Monday, 29 March 2010

Off the Wall

The Sock is miserable.  There are several reasons for this, the back to reality jolt after having an exciting time in Paris, the lack of chocolate, cheese and cake and more than anything else THE WALL.  The Sock has been putting off thinking about THE WALL because the mere thought of it leaves her paralysed and unable to deal with anything.  Activity is called for and it can't be put off any longer.

When the Socks moved to the house 20 years or so ago they got a full survey done.  At the time the Socks were rather aggrieved to find several pages of survey dedicated to the exterior garden walls which were in a state of disrepair, rather than bothering to note that the house needed immediate rewiring in case it burnt down.  Oh, and the hole in one of the interior walls which had been hidden by bunk beds so the surveyor hadn't noticed the lattice and horse hair sticking out. Or the rest.  No - the surveyor had spent some time stating the bleedin' obvious that the back walls were falling down.  As we are terraced the neighbours had cleverly abnegated any responsibility for them by erecting fences on either side giving us full possession of these hideous and crumbling, snail-filled walls.  The Sock didn't care though because possession of both walls makes her garden look wider and they are mainly covered in the summer with clematis and an aged honeysuckle on one side and hidden behind various shrubs on the other.  After a few years the Socks hardly noticed just how hideous they were, even getting Mad Andy to patch them up last year, a process we intended to continue.

That was until the great snow and rain of Winter 2010 fell upon us.  THE WALL (which was mainly bungaroosh in the first place) has disintegrated and must now be dealt with.   The Sock cannot face it.  THE WALL needs to be removed entirely which will completely ruin the borders, THE WALL must be carted through the house because we are terraced with no side passage and this will ruin the house entirely, the builders will be loud and annoying as they tramp through the house which will ruin the Sock's life entirely, the cats will be locked out of the way in a room which they will destroy which will ruin everyone's life entirely.   The very thought of it is mind paralyzingly awful.  Totally and utterly unbearable.  Last year with the greenhouse scattered across the garden until it finally got built and the death of my beloved Luka and the rain and misery, the garden was scarely used and now it will all be disrupted again.

The Bedsock is vilely upbeat about THE WALL.  "Think of it as a new challenge" he says brightly "you were saying you needed a new garden challenge".  You can just imagine how this makes the Sock feel.

It isn't just THE WALL being removed and having to deal with stuff like skips and the people who you have to speak to on the phone about skips and the neighbours who run out in the middle of the night to dump all their rubbish in your skip.... it is also the horror of having to find something decent to replace it with. Having to waste time looking at fencing and agree with the Bedsock what height it should be. The Sock thinks high enough to shut out the fact that the neighbours fence on one side is a decrepit eyesore that is only saved from falling down itself by the fact that our clematis montana is holding it up.  The neighbours fence is full of woodeating insects which may transfer to the expensive new fence the Socks will have to have.

As the Sock is sitting staring into space unable to deal with the magnitude of this task the phone rings.  It is Mad Andy asking when he should come down to finish patching THE WALL.  "THE WALL has fallen down" the Sock tells him "it needs removing completely and I can't ask you to do it because it will take one person forever and also you are not as young and fit as you used to be and it will stress me out badly if you drop dead whilst carrying bits of wall through my house."  Mad Andy says he takes the Sock's point but that he could get a friend to assist and that he does at least understand  how traumatic it is all going to be.

Mad Andy turns up to look at THE WALL.  "You didn't say the entire wall needed removing" he gasps.  The Sock gloomily tells him it is both side walls. "Oh dear" understates Mad Andy.  "What about building new brick walls to replace them?" the Sock asks this being her preferred option.  "Don't even think of it - digging out the footings, bringing the bricks through the house, the cement mixer, the mess, the dust.. you will have a major nervous breakdown - guaranteed."   Mad Andy is already familiar with the Sock's minor nervous breakdowns caused by 'work on the house'.

The Sock has told Mad Andy to seriously consider his health and well being before taking on the removal of the walls.  Mad Andy has said that he will seriously consider it and get back to her.  This is the current position.  The Sock has now stopped thinking about it and has mentally retreated back to Paris, chocolate, cheese and cake...

To be continued.....

Friday, 26 March 2010

Malvern's Got Talent!

The Sock was thrilled to hear the fantastic news that HRH The Princess Anne will be attending The Malvern Show this year.  Leaked reports have suggested that HRH has been practicising her stand-up routine.  Move over Chris Beardshaw you've got competition!

clic for the flic

Monday, 22 March 2010

Promenade Plantée - Paris

The sun is shining today and the Socks felt the need to burn off some of the excess calories they have gained during their last week in Paris. The Promenade Plantée is an overhead walkway following the course of a disused railway line running about 4 kilometres from the Bastille to the Bois de Vincennes. The walkway was completed in 1989 and it is now a triumph of urban planning and regeneration.

