Good morning dear reader and welcome to a sunny Sunday morning at Comb Towers. I hope you have had a good week and enjoyed the lovely autumnal weather we have been having. Once again, Spouse and I have been wielding the loppers and secateurs in our garden and also at our local library garden. Thankfully, the Council gardeners collect the garden waste from there and compost it for us, otherwise I don't know what we would do. The gardens surround the library building and are quite extensive and the borders densly planted. This week we had some other volunteers come to help us and so managed to create a truckload of garden waste.
Talking of waste - and now I'm talking recycling - our local supermarket has now provided a large bin for "soft plastics" to be recycled. I am delighted about this new development as I like to recycle as much as possible. So, I have started rinsing my "soft plastics" and leaving them to dry before putting them into my recycling bag ready to take to the supermarket. One evening this week, I rinsed out a largish baguette wrapper and left it to dry in the conservatory. The wrapper was brown and white and quite long. I stretched it out to dry and went on my merry way. Well now, dear reader, here's the thing - revenge is sweet and oh, if only I had known I was going to spook Spouse with it, I would have enjoyed it all the more.
The following morning Spouse sashayed downstairs, half asleep and bleary-eyed, to make a cup of tea and idly stared out of the kitchen towards the conservatory and then ... jumped out of his skin. He saw a dead cat stretched out on the floor. 'What the blue blazes?' thinks he. Ha ha, I only wished I could have seen his face! Nervously he opened the door leading into the conservatory and peered more closely at it. Of course, it wasn't a dead cat at all, only my brown and white wrapper. And, of course, dear reader, Spouse then wanted to know from yours truly, why must I randomly strew wrappers about the place to give him horrible shocks first thing in the morning? Oh, I so enjoyed that. It made up for him spooking me with ghostly Ruth last week.
Although that wasn't quite the end of it. I nearly got myself into trouble again at the supermarket when I was posting all my "soft plastics" into their bin a day or two later. Spouse was at my side and as I put the offending wrapper in the bin, I said , 'There goes the dead cat.' A woman going into the store, stopped and gave me a very dark look. Before she could ask the question I hastened to reassure her. 'No, really. It isn't a dead cat. It just looks like one.' I'm not sure she was entirely convinced but at least she didn't alert the staff to this strange woman at the recycling bin. Spouse hustled me away, shaking his head. 'If it's not dead ducks, it's dead cats,' he said, referring to a previous supermarket incident some years previously. Ah well, I enjoyed his fright and we both live to fight another day.
And fight another day we most certainly did, dear reader. Since the advent of Covid in our lives and the two lockdowns, I have walked miles and miles around our village in an effort to maintain some fitness and thus have worn out all my walking boots and trainers. So, I proposed a trip to the county town of Beverley in East Yorkshire for a little shopping and perhaps a spot of lunch. Spouse had to mull this one over, (see blog 1st November 2016 "How To Make A Yorkshireman Cry" ... "tell him he's going shopping".) In the event he decided he was up for it and off we went. It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and we were in harmony with eachother.
Well, that didn't last. We arrived in Beverley, a pretty town with an ancient Minster dating back to the thirteenth century. We parked in the supermarket car park, as customers are allowed three hours free parking and as we were going to do a large shop there later, that seemed O.K. to us. 'So,' says Spouse, 'where is Mountain Warehouse then?' 'Mmm,' says I. 'I'm not sure I can remember. It's so long since we have been here, I think I've forgotten.' Suddenly, I was assailed by doubts. 'They do have one here, don't they?' Dear reader, I don't think I need to describe the withering look that came my way. You can imagine that one. 'You mean we might have come all this way and it's not here at all? Quite possibly in some other town in another place and not this place?' 'Well ... just not sure that's all. I'll Google it.' Out comes the phone and a quick Google search reassures me that Mountain Warehouse is to be found in the main thoroughfare of the town. Sigh of relief on that one.
