Wednesday, 25 March 2009

From Berryfields to Greenacre....

Those of you who haven't already seen it must watch the hilarious trailer on You Tube for our treasured Gardeners' World new site.

The Sock did make a pilot video for them but clearly it didn't convey quite the image they were looking for. Speakers on everyone and make sure it starts at the beginning.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

What's yellow and smells a bit of bananas?

Monkey sick!!!!!

Or alternatively muscari macrocarpum (above) which the Sock bought from Marchant's Hardy Plants at the weekend, along with a pulmonaria 'blue ensign' which has the most fabulously vivid deep blue flowers and a purpley/bluey/greyish hellebore which has already lost its plant label.

The Sock was tempted to repeat the monkey sick joke to the proprietor when he told her about the muscari's banana smell but somehow managed to keep schtum. The joke was side-splittingly funny when told on stage by Rik Mayall many years ago but may have since lost something in translation.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Street View Sadness

I'm feeling towards the sad end of the melancholy scale - a state induced by having indulged my curiousity on Google Streetview. Me and everyone else in the country no doubt.

The first visit was to my home for my first eight years, a bungalow perched high on a hill at the back of Swansea with views encompassing much of Swansea bay, the biggest natural bay outside of Naples... or something like that. The bungalow now has an attic extension and has been modernized, the garden looks really quite good, someone obviously cares about it, they even have a greenhouse!

Gone is the ridiculous rockery plonked to one end of the front garden like a tiny, dormant volcano. I used to sit at the top of it. I've always loved rockeries and have a tiny one now but it's not a stand alone. Gone is the privet hedge that we made dens in and which gave my father such dreadful hayfever. Perhaps the garden waste heap at the apex of the back lawn, which I used to roll on and inhale the summer smell of grass cuttings, has also gone.

The garage is still there and I remember the easy climb onto it's roof from the slope of the back garden and me and my brother dropping stones onto next door neighbours terracotta pots!! He was an annoying man who regularly complained to my father about us calling him Trixie (his name was Mr. Trick) but Trixie was just the name of our cat which obviously we screeched all the time. He had a small daughter who I wasn't keen on either. One day she asked to play with a doll I had which had a green foam dress - I said no she would destroy it. My father, lounging in his deckchair outside the front of the bungalow, said "Don't be so mean, let her play with your doll". I handed it over and she destroyed it!

It must be the same front wall my brother and I sat on selling to the passing neighbours "scent" that we had made in a bucket out of hot water and flowers. The flowers were no doubt stolen from their own gardens, or maybe bluebells from the nearby woods. But whether they knew the provenance of the scent or not the kindly Welsh neighbours clearly loved children enough to indulge them and small coins would be handed to us in return for a bottle.

So many memories and my eyes have now filled with too many nostalgic tears to go on - and I haven't even started on the wine yet!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

An Unkindness of Ravens - Part IV

.. and in our final episode the darkness has descended. But is there light at the end of the tunnel?

Find out by

clic for the flic

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

While the bee with honied thigh

This bee was so still in the rhododendron flower that it appeared to be dead. A slight pulsating from its furry back and the fact that it is covered in pollen might suggest that it was actually dead drunk! Clic on the picture to enlarge - it is really quite strange.

Monday, 16 March 2009

The Man in the Mask

The Sock wanted to post this as a comment on Cleve West's blog in reply to James' on Cleve's post Levitation ... but for some reason wasn't able to comment there so it's here instead.

You don't need to worry about looking like a camp vicar James there is a much more astonishing resemblance - Jim Carrey's manic superhero in 'The Mask'! It's the hat wot does it..


Thursday, 12 March 2009

An Unkindness of Ravens - Part III

The darkness is descending on Hissingfirst.... but remember children it's just make believe... don't have nightmares..

clic for the flic

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Where have all the flowers gone?

The Sock was sorting out her garden file today and came across a bag full of plant labels. Instead of getting on with the job in hand an hour was spent perusing the labels and wondering what the heck had happened to some of the plants associated with them. Given that the Sock's garden isn't really very big you might think it would be difficult to 'lose' so many plants. So today's blog is a lucky dip where the Sock draws out a few random labels and ponders on what and where they might have been..

First up..

Penstemon 'Blue springs'. The Sock remembers a dwarf penstemon that lived in a pot for a couple of years but has no idea where it is now. It looks a bit like 'sour grapes' which the Sock has tried twice but unlike other penstemons in the garden has never had many flowering stems and may well have been disposed of for not trying hard enough.