The Promenade is planted with both wild and cultivated trees. For us the first flowers of the season showed that at last Spring had arrived. The abundance of sparrows thought so too as they flitted around the bushes filling the air with their cheerful song. Well tended and frequently changing form and structure included planters, pergolas entwined with roses (which will be fabulous in the summer)

ornamental ponds and lots of little sun-traps with seating. Some benches provided a sunlit warmth for the homeless, others a rest for the businessman sleeping off his liquid lunch. The more energetic jogged or wandered past along the walkway.

Daffodils are not my favourite flowers but as a sign that the long dreary winter is at last over they could not be more welcome!

As part of the regeneration of this area the archways beneath the Promenade have been turned into upmarket arts and crafts studios and show rooms - a pleasure just to gaze in the windows.

An extremely enjoyable afternoon and a part of Paris a little different to the usual tourist run.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Ask Arabella - a question of couture

Whilst the Sock wouldn't normally reply to correspondence whilst on holiday, staff at the SOIG offices felt that these letters smacked of desperation and faxed them out to Paris for the Sock's urgent attention.

Dear Arabella 

In order to improve my TV image I took some advice from Sarah Raven and have been wearing my new expensive  DuBarry boots and Belstaff (belted) Jacket to do the show.  Now people are saying I look inexplicably weird!  Why do I always get it so wrong and what fashion tips can you give me to get back on track.



AS replies...

Dear TB

I'm afraid you do look a bit ridiculous but don't worry - it isn't too late.  You could do worse than  take a leaf out of Matthew Wilson's book - a man who knows how to perfectly present his proportions in the best possible light.

Regards Arabella

Dear Arabella 

Private and extremely confidential

My forthcoming gardening series has been heavily publicized and knowing that the public have huge expectations of me I have become very anxious and have been seeking comfort in Ginster's pasties.  I bought some new boots (DuBarry) and a Belstaff jacket to do the show in - do you think I am going to look all right? I need re-assurance from the Sockanista.




AS replies

Oh dear......

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Signs of the times II

Bonjour mes enfants.  We have a little quizette for you.  Which of the signs above are the odd ones out with regard to Spook!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010


Can you guess where we are going mes enfants?  Play the excellent music by Les Negresses Vertes (rubbish vid - it's not mine) to get a clue.

Don't worry the Sock is taking her laptop this time so will be around to keep an eye on you.  Horticultural adventures (if any) will be reported here - Food adventures (loads!) will be reported on my other bloggywog Fourth Plate

Monday, 15 March 2010

And the Winner is.....

Rob Stacewicz come on down!!!!  Now I know you are all thinking that he didn't actually guess how many Beardibums there are in the jar (post below) but in not guessing the number must default to zero. Zero is actually nearer to the total than anyone else's guesses so Rob wins!  As it is now too late for Mother's Day you will be able to keep the book for yourself  - you lucky boy!!

[Rob could you just send me your delivery address along with a fiver for P&P - ta. A.S.]

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Beardshaw Bottles it!

Sorry - that title should have read Bottled Beardshaws but it dragged you over here didn't it?  Anyway not to be outdone by the inestimable Ryan of the eponymously named garden blog. The Sock is also giving away a fabulous prize that is bound to cheer your Mother up on this Sunday.

Those of you whose short term memories aren't shot to pieces already will recall that the Sock had a load of Beardshawettes left-over from last year's Advent Calendar.  Well, the Sock has rounded those up and added a few more she found floating about in the SOIG and bottled them!!! All you have to do is guess how many Beardshawettes there are in the bottle.

The contestant who guesses closest to the correct number of cherubBeardshawbims  wins this fabulous book!!!!!

The bottled Beardshaws will be auctioned off at the Malvern show and proceeds from the sale will go to supporting 'Our Lady of the Lost Socks' in her charity work.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Your two favourite gardeners plus Joe!

Don't miss this.. there are vids and loads of lovely pictures of Cleve and James the Hat and some cake to drool over

clink for the link

and Joe (we love you really!)

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The Kitten Diaries Part IV - Signs of Spring

Arabella's Diary March 
Spook is by turns an adorable angel and an impious little beast, occasionally endearing but mainly exasperating. His latest obsessive activity is presenting me with any small object he has found around the house. When I say "find" I mean "snouted out". I have caught him several times on the dressing table with his head in my make-up bag meaning that various lipsticks, powders and creams will have been hidden around the house or presented at my feet for me to throw in yet another interminable game of 'fetch'. I should have known when I woke up to find him trying to cram a blusher brush into my mouth that he had found a new form of entertainment for himself.
The Bedsock says "Why don't you just hide these things from him?" A good point but then almost everything around the house would have to be hidden and almost everything poor Spookbaby does is wrong.

To try and alleviate his boredom, to tire out some of his excess energy (hopefully) and because it is sunny but cold outside and very nearly Spring, we decide to let Spook have his first supervised glimpse of the great outdoors. The Bedsock is worried that he will be straight over the wall and off but that is surprisingly not the case... for the first time ever Spook seems to be a bit of a scaredy cat!

