it and creating the stripes. He would have enjoyed it a lot more if George hadn't been chasing him up and down, barking his head off. I think he enjoyed the mayhem (George, not Spouse). Running up and down the newly mown grass, he acquired green legs and looked a very strange sight indeed. After some time of this racket, I would take pity on Spouse and bring George indoors. After all, a man can only take so much of a barking mad dog. Unfortunately for me, I was then very much in the bad books with George. Never tell me, dear reader, that dogs don't have emotions or can't express themselves. Judging by the dark looks of utter contempt and disgust that George threw at me when made to come indoors, I was the lowest of the low. Having given me his best dog scowl he would then curl up in a black and white ball, tuck his head under his tail and that was that. No more communicating with me thank you very much, spoilsport that I was.
Another nice memory of this potty sheepdog was his complete inability to catch rabbits. The fields were full of them and our retriever dog had no problem in chasing and very often catching them - look away now dear reader if you're squeamish - and scoffing them down in two bites before anyone could take his catch away from him. I don't think George ever quite got the end bit about chasing rabbits. He loved to chase them - they were just something fun moving across the landscape that weren't sheep. But once, just once, he caught up with one and threw a complete wobbler when he got up to it! 'Aargh! Now what!' emanated from every bit of his frame, as stood frozen and barking madly at his cornered prey. Not cornered enough. Bunnykins took full advantage of George's hesitation and dived down a convenient hole. That was the best bit. George looked at the hole and then looked across to us in puzzlement. 'Where did he go?' Poor old George looked everywhere and just couldn't accept his playmate wasn't coming out again any time soon.
So, if two oddball dogs weren't enough, throw in a slightly oddball Spouse to go with them. I can say this with some certainty after many years of marriage, but really, dear reader, how oddball is this? We were goig to put up a conservatory on the front of the house, to take advantage of the magnificent views over the dale and so Spouse set to and very carefully, bit by bit, dismantled the existing stone built porch. The lovely old stone was set aside to face the outside of the new low wall of the conservatory and the windows were taken out to be recycled into a new workshop he was going to build. All that was left was the footprint of the old porch - three sides of a low wall, but most importantly, the old outer door was still standing in its frame.
Come Sunday morning and we were ready to go to church. We came out of the front door to the house and locked it and then dear reader, mark this. Spouse opened the old outer door standing only in its frame and ushered me through it. He followed me out, turned round and locked it behind him. Grinning like a Cheshire cat, I stepped back over the low wall and said, 'I can't believe you've just locked that door; don't you think a prospective burglar might do this?' and I stepped back out again. Mmm, my dear reader, not too sure that I was Mrs Popular at that moment, but I still chuckle about it now - a door into nothing - soundly locked!
Well, it's time to go, my dear reader. The lawn is mown and no doubt Spouse thinks a hot cup of coffee will have his name on it soon. Have a good week and if I haven't had a "Pure Cremation" by next week, we shall meet again. (I wonder if there is an "Impure Cremation" and what that would involve?).
SAINT ANTHONY AND ANOTHER TSUANMI
Good morning dear reader and welcome to Comb Towers. It is a lovely sunny morning and so far, fingers crossed, all is well in my world. I am very grateful for this state of affairs as we have had a few hairy moments this week.
At the beginning of the week Spouse managed to mislay his bank debit card. He thought he might have left it at the petrol station but that was not the case - there was no trace of it there. I'm sure, my dear reader that we have all been there. That awful sinking feeling when you realise you have lost track of the wretched card and it is not to be found anywhere and you retrace your steps and ask in every shop you have been into since you think you last were in possession of it, then search all bags and clothing in desperation.
It was a beautiful sunny day and I had been out walking for an hour or so and came home to find Spouse, torch in hand, forensically examining the car for any trace of his card. Apparently he had turned the vehicle inside out several times and all to no avail. He had turned his den upside down searching for it, (mind you, how he would ever find anything in there I don't know) and he had been back to the petrol station and walked the grounds, eyes glued to the tarmac in hope. Anxiety and tension oozed from his every pore. This man needed help and quick.
And now, dear reader, just for once in my life I enter the smug zone. Actually, I can't take the credit, it belongs to Saint Anthony of Padua, patron saint of all things lost. I could not count the number of times in my life that Saint Anthony has saved my bacon and directed me towards my lost items. He has never failed me when I ask him to help me find mislaid items. He is a great and much revered saint and my constant companion, as I am always losing things. So ... of course I turned to Saint Anthony, dear reader and offered up a prayer to ask his help to find the card. Then I went and sat in the passenger seat of the car and looked about me. A small cubby hole in the centre of the dashboard caught my attention. Some of my small notebooks were in it. I picked them out and low and behold the card was at the bottom of the pile. Spouse had gone into the house to fetch a more powerful torch for his search. When he returned to the car I held out the card, huge grin on my face. He stared at it in disbelief. 'Where did you find it?' I pointed to the cubbyhole. 'In there, underneath my notebooks.' 'But I looked in there!' 'Not well enough it would seem,' says I smugly. 'You should have prayed to Saint Anthony first off,' says I. 'I did and he came up trumps like he always does. You owe him big time and I think a big thank you is in order.' Spouse agreed and heartily thanked Saint Anthony.
Ah, but that old proverb pride goes before a fall kicked in a couple of days later. My reign in the smug zone did not last. Oh, dear reader, how do I do it? Fall over my own feet yet again. It's not as if I have enormous feet, I don't! And yet I can trip myself up with ease, which is what I did when mopping the kitchen floor. I think we've been here before, dear reader; tsumanis of water flowing from bowls and buckets. Last time I managed to confine myself to the kitchen floor, but this time as I was mopping the utility room floor, I fell over my own feet and upskittled the bucket, sending soapy water flowing into the hall, into the sitting room and into the kitchen. How did all that water know to turn right into the sitting room and into the kitchen? Why didn't it just keep on going in a straight line throughout the hall? One of life's little mysteries. There are rugs in the hall and in the sitting room and you can imagine the soggy mess they were left in! It was Spouse's turn to shake his head and help with the mopping up operations - keeping me well away from the bucket this time! Fortunately we were going away the next day to celebrate our wedding anniversary and so we rigged up the drying racks in the conservatory and draped the rugs over them, hopefully to dry whilst we were away. Luckily, the sun must have shone in our absence as they had dried out on our return.
