Good morning my dear reader and welcome to a lovely sunny Sunday at Chez Comb. Another week of frosty nights and warm sunny days. Friday was a scorcher and we enjoyed a lovely lunch with my sister and husband in their garden near York. We hadn't seen them since 2019!! It was a real treat. English women and their gardens - I was given a conducted tour and we enjoyed earnest discussions about the care of our shrubs and trees. This must be the best pastime in the world if you're manic horticulturalists like us.
I am pleased to report that our shopping trip passed off peacefully and Spouse is now the proud possesser of sturdy workboots. He is crashing and banging again, dismantling pallets to add to our winter woodpile and I can breathe relatively easily again without worrying about broken toes.
I think spending so much money in one day caused Spouse to have a rush of blood to the head. On our travels we visited the supermarket and a bottle of pure lemon juice went into the trolley. We chatted away with the lady at the checkout and she and Spouse had a very animated discussion about the addition of lemon juice to various alcoholic drinks. Spouse is a bit of an expert on this subject, having spent many years experimenting and the checkout lady was equally knowledgeable. New recipes were exchanged with great glee and Spouse came happily home to embark on several new combinations of liquid refreshment.
I have called this blog, 'An Embarrassment Of Numbers', which is my new collective noun for all problems numerical. We live in a world where PIN numbers and codes need to be committed to memory and not written down. That's O.K. if you only have one to remember, but let's face it, dear reader, most people have multiple PIN numbers and possibly codes swirling around their brains. That is the case for Spouse and I and we have had our share of mild traumas and embarrassments this week.
Spouse set the ball rolling when he tried to use his debit card at a cashpoint. You will know the scenario, I'm sure. You punch in what you think are the familiar digits only to find your request is declined. This happened to Spouse. Much taken aback, he tried again with the same result. Then the doubts began to creep in - a bit Morcambe and Wise-ish. Did he have the right numbers but not necessarily in the right order? A new combination was tried but to no avail. and so the card was locked. Cashless and cross, Spouse returned home.
Now, somewhere ... somewhere in his den, he informed me, he had a tiny scrap of paper with his PIN number written on - an old advert on coloured paper that no-one would take any notice of. He had scrawled his number on that. You don't need me to describe the scene, dear reader. Two hours later, having turned his den upside down and inside out, he emerged triumphantly, bearing a ragged piece of paper in his hand. Yes, it had been a Morcambe and Wise scenario - all the right numbers but none of them in the right order. Why, after all these years of using the same digits, the brain decides to take a holiday, is a mystery.
Not to be left out, I went two better than Spouse during the week. At the opticians I tried to pay for my new glasses with my credit card, but 'card declined.' The PIN number was not right. Aaargh. Flustered and embarrassed, I paid with my debit card and have no idea where I am adrift with the numbers. Maybe a case of all the right digits in the wrong order again.
But, best of all, dear reader, were the burglar alarm code numbers. How art mirrors life. The opening chapter of my first book, 'Café Paradise'. sees poor Walter Breckenridge, unable to remember the correct code for the café burglar alarm trying, in the early morning, to input all the different combinations of numbers, to disarm the alarm before he can enter the café. But, he only has a very short time to do this, as the countdown beeping has begun and the alarms will automatically go off if he fails.
On Thursday afternoon a young man from our burglar alarm company arrived to service our system. We had a pleasant chat about our activities during the pandemic and then he set to work on all his checks. Before he departed, he asked me if I knew about the panic alarm buttons on the system. Truth to tell, I did not. He told me to try them out. Press them and every alarm in the place goes off. I did as I was bid, dear reader and indeed, all hell let loose as the alarm sirens resounded through the house and out into the garden, as all the doors and windows were open.
So, the young man said, 'now put your code in and press reset and that will stop them.' I put my code in and nothing happened. Yikes! I tried again - the sirens kept going. Never mind the panic alarms, I was panicking now. The young man said, ' If you haven't got the code, I can't stop it.' More panic ... I have been punching in this code for the last four years. 'Oh no you haven't,' says he. 'You can't have, or it would stop. Have you reversed or mixed up the numbers? It happens a lot.' By this time I was almost hyperventillating and I wouldn't have been surprised if the young man had whipped out a paper bag from his vast kit and asked me to blow into it. As it was, amidst all the hullaballoo, he sat down with me and wrote all the numbers out that I had been trying. 'Just clear your mind and take your time - take a fresh look at them.' Easier said than done, but I tried. And sure enough, dear reader, all became clear. All the right numbers but not in the right order. Very quickly blessed peace and order was restored, except for my nerves which were in shreds.
When the young man had departed I staggered down the garden to where Spouse was vigorously chopping wood. 'Oh, what a racket that was,' says I. 'Enough to waken the dead. I'm surprised you didn't come up to see what was going on.' 'Mmmn, I thought I heard the alarm going. Nothing going on though, is there?' 'Nothing going on ...? Just as well really. I might have been carried off by violent brigands for all you knew.' Was that a suspicion of hope and a quickly suppressed smile flitting across his face? I think it was, dear reader. Well, this time he is disappointed and in any case he would never pay the ransom. He always maintains they would pay him to take me back.
Have a good week, dear reader and if you see a wild figure dancing in a garden at night, it might be me. I think the time for a rain dance is well overdue ...
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a lovely sunny Sunday morning at Chez Comb. Another week of frosty nights and sunny days and no doubt our garden is still very confused, or at least the plants in it are with all the comings and goings in temperatures. However, the birds seem unaffected by the extremes. The ladies are thinking of nesting and the males are busy fighting with their rivals for their favours. We are engaged with our on-going battle with the seagulls. Spouse's netted boards are doing a great job in preventing the gulls from obtaining their fish breakfast/lunch/suppers, but still they try their luck, perching on the boards and pecking away at the netting, until this mad woman rushes out and chases them off. Mmm, wonder who that could be ...?
For a change it has been an uneventful week at Comb Towers. We have found plenty to occupy ourselves with around the homestead. A friend in the village dropped off some old wooden pallets and Spouse has been having a high old time dismantling them ready to chop up for firewood. He has crashed and banged to his heart's content and miraculously, without injury to himself. Between bouts of gardening and being a domestic goddess I have oiled up our garden furniture ready for the season - snow, hail, rain or sun. This being England anything can and does happen.
I wrote a blog in November 2016, entitled 'How To Make A Yorkshireman Cry'. The opening sentence read, 'Quite simple really, tell him he's going shopping.' It was true then and still holds good in April 2021. You see, dear reader, the shops have opened up again and I have promised myself a shopping trip tomorrow to replace underclothing and socks for us both. I know, too much information. BUT, just as importantly, to purchase new shoes for Spouse, which means, (a) he has to come shopping with me and (b) spend money, which as we all know is anathema to any right thinking Yorkshireman.
So, dear reader, Spouse was informed of the forthcoming trip during the week and its purpose, i.e., particular reference made to new shoes for him. Spouse has been wearing a pair of ancient black shoes for working in the garden. One shoe has a large hole in the toecap and the other, multiple rips in the old dried out leather. In addition to this, they leak. I think I can safely say, dear reader, that I have made a good case for a replacement pair to be purchased, if only from a safety point of view. A large hammer or crowbar dropped on his toes would cause untold damage. But Spouse was not going to be so easily talked into a shopping trip and the little grey cells to quote Monsieur Poirot, got to work and came up with an alternative plan - his old tried and tested friend - gaffa tape.
I don't think I have ever told the story of Spouse and the gaffa tape. If I have, I apologise and try to be brief in my reprise here, as it is pertinent to his latest idea. When we lived on our Durham Dales smallholding we were the highest farm sited halfway up the fellside. Our nearest neighbours were below us at the end of our farm track. They were lovely neighbours and very sociable. One morning Sylvia rang up to announce the kettle was on and invited us down for coffee. 'Lovely idea,' says I and went in search of Spouse. He suggested I tootle off and he would follow in a jiffy, he just had a little job to do first. Off I went and was sitting in our friend's conservatory when Spouse trooped in. Sylvia was in the kitchen and popped her head around the door and her eyebrows rose almost to her hairline. I followd her gaze which was directed at Spouse's feet and I too could not believe my eyes. Spouse had taped up the toecaps of both brown shoes with silver gaffa tape. Dear reader, you know when you think you've seen it all ...? You never have really. Spouse had the decency to look a bit abashed and hastened to explain. The sole of one shoe had come adrift and was flapping about, so he decided to tape it up. Ah, but then he thought he should tape up the other one to match it - so they didn't look odd. Not look odd!!!! I suppose shoes taped up with gaffa tape don't look odd then??
That, my dear reader, was many years ago. Fast forward to 2021 and this leopard has not changed his spots. Instead of going shopping and buying new shoes, why not fix the holes and tears in his garden shoes with gaffa tape? 'Only this time', quoth he, 'I'll use black gaffa tape to match the shoes, then they really won't look odd. They only looked odd last time because the shoes were brown and the tape was silver.' Tape or no tape I know the destiny of those old shoes and that's the dustbin and yes, we are going shopping tomorrow and shoes are at the top of the list. Wish me luck dear reader. Spouse and shoes/clothes shopping are not an easy mix, but I have stiffened up my sinews and summoned up my blood and am ready and raring to go.
Have a good week, dear reader and I hope Spring continues to keep Springing for us all. Just as importantly, I hope I survive our shopping trip and come home safely to enjoy another sunny week.
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a chilly/snowy/sunny Sunday at Chez Comb. My poor garden shrubs don't know if they're on their ass or their elbow these days, or to put it more politely, as my dear Mama used to say, if they are coming or going. A couple of weeks ago we were basking in lovely sunshine and I enjoyed digging and weeding the borders around the lawn. This week has bought a massive change as temperatures plummeted down to the minus degrees and our winter woollies were hauled out again. We have had blizzarding snow this morning and are now back to sunshine. Who knows what this afternoon will bring?
BUT, lockdown restrictions have eased a little and we are allowed to meet up with friends and family in our gardens once more and in spite of the fickle English weather, we did just that. Spouse and I had been to tend our local library garden on Tuesday. Five minutes of sunshine and then five minutes of snow and so it alternated all through the morning. Friend Jenny, (Queen of the Victoria spongcake), lives close by and we were invited for coffee and cake in the garden. I can tell you, dear reader, that I for one was very ready to thaw out with a hot coffee after all the snow showers. Well ... the coffee was hot and the cake was delicious and we were all freezing. But, the British bulldog spirit prevailed. We were not going to be diddled out of our long-awaited get together. It was perishing cold, snowing and blowing a hooley, but wrapped up in our fleecy blankets we didn't care one jot. It was great just to enjoy a bit of socialising again. Long may it continue.
So, you may be wondering, dear reader, why am I rabbiting on about coffee and cake, whilst Spouse is heading for the hiills? I am just coming to that bit. The wartime expression, 'careless talk costs lives' is very apposite in this situation. We decided to renew the gravel at the front of the house and down the drive, as there is only a thin covering left and so the weeds are thriving. The first three tons of gravel were ordered and stood in bright yellow dumpy bags at the front of the house.
Spouse has been very busy making the netted frames for the pond to deter our goldfish-loving seagulls. So I suggested that he carry on with that fine work and I could make a start on the gravel. Spouse shook his head decisively. Oh? Why the negative? I wondered. When we lived on the smallholding we shovelled and spread eighteen tons of gravel to allow the copious amounts of rain running off the fells to drain away from the house. We also spread tons of the stuff around our house in France. So, I feel I'm an old hand at the gravel lark. 'Ay, there's the rub,' to quote the Bard. According to Spouse I am now an 'old' hand. 'You were younger then,' says he. Oh really??!! Well, I think he just lit the blue touch paper there. Dear reader, indignation comes nowhere near to describing my reaction to this statement. Suffice to say, Spouse really is heading for the hills to escape my wrath and can be heard shouting that he would head for the Swiss Alps, only he's not allowed in at the moment. Well, he may not be allowed in at Comb Towers anytime soon either. He might be a lot older before he is welcomed home. I know anno domini comes to us all, but I am not in my dotage yet.
