Another Man’s Treasure
A pot plant causes chaos in this amusing complete story by Jean Cullop.
A light-hearted story by Jean Cullop
LOUISA, look at that huge aspidistra!” It was nine o’clock on Sunday morning and the car-boot sale was heaving. Louisa and I cruised from stall to stall, trying to give the impression that we actually knew what we were looking for, which we didn’t – we just liked to soak up the atmosphere.
We were familiar with names like Clarice Cliff, but our entire knowledge of antiques was gleaned from TV programmes. Sometimes we bought, sometimes we just browsed. We were ladies of a certain age and we wrote our own rules.
Wearing boot-cut jeans, tailored jackets and delicate pashminas, I thought we cut quite a dash. Louisa stared at me. “Aspi-what? Sophie, there’s no such thing!”
I ran my fingers over the plant’s dark foliage and its touch rekindled heartwarming memories. “Oh, yes, there is, Lou.” The stallholder confirmed the oversized greenery in a brass planter was indeed an aspidistra. Louisa shrugged. “I always thought it was just a made-up name in that song the oldies used to sing; remember it? ‘The biggest aspidistra in the world,’” she warbled.
“My granny Barton had an aspidistra standing in her window,” I reflected. “Before that, her mother kept it in her front parlour. My mum gave it away when Granny died.”
“I can’t say I blame her,” Louisa replied, heartlessly ignoring my nostalgia.
I felt I had struck gold at the car boot sale – and best of all, I was pretty sure no-one else would want my prize!
“Actually, Louisa, I just might buy this. It would remind me of Granny and it could stand in my new conservatory.”
“Oh, have you got a new conservatory?” Louisa asked innocently.
“Sarcasm does not become you.” I sniffed. “Point taken, though. I suppose I do go on about my conservatory. We waited so long for it.”
“Oh, Sophie, I was only teasing. Are you really going to buy that plant?”
The stallholder endeavoured to look hopeful but not pushy, which resulted in a skewed grin. I could almost read her thoughts. Was she getting rid of this thing at last?
“I’m not sure. We can’t carry that great heavy thing around the sale. Let’s have a look at the other stalls then collect this on the way back to the car.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to pay for it now, Sophie? Remember when you said you’d go back for that leather coat in the sales, and then, when you did, it had been sold?” “I’ll risk it.” Her comment irritated me. Louisa always had to know best! She had a knack of highlighting my shortcomings, which was annoying because often she was right.
Louisa and I had met at antenatal class and we clicked immediately. We giggled our way through the exercises then regretted not having listened as we groaned through labour, and resolved to pay more attention next time.
As it happened, there was no next time, for either of us. We slipped into becoming an extended family and we were content, me with my Benjamin and her with dainty Rosie – who stopped being dainty when Benjamin taught her to ride on the rope swing, hunt for newts and frogs and climb trees.
But now our offspring had flown the nests and today our husbands were playing golf and bowls respectively.
We’d opted to spend a girlie morning at the car-boot sale and then treat ourselves to a pub lunch.
“This is wicked!” Louisa sighed happily, examining a handbag.
I laughed at her teenage speak. It came from her being a teaching assistant. “Are you fifty or fifteen?” She gave me a strange look. In her head she probably was fifteen.
HEW, Sophie, it’s busy now!” As the morning moved on the crowds grew, but with a skill acquired from years of shopping Louisa neatly tucked the little jug she’d found safely into her shopper.
“This jug could be worth
something,” she whispered dramatically. “It looks like Moorcroft.”
“The name would be underneath,” I pointed out and her face dropped.
“I suppose it would. Trust you to think of that.”
“If you like it what does it matter who made it? If you’re done shopping, Lou, we could go back for the aspidistra, then find somewhere nice for lunch.”
“That sounds like a plan. Shopping stimulates the appetite.” I grinned. “The stall is close to the car park so I won’t have far to carry it.”
Suddenly Louisa gave a loud squeal and stopped dead.
“Look! Over there!” she squeaked, pointing to the car park.
Way up high over the heads of the crowd a shaky aspidistra wobbled its way towards the rows of cars.
By now I had really set my heart on buying that plant. Granny had taken care of her aspidistra, just like she’d taken care of me when my parents were at work. She’d never laughed at my dreams; she’d thought of ways to make them happen.
It had been Granny who’d encouraged me to pursue my ambition to paint, and she’d helped me find freelance work as a children’s book illustrator. I would never be famous, but I earned enough to keep the wolf from the door . . .
“That aspidistra is mine!” I sounded like a two-year-old, I knew.
We followed the aspidistra, being carried on the shoulders of two young men, until it came to rest in front of a little red hard-top sports car.
The next few minutes verged on the hilarious. No way would the oversized plant f it into that motor!
Louisa and I looked on as the lads scratched their heads and grew more red-faced until finally they gave up.
“See?” I whispered smugly. “It wants to come home with me. Where are you going?” “Follow my lead,” she hissed. With me snapping at her heels like a worried terrier, Louisa strolled across to the car.
“You seem to have a problem, guys,” she said casually. “Can we help? My friend knows about aspidistras.”
The taller of the two lads stared blankly, but the other one’s face cleared.
“Oh, is that what this plant is? We bought the brass planter for his mum, but it won’t fit in the car.”
His friend now looked dismayed.
“Come to think about it, I don’t think Mum is very keen on aspidistras. She always says they remind her of an elderly aunt who was a bit of a tartar. But she needs a new planter for the palm tree in her porch and I thought this was just the ticket.”
“In that case, why not dig out the plant and give her just the brass planter?” Louisa suggested. “We could take the aspidistra off your hands, if you like.” I held my breath. “Would you really?” the lad replied. “Mum’s been under the weather recently. I wanted to cheer her up. She loves anything brass.”
Eventually Louisa found a huge plastic bag from somewhere in the dark depths of her shopper.
We managed to wriggle out the plant and carefully place its roots into the bag.
The lads refused to take any payment and then even carried the aspidistra to my car, where it quivered on the back seat, understandably confused.
They waved us off, thanking us profusely. After all, we had done them a good turn, hadn’t we?
“What nice young men. I knew we’d be better off waiting,” I said smugly as we set off to the Dancing Duck and lunch.
“Just as a matter of interest, what are you going to put it in?” Louisa wanted to know.
“An old bucket will do until we find a nice planter to match my new conservatory. Did I mention we got a new one?” I smiled sweetly.
“That means more days out for us, then, Sophie?” Louisa said, ignoring the dig.
“Yep, days out are good. But right now I’m ready for lunch.” I glanced sideways to smile at her. “Oh, Lou, your jacket is f ilthy! I’m so sorry.”
“It’ll wash,” she replied calmly.
“Well, lunch is on me,” I said f irmly.
“Lovely. And if my jug turns out to be Moorcroft, I’ll treat you next time!”
I was about to remind her about the lack of a signature, but glancing in my rear mirror I saw the aspidistra’s leaves bouncing as though trying to get my attention.
Granny Barton would never have trampled on another person’s dreams.
So what if, sometimes, Louisa and I were impatient with each other?
Our differences were part of our friendship, and friendship is very precious.
“You never know, Lou. I might hold you to that,” I replied instead.