NO BLOG THIS WEEK
Good morning my dear reader. As it is a Bank Holiday weekend I am taking a little time off and Spouse and I are going on a few jaunts. I'll see you next week all being well, renewed and refreshed - that's the theory anyway. I hope you enjoy the weekend and the sun shines us. My best wishes to you.
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a soggy Sunday morning at Comb Towers. Lots of lovely rain through the night and my. my, how the summer is speeding by. We are almost at the end of our dog sitting stint and I will miss him when he goes home. Fortunately, the weather this week has been a bit cooler for him and we have enjoyed rambling about far and wide. I wonder if he will miss us when he goes home? Probably not, he will be back in the bosom of his own family again.
During the recent very hot and dry weather, the water in our pond evaporated quite a bit and the level dropped by a good six inches. Although our pond is three to four feet deep, we were getting concerned for the welfare of our aquatic life and all the pond plants. Quite a lot of these sit in the shallows and the water was shrinking away by the day. Also, although we have lots of stones around the edges of the pond, protruding from the water so that the birds can stand on them and get a drink - even they were finding it difficult to bend so far down to drink.
Something had to be done. Unfortunately the dry spell had gone on for so many weeks, that we had used up every drop of rain water in our butts and tanks. A pond refill with water from the mains was the only resort left to us.
Now, dear reader, when we first built the pond and filled it with the mains water, our water company were quite happy for us to do that and not charge us the sewerage charges on the volume of water used to fill the pond - we just had to let them know the dates we filled the pond up. Wonderful and soooo straightforward. Three years on and we have always managed to keep the pond topped up with the stored rainwater from our tanks. But, this year we are at the mercy of the water company again ... dear reader, who needs to write fiction ...
I telephoned the water company and spoke to a nice young lady and put the scenario to her, about topping the pond up and not being charged sewerage charges on the water. She hadn't heard of this being done before and went away to consult with colleagues. Back on the line some ten minutes later, she said yes, in principle, that would be alright, but we would have to take meter readings before and after filling the pond up. 'That's all very well,' says I, 'but we don't know where the meter is.' She consulted her computer screen and told me it was just outside our garden wall on the grass verge.
Feeling a very happy bunny and armed with this information, Spouse and I sashayed outside to locate the meter. There was a slight sunken area on the grass verge just outside the gates. Spouse took the top of the turf off, only to find nothing there. Mmm, not a great result. The rest of the grass verge was uniformly flat and short of digging up the whole thing, we were no further on. No meter readings meant no pond refill.
Fortuitously for us, we received a letter from Faisal, Customer Relationship Manager at the water company. He confirmed we could fill our pond without sewerage charges, just read the meter before and after. If we can't actually read the meter, he would arrange for a reading to be taken for us.
So, I emailed Faisal at the water company, thanking him for his assistance but pointing out that we could not read the meter as we could not locate it. Could he enlighten us in any more detail, as to its whereabouts.
Then Bethany emailed, (another Customer Relationship Manager), advising us exactly where the meter was, BUT contradicting Faisal's instructions to read the meter!! No, no, Mrs Comb do not read your meter, she wrote sternly. Health and Safety! What!!! Spouse was not impressed. What were the health and safety issues of lifting a small manhole cover and reading a meter?
I emailed Bethany to tell her that her colleague, Faisal, had told me to read the meter and if I can't read the meter how can I fill our pond as agreed?
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Spouse had collared a passing water company man-in-a-van and asked him about locating our meter. The water company man was most obliging and produced his meter detector and hey presto - meter uncovered under the turf! Not only that, he took a reading on his phone and showed it to us and then went on his merry way.
I emailed Bethany again to say we have located the meter courtesy of a water board employee and please could we now take readings? Faisal says yes - you say no. Which is it to be?
In the meantime, whilst waiting for her considered reply, the rains finally came and refilled our butts and tanks. Happy days for us and the pond. Spouse refilled the pond from the tanks and all was well. I emailed Bethany with this information, but wondered if this situation arises next year, what will the meter reading advice be...?
