Monday, 22 February 2010

Old MontyDonald Had a Farm Ee Ay Ee Ay Oh! Verse 3

The Sock watched so you don't have to..

The Sock finally got round to watching the next few episodes of His Organic Jerkin's Dream Farm series. They exerted a curious fascination  - the sort of alternate reality you might enter if you joined the Scientologists or entered America's Next Top Model show.  In fact, Tyra Banks and Monty Don would seem to have a lot in common....

And on that farm they had some chickens - with a henhouse here and a duckhouse there

This week's no-hopers, Rob and Sue plus young children, want to play at  living off the land with their chickens and veg.  The Lord of Cord decides they need to 'engage with the land' and to do this they must have pigs. In reality Rob is finishing a house he is building and has no time for the farm. Monty comes over all paternalistic and admonishes them amidst much gnashing of teeth and weeping and wailing, refusing to return if they won't play nicely.   Everyone admits that he is right (especially Monty) and there is a group hug.  The  pigs turn up and suddenly everyone becomes deliriously happy.  At this point the Sock thought she had woken up in the middle of Deal or no Deal as she heard Noel Edmonds say " we can feel the energy.  When you feel the energy.. then your dreams can fly." But it wasn't Noel it was Monty. There was so much energy around by this time that Rob started building designer chicken houses at £700 a throw and selling them to MPs on expenses.

And on that farm they had some pigs - Nice pigs, shame about the mange

The next week we have two efficient entrepreneurs for His Organic Jerkin to patronize.  They don't actually need Monty to help them set up their proposed business growing and selling veg and running a farm shop with cafe.  Monty decides that they need to 'engage with the public' and 'communicate with the community' to sell their concept and suggests they need some pigs. Lots of small children turn up to see said pigs and Monty explains how "pigs are so intelligent, so friendly, and so tasty in a bacon sarnie".  Some of the pigs get the mange but luckily this doesn't transfer to small children, apparently.  At the end The Jerkin sums up with "they undoubtedly have entrepreneurial energy  but it will be interesting to see if there is a deep core of passion that will sustain them."  The Sock woke up wondering if she was watching ANTM where Tyra Banks expels from the show any contestant who doesn't feel "a deep core of passion for modelling".

So two episodes down and the Sock is wondering if she can actually go on with this tedium when Fat Rascal emails her from her mountain top in France and suggests 'MontyBollox'.  For every meaningless and hackneyed phrase Monty utters you score a point and take a gulp of wine!  For totalbollox you drink a full glass.

Armed with a couple of bottles of Rioja the Sock curled up to watch the next episode..

And on that farm she had some alpacas - nice alpacas shame about the lack of planning permission

This week's nitwit is a woman who has bought some land and built a kit house from 'Cheap and nasty-looking-Chalets-R-us' without planning permission on greenbelt land.  His Organic Jerkin mentions this but fails to fully condemn it. In fact he says "I'd like to help her free herself from this tangle she's got into." Whereas the Sock would like to see the eyesore violating planning permission bulldozed down and the woman heavily fined. The nitwit has bought herself some pretty alpacas saying "lots of people thought I was crazy but you don't have to eat them which I love and they're not dirty and smelly." This doesn't bode well for Monty suggesting pigs again so he goes for the sheep concept instead.  By this time the Sock is already two glasses down and the program hardly started.  Points were scored and wine flowed for the following

engaged with the land (or people) x 15
connect with the land x 3
charm offensive x 2
you are not an island   [total bollox]
new energy about the land
bond with the land
comfort zone x 3
"where is the hunger to get this going, without the hunger it will not work" [total bollox]

the Sock believes the following was actually said TWICE in the Monty-scripted program but make allowances for the fact that by this time she was nearing the end of the second bottle and was definitely seeing double so could have been hearing it too

"you're talking the talk but you're not walking the walk - my advice to you is to start walking!".

One horrible hangover later and the Sock isn't up to watching the next episode but has received email from a correspondent in Paris who watched it so the Sock doesn't have to.....

I watched Dream Farm with Monty Bad Trousers and was horrified.  It should have been titled "Let's all have a larf at this bloke with mental health ishoos making a mess of his farm".  The bloke was bipolar.  His Trousership kept saying "What happens if you have another attack?" and to the wife "What will happen if he gets sick again?" on on the voiceover "Will it break the dream?"
They were a dream couple for the dream farm series as she was black and he was ginger so they'd got their PC minority quotas dealt with in one episode.  The bloke resisted acquiring animals all the way through (all he really wanted was to build a barn out of rubble he had collected but the Great Man wouldn't let him).  He was persuaded to rent out some sheep grazing so The Organic Jerkin said "Perhaps the sheep indicate that X is in a more positive frame of mind."  Near the end, Bad Trousers said that at last X was achieving his dream of having animals on this land.  X looked very shifty - you could tell the cows would be straight back where they came from as soon as the Jerkin had exited the premises. All the way through BT kept up his sanctimonious "understanding" voiceover but totally failed to establish any connection with the poor bloke. Frankly it was larfable! The bloke only looked really happy when he brought back and ancient old caravan that he had got for nothing during a manic phase!
So there we have it. The Sock feels that the only way this series could be improved is to have the kind of crossover that we are currently experiencing with the CSI Trilogy. By  mixing Dream Farm with The Archers we have a storyline where...

