Good morning, dear reader and welcome to a sunny Sunday at Chez Comb. I hope you are keeping well and looking foward to navigating your way around the maze of rules and dates that have been constructed by our government to ease us out of lockdown. Spouse and I are looking forward to meeting with family and friends again, even if we have to wrap up against the fickle March weather to do so. Spouse is going about with a spring in his step as his favourite lady, (next to me, of course), has promised to make him her famous Victoria sponge cake when we meet up. Talk about the way to a man's heart ...
We have had a very odd week. Ha ha, so what's new? I know, every week has something slightly off the wall in it, only it has been even more so this week. Our doorbell has gone rogue. I know it is an inanimate object but I am beginning to think it has an evil genie in it and it's not one that comes out of a lamp. All week and at random intervals, day and night, bing bong, bing bong, similar to the sound that precedes an aircraft announcement.
Bing bong, bing bong resounds around the house and no-one is ringing the doorbell. We have disconnected it from the plug-in mains unit in the house and so by rights it should have been running on the back up battery for a day or two. Instead the bloomin' thing is still going.
I can't put it in the recycling or throw it out. It's still going bing bong and I don't want to give the refuse collectors heart failure when it suddenly goes off - and it's loud. I have buried it in the cupboard in the hall underneath a pile of old coats, (Spouse's if you're interested. He never throws anything out. "it might come in useful". For what I have no idea.) But, dear reader, bing bong, bing bong still issues forth from the depths of the cupboard. Now I am looking for my ear muffs or possibly a hammer, but something tells me that even they may not cure it. The battery should be very very dead by now. (Can you be very very dead, or just dead?) But no, I have a horrible feeling that bing bong, bing bong may be with us for some time to come.
As if that wasn't enough to drive us completely doolally, dear reader and we're not far off anyway, we have had a week of 'hunt the fishy smells', a new sport at Comb Towers. The fishmonger had some beautiful whole salmon trout and cod for sale at a very reasonable price and Spouse and I being lovers of all morsels piscine, a bag of fishy produce was hauled home along with many foodstuffs as supplies needed replenishing. So far so good. Arriving home, Spouse left the bag of fish out in the cold garage to await my attention whilst I put my shopping away. In due course the fish was brought into the house and chopped up for the freezer.
But, dear reader and it's a horrible but, the aroma of the fish remained in the garage and became steadily more revolting as the week progressed. Inside the house it was bing bong, bing bong and in the garage - oh my my, what a pong of rotting fish. You may not wish to imagine the stench, dear reader, but if you do I hope you can empathise with our distress. Had we somehow managed to drop a piece a fish somewhere and it was lying undiscovered? We had a good hunt and could find nothing. All fish were accounted for and were happily, (or not so happily for them) well frozen in the freezer.
Unable to stand the pong any longer and with pegs on our noses, we just about took the inside of the garage to bits. Can you imagine the task, dear reader, knowing Spouse's propensity for keeping everything as, "it might come in useful"? A Herculean task believe me. But in the end worth it, if only to find the source of the pong and eventually we did. Spouse had hung the fish bag up and fish juices had dripped out and into a copper jug beneath and leaked out of the bottom of the jug to fester on the floor underneath it, but not a mark to be seen anywhere!
We have passed another interesting week and some progress has been made. Disinfectant and hot soapy water have been flung about the garage and the fishy odour is diminshing and I think, and I hope I don't imagine this, bing bong, bing bong is slowing down. Give it another few days, dear reader and quiet and serentity might return to the homestead once more. If not, the wretched apppliance can go and bing bong to itself down the garden - see how Mr crazy crowing-all-night cockerel likes that serenading him all night. Not a bad idea come to think of it. It might stop him in his tracks. There's a silver lining to every cloud.
Let's hope this coming week is a little less eventful. Spouse has been down in his shed and has just come back to the house dripping blood everywhere. Time to be out with the steri-strips once more. Hey ho, some things never change. Take care of yourself, dear reader and take my advice, stay away from sharp nails and knives, it never ends well.
