Friday, 11 September 2015

Photographing Vultures in Crete


I thought I had better post a quick blog as I had the sudden realisation that if I got run over by a bus, not only would I be worrying that I hadn't worn a decent pair of knickers but my very last blog post would have been a depressing and unedifying one! And we can't have that, so today, dear reader, I am going to tell you about the uplifting experience of photographing vultures in Crete earlier this year.

Early May and we were staying in a fabulous villa on the North Western tip of Crete.  The holiday plan was mainly relaxing in the sun, (warm enough for sunbathing but not quite hot enough to stop our chic pool at the villa from still being just a little bit nippy!), swimming in the sea and photographing wildlife.    A drive along the Balos peninsula, famed migratory route from Africa, had produced little wildlife except elusive crested larks, a distant view of a 'black-eared wheatear' and some rather pretty grasshoppers.

We were feeling a little short changed on the birding photo front, I had promised the Bedsock eagles but the best bird we had photo'ed so far was a Sardinian Warbler.  So, nearing the end of our holiday, we had one last chance to find something more exciting to test out our new 600mm Sigma telephoto lens.  Tripod, cameras and lenses packed into the Suzuki Jimny -(a hire car 4x4 that judging by the scratches already looked like it had been driven through a great deal of off-road undergrowth and which also squealed somewhat alarmingly when cornering) we set off  along the 18km Rodopos peninsula on an extremely 'unmade' road track to investigate the ruins of the  Diktynna Sanctuary, dedicated to the daughter of Zeus, at the tip. I'm always a little trepidatious about these off-piste jaunts.. having ME means I can't walk very far and the possibility of the jeep breaking down miles from 'civilization', with no mobile signal, and being left in the car on my own at the mercy of any mad axeman lurking in the wilds whilst the Bedsock staggered 18km to fetch help, was a slightly worrying prospect.  But hey-ho, you can't worry about everything - although I do have a jolly good try!

The track seemed never ending.  One of those where you think the end will be just around the next corner - but round the next corner is just another few corners of wilderness.  There were a substantial amount of goats around to keep us company!  These were having a bit of a face off!

Pause for interesting fact: The chapel of Agios Ioannis, dedicated to St. John the Baptist lies isolated at the end of a hiking path about half-way down the peninsual. Every August 29, to honour the day of St. John, a pilgrimage of those named John walk to the chapel, and stay there for a day and a night.

No Johns around for us though, just goats and distant black-eared wheatears.   The sun was hiding from us behind a slightly damp cloud and every bone in my body was jarred and shaken as we rattled along never seeming to get nearer to our destination.  Several times, I said we should turn back as the track got more and more boulder strewn and dangerous but each time we agreed to just go round the next bend to see what was there.

And finally we could see the southern tip and the sea where the track, hewn into the cliffs, plummeted down dangerously to a tiny cove with some disappointing ruins! We stopped high above the cove to admire the view but no way was I continuing down to the beach. I was just wondering whether it had all been worth the effort when I turned round to see an enormous bird rise out of the deep gorge that snaked back round behind us from the cove.  Then another, and another, "BIG BIRDS" I screamed at the Bedsock as I ran for the cameras.  We grabbed a few photos as they soared  just above us, then they disappeared back where they had come from, seemingly swallowed up by the earth  a 100 metres or so from where we stood.

The photograph below shows a distant vulture cruising along the top of the gorge. It was taken with my old Canon 400D with 70-300m telephoto. Not a great picture but gives an idea of the terrain.

We scrambled over the rocks to a small ridge protecting us from the sheer drop into the gorge. At first we could see nothing, then sweeping my binoculars over the side directly opposite us I saw them, not eagles as I had first imagined but a colony of vultures, twelve of them, their brown feathers nearly camouflaged against the ochre walls of the gorge.

My initial disappointment that they were vultures,  not a bird with a better press, quickly vanished as they took it in turns to cruise along the sides of the gorge, up and out into the open skies before returning to the colony

Not only were the vultures spectacular but the sides of the gorge were festooned with colourful plants, their roots clinging into crevices, their foliage and flowers tumbling downwards into the gorge like one enormous, vertical rock garden.

It was absolutely breathtaking. Finally the long 600m lens came into play and the tripod proved it's worth as we clicked photo after photo. A slight enlargement on the photographs and you can see their blue eyes!

Vultures get a bad press and there is no doubt they can look a little spiteful when they are hanging around hissing and spitting at each other.  Actually the spitting is "defensive vomiting" the smell of the vom is enough to put off enemies and is corrosive enough from their acid stomachs to burn! Sometimes I feel like that after a bad Saturday night!

They should also be known as natures 'eco' bird.  They only eat dead meat, perhaps a tasty goat that has died on the peninsula.  They dispose of the rotting remains - natures garbage men or the ultimate clean-up team.  Whatever their dietary habits and slightly bad manners they were beautiful and awe inspiring that day.  The memory of several of them flying maybe 20ft above us, their huge wings like some magnificent Native American Indian headress, will stay with us forever.  The adrenalin rush from the experience akin to that we had had when abseiling for the first time in the Lake District.

The jolting, drive back along the peninsula seemed less onerous - we had at last had our Cretan birding experience!

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Disabled Hate Street


Many years ago the Bedsock and I were in the car listening to 'Any Answers' on Radio 4.  The topic was along the lines of the way society dealt with criminals.  Mrs Angry of Tunbridge Wells phoned in to say that "criminals should have the fact tattooed on their foreheads so we will all know who they are!"  We laughed long and hard at this and it became one of our private catchphrases with reference to identifying ne'erdowells.

In the past twenty years of my disablement through ill-health (Myalgic Encephalitis) I have learned one truth.. people like their 'disableds' all neatly wrapped in wheelchairs so they know who they are.

I have written before about the definitive moment of my illness when I realised just how and why ME sufferers were likely to be vilified.  Whilst being pushed around Brighton Shopping centre in my wheelchair we found the lifts full of kids playing around.  As the BedSock wheeled me over towards the escalators, a woman and her friend smiled kindly at me. But her smile turned to a coarse shriek of outrage when I got out of the chair for the BedSock to carry it down the escalator.  "Look at that!!! There's nothing wrong with her!" she shrilled, angry that I had robbed her of a smile.

