AN EMBARRASMENT OF NUMBERS
Good morning my dear reader and welcome to a lovely sunny Sunday at Chez Comb. Another week of frosty nights and warm sunny days. Friday was a scorcher and we enjoyed a lovely lunch with my sister and husband in their garden near York. We hadn't seen them since 2019!! It was a real treat. English women and their gardens - I was given a conducted tour and we enjoyed earnest discussions about the care of our shrubs and trees. This must be the best pastime in the world if you're manic horticulturalists like us.
I am pleased to report that our shopping trip passed off peacefully and Spouse is now the proud possesser of sturdy workboots. He is crashing and banging again, dismantling pallets to add to our winter woodpile and I can breathe relatively easily again without worrying about broken toes.
I think spending so much money in one day caused Spouse to have a rush of blood to the head. On our travels we visited the supermarket and a bottle of pure lemon juice went into the trolley. We chatted away with the lady at the checkout and she and Spouse had a very animated discussion about the addition of lemon juice to various alcoholic drinks. Spouse is a bit of an expert on this subject, having spent many years experimenting and the checkout lady was equally knowledgeable. New recipes were exchanged with great glee and Spouse came happily home to embark on several new combinations of liquid refreshment.
I have called this blog, 'An Embarrassment Of Numbers', which is my new collective noun for all problems numerical. We live in a world where PIN numbers and codes need to be committed to memory and not written down. That's O.K. if you only have one to remember, but let's face it, dear reader, most people have multiple PIN numbers and possibly codes swirling around their brains. That is the case for Spouse and I and we have had our share of mild traumas and embarrassments this week.
Spouse set the ball rolling when he tried to use his debit card at a cashpoint. You will know the scenario, I'm sure. You punch in what you think are the familiar digits only to find your request is declined. This happened to Spouse. Much taken aback, he tried again with the same result. Then the doubts began to creep in - a bit Morcambe and Wise-ish. Did he have the right numbers but not necessarily in the right order? A new combination was tried but to no avail. and so the card was locked. Cashless and cross, Spouse returned home.
Now, somewhere ... somewhere in his den, he informed me, he had a tiny scrap of paper with his PIN number written on - an old advert on coloured paper that no-one would take any notice of. He had scrawled his number on that. You don't need me to describe the scene, dear reader. Two hours later, having turned his den upside down and inside out, he emerged triumphantly, bearing a ragged piece of paper in his hand. Yes, it had been a Morcambe and Wise scenario - all the right numbers but none of them in the right order. Why, after all these years of using the same digits, the brain decides to take a holiday, is a mystery.
Not to be left out, I went two better than Spouse during the week. At the opticians I tried to pay for my new glasses with my credit card, but 'card declined.' The PIN number was not right. Aaargh. Flustered and embarrassed, I paid with my debit card and have no idea where I am adrift with the numbers. Maybe a case of all the right digits in the wrong order again.
But, best of all, dear reader, were the burglar alarm code numbers. How art mirrors life. The opening chapter of my first book, 'Café Paradise'. sees poor Walter Breckenridge, unable to remember the correct code for the café burglar alarm trying, in the early morning, to input all the different combinations of numbers, to disarm the alarm before he can enter the café. But, he only has a very short time to do this, as the countdown beeping has begun and the alarms will automatically go off if he fails.
On Thursday afternoon a young man from our burglar alarm company arrived to service our system. We had a pleasant chat about our activities during the pandemic and then he set to work on all his checks. Before he departed, he asked me if I knew about the panic alarm buttons on the system. Truth to tell, I did not. He told me to try them out. Press them and every alarm in the place goes off. I did as I was bid, dear reader and indeed, all hell let loose as the alarm sirens resounded through the house and out into the garden, as all the doors and windows were open.
So, the young man said, 'now put your code in and press reset and that will stop them.' I put my code in and nothing happened. Yikes! I tried again - the sirens kept going. Never mind the panic alarms, I was panicking now. The young man said, ' If you haven't got the code, I can't stop it.' More panic ... I have been punching in this code for the last four years. 'Oh no you haven't,' says he. 'You can't have, or it would stop. Have you reversed or mixed up the numbers? It happens a lot.' By this time I was almost hyperventillating and I wouldn't have been surprised if the young man had whipped out a paper bag from his vast kit and asked me to blow into it. As it was, amidst all the hullaballoo, he sat down with me and wrote all the numbers out that I had been trying. 'Just clear your mind and take your time - take a fresh look at them.' Easier said than done, but I tried. And sure enough, dear reader, all became clear. All the right numbers but not in the right order. Very quickly blessed peace and order was restored, except for my nerves which were in shreds.
