Hot, hot, hot and I am trapped in my house with the windows closed to stop brick dust blowing in and cats escaping out. I can't sneak off to town and treat myself to an enormous piece of much needed cake because all the doors are open to allow the 'fencers' to stream in and out of the house with their buckets of dirt and rubble to fill the over-groaning skip. There is a slightly unpleasant dry grittiness in my mouth which experience tells me will be hanging around for weeks. There is no point cleaning until they have gone and I have finished the post holiday ironing mountain so I am just mooching around in a desultory sort of a manner. Yesterday I spent the afternoon photoshopping scenes for a new Sockmovie only to press the quit key by mistake and loose it all. I wasted a long while staring at the screen in gobsmacked disbelief but my lost work failed to materialize. My masterpiece now floating somewhere in the ether...
The cats are furious at being kept in, I felt so sorry for them that I let them sleep in the bedroom. Hebe spent half the night wriggling into the contours of my body refusing to move even when we totally overheated and I thought I was going to expire. When I did manage to throw off the quilt and cool down Spook took a bite out of available bits of my anatomy. Thrown out Spook spent the rest of the night making 'sad and lonely' noises outside my door but I kept my heart hard. The Bedsock as usual has managed to find a conference to go to thus avoiding returning home to the chaos for a few nights. Pfffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffft!
The one thing that I am finding quite pleasing at the moment is my tiny front gravel garden. (clic on pic to enlarge)
I was ahead of my time and designed and planted it before gravel and rocks became popular. It was the obvious solution to a small area (12 x 7 ft ish) which needed to be low maintenance and also grow in poor rubble and tree root filled soil. Many of the tender plants are sunk into the ground in mesh pots so they can be easily lifted in winter - lifted into the unheated greenhouse where half of them froze to death anyway. Nevertheless enough survived for it now to be burgeoning with grasses, eryngiums, aeoniums and cacti. I wanted the grasses to be bright primary colours blue koeleria glauca grass, the dark red of Japanese blood grass, the bright yellow of Carex elata aurea, the lucozade orange of Libertia and black of aeoniums and ophiopogon.
Amongst the beauty of the blue eryngiums grows another enormous thistle. I bought this at some expense at a garden centre, impressed with it's architectural looks and distinctive stripey, stabby leaves. When it flowered last year it bore an uncanny resemblance to the extremely common thistles that grow all around the entrance to the local dump* so I think I got done. It's turning into a monster and will have to be hoiked out at some point but at the moment it is making me laugh when so much else is failing to be funny.
* Whenever I take the latest load of garden rubbish to the dump I have the William Tell Overture ringing around my head... To the dump, to the dump, to the dump dump dump!!
I was never so keen on the William Tell Overture after my brother taught my seven year old self the version which goes "Oh away, oh away with William Tell, stick a pin up his arse and run like hell!" The memory of my father clouting me around the ear after I innocently sang him a reedy rendition of it is so etched on my memory that I can still see the flowerbeds and cars around me outside the Swiss hotel we were staying in.
So the long feared fence project has finally started. As previously mentioned after Landscapers No.1 let the Sock down (no doubt too busy with Chelsea - they got gold, the Sock got shafted!) Landscapers No. 2 are doing the business. So far they have come up trumps sending a range of delightful young men with very nice manners around. Although they are trashing the Sock's garden they are doing it with great charm - makes such a difference! On day one they bought the Sock a chocolate cream cake, admired the photos framed on her hall wall, loved the garden and accurately described it as 'mediterranean/cottage' which is exactly how the Sock thinks of it!
Next-door neighbours on both sides suggested that they would be happy to just have the one fence as boundary between our gardens which seemed sensible as they both had old, decaying and unsightly fences which will be replaced by my fab new one. The only problem with this is that whilst at present the Socks have very nice, quiet and easygoing elderly neighbours, if/when they snuff it we could have people move in wanting to 'mess' with the fence we have paid for and we don't want to end up with a boundary dispute. Still, not much choice really but to do it this way so there is no point worrying (yet).