In general we try and live by the rule that we make the best of any situation.. not dwell on what my illness prevents us doing, but to have as much fun as possible with what we can do. But you must allow me a little bitterness.. not because of the ignorant woman in the shopping centre, not because of the kid who spat at me in Avignon on our somewhat ill-fated first 'wheelchair' holiday when I wasn't really well enough for it. Not because of the posh woman who leaned over my lap at an Apple Fair, her tweed jacket brushing my face as she reached for a slice of fruit saying "You don't mind do you?"  I did mind.  No - what makes me bitter is that after twenty-six years in a house and area I once loved, I now think of my road as  'Disabled Hate Street'.

So what changed? When we moved here I was delighted with the Victorian terraced house, its fair sized garden, the generally decent community, in a prized part of Brighton.  The neighbours were fine too - we have always tended to be a bit reserved rather than overly friendly with those at close quarters, but have discretely kept an eye out for the elderly or isolated. We were lucky with our nearest neighbours, Molly next door and her family always visiting. Walking out into my garden I would often be greeted by gales of noise and gossip blowing over the fence as Molly and her friends laughed hilariously over some joke or story.  Heart warming, life affirming laughter. They reminded me of  slightly risque 1950s postcard ladies - naughty but nice. There was Brunhilde, the German lady, who invited us around one afternoon and proceeded to drink us under the table. An outspoken no-nonsense woman who once caused us a great deal of amusement by bellowing down the gardens at another neighbour's offspring "Be quiet children! You are not on a council estate now!" Hilariously rude but remarkably effective - I only wish she was here to shut the current batch of screaming kids up.  Flora a sharp, intelligent, elderly Scots lady, as impatient with her infirmities as she was with the new computer skills she was acquiring in her eighties.  We corresponded by email in her last years sending each other news from the 'other side of the fence'. 

All these have now moved or died - the greatest loss being Molly. One day Bill her aged lodger called over the wall that he needed help as Molly, who had been sitting happily in the sunny garden, had gone into the toilet a while before and not come out. I rushed round, managed to ease the door she was slumped against open and squeezed into the tiny space, cradling her in my arms as Bill called for an ambulance.  I chatted gently to her, how much everyone loved her, how pretty she looked in her dress, how wonderful to have been out in the garden on such a day.. I'm not sure she heard me.. I think she had already gone.. but she would never have doubted all those things.  Such was the love of the community for her that at her funeral the local church was packed with many standing at the back.

Molly's death marked the end of an era and the beginning of an influx of uncaring, self-interested people, often younger families.  The sound of genuine laughter replaced by the constant whining and screaming of spoilt, angry children and the equally constant, ignored, reiteration of "get on the naughty stair". Their lives and conversations foisted onto the unwilling, captive audiences in neighbouring houses by the fashion for converting the backs of these houses into big openable glass doors.  The cushioning effect of foliage lost, as one by one each lovely, cared for, garden is ripped out and replaced by nothing but bindweed and discarded kids toys.

Initially I didn't want a disabled parking space outside my house.  At that time there were rarely problems parking and I disliked the idea of having so prominent an advertisement for my condition emblazoned across the road - like having the word "criminal" tattooed on a wrongdoer's forehead.  Nevertheless, as more and more cars filled the street making it uncertain whether I could park near my house,  I was finally persuaded. If I couldn't guarantee a parking place I couldn't go out - as simple as that.  All was well for a few years and then the trouble over the disabled space started.

I awoke early one morning to find a parking fine attached to my car.  There had been a spate of cars broken into and badges robbed in the area and I was worried that someone might damage my car badly in an attempt to steal mine.  I had been taking the badge out of the car at night and putting it back first thing in the morning.  In the many years we had lived here we had never seen a traffic warden around - why would they come to this peaceful residential area?   Nevertheless, my mistake, and although I wrote explaining the situation I still had to pay the fine.  Too bad. A few months later, totally fatigued after having been out for shopping, I forgot to put the badge up on my dashboard.   At 7.20 the following morning a neighbour from across the road rang my doorbell and woke me - my car was in the process of being hoisted onto the back of a lorry to be towed away.  I rushed out in my dressing gown and produced the blue badge from the car,  they didn't take the car away but I got fined again.  This was too much of a coincidence, someone close by was watching my car and despite knowing I was disabled, reporting my 'transgressions'.  Having ME often gives you 'memory fatigue' and I became so anxious as to whether I had remembered to display the blue badge I would sometimes go out in my dressing gown in the middle of the night, in the cold and rain, to check.

Spiteful anonymous notes started appearing, pinned under my windscreen wipers or pushed through my door - by the style of the handwriting from different sources.  I can't park on the disabled space without a badge and if we are going out or away in TheBedSock's car I need to take the badge with me,  so I can't leave the car on the space.  A main complaint from those too ignorant to understand or find out the law regarding Disabled Parking was that I "should get my car back on my own space."
I began to dread returning home from holidays to find yet another dumped on my doormat or worse that someone had 'keyed' my car. Not knowing who these were from made us close in on ourselves and distrust almost everyone.

Then one day a community policeman called round to talk about the mock-up of the front-page of the local paper, slipped through many people's doors, deriding the disabled people in the street.  I hadn't got a copy - surprising as I was one of the disabled people mentioned (the one with the 'Beatle' (sic) who had acquired the disabled space so I could admire it out of my window!).  I was too stunned to be overly worried by this - everyone blamed 'the taxi driver' (I suspect because he had been heard to moan about the amount of disabled spaces on the road).  I don't think it was him. I think it's the same supposedly respectable man who walked past my house when I was deadheading plants in my tiny front garden last year and with his head down, muttered loudly under his breath "Look at that! She's in the fookin' garden when there's fookin' white lines on the road".  He seems to have a thing about disabled people gardening!

It wasn't just in our street either, driving to our local shops I saw a car belonging to one of the local businesses parked without a badge on the disabled space I had hoped to park in.  Such is the difficulty parking in this busy little area that I have on more than one occasion had to drive home empty-handed having been unable to park near enough to the shops to walk the short distance my fatigue levels often dictate.  This time I managed to park near enough but as I walked past the office of the culprit I popped my head around the door and politely informed the man working behind the desk that one of their cars was parked on the disabled space without a badge.  I thought nothing more of it but when I came out of the bank a man was standing in right in front of my face, frothing with rage! Stunned, I asked what the problem was.  It was the man from the office and apparently, despite his committing an illegal offence, everything was my fault! I walked off trying to ignore him but he pursued me up the road and spat "You fucking poisonous old witch!" at me. Amazingly a load of people sat at outdoor cafe tables and walking around the area witnessed this and not one intervened!  Totally shaken, I managed to drive home and phone the police.  They did caution the man on this occasion.

