Monday, 29 June 2009

Don't blame it on the sunshine

Yes those adorable Health and Safety Dogs are back to warn you of the hazards of heat!

Over to you Mutt and Jeff

clic for the flic

People with Glasshouses - I

The Bedsock arrived home on Friday night and took one look at the greenhouse (see blog below) and said "We'll have to get in a man!".

The Sock can see his point of view - it is rather more deconstructed than expected and the Bedsock works away from him all week so we only get weekends together and some of those in the near future are already taken up with other business. It took almost the entire weekend to remove the decaying shed to make way for the greenhouse and we will need to erect some new trellis against the back wall and also lay a course of bricks to stand the greenhouse on as the existing concrete plinth isn't exactly level.

Nevertheless the Sock would really like to give it a go ourselves and the greenhouse suppliers said that even an idiot could do it. Yes... the Sock thought that too. It is true to say though that the majority of work and lifting will end up with the Bedsock but it would be a real achievement to construct it and the Sock doesn't mind (too much) if it takes all summer to complete.

So the Sock has decided to put it to a poll and there is one to the right of this post. Vote Sock if you think we can do it ourselves and Bedsock if you think we should get in a "man".

Sunday, 28 June 2009

There's a rat in me trulli what am I gonna do

There are two things the Socks never travel without, one is a duckdown travel pillow from Granny Goose which saves the Socks having to put their heads on lumpy pillows filled with other people's dribble and dead skin (Euw! sorry but it IS true) and the other is an instant mosinet illustrated above (picture from Mosinet's website).

The mosinet is an absolute must! It has travelled all over the world with the Socks and saved them from the narsty mossies from Greece to Australia. It is lightweight, packs flat into your case and you can put it up in less than a minute even singlehanded after 3 or 4 negronis! The double one has been stretched over various kingsized beds but still retains it's shape. When you lie inside it it is like being under a giant cheese dome and you can poke fun at all the mozzies whining around outside "You can't get us you b*st*rds!". It is the best invention ever!

The mosinet only has one possible drawback and that is when you are both zipped inside it and realise there is a spider in there with you!!!! In the ensuing panic and attempts to claw your way out of the net without undoing the side zips, the net usually collapses on top of you. A single push up will restore its shape but the spider will probably disappear in the chaos.

So the Socks are gently slumbering under the net in their trulli with the bedroom doors open to the cool night air when the Sock hears a noise from the living room like a magazine dropping on the floor! She pokes the Bedsock and says

"Wake-up I heard a noise".

The Bedsock gestures with his hand and says "Talk to my face".

"Eh? I just said wake-up I heard a noise".


"I AM talking to your face - THERE'S A NOISE!!!!!!"

Then the Sock realises that the Bedsock is displaying his extremely annoying talent of appearing to be awake when he is actually still fast asleep. Years ago when the Socks first moved in together Ma and Pa Sock came to stay and for some reason the Bedsock slept in a sleeping bag on the living room floor. In the morning the parents wanted to breakfast in there so the Sock went in and gave the sleeping Bedsock a nudge with her foot and in return got a scowl and a hand gesture waving her away. By this time Ma and Pa Sock had piled into the room behind her and the Sock again nudged the Bedsock was again given a dismissive hand wave. The third time the Sock gave him a kick and the usually extraordinarily polite Bedsock turned scowling at her and her parents with his hand cupped to his ear and hissed "CAN'T YOU SEE I'M ON THE F*CKING TELEPHONE!!!"

The Sock has digressed so back to the mosinet and the Bedsock finally wakes up properly, hears the rustling noise from the interior room and exits quickly from the mosinet the Sock following rapidly behind not wanting to be left in the net on her own. A gasp from the Bedsock means he has spotted the intruder. Can you guess what it is yet? There is a clue in the post title. There's a little brown rat on the table and it is difficult to say who is most shocked, the rat confronted by two naked Socks or vice versa. It's a stand off but not for long as the Sock sees something furry race out of the kitchen and under the bed. "What shall we do?" shouts the Bedsock "Put some shoes on in case it goes for your feet!" squeals the Sock.

