A FRENCH FARCE
Hello dear reader and welcome back to Chez Comb. Spouse and I sneaked off to France for a short while to look after a menagerie of animals whilst our friends came back to England for a family wedding. We enjoyed our visit but for my dear spouse some experiences were less joyous than others. One evening I felt quite a bit off colour, not as a result of my own domestic goddess duties, more I think, of succumbing to a touch of sun. So it was that I decided to retire early to my boudoir, leaving spouse in charge of a good DVD, two dogs and the cat. I soon fell into a dreamless sleep which is a rarity for me, but sadly spouse was not destined to enjoy such untroubled slumbers as I.
MIDNIGHT - Spouse decides to call it a night and calls Billy the cat indoors as Billy likes his home comforts and wouldn't dream of roughing it outdoors all night. Once the cat was in spouse locked the doors, put Billy's supper down and went off to make his night time preparations. On returning to the kitchen the dogs are still there but no cat. Where is Billy? Is he a feline Houdini? Spouse stares and scratches his head in puzzlement and then Billy appears miaowing outside the door. It dawns on spouse that Billy has followed him out of the room and hopped it out of the open window, only to come right round to the door again. Spouse hopes this is not a new game Billy has invented.
12.30 am Spouse goes off to sleep in the spare room so as not to disturb me. It is a very hot night and so he leaves all the internal doors open to allow any breeze there might be to waft through the house. Unfortunately it also allows the animals to roam and roam they do. Spouse climbs into bed and so does Billy the cat, ready to curl up beside him for the night. He is promptly pitched off but Buddy, the older dog likes that idea too and he climbs on to the bed, also to be ejected. Billy cat is undeterred and gets straight back on the bed and wraps himself around spouse's head and settles down miaowing softly in his ear. Spouse resigns himself to a night with Billy cat.
1 am Spouse leans over to the right to get the water from his bedside table. Zac the younger dog takes the opportunity to hop up on to the bed and snuggle into spouse's side. He is promptly ejected.
2 am Billy cat decides he's a bit peckish and it's time for a snackerel. He gently pats spouse on the cheek. Spouse is half awake but decides to ignore him as Billy does NOT need a meal at 2 am. Unfortunately Billy disagrees and bats spouse around the chops more forcefully. Spouse gives in and makes his way bleary eyed to the kitchen and pours the cat biscuits into the dish. Billy cat does not like to dine alone as the dogs will mug him for the food, so spouse has to keep guard whilst the cat munches his way through his meal.
2.15 am Spouse and Billy back to bed, first ejecting Buddy then Zac from the bed and settling Billy around his head again.
3 am Buddy and Zac pounding through the house barking loudly. Spouse out of bed as if shot from a cannon to quieten them before they disturb his dearly beloved, (me dear reader, in case you are wondering.)
3.10 am Both dogs settled in their respective beds and spouse seeks the comfort of his own, trying not to awaken the recumbent Billy.
4 am Billy feeling peckish again and wakens spouse with forceful batting around his face. Spouse too fuzzy with tiredness to resist and heads off to the kitchen again. Billy eats his early morning snack with relish - the dogs look on hungrily.
4.30 am A lone bird starts off the dawn chorus and the dogs erupt with loud barking in response. Spouse shoots out of bed to quieten them thus disturbing Billy cat sleeping around his head who miaows crossly and digs his claws into spouse's head. Dogs quietened and spouse climbs wearily back into bed.
5 am The dawn chorus is well underway and the dogs gallop up and down the corridor barking crossly. Spouse gives up the fight and brings both dogs into his room and drapes the sleeping cat over his head once more.
7 am It is time for doggie breakfasts. Both dogs have near perfect body clocks and start nibbling gently at spouse's arm which is draped outside the covers. By this time spouse has finally fallen asleep. The dogs start to bark insistently waking spouse immediately. Pavlov's dog couldn't have been quicker and breakfast is soon underway for all animals.
