Hello dear reader and welcome to another sunny Sunday at Chez Comb. I hope I find you well and in good fettle. As you are all too well aware, we have been enjoying amazingly hot weather for some long time now and are walking around like newly landed fish gasping for air - any air, but fresh and cool preferably. I am not complaining about it as it is lovely to sit out in the garden under the sun umbrella, sipping reviving cold drinks and pretending to work. Much better than being under an umbrella sheltering from the cold winter rains I can tell you.
After months of uninterrupted sunshine the ground has gradually dried up, all the moisture gone from it until the earth is hard and dry. There are no puddles of water left for the birds to drink or bath in. We have two bird baths, a shallow one for the small birds - sparrows, wrens and blackbirds and a deeper one for the seagulls, pigeons and rooks, although why we provide for the seagulls I do not know as they repay us by squawking loudly at 2.30 a.m. every morning, thus sparking a very early dawn chorus in our village. However that is by the by.
Our bird baths are the most popular lido in the village. The sparrows communally bathe morning and night after their visit to the seed feeding station, brightly twittering away to eachother. Not a bad life I reckon. The blackbirds are more cautious in approaching the bath. they check out the area very carefully before making their pitch for the water, but once in they are hilarious. There is no better sight in this life than watching a blackbird taking a bath. Caution is thrown to the four winds. They are so enthusiastic and thorough, splashing water all over themselves and everything else in the vicinity. When they have finished the waters have to be replenished for the next candidate, usually Simon Seagull.
Simon Seagull is even funnier than the blackbirds when bathing, but for different reasons. He is of course, way too big for a bird bath. He perches on the edge of it and can manage to get his head under the water which he does several times to make a thorough job of it and then the fun starts. He wets his head and a bit of his chest and then balances on one leg to try and distribute the water further down his body. The only trouble is he is not very good at balancing and soon topples over and falls off. Undeterred by this he climbs back on and has another go - dips his head and a bit of his chest in the water, brings up his foot to spread the water over him and falls off again. He never manages to fall into the water which really would be the best thing and then he might realise he was only going for a safe paddle and not the full monty swim event. Have we got a seagull who doesn't like swimming?
In the last few days we have been adopted by a new family of starlings, I am assuming they are this year's brood. They are quite thuggish in their approach to life. No cautious sizing up of the situation like the blackbirds, no dainty flitting in and out like the sparrows and wrens, no - starlings swoop in en masse and strut about the lawn like a whole bunch of Del Boys from Only Fools and Horses. They take over the scene and jump into the baths, carelessly ejecting all other occupants. Once in the water they bathe, quarrel and actively fight with eachother the whole time. They are great fun to watch as they treat the place like the local swimming pool, flying up to the trees and down again, dive bombing their brothers are sisters still in the pool and squealing with huge delight.
As part of our garden redesign we are digging out an area to make a pond next week, possibly a foolhardy move in view of global warming and drier summers, time will tell on that one. But I am looking forward to bird bathing on a grand scale then. Simon Seagull will have a high old time. I might even join him with my bar of soap. I know - the old slogan in previous times of drought - 'save water, bath with a friend'. I wonder how spouse would take to pond dipping?
COCKERELS & SEAGULLS
Hello dear reader and welcome to another Sunday at Chez Comb. I hope all is well in your world on this beautiful morning. I am a little off centre this morning and confess to feeling extremely weary due to my sleep being disturbed for several nights on the trot. I ask you dear reader, why ever did God create cockerels? Well I know why he created them. Without Mr Cockerel there would be no little Miss Chickens or Mr Cockerel Junior. Fair enough I grant you, but why did he have to give them such raucous and penetrating voices?
Most of the time I am a 'live and let live' sort of person, but not I fear when it comes to insomniac cockerels who appear to have dined on Speed. Our neighbours, who are by no means nearby, keep some hens and a cockerel to look after them. He obviously takes his duties very seriously and appears to sleep with one open, as all through the night he can be heard crowing. He is relentless, presumably warning off any predators that stalk nearby in the night.
Laudable efforts. What a hero I hear you say. Hmmm, heroic as his efforts may be, but at 1, 2 and 3 o'clock in the morning I do not share this view. All I really want to do is stagger out of my bed and leg it round to young Mr Cockerel's pen and silence him. I will leave to your imaginings what I fondly dream of doing to him. But, nobly I rein in my baser instincts and bury my head beneath the pillow in an effort to drown out the noise.
Mr Cockerel takes a short nap at first light - presumably thinking the predators have pushed off home by then. Blessed peace and quiet ensues and for a short while nothing stirs in our sleepy Yorkshire village. Wearily but thankful I snuggle down under the covers in the hope of a couple of hours uninterrupted shut eye. But there is no rest for the wicked as my dear Mama used to say. Don't misunderstand me here my dear reader, I am not admitting to being wicked. I am not, as evidenced by the fact that Mr Cockerel is still strutting his stuff down the road there. But there is no rest for me because just as Mr Cockerel shuts up and goes for his nap, the seagulls strike up the band.