Hello dear reader and welcome to a freezing Sunday at Chez Comb. Another week of snow and temperatures in the minus Celsius. I have not been far from the homestead as the pavements are very icy and I don't fancy a fall just now. Imagine if I broke an arm or a leg and Spouse had to look after me and run the homestead. Mmm, let's not imagine.
Instead I have stayed at home and done quite a lot of work on my current book, 'Aunt Mildred's Millions' and taken up a new hobby of pigeon watching. Most of the surface of our garden pond is frozen over except for in the middle and when the sun shines the solar fountain spurts jets of water into the air and melts a wide circle of water. We can't keep the water in the bird baths unfrozen for long, so our resident family of wood pigeons have braved the ice to get a drink. It's the best entertainment ever. (I know, I think lockdown is really getting to me). They frequently lose their balance on the ice and fall over, sliding and slithering their way to the centre of the pond for a drink. The icy cold water must literally go to their heads, as they then start a full blown bathing routine; head and shoulders dunked in repeatedly and then the wings in their turn. I can hardly bear to watch. I would never make a wild swimmer, just imagining that freezing cold water is quite enough for me.
Thinking back to last week and my story from our Durham Dales smallholding, have made the memories come flooding back. Spooling forward from that time, we lived in Scotland and I belonged to a local writer's group. We were invited to put together an evening of prose and poetry for an evening's entertainment at the local theatre, vaguely around the theme of country life. Try as I might, dear reader, and I really did, every time I sat down to write a serious peice, only something humerous came out. Well, living a country life with Spouse what else could it be? In the end I gave in gracefully and dutifully wrote my two pieces which were based on my experiences on a smallholding.
Now, dear reader, you and I have had quite a long acquaintance with Spouse and we know that given any situation, anything can happen and so it proved when he got himself and old Range Rover which he knew could easily cope with our steep farm track and not conk out halfway up. So, I wrote about this car and one or two other events that occured at the same time. But, after I had read my pieces out to the group, they were only attritbuted to a lively imagination. You, my dear reader know differently.
Picture the scene. Spouse had been out and about the smallholding all afternoon and yours truly was being a domestic goddess indoors, making marmalade and preparing a gastronomic delight for our supper. Eventually Spouse popped his head around the door and enquired about supper. 'About fifteen minutes,' I said. 'Mm, O.K., I'll be in soon.' And so he was. After a wash and brush up he sat down at the table for his meal. Now, mark this, dear reader. Spouse was off his tucker. Yes, really. He picked at the food on his plate in a disinterested kind of way. In all our years of marriage, unless Spouse was actually ill, this was an unheard of occurence. Was the meal not to his liking? I enquired. 'No, it's lovely,' says he. 'I'm just not ... quite ... Oh, I don't know ... maybe not hungry.'
Not hungry? Since when? This is the man known as 'Mr Hollow Legs. The plot thickened when Spouse excused himself after supper. 'I've just a little something to see to outside. I'll be in soon.' Oh yes, what kind of something I wondered? Spouse was very subdued and so I decided I would see what this 'little something' was for myself and followed him at a distance. This 'little something', dear reader, turned out to be his old Range Rover embedded in the gable end of the farmhouse wall. Spouse stood looking at it and scratching his head.
Well, naturally, dear reader. I screeched a bit at this sight. Wouldn't you? 'Look at it and you never said a word about it!' Spouse rolled his eyes and said in a mildly exasperated tone. 'Course I didn't. I knew you'd make a fuss.' Like it was an everyday event and I'd no right to make a fuss.
Well, eventually, the car was pulled out of the wall with the help of our good neighbours and a tractor. The stout farmhouse walls had withstood the crash with minimal damage to the stonework. I duly created a character called Lucinda and wrote up the event for my theatre piece. And the response from my writers group? 'Too much imagination, Patricia. That event is so never going to happen, keep it real, gal.' You see, dear reader, they didn't know Spouse. Always expect the improbable possible.