Lisa, yet another Customer Relationship Manager from the water company telephoned me, (how many have they got?) and I got a definitive answer. Yes, we can read the meters before and after a pond top up and if we can't manage it, they would send someone out to help us. She says she'll confirm in an email - I look forward to it! The water company must operate on the same principle as workers digging a hole - there are always three of them. And so it was with my little query - Faisal, Bethany and Lisa. Something tells me if I have to revisit this scenario again next year, we may all be meeting up again!
Goodbye for now, dear reader and I hope you have a good week. We are in the dog days of August and have to make the most of them. And speaking of dogs and being dog free, I think there will be a few outings on the horizon for us. I will have to dust down my glad rags.
THE LADY IN THE RED DRESS
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a sunny/cloudy/soggy Sunday at Comb Towers. I hope you are well and enjoying the mostly lovely August weather, although this morning it really can't make its mind up what to do, so is throwing a bit of everything at us. We welcomed the rain a couple of weeks ago and now thankfully, the sun is here again. Indeed, I am very thankful as we are doing our bit for the family and dog sitting, (a chestnut coloured labrador), whilst they take their summer holiday. I am not a huge fan of dog walking in the pouring rain, or walking in the rain at any time come to that, so long may the sun shine.
Six thirty prompt every morning, dog and I sashay forth for our morning constitutional - he all bright-eyed and bushy tailed; me slightly less so at that time of day, but I gradually awaken and by the time we get to the recreation field, I am ready to run about with him. He's a very big dog, strong and muscular and quite a sight as he thunders towards me at full tilt. I move out of the way pretty sharpish I can tell you, or he would take me off my feet.
The village is very quiet so early in the morning; most of the dog walkers come out eightish onwards, so on our walk we have the world to ourselves, other than the occasional cyclist and one or two folk making their way to work at the small trading estate at the top of the village.
One morning I passed a beautiful lady, very well-groomed, wearing a bright red dress and with strappy white sandals on her feet. Her blond hair was piled high on her head and a tiny leather handbag slung across her body. She looked lovely and I asumed she was making her way to work at the trading estate. She beamed at me and called out a cheery 'good morning.' I responded in kind and then dog and I went on our merry way.
A good half an hour later as dog and I walked down the road to home, the lady in the red dress passed us again, going up the road - so she wasn't going to work at the trading estate after all. She had done the same walk as dog and I, but in reverse. (Only missing out running about the field I suppose). All those farm roads in those strappy sandals!!
I told Spouse about it over our morning cuppa together. 'Fancy dressing up like that for a country walk,' says I. Spouse looked pityingly at me. 'She wasn't dressed like that to go for a walk,' he said. 'Well, she was,' I retorted. 'You're such a numpty,' he said. 'Thank you for that,' says I. 'So, clever clogs - why was she dressed like that and out walking?' 'She was going home,' he said. I looked at him blankly. 'What do you mean, "she was going home"?' Spouse stared hard at me and repeated, with emphasis, 'She was going home ... Get it ? ... She hadn't been home ... And she was beaming, you said.' The penny dropped 'Oh ... Oh ... I see. Wow, lucky lady. She certainly had a big smile on her face.'
And you'll never guess what, dear reader - well, I bet you can. The next day Spouse was up with the seagulls and out the door with doggo, but came home very disappoined. No lady in a red dress or any lady in any dress come to that. Just a lycra-clad cyclist!
Dog and I are back to our early morning ramblings, but no sign of the beautiful lady. I hope she is still smiling wherever she is. Spouse sometimes takes his turn in early morning dog walking - still hopeful - and what if he did meet up with her? ... Dog is with us for a while yet, so we shall wait and see what this week brings.
I hope it brings lovely weather for all of us, especially those away on holiday. We are halfway through August already and the evenings are beginning to draw in, so stay safe and enjoy the sunshine whilst it's here. We are not away on holiday yet, so all being well, I'll see you next week.