As it happens - and I have no intention on letting on to Spouse - Jenny and Olivia popped round when Spouse was out buying more netting and we had the three bags of gravel shifted in a jiffy - only I let Spouse think that I had done it in my spare time. Old eh? Keep on running Spouse, there's another three tons coming soon and maybe it will be your turn to shift it ...
I hope your week goes well, my dear reader. I have had a rush of blood to the head and started some spring cleaning, although I have also had further plot thougts for 'Aunt Mildred's Millions'. Mmm, which task is going to win out here - the hoover or the pen? I think I know which one my money is on.
I cannot depart without aknowledging the death of H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh. A sad loss to our Queen and to our nation. He was a great man and will be greatly missed by us all. A life of service well lived and may he now rest in peace.
A very good morning to you dear reader and may I wish you a very happy and peaceful Easter Day. Welcome to Chez Comb and I must apologise for the non-appearance of a blog last weekend. Technical difficulties, i.e., my computer went on strike and needed a bigger elastic band fitting and two mysterious looking gizmos attaching. I don't suppose my computer engineer would like me to refer to his expertise as fitting an elastic band but all I know is that I have an all singing, all dancing machine again - but will it improve my writing????
Dear reader, we have had a very interesting fortnight since we last met. The seagulls, frogs and crows are all paired up ready to rear the next generation and have been causing us a spot of bother, but on the plus side and miraculously for us - and I hope I'm not tempting Providence here - no cuts, bruises or shedding of blood has occured to Spouse or myself. Spring is here and the sap is rising and not just in the trees.
A pair of seagulls recently took up residence on Spouse's shed roof and a short time afterwards began taking an interest in my bird feeding table, which led them to exploring the garden more than they usually would have done and their explorations led them to the pond - choc full of fish that would provide more than one tasty meal for a hungry seagull. Our fish have grown a great deal during the winter months, as a result of their feeding off the algae and detritus at the bottom of the pond. Thus it was that I became the village mad woman, rushing down the garden several times a day, yelling, 'shoo, shoo, go away,' etc. and waving my arms about in a threatening manner. Dear reader, I think you can imagine it all. But the seagulls were hungry and grew bolder. One morning they outsmarted me and made a very early sortie on the pond. When I looked out, the two gulls were very happily perched on Spouse's shed roof with a goldfish apiece dangling from their beaks. The gloves were off, SOMETHING HAD TO BE DONE. We were jolly well not going to lose all our fish to the seagulls.
As luck would have it we were the proud owners of Sammy Swan, a lifesize plastic swan, a Christmas gift from my young friend, Olivia. We didn't put him on the pond in the winter, fearing the cold might damage his plastic body. But, dear reader, now that it is Spring, Sammy can safely go out of doors. And guess what? He's the most brilliant gull scarer ever. Result!! The seagulls perched on the shed roof for at least a week, chattering away in indignation at Sammy, but did not venture into the garden and now, best of all, they have pushed off elsewhere. We are blissfully seagull free. We had also put some netting around the edge of the pond to deter them, but then the frogs came for their annual three day love-fest and so the nets had to go. Spouse is now making very neat frames that can be placed over the pond at night time. No sneaky fishing expeditions for visiting gulls or herons now.
So, the gulls departure was followed by the arrival of the frogs - dozens of 'em and doing what frogs do at this time of year, extremely enthusiastically and getting tangled up in the netting in the process. So, to assist them in the continuation of their amorous pursuits, Spouse went to one side of the pond and I to the other and we grasped the netting and pulled it tight - voila, we had invented frog trampolining! By bouncing them along the netting we assisted them back into the pond, but as the numbers increased and the love-fest grew more intense, the netting had to go. Pity really, we had a great team for any future frog Olympics, amazing somersaulting techniques. But, rest assured, dear reader, that no frogs were harmed by their trampolining experience and our pond is now full spawn and the frogs have gone their separate ways until next year.
Which presently leaves us with the crows. They are building nests and will soon be raising their young. Then the fun starts all over again at the bird feeders. Crows are very intelligent birds and once they cotton on to where the food is they develop quite a good hovering action, beating their wings like a giant humming bird whilst bashing seven bells out of the feeders to knock the seed out on to the ground and then it's a simple matter of stuffing their faces as fast as they can before another crow comes along to mug them for their efforts. I gave up long ago doing my wild banshee act to chase them off - I think the neighbours were getting concerned.
And after this there will be the pigeons, but I think we've been there before, dear reader. Back in 2017 I wrote of 'Pigeons - again.' - to quote from the first paragraph, 'Over-sexed, over-fed and definitely over here in our garden.' I will say no more abut them, only I wish I had their stamina and it won't be the hills that will be alive with the sound of music soon.
Last, but not least, this week we are beginning to move out of our lockdown situation and are able to meet people in our gardens. So, friend Jenny and daughter Olivia came for afternoon tea and cake, (Jenny's cake - the best Victoria sponge in the world). We sat in glorious sunshine talking, 'of shoes - and ships - and sealing wax - Of cabbages and kings.' (Lewis Carroll). In the mysterious way that conversation meanders along many paths and byways, the conversation touched on the quaint French law of requiring dog owners to name their dogs starting with the letter of the alphabet used in the year they were born in. My French neighbour, Joelle had a huge Belgian beast named Ohio, born in the 'Year O'. Young Olivia, bless her, was much taken with this notion and immediately spotted difficulties with this system, but thought of Zeus with Apollo as a follow on for the next year. I was really impressed with her knowledge of the Greek gods, but no - it turns out the Greek gods were unknown to her; these were the dogs featured in the American detective series, Magnum P.I. Dear reader, a rare event, I was speechless.
So, on that happy note I will depart to my domestic goddess duties and prepare an Easter Day feast. Have a lovely Easter break dear reader and I wish you luck with inventing alphabetical doggie names - it's better than counting Easter lambs if you want to get to sleep.
Good morning dear reader and welcome to another Sunday at Chez Comb. I hope you are keeping well and out of mischief. After last week I am being very careful about everything. On the upside I managed not to trip over a small step whilst carrying a heavy crystal vase full of flowers, (Spouse was sure I would). They were a lovely surprise bouquet from my cousin and a real tonic after a few grey days of drizzly weather. On the downside, I am sporting two deep cuts on my hand due to not looking at what I was doing; not a good idea when wielding a kitchen knife. I am keeping our local chemist shop in business with the amount of dressings I buy. Bless 'em, they are very discreet and never enquire who needs binding up this week.
I gave my lovely friend, ditzy Mary, quite a fright at the beginning of the week. It brings me much cheer every time I think of it. This is not as unkind as it sounds, dear reader. Ditzy Mary and I have been friends since we were sassy young girls. She is my model for Genevieve in Café Paradise. If you think I get into scrapes you should meet Mary, she has perfected the art. But that's by the by and I must not go down that alleyway today. One evening last week there was a knock at the front door. You will recall we have no doorbell, it has finally demised. Although it was early evening it was dark and Spouse was in the shower. I was on the phone to ditzy Mary, so I kept her on the line whilst I answered the door, in case I needed to screech. As it happened I didn't need to. Far from it. A lovely friend and her daughter had called with gifts to bring some cheer to our locked-down lives. It doesn't get much better than that.
A day or two later, it being Mother's Day, we sashayed forth with wine, cards and flowers for this lovely Mama. I texted her on WhatsApp to let her know I would be with her in the next ten minutes. Dear reader, we've all done it - I WhatsApped ditzy Mary by mistake. I received a text back which said, 'Are you coming to visit? Love, Mary.' At first I didn't make the connection and thought she was proposing a weekend visit when we are allowed to travel. It was a good ten minutes later that the penny dropped with me. (I know, not the brightest button in the box). I looked at the text again and realised my, 'be with in ten minutes,' text had gone to her.
Dear reader, Spouse had to pull the car off the road. We laughed until the tears rolled down our cheeks, in the sure and certain knowledge that ditzy Mary would still be in bed and would probably have jack-knifed up out of her slumbers at the thought of us two about to illegally descend on her. I was sorely tempted to answer her text in the affirmative but resisted and put her mind at rest. Ah, but I so wish I could have seen the look on her face, it would have been priceless. When I telephoned her later in the day, our surmises were proved correct. Ditzy Mary did indeed jack-knife out of bed in sheer horror, her thoughts being, where's the duster, where's the hoover, where's my make-up?!!!!! I am pleased to report, dear reader, that I have been forgiven for almost giving her heart failure and I will try to be more careful in the future.
Happily, we have managed to get through the rest of the week without further mishaps, a rarity for us. From the merriment caused by my WhatsApp text we moved seamlessly to consideration of music for our funerals. Was there a connection? Not really, Ditzy Mary survived the shock and all was well. However, Spouse came upon me dancing energetically around the kitchen, (do not visualise, dear reader, my style is 'unique',) and he reached for his earplugs. Yes, the music was extremely loud but 'Classical Gas' by Mason Williams, cannot be listened to at less than full volume. It is so uplifting. I carried on my dervish dancing to the end of the music, ignoring Spouse's gesticulations in the direction of the volume control. When the music finished I collapsed in an ecstatic heap on the floor and Spouse removed his earplugs. 'Brilliant,' says I. 'I want that at my funeral.' Now that did get Spouse's attention. 'Is there something I should know?' he enquired cautiously. 'No ... just saying.' And so, one thing led to another and a discussion of funeral music ensued.
I don't want all doom and gloom. I would like my friends and relatives to remember all the fun and laughter we have shared. Apart from 'Classical Gas', Spouse and I are currently arguing over his objections to 'Oh Happy Day' by the Edwin Hawkins Gospel Singers. I love it. It is a hymn that reflects my faith but Spouse jibs a bit at the 'Oh Happy Day' if he's still around! I have to say I'm not too sure about his starting choices either. 'Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition' from Mafia 2 and the hymn, 'Full In The Panting Heart Of Rome'. Who could keep a straight face singing that? Images of a slavering St Bernard come to mind. Needless to say, dear reader, matters are still under review and I hope our funerals will provide as much fun for others as we have had in the planning of them.
On that happy note I wish you a wonderful week and hope that Spring will spring forth in all her glory soon and we can all stay safe and well to enjoy it.
Good morning dear reader and welcome to another Sunday at Comb Towers. Thankfully we seem to be inching our way towards Spring and I can't wait to get out into the garden and have a tidy up after the ravages of winter.
To be honest with you, I would be better off working outside, possibly even living outside in Spouse's shed, as every time I have set foot indoors this week, some minor catastrophe has occurred. Am I having a careless week or just attracting trouble? I will leave you to decide that one.
On Sunday evening, my domestic goddess status restored after last week's mishap, Spouse and I enjoyed our evening meal together in great harmony. Thankfully and believe me, dear reader, I take my crumbs of comfort where I can - thankfully, we had finished eating before I managed, with one careless sweep of my hand, to knock over my glass of wine and then the wine bottle as well, sending the red stuff all over the tablecloth, Spouse and thence to drip on to the floor. Why I can't just speak without waving my hands about like an agitated Italian I don't know and look at the trouble it gets me into? When I was younger, (a year or two back!), and blethering away at top speed and waving my hands about, my Uncle Ivor used to grab my hands and hold them tight and say, 'now talk.' And you know, dear reader, I couldn't. I don't know why my hands have to direct my words, a bit like a conductor keeping the orchestra together, but my hands definitely do the directing. Meanwhile, poor Spouse had lost most of his favourite wine and had to depart for a complete change of clothing and I had to depart for mop and bucket for the floor.