Mad Dairy Queen Helen Archer is desperate for a baby and Monty turns up and gives her one!

Red wine and turkey-basters all round!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

The Obligatory Other Blog

Hi there boys and girls..

Just to let you know that 'the hand inside the Sock' has started another blog.  This will be more of a 'vanity blog', part autobiography but also providing an outlet for the Socks to share memories, observations, anecdotes and articles about anything to do with food.    If you are interested then it is here

Fourth Plate

Don't worry the Sock will still be here at the Sea of Immeasurable Gravy because someone needs to keep an eye on our horticultural heroes and horrors and Arabella is The Sock to do it!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

RHS London Show - Snowed under with snowdrops

The Sock met the Mysterious Ms. B. yesterday for a wander around the RHS London Plant and Design show. This was the second year in a row so it is very nearly a tradition but whilst the gossip and the giggling surpassed last year's, the show itself was somehow just very slightly disappointing.  This may be less to do with the show than the fact that for the Sock the energy of Spring seems to be still lacking. Whilst last year there were shoots of excitement stirring enough to start the spending season, this year the joys of purchase eluded the Sock and only a small replacement aeonium and crassula made it into her haul.  Last year's fabulous hepatica displays seemed to have been replaced with the ubiquitous snowdrops and there was nothing with a real wow-factor.

The Sock was in competition with Ms. B. to bag the best photo of someone's hat - in the event Ms. B. spotted it and the Sock got the picture, a good joint effort.  Amazingly, it bears an uncanny resemblance to the 2009 vintage..

On to the Lawrence Hall to view the garden designs.  Overall the Sock found these fairly dull - there was nothing wrong with them but nothing new or exciting either.  Ms. B. felt that both the lighting and the possible colour of the houses (duck-house blue) suppressed the mood.  The one below was our favourite but for some reason even the planting in that looked sombre.

Next the balcony gardens with a theme of 'predictability'

Recycled old cds..

 Recycled old tyres..

Vertical planting!

There was nothing wrong with these balconies - in fact you might well be proud to own one - but they just seemed 'same old' and didn't stimulate the Sock.

This one at last seemed an original concept for a balcony and the Japanese style design worked surprisingly well

Viewed from the side you could see a little seat hidden within the bamboo surround.

Ms B. agreed that neither of us would be able to squeeze our bottoms into that small space but nevertheless a good idea.

No visit to a show is complete these days without a visit to the Heucheraholics stand.  Even the heucheras looked less bright than they will later in the season but Sean and Jooles made up for that with their bright and cheerful smiles and T-shirts!

Next year the Sock must remember that the Lawrence hall sports a balcony where lunching ladies can view the comings and goings in the hall below.  A great spectator sport and the ideal place for celeb spotting! Clic on the picture to enlarge...

Monday, 15 February 2010

The Orchids cling in rose and purple spheres


Around the pillars of the palm-tree bower
The orchids cling, in rose and purple spheres;
Shield-broad the lily floats; the aloe flower
Foredates its hundred years.

                                                               Bayard Taylor

Greetings Sockwatchers - the Sock has been busy on other projects and despite having a head full of ideas for the SOIG hasn't had time to blog them yet.  In the meantime you will have to make do with plant pictures or in this case the orchids the Socks saw at Kew last weekend.  Kew's outdoor landscape - sky the dingy colour of underwear long, long, past it's bright and white days, gardens drained and grey reflecting the Sock's winter SAD - couldn't have been in more marked contrast to the bright, bold, beauty of the orchid filled Princess of Wales glasshouse.  The Sock isn't usually so keen on the alluring artifice of orchids but the cacophony of colour did much to lift her mood.

These big-chin orchids always remind the Sock of Bruce Forsythe.

Tunnels of hanging orchids to wander through.

Crazy clash of colours - but somehow it works.  Nah! it doesn't.

Sock's favourite - love the colour.

Monday, 8 February 2010

The Kitten Diaries - Part III The Winter of our Discontent

Hebe's Diary January 2010

The furry, ferrety, fiend aptly named Spook is still here and life for me has become a case of 'off ground touch'.  I move around the house on higher levels, a table, the back of the sofa, a cupboard or the ironing board, anywhere that I can scan around and see if the little beast is in the vicinity.  It doesn't stop him of course, but gives me more chance of seeing him coming - a little Hebe-seeking missile.  I have moved into secret places easier to defend, on top of  the under-stairs filing cabinet, the back of the wardrobe, or squashed for hours in Arabella's knicker drawer - still he finds me.   My one sanctuary, one respite from the constant annoyance of being 'Spooked'  is the garden where he is not yet allowed.  Snow put paid to that leaving us all stuck indoors cooped up together, stir crazy.

One ominous morning Arabella appeared with the cat basket and shoving the little monster in it said "Don't you worry Hebe, things are about to change..!"