And me dear reader? Well I had a lovely night's sleep and awoke feeling refreshed and looking forward to all that the new day could bring. I bounced bright-eyed into the kitchen and there to my surprise was spouse, looking not quite as chipper as he usually did. In fact, looking rather frayed around the edges. I said in a bright voice, 'Good morning darling, what a beautiful day. I slept marvellously well, did you?'
Dear reader, I will draw a veil over his reply. I think I can safely leave that to your imagination. I would just add that when our friends returned and invited us to come again, spouse announced he was busy. When ever the dates were going to be, spouse was already busy! I think he has plans for next year and it seems they might not include France.
A LONG FRENCH LUNCH
Hello my dear reader and welcome to another slice of life at Chez Comb, only it's a slice of life in the Charente region of France. We have been house and menagerie sitting for my Editor, fondly known by me as Genghis. She is not as savage as her namesake but she takes no literary prisoners either. Thus I always submit manuscripts to her in slight trepidation but always in the hope that I will come out the other side of the experience with my skin and scalp intact.
We spent a very pleasant few days with them before they went off to England for a family wedding, one of our excursions being a trip to the local Monday market followed by lunch at a nearby restaurant. Spouse thoroughly enjoyed himself cruising the cooked meats and cheese stalls - sampling all the wares of course and working up an appetite for lunch.
The French do lunch very well. Fresh food, beautifully cooked and presented, accompanied by carafes of local wine and all very reasonably priced. You will be now know my dear reader, spouse has a very healthy appetite and that's the polite way of putting it. As you are aware I food shop on an industrial scale and am the shopkeeper's new best friend.
So, there we were in 'La Estelle' seated at a table next to four elderly Frenchmen who dined in the moderate way of the French - a little of this and a little of that, helped down with a small quantity of fresh crusty bread and a glass of rosé. Polite chit chat ensued as we took our seats and sized up the five course set menu of the day. Spouse had made a good repast at breakfast but a wander around the food stalls at the Marché had sharpened his appetite.
Now my dear reader, if there is one event I strenuously work at keeping him away from, it is a free-for-all buffet. And what did La Estelle have? Correct. Right on the nose, a buffet for our starters. My heart sank. Spouse would have a field day. And so he did. One plateful of mushrooms in Provencal sauce, cold meats, pasta, lentils, paté, tomatoes and crusty bread and butter was consumed with gusto. So far so good. That's the first course put to bed. Only it wasn't. Spouse so enjoyed the first taster that he went back for a second plateful. Ooo la la, the elderly Frenchmen smiled indulgently on him and Francoise, the cheery welcoming waitress cruised by ready to take our plates away and was surprised to find spouse still enjoying 'la buffet'.
The second course was French fabulous. Slow cooked coq-au-vin in a delicious sauce with herby potatoes. Genghis and spouse Brian could not manage all the potato and neither could I. We off-loaded some to spouse's plate and he partook with great gusto, mopping up the sauce with half a French loaf. By this stage our elderly French friends at the next table were intrigued. They were on the small and slight of build side of things - spouse as you will recall is of the blonde, blue-eyed viking ilk, with hollow legs to accommodate vast quantities of viandes, which in this case was a second plate of wedges of bread and butter. Francoise brought it with great good humour and our elderly French friends watched in fascination as it rapidly disappeared, along with quite a variety of delicious cheeses.
Francoise returned to enquire about dessert. Brian was having his favourite peach melba, Genghis, the strawberry tart and I passed on dessert. Spouse wasn't having that. 'She'll have the tiramasu', he said and grinned up at Francoise. 'In fact, make that two. Tiramasu's my favourite.' Francoise rolled her eyes and peeled away to fetch the puddings.
By this time our polite elderly French friends at the next table were agog and could not hide their interest and amazement at l'anglais and his bon appétit. They tried to carry on their own conversations, but when Brian piled a dollop of fresh cream from his pudding on to spouses, a respectful silence descended upon them. They watched in awe as spouse demolished a mound of cream and tiramasu and then swopped plates with mine, attacking the second dessert with enthusiasm.