We enjoyed our trip to Northumberland. It was wet, wild and windy a lot of the time but still great fun and best of all, no catastrophes befell us. And now, back home in North Yorkshire, the weather is glorious. The library garden is winter ready and our own is getting there. I hope you enjoy this wonderful October sunshine, dear reader. We have to make the most of it whilst it lasts. Have a good week and I'll see you soon.
IN A LIBRARY GARDEN
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a very sunny and windy morning in North Yorkshire. Autumn is well and truly here and oh boy, we have had our share of rain. I was staring out of the window watching it hurling down yesterday, the large raindrops bouncing heavily into our pond. I couldn't help but smile to myself thinking of how our fish were probably loving it. I know that sounds a bit strange, but possibly a lot of pondfish find water bouncing all around them fairly entertaining. Our fish are fortunate in that they are in a very large pond with plenty of plants both underwater and on the surface to negotiate, so I hope that keeps life interesting for them. I can imagine life getting a bit dull for fish in a small pond. Life must be rather dull when swimming around the same small space every day. I'm not too sure about fishy psychology but I do know that when we switch the fountain on, our fish absolutely love it - especially when the fountain head is removed so that the water can flow fast and free. It's a brilliant watch. They treat it rather like a water slide and love to swim close in to the fast flowing water only to get hurled away by it at speed - and then come back for more! So I'm guessing that heavy rain might be fun for them too - a bit like trampolining for fish, as they get tossed and bounced around in the water.
We picked a sunny morning earlier in the week to do our stint at our local library garden. We are still cutting back the shrubs, many of which have become rather shaggy after their summer growth. This particular morning Spouse and I were working in the border at the front of the building which faces directly on to the supermarket car park. It's just as well there is a post and rail fence between us and the cars, or I wouldn't fancy our chances with some of the more erratic drivers. But that is by the by. This part of the garden only needs attention in Spring and Autumn as the shrubs are planted into a thick liner and the ground is covered in gravel, so thankfully very little weeding is required. So ... not being in this vicinity very often we don't get to see and hear the supermarket customers coming and going about their business. But when we do, it is fascinating. All the overheard snatches of conversations ... I pause with secateurs in hand and wonder what came before and what was coming next!
'Well, it's the cat, really. That's why I'm being a bit cautious.' Was it a rescue cat? Cautious with the cat? Cautious about leaving the cat/letting friends in to see the cat? A feral wildcat? Mmn, I'd like to know.
'He's decided he's not going anyway. I think she's going to have to go on her own.' Two friends chatting as they walked past me. I wonder why "he" doesn't want to go? I hope it's not on holiday or to a wedding or a party. And will she go without him? Have they fallen out of friends with eachother? I hope he changes his mind. Or maybe she'll be glad to go on her own ...
'I fancy a bit of fish for tea ... But then again, he's not so fussed on it. Maybe I should get him a meat pie.' I was just mentally fancying the fish when her friend said, 'Give him the fish. Oily fish ... it's meant to be so good for you' 'No,' said the lady decisively. 'I'll get him a pie. I give him them Omega 3 capsules every day. He doesn't know, 'cos he doesn't like taking pills, so I put them in food. What he doesn't know ...' And away they went and I couldn't catch any more. Fancy that. How on earth do you disguise Omega 3 in food? Maybe his taste buds are not as clever as they used to be!
'Yes, it were a right going on. She stood him up at the altar. Can you imagaine that? Aye, our Paul were very upset at the time, but I don't know know so much now. I haven't said it to him, direct like, but I think he had a lucky escape ... she were no better than she should be and that wasn't much to start with. But what could I say? It were his choice ... I couldn't really say she were a bit of a lass, now could I? Been around the block a few times I would say.' The elderly gentleman's companion tutted and shook her head sympathetically. 'Any road up, he's got a right nice lass now, even if she is a wrestler.' Oh, come back! I wanted to shout. Don't leave it there. A lady wrestler - how intriguing is that.
'When I got borned, Mummy, Daddy said I came out of your tummy.' Mmm, this is a good one, thinks I and I turned around to see what would happen next. A young Mother was leading her small son along the edge of the car park. 'Yes,' she replied cautiously. 'How did I get in there, Mummy?' Daddy said I was a seed. Was I a seed, Mummy? Did you eat seeds and then I grew in your tummy?' Smart boy this, thinks I; making connections. Maybe not the right ones but he's having a go. How is poor Mummy going to deal with this one, early on a Tuesday morning? 'Yes, Georgie, you were a little seed. Now, come along, we need to go and buy a cake to take to Grandma. Let's go and choose something nice.' Ha ha, clever Mummy, great distraction technique. Let's hope little Georgie leaves that subject alone for a little while and doesn't bring it up again at Grandma's!
'I think he thought he was Superman. He might have done a better job if he'd had tights on and knickers outside of 'em. Well, the whole bloody wall came down on him didn't it. Bet he doesn't wear that T shirt again for a while.' Oh my, dear reader, I was right there in the scene and felt a twinge of sympathy for poor Superman and his failed efforts. The two elderly ladies went on their way, cackling with laughter at some poor man's plight.
But, of course, I shouldn't have been eavesdropping in the first place, so I could hardly chase after them all for the follow up story. However, come Springtime, I might be loitering with intent in the front garden for a little while again. It's great fun, almost as good as the conversations to be listened to in cafés and on buses, only in the garden I just get snippets.
