Not that I’ve anything against them, well, not very much. Before the rains, we sat lunching in one, a large airy space, waitresses in abundance, nicely uniformed, food so-so. The whole place began to strike us as very odd: no view to the outside world, only to the vanishing distance of ‘stuff’ – garden furniture so awful that even the birds would rather not alight upon, ranks of ‘chemineas’ in supposedly (perhaps, really) Mexican colours, designed to spout smoke at eye level, which might keept the midges at bay, but won’t give Mexican warmth on a cool Northern evening, and clothes, and large signs proclaiming ‘Special Offers’. The other lunch-takers made even us feel young. No-one made much conversation, even to their nearest and dearest. Everyone watched everyone else, hoping for diversion. A mug of coffee spilt. A sudden yell and collapse. Indeed, the waitresses, with their uniforms white instead of sullen brown, would have cheered the place up by wheeling a cadaver on a trolley between the tables rather than ‘special homemade quiche with farm-fresh side salads: £6.75’.
Why were we there? Well, not for the acres of dwarf conifers, David Austin roses, and what seemed square miles of hanging baskets pre-planted (and now ‘Special Offer’ too), with alarmingly clashing colours of bedding plant, let alone the water features (‘The Montblanc Special Edition has concealed underwater lighting for your further enjoyment.’), that had us almost (the lunchers would have loved it), collapse into our trolley with helpless laughter.
No, amongst the standardised plant range, naff garden ‘props’, a buyer clearly had an eye for some excellent pots. Of course, there were shiveringly sharp blue urns (no doubt funerary), simpering maidens holding a plant pot, and so on, but there were some lovely handthrown terracotta pots, and made in Yorkshire. Good strong shapes, frost resistant, and with the merest narrow band of decoration impressed into the pots’ substance: YORKSHIREFLOWERPOTSHORKSHIREFLOWERPOTSYORKSHIREFLOWERPOTS. Lovely.
So, there they stand, on the stone plinth that once (villagers tell us) supported a handsome but now vanished sundial, and now supports our slightly wonky statue of the young Dionysus, missing a grape or two, and with his base, too, stamped. This time ALEXrWILSONandSONS: TERRACOTTAMANUFACTURERS: LOCHEADWORKS: DUNFERMLINE. But he’s another story.