Monday, 6 May 2013

a working bank holiday

This could be a short blog post, as I am absolutely shattered.  The sun shone, the customers came in droves, and we were busy.  That's good, we need the sales after the dire winter and last year's incessant rain, but it is hard work when they all come at once.  And I finished emptying my two red trollies, so I have lifted several times my own body weight in compost.

In a spirit of enquiry I have just weighed a plant in a 2 litre pot of normally damp compost, neither bone dry nor sopping wet.  It comes in at 1.1 kilos.  A silver plant trolley holds eighteen 2 litre pots, total weight around twenty kilos.  To put a trolley load out for sale you lift every pot twice, once when you transfer it from the big red trolley to the silver trolley, and again when you line it out on the bench or bed for sale.  I lost count of how many trolley loads of plants I moved, and they weren't all 2 litre pots.  Some were shrubs in 3 or 5 litre pots, and some were little nine centimetre pots that hold less than a litre of compost.  But taking twenty kilos per trolley as a benchmark estimate, and assuming I moved a dozen trolleys of plants, that comes to 480 kilos lifted, or approaching nine times my own weight.  That's not counting the bag of compost I loaded into somebody's car for them, or the trees I put to one side, or the pots already out for sale that I moved up to make space for the extra stock, or the reserved plants I fetched from behind the scenes for customers who'd come to collect them.  It's quite possible that I've lifted twenty times my own weight in the past three days, and that's not counting the physical effort involved in dragging the hoses around during watering.

I don't have flabby arms.  Back ache, but not flabby arms.

The cafe once again absorbed most of my young colleague's energies, plus the owner's for a chunk of the day, and the owner is starting to sound more convinced about the need to get help, at least at weekends.  It's a funny thing, the cafe.  If it were mine I'd want more management information about it.  Today it seems to have taken up between thirty and forty per cent of the staff hours worked in the plant centre.  I'm not sure of the exact proportion, because I don't know how much of the day the owner worked when she wasn't in the cafe, and quite how much other stuff my young colleague managed to get done.  I do know it contributed around seven per cent of the takings.  It's hard to ratchet up the sales when you are serving tea and cake.  Supposing it takes five minutes to serve each couple, including preparing the drinks, dishing out the cake, rounding up the dirty crockery, wiping tables and washing up (the washing up appears non-stop) and supposing they spend eight pounds or ten pounds per couple, you don't get beyond a hundred and twenty pounds per hour per staff member.  You can put that value of shrubs or flower pots through the till in a couple of minutes.

I was pleased to see a customer I hadn't seen for so long I was beginning to think he must have moved away.  He is a journalist, and since he requested a free copy of a friend's book on tube maps and then didn't write a review, I am theoretically cross with him.  However, he is one of those engaging people who lift the energy level of the room when they come in, and he has a charming and pretty wife, an extremely cute daughter and two amiable dogs, so I was glad he hadn't vanished from the Suffolk scene.

And that's me done at the plant centre for another week.  And now I am going to go and change out of my grubby uniform and collapse on the sofa with a cold beer.  At least bank holidays pay double time.

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