Worse was to follow.  As Brighton has become more and more congested and parking more difficult the Council have seen fit to roll out Residents Permits zones.  A new zone, finishing at the bottom of our road, moved all the parking onto our streets, packing them with builders lorries, commuter cars, those who didn't want to pay for  permits in their zone.  This meant that throughout the day it was difficult to park, and after 7.00pm almost impossible.  TheBedSock,  returning from work would face a long walk from wherever he could  find a parking space. Rather than turn up at a local residents meeting to discuss this problem (as TheBedSock and I did) neighbours' eyes turned with envy and anger to those most vulnerable in the road.  Whilst TheBedsock and I had always tried to park as unselfishly as possible, we now found a pretty much permanent procession of cars parked illegally, overhanging the disabled space making it difficult (and often extremely painful and tiring for my muscles) to manoeuvre out. Tempers were running high and I awoke one morning to find that in order to park their own car, someone had moved the scooter of a neighbour (who was away) onto my disabled space blocking my car in.  Unable to move the scooter myself I contacted the Parking Authority who said the only action they could take would be to remove and impound it. As this would cost my neighbour a lot of money and inconvenience to reclaim I didn't pursue it but was unable to go out.  When TheBedSock returned (he is often working away) we finally moved the scooter off the space so I could free my car.  The next night I heard some noise outside and went out to find a man moving the scooter back on to my space in order to park his car.  It was dark and I was in my dressing gown but I called out to ask what he was doing and was it him who kept moving the scooter onto the disabled space. He gave me a mouthful and I got my camera and photographed him and the car. Stupid mistake! The man then shouted threateningly at me "If ever I see your car off that space I'm going to get you!"  I slammed the door and when TheBedSock got home from work he found me sobbing hysterically. We agreed to phone the police.  At that time I had no idea that the man was in fact a fairly close neighbour (had I known I wouldn't have bought the police into it but at the time there were a lot of somewhat insalubrious people parking around the area).  When we finally attended an interview at the police station it was with an unsympathetic policeman who seemed intent on telling me off and catching me out. "If it was wrong for that man to move the scooter on to your space then surely it was wrong for you to have moved the scooter off?" He ended by totally disempowering me saying "You shouldn't confront people unless you want to see your husband's brains splashed across the pavement."  As we left the police station, me sobbing with total angst, we noticed two police cars parked on the disabled spaces outside.  I felt worse after the police interview than the original confrontation and would never involve the police in my business again although they did contact the man and suggest that threatening 'disabled women' wasn't very nice.  And what of the scooter owning neighbour? When I started to try and explain the situation to him he cut me short as he didn't want to hear anything bad about the person who had threatened me as their kids played together. I hadn't been going to mention that part as I didn't think it fair to involve more people than necessary.  No one has shown me the same courtesy. When the wife of the threatening neighbour walked past me coming out of my house recently she turned to her child and said "We don't like her!".

After nearly two years of nastiness turning neighbour against neighbour my area was finally turned into a Residents Permit Zone and it is now relatively easy to park here.  Somehow this doesn't stop people parking partially over the disabled space even if the rest of the road is empty. Don't even get me started on the builders who think they have every right to park there when I'm out and make me wait on my return whilst they spend ten minutes unloading. Because as one of the builders replied when I explained I was unwell "You look alright to me, luv"! Perhaps I should have my illness tattooed on my forehead.

 One of the many problems that people with long term ME are likely to encounter is increased anxiety, partly caused by the weird things mental and physical you have to cope with and partly because of your alienation and isolation from society.  Over the years the few friends I had left in Brighton moved and making and sustaining new ones is difficult when you have so little energy to give so I have no local support network. Over the years I have developed, and am trying to deal with, both an acute sense of 'stranger-danger'  and chronic anxiety.  This is horribly exacerbated by the 'community' I live in which has failed me on every level.  I am now too anxious to spend time in my front garden, or to clean my car outside my house, or to attempt to walk to my local shop, in case I am being watched... "Look at that, there's nothing wrong with her!"

 We want to move away.  I always felt my identity was in Brighton but now feel it's  'No town for disabled people'. Perhaps the problems will follow us elsewhere, though certainly our new home must have off-street parking.  I want to be somewhere that will restore my faith in humanity..  I want to have a 'Molly' living and laughing next door.. 

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Chelsea - The Continuing Saga of Presenters' Pants


RHS Chelsea - the great and the not very good,  featuring a view from the Gardening Messageboard codgers!

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Les Parapluies de Chelsea

Featuring a guest turn by Lord Monty of Don

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Kew PlantFinders Fair


Reeley, Trollop & Sock at Kew PlantFinders Fair.

It's been a long winter hibernation for me but I was finally tempted out of it by the new Kew Plant Finders Fair last weekend. Kew always deserves a visit,  a good place to join up with my friends LazyTrollop and Helen Reeley and on top of that a Plant Fair - what more could anyone want!  A nice warm day would be one thing...  Helen was the only one of us wearing sensible multi-layered clothing. She greeted LazyTrollop with "Love the new hairstyle, darling!" and myself with "Couldn't you find your brush?"  I think she is taking over from OldMaSock.

The Plant Fair was fairly small but with some interesting stalls. I'm a great fan of Plant Fairs, I get overwhelmed at the larger plant-buying shows like Malvern and panic over the amount of choice.  Most chain Garden Centres near me are just a complete wind-up of endless tat. Being able to dedicate time to have a good look at each stall full of goodies adds so much pleasure to the purchase.

It was good to see our Heucheraholic friend Sean (who took the header picture of us)  - we particularly liked 'Gauguin' from the Heuchera 'Master Painter' series, I already have Picasso and it is a good 'doer'.  Heucheras must have the most wonderful, creative names ever! I didn't buy any new ones as I'm hoping to go to their Open Day in May.  I was very tempted by various healthy, happy looking herbs from Pepperpots and some astonishingly over-scented geraniums.  Unusual plants at 'Lilies and Chillies' from which I selected a 'baptisa' wild indigo, various shrubs I'd not seen before, particularly from the Gobbett Nursery (who knew flowering 'Cornus' could be so attractive), Genus Performance Garden wear (well-designed stuff but I didn't think I'd get my thighs into the trousers comfortably even with the stretch so I'll stick with my ancient much-loved, much-worn gardening skirts and just hope nobody calls unexpectedly when I'm wearing them!), Genus also do some rather super Japanese precision tools including this Hori-Hori knife which I want but suspect TheBedsock won't let me have for 'safety' reasons!

