The Adventure of the Garden Centre

On our recent trip to England, I delighted in noting the various differences between England and America.  Language is one big difference. It turns out so is the humble garden center.  Excuse me, garden centre.  This became very obvious to me when the newly weds, Ron and Hazel, suggested a trip to a local garden centre.  At first this seemed a little odd since they live in a flat (condo) with no garden, but they explained that this garden centre had a restaurant that served lunch.

Several times I heard that we were going to the “Hot Pocket” on Wednesday.  This brought to mind that great American junk food treat from you local grocery store’s freezer section and filled my head with visions of hot toasty cheesy things with large amounts of salt and fat – two of my favorite food groups.

As we sped past hedges, and green fields with sheep grazing, the sign came into view declaring that we’d arrived at, “The Hop Pocket.”  I was a bit disappointed on the state of my hearing and thought that I might need to schedule a test. Since hops is a component of beer and not toasty cheesy sandwiches I was beginning to worry that I’d not get my daily requirement of fat and salt.

My sandwich fear was soon put to rest as we walked through the garden area and the gift shop before arriving at the restaurant where the menu listed a toasted ham and cheese sandwich – with pineapple.  You know, kind of like those Hawaiian style pizzas we get here in the States only in a toasty sandwich.

After lunch we went into the gift shop for a little light shopping and it was then that I discovered that the place was more of a shopping mall than garden center.  In the building next door; we walked up some stairs into a clothing store, a toy area, an art gallery and other things.  Ron then informed us that there was also a downstairs area.

Since Heather had slightly injured her foot the day before it was suggested that we take the lift (elevator) down to the ground floor.  It should be noted that in Britain, the ground floor is on the ground and often “0” on the lift controls.  The first floor, is the floor above the ground floor (“1” on the lift control) or what we Americans call the second floor and press “2” to get to.  Confused? Me too, I still am not sure what floors I’ve been on when over there.

When we got to the lift it turned out to be a small affair with a warning sign saying, “Max 4 people, 400 kg.” A bit of quick mental math told me that our party of four would fit nicely and all would be safe provided a kg is roughly 2 lbs and I was guessing everyone’s weight correctly.  Not everyone was as confident as I tried to sound, but we all shuffled in and pressed the “0” button.

On arriving on the ground floor we noticed the lift had a sign stating, “Max 3 people, 300 kg,” which did cause a bit of worry. However we also exited right next to a shoe store and all was forgotten as Heather and her sister Hazel saw an interesting pair of boots.  What followed was an interesting half hour as various shoes were tried and the sales staff was quizzed on the difference between American, British and European shoe size measurement systems.

Ron and I were fortunate enough to find two empty chairs to enjoy the shoe shopping show.

At one point Heather did ask me if she could buy a pair of shoes.  Which I thought an odd question as it was clear to me that she was going to buy a pair and I thought it best to avoid directly addressing the question and just answered, “My only requirement is that it fits in the suitcase.”

Shoes bought, and the sales staff calculating their commission, we made our way to the car park (parking lot) where we discovered it was raining.  Naturally the true Brits grumbled a bit at the weather while I marveled that this amazing thing of water falling from the sky.

Sadly, no one seemed to know how I could make that happen in California.

Till next week,

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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29 Responses to The Adventure of the Garden Centre

  1. I enjoyed this humorous recount, Andrew. There are some interesting differences between continents alright.


  2. Debra says:

    I love all garden centers, but your British experience would be a grand outing. I’m sure it was entertaining to experience both the similarities and differences between the U.S. and England. What a wonderful experience.


  3. I so know what you mean about the rain. When it does rain down here in SoCal, I always marvel that we’re getting free water–that’s it’s just falling right out of the sky all over everything! It’s amazing! Meanwhile, the people on the other side of our country….


  4. jennypellett says:

    Oh I enjoyed your take on our garden centres, the restaurants and the unconnected items on sale therein. You made me laugh with your observation of the weight requirement in our lifts and your self deprecating dig at your salt and fat content. This post is a gem!


  5. Now, that is a garden centre even non gardeners would like. I always enjoy hearing about the English going on a garden tour but also having their tea and cakes. I think we could adopt some of their practices and enjoy ourselves a little more.


  6. I work for a large company with employees located worldwide. It’s always interesting to me to hear the differences in food, sayings, etc. I try to avoid some colloquial phrases but it reminds me how often I say things that I learned from my mom…that really don’t amount to a hill of beans!


  7. dorannrule says:

    I hope you got your salt and fat ration Andrew. Nevertheless, it sounds like you were having the time of your life! 🙂


  8. Allan G. Smorra says:

    Thanks for the humorous look at your weekend, Andrew. I’m pondering the difference in weight signs on the lift. Perhaps with gravity assisting, it can carry more weight going down than up. Yeah, right. Have a safe trip home.


  9. jfwknifton says:

    I would definitely say, though, that the English weather in winter is getting noticeably drier. Our summers can be quite wet to make up. Overall, I often think that we are moving to one year long season where only the temperature changes.


  10. A quirky lift – it would appear ‘The Hop Pocket’ has outgrown itself. Yes, the successful garden centres over here are multi-retail outlets; in fact some of them have come to look suspiciously like department stores. Believe me, you soon learn to grumble at the rain!


    • I am sure that if I lived there, I’d be a grumbler. I find it interesting that over there the garden centre turned more towards department store while over here garden centers seem to have become the “big box” DYI stores like Home Depot who now carry every thing from plants to lumber. Seems like that a place that just sells plants doesn’t do well in either country.


  11. Every time I hear ‘differences between Britain and America’, I can’t help but think of Churchill’s take on that–(paraphrased) “Two great countries, separated by a common language.”

    Liked by 1 person

  12. davidprosser says:

    I’m grateful you avoided the use of the word quaint with reference to us or our places. As with the lift, we tend to think we’re bang up to date. Ha


    • I would not describe the Hop Pocket as quaint. It was fully up to date, right down the credit card and the cappuccino machine. The lift was a bit odd and small – likely just the owner trying to save space and money.


  13. I have been in some wee elevators in France, I appreciated your experience lol. 🙂


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