I hope you have a good week, dear reader and all will stay well in your world. Pity we'll be round the back of the library garden next week. There's only a few cross seagulls to listen to there. I may just have to talk to myself!
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a sunny Sunday morning at Comb Towers. I hope you have had a good week and enjoyed the lovely autumnal weather we have been having. Once again, Spouse and I have been wielding the loppers and secateurs in our garden and also at our local library garden. Thankfully, the Council gardeners collect the garden waste from there and compost it for us, otherwise I don't know what we would do. The gardens surround the library building and are quite extensive and the borders densly planted. This week we had some other volunteers come to help us and so managed to create a truckload of garden waste.
Talking of waste - and now I'm talking recycling - our local supermarket has now provided a large bin for "soft plastics" to be recycled. I am delighted about this new development as I like to recycle as much as possible. So, I have started rinsing my "soft plastics" and leaving them to dry before putting them into my recycling bag ready to take to the supermarket. One evening this week, I rinsed out a largish baguette wrapper and left it to dry in the conservatory. The wrapper was brown and white and quite long. I stretched it out to dry and went on my merry way. Well now, dear reader, here's the thing - revenge is sweet and oh, if only I had known I was going to spook Spouse with it, I would have enjoyed it all the more.
The following morning Spouse sashayed downstairs, half asleep and bleary-eyed, to make a cup of tea and idly stared out of the kitchen towards the conservatory and then ... jumped out of his skin. He saw a dead cat stretched out on the floor. 'What the blue blazes?' thinks he. Ha ha, I only wished I could have seen his face! Nervously he opened the door leading into the conservatory and peered more closely at it. Of course, it wasn't a dead cat at all, only my brown and white wrapper. And, of course, dear reader, Spouse then wanted to know from yours truly, why must I randomly strew wrappers about the place to give him horrible shocks first thing in the morning? Oh, I so enjoyed that. It made up for him spooking me with ghostly Ruth last week.
Although that wasn't quite the end of it. I nearly got myself into trouble again at the supermarket when I was posting all my "soft plastics" into their bin a day or two later. Spouse was at my side and as I put the offending wrapper in the bin, I said , 'There goes the dead cat.' A woman going into the store, stopped and gave me a very dark look. Before she could ask the question I hastened to reassure her. 'No, really. It isn't a dead cat. It just looks like one.' I'm not sure she was entirely convinced but at least she didn't alert the staff to this strange woman at the recycling bin. Spouse hustled me away, shaking his head. 'If it's not dead ducks, it's dead cats,' he said, referring to a previous supermarket incident some years previously. Ah well, I enjoyed his fright and we both live to fight another day.
And fight another day we most certainly did, dear reader. Since the advent of Covid in our lives and the two lockdowns, I have walked miles and miles around our village in an effort to maintain some fitness and thus have worn out all my walking boots and trainers. So, I proposed a trip to the county town of Beverley in East Yorkshire for a little shopping and perhaps a spot of lunch. Spouse had to mull this one over, (see blog 1st November 2016 "How To Make A Yorkshireman Cry" ... "tell him he's going shopping".) In the event he decided he was up for it and off we went. It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and we were in harmony with eachother.
Well, that didn't last. We arrived in Beverley, a pretty town with an ancient Minster dating back to the thirteenth century. We parked in the supermarket car park, as customers are allowed three hours free parking and as we were going to do a large shop there later, that seemed O.K. to us. 'So,' says Spouse, 'where is Mountain Warehouse then?' 'Mmm,' says I. 'I'm not sure I can remember. It's so long since we have been here, I think I've forgotten.' Suddenly, I was assailed by doubts. 'They do have one here, don't they?' Dear reader, I don't think I need to describe the withering look that came my way. You can imagine that one. 'You mean we might have come all this way and it's not here at all? Quite possibly in some other town in another place and not this place?' 'Well ... just not sure that's all. I'll Google it.' Out comes the phone and a quick Google search reassures me that Mountain Warehouse is to be found in the main thoroughfare of the town. Sigh of relief on that one.
We both decided to avail ourselves of the supermarket's Ladies and Gents facilities before heading off to town. I put my phone in the car glove box and headed off for the Ladies. We went our separate ways and I suggested I meet Spouse at the supermarket entrance shortly. So, there I was, hanging about the entrance and eventually Spouse came striding out towards me. He had that incredulous and rather resigned look on his face. 'What are you doing out here?' he asked. 'Waiting for you,' I said brightly. 'We're going into town.' With a visible effort, Spouse suppressed his frustration with me and forebore to grind his teeth too much. 'Yes, we are. Why didn't you turn right out of the Ladies and wait at the entrance there, as that is the direction we go to the town, instead of walking all the way back through the store to wait at the entrance that does not lead to the town.'
Oh, dearie me, dear reader. You know and I know and he knows that I am directionally challenged. In Covid times the store had a one way entrance and exit system. But now that has gone and both doors can be used. So what I thought of as the exit is now also an entrance!! So, we strode back through the store and went on our way to the town. And then ... 'So, what road is Mountain Warehouse on?' asks Spouse. 'Mmm, don't really know,' says I. 'In the town centre somewhere.' 'Well, get you phone out and have a look,' he suggested. 'Ah, can't do that,' says I. 'The phone is in the car.' You know that straw that broke the camel's back, dear reader? That was about Spouse's state by now. I have to say it really is most unlike him, but I think enough was enough. He strode through the streets muttering in quite a loud voice about a wife who (a) doesn't know if the shop is there in the first place, (b) can't find her way out of a paper bag, let alone the right store entrance and (c) can't bring the phone for the directions to find the store anyway. I was so embarrassed that I almost felt like announcing to my fellow shoppers that it was alright, he was only out for the day and would soon be taken home to a place of safety.