It is very hot for the 'fencers' and the Sock has been slightly worried that one young lad would get heat exhaustion yesterday so went out and bought him a lollipop. He is actually a part-time PhD student and as far from the dreaded oiky builder types as the Sock could hope for. It is still early days though and we will wait until they have finished to decide whether to award the company an accolade or a cowpat.
Elsewhere on the garden front, tomatoes have taken over the Sock's greenhouse. One growbag of some large Italian type, one of Sock's favourite Sungold, one of the Bedsock's tomatillos and a small plum one beginning with S that Toby Buckland recommended. The Sock has crammed the four growbags in alongside each other and has had to cut back some of the foliage to allow air to circulate. Are they OK like this do you think?
Also the tomatillos have been flowering for a few weeks now but no sign of any fruit although the Sock isn't entirely sure what to expect from them fruitwise.
And just in case anyone thought that things were finally running a bit smoother for the Sock - they're back again!!!
Yes - it's the evil gullbaby from hell!! A noisy freakin' fluffball ready to grow up and splatter the Sockmobile with seagullshit just like its parents did and their parents before them back into time immemorial!
Our house guest 'Arthur' so named because we ejected this rather large grasshoppery thing from our villa several times but given 'arf a chance' he was back in again, even scaling the wall, climbing over the roof and coming back in through the bathroom window.
The Socks didn't really mind Arthur's presence brooding on the high ceiling - it was the idea he might suddenly drop off onto the bed whilst we were sleeping that was a bit unnerving..
Semi-dried octopus... * nom.. nom..*
Boating through azure seas to our own deserted cove...
The pool came into our villa...
Sadly all just for one week. Too short but it was originally planned to keep us going until a holiday in South Africa later in the year which we have had to postpone until (hopefully) next year.
So only just long enough to recover slightly from my previous meltdown to the inevitable one which will occur during this week as "the fence" project happens!!! Fingers crossed everyone in the hope it all goes smoothly!
You have all been wondering what has happened about THE WALL situation I blogged about in March. The news is not good - in fact the reason I haven't told anyone about it is it has just been too drainingly tedious for words. Just the sort of nightmare I predicted having years of experience and filing cabinets full of post-builder correspondence which has left me pretty much phobic about having anything else done. Unfortunately, in a house and garden built in 1900 there is always going to be something.
At the time of the last blog about it the walls had not survived the winter and had dissolved dangerously in parts making its immediate removal a necessity. Mad Andy - who might be mad but is very hardworking, trustworthy and reliable - was going to remove them leaving the area clear for a proper landscaper to finish off neatly and install new fencing.
At the beginning of April I called a recommended landscape firm explaining that it wasn't the most glamorous of jobs - basically some building works and erecting a fence - but that I wanted the job done properly and by people who would show some care and sensitivity towards the garden. The point was also strongly made that as the crumbling wall was being removed the following week that time was of the essence and the works needed doing as soon as possible after that.The landscaper visited and seemed happy to take on the job. The original quotation figure they gave me seemed rather expensive but worth it to get the work done properly and speedily by people that I wouldn't find to onerous to have to cope with when they invaded my house and garden.
[At this point I deleted my long and boring diatribe detailing events but suffice to say that I was let down badly by someone who clearly couldn't be arsed to do the job, forgot various details I had asked him about, took ages to produce an updated quotation full of innacurate figures, led me to believe that the job might take place end of April or early May, etc. etc. etc. until I had such a bad feeling about the whole thing I gave up with them. The firm hasn't contacted me since sending the second quotation so I guess they weren't interested but failed to bother to tell me this.]
Landscaper no.2 was contacted and seemed to know his stuff and at less than half the price of the first one didn't appear to be taking the piss. Because Landscaper no.1 had wasted a month during which, of course, everyone's work schedules had been booked up, Landscaper no.2 can't start until end of June.
