Monday, 10 May 2010


Hubby peered at my grow-bag ruefully, “Just stick to what you’re good at”, he said, shaking his head.
“Like what exactly?” I replied, zipping up my cheap and cheerful, plastic, tomato tent.
Hubby didn’t say anything.
“Oh great”, I said confrontationally, my hands on my hips, “So, you can’t think of one thing I’m good at?”
“My darling Alice, there are myriad things you excel at. Gardening is not one of them”.
“Well at least I’m having a go”, I shouted after him as he walked up the garden path and into the kitchen.
I looked down at my empty growbag. He had a point. No wonder the allotment association expelled me.
My son walked into the garden carrying a mug of tea.
“Wassup ma?”, he asked, handing me the mug. Something fishy was going on.
“I’ve made a bit of a twit of myself”, I replied.
“How so?”, he said, putting his arm around me. He was taking an alarming interest in my feelings.
“Well if you must know, I bought this grow bag and some tomato feed and this tent thing..”
“I wondered what that was. I thought it was some sort of state of the art beach thing”.
“Nope. Tomatoes are meant to grow in it”.
“So, what’s the issue?”
“The issue, it would seem, is that you are supposed to buy tomato plants to put in the grow bags. Hence the name I guess”.
“And what did you think you ought to do?”, my son asked. I started to laugh and blush. It was ridiculous.
“Well, I thought”, I said, giggling, “That I was just meant to cut holes in the plastic and water the compost and then ta-da, as if by magic, tomatoes would grow”. This conversation was lasting longer than any we’d had since we’d discussed his Christmas list. It was lovely to have his undivided attention but my son looked at me with what I’d like to think was compassion but which I knew was, pity.
“But, Ma”, he started, gently, “How could that have been possible?” The more I thought about it the funnier it became.
“Um, well, there are pictures of tomatoes all over the bag and so I assumed, naturally, that there were special seeds or something in the compost”.
“Like mushroom kits?”
“Exactly!” We were silent. Then the penny dropped.
“What on earth do you know about growing mushrooms?”
“Nothing, that’s the point, Jack and I bought a kit when we were about 15 and put it in his dad’s airing cupboard but, unbeknownst to us, he’d turned the heating off and besides we forgot to water the kit. Then his dad went mental because the whole thing was tipped upside down when he went to get some towels out. It was quite a mess, half grown, dried out fungi and smelly spores”.
“I can quite imagine. That still doesn’t answer the question. Why were you growing mushrooms or am I being naive?”
It was his turn to look sheepish, “We just wondered if we could grow magic ones”. Superb. That’s all I needed, a drug baron for a son.
“So that I hope, was the beginning and end of your psychedelic experiments?”
“Yeah, I can trip now just by playing my bass ma”. Sometimes, it really is just like living in the middle of a Rolling Stones documentary.
“Well there we are then. Lovely”, I said, profoundly, “What do you want for tea?”
“That’s what I came to talk to you about”. I knew it. This was the fishy thing I’d anticipated. It transpired that it was his and his girlfriend’s anniversary and he wanted to take her out for dinner, but he was “like, um, financially embarrassed”.
“What am I to do about it?” Why was I even asking? I should just wear my purse on a string around my neck, and then my children could access it any time of day or night.
“I know that I already owe you”.
“Big style”.
“Really? Big style? Sheesh. Anyway, I get paid at the weekend, I’ll give it to you then ok? Please? I just want to make her happy. I ..” Suddenly Dad popped his head around the wisteria.
“Oh A-lice!”, he sang, beaming. “I’ve won on the premium bonds. One hundred pounds! Ten pound each to you and the Commander and twenty each for the children. Here you are son!” My son and father high-fived each other and my son trotted back into the house, grinning from ear to ear, gripping two ten pound notes in his fist.
“Dad, that was really kind but he’s rubbish with money. He already owes loads”.
“Takes after his mother then”, Dad teased. I looked at my feet acutely mortified.
Dad nudged me, “Come on I was only pulling your leg. Growing tomatoes now?” When embarrassed, a change in conversation would generally be welcomed but not today. So I lied.
“Yes, I was preparing everything, just need to get some plants and before you know it; I’ll be in business”.
Hubby stuck his head out of the kitchen door, “Alice? Are we busy on Friday night?”. I shook my head. He put the phone to his ear.
“Friday is perfect Sir. Relaxed, casual. Of course. Yes, Commanders Manly and Kerry and their wives are up for it. Great Sir. See you then”. He clicked the phone and walked out. Dad and I looked at him expectantly.
“Well?” I asked.
“Dinner party Friday. Here. The Captain, his wife and a couple of others. Ok?” I felt the colour drain from my face.
“But I’m working on Friday.”
“You asked me what I thought you were good at and this is it. Cooking and stuff. It’s your forte Alice love. After the tomato fiasco I thought you’d be pleased”.
“So chief cook and bottle washer is now my forte?” I yelled, storming indoors.
“Tomato fiasco?” asked Dad. I left Hubby to explain.


DL said...

Blimey! The things you do for career development! Some years ago we entertained my boss to dinner, and it sort of worked in reverse: he went on to become DG of a government department with two letters and a number in its name, whilst I didn't go on to become anything of any note.

"Sally-writes" is back, btw.

Best wishes,

Eloise said...

Oh, Alice, you never fail to crack me up! Yes, I'm always suspicious if my 18-year-old son suddenly takes an interest in talking to me. It usually means he either needs money or he's gotten a traffic ticket.

Good luck with the dinner party! You do seem to pull those off magnificently!

Sally said...

I really felt for you. I wouldn't have even known that it was supposed to be a tomato bag, so you are one up on me!! :)