Luckily for me, or possibly to Spouse's unerring sense of direction (drat his eyes), we found the shop fairly easily and I was able to renew my footwear for the coming season. Thankfully Spouse regained his usual good humour and we enjoyed a slap up lunch outdoors in the sunshine. (Note to self - next time keep phone with you at all times!). Have a good week, dear reader and I hope to be here next week as there are no further proposed shopping expeditions on the horizon, so I should keep my head on my shoulders for now, providing there are no more dead cats in our conservatory.
ELFINA AND RUTH
Good morning dear reader and welcome to an overcast Sunday in North Yorkshire. I hope you are well and enjoying our mildly autumnal weather. The flowers in my garden are gradually dying back and I feel like the Red Queen in Alice In Wonderland, as I wield the secateurs and say 'off with their heads', but I hope I'm not as aggressive as that good lady.
Speaking of ladies, I must tell you about Elfina and Ruth, the extra two in our marriage! Elfina is our house elf. We have never seen Elfina, as she always operates in our absence but she certainly makes her presence felt. I think she parties with her friends when we are out and we come home to find an array of plates and glasses left about. Spouse is always wide-eyed when asked about them. 'I never left them there ...' 'Oh, was it Elfina again?' I ask. Spouse nods solemnly. 'That house elf, she's very naughty.' 'She might have to go,' says I. 'Oh no.' Spouse is most emphatic. 'We can't do without Elfina, she's a treasure.'
And she is a treasure, dear reader. Shirts get scorched on the ironing board, socks go missing in the wash, there's no tonic left to go with the gin - it's all Elfina's fault - she's been partying again! I know I have teased Spouse with thoughts of letting her go, but in truth, I could not do without Elfina. The times she has saved my bacon!! 'It's Elfina's fault,' I say, when I've burnt the dinner. 'She was supposed to watch it and she's skived off somewhere', or if his favourite sweater has been shrunk in the wash, 'Elfina did it. I told her to put it on a wool wash. She never listens.'
Spouse would be lost without Elfina too. When his den becomes too chaotic to the point when even he can't find things, Elfina's shortcomings are brought out into the light of day again. 'That house elf, I swear she does it on purpose,' he says. 'I had this room all tidy and organised and now look at it. I only went into town and she's wrecked the place. I'm going to have to sort it all out again now' he says nobly and sets to work. And when his mega-shed is upside down, 'Elfina's been partying with her mates again,' is the reason given.
In spite of all her quirky ways we would not be without Elfina. All accidents, mislaid items and catastrophes can be laid at her door. She gets the flack for eveything, so for me, she can party all she likes - just leave a little gin and tonic for us will you Elfina.
Adn then there is Ruth. Ruth is a very beautiful life-size French grey and white pot statue. She is named Ruth after Ruth in the Old Testament when she was gleaning corn in the fields and met Boaz. John Keats wrote about her in Ode To A Nightingale - 'she stood in tears among the alien corn.' Our French Ruth stands contemplatively among the alien laurels in an English garden, looking wistfully out from their lush green leaves. But - I am not too keen on leaving her outside to the mercies of the winter frosts and so I asked Spouse to bring her indoors at some point. I imagined we would park her in the garage for the season.
All I can say, dear reader, is that I appear to have a strong heart as it has had to withstand a severe shock this week. (Note to self - was that Spouse's intention?) Hopefully not, although I suspect the mischevious part of him was uppermost when he did what he did. Instead of parking Ruth out in the garage, he brought her into the house and positioned her in my writing den. As the nights are now drawing in, we have dawn to dusk lights plugged in around the house, so that we do not stumble around in the dark looking for a light switch. Spouse had positioned Ruth in front of one of these lights in my den, but didn't tell me. In the dark of the late evening, I walked into my den and there was Ruth, only I didn't know it was Ruth. In the dim light I saw the glowing grey ghost of a woman hovering in the corner of the room. I shrieked and almost passed out with shock. I turned tail and fled, gibbering, into the arms of Spouse. When he finally understood what I was wailing about, he rolled his eyes and roared with laughter. Taking me by the hand he led me back to my den. 'It's not a ghost, you numpty. When did you ever see a ghost in this house? It's Ruth!!' 'Ruth???' 'Yes, Ruth. You asked me to bring her in and I have. I think she looks great there and she can keep you company when you're writing this winter. Look at her lovely face. she's so serene.' 'Well I'm glad she's serene because I feel anything but serene right now,' I retorted.
Spouse swears black, white and blue that he did not deliberately light Ruth up in that ghostly way. He says he just forgot to tell me she was there. Mmm, I think my jury's out on that one. Well, dear reader, Ruth and I will journey through the winter together, with Elfina doing her worst in the rest of the house. We could be in for an interesting time. I hope you have a good week and that I survive any more shocks my week can throw at me. I see we are forecast some heavy rain later in the week. Let's hope it's not time to build an Ark just yet. My very best wishes to you and I'll see you next week.
PIGEONS PARTYING IN THE RAIN
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a lovely sunny day in North Yorkshire. All in all it has been a great week for weather - hot and sunny and then one good day of lovely rain. No complaints from me, everything in the garden at Chez Comb is bloomin' lovely. No doubt a lot of the nation is a tad bleary eyed this morning, having stayed up to watch Emma Raducanu's success at the U.S. Open in New York. Such happy news after all the dark times we have been through. Many congratulations to her. Let's hope to goes from strength to strength.
It has been an unusual week for us - actually, it might be more accurate to say it has been a normal week, as most of our weeks have elements of the extraordinary in them. Most days I fit in a fast-paced walk around the village. I try to keep a reasonable level of fitness up and it gives my brain cells a much-needed rest and also I will spot any firewood going begging. Very often unwanted wood is left outside the owner's house for anyone to take. I did very well last week, toting home two nice pieces of wood. They looked like they had been used for shelving and they have made a nice base on the floor of my shed to store some of my large tubs on in the winter. But enough of that nonsense. Spouse has gone a thousand times better...