OF STAMPS, BANANAS AND DOCTORS
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a very wet Sunday at Comb Towers. I may be in the minority but I welcome the rain. The water level in our wildlife pond has dropped by six inches and I had been in negotiations with our water company to refill it, (that might be another blog, believe me). However, with all the rain we've had this week, the pond is almost refilled and so are our tanks and water butts. If another heatwave comes, we are ready!
This week's wet weather has kept Spouse indoors and after tidying up his den he spent some time on one of his hobbies - philately. Spouse has been a keen stamp collector since he was a young stripling and has an extensive knowledge of this subject and the fascination for him is that he never stops learning. Most of the time he obtains the first day covers by post or from the Post Office and sometimes, stamps on a particular subject, from the philatelic society meetings. Seeing him with his albums spread out and setting out stamps for cataloguing reminded me of the time he totally bemused our village post mistress when we lived in the Durham Dales.
Spouse went into the little post office and asked Maxine, the post mistress, if she had any stamps with submarines on. Just like that. Maxine looked at him askance and said she didn't think so, probably thinking, 'we've got a right one here'. But Spouse persisted - there must be some stamps with submarines on. So, to oblige, Maxine and her colleague hunted through their massive ledgers of stamps and sure enough, found the four stamps featuring British submarines 1901-1992.
So far so good, Maxine thought the war was one, but in fact, the battle had only just begun. She looked at Spouse expectantly, assuming he wanted to buy them. Oh no, nothing as straightforward as that! 'I would like a "single one" of each stamp, then a "block" of four of each stamp, a "gutter pair" of each stamp and another single stamp of each type with the "traffice lights" on. Maxine's eyes glazed over and she took a step back from the counter. 'Really?,' she said faintly. 'Mr Comb, I have no idea what you're talking about. are you pulling my leg?' Spouse was quick to reassure her. 'No, really. I know it's a bit of an order but we can do one bit at a time.'
So, they started with the "single" stamps and the "blocks" of four of each type. That bit went well. 'Now the "gutter pair" of each stamp,' says Spouse. 'And what might a "gutter pair" be?' asked Maxine. 'One stamp with a broad, white perforated strip separating it from the stamp below.' Maxine tracked down the relevant sheets and carefully tore out the stamps. 'Last, but not least,' says Spouse, 'the "traffic lights".' 'Aren't traffic lights for ... traffic?' ventured Maxine. 'Not when it's a stamp,' Spouse retorted triumphantly. 'Enlighten me,' Maxine said wearily. Spouse pointed to the top of the sheet of stamps. 'See all those coloured circles there? They're known as the "traffic lights" - each of those colours is on every one of these stamps. Some collectors are very interested in the actual colours - in addition to the subject matter on the stamp.'
Spouse wanted a single stamp with the "traffic lights" attached for each submarine stamp. As she was working her way through them, she said, 'I don't mind doing this ... but why?' 'That's the way I like them,' said Spouse and merrily went on his way, leaving behind a very perplexed post mistress ... 'And you didn't think to tell her, all this is for your philately?' says I when he related the tale on arrival home. 'Well, no,' says Spouse lamely. 'She'll think you're a right numpty,' says I ...
The "bannanas" incident was slightly different, although again, he left behind a rather bemused, if very amused lady. A recent blood test had shown slightly low potassium levels and so Spouse was instructed to eat a bannana every day for a while and then return for a further blood test. He duly did this and at the same time collected a new prescription which included potassium in it. Out of nowhere he said to the receptionist, 'Should I keep eating bannanas?' She tried very hard to keep a straight face and replied, 'Well ... if you want to!' And he wondered why there were shrieks of laughter as he left the surgery. He should be royalty - never complain, never explain.