Take care, dear reader. The weather is set to warm up a bit and I hope to get out and about and I hope you can too. My very best wishes to you and have a good week.
Hello dear reader and welcome to another week in snowy North Yorkshire. The temperatures have plummeted, well, for England they have and although I don't want to appear to be too much of a wuss, I have broken out the thick woolly jumpers and tweed breeches to keep me warm. In fact, I have so many layers on, I could easily be mistaken for the Michelin Man. It's all very well adding on the layers through the day, but getting out of them in the evening as the log fire warms us up is quite another matter. I know - too much information. I will move on.
My dear cousin recently acquired a new puppy and hearing the mixture of fun and tribulations they are now going through with it puts me in mind of our days as smallholders when we had a variety of animals, including dogs and ducks.
Our Border Collie, George, came to us via the RSPCA. (Incidentally, I managed to break my ribs the day we got him, but I'll visit that scenario another day.) "Gentleman George" was sweet natured, very gentle and a little eccentric. Our retriever dog, Harry, arrived as a small puppy. He was a very different kettle of fish (or dog), alpha -male and strong willed and although loveable it was always a battle of wills to get him to behave in a reasonable manner.
Harry had come from a man who had bred and trained gun dogs for fifty years. Mr B was most unimpressed to hear that we weren't making much progress in training Harry. He suggested we take the dog back to him for a month of his training. We weren't allowed to visit but could telephone once a week for a progress report.
Week 1 - Harry had chased his hens. Week 2 - Harry had torn down his pen and got in with the bitches. Week 3 - Harry had chased his sheep. Week 4 - We arrived to take him home. The mischevious part of me I'm afraid to say, dear reader, was just a tad pleased to find Mr B was no longer the uber confident dog trainer of a month previous. I might even go as far to say Mr B was almost a broken man. He'd never had a dog like Harry before. In fairness, he had managed to get him to "sit" and almost "stay" and almost "walk to heel". At the end of these demonstrations Mr B proudly announced that Harry didn't chase the sheep now. He ha, he took him into the field to demonstrate and Harry promptly chased the sheep!
Over the years Harry and I grew to love eachother dearly, but the only creature Harry had a healthy respect for was Henry, our first Muscovy drake. I used to feed the dogs outside as Harry was such an enthusiastic eater, with no manners at all. George, the Border Collie, would nibble his way delicately through his dinner like a Victorian maiden aunt, whereas Harry was pure lout - diving with nose and most of his face into the dish, liberally spattering food everywhere.
Outside dining worked fine for a while, until Henry duck matured and discovered the food bar and times of dining. Both dogs were scared of the duck, but he wasn't frightened of them and could adminster a nasty peck. Soon he was strolling over the gravel, pecking both dogs out of the way and hijacking their dinners. And the wimps, they let him. So the dogs had to come indoors to be fed and Henry had to be shut out and I had to live with the mess. Not sure I came off best there.
Henry's successor was Sam. Now, for all Henry's dog-bullying, he was a very good parent. Muscovy duck mothers are a feckless bunch and not very interested in protecting those fluffy yellow things swimming or wadding behind them. Henry was a good Dad and kept an attentive watch over his brood. After Henry departed for the great duck house in the sky, we acquired a replacement drake, Sam, from our neighbours.
Unfortunately Sam was not of the same ilk as Henry. Sam was a real bully. Very soon he had our girls terrorised and in desperation to get away from him they squeezed under the farm gate and into our front garden, not good news for our precious plants. Sam meanwhile, patrolled the other side of the gate, hawking and squawking at the girls to return. No way José. They were staying put.
In the end I said to spouse, 'you're gonna have to shoot Sam. He's downright vicious', as I had discovered quite a few times to my cost. Look away now, dear reader, if you're squeamish. The deed was done and the bird put in an empty dustbin to await my attention.