Eryngium 'Picos blue'. Ah yes.. that was bought at Hampton Court flower show last year and went in the front gravel garden. Another two eryngiums were planted as well (the Sock had a 'thing' about them last year) and only one appears to have survived. Wonder which one it is.

Mertensia maritima. The Sock remembers this as an attractive blue succulent with edible leaves that apparently tasted like oysters. The snails around here have quite sophisticated tastes. Gone in 60 seconds!

Jovibarba 'hirt neilreichii'. A Wisley shop purchase which would have been added to the happy family of sempervivums and jovibarbas in pots and on the mini-rockery where they all do well but the Sock has no idea which one is which. Some of them made there way to Fat Rascal's trough in the Auvergne along with a couple of stowaway woodlice.

Aquilegia 'greenapples'. Hmmm... wonder what happened to that.

Bongardia chrysogonum. Eh?

Weigela foliss purpureis. Been in for years and one of the Sock's favourites - lovely flowers in May and attractive purpley bronze leaves.

Hebe 'Pascal'. Been and gone.

Clematis 'honora'. The Sock found an unidentified clematis in a pot recently and was wondering which pruning group it was or whether it is was one of the ones that got wilt and died. (Just found 'The president' label and the Sock doesn't remember having seen that one for years.)

Baccharis Patagonica. Not a clue other than it came from Architectural Plants and is apparently salt and wind resistant evergreen with fragrant flowers in June. Would that be the one that smelt of newly cooked biscuits? If so it's gone.

Linaria purpurea 'Canon Went'. Canon went and seeded everywhere in the garden.

Echeveria 'Black Prince'. Not ringing any bells.

Ocimum 'Magic Mountain'. Nobody told me ocimum was in fact basil.

Anemone Pavonina 'St. Bavo'. Well what do you know? This was named after the patron Saint of Ghent. They are both now residing in heaven.

The Sock will end with Lotus hirsutus ' blue boy' doing well and another of the Sock's favourites although it might have sustained a bit of frost damage.

Hold on... one last label. Lupinus 'Masterpiece'. This must be the Cleve West Lupin! Not sure whether the original ones have survived but the Sock kept seeds from them in the fridge and will see if she can grow something better than the scoggy ones that Crocus provided last year!

Sunday, 8 March 2009

More pussies

This time they are pussy willows.

The Socks went for a walk near Arundel castle and found these lovely pussy willows next to the riverbank. The colours and textures in them are absolutely fabulous and the pictures are worth clicking on to enlarge.

The bee was clearly enjoying the early season warmth and so were the Socks.

Unfortunately just after the Sock's had found a nice spot overlooking the river valley to enjoy their picnic lunch (the Bedsock's favourite homemade curry parsnip soup and a ham sandwich) it started to rain. Then just as we walked up to the brow of the hill it started to sleet and an icy wind cut into us. So much for Spring!

Friday, 6 March 2009

Release the Cats of War...

The killing season commences. The first sign of sunshine and movement in the garden and they are out there sloughing off their winter sloth and slaughtering every thing that moves, frogs, bees, leaves... they are not so good on birds.. yet!

No longer can I slouch sleepily in my study following my morning ritual of tea and emails, coffee and online papers, more tea as I head for the blogosphere. As my computer chair is next to the window I can just see, out of the corner of my eye, the suspicious milling around of cats that means some poor frog, with flippers across its head in surrender position, needs rescuing from their prodding, patting paws. I fall downstairs and out into the garden where, despite the thickness of my dressing gown, a freezing blast of icy air chills me through as I rush out to grab the frog before a cat seizes it in it's mouth and high-tails over the wall. If this happens it will necessitate a struggle through the bushes at the back of the neighbouring garden in pursuit of the fleeing culprit, squashing slugs and snails into the soles of my indoor slippers as I go. A rude awakening indeed.

Rescued frogs are gently placed into my pondlet where they invariably swim quickly down to the bottom. Some of them never break the surface again... And those that live will be forever in fear of the 'great eyeballs in the sky' - Luka peering endlessly into the water in his obsessive hunt for them.

This is not the only damage my precious pussbabies wreak. There is another routine to be followed before I even get my first cup of tea.

