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?
Hello dear reader and welcome to another Sunday at Chez Comb. I hope all is well in your world on this beautiful morning. I am a little off centre this morning and confess to feeling extremely weary due to my sleep being disturbed for several nights on the trot. I ask you dear reader, why ever did God create cockerels? Well I know why he created them. Without Mr Cockerel there would be no little Miss Chickens or Mr Cockerel Junior. Fair enough I grant you, but why did he have to give them such raucous and penetrating voices?
Most of the time I am a 'live and let live' sort of person, but not I fear when it comes to insomniac cockerels who appear to have dined on Speed. Our neighbours, who are by no means nearby, keep some hens and a cockerel to look after them. He obviously takes his duties very seriously and appears to sleep with one open, as all through the night he can be heard crowing. He is relentless, presumably warning off any predators that stalk nearby in the night.
Laudable efforts. What a hero I hear you say. Hmmm, heroic as his efforts may be, but at 1, 2 and 3 o'clock in the morning I do not share this view. All I really want to do is stagger out of my bed and leg it round to young Mr Cockerel's pen and silence him. I will leave to your imaginings what I fondly dream of doing to him. But, nobly I rein in my baser instincts and bury my head beneath the pillow in an effort to drown out the noise.
Mr Cockerel takes a short nap at first light - presumably thinking the predators have pushed off home by then. Blessed peace and quiet ensues and for a short while nothing stirs in our sleepy Yorkshire village. Wearily but thankful I snuggle down under the covers in the hope of a couple of hours uninterrupted shut eye. But there is no rest for the wicked as my dear Mama used to say. Don't misunderstand me here my dear reader, I am not admitting to being wicked. I am not, as evidenced by the fact that Mr Cockerel is still strutting his stuff down the road there. But there is no rest for me because just as Mr Cockerel shuts up and goes for his nap, the seagulls strike up the band.
I know, I know, I live near to the sea, so what do i expect to hear? A choir of heavenly angels gently lulling me back to sleep? Well my dear reader, I would love that, truly I would, but I fear my Creator had other ideas during his original seven days of activity. Yes, darn it, he created seagulls. Not solely I'm sure just to disturb my slumber and I am not so egotistical as to think God had his eye on that particular outcome. But it is a fact of life that we share our planet with seagulls. I know we share the planet with gazillions of other creatures too and I should not single out one bird for my attentions, but in the half light of morning, seagulls are my personal bete noir and, I suspect, also of all the small birds tucked snugly up in their nests. Even they are not ready for the 2.30 a.m. clarion call.
Seagulls are majestic birds and when they venture into our garden they are quite shy and easily spooked, quickly flying off to the safety of the rooftops at the slightest hint of movement from within the house. But at 2.30 a.m. they have no such inhibitions and let rip with fiercely loud and raucous calls ending in a fiendish cacophony of cackling. They are relentless and soon the small birds give in and the dawn chorus begins and with that my dear reader, any possibility of sleep is gone. Bleary-eyed I rise to engage with the day.
And guess what? As I am going about my daily affairs what do I notice? Yes, you are quite right. An absence of seagulls cackling or cockerel crowing. They are so wiped out after their early morning starts they are all taking a well earned nap, saving their strengths and energies for their all-night soirees.
On the one hand I can almost look forward to the dark winter mornings when the seagulls may delay their morning reveilles, but on the other hand Mr Cockerel will continue to crow as long as it is dark outside and the predators are still about. The seagulls are beyond my reach but Mr Cockerel is not ... I may be having a word in his shell-like, or maybe something more .........
Hello dear reader. Well last week was about the lovely Grizelda Google Satnav on my Smartphone. This week we are moving on to computers. No, please don't switch off, we've all been there. It happens to us all. We are required to remember the Passwords for the sites that we regularly use and I know that I am not the only mortal on this planet who has difficulties with this. Most of the time I manage quite well and Cedrina the brain cell brings forth the correct combination of letters and numbers. Sometimes though, the old grey matter fails and a Password has to be reset. Not too painful a process generally and is accomplished in a straightforward manner and off we go again.
However, there is always the exception and I have spent three days as living proof of this. In fact, it's a miracle that I am still living and haven't thrown myself in the river in despair, or have any hair left on my head as I have been tearing it out in handfuls and all thanks to the ever helpful Darren/Jamie/Joanne/Mikey and all the rest of the personnel on the 'Support Team'. Do not be shocked dear reader, when I say that certain unladylike epithets galloped across my brain and have only been contained there with great difficulty when what I really wanted to do was verbally marmalize the said Darren/Jamie/Joanne/Mikey and cohorts.
All I wanted to do was to gain access to my own account on my book ordering site as I have a new book out and I needed to order copies for myself. Simple - put in the Username and Password that worked last week. Ha ha, you know exactly what happened don't you dear reader? Of course, I was shut out of the site altogether. an algorithm or microchip in its own sweet wisdom had decided that I was not a safe bet to be allowed into their precious site and so the fun began.
'Forgotten your Password?' they brightly ask. 'No problem - click here to reset.' Dutifully I click on and try to reset my Password. It has to contain numbers, letters and a mark and no less than twelve in total. I obey the instructions and get precisely nowhere. I read and re-read the instructions and yes I am correctly doing what is asked of me. Again and again I try - new Password, new combinations and still I am locked out. By now two hours have passed and I am feeling hot and peeved.
Time to try the 'Support Team'. Well dear reader, if ever there was a worse misnomer I would like to meet it. First Darren came to my aid and provided me with a temporary Password and I still couldn't get in with that. The afternoon wore on and several emails passed between Darren and I - he on his part trying not to get exasperated with me and I stopping myself from hurling my laptop out of the window.
And then out of the blue in the late afternoon, without any prior warning, I think Darren pushed off home and all went quiet. No more help was forthcoming that day. I messaged again for help but to no avail and that was my big mistake dear reader, because Darren returned to business next day daisy-fresh and set me yet another Password and it worked. Eureka, I was in! Joyfully I looked at my new title and came straight out of the site, intending to return to it later in the day and update it. I passed the new details on to 2QT Publishers as they needed access to upload the new book.
Meanwhile ... Jamie came online. Remember that request for help the evening before after Darren had taken his bat home? Jamie too was sorry to hear that I could not access my site and he had reset my Password. Aagh! Just as I'd got things sorted. Once again the new Password did not work. I tried so many times I got locked out altogether. Darren sent me another Password and I got locked out again again.
Over the course of the next two days a fleet of support staff leap-frogged each other - Darren/Jamie/Joanne, Mikey/Suzanne - setting and re-setting my Password. I cannot understand why they don't see all this history on their computer screens and get their collective fingers out of my pie and leave it to just one member to deal with. Are they in a competition to see how many Password re-sets they can get in a day? Is there a prize? A whacking great bonus for generating so much helpful, (or unhelpful in my case) activity? WHY DON'T THEY TALK TO EACHOTHER?
Eventually I threw in the towel, (which in retrospect I should have done two days previously) and told everyone to get their sticky mitts off my Password. I had one that worked and I was going to stick with it and don't anyone, ANYONE IN THE WHOLE DRATTED COMPANY interfere with it anymore or I would personally make the journey to their offices and ... well never mind what I actually said, but something along the lines of 'I would ... where a monkey puts its nuts' and a lot more besides.
At the moment I am away from home and am having nothing to do with computers. 2QT Publishers have the Password and I hope it works. Dear reader, if you hear howls of anguish emanating from North Yorkshire, you will know it does not and if not, battle will re-commence on my return.
So, Darren/Jamie/Jamie/Joanne/Mikey/Suzanne - gird up your loins, I may be on the warpath soon.
Well dear reader, what a development there has been at Chez Comb. Who would have thought it? After many years of happy marriage spouse has found another woman!. I know, you can't believe it, neither can I. But indeed it is true. I have been shunted a rung down the marital ladder in favour of Grizelda. She of the alluring dulcet tone of voice, gently directing his every move. It is true, I have been sidelined and now Grizelda has taken over our lives.