Now it so happened that a few days later we were in a large supermarket in the nearby town. Passing the hosuehold goods section I spotted some new dustbins, which put me in mind of Sam. A youg lady assistant was up on a stool sorting out items above our heads. I said to spouse, 'you'll have to wash out that dustbin. Sam bled quite a lot when you shot him and put him in there.' Yes, dear reader, I did have some explaining to do, as the young assistant wobbled on her stool, fell off and gave me rather scared look. Not my finest hour I have to say, as I stumbled over a hasty explanation - 'it's not what you think ... Sam's a duck ... no, not a duck, a drake ... he was nasty ... he had to go ... you get the picture. and yes, we did give that store a wide berth for some time to come.
So, there we are, dogs and duck don't always mix and not with sheep. Funnily enough, in time, Harry became quite blasé and bored with sheep. There were so many of them in our fields that I think he got fed up with seeing them. Now rabbits, that was another matter entirely .....
Have a good week, dear reader and stay safe and don't get buried in a snow drift. My little car did once for 3 weeks and wonder of wonders, it started first button when we finally dug it out. It's snowing hard here, who knows, we might be out with the shovels again tomorrow.
Hello dear reader, how are you getting on? I hope you are fit and well and keeping your spirits up. I am with you in spirit and mine's a G & T by the way with lots of ice and a slice of fresh orange, no tart old lip-pursing up lemon for me thank you very much.
So, here we are, entering another month of lockdown and maybe more of the same after that. As all aspects of our lives have contracted significantly over recent months and the focus has shifted to our home life and a daily dose of exercise, I thought it might be a good idea to start a spot of decorating, i.e. throw some fresh paint at the walls and smarten us up a bit.
Now, I had put this idea to spouse in the dog days of 2020, suggesting that we might get the paint pots and brushes out after Christmas. He made no demur and thus I was hopeful. However it transpires that his notion of "after Christmas" does not align with mine. Come the dawn of 2021 and I mooted the subject of decorating again, I was greeted with looks of shock, horror and utter bewilderment. What was I talking about? 'You know,' says I, 'we discussed it before Christmas, said we'd make a start in the New Year.' 'Yes, well,' says spouse, 'that's all well and good, but when you said "The New Year", I thought you meant May or June even.' Now I know that spouse is so laid back that he is almost horizontal, but I think that's a bit rich even for him.
So, dear reader, what am I to make of it all? When I say, "in The New Year", that is exactly what I mean, January 1st and all that. Not so my dear spouse. He consulted with one of his friends thus. 'John, if your wife says she wants to do some decorating in the New Year, when do you think you'll be starting?' 'Ooh, about May I think,' came the reply. I know they were close colleagues for years, bur really - do they still have to think like a long-married couple?
Spouse is now in the smug zone and we remain undecorated. I live in hope but possibly in a fool's paradise too. Ah, but he didn't remain in the smug zone for very long, my dear reader. Yet another lockdown means no hairdressers again, doesn't it? That is not a problem for me as my hair is long enough to tie back in a pony tail and although it could do with a trim it is not at all bothersome. Ha ha, but spouse's hair was a bother to him. He was sporting the Einstein look and was not too happy about it. No amount of water to slick it down would keep it under control. He very quickly reverted to his "plugged into the mains" look and reluctanly requested yours truly to wield the scissors.
What can I say, dear reader? Only this - have you any idea how much an ear can bleed if you nick it with the scissors? Well, believe me, it's a great deal. Spouse behaved like Tony Hancock in "The Blood Donor" sketch. What a stramash, as the Scots would say. My dear Mother used to say, 'if you make a fuss I'll give you something to make a fuss about'. I'm afraid, dear reader, I had to employ these tactics. Not only was he sporting a bleeding ear but now had an extremely uneven haircut as well. He may be follically challenged but I'm not follically gifted.
To add insult to injury, whilst I was wielding the scissors, a revenge murder book that I may write one fine day came to mind. Here was my pretend victim, a sitting duck under my hands. Quick as you like I pretended to draw a knife from my pocket and draw it across his throat and the deed could be done. Ooh, as you can imagine, dear reader, spouse was not too impressed at this. Some interesting Anglo-Saxon terminology was employed at my actions and then when he looked in the mirror at his hair ... well, at least he forgot about his ear.
