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 café. Why
A grand idea.
Now there's a Garden Superstore a mile or so out of town, at
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
and maybe - just maybe - substitute my earlier notion of coffee and cake
a burger and chips from one of the fast food outlets instead. Handy,
they, these retail parks? Very convenient. Everything on tap, all in the
So I parked the 'people carrier' (very posh, I know,
but ideal for
transporting goats, hay, plants, children and gardening equipment) and
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
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
A short while later - having returned to the shop - an
laid a hand on my shoulder (very impertinent) and engaged me in a
conversation as well: something along the following lines:
"How does this biodegradable coconut coir compost work
"I don't know," I replied
"You don't know," he retorted. "You sell the stuff and
you don't know. Not
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
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
was the attitude regularly adopted by the customers. Undoubtedly a thick
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
morning - something called a 'happy hour'). Alternatively, present an
packet of non-biological washing powder (5.4kg size) and a receipt for a
known brand of toilet roll (nine pack, quilted) at the counter to receive
free 'Demented Harry' (a soft drink apparently). Surely this was a wind
A 5.4kg packet of washing powder is very large, is it not? Not the sort
thing that you would normally buy for the average family, and most
a reinforced trolley item, not a basket one? Now I know that gardeners are
prone to exaggeration - aren't we all? (Cucumbers the size of cricket
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
contemplate my navel.
So that's what I did - home, sandwich, polytunnel,
What a 'surreal' day.
(copyright Patrick Vickery 2002)