In a way it is my own fault. How can this be I hear you ask? If I am the innocent party why the mea culpa? I am no doormat to be trampled upon by this new woman. No indeed I am not, but the truth will out. I was the one who introduced Grizelda into our lives and now it would seem that spouse is so enamoured of her that she is here to stay. How will a menage a trois work for us? And do I want it to?
No, I have not entirely taken leave of my senses. Of course I regret that I am no longer first in his heart, but I cannot compete with Grizelda's charms and in spite of his quirky ways I am not inclined to ditch spouse any time soon. You see dear reader, I found Grizelda on the Internet. We were friends for some years, intermittently in contact and then one day I inadvertently discovered she was more talented that I ever dreamed of.
In my excitement at this new discovery I shared my new found knowledge with spouse. He was instantly smitten and so Grizelda entered our lives for ever. All my past assistance and talents are as nothing compared with Grizelda's My years of guidance gone for nought. Spouse is completely in love with Grizelda.
On a long journey to a new destination her velvet voice reassuringly guides him at every turn - a left here, a right there in fifty yards and when we reach journey's end he is entranced by her 'you have arrived' and thanks her profusely. I admit to a little pang of the old green eye at this point as I have on many occasions managed to successfully guide us in strange lands.
So dear reader, Grizelda Google Satnav is a fixture in our lives and whilst I admire her endless talents, endless accuracy and sweet-voiced directions, sometimes in the dark and quiet of the night, memories of the times we got hopelessly lost and laughed ourselves silly come back to me and I feel a tad wistful. Grizelda Google would never allow that now. Even when we do disobey her and take a different turn, she immediately reconfigures herself and gently sets our feet on a new path - drat the woman.
Being a bit fed up with her I let her batteries run down and spouse, without any thought of the expense involved, (remember here, he is a true Yorkshireman), bought her an in-car charger. Short of disabling our satellite systems I am snookered. I ask you dear reader - how long will three in this marriage last? For my money two's company - we shall see .....
Hello my dear reader and welcome to another slice of life at Chez Comb. We have been house and menagerie sitting for my Editor and her spouse in the Charente region of France. My lovely editor is fondly known by me as Genghis. She is not as savage as her namesake but she takes no literary prisoners either. Thus I generally submit manuscripts to her in slight trepidation and always in the hope of coming out the other side with my skin and scalp intact.
We spent a very pleasant few days with them before they went off to England for a family wedding and before they departed we went for a browse around the local Monday market followed by lunch at a nearby restaurant. Spouse thoroughly enjoyed himself cruising the cooked meats and cheese stalls - sampling all the wares of course and working up an appetite for lunch.
The French do lunch very well, fresh food beautifully cooked and presented, accompanied by carafes of local wine and all very reasonably priced. You will know by now my dear reader, that spouse has a very healthy appetite and that's the polite way of putting it. As you are aware I food shop on an industrial scale and am now the shopkeeper's new best friend.
So there we were in 'La Estelle' seated at a table next to four elderly Frenchmen who dined in the moderate way of the French - a little of this and a little of that, helped down with a small quantity of fresh crusty bread and a glass of rosé. Polite chit chat ensued as we took our seats and we sized up the five course set menu of the day. Spouse had made a good repast at breakfast but a wander around all the food stalls at the Marché had sharpened his appetite.
Now my dear reader, if there is one event I strenuously work at keeping him away from, it is a free-for-all buffet. And what did 'La Estelle' have? Correct, right on the nose, a buffet for the starters. My heart sank. Spouse would have a field day. And so he did. One plateful of mushrooms in Provencal sauce, cold meats, pasta, lentils, paté, tomatoes and crusty bread was consumed with gusto. So far so good. That's the first course put to bed. Only it wasn't. Spouse so enjoyed the first taster that he went back for a second plateful. Oo la la, the elderly Frenchmen smiled upon him indulgently and Francoise, the cheery, welcoming waitress cruised by ready to take our plates away and was surprised to find spouse still enjoying 'la buffet'.
The second course was French fabulous - slow cooked coq-au-vin in a delicious sauce with herby potatoes. Genghis and spouse could not manage all their potatoes and neither could I, so we offloaded some to spouse's plate and he partook with great gusto, mopping up the sauce with half a french loaf. By this stage our elderly French friends at the next table were intrigued. They were on the small and slight of build side of things - spouse as you will recall is of the blonde, blue-eyed viking ilk with hollow legs to accommodate vat quantities of viandes, which in this case was a second plate of wedges of bread and butter. Francoise brought it with great good humour and she and our elderly French friends watched in fascination as it rapidly disappeared along with quite a variety of delicious cheeses.
Francoise bore our plates away and returned to enquire about dessert. Brian was having his favourite peach melba, Genghis, the strawberry tart and I passed on dessert. Spouse wasn't having that. 'She'll have tiramasu' he said and grinned up at Francoise. 'In fact, make that two. Tiramasu's my favourite.' Francoise rolled her eyes and peeled away to fetch the puddings.
By this time our polite elderly French friends at the next table were agog and could not hide their interest and amazement at l'anglais' and his 'bon appetit'. They tried to carry on their own conversations, but when Brian piled a dollop of fresh cream from his pudding on to spouse's, a respectful silence descended upon them. They watched in awe as spouse demolished a mound of cream and tiramasu and then swapped plates and demolished mine too.
By now our French friends had finished their meal and were ready for departure. Gravely they saluted spouse, 'grande force' and 'beaucoup de respect Monsieur'. As we departed Francoise shook hands warmly with spouse and offered him a sandwich with some cold meats in to keep him going until he reached home!
It's not often the English dumbfound the French, but I have a feeling that after our Charentaise sojourn there may be quite a few locals walking about shaking their heads in disbelief. And spouse? As usual he went on his merry way loving all that France could throw at him and quite oblivious of the culinary nervous breakdowns he left in his wake.
Hello dear reader and welcome back to Chez Comb. Spouse and I sneaked off to France for a short while to look after a menagerie of animals whilst our friends came back to England for a family wedding. We enjoyed our visit but for my dear spouse some experiences were less joyous than others. One evening I felt quite a bit off colour, not as a result of my own domestic goddess duties, more I think, of succumbing to a touch of sun. So it was that I decided to retire early to my boudoir, leaving spouse in charge of a good DVD, two dogs and the cat. I soon fell into a dreamless sleep which is a rarity for me, but sadly spouse was not destined to enjoy such untroubled slumbers as I.
MIDNIGHT - Spouse decides to call it a night and calls Billy the cat indoors as Billy likes his home comforts and wouldn't dream of roughing it outdoors all night. Once the cat was in spouse locked the doors, put Billy's supper down and went off to make his night time preparations. On returning to the kitchen the dogs are still there but no cat. Where is Billy? Is he a feline Houdini? Spouse stares and scratches his head in puzzlement and then Billy appears miaowing outside the door. It dawns on spouse that Billy has followed him out of the room and hopped it out of the open window, only to come right round to the door again. Spouse hopes this is not a new game Billy has invented.
12.30 am Spouse goes off to sleep in the spare room so as not to disturb me. It is a very hot night and so he leaves all the internal doors open to allow any breeze there might be to waft through the house. Unfortunately it also allows the animals to roam and roam they do. Spouse climbs into bed and so does Billy the cat, ready to curl up beside him for the night. He is promptly pitched off but Buddy, the older dog likes that idea too and he climbs on to the bed, also to be ejected. Billy cat is undeterred and gets straight back on the bed and wraps himself around spouse's head and settles down miaowing softly in his ear. Spouse resigns himself to a night with Billy cat.
1 am Spouse leans over to the right to get the water from his bedside table. Zac the younger dog takes the opportunity to hop up on to the bed and snuggle into spouse's side. He is promptly ejected.