The next half hour is spent with the Socks clad only in trainers tentatively inspecting all the places the rat could be hiding but there is no sign and it is likely the poor scared thing scarpered back out into the garden. It has been in the crisp packet but luckily doesn't appear to have found the Sock's bag of local speciality biscuits which are like the best melt in the mouth macaroons ever.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Sundried tomatoes Sock Style

First buy a selection of delicious tomatoes from an Italian market making sure that you include the greenish ugly misshapen tomatoes that taste the best. Then go to your outdoor kitchen and halve the tomatoes and scoop out the seeds and watery bits. Brush the tomatoes with some local olive oil - a raunchy little number packed with the punch of pepper, grass and apple. Sprinkle a little sea salt and grind some pepper over them.

Cover the tomatoes to avoid ants and flies crawling over them. The Sock devised a clever little cover using the net from her Aussie hat (which repelled the little black flies so prevalent in the bush) supported by a beaker to let the air circulate.

Did the Sock ever show you her hat? It is the best hattiewat ever and when she wore it in Italy a lot of people stared at her with their hearts full of jealousy!

Leave the tomatoes to sunbathe by the pool all day.

Whilst you are waiting for them to dry you can take a few photos of butterflies,

lie in the hammock and read a book, drink a negroni* or two, doze with a soft breeze gently teasing your warm skin, try and get out of the hammock which is not that easy when you have creaky knees and makes you look totally inelegant.

By evening the tomatoes will be ready. A symphony of flavour - each variety of tomato different but the best are the ugly greenish ones which are just slightly chewy and dried to the essence of tomato. Heaven.

Repeat process next day. Alternatively get in a cook for the night and Francesca will show you how to make the local pasta speciality orecchiette (meaning little ears) an art that Francesca makes look simple but will soon be a lost art as the young Italians turn more and more to packed pasta.

*negroni - a happy mix of gin, martini rosso and campari, alternatively negroni sbagliati with prosecco rather than gin.


Thursday, 25 June 2009

Trulli Hideous

For those of you who are bored with my holiday pictures - normal service may be resumed next week.

Puglia's main offerings to the world are great peasant-style food or cucina povera if the peasant word is unacceptable. Loads of fab veg dishes like pureed fava beans with wild wilted chicory stirred in and drizzled with some of their outstanding olive oil, tomatoes that actually have flavour, and a great adherence to the slow food concept. A typical antipasti might consist of 10 different dishes ranging from deep fried peppers, baked aubergine stuffed with tomatoes, capers and olives to pickled octopus and pieces of frittata - each dish nearly a meal on its own. After that, and in the event your stomach hasn't exploded, you are expected to devour a spaghetti course and then a meat course and dessert. The waiters cried with disappointment when the usually greedy Socks couldn't make it past the antipasti. The wines are a revelation, warm cherry-chocolate reds easily surpassing their Tuscan cousins.

Other than that the scenery is no great shakes - at least in the Valle D'Itria where the Socks rented their trullo/villa (above). This was no suprise and the Socks had gone with the intention of slobbing around the lovely villa, reading and resting for the most part with the occasional foray into the surrounding villages. And this brings us to Puglia's other draw - trulli. They are everywhere, small conical-roofed stone houses... er that's it... seen one trullo seen them all. They even have a town of trulli, Alberobello, where 1500 of them provide a home for all sorts of tacky gift shops. Some of the trulli have secret symbols and markings on their roofs as below

At first the Sock found it difficult to envisage why anyone would want to buy a souvenir of the nativity scene with the dear baby Jesus born in a trullo! But then she remembered that her friend Dishwasher Crab puts a Christmas crib on her desk every year with Mary and Joseph carved out of fruit (or some such thing) so it would have made an ideal present.

For those of less religious persuasion a trulli garden water feature is surely a must.

The Sock hasn't seen such tasteless tat in years - not since Old Ma Sock bought her back a grotesque, nodding, sabre-toothed tiger ornament from Thailand and sent it as a birthday present. The Sock nearly fainted when she opened the packet as she thought for a moment it was a dead cat!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The Big Cheese

In a moment of almost certain sychronicity, whilst Happy Mouffetard entertained the crowds at GW Live with free cheese the Sock was being entertained by a giant formaggio in Rome!