Hey ho, I'm in the doghouse again and won't be out for a while. But looking on the bright side, he won't need another haircut until we're let loose again and he can visit a proper hairdresser. And even if he does, (need a haircut), I don't think he'll be handing me the clippers again any time soon. Just as well he has a good choice of hats, he'll need to cover up when he goes out, otherwise he might frighten the horses.
I wouldn't like you to make any connection between a wonky haircut and his lack of co-operation over the decorating, dear reader - or would I? No, of course not ... Have a good week my dear reader and take my advice, keep away from the hair clippers.
Hello dear reader and welcome to another week in frosty North Yorkshire. I hope you are all keeping well and keeping occupied in Lockdown 3. I am pleased to say that spouse and I are managing to do both.
We are instucted to 'stay local' and so we are doing as we are told and take our permitted daily exercise by walking around the village. These are not the most exciting of walks as one route is closed off to us at present. The route takes in the narrow country lanes past some farms, but heavy rains followed by several keen frosts have made the road into an ice rink. If we don't slip and slide along the lanes, then we sink up to our ankles in muddy water if we have to step on to the grassy roadside verges to allow for a car/van/tractor to pass. Not an ideal state of affairs, dear reader. No-one enjoys trudging home in sodden walking shoes. So, we have had to content ourselves with tramping the village streets.
In 2017 I wrote a blog called 'A Sense Of Direction', a good title as I have absolutely none. When that particular gift was given out I was either at the back of the queue or had gone on holiday. This fact was again bought home to me a few days ago. Stick with me, dear reader, we are getting there.
Now, spouse does not always accompany me on my peregrinations around the village. As I mentioned last week, he might be occupied with his wood gathering or chopping activities. So on this day I toddled off solo. You would think by now, dear reader, wouldn't you, that after almost fours years of living in this village I would be able to find my way about? Sadly you woud be wrong.
In my 'A Sense Of Direction' blog I mentioned getting lost on Darlington railway station. A friend and I were heading off to a wedding in Inverness, leaving spouse at home as he was still in Her Majesty's employment and could not be spared. So, there we were, 2 ladies of middle years waiting on the platform in the early morning light for our train to arrive. Having already had a longish car journey and it being a cold morning, Mother Nature called. I duly trooped off to find the Ladies and went in and used the facilities. Stepping back out on to the platform was a bit like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia and nothing was familiar at all. The world did not look at all as I had left it. I wandered about in a worried manner. How come this was not the platform I had left? Dear reader, I had to go back into the Ladies and start again. And then, much to my relief, I found that I had come in one door and gone out another. Hurrah, I tried the other entrance and found myself back on familiar territory. There was my friend minding our bags and all was right with the world again.
So, dear reader, sadly for me, 'Advance Brittania' has never happened, directionally speaking. I remain directionally challenged, although curiously enough, plonk me down in France and I can navigate like a rally driver's navigator and get you to your destination without any problem. The problem seems to be in my own country.
On a recent solo walk around the village, two dog-walking ladies were holding a socially distanced conversation and as I rounded the corner, they included me too. Lovely though that was I had to turn away from my route, (that spouse had painstakingly drummed into my head) and face the good ladies. On conclusion of our conversation I turned back to my route, or so I thought and walked on. Only it wasn't my route at all. Somewhere along the line I had taken a turning I should not have and was now in completely unknown territory.
Oh dearie me, dear reader. I can't tell you how many unfamiliar roads I went down searching for a smidgen of familiarity in the terrain. Talk about 'going the extra mile'. I did that alright. My usual 3 miles turned into 4, according to my mobile phone data. Eventually and much later I found my way home, not wagging my tail behind me. Had I been missed? No. Spouse happily ensconced in his shed hadn't even noticed I'd been gone.
Between you and me, dear reader, I'm not going to tell him of my adventures. Why give him ammunition? That's what I say.
I hope you have a good week. Stay warm and stay safe. My very best wishes to you.