The owner was very cheerful that trade had been so busy yesterday. Yesterday was the first time since I've worked there that I didn't process any cash transactions at all, only credit and debit cards, and the owner was equally happy that the till had been completely correct, and that the daily reconciliation had taken only a couple of minutes. She went so far as to announce that I was 'marvellous'. This was the first time in nine and a half years that I've been considered marvellous, and I asked if I could have it in writing, but she wasn't going that far.
She had a present for the young gardener, a bag of eight hundred tie-on aluminium labels for the garden. They are used in conjunction with clear, stick on labels, which the young gardener has been preparing over the past couple of weeks while it's been snowy. He spent most of this morning sitting in the cafe sticking the clear labels to the metal tags, and the afternoon attaching them to the plants in the garden with bonsai wire. The trouble with tie-on labels on shrubs is that on specimens that are regularly pruned, the label tends to end up on a branch that's cut off and put on the bonfire by mistake, while on specimens that are not pruned the label gradually disappears inside the shrub as it grows, given that woody plants make new growth from buds on the existing branches. That isn't the only logically possible way of making new growth, and lawn grass and daffodils do it differently, the tip of each leaf remaining the tip while extra growth takes place at the bottom. Occasionally I have to explain this to customers who are having difficulty visualising how a tree is going to develop, and imagine that the junctions existing branches make with the trunk will get higher as the tree grows. They won't.
The most urgent task for the manager and me was to finish the shrub stock take, so it is strange that we didn't start on that until getting on for half way through the working day, at twenty to twelve. The manager had to collate the results of some of the other stock takes, to give the woman who works in the office something to work with, inputting the data into the computer. A mail order customer rang wanting to add a plant to his existing order, which set off a panic about why his existing order that was packaged up on Saturday for collection today was still sitting in our garage at half past ten, instead of being a delivery van on its way to him. Incoming e-mails had to be read and replied to. Our compost suppliers rang up about a delivery of compost, which we need this week because three lots of potting are due to arrive imminently.
The fairies, or rather the weekly van that brings seasonal things in flower, had called very early before we were even there, and left our order of trays of hellebores, primroses, and tiny bulbs, the latter not quite out yet. We put the display tables by the front entrance back together, now the creosote substitute has dried, and I priced up the pots and arranged them in an artistic and enticing fashion, with some coloured stemmed dogwoods and winter flowering viburnums in the middle, to add height and because the hellebores and bulbs alone weren't enough to cover the tables. Looking at the primrose flowers and the fat buds of the irises I felt a surge of enthusiasm about getting back out into the garden. The sun was shining at that point.
By the time we got on to the stock take it was getting windy, and by lunchtime it was spitting with rain. I stock took the shrubs under the canopy outside the shop while the manager was at lunch, and when he got back we moved on to the heated polytunnel. It is heated in the sense that at night we switch on a gigantic paraffin heater, not in the sense of being heated at three o'clock in the afternoon. As I sat in my green plastic chair working my way alphabetically through pages of Excel spreadsheet, with random excursions to other parts of the alphabet each time the manager got to an odd shrub that was out of order, it began to feel as though the blood was congealing in my feet.
When I got home I had some cocoa, and then some tea, and then some more tea. Still, looking on the bright side I'm not due back now until 4 February, and given it's a January year end they should have finished the stock take before then.