There are few words or phrases that are capable of bring me out in a cold sweat, but “Garden Centre” is one of them.
Spring has finally sprung in this corner of Scotland. It has been warm, summery weather for the past week or so – we even had a thunderstorm at the weekend – and almost overnight, hedgerows and trees have at last allowed their leaves to unfurl. Suddenly the landscape has become very green indeed. But as sure as sap rises, Maggie has been itching to get to a garden centre.
Maggie is passionate about gardening: she loves learning the Latin names of all the plants; she revels in getting her hands dirty in the soil; and she adores seeing the plants grow. Whenever I hear someone say “Earth Mother” a vision of my wife always springs to mind.
Maggie loves me dearly and as long as I don’t mention blogging or the Internet, then she’s happy to accept that our souls are so deeply entwined that they are becoming as one over the years. But despite the incredibly close connection we share she is utterly mystified and completely unable to completely grasp the fact that I have no interest in gardening whatsoever.
Oh of course I enjoy sitting in a garden with lots of plants and flowers – preferably colourful and fragrant while not setting off my hay-fever – but I cannot identify anything more exotic than a daffodil, and I certainly couldn’t tell you how many varieties there are. And with the possible exception of visiting Ikea, I can think of few things more boring and pointless than wandering around a bloody garden centre.
But because I have no interest in types of potting compost, or how to create a bamboo frame to grow sweet peas, I find myself panicking about the amount of money that can drain away quicker than nutrients in excessively sandy soil. It’s an unknown world to me and so induces a sense of unease.
Unfortunately this results in me becoming a grumpy husband who mutters things like “limited financial resources…”, “not enough space in the car…” or “unwarranted strain on the rear axle…” while what I really want to say is “here’s the credit card – buy what you want and I’ll arrange for a haulage company to get it back home ready for you to play with.” I want to indulge her; I want to let her dive head first into prime, organic, peat-free compost and damn the consequences. Instead I start rifling through bank statements and asking if the phone bill’s been paid yet.
So today our friend Liz is accompanying Maggie round the garden centre. She needs a few things for herself but I suspect her primary role is that of moral support for my wife against the sour faced man she's married to. Meanwhile I’m sitting in the car writing the first draft of this blog entry with a pen on a wee notepad I found in the glove box.
It’s a long time since I last used a pen for anything more than signing cheques or completing Sudoku puzzles so my handwriting really has degenerated. I just hope that I’ll be able to (argh! What’s that scribble? Looks like it starts with a d… is that a ph in the middle? Aha! “Decipher” That’s it!) decipher it all later.
Oh wait – there goes the phone – looks like I’m needed to go in and help lift a couple of 56 litre bags of potting compost onto the trolley and wheel it to the checkout, credit card at the ready...