Our absolute favourite stand at the Fair was Ed Brooks Furniture and not just because there was a rather lovely young man on it. The Turkey Oak Blocks (pic from their website)

were a must have at the top of your 'Things I will Rush out to buy When I win the Lottery' list.  I might just have to have one regardless as their Dorset workshop is near the SocksCountryPile.  We wanted EVERYTHING on their display.  Unfortunately, when Helen realised the young man was from Dorset she regaled him with her story about how a man had exposed himself at her and friends at Branscombe a few years back! Let me tell you, this somewhat candid story is a conversation killer! I knew it would be because I once did exactly the same with a similar anecdote many years ago and wasn't allowed to forget it!

The PlantFinders fair could have been improved by more publicity particularly at Kew itself where it was tucked away enough to not be noticed by casual visitors to Kew.  It was also rather expensive if you were only visiting the fair, £15 for advance tickets would be ridiculous if you weren't going to look around Kew gardens as well.  However, as admission to Kew is £15.00 for adults you essentially got the Plant Finders fair chucked in for free - maybe this should have been made more obvious.
The other, rather interesting, problem was that plants from the Fair could not be taken into the rest of Kew Gardens (unless they were suitably bagged up) in case of contamination.  This meant that two lovely ladies were acting as 'security' at the entrance to the Fair asking that people, either leave the plants in the 'creche' to be collected later, or they would bag them up appropriately. This would be a nuisance if you planned to do Kew and leave by another exit and had to go all the way back to the creche to get your plants.  By the way if you are the man trying to scurry past the guards clutching a small unbagged shrub... it was LazyTrollop who dobbed you in!!!!

Overall a good day out and we very much hoped the Kew PlantFinders Fair will become an annual event.

Sunday, 18 January 2015



So there I was at the beginning of December driving the endless M25, M4 route from the South to Swansea, tears of self-pity streaming down my face and Jiminy-fucking-Cricket on my shoulder, alternately telling me to "buck-up - it is not you lying in hospital with a broken hip"  and that "crying never solved anything".  I turn up the volume on my Ludovic Einaudi CD,  the crescendos of music matching my waves of misery, at every peak I burst in to sobs.  The sound drowns out Jiminy fucking Cricket and his little homilies, he is beginning to sound suspiciously like OldMaSock.

December is the dog-end of the year with only the artificial tinsel barrier of Christmas to stop our miseries overflowing into the New Year.  They will flow in again anyway when the tinsel is confined once more to the attic.  December starts badly with my health (which, since a relapse early in the year, has gradually improved to my usual level of sub-existence)  knocked back again by a  horrible cold and chest infection.  I am already feeling miserable when BroSock phones with the news that OldmaSock has had a fall and is in hospital with a broken hip.  The Bedsock is out of action after a minor op on his back and there is nothing for it but for me to make the long journey on my own and do what I can to sort things out. How can I do this when I barely have the energy to haul myself up stairs?  I pack what I can into the car, some food as there will be nothing edible at OldMaSock's house, some clean bedding, and most importantly a bottle of red wine! I have every suspicion I am going to need it.

Biarritz old harbour 1965

The wine reminds me that I have been meaning to write on my Fourth Plate blog about the first time I got drunk! It was 1965 and I was aged ten. The Sock family were staying in Biarritz, a favourite place I would re-visit many times over the years.   After a long day on the beach, surfing and sunbathing, we went for a meal at a cheap, local bistro,  I know it must have been cheap because my parents didn't do expensive food. I remember the formica tables, the harsh strip lighting and the carafe of  red, house wine. Wine that MaSock gave to myself and  BroSock,  wine that we knocked back greedily, excited at being treated as grown-ups.  And then, on our way back to the hotel, stopping outside a toyshop window and laughing and laughing at the bright, twinkly, lights as if everything in the whole world was euphorically hilarious!

I always felt that my parents, whilst rarely drinking themselves, were somewhat sophisticated in having introduced their children to the joys of alcohol at such an early age.  But a while ago, reminded of this occasion when transferring old family photos onto the computer, I mentioned it to OldMaSock whose long term memory is pretty damn good. "Oh yes" she said happily "I remember that well. The wine was corked so rather than waste it we gave it to you and your brother!".

Biarritz 1965  - The Sock family searching for crabs


Eventually I arrive at the hospital, I feel faint with fatigue  but struggle along to the ward wearing my cheerful face. As OldMaSock drilled into me many times over the years, nobody likes a misery. How true, how very, very, true..

OldMaSock is as fine as she can be under the circumstances. She's had an operation to put a screw in her hip and I ask her if they have tightened the loose one in her head whilst they were at it. Apart from the fact that she isn't mobile she seems no more, or less, demented than usual.  She is happy to see me, happy with the chocolates and puzzle book I have bought her, laughs at the photograph of me in my new hat that I have put in a frame for her so she doesn't forget who I am. Then, when I ask if she is OK, she whispers very loudly to me "There seem to be an awful lot of WELSH people here". This is unsurprising as she is in Wales where she has been living for the last sixty years. What did she expect, a ward full of Mexicans playing guitars and wearing sombreros?  OldMaSock giggles at this and reassured that she is still as much in the land of the living as ever, I depart.

It's late, cold and dark when I arrive at OldMaSock's house. Despite it all being in reasonable order I feel lonely and uncomfortable there - I never did like being on my own overnight even when I lived there. Now it feels particularly empty without the, still dynamic, presence of OldMaSock.  I turn the TV on in the lounge, blaringly loud as OldMaSock has it, filling the house with the noise that is no substitute for life.  I can't settle and despite my tiredness I make a start on all the tasks that need doing to secure the house until OldMaSock returns.  I can't bear to think that she might not be able to return.

I open the fridge, the smell of decomposing chicken greets me - two raw portions are sat on a plate, days past their eatby. Who knows how long OldMaSock had had them there even before her fall?  I take everything out of the fridge and bin it, the smell making me gag.  Outside the bin bags, left on the driveway as the rules for collection are so complex even I can't understand them,  have been ripped open by foxes.  I scoop up the rubbish and rebag it, retching.  I clean and disinfect the fridge, who knows what vile bacteria is in there with the badly kept food I wouldn't even feed to my cats.

