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.
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.
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a truly scorching Sunday morning at Chez Comb. We could indeed be in the south of France with all the beautiful weather we have been enjoying this week. Evening watering of my many pots, sinks and tubs has been ongoing. Thankfully we have lots of rainwater butts and a large 1,000 litre IBC water tank. Even so, I will have to step outside and do a rain dance soon, (don't worry - I'll make sure the darkness has descended when I do it - don't want to scare the neighbours). Our free water supplies are dwindling and Mother Nature needs a nudge to redress the balance. Spouse is still clearing the site for my new mega-shed and in the process is creating a space for another IBC tank. With the effects of global warming, I think we need to harvest every drop of water that we can.
Speaking of Spouse and let's face it when don't I? He has laboured away like Hercules again this week and has finally got the better of the old tree stump. It has been demolished and the remains now reside under an old shrubbery in our front garden for the insect life to enjoy for years to come. Spouse has now turned his attention to dismantling the old shed and, being the thrifty soul he is, has taken it apart as carefully as he can in order to upcycle as much wood as possible and save the rest for our winter fires. Well, my dear reader, the sun shone brightly and fiercely but dear Spouse has stuck to his task throughout the week and every night trailed back up the garden, black as a rat and happy as a sandboy, being a few steps nearer to saying goodbye to the old shed.
In and amongst all this activity our old friend, the hungry seagull returned to visit us. In the early Spring Mr Seagull and his lady love took up residence on Spouse's shed roof and made many a sortie into the garden to raid our bird feeders which led them to explore the garden some more and hence they found the pond - and the fish within. I remember the moment they found them. Casual curiosity turned instantly to intense scrutiny and concentration. I could almost hear their seagull thoughts, 'Oh my - breakfast!!!' And so began the first seagull war - the pair of them kept on trying a sneaky fishing expedition when they thought we weren't around - only we were and would rush out to see them off. Only one day we were too late and they nabbed a fish apiece and perched triumphantly on the shed roof, taunting us with their meal dangling from their beaks.
And so, Spouse made some wooden frames and covered them with netting to place over the pond to deter any further fishing expeditions and this proved successful. The seagulls investigated the frames but could not find any access to the pond. Well and good and they pushed off - co-incidentally I think, as it was nesting time. Unfortunately for us, their nesting efforts must have been successful as now Mr Seagull has re-appeared in search of food, probably for a growing family of chicks and so the seagull wars have recommenced. For a couple of days I did my mad woman dash out to the garden to scare him off, but he was soon back and patrolling the perimeter of the pond intently watching for fish. Spouse was working behind his shed and so couldn't keep watch for our gull friend.
Out came the netted frames again, only we couldn't put them across the pond as all the summer reeds and plants were growing up apace. Instead, we fixed them around the sides, like cot sides to a bed. 'That will keep him off,' says Spouse confidently and returned to his work. Oh no it didn't!! Spouse worked patiently on dismantling the shed and Mr Seagull worked diligently at trying to find a way into the pond, without success. One day he tried a bit too hard and hopped up on to the edge of the frame. The prop supporting it gave way under his weight and collapsed with a bang. Up shoots Mr Seagull into the air, squawking wildly. He wheeled away flying low in Spouse's direction and narrowly skimmed his head. Spouse dodged to avoid him; trouble was, he was holding the whole gable end of the shed at the time and it came crashing down on his head. Oh dearie me, out with the steri strips and plasters again.
We have re-inforced our defences and Mr Seagull still visits, but for the moment we seem to have called a truce. He gets a drink from our old water trough and trashes a few of my pot plants in his frustration, but that is all. Watch this space, dear reader. I don't think we're done yet by a long chalk.
I am aware of the phrase, 'be careful what you wish for,' but I do wish for some rain and I'm sure the local farmers do too. Their crops will be in great need of water by now. Rain dancing it will have to be. Have a good week, dear reader and enjoy the sunshine, (and rain if we get it). Meanwhile, I will be out with my watering can again this evening - no rest for the wicked!
Good morning dear reader. How lovely to meet up with you again on this beautiful June morning. I hope you are well and have been basking in the glorious sunshine this week. Spouse and I have enjoyed working in our garden. Ah, well ... I should qualify that. I have enjoyed working in the garden. I imagine Spouse thinks he has spent a week working in the salt mines. It must have felt like that for him.