When the young man had departed I staggered down the garden to where Spouse was vigorously chopping wood. 'Oh, what a racket that was,' says I. 'Enough to waken the dead. I'm surprised you didn't come up to see what was going on.' 'Mmmn, I thought I heard the alarm going. Nothing going on though, is there?' 'Nothing going on ...? Just as well really. I might have been carried off by violent brigands for all you knew.' Was that a suspicion of hope and a quickly suppressed smile flitting across his face? I think it was, dear reader. Well, this time he is disappointed and in any case he would never pay the ransom. He always maintains they would pay him to take me back.
Have a good week, dear reader and if you see a wild figure dancing in a garden at night, it might be me. I think the time for a rain dance is well overdue ...
THE GAFFER LOVES HIS GAFFA
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a lovely sunny Sunday morning at Chez Comb. Another week of frosty nights and sunny days and no doubt our garden is still very confused, or at least the plants in it are with all the comings and goings in temperatures. However, the birds seem unaffected by the extremes. The ladies are thinking of nesting and the males are busy fighting with their rivals for their favours. We are engaged with our on-going battle with the seagulls. Spouse's netted boards are doing a great job in preventing the gulls from obtaining their fish breakfast/lunch/suppers, but still they try their luck, perching on the boards and pecking away at the netting, until this mad woman rushes out and chases them off. Mmm, wonder who that could be ...?
For a change it has been an uneventful week at Comb Towers. We have found plenty to occupy ourselves with around the homestead. A friend in the village dropped off some old wooden pallets and Spouse has been having a high old time dismantling them ready to chop up for firewood. He has crashed and banged to his heart's content and miraculously, without injury to himself. Between bouts of gardening and being a domestic goddess I have oiled up our garden furniture ready for the season - snow, hail, rain or sun. This being England anything can and does happen.
I wrote a blog in November 2016, entitled 'How To Make A Yorkshireman Cry'. The opening sentence read, 'Quite simple really, tell him he's going shopping.' It was true then and still holds good in April 2021. You see, dear reader, the shops have opened up again and I have promised myself a shopping trip tomorrow to replace underclothing and socks for us both. I know, too much information. BUT, just as importantly, to purchase new shoes for Spouse, which means, (a) he has to come shopping with me and (b) spend money, which as we all know is anathema to any right thinking Yorkshireman.
So, dear reader, Spouse was informed of the forthcoming trip during the week and its purpose, i.e., particular reference made to new shoes for him. Spouse has been wearing a pair of ancient black shoes for working in the garden. One shoe has a large hole in the toecap and the other, multiple rips in the old dried out leather. In addition to this, they leak. I think I can safely say, dear reader, that I have made a good case for a replacement pair to be purchased, if only from a safety point of view. A large hammer or crowbar dropped on his toes would cause untold damage. But Spouse was not going to be so easily talked into a shopping trip and the little grey cells to quote Monsieur Poirot, got to work and came up with an alternative plan - his old tried and tested friend - gaffa tape.
I don't think I have ever told the story of Spouse and the gaffa tape. If I have, I apologise and try to be brief in my reprise here, as it is pertinent to his latest idea. When we lived on our Durham Dales smallholding we were the highest farm sited halfway up the fellside. Our nearest neighbours were below us at the end of our farm track. They were lovely neighbours and very sociable. One morning Sylvia rang up to announce the kettle was on and invited us down for coffee. 'Lovely idea,' says I and went in search of Spouse. He suggested I tootle off and he would follow in a jiffy, he just had a little job to do first. Off I went and was sitting in our friend's conservatory when Spouse trooped in. Sylvia was in the kitchen and popped her head around the door and her eyebrows rose almost to her hairline. I followd her gaze which was directed at Spouse's feet and I too could not believe my eyes. Spouse had taped up the toecaps of both brown shoes with silver gaffa tape. Dear reader, you know when you think you've seen it all ...? You never have really. Spouse had the decency to look a bit abashed and hastened to explain. The sole of one shoe had come adrift and was flapping about, so he decided to tape it up. Ah, but then he thought he should tape up the other one to match it - so they didn't look odd. Not look odd!!!! I suppose shoes taped up with gaffa tape don't look odd then??
That, my dear reader, was many years ago. Fast forward to 2021 and this leopard has not changed his spots. Instead of going shopping and buying new shoes, why not fix the holes and tears in his garden shoes with gaffa tape? 'Only this time', quoth he, 'I'll use black gaffa tape to match the shoes, then they really won't look odd. They only looked odd last time because the shoes were brown and the tape was silver.' Tape or no tape I know the destiny of those old shoes and that's the dustbin and yes, we are going shopping tomorrow and shoes are at the top of the list. Wish me luck dear reader. Spouse and shoes/clothes shopping are not an easy mix, but I have stiffened up my sinews and summoned up my blood and am ready and raring to go.