An old wooden bungalow has stood on the outskirts of the village for ninety eight years, gradually deteriorating to the point where it was in danger of collapsing altogether. Passing by one day, Spouse spotted the start of it's demolition. Never one to let the grass grow, he asked what was happening with the wood. Most of it was going to the amenity tip. Spouse asked if he could take some for firewood. 'Help yourself' was the response, 'but it all has to be gone by Thursday night.'
Heaven's pearly gates could not have been a more gladsome sight for Spouse. Over the course of the next three days, Spouse ferried wood home. The weather was roaring hot and there was no shade to be had when loading at one end and unloading at the other. He would disappear for an hour or two and reappear with the latest load, black as a rat and dripping with perspiration ... Mmm, too much information methinks. Anyway, the best I could do was rehydrate him with glasses of cold water and produce vast quantities of food at intervals and then he would be off again. The owner of the old bungalow was dismantling it and had hired two men-in-a-van to take the wood away, so no time had to be lost by Spouse in hauling his share away. And a haul it most certainly is - our gravel path to one side of the lawn at present resembles a woodyard, but never mind that - we'll certainly have toasty toes this winter and Spouse thinks he can store a lot of it at the rear of my new shed.
So, that's the wood news. But what about partying wood pigeons? I know I have written about wood pigeons before, dear reader, but really, I think this week their behaviour really takes the biscuit. I think they must be suffering from a touch of sun, or they're having an end of summer fling. From early morning to the evening gloaming, they are flying about, chasing eachother and fighting and when not fighting, getting very close up and personal if you know what I mean. I don't know if it's just our wood pigeons or it's something in the clear Yorkshire air, but they appear to have the stamina of prize stallions. Which is all well and good, dear reader, but that's as far as it goes. It was nest building time recently and we watched them flying to and fro into the Ash tree carrying large twigs in their beaks. I can only think that our lot must have been at the back of the queue when God gave out the instructions for nest building for pigeons. Ours are uttely useless. For weeks on end I have been gathering up the fallen twigs and gazing up through the branches of the Ash tree - there is no sign of a nest taking shape. I don't know where they have resorted to in laying their eggs, but I keep coming across broken ones in the garden - but never in the same place. Mmm, I don't know what to make of that.
Now I mentioned at the start of this blog that we had had a good day's rain this week. It was indeed very welcome and our lawn and borders gratefully soaked it up. And so did the pigeons. Yes, I appreciate a good soaking of their dusty wings would be welcome, but our wood pigeons went one better. All thoughts of love and war went out the window as the heavy rains fell. They all jumped in our pond and blissfully partied - jumping on and off the stones and splashing crazily in the water, jumping back on to the stones, a shake of the wings and back in again. Spouse and I stood and watched them - it was mesmerising and seemed quite bonkers in view of the rain battering down on them. However, I suppose that wood pigeons know their own business best and if partying in the rain is their thing ... Glastonbury for birds I guess. We have had hot and dry days since then, so I am looking forward to the next rains - bring on the party - I might join in.
Well, dear reader, time to go and make Spouse and I a morning coffee. He is busy putting a coat of varnish on my new shed and then he has hopes of getting inside his own mega-shed and sorting it out, now that I have removed all my horticultural detritus from it and he will be able to swing the proverbial cat in it - do not be alarmed, we do not have a cat. I am a little apprehensive, as when he was collecting all the wood, the owner dismantling the bungalow had 'a serious piece of kit' acording to Spouse - some new kind of powered Reciprocating Saw. By the happy glint in Spouse's eye, I can see that is the next thing on the shopping list. Ah, boys and toys. Will I worry about that one any more than I do about the large 'executioner's' axe? I will have to wait and see. Have a good weekend, dear reader and I hope to see you next week.
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a sunny Sunday at Comb Towers. It's certainly been a cool week and not very August-y. Let's hope a little indian summer comes our way in September. Spouse and I have been out on a few jaunts - a food fair, a traction engine fair and a mega car boot fair. All good fun, but what possessed me to let Spouse anywhere near a food fair I do not know. All treats on offer were sampled and a large and very spicy West African lunch consumed. It's just as well that Spouse was driving - the lady on the rum stand must have taken a fancy to him, as three times she offered him free samples! I might have been taking him home in a wheelbarrow.
That's enough jaunting for now; there is work to be done at Comb Towers. My new mega-shed is up and needs insulating inside and the guttering putting up outside, to pipe the rain into our new water storage tank. I hope we will be able to keep that water next summer for topping up the pond and I won't have to converse with the water company again about meter readings! I can't wait to move all my horticultural gear and tools in. I know - I'm a saddo, so excited over a shed! But there it is, I am a child of the soil.
Speaking of our jaunts, we were much struck by the variety of dogs being towed around the fairs by their owners - from enormous and very hairy German Shepherds to tiny Yorkshire Terriers with bows in their hair. I am a huge Golden Retriever fan and I can't hep but greet every one I meet. There was a particularly beautiful one at the food fair. He had a lovely white curly coat and without thinking I rushed over and exclaimed, 'Oh, you're so gorgeous.' 'Thank you very much,' said the owner, grinning broadly at me - thankfully he knew I meant the dog!
We were reminded of the dogs that we had in our lives when we went to live in France. We had George, a Border Collie and Harry, a Golden Retriever. We first went to France in a small camper van and stayed on a farm not far from Cognac. In addition to the farm, the owners also owned a brandy distillery. Oh, the lovely smell when distilling was going on, you could just about get drunk on the air! Monsieur and Madame C. were really lovely people and made us feel very welcome at their campsite. We stayed for quite a long time whilst we house hunted and then waited to move into our own property.
Monsieur C. had a dog - I say it was a dog - it was the size of a small horse and was aptly named a 'lion dog' called Splendide. And indeed, Splendide was very splendid. No exaggeration, he was very similiar to my Golden Retriever, only three times his size. We first encountered him on our arrival at the campsite. Splendide was stretched out on the grass in front of the farmhouse. He looked just like a huge lion snoozing in the sunshine. As we passed him by, we stared at him in wonderment. 'What is that?' said Spouse 'I don't know, but I hope they don't have a pet lion roaming about, or this might not be the place for us.' I said.
