A recent blog from Amanda at Kiss my Aster asked "Have you ever been at a party, outside on someone's patio, and the overwhelming need to deadhead the hosts' containers becomes too strong to fight?" Oh... yes! but whereas the Sock tends to stop at the occasional surreptitious pinching off of a dried up bloom - the Humphreys did a full garden make-over!
The Socks often rent holiday villas or cottages not least because it enables the Bedsock to spend the holiday perusing local shops and markets and buying the kind of exciting fresh ingredients he can't get at home for his culinary masterpieces. Sometimes the rentals have been fabulous - views to die for, luxurious bathrooms, wonderfully equipped kitchens whilst others have been poky, damp holes with too many of the local insect population scuttling around.
After settling in to their temporary new home, filling the fridge with goodies, displaying the wine haul, scattering books and guides on the tables and generally making the place their own, the Sock will pour herself an apéro and seek out the 'House Book' to see what previous visitors have made of it. Entries invariably follow the same pattern of dodgy restaurant recommendations, child-scrawled details of 'What Daisy did today', weather reports, the sighting of some interesting critter which you will then spend the whole week watching for but will never show again, useful advice on how to unblock the chimney when the room fills with smoke etc. The entries are usually anodyne, repetitive and intrinsically boring except for the occasional absolute cracker - and what a beauty the Humphreys' entry was.
The cottage was an interesting old stone building with sandy garden extending an hundred metres down to the beach just outside Concarneau in Brittany. Quirky would be one way to describe it - a cavernous, high ceilinged living room stuffed with heavy antique furniture of varying degrees of comfort and a strange mezzanine loft sleeping area built under the ceiling accessed by a pretty much vertical library-style ladder on rollers. One wall was dominated by a fabulous raised granite fireplace which the Socks toasted themselves in front of every evening mesmerized by the flames from the blazing logs and mellowed by their evening brandies.
There were various slightly musty and mildew smelling bedrooms in the house extension which were cramped but comfortable enough and a dank kitchen with the scariest ceramic wall tiles you could possibly imagine being a psychedelic orange and brown that no-one could have liked even in the 60s. All pretty much to be expected for this kind of rental. Being able to wander down the large sandy garden to a stone-walled terrace directly over the beach made up for any other small irritations with the property.
Not for the Humphreys though. The visitors book contained an eleven page diatribe of everything possibly wrong with the property. According to Mr. Humphrey, his wife and seven children, the house was nothing short of a death trap with a list of 'Health and Safety' violations long enough to give a years worth of material to Mutt and Jeff. These included the fact that several Humphrey offspring had had great fun swinging dangerously off the loft ladder whilst others wheeled it backwards and forwards across the room (an enjoyable game which the Socks copied). Assuming they had not been killed on the ascent, the sleeping loft having no door could have meant a 15ft plunge to their stone-floored doom for any sleep-walking Humphrey child. Dangerous electrics, plumbing, stairwells - the list was endless.
Best of all in this fascinating condemnation of the property and all things related was the fact that the Humphreys had been so appalled by the state of the garden that they had had to spend their entire holiday clearing and tidying it and weeding the flower beds!! The Sock only remembers the garden as being slightly overgrown in the sort of way that is charming if it is not your own and having rather more cannas than you could shake a stick at.
The Humphreys' parting shot was that they were looking forward to staying in a Travel Lodge on the way home!!!!
Determined that not all Brits should be judged by this whingeing crew subsequent visitors had filled the book with hilarious criticisms of the Humphrey parents and what had become known as their tribe of seven dwarves. The Socks added their piece to the visitors book and only wished they had photocopied it and sent it to John Peel for his (then) Radio 4 Hometruths programme.
The Sock confines her holiday gardening to watering parched pots and occasionally breaking off the odd aeonium head that somehow falls into her handbag. Feel free to confess to greater gardening crimes than this.