Amber’s Adventures in the Magic Garden Centre

“You lookin’ at me, punk? I don’t see anyone else around so you must be lookin’ at me…”

So, this is what I wore on Good Friday to go to the local garden centre.

Not quite what you were expecting this post to be about, huh? It’s not what I was expecting it to be about either, to be honest: I mean, I freaking HATE gardening. Seriously, I wake up every Saturday morning, which is the day designated for trying to tame the wilderness that is our “garden”, and I think, “Yay! It’s the weekend!” And then I think, “Damn, I have to mow the lawn today!” And then I wish I’d died in my sleep.

Even although we are very, very old, then, a garden centre is the very last place Terry and I would normally choose to spend Good Friday. Or any other Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday…  you can fill in the rest yourself.  But this garden centre. This one was said to be different. It is a new garden “supercentre” which opened in our town a few weeks ago. My in-laws have been 1,287 times since it opened (117 of those times were on the opening weekend) and reported it to be a place so full of wonder that even we, garden haterz that we are, would be transported into fits at joy at the very sight of it.

“Have you been?” asked my mother-in-law eagerly, a couple of days after the House of Fun opened its doors.
“No,” I answered. “We hate gardening, remember? I’d rather eat my own head than go to a garden centre.”
“Oh, you should go,” she insisted. “They have EVERYTHING there. Everything you could possibly imagine.”
“Do they have Christian Louboutin shoes?” I asked, suspiciously.
“Well, no,” admitted my mother-in-law. “They no have no shoes.” (She is Greek.) “But they have everything else you can imagine! They even have… ” she paused to wrack her brains. “THEY EVEN HAVE BREAD!” she finished, triumphantly.

Well, Terry and I just couldn’t believe there was a place in the world selling BREAD, so we reported this unlikely piece of information back to my own parents, who, being complete and utter shopaholics (They done raised me good.) had obviously already been to the Pleasure Garden(Centre). They make it their business to visit every new store that opens within a fifty mile radius. It’s like their hobby.

“Oh yes,” confirmed my dad, when we asked him about this place. “It’s actually the best place in the word, ever. A bit like the Magic Kingdom, only better. When you walk through the doors, there is a choir of cherubs playing harps to greet you!”
“A magic unicorn takes your jacket and brings you the elixir of youth!” my mum interrupted, excitedly.
“THEY EVEN SELL BREAD!” they chorused together.

“We’re never going to that place,” Terry told me as we drove home that night. I don’t care if they have the philosopher’s stone, Lord Lucan and Shergar inside it. We’re never going because it makes people crazy.”

So, this Friday, we got dressed and went straight to the garden centre.

Well, you see, it’s been a rough couple of weeks. While Terry and I have been dealing with the MAD STRESS, Rubin has had to be very, very patient. And I should point out here, before you all up and report me to the RSPCA, we have been feeding him, walking him, and otherwise fulfilling our duty of care to our wolf. But we have been very distracted, and although Rubin HAS been repaying us for this by barking at 3am every night without fail, and not stopping until I allow him to sleep on my stomach, he has been a Good Boy about it.

“Let’s go to the pet store and buy Rubin some treats,” said Terry on Friday. “Like a really smelly pig’s ear, or one of those horrible cheese bones that he leaves lying around the house for weeks.”

“OK,” I said, “But rather than getting the treats from the pet store, let’s get them from The Best Garden Centre in the World Ever.”

And then Terry jumped out of the upstairs window and ran away from me as fast as he could. He is still running to this day.

No, I jest. He did take a bit of persuading, though.

“Not you too!” he said in dismay when I presented him with my Garden Centre O’Doom plan. “You’ve been infected by the madness! It’s spreading! AM I THE ONLY SANE ONE LEFT?!”

Then he calmed down and drove us to the garden centre.

(This is the face I made when Terry finally agreed to take me there. I was THAT excited.)

We pulled into the car park in a state of excitement (me) and complete and utter cynicism (Terry). The car park was so busy it was like Disney on the fourth of July. Everywhere we looked, people milled around clutching cameras, full of the excitement of a trip to the GARDEN CENTRE! There were even some tour groups, all wearing t-shirts with “GARDEN CENTRE 2011!” printed on the front, and a group leader with a flag to help keep everyone together.

“This better be %^&$*&^ good,” Terry muttered under his breath.

The doors opened. We expected a choir of angels to burst into the Hallelujah Chorus as we stepped over that hallowed threshold.

They didn’t, though.

Because it was just a garden centre.

Full of … gardening stuff.

And don’t get me wrong: it’s a NICE garden centre, as garden centres go. Their trowels and spades and… other gardening stuff… all looked very nice and shiny. And there’s some other stuff too: amazing patio furniture, designed for millionaires who don’t live anywhere near this country or its weather, for instance. Tropical fish! A restaurant full of lovely, over-priced food!

Terry had only one thing on his mind, though.

“Bread…” he muttered. “Bread… I need to see this freaking BREAD I’ve heard so much about…”

I actually didn’t give a crap about the bread, so I set off to look for the live chickens I’d been told the Garden Centre sells, and which I’ve been trying to persuade my in-laws to buy ever since, so I can gather eggs and pretend to be a farm girl when I go to visit them. (I was thinking a gingham dress, maybe? And an apron?) I couldn’t find them, so I headed back to Terry and found him standing next to the bread display, looking a bit like Dr. Bruce Banner in the seconds before he turns into the Incredible Hulk.

“Look. At. The. Prices.” he said, incredulously. “The bread… it’s SO EXPENSIVE!” And it was. And so was everything else in that food hall. I know, because Terry made me look at every single item of food they were selling, whilst speculating on how much he thought the same item would cost at the supermarket.

“Our families are being duped into buying overpriced bread!” he said, furious. “They must put something into the food in the restaurant. Something that makes people come back here again and again, and buy food at vastly inflated prices!”

So incensed was Terry by this, that I never did find those chickens, and Rubin didn’t get his dog treats, either. In fact, we had to drive straight from there to the supermarket, so Terry could calm himself down by looking at the prices of everything he’d seen in the garden centre and reassuring himself that HE WAS RIGHT and they were all cheaper in the supermarket.

And he was right.

They were all cheaper in the supermarket.

But it was a very nice garden centre…

(Photos by Terry, for Shoe Challenge # 11. Top, D&G; (c/o Shopbop), skirt, Topshop; shoes, New Look)