Have a good week, dear reader and I hope Spring continues to keep Springing for us all. Just as importantly, I hope I survive our shopping trip and come home safely to enjoy another sunny week.
SPOUSE IS HEADING FOR THE HILLS
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a chilly/snowy/sunny Sunday at Chez Comb. My poor garden shrubs don't know if they're on their ass or their elbow these days, or to put it more politely, as my dear Mama used to say, if they are coming or going. A couple of weeks ago we were basking in lovely sunshine and I enjoyed digging and weeding the borders around the lawn. This week has bought a massive change as temperatures plummeted down to the minus degrees and our winter woollies were hauled out again. We have had blizzarding snow this morning and are now back to sunshine. Who knows what this afternoon will bring?
BUT, lockdown restrictions have eased a little and we are allowed to meet up with friends and family in our gardens once more and in spite of the fickle English weather, we did just that. Spouse and I had been to tend our local library garden on Tuesday. Five minutes of sunshine and then five minutes of snow and so it alternated all through the morning. Friend Jenny, (Queen of the Victoria spongcake), lives close by and we were invited for coffee and cake in the garden. I can tell you, dear reader, that I for one was very ready to thaw out with a hot coffee after all the snow showers. Well ... the coffee was hot and the cake was delicious and we were all freezing. But, the British bulldog spirit prevailed. We were not going to be diddled out of our long-awaited get together. It was perishing cold, snowing and blowing a hooley, but wrapped up in our fleecy blankets we didn't care one jot. It was great just to enjoy a bit of socialising again. Long may it continue.
So, you may be wondering, dear reader, why am I rabbiting on about coffee and cake, whilst Spouse is heading for the hiills? I am just coming to that bit. The wartime expression, 'careless talk costs lives' is very apposite in this situation. We decided to renew the gravel at the front of the house and down the drive, as there is only a thin covering left and so the weeds are thriving. The first three tons of gravel were ordered and stood in bright yellow dumpy bags at the front of the house.
Spouse has been very busy making the netted frames for the pond to deter our goldfish-loving seagulls. So I suggested that he carry on with that fine work and I could make a start on the gravel. Spouse shook his head decisively. Oh? Why the negative? I wondered. When we lived on the smallholding we shovelled and spread eighteen tons of gravel to allow the copious amounts of rain running off the fells to drain away from the house. We also spread tons of the stuff around our house in France. So, I feel I'm an old hand at the gravel lark. 'Ay, there's the rub,' to quote the Bard. According to Spouse I am now an 'old' hand. 'You were younger then,' says he. Oh really??!! Well, I think he just lit the blue touch paper there. Dear reader, indignation comes nowhere near to describing my reaction to this statement. Suffice to say, Spouse really is heading for the hills to escape my wrath and can be heard shouting that he would head for the Swiss Alps, only he's not allowed in at the moment. Well, he may not be allowed in at Comb Towers anytime soon either. He might be a lot older before he is welcomed home. I know anno domini comes to us all, but I am not in my dotage yet.
As it happens - and I have no intention on letting on to Spouse - Jenny and Olivia popped round when Spouse was out buying more netting and we had the three bags of gravel shifted in a jiffy - only I let Spouse think that I had done it in my spare time. Old eh? Keep on running Spouse, there's another three tons coming soon and maybe it will be your turn to shift it ...
I hope your week goes well, my dear reader. I have had a rush of blood to the head and started some spring cleaning, although I have also had further plot thougts for 'Aunt Mildred's Millions'. Mmm, which task is going to win out here - the hoover or the pen? I think I know which one my money is on.
I cannot depart without aknowledging the death of H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh. A sad loss to our Queen and to our nation. He was a great man and will be greatly missed by us all. A life of service well lived and may he now rest in peace.
A very good morning to you dear reader and may I wish you a very happy and peaceful Easter Day. Welcome to Chez Comb and I must apologise for the non-appearance of a blog last weekend. Technical difficulties, i.e., my computer went on strike and needed a bigger elastic band fitting and two mysterious looking gizmos attaching. I don't suppose my computer engineer would like me to refer to his expertise as fitting an elastic band but all I know is that I have an all singing, all dancing machine again - but will it improve my writing????