Things did not improve on Monday. Can you believe it, by 9.30a.m., my kitchen was awash with milk? My good deed for the day was to make Spouse a cup of coffee. The two litre container of milk shot out of my hand and went everywhere. Poltergeist? Dear reader, do not indulge in this practice as the aftermath involves an almost entire spring clean of the kitchen and then the floor to wash. Talk about Cleopatra bathing in asses milk, I had a Monday morning dousing in cow's milk, not a pleasant experience as it left a cheesy odour as it dried on my clothes. Yet another clean up ensued and I hadn't even been talking when I opened the milk.
I admit that Tuesday afternoon was all my fault. Mea culpa, I own up to this one. I put my oven shelves to soak in a large plastic tray filled with hot water and a couple of dishwasher tablets. They are brilliant at dissolving any grease on the shelves without any rub-a-dub-dubbing from me. After a couple of hours I took them out, now shiny and squeaky clean. Great, so far so jolly good. Now, in the normal course of events I would call for assistance from Spouse to help me in disposing of the dirty water down the sink. But Spouse was not around and so I decided to do the job on my own. I picked up the tray, it was a lot heavier than I had anticipated but, game on, I set off for the sink. Well, my dear reader, by the time I had made the journey from the kitchen island to the sink I had a full blown tsumani going on and not much of the water made it to the sink. En route It swooshed all over the worktops, (like the Monday milk) and all over the floor, with only the last dregs making it to the sink.
My dear Mama often used to call me a complete eejit and perhaps she was right. Or, maybe not. Dear reader, I now have an uber clean kitchen and the silver lining to my Tuesday cloud is that the spilled dishwasher solution cleaned up my kitchen floor tiles a treat, with no effort from me. Win win I think.
And so it was, until I got to Thursday afternoon. Spouse was down in his shed chopping firewood with his electric saws and I was in the house washing up after a late lunch. Usually we do this chore together, he washes, I dry and then ditch the water down the waste disposal sink. Ha, but as Spouse was not on hand I had to reach for the electric waste disposal switch myself and balance the washing up bowl on the side of the sink. The waste disposal requires immediate water over it once it's going or most alarming crunches issue forth from it. Hence balancing the bowl at the ready. I made the reach to the switch but lost control of the bowl with the result that most of it went on the floor, again. Not content with that, I went in search of the floor mop which was out in the garage and as I reached across a few other brushes stacked in front of it, stood on the head of a broom which jack-knifed onto my forehead. For my troubles I now have another clean floor and a lump the size of a hen's egg on my head.
Pity I didn't keep the water. Spouse has just returned to the house with a profusely bleeding hand. (Sigh). Here we go again and there is blood everywhere for the second time this week, from the front door step, through the hall and into the kitchen. I'd better go and get him strapped up; he's only got ten pints and I think one of them is now congealing on the kitchen floor.
I hope you have a good week, dear reader and it is my heartfelt wish that we all keep out of trouble, no accidents, no spills of any kind, just a nice trouble-free week. In my dreams ...
Good morning dear reader and welcome to a beautifully sunny Sunday at Chez Comb. What a difference in temperature a week can make. Talk about famine or feast. A couple of weeks ago we were enduring freezing temperatures and now we are bathed in glorious sunshine. I am not complaining, it is a most welcome change in our meteorological fortunes.
It's just as well it has been warm and sunny of late. I have been doing a lot of lurking in my garden shed to keep out of Spouse's way. I think he thinks I am trying to kill him. I hasten to assure you, dear reader, that I am most certainly not, just as I am equally certain he could have cheerfully killed me a few days ago. The cause of our marital disharmony? The humble chilli.
I have mentioned in the past, dear reader, that I endeavour to be a bit of a domestic goddess on the culinary front. I enjoy cooking and Spouse enjoys devouring the fruits of my labours. I know, in these enlightened times you might like to hear that Spouse takes his turn in producing a culinary masterpiece for my delectation, but in that case, dear reader, you are destined to be sadly disappointed. Spouse in the kitchen is akin to a bull in a china shop. It is not a deliberate ploy on his part to get out of these duties, he is just an extremely untidy and disorganised chef and whilst he has on occasion produced a masterpiece of cuisine, it involves using every pot and pan in the place with the end result being a kitchen looking like the proverbial bomb has dropped in it. We now have an agreement that he keeps out of my kitchen and I keep out of his shed. Thus marital harmony prevails.
But, unfortunately, not this week. The recent spell of freezing weather put me in the mood for curry. I finally got around to it just as the temperatures began to rise. Never mind, when curry has been thought of it has to be cooked. And so I did, entirely confident in my domestic abilities, as I have created my own recipes - one suited to Spouse's taste and one to mine own. Spouse likes a mild curry, so easy on the chilli and spice blend. I like a good hot one, so a different blend altogether and heavier on the chillies. The trouble occurs when both are cooked up and resting in their tomato based sauces and then they look very similar.
Why, oh why, dear reader, did I use identical saucepans? I know, how ever did I think I would tell them apart, unless by taste? But, over confident numpty that I am, I was quite sure that I knew one from another. And of course, dear reader, I did not.
When I wrote the first book in the Café Paradise trilogy, I included a scene where a man and a woman go out on a first date to an Indian restaurant. He knew very little about Indian cuisine, but pretended that he did and when the lady mischeviously chose a Bangalore Phall he airily went along with her choice. 'Bring it on ... Manfood,' etc. A Bangalore Phall is hotter than the classic Vindaloo and when the poor man took his first mouthful he nearly had apoplexy. Red-faced and perspiring, he poured his glass of beer over his head to cool down. They got thrown out of the restaurant by the way, especially after he accused her of trying to kill him.
When I wrote this scene I wondered if I had pushed things a bit too far, but actually, dear reader, I now know I could have pushed them a lot further. Yes I did get the pans mixed up and Spouse got my hot hot curry. He was extremely hungry after a day spent hauling wood home for our fire. He had discovered a treasure trove of wood in the village and the lady owner was delighted that he would take it away. So, on this particular evening there was to be no messing about. Dinner would be now you see it and now you don't.
Only not quite. Spouse dived in with great gusto and a few forkfuls rapidly disappeared down the hatch, at speed and then ... the full force of those chillies kicked in. Spouse leapt up from the table, scarlet-faced and perspiring just like my character in Café Paradise. He tried to speak but couldn't, eyes bulging and mouth moving soundlessly like a newly-landed fish. He rushed out to the kitchen and was next seen dousing his head under the kitchen tap.
I winced when I saw him emerge dripping from the sink and it dawned on me what had happened. 'I think you got mine,' says I. 'They got mixed up.' 'Oh, did I?' says he. 'Oh, they got mixed up, did they? Really?' He turned to look at the saucepans on the stove and his eyebrows rose almost into his hairline. 'Silly me, of course they got mixed up. They're in identical pans. I don't suppose it occured to you to use different ones and then you might be able to easily identify which dish was which, instead of half killing me with yours. Dear reader, that was only the half of it and I will draw a veil over his comments regarding my lack of grey matter. He is convinced I am intent on doing away with him. Why, I can't imagine. I don't generally display homicidal tendencies.
I know one thing, curry might be off the menu for some time to come. I am still in the doghouse and all food presented to Spouse is carefully examined. I just hope the weather doesn't take a turn for the worse as this domestic goddess doesn't fancy skulking down the garden for much longer.
Have a good week, dear reader and I hope that when we meet again marital harmony has been restored at Comb Towers. In the meantime, is that one chilli or two?
Good morning, dear reader and welcome to a sunny Sunday at Chez Comb. I hope you are keeping well and looking foward to navigating your way around the maze of rules and dates that have been constructed by our government to ease us out of lockdown. Spouse and I are looking forward to meeting with family and friends again, even if we have to wrap up against the fickle March weather to do so. Spouse is going about with a spring in his step as his favourite lady, (next to me, of course), has promised to make him her famous Victoria sponge cake when we meet up. Talk about the way to a man's heart ...
We have had a very odd week. Ha ha, so what's new? I know, every week has something slightly off the wall in it, only it has been even more so this week. Our doorbell has gone rogue. I know it is an inanimate object but I am beginning to think it has an evil genie in it and it's not one that comes out of a lamp. All week and at random intervals, day and night, bing bong, bing bong, similar to the sound that precedes an aircraft announcement.
Bing bong, bing bong resounds around the house and no-one is ringing the doorbell. We have disconnected it from the plug-in mains unit in the house and so by rights it should have been running on the back up battery for a day or two. Instead the bloomin' thing is still going.
I can't put it in the recycling or throw it out. It's still going bing bong and I don't want to give the refuse collectors heart failure when it suddenly goes off - and it's loud. I have buried it in the cupboard in the hall underneath a pile of old coats, (Spouse's if you're interested. He never throws anything out. "it might come in useful". For what I have no idea.) But, dear reader, bing bong, bing bong still issues forth from the depths of the cupboard. Now I am looking for my ear muffs or possibly a hammer, but something tells me that even they may not cure it. The battery should be very very dead by now. (Can you be very very dead, or just dead?) But no, I have a horrible feeling that bing bong, bing bong may be with us for some time to come.
As if that wasn't enough to drive us completely doolally, dear reader and we're not far off anyway, we have had a week of 'hunt the fishy smells', a new sport at Comb Towers. The fishmonger had some beautiful whole salmon trout and cod for sale at a very reasonable price and Spouse and I being lovers of all morsels piscine, a bag of fishy produce was hauled home along with many foodstuffs as supplies needed replenishing. So far so good. Arriving home, Spouse left the bag of fish out in the cold garage to await my attention whilst I put my shopping away. In due course the fish was brought into the house and chopped up for the freezer.
But, dear reader and it's a horrible but, the aroma of the fish remained in the garage and became steadily more revolting as the week progressed. Inside the house it was bing bong, bing bong and in the garage - oh my my, what a pong of rotting fish. You may not wish to imagine the stench, dear reader, but if you do I hope you can empathise with our distress. Had we somehow managed to drop a piece a fish somewhere and it was lying undiscovered? We had a good hunt and could find nothing. All fish were accounted for and were happily, (or not so happily for them) well frozen in the freezer.
Unable to stand the pong any longer and with pegs on our noses, we just about took the inside of the garage to bits. Can you imagine the task, dear reader, knowing Spouse's propensity for keeping everything as, "it might come in useful"? A Herculean task believe me. But in the end worth it, if only to find the source of the pong and eventually we did. Spouse had hung the fish bag up and fish juices had dripped out and into a copper jug beneath and leaked out of the bottom of the jug to fester on the floor underneath it, but not a mark to be seen anywhere!
We have passed another interesting week and some progress has been made. Disinfectant and hot soapy water have been flung about the garage and the fishy odour is diminshing and I think, and I hope I don't imagine this, bing bong, bing bong is slowing down. Give it another few days, dear reader and quiet and serentity might return to the homestead once more. If not, the wretched apppliance can go and bing bong to itself down the garden - see how Mr crazy crowing-all-night cockerel likes that serenading him all night. Not a bad idea come to think of it. It might stop him in his tracks. There's a silver lining to every cloud.
Let's hope this coming week is a little less eventful. Spouse has been down in his shed and has just come back to the house dripping blood everywhere. Time to be out with the steri-strips once more. Hey ho, some things never change. Take care of yourself, dear reader and take my advice, stay away from sharp nails and knives, it never ends well.
Hello dear reader and welcome to a freezing Sunday at Chez Comb. Another week of snow and temperatures in the minus Celsius. I have not been far from the homestead as the pavements are very icy and I don't fancy a fall just now. Imagine if I broke an arm or a leg and Spouse had to look after me and run the homestead. Mmm, let's not imagine.
Instead I have stayed at home and done quite a lot of work on my current book, 'Aunt Mildred's Millions' and taken up a new hobby of pigeon watching. Most of the surface of our garden pond is frozen over except for in the middle and when the sun shines the solar fountain spurts jets of water into the air and melts a wide circle of water. We can't keep the water in the bird baths unfrozen for long, so our resident family of wood pigeons have braved the ice to get a drink. It's the best entertainment ever. (I know, I think lockdown is really getting to me). They frequently lose their balance on the ice and fall over, sliding and slithering their way to the centre of the pond for a drink. The icy cold water must literally go to their heads, as they then start a full blown bathing routine; head and shoulders dunked in repeatedly and then the wings in their turn. I can hardly bear to watch. I would never make a wild swimmer, just imagining that freezing cold water is quite enough for me.