Eventually I stop, too exhausted to continue, too sickened to be able to eat.  Thank God I have bought the bottle of wine.  I wash one of the largest, greasy, wine glasses from the cabinet, spend ten minutes of panic trying to find a cork screw,  take the bottle through to the lounge and sink into the sofa, at last able to relax at the end of the worst sort of day.

The red wine glugs from the bottle into the glass,  as I raise it to my mouth a musty, sour smell assails my nose..   corked..

Friday, 19 December 2014

The 2014 Sock's Fabulous Festive Wreath Awards

Following on from my last post detailing how I was inspired to create my own Festive Wreath this year, I found my twitterline awash with the most imaginative, creative, gorgeous and inspiring wreaths.  And there was me thinking that all wreaths had to be tight displays of  holly and pine cones with a red ribbon. So I have decided to honour my twitter pals Christmas creations with 'The Sock Wreath Award 2014' but before we get to that here are a few of my favourites.

Sprout wreaths! Who knew sprouts could be so chic! Clearly  @TheWalledNursery did
as they have produced some sprout stunners both available to buy and through the fun Wreath Workshops they run.  This one is my particular favourite in the 'sprout genre'. Sprouts are actually one of my favourite vegetables, I enjoy them on my plate and even more so on a wreath.  I love the subtle addition of colours in the pheasant feathers and chillies on this one.  The opposition has been pretty stiff but this wreath is my Runner Up.

Also from a participant at one of the Walled Nursery's fun Wreath Workshops this, using similar materials, bursts with energy like an explosion of Christmas countryside.

Beach litter! Not only is @MartinDorey 's #2minutebeachclean the best idea to appear on my twitterline in 2014 (read about it here..) but it has also produced this fabulous piece of art work.  Take part in a #2minutebeachclean and start collecting your own litter for a wreath that will look great at any time of year and may also just save a sea bird from being trapped in bits of old net.

The epitomy of elegance this wreath from Phillipa Borough (@ultingwick) would grace anyone's door. Phillipa has at least two 'wreathable' (if that's a word) exterior doors.  The problem with having a 'one wreathable door' terraced house is that I don't see why my miserable neighbours should get all the benefit from the view of my wreath so I'm keeping mine indoors! Ha ha!

Matching door and decoration from my friend @LazyTrollop who took time off from being Lazy to create this cheerful wreath.  I very much like the effect of seeing some of the wreath base - (a technique that my friend Helen Reeley suggested to me) particularly if you have gone to some trouble to make an attractive base yourself - I now feel a bit guilty about buying mine!

Lazy Trollop made me laugh saying her husband had asked why there were 'uncovered bits' and 'was it finished?'.

Some more examples of 'unfinished' wreaths from one of Helen Reeley's workshop.. this one just waiting for it's bow!  The Bedsock commented that it looks like an exotic bird swooping down onto the ring base..

Sebastian Jans (@SebJDesign) tweeted that his daughter had been inspired by Gardens Illustrated (@GdnsIllustrated) to forage for materials to make this small but beautifully formed stylish clematis wreath

It wasn't just wreaths hitting my timeline, festive garlands have inspired too, meaning more Christmas foraging fun for mine next year.  This, by @Petra_HM is quite majestic and wins 'The Sock Award for Best Garland'. Petra has given more details and instructions on how to turn your old tights into a festive garland on her blog The Oxonian Gardener . All you will need to achieve the full 'Country Living' effect is a fab fireplace complete with log fire! Petra is also the only person I know who has owned not just one but TWO ha-has in her life!

If you don't want to make your own wreath or don't have time, take a look at these lovely wreaths from Clifton Nurseries who also do workshops.  You never know, Matthew Wilson, (Director of the Nurseries and @LandscapeMan himself) may have actually touched these wreaths with his manly mitts. This one is the least expensive, quite traditional but beautifully crafted.

This slightly sinister and witchy 'Gothic' wreath, again from @TheWalledGarden, caught my eye. It shows how, in wreathmaking, you are only limited by your imagination..

I've saved the best 'til last.  If the Gothic wreath is 'Maleficent' then this mesmerizingly magical wreath holds the enchantment of 'Sleeping Beauty'. Made by @Fernverrow biodynamic growers and tweeted by @NigelSlater, it's made from moss, lichen, twigs, heather and old man's beard. Just absolutely adorable.. and winner of the Sock's 2014 Christmas Wreath Awards.

Of course if you don't agree with my choices you can always tweet your own festive favourites.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Arabella xx

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Fungi, Fungirls, & Festive Wreaths


Sockfollowers (of which are are many) will know that I am a bit of a Christmas curmudgeon.  So this year, in order to get into the seasonal spirit, and inspired by all the wreath workshops advertised on twitter, I decided to make my own wreath using home foraged or grown ingredients.

A day out at Nymans Park with my lovely friends and fellow Ladies who Launch, LazyTrollop and Helen Reeley, produced a load of laughs and a bagful of found obj√©ts for my wreath.  Most of them were found on the ground..

except for the dried hydrangea heads which accidentally fell off the bush into my handbag after a slight nudge from 'someone'.

We saw some fab fungi at Nyman's too (although you will be pleased to know I didn't pick this for my wreath as it is poisonous).

We spent some time trying to take arty photos of the fungi.

And the rest of the time admiring my new hattiewat

Back to the wreath. Spook helped.

I was aiming for as homemade as possible but bought the wreath base and the dried pumpkinos.  The fruit was home dried in the Bedsock's dehydrator and the chillis we grew ourselves.

Halfway through - I am just guessing about how this is done. Next year I might go to one of the  wreath workshops as I think this would have been great fun to do and a gratifyingly competitive. If you live in the Berkhamsted area Helen is doing some at the beginning of December tweet @helenreeley for details.

And here is my finished wreath!!! I love it and I'm sure it would have won any competition! 