 Come on out Spook the door is open...
 Don't be scared little Spookbaby - the sun is shining...

No need to be frightened I'll look after you....

 Oh well if you are not bothered!

One great step for kittenkind.....

All sorts of new exciting things out here

Heucheras to hide in...

And then inevitably things end in a fight!!!!!
Everybody back indoors - shows over!

Friday, 5 March 2010

A Farewell to Worms

 The picture has nothing to do with this post it is just to remind the Sock that on our last weekend's walk there was actually the first sunshine of the year!

You can't say the Socks haven't tried... we gave it three years and came close to divorce on more than one occasion. (see previous post here)  Now the decision has been made  - the wormery has to go!

The Socks have always done their best to be  'green', recycling bottles (and there have always been a lot of bottles) years before the council forced their eco-edicts on us.  Let the Sock cite just a few of her eco-credentials...

The water-saving butt 

The only place to connect a water butt was in the side-passage in full view of the back window. The Socks bought an oak barrel butt in the hope it would look more attractive than the plastic ones (but also because they brought back memories of the Sock's grandad's garden where they always seemed rather exciting and mysterious).  The main excitement provided by the oak butt is that in hot weather it needs to be kept two-thirds full otherwise the wood slats shrink away from each other opening gaps that let all the water run out!!!!  This makes it impossible to use at the main time you would want to use it. It does contain some mysteries though like:
  • what were those weird tampon-like floaters drifting around in it?*
  • how do you get rid of the sulphurous smell emanating from it in summer?** 
  • how do you stop it becoming a mozzie breeding ground?***
  • whose job is it to clean all the seagull shit and stuff washed down from the roof creating a layer of gunk over the charcoal?****
The condensing boiler

The Socks replaced their old boiler with one of the then 'new' condensing boilers amidst assurances as to how cheap to run, efficient and environmentally sound they were.  The Socks chose one which had gained a Design Award.  Clearly the Award was based on the way it looked (small, oblong, boiler-like) because for the first two years it failed to perform properly, banging loudly at intervals which would make the house vibrate and the Sock and cats jump out of their skins.  Six inches deep of correspondence and many irate phone calls later all the program boards were finally replaced which cured the problem.  Not that anyone ever discovered what exactly had caused the banging.   The condensing boiler sends out a plume of steam from its exterior outlet and as this was in the early days of their installation the Sock was forever getting word from the neighbours that her kitchen was on fire!

Worse was to follow.  The next-door (terraced) neighbour had a condensing boiler installed and the outlet for the plume of steam placed in such a way that it invariably blew straight into the Sock's study window giving her a faceful of warm, wet, air whilst trying to work.  The Socks paid for the neighbour to get the outlet relocated.

The toilet

The bathroom was being refurbed so obviously the Socks went for an environmentally sound toilet - not that we had much choice.  This toilet has two flush buttons - hold one down for pee and two for poo. Unfortunately the flush for poo is so inefficient that it requires at least three flushes to even get a piece of paper washed away wasting far more water than ever the old flushing toilet did and necessitating rather more peering down the pan to see that everything has gone than one might wish.

The Sock could go on but we will be here all day once she really gets into her stride and we were supposed to be talking about worms.  So back to the wormery.  As you may remember this was the Bedsock's project and he really did try. The first lot of worms disappeared without a trace and were eventually believed drowned in the sea of fluid produced from too much veg rotting too quickly.  A second lot of worms were acquired, loved, nurtured, fed expensive treats, the Bedsock providing a balance of veg and dry stuff to prevent them drowning.  But drown they did...... in a sea of writhing maggots which had taken over the wormery much to the Sock's disgust. Worse than that the wormery with its writhing cargo of larvae, grubs and  the occasional worm had taken over the shed at the Bedsock's insistence they be kept warm over winter.  This not only prevented access to the shed over the winter months but also resulted in the loosing of some of its inhabitants over the Socks gardening equipment.  After some divorce-inducing domestic arguments the wormery was eventually put in last chance saloon. Another batch of worms bought, more expensive worm treats and conditioner, quite frankly we couldn't have done more for them.  After being told off by the Bedsock for chucking in too large indigestible chunks of waste food the Sock spent more time dicing veg for them than on her own suppers!  Every time the lid was opened to give the little wrigglers their food the Sock would get a face full of flies.  And what did the ungrateful worms do?  They buggered orf to the bottom of the wormery and drowned themselves again.  Three strikes and the wormery is out.
So. Farewell then 

As Winston Churchill said
We are all worms
But I believe that I am a glow-worm

* rat-tailed maggots (hoverfly larvae)
** put a few pieces of charcoal in. NB. DO NOT empty the whole of the Bedsock's BBQ bag in whilst in a fit of pique.
*** nail a fine net mesh over the top
**** this would seem to be Arabella's job.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010