Saturday, 4 May 2013


It was another busy day at work, which is what we need.  I noticed a sign by the till advertising for part time assistance in the cafe, so the owner has changed her mind since last Monday, when she told us firmly that she could not afford to employ anybody else this year, while fixing me with a firm stare as if the boss might have been reading my blog request for a tea shop girl.  I also noticed, when I went over to check what watering needed doing on The Other Side, that the pink primula which the manager had been saving to split, and that the owner had told him to get out for sale while they were in bloom, were still blooming away unseen.  He wanted to split them because he couldn't get any more from any of our suppliers this year.  Maybe he just hasn't had time to get them out, or maybe the owner has relented on her sudden policy to maximise sales and no splitting.

The manager and his behind-the-scenes helpers had managed to load up two full red trolleys of plants for sale.  The list of jobs to do had my name chalked up against the red trolleys to unload them, plus so many other jobs, some unallocated, that we'd have barely had time to finish them even if we hadn't had any customers.  By the end of the day I'd cleared roughly three quarters of one trolley, and it was so windy today that there will be a lot of watering to do in the morning, so I'm unlikely to manage to move more tomorrow than I did today.

A man rang up saying that he had box blight in his Buxus suffruticosa, but not his B. sempervirens, if this was possible, and that he was going to bring us a piece of infected box to look at.  I said that if he really thought he had box blight then we would very much prefer it if he did not bring infected samples on to the premises, and if he wanted help confirming the diagnosis he could e-mail us some good quality photographs.  I explained that as the dwarf box, Buxus suffruticosa, has a more dense and congested habit than common box, it was more prone to fungal infections which thrive in damp, close conditions, and so it was entirely possible that he had blight in one but not the other.  Unfortunately there was no chemical treatment available, or at least not one that either he or I could buy.

He wanted to replace the dwarf box with ordinary.  Personally, once I had box blight in my garden I'd be thinking about replacing with something other than box, like Teucrium chamaedrys, but he didn't ask my opinion about that.  Instead he asked whether we had any common box available, and requested me to reserve our entire stock of five and a half trays, each tray holding twenty plants, and he would be in later in the day.  He did not come in.  He may yet show up tomorrow, but otherwise is the leading contender for Most Inconsiderate Customer of the Weekend.

A smiling woman came to the till who obviously knew me, and I was racking my brains trying to work out who on earth she was, when she put me out of my misery and asked me how my bees were.  At that it fell into place and I could even remember her name, but I fear she saw my confusion and was tactfully helping me out.  I have a very transparent face.  It's tricky, when you've worked for a long time in a shop, trying to recall why it is that you recognise people.  They could be regular customers, or I might have met them at the music society, or they could work somewhere where I'm a customer, like the vets, or be connected by any number of routes.  In the past decade I've bumped into my physiotherapist, my former GP, the local Woodland Trust officer, two former colleagues (one of whom didn't recognise me so I kept jolly quiet, the other of whom I was delighted to see), a couple of stockbroking contacts, the editor of a gardening magazine whom I failed to persuade she wanted a regular beekeeping column, though we remain on friendly terms, and assorted staff members from Writtle.  I was once at the tip, and recognised one of my fellow recyclers as the man who rounds up trolleys in the Tesco car park.

We made the budget last month, so the owner bought a box of cakes for the staffroom.  It's such a long time since that happened that I'd practically forgotten about the tradition.  However, by today all that remained was the box, my co-workers having eaten the cake.

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