 Whether it survives til New Year without going mouldy, dropping to pieces or eaten by foxes is another matter.  For now it is the Best Wreath Ever!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

OldMaSock and the Gay Men on the Prom


At least it isn't flytipping

The Germans have a word for those annoying tunes that get stuck in your head - Ohrwurm, or ear worm. In OldMaSock's case she has brainworms,  rather than tunes it is 'things to repeat time and time again often cued-in by external factors'.  As OldMaSock's short term memory is shot to pieces telephone conversations with her mostly consist of the regurgitation of various brainworms. An old favourite is "They are always showing Brighton and the pier on the television aren't they?" prompted by the fact I live in Brighton. The answer is obviously "no" but as this will be repeated various times through what passes for the conversation, it is easier just to agree. This brainworm has recently gained a companion "Do you remember all those gay men we saw on the promenade?"  "No".. It's by no means impossible,  I wouldn't have noticed - although she does manage to make it sound like marauding hordes of gay men were storming the seafront. OldMaSock has recently embroidered this brainworm to  "...all those gay men holding hands".  I'm wondering if she has seen the Brighton Gay Pride march on the TV.

Earlier in the year one of my nieces married her girlfriend, I hate weddings and was hoping for a Big Gay Wedding celebration that might at least offer something a bit different. Sadly, apart from there being two beautiful brides and a Best Woman, it came with all the tedium of traditional speeches, hanging around, and having to talk to people you will never see again and have nothing in common with.  OldMaSock was spared the ordeal on the grounds of being mad but a month after the wedding, the newlyweds made the trip to see her.  Short of conversational gambits OldMaSock's brainworm cued-in and her first words to the happy couple were "Oooh there were a lot of gay men holding hands on the Brighton seafront!"

OldMaSock keeps cheerful - the 'brainworm' phone calls to an extent reassuring me that she is happy if more than a tad demented.  But I am concerned. My sister-in-law has recently died from Motor Neurone Disease, rather sooner and more suddenly than expected, leaving the rest of my small family devastated.  OldMaSock was not up to travelling to the funeral - she is as fit as a flea and twice as active but can only mentally deal with things inside her daily routine.  I haven't seen her in a long while due to a bad relapse in my M.E. and her needs have been put to one side for too long.  I am worried that she is being left alone with her grief - there are no friends or neighbours who she can turn to (in part due to her 'extreme pruning' and 'flytipping habits') - the least I can do is to be there a while and share it. In any case I need to ensure she is still coping and managing her day-to-day life. The last time I asked about her garden waste disposal (see blogs passim) she said she now waited til dark before dragging it out to a nearby grassed area and dumping it. I am hoping this was a joke.

When I arrive at OldMaSock's, exhausted after the long drive, everything looks superficially in good order.  The garden is now fairly spartan - OldMaSock is no longer up to buying the bright summer bedding plants she favours - but the shrubs are extreme-pruned and the lawns well mowed. Indoors everything is tidy and neat but closer inspection shows a filmy grubbiness and tired, worn, look to the house.  Worse, there is the usual cloying, overheated, slightly stale smell around.  I wander around the house throwing open windows, letting the late summer, clean, fresh, sea air flood in.  OldMaSock scuttles behind me, closing the windows as fast as I am opening them.

OldmaSock gets the usual niceties out of the way "Your hair is rather dry - have you combed it?"  OldmaSock's hair, rather than mine, is another reason I am making the visit. The last time I saw her she promised me she would get her hair cut as it was clear she hadn't done in ages.  A year of telephone prompts from me and fibs and excuses from her and I am correct in my expectation that she looks like the Wildwoman of Wonga.  In fact her whole appearance is that of a bright-eyed bag lady, her clothes old, worn, stained with food and grubby.  She doesn't care, she has never spent money on clothes, or indeed anything else because she is a miser and hates spending more than is necessary on anything. I have already made an appointment for her to have a haircut and set, her usual hairdresser closed some years ago and I have been on the interweb searching for a local salon that might specialise in mad old ladies. Discounting 'Jordan's', 'Brush Strokes' and 'Venus', I phone 'Elise'.  "Hi, I'm looking for a hairdresser for my elderly mother who is a tad demented and needs someone very patient and understanding to cut and set her hair.  I want a sort of 'traditional' hairdressers not a trendy salon."  Too late I realise I will have just totally insulted the owner by inferring that her business is old-fashioned but in fact, she kindly says she will look after OldMaSock's hair herself. I make the mistake of telling OldMaSock she is going to the hairdressers the following day which gives her ample time to fret and try to wriggle out of it with numerous lies and evasions. I harden my heart and tell her this is payback time for all those years I cried after she made me have my hair cut short.  These things open old wounds, I feel the pain of my teenage years when she forced me to wash and set her hair for her, an intimacy that I hated as I hated her, wanting to jab the hair pins into her skull as I pushed them through the rollers. I know people who have disowned their parents for less than OldMaSock did to me.. The resentment and pain of my teenage years is still not far below the surface but the mother that I have now is a different being and I feel protective towards her in a way she never felt for me.

My M.E. is quite bad and I'm so tired.. it's like wading through mental and physical mud, worse.. every 'task' completed with OldMaSock leads to two new ones.  Although she, herself, is clean and showers every day, her clothes are a disgrace and I can't take her to the hairdresser's like that.  The washing machine broke down years ago and it is too late to get her a new one which she will never remember how to use. She tells me she washes things in the sink but it is more likely that the row of tatty knickers on the line have just been rinsed under the tap.  There is no washing powder, no washing-up liquid to remove the film of grease and stains over all the crockery which has already made me gag, no soap in the bathroom and no shampoo - she has been using conditioner to wash her hair.  She shops for food regularly at a local store, raiding the reduced bins for sell-by-date ham, bread and basics.  Cleaning materials do not figure in her idea of things she needs to buy.  I get up early to take as much stuff as possible to the laundrette before it gets busy. I open OldmaSock's wardrobe and start to load the cheap, polyester, home-made, clothes into a bag. As fast as I put something in OldMaSock is pulling it back out "that is silk it won't wash", "that is clean", "that will fall apart if you wash it!". Only the last is true. At last I wrestle as much stuff as possible from her and head off to the laundrette and an hour of contemplative peace and quiet.  I feel mean as I remember how attached I am to a sixteen year old skirt which is falling apart and recently relegated to 'gardening only'.  It is so comfy and I do wear it to the local shops even though it has holes worn in it. Am I so different to OldMaSock? Both of us potential bag ladies.