Thinking back to last week and my story from our Durham Dales smallholding, have made the memories come flooding back. Spooling forward from that time, we lived in Scotland and I belonged to a local writer's group. We were invited to put together an evening of prose and poetry for an evening's entertainment at the local theatre, vaguely around the theme of country life. Try as I might, dear reader, and I really did, every time I sat down to write a serious peice, only something humerous came out. Well, living a country life with Spouse what else could it be? In the end I gave in gracefully and dutifully wrote my two pieces which were based on my experiences on a smallholding.
Now, dear reader, you and I have had quite a long acquaintance with Spouse and we know that given any situation, anything can happen and so it proved when he got himself and old Range Rover which he knew could easily cope with our steep farm track and not conk out halfway up. So, I wrote about this car and one or two other events that occured at the same time. But, after I had read my pieces out to the group, they were only attritbuted to a lively imagination. You, my dear reader know differently.
Picture the scene. Spouse had been out and about the smallholding all afternoon and yours truly was being a domestic goddess indoors, making marmalade and preparing a gastronomic delight for our supper. Eventually Spouse popped his head around the door and enquired about supper. 'About fifteen minutes,' I said. 'Mm, O.K., I'll be in soon.' And so he was. After a wash and brush up he sat down at the table for his meal. Now, mark this, dear reader. Spouse was off his tucker. Yes, really. He picked at the food on his plate in a disinterested kind of way. In all our years of marriage, unless Spouse was actually ill, this was an unheard of occurence. Was the meal not to his liking? I enquired. 'No, it's lovely,' says he. 'I'm just not ... quite ... Oh, I don't know ... maybe not hungry.'
Not hungry? Since when? This is the man known as 'Mr Hollow Legs. The plot thickened when Spouse excused himself after supper. 'I've just a little something to see to outside. I'll be in soon.' Oh yes, what kind of something I wondered? Spouse was very subdued and so I decided I would see what this 'little something' was for myself and followed him at a distance. This 'little something', dear reader, turned out to be his old Range Rover embedded in the gable end of the farmhouse wall. Spouse stood looking at it and scratching his head.
Well, naturally, dear reader. I screeched a bit at this sight. Wouldn't you? 'Look at it and you never said a word about it!' Spouse rolled his eyes and said in a mildly exasperated tone. 'Course I didn't. I knew you'd make a fuss.' Like it was an everyday event and I'd no right to make a fuss.
Well, eventually, the car was pulled out of the wall with the help of our good neighbours and a tractor. The stout farmhouse walls had withstood the crash with minimal damage to the stonework. I duly created a character called Lucinda and wrote up the event for my theatre piece. And the response from my writers group? 'Too much imagination, Patricia. That event is so never going to happen, keep it real, gal.' You see, dear reader, they didn't know Spouse. Always expect the improbable possible.
Take care, dear reader. The weather is set to warm up a bit and I hope to get out and about and I hope you can too. My very best wishes to you and have a good week.
Hello dear reader and welcome to another week in snowy North Yorkshire. The temperatures have plummeted, well, for England they have and although I don't want to appear to be too much of a wuss, I have broken out the thick woolly jumpers and tweed breeches to keep me warm. In fact, I have so many layers on, I could easily be mistaken for the Michelin Man. It's all very well adding on the layers through the day, but getting out of them in the evening as the log fire warms us up is quite another matter. I know - too much information. I will move on.
My dear cousin recently acquired a new puppy and hearing the mixture of fun and tribulations they are now going through with it puts me in mind of our days as smallholders when we had a variety of animals, including dogs and ducks.
Our Border Collie, George, came to us via the RSPCA. (Incidentally, I managed to break my ribs the day we got him, but I'll visit that scenario another day.) "Gentleman George" was sweet natured, very gentle and a little eccentric. Our retriever dog, Harry, arrived as a small puppy. He was a very different kettle of fish (or dog), alpha -male and strong willed and although loveable it was always a battle of wills to get him to behave in a reasonable manner.
Harry had come from a man who had bred and trained gun dogs for fifty years. Mr B was most unimpressed to hear that we weren't making much progress in training Harry. He suggested we take the dog back to him for a month of his training. We weren't allowed to visit but could telephone once a week for a progress report.
Week 1 - Harry had chased his hens. Week 2 - Harry had torn down his pen and got in with the bitches. Week 3 - Harry had chased his sheep. Week 4 - We arrived to take him home. The mischevious part of me I'm afraid to say, dear reader, was just a tad pleased to find Mr B was no longer the uber confident dog trainer of a month previous. I might even go as far to say Mr B was almost a broken man. He'd never had a dog like Harry before. In fairness, he had managed to get him to "sit" and almost "stay" and almost "walk to heel". At the end of these demonstrations Mr B proudly announced that Harry didn't chase the sheep now. He ha, he took him into the field to demonstrate and Harry promptly chased the sheep!
Over the years Harry and I grew to love eachother dearly, but the only creature Harry had a healthy respect for was Henry, our first Muscovy drake. I used to feed the dogs outside as Harry was such an enthusiastic eater, with no manners at all. George, the Border Collie, would nibble his way delicately through his dinner like a Victorian maiden aunt, whereas Harry was pure lout - diving with nose and most of his face into the dish, liberally spattering food everywhere.
Outside dining worked fine for a while, until Henry duck matured and discovered the food bar and times of dining. Both dogs were scared of the duck, but he wasn't frightened of them and could adminster a nasty peck. Soon he was strolling over the gravel, pecking both dogs out of the way and hijacking their dinners. And the wimps, they let him. So the dogs had to come indoors to be fed and Henry had to be shut out and I had to live with the mess. Not sure I came off best there.
Henry's successor was Sam. Now, for all Henry's dog-bullying, he was a very good parent. Muscovy duck mothers are a feckless bunch and not very interested in protecting those fluffy yellow things swimming or wadding behind them. Henry was a good Dad and kept an attentive watch over his brood. After Henry departed for the great duck house in the sky, we acquired a replacement drake, Sam, from our neighbours.
Unfortunately Sam was not of the same ilk as Henry. Sam was a real bully. Very soon he had our girls terrorised and in desperation to get away from him they squeezed under the farm gate and into our front garden, not good news for our precious plants. Sam meanwhile, patrolled the other side of the gate, hawking and squawking at the girls to return. No way José. They were staying put.
In the end I said to spouse, 'you're gonna have to shoot Sam. He's downright vicious', as I had discovered quite a few times to my cost. Look away now, dear reader, if you're squeamish. The deed was done and the bird put in an empty dustbin to await my attention.
Now it so happened that a few days later we were in a large supermarket in the nearby town. Passing the hosuehold goods section I spotted some new dustbins, which put me in mind of Sam. A youg lady assistant was up on a stool sorting out items above our heads. I said to spouse, 'you'll have to wash out that dustbin. Sam bled quite a lot when you shot him and put him in there.' Yes, dear reader, I did have some explaining to do, as the young assistant wobbled on her stool, fell off and gave me rather scared look. Not my finest hour I have to say, as I stumbled over a hasty explanation - 'it's not what you think ... Sam's a duck ... no, not a duck, a drake ... he was nasty ... he had to go ... you get the picture. and yes, we did give that store a wide berth for some time to come.
So, there we are, dogs and duck don't always mix and not with sheep. Funnily enough, in time, Harry became quite blasé and bored with sheep. There were so many of them in our fields that I think he got fed up with seeing them. Now rabbits, that was another matter entirely .....
Have a good week, dear reader and stay safe and don't get buried in a snow drift. My little car did once for 3 weeks and wonder of wonders, it started first button when we finally dug it out. It's snowing hard here, who knows, we might be out with the shovels again tomorrow.
Hello dear reader, how are you getting on? I hope you are fit and well and keeping your spirits up. I am with you in spirit and mine's a G & T by the way with lots of ice and a slice of fresh orange, no tart old lip-pursing up lemon for me thank you very much.
So, here we are, entering another month of lockdown and maybe more of the same after that. As all aspects of our lives have contracted significantly over recent months and the focus has shifted to our home life and a daily dose of exercise, I thought it might be a good idea to start a spot of decorating, i.e. throw some fresh paint at the walls and smarten us up a bit.
Now, I had put this idea to spouse in the dog days of 2020, suggesting that we might get the paint pots and brushes out after Christmas. He made no demur and thus I was hopeful. However it transpires that his notion of "after Christmas" does not align with mine. Come the dawn of 2021 and I mooted the subject of decorating again, I was greeted with looks of shock, horror and utter bewilderment. What was I talking about? 'You know,' says I, 'we discussed it before Christmas, said we'd make a start in the New Year.' 'Yes, well,' says spouse, 'that's all well and good, but when you said "The New Year", I thought you meant May or June even.' Now I know that spouse is so laid back that he is almost horizontal, but I think that's a bit rich even for him.
So, dear reader, what am I to make of it all? When I say, "in The New Year", that is exactly what I mean, January 1st and all that. Not so my dear spouse. He consulted with one of his friends thus. 'John, if your wife says she wants to do some decorating in the New Year, when do you think you'll be starting?' 'Ooh, about May I think,' came the reply. I know they were close colleagues for years, bur really - do they still have to think like a long-married couple?
Spouse is now in the smug zone and we remain undecorated. I live in hope but possibly in a fool's paradise too. Ah, but he didn't remain in the smug zone for very long, my dear reader. Yet another lockdown means no hairdressers again, doesn't it? That is not a problem for me as my hair is long enough to tie back in a pony tail and although it could do with a trim it is not at all bothersome. Ha ha, but spouse's hair was a bother to him. He was sporting the Einstein look and was not too happy about it. No amount of water to slick it down would keep it under control. He very quickly reverted to his "plugged into the mains" look and reluctanly requested yours truly to wield the scissors.
What can I say, dear reader? Only this - have you any idea how much an ear can bleed if you nick it with the scissors? Well, believe me, it's a great deal. Spouse behaved like Tony Hancock in "The Blood Donor" sketch. What a stramash, as the Scots would say. My dear Mother used to say, 'if you make a fuss I'll give you something to make a fuss about'. I'm afraid, dear reader, I had to employ these tactics. Not only was he sporting a bleeding ear but now had an extremely uneven haircut as well. He may be follically challenged but I'm not follically gifted.
To add insult to injury, whilst I was wielding the scissors, a revenge murder book that I may write one fine day came to mind. Here was my pretend victim, a sitting duck under my hands. Quick as you like I pretended to draw a knife from my pocket and draw it across his throat and the deed could be done. Ooh, as you can imagine, dear reader, spouse was not too impressed at this. Some interesting Anglo-Saxon terminology was employed at my actions and then when he looked in the mirror at his hair ... well, at least he forgot about his ear.
Hey ho, I'm in the doghouse again and won't be out for a while. But looking on the bright side, he won't need another haircut until we're let loose again and he can visit a proper hairdresser. And even if he does, (need a haircut), I don't think he'll be handing me the clippers again any time soon. Just as well he has a good choice of hats, he'll need to cover up when he goes out, otherwise he might frighten the horses.
I wouldn't like you to make any connection between a wonky haircut and his lack of co-operation over the decorating, dear reader - or would I? No, of course not ... Have a good week my dear reader and take my advice, keep away from the hair clippers.
Hello dear reader and welcome to another week in frosty North Yorkshire. I hope you are all keeping well and keeping occupied in Lockdown 3. I am pleased to say that spouse and I are managing to do both.
