Monday, 28 February 2011

A Cold Coming we had of it...

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Abisko

Last Tuesday at 11.00 a.m. the Socks were taxiing along the runway at Heathrow - 12 hours later the Socks are suspended in the dark off a cliff face, 100ft above the snow in temperatures of -40C! All the Sock can think is WTF are we doing here!

The Sock has had a deep rooted fear of open chair lifts ever since one childhood summer when enjoying a ride on a chairlift in Switzerland.  As the double chair swept higher and higher, swaying over alpine meadows, trees and lakes, my brother seated next to me waited until the chair was at its highest point and then threatened to open the safety bar and push me out!  Believing him quite capable of this malfeasance the Sock screamed in panic to her parents suspended in the chair in front - to no avail.  Finally alighting at the summit the Sock ran crying to them "Why didn't you do something?" but Old Ma Sock merely laughed and said "Ha ha! We thought you were waving!"

Not waving......................

And now the Sock is drowning again in a sea of ice-cold darkness until a sudden jolt means that the next lot of passengers to reach the bottom have been unloaded and we are re-starting our slow, swaying descent. At least the Sock can see where she is going as earlier a thin layer of ice had formed on her steamed up glasses obscuring any sort of view. The bad news is that the thawed lenses have shown the Sock exactly how vertiginously high up in the air she is suspended.

A visit to Swedish Lapland had been a long held dream for the Socks and when we finally decided to make it so we threw in a first night at the Abisko Sky Station, the most likely place for a Northern Lights viewing. Sadly the sky is slightly cloudy and although the previous night the display had been one of the best in years we are denied more than a very faint hint of the green and pink of these elusive lights.  We have however had a very nice meal at the Sky station the Sock's favourite course being smoked salmon in an artichoke soup.  The salmon has the kind of strong gutsy smoke to it that we remember from Iceland where they smoke the salmon over sulphurous steaming pits filled with smouldering sheep dung.  It tastes as one would expect from such treatment but somehow within that strange and alien landscape that is just right.

We finally make it down safely to the bottom of the chair lift where the Sock manages to slip over twice and lose her woolly hat on the short walk back to the very basic hotel.  The next day will take us on through the snowy wilderness to the Ice Hotel itself and our first and quite probably last experience of sleeping on ice!

To be continued....

Friday, 18 February 2011

Out of the Box

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All the woodland path is broken
  By warm tints along the way,
    And the low and sunny slope
    Is alive with sudden hope
When there comes the silent token
  Of an April day,—
    Blue hepatica!

        Dora Read Goodale—Hepatica.

Winter boxes the Sock in - a combination of SAD, the sort of drear, grey, cold weather that puts paid to even the slightest glimmer of enthusiasm at the idea of being outdoors and a surfeit of apathy.  As the Sock's first social/horticultural occasion of the year, the RHS February London Halls event was as eagerly anticipated as the Chelsea Flower show!  To be honest it is not really 'showy' but for the Sock, what the RHS Halls lacks in interest (and it does lack), it makes up for in the sheer joy of being let out of the box!

Lindley Hall

First a little note to the RHS. DON'T EVER DO THAT STUPID THING WITH THE TICKETS AGAIN!
Arriving at Lindley Hall to meet friends I was told that I needed to wander around to the Lawrence Hall to pick up a ticket despite producing my RHS card for free entry.  This totally confused me (and everyone else) as it had never happened before and also seemed completely pointless with everyone grumbling about it. Given the show attracts a lot of very elderly people being told to drag your zimmer even the short distance to the Lawrence Hall and back to get a ticket is really not on.

Clearly a little grumble like that wasn't going to spoil our day and we bagged a table at the upstairs coffee bar for a quick chat with Simon (who had already "done" the two halls in the space of 45 minutes which he said was because it was early enough not to be crowded but in my opinion was more likely to be because they weren't that interesting), Michelle, Victoria and Lazy Trollop.  When I said quick chat I meant that some of us stayed for a longer gossip - by the time Helen and her partner turned up we only had a short time to race around the Lindley Hall before meeting up at the Lawrence.

It didn't really need much time.  There were two 'show' roof gardens neither of which I found that inspiring although Hugo Bugg's one did have a fab living wall composed mainly of sempervivums which I love.  I couldn't help feeling that a real eyecatcher would have been to have created a mini 'Gherkin' out of sempervivums and silver sedums to reflect the one in the background skyline and form a focal sculptural piece for the garden.


This outdoor room thingy was created out of fake grass.  Unfortunately my accompanying Beardibum thought it was one of those flash Parisian toilets and had to be quickly stopped from taking a leak in it. That particular Beardibum won't be let out again for a while.


Then on to the Lawrence Hall to meet up again on the 'biddies balcony' so called because they all sit up there in rows with their packed lunches.

Larwrence Hall

It was a disappointing year for hat wear at the show but to our absolute delight we spotted the 'Snowdrop hat lady' (see this blog from last year).  This year she was with 'Snowdrop-hat lady No.2' !  I wonder if more Snowdrop hat ladies will turn up next year - perhaps they will divide and expand exponentially and in a few years the halls will be entirely populated with Snowdrop-hat ladies.


I was pleased to see the happy smiling faces of Sean and Jooles at Heucheraholics again. Even though it's not the best time of year for heucheras their display always looks bright and cheerful.  Friends living in France will be interested to know that Sean & Jooles won a first prize at a French Flower show at Courson October 2010 south of Paris knocking the two French heuchera nurseries into a cocked hat! (In this case a bicorne hat like Napoleon's rather than the usual British tricorne conjured up by the saying.)  I say "Well done" to Heucheraholics - a proud day for the Brits and no doubt your OBE's will be forthcoming.


The loveliest thing at the show (apart from the Sock herself obviously) was the gorgeous, to absolutely die for, hepatica display from Ashwood nursery.  Such beautiful colours and flowers - even the foliage is fabulous.


Sadly I didn't buy any because the two I got from the show a couple of years ago disappeared very quickly and I don't know whether they are just a bit tricksy or  I just don't have the right growing conditions.


So all that remained of the day was to clear off to the pub for a few hours to be picked up a little 'tired and emotional' (but very happy) by the Bedsock on his way home from work.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Erumping!

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The Sock has been very remiss on the blogging front for the last few weeks in part due to Seasonal Apathy but mainly due to some sort of brain/eye strain which has made doing any sort of photoshoppy work difficult.

Now things are at last erumping forth.

e·rum·pent adj.  Bursting through as if through a surface or covering.

This is a lovely new word the Sock has found thanks to Lia Leendertz in her Guardian weekend column. So whilst Lia's recommended snowdrop sites are busy erumping the Sock is also forming little shoots of ideas in her brain which will soon erump forth on her blog. 

In the meanwhile here are some lovely links for anyone who has not yet seen them.  First a little taster of what the sadly cancelled second season of Landscape Man would have bought us.

Landscape Man shakes his booties

Perhaps if we all clap loud enough the series, like Tinkerbell, will be revived and back on our screens.

Also shaking their booties (and a little more in some cases) are

3 Men Went 2 Mow - certainly shaking something

For those of you missing Alys Fowler her Guardian column also gives timely advice this week with a  St. Valentine's day slug massacre The Sock can't think of a better way to celebrate it.

That's enough feeling the love in the room for now.. the Sock will be back soon with a new episode of Dullas