2 am Billy cat decides he's a bit peckish and it's time for a snackerel. He gently pats spouse on the cheek. Spouse is half awake but decides to ignore him as Billy does NOT need a meal at 2 am. Unfortunately Billy disagrees and bats spouse around the chops more forcefully. Spouse gives in and makes his way bleary eyed to the kitchen and pours the cat biscuits into the dish. Billy cat does not like to dine alone as the dogs will mug him for the food, so spouse has to keep guard whilst the cat munches his way through his meal.
2.15 am Spouse and Billy back to bed, first ejecting Buddy then Zac from the bed and settling Billy around his head again.
3 am Buddy and Zac pounding through the house barking loudly. Spouse out of bed as if shot from a cannon to quieten them before they disturb his dearly beloved, (me dear reader, in case you are wondering.)
3.10 am Both dogs settled in their respective beds and spouse seeks the comfort of his own, trying not to awaken the recumbent Billy.
4 am Billy feeling peckish again and wakens spouse with forceful batting around his face. Spouse too fuzzy with tiredness to resist and heads off to the kitchen again. Billy eats his early morning snack with relish - the dogs look on hungrily.
4.30 am A lone bird starts off the dawn chorus and the dogs erupt with loud barking in response. Spouse shoots out of bed to quieten them thus disturbing Billy cat sleeping around his head who miaows crossly and digs his claws into spouse's head. Dogs quietened and spouse climbs wearily back into bed.
5 am The dawn chorus is well underway and the dogs gallop up and down the corridor barking crossly. Spouse gives up the fight and brings both dogs into his room and drapes the sleeping cat over his head once more.
7 am It is time for doggie breakfasts. Both dogs have near perfect body clocks and start nibbling gently at spouse's arm which is draped outside the covers. By this time spouse has finally fallen asleep. The dogs start to bark insistently waking spouse immediately. Pavlov's dog couldn't have been quicker and breakfast is soon underway for all animals.
And me dear reader? Well I had a lovely night's sleep and awoke feeling refreshed and looking forward to all that the new day could bring. I bounced bright-eyed into the kitchen and there to my surprise was spouse, looking not quite as chipper as he usually did. In fact, looking rather frayed around the edges. I said in a bright voice, 'Good morning darling, what a beautiful day. I slept marvellously well, did you?'
Dear reader, I will draw a veil over his reply. I think I can safely leave that to your imagination. I would just add that when our friends returned and invited us to come again, spouse announced he was busy. When ever the dates were going to be, spouse was already busy! I think he has plans for next year and it seems they might not include France.
Hello my dear reader and welcome to another slice of life at Chez Comb, only it's a slice of life in the Charente region of France. We have been house and menagerie sitting for my Editor, fondly known by me as Genghis. She is not as savage as her namesake but she takes no literary prisoners either. Thus I always submit manuscripts to her in slight trepidation but always in the hope that I will come out the other side of the experience with my skin and scalp intact.
We spent a very pleasant few days with them before they went off to England for a family wedding, one of our excursions being a trip to the local Monday market followed by lunch at a nearby restaurant. Spouse thoroughly enjoyed himself cruising the cooked meats and cheese stalls - sampling all the wares of course and working up an appetite for lunch.
The French do lunch very well. Fresh food, beautifully cooked and presented, accompanied by carafes of local wine and all very reasonably priced. You will be now know my dear reader, spouse has a very healthy appetite and that's the polite way of putting it. As you are aware I food shop on an industrial scale and am the shopkeeper's new best friend.
So, there we were in 'La Estelle' seated at a table next to four elderly Frenchmen who dined in the moderate way of the French - a little of this and a little of that, helped down with a small quantity of fresh crusty bread and a glass of rosé. Polite chit chat ensued as we took our seats and sized up the five course set menu of the day. Spouse had made a good repast at breakfast but a wander around the food stalls at the Marché had sharpened his appetite.
Now my dear reader, if there is one event I strenuously work at keeping him away from, it is a free-for-all buffet. And what did La Estelle have? Correct. Right on the nose, a buffet for our starters. My heart sank. Spouse would have a field day. And so he did. One plateful of mushrooms in Provencal sauce, cold meats, pasta, lentils, paté, tomatoes and crusty bread and butter was consumed with gusto. So far so good. That's the first course put to bed. Only it wasn't. Spouse so enjoyed the first taster that he went back for a second plateful. Ooo la la, the elderly Frenchmen smiled indulgently on him and Francoise, the cheery welcoming waitress cruised by ready to take our plates away and was surprised to find spouse still enjoying 'la buffet'.
The second course was French fabulous. Slow cooked coq-au-vin in a delicious sauce with herby potatoes. Genghis and spouse Brian could not manage all the potato and neither could I. We off-loaded some to spouse's plate and he partook with great gusto, mopping up the sauce with half a French loaf. By this stage our elderly French friends at the next table were intrigued. They were on the small and slight of build side of things - spouse as you will recall is of the blonde, blue-eyed viking ilk, with hollow legs to accommodate vast quantities of viandes, which in this case was a second plate of wedges of bread and butter. Francoise brought it with great good humour and our elderly French friends watched in fascination as it rapidly disappeared, along with quite a variety of delicious cheeses.
Francoise returned to enquire about dessert. Brian was having his favourite peach melba, Genghis, the strawberry tart and I passed on dessert. Spouse wasn't having that. 'She'll have the tiramasu', he said and grinned up at Francoise. 'In fact, make that two. Tiramasu's my favourite.' Francoise rolled her eyes and peeled away to fetch the puddings.
By this time our polite elderly French friends at the next table were agog and could not hide their interest and amazement at l'anglais and his bon appétit. They tried to carry on their own conversations, but when Brian piled a dollop of fresh cream from his pudding on to spouses, a respectful silence descended upon them. They watched in awe as spouse demolished a mound of cream and tiramasu and then swopped plates with mine, attacking the second dessert with enthusiasm.
By now our French friends had finished and were ready for departure. Gravely they saluted spouse, 'grande force' and 'beaucoup de respect Monsieur'. As we to took our departure, Francoise shook hands warmly with spouse and offered him a sandwich with cold meats in to keep him going until he got home!
It is not often the English dumbfound the French, but I have a feeling that after our sojourn in the Charente, there are quite a few locals walking around shaking their heads in disbelief. And spouse? He went on his merry way loving all that France could throw at him, quite oblivious of the culinary nervous breakdowns he left in his wake.
Hello dear reader, this is just to let you know that my next blog will not appear until 24th June, as spouse and I are embarking on a few new projects, so I am having a holiday from writing and you can have a holiday from me! I hope the weather will be kind to us all and we can all be little baskers in the sunshine. Best wishes to everyone, Patricia.
Hello dear reader and welcome to another day at Chez Comb. I hope you are well and able to enjoy an occasional day of warmth and sunshine in between the downpours, mists and storms. We have missed the really bad weather in our corner of North Yorkshire. It has been cool and misty, but ever the optimist that I am, I have enjoyed it as it has been pleasant working weather in the garden. I have re-potted my bay trees and large skimmia shrubs and have told them that they must not grow into their new pots too quickly as there won't be new ones coming along any time soon. (I addressed them in a low voice to keep it private between ourselves as I didn't want spouse to have me carted off - he would find any excuse!)
Thinking about matters horticultural, I realise that I have a long history of chatting to my plants. It doesn't seem to have done them or me any harm so far and I am in good company as I know Prince Charles talks to his plants too. And if it's O.K. by him, who am I to disagree?
When I was a tad younger than I am now and a single girl, I used to supplement my coffers by going out gardening for folks on evenings and weekends. It helped to pay the mortgage and I met some lovely people in the process. My gardening week kicked off on a Saturday morning when I tended our large church garden. I really enjoyed this and spent a lot of time dispatching the weeds and keeping the flowers and shrubs in good order. One gentleman remarked that he wouldn't recognise me by my face but that I had the best known backside in Yorkshire as he only ever saw me bent down and tending the borders. Years later and I'm still not too sure what to make of this.
