Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Mary, Mary quite… incomprehensible

On a Friday I skip to the check out at the garden centre. A weekend of dampness is forecast, perfect planting weather. Overcast is never downcast, a rare opportunity in the sunny Californian climes. I foresee a 48 hours of frolicking but first I need something to plant. Reality tells me that this will be a series of 100 yard dashes, followed by two or three digs in the soil, followed by a hurtle back into the house again, but it’s always best to plan ahead.


If I’m quick about it, I should just have enough time to nip home, unload the car, make the spinach Brownies, spot clean the carpet, scrub the mattress, maybe a quick transatlantic telephone call, put the last load of laundry on to dry and still be on time for early pick up from school. Whilst these are some of the things that I should like to find time to do, there is one thing that I need to do. I must lock away the Lego before 7 children return home for play dates, as I have failed to find the time to devise a functional sharing strategy at short notice.


The checker greets me and my haul of treasure, “what kinda vehicle you got?” I blink. I have never been asked that question before in a garden centre. I check the shades, the tattoo and the black leather boots. Is this casual conversation from a biker chick? After twelve years in the United States I have never yet managed to unscramble that word, the one pronounced VEE Hickle. It always sounds like a cross between a tease and a tickle, hits the funny bone every time. “Um……I’m not sure. I’m not very good at cars. It’s the sludge coloured thing over there.” I try not to point, which is rude. Instead I sweep my arm in the vague direction of the car park. She identifies me as the lunatic that I am, “Sludge?”
“Metallic sludge.”
“Metallic huh!” Ooo yes, she’s got my number.
“A people carrier?”
“A people carrier?”
“I don’t know what you call them over here.” Or rather I do know, I just can’t quite retrieve it at this moment as I’m stuck in Ranunculus, Pelargoniums and Aquilegia.
“O.k. …is it big or small?”
“Big.”
“Great. That’s alls I wanted to know, see if yah can fit all this stuff in yur vehicle.”
“Oh right. Thank you so much.” She plops all the plants in boxes and piles them all over the trolly. “D’ya wan some help out to yur vehicle?” This is a standard polite question in American, regardless of age, sex or ability. She looks me up and down, baseball cap to tired trainers, diminutive next to her six foot strappiness. “I’m bigger than I look,” I offer, although now it’s out of my mouth it doesn’t sound quite right.
“Bigger?”
“Stronger. I meant stronger.” A man steps over to us, “wan some weedkiller on ol dem flowers!” It’s my neighbour, the vegetable grower, a constant tease and substitute grandfather for the children. The checker bristles to my defense, “it’s o.k. he lives next door……[not to Home Depot] ….to me………at home [which isn’t in England]……er…...just around the corner.” I’m tempted to stick my fist in my mouth, just to stop the flow of drivel.

My neighbour translates for me as he rustles the sack of Corry’s Snail Death, “don’t mind her none. She’s bin biting on the slug pellets too long.”

6 comments:

Expatmum said...

Biting on the slug pellets - love it. I am now having gardening envy as our ground here (Chicago) is still frozen and you can't dig half an inch yet. I am getting all these lovely plant catalogs and know there's no point planting till about May, (perhaps April) as we could still get a frost.

lime said...

oh i am dying here. i have to agree with expatmum. that is a classic line! your neighbor sounds like a real pip!

The Anti-Wife said...

Love this time of year when it's time to plant. All my bulbs are showing their lovely little sprouts above the ground now. Please quit terrorizing the checkers at all your stores!

buffalodickdy said...

Why does everyone from Great Britain love gardens so much? You have to be the greatest gardeners of all time!

Expatmum said...

We are!

Jocelyn said...

From sludge veeehicles to biting on pellets, I am so enamored with your view of the world.