Last, but by no means least, dear reader, we come to our lovely lady doctor in Scotland. Believe it, or believe it not, Spouse has a natural charm and combined with big blue eyes and a merry smile, caused our doctor to adore him, even though he drove her up the wall most of the time, with his explanations as to why he hadn't ever followed her instructions time and time again. One day he went for his check up and he noticed a chart pinned to the inside of her consulting room door. It illustrated all the healthy food groups. Right at the bottom was "Fats". Now, this lovely lady had spent years trying to keep Spouse on the dietary straight and narrow and well away from "fats" of all kinds. So, triumphantly, Spouse pointed to the chart and said, 'You see, what did I tell you. Fats are good for you. I was right all along!!!' ... Spouse came out from his consultation beaming and said, 'You're next,' to me. Off he went and I made my way into the her room. Our lovely doctor had her head in her hands and was the picture of despair as she slumped over her desk ... once again he had got the better of her!
Well, dear reader, it's still pouring down as I write and Spouse is in his den. We are dog sitting for a fortnight and his four legged friend is lying at his feet. The only person Spouse is likely to bemuse today is me and I'm well used to it. But there again, the dog is not and after a very wet day with Spouse in his den ... who knows. I hope the weather improves as one of us is going to have to take doggo out for a walk soon. I hope you have a good week and may the sun shine on us again before too long.
JACK AND THE GUNNERA STALK
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a slightly soggy morning at Comb Towers. Joy, joy, we have had rain. I am all things Gunnera this week. After my unfortunate experience a couple of weeks ago with Josh at the seed company, (Anyone For Verbal Tennis, 18th July), I managed to obtain four Gunnera plants from another supplier. They are now happily growing well in the damp ground at the bottom of my garden, soaking up the moisture and will grow up to the sky in time. I happened to mention to Spouse that we would have to protect the crowns of the plants from the winter frosts and so needed to buy some more horticultural fleece. Spouse eyed me dubiously - a familiar phenomenon in our house - and asked me what we will do when they are ten or twenty foot tall? 'Ah ... well', says I, 'we'll just have to put a ladder up or climb up the stalks.' 'Like Jack and the Beanstalk,' says Spouse. 'Exactly,' says I. Which got me thinking ...
Once upon a time, a wife planted four Gunnera plants at the bottom of her garden. They grew and they grew, their massive green leaves forming a firm green bed for the wife to lie on for an afternoon nap. But over the years the Gunnera grew up to the sky and right through the clouds and the wife could no longer lie in the leaves. Come the autumn, the wife who had no head for heights, asked her husband, Jack, to climb up the Gunnera and fleece the crowns of the plants. Jack was not very keen on the idea as the stalks of the Gunnera were spiky and sharp. 'I'll get jabbed and scratched all the way up ... and down,' he protested. 'Oh, come on,' says the wife. 'Are you a man or a mouse?' 'Squeak,' said Jack and then ran to shin up the Gunnera stalk as his wife advanced with frying pan in hand.
Jack climbed up the Gunnera stalk and up through the clouds. Much to his surprise when he reached the top he found a winding road. In the distance he could see a massive stone castle. All thoughts of fleece forgotten, Jack set off to investigate. As he drew near he saw a huge woman, at least fifteen foot tall, standing outside the castle. 'Who are you?' she asked. 'I'm Jack. I've just come up the Gunnera plant. Who are you and how did you get here? We only planted these a few years ago?' 'You don't want to know much, do you?' she said. 'But if you must know, I'm Madge. We have a magic carpet, me and Bernard. We like to build a castle when we spot a new Gunnera. Keeps life interesting. What are you doing up here then?' 'I have to put some fleece on the crowns of the plants, only I've lost it. But never mind that. Can I see inside your castle, Madge? I thought these only existed in fairytales.' Madge snorted. 'Fairytales. Bernard aint no fairytale and if he catches you here he'll eat you for his breakfast.' She eyed him speculatively. 'Well, part of his breakfast maybe; you're a bit on the skinny side. Come on in then, at your own risk.'