Arabella's Diary January 2010

There was a little girl and she had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead
And when she was good she was very very good
But when she was bad she was horrid!

My parents used to chant this to me although I was neither that good nor that bad as a child.  The last two lines can be more pertinently applied to Spook.   Let's start with the good..

In 'good' mode Spook can be totally adorable.  He likes to join in with absolutely everything, ironing, dusting, vacuuming,  each tedious household activity is a new game 'chase the duster', 'attack the vacuum', 'swing on the shirt sleeves whilst they are dangling over the ironing board', 'bat at the flowing tap water whilst you are trying to wash up'.  Sudden soft paws on your shoulder and a kitten is perched there craning his neck to see into the fridge, to view the casserole stirring, or even simply to nuzzle you affectionately under your chin.  He nuzzles a lot and likes to touch his wet nose to yours in eskimo greeting. 

Spook's favourite game is 'fetch'.  He will bring me a bottle top to be thrown and retrieved amidst much scampering and scuffling whilst I lie on the sofa trying in vain to concentrate on a TV program.

Or Spook's newest variation on this game where, whilst lying in bed reading, I was suddenly presented with a tampon (wrapped) and the demand that I spend the next half hour chucking it around the bedroom for him to return.  Eventually, when he has played himself out, Spook will softly curl up on your shoulder, his head tucked under your chin or resting a velvet paw on your cheek he will purr loudly then sleep - and this is when he is very, very good.

But when he is bad he is horrid!  January was an absolute nightmare  marooned in the house with a manic kittten, a moping cat and the Bedsock stuck in Plymouth. Spook excelled himself with wickedness.

Hebe is a very gentle cat, she likes to take things slowly, has always been wary, suspicious and easily spooked.  And that is how he got his name - jumping out of things and alarming her, leaping on her from heights, constantly chasing her around the house long after any semblance of a shared game has disappeared. Even sleeping curled up a bit too close to Hebe on the sofa leaving her in a permanent state of alert awaiting the next attack to inspire another bout of hissing and growling.  He has no respect for her personal space. They are now both banned from the bedroom at night where Hebe would normally sleep, her comforting weight against the small of my back or at her happiest when she is cuddling my hand.  Spook has somehow deemed the bed his territory and will not allow her on there making it impossible to have both in there at once. Sometimes I sneak Hebe in at night and lock him out where he will whine and whimper for ages and I will be sleepless wondering if Hebe needs to be let out.

And food!!!! Eat, eat, eat.. he will eat anything, no opening of a cupboard or clattering of a plate goes unheard by Spook who materializes next to you grabbing at some anticipated titbit. No bin is opened without a kitten dived in, head disappeared into the rubbish to be hauled out by his hindquarters emerging with perhaps a decaying vegetable or piece of orange peel clamped firmly in his teeth.  Every meal cooked  he appears on top of the stove peering into the pans, every meal eaten  the Spook out of nowhere snatching at the food.  Shouting, ejecting, door-slamming nothing will make Spook stray from his purpose.  Now every room has a water spray at the ready - a mist in the mush seems the only way to push the message through to him.

Hebe and I have one hope. When the snow thaws enough to make the short journey to the vets Spook is bundled into a basket and off to be neutered.  We are pinning our hopes on this affront to his maleness calming him down.  My normal tears and fears induced by any visit to the vet are not there - I am out of sympathy with him but I am sure that my love will be re-ignited when he returns all needy, forlorn and wobbly from the operation.  A few hours later the vet calls.  "Lively little fellow isn't he? Came straight round from the anaesthetic wanting to play and has already wolfed down some food....."

Spook's diary January 2010

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Vote vote vote for Arabella

The winds of change are blowing offshore at  the Sea of Immeasurable Gravy and the Sock is surfin' the tube.
A new wave is coming and it's 100% cashmere!  We need a paradigm shift in government and the Sock is the one to facilitate this.

The Sock is all for democracy so we need some individual group think to work towards an integrated solution cabinet-wise and the Sock has sought the help of the Black Fingernail (who has something of the night about him). Here are some initial thoughts for candidates

Prime (and 100% Cashmere) Minister - Arabella Sock

Chancellor of the Exchequer - Sarah 'Moneybags' Raven

Secretary of State for Defence - Richard Madeley

Secretary of State for Environment - Peter Seabrook aka 'Chemical Peat'

Honorary Consul for Siberia - Christine Walkden

Minister for Drought - Beth Chatto

Constitutional Monarch, Defender of the Realm, Head of Commonwealth and Occasional Daytime Chat Show Host - Alan Titchmarsh

Minister without Portfolio - His Organic Jerkinness to be appointed immediately to the 'other place' as Lord Monty of Don

Minister without a clue - Joe Swift

Minister for Equality for small but perfectly formed people - Chris Beardshaw

Chief Secretary to the 30 Minute Cabinet Challenge - Toby Buckland

Lords Chief Whip and Captain of the Gentlemen at Arms - Sir James Le Chapeau


Please submit further nominations to The Sea of Immeasurable Gravy and remember

For 100% Commitment  
Vote 100% Cashmere