In the event we discovered that Splendide was indeed a dog. He was very stately and padded about the farm and fields and no-one messed with him. Put it this way, I would not like to have been a burglar and encounter Splendide in the night. The farmhouse had a large reception room at the front. Splendide used to lie in there and fill it!
We had been out walking in the woods with our dogs one afternoon and we were returning home to the campsite and there was Splendide, basking in the afternoon sunshine, stretched across the whole width of the road. There was no possibility of taking the easy route home. Harry Retriever might have fancied an encounter with Splendide, but we didn't - it was the long way round for us.
Every morning Spouse would take the dogs into the next field for a run about. One particular morning I was very grateful that I was not with them, but watched with horror from the camper van as Splendide entered the field. Goege, the Border Collie took one look at Spelendide and legged it home. Sensible dog with a well developed sense of self-preservation. Harry Retriever on the other hand, was always the idiot hot head. He was not pleased to see a strange dog on his patch and made a beeline for Splendide. In attack mode, he went for the back of his neck to bite him - only he had to stand on his hind legs to get there and I don't think Splendide felt anything anyway. That method of attack having failed, Harry went around the back of Splendide and grasped his tail in his mouth. At this stage, Spouse had caught up with Harry. So there they were - Harry swinging around on the end of Splendide's tail and Spouse swinging on the end of Harry's tail. Round in a weird circular dance they went - niether Harry or Spouse letting go and Splendide looking round in puzzlement at what was going on somewhere in the region of his rear end. Eventually Harry came up for air and let go and so Spouse could pull him away altogether - and then ran hell for leather for our camper van and hustled Harry inside. Whilst we were still shaking like jellies, Splendide stalked over to our little camper and really gave it the once over, sniffing all around it and growling. If he'd put his mind to it he probably could have turned us over - and then eaten us all for breakfast. Happily for us he must have decided he'd intimidated us enough and he stalked off. Breathing a huge sigh of relief, Spouse let go of Harry's mouth which he had been keeping firmly muzzled to stop any further fighting talk.
Monsieur and Madame C. came to visit us when we were settled in our new home, bringing the sad news that Splendide had gone to doggy glory. In spite of our encounters with him, we were very sad to hear this. R.I.P. Splendide, such a beautiful and amazing dog. We've never seen anything like him and we'll never forget him.
Well, dear reader, I hope you have a good week and enjoy some September sunshine. I hope to be moving all my gear into my new shed and then wielding secateurs and loppers in our garden and our local library garden. There is a great deal to do, but I am in optimistic mood, as there is the promise of some volunteer help in the library garden. Fingers crossed!! Best wishes to you and I hope to see you here next week.
NO BLOG THIS WEEK
Good morning my dear reader. As it is a Bank Holiday weekend I am taking a little time off and Spouse and I are going on a few jaunts. I'll see you next week all being well, renewed and refreshed - that's the theory anyway. I hope you enjoy the weekend and the sun shines us. My best wishes to you.
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a soggy Sunday morning at Comb Towers. Lots of lovely rain through the night and my. my, how the summer is speeding by. We are almost at the end of our dog sitting stint and I will miss him when he goes home. Fortunately, the weather this week has been a bit cooler for him and we have enjoyed rambling about far and wide. I wonder if he will miss us when he goes home? Probably not, he will be back in the bosom of his own family again.
During the recent very hot and dry weather, the water in our pond evaporated quite a bit and the level dropped by a good six inches. Although our pond is three to four feet deep, we were getting concerned for the welfare of our aquatic life and all the pond plants. Quite a lot of these sit in the shallows and the water was shrinking away by the day. Also, although we have lots of stones around the edges of the pond, protruding from the water so that the birds can stand on them and get a drink - even they were finding it difficult to bend so far down to drink.
Something had to be done. Unfortunately the dry spell had gone on for so many weeks, that we had used up every drop of rain water in our butts and tanks. A pond refill with water from the mains was the only resort left to us.
Now, dear reader, when we first built the pond and filled it with the mains water, our water company were quite happy for us to do that and not charge us the sewerage charges on the volume of water used to fill the pond - we just had to let them know the dates we filled the pond up. Wonderful and soooo straightforward. Three years on and we have always managed to keep the pond topped up with the stored rainwater from our tanks. But, this year we are at the mercy of the water company again ... dear reader, who needs to write fiction ...
I telephoned the water company and spoke to a nice young lady and put the scenario to her, about topping the pond up and not being charged sewerage charges on the water. She hadn't heard of this being done before and went away to consult with colleagues. Back on the line some ten minutes later, she said yes, in principle, that would be alright, but we would have to take meter readings before and after filling the pond up. 'That's all very well,' says I, 'but we don't know where the meter is.' She consulted her computer screen and told me it was just outside our garden wall on the grass verge.
Feeling a very happy bunny and armed with this information, Spouse and I sashayed outside to locate the meter. There was a slight sunken area on the grass verge just outside the gates. Spouse took the top of the turf off, only to find nothing there. Mmm, not a great result. The rest of the grass verge was uniformly flat and short of digging up the whole thing, we were no further on. No meter readings meant no pond refill.
Fortuitously for us, we received a letter from Faisal, Customer Relationship Manager at the water company. He confirmed we could fill our pond without sewerage charges, just read the meter before and after. If we can't actually read the meter, he would arrange for a reading to be taken for us.
So, I emailed Faisal at the water company, thanking him for his assistance but pointing out that we could not read the meter as we could not locate it. Could he enlighten us in any more detail, as to its whereabouts.