Just as Jack was starting to explore, Bernard came home. With nowhere to escape to, Madge hid Jack inside the massive oven. The castle walls shook as the giant sat down heavily and waited for his breakfast. 'Oh, I'm so hungry,' he said. 'I could eat at least four humans today.' 'I haven't got any,' said Madge. 'You'll have to make do with a roast pig and half a ton of potatoes this morning.' Jack thought he had a good appetite but it was nothing to Bernard's. He watched in amazement as the giant polished off all the food. Eventually he was full and called to Madge to bring his bags of gold. 'Get them yourself, you lazy hound,' she said. 'I'm not going to put my back out hauling socking great bags of gold to the table.' Grumbling, Bernard heaved himself out of the chair and the walls shook again as he stomped to his safe and bought out his bags of gold. He began counting the coins at the table but soon his hearty lunch caught up with him and he went to sleep. When he was sure the giant was in a deep sleep, Jack crept out of the oven and over to the table. Whoohoo, it was worth the climb up the Gunnera for some of these. He swiped a bag of gold and ran quickly away from the castle and scrambled back down the spiky plant.
Back on the ground he ran to show his wife the bag of gold. She looked inside and then looked at Jack in disbelief. 'You're such a numpty,' she said. 'I don't know where you got them from. They're actually chocolate coins covered in gold paper, so I hope you didn't pay good money for them.' Jack's heart sank. As his excitement ebbed he became aware of his scratched and bleeding arms and legs. 'Did you fleece up the Gunnera?' asked his wife. 'Fleece?' said Jack blankly. 'Ah ... fleece ... well ...' His wife rolled her eyes. 'That's a "no" then. Well, get back up there and get that fleece on and no more talk of giants, magic carpets and the like. Sounds to me more like you found a stash of magic mushrooms with all that talk.'
Wearily Jack took the fleece from her and climbed back up the Gunnera stalk. At the top the stone castle still shimmered at the end of the winding road. Instantly he forgot his tiredness and his mission. Abandoning the fleece to its fate he set off once more for the castle. 'Magic mushrooms ... I'll show her.'
Madge was wielding a giant hoover in the hall. 'Oh, it's you is it? The chocolate coin thief. Bernard knew he was a bag short, so I knew where it had gone. He's not a happy giant today and he hasn't had his lunch yet and he's partial to a bit of roasted human in a sandwich. If he gets the smell of you, you'll be on the menu.' 'No chance,' said Jack confidently. 'He'll have to catch me first.' Madge shrugged and eyed him up. 'Reckon you'd make a nice roast with potatoes and veg around you. You'd go down a treat.' Jack was beginning to think this escapade might not be such a good idea after all and was about to back out when he heard 'Fee fie fo fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman. Be he alive or be he dead, I'll break his bones to make my bread.' 'Hells bells,' said Madge. 'He's home early, he must be hungry. Quick, get in the oven. He can't smell you in there.' Reluctantly Jack climbed in, hoping Madge's talk of roasting him was just that ... just talk. Madge went back to the table. 'Don't be such a plonker, Bernard. We don't eat Englishmen any more. You can have a Frenchman, we're not in the E.U. now.' 'Hmph' said Bernard. 'Too much garlic in a Frenchman. What's for lunch? I'm starving.' 'Pie and chips,' said Madge and put a huge plateful in front of him. Being a giant, Bernard had a big frame to fill. Jack grew very hungry watching Bernard munch is way through plate after plate of pie and chips. At last he finished and called to Madge to fetch his golden hen. 'And what did your last one die of? I am not your servant. Fetch it yourself, I'm busy.' 'I wouldn't pay that woman in washers if she was my servant,' grumbled Bernard as he fetched his golden hen. 'Lay me a golden egg,' he commanded the hen. Promptly she laid an egg. Jack's eyes widened in surprise. Indeed the egg was golden. Wow, he wanted a piece of this action. Gently stroking the hen, the giant fell asleep. Jack crept out of the oven and carefully removed the hen from the table. He tiptoed out of the room and once outside the castle, ran back to the Gunnera and shimmied his way back down into the garden.
