A Surreal Garden Blether
Ever have a 'surreal' day?
Saturday afternoon and not much going on. Dismal weather too. Time to visit a Garden Centre, to take an amble amidst the horticultural blooms and the gardening accessories, followed by coffee and cake in a nearby cafe. Why not?
A grand idea.
Now there's a Garden Superstore a mile or so out of town, at the retail park. Not been there for a while, I mused, so this would suffice. Do some food shopping at the same time, buy a CD from the music shop ('Bruce MacGregor' or 'Blazing Fiddles'), a bag of chewy dog bones from the pet shop and maybe - just maybe - substitute my earlier notion of coffee and cake for a burger and chips from one of the fast food outlets instead. Handy, aren't they, these retail parks? Very convenient. Everything on tap, all in the same place.
So I parked the 'people carrier' (very
posh, I know, but ideal for transporting goats, hay, plants, children and
gardening equipment) and headed for the Garden Superstore. Now while I was
pottering about, checking the price of compost, inspecting the perennials,
that sort of thing, I was approached by an elderly lady who engaged me in
conversation, a conversation that went something like this:
"I want compost, young man. I want that big bag over there."
"Do you need help?" I asked, a trifle stunned by such directness.
"Of course I need help," she snapped. "I can't carry it myself."
Her attitude left much to be desired, but despite this I gave her a helping hand anyway.
A short while later - having returned to
the shop - an elderly gentleman laid a hand on my shoulder (very
impertinent) and engaged me in a conversation as well: something along the
"How does this biodegradable coconut coir compost work then?"
"I don't know," I replied
"You don't know," he retorted. "You sell the stuff and you don't know. Not good enough."
And then the penny dropped. I was wearing faded jeans and a dark green t-shirt, the same as the staff here except for a barely visible logo below the right shoulder. As the irritable old gentleman took off in the direction of the hand-decorated pots, I chuckled quietly to myself. After this experience, I decided, I wouldn't fancy being a shop assistant, not if this was the attitude regularly adopted by the customers. Undoubtedly a thick skin and a sense of humour are necessary pre-requisites for this sort of job.
My stomach told me that it was time for food, so I traversed the car park to one of the places that sold burger and chips - a 'Burger and Chips' place - where I was pleasantly informed by a man in a brightly coloured hat that today was 'Special Offer' day - simply collect four cereal packet tokens, recite The Lord's Prayer backwards, stand on one leg with a finger up your nose (all at the same time, mind) and qualify for a free donut with accompanying toffee sauce (but only between the hours of nine and ten in the morning - something called a 'happy hour'). Alternatively, present an empty packet of non-biological washing powder (5.4kg size) and a receipt for a well known brand of toilet roll (nine pack, quilted) at the counter to receive a free 'Demented Harry' (a soft drink apparently). Surely this was a wind up?
A 5.4kg packet of washing powder is very large, is it not? Not the sort of thing that you would normally buy for the average family, and most definitely a reinforced trolley item, not a basket one? Now I know that gardener's are prone to exaggeration - aren't we all? (Cucumbers the size of cricket bats, tomatoes as big as footballs, grapes like melons, that sort of thing). But this was taking things a bit too far if you ask me. Ridiculous in fact.
Obviously it was time for home, time for a cheese and lettuce sandwich in the sanity of my own kitchen, then a dignified retreat to the polytunnel to contemplate my navel.
So that's what I did - home, sandwich, polytunnel, navel.
What a 'surreal' day.
(Copy write 2002: Patrick Vickery)