I know, I know, I live near to the sea, so what do i expect to hear? A choir of heavenly angels gently lulling me back to sleep? Well my dear reader, I would love that, truly I would, but I fear my Creator had other ideas during his original seven days of activity. Yes, darn it, he created seagulls. Not solely I'm sure just to disturb my slumber and I am not so egotistical as to think God had his eye on that particular outcome. But it is a fact of life that we share our planet with seagulls. I know we share the planet with gazillions of other creatures too and I should not single out one bird for my attentions, but in the half light of morning, seagulls are my personal bete noir and, I suspect, also of all the small birds tucked snugly up in their nests. Even they are not ready for the 2.30 a.m. clarion call.
Seagulls are majestic birds and when they venture into our garden they are quite shy and easily spooked, quickly flying off to the safety of the rooftops at the slightest hint of movement from within the house. But at 2.30 a.m. they have no such inhibitions and let rip with fiercely loud and raucous calls ending in a fiendish cacophony of cackling. They are relentless and soon the small birds give in and the dawn chorus begins and with that my dear reader, any possibility of sleep is gone. Bleary-eyed I rise to engage with the day.
And guess what? As I am going about my daily affairs what do I notice? Yes, you are quite right. An absence of seagulls cackling or cockerel crowing. They are so wiped out after their early morning starts they are all taking a well earned nap, saving their strengths and energies for their all-night soirees.
On the one hand I can almost look forward to the dark winter mornings when the seagulls may delay their morning reveilles, but on the other hand Mr Cockerel will continue to crow as long as it is dark outside and the predators are still about. The seagulls are beyond my reach but Mr Cockerel is not ... I may be having a word in his shell-like, or maybe something more .........
OH NO! WHAT IS MY PASSWORD?
Hello dear reader. Well last week was about the lovely Grizelda Google Satnav on my Smartphone. This week we are moving on to computers. No, please don't switch off, we've all been there. It happens to us all. We are required to remember the Passwords for the sites that we regularly use and I know that I am not the only mortal on this planet who has difficulties with this. Most of the time I manage quite well and Cedrina the brain cell brings forth the correct combination of letters and numbers. Sometimes though, the old grey matter fails and a Password has to be reset. Not too painful a process generally and is accomplished in a straightforward manner and off we go again.
However, there is always the exception and I have spent three days as living proof of this. In fact, it's a miracle that I am still living and haven't thrown myself in the river in despair, or have any hair left on my head as I have been tearing it out in handfuls and all thanks to the ever helpful Darren/Jamie/Joanne/Mikey and all the rest of the personnel on the 'Support Team'. Do not be shocked dear reader, when I say that certain unladylike epithets galloped across my brain and have only been contained there with great difficulty when what I really wanted to do was verbally marmalize the said Darren/Jamie/Joanne/Mikey and cohorts.
All I wanted to do was to gain access to my own account on my book ordering site as I have a new book out and I needed to order copies for myself. Simple - put in the Username and Password that worked last week. Ha ha, you know exactly what happened don't you dear reader? Of course, I was shut out of the site altogether. an algorithm or microchip in its own sweet wisdom had decided that I was not a safe bet to be allowed into their precious site and so the fun began.
'Forgotten your Password?' they brightly ask. 'No problem - click here to reset.' Dutifully I click on and try to reset my Password. It has to contain numbers, letters and a mark and no less than twelve in total. I obey the instructions and get precisely nowhere. I read and re-read the instructions and yes I am correctly doing what is asked of me. Again and again I try - new Password, new combinations and still I am locked out. By now two hours have passed and I am feeling hot and peeved.
Time to try the 'Support Team'. Well dear reader, if ever there was a worse misnomer I would like to meet it. First Darren came to my aid and provided me with a temporary Password and I still couldn't get in with that. The afternoon wore on and several emails passed between Darren and I - he on his part trying not to get exasperated with me and I stopping myself from hurling my laptop out of the window.
And then out of the blue in the late afternoon, without any prior warning, I think Darren pushed off home and all went quiet. No more help was forthcoming that day. I messaged again for help but to no avail and that was my big mistake dear reader, because Darren returned to business next day daisy-fresh and set me yet another Password and it worked. Eureka, I was in! Joyfully I looked at my new title and came straight out of the site, intending to return to it later in the day and update it. I passed the new details on to 2QT Publishers as they needed access to upload the new book.
Meanwhile ... Jamie came online. Remember that request for help the evening before after Darren had taken his bat home? Jamie too was sorry to hear that I could not access my site and he had reset my Password. Aagh! Just as I'd got things sorted. Once again the new Password did not work. I tried so many times I got locked out altogether. Darren sent me another Password and I got locked out again again.
Over the course of the next two days a fleet of support staff leap-frogged each other - Darren/Jamie/Joanne, Mikey/Suzanne - setting and re-setting my Password. I cannot understand why they don't see all this history on their computer screens and get their collective fingers out of my pie and leave it to just one member to deal with. Are they in a competition to see how many Password re-sets they can get in a day? Is there a prize? A whacking great bonus for generating so much helpful, (or unhelpful in my case) activity? WHY DON'T THEY TALK TO EACHOTHER?