His wife was weeding in the vegetable patch. Excitedly Jack put the hen down in front of her. 'Watch this,' he said, 'we're gonna be rich.' His wife raised her eyebrows sceptically. 'No-one ever got rich keeping hens. 'Lay me a golden egg,' Jack commanded the hen. The hen laid an egg. Just that, an ordinary egg. Jack eyed her in dismay. 'A golden egg, I said.' The hen laid another egg, an ordinary egg. 'What's with you,' said his wife. 'Chocolate, now eggs! I think you've lost the plot. And have you fleeced up the Gunnera plants yet?' 'No, I haven't. But I know there's gold to be had up there. Madge and Bernard ... they live in this amazing castle. You should see it. They must be as rich as anything. I tell you, that hen laid a golden egg for Bernard and if you'd seen the pie and chips he put away for his lunch ...' 'Mmm, definitely magic mushrooms,' said his wife. 'I'll have a look and see where you're getting them from and if you don't get those Gunnera fleeced up today, you won't be getting pie and chips either. In fact, you won't be getting anything.'
A mulish determination settled over Jack. He'd show her. The fleece was tangled up in the spiky stalks of the Gunnera. Once he had freed it, Jack set off once more. Standing on the path above the clouds he looked for Madge but she was nowhere to be seen. Jack slipped into the castle and wandered around the ground floor rooms, marvelling at the polished furniture and roaring fires burning in every fireplace. Coming into the kitchen he eyed one of the pies the giant could not manage at lunchtime. Hunger made him drool and he took a slice and stuffed it into his mouth. Pure heaven, Madge was a great cook.
Then the walls and floors started to shake as Bernard approached. 'Fee fie foe fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman. Be he alive or be he dead, I'll break his bones to make my bread.' Jack hid behind a large copper pot just as Madge appeared with dinner. She slapped it down on the table. 'Bernard! Change the record, for goodness sake. You're getting fixated. There's no-one here but me. Now eat your dinner and get out from under my feet. I've got work to do even if you haven't.' 'Well, I can smell an Englishman, I don't care what she says,' muttered Bernard, as he tucked into a mound of mashed potato and gravy. Jack eyed the stack of pork chops piled on a separate plate enviously. When he had finished, Bernard got up and bought a golden harp to the table. 'No good asking Madge to bring it,' he said. 'I might as well ask the cat and we haven't even got one. And anyway, she doesn't even like this music. Led Zepplin or Black Sabbath's more her stuff.' The golden harp started playing music and soon the giant dozed off. I'm with Madge on this one, thought Jack. That music is truly terrible, but a golden harp ... I bet that's worth a bob or two. Surely my wife won't turn her nose up at that. Jack crept to the table and picked up the harp. Immediately it stopped playing and Bernard woke up. 'I knew it,' he roared. 'A flaming Englishman and stealing my harp! Oh no you don't.' Jack kept tight hold of the golden harp and legged it. He could run much faster than the lumbering giant. He climbed back down the Gunnera, the sharp, hairy spikes gouging chunks out of his arms and legs. Up above, he saw Bernard peering down through the cloud base. 'Best get you and Madge on to your magic carpet,' shouted Jack. 'I'm gonna chop these Gunnera down. Time for you to move on.' Bernard roared and shook his fist at Jack, but there was nothing he could do. They were not earth dwellers and once again he had been outsmarted by an Englishman. Ten minutes later, Madge and Bernard took off on their magic carpet and Jack took an axe to the Gunnera. When she saw her precious plants in ruins, his wife wept. 'Now what are we going to do? However can we afford to replace them?' 'No worries,' said Jack. I just happen to have a golden harp here. It will fetch a bob or two, more than enough for a few Gunnera.' His wife looked at the harp. 'Gold paint, Jack. I don't know where you got it from, but they saw you coming. I think you need to go for a long lie down. That, or see a psychiatrist, or maybe both. Giants ... magic carpets ... castles in the clouds! I've found that patch of magic mushrooms, Jack, so there won't be any more nonsense with our next Gunnera.
Oh, won't there? Jack looked up to the sky. Madge and Bernard were up there somewhere ... The End
Goodbye, dear reader. Have a good week. I hope you are enjoying the summer holidays. If you're sitting out in your garden this week, look up to the sky. You never know, you might just spot Madge and Bernard passing by. Very best wishes to you.