We are instucted to 'stay local' and so we are doing as we are told and take our permitted daily exercise by walking around the village. These are not the most exciting of walks as one route is closed off to us at present. The route takes in the narrow country lanes past some farms, but heavy rains followed by several keen frosts have made the road into an ice rink. If we don't slip and slide along the lanes, then we sink up to our ankles in muddy water if we have to step on to the grassy roadside verges to allow for a car/van/tractor to pass. Not an ideal state of affairs, dear reader. No-one enjoys trudging home in sodden walking shoes. So, we have had to content ourselves with tramping the village streets.
In 2017 I wrote a blog called 'A Sense Of Direction', a good title as I have absolutely none. When that particular gift was given out I was either at the back of the queue or had gone on holiday. This fact was again bought home to me a few days ago. Stick with me, dear reader, we are getting there.
Now, spouse does not always accompany me on my peregrinations around the village. As I mentioned last week, he might be occupied with his wood gathering or chopping activities. So on this day I toddled off solo. You would think by now, dear reader, wouldn't you, that after almost fours years of living in this village I would be able to find my way about? Sadly you woud be wrong.
In my 'A Sense Of Direction' blog I mentioned getting lost on Darlington railway station. A friend and I were heading off to a wedding in Inverness, leaving spouse at home as he was still in Her Majesty's employment and could not be spared. So, there we were, 2 ladies of middle years waiting on the platform in the early morning light for our train to arrive. Having already had a longish car journey and it being a cold morning, Mother Nature called. I duly trooped off to find the Ladies and went in and used the facilities. Stepping back out on to the platform was a bit like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia and nothing was familiar at all. The world did not look at all as I had left it. I wandered about in a worried manner. How come this was not the platform I had left? Dear reader, I had to go back into the Ladies and start again. And then, much to my relief, I found that I had come in one door and gone out another. Hurrah, I tried the other entrance and found myself back on familiar territory. There was my friend minding our bags and all was right with the world again.
So, dear reader, sadly for me, 'Advance Brittania' has never happened, directionally speaking. I remain directionally challenged, although curiously enough, plonk me down in France and I can navigate like a rally driver's navigator and get you to your destination without any problem. The problem seems to be in my own country.
On a recent solo walk around the village, two dog-walking ladies were holding a socially distanced conversation and as I rounded the corner, they included me too. Lovely though that was I had to turn away from my route, (that spouse had painstakingly drummed into my head) and face the good ladies. On conclusion of our conversation I turned back to my route, or so I thought and walked on. Only it wasn't my route at all. Somewhere along the line I had taken a turning I should not have and was now in completely unknown territory.
Oh dearie me, dear reader. I can't tell you how many unfamiliar roads I went down searching for a smidgen of familiarity in the terrain. Talk about 'going the extra mile'. I did that alright. My usual 3 miles turned into 4, according to my mobile phone data. Eventually and much later I found my way home, not wagging my tail behind me. Had I been missed? No. Spouse happily ensconced in his shed hadn't even noticed I'd been gone.
Between you and me, dear reader, I'm not going to tell him of my adventures. Why give him ammunition? That's what I say.
I hope you have a good week. Stay warm and stay safe. My very best wishes to you.
Hello dear reader and welcome to another week at Chez Comb. I should be continuing to write Chapter 18 of 'Aunt Mildred's Millions' today, but what with lockdown blues and 'Storm Christoph' turning our garden into a very large puddle, somehow the inspiration does not flow. The only thing that does flow and in copious quantities is the rain. The window in my den looks out on to the garden and I have been watching some very bedraggled birds huddling up in the tres, their feathers sodden by the unrelenting downpours. Note to self - next time I feel a pang of envy as I watch the birds swooping effortlessly across the skies, just remember today - it aint all beer and skittles for our feathered friends.
Canny old spouse has been keeping an eye on the weather forecasts and with rain imminent has spent the last few days working outside in the garden, chopping up wood for the fire and bringing it in to the garage in crates to keep it dry. The process involves large electric saws, chainsaws and large axes. Dear reader, you know spouse's track record. All I can say is I say my prayers and hope for the best.
We have a wood burning stove and at this time of year it is lit in the late afternon, keeping the house cosy and warm. But it is a voracious beast and finding fuel to feed it is an ongoing task in our lives. Spouse is a Yorkshireman and true blue Yorkshiremen do not pay good British pound coins for firewood. Well, mine doesn't and come to think of it neither do any of my neighbours. We are all skip rats and scavengers. Wherever we walk or ride I am instructed to keep my eyes open for building works, skips or wooden pallets. Where there's a builder there might be a crate or a pallet and where there's a skip there will always be wood, or so spouse's mantra goes.
This week, as we were driving home from a food shopping trip, spouse spied a house with building work going on and there were wooden crates and pallets a-plenty in the driveway. Naturally he stopped at the roadside and bounded out of the car like a Thomson gazelle. (Quite appropriate really, as he comes from a long line of Thomsons). He asked the Site Manager if he could have the wood. Mr Manager was happy to have it so easily disposed of and offered to deliver it to us. Better and better. Spouse gave our address and directions and was back in the car in a jiffy, beaming like the ray of sunshine he is.
At home he eagerly awaited the delivery of the wood. Nothing came that day, or the next day, or the next. Spouse decided to investigate and went back to the building site. Mr Manager was not there but his deputy said the wood had been delivered!!! Had it, by jove? Well it hadn't been delivered to us.
Spouse returned home and proceeded to search the neighbouring driveways and gardens. Our crates and pallets were not to be found. We have a Facebook group for the village, so he put out a very polite request for information, i.e. had anyone had a delivery of wood they weren't expecting, because he was expecting one and hadn't had it.
To date, dear reader, there was been zilch response. So, who has got our wood? I have no idea and no-one is saying. I am under orders again to keep my eyes peeled for builders and skips when I am out for my walk around the village. We are still under lockdown regulations and I prowl the village daily as we are instructed to 'stay local'. I think we are so locked down, no-one around here is contemplating any renovations at present, not a skip or a builder in sight. If it's a long winter and we run out of free wood and we had to buy some ... No, let's not even contemplate that one, that is never going to happen. Spouse will surely come up with some free fuel before then - won't he?
My very best wishes to you. Stay warm and stay safe.
Hello dear reader and welcome back to my blog page. Well, fancy. Here we are in 2021 and in the midst of a pandemic. Who ever would have thought we would meet again in these circumstances? Difficult times, dear reader, but we have to muddle through them.
I think we last met before spouse and I made our Australian trip. We thoroughly enjoyed it, spending time with family there and doing a little sightseeing and, surprisingly, quite a lot of fiction writing got done by yours truly. We were based in Brisbane, who play host to the Queensland State Library. Reader, I am in love.
What an amazing site, it's like a village. In addition to the main enormous library, there are two art galleries, bookshops, a museum and cafés serving a variety of fabulous foods. The library itself is amazing with an endless array of computers, all free to use and tables to work at. I had two favourite spots to work in. One on the ground floor, looking out of floor to ceiling windows overlooking the river and a table upstairs in the reference library, for real quiet if I needed to concentrate. It was wonderful to see people of all ages studying hard or just enjoying sitting in a comfy armchair for a good read. I loved the atmosphere and managed the first quarter of a novel there. Yes, I have put it to one side whilst I get on with other projects, but it's planned out and ready for next year. Thank you Brisbane, I could happily live in your library.
So what of now? Well, our garden is three quarters established and now that it's winter I am back to writing again. I am halfway through a new novel with quite a few others lined up after that. Now here's the thing dear reader - one of these proposed books involves a lady murderer, who for her own reasons desires to polish off three particular men. Most of the time I can successfully put book ideas to the back of my head, but this lady occasionally and very insistently brings herself to the fore and demands my attention. So it was last Saturday.
I gave her the floor and she stepped into the spotlight. 'Methods of murder?' asked she. 'Stranglulation for one', says I. But, would my hands be strong enough to strangle a man, I wondered? Ask spouse, thinks I. After all, with a rich and varied career at Her Majesty's Service behind him, he should know a thing or two.
And, alarmingly my dear reader, he did know, in spades to to speak. What that man doesn't know about strangulation I could probably write on the back of an envelope or come to that, a postage stamp. During the afternoon I was soundly put through my paces on the many methods of strangulation. Who knew (a) that there were so many and (b) my seemingly sunny tempered and happy spouse knew all the moves?
For the only time in almost twelve months of pandemic, I was glad that there was no-one calling at the house, who migh have observed two allegedly rational adults engaged in weird wrestling and jabbing moves, complete with yelps and some shouting, (from me).
I am now a little older and wiser and maybe won't be consulting spouse next time my lady murderer pops out of her box. Unfortunately spouse knows a great deal about shooting and stabbing as well and I'm not up for deomonstrations of either of them.
Hey ho, let's hope the lady stays in her box in my head for some long time to come. I need to recover from spouse half killing me and finish 'Aunt Mildred's Millions' this year and 'Walking Bertie' is waiting in the 2022 wings. Everyone else can go to the back of the queue.
Keep well and stay safe dear reader and I hope to meet with you again before too long.
Hello dear reader, just in case you missed last week's blog, a reminder that spouse and I are going on our travels to Australia and after that I hope to settle down to writing a new romcom, so I will not be writing my weekly blog for some months to come. Once the book is written and there is space in my head again, I will be coming back to blogging and don't worry, in the meantime I will be keeping a few notes!! I am still on Twitter @PatriciaComb1 and on my Facebook Author Page, PatriciaCombWriter, so I may see you there. Take care of yourselves and sending all good wishes to you.
Good morning dear reader and welcome to another Sunday at Chez Comb. Autumn is well and truly under way and I have been busy making elderberry liqueur and freezing the last of our fruits from the garden. Looking forward to sampling the elderberry at Christmas, the 2017 brew was amazing, but a little goes a long way and if you every try your hand at making it my dear reader, proceed with caution - small glasses are the order of the day!
Whilst I have been busy inside, spouse has been very busy outside, distributing the last of our soil heap around the garden and sowing grass seed with great abandon for the Yorkshireman that he is - grass seed is not cheap and he has got through bags and bags of the stuff - no wonder he needed to lie down in a darkened room after that.
Prior to sowing the seed, all the new soil had to be flattened and as we did not have a heavy roller to hand, spouse had to do it himself. I've got to tell you dear reader, that was the best bit. Have you ever seen those Olympic long distance speed walkers? They seem to have developed this really weird way of walking, a sort of sinuous wiggling of the hips and arms as they they fast-pace it in a race. Hold that picture in your mind - spouse wasn't fast-pacing it, but he was doing that walk as he carefully paced it up and down his rows of new soil, anxious to flatten out every last little clod.
And then our friend Clayton arrived to discuss cutting our high and very overgrown hedges at the front of the house. After looking these over and discussing the ins and outs of all that, we came round the back and into the garden. Both of us stood transfixed at the sight of spouse labouring up and down the garden, arms pumping vigorously and hips a-swaying, one foot placed carefully in front of another as he stomped up and down.
Clayton looked at me with a very bemused expression on his face.'The lads's taken up a new hobby has he?'
'Only temporarily,' I assured him. 'He's getting the ground ready for sowing the grass seed.'
Clayton looked relieved at this. 'That's alright then,' he said. 'Only, you never quite know with your husband. Not being rude like, he's a grand lad, but - you just never know ... he gets up to some funny stunts sometimes.'
Well, what could I say to that dear reader? Nothing really, as Clayton was quite right. So I coughed loudly to attract spouse's attention and he came across to join us. Now we haven't seen Clayton for quite some time and a lot has changed in our garden since he last saw it. After admiring our new pond, spouse dragged him off to inspect his new mega-shed. I know I've said it before dear reader, but really - men and sheds!!! My eyes were rolling in my head as they enthused with each other over the new shed - the building itself, the insulation and boarding covering the walls, the fittings. And then discussions about the electrical wood cutting equipment and various other chunks of machinery began. Oh my, my - I gave up and left them too it. There's only so much shed talk a gal can take. Those two however, revelled in it and spent a very happy time talking shed talk together, Clayton eventually taking his departure regretfully. I think I could lock the pair of them in there and throw away the key and they probably wouldn't even notice.