By now our French friends had finished and were ready for departure. Gravely they saluted spouse, 'grande force' and 'beaucoup de respect Monsieur'. As we to took our departure, Francoise shook hands warmly with spouse and offered him a sandwich with cold meats in to keep him going until he got home!
It is not often the English dumbfound the French, but I have a feeling that after our sojourn in the Charente, there are quite a few locals walking around shaking their heads in disbelief. And spouse? He went on his merry way loving all that France could throw at him, quite oblivious of the culinary nervous breakdowns he left in his wake.
Hello dear reader, this is just to let you know that my next blog will not appear until 24th June, as spouse and I are embarking on a few new projects, so I am having a holiday from writing and you can have a holiday from me! I hope the weather will be kind to us all and we can all be little baskers in the sunshine. Best wishes to everyone, Patricia.
WATERING THE GARDEN!
Hello dear reader and welcome to another day at Chez Comb. I hope you are well and able to enjoy an occasional day of warmth and sunshine in between the downpours, mists and storms. We have missed the really bad weather in our corner of North Yorkshire. It has been cool and misty, but ever the optimist that I am, I have enjoyed it as it has been pleasant working weather in the garden. I have re-potted my bay trees and large skimmia shrubs and have told them that they must not grow into their new pots too quickly as there won't be new ones coming along any time soon. (I addressed them in a low voice to keep it private between ourselves as I didn't want spouse to have me carted off - he would find any excuse!)
Thinking about matters horticultural, I realise that I have a long history of chatting to my plants. It doesn't seem to have done them or me any harm so far and I am in good company as I know Prince Charles talks to his plants too. And if it's O.K. by him, who am I to disagree?
When I was a tad younger than I am now and a single girl, I used to supplement my coffers by going out gardening for folks on evenings and weekends. It helped to pay the mortgage and I met some lovely people in the process. My gardening week kicked off on a Saturday morning when I tended our large church garden. I really enjoyed this and spent a lot of time dispatching the weeds and keeping the flowers and shrubs in good order. One gentleman remarked that he wouldn't recognise me by my face but that I had the best known backside in Yorkshire as he only ever saw me bent down and tending the borders. Years later and I'm still not too sure what to make of this.
Another horticultural memory that comes to mind ... well, it's more personal than strictly horticultural. At this period when I was spare time gardening, Britain was in the boom times and consequently, property prices were constantly on the up. And so it was my dear reader, that people started buying their next house and moving on before they had sold their present house and fortunately for me, their gardens needed tending in the interim. Well and good, lots of lovely work for me via the local estate agents, but - with the houses being unoccupied there were no indoor facilities available to me and when Mother Nature calls, she calls and something has to be done about it.
Usually I would be lucky and could find a private spot in the garden to commune with nature, but I very soon learned that there is some weird and wonderful law of the universe that goes something along the lines of the minute you settle down amongst the shrubbery to answer the call of nature, the next door neighbour will appear in the garden bearing tea/coffee/grass rake/biscuits/garden shears or any other combination of items. The first few times this happened I was red with embarrassment. I mean - did they deliberately lie in wait for the moment or was there some malevolent force having fun at my expense? I know not, but it happened so often that I became expert at dealing with situation with dignity and aplomb.
Happily these days I only garden for myself and tend the local library gardens along with my friends and I am pleased to say that there are excellent facilities in both premises. No more embarrassing moments for me dear reader, not of that kind at any rate.
We are now into flaming June and spouse and I are about to embark upon some biggish projects. With this in view I am taking a break from writing and blogging and giving you my dear reader, a bit of a holiday from me. I hope to resume on Sunday 24th June and in the meantime I hope you enjoy this beautiful time of year and keep out of mischief as I intend to do and I hope my dear spouse will too.