Then Bethany emailed, (another Customer Relationship Manager), advising us exactly where the meter was, BUT contradicting Faisal's instructions to read the meter!! No, no, Mrs Comb do not read your meter, she wrote sternly. Health and Safety! What!!! Spouse was not impressed. What were the health and safety issues of lifting a small manhole cover and reading a meter?
I emailed Bethany to tell her that her colleague, Faisal, had told me to read the meter and if I can't read the meter how can I fill our pond as agreed?
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Spouse had collared a passing water company man-in-a-van and asked him about locating our meter. The water company man was most obliging and produced his meter detector and hey presto - meter uncovered under the turf! Not only that, he took a reading on his phone and showed it to us and then went on his merry way.
I emailed Bethany again to say we have located the meter courtesy of a water board employee and please could we now take readings? Faisal says yes - you say no. Which is it to be?
In the meantime, whilst waiting for her considered reply, the rains finally came and refilled our butts and tanks. Happy days for us and the pond. Spouse refilled the pond from the tanks and all was well. I emailed Bethany with this information, but wondered if this situation arises next year, what will the meter reading advice be...?
Lisa, yet another Customer Relationship Manager from the water company telephoned me, (how many have they got?) and I got a definitive answer. Yes, we can read the meters before and after a pond top up and if we can't manage it, they would send someone out to help us. She says she'll confirm in an email - I look forward to it! The water company must operate on the same principle as workers digging a hole - there are always three of them. And so it was with my little query - Faisal, Bethany and Lisa. Something tells me if I have to revisit this scenario again next year, we may all be meeting up again!
Goodbye for now, dear reader and I hope you have a good week. We are in the dog days of August and have to make the most of them. And speaking of dogs and being dog free, I think there will be a few outings on the horizon for us. I will have to dust down my glad rags.
THE LADY IN THE RED DRESS
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a sunny/cloudy/soggy Sunday at Comb Towers. I hope you are well and enjoying the mostly lovely August weather, although this morning it really can't make its mind up what to do, so is throwing a bit of everything at us. We welcomed the rain a couple of weeks ago and now thankfully, the sun is here again. Indeed, I am very thankful as we are doing our bit for the family and dog sitting, (a chestnut coloured labrador), whilst they take their summer holiday. I am not a huge fan of dog walking in the pouring rain, or walking in the rain at any time come to that, so long may the sun shine.
Six thirty prompt every morning, dog and I sashay forth for our morning constitutional - he all bright-eyed and bushy tailed; me slightly less so at that time of day, but I gradually awaken and by the time we get to the recreation field, I am ready to run about with him. He's a very big dog, strong and muscular and quite a sight as he thunders towards me at full tilt. I move out of the way pretty sharpish I can tell you, or he would take me off my feet.
The village is very quiet so early in the morning; most of the dog walkers come out eightish onwards, so on our walk we have the world to ourselves, other than the occasional cyclist and one or two folk making their way to work at the small trading estate at the top of the village.
One morning I passed a beautiful lady, very well-groomed, wearing a bright red dress and with strappy white sandals on her feet. Her blond hair was piled high on her head and a tiny leather handbag slung across her body. She looked lovely and I asumed she was making her way to work at the trading estate. She beamed at me and called out a cheery 'good morning.' I responded in kind and then dog and I went on our merry way.
A good half an hour later as dog and I walked down the road to home, the lady in the red dress passed us again, going up the road - so she wasn't going to work at the trading estate after all. She had done the same walk as dog and I, but in reverse. (Only missing out running about the field I suppose). All those farm roads in those strappy sandals!!
I told Spouse about it over our morning cuppa together. 'Fancy dressing up like that for a country walk,' says I. Spouse looked pityingly at me. 'She wasn't dressed like that to go for a walk,' he said. 'Well, she was,' I retorted. 'You're such a numpty,' he said. 'Thank you for that,' says I. 'So, clever clogs - why was she dressed like that and out walking?' 'She was going home,' he said. I looked at him blankly. 'What do you mean, "she was going home"?' Spouse stared hard at me and repeated, with emphasis, 'She was going home ... Get it ? ... She hadn't been home ... And she was beaming, you said.' The penny dropped 'Oh ... Oh ... I see. Wow, lucky lady. She certainly had a big smile on her face.'
And you'll never guess what, dear reader - well, I bet you can. The next day Spouse was up with the seagulls and out the door with doggo, but came home very disappoined. No lady in a red dress or any lady in any dress come to that. Just a lycra-clad cyclist!
Dog and I are back to our early morning ramblings, but no sign of the beautiful lady. I hope she is still smiling wherever she is. Spouse sometimes takes his turn in early morning dog walking - still hopeful - and what if he did meet up with her? ... Dog is with us for a while yet, so we shall wait and see what this week brings.
I hope it brings lovely weather for all of us, especially those away on holiday. We are halfway through August already and the evenings are beginning to draw in, so stay safe and enjoy the sunshine whilst it's here. We are not away on holiday yet, so all being well, I'll see you next week.
OF STAMPS, BANANAS AND DOCTORS
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a very wet Sunday at Comb Towers. I may be in the minority but I welcome the rain. The water level in our wildlife pond has dropped by six inches and I had been in negotiations with our water company to refill it, (that might be another blog, believe me). However, with all the rain we've had this week, the pond is almost refilled and so are our tanks and water butts. If another heatwave comes, we are ready!
This week's wet weather has kept Spouse indoors and after tidying up his den he spent some time on one of his hobbies - philately. Spouse has been a keen stamp collector since he was a young stripling and has an extensive knowledge of this subject and the fascination for him is that he never stops learning. Most of the time he obtains the first day covers by post or from the Post Office and sometimes, stamps on a particular subject, from the philatelic society meetings. Seeing him with his albums spread out and setting out stamps for cataloguing reminded me of the time he totally bemused our village post mistress when we lived in the Durham Dales.