The minute the Socks entered Volpetti's glorious deli in Rome the staff could see we were suckers obvious connoisseurs of all things food and wine and proceeded to give us tastings of everything in the shop. Our bags were quickly filled with all sorts of things we never knew we wanted, the best olive oils, goat cheese already escaping out of its packaging, our favourite fennel salamis, ham, mounds of mozzarella, olives, figs, nuts, pastries, balsamic vinegar, pies, patisserie, breads, cakes, until we eventually screamed ENOUGH!!

The Sock then politely asked if she could take a picture of this cornucopia and before she could say cheese was whisked around the counter and an enormous specimen was deposited in her hands. The Sock's not sure whether her 'personal assistant' was nuzzling up to the cheese or the Sock's increasingly ample bosom. He did give the Sock some nice chocolate sweeties as a little gift though....

The Sock wonders if Happy M. tried this technique on her customers!

Hey kids, plug into the faithless - Maybe they're blinded but Bennie makes them ageless

The Socks visited the Vatican but Pope Bennie was off on his jollies so he never got a hug. We did see Candy and Ronnie though (above)

The Basilica of St. Peter's was quite astounding but the Sock doesn't care for all that over-elaborate religious stuff- it always feels a bit depressing like some ancient Victorian aunt's overly ornate dark and dismal parlour. As for the Sistine Chapel - well OK it was 'good' and the paintings were rather more uplifting than the ones with saints being martyred in various ways but the Sock got a crick in her neck after 30 seconds and couldn't help feeling that 'less' would have been 'more'.

The outdoor space was quite nice though and the Pope has a rather attractive garden sculpture (below).

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

What the Romans did for us...

Today, children, we are going to have a history lesson.

For those of you with little education the picture above is of the Coliseum in Rome. The Socks did the tourist thing and wandered around with audio guides which informed that it was unlikely that Christians had ever been thrown to the lions here as the coliseum was generally used for gladiators and elaborate animal hunting set ups. There was also no mention of the "naked virgins being fed to crocodiles" scenario (as described in a somewhat porno book about what really happened at the Roman games that the Sock's brother once gave her to read at an impressionable age).

Having got over those disappointments the Sock was, however, greatly impressed by the invaluable contributions that the Romans have made to the world...

One - the Romans gave us digital cameras

Two - the Romans gave us cigarettes

Three - the Romans gave us mobile phones!!!!!!! Did you know that it is illegal to drive in Italy unless you are doing at least 200km an hour, in the wrong lane, chatting into your mobile phone?

Last but not least the Sock believes that it is quite possible that the Romans invented "fuckme shoes". The Sock came over all middle-aged and felt that this young lady's attire was hardly appropriate for wandering around the Coliseum.

Nevertheless, having never owned and now never likely to own a pair of fuckme shoes, (or even just the one like James has) the Sock was a little jealous of said young lady's footwear. Teva trail sandals - the Socks summer footwear of choice - may be comfortable but they are definitely not sexy.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Postcard from Rome - La Dolce Vita

As usual postcards from abroad arrive after the sender has returned...

Dear Sockwatchers

Have rented a lovely apartment up near the Piazza del Popolo. It is on the top floor and has a fabulous 180° view over Rome encompassing everything from the Villa Borghese round to the Vatican.

Unfortunately the view is spoilt by the arrival of Clavdivs, a distant Italian cousin of the psycho gulls who frequent our roof top in Brighton, sent to spy on us.

And things get worse - he's bought his friend Caligula.

Clavs and Clags (as they become known to us) spend a lot of time peering in our terrace window and then throwing back their heads and screaming abuse at us. This is very wearing so we retreat to our enclosed roof top courtyard but they soon find us and their evil beaky faces peer down over the parapet. They see us eating a fine antipasti bought from Volpetti's fabulous deli and they want some of the goodies. Failing to secure even a beakful of Rome's best prosciutto, Clags thrusts his bottom out over the parapet and deposits a pile of seagull-splot right next to the Sock's chair leaving her in no doubt the next dump will be on her head!