Later, with OldMaSock wearing some of the freshly washed clothes which have survived the laundrette we set off for the hairdressers.  I have spent the last twelve hours patiently explaining, over and over again, what she is having done and why and she has repeatedly argued that she doesn't want it cut short as it will lose the perm and go straight. Eventually I resort to bribery and say I will take her out for coffee and cake but I'm not being seen in public with her until she's had her hair cut.  I have already told the stylist it needs to be cut short to last until I can next march her off to the hairdressers which may be months.  Before we leave the house OldMaSock says "Will you brush your hair Arabella - just for me?".  "I already have!" I snap back at her.  I sit reading magazines and drinking tea in the reception whilst OldMaSock is being shorn.  After a while the stylist comes over with a big grin of delight on her face "Your mother is hilarious! She's just been telling me about all the gay men holding hands on Brighton seafront!"

Eventually OldMaSock emerges with her newly set hair, silvery, soft and curling. And too long. "Mmmm she looks very pretty but I hoped you'd take a bit more off" I say to the stylist. "Oh, she insisted I shouldn't take too much off as it will cut off all the perm." she replies.  I sigh and feel somewhat sorry for myself.  I can't help feeling I have lost this battle.

There are some battles I am determined to win.  I have replaced all the disgusting tea towels, oven gloves and hand towels with new ones.  This has involved a certain amount of subterfuge as I am learning that it is best just to do things without consulting OldMaSock.  The old ones have been bagged up and driven to the dump as the last time some bit of old rubbish was replaced, OldMaSock had it back out of the bin as soon as my back was turned.  We are going on a trip to an out of town shopping centre to buy a new, incredibly simple to use, microwave as the old one has packed-up. Praise the Lord for this as I suspect the ancient one, she wouldn't part with, has been leaking microwaves over the years which have helped fry her brain.  OldMaSock doesn't drive any more, the conversation about not being safe on the road was had with BroSock a few years ago, although that still doesn't stop her being surprised every day when she finds there is no car in the garage. Nevertheless her road skills and directions are spot on - "Left at the lights", "keep to the right down hill then second left", "watch where the road narrows".  Totally sensible and no repetition.  We park outside a Marks and Spencers and encouraged by this burst of coherency I suggest we get her some nice new knickers. I'm surprised she doesn't put up a fight but we head off to the lingerie department and look for suitable underwear. Lacey, lacey, frilly, but no straightforward big pants. "Can you tell me where the old lady knickers are?" I ask an assistant, anxious to get them purchased whilst this window of opportunity is open. She leads us to a rack of large comfortable pants "What size?" she queries.  OldMaSock replies "Ooooh I don't know I'll have a look" as she starts to take down her trousers and peel back her knickers to find the size tag. "I don't think we all need to see your pants Mum"  I say quickly grabbing a pack that looks most similar to the ones that will shortly be on their way to the dump.  I pay for them before the protests start up - so far so good.  We are on a roll! I briefly contemplate buying vests, nighties, a new dressing gown to replace the ghastly old thing that she fought tooth and nail to stop me taking to the launderette.  No - I have won this battle so I'm not going to push my luck.

On the way home I take the scenic route and neither I nor OldmaSock are quite sure where we are going.  As we are driving OldmaSock says "We've seen that man in the blue shirt before", "Yes, we probably have" I laugh.  A few minutes later, "I think we've seen that girl in the white shirt before" and then "we've seen that red car before" and on, and on, and on, everyone we pass she says we have seen before.  Then I realise she is breathing softly, but rapidly like a mini panic attack.  OHMYGOD! I nearly have a full blown panic attack.  "Are you alright? What's the matter?". I realise that she is frightened because she is out of her comfort zone, her known territory and she is not happy.  This is the woman who chased a young thief for a mile in Majorca before catching him and snatching her stolen bag back, the woman who has travelled the world and was scared of nothing and no-one. I am the one with the chronic anxiety.  I reassure her with the promise of a nice sherry when we get home and as we drive into familiar territory she calms down.

When we get home I pour myself a huge sherry.  I open the window to let some air into the stuffy, overheated room and sink exhausted into a chair.  Eighty-seven year old OldMaSock closes the window then scuttles off into the garden, through the window I see her standing on the wall with her extendable loppers and chopping at next doors overlarge shrubs.  My brother phones "Has she put the garden waste bags out for collections? The white ones? I've told her over and over that they go out on a Wednesday evening." He should know there is no point getting cross with OldMaSock when she won't remember instructions like that, even  the post-it prompts and calendar rely on her both reading them and retaining the information for more than a few minutes. I have no recollection of seeing any white recycling bags or any piles of garden waste so it is possible she has been doing the moonlight flytipping after all.  I check the garage - it is full of garden cuttings stuffed into white bags and various other receptacles.  I lug a few down the drive onto the pavement gashing my leg on a branch that has torn through the fabric of the bag.  There is no first aid kit or antiseptic in the house so I clean the wound with salt water as I don't want to get cellulite like LandscapeMan had. Even though the television is as usual at full volume and OldmaSock is, as usual, flicking constantly through the programmes she doesn't watch, I fall asleep in the chair.

The last day of my visit, as I get up and dressed my finger goes through a hole in the ageing fabric of my Sloggi knickers.  Never mind, I can still get a few months more wear out of them and hopefully I won't fall under a bus.  I  check my jobs list: lightbulbs replaced, fire alarms checked, freezer, larder and wine cupboards stocked, details of outstanding tasks to be passed on to my brother, and one final task, take OldMaSock into town and reinvest a matured fund of some of the money she refuses to spend.

Mistake, mistake, mistake.... why don't I learn? I have told her we are doing this too far in advance and she has been up since the crack of dawn fretting about it.  "What time are we going?", "Where are we going?",  reassurance and explanations endlessly repeated "We are going to the Bank and we have an appointment for halfpast ten."  She has been dancing around in agitation since I got up and as I am about to drink my coffee at halfpast nine she has her coat on. "You can take that off we are not going yet, there is plenty of time." I tell her. But she won't have it, mithering on and on and working herself into such a state that I slam down my coffee and we leave - but not before she has said "Do you want to borrow my comb, Arabella?". "Not really. No."

We arrive half an hour early and are kept waiting longer with OldMaSock fidgetting and worrying as if she is going on trial. "I'm scared" she whimpers. "What of?  I'm the one who is doing all the talking and I'm going to give them a bollocking." I have been flicking through OldMaSock's disorganised file of bank correspondence and have seen something scribbled in her handwriting about a telephone call from the bank. Eventually I realise that the recently matured account I am about to transfer has already been moved to another inappropriate account. I don't need this. "Please tell me that someone from your bank hasn't phoned an eighty seven year old woman and persuaded her to transfer her money to another account?" I say sharply to the rather gorgeous looking young man who sees us.  They have but I have lost the will to fight as everything is just too tiring  and the young man easily persuades me it was all done with the best of intentions. His charms have not been lost on OldMaSock either who spends the entire drive home saying "He was a nice looking young man wasn't he Arabella?" until I want to scream.