Another horticultural memory that comes to mind ... well, it's more personal than strictly horticultural. At this period when I was spare time gardening, Britain was in the boom times and consequently, property prices were constantly on the up. And so it was my dear reader, that people started buying their next house and moving on before they had sold their present house and fortunately for me, their gardens needed tending in the interim. Well and good, lots of lovely work for me via the local estate agents, but - with the houses being unoccupied there were no indoor facilities available to me and when Mother Nature calls, she calls and something has to be done about it.
Usually I would be lucky and could find a private spot in the garden to commune with nature, but I very soon learned that there is some weird and wonderful law of the universe that goes something along the lines of the minute you settle down amongst the shrubbery to answer the call of nature, the next door neighbour will appear in the garden bearing tea/coffee/grass rake/biscuits/garden shears or any other combination of items. The first few times this happened I was red with embarrassment. I mean - did they deliberately lie in wait for the moment or was there some malevolent force having fun at my expense? I know not, but it happened so often that I became expert at dealing with situation with dignity and aplomb.
Happily these days I only garden for myself and tend the local library gardens along with my friends and I am pleased to say that there are excellent facilities in both premises. No more embarrassing moments for me dear reader, not of that kind at any rate.
We are now into flaming June and spouse and I are about to embark upon some biggish projects. With this in view I am taking a break from writing and blogging and giving you my dear reader, a bit of a holiday from me. I hope to resume on Sunday 24th June and in the meantime I hope you enjoy this beautiful time of year and keep out of mischief as I intend to do and I hope my dear spouse will too.
Hello my dear reader and welcome. I hope I find you well and in good fettle, as they say in Yorkshire. I am in reasonable fettle, which is more than can be said for my spouse. In fact, it could be said that he is very hot and very cross and as usual, I am the unwitting cause of his woes. And all because we have been to a car boot sale!
Spouse being a true Yorkshireman, is a keen saver and has a money box in the shape of a house, wherein he saves all his twenty pence pieces. It so happened that yesterday morning when I checked my purse to see if I had some spending money for the car boot sale, I found I had seven twenty pences - the grand sum of one pound forty. I produced the coins, fondly imagining spouse would give me a pound coin and a fifty pence piece in exchange, (thus I'd be ten pence up on the deal). I should have known better, the coins were swiped out of my sticky little mitts and that was that. He said he would divvy up the dosh at the car boot - should I see anything I wished to purchase. 'Only one pound fifty, mind', he warned. 'Not a penny more. In fact, the parking costs a pound, so you'd best look for your fifty pence worth.' Fagin eat your heart out. It's a good job Oliver never came across spouse, he'd have been in a very bad way.
It was a beautiful day and we set out in good heart, our first visit to the car boot this season. Near to where we live, a giant car boot sale is held every Sunday on a local farmer's land. One field is used for parking and the adjacent two fields are taken up with all the stalls. All life is there and as the saying goes - one man's rubbish is another man's treasure. We spent a very happy morning wandering the stalls and I confess dear reader, that, extravagant creature that I am, I spent two pounds on two cast iron trivets for my kitchen. But my reckless expenditure was matched by spouse when he also spent two pounds on a new cold chisel. How exciting is that!
Ah but, the harmony of the morning did not last, sad to say. Somehow and I know not how, in and amongst all the stalls spouse mislaid me. Yes he did, he mislaid me as in lost sight of me and lost me to the crowds. I did not realise I had been mislaid and slowly drifted along, taking in the sights and sounds of all the stalls and generally having a whale of a time and I have to say it had not dawned on me that spouse had lost sight of me.
Spouse meanwhile was very alive to this situation and was already wondering whether I had fallen prey to brigands and had been spirited away with a view to a ransom note being delivered to Chez Comb later in the day. (No doubt it would have been for more than one pound fifty and in which case one must ask oneself would he have paid it, or haggled?) However I digress - back at the car boot sale field, spouse began searching for me, but to no avail. I was not to be found and he began to really worry. Ah, I hear you say. See how he cares about you and worries about you. I bet he was more worried about his wallet. I had put it in my bag and now we had both gone missing!
It was a long time before it dawned upon me that I had been mislaid. I was so entranced by the variety of goods on offer that I drifted along in a happy bubble. But believe me dear reader, when I finally became aware that I was where I was and spouse was not, a smidgen of apprehension entered my heart. For I had been mislaid once before on a visit to the Cumbrian town of Penrith and had been lost to spouse for a good half an hour or more. An enraged bull could not have had more steam coming out of his ears than spouse on that occasion. I think my ears are still ringing from the dressing down I received - as if it was all my fault!
Meanwhile back at the car boot sale - what does one do in these situations? Should I stay where I was and hope to be discovered, or retrace my steps and hope to bump into him? I decided to retrace my steps and wended my way back and forth along the stalls. But there was no sign of spouse. I assumed he would be looking for me as I was looking for him and I was looking for him, honestly I was, but wouldn't you know it - for a few nanoseconds my attention was diverted to a stall selling kitchenware and I must tell you dear reader, it is one of my weaknesses, I love a bit of kitchenalia and this stall had period stuff that was fabulous and I couldn't resist taking a quick peek and right at that moment didn't spouse find me - pounced upon me really, like a cat honing in on its prey.
I never did get a proper look at that stall. As I said at the beginning, a very hot and very cross spouse dragged me away from it and I have to say dear reader, that it's a jolly good job we were in public or his language might have extended to the more fruity variety as he was so cross. It was bad enough as it was and quite a few folk stared as I was frog-marched back to the car.
He says he was very worried about me and knew I wouldn't find my way back to the car in the field, as I had taken no notice of all at where we had parked it and in any case, as is well known, I have no sense of direction anyway and I'd never find it in a million years. Well I would have dear reader. I assume he would have waited for me and then everyone would have departed and his would have been the only car left, so of course I would have found it! Spouse was not at all impressed with this reasoning and he drove home grim-faced.
I am hoping his crossness won't last too long as (a) there won't be any ransom note coming his way and (b) the lost sheep is found. I hope to build on these positives as I would love to revisit that kitchen stall next weekend. If he doesn't mislay me again this week, I might be in with a chance. Enjoy your week dear reader and long may this lovely summer sun shine on us all.
Hello dear reader and welcome to another Sunday at Chez Comb. In fact we are only half way through the day and I want to go and lie down in a darkened room already, or possibly leave home, as once again I am in the doghouse with spouse and a release date does not loom on the horizon any time soon. At the time of writing, the Sabbath day peace and tranquility does not reign in the house. Spouse is more than a tad put out.
At the start of the morning spouse was just being spouse. 'Nothing wrong with that', I hear you say and in some respects this is true. We had attended an early church service with a view to spending the day in our garden, continuing with our wrecking spree. Once again this week, the weather has been beautiful, but spouse has been away on his Good Samaritan work, transporting folk to hospital appointments and thus has not been able to get out and about in his pastures.
Thus it was that come Sunday morning he was ready and raring to go. Out came the chainsaw. I know, I can feel you wincing even as I type the word. When I see that beast come out of the shed, (the chainsaw not spouse), I take myself off. I realise my thinking is a little illogical, but if he is going to saw his leg off I don't want to be there to see it, on the other hand maybe I need to be nearby with a tourniquet to hand - just in case.
Anyway, out came the chainsaw and spouse set about finishing off old tree stumps. I retired to a safe distance away, flattening the areas either side of our new steps up to the summer sitting room, so that I can park some of my pots there. I know, trivia, trivia. Never mind all that, who wants to know about a woman and a spade. What is happening with spouse let loose with a chainsaw? Well not a lot as it turned out. He didn't get very far with it, as he realised the chain was a bit loose and he and saw returned to the meg-shed for a little first aid on the chain.
As told to me, he got the tool out to tighten the chain and then saw that there was quite a lot of dirt attached to the inside of the chain. Wanting to keep his saw in tip-top condition, he set about teasing out the muck. All went well. One side was duly cleaned and so he turned the saw over to clean the other. Ah, but - here the thrifty Yorkshireman came unstuck. The chainsaw was missing the cap that fitted over the little oil tank. Spouse had made a temporary stopper for it, but when he turned the saw over the stopper fell out, got squashed underneath the saw and out came all the oil. It being Sunday, the DIY store in town was closed, so that put an end to his chainsaw activities for the day.