We both decided to avail ourselves of the supermarket's Ladies and Gents facilities before heading off to town. I put my phone in the car glove box and headed off for the Ladies. We went our separate ways and I suggested I meet Spouse at the supermarket entrance shortly. So, there I was, hanging about the entrance and eventually Spouse came striding out towards me. He had that incredulous and rather resigned look on his face. 'What are you doing out here?' he asked. 'Waiting for you,' I said brightly. 'We're going into town.' With a visible effort, Spouse suppressed his frustration with me and forebore to grind his teeth too much. 'Yes, we are. Why didn't you turn right out of the Ladies and wait at the entrance there, as that is the direction we go to the town, instead of walking all the way back through the store to wait at the entrance that does not lead to the town.'
Oh, dearie me, dear reader. You know and I know and he knows that I am directionally challenged. In Covid times the store had a one way entrance and exit system. But now that has gone and both doors can be used. So what I thought of as the exit is now also an entrance!! So, we strode back through the store and went on our way to the town. And then ... 'So, what road is Mountain Warehouse on?' asks Spouse. 'Mmm, don't really know,' says I. 'In the town centre somewhere.' 'Well, get you phone out and have a look,' he suggested. 'Ah, can't do that,' says I. 'The phone is in the car.' You know that straw that broke the camel's back, dear reader? That was about Spouse's state by now. I have to say it really is most unlike him, but I think enough was enough. He strode through the streets muttering in quite a loud voice about a wife who (a) doesn't know if the shop is there in the first place, (b) can't find her way out of a paper bag, let alone the right store entrance and (c) can't bring the phone for the directions to find the store anyway. I was so embarrassed that I almost felt like announcing to my fellow shoppers that it was alright, he was only out for the day and would soon be taken home to a place of safety.
Luckily for me, or possibly to Spouse's unerring sense of direction (drat his eyes), we found the shop fairly easily and I was able to renew my footwear for the coming season. Thankfully Spouse regained his usual good humour and we enjoyed a slap up lunch outdoors in the sunshine. (Note to self - next time keep phone with you at all times!). Have a good week, dear reader and I hope to be here next week as there are no further proposed shopping expeditions on the horizon, so I should keep my head on my shoulders for now, providing there are no more dead cats in our conservatory.
ELFINA AND RUTH
Good morning dear reader and welcome to an overcast Sunday in North Yorkshire. I hope you are well and enjoying our mildly autumnal weather. The flowers in my garden are gradually dying back and I feel like the Red Queen in Alice In Wonderland, as I wield the secateurs and say 'off with their heads', but I hope I'm not as aggressive as that good lady.
Speaking of ladies, I must tell you about Elfina and Ruth, the extra two in our marriage! Elfina is our house elf. We have never seen Elfina, as she always operates in our absence but she certainly makes her presence felt. I think she parties with her friends when we are out and we come home to find an array of plates and glasses left about. Spouse is always wide-eyed when asked about them. 'I never left them there ...' 'Oh, was it Elfina again?' I ask. Spouse nods solemnly. 'That house elf, she's very naughty.' 'She might have to go,' says I. 'Oh no.' Spouse is most emphatic. 'We can't do without Elfina, she's a treasure.'
And she is a treasure, dear reader. Shirts get scorched on the ironing board, socks go missing in the wash, there's no tonic left to go with the gin - it's all Elfina's fault - she's been partying again! I know I have teased Spouse with thoughts of letting her go, but in truth, I could not do without Elfina. The times she has saved my bacon!! 'It's Elfina's fault,' I say, when I've burnt the dinner. 'She was supposed to watch it and she's skived off somewhere', or if his favourite sweater has been shrunk in the wash, 'Elfina did it. I told her to put it on a wool wash. She never listens.'
Spouse would be lost without Elfina too. When his den becomes too chaotic to the point when even he can't find things, Elfina's shortcomings are brought out into the light of day again. 'That house elf, I swear she does it on purpose,' he says. 'I had this room all tidy and organised and now look at it. I only went into town and she's wrecked the place. I'm going to have to sort it all out again now' he says nobly and sets to work. And when his mega-shed is upside down, 'Elfina's been partying with her mates again,' is the reason given.
In spite of all her quirky ways we would not be without Elfina. All accidents, mislaid items and catastrophes can be laid at her door. She gets the flack for eveything, so for me, she can party all she likes - just leave a little gin and tonic for us will you Elfina.