I'm packed up and ready to go, my departure full of the usual mix of relief and sadness, even OldMaSock seems a little weepy although within a few hours she will only half remember I was there.  She calls after me as I reverse down the drive "Do you need to br......" But I am gone.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Glyndebourne - Inside, Outside


“Well, basically there are two sorts of opera," ... "There's your heavy opera, where basically people sing foreign and it goes like "Oh oh oh, I am dyin', oh I am dyin', oh oh oh, that's what I'm doin'", and there's your light opera, where they sing in foreign and it basically goes "Beer! Beer! Beer! Beer! I like to drink lots of beer!", although sometimes they drink champagne instead. That's basically all of opera, reely.”
Terry Pratchett, Maskerade

Terry Pratchett's character in Maskerade was wrong.. there are basically three sorts of opera -

Indoor - where the overdressed audience watches overdressed performers, and quaffs champagne in an elegant lounge bar during the interval

Outdoor - where the audience stretch out in a park on their picnic rugs whilst watching Il Divo and/or snogging their girlfriend between necking prosecco from the bottle.

Glyndebourne - where there is a perfect merging of the two - posh yet not uberposh, picnic rugs but not superfluous snogging (well not for me and the Remarkable Ms. Reeley anyway) an indoor opera with an outdoor champagne picnic in beautiful gardens which morph gently into the Sussex countryside.

"Glyndebourne is an indoor opera" a point John Hoyland (Garden Advisor) made quite strongly at the beginning of our tour.  When people envisage Glyndebourne it is the champagne and strawberry picnics in the grounds that come to mind giving the impression that the opera is outdoors.  In fact, there is a beautiful world class opera house, restaurants, bars and even a shop hiding behind the imposing manor house, not to mention some rather special gardens. Being local to the area, I already knew the opera was indoors and was surprised at the outdoor perception.  Later, to test the theory I put the question to the Bedsock.  "It's outdoors." he replied "Like that Il Divo thing you made me go to at Petworth Park when that couple spent the whole evening snogging on the rug next to us."

Sussex Blue butterfly - another visitor to Glyndebourne

Glyndebourne has been on my 'must do' list for as long as I can remember. I had been absolutely thrilled to get an invitation to a 'select' (Ha ha! At last I am appreciated) group of bloggers and their companions, for a tour of the gardens and a chance to see the final rehearsal of 'Rinaldo'.   As Helen (the Remarkable Ms. Reeley) drove us through the Sussex countryside and along the lanes to Glyndebourne, her enthusiastic extolling of the open space, the light, the rolling Downs, the pretty lanes, even the sheep, made me realise how much I take these places for granted.  I was just very excited at the prospect of seeing the gardens and behind the scenes at Glyndebourne itself.

The Remarkable Ms. Reeley in her LBD

Although we had been told that casual dress would be fine for the garden tour and the final rehearsal we put in a little effort. Along with the usual lippie and slap, Helen wore pearls and an LBD cut low enough that her cleavage appeared in the room several seconds before the rest of her. I finally got to wear the long dress I bought for Chelsea and never got to appear in and gave my hair a good brush, although I don't think Helen believed the latter. The minute I look away from the mirror my hair starts to look untidy.

View through back of stage to auditorium

On arrival we were escorted through the back of the opera house and into a long wood panelled room where scrumptious cakes, tea, and an introduction to John Hoyland and his team awaited us. 

A tour of the gardens followed, like the buildings there is a mix of styles and plantings each different area with its own identity. A double terrace at the front of the house gave these borders height, depth and a fabulous lushness. 

My favourite - the wildflower meadow makes a fabulous frontispiece to the entrance.  Not since the manly hands of Matthew Wilson (then curator) sowed seeds of the wild meadow at Harlow Carr have I seen such a sight.  The yellow flowers positively exploded from it

and the softer, quieter,  ammi majus could form the pattern for a beautiful Liberty tana lawn fabric

Glyndebourne functions as far as possible on sustainable principles and I was pleased to note that their cut flowers were home grown and arranged rather beautifully by Head Gardener, Kevin Martin.

 Out of the strong comes forth sweetness

The gardens at Glyndebourne have enough interest to be well worth a visit on their own - although normally only open to opera goers there are occasional open days  the next on October 11th and I would thoroughly recommend it.

Canopy outside opera house

We spent a pleasant hour or so being guided around the gardens and then, after we were treated to pre-opera drinks, we took our places at the front of the top-tier in the rather splendid, snazzy, opera house! Luxury of all luxuries we had not just a great view of the stage but also (important for someone whose knees stiffen within three minutes of sitting down) loads of legroom!!

Now I'm not going to tell you a lie dear reader, Handel's 'Rinaldo' wasn't really my thing.  I'm a bit of a Porgy and Bess woman when it comes to opera and I think Rinaldo was a 'difficult' one.  The stage production was fascinating and very clever, the interpretation was amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed the first part... but enough was enough and the call of a picnic of prosecco, gala pie, and slightly squashed strawberry tarts was too strong.  I woke Helen up and we scarpered, collected our  picnic bag and chairs from the car and headed back to the glorious gardens.

View to the South Downs

It's possible to set up your picnic wherever you want in the gardens (there are also some tables to reserve on the outdoor terraces of the opera building).  We opted for the lawn by the lake with its fabulous views over to the South Downs in the golden early evening light.

Picnics set up before the interval

Places taken!

Other visitors had already bagged their places by laying out their rugs and tables, ready for the 'long interval' a break of ninety minutes giving the opera goers chance to picnic or eat at one of the great restaurants and very much part of the whole Glyndebourne experience.  For a while we had the place to ourselves and a marauding opportunist seagull who was clearly hoping to find an open picnic basket to raid.

John Hoyland (front) & gardening team Stephen Brockhurst, Kevin Martin, Dawn Aldridge

 It was the perfect end to a lovely day out and my thanks go to John and his cheerful, chatty team and Hester Phillips who arranged it.

More info on Glyndebourne here

A blog with more about the gardens from fellow invitee The Enduring Blogger here