Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Saturday, 3 January 2009

YAWA - Of Moons, Sixpences and Bedsocks

Walking along the old Somerset & Dorset railway - Midford, New Year's Day 2009

The picture's got absolutely nothing to do with today's post - I just wanted to show you part of our New Year's Day walk. A lovely brisk hike with NAH in the cold from Midford to Wellow along an old railway track. I'll be posting more about this area during 2009, so this is a preview to whet your appetite.

I've really come here to answer a couple of questions from yesterday's popular YAWA 2009 gardening predictions. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments everyone. And well spotted Gail for finding Madame Zelda herself in the blue orb ;)

First up is Anna. She asked about the origins of the Moon in sixpence. I have to confess I'd simply adapted it from the phrase The Moon and Sixpence. I just wanted something daft and similar to what astrologers use in their columns and said phrase seemed to fit the bill. Anna's question made me look at it anew even though I'd originally taken the phrase from a popular restaurant in Bath. I'd always liked the name and I had a vague recollection there's a book of the same title. A quick Google yesterday revealed it's the name of a famous novel by Somerset Maugham, loosely based on the life of Paul Gauguin. However, another Google to find out where Somerset Maugham found the inspiration for the title is where things got slightly surreal. He took it from the Times Literary Supplement's review of his previous novel, Of Human Bondage where the main character was likened to be: busy yearning for the moon that he never saw the sixpence at his feet.

Have a look again at yesterday's post and you'll see how well the choice of words fitted Madame Zelda's prediction:

The Moon in sixpence warns you must be careful when catching up with all your garden clearing tasks left over from late autumn/early winter. For example, you never know when that hoe or rake accidentally left out may be found in a most unexpected (and painful) fashion.

Susan Tomlinson went on to ask what bedsocks are. Well, in Arabella Sock's context, I believe it's an affectionate name for her husband - perhaps you can confirm that Arabella? Of course in their literal context, they're exactly what they say they are - socks you wear in bed; especially useful if you don't have a partner to warm your feet on. My nan (aka grandmother) knitted me a hideous pink pair when I went off to university - ankle socks with a holey pattern and a drawstring you could tie to stop yourself from kicking them off whilst asleep*. My nan's reason for knitting them? She reckoned as I was going up north (to Newcastle from Birmingham), I would be in dire need of them during the winter. She was right. Much as I hate footwear and socks at the best of times, needs must when your student flat has no central heating.

* = my violent kicking tendencies whilst asleep are legendary in my family - at the age of 5 I kicked my dad's cousin Susan (aged 15) out of bed when staying at my great grandmother's in Grimsby. What made it worse was I slept on the outside of the bed and Susan was sleeping on the side next to the bedroom wall.

I hope that answers your questions satisfactorily, dear ladies. Coming up in You Ask, We Answer next week: January's Events Diary and Parsnips - the Definitive Guide.

Planned YAWA special supplement - The Alternative Gardening Dictionary. All those terms we or our English speaking cousins (wherever they are) use and we don't understand. Let me know if there's a particular word or phrase you'd like translated explained. For example, I've already told you about why I'm not being rude when I say I've been using my butt here.


  1. VP Thanks so much for these last two posts. I have been 'lurking' for the last year, but I was laughing so much at these that I had to explain to OH why.
    When I started lurking I had every intention of starting my own blog but I now realise I could never do such a good job as so many people here I'll just read :-)
    Thanks for the fabulous posts.

  2. Made me smile too. The book was one of the things that turned me on to paintings when I was in my 20's and I liked that Restaurant in Bath too though Sally Lunn's is my favourite. -3C here today, though at least the sun is out.

  3. Morning VP

    A small history of the Socks....

    Yes the Bedsock is an "affectionate" name for my husband which he is duly proud of. He also now refers to my car as the Sockmobile (after J A-S christened it thus) and to the house as Socktowers. Should I be worrying that he has taken this persona too far?

    He should not be confused with Crusty Bedsocks (note initials CB) who is one of my sock pals and occasionally comments on my blog.

    Grannygrimblesock crocheted me some bright pink bedsocks and matching bed jacket back in the days of yore when I was just a sockette.

    -3 here too!

  4. Hi VP, always something new to add to the old brain here, thanks. Another title could be 'And Now We Know!'. :-)

  5. in the news that i read (primarily bbc & timesonline--feel free to add more/better sites :), england is referred to as an increasingly crowded country. yet, from photos & news clips, it seems that there is plenty of open space around. is england so crowded (the way some talk, i expect england to start sinking !)? are allotments & gardens endangered species? or is 'crowded' a word of 2 different cultures, with many meanings?

  6. Well, I feel a lot better now. LOL! And I have to say that the mental image of a bedsock that I now have makes me smile. Frumpiness is cozy, isn't it?

    And, Arabella, tell your friend that the name "Crusty Bedsocks" is too rich for words!

    And thanks for the memory jog about Moon and Sixpence, too. I had forgotten all that. It's such a lovely phrase, isn't it?

  7. VP aka now VEEP .. I like the new name BTW : )
    I guess I have been off the planet earth (perhaps trying to find out who the new Dr. Who is ? haha) to not have seen your very detailed explanation posts of the strange and unusual in British lives ? LOL
    I have to play catch up after I finish another New Year's RESOLUTION .. clean and sort file cabinet to transfer said files to NEW cabinet .. AARRRGGGHHH ! LOL

  8. Dear Veep,

    Madame speaks and we listen and if we are curious look for her! She is wise beyond her years...She must make more prognostications...change is in the air! Thanks for the shoutout/link;-) Have a great weekend. Gail

  9. Oh thanks muchly VP. I should have guessed the Somerset Maugham link as I read the novel myself many, many moons ago. My brain must have been addled by too much sherry just like Madame Z. Thanks for the link too. Your alternative gardening dictionary sounds a most welcome supplement. I know now but spent ages wondering about volunteers and yards - other bewildering phrases might come to mind.

    Anonymous - do take the blogging plunge ! I am a late starter but it's great fun.

  10. VP, You always provide such a wealth of information! I still remember your patient explanation of your water butt for me:) "The Moon and Sixpence" sounded like the title of a Martha Grimes novel to me; most of her novels are titled after pubs. But Somerset Maugham will do just as well.

    Did I miss the explanation of the risque vegetable before Christmas? Or is that still to come?

  11. Michelle - you're most welcome! It's always nice when a lurker says hello, especially when they tell me they've been reading here for a year :)

    Hermes - and hello to you too! Sally Lunn's great isn't it. Must post about it some time.

    Arabella - so glad you've added to the socks' story on here. I toyed with mentioning Crusty too, so I'm pleased you have. -5 here yesterday, but ages after you and Hermes said -3!

    Frances - that's such a good title. I'll put that away somewhere safe for another time :)

    Petoskystone - Britain's one of the most crowded countries in the world. It's just most of the population is mainly packed into a few of our cities, leaving great swathes of Scotland, Wales and a few English counties relatively less populated. Wiltshire, the county where I live is one of these.

    Susan - it is a lovely phrase. And I'm so glad to have had the opportunity to cheer you up a little during your difficult times.

    Joy - we found out last night!!!!!! It's a young relatively unknown actor! There was a whole programme about it evn though he won't be seen in the role until 2010!!!!!! And yes, there's going to be a lot more posts like these - under the YAWA label.

    Gail - only to glad to. Hope you had a great weekend too!

    Anna - it was fun doing the research and then finding out how apt my use of the phrase was. I can't believe I'd forgotten about the actual book though!

    Rose - your answer's the YAWA guide to parsnips due in a couple of days time. Enjoy!

  12. These old railway tracks are beginning to become familiar with me, I would love to see more of your photos. Me and my OH have one stage of the Downs Link to complete, which starts in Sussex and ends in Surrey, a line closed back in the '60s by the infamous Dr Beeching. Once complete we aim to discover more (on our bikes) across the county. x

  13. Hi Louise - this one's a Dr Beeching cut too. I'll certainly be posting more about this walk, railway and area during the coming year.


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