The Eccentricities of the English

I attended two plant sales a few weekends ago, both of them in one small, tiny village called Hurstpierpoint and from the notices it seems as if these were not the only two. I was intrigued, not because I know anything at all about plants or would have any interest in buying them and carrying them back to Helsinki, but because of the number of people turning up and the conversations around these potted products.

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One was in the garden of a lovely house with an even lovelier garden overlooking the South Downs in the distance. The day was glorious and potential customers turned out in droves. It cost £1 to enter and a cup of coffee and biscuit were thrown in for good measure. The selection included mostly plants that would eventually blossom into colourful flowers. What struck me most was that everyone was so friendly. I always thought of the English being somewhat stuffy but not here. People were genuinely glad to see those they knew and engage in gardening chitchat with those they didn’t. Buying your favourite bloom wasn’t cheap but then all the proceeds went to a charity for deaf children. Throwing your garden and verandah open to a bunch of strangers once a year and donating the proceeds to a good cause struck me as generous, kind-hearted and frankly quite social.

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The next day, the local allotment society had arranged for their annual sale of mostly vegetable, herbs and strawberry greeneries. A more disorganised lot with no one seemingly in charge, amazed me when it all came together in spite of the lack of coffee to go with copious amounts of home baked cakes. I was observing all this from a bench when a little girl came to sit next to me. This little 4-year-old waxed on about the ‘green stuff next to the cabbage in our garden’ that gave her a tummy ache the previous evening, the ‘fly that married the bumble bee’ which made me guffaw infecting her too so that both of us were laughing out loud to the intrigue of her father who came to make sure she wasn’t bothering me. On the contrary, I realised she was entertaining me with her perfect English and her total lack of inhibitions.

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Another conversation was all about meditation, sun gazing and other esoteric stuff that interested me and obviously all the others involved. The usual banter of running away with the proceeds or clapping each other on the back for the amount of plants sold, filled up the space of two hours in a wink and we all went home much the better for having been friendly, social and gracious to one another.

Eccentric they are, but not without the most likeable characteristic of having the ability to laugh at themselves and pull each other’s legs without the slightest hint of insult.



South Downs

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