Is it considered normal marital behaviour to find yourself on the cusp of divorce after a domestic spat at the garden centre?
Surely there’s nothing particularly incendiary about a trip to Flower Power on a sunny Sunday afternoon? Safer than going to a strip club together, or hot-air ballooning, say? I’d thought that striving towards safer, retirement-oriented projects at the weekend, was a positive thing; I was quite looking forward to buying my first set of floral gardening gloves, checking out the lawn killer and comparing composts.
Admittedly, garden centres have held little appeal for either of us in the past, so in hindsight the potential for tension amongst plant life was always a possibility.
Was it that unreasonable of me to expect the old man to come with me to the garden centre to help me carry four heavy plant pots? I was buying the pots to save him money after all, since our green-fingered neighbor had generously donated four budding Agave from her bountiful and healthy tropical fest next door. And as ‘Agave’ are usually $80 a pop, (even from the Scout robbers volunteers), and all we had to do was provide them with water and a suitable container, it was a bargain.
The eye-rolling started before we left the house. So sensing trouble and being prepared (once a Brownie, always a Brownie), I decided to market our little trip as more of ‘a mini adventure’ (because treating him like a three year old usually works), and incorporated prostituted myself by an offer to accompany him to the tip on the way.
What man doesn’t go weak at the knees at the tip? Especially our local tip which has become an iconic musee de debris. Statues sculpted out of old metal, a labyrinth of vintage furniture and a collection of tropical plants to rival Hyde Park. The bureaucracy for entry into the tip is almost as convoluted as entering Australia for refugees. You need serious credentials. You need to know your way around recycling and there is a minimum requirement of a degree in waste management.
Yet when the old man inhales its odorous ambiance in all its decaying glory, his whole body expands with pride. It’s the only time he can pretend to be a real man, excitably donning his (superficially) dirty gardening gloves and his oldest encrusted shorts, and communicating with the Nazi ‘tip’ management team in some colloquial tradie/tip accent that he has finely tuned for safe entry through each of the hazardous checkpoints.
I only go there when I need something, obviously.
So I naively assumed that after his fill of filth, his mood had improved by the time we circumnavigated Terrey Hills and entered the hallowed doors of Flower Power. But as he located the closest outdoor setting to sit down at and set his stopwatch to ten minutes, I knew he wasn’t in the mood to play at plant shopping.
My mission: to purchase four plant pots within the limitations of an accountant’s Victorian budget, in the allocated time slot. I managed to identify the usual budget restraints pretty quickly by the grunt of ‘f*ck me’, as I casually picked up the first pot to catch my eye, (before I’d even had the chance to visualize the Agave plant potted in it).
Shopping under pressure for the ‘ultimate’ set of plant pots is difficult. After eight minutes, I had reached a nervous state of panic, so overwhelmed was I by the choice of just SO MANY similar capucchino-coloured pots, each as shockingly over-budget (and as, well, ceramic), as the next. At the ten minute mark, I crashed and burned as I heard the screech of intolerance emanate as he pushed his chair back and prepared to drag me out of the garden centre. In mortified shame and anger, (because this was the second time I’d come to the centre to complete this onerously dull task which had now sat on my to-do list for even longer than writing my book), I did the grown up thing and stormed off to the car in silence.
He should have started the car and said nothing of course. You’d think he’d have learned something over twenty years.
‘Well THAT was successful!’
I erupted with more than a smattering of the F word. He erupted with some additional variations on the F word. I accused him of being a miserable F*ck. He told me I’d spoiled his weekend. (Rich).
‘GREAT!’ I screamed thought, (because I really am that childish).
And then we started laughing at how ridiculous HE is……or I am, (maybe).
He generously proffered me an olive branch, allowing me another ten minutes of his precious weekend to choose those f*cking plant pots even though, frankly, I no longer cared if those Agave had hung themselves in the courtyard.
It was definitely an apology.
And we went back into that garden centre, heads held high, and bought four of the most beautiful capucchino-coloured plant pots I have ever laid eyes on. It is an unwritten agreement that I will get them as part of my settlement in the divorce.