However, spouse was in tree stump removal mode and was not easily deterred. Out came the executioner-sized axe and he set about the stumps once again. All my domestic goddess activities in the culinary department definitely paid off as spouse gave the stumps very short shrift and he was soon standing triumphantly in the middle of the garden, waving a tree stump in each hand. With his bare torso blackened with oil and muck and waving what looked very like a couple of shrunken human heads about, I hurried to his side to take them off him. Really, he only needed a few fancy stripes painting on his cheeks and chest and he could be anywhere but England.
Satisfied with his handiwork, spouse turned his attention to our old and now defunct pond. Full of boulders and dead and tangled reeds it is an unlovely sight. We are going to fill it in and build a new pond elsewhere. I had begun the task of digging out some of the old reeds earlier in the week. Not a pleasant task as the water is black, rank and extremely malodorous, but I made a good effort and spouse was ready to continue the work.
He donned his wellington boots and made his way into the pond, spade in hand. I admit he made a fair job of it and a lot of the reeds were despatched around the edges of the pond during the rest of the morning. But a woman, bless her little heart, likes a tidy job and when she came to inspect some long time later, pointed out to spouse that he had missed quite a few bunches here and there.
Spouse rolled his eyes and said they were a bit difficult to reach and I robustly rejoined, 'nonsense, you've got a long reach. Put you're back into it and finish the job.' And that's why I'm now in the doghouse and poor spouse is in the shower. If he was a bit mucky before he went into the pond, he was a darned sight blacker when he came out - after losing his footing and falling right in, in pursuit of those last elusive reeds I mentioned. Oh my, he went down with quite a splash and came out speechless with rage and pondweed. I think the gist of his words were 'why couldn't you leave well alone', (to me) but he put matters a great deal more forcefully than that.
I know from my own experience of cleaning myself off after wading in my wellies in the pond, just how much oily muck adheres to skin and bone. Poor spouse, he could well still be black and blue when he comes out of the shower, but hopefully, will smell a little sweeter than when he went in.
Meanwhile my dear reader, I will lurk in my doghouse this afternoon and hope I will be forgiven before sundown. A glass of chilled white and his favourite dinner may secure my release. I'm off to my domestic goddess duties right now. See you next week, I hope, unless he's buried me in the pond before then.
Hello my dear reader and welcome to Chez Comb I hope I find you well and in good heart. What a wonderful week of good weather we have had here in North Yorkshire. I know we English bang on about the weather a great deal - we are renowned for it - and that's because we get an awful lot of it. We never quite know from one hour to the next what will come our way and believe me, when it's a week of glorious sunshine we go about smiling and exclaiming about it until the cows come home.
It has been a very quiet week here at Chez Comb as spouse has been away every day. He's a volunteer driver for a charity that takes folk for medical appointments, be they near or far - and this week they were far. Like the buses, you can wait for one to come along and then three come at once and so the appointments came in for spouse, every day this week and all long distance. So my dear reader, marital harmony has been at its peak , spouse has departed at the crack of dawn and returned tired and hungry at dusk.
I have been keeping the home fires burning so to speak, well - not actually burning as it's too hot, but I have been keeping hearth and home together as the electrician, plumber and carpet fitter have all called and done their work to finish off our summer sitting room, had tea and biscuits and departed. In between these gents and my domestic goddess duties I have been working in the garden with an inconsolable Simon seagull trailing in my wake.
Simon seagull entered our lives at the beginning of last winter along with his mate Sophie. Now the seagulls that have made their homes in and around our Yorkshire Wolds village usually perch on the roof and chimney tops, talking and squawking animatedly together and generally keeping well away from us humans on the ground. They might deign to come for a drink at one of our bird baths and snaffle the odd worm or two from the lawn, but that's it - at the slightest movement glimpsed from within the house, they are off like little white rockets.
Simon is different as seagulls go. I cannot describe him as bold. Seagulls living on the coast become accustomed to us humans being around and develop a boldness of spirit that can extend as far as being food thieves - hence all the notices, 'please do not feed the seagulls.' Simon arrived in our garden one winter's day and from the first he was a gentleman among seagulls, gentle, kind, never greedy and always grateful. On that first day after cautiously doing a recce of the garden, he invited his mate Sophie to hop up on to the bird bath and get a drink whilst he kept watch. Only after she had slaked her thirst did Simon take his turn. After this he turned his attention to the bird seed set out on a plastic plate on the lawn, meant for the blackbirds and robins that cannot cling to the bird feeders hung from the trees. Again, after cautiously inspecting the goods and checking no predators lurked nearby, Simon stepped back and watched over Sophie whilst she ate.
This was the start of our friendship with Simon and Sophie. They came every day, usually twice a day for food and drink and gradually over the winter months they became less wary of us and started to trust us, not flying off at our approach and even getting to used to spouse as he dug out old tree roots, preparing for his new shed base. We began to leave them seagull treats out - bits of fish went down a storm In the depths of winter when insects were scarce. When we looked out on frosty mornings, Simon and Sophie would be hanging around hopefully in the garden. How could we resist? Spouse was out of the door with a generous seagull breakfast whilst I prepared ours indoors.
Simon and Sophie have been our delight all through the winter and early spring. We have watched them quite obviously arguing and falling out with each other, Sophie flying off to perch on a different roof and chattering away indignantly, whilst Simon chunters away to himself on ours. Eventually though the quarrel is forgotten and they get back together, so obviously glad to be reconciled and a lot of joyful wheeling around the skies ensues.
With the coming of spring we were looking forward to welcoming Simon and Sophie's chicks and laid in some gastronomic seagull delights. But it is not to be, there will be no chicks this year as Sophie is no longer with us. We don't know what happened, whether a cat or some other country predator caught her unawares on the ground, but our lovely Sophie is dead. I came downstairs one morning long after spouse had departed on his hospital driving mission, to hear Simon frantically shrieking down the bottom of the garden. Something was obviously amiss. I was too late to be of any help to Sophie. She had gone and Simon was distraught.
I have buried Sophie in the garden. I shed many tears as I went about my work, with Simon watching intently, softly squawking and crooning all the while. Seagulls mate for life and he is inconsolable. He nibbles in a disinterested way at the choice fishy morsels I try to tempt him with and sits dull-eyed for hours on our roof. eschewing the company of the other seagulls all around him. When I work in the garden he is with me and my heart breaks for him.
What of the future for Simon? I know not. How long will his grief last? Will he find another mate? This remains to be seen. Meanwhile I will do my best to keep him company through the summer as I go about my garden wrecking and re-building. I feel very privileged to share his company and his grieving. Love and loss go hand in hand. I hope Simon will love again one day.
Hello dear reader, I hope I find you well in this merry month of May. Spring is well and truly springing all over the place and the birds and bees are doing - well, what birds and bees do - finding mates and nesting, especially in the trees in our garden, in spite of all Spouse's activities out there.
It has been a very busy week at Chez Comb. The builders have finally departed having completed their work on the new summer sitting room and we have enjoyed a few days peace and quiet. We now await the electrician, the 'blind' man and the 'carpet' man next week and then hope to move in. Meanwhile as Spring has sprung, whilst I have been having a bit of a spring clean indoors, Spouse has been outdoors.
I don't know if you recall dear reader, but I decided to dispense with the old washing line and metal posts as although practical, they do not enhance the view or add to the ambience of our little patch of England. Also, as Spouse had had a rather unhappy encounter with said washing line he had come around to my way of thinking and whilst the line had been dismantled, the metal posts supporting it still remained. Spouse went to his wondrous new shed and emerged with a long electric lead and grinder.
