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May 2002 Blether:
© 2002 Patrick Vickery

'A Surreal Garden Blether'

'Blether' is a Scottish word meaning a good chat (a good blether), often a long and lazy relaxed chat at that, and sometimes over a dram or two of whisky!

e-mail Patrick at: aldieburnplants@aol.com

Patrick Vickery lives in the Scottish Highlands with his wife, three children, two dogs, two goats and an assortment of smaller animals. They live in a two acre wood in a wonderful part of the world.

Patrick runs a small Garden Nursery (part-time), is a Garden Writer (part-time) with a particular interest in the humourous side of things (especially the things that go wrong!), and works part-time as a Special Needs Teacher.

Patrick's first gardening book  In Pursuit Of Perennial Profit - The Pot Of Gold At The Bottom Of The Garden. ISBN: 186163148 has recently been published. A 'how-to' book - a book that shows how to make your garden productive in a variety of ways, for both expert and gardening novice alike, at minimum cost and in an innovative and self-financing way, using a raised bed system of propagation, and concentrating primarily on hardy perennial plants that can be raised and grown outdoors without the aid of a polytunnel or greenhouse.

Available direct from the Publisher at: Capall Bann Publishing, UK; from bookshops; or from Amazon.co.uk via the Internet.

     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 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
     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 following lines:
     "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 gardeners 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.

(copyright Patrick Vickery 2002)