Well my dear reader, as I mentioned last week we have been celebrating our wedding anniversary this week and we took ourselves off on a road trip to an antiques centre, that also had a garden centre, gift shop and restaurant attached. It was a new venue to us and some distance away and so Grizelda Google satnav was employed as we neared journey's end. I have to report dear reader, that spouse's brief love affair with Grizelda is at an end. Not only did she not take us where we wanted to go, (in spite of the correct postcode for the place) but also she directed us on a very picturesque tour of the back lanes criss-crossing a chunk of prime East Yorkshire farmland. We had passed our destination on the main road in and spouse was sure that was the place, but I was not. We will draw a veil over the scathing comments I came in for later as I urged him to follow Grizelda.
When we ended up back on the main road, spouse followed his own internal satnav and drove us to our destination. Grizelda was not pleased that we was ignoring her instructions and became quite strident in tone and repeated her instructions loudly. Spouse told her roundly that she was an idiot and she should jolly well shut up and then he got so cross with her he switched her off. We got on a lot better after that and spouse got us to our destination without further ado. I somehow don't think he will be relying on Grizelda very much in the future.
Well dear reader, it's time for me to go. And go for quite some time to come I'm sorry to say. We are going off on an extended trip to Australia soon, so for once in my life I'm going to have to get my act together and get organised for it. When we return I really need to get on with a new book. A friend pointed out to me last week that I'm never in my kennel these days, I'm always reporting on the non-writing activities in my life and it's quite true - they seem to be overtaking the writing activities. So regretfully, my weekly blogs will have to be put on hold for a while and a book get written instead. If you're on Twitter I'll catch you there, if not it's going to be some time in 2019 before I will be able to start blogging again.
I'm sorry to stop for now dear reader, as I love the comments and interaction with you all, but much to his astonishment, I'm taking spouse's advice, which is to devote my energies properly to a book. I know, I can't believe I'm listening to him either - I think the summer sunshine has affected me. At any rate, get on with things I must and I hope it won't be too long before we meet again. In the meantime, take care of yourselves and enjoy every day as it comes around. I'll leave you with one thought to ponder - spouse and I let loose in Australia ... a bit like Crocodile Dundee in reverse. Not sure he'll ever master 'g'day' in an Aussie accent though. Wonder how it sounds in broad Yorkshire?
Good morning dear reader. Well, here we are again. I hope I find you well and keeping as much out of mischief as I have managed to do lately. I shouldn't really say that, let alone think it, as you can be sure that the minute you think things are going swimmingly, disaster strikes. But let's not allow any negative thoughts to intrude on this glorious autumnal morning.
Last weekend as you know, we took ourselves off to Teesside in the north-east of England to visit friends of long standing and on our way home to meet up with another old friend of mine and her partner. What has struck me most about our travels is the generous hospitality of our friends and the laughter and fun that we shared with them.
My friend - I will call him Adam - is amazing. Thankfully he does not read my blogs, but wouldn't it just be sod's law that he would read this one and be mad as fire that I was singling him out for any special attention. So we'll leave his name out of things. I have known Adam for almost thirty years. He is like a third brother and just like all siblings we fight like cat and dog but would defend eachother to the death should anyone else have anything adverse to say. When spouse and I lived in Teesside, Adam and I played our guitars and sang our hearts out together at the Sunday Masses at Billingham church for years - and we always argued over the music and the singing along the way. Adam is a great traditionalist and if there are ten verses in a hymn then in his opinion we should jolly well sing them all. I, on the other hand, took a different view and was not going to wade through ten verses of any hymn, in the sure and certain knowledge that the priest or members of the congregation might lynch me afterwards for my troubles. So four verses, maybe five and then I would bring the singing to an early close and endure Adam's wrath and indignation afterwards.
Almost thirty years on and things have not changed. Are we stuck in a time warp here? No, just two stubborn musicians with different views on leading music in church. I took my guitar and music with me at the weekend and Adam come around to his mother's house where we were staying and we practiced one evening and for once we appeared to be in harmony with eachother. Remember dear reader, this only applies on the musical front, we still argued the toss about everything else under the sun. Spooling forward to our preparations for Mass, once in church, sure enough we started arguing again. My, my, God must shake his head a lot listening to the pair of us.
'Why are you singing it like that?' he asks. 'You can't hold the note there, they don't know it like that'
'Well, it's written like that, so that's what I'm gonna sing.' says I.
'They won't sing it like that,' he says. 'They won't, They'll just carry on and you'll lose 'em.'
'I've got a very loud voice, they'll hear me alright and follow me,' says I.
'They won't,' he insists .
'They will,' I insist.
You get the picture dear reader. We could argue over two flies walking up the wall. Spouse and myself based ourselves at Adam's mum's house for the weekend and had a whale of a time with her and Adam - shopping, talking and laughing non-stop, eating, and drinking first class wine. Oh and of course, arguing our heads off. A great weekend which I look back on with much affection and take a life lesson from. Why? Because our Adam has a great many obstacles to contend with in his life - confined to a wheelchair with plenty of physical problems thrown in, he let's nothing stop him from living life to the full, living independently and being a fully paid up useful member of society and of a warm and loving family.
No-one need waste any sympathy on Adam - he would not thank you for it. He's as good as the next man and probably a darned sight better in some cases. I look forward to arguing up hill and down dale with him for many years to come. We are visiting again in December and I am getting my metaphorical fighting boots ready - we can have huge disagreements over the choice of Advent hymns. I look forward to it.
So on this sunny autumn morning dear reader, if you are tempted to feel a little down at the prospect of summer having fled away and winter's footsteps pattering towards us - think of Adam - heading full on at life. Wind, rain and snow? Hah! Just another challenge to rise to in addition to his work and many voluntary activities.
Have a good week dear reader and we'll meet again next Sunday all being well. Romance is in the air, it's our wedding anniversary next week - even spouse and I might be in accord for once. Here's hoping.
Good morning dear reader and welcome to another autumn morning at Chez Comb. As ever it has been a very busy week. We are still dealing with our fruit and veg crops, the outcome of which is a vatful of ratatouille awaiting freezing and lovely jars of stewed pears in red wine and brandy - my thanks to my friend Anni for supplying this gorgeous recipe. Christmas could be very interesting this year with the alcoholic pears and plum liqueur - but not together I think!
The Library garden team have been in action again and I was summoned to assist in the barrowing of gravel around our new borders. It should have been an easy job but it never works out as planned does it? The delivery wagon could not manage the turn in the library driveway and so could not drop the tons of bagged gravel near to where we wanted them. Instead they had to be left halfway up the drive and we had to barrow and bucket the wretched gravel around the new borders. Let me tell you dear reader, this is not a pastime to be recommended. Maybe you have had experience of this yourself and have memories of the aching back and muscles the next day. After a day of carting gravel I got out of my bed extremely gingerly the next morning, promising myself never, never again. But there, I always say this and no doubt will be up for the challenge the next time.
Speaking of gardening matters, spouse has been out and about in ours. He too has been busy with the wheelbarrow, carting the leftover soil that was dug out for our pond and dumping it in heaps around the garden. We look as if we have been invaded by giant moles, but hopefully our heaps will soon be flattened and new lawns made.
When the soil heap was reduced spouse turned his attention back to his mega-shed. After a bit of a tidy up he decided to offer me some space in it to overwinter my geraniums and pelargoniums. Wow, they will be snugly tucked up in there as the walls are insulated and the room is flooded with natural light. They won't want to come out in springtime I bet. I'm going to trim them up and put them in before he changes his mind. He might not have been so generous with his offer if he knew that I intend to renovate some of our garden furniture and plant tables in there over the winter, (when I can be spared away from my writing desk of course, ha ha). But I'm not telling him that yet or he may rescind his offer. I am banking on squatters rights winning the day once they are in situ.
Whilst on the subject of spouse's mega-shed, as well as being 'drain man' and 'pond man', I think he can add the monika 'gutter man' to his collection. After his new shed was put up he fixed guttering all the way around it, angled so that the rain water would drain off the roof and into a waiting water butt. Only it didn't. Somehow the angle was not just quite right. I can't tell you the number of times spouse has tweaked this guttering to get the slope just right. Weardale drain man all over again - only above ground for a change. the best bit was when he poured cans full of water into the guttering and found there was a leak - ha ha, it came down all over him. You can imagine the icy glare I got dear reader, as I tried unsuccessfully to stifle my laughter. He tweaked the guttering again and we now await events - as in waiting for the next lot of rainfall, to see if his latest efforts have been successful. I hope they have been or there is going to be one very unhappy gutter man in the Yorkshire Wolds and I will have to empathise like mad to make up for my earlier giggles at his antics.
Well my dear reader, that's about it for now. I hope you have a good week and that our good weather continues. We are taking a break next weekend and visiting old friends in Teesside, so I will be having a holiday from my blog and you can have a holiday from me. Hope to see you in a fortnight, hale and hearty and ready for whatever life chucks at us next.
Good morning dear reader. I hope I find you well in these early autumn days. All is well at Chez Comb in the Yorkshire Wolds. We have been keeping calm and carrying on and best of all, I have not been buried under a new fruit tree, (as we have not come to the point of planting any yet), nor was I carried off in our skip.
It has been a very quiet and pleasant week in our neck of the woods for a change. With the arrival of autumn, the gathering in of the fruits must be done and then frozen, bottled, jammed, jellied, made into chutney or just darned well eaten. This can be a very manic time as so much fruit ripens at the same time.
And not only my own fruit. My friend's plum tree had plums in abundance this year and she was desperate to donate them to anyone who would have them. I don't recall being given a choice in the matter and found myself the proud possessor of a large quantity of plums. What to do with that lot? Well in our house, when enough fruit has been frozen, bottled, eaten, etc. we turn our attention either to making it into wine or liqueurs. Mmm, these plums were crying out to be made into a liqueur. So off we trotted to the supermarket to purchase quantities of gin and port. The young check-out assistant could not contain her curiosity. I think she thought we were the newbie alcoholics on the block. 'What are you going to do with all that gin?' she asked. 'Are you having a party? Cocktails? Or do you just like gin?' I hastened to reassure her that we would not be consuming all that lot, but would be making a plum liqueur with it. The young lady's eyes it up at that idea and we staggered laden up out of the supermarket with her blessing on our endeavours.
Plum liqueur aside, this week has been devoted mainly to converting the cooking apples from our tree into stewed apples and combining them with elderberries picked from the bushes growing among the hedgerows. Yes, the apples were hard work. I didn't even bother peeling them, otherwise I would still be there now. I just chopped them up and cooked them, with as little sugar as I could get away with. Meanwhile my dear spouse had ranged far and near collecting bags full of luscious red elderberries, bearing them home triumphantly with hands like Macbeth after a particularly gruelling day on the battlefield.
The thing with elderberries is and I suppose with any soft fruits is that they don't keep for long. Something has to be done with them sharpish or they will go to waste. And as we love our elderberry and apple compote all through the winter months, this could not be allowed to happen.
Elderberries are messy berries to work with and somehow they get everywhere, so preparations have to be made before going anywhere near them. The kitchen floor was swathed in dustsheets and also the chairs we sat on. Clean buckets put down to decant the berries into and old clothes on us, as sure as anything, berries would be going in all directions and certainly over us.
It should be a straightforward job to detach the berries from their stalks, but believe me dear reader it is not. Have you tried it? Half of them land in the bucket and the others bounce wherever they please, over the floor, under the chair, up my sleeve - you get the picture.
In spite of all the mess, I like elderberry time. The busyness of life gets put on hold for a a few days as the job has to be done. Spouse and I sit companionably in the kitchen. I know - don't fall off your chair in shock, but we do and we chat, or listen to music as we ping berries all over the place. Somehow it's very peaceful and restful, a real oasis in our lives. By the time we have finished we are completely unwound and it is very difficult to wind up again, which I have to do as the elderberries need a little softening in the pan and then combining with the apple.
