The older gardener had a bad cold, which kept him off work last Friday with coughing. The manager had a thick cold that has lasted five days so far without abating, and was booked to do a talk to a garden club tonight, and another at work tomorrow. The wind had developed an evil chill, despite the wan sunshine.
The day was slow to develop momentum, then built up until it was quite busy. I stuck labels on pots, put plants out for sale, answered the phone (a lot) and did my stint on the till. Customers ranged from the delightful to the frankly annoying. Top marks for charm go the local resident who correctly identified me by voice on the phone, and as well as chatting pleasantly about some plants she wanted, remembered to tell me that in her capacity as webmaster of one the local U3As she had put a link to the music society on their website, something I'd asked if she might be able to arrange when I discovered at the fundraising supper concert that she was the webmaster.
In pole position for sheer annoyance factor was the man who moved his things around in his trolley while I was trying to put them through the till, asked me questions about how a hose spray attachment worked while I was still operating the till, and insisted on counting his plants for me, announcing portentously that there were three of those as my hand hovered above one of three large Fritillaria imperialis. Thank you, they are in your trolley right in front of my face where I can see them clearly, and although I work in a shop I can count to three. Flavia, quamquam est femina. Flavia, although she was a woman (and a shop assistant) was not an idiot.
The young gardener had been on a visit over the weekend with the professional gardeners' guild to Wakehurst Place, where he enjoyed a tour of the Millennium Seedbank and a two hour trip round only one third of the garden. He said that they could have done with six hours just to look at the garden. You can tell that gardening is a vocation in that almost everybody who works with plants spends their spare time gardening or garden visiting. I'm not sure how many actuaries play with life insurance tables at weekends.
The garden designer I reserved ten Iris 'Black Swan' for yesterday came to collect them, and bought a lot of other things as well, spending over three hundred and sixty pounds in total. I was slightly relieved once she'd taken the iris without any repercussions, plus another five that the manager found for her, since that left us with only five, and after I'd told her she could have the the original ten I began to have horrible doubts in case they were already earmarked for another customer. In principle we ought to try and boost sales by looking to see what else is stashed away behind the scenes, to make up the numbers for customers who need to source plants in quantity. However, there's always the slight risk taking anything from the herbaceous tunnel, even if it has a price label on it, that perhaps it was intended for an existing order, or the manager was planning to split it.
Working on the till mid-afternoon I felt a sharp stab of pain in my left forefinger, and looking down saw a smear of blood. I wondered whether I'd pricked myself on a loose staple, and managed to finish the transaction using the other hand, while keeping the bloody finger discreetly out of view. Investigating it afterwards I found it had split along the crease of the first joint. I rub copious amounts of hand cream into my hands, morning and night, but they are terribly dry after this everlasting winter. The second joint looks a bit fragile too. The manager asked whether I was all right, and I waved my cracked and filthy hand at him and hissed that we really did need to get somebody to work the cafe. Food service and nursery work do not mix.
Addendum The only news on the radio on the way home was the death of Margaret Thatcher. I was a fan. When I went to university it was only the second year that my college had admitted women, and the recently elected Mrs Thatcher was our first female Prime Minister. As a young woman embarking into the world I found it very encouraging. The miners and workers in some traditional manufacturing industries did have a very thin time of it. I profoundly disagree with her attitude to General Pinochet and several other things. But I grew up against the background of the British disease. We had scheduled power cuts because we couldn't organise ourselves to produce enough electricity, for goodness sake. The Systems Administrator and I did well out of Big Bang, so it would be hypocritical not to be a fan, but I look at the choice of providers I had last month when I bought my new phone, and I wouldn't go back to the era of the three day week. And Margaret Thatcher was by all accounts always considerate and polite to the junior people that worked around her. I heard an interview on Radio 4 quite recently with one of her former protection officers, who was not a fan at the point when he was posted to Number Ten. He had to work on Christmas day, and in the little room allocated to him to sit in while he waited to do any protecting needed, he found tinsel, a miniature bottle of spirits, and a card from Mrs T thanking him for his work and apologising that he was called away from his family on such a day. He said in the interview that from that point onwards he would have taken a bullet for her.