Dear reader, we have had a very interesting fortnight since we last met. The seagulls, frogs and crows are all paired up ready to rear the next generation and have been causing us a spot of bother, but on the plus side and miraculously for us - and I hope I'm not tempting Providence here - no cuts, bruises or shedding of blood has occured to Spouse or myself. Spring is here and the sap is rising and not just in the trees.
A pair of seagulls recently took up residence on Spouse's shed roof and a short time afterwards began taking an interest in my bird feeding table, which led them to exploring the garden more than they usually would have done and their explorations led them to the pond - choc full of fish that would provide more than one tasty meal for a hungry seagull. Our fish have grown a great deal during the winter months, as a result of their feeding off the algae and detritus at the bottom of the pond. Thus it was that I became the village mad woman, rushing down the garden several times a day, yelling, 'shoo, shoo, go away,' etc. and waving my arms about in a threatening manner. Dear reader, I think you can imagine it all. But the seagulls were hungry and grew bolder. One morning they outsmarted me and made a very early sortie on the pond. When I looked out, the two gulls were very happily perched on Spouse's shed roof with a goldfish apiece dangling from their beaks. The gloves were off, SOMETHING HAD TO BE DONE. We were jolly well not going to lose all our fish to the seagulls.
As luck would have it we were the proud owners of Sammy Swan, a lifesize plastic swan, a Christmas gift from my young friend, Olivia. We didn't put him on the pond in the winter, fearing the cold might damage his plastic body. But, dear reader, now that it is Spring, Sammy can safely go out of doors. And guess what? He's the most brilliant gull scarer ever. Result!! The seagulls perched on the shed roof for at least a week, chattering away in indignation at Sammy, but did not venture into the garden and now, best of all, they have pushed off elsewhere. We are blissfully seagull free. We had also put some netting around the edge of the pond to deter them, but then the frogs came for their annual three day love-fest and so the nets had to go. Spouse is now making very neat frames that can be placed over the pond at night time. No sneaky fishing expeditions for visiting gulls or herons now.
So, the gulls departure was followed by the arrival of the frogs - dozens of 'em and doing what frogs do at this time of year, extremely enthusiastically and getting tangled up in the netting in the process. So, to assist them in the continuation of their amorous pursuits, Spouse went to one side of the pond and I to the other and we grasped the netting and pulled it tight - voila, we had invented frog trampolining! By bouncing them along the netting we assisted them back into the pond, but as the numbers increased and the love-fest grew more intense, the netting had to go. Pity really, we had a great team for any future frog Olympics, amazing somersaulting techniques. But, rest assured, dear reader, that no frogs were harmed by their trampolining experience and our pond is now full spawn and the frogs have gone their separate ways until next year.
Which presently leaves us with the crows. They are building nests and will soon be raising their young. Then the fun starts all over again at the bird feeders. Crows are very intelligent birds and once they cotton on to where the food is they develop quite a good hovering action, beating their wings like a giant humming bird whilst bashing seven bells out of the feeders to knock the seed out on to the ground and then it's a simple matter of stuffing their faces as fast as they can before another crow comes along to mug them for their efforts. I gave up long ago doing my wild banshee act to chase them off - I think the neighbours were getting concerned.
And after this there will be the pigeons, but I think we've been there before, dear reader. Back in 2017 I wrote of 'Pigeons - again.' - to quote from the first paragraph, 'Over-sexed, over-fed and definitely over here in our garden.' I will say no more abut them, only I wish I had their stamina and it won't be the hills that will be alive with the sound of music soon.
Last, but not least, this week we are beginning to move out of our lockdown situation and are able to meet people in our gardens. So, friend Jenny and daughter Olivia came for afternoon tea and cake, (Jenny's cake - the best Victoria sponge in the world). We sat in glorious sunshine talking, 'of shoes - and ships - and sealing wax - Of cabbages and kings.' (Lewis Carroll). In the mysterious way that conversation meanders along many paths and byways, the conversation touched on the quaint French law of requiring dog owners to name their dogs starting with the letter of the alphabet used in the year they were born in. My French neighbour, Joelle had a huge Belgian beast named Ohio, born in the 'Year O'. Young Olivia, bless her, was much taken with this notion and immediately spotted difficulties with this system, but thought of Zeus with Apollo as a follow on for the next year. I was really impressed with her knowledge of the Greek gods, but no - it turns out the Greek gods were unknown to her; these were the dogs featured in the American detective series, Magnum P.I. Dear reader, a rare event, I was speechless.
So, on that happy note I will depart to my domestic goddess duties and prepare an Easter Day feast. Have a lovely Easter break dear reader and I wish you luck with inventing alphabetical doggie names - it's better than counting Easter lambs if you want to get to sleep.