Spouse - electricity - powerful grinder ... need I say more. No, I'm sure I don't need to, but I will anyway. I think the motor in the grinder overheated trying to cut through the two metal posts and I heard the yelps of pain as I wielded my duster in the house. I'm sorry to confess dear reader, but I rolled my eyes and reached for the First Aid box, thinking 'now what?' Apparently the grinder had got so hot, smoke issued from it and then flames shot up his arm. Thankfully he dropped it and only needed minor burns bathing and dressing.
So that was that. Washing poles 1, grinder 0. Not the best outcome ever. A new grinder would have to be purchased. Now as you know dear reader, Spouse is a Yorkshireman and expenditure of any kind is not undertaken lightly, but in this instance expenditure there must be, as I was not going to stare out at a metal post standing like a totem pole in the middle of the garden. It was Spouse's turn to roll his eyes, but having done this, he shook the moths out of his wallet and took himself off to the DIY store.
The next day I'm happy to say the second metal pole was down and the new grinder has survived the experience, also Spouse. However, the week was not yet over and all the while the sun was shining and more importantly, the grass was a-growing. Off to his mega-shed trotted Spouse and came out with the lawn mower and all was well, two thirds of the lawn was given a haircut, but the lawn beyond the hedges must have been sown with a different variety of grass, as it was almost knee high and needed the strimmer on it before the lawnmower could go over it.
Spouse - a strimmer - and a nearby bonfire ... well, there you are. I don't really need to write any more do I dear reader? Yes, you've got it in one. There was Spouse happily strimming away, knocking down the grass like a good 'un, not a care in the world and then bingo! How does he do it? Smoke and flames issued forth from the strimmer, right next to my lovely dry bonfire material. My, my, it could have been November 5th - pity we didn't have Guy Fawkes on top, the lot went up in flames in moments.
I had my lovely new rotary washing pole up with loads of laundry on it which soon got covered in black smuts and smelled like - well, smelled of the bonfire. It would all have to be done again. I was not exactly the happiest Easter bunny there ever was at this prospect. Not only that, but now we had no strimmer and a very doleful Spouse had to take himself off to the DIY store again. Twice in one week! Dear reader, he is almost a broken man and so are the poor old moths that have been made homeless from his wallet.
If it wasn't for the fact that it is a Bank Holiday weekend and the Tour de Yorkshire cycle race is coming through the village, I would go outside and do a rain dance. Now that would give the neighbours something to talk about. However, I will resist the temptation as I have no wish to spoil the weekend's revelries for everyone. I will have to try and keep Spouse out of the garden for a day or two somehow. A burnt arm, a lump the size of an turtle's egg on his head and an empty wallet is enough for one man in a week, isn't it?
Have a good weekend dear reader and with luck I'll be with you next week, unless one of us is electrocuted, burnt or blown up. Who knows ... least of all me.
Hello dear reader and welcome to another week at Chez Comb. I has been an interesting one as I have been doing literary things for a change. I was interviewed on the Adam and Anna In The Afternoon Show on Radio York on Wednesday and Anna's opening comments were that the Café Paradise books were a bit racy and off the wall! Mmm, I'm not too sure what to make of that one. On Saturday I was at a Lit Fest day in Chorley and after my Café Paradise presentation a member of the audience who follows my weekly blogs asked me if 'Spouse' really existed, or had I invented him?' Now really dear reader, would anyone invent Spouse? Although I confirmed that he was real, she went away looking unconvinced. And so it's back to the writing block for me. Much better to lurk at Chez Comb and write what I like anyway, as no-one believes what I say in the first place!
That's enough of literary outings for now. Let's turn our attention to matters on a different plane entirely. The human psyche and yes - in the same breath this involves Spouse. I bet you never imagined in your wildest, that one day we would be discussing his psyche. Pause - to assimilate this notion.
We were on the lookout for very large plant pots as our bay trees had well outgrown their old ones and were almost begging for mercy for bigger pots. We have scoured all the garden centres locally to no avail and as we were going to York for the aforementioned radio spot, Spouse volunteered to look on the internet for a garden centre along our route. Come the morning to set out on our travels, when asked about the garden centre it turned out that Spouse had not actually researched it, but he said with absolute and unshakeable confidence 'my subconscious knows the way.'
Excuse me - am I missing something here? Is his subconscious working on a higher plane than mine? Obviously it is, because in the event we travelled the country roads on the outskirts of York to a wonderful garden centre, almost in the back of beyond. Not only had we never been that way before but it was one of the best I've ever been to.
I would listen to Spouse's subconscious more often if it came up with such great results, but it doesn't always work in my favour. He is now channelling my Mother through it and also my Father. Scary or what? Now don't get me wrong, I loved my departed parents dearly, but the only too mildly irritating things they did - old Spouse is now doing - without ever being told about them in the first place
If I had been naughty as a child, or as a rebellious teenager come to that, my father, who was usually a cheery man, would summon me into his presence, calling for 'PATRICIA', in a loud, exasperated grinding-of-the-teeth kind of way. I knew this voice much too well and it always meant that I was well and truly in the soup. I can't imagine why dear reader, but Spouse has developed the exact same voice when at the end of his tether and 'PATRICIA' resounds through the house. He is my father re-incarnate.
As if that's not enough he's now taken to crimping the natural waves in my hair between his fingers - just like my dearest Mama used to do and I detested it then as much as I do now. When I told him how my Mother used to do that crimping nonsense, Spouse smiled a mysterious smile and said sweetly, 'I'm channelling Mother'.
Now I know he was always her blue-eyed boy, but this is ridiculous. I am not having my Mother directing operations from beyond the grave. If she does much more I might have her exorcised. Dealing with Spouse is quite enough, I don't need my Mama throwing into the mix.
I hope you have a good week dear reader and I sincerely hope I will be here too - spook and psyche-free next week. I am my Mother's daughter, I will have to take a firm line with her. She can go and channel one of my siblings for a change.
Hello there dear reader and welcome to another week at Chez Comb. It has been an interesting one, but then living with Spouse it always is! The weather has been glorious and we have started work on the re-design of our overgrown garden. We have been here almost a year now and Spouse has his big shed up and running, so I am hoping that this summer will see all his energies channelled into dismantling the old garden and re-building the new - along with my assistance of course. We have been taking out long-dead trees and leggy old shrubs and so the executioner's axe has come into use again. Believe me dear reader, if you saw Spouse enthusiastically wielding a very large axe, you too would speak nicely to him - and so I did.
That is until he almost knocked himself out with it and then I got very cross. I had suggested removing the old washing line and post as it is an unlovely sight in the garden, but Spouse disagreed and began working immediately beneath it, breaking up an old tree stump. Wouldn't you know it, he lifted the axe up preparatory to come crashing down on the stump and bounced off the washing line, braining himself with great force in the process. He yelped and staggered back with blood running down his forehead. Now he is sporting a lump the size of a large egg on his forehead and I have nobly resisted going down the 'I told you so' route.
To distract him from his axeman activities, I suggested he had a bonfire later in the evening. At the bottom of the garden there is a large lawn much overgrown with buttercups and weeds and so I have been piling up all our chopped down bits of trees for burning on it (we've kept the trunks for the log burner next winter). One simple bonfire would have been fine, but as you will know by now dear reader, Spouse never does anything by halves. Not content with getting that one going, he set fire to a large tree that he had spent all afternoon trying to dispose of. It was an old fir tree with many thick branches. Dear reader you have never seen anything like it. Armageddon had come to Yorkshire. The flames and the billowing smoke from two simultaneous fires were an awesome sight to behold - with Spouse frantically running between the two of them to keep them under control. A long time later he staggered back to the house, hair and eyebrows singed and looking like he had spent a long shift down a coal mine. Maybe we'll leave the fire thing for a while and get back to the garden, perhaps a little gentle weeding as (a) it isn't dangerous and (b) it won't upset the neighbours.
