An Impulse Buy and the near-death Experience of a White Van

The wind has swung most precipitately and painfully round into the north-west, with spiteful squalls of snow and hail. What the good poet and indifferent bishop Gavin Douglas called “ane blasterand bub oot frae the north braying”. If the leaning Scots Pines at the other end of the wood all make it through the night I’ll be mildly surprised. At least I have not yet installed my large urn for them to crash down upon.
Yesterday a large package arrived from that most satisfactory of bulb-merchants, Nyssen of Manchester. (These people are worth knowing: their stuff is cheap and good and they appear to have a monopoly of indoor hyacinths which don’t fall over five minutes after they come into flower.) It contained the tubers of a number of dark-hued dahlias, which I clearly remember ordering. It also contained a large polythene bag of shavings through which were visible vast, looming rhizomes, dark brown, with filaments. The label said “Hedychium Gardnerianum, Size 1, lemon yellow, contains ten.” I had the clearest recollection of filling in Nyssen’s form and “Hedychium Gardnerianum” didn’t feature in any way. I wondered for a moment if I had ordered them as a present for our friend Helen Gardner (holder of our top-aesthete prize for the best eye in Scotland, first equal with Lockie of Glenlockie) but there seemed to be far too many of them for a little present.
I consulted the lady novelist, who paused for long enough in her chronicle of the dinner-party from hell to say that she remembered me ordering them but she couldn’t remember why or what they might be.
I asked Google and was told that they were in fact Kahlil Ginger, that they have edible flower-buds (a Malaysian cookery book which my adored godfather in Kuala Lumpur gave me indeed includes a sambal recipe which features a bud or two sliced thinly and teamed up with only fifteen bird’s eye chillies and ten cloves of garlic) that they grow two metres tall if they’re happy, that they have sweetly scented yellow flowers and that they are classed as a dangerous and invasive weed. I read the small print and discovered that the danger point is only reached within twenty or so degrees of the equator, so it seems likely that I ordered them for the greenhouse as an impulse buy. It also seems unlikely that they are going to break out, at this latitude, and devastate the circumadjacent fields of oats and barley belonging to Barnyards.
I had to have Barnyards to tea as an urgent diplomatic imperative this afternoon. Together Davie, he of the big cats, has been foresting with a will all day (in the more sheltered bits of the valley by the burn) despite the filthy weather. I went out about three into the perishing cold to ask him to come in for a cup of tea and found both him and the Geordie Ambassador (who has been bad with his arthritis and thus has confined this weekend’s estate-play to a bit of ornamental tractor-driving)on the track. Right in the middle of it, peering under the bonnet of the GA’s white transit, which was giving every appearance of having died in action. I sauntered up and said hallo, collected an over-the-shoulder “It’s fooked Peter, man” and then the GA resumed what can only be called a tirade directed against the white van, the suppliers of diesel, the weather and, indication of an escalation of temper, the bastard over the hill, meaning Barnyards.
Who arrived like the wolf in the fable, at that moment, bringing his landrover to a halt inches from the tail of the white van. Some inherited response stirred within me. I took myself without wasted time to the driver’s side of Barnyards his landrover and considerably surprised him, by being sufficiently rattled to answer his enquiry as to fit was wrang in the same tongue by the assertion that there wis nae cure fir daith. Recovering myself and regaining my English I added that I would be really quite grateful if he’d reverse his jeep up my drive and come and have a quiet cup of tea with us before anyone said or did anything silly. Which he did. And together Davie towed Kevin out of it and did something to the diesel pump and turned up for his own cup of tea half an hour later, by which time Barnyards had been vastly amused by the rhizomes of the Khalil Ginger on the kitchen table and was threatening in the best farmer style to report me to the Ministry if the Heydichium Gardnerianum were to ramp over his fields of oats and beans and barley. Then we went for a walk in the wood and examined together Davie’s forestry and looked at the ex-lake and thought it would be nicer with water and rainbow trout in it and then even Barnyards admitted that it was too cold for us to be out. He was right. It was.

One Response to “An Impulse Buy and the near-death Experience of a White Van”

  1. Maluk Says:

    Have you got them to flower? they are amazing.

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