La Van aux Camélias

I’ve been driving plants. They can’t drive themselves you see.

The morning witnessed me shouting “Are you the gardener?” through a fence into a private garden in Belgravia. She was the gardener, but she had no intention of letting me in. In virtually no time I was surrounded by gardeners. “I’m here to take a camelia,” I tried. “You’re not taking anything from this garden.”

Thankfully a terrifically pompous woman arrived just as I was about to start swearing, and parted the barricade just by naming their names. Before long I was staring at a plant as big as I am, while she folded her arms. “That’s the one. The biggest one,” she said, distancing herself physically from it. “Perhaps you should borrow a wheelbarrow?” She ventured.

15 minutes later, with mud all over my hands and a cut on my knee, the bastard thing was lying on its side in the back of a transit van. Then I swung by home to pick up Tom.

Tom – the mad fool – had accepted a lift back to Manchester with me . Via Sherborne! I suspected I might need help carrying, and I knew I’d need company. The two of us departed, upbeat and singing. The day was bright and sharp. We played car-games and the time flew by. Usually when I’m driving long distance I listen to Radio 4 and go into a thought tunnel. So his company was very much welcomed, and when I arrived in Sherborne I realised how lucky I was to have him. There is no way on God’s earth I’d have got those plants into the van without his help. I’d have had to flag down a car and bribe someone a tenner.


The satnav then decided that the best route to Manchester was through Bristol City Centre in rush hour. With our van of camelias we started to go batshit crazy. Before long we were inventing characters and swearing at length at each other in them. The time flew by as a result, unlike the scenery. By the time we were out of the city it was dark and I was 4-0 up at Horse, but down at I-Spy. We made it to Manchester without incident, and still just about hanging onto our whatever sanity we had when we started.

The plants I was carrying were planted by Charlotte’s mother – (she’s my cousin outlaw). Periwinkles, snowdrops, love in the mist, a palm and, of course, that damned camelia. I dropped off Tom and eventually staggered up her driveway. Somehow we unloaded the fuckers. Now she has them to remember her mother by. What a glorious organic legacy. Life after death. The snowdrops were in bloom too.

And that is the extent of my day. A little bit of shouting, a spot of heavy lifting, hours and hours of driving in good company, and occasionally a little sad thought. Now I’m sitting post prandial on a sofa with a dog and a camomile tea. Spring is coming. Good old Spring. Life and death and daffodils.

I’m out at 5am to get the bloody van back in time. I’m bad enough in the morning without having to drive 4 hours. I’ll be swearing to myself all the way home in all sorts of different voices, and there’ll be no Tom to swear back. It’s almost eleven. Sleep.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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