Spouse went into the little post office and asked Maxine, the post mistress, if she had any stamps with submarines on. Just like that. Maxine looked at him askance and said she didn't think so, probably thinking, 'we've got a right one here'. But Spouse persisted - there must be some stamps with submarines on. So, to oblige, Maxine and her colleague hunted through their massive ledgers of stamps and sure enough, found the four stamps featuring British submarines 1901-1992.
So far so good, Maxine thought the war was one, but in fact, the battle had only just begun. She looked at Spouse expectantly, assuming he wanted to buy them. Oh no, nothing as straightforward as that! 'I would like a "single one" of each stamp, then a "block" of four of each stamp, a "gutter pair" of each stamp and another single stamp of each type with the "traffice lights" on. Maxine's eyes glazed over and she took a step back from the counter. 'Really?,' she said faintly. 'Mr Comb, I have no idea what you're talking about. are you pulling my leg?' Spouse was quick to reassure her. 'No, really. I know it's a bit of an order but we can do one bit at a time.'
So, they started with the "single" stamps and the "blocks" of four of each type. That bit went well. 'Now the "gutter pair" of each stamp,' says Spouse. 'And what might a "gutter pair" be?' asked Maxine. 'One stamp with a broad, white perforated strip separating it from the stamp below.' Maxine tracked down the relevant sheets and carefully tore out the stamps. 'Last, but not least,' says Spouse, 'the "traffic lights".' 'Aren't traffic lights for ... traffic?' ventured Maxine. 'Not when it's a stamp,' Spouse retorted triumphantly. 'Enlighten me,' Maxine said wearily. Spouse pointed to the top of the sheet of stamps. 'See all those coloured circles there? They're known as the "traffic lights" - each of those colours is on every one of these stamps. Some collectors are very interested in the actual colours - in addition to the subject matter on the stamp.'
Spouse wanted a single stamp with the "traffic lights" attached for each submarine stamp. As she was working her way through them, she said, 'I don't mind doing this ... but why?' 'That's the way I like them,' said Spouse and merrily went on his way, leaving behind a very perplexed post mistress ... 'And you didn't think to tell her, all this is for your philately?' says I when he related the tale on arrival home. 'Well, no,' says Spouse lamely. 'She'll think you're a right numpty,' says I ...
The "bannanas" incident was slightly different, although again, he left behind a rather bemused, if very amused lady. A recent blood test had shown slightly low potassium levels and so Spouse was instructed to eat a bannana every day for a while and then return for a further blood test. He duly did this and at the same time collected a new prescription which included potassium in it. Out of nowhere he said to the receptionist, 'Should I keep eating bannanas?' She tried very hard to keep a straight face and replied, 'Well ... if you want to!' And he wondered why there were shrieks of laughter as he left the surgery. He should be royalty - never complain, never explain.
Last, but by no means least, dear reader, we come to our lovely lady doctor in Scotland. Believe it, or believe it not, Spouse has a natural charm and combined with big blue eyes and a merry smile, caused our doctor to adore him, even though he drove her up the wall most of the time, with his explanations as to why he hadn't ever followed her instructions time and time again. One day he went for his check up and he noticed a chart pinned to the inside of her consulting room door. It illustrated all the healthy food groups. Right at the bottom was "Fats". Now, this lovely lady had spent years trying to keep Spouse on the dietary straight and narrow and well away from "fats" of all kinds. So, triumphantly, Spouse pointed to the chart and said, 'You see, what did I tell you. Fats are good for you. I was right all along!!!' ... Spouse came out from his consultation beaming and said, 'You're next,' to me. Off he went and I made my way into the her room. Our lovely doctor had her head in her hands and was the picture of despair as she slumped over her desk ... once again he had got the better of her!
Well, dear reader, it's still pouring down as I write and Spouse is in his den. We are dog sitting for a fortnight and his four legged friend is lying at his feet. The only person Spouse is likely to bemuse today is me and I'm well used to it. But there again, the dog is not and after a very wet day with Spouse in his den ... who knows. I hope the weather improves as one of us is going to have to take doggo out for a walk soon. I hope you have a good week and may the sun shine on us again before too long.
JACK AND THE GUNNERA STALK
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 Err, is Hubby at home today?
Me Yes, he's just going to take care of you both.
Jenny Really? That sounds a bit alarming. How do you mean?
Me He's got a big pot of water and he's going to take it off to clean up the garden.
Jenny But I haven't got a garden.
Me Yes, I am sorry to say that we have yet to see how much we can get this week.
Jenny Maybe you should put your phone away and go and lie down.
Me Maybe you should come over later. I think it's aleatory again.
Jenny Put your phone away and go and lie down. I'll ring you later on. Aleatory! As if ...
Me O.K. Plymouth has always enjoyed a bit of the garden.
Jenny Have you been at those wild berries?
Me Fermented foods are good for you.
Jenny Everything in moderation.
Me Don't think so.
Jenny I think I'll risk coming over. God know what you're up to.
Me OK, because I have know it is really right.
Jenny I'll just pop round.
Me No, not good.
Jenny Why not?
Me Brillliant idea but thank goodness it is not too easy to play with.
Jenny What isn't?
Me Yes, I have got a few jobs that I might play with.
Jenny What kind of jobs?
Me Zoo day tomorrow and then put your Christmas shopping list in you garage, house, car.
Jenny Bit early for Christmas shopping.
Me No worries, Christmas shopping going good here.
Jenny I still think I should come round. What are you doing? Not buying stuff from the internet I hope.
Me A sausage and a cake for lunch, dinner and then we can get some coffee on sunday morning, afternoon, night.
Jenny I'm on my way.
Me Yes, because the weather at the other house is dodging me.
Jenny On my way with a flask of very strong coffee. And then a long lie down for you.
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. Perhaps I should do as Jenny recommends and go for a long lie down. Things can only improve.
ANYONE FOR VERBAL TENNIS?
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.
DID THEY REALLY SAY THAT?
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.
POST LOCKDOWN DAYS
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.