Good morning dear reader and welcome to a lovely sunny Sunday at Chez Comb. What a change from the rest of this last week, when it has been perishingly cold and wet. Any more rain and we will be needing webbed feet! I hope you have had a good week and enjoyed the rain, hail and occasional glimmer of sunshine. Once again Spouse and I are enjoying peak marital harmony - he is down at the bottom of the garden playing with boys toys and I have been a domestic goddess indoors.
The previous owners of our house left behind an enormous old oil drum which we would like to take to the scrapyard, so Spouse has been having fun cutting it up with his electric grinder - sparks flying in all directions and too near to a wooden fence for my comfort, so I have been lurking indoors away from the action. I have manically spring-cleaned the house amd polished up all our old wooden furniture. I don't think our home has ever looked so handsome or squeaky clean. Quite scary really. I think I need to mess it up a bit to make it feel like home again.
We had a day out to Teesside this week. The neighbours who lived on the farm below us in the Durham Dales, (Sylvia and Derek of the gaffa tape incident), have retired to Teesside and the weather forecast for once being clement, we motored over for lunch in their garden. Naturally the talk turned to our smallholding days and our many adventures in snowy blizzards and glorious sunshine. I though it might be nice to share a couple of these memories with you, my dear reader.
One snowy winter's night, the four of us were having dinner together, Sylvia cooking a wonderful meal and Derek being an attentive host. Relaxing afterwards by a roaring log fire, we enjoyed an after dinner liquer. Then Derek said, 'Hey, I've still got some of my Grandfather's Apple Schanpps. Would you like to try some?' I passed on the Schanpps, memories of a student drama tour many years ago, still too vivid. However, Spouse is always ready to try new things and readily agreed. My dear reader, he took to it like a duck to water and between them they made good inroads on the bottle. Eventually it was time to take our leave and we headed off into the icy starlit night.
In the normal course of things Spouse and I would walk slowly up our lane, getting a full cardio-vascular workout as we made our way up the steep farm track. But that night, dear reader, filled with rocket fuel-strength Schanpps, Spouse raced ahead of me like an Olympic runner and didn't appear to be at all out of breath when I finally caught up with him at our garden gate. In fact, dear reader, he had no idea how he had got there at all. 'Teleported,' says I without a blush. 'It's my new skill.' Ha ha, I think he believed me and in great harmony we went home. I'm sorry to say our journeys up the lane were never so easy again. Sporting a very fat head the next day, Spouse abjured the Schnapps ever after.
Another memory that surfaced was from the opposite season - a hot sunny August day. The water supply to the two houses was piped underground from high up on the fell and delivered first to us and on to Sylvia and Derek. Rainwater was collected in an enormous tank sunk into the ground and was filtered through gravel beds to clean it before it flowed on through the pipes. That particular year we had enjoyed a hot summer and our water supply was becoming intermittment. A walk over the fell to the tank revealed the low levels of water and ... a great deal of accumulated muck and detritus at the bottom of the tank.
The next day, Spouse and Derek in dungarees and wellies and armed with spades, shovels, ladders and brushes headed off to spring clean the tank. Sylvia and I trailed behind laden with picnic baskets - after all - calories expended by vigorous shovelling would require replacing by a fresh intake of fuel - so they said. By the time we arrived on the scene both men were hard at work, shovelling the muck into buckets and shinning back up the ladders to throw it into a cart. It was hot, dirty work. Sylvia and I kept at a safe distance and began to set out lunch. And then, 'Yo! Man down!' Running over to the tank we saw Derek lying on his back almost swallowed up in the slime at the bottom of the tank. Spouse shimmied down the ladder and waded in to help him up. Not just so easy, dear reader. Derek had been well and truly sucked in. Spouse heaved and tugged at him with all his might and then with a sudden whoosh, Derek came unstuck ... Spouse lost his balance and he toppled over, face down into the mire. Not their finest hour, dear reader, and it took several attempts to get themselves out.
When they finally ascended to the surface again, they were covered in black muck and indescribably smelly. But, dear reader, boys are boys and they were as happy as any boys could be - having a whale of a time. To eat our lunch Sylvia and I stayed upwind of them and at a distance. A cursory rinse of their hands in the filter beds and they ate their lunch with huge appetities and enthusiasm and happy to head back to the tank afterwards to finish the job.
Sylvia was quiet as we packed up the picnic. I knew what she was thinking. 'They'll have to strip off at the back door,' I said. 'There's no way their clothes are coming into the house. We'll get the old bathtub out and throw the clothes into that.' And you know, dear reader, when they ambled happily home they could not understand why they had to strip off outside ... 'Smell? What smell?' Happily for us the rains came again and our water flushed clean and fresh through the pipes again. But, I have a sneaking feeling that that was one of the best days of their lives, dear reader ... no accounting for taste is there?
I hope you have a great week dear reader and the sun shines on us. Until we meet again, take care and stay safe. I only hope Spouse does too, he's back to his cutting equipment tomorrow - let's hope the sparks only fly outside.
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