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February 2001 - Potty Plants
It was many years ago that I managed to move to a place where mowing the lawn became a thing of the past. It was long before that that I came to the realisation that mowing the lawn was about the only tolerable job around the garden.
When I say tolerable, I mean JUST tolerable, as I can see no point or interest in these garden things at all.
In those long ago days when I was the reluctant possessor of a lawn, I very soon twigged that the least complicated bit of this gardening concept is to stroll back and forth once a week pushing a Flymo in front of you.
At least with the Flymos of those days you didn't even have to worry about piles of clippings; you just left them all over the lawn.
The idea of tending something like a flower bed or a shrubbery has never appealed to me, so the lawn in those days was allowed to stray right up to the very edges of the garden.
I must confess that it never started like that. It was just that the first year I was there I Flymo'd right over the daffodils and the lawn sort-of spread over what had once been a flower bed.
It's because of this fanatical anti-garden background and a complete lack of understanding of the logic behind tending things which just grow, wither and leave a mess everywhere, that I find those people who rush out with the pruning shears every Sunday completely mad.
I mean, who cares whether your ibligogus festurus has got branches two inches longer than average?
As for these complete twits who go to the lengths of digging all the stuff up again, and then taking it to some great hall in the city to show it to everyone else; surely they've got something better to do with their Sundays?
Round this way, we have shows where they give prizes for the biggest marrow and such things. Damn stupidity in my opinion!
Okay, so they get a prize for a marrow that's half a mile long, but what on earth do they do with it then? The flaming thing's so tough that nobody in their right mind's going to cook it and eat it, so why bother growing it that big in the first place?
If we all put our gardens down to concrete slabs, the world would be a much better place.
The trouble is that once you get a small class of people who, for one reason or another, don't actually have a garden outside, you immediately breed a much worse class of people who seem to think they've got some God given right to move the damn garden indoors.
I refer of course to that strange breed of ladies who wear beige twin-sets as a uniform.
Why, I wonder, is it that twin-sets and pot plants go together? Can't think of any logical reason, but the fact is that if you enter the home of one of these mysterious creatures you'll find every room filled with blooming house plants. And when I say blooming, I do NOT mean that the things are in flower!
I'm afraid I recently had occasion to visit one of these people. I walked up to the door and gingerly pressed the bell. As is the norm with this kind of lady, instead of a short sharp ring I was treated to the whole of the Westminster chimes twice over. I was beginning to think it was midnight at parliament by the time the sound stopped.
I was invited to hack my way through the dense foliage of the hall and take a seat in the lounge.
I knew it was one of THOSE houses when I saw the leather strap over the arm of the chair, with one of those ashtrays attached to it. You know, the ones which spin round when you push the button on the top down.
They sort-of spray all your cigarette ash around the room and make this odd ZING noise as they spin round. I looked furtively about for the spiky clock!
Well, most people who have the zing ashtray also have the spiky clock and the flight of ducks up the wall don't they?
Rule one, if you're a gentleman visiting a house like this is NOT to use the loo! They ALWAYS also have the furry loo seat which won't prop up properly and is likely to descend at the most inconvenient moment during your use of the facility.
Anyway, where was I? I have a funny feeling I've digressed off the subject of house plants. Can't, for the life of me, think how that happened.
As I looked around the room for the spiky clock, I counted a whole twenty-four pot plants lurking in various positions around the place. They were in and on just about everything.
As I awaited the return of the beige twin-set and its owner, I fell to wondering what effect metered water would have on this particular household. I'll bet that would reduce the greenery quotient at a stroke!
It's when you visit a place like this that you finally understand why some garden centres sell Baby Bio in two gallon cans.
Eventually, rather like the Cheshire Cat in Alice, the twin-set returned, followed by the folder of papers I'd come to collect, followed by a can of Pledge and a duster, and finally the owner of all same.
I was given the folder to peruse, but found it almost impossible because of the strange and unusual ritual which was starting to be performed across the room.
It was at this point that all my worst fears for the sanity of house plant owners came true and I realised that mental homes are the only true places for potted plants.
The twin-set was actually spraying all the leaves of the plants with the Pledge; and then polishing them! Yes, polishing the leaves of the plants! All twenty-four in that room got the treatment!
On the assumption that there were about eight rooms, each with twenty-four plants, and each plant had an average of thirty leaves, that's a total of five thousand, seven hundred and sixty leaves.
It took the silly bitch an average of four seconds to polish each leaf, which means it takes six hours and twenty-four minutes to polish the whole blooming lot!
I peered over the top of the folder and ventured to enquire how often she carried out the polishing ceremony. "Oh, every day" she replied, "you have to take care of them you know".
I'm damn glad she's not MY wife! I should think the chances of coming home from work to a cooked meal in that household are totally and absolutely nil.
It was at this point that I decided that any information contained in the folder and originated by her must be considered, at the very least, suspect.
I decided to excuse myself and attempted to leave. However, I'd made one fatal mistake. She'd taken my vague enquiry about the polishing frequency as a sign of deep interest in the plants.
"As you're so interested, would you like to see the bigger ones in the other room?" she asked. For some strange reason, politeness made the words "No I sodding well wouldn't" come out as "Oh, yes please".
Machetes in hand, we fought our way back through the hall, into the dining room and out into a huge conservatory. Malaya had nothing on this place!
You always assume a conservatory will be a light and airy place don't you? Not this one, it had a covering of forestation like the Florida Everglades. It was pitch black in there, with plants in containers of diameters I'd never have imagined it possible to fit on a potter's wheel.
It was then she got the Pledge out again!
Whilst she was overcome by the ritual of the polishing and totally oblivious to the world, I was able to slip out the back way and escape.
I'm never going back there EVER! I don't want to catch whatever the mystery illness is that makes a previously sane woman rush out and buy zing ashtrays, spiky clocks, furry loo seats and, above all, POT PLANTS!
Whatever this illness is, I DON'T want it. I'm quite happy hating green things of all kinds, whether in or out of doors. Never again will I buy a place with a lawn, just in case the addiction which starts with grass, gets out of hand and leads to harder woods.
As I am at present, I know I'm reasonably safe. I'm going to aim to stay that way as well!
Assuming I don't get hooked, or murdered in my bed by some killer aspidistra, I'll be back with another edition of Comment in March.
Until then, have a good month and whatever happens, don't go out in the garden. Right, I'm off, where's me weed killer?
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