It’s not that I’m naturally quarrelsome, on the contrary I hate confrontation, but I have this addiction to being right.
Let me give you an example.
On November 26th (I remember the date exactly because of the sequence of events) the Badger and I went to Wyevale plant nursery where I spent an inordinate amount of money on some houseplants and a beautiful wind-chime to hang in our entrance hall at home. I noticed that their Christmas roses were exceptionally good, but exercised strength of mind as I already have several hellebores in the garden, and didn’t buy one. I got a couple of beautiful cyclamen though.
The reason I wanted these houseplants was because on that day we had Guests for Dinner and I thought the house ought to look beautiful. We got some cut flowers too. We don’t normally have guests for dinner, you see – in fact I can’t remember the last time we did, and I felt very nervous about it and was trying to make everything perfect.
At that time we’d done some work to the garden, and in the afternoon of that day (it was a Saturday), the badger went across to Battle to take my darling Mama out to purchase a new vacuum cleaner, hers having bitten the dust, then on to our place for a cup of tea and a glimpse of the garden (mud, principally, but restructured mud) before returning her home because the Guests were coming. I hasten to add she was invited to stay for supper but one of the Guests was a bishop so Mama felt nervous as I did, and opted to go home. Anyway, while gadding about the world with Mama, the Badger took it into his head to call into Wyevale plant nursery with her, because she likes plants too. Accordingly, when they fetched up at the old homestead for a cup of tea, Mama arrived bearing a gift of a beautiful ivory-and-yellow orchid – another variety of plant I’d exercised strength of mind over and firmly put back. Beautiful. She had also bought herself a Christmas rose.
In the evening one of the Guests brought us a huge and glorious white cyclamen, also beautiful, so our house was resplendent by the time we’d all finished! And we had a good time over dinner, and that was all fine.
The following day (Sunday), talking on the phone to darling Mama to check she was still alive and well over there in her apartment, I learned that she wished she’d bought a second Christmas rose so they could sit looking symmetrical on her balcony. She said she thought she’d get one at Blackbrooks nursery next time she passed on her way to Sainsburys for her grocery shopping. Mama is intrepid enough to have learned the car routes to Sainsburys and Tesco, the two big food shops, but hasn’t got the route to Wyevale nailed yet. She thought the hellebores at Blackbrooks inferior to those at Wyevale, but hey.
On Monday the Badger had to go back to Aylesbury where he lives during the week close to his job in Oxford, so that Sunday, 29th, was the last chance for him to get the Christmas tree – that being the beginning of Advent. As some of our household totally love Christmas trees and sparkly decorations, we put ours up at the earliest opportunity, Advent 1. After some discussion (tedious, another story, won’t go into it), it was decided that the Badger would return to Wyevale as they had tree stands there as well as the actual trees, and our last year’s one had broken. So I asked him if he’d pick up a Christmas rose for Mama, to which he responded, “No, she got one.”
“I know,” said I, “but she wants a second one, to be symmetrical on the balcony.” So he got one when he fetched the tree (jolly good tree, Nordic fir, excellent shape and very firry)
The next day, Monday, I phoned Mama to check she was still with us and in good shape, and she mentioned that she’d got another Christmas rose.
“Darn!” thought I – having the superior version sat on my porch waiting to make its way to her; but I said nothing about it, not wanting to share around my (albeit minor) annoyance and frustration at her trigger-happy flower-purchasing. And there it still sits to this day – it is flourishing.
Fast-forward (are you still awake?) to yesterday. The Badger and I took Mama to the tip to get rid of the old dead vacuum cleaner, which had been sitting in her garage all this time, then to Poppinghole Farm Shop where I cleaned out the Badger’s bank account in a foolish surge of thinking global and acting all too local.
While the Badger was getting the vacuum cleaner and other junk items out of the garage, Mama wanted to show me a hellebore in a pot, that she’d just retrieved from the balcony. Hellebores are hard to kill, but this one was surely on its way out, and she wanted another. I mentioned I had one at home, that I’d got for her from Wyevale after she’d bought one and wanted another.
“No!” she exclaimed. “I didn’t get it at Wyevale, I got it at the plant stall on the market.”
You did not, you silly old woman, thought I. You got it from Wyevale, I remember it all perfectly clearly. And if it’s the second Christmas rose, you got it from Blackbrooks. However, having resolved NO ARGUING (oh, dear, I haven’t explained about that, have I – tell you what, I’ll leave that explanation until tomorrow) I didn’t say anything. Meanwhile she had headed off into the adjacent room and was saying “I got it, but it wouldn’t hang on the door.”
Starting to feel a little bewildered I asked her why she had said that when we were talking about potted hellebores, and followed to discover her clutching an artificial Christmas wreath.
“You thought I got the Christmas rose at Wyevale,” said she: “but this is what I got at Wyevale, to hang on the door. But the surface of the door is uneven and I couldn’t put a nail in because . . .”
“Because it’s glass?” I suggested helpfully.
“Yes! Because it’s glass. So I stuck it up with loads of . . . er . . .”
“Yes! Blutak! But it fell off . . .”
“Because it was too heavy.”
“Yes. So I couldn’t put it up. But I do like it.”
And all of me wanted to explain that she had got a Christmas rose from Wyevale, and unfold the whole sequence of events that proved irrefutably by invincible logic and my perfect memory why that hellebore most certainly came from Wyevale – but the still small voice said something along the lines of “Shut up.” Well, to be fair, more like “Leave it.” So I did.
I just said, “Well, I got you another one and you can have it when you come over on Sunday;” and she was pleased.
Early this morning lying in the dark, feeling relieved to hear the buses at the depot along the road starting up, because that means day has come at last and I can get up and make porridge and stop worrying about the logistics of cramming in to this morning the multiple co-ordinating events and people jostling over its horizon, I mentally revisited this conversation, and you know what? The pot she had that dying hellebore in is not the same as Wyevale’s pots, so she didn’t get it there (it must be the second one). And thinking about it, I'm not 100% sure she ever said she went to Blackbrooks (though it’s like their pots), she just said she intended to go there. So maybe she did get it from the market stall after all.
Anyway I’m regaling you with this (seemingly but not actually endless, rest assured) story because I meant to tell you about my New Year’s Resolutions, of which the first is STOP ARGUING, because I am terrible at arguing. It’s this addiction to being right. It just annoys me intensely when something seems incorrect, so that I am unwilling to leave it, let it go. And in 2012, I’m going to learn the art of letting go, and stop arguing. But I’ll tell you about my New Year’s resolutions tomorrow.