As I have previously mentioned, Spouse is working his way towards replacing my old and dilapidated garden shed with a new big one, along the lines of his own mega-shed. So the base for the new shed needs to increase - only there's a whacking great tree stump in the way, complete with roots that must reach Australia. Poor old Spouse has spent the whole week mining the tree stump and its roots with a huge axe, chainsaw, electric saw, hammer and chisel ... you name it, he's thrown everything at it. Every evening he has trailed back up the garden, black as a rat, but a few steps nearer to winning the fight. Quite possibly a week in the salt mines might have been preferable.
This coming week he is starting to dismantle the old shed. He informs me that it is full of rusty nails sticking out in odd places and at odd angles. I think a visit to the chemist may be required to stock up on antiseptics and dressings. I will not be Ethelred the Unready this time.
I greatly appreciate Spouse's labours on my behalf and it must be said, he is very happy to assist my horticultural endeavours. That what he says. But I think he secretly hopes I might do a Roald Dahl and make it my writing shed and then he'd get some peace and quiet indoors! In your sweet dreams, dear Spouse, but I won't tell you that yet.
You may think the title of this blog is a bit odd, unless your a Scot. 'The Messages' in Scotland refers to running the errands, doing the shopping, etc. Spouse has always enjoyed doing the 'messages' - not the actual shopping, but the odd and quirky errands that arise in life. Only there was one particular 'message' that he almost certainly did not enjoy.
A few years ago we were living in south-west Scotland and working full-time. I had signed up for a British Film Institute screenwriting course. The classes took place every weekend for a number of weeks, which didn't leave me much time for other activities, least of all 'the messages'. As part of the course we were given Brokeback Mountain, by Annie Proulx to read. A beautifully written story about two homosexual cowboys. Then we were asked to get hold of the DVD and watch the first half hour or so in order to observe how the story translated to the screen.
Well and good, dear reader. Now, here's the rub. The opening times of our small, local library did not coincide with my off duty hours - but they did with Spouse's. So I asked him to see if he could hire the DVD for me. Now, whilst Spouse is not homophobic, he is of the older generation that is not given to discussing matters of sexuality. So, having to ask for said DVD at the library was not an easy deal for him.
However, manning up to the task, he took himself off to the library. As told to me - he sidled up to the counter and asked very quickly, in a gruff, low voice if they had a copy of Brokeback Mountain. The library lady could not catch what he said. 'What was the title, Sir?' 'Brokeback Mountain', he mumbled again, getting very hot under the collar. 'Oh, Brokeback Mountain. I'm sorry, Sir, we don't have it here, but I can order it in for you.' So, Spouse agreed to that and made a red-faced and rapid exit. Sure enough a few days later the call came to say the DVD was awaiting collection at the library. Off trails Spouse and again had to mumble his way through the request for Brokeback Mountain. The DVD was handed over and Spouse made a hurried exit. Only on arriving home he discovered he hadn't been given Brokeback Mountain at all, but an entirely different DVD.
I think by this time he was fit to bust. The thought of having to go back again nearly broke him. But, God bless his cotton socks, he knew I had to see the film so, girding up every loin he had, he returned to the library. Once again he sidled up to the counter and quietly explained that they had given him the wrong film. 'Oh,' says the lady, 'what was it that you had ordered?' 'Brokeback Mountain,' mumbles Spouse. 'What's that?' 'Brokeback Mountain,' he whispered hoarsly. 'Oh, Brokeback Mountain,' she repeated in a loud voice. Spouse was ready to slide under the counter by now. The lady checked the records. 'Ah, yes. It's here somewhere.' She rummaged under the counter ande found a package. 'Here it is,' she flourished it triumphantly. 'Brokeback Mountain. Sorry we got your order mixed up, Sir.' Spouse took the DVD and slunk out of the library. He has vowed, never again .. never, never, never again is he running messages for me.
Some years on and I think he's finally got over it and he does still do 'the messages'. But not this week. I think he'll be quite happy knocking seven bells out of the old shed and I shall keep well out of his way as there will be axes and hammers going in all directions.
Have a lovely week, dear reader and I hope we will meet agin next week, full of the joys of summer if the weather forecasts are to be believed. Take care and enjoy yourself.