We haven't upset the neighbours but as you know from previous blogs dear reader, they do think we are slightly off the wall and possibly a little bizarre, (remember the chimney smoking episodes of a few weeks ago). After this week, it is now official - we are barking bonkers. How is this? Well, we are having a new summer sitting room built on the back of the house The plumber is doing his plumbing and now the electricians want to do their electrics as in power points and T.V. point. And they need to know where we would like them siting. It would have been fine if they had wanted to know this week, as we have been sitting outside in the glorious evening sunshine in the half-built room. But no, they needed to know last week when the weather wasn't so good - in fact, it was awful - cold, misty and wet.
So, what did we do? We got the sun chairs out and sat outside underneath our umbrellas in the rain, trying to decide where the furniture was going to go and where we would need sockets for lamps and a T.V. point. Even now, a week later, on one side our neighbours avoid us altogether and on the other they scuttle away at our approach, shaking their heads in disbelief. Maybe one day I will get to explain things - but that is not looking likely any time soon.
And now Sunday has come round again, the start of a whole new week. I hope it will be disaster free as we have friends visiting and I can do without Spouse sporting cuts, bruises or black eyes - he'll blame me, rolling those big, baby blues eyes of his and saying in a broken voice, 'if you only knew ...' And they'll probably believe him!
I hope you have a splendid week dear reader and that the sun shines on all of us. I hope to be here next week, always providing that Spouse hasn't buried me under the new concrete floor about to go down in the garden .....
Hello dear reader and welcome to another Sunday at Chez Comb. It has been a bit of a roller coaster of a week for me and for once nothing to do with my dear Spouse. Yes indeedy, he is lily-white and in the clear. A friend of mine once said that I could cause bother in an empty house. Well, Chez Comb is not empty but I have caused bother for myself.
For some years now I have been prone to leaky eyes - tear fluid constantly flowing. No doubt some of you are familiar with this pesky condition. At first it was diagnosed as 'dry eyes' and eye drops were prescribed to alleviate things. But things gradually deteriorated and the eye drops did not seem to make much difference, to the extent that one evening last year when I wanted to watch a particular wildlife programme on the television, I could only watch it with the lights out and wearing sunglasses!! At this point I took myself off to the optician who, after a thorough examination decided I did not have 'dry eyes' but may have blocked tear ducts, a condition I may have to put up with as even though an operation would ease things, the effects might not last long.
Stay with me dear reader, I promise you, this is not too shaggy a dog story. For another week or so after visiting said optician, I put up with weepy eyes and then had the bright idea of looking the condition up on the internet. As I am in the main a healthy person I have not had cause to seek out information on afflictions. But I am very glad I did. I went to the NHS website and looked up 'blocked tear ducts' and learned quite a lot more about them. Not only that but a simple massage of the area between the eye and the nose on a daily basis or even a few times daily helps alleviate the symptoms.
Brilliant. Thank you NHS and the massaging worked. My weepy eyes were greatly improved. But - here is a weird thing. All in my little eye world is hunky dory until a bit of stress comes on the scene and then off I go again, eyes leaking like a tap. I have no idea what the connection is but there must be one somewhere and I hope someday, someone will enlighten me.
I know dear reader, what a wimp I am and what bother I have caused for myself this week. It goes like this - I am planning a romantic comedy novel for next year, Walking Bertie. The principle male character is a crime writer and for the purposes of the book I needed an outline plot of a crime novel for him to discuss. I really enjoyed constructing this and getting to know my new detective on our Easter journeyings to and from the south of England. Arriving home bright-eyed and bushy-tailed I embraced the new week happy and dry-eyed.
Until I randomly picked up a crime novel from my pile of waiting to be read books by my bed. After the first few chapters my tears began to run, big time, as the uneasy notion stole over me that the plot in this book might unfold along the lines of mine.
In between my domestic goddess duties at home, it has taken me the best part of the week to wade through the novel, eyes spouting copiously along the way, as I stressed as to whether I was going to have to think up an entirely new plot. My literary concerns were unfounded thank goodness, as this crime novel was a very muscular one, packed full of violent deaths in as many different ways as I could every imagine, but of course, I had to read right to the end to make absolutely sure.
Magically dear reader, my eyes are getting much better now that I know i can sashay on my own sweet way with my lovely detective and - talk about teaching an old dog new tricks - I am surprised at how desperately I cared about the plot within the plot of Walking Bertie - it may be comedy but it's serious stuff to me and at the dawn of this Sunday morning Chief Inspector Francis di Angeli is poised ready to make his debut in what may turn out to be Are You Going to Mulberry Fair? and I am one very happy Easter bunny.
I hope you have a very pleasant and dry-eyed week dear reader. The weather forecast for North Yorkshire is good and Spouse and I intend to start re-modelling our gardens. As this may involve the use of power tools I hope I will still be here to tell the tale next week. Happy Eastertide.
Hello my dear reader, how nice to meet up again after the Easter break. Spouse and I have been away for a week's holiday in the south of England visiting family and doing touristy things. If you ever get the opportunity to visit the Portsmouth Dockyard do go, the Mary Rose exhibition is amazing. The ship sunk in 1545 and the Trust has managed to rescue half of its hull and thousands of artefacts from it are on display. You can tour Lord Nelson's ship, the Victory and take a boat across the bay to tour around a submarine. Then we moved on to Canterbury and visited ancient churches and of course, the Cathedral, (took in family there too!). A wonderful trip all in all, but that's enough about our journeyings. The thing is, it is some distance from North Yorkshire to Hampshire and Kent and whilst sitting in a car the old brain box gets to thinking ...
Spouse and I can happily yap away to each other for long enough and then there is always Radio 4 and then a whole bunch of CD's to listen to, as I forgot to get a talking book from the library prior to our departure. But everything happens for a reason dear reader and the reason was that I now had thinking time. Recently I have been constructing a new romantic comedy - in my head and on scrappy bits of paper - I know, the organisation is impressive - and one of my characters in this book is a writer. How's that for originality in a writer, eh? In my plot he sometimes discusses his plot with his lady friend. So ... you can see where I'm heading with this - I need a plot within a plot to discuss. Shades of Hamlet here, although sadly, I am no Shakespeare.
What a lovely journey I had down to Hampshire. My writer character is a crime writer, so I have created a detective and a crime, in fact a series of crimes for him and his team to solve. My detective is delicious, so much so that I think I am a little in love with him myself, although best not communicate this fact to Spouse, he may not be too impressed.
The homeward journey was equally interesting, although a little alarming for poor Spouse. He nearly drove into a tree when I asked out of nowhere, 'could a woman have the strength to garrote a man?' No need to take it personally dear Spouse, I was only asking. Writing romantic comedy as I do, I am not generally called upon to delve into the depths of human depravity, but my plot within a plot is taking shape that way and I have to confess dear reader, that I am really enjoying it.
Spouse however, is not enjoying this new experience. There is much talk of violence, guns, knives and murders and many a wary look is cast my way. In fact, I think Spouse is giving me a wide berth altogether. I can separate fact from fiction in my life, but I have to admit it's quite fun to drop the odd snippet about my murderer into our conversations - especially as it's a woman. Funnily enough, I don't think he's sleeping too well either - possibly with one eye and ear cocked - just in case ...
It's just as well we are staying home for most of the summer. I don't thinks Spouse's nerves could stand it if there was another long trip in the offing. Not yet there isn't, but there is talk of visiting Australia - what a trip that would be for thinking time. Excuse me, I must go and check my passport.
And if I was in charge of writing the script I would write it a great deal better than this last week. There, that's got that off my chest. Hello dear reader, I hope you haven't been taking bets with yourself about the kind of week I might have had and if you have, hurrah for you, as you've been backing a racing certainty. Yes indeedy, it was another purler of a week and enough is enough. Thankfully the last couple of days have been OK, so I am hopeful that the gods have ended their sport with us.
If you recall my dear reader, we had a viciously smoking chimney in our sitting room and had to leave our windows open to freshen the place up, even though it was sub-zero temperatures outside. In due course the chimney sweep arrived, swept the chimney which was not much sooted up and prior to his departure pronounced us hale and hearty in the chimney department. We were instructed to light a small fire to warm the chimney up as it had been out of use for a week, thus avoiding the smoke problem.