Eventually I threw in the towel, (which in retrospect I should have done two days previously) and told everyone to get their sticky mitts off my Password. I had one that worked and I was going to stick with it and don't anyone, ANYONE IN THE WHOLE DRATTED COMPANY interfere with it anymore or I would personally make the journey to their offices and ... well never mind what I actually said, but something along the lines of 'I would ... where a monkey puts its nuts' and a lot more besides.
At the moment I am away from home and am having nothing to do with computers. 2QT Publishers have the Password and I hope it works. Dear reader, if you hear howls of anguish emanating from North Yorkshire, you will know it does not and if not, battle will re-commence on my return.
So, Darren/Jamie/Jamie/Joanne/Mikey/Suzanne - gird up your loins, I may be on the warpath soon.
Well dear reader, what a development there has been at Chez Comb. Who would have thought it? After many years of happy marriage spouse has found another woman!. I know, you can't believe it, neither can I. But indeed it is true. I have been shunted a rung down the marital ladder in favour of Grizelda. She of the alluring dulcet tone of voice, gently directing his every move. It is true, I have been sidelined and now Grizelda has taken over our lives.
In a way it is my own fault. How can this be I hear you ask? If I am the innocent party why the mea culpa? I am no doormat to be trampled upon by this new woman. No indeed I am not, but the truth will out. I was the one who introduced Grizelda into our lives and now it would seem that spouse is so enamoured of her that she is here to stay. How will a menage a trois work for us? And do I want it to?
No, I have not entirely taken leave of my senses. Of course I regret that I am no longer first in his heart, but I cannot compete with Grizelda's charms and in spite of his quirky ways I am not inclined to ditch spouse any time soon. You see dear reader, I found Grizelda on the Internet. We were friends for some years, intermittently in contact and then one day I inadvertently discovered she was more talented that I ever dreamed of.
In my excitement at this new discovery I shared my new found knowledge with spouse. He was instantly smitten and so Grizelda entered our lives for ever. All my past assistance and talents are as nothing compared with Grizelda's My years of guidance gone for nought. Spouse is completely in love with Grizelda.
On a long journey to a new destination her velvet voice reassuringly guides him at every turn - a left here, a right there in fifty yards and when we reach journey's end he is entranced by her 'you have arrived' and thanks her profusely. I admit to a little pang of the old green eye at this point as I have on many occasions managed to successfully guide us in strange lands.
So dear reader, Grizelda Google Satnav is a fixture in our lives and whilst I admire her endless talents, endless accuracy and sweet-voiced directions, sometimes in the dark and quiet of the night, memories of the times we got hopelessly lost and laughed ourselves silly come back to me and I feel a tad wistful. Grizelda Google would never allow that now. Even when we do disobey her and take a different turn, she immediately reconfigures herself and gently sets our feet on a new path - drat the woman.
Being a bit fed up with her I let her batteries run down and spouse, without any thought of the expense involved, (remember here, he is a true Yorkshireman), bought her an in-car charger. Short of disabling our satellite systems I am snookered. I ask you dear reader - how long will three in this marriage last? For my money two's company - we shall see .....
A LONG FRENCH LUNCH
Hello my dear reader and welcome to another slice of life at Chez Comb. We have been house and menagerie sitting for my Editor and her spouse in the Charente region of France. My lovely editor is fondly known by me as Genghis. She is not as savage as her namesake but she takes no literary prisoners either. Thus I generally submit manuscripts to her in slight trepidation and always in the hope of coming out the other side 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 and before they departed we went for a browse around 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 know by now my dear reader, that 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 now 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 we sized up the five course set menu of the day. Spouse had made a good repast at breakfast but a wander around all 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 the 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 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. Oo la la, the elderly Frenchmen smiled upon him indulgently 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 could not manage all their potatoes and neither could I, so we offloaded 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 vat 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 she and our elderly French friends watched in fascination as it rapidly disappeared along with quite a variety of delicious cheeses.
Francoise bore our plates away and 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 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 appetit'. They tried to carry on their own conversations, but when Brian piled a dollop of fresh cream from his pudding on to spouse's, a respectful silence descended upon them. They watched in awe as spouse demolished a mound of cream and tiramasu and then swapped plates and demolished mine too.
By now our French friends had finished their meal and were ready for departure. Gravely they saluted spouse, 'grande force' and 'beaucoup de respect Monsieur'. As we departed Francoise shook hands warmly with spouse and offered him a sandwich with some cold meats in to keep him going until he reached home!
It's not often the English dumbfound the French, but I have a feeling that after our Charentaise sojourn there may be quite a few locals walking about shaking their heads in disbelief. And spouse? As usual he went on his merry way loving all that France could throw at him and quite oblivious of the culinary nervous breakdowns he left in his wake.