As a rule, I tend not to frequent places where there is a sign on the door saying ‘no sharps’. But I thought I would make an exception for the Eden Project. Surely, I thought, as we walked from the ‘Banana’ car park to the ticket office, they must mean sharps as in penknives, or something. The number of people in the queue wearing sandals made from reconstituted tyre rubber was a further warning sign but I chose to ignore it.
As we stood amid the rainbow-striped cardigan-wearing clientele and their brightly dyed hairstyles, the builder had a look on his face that said: ‘I think we’ve wandered into the wrong sort of place for us.’
My parents insisted on buying the tickets. When they came back from the counter my mother had a pinched look on her face. The damage, with a guide book, was £100.
‘This greenhouse had better be good,’ I said. ‘It’s just a load of hippies,’ muttered the builder, looking like he was about to explode into full white van man mode at any moment.
Things did not get better when we decided to have a spot of lunch in the canteen. After foraging through a display of organic brown cardboard salad boxes, my mum and dad ended up with a form of pâté, mercifully, but there was nothing left for me save a quinoa mulch. Fine, I thought, I’m going to have to eat quinoa at some stage, so it might as well be now.
The builder had a beef and potato pasty. He’s going to turn into a pasty before we leave Cornwall. With scones for afters, the bill came to nearly £50. The builder squeaked but I kicked him to stay quiet.
Then, as we ate our strange luncheon, we noticed there was an equally strange puppet show going on beside us. Inside a large display cabinet, two naked life-size puppets, anatomically correct in every way, down to the little rugs covering their nether regions, were falling down dead beneath a banner that intimated this is what would happen once we all succumbed to climate change. A dog eating from a bowl was the last to conk out, as a spotlight went on over him.
We stared and stared, the quinoa and organic lamb’s lettuce practically spilling from our mouths, until finally the builder broke the silence: ‘See, those two are off their heads on skunk so they’ve forgotten to go out and get food and they’ve starved to death, and killed the poor dog. The moral of the tale is, don’t become a liberal nutter and do loads of drugs. Get it?’
We all nodded. It seemed the only reasonable explanation. I finished my quinoa, which tasted like nothing at all, happily enough.
Then it was time to walk around the greenhouse. As the dog couldn’t go into the ‘biomes’, we each took it in turns to wait outside with her while the others went in to look at whatever was in there.
I waited first and had a lovely time smelling a most wondrous perfume filling the air by a bank of wild flowers and herbs. This isn’t so bad after all, I thought, wandering with the spaniel towards the heavenly smell. We arrived at a long line of Portaloos in front of a bank of quinoa plants. I smelled the quinoa. Nothing. It was definitely the toilet disinfectant that was nice.
Next, it was the builder’s turn to hold the dog while I went inside a biome. I chose the tropical one. It had lots of plants from, er, the tropics, and some ants crawling on the plants. Poor ants. Fancy going to bed a free ant in Bolivia and waking up in Cornwall as the prisoner of a socially enterprising visionary blissed-out on Lottery funding.
Anyway, it was quite interesting although I did feel as if at any moment a disembodied voice would call everyone to take part in the ritual of carousel.
I decided to do what I was told when a sign said, ‘If you are hot or unfit turn back now.’ If there was a chance that going further might result in my being sucked up to the glass ceiling and evaporated I didn’t want to take it.
I found the builder standing where I had left him outside, wearing one of his special smug looks.
‘What’s happened?’ I said, a dread fear in my heart.
‘Well,’ he said, ‘that woman over there asked me where Cydney’s tail had gone. So I told her…’ Oh no. ‘…it’s been cut off. She’s a gundog. She goes into bushes to find dead pheasants.’
The woman in question was sitting on a bench by some St John’s Wort, whispering to a man in sandals and staring accusingly at us.
Time to go, man.
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