Adn then there is Ruth. Ruth is a very beautiful life-size French grey and white pot statue. She is named Ruth after Ruth in the Old Testament when she was gleaning corn in the fields and met Boaz. John Keats wrote about her in Ode To A Nightingale - 'she stood in tears among the alien corn.' Our French Ruth stands contemplatively among the alien laurels in an English garden, looking wistfully out from their lush green leaves. But - I am not too keen on leaving her outside to the mercies of the winter frosts and so I asked Spouse to bring her indoors at some point. I imagined we would park her in the garage for the season.
All I can say, dear reader, is that I appear to have a strong heart as it has had to withstand a severe shock this week. (Note to self - was that Spouse's intention?) Hopefully not, although I suspect the mischevious part of him was uppermost when he did what he did. Instead of parking Ruth out in the garage, he brought her into the house and positioned her in my writing den. As the nights are now drawing in, we have dawn to dusk lights plugged in around the house, so that we do not stumble around in the dark looking for a light switch. Spouse had positioned Ruth in front of one of these lights in my den, but didn't tell me. In the dark of the late evening, I walked into my den and there was Ruth, only I didn't know it was Ruth. In the dim light I saw the glowing grey ghost of a woman hovering in the corner of the room. I shrieked and almost passed out with shock. I turned tail and fled, gibbering, into the arms of Spouse. When he finally understood what I was wailing about, he rolled his eyes and roared with laughter. Taking me by the hand he led me back to my den. 'It's not a ghost, you numpty. When did you ever see a ghost in this house? It's Ruth!!' 'Ruth???' 'Yes, Ruth. You asked me to bring her in and I have. I think she looks great there and she can keep you company when you're writing this winter. Look at her lovely face. she's so serene.' 'Well I'm glad she's serene because I feel anything but serene right now,' I retorted.
Spouse swears black, white and blue that he did not deliberately light Ruth up in that ghostly way. He says he just forgot to tell me she was there. Mmm, I think my jury's out on that one. Well, dear reader, Ruth and I will journey through the winter together, with Elfina doing her worst in the rest of the house. We could be in for an interesting time. I hope you have a good week and that I survive any more shocks my week can throw at me. I see we are forecast some heavy rain later in the week. Let's hope it's not time to build an Ark just yet. My very best wishes to you and I'll see you next week.
PIGEONS PARTYING IN THE RAIN
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a lovely sunny day in North Yorkshire. All in all it has been a great week for weather - hot and sunny and then one good day of lovely rain. No complaints from me, everything in the garden at Chez Comb is bloomin' lovely. No doubt a lot of the nation is a tad bleary eyed this morning, having stayed up to watch Emma Raducanu's success at the U.S. Open in New York. Such happy news after all the dark times we have been through. Many congratulations to her. Let's hope to goes from strength to strength.
It has been an unusual week for us - actually, it might be more accurate to say it has been a normal week, as most of our weeks have elements of the extraordinary in them. Most days I fit in a fast-paced walk around the village. I try to keep a reasonable level of fitness up and it gives my brain cells a much-needed rest and also I will spot any firewood going begging. Very often unwanted wood is left outside the owner's house for anyone to take. I did very well last week, toting home two nice pieces of wood. They looked like they had been used for shelving and they have made a nice base on the floor of my shed to store some of my large tubs on in the winter. But enough of that nonsense. Spouse has gone a thousand times better...
An old wooden bungalow has stood on the outskirts of the village for ninety eight years, gradually deteriorating to the point where it was in danger of collapsing altogether. Passing by one day, Spouse spotted the start of it's demolition. Never one to let the grass grow, he asked what was happening with the wood. Most of it was going to the amenity tip. Spouse asked if he could take some for firewood. 'Help yourself' was the response, 'but it all has to be gone by Thursday night.'
