The watering in the plant centre took until ten o'clock this morning. In fact, we hadn't quite finished by the time the first customers arrived, and had to keep an eye on them to make sure that nobody tripped over the hose we had stretched across the exit from the shop, in order to water the plants on the reserve bed. The last little section of watering seemed to take a very long time, like the arrow that slows as it approaches its target, because the phone kept ringing.
We could initially only find two telephones between the three of us. The phone chargers that used to live on the floor of the office had disappeared, apparently because the boss got tired of tripping over them and moved them, but when I tracked them down to the table in the outer office where the walkie-talkies live, they were empty. I found a third charger somewhere else, that did contain a phone, which turned out not to be working. I wasted some time hunting around the office before giving up. Later on one of my colleagues spotted a stray phone in the cafe, so one of yesterday's shift must have left it there instead of remembering to take it back up to the house.
The owners were not around all day. They'd warned me yesterday that they'd be away. A fifteen year old from the village had been hired to help with the tea room from noon until five, the owner airily assuring me that her mother sometimes helped in the house and the girl was of good working stock. For a moment I thought I might have slipped into an episode of The Village. Even with the services of the fifteen year old to wash up, collect trays and make pots of tea, the cafe seemed to absorb most of my young colleague's time, and my older colleague and I spent three solid hours operating the tills in the middle of the day while we were busiest, leaving no staff members outside in the plant centre to help customers at all. Still, you can only do what you can do.
Some of the large magnolias are coming out in the wrong colours. A man rang up from Bedford, who had bought a yellow flowered 'Elizabeth', only to find when the first bud coloured and the flower opened that it was pink. My colleague inspected the remaining stock, and discovered another alleged 'Elizabeth' that was coming out purple, and a supposedly pure white variety that had pink flowers. They were very pretty, with different colours on the two sides of the petals, but definitely not 'Manchu Fan'. That is deeply embarrassing. At least they have flowered wrong at a young age, so there is time to put things right for the customer. When we visited Caerhayes a few years ago we read in the guidebook how an earlier member of the Williams family bought some magnolias from the great house of Hillier, of the sort that don't flower until they are twenty years old or more. When, eventually, one opened its first flower and it was not the expected variety, Hillier kindly refunded the original purchase price.
The woman who works in the office had volunteered to look after the dog for the day. She came and collected it in the morning, took it for a nice walk around the garden, and then she and her husband spent the rest of the day admiring it, as far as I can gather. She would have liked one of the litter, I think, but her husband was not convinced that the family needed or could cope with a dog, so maybe this is her campaign to convert him. I only discovered recently that he has written a book, about a walk he made through Spain a few years ago, following the tracks of a famous Spanish poet, which was e-published after winning a travel writing competition.
When I got home I had to water all my own pots, which took me until half past seven, after starting in the plant centre at eight this morning. If tonight's blog post lacks any verve and sparkle it is because I am absolutely knackered.