Quite frankly, I find the sight of pensioners intimately massaging each other quite off-putting.
I don’t expect to have to avert my eyes in the local garden centre but there they were blatantly stimulating one another right between the dahlias and the dieffenbachias.
They had their clothes on, granted, but then I’m told some people prefer the extra cachet of being togged up. I haven’t looked but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there was a duffle coat fetish site out there on the internet.
They just couldn’t resist the hand-held knobbly massagers.
“Oooh. A bit lower Bert. Ahh. That’s it..aaaaahhhh. Tell you what. This might be good for your lumbago..”
When the Mrs managed to lower herself into the black leather massage chair, which was already switched on and humming welcomingly, I thought it was time to make my excuses and leave.
Garden Centres sure have changed. They have turned into one-stop shopping malls with restaurants and play areas where plants, seed and compost are purely incidental.
I’ve been to a few lately – not of my choosing – but I find it astonishing that you can now buy glassware, greetings cards, gifts, clothing, handbags, toys, confectionery, massage chairs, home furnishings, furniture at what they still laughingly call “garden centres.” Gift Centre, surely, with a few plants lobbed into the mix.
I suppose the attraction for the less mobile is that they can get all their stuff under one convenient roof. Give me 20 years and I’ll be extolling their virtues, no doubt.
But personally, I still have fond memories of the old seed-merchants. There was one in Gloucester where you could pick up your seed potatoes and choose from a world-beating variety of vegetable seeds. They had so many different varieties of broad beens they used to display them in the corridor adjacent to the shop.
“Young Mr George” a silver-haired gentleman with impeccable manners, was in charge and the rest of the staff seemed to be have been employed direct from the womb. They knew their onions (sorry) and could tell you almost to the day when you’d be needing to earth up those Maris Pipers after planting. They particularly liked people like me who were totally mystified as to why they’d managed to grow carrots with legs and genitals. They felt they could teach us a thing or two – and of course they did. It was all most welcome and quite nice that someone was taking genuine interest in my brassicas.
They were definitely jobs for life – until the place closed down 30 years ago because they couldn’t compete with the first out-of-town garden centres with convenient parking.
But now garden centres are diversifying so much, I wonder if they have the horticultural equivalent of young Mr George and his staff?
My favourite “garden centre” – and it’s very local – is a little place that is invariably deserted. And I mean Marie Celeste-style deserted. If you make the long walk through the first building, with the hessian liners, the wellington boots, cyclamen (they always look so much better in dozens)and the till, then out past herbaceous and roses, through the first greenhouse – empty – to the second big greenhouse to the south, you might just might find a figure potting something in the far corner.
It’s either that or ring the bell on the counter by the till and wait. Honestly, anyone with a van could clear the whole place in five minutes and no-one would even know. But thankfully they never have.
And in a very few minutes, someone will appear. It’s usually a silver-haired lady, 80 if she’s a day, who is very pleasant and knowledgeable and will look at your stuff and make random reductions.
I was expecting my bag of daffodil bulbs to be about a fiver (very late season) but she took a peek and said “Some of those look a bit ropey my love but they’ll probably come up. Shall we say £1 for the lot?”
She might own the place. I’m not sure. But it’s good to be served by someone who obviously knows and enjoys their job so much that they have eschewed the chance to retire. Plus, she offered to carry the Christmas tree out to the car for me. What a woman!