Chapter Eighteen Delivery for Bell
A few weeks ago, just before we found out about the baby, Mum and Dad were having an almighty row. Mum loves her garden and she’d been watching one of the shopping channels. They had a gardening hour on and she’d made a list of all these expensive plants and tress that she wanted. She told Dad that she was going to order them. They’re usually pretty cool with each other, about money. We aren’t rich, or anything, but I don’t think we’re in debt, like some people are. Sal’s dad left home a couple of years ago and he lives with somebody else now, but him and Sal’s mum still argue about money, all the time. Sometimes she hasn’t got enough left to give Sal her dinner money. So I always make sure that I’ve got a spare two pounds in my pencil case. That’s enough to get chips cheese and gravy and Sal loves that. Maybe that’s why she gets spots, but since she started using the cleanser, her skin has been a lot better. She’s really pretty. She always gets embarrassed and tells me that she’s on a diet and is just skipping dinner, but she’s like a lat, she doesn’t need to diet, even with the amount of chips that she eats, that’s so not fair. Anyway I say she’s taking the money to get some lunch, and she says she’s not, and I say she is and then she gives up, but she always says that she’ll pay me back when her Mum gets the Child Benefit. And she always does. I say I don’t want it, and she says that I have to take it, and I say that I won’t and then she stashes it in my desk drawer or in my PE kit bag. She says she’s not a scrounger. I know she’s not, she’s dead kind and once, when we were walking through town, she put fifty pence in this beggars’ hat, on account of the fact that he had a dog. She said it’s not fair that the little dog is homeless, too. I thought that was pretty cool when she doesn’t have a lot of money herself.
Anyway, Mum said that she was buying these plants and Dad hit the roof. He said that they were a rip off. He said that one of the lads at the Post Office had bought some off the telly and that he had loads of problems. They were dead expensive for what they were. They showed them as great big plants on the show, but when they finally came they were only tiny little ones. Dad said that he only got half of his order because they were out of stock of some of the things that he’d asked for. But he said that they are dead clever because they don’t want to give you any money back, so when they run out of something, they give you something else that you didn’t order, instead. I thought that was a good idea; just think, it would be like Christmas, because you wouldn’t know what your present was. But Dad thought that it was a bad idea because they could send you anything. But he said that the very worst thing of all is that they took ages to come. Ages and ages and ages, like over two months. After he’d already waited over a month, Dad’s mate rang them up and they said that they were due to go out on such and such a date. When they didn’t come in a few more weeks, he rang again and they said that they’d been picked to go on the van, and that he should have them by the end of the week. The end of the week came, and went, so he rang again. They said that they’d been picked at the beginning of the month. Dad says that what happens is that when you place an order, they get in touch with a garden centre and they take a cutting and start growing it on. Then they pick them and put them in a warehouse ready to go out. But then, they wait until they have a whole wagon full of plants to go in the same area of the country, so his plants could be sitting in some warehouse for like a month, being neglected and going all straggly. Dad said, if she wanted plants he’d take her to a garden centre.
That was ages ago, now.
On Saturday, there was a knock at the door. My mum answered it and looked puzzled when she didn’t recognise the man.
‘Delivery for Bell,’
‘I don’t think so, love. We haven’t ordered anything,’ Mum said,’ there must be some mistake.
The man showed her his clipboard with her name on it. ‘That’s what it says here, love, Bell, 36 Hanover Street. It’s quite a big delivery and I just wanted to check that you were in before I started unloading.
‘What is it?’
‘Haven’t a clue, love. I just deliver boxes.’ He left her standing on the doorstep with me behind her wondering what was coming. We followed him out to the pavement where he was taking large and small cardboard boxes out of his van. Without even asking me, he plonked two small boxes in my arms, ‘Here you go, love, these two are only light.’ Then he put two bigger boxes in Mum’s arms. ‘Careful with these, Missus, they aren’t heavy, but keep your hand over the bottom of that one in case it gives.’ Me and Mum struggled into the house with the boxes and put them on the worktops in the Kitchen. The man had put two more boxes on the doorstep and then returned to the van for even more. I was excited and Mum was all panting and breathless and kept saying that she had no idea what was in them. Dad was working on the back garden and appeared out of the shed as Mum was thanking the man, she signed his sheet and he walked away.
‘What’s going on?’ Dad asked, coming into the kitchen and going to the sink to wash his hands. ‘What’s all this?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Mum, getting a pair of scissors to cut the blue, nylon tape that was holding the boxes together. ‘It’s a mystery. Isn’t it exciting? I’ll say it was. I couldn’t wait to see what was inside them. She finally pulled and cut all of the brown tape off the first box. It was a big one. She pulled out the most beautiful wisteria. It was called Amethyst Falls. I thought that was a very romantic name. It was only three foot high but it was vey bushy and filled with gorgeous, light purple flowers. Once I saw that it wasn’t anything really good, like a new computer with loads of games and stuff, I lost interest a bit, but I was still curious to see what else she’d bought.
Suddenly Mum’s squealing the house down. She flung herself into Dad’s arms and planted kisses all over his face and kept saying, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you, what a lovely surprise.’ She told us that wisteria doesn’t usually flower for years but this one was a special variety. She looked up as though she was thinking about something. ‘It isn’t my birthday.’ And then she added, ‘Is it?’ doubtfully.’
‘Hey this is nothing to do with me. I don’t know anything about it.’ Mum wasn’t listening; she was too busy ripping into the other boxes. She pulled out a small gardenia plant, six oleander bushes, all in different colours. Next there was a full potato planting kit with four species of seed potato and four growing tubs. And then there were two twisted stem bay trees, according to Mum, they take a long time to train the trunks to go all twisty. There were five different coloured rose bushes and a set of twelve herbs, comprising a complete herb garden. Another big box contained a dry root peach tree. The next, twelve assorted shrubs and bushes and the last two boxes held pine strawberry plants. Mum squealed again. ‘Pine strawberries,’ she said, ‘how lovely. Do you know what these taste of?’
‘Er, strawberries, maybe,’ Dad said, he was looking confused and shook his head. Our kitchen looked like a garden centre on delivery day. There were bits of boxes and plants everywhere.
‘No, said Mum, they are a special hybrid. They look like strawberries and they have this little white jacket on, that is really cute. But they taste like pineapples. They were first released in April, a few years ago, and all of the media thought that it was an April fool’s prank, it was all over the evening news, but they turned out to be real, and look we’ve got two.’
‘Well whoopee do for us,’ Dad said, sarcastically. He’d picked up the delivery note and was reading down the list. ‘Thirty bloody quid for two bay trees? Have you gone mad, woman?’
‘Apparently so,’ Mum replied, ‘at least, so they tell me, though I feel perfectly sane. She stuck her tongue out at him. ‘And anyway, darling, that’s cheap, they do have twisted trunks, you know. Dad shook his head again and sat down on one of the breakfast bar chairs. Suddenly, he started laughing. Mum’s eyes were all wide and bright, just like it was Christmas, and she was five. I suppose to her, a bunch of boring old plants is just like me getting a new computer.
‘It says you ordered this lot over two months ago,’ Dad wiped at his eye and went back to reading the delivery note.
‘I didn’t order them, dear. You must have. Have you forgotten?’
We couldn’t strop laughing, Mum was there, in her element, looking like some crazy wild lady, her hair had come out of it’s bun at the top of her head, and she was so happy that she looked prettier than I’ve seen her look since I was a little girl. She looked young, you know?
On a serious note though, Dad is going to have to cancel the joint account and Mum’s credit cards, otherwise she’s going to bankrupt us. I heard him telling Aunty Linda.