At this point spouse disappears about his own business and I spend another couple of peaceful days ignoring phones, emails and everything whilst I fill every container known to man with fruits for my freezer. The job is now almost done now dear reader, only some late pears left on the tree, which I may turn my attentions to this week.
And then? And then spouse will be chasing me back to my desk in the hopes that I might actually put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard in my case and magically a novel may eventually emerge. Ah, I could wish autumn fruit gathering lasted a bit longer - how I love a displacement activity! Ah but, unknown to spouse I will be working on the next phase of developing our library garden this week, as the liner and gravel is being delivered for a long herbaceous border and my services are required for that.
Maybe I won't tell him just yet, sufficient unto the day and all that. I think you can imagine his reaction to that news dear reader. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth as his efforts to get me to my desk have been frustrated yet again. Have a good week dear reader. I'm sure I will, happy as a sandboy/girl playing in the garden and I hope, in the sunshine.
Good morning my dear reader. I hope I find you well on this lovely sunny Sunday morning. There is a hint of autumn in the air; a distinctly chilly nip in the breeze first thing, but thankfully in our corner of North Yorkshire, the sun soon warms things up. For once things are progressing well at Chez Comb and I am treasuring these times, such a rarity in our somewhat haphazard life.
Pond Man has finally finished the pond and it looks good, apart from needing a few more marginal plants next Spring and getting the solar fountain to work properly. No joy there yet but we live in hope. Our mound of soil still has to be distributed about the garden to level things up and grass seed tossed about, but generally we are on the right side of things this year. Other garden projects will keep until next year. The birds have discovered the pond and so have the frogs and small insects. It is already proving a joy and I will have to move my desk away from the window or I may never write a book again for gawping at the wildlife.
Well that's quite enough of ponds for now. Let's talk shopping. Yes, I have been let loose on the town again. If you remember my dear reader, a few weeks ago spouse and I went shopping to kit him out with new clothes for our trip to Australia and it took a lot of persuasion to accomplish that, believe me. Well, this week it was my turn. I needed to acquire some lightweight dresses as we are heading off into an Australian summer.
It is no secret that although I will happily drag spouse out for a kitting-out spree, I am far more reluctant to drag myself out for the same purpose. I get into the ladies clothing department and my eyes glaze over - I have no idea of what will suit me, there is way too much choice and so where on this earth do I begin? Generally I don't, I turn tail and run. In the past my dear sister has frog-marched me around the stores and put clothes on my back and told me what I liked and what suited me. But she is away in the north of the country at the moment and I needed to get a wiggle on before all the summer dresses disappeared from the shops.
So, friends Jenny and Olivia came to my rescue and took me shopping. That was two days ago dear reader and I still haven't recovered yet. Neither has spouse; the very thought of the family bank account being drained again sent him off crying into his tea cup and taping up his piggy bank.
On the morning assigned for our adventure I was very tempted to pull the covers up and hide in my bed. Just as well that I did not as my friends had already thought of that one and decided they would drag me out in my pyjamas if it came to it.
God bless them, what wonderful friends they are. I was lurking in the house on Friday morning deciding that the whole idea was a bad idea and let's NOT do this. Ha ha, my friends are made of stern stuff and they showed up at my house with faces that definitely read 'we are going shopping come hell or high water'. As spouse packed me into their car and waved me off, he managed a smile and I think there was a hint of vengeful amusement in his eyes.
When we parked up in the Pay and Display car park in town, Jenny legged it to get the parking ticket and I opened the car door intent on legging the hell out of it, but Olivia was before me and kept a tight grip on my arm. I was going nowhere - only clothes shopping. Reluctantly I slapped my sunhat on my head, said 'baa, the lamb to the slaughter' and allowed myself to be led away to the first shop.
As usual I was totally phased by the styles, colours and choices of dresses on display. I edged towards the door, but Jenny was behind me with armfuls of dresses to show me. How did she do that in a few moments? Another one of life's mysteries. I seem to remember giving an impression of a newly-landed fish gasping for air and tried to give in gracefully and said, 'Well, I don't really have to like it, as long as it fits I suppose.' There was a lady cruising the blouses and she looked at me in utter astonishment. Her face plainly said 'how can you wear a dress you don't like?' Feeling mulish I said 'Yes I can, at least I won't be going naked. Which would YOU prefer?'
I'm not sure why, but Jenny and Olivia hustled me out that that shop and on to the next one. En route they recovered themselves admirably and desisted from clobbering me and by the time we reached the next shop of their choice we were once more in accord and I promised to behave myself.
And so I did. Jenny and Olivia had chosen wisely. It was a lovely shop, filled with beautiful dresses and mercifully, a sales lady that just let us wander without pressurising us for a sale. My friends pulled out all sorts of colours and styles of dresses for me to look at and guess what - yes, I actually liked some. My two canny friends know me well by now and didn't waste any time in getting me to the changing room to try some on. My goodness me, it's bad enough dressing once in the morning, now I was doing it all over again - and again. So glad I never lived in Victorian/Edwardian times with all that changing of outfits.
Dear reader, if ever you are a contemplating a clothes shopping expedition, you need my friends to go with you. They are natural personal shoppers. One dress is rejected? No problem, it is instantly replaced with something else for you to try. No stress, no fuss, no hassle, just lovely smiles. How blessed was I?
During the course of a few short hours and a coffee break to gather our wits, we must have visited every good clothes shop in the town. Jenny and Olivia made selecting and trying on clothes so easy for me, I could almost get to like it! (We won't tell spouse that, as a careful Yorkshireman he wouldn't like to think I would develop a taste for these outings). However, we came home with several dresses, bags and shoes and if I'm not the best dressed woman in Australia this winter, (their summer), I'll eat hay with the donkey as my dear Mama used to say.
Three cheers for wonderful friends. They are pearls beyond price. I have hung my new frocks up on my clothes rail in my old office, (as we still have not got around to sorting wardrobes there yet) and when I pass that way I pause in astonishment - how did they get there? Did we really buy those? Amazing.
Spouse was dancing about on our driveway with an anxiety attack by the time we got home. So many hours had passed since we had departed for the shops and his imagination had got the better of him. He was ready to send out a search party - not for me, but for my banker's card. Perhaps I may not tell him we are thinking about another trip sometime soon, I don't think his heart could stand it, especially as Jenny and Olivia really wound him up by grossly exaggerating the amount of money we had spent. Spouse was ready to faint. Satisfied their work was done and grinning wickedly, the girls took their departure and spouse tottered indoors in search of a reviving malt.
Have a good week dear reader and I trust that you and I will try and lead a calm and quiet life this week and that I will not be responsible for raising spouse's blood pressure too high again. But thinking about it, the only way that is going to happen is if I stay in bed and don't engage with life at all and as I'm a much better cook than he is and food is a subject very dear to his heart, (I may come a possible second), he'll have to take his chances this week. Or possibly visit the village pub to drown his sorrows. Now there's an idea - they do a lovely lasagne, I might just have to join him. Shopping definitely has it's merits.
Good morning dear reader and welcome to Chez Comb. I hope I find you well and in good heart. I sort of am and sort of am not. On the one hand I am nursing a heavy cold and believe me I am nursing it, but on the other hand it is getting me out of barrowing all that clay soil into a skip as I mentioned last week. Luckily for me our kind neighbour, Andrew, offered to help spouse in the barrowing of the soil and there will be plenty of the good stuff left for him to share in for his garden. Win, win all round I think. Especially for me as I can admire the skip activities from the safety of the house in the happy knowledge that I will not land up in the bottom of it, as spouse has fondly threatened. However, there may yet be talk of needing a second skip so I had better watch my p's and q's for a while yet.
I am extremely glad that our skip did not arrive until the latter part of this week, or I could well have been put in it. Spouse, aka Pond Man, had in the course of our garden clearances, put aside various sizes of flagstones with which to secure the pond liner and with the hope that they would make a pleasing decorative edging to our new pond. He duly laid a row of them out along the top of the pond and then the doubts began to creep in. He had measured and made his calculations and thought he had enough of this particular size to do the job, but on further reflection decided this may well not be the case.
H.Q. was informed, (me) and the decision made to use the larger size flagstones instead, as he knew he had plenty of these, almost enough to circumnavigate the earth with. Alright, maybe quite not so many, but as near as. Spouse set to work and laid one side of the pond, carried on around the corner and laid the next side. it was all going so well ... until I rose from my writing activities and took myself off down the garden. Yes, you're quite right dear reader - I did not like like what I beheld. The new flags were too darned big in proportion to the pond. They would have to go and the previous ones put back in their place. Pond Man was not a happy Pond Man, believe me dear reader and a certain amount of expostulation and hot air was expended over the situation. Wishing to keep my head attached to my neck I judged it best to make myself scarce at this point and scuttled off back to the laptop, leaving spouse to probably retrieve his wax effigy of me and stick a few pins in it - and order the skip!
So, as I was speaking of watching p's and q's earlier I have in my turn had my patience tried to the limit this week and have had had to severely rein in my on-line speech as yet again the company that prints and distributes my books has driven me bannanas. Remember the 'password' contretemps with them a short while ago? This week it was their penchant for sending me another author's sales returns, which I'm sure, she would not wish me to receive nor their rightful monies into my bank account and neither did I. But you try telling the company that and believe me dear reader, I wish you joy of that one.
Because dear reader, once again I became entangled with the 'Support Team'. I know I have said it before and now I say it again, if ever there was a misnomer it is 'Support Team'. There is no 'support' about it. For some months I have been receiving sales reports for someone else in addition to my own and duly reported the mistakes to the company. Enter stage left the 'Support Team'. I tried dear reader, really I did.
This is not my book ... Yes it is ... No, it isn't. I think I know my own books ... It is yours, it's on your account number ... That's not my account number ... Oh yes it is ... Oh no it isn't, my account number is xxx ... Yes well, the book is on that account number, so it's yours ...
You get the drift dear reader. Back and forth we go - I give them all the ISBN numbers and titles of my books and the ISBN number, title and author name of the book that is not mine. I have to say dear reader that I don't know why the lady I was dealing with was working on the 'Support Team' - her talents for obfuscation are unmatched in my experience. She is wasted in 'Support'. Government departments are crying out for people like her to write their leaflets. She is a genius and deserves to head up our Civil Service and keep the whole nation confused for years to come.
At the end of my week of verbally banging my head against a literary brick wall, the lady informed me 'I'm sorry, your previous email stated you were looking for the report of title xxx. What report are you looking for instead?'
Excuse me? I requested the title report? Grrrr. Where has she been? I've been banging on about it for weeks that it is not my title and I never requested it in the first place.
I have replied to the good lady dear reader. I have not been rude and have indeed minded my p's and q's, but have stated fairly forcefully that the title in question is not mine and please don't send me the details again. However, I am bracing myself for the next monthly reports ... are we taking bets on there still being a literary cuckoo in my nest? I sincerely hope not. The very thought of tangling with the 'Support Team' again makes me want to lie down in a darkened room.
Have a good week dear reader and we will meet again next Sunday, unless I'm the occupant of our next skip or buried in the garden with a new tree planted on top of me - he's been eyeing up several mature species at the gaden centre lately ......
Good morning my dear reader and welcome to another Sunday at Chez Comb. I am a very happy soul this morning as it has rained a little and freshened things up a bit and filled up all our water butts. Ah, it doesn't take much to make me happy. On reflection, Pond Man would not say that at the moment, but we will revisit him next week by which time he may have rejoined the world that is not all about ponds.
The 'A' Level results have been released this week with the usual crop of ecstatic students delighted with their results and now looking forward to the world of university. It took me back a year or two, (who am I kidding), to my own time of application to various universities and subsequently, the all important interview.
