Over the last decade or so, the garden centre has become an all-encompassing beast. What began as a few hardy perennials in a shed now does everything. You can eat in it, change clothes in it, replenish the larder, get the beer in and take the kids to meet Santa.
Indeed, I’m surprised Notcutts doesn’t have a green burial-ground at the back. That must be the only thing it doesn’t cater for.
All of which makes me wonder why I so quickly run out of things to do. While my wife contentedly roots around the rooting powders, or forks out for a new fork, or wanders lonely among the daffs, I work methodically through my list of distractions, and quickly emerge at the other end.
First I poke at the carnivorous plants with a morbid curiosity. Then I go and have a word with the tropical fish, who are generally far from communicative. Next I pass the time of day with the zebra finches and cockatiels. Then come the rabbits, guinea-pigs and gerbils. I’m working my way up through the food chain.
So it’s on to the jams and chutneys. I toy idly with a jar of blackcurrant extra preserve made by Mrs Someone-or-other in her farmhouse kitchen, before reminding myself that I hardly ever eat jam anyway. So I put the jar carefully back and re-arrange all the labels on the shelf so that they’re facing the right way.
I find that spades can be quite interesting as long as you don’t have to do anything with them. So there’s a couple of minutes admiring the sheen on galvanised steel, gloomily checking how many products are made in China, and watching one of those little videos about an indestructible trowel called “the gardener’s friend”.
Finally it’s down to the books. This should be more engaging for me, but there’s too many about gardening, too many about the great battles of World War Two, and the rest of the shelves are devoted to “keeping water-spaniels” or “my first ostrich”.
And that’s me pretty well done. Ten minutes should be long enough to find my way out and to clear the boot of the car for some plants, which will undoubtedly coming past the check-out soon.
* Dr Chris Upton has a collection of unused spades to sell at Newman University College in Birmingham