We went out to lunch today en famille, and then Marius and I went to wander through the local nursery, drooling over the colour in pots. We made a mistake afterwards, because we visited the giant hardware superstore. In other circumstances I would be lamenting the demise of a proper ironmonger and timber yard, the sort of place you could buy nails by the pound and hand-made tools, and sixpence worth of woodscrews, and there was a man in a leather apron who knew your grandfather, and would grant you 40 years of wisdom with your order of 6 yards of hemp rope - do you know the sort of place I mean?
Well in contrast to my ususal hankering for 'the way things were done when I was a boy' ... Marius and I wandered about the aisles of the superstore, feeling like we had reached Eldorado, and excitedly reminding each other of what would be useful to look for. I have moaned elsewhere of the impossibility of finding practical objects in the place of Exile - if Carrefour doesn't sell it in a plastic wrap it is nigh on impossible to find in the land of dust and gravel.
First we wandered up the aisle that sold 'watering fitments' such as hoses, and connectors and sprinklers and watering systems. Marius spied an old-fashioned brass hose nozzle that he fell on with joy. Definitely would fit in the suitcase. Then he started looking for one of those wire hose-holders that you screw into the ground - we even asked someone. No, only modern spikes. Let's face it, that would have been tricky to pack.
Then we found the section selling barbecue parts - Marius said you could rebuild a whole barbecue with what was on offer. We picked up a new cover for ours.
Do you remember the post about the fountain pump? They had a whole wall devoted to building your own fountain: pumps, hoses, fancy lights and foam-makers. My bottom lip began to tremble.
I wandered outside into the garden plant section and tears began to gather in the corners of my eyes. Marius was off looking at secateurs and itching to buy himself a bushsaw. So much abundance, so much practical stuff ... not a diamond-encrusted watch to be seen and no sneering gentlemen out in their white nighties being haughty and offensive.
When we finally dragged ourselves away, I said to Marius: 'I know if we moved home, after two months I wouldn't care that the biggest hardware store in the world was on my doorstep, but right now I just don't want to go back.'
It takes me like that, exile. Designer clothes shops, jewellers, Lamborghini dealers ... couldn't care less, but a decent hardware store breaks my heart.