Don would drive the Land Rover with one of the old hands beside him in the front. The rest of us sat in the back, on the bench seats that ran down either side. The journey was made from a nursery in Langport in order to work on fourteen acres of land used for growing herbaceous plants. An schoolboy who knew nothing about plants would not have been entrusted with anything responsible, instead the rows of plants had to be hoed. A tractor was used for clearing weeds between the rows, those growing between the individual plants had to be cleared by hand; the hoe would cause blisters on the palms of the hand that would eventually harden into calluses. It was tiring and boring work, the only consolation was that the journey to and from the land was made in working hours. A slow journey there and a slow journey back could take an hour off the eight hour working day which began each morning at 7.45 and finished each afternoon at 5.00, no-one was paid for taking breaks.
Only years later did it occur to ask the question as to why did the nursery grew plants on land that was so distant from its premises. The best suggestion was that the soil was different, that plants which did not thrive at the main nursery might grow well in the soil of the fourteen acres at South Petherton. Perhaps they might: nursery plants were unpredictable species. Sometimes they might not grow as people had expected, or sometimes they might not grow at all.
Irritated customers sometimes arrived at the nursery with a complaint, intent upon imparting a piece of their mind to the nurseryman responsible for the fact that their plants had not thrived. Standing in the packing shed one afternoon, Don, the foreman, spied a woman crossing the yard from the office, a determined look on her face. “Here comes trouble”, he muttered.
The woman opened the door, “I want to speak to the foreman. I was told I would find him here.”
Without flinching, he said. “I’m terribly sorry, madam, he’s not available this afternoon. May I give him a message?”
Don particularly enjoyed the opportunities to be in South Petherton, where no-one could find him. Although this week he would have been busy in the sheds, preparing plants for the annual trip to Chelsea, where old Land Rovers would have been a rare sight.