Heaven's pearly gates could not have been a more gladsome sight for Spouse. Over the course of the next three days, Spouse ferried wood home. The weather was roaring hot and there was no shade to be had when loading at one end and unloading at the other. He would disappear for an hour or two and reappear with the latest load, black as a rat and dripping with perspiration ... Mmm, too much information methinks. Anyway, the best I could do was rehydrate him with glasses of cold water and produce vast quantities of food at intervals and then he would be off again. The owner of the old bungalow was dismantling it and had hired two men-in-a-van to take the wood away, so no time had to be lost by Spouse in hauling his share away. And a haul it most certainly is - our gravel path to one side of the lawn at present resembles a woodyard, but never mind that - we'll certainly have toasty toes this winter and Spouse thinks he can store a lot of it at the rear of my new shed.
So, that's the wood news. But what about partying wood pigeons? I know I have written about wood pigeons before, dear reader, but really, I think this week their behaviour really takes the biscuit. I think they must be suffering from a touch of sun, or they're having an end of summer fling. From early morning to the evening gloaming, they are flying about, chasing eachother and fighting and when not fighting, getting very close up and personal if you know what I mean. I don't know if it's just our wood pigeons or it's something in the clear Yorkshire air, but they appear to have the stamina of prize stallions. Which is all well and good, dear reader, but that's as far as it goes. It was nest building time recently and we watched them flying to and fro into the Ash tree carrying large twigs in their beaks. I can only think that our lot must have been at the back of the queue when God gave out the instructions for nest building for pigeons. Ours are uttely useless. For weeks on end I have been gathering up the fallen twigs and gazing up through the branches of the Ash tree - there is no sign of a nest taking shape. I don't know where they have resorted to in laying their eggs, but I keep coming across broken ones in the garden - but never in the same place. Mmm, I don't know what to make of that.
Now I mentioned at the start of this blog that we had had a good day's rain this week. It was indeed very welcome and our lawn and borders gratefully soaked it up. And so did the pigeons. Yes, I appreciate a good soaking of their dusty wings would be welcome, but our wood pigeons went one better. All thoughts of love and war went out the window as the heavy rains fell. They all jumped in our pond and blissfully partied - jumping on and off the stones and splashing crazily in the water, jumping back on to the stones, a shake of the wings and back in again. Spouse and I stood and watched them - it was mesmerising and seemed quite bonkers in view of the rain battering down on them. However, I suppose that wood pigeons know their own business best and if partying in the rain is their thing ... Glastonbury for birds I guess. We have had hot and dry days since then, so I am looking forward to the next rains - bring on the party - I might join in.
Well, dear reader, time to go and make Spouse and I a morning coffee. He is busy putting a coat of varnish on my new shed and then he has hopes of getting inside his own mega-shed and sorting it out, now that I have removed all my horticultural detritus from it and he will be able to swing the proverbial cat in it - do not be alarmed, we do not have a cat. I am a little apprehensive, as when he was collecting all the wood, the owner dismantling the bungalow had 'a serious piece of kit' acording to Spouse - some new kind of powered Reciprocating Saw. By the happy glint in Spouse's eye, I can see that is the next thing on the shopping list. Ah, boys and toys. Will I worry about that one any more than I do about the large 'executioner's' axe? I will have to wait and see. Have a good weekend, dear reader and I hope to see you next week.
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a sunny Sunday at Comb Towers. It's certainly been a cool week and not very August-y. Let's hope a little indian summer comes our way in September. Spouse and I have been out on a few jaunts - a food fair, a traction engine fair and a mega car boot fair. All good fun, but what possessed me to let Spouse anywhere near a food fair I do not know. All treats on offer were sampled and a large and very spicy West African lunch consumed. It's just as well that Spouse was driving - the lady on the rum stand must have taken a fancy to him, as three times she offered him free samples! I might have been taking him home in a wheelbarrow.
That's enough jaunting for now; there is work to be done at Comb Towers. My new mega-shed is up and needs insulating inside and the guttering putting up outside, to pipe the rain into our new water storage tank. I hope we will be able to keep that water next summer for topping up the pond and I won't have to converse with the water company again about meter readings! I can't wait to move all my horticultural gear and tools in. I know - I'm a saddo, so excited over a shed! But there it is, I am a child of the soil.