On the last night of our stay in Rome, Clavs excels himself. When the Sock awakes on the morning of her departure, she wonders why the Bedsock has left a chair out on the balcony where it is now covered in seagull shit. The Bedsock replies, somewhat testily, that he didn't leave the chair outside to be shit on - after the Sock had gone to bed and he was half dozing on the sofa, Clavdivs decided to wander in and explore the apartment. The Bedsock opened his eyes to find a seagull staring into them at close proximity and the result was a certain amount of fear and confusion all round. Unfortunately Clavdivs had panicked a great deal and flapped and crashed around the flat with the Bedsock in full pursuit, pooing profusely wherever he landed (Clavdivs pooing that is, not the Bedsock although it was probably a close thing).

The Bedsock was somewhat aggrieved that the Sock in the adjoining bedroom had slept through the entire spectacle but not as much as the Sock herself who was rather sorry to have missed something so hilarious and ended up with the task of cleaning up the poo.

Love to all

Arabella xx

Wednesday, 3 June 2009


The Socks are off on hols tomorrow - first Rome and then Puglia. The Bedsock has already planned a route around Rome taking in all the markets and temples to gastronomy and the Sock has planned a day out to the Tivoli gardens. This means there will be very little time to go and give the Pope a huggywug but he will be in good company as JAS never got one either.

The week in Puglia consists of a trullo with pool and outdoor kitchen (as well as indoor one). The Bedsock will amuse himself with the pizza oven and already has plans to oven roast more tomatoes than you can shake a stick at. The Sock will float in the pool and read all the books the blog has distracted her from this year.

Auntie Debbie will come and look after the puss babies again.

You must all behave yourselves whilst the Sock is away.

Arabella xxxx

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

The Beastie Boy

It has been nearly a year since Fat Rascal first wrote a guest blog for the SOIG mentioning the 'beast in the attic' at her French mountain home. The beast has been frequently mentioned in our email exchanges but Fat Rascal has never actually seen it nor offered photographic proof. Until now....

Fat Rascal finally caught the critter on camera and it's a cute little beastie baby stone marten!

Fat Rascal is very excited about this but may want to note that as well as living in French attics or the space between plasterboard and ceiling and generally making a loud chattering noise and crashing around - they have a habit of crawling inside the warm engine housing of cars and are occasionally responsible for chewing through ignition cables and coolant hoses.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Watching me, watching you

Has anyone else noticed the astonishing resemblance between Andy Sturgeon's 2006 Chelsea Garden and the design for the new Big Brother House. Although wait - haven't we seen that shape before somewhere?

Tick tock, tick tock

Time is flying. How did we end up in June so quickly when it was only just March the other day.

The Sock is panicking so the only thing to do is make a list and today's list is gardens/events that really must be visited this summer if there is any time left after the (no doubt) weeks it will take to erect the greenhouse.

First up Kew Gardens. The Sock has been there before but not since the Chihuly exhibition and has not been on the new tree-top walk. Plus it's Kew's 250th birthday celebration with lots of behind the scenes tours. Better still Ms. B. spends so much time at Kew that people think she lives there and if the Sock arranges a meet-up Ms B. will be sure to bring her a special cakey with her name in purple icing on it. Maybe more than one visit to Kew is beckoning.

Next, the Sock really must do Great Dixter again but that will have to be weighed up against Sissinghurst as there may not be enough time to do both and the Sock does want to report on the food situation there. Decisions.. decisions.

Future Gardens... an absolute must! The Sock was invited to the press day for this but can't go as the Socks are off to Italy for their hols that day. The Sock was so disappointed that the Bedsock said we could always postpone our flight but when he saw some of the restaurants in Rome that Emma T has recommended for us he quickly shelved that idea.

RHS Hampton Court Flower Show.. to go or not to go, that is the question. The Sock went to this last year and was going to skip it this year after getting the flower show fix at Malvern and Chelsea but may start to feel she is missing out..

The Sock also just noticed a list of shows on her favourite Heucheraholics site - if any of you are at these shows drop in and say hello to Jooles and Sean at their stand, they are lovely people and that way you will have joined Ssh! (Secret Society of Heucheraholics except it isn't that secret any more).

The picture is of the Sock's front gravel garden. It was created years ago before everyone started doing grasses and gravel - the Sock was ahead of her time.