To say I am pissed off is an understatement. In the belief that works would take place in April/early May we hacked back all our shrubs along the wall to allow access and dug up and potted many of the border plants that were likely to get destroyed in the process. It was imperative to get the fence in early so I could replant this and other new shrubs in order to have the garden look good this year. The shrubs are now regrowing and will have to be cutback again for the fencing to be put in. Much of the stuff I potted up isn't really happy and it has been a huge job watering it all. I have had to restrain myself in my usual horticultural retail therapy as there is nowhere for anything to go and stuff that I have not been able to resist is languishing in pots. Late spring and early summer is my absolute favourite time in the garden and it is still a mess. I am heartbroken.
Worse, we hadn't realised that our garden was 18" lower than the one above and that the wall was the only thing stopping it from collapsing into our garden in the event of a monsoon. Luckily rain hasn't been forthcoming - yet. The neighbours ageing fence was also supported by our wall so that is near collapse too and is support by some bags of rubble on both his and our sides making the garden look even more like a building site.
On the other side of our garden we now have an open plan effect with the elderly neighbours wildlife garden and her appalling fence. It has to be said that the cats love this if nobody else does. We are having her fence removed and our new one will form the boundary a cost which we will cover but it will mean the whole thing looks neater.
Plus the fencing that I wanted was originally on special offer which due to the delay in ordering has now finished costing me another few hundred pounds!
All of this couldn't have come at a worse time for various personal reasons that I won't bore readers with but
I am denied the relaxation that the garden would normally bring me when I really need it. Sometimes it is just all too much.
I told my twitterfriends that I was off into town to buy myself a cupcake, a pretty, pink, princessy one all surgary sparkles. I intended to twitpic it for the delectation of those who had urged me on in my enterprise but in the shop a rather plainer banana and white chocolate cupcake caught the attention of my taste-buds so I was forced to buy a pretty pink, but unfortunately named 'whoopee pie' as well. For the uninitiated whoopee pies are apparently the new cupcakes. The cakes were carefully packaged so as not so smudge their cream topping and I carried my delicate cargo gently back to the Sockmobile.
Driving home I pondered on how much better Spook has been over the past month - either he has become more lovable or at last the deep wound of Luka's loss is healing and I have become more able to let Spook into my heart. He is still incredibly annoying and naughty but has gained a certain soft sweetness which means it is impossible to be cross with him for long. Usually. He is very affectionate, jumping onto my shoulder and muzzling under my chin before spoiling the effect by nipping the end of my nose with his sharp little teeth. Spook will spend ages carrying objects around the house and leaving them in piles at my feet in the hope I will throw them for him to retrieve. Concentrating on my computer I did vaguely notice that he was trotting in and out of my study for a while but it was only when I later looked down that I found a little pile of my best designer earrings at my feet! He had somehow prised the top off the little shaker box I keep them in and with unusual concentration had bought all his new trophies to show me!
The main improvement is that he has stopped upsetting Hebe as much and is now a general rather than constant annoyance to her. Hebe may well have been grieving too as she has lately returned to being much happier, lively and skittish chasing around the house with Spook in a playful way rather than moping and spitting at him. They both love to be outdoors where she appears to be keeping an eye on him, joining his forays into neighbours gardens. Unfortunately every minute they are out of my sight is one of anxiety and they are constantly called back for a cat treat in the hope this stops them going too far. Spook can hear a fridge door open from several gardens away and comes belting across the fences, down the pathway, through the patio doors and jumps 3ft off the floor straight into the fridge balancing precariously on a cold shelf until he is scooped out and given his little bit of chicken.
Awww............ sweet... you are thinking.....
So was I as I drove home with my cupcakes.
Two minutes! Just two minutes I left the cupcake box on the living room table whilst I went to the loo. When I came back downstairs I noticed a box with puncture holes in it mauled and upside down on the kitchen floor where he had somehow managed to carry it!
The cupcake I had so carefully carried home was crushed the cream smeared around the box. The 'Whoopee Pie' whooped no longer.
Did I say Spook was becoming more loveable?
I like it best when there is a window between me and Spook.