Speaking of our jaunts, we were much struck by the variety of dogs being towed around the fairs by their owners - from enormous and very hairy German Shepherds to tiny Yorkshire Terriers with bows in their hair. I am a huge Golden Retriever fan and I can't hep but greet every one I meet. There was a particularly beautiful one at the food fair. He had a lovely white curly coat and without thinking I rushed over and exclaimed, 'Oh, you're so gorgeous.' 'Thank you very much,' said the owner, grinning broadly at me - thankfully he knew I meant the dog!
We were reminded of the dogs that we had in our lives when we went to live in France. We had George, a Border Collie and Harry, a Golden Retriever. We first went to France in a small camper van and stayed on a farm not far from Cognac. In addition to the farm, the owners also owned a brandy distillery. Oh, the lovely smell when distilling was going on, you could just about get drunk on the air! Monsieur and Madame C. were really lovely people and made us feel very welcome at their campsite. We stayed for quite a long time whilst we house hunted and then waited to move into our own property.
Monsieur C. had a dog - I say it was a dog - it was the size of a small horse and was aptly named a 'lion dog' called Splendide. And indeed, Splendide was very splendid. No exaggeration, he was very similiar to my Golden Retriever, only three times his size. We first encountered him on our arrival at the campsite. Splendide was stretched out on the grass in front of the farmhouse. He looked just like a huge lion snoozing in the sunshine. As we passed him by, we stared at him in wonderment. 'What is that?' said Spouse 'I don't know, but I hope they don't have a pet lion roaming about, or this might not be the place for us.' I said.
In the event we discovered that Splendide was indeed a dog. He was very stately and padded about the farm and fields and no-one messed with him. Put it this way, I would not like to have been a burglar and encounter Splendide in the night. The farmhouse had a large reception room at the front. Splendide used to lie in there and fill it!
We had been out walking in the woods with our dogs one afternoon and we were returning home to the campsite and there was Splendide, basking in the afternoon sunshine, stretched across the whole width of the road. There was no possibility of taking the easy route home. Harry Retriever might have fancied an encounter with Splendide, but we didn't - it was the long way round for us.
Every morning Spouse would take the dogs into the next field for a run about. One particular morning I was very grateful that I was not with them, but watched with horror from the camper van as Splendide entered the field. Goege, the Border Collie took one look at Spelendide and legged it home. Sensible dog with a well developed sense of self-preservation. Harry Retriever on the other hand, was always the idiot hot head. He was not pleased to see a strange dog on his patch and made a beeline for Splendide. In attack mode, he went for the back of his neck to bite him - only he had to stand on his hind legs to get there and I don't think Splendide felt anything anyway. That method of attack having failed, Harry went around the back of Splendide and grasped his tail in his mouth. At this stage, Spouse had caught up with Harry. So there they were - Harry swinging around on the end of Splendide's tail and Spouse swinging on the end of Harry's tail. Round in a weird circular dance they went - niether Harry or Spouse letting go and Splendide looking round in puzzlement at what was going on somewhere in the region of his rear end. Eventually Harry came up for air and let go and so Spouse could pull him away altogether - and then ran hell for leather for our camper van and hustled Harry inside. Whilst we were still shaking like jellies, Splendide stalked over to our little camper and really gave it the once over, sniffing all around it and growling. If he'd put his mind to it he probably could have turned us over - and then eaten us all for breakfast. Happily for us he must have decided he'd intimidated us enough and he stalked off. Breathing a huge sigh of relief, Spouse let go of Harry's mouth which he had been keeping firmly muzzled to stop any further fighting talk.
Monsieur and Madame C. came to visit us when we were settled in our new home, bringing the sad news that Splendide had gone to doggy glory. In spite of our encounters with him, we were very sad to hear this. R.I.P. Splendide, such a beautiful and amazing dog. We've never seen anything like him and we'll never forget him.
Well, dear reader, I hope you have a good week and enjoy some September sunshine. I hope to be moving all my gear into my new shed and then wielding secateurs and loppers in our garden and our local library garden. There is a great deal to do, but I am in optimistic mood, as there is the promise of some volunteer help in the library garden. Fingers crossed!! Best wishes to you and I hope to see you here next week.