Like the good little pre-Easter bunnies that we are, we obeyed instructions and lit a small fire. Eureka, no problems at all. The smoke went where smoke is meant to go - up the chimney and not pouring out of the many holes on top of the stove. I have no idea why those holes are there anyway - are they there just in case the smoke can't get up the chimney?
Encouraged with this success, Spouse kept the fire going and we enjoyed a pleasant evening toasting our toes in front of it. Ah me, ah my. We should have quit whilst we were ahead. The gods had not done with us yet. The temperatures had started to drop again and we were forecast a bitterly cold weekend - so we lit the fire. The chimney was still warm from the previous day and we looked forward to enjoying another evening by our fireside. Well of course we didn't, did we? No, once again our iron dragon breathed smoke from all its little holes and smoked us out. So as the temperatures dropped we opened our windows and donned our thermals. Our neighbours will now be convinced that we are absolutely barking, as we appear to only open our windows when it is freezing cold.
We took refuge in our little sun room, where there is no sun to warm it up on a freezing March night and we huddled once more over the small electric fire. To cheer ourselves up we mixed stiff G&T's and put the little T.V. on. After a while I pushed off to the kitchen with my drink and went about my evening meal domestic goddess duties, whilst Spouse relaxed in the adjoining sun room. All was not too bad in our little world - until wham bang - the light bulb in the table lamp exploded, sending shards of glass everywhere - all over the floor, the chairs, Spouse and worst of all, into his G&T. Let me tell you dear reader, one little light bulb goes a helluva long way when it has a mind to and in spite of intensive hoovering and cleaning we are still finding slivers of glass. I don't think Spouse has got over having to ditch a full G&T down the sink - I mean, a Yorkshireman throwing out a full glass - not to be spoken about lightly believe me.
Against this backdrop we also had the builders working away outside every day, laying the base for our new summer sitting room, (thankfully no chimney required there) and they were traipsing in and out of the house at intervals to use the bathroom. I had dust sheets down, so that was fine, I can live with cement covered boots stomping in and out. (No, actually, I can't. I just grit my teeth as I hoover up their grit and pray for the day when they will finally finish the job!!)
And then came the man and his apprentice from the window company to fit our new bathroom window. Imagine fitting a window in the pouring rain! Well somehow they did it but methinks there is now one terrified apprentice trotting about North Yorkshire, having encountered me on a bad day.
Picture the scene. I had spread dustsheets everywhere in anticipation of workmen's boots up and down the stairs with the new window. The window fitter was in the bathroom and I was in the bedroom rootling about in a chest for a missing tablecloth. The apprentice was outside in the rain, underneath the new window opening. The fitter called out to his apprentice,
'And make sure you wipe your boots properly before coming upstairs, don't want any dirty marks on the carpets.'
Too right we don't, thinks I and calls out to young apprentice in my best dragons's voice, 'Because if you do I might have to kill you.'
Sharp intake of breath followed by silence. Oh the life of the poor apprentice. Our fitter fitted the window and departed to pack his tools, leaving the poor boy to wash the bathroom floor and gather in their own dustsheets. Somehow, someone's big boots had slithered beneath the dustsheets and there were several unlovely muddy boot marks on the bedroom carpet. A white-faced apprentice approached me and asked in a quavering voice for 'a bucket of hot water, Missus.'
When I learned of the poor lad's plight I did not unleash the wrath of Genghis upon him dear reader, neither did I give him his bucket of hot water to scrub my carpet. A good squirt of carpet cleaner would do the job a lot better. The poor lad scuttled off gratefully, if a little pale. I hope he doesn't come back when they come to glaze the new room. He might drop a window in fright if he claps eyes on me again.
So there you have it dear reader - smoked out rooms, exploding light bulbs, noisy cement mixers, muck and grit everywhere and boot marks all over the new carpet. Next week is going to be a lot better - it has to be - or I'm leaving home.
I will not be writing my blog next week, as Spouse and I are having an Easter break - at least I hope we will. Snow is forecast, so who knows ... I hope to be with you on April 8th. Happy Easter and very best wishes to you.
I am beginning to think that I have been married to spouse for too long. It's alright dear reader, there is no cause for alarm. I have not suddenly fallen out of love with spouse and wish to move on. Quite the reverse. I know people say you can grow to look like your dog, but do you grow to start thinking like your spouse? Or even worse, doing things like he does. I think this must be the case. as I am starting to get into bother again.
I am still recovering from our latest visit to the supermarket. What is it about those places? They always seem to spell trouble for us. I wonder if other people have the same problems. It's a difficult question that I would love to ask, but then I would have to admit to the kind of scrapes that we get into and do I really want to acknowledge the fact that I can be a bit of a dork sometimes? O.K., so my friends probably know that already, but why give them ammunition?
So, this week just for once we had an uneventful trip around the shop and filled our trolley without any mishaps, arguments or breakages. Bearing in mind the events of last week, I felt that perhaps, at last, the gods were smiling on us once more. With a spring in my step, I made my way jauntily to the check out and unloaded our goods on to the conveyor belt. The lady in front of me paid her bill and departed. The check out lady pressed her button to move the belt along to begin checking out our purchases, but nothing happened. It seemed the belt had given up the ghost. So we manually moved our goods along the belt and the lady began checking them through and I packed the bags.
Towards the end of the operation, I caught sight of spouse pushing down on the conveyor belt where it bends round for the return trip. He seemed to be working on it with his thumbs.
'What is he doing?' I wondered uneasily. 'It's not his piece of kit and he should leave well alone. If it's broken, it's broken.'
Ah, but I was wrong dear reader. Hey presto, the belt began moving again. Triumphantly spouse joined me, ready to depart from the store.
'It was the bumps that was stopping it from moving. I've flattened them out and that cured the problem.'
The check out lady was smiling gratefully at him and without thinking I said, 'Oh, I wondered why he was feeling your bumps.'
Silence - and then she turned red and I turned red and spouse dragged me out of the store pronto, hissing in my ear, 'did you have to say that?'
Spouse is not one to hold grudges and amicable relations were restored between us later that day. A happy situation that was not destined to last however. I wouldn't have believed it possible to trump our Saturday experience, but yes indeedy dear reader, I surpassed myself the very next day. After our Sunday morning church service we adjourned as usual to the adjacent coffee room. As we queued for our coffee, we chatted to friends around us and spouse searched in his pockets for some money to put in the 'donations welcome' coffee dish. Out came the funds and an old receipt with it. He looked at it and turned it over and saw a name on the back. He looked at it blankly, shook his head and passed it over to me.
'I don't recognise the name,' he said.
I looked at it and didn't either. 'Was is someone you picked up?' I asked.
You know those moments dear reader, when momentarily there is a lull in the general conversation and there is usually one person whose voice carries on and the drift of their conversation can be clearly heard by everyone. Well, my innocent comment occurred in just such a lull. And following it a collective sharp intake of breath and embarrassed silence.
'What do you mean, "someone I picked up?"' spouse asked icily, 'I am not in the habit of "picking people up" as you so nicely put it.'
It dawned on me that we had got our wires crossed - again. How to rescue the situation? I just had to be bold and go for it.
'Yes you do, you pick people up all the time.'
Suppressed titters around the room. Spouse looked thunderous. It was looking like it was going to be 'murder at the vicarage.'
'You pick people up in the course of your Community Transport duties, don't you? That name on your paper? Is it one of them?'
A collective sigh went up around the room and conversations were resumed. For a few moments there, life had stopped, looked and wondered at this alternative portrait of my fine upstanding spouse. Thankfully, I had managed to rescue us and we moved on to collect our coffee.
I thought we were done with the matter, but on our departure, several wags called out to spouse, 'mind how you go and who you pick up, lad. It could get you into trouble one of these days.'
So, the tables are turned on me dear reader, and spouse has gone around shaking his head sadly all week and muttering 'I don't believe it', under his breath. If I am let out of the doghouse, I hope to see you next week. and let's hope it turns out to be a better one all round.