I am softly slumbering but it is 7.00 a.m. and no gentle release from dreams for me. A fat catpaw pats my mouth and ignored is then shoved up my nose! As I start to emerge slowly from my sleep a cat sneezes directly in my face to hasten the process! This tactic invariably works as I shoot out of bed and fall into the bathroom to wash off the cat snot. We troop downstairs in a procession and the cats are immediately let out the kitchen patio doors after their night time incarceration. They rush towards my crocus and iris pots and nibble the long stems. I rush out and boot them off but as fast one retreats another is taking its place.. this is too much I am barely awake so a smack is administered somewhere around the cat's backside and they disappear off around the corner of the house. I stumble back into the kitchen to get my tea and their breakfast. But what is this? Before they have even eaten a cat has proudly puked up a little pile of what was once the new libertia 'goldfinger' I bought at the RHS flower show. Later inspection shows that this is now ruined. The slugs have already got the more expensive of the hepaticas I bought.

All is not gloom however. For the first time ever I've spotted a goldcrest in the garden which has visited over the last few days pecking around my euphorbia 'blackbird'. (You can just about see it in the picture below - excuse the quality it was taken through the closed window).

I watch over my little visitor ready to ward off any marauding cats. I wonder why this tiny bird has honoured my garden with his presence. A few days later I discover the reason - the euphorbia is covered in whitefly.

Cats, frogs, slugs, snails, rosemary beetles, miscellaneous insects, caterpillars, seagulls not to mention the maggotry... the garden battle season begins!

Unbelievably I just found a vine weevil sitting on my desk - this really is war!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

An Unkindness of Ravens - Part II

The battle between good and evil continues at Hissingfirst.. but exactly who are the baddies?

Don't miss episode two

clic for the flic

And if you missed last weeks episode catch up here

catch up flic

Editors note: It is very difficult to get the timings on these gifs right and account for different broadband or reading speeds. Let me know if it is generally too fast or too slow and I'll see if I can adjust it.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

No way José

The Sock is feeling a little disordered today after a somewhat self-indulgent weekend trip to London to see Carmen at the Albert Hall. The Sock has never seen an opera before and felt Carmen was a good start being very nearly a musical with a few familiar songs.

The story is set in 1830s Seville and concerns the beautiful Carmen, a fiery-tempered gypsy. She ensares Don José, an inexperienced soldier, with her beguiling ways which include singing whilst writhing around passionately on the floor - what's not to like? Completely bewitched he rejects his former lover, kills his superior who has also been enjoying Carmen's favours, and joins a gang of smugglers. So far so tuneful. José's problem is that when Carmen dumps him at the end of the first half he just won't take the hint.

So because of this the audience are then subjected to José moping about for the entire second act and the only thing worse than a love-sick man moping around looking miserable is one singing dialogue about it.

Spoiler. At the end José kills Carmen who is by this time bonking the matador.

The Sock didn't totally enjoy it even though the singers were fantastic and the stage set was great the overall production seemed lacking. As Ms. B. (who by coincidence saw the later performance on Saturday) said "It wasn't really in your face enough" and the Sock felt the same it lacked gutsiness.

The Bedsock endured the performance but only really enjoyed the bit where the tree scenery came down from the ceiling in the interval. This doesn't bode well for any future visit to Glyndebourne which is on the Socks 'Loads of things to do before I die' list.

Afterwards the Socks treated themselves to some very good cocktails at the Blue Bar in Knightsbridge and the Bedsock brightened up considerably. Even more so when we dined at the Corrigan's new restaurant and had an excellent meal including some of the best native oysters we have had in years.

The Sock loves oysters - for her they are not just seafood but an explosion of memories in the mouth. A reminder of the time when the sea was clean and fresh.. playing in huge waves, being thrown over and over and over, pushed down to the sandy seabed and bursting back up to the surface, laughing and spitting salt sea only to be knocked down again by the next wall of foaming white water. Such joy, such freedom and all exquisitely encompassed in the essence of an oyster.

The Socks stayed over in London and went for a dim sum Sunday lunch at Hakkasan's.

Despite feeling more than a little fragile the Sock thought another cocktail might be a hair of the dog so washed the dim sum down with a Chinese Mule whilst the Bedsock had a Virgin Hakka.

On the way home the Socks listened to GQT in the car. Sad news that Geoffrey Smith had died but a lovely and funny tribute program. The bantering with Nigel Colborn was particularly amusing.. but is aubretia really called aubrieta?