I was due for interview at a particular northern university and on the appointed day took myself off to Leeds City Station to catch the train. I checked on the platform and made my way there and sure enough the train was ready and waiting. A railway porter was loitering nearby and being a more cautious soul in those days I checked with him that this was indeed my train. He confirmed it was and on I got.
The butterflies were beginning to flutter in my stomach and so I tried to occupy myself with magazines and my book. The ticket guard entered our crowded carriage and made his way down its length, checking everyone's tickets as he went. All was well, until he came to me. I gave him my ticket and he looked at it and then back at me in disbelief. 'What's this?' he cried - in a loud voice. He was a gorgeously tall Jamaican and rolled his eyes dramatically at me. 'We aint going where you want to go, Miss. This is a non-stop express to London!!!'
My, my, dear reader. I'm sure you can imagine the embarrassment and panic that arose in my breast. Not only was I on the wrong train, going in the wrong direction, but it was non-stop. Kings Cross here I come. There would be no interview for me and who in their right minds would give such a numpty a second interview. I mean, I couldn't even find my way to the university. As you can imagine I was more than a tad upset at the prospect of my precious university place disappearing before my eyes.
Now in those days generally the British public vilified British Rail, but I have to tell you dear reader, that they were wonderful to me that day. The lovely ticket guard brought me coffee and sat with me until I had calmed down, promising to take me straight to a phone when we landed in Kings Cross, so that I could telephone home and begin to get things sorted out. Bless his heart he looked after me like his own daughter and after I had spoken to my father on the telephone, (who couldn't believe he had such a numpty for a daughter), escorted me back to the train and made sure I got on it for the return non-stop trip to Leeds.
Meanwhile, my father, God bless his cotton socks, telephoned the university and explained the situation. Fortunately for me they did not instantly take their bat home and forever dismiss me from their hallowed portals. Instead they said they would send me another date for interview. My Papa got the distinct sense that they found my situation quite amusing.
Come the day of the next university interview, my dear Papa didn't risk me on the railway a second time. He firmly strapped me in the car, told me to sit tight and drove me there himself. With hindsight dear reader, I suspect the prospect of a near hysterical daughter arriving home a second time was too much to contemplate.
At least I managed to negotiate my way around the university and find the correct department. I was directed to a particular room and on entry found it to be full of other candidates waiting their turn for interview. In bustled a young man, who introduced himself as head of the department. After a few preliminaries, he looked around the room and with a mischievous grin on his face asked if Patricia was here today. I looked around the room for any other Patricia's there might be - but there appeared to be none but me. Cautiously I half raised my hand and the lecturer threw back his head and roared with laughter. Recovering himself and wiping his streaming eyes he proceeded to tell all the other students present of my hapless adventures on British Rail and how pleased he was to see that I had managed to make it to today's appointment.
Horrible man. Why did he have to snitch on me so publicly? Would I ever live it down? Now everyone would know what a twit I was and have a jolly good laugh at my expense. And so it proved to be my dear reader. Every time I met someone new, after a few moments that slow, knowing smile would spread across their face and 'weren't you the one that ...?'
But I'm not my mother's daughter for nothing, dear reader. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger and if any of my old friends tried to resurrect that one these days, I think they know what would be their fate at my hands now. Just sayin' ... you know who you are ....
I hope you have a good week dear reader. I should be getting on with a book, but pond man has got me earmarked for barrowing heavy clay soil into a skip - unfortunately the skip is at the front of the house and the soil is at the back. I may be in for some sore muscles before I am done. I will never complain about hitting the keys of a hot laptop again, it has to be preferable to my forthcoming weeks's activities. Hey ho, see you next week, unless pond man plants me in the skip along the with soil.
Good morning my dear reader and I hope I find you well and enjoying the wonderful summer weather. I am very happy to welcome you to another beautiful morning here in the Yorkshire Wolds. Although we have rain here today it is still a beautiful day as this water is very welcome after months of heat and sunshine.
Last week I briefly mentioned spouse and his activities with drain rods in various parts of the world. That was all prior to his current activities with our new pond. (The latest update on that is he has obtained rolls of carpet from our local supplier and is busy lining out the sides and edges of the pond with it, prior to laying the liner over it. His dedication to the removal of stones and any other miscellaneous detritus from his ledges and edges knows no bounds - out came the hoover and all rogue stones, etc. have been removed). Hold that vision dear reader, a man lying prone beside a large pond, hoovering away as one possessed.
However I am digressing here. I am not talking about ponds today. I am back to drain rods. I know, I know. You are wondering what on earth I can have to discourse about regarding drain rods. Not the most savoury or fascinating subject you have ever come across no doubt. Well believe me my dear reader, when it comes to spouse and drain rods it can turn into a very interesting subject indeed.
Some years ago when we were living in Scotland some friends came to stay for new year. We had a jolly Hogmany supper and saw in the new year in fine style with good whiskey and the traditional first footing around the village. New Year's Day dawned fine and bright and we were tempted out for a drive to a lovely village further along the coast. We parked up near to the pub and went for a bracing walk up hill and followed the coastal path for a while, our eyes watering and ears frozen off us by the icy winter winds.
After a few miles we gave in gracefully and retraced our steps back to the pub. Oh the joy of falling gratefully through the front door and defrosting by a roaring fire with cups of hot coffee and a wee dram. Dear reader, my toes and ears are tingling just at the memory of it all.
So there we were, toasting our toes by the fireside and who should come wandering in but a good friend of ours from the local church, accompanied by a merry looking lady and they were deep in conversation. As they made their way towards the dining room, our friend, Monica, spied spouse and I by the fire and new year greetings were exchanged. We introduced our friends, Sylvia and Derek and Monica introduced her friend Pam. She was just about to introduce us when Pam piped up 'Oh I know this young man, I've carried his drain rods in the woods.' And with that they sailed off into the pub dining room for lunch.
As you can imagine dear reader, there was what is known as a 'pregnant pause' after the departure of these ladies. A woman I had never clapped eyes on was on intimate terms of acquaintance with spouse and his drain rods. What was I to make of this? I looked at Sylvia, she looked at me and then we both looked at spouse, who I am pleased to say had the grace to blush and scratch his head in a 'how do I get out of this one?' kind of a way. 'Well, you're a dark horse,' said Sylvia, 'and in the woods too!'
We sat down again and ordered more whiskey all round, the consensus being that we all might need it by the time spouse had finished his explanation. It went like this. Just out of our village was a large forest where we used to walk our golden retriever dog, Harry. One day spouse was in the woods without me and came across an area where the path was flooded by the winter rains, as the gully and drainpipe underneath the path was blocked with wet leaves and hence the water had overflowed on to the path and the surrounding area and was now a sea of impassable mud.
Spouse being the public spirited chap he is decided he would have a go at clearing the blocked pipe himself. He took the dog home and loaded his drain rods and shovels into the car and headed off back to the woods. Just as he parked up, so did Pam, who had come to walk her little dog. Curiosity got the better of her when she saw Peter unloading rods and shovels and of course the question was asked, 'where are you going with that lot?' Spouse explained about the blocked drainpipe and backed-up gully and Pam, being the kind soul she is, offered to carry his drain rods to the site of the action. They introduced themselves and had a good old chat all the way through the woods. Apparently when they got to the flooded site he refused Pam's offers of further help as drain-rodding was a one man activity at that point, so Pam wished him well and went on her merry way dog walking.
Spouse set to work and spent some long time working away at the pipe with his rods but could make no progress with the blockage. Somewhere deep inside the pipe was a solid mass that would not be shifted by muscle power alone. You will know by now dear reader, that spouse is not a man to let the old sleeping dog lie. Something Must Be Done. So he took himself off to the Forestry Commission offices in the nearby town and reported the problem and received their assurances that they would attend to the problem.
And bless their hearts, they did. After inspecting the flooded site they too agreed that drain rods would not solve the problem and they fetched in the heavy machinery, excavating the whole area to clear out the old, broken pipes, remove all the accumulated detritus and install a new mega-pipe to allow leaves and surface water to be taken away. Result!!
And spouse never said a word about it! Just quietly got on with his work and his life until Pam walked into the pub that new year's day and let the cat out of the bag. So for my money he can hoover his gravel, hoover around his pond and rod his drains to his heart's content. Thanks to him there is now one very well drained wood in south-west Scotland.
I hope you have a very good week dear reader. For all I know, pond man may still be at work this time next week and possibly have developed webbed feet. I have a romcom novel to get to work on - that is if I can drag my eyes away long enough from pond man and his activities. I wonder if he likes fish food?
Hello my dear reader and welcome to another scorcher of a Sunday at Chez Comb I hope I find you well and in good heart. I am in good heart, if a little exasperated with spouse - but nothing new there then.
We are planning a trip to Australia later in the year to see family out there and whilst spouse may coast along in our neck of the Yorkshire Wolds in togs that are, how shall I say, less than pristine, it was felt by the Management, (as in my good self) that a visit to the clothing emporium in York was required. For once, spouse cautiously agreed, that maybe - just maybe - and he certainly wasn't committing to anything here - that maybe a new tog or two would be in order.
However, I don't know if you have come across the expression dear reader, that people will always find time for the things they really want to do. Well that expression fits my dear spouse to a tee, especially when it comes to being dragged out on a clothes purchasing expedition and that is something he most definitely would not like to do.
Bear with me dear reader we are going back in time here to when we lived on a smallholding high up in the Durham Dales. We found that the drainage system that took the water from off the fellside, around the back of the house and off to a soakaway down one of the fields had failed and our dining room walls were feeling the effects. Hope you followed all that, I may be asking questions later.
We made this discovery at Christmastime and after the celebrations were past, spouse diligently set to work to dig out and remove the old pot drains and replace them with new plastic pipe work. Dirty work in the freezing cold of January and into February, so cold that a slug of whiskey was needed in his coffee at regular intervals to defrost him - so he claimed .... Dear reader, I cannot begin to count the number of man hours he spent keeping company with his drains, tweaking here, tweaking there to ensure the slope of them was exactly to his liking and the water would flow away like a good 'un. and to boot, he was as happy as a pig in ... muck. I re-christened him 'drain man'.
He has been 'drain man' in France, Scotland and Yorkshire. Last weekend he spent a very happy time sorting out our drain here in our North Yorkshire home and even had to go and purchase extra lengths of drain rods! No checking for the moths in his wallet on that day my dear reader, he was off to the DIY store like the proverbial rat up a stick.
And now he is 'pond man' and certainly hasn't got time for all that clothes shopping nonsense. There is real work to be done and I can only blame myself for this state of affairs. In my infinite wisdom - yes, it really is infinite - I decided that we should have a large pond in our new Wolds garden. We had had a pond in our Scottish garden and I derived great pleasure and lots of writerly displacement activity from tending the vegetation in and around the pond and watching the birds bathing in it. So a pond there should be in our new garden.
We marked out where our pond was going to be and on a sunny August morning Brian arrived with his mini-digger and dug the hole to our design. But ... there is tweaking to be done and spouse is the man to do it. Before the pond liner can be put down, the pond sides have to be smoothed and the landing bays for the birds sorted out and the sand put down to cushion the new liner. And let's not go into barrowing soil around the rest of the garden to give us some semblance of a level playing field.
'Pond man' is currently as happy as a sand boy - literally. He has two tons of sand to barrow into his new pit, aka our wannabee pond, and so my dear reader, how would you rate my chances of ever making it to the clothing emporium this side of our trip to Australia? Pretty low I would say. But on the other hand if he is occupied with this project and I have to go shopping for him on my own - now what might I come back with? He hasn't thought of that one. Wonder if he likes pink trousers and lemon shirts? Guess what dear reader, something tells me he just might not be too keen on those ideas, but they might work to get him out of the front door in case I do as threatened and do my worst.
Hey ho, we shall see - either way he's not going to Australia in his much patched togs. I hope his psyche can stand the parting, I know I certainly can. It may be pink trousers and lemon coloured shirts if he doesn't get out of his sand pit soon.
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?