After a night of snoring cats; cats-stealing-duvet; cats-yacking-up-furballs; cats-needing-letting-out-for-a-pee; goats coughing; goats squabbling; goats having a scratch against the sonorous, cavernous echoing expanse of the feed trough; & goats flamenco dancing at 3am (well it sounds like it when they shake their heads: just like several sets of castanets clickety-clacking throughout the barn via the Baby Monitor’s most excellent microphone); as ever, I wasn’t in for an exactly restful night.
In the end, between twice-hourly checks of sheep & goats I resigned myself to wrapping this cold-&-exhausted bod in a snug fleece on the sofa; with the ‘consolation prize’ of enthusiastically reading the contents of one of my cherished Wedding Anniversary gifts from Tony: Willie Harcourt-Cooze’s most excellent Chocolate Factory Cookbook; whilst literally digesting – with due care & careful consideration of course - a single chocolate of increasingly intense percentage of cocoa solids from some of the world’s leading cacao-producing regions.
- Papua New Guinea (milk, 35% – caramel, herbs & cinnamon with an undernote of Tahitian vanilla);
- Equador (milk, 40% – fresh, fruity flavour & floral fragrance; also dark, 75% – aromatic & intense);
- Venezuela (dark, 55% – mild, fine & fruity);
- Madagascar (dark, 65% – exotic, balanced & refined; bittersweet with a hint of finest Royal Bourbon vanilla, our favourite vanilla for gelato, incidentally);
- Mexico (dark, 66% – delicious dark bitterness with a tantalisingly herbal hint of liquorice);
- São Tomé (dark, 70% – strong & distinctive with fruity, bittersweet flavour & a subtle floral aroma); &
- Tanzania (dark, 75% – Intense, bitter chocolate with the slightest hint of vanilla & subtle fruit flavours).
And I really, really want to try Willie’s magnificent 100% Criollo cacao, from his own Hacienda in Venezuela….undoubtedly, delicious.
As chocolate is sanguinely billed as a “relaxing bedtime drink” (which it can be in certain iterations) I of course foolishly opted for the opposite end of the scale: for as Willie points out – & which I’ve already personally learned many times whilst on our own magnificent voyage of cacao discovery (all in the name of Art – for Lovespoon – of course!) chocolate can also prove a powerful pick-me-up: a stimulant of near-narcotic quality…& my ‘midnight feast’ of a tasting session was just like dropping little bombs (bombes?!) into my already over-active choc-infested cranium.
So I urgently needed something else; which transpired to be a mug of malty Horlicks infused with Dr Bach’s insomnia remedy.
I finally hit the pillow as the first grey light of dawn stirred the sky like a wan wooden spurtle in a gruel of grey clouds….
….And slumbered. Sort-of.
When I finally emerged from a bizarre, bleary-eyed dream in which for some unearthly reason I was a scriptwriter of Australian soap operas (don’t even attempt the psychology of THAT one) my first fumbling thoughts were for (obviously) clean apparrel; as at this time of year you receive an almost-daily dose of amniotic fluid & first, colostrum-rich milk: which inevitably means stinky, crinkly clothing….& especially, boot-sucking, overworked, disgustingly reasty socks.
I’ve recently been on a bit of a socking – no; sorry, shopping spree: for as any farmer/smallholder/gardener knows, the Right Socks are absolutely crucial for a perfect marriage to your Daily Wellies.
There are frankly few more dismaying things in life, than to find yourself halfway up the garden path (or even worse, high on a hill as a Lonely Goatherd – oooerr, I feel a Yodel & a Snapping of ze Braces coming on) than discovering that faithful said socks have mysteriously migrated from your feet & down into the depths of your wellies - not only depriving you of much-needed winter warmth but also cruelly stubbing your toes into the bargain.
So; sock selection is vitally important: yea verily, almost as crucial as choosing that perfect cacao for your gelato. After all we farmers/smallholders/gardeners spend much of the time employed in said nether-region knitwear; thus it is crucial that we Get It Right.
Hence recently I have been on a crusade to find the Perfect Sock.
And it hasn’t been easy.
The worst – eurgh; predominantly, predatory, polyester – have whizzed off my podiatory pinkies with more speed than an Olympic Skeleton Bob Gold Medallist (congratulations, incidentally to that most amazing sportswoman, Amy Williams: we salute you).
Not to mention that if you’re exerting yourself said sock-apologies literally fuse onto your tootsies; much the same as happened to one poor lad during my childhood. OK, confession time; here goes….
A group of us were fishing for frogspawn to hatch for a school project, in a local farmer’s pond (these days, furious parents would castigate the teachers for profound irresponsibility in suggesting the children find frogspawn; yet in those ‘good old’ days we were taught resourcefulness, responsibility & independence).
One little lad slipped into the fringes of said weed-fronded pond; & soaked his socks. Because he was wailing piteously I impatiently scooped him up & led him back to our family home; slipping off the offending articles of footwear & carefully draping them over the bars of our small gas fire, to dry. Experience had taught me that wool would’ve coped admirably; not so, this novel fabric – polyester.
On attempting to remove them from their warming rack to my horror, I discovered that they’d stuck firmly to the bars – for which mess, I suspected I was already in trouble – so I scraped off what I could & attempted to open up said sad socks to receive the now thankfully dry+ pondweed-free, clammy little feet; which I’d carefully restored with soap, water & warm dry towels.
But parts of those sorry socks were stuck firmly together; & the bits that weren’t, you could literally poke an entire gawp-of-an-eyeball, through.
Roughly shoving the sobbing wee chap’s feet back into his sodden plimsolls I angrily admonished him for being so daft as to stray into the water, in the first place; & soundly packed him off home minus socks but at least, confident in his oath that he wouldn’t tell a living soul (sole?!) about this unfortunate mishap.
Nothing was subsequently, ever said; & I often wonder what happened to the anonymous little lad thereafter. For my part; after scrubbing vigorously at the bars of our old gas fire nobody was ever the wiser (other than my big sister – who demanded a substantial stipend of my pocket money to buy her silence – even though she’d been complicit throughout!); & my teacher, who was unwittingly delighted with the sturdy tub of frogspawn with which she was proudly presented by the group – albeit it transpired she had an amphibious phobia once the spawn hatched; then turned into tadpoles & unleashed a veritable plague of frogs, throughout the Science Block at school.
But to this day, every time I clumsily thrust a load into the bowels of the washing machine which includes a consignment of socks, I positively dread it…as I know the eternal albatross around my neck – my now-karmic punishment - will be waiting for me to reap the harvest of a host of single socks, all hideously unmatchable, from that Hellish drum: & any containing (woe betide) even a trace of polyester, will be sporting a sticky, gaping hole.
So: go for simple, sturdy, non-patterned, uniformly-coloured woollen socks which reach a fair way above your ankles & which sport some seriously robust elastic…then hopefully, your own socks won